|Tom Tomorrow: The True Story|
In the New York Times, Scott Shane and Charlie Savage's detailed account concludes that torture "played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hideout." Indeed, as Davidson notes, "One would think that if so-called 'enhanced interrogations' provided the magic silver bullet, and if the courier was a protégé of K.S.M.’s, then the C.I.A. might have wrapped this up back in 2003, while they were waterboarding the 9/11 mastermind a hundred and eighty-three times."
Which brings us to another problem. As Dan Froomkin explains, it is "not just that the torture didn't work, but that it was actually counterproductive." Far from vindicating "the apologists and practitioners of torture," it is far more likely, Froomkin points out, that "bin Laden could have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly."
What we do know about torture is that it is good at "eliciting false confessions." This is not surprising given, as Froomkin previously wrote, "Bush-era torture techniques . . . were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War."
But whether torture "works" or not is ultimately beside the point. Torture is immoral, illegal and violates fundamental human rights. As Dahlia Lithwick says:
There is just one question about America and torture: whether we should do it. The answer to that, after hundreds of years of legal thinking and moral progress, not just in America but around the world, is no. It's bad for those asked to torture, and it's bad for our soldiers who will be tortured by others. A bunch of Bush officials secretly changed that answer for a time, based on misapprehensions of its efficacy, but for serious interrogators, ethical thinkers, and lawyers, the answer has always been no.When President Obama took office he refused to allow his Justice Department to investigate, much less prosecute, those in the Bush Administration who authorized torture. He maintained that since his Administration wouldn't condone torture we can simply move forward. But we are not moving forward. Without a true reckoning that confirms once and for all the immorality and illegality of torture, we remain stuck in a debate framed by self-serving Bush officials about its efficacy. And, as Froomkin concludes, "the debate goes on."