We have some evidence, as reported by Ed Morrissey, that EITs were useful in getting information from detainees, a point reinforced by a statement from former Vice President Cheney. As I have said and written in the past, I am against torture and waterboarding, and believe that FBI interrogation techniques–which stay away as much as possible from using force and coercion in order to extract answers–do more to give the U.S. valuable information than do techniques like waterboarding. Yes, I know that Morrissey states that the latest revelations contradict Ali Soufan’s arguments, but as Morrissey himself states, these revelations will not settle the issue, and it is unchallenged that Soufan was able to extract significant amounts of intelligence information from Abu Zubaydah and others without the use of torture. Indeed, Soufan’s record was impressive enough that he became a teacher for other interrogators.
When we waterboard, we run the risk that detainees will give us information that may not be true, but that was given in order to stop waterboarding, or other coercive applications of interrogation. Additionally, situations in which “torture”–defined as some form of painful interrogation–are appropriate, are exceedingly small in number and require such a confluence of circumstances as to make the use of torture impractical. If we dramatically expand the teaching and practice of interrogation methods used by the FBI, we will get the information we want, we will get it fast, we will get it accurate, and we won’t need to have this debate in the first place.
All of this having been written, I am interested in other points of view, which is why I am linking to the Morrissey and Cheney statements. I have problems with them, but this debate is not close to being complete, and so long as it goes on, it behooves those on either side to acknowledge points made by the other. For the record, nothing I have seen changes my belief that the expansion of FBI interrogation techniques–the likes of which were employed by people like Ali Soufan to great effect–is desirable if only to ensure that we don’t even need to have this discussion in the first place. The fact that those interrogation techniques are also exceedingly useful colors, of course, my willingness to advocate on their behalf.