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Calabresi writes: "The definitive answer to whether there is a link between information gained through torture and the killing of Osama bin Laden is available to those with the necessary security clearances."

The flag and barbed wire within a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. (photo: Getty Images)
The flag and barbed wire within a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. (photo: Getty Images)

The Truth About Torture

By Massimo Calabresi, TIME Magazine

16 December 12


debate has erupted about the new film Zero Dark Thirty, and whether it inaccurately suggests that U.S.-sanctioned torture (aka "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques") led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

That claim was memorably asserted within hours of bin Laden's death by Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA's clandestine service in an interview with TIME. Rodriguez made the case more fully in his book, Hard Measures.

The argument was then persuasively countered by Senators Diane Feinstein and Carl Levin and by several others with direct knowledge of the program, including former CIA interrogation supervisor, Glenn A. Carle and by Rodriguez's nemesis, former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan.

The definitive answer to whether there is a link between information gained through torture and the killing of Osama bin Laden is available to those with the necessary security clearances thanks to years of painstaking work by the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In March 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to write a report on the history of the CIA's detention and interrogation program, and its effectiveness, after reviewing and being shocked by CIA cables that described interrogations.

After Attorney General Eric Holder decided in Aug. 2009 to investigate whether interrogators had gone beyond the legal guidelines outlined for them by the Justice Department, Republican members of the committee pulled out of the SSCI effort to produce the report. The Democratic staff continued, reviewing some 6 million documents and ultimately writing a 6,000 page report with 35,000 footnotes. The report was adopted this week by the committee 9-6, with Republicans claiming errors and omissions.

The report remains classified and it is not clear when any of it will be made available to the public. SSCI chair Diane Feinstein released a statement on the committee's adoption of the report, which she called "one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate, and by far the most important oversight activity ever conducted by this committee."

The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight. I look forward to working with the president and his national security team, including the Director of National Intelligence and Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to address these important issues, with the top priority being the safety and security of our nation.

Conducting oversight is sometimes a difficult and unpleasant task for all involved, but I am confident the CIA will emerge a better and more able organization as a result of the committee's work. I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques such as those detailed in this report.

I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine 'black sites' and the use of so-called 'enhanced-interrogation techniques' were terrible mistakes. The majority of the Committee agrees.

Ultimately the renewed debate over Zero Dark Thirty shows that the U.S. has not come to terms with its embrace of torture after 9/11 and that doing so remains a crucial piece of unfinished business for Washington and the country.

Two final points: Soufan and Rodriguez agree that "enhanced interrogation" by Egyptian authorities produced bogus intelligence about collaboration between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, intelligence that Colin Powell used in 2003 to make the case for invading Iraq (see Hard Measures, pp. 52-53).

Lastly, for those who think waterboarding is not torture, I settle that issue in discussion with a variety of senior Bush administration officials here. your social media marketing partner


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+12 # banichi 2012-12-17 00:40
It is unfortunate that the issue of government-dire cted torture has devolved into a discussion of whether it is effective or not. That particular conversation was proven false long ago and has been documented many times. But that is not the real issue at all.

The real issue is the moral one - should we in the United States be abandoning our ethics and morals in a paranoid attempt to 'defend' ourselves by any means such as torture? There is no real survival need, no justification for such acts. Our own freedoms, our own moral authority, are not defended by such practices, they are destroyed by them.

Freedom is not enhanced or defended by torture, but the drift to the right by our government even under Obama has included more and more justifications of the use of enhanced 'security' measures and less respect for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Such a drift to the right, politically, really only serves as notice that what the U.S. has done in other countries to replace elected democracies with dictators who will follow the U.S. desires - Iran and Iraq are good examples though not the only ones - has now come full circle home again. What we do to other countries, we do to ourselves.
+11 # giraffee2012 2012-12-17 01:55
And therefore Rove and Cheney should be given a proper trial because they will be found guilty and put in jail. At least that is how "it" should go down.

Like the "too big to fail" banks - our government can't seem to prosecute the 1% while the rest of us - if we look cross-eyed - we go to jail for not paying taxes, have a but of marijuana on us or any other minor act considered against the law.

It is time. The banks that laundered drug money are getting off! The banks that foreclose on houses without deed in hand get the house and people (some with children even) are out on the street - broke.

The military gets more and more tax money so we can stick our noses in places we have no business.

Time for us to stop reading these articles and not doing anything - call your Congress people and complain about each of the bad they are doing.
Oh, BTW, deficit is unimportant - while jobs are top priority.

The fiscal cliff is not about deficit -- and don't forget that.

Raise cain with your congress people. Call them many times / day. Their 2 day work week is unacceptable.
+8 # Alexis Fecteau 2012-12-17 04:59
Bush, Cheney, and their entire cabal of self-admitted torturing war criminals should be in the Hague now under trial, followed by life in prison.

Obama close behind for actively protecting and harboring those war criminals, and thus being guilty of equal crimes.
+4 # Billy Bob 2012-12-17 09:19
The truth is that the only purpose torture has ever served is to entertain the torturers. The only other purpose possible is to intimidate peace activists into silence.

Torturing people MAKES YOU the bad guy, regardless of what your enemy did to you in the past.
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-12-17 12:36
I'd actually quite like to see Dimwits, Rove, Cheney and all other war-provoking Chicken-hawks water-boarded WITHOUT diapers. The late Christopher Hitchins, whatever you think of him, went through this voluntarily and resoundingly declared it "Torture".
Ref'"The definitive answer to whether there is a link between information gained through torture and the killing of Osama bin Laden is available to those with the necessary security clearances thanks to years of painstaking work by the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence" [quote from article].
Ergo. So would those who have gained such security clearance be more or less liable to tell us the truth of these matters, or just be obtuse and downright untruthful, as this is all part of the CIA's Black Budget?
And isn't the revelation of such things via "Wikileaks" the main reason why they are being so brutal to Bradley Manning and by extension, Assange???
+1 # jmac9 2012-12-17 19:30
America the great hypocrite.

America preaching freedom of expression, press, elections

yet in reality

America supported dictatorships worldwide that crushed all of those freedoms.

Samosa in Nicaragua, Diem in Vietnam, Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Guatemala military junta, Pinochet in Chile and on and on...

Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld war criminals should have been dragged in front of the Hague court
but Obama gave them a pardon - well - a pardon here but not outside the borders of the US.

And then the CIA torturers - war criminals - the ones who were "just following orders".

So what happens?

they all work for you. Your tax money pays their salaries.

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