Sen. Ron Wyden Slams Deceptive Defenses of Torture


Ron Wyden, not made of straw.
Credit: jdlasica / photo on flickr

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been hammering the CIA over its use of torture in its interrogations at its black sites around the world during the Iraq War and had been pushing for the release of the Senate Intelligence Torture Report. By the time the report came out (earlier in December) CIA and torture defenders had all their talking points lined up. They've responded that their interrogation methods did work and did get useful, vital intelligence information, and they didn't deceive their overseers, and everything was legal except for the stuff they've subsequently admitted was not legal, but those were all isolated incidents, and they stopped them once they found out about it.

So TechDirt has given Wyden space to directly respond to the various talking points and attempt to smack them back down. It's a long piece and tough to quote directly from (it's practically a paragraph-by-paragraph picking apart of claims) so it's probably best to go read it at Techdirt.

Probably the most important thing to take away from what Wyden's response is to pay close attention to what words these folks are actually using in their own defense. There's a reason they don't  use the word "torture," and it's not just to cover their asses from prosecution. CIA defenders use the words "interrogation" liberally so to avoid talking about any particular methods and present a sort of straw man defense for what happened in their prisons. Wyden notes that the CIA response is constantly saying that despite the content of the Senate report, "interrogations" were responsible for getting them significant amounts of intelligence about terrorists and potential terrorist attacks.

That's the straw man argument though. The Senate report never says that interrogations didn't get valuable information. The report differentiates between conventional interrogation methods and abusive or "enhanced" interrogation techniques (torture). The report acknowledges that the CIA got all sorts of intelligence via interrogation. In fact, that is exactly how it is able to say the "enhanced" interrogation didn't work. The information the CIA claims it got from "enhanced" interrogations actually came from conventional, non-disputed interrogation methods, according to the Senate's report.

So the next time you hear or read somebody defending the CIA's tactics pay close attention to the language. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report did not claim that CIA interrogations were bad or served no intelligence purpose. It shows, through the CIA's own documentation, that violent, intrusive, "enhanced" techniques were not useful.


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  1. “There’s a reason they don’t use the word “torture,” and it’s not just to cover their asses from prosecution.”
    Priceless! No one is going to be prosecuted for this, or for lying to congress, or hacking the senate intelligence committee. No one is even on paid administrative leave!

    1. Wait. No paid leave? So, they’re making the cops look good by comparison? Fuck. I don’t know what to think.

  2. I heard someone (may have been Rep Sessions, R-TX, but I can’t find the cite) say that the “approved techniques” are the same methods we use to train our military to withstand interrogation.

    Assuming this is true, is what we are doing to our military considered torture and therefore illegal? If not, what is the distinction which makes it not torture/legal?

    1. My understanding, and I talked to one guy who went through this, is that the point is to torture soldiers in order to train them to resist torture if they’re captured by the enemy.

      If so, this doesn’t exactly help the pro-torture case.

  3. Sounds to me like Senator Les Wynan needs to do more thinking and less whining.

  4. All these Congressmen who suddenly say how essential torture – excuse me, enhanced interrogation – is to fighting terrorism:

    Did you actually attempt, through legislation, to designate a class of “enhanced interrogation” techniques which American agents could legally engage in? I mean, a “safe harbor” to clarify beyond doubt that these tactics, when used against the right targets of course, are Absolutely Essential to National Security?

    How come these chest-thumping Congressmen were willing to let the law stand without clarification, thus giving ammunition to all the anti-American hippies who obsessively point to the torture statute to butress their unpatriotic arguments?

    1. I didn’t think of that, good question Eddie.

  5. The release of this report finally makes the facts about torture available to the American public, and is an important step toward making sure that the US never repeats these mistakes.

    Bullshit. No real consequences to anyone, so they’ll happily do it again.

    1. And next time it might be on American soil.

      1. If you think it hasn’t been done already, you are (IMO) naive.

  6. lol, US POlitics, best politics money can buy lol.

    1. Garret. ArgH. Bite me, Anon bot.

  7. Kelly `s st0rry is great, on thursday I got a top of the range Fiat Multipla from having made $5941 thiss month and-more than, 10k lass-month . it’s definitly my favourite work I’ve ever had . I started this three months/ago and pretty much immediately started bringin home minimum $70 per hour .
    hop over to here ==========

    1. A Fiat? I guess that’s punishment enough.

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