The Senate Intelligence committee’s report on CIA torture begins with a little context:
It is worth remembering the pervasive fear in late 2001 and how immediate the threat felt. Just as week after the September 11 attacks, powdered anthrax was sent to various news organizations and to two U.S. Senators. The American public was shocked by news of new terrorist plots and elevations of the color-coded threat level of the Homeland Security Advisory System. We expected further attacks against the nation.
The implication is clear: Although our report bristles with official lies, cover-ups, brutality, idiocy and systematic sadism, the Senator’s suggest, none of this should be seen as reflecting badly on the national character. We were a traumatized and fearful nation and we just . . . well . . . we pushed the envelope a bit. You will be appalled, disgusted, even outraged by what you read in these pages, but the folks responsible for the blatant misconduct described therein meant well. They were good, honorable Americans like you and me: ordinary people living in extraordinary times.
The report argues, persuasively I believe, that no actionable intelligence was derived from the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka “torture”) employed by the CIA and other representatives of the United States of America. The authors aren’t saying that the information produced by water boarding, rectal re-hydration (aka “anal rape”), sleep deprivation and all the rest produced information of dubious value. They are saying that torture was completely useless as an intelligence-gathering tool.
I suspect they’re right about that. But the insistence that torture produced nary a shred of good intelligence reflects the hidden fear that, if the American public thought sadistic brutality would make them even a tiny bit safer, they would condone it in a heartbeat. (more…)