Hayden’s Straw Man Argument on “Interrogation Deniers”

by Roger Koppl

In a Wall Street Journal op ed of 2 June 2011, General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009, compares “interrogation deniers” to “birthers” and “truthers.”  Hayden’s op ed mischaracterizes the basic claim of those who say torture is not effective, substitutes insult for argument, and includes a non sequitur worthy of the old joke that that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron.

Hayden defines “interrogation deniers” as “individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence.”  Talk about a straw man!  I suppose there must be some “interrogation deniers” as defined by Hayden, and I suppose some of them are out there floating in the wide waters of the Internet, waiting for someone to cut and paste.  But I don’t know of any examples, and their possible existence at the margins of public discourse has no bearing on the public question.   As Glenn Greenwald noted on May 4th,  “Nobody has ever argued that brutality will never produce truthful answers.”  No.  “[T]he point has always been — as a consensus of interrogations professionals has repeatedly said — that there are far more effective ways to extract the truth from someone than by torturing it out of them.” Continue reading

Time for a Truth Commission

by Roger Koppl

London’s The Times reports on evidence suggesting “George W. Bush ‘knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent.’”  (HT: Radley Balko)  Supposedly, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were all in on it.  “The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee.”

According to The Times, “He [Wilkerson] said that many [persons] were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000.”  The problem with these payments is clear.  Paying persons serious money to turn in supposed terrorists creates a powerful incentive to invent false charges so that you can get the money.  In that part of the world, $5,000 is very serious money indeed.  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that many persons swept up in that operation were innocent persons who were sold out to fatten a wallet.

Karl Rove has said that waterboarding is not torture.  (Go to about 3:07.)  He has also said that “harsh interrogation” produced lots of good actionable intelligence (2:25).  That’s not a credible remark in my book.

In the US, our government has rendered, sequestered, and tortured.  Our government has flouted the rule of law and suspended habeas corpus.  It has made war on a nation that was not a threat to us in any way.  It has spied on us without the legal nicety of a specific warrant.  It has, in other words, grown tyrannical.  Isn’t it time for a truth commission?  It is too much to hope for a real criminal trial of our highest officials, but is it really too much to ask for the truth?  Patrick Leahy called for a truth commission in February 2009.  It’s time.

Rent Control and Torture

by Roger Koppl

Dick Cheney has intimated that water boarding yielded important, actionable intelligence.  The evidence points the other way, however.  Some evidence suggests that there may have been an ulterior motive for at least some “harsh interrogations,” namely, to link Iraq and al Qaeda.  We need more analysis of Bush-era torture from an economic point of view, including public choice.

Rent control and torture are similar.  In both case you have a government policy that cannot achieve the end it is said to pursue.  And in both cases you might wonder what the policy’s true purpose really is. Continue reading