THE SECOND HALF OF THE ARTICLE…. Adm. Dennis C. Blair, President Obama’s national intelligence director, told colleagues in a private memo last week that the Bush administration’s detainee abuse did, in fact, produce “high value information” about al Qaeda.
“A ha!” conservatives say. “The White House is dropping an effective interrogation policy! The president’s own intelligence director admitted it! Take that, liberals!”
This is one of those instances in which reading the rest of the article is worthwhile.
We learned from the same report that Adm. Blair, had he been in a position of authority when these interrogation techniques were approved, “would not have approved those methods.” Got that? He knows the abuse led to some “high value information,” but despite this, Blair still would have rejected the tactics.
And why is that?
“The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means,” Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. “The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”
This is the point at which those overly-excited conservative slink away. The source of their excitement believes the abuse they’re so fond of was not only unnecessary, but also proved counterproductive to our interests.
But if we’re going to look at this through purely a pragmatic lens — in other words, if we’re going to disregard morality, the law, and the importance of U.S. stature and leadership — what about the “high value information”? I don’t doubt that in some instances, torture led detainees to give up information U.S. officials wanted to know. I also don’t doubt, however, that torture led detainees to say all kind of things just to make the pain stop, much of which was nonsense that led to a waste of officials’ time.
For that matter, we can also say with confidence that torture “cost American lives,” and produced intelligence that could have been acquired without abuse.
Have I mentioned lately how frustrating it is that we’re still having this “debate”?