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Ex-FBI Agent: Still No Evidence That Cheney’s Torture Methods Work

It’s been an amazing thing: faced with hundreds of pages of documents disclosed last week that explicitly state and thoroughly demonstrate that it’s unknown whether “enhanced interrogation” worked, all it takes for the press to ignore the record is for former Vice President Dick Cheney to bluster aggressively. After all, you know, reading documents is hard. And any blogger can do it!

If it’s first-hand accounts you want, then, here’s Mike Rolince. Rolince is a 31-year FBI veteran who retired from the bureau’s Washington, D.C., field office, where he worked on counterterrorism, in 2005. Both from experience in interrogations and from viewing the IG report, Rolince can’t believe that so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques like waterboarding still have their defenders. “I’m just not a fan of them, and never have been a fan of them,” he told me. “I’ve never believed that it works, I don’t believe its been documented that it works, and I don’t believe we as a country should stoop to that, I don’t think we ought to be doing it. I just don’t think we need to do the untested, untrained and unreliable.”

Well, what then *is *tested, trained and reliable? “So many of these people are so uninformed when it comes to the capabilities of law enforcement and intelligence gathering,” he said, referring to torture advocates, some of whom — like Cheney — denigrate law enforcement approaches to counterterrorism. “What is it they think police officers and state troopers and [FBI] agents do successfully every day of the week? And have done for a hundred years? Investigations, interviews and interrogations.” The FBI’s track record of “confessions obtained [and] convictions obtained,” he said, speaks for itself.

Similarly, The Washington Post published a big story on Saturday claiming that torture transformed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, into a font of information who gave seminars to U.S. officials on al-Qaeda. You can read Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler and Adam Serwer on various problems with the piece. But something The Post didn’t mention was how Scott Shane of The New York Times last year reported that Mohammed’s principal interlocutor was a CIA interrogator named Deuce Martinez. And Martinez used techniques rather similar to that of Rolince and his colleagues:

He chose to leave the infliction of pain and panic to others, the gung-ho paramilitary types whom the more cerebral interrogators called “knuckledraggers.”

Mr. Martinez came in after the rough stuff, the ultimate good cop with the classic skills: an unimposing presence, inexhaustible patience and a willingness to listen to the gripes and musings of a pitiless killer in rambling, imperfect English. He achieved a rapport with Mr. Mohammed that astonished his fellow C.I.A. officers.

A canny opponent, Mr. Mohammed mixed disinformation and braggadocio with details of plots, past and planned. Eventually, he grew loquacious. “They’d have long talks about religion,” comparing notes on Islam and Mr. Martinez’s Catholicism, one C.I.A. officer recalled. And, the officer added, there was one other detail no one could have predicted: “He wrote poems to Deuce’s wife.

This is a much more complex picture than the one The Post offered. It’s not to say that *only *the good-cop stuff worked, because that’s not proven in either Shane’s piece or the CIA IG report. But it is to say that it’s too simple and misleading to assert that the torture, against all experience with interrogations, worked. Indeed, when the CIA’s June 3, 2005 memo suggests that it was the non-torturing “debriefers” that unlocked reliable intelligence from detainees, it might be referring to people like Martinez.

“To say you had to use torture to get there, it’s not based on fact,” Rolince said. “And I don’t think these people [who advocate torture] are going back on what they believe, and that’s their right and their prerogative. But I don’t think the facts justify any of their conclusions and I don’t think history’s going to be very kind to them.”

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