Experts say torture doesn’t work

The "aggressive" interrogation techniques that the Bush administration advocates for use on terror suspects is coming under fire from experts who call the practice "outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

Even members of the Bush administration, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, have begun to question the use of torture to gain information from suspects.

But President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney continue to push use of such techniques, calling them a "valuable tool" in the so-called war on terror.

But support for use of torture, once a given on Capitol Hill, is beginning to wane.

Report Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times:

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.

The science board critique comes as ethical concerns about harsh interrogations are being voiced by current and former government officials. The top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, sent a letter to troops this month warning that “expedient methods” using force violated American values.

In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.


  1. Paolo

    Exactly. If a politician wouldn’t want it done to their own child as punishment, then we shouldn’t do it.

    And isn’t it scary that all the Republican candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul) stood up and loudly supported “enhanced interrogation techniques”? (That is, torture).

    What a sick bunch of perverts.

  2. SEAL

    Surely you people don’t think that our using torture on prisoners just started with the Bush administration? We always have. In all they ways they are now admitting and more. It was something no one ever talked about. But, for some reason, somebody decided to expose it. I guess their desire to “get Bush” overrode their good judgment.

    Now, the best kept secret that wasn’t a secret is world wide knowledge and we are no better than the next guy. Releasing the fact that we tortute our prisoners was bad enough but Dumbhead, in his arrogance, had to go and make it leagal i.e., the official policy of America.

    This, along with most everything else Bushco has done, has diminished America’s stature in the minds of people around the world.

  3. Joe Lawrence

    ….should have the good grace to keep their childish thoughts about strategies and tactics to themselves, but when they are the president and vice president of one of the warring countries it gives way to a much older view.

    On Memorial Day, I was pleased to be reminded of the words Shakespeare gave the king in response to Westmoreland’s wish for more troops to fight the French. Anyone not familiar with the passage can simply Google ‘St. Crispin’s Day.’

    Screw Bush, screw Cheney and, now, in further response to yesterday’s article about Rolling Thunder’s coziness with the administration, screw Rolling Thunder, too. I don’t ride with them because I already had the vague feeling that doing so would be seen as supporting these criminals in the administration.

    Rubber side down, chromed side up!

    Joe Lawrence

  4. Steve Horn

    How can you claim to be in a war against terror while supporting torture? Is not torture just terrorisim on an individual basis?

    Torture has never worked for information gathering – people will tell you whatever they thing you want to hear to stop the pain –

    Personally I think it’s well past the time for the current administration to stop the torture of the American people through it’s constant stream of mis-information, lies and bullshit.




    Bush tortures people because it is a message for us. It says that if you go against him you could end up in Guantanamo. This whole administration is just filth.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  6. Paolo

    Hi John Hanks,

    I never dreamed, as a kid growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, that I would actually have to explain to people in America why torture is bad (to say nothing of being ineffective). Am I living in a nightmare? Please, wake me up!

    You’re right. The real reason the administration supports torture is they’re sending a message to the rest of us: support us or else.

    The America I once knew is dead.

  7. Wayne K Dolik

    We also have private contractors that engage in torture. See my video on YouTube.

  8. Paolo

    Kent: I believe every other country on earth has got to be a little queasy about allying itself with the USA. We’re not only a worldwide bully; we’re a back-stabbing worldwide bully. To the Syria observation, add Iraq, which was our ally during Saddam’s reign in the 1980’s. Why? Because Saddam started a war with Iran, another former friend-turned-enemy when Iranians got tired of being tortured by Savak, the Shah’s secret police. We’ve meddled in elections in the former Soviet satellite nations of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, while supporting the rulers of Uzbekistan, who deal with opponents by boiling them to death.

    In short, the US government is a double-dealing, back-stabbing, bullying, torturing tyrant. It’s a shame that Bush, Cheney, and all the other lying thieves and murderers will likely never face justice.

  9. kent shaw

    Paolo: “We blame Syria for all the above, plus allegedly killing a former Prime Minister of Lebanon. Yet we have an ongoing relationship with Syria in which we send them prisoners and ask that they be tortured.”

    Nothing adds up. First a country is an ally of the U.S. Then they are enemy number one. This happens with other countries, not just Iraq. I’d be very careful if I was an ally of the U.S.

    Its all a load of crap, this geopolitical jockeying for position. Its all the very wealthy using soldiers as pawns in their attempt at stealing wealth and control.

    I have no allegiance to the American government, which I hope crashes and implodes sooner than later. I love this country but this government is beyond repair, simply chock full of criminals and opportunists.

    Its all deception, smoke and mirrors. What young person would actually enlist in this military if only they could be given a crash course in American actions over the years.

    THIS country is the rogue nation. THIS country is the major impediment to world peace.

  10. Elmo

    You’ve all heard it.
    There is a person in custody.
    We “know” that person has information about a planned attack which will take place “Real Soon Now”.
    Do we torture the person to make them reveal the details of the planned attack?

    How do we know the person has that information?

    OK, we “strongly suspect” that the person has the information because some other person told us and we believe that person to be telling the truth.

    No matter how I slice it, it always seems to come back to the same thing:
    Torture the poor bugger until you hear what you want to hear. You can do that with sleep deprivation which will eventually get almost anyone to say almost anything you want them to.

  11. Janice

    To even be discussing the use of torture by the United States is appalling. We are supposed to be the shining beacon of hope among the civilized people of the world. Torture used to be incongruous with our principles of freedom and equality. Now, these rabid Bible thumping conservative right wing hypocrites who worship the dollar and power above upholding the principles our country was founded upon have ruined our economy, our country, and our standing in the international community.

    For the first time in my life, or my parents life, there is no pride in being an American. What have we let these evil thieves do to our once great country? How can we, as a people, condone the use of torture in our name? Why do we just sit here and let it happen? Shame on all of us, every citizen, every news outlet, every civil rights group, and every rotten politician in our country. We do not have to sink to the level of those we are not at peace with. We used to be better than that.

    If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
    Mark Twain

  12. Paolo

    A postscript on the debate over torture. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that the administration is quick to criticize Syria for allegedly sending troublemakers across the border into Iraq, and for allegedly hiding Saddam Hussein’s missing WMDs. This is usually followed by a condemnation of Syria as a nation that practices torture on political opponents.

    Connect the dots, folks: when America “renditions” prisoners to other countries for torture, it often chooses Syria. Now, how can this be? We blame Syria for all the above, plus allegedly killing a former Prime Minister of Lebanon. Yet we have an ongoing relationship with Syria in which we send them prisoners and ask that they be tortured.

    Supposedly we “don’t talk with states that sponsor terrorism,” but that’s obviously a lie. Syria, supposedly one of the worst sponsors of terrorism, is cozy enough with the CIA to take renditioned prisoners.

    What deal has been cut behind our backs? Maybe agreeing not to invade Syria (for now), on condition they do our dirty work for us?

    Makes you go, “hmmmmmm…..”

  13. Joe Lawrence

    ….what deal has been cut? Easily answered! Just finds someone in the administration who knows, and torture the s.o.b ’til he/she fesses up, eh?

    Man, what a “useful tool” torture is.