The Justification of Torture Gets Obliterated Part One – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Any debate concerning the use of torture on suspects always contains an accepted assumption about the tactic: torture works by giving law enforcement actionable intelligence leading to more arrests/stopping of crime.  The big problem with this assumption is none of it is actually true.

The Constitution Project released a bipartisan study this week stating the United States did, in fact, torture as a tactic in the ongoing War on Terror begun under the Bush Administration.  The study was co-chaired by Asa Hutchinson.  You may recognize the name from his recent stint heading up the NRA’s ridiculous school safety plan so this obviously was not a study put together by a bunch of radical leftists.

The key reason why this study particularly destroys the justification of torture is that it addresses some of the key factors many torture advocates point to as examples of how it allegedly works.  The three key pieces of info it debunks:

  • That Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) gave up his valuable info while being tortured.
  • That Abu Zubaydah gave up his valuable info while being tortured.
  • That the plot to bring down the Library Tower in Los Angeles with hijacked planes was thwarted through intelligence gathered by torture.

This is followed by an interesting section on false confessions that I will touch on at the end.

The critical part of this study I’m referring to begins on page 262 in a section entitled “Assertions of Useful Information Obtained Through Coercion”.  Let’s look at the many highlights of this part of the report.

After the death of Osama bin Laden (OBL), some asserted KSM broke under the pressure of torture and squealed the name of OBL’s courier, the man that eventually led the U.S. to OBL’s hideout in Pakistan.  Not true:

According to an American official familiar with KSM’s interrogation, KSM wasn’t asked about al-Kuwaiti until the fall of 2003, months after his waterboarding had concluded. KSM reportedly acknowledged having known al-Kuwaiti but told his interrogators al-Kuwaiti was “retired” and of little significance.

This backs up a fact pointed out last year in a 60 Minutes interview with torture advocate and former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, who is mentioned heavily in this part of the study.  I noted in a post last year that Rodriguez is not only admitting torture failed in this instance but also showing even a highly trained person like him can’t actually tell when someone is lying or telling the truth, a point I’ll return to later.

Then it is stated important info about the courier came from a man named Hassan Ghul.  Ghul was tortured but it seems there is a little problem with the timing of the torture and when he gave up the info:

In May 2011 Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Reuters about a CIA detainee who “did provide useful and accurate intelligence.” But she added at the time: “This was acquired before the CIA used their enhanced interrogation techniques against the detainee.” Three U.S. officials told Reuters that Feinstein was referring to Ghul…Hassan Ghul, “did provide relevant information” about al-Kuwaiti, but “he did so the day before he was interrogated by the CIA using their coercive interrogation techniques.”

In short, the info came first and the torture second.

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