Experts Quietly Admit to Senate Torture Report's Accuracy, But Does Anybody Care Anymore?

We have a presidential frontrunner who openly embraces abusing prisoners.


Or will it "make America great again"? Hmm?
Credit: Fibonacci Blue / photo on flickr

We all still remember that Senate torture report, right? Before consigning it to the dustbins of history do recall that Donald Trump just promised he would bring back waterboarding and do even "worse" to suspected terrorists if he were elected president.

At the time the report was released, after years of fighting between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA and President Barack Obama's administration, the official pushback from the CIA was an admission that torture ("enhanced interrogation") did happen inappropriately and the oversight wasn't always the best, and they detained people that shouldn't have been detained at all, but they did get "actionable intelligence" from the process and prevented terrorist attacks. That was the story, and they were sticking with it—yes, it was terrible, but it worked.

But then, it turns out, the CIA has quietly updated its official response in such a way that validates some of the Senate torture report's claims. Much like a newspaper hiding a correction at the bottom of an inside page among the advertisements, the CIA posted a "note to readers" without telling anybody. According to Ali Watkins at BuzzFeed, it sat online for a year before outsiders noticed its existence.

One of the big debates of the use of torture involved the interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (KSM). Mohamed confessed to all sorts of things while he was being tortured, but according to the Senate's analysis, much of it was either fake or information the CIA had already gotten from other sources. The CIA resisted this interpretation, but now it has quietly admitted that the Senate's analysis is at least partly true. And the note also acknowledges some other mistakes:

Among the CIA's quiet corrections are that it did in fact misrepresent the importance of information obtained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, known informally as "KSM," and in some cases, already had certain information that it had previously said was "unavailable" prior to KSM providing it.

It also admits in its "Note" that it misrepresented the number of detainees in CIA custody to its own leadership, and that it did not notify the Secretary of State or Deputy Secretary of State of every black site detention facility.

In one instance, the CIA says, it misrepresented a timeline of information obtained from KSM in capturing an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist known as Hambali. The issue, it writes in the "Note," was a "sequencing error."

By "sequencing error," they mean that the information they say they extracted from Mohamed via torture they had already gotten from other sources prior. Read more from BuzzFeed here.

Meanwhile, the Senate's analysis of the CIA's torture methods has also been bolstered by the chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay. Adam Goldman of The Washington Post has gotten his hands on an unreleased prosecutor's statement by Brig. Gen. Mark Martins that says the facts listed in the report about how KSM was treated are all accurate and actually occurred:

Three CIA prisoners, including Mohammed, were waterboarded in what agency medical personnel described as "a series of near drownings," according to the Senate report. Detainees were also beaten, forced into confinement boxes, deprived of sleep for long stretches and subjected to rectal rehydration. Unapproved techniques included mock executions, and one detainee died after being left in the freezing cold at a facility in Afghanistan. …

Defense lawyers want access to all documents about the treatment of their clients and ultimately plan to use the issue of torture as a mitigating factor to argue against the death penalty if the defendants are found guilty.

This agreement doesn't necessarily put Martins "at odds" with CIA Director John Brennan the way Goldman contends. Remember that the dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA is not over the facts of what was done to these prisoners, but rather who knew what was going on, who was overseeing the program, and whether it actually worked. It was never about which terrible things were done to KSM or other terrorists (or innocent people confused with terrorists).

When I wrote about the Senate report back when it was released, the big takeaway was not the horrible descriptions of what the CIA did to people, though that certainly got the most press. Rather, it was the depressing, bureaucracy-driven nature of the conflict trying to establish timelines of who authorized what, who knew what, where information actually came from, and trying to penetrate layer upon layer of ass-covering concealing what actually happened.

And does it even matter anymore? In the wake of new terrorist attacks on American soil we have Trump promising to do whatever the hell gets cheers from the crowd. His unpredictability, deliberate vagueness, and willingness to outsource the actual solutions to "experts," combined with the secrecy of the CIA, should be of great concern. Getting kicked out of America under President Trump might be the least of a Muslim citizen's worries.

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  1. But the CIA spied on Congress during the inquiry! That’s an affront that cannot be brooked.

    1. I heard they even smirked.

  2. OT, but for those interested in the LIGO gravitational wave detection from the AM Lynx thread, they detected a merger of two roughly 30 solar mass black holes from a little over 1 billion light years away. It’s a slam dunk detection and the signal matches exactly what you would expect from general relativity. Really, really exciting (even if we were hoping to beat them to it). Great effort by LIGO, and a project decades in the making.

    For those interested in the technical details the paper was published in Physical Review Letters. Perusing it now.

    1. Saw that LynchPin. I read that using these waves we should be able to peer back in time all the way back to the singularity.

      Can you explain how that’s possible? I’m guessing these waves have an extremely low rate of amplitude decay, making them prime candidates for studying the past, but all the way back to t=0?

      1. It should be possible in principle to detect gravitational waves from a period known as inflation (nothing to do with the money supply), which would be a tiny tiny fraction after the Big Bang.

        LIGO isn’t sensitive to that. Pulsar Timing Arrays (shameless self plug) *might* be, though it’s a long shot.

        The best chance of that is by measuring the polarization properties of the cosmic microwave background. There are a few experiments trying to do that. A couple years ago the BICEP2 experiment claimed to have done so, but it turns out the result was spurious.

        1. I’m excited about the LISA Pathfinder mission in regards to gravitational wave detection’s. Is this more accurate than the Pulsar Timing arrays?

          1. They are sensitive to different source classes. This is a nice graphic showing that

            1. Great graphic, thanks Lynchpin!

    2. Waterboard the nerd!!!!!

    3. How about they get back to us when they can prove that mass is a thing.

      1. I’m pretty sure your mom is proof that mass is a thing. A lot of a thing.

        1. You leave my mom’s religion out of this, whore.

          1. Religion?!?

            1. +1 Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses.

      2. /slaps sparky upside the head

        There you go

        1. How does that prove mass?

          1. Because he just Gibbs slapped you, and now you’re completely under his PUA spell. Duh doi.

  3. Don’t want to be tortured? Don’t be a terrorist. It’s that simple. Getting information isn’t the point. It’s punishment for being evil.

    1. Mac: Frank, does that waterboard really work?

      Frank: (laughs) You bet your ass! I got Dee to admit to things she never did!

    2. Want to torture people? Just declare a Jihad against witches or a witch hunt against Jihadists. Then call it ‘punishment for being evil’ and the best part is, if they do the same to you, you can just say, “This proves they are evil! We must torture more!”

      1. Now you’re getting it!

  4. This is Trump’s appeal. People love torture. Not because it works but because it’s fun. Same for “Ship ’em home in boxcars” and “Bomb the hell out of them” and “Registry for muslims”. Not only don’t these policies work, they make the problems worse. But for Trump supporters it’s all just part of the fun. You can argue ‘on the merits’ against this stuff until you’re blue in the face.

  5. Listen, noble torture embiggens the smallest sadist, ok?

    1. Cromulent reasoning, if I’ve ever seen it.

  6. His unpredictability, deliberate vagueness, and willingness to outsource the actual solutions to “experts,” combined with the secrecy of the CIA, should be of great concern.

    What are you, some kind of pussy?

    1. That’s hurtful, Nicole. I try to be a bloodthirsty piece of shit sadist! I really do!

    2. (polls rising)

    1. Well, with the social contract the way it is, you either have to get tread on, or spied on. Those who would sacrifice both deserve neither!

  7. If it didn’t work than our college educated and government trained betters wouldn’t use it. Take that you fucking hippies, you probably need a good waterboarding anyway to wash out the patchouli oil.

  8. rectal rehydration

    Do I even want to know what the fuck that is?

    1. Butt chugging, dude. It’s all the rage with the kids.

      1. So it’s a fraternity prank that college kids do for fun. What a bunch of pussies these terrorists are. We need a better class of criminals.

        * it’s obvious now that it’s butt chugging, my initial confusion was caused by a reading comprehension fail. I thought it said “rectal dehydration.”

    2. I’d be more concerned with rectal dehydration first.

      1. Heh, see above. That’s what I initially thought it said. Fail on my part.

    3. It’s an alternative to an IV drip for hydrating someone who has severe nausea and can’t hold down liquids for very long. Or, in this case, the detainees refusing to drink.

  9. Maybe there is a candidate who would do even worse, but it was good we had an actual President who issued an executive order in 2009 banning it.

    1. joe lobbied the president heavily for a ban on dwarf tossing, as he had recently been caught up in a surprise toss-off, but was rebuffed. He’s never recovered.

    2. That’s just meaniningless signaling for chumps like you.

      We have police who torture and public school teachers who abuse children, and having official policies against those things is what’s really important!

      1. And here I thought the article was about the Senate report on torture at the hands of the CIA. Silly me.

          1. Right. And Obama intended to ban the use of torture at the hands of the CIA. And he did. You think he should do likewise on police methods? You know, the federal government dictating to local police? That it?

          2. Didn’t think so.

      2. How will the Dodgers be this year?

    3. If you think that torture has stopped under Obama, I have a water board to sell you.

      1. Do let me know where it has occurred.

        1. What do you call the forced feeding of Gitmo detainees that Obama authorized?
          Black ops continues, same as before, under the war on terror, and there are many cases of torture we will never hear about. The very nature of it requires secrecy and he knows this, even the “progressive” French government was known to use electroshock torture as recently as the mid-1990s (

      2. But we have assurances that those CIA agents who torture will get fired.

        1. Who assured you that?

    4. but it was good we had an actual President who issued an executive order in 2009 banning it

      Hell, before 2009 we had a president who said it wasn’t even taking place! And nobody but you thought he was lying. You deserve a cookie for being such a clever monkey!

      1. Milk too!

  10. It seems to me there are at least 3 seperate things going on here:
    1) Are the people who are being held at Guantanamo (or at other “black” facilities) even guilty of being “unlawful combatants”? (In which case they are entitled to very little protection under international law.)
    2) Were they, in fact, tortured?
    3) Does torture (or other “enhanced interrogation”) techniques even useful at getting information?

    I think 1) is the most disturbing aspect. For 2) The definition of torture is difficult to come up with. Obviously there is some agreement at the margins (flaying with a cat-o-nine-tails IS torture, 3 hots and a cot with cable TV, showers and clean linens ISN’T), but there is a lot of stuff in the middle that people can endlessly argue about. For 3) I am not actually sure there is any agreement here. Obviously, bogus confessions can be coerced out of people. But the gathering of actionable intelligence is a more subtle issue. Obviously throughout history, many people have been tortured because the jailors were sadists. But, I am not sure that we can dismiss out of hand the idea that people under duress can be willing to divulge secrets.

    With 1) however, we haven’t even provided military tribunals to most of the people. So even at a lower standard of guilt, we don’t have any assurances that the people being held are guilty of ANYTHING. That is thing that needs to change.

    1. What do those three questions have to do with this post? The CIA admitted it tortures. The CIA admitted it tortures the wrong people. And now the CIA admits it lied about getting actionable information from that torture.

      1. “And now the CIA admits it lied about getting actionable information from that torture” in some instances. I don’t see anything in the post that indicates the CIA has made an admission that it received zero actionable intelligence through the use of torture (such an admission being strong evidence that torture is therefore a useless tool and thereby only exists for sadism or punishment). Bear’s question about “effectiveness” seems appropriate for discussion and relevant to the post.

        1. No one has ever claimed that there is zero actionable information gathered from torture. But when it’s mixed with fake and otherwise worthless information, well, guess what: there goes your effectiveness.

          1. But if you get actionable intelligence through the use of torture, the torture, by definition, is effective (at least in this case), isn’t it?

            1. Thank you for this demonstration of how blindly tenaciously and aggressively people will support torture in spite of all sense logic and reason.

              1. I never made any comment supporting it or commenting on its morality. Something can be “effective” if it accomplishes it’s purpose and that something can also be morally repugnant and illegal. When you use the words logic and reason in this instance, I’m not entirely sure you understand what they mean.

                1. “Something can be ‘effective’ and morally repugnant and illegal”

                  Please, give an example to demonstrate your basic grasp of logic and reason:

                  1. I want money. Banks have money. If I rob a bank is both immoral and illegal. But doing so has also been effective in getting me the money I want.

                    Go back to screaming at trees, dude.

              2. Neither myself, nor C&W even remotely showed any support for torture. The point of my post was primarily that there are seperate issues working here. And that I think we have to look at each issue individually rather than just spouting off “Torture is wrong!”
                You have to break down the problem into individual things that are being done that are wrong so that we may have a chance to fix them.
                So “torture” is bad. What constitutes torture? If, as apparently we do know, we simply confine these people for the rest of their lives ok, as long as no one is water-boarded or subjected to sleep-deprivation?
                In addition, so many people here and on the left are so quick to say that torture is ineffective. All I am saying is that is still an open question. Doesn’t make it right.

                And just a question, why couldn’t something be effective and immoral at the same time? The two are completely independent standards.

                1. Again, thank you for this demonstration of how tenaciously you will defend your mischief. It is reminiscent of the endless and increasing desperate defenses of slavery in the 1800’s, of which one common variation was: “You’re getting stuck on ‘slavery is wrong’. This issue is really about states’ rights.”

            2. Not by any definition of “effective” that I’ve ever seen, no.

              1. Actionable intelligence is that which leads outside of the interrogation room and into the field. It is almost always subject to being confirmed by an independent and verifiable source. It’s still not always correct, granted, but it’s not “we have a secret uranium mine in the Turkmenistan” and next thing you know we’ve sent in the 101st. If the goal of employing torture was to obtain actionable intelligence (confirmation of existing or new source to then be confirmed) and actionable intelligence was actually obtained, that is the very definition of “effective.” Repugnant and likely illegal but effective nonetheless.

                1. And that’s called a witch hunt. Which have never been shown to be effective even if people insisted they were morally justified and perfectly legal.

        2. Good point. My uncle was a CIA agent and said they actually got a good lead on a neutron bomb program from torturing a terrorist. This quite possibly saved the world from nuclear armageddon. Thank you CIA for keeping us safe.

    2. “the gathering of actionable intelligence is a more subtle issue” – Umm, just an idea: how about when the FBI gets a call that “people are learning to fly planes and don’t want to learn how to land” they investigate it? That would be my first suggestion. Obviously you are an apologist for torture and will defend it aggressively despite the fact that it’s been proven ineffective at preventing these ‘terrists’ from uploading youtube videos radicalizing your children to jihad.

      1. +1 Coleen Rowley

  11. If the government actually cared about terrorism it would stop promoting it. Then kids wouldn’t join in and commit it and then they wouldn’t have to argue about whether torture is justified to prevent it.

    Oh you don’t think that the government promotes Daesh? Check out John Kerry’s advertising campaign – ThinkAgain_DOS. It’s the equivalent of “Just say No” and “This is your brain on drugs”.

  12. Completely OT: It occured to me this morning that we might very well see President Donald Trump next year. Trump’s whole campaign is based on the idea that the GOP leadership is a pack of RINO’s, that they’ve lost touch with their base, they have no principles, that they’re no different from the Dems in that their sole interest is in getting and keeping power by any means necessary, that they’ll do or say whatever it takes to get office. And then we see an Establishment figure like Bob Dole saying Ted Cruz is a poor choice for the GOP because nobody likes him and Trump is better because they can negotiate with the guy.

    Trump is not even a Republican, much less a conservative Republican, which exactly proves his point that the GOP Establishment will do or say whatever it takes to get and keep power – they would rather have a non-conservative non-Republican head their ticket than see a guy that won’t make deals even if he’s one of their own. Trump is living, breathing proof that Trump is right to say the GOP is a useless pack of shitweasels – the useless pack of shitweasels are voting for Trump, aren’t they? How the hell can you say there’s any such thing as GOP principles or values if they’re supporting Trump?

    If Trump gets elected, that’s the end of the GOP. Maybe then the LP can be a meaningful part of whatever conservative party emerges from the wreckage.

  13. So here’s what I want to know: how many sadists are there in teh highest reaches of government? And do they let their “hobby” influence their policy decisions?

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