Sunday, March 29, 2009

As more information dribbles out, the futility of torture is the inevitable conclusion

Washington Post has an article on the valuable information obtained from the torture of Abu Zubaydah, supposedly an al Qaeda high operative.

Anyone who is willing to consider that the purpose of interrogation is not retribution or revenge, and it is valuable information, would recognize that torture doesn't work. It can even be counterproductive. So, the conclusion of this article should not be surprising. It is, however, something that will force the Obama Administration to either come clean about it, or continue to stonewall as the previous Administration did. There is indication in this article that the Administration is not moving swiftly to clear stuff up. I can understand why, this is going to look back, proof that the US tortured and we will take a hit. And politically it will be hard to prosecute former Bush Administration officials. Maybe Spain will do it for us.

Some excerpts from the article:

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu
Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials
who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained
through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful
information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates
-- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
These revelations could lead to all of the folks we have detained getting off...some probably should, but others, no... nevertheless

Others in the U.S. government, including CIA officials, fear the
consequences of taking a man into court who was waterboarded on largely false
assumptions, because of the prospect of interrogation methods being revealed in
detail and because of the chance of an acquittal that might set a legal
precedent. Instead, they would prefer to send him to Jordan.

Of course, there are others who disagree and I wonder if we will ever get a definitive understanding of this shadowy world..I doubt it if Congress doesn't investigate it.

It's simply wrong to suggest that Abu Zubaida wasn't intimately involved with
al-Qaeda," said a U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of
anonymity because much about Abu Zubaida remains classified. "He was one of the
terrorist organization's key facilitators, offered new insights into how the
organization operated, provided critical information on senior al-Qaeda figures
. . . and identified hundreds of al-Qaeda members. How anyone can minimize that
information -- some of the best we had at the time on al-Qaeda -- is beyond me."

It is important to keep in mind that it is not that Zubaydah is innocent, he isn't, though he may not be quite the bad guy he was billed. He did provide significant and useful information, but not because of torture.

Abu Zubaida quickly told U.S. interrogators of Mohammed and of others he
knew to be in al-Qaeda, and he revealed the plans of the low-level operatives
who fled Afghanistan with him. Some were intent on returning to target American
forces with bombs; others wanted to strike on American soil again, according to
military documents and law enforcement sources.

Such intelligence was significant but not blockbuster material. Frustrated, the Bush administration ratcheted up the pressure -- for the first time approving the use of
increasingly harsh interrogations, including waterboarding.

It is disappointing that revelations like this don't create more anger. AIG bonuses paid to execs who had nothing to do with the AIG mess, but were brought in to clean up the mess raises all kinds of anger, but not this.

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