Hit & Run

Sen. Ron Wyden Slams Deceptive Defenses of Torture

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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.