It Is Designed To Obtain False Confessions

by dday

Torture as an intelligence-gathering tool is extremely counter-productive and anyone who went to elementary school knows it. If you found yourself at the mercy of some bully's full nelson hold, you would say whatever you could to get out of it. It's insulting to the professionals who are actually successful interrogators to tell them to use torture instead of their own techniques.

Torture as a tool of intimidation, as a tool which gives the illusion of progress in gathering intelligence, is quite good. And the evil men and women running policy in Washington knew that, and installed it to that purpose. Yesterday we learned that the interrogators at Gitmo designed a program of torture specifically to obtain false confessions.

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners [...]

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Those orchestrated confessions led to allegations that the American prisoners had been “brainwashed,” and provoked the military to revamp its training to give some military personnel a taste of the enemies’ harsh methods to inoculate them against quick capitulation if captured.

You can see the old Air Force study here. We already knew that the techniques were based on SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), so this isn't that new. But the fact that the Koreans used this program to obtain false confessions is extremely telling. This is why the bigwigs in Washington quashed any reviews and tried to hide the evidence. The US government was using torture for exactly the same purpose as the Koreans. By obtaining false confessions, they can pretend to be successfully fighting the war on terror, justify the masses of people swept up into prison camps, and "send a message" to the rest of the world about how big and bad they are. This was the goal. It's all that Arab mind bullshit the right has swallowed whole for decades.

This is now starting to come out on these cretins, on the techniques they used to debase our country and imperil our national security. And their excuses are pathetic.

Throughout this ugly drama, U.S. leaders have assured the public that the extreme interrogation measures used on detainees have thwarted acts of terrorist and saved thousands of American lives. The trouble with such claims is that professionals who know something of interrogation or intelligence don’t believe them. This is not just because the old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture doesn’t work -- it doesn’t -- but also because they know that torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize.

The administration’s claims of having “saved thousands of Americans” can be dismissed out of hand because credible evidence has never been offered -- not even an authoritative leak of any major terrorist operation interdicted based on information gathered from these interrogations in the past seven years. All the public gets is repeated references to Jose Padilla, the Lakawanna Six, the Liberty Seven and the Library Tower operation in Los Angeles. If those slapstick episodes are the true character of the threat, then maybe we’ll be okay after all.

As the above-linked report makes clear, the CIA is STILL doing some of this crap. There are going to be consequences, and as the writer says "It may be impossible for the next administration to fix what has happened to the CIA in the last seven years. It may be a broken brand. Perhaps the only way to proceed next January will be to start over afresh, with a new intelligence structure and new institutions."

That's not just true for the CIA. a postscript, am I the only one to be a little sick of these writers, who want desperately to be as manly as Ernest Hemingway, that cannot believe for certain whether or not waterboarding is torture until they do it themselves? How arrogant (not surprising for Hitchens) to assume that the literally thousands of years of data on the tactic is incomplete until an out-of-shape writer cements it for certain. Hitchens came to the same conclusion as the victims of the Inquisition and the judges at the Nuremberg trials, so what was the point? That anyone feels the need to dignify the brain-dead sadists on the right by calling the efficacy of waterboarding up for question is beyond me.