In a Washington Post article about ongoing congressional investigation into CIA compliance (or lack thereof) with DOJ interrogation guidelines, there is big news about the May 2004 Inspector-General’s report that has been much referred to recently, but so far remains classified (emphasis in original):
Specifically: The White House has decided to declassify and release a classified 2004 CIA report about the torture program that is reported to have found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots on American soil — directly contradicting Cheney’s claims. The paper cites “allies” of the White House as a source.
Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the “holy grail,” because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works — and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives. Tellingly, neither the CIA nor the White House knocked down the story in response to my questions, with spokespeople for both declining comment. Here’s the key nugget from the Post piece:
Government officials familiar with the CIA’s early interrogations say the most powerful evidence of apparent excesses is contained in the “top secret” May 7, 2004, inspector general report, based on more than 100 interviews, a review of the videotapes and 38,000 pages of documents. The full report remains closely held, although White House officials have told political allies that they intend to declassify it for public release when the debate quiets over last month’s release of the Justice Department’s interrogation memos…
Although some useful information was produced, the report concluded that “it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,” according to the Justice Department’s declassified summary of it.
This news is particularly timely in light of Cheney’s continuing high-profile claims that torture may have saved “hundreds of thousands of lives.” The report is the one I wrote about recently that the ACLU obtained through litigation in highly redacted form. It has an entire redacted section that discusses the “effectiveness” of torture — or lack thereof.
Eric Martin reminds us that the issue is not, or should not be, whether or not torture is effective:
While it’s all well and good that the Obama administration plans to debunk some of the Dick Cheney’s mendacity, we should resist the urge to engage the frame of discourse that Cheney has sought to impose: Assessing the desirability of implementing a torture regime based on whether or not torture “works.” In short, it shouldn’t matter. Although many respected experts in the realm of interrogation best practices contend that building a relationship/rapport is a more effective of extracting reliable information (rather than false confession), the reason that we, as a nation, should abstain from torture is because torture is a morally reprehensible practice.
Let’s be clear: These things don’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if torture works, because it’s illegal. (Heather at Crooks & Liars points to Salon’s Joan Walsh slamming this “does it work?” argument.)
And it doesn’t matter what the polls say, because it’s still illegal. The use of torture isn’t a popularity contest.
And while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade. As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Rachel Maddow the other night:
It’s obviously disturbing to hear torture still referred to by the president as a “technique.” That’s like saying bank robbery is a “technique” for withdrawing money from a bank. It’s not a “technique”, it’s a crime…
Despite the past eight years, the United States is governed by the rule of law. We don’t sign treaties only to disregard them, and we don’t allow those who break the law to go unpunished.
Let’s reconsider the torture argument in these terms: Do we want to be known to the rest of the world as a country that flagrantly ignores its own laws, not to mention the international human rights laws it agrees to? Does our government have a “do as we say, not as we do” approach to the law?
We do not. So let’s refocus here. Torture is illegal: There’s no two ways about it. It’s never acceptable. …