Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The price of expediency is again greater than the price of honor

A Reporter at Large: The Black Sites: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker Annotated

Sadly, absolutely nothing in this article reveals anything revolutionary or even surprising about the black art of torture. There is nothing here that could not have been presumed, based on what is known about human nature and our psychological limits. That is most especially true of the inevitable mental devastation of those charged with using this evil art upon others.

Oh, and one other thing, also long known by anyone who's made even the briefest study of it. Torture may produce information you need to know - but it will be buried in confessions of everything the subject thinks you want to hear.
The estimate - by one PRO-torture source cited elsewhere in the essay - is that 90 percent of the information obtained by torture is useless, meaning that it's not even seriously competitive with conventional techniques of investigation. This result comes at the price of human sanity, souls, and ultimately precludes the possibility of justice. Perhaps, in the final judgment, it will be found that was the object all along.

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.”

Indeed it does. Mine is pegged on "Evil"

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