Here’s How the CIA Can Fudge the Question of Whether Torture ‘Worked’

Monday, August 24, 2009 at 4:12 pm

For those, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who want to argue that CIA torture “worked,” a footnote on page six of the 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on torture provides a blueprint for muddying the waters. Rarely if ever, according to the report, did torture occur by itself. The CIA also used the rapport-building techniques that trained interrogators like the FBI’s Ali Soufan have urged, for a combination approach that might be called Good Cop/Psychotic Cop.

Before 11 September (9/11) 2001, Agency personnel sometimes used the terms interrogation/interrogator and debriefing/debriefer interchangeably. The use of these terms has since evolved and, today, CTC [the Counterterrorist Center] more clearly distinguishes their meanings. A debriefer engages a detainee solely through question and answer. An interrogator is a person who completes a two-week interrogations training program, which is designed to train, qualify, and certify a person to administer EITs ["enhanced interrogation techniques."]. An interrogator can administer EITs during an interrogation of a detainee only after the field, in coordination with Headquarters, assesses the detainee as withholding information. An interrogator transitions the detainee from a non-cooperative to a cooperative phase in order that a debriefer can elicit actionable intelligence through non-aggressive techniques during debriefing sessions. An interrogator may debrief a detainee during an interrogation; however, a debriefer may not interrogate a detainee.

The report goes on to say that the agency’s “detention and interrogation of terrorists has provided intelligence that has enabled the identification and apprehension of other terrorists and warned of terrorist plots planned for the United States around the world.” Because of the joint relationship of “interrogators” and “debriefers,” it’s extraordinarily difficult to distinguish between what approaches worked and what didn’t for the purposes of the report. (Even factoring out moral and legal considerations.) That lack of disaggregation may be what contributed to the documents that Cheney wanted the CIA to declassify showing the alleged utility of torture.”

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Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

Did the need the “2 week wonders” because experienced professional interrogators would have nothing to do with this?

Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

One win and one loss for Obama regarding the CIA. How can he do the right thing on one issue and be so wrong on another. there is a related post at

Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

When the torture starts the last thing you want to be is innocent. You won't have anything to give up in order to make it stop and who knows how long it might take you to figure out what your tormentors want to hear. They might be helpful and show you random photos of brown dudes you can make up stories about. Also even if you know next to nothing about the United States you must have heard of the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty just say there are plans to blow them up and the brown dudes in the pictures are in on the plans.

Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

This is a gigantic red herring to distract from Obama's plummeting poll numbers. Why not investigate Holder for his recommending pardoning Marc Rich to BJ? White House supervision of a special “interrogations unit” that will play pattycake with suspects rather than subject them to the same conditions they put upon innocent people? We know where this entire bogus snipe hunt—both the bogus “investigation” and the new “interrogation units” will go, with “revelations” coming out in dribs and drabs to distract the public from this POTUS's socialist agenda. Obama wants to change the subject as his ObamaCare heads down the toilet into the sewage tank where it belongs. He's “flooding the zone” with distractions to keep whack-jobs on the left from pillorying him in the press.

Was it worth it? | The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Pingback posted August 24, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

[...] critical, actionable intelligence. There is, to be sure, plenty of information that suggests that some combination of interrogation techniques provided useful information. But this hardly vindicates Dick [...]

Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

WOW! a real live “birther” right here at TWI. Who would have ever imagined?

Comment posted August 24, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

Yeah, that's all way more important than torture, war crimes, trashing everything our country was supposed to represent…

Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » CIA Releases Documents That Cheney Claimed Would Vindicate Torture
Pingback posted August 25, 2009 @ 6:36 am

[...] that the CIA used the terms “interrogator” and “debriefer” interchangeably, it’s impossible to tell what methods actually worked in obtaining crucial information: Because of the joint relationship of “interrogators” and “debriefers,” it’s [...]

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

Torture has never worked, as the professional interrogator Sedgwick D. Tourison points out in his important book: “Talking with Victor Charlie, an Interrogator's Story”. If you use torture, the victim will tell you whatever he, or she thinks you want to hear, just to stop the pain for a few moments.
It's the same insight as our professional interrogators in our 4th Armored Division's 504th MI detachment conveyed to me, when I served as Intelligence Operations Officer there. I learned the same lesson when I served with our 1/10 Cavalry Squadron, and later as Advisory Team Leader north of Kontum, and in Trung Lap, in the heart of the so-called “Iron Triangle” of Vietnam.

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

If your gaol is to hear what you want to hear, even if it's not necessarily the truth, then tortures the way to go. They'll tell you what they think you want to hear eventually..

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

Nice little riff from the Alinsky playbook, Marc.

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

Yes, we should have sent these nice terrorist dudes to bed without supper, and told them not to blow up any more large buildings in NYC or elsewhere. That would have fixed the problem!

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

Dude, your old fat old white guy and you look like the kind of crazy kook that would carry around an assault rifle. If your not a “birther” it was an honest mistake on my part.
BTW who is Alinsky

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

Try spell check & grammar rules, chump. Looks like you infest this thread like a blind termite—-looks to a creepy Alinsky clone like you are always tinged with stupidity. Your mistakes aren't honest nor are they even smart. Judging from your name, you're an ethnic creep.

Comment posted August 25, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

We stole your country dude and your not getting it back. Now go eat a corn dog , watch some Nascar and leave us alone

SmartRemarks » Torture, shame, and people who lack it
Pingback posted August 27, 2009 @ 3:04 am

[...] the IG report in particular leaves it …extraordinarily difficult to distinguish between what approaches worked and what didn’t [...]

Comment posted August 27, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

This is a false dichotomy. Either we torture, or we play pattycake, either we waterboard, or we just send them to bed without supper. Anyone arguing this way is not really being serious about the challenge we face in figuring out how to both ethically and effectively gain information to defend ourselves, and is simply trying to score cheap political points.

1 Boring Old Man » Hannity’s Special…
Pingback posted August 27, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

[...] capture. There are repeated references to the value of “debriefings,” which the 2004 CIA inspector general’s report says are distinct from the “enhanced interrogation techniques” but can be used after they occur. For [...]

Comment posted August 27, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

Actually, I was an FSO Arabist Political Officer in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and can attest that the “false dichotomy” is on dconrad's part, as he obviously has no sense or knowledge of the local mindset in the region. For the terrorists in custody, waterboarding does not constitute “torture,” although repeated applications might have some effect. Only the legal sorcerers of the leftist libtards can turn a nuisance and annoyance for the terrorist mindset like waterboarding, into “torture.” Power drills and cutting off sexual organs & other mutilations are what might move these infra types to talk. KSM was a fat weakling, so he blabbed under water, even though he knew he wouldn't drown.

I don't give a shit about your exquisite bookish perfesser-BS when human lives are at stake. And Cheney was right when he noted that the LA Library Tower and other targets were not attacked due to aggressive interrogation.

But most of the specimens infesting this thread are true America-haters—-pure and simple. Your high-minded prattle about “torture” doesn't even understand America's far-away enemies, because you quislings are the real enemy, the Fifth Column infecting the marketplace of ideas.

Comment posted August 27, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

WOW ! daveinboca was a FSO Arabist Political Officer in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon! Two places that supplied most of the 911 hijackers. That explains a lot. And to think I use to think that Arabs hated us for our freedom.

Comment posted August 27, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

Marc, your ignorance is as dependable as Dems calling for bigger government. Of the “fifteen Saudi hijackers,” 11 were of Yemeni extraction and carried Saudi passports only to help Bin Laden convince the Fifth Column in the USA that the Saudis had something to do with 9/11 in an official undercover fashion. I know that actual knowledge of areas is inimical to your brand of agitprop, but Bin Laden considers himself a Yemeni, as did 11 of the “15 Saudi” hijackers.

Probably way too complicated for your room temp IQ, but simple math skills say that 6 of the 19 highjackers were from Saudi & Lebanon, not quite “most of the 911 hijackers.” Or were you educated in public schools by AFTA/NEA union members? Then I can understand.

Comment posted August 31, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

No one is above the law in America. No one. Investigate Bush and Cheney now.

Did Torture Work? | Heretical Ideas Blog
Pingback posted September 1, 2009 @ 11:04 am

[...] is flatly untrue. First of all, as Spencer Ackerman points out, the Inspector General’s report actually muddles the techniques so that it’s hard to [...]

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