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May 02 2012

Senate Report Finds No Evidence That Torture Worked

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating the question of whether the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture by the Bush administration was effective in getting useful information from detainees. A report to be released soon will conclude that there is no evidence that it did any good:

A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.

People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.

The backers of such techniques, which include “water-boarding,” sleep deprivation and other practices critics call torture, maintain they have led to the disruption of major terror plots and the capture of al Qaeda leaders.

One official said investigators found “no evidence” such enhanced interrogations played “any significant role” in the years-long intelligence operations which led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last May by U.S. Navy SEALs.

This is hardly a surprise. We have the testimony of many of the interrogators themselves that torture does not work. But it’s irritating that Reuters chooses to put the word torture in quotation marks, as though there were some doubt that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were torture. The UN Convention Against Torture, promoted and signed by Ronald Reagan, clearly defines them as torture:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

The treaty also makes clear that no exigencies can be used as an excuse:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

And that getting an order does not absolve one of having violated the convention:

An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

And it requires us to prosecute anyone who engages in torture or allows or orders it to be done. Even if it “worked” that would not be an excuse for doing it. But remember, Obama has to continue prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers because he can’t just pick and choose which laws to enforce. Except when he does.

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  1. 1
    LightningRose

    “Obama has to continue prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers…”

    Ed, you continue to make this unsubstantiated claim. Back it up with citations or it’s made up crap.

    It sure as shit isn’t happening in Colorado where the city of Denver (pop 600000) has twice as many MMJ dispensaries (400) as Starbucks, and the city of Boulder (pop 100000) has ten times as many MMJ dispensaries (30) as Starbucks.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    slc1

    Re LightningRose @ #1

    AFAIK, most of the action by the administration seems to be taking place in California. Don’t worry they’ll get around to Colorado in due course.

  4. 4
    jba55

    “other practices critics call torture”

    And which supporters call torture when The Enemy is doing it to someone they like. It’s all framing. Harmful, dangerous framing.

  5. 5
    slc1

    Oh but Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA officer begs to differ. He is backed up by Marc Thiessen. Everybody knows that the Democrats are soft on terrorism and Obama is a pinko Commie Muslime sympathizer.

    End snark.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ex-cia-counterterror-chief-pelosi-lied-about-waterboarding/2012/04/30/gIQAQFGtrT_story.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-path-to-osama-bin-ladens-death-didnt-start-with-obama/2012/04/30/gIQAfFmdsT_story.html

  6. 6
    Blondin

    Yeah, but… ticking time bombs… & stuff.

  7. 7
    anandine

    It depends on what you mean by “works” or “does any good.” It made Cheney and others feel better, and it probably got them some votes from people who don’t want to mollycoddle terrorists.

  8. 8
    Raging Bee

    Did anyone here see “Safe House?” Not a bad movie all in all, but it hit an inexcusable low of dishonesty when Denzel’s character said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had cracked after less than a minute because his torturers were using a certain kind of towel when waterboarding him. As Ed has already pointed out in several posts, that’s not even within ICBM-range of the truth. KSM was waterboarded 183 times, and he never gave up anything better than what he gave the interrogators who weren’t torturing him at all. So whose idea was it to slip such obvious BS into a movie script?

    Call me paranoid, but sometimes it seems the Republicans are trying to insinuate their zombie lies into the public discourse through fictional movies; as when they used the second “Transformers” movie to beatify the military (UFO coverups and all) and demonize liberal politicians. (And don’t even get me started about that earsplitting obnoxious rah-rah-no-one-has-any-right-to-criticize-our-troops military recruitment trailer that vanished from theatres as soon as Obama was elected — all the reason I need to vote for him again.)

  9. 9
    LightningRose

    Chris from Europe:

    http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/other/223693-obama-defends-action-on-medical-marijuana-dispensaries

    “Since that time, more than 100 dispensaries have been raided by federal prosecutors, according to reports.

    Be specific. What dispensaries and/or patients were targeted, and why? How many dispensaries are there? Is 100 a large or minuscule number?

    Without that information, it’s just hyperbole.

    I’ll give an example, recently three (out of 33) MMJ dispensaries in Boulder, CO, received a letter from the DEA telling them they were within 1000 ft of a school and had a month to either move or close. No jackboot thugs in the middle of the night, no arrests, no closures. Just a letter to less than 10% of the dispensaries telling them to clean up their act.

    SLC1: “AFAIK, most of the action by the administration seems to be taking place in California.”

    Then you don’t know shit. As I said, it’s made up crap.

  10. 10
    LightningRose

    I forgot to add, virtually every MMJ dispensary in Colorado has opened *since* Obama took office.

  11. 11
    slc1

    Re LightningRose @ #9

    Mr. LightningRose doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/feds-cracking-down-on-california-medical-marijuana-dispensaries.html

  12. 12
    Ed Brayton

    Lightning Rose:

    Try this:

    Since then, the administration has unleashed an interagency cannabis crackdown that goes beyond anything seen under the Bush administration, with more than 100 raids, primarily on California pot dispensaries, many of them operating in full compliance with state laws. Since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 aggressive SWAT-style raids in 9 medical marijuana states, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, according to data compiled by Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group. Federal authorities have also seized property from landlords who rent space to growers, threatening them with prosecution, and authorities have even considered taking action against newspapers selling ad space to dispensaries…

    The IRS has joined in the attack, invoking an arcane tax code provision originally intended to stymie druglords. That law, known as IRS Code Section 280E, is an uncontroversial measure aimed at preventing criminals from deducting the costs of their illicit activities from their taxable income. But the IRS has interpreted it to apply to medical marijuana dispensaries in such a way that they can no longer deduct the cost of salaries, rent, inventory and other operating expenses. Few brick-and-mortar businesses are able to survive under those terms, as taxes end up being substantially larger than profits.

    I’m a bit baffled by your strident reaction to something that has been widely reported for so long that Obama had to publicly defend the very actions that you now say are “made up crap.”

  13. 13
    LightningRose

    slc1, It’s Ms., not Mr. so apparently you don’t know your dick from a…

    And was it so hard to find a citation?

    Here’s a more recent article, claiming more than 500 dispensaries in LA.

    http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/12/marijuana_dispensaries_angeles_500_pot_shops.php

    Again, without a citation as to *why* a given dispensary is closed, it’s just hyperbole.

  14. 14
    slc1

    Re LightningRose @ #13

    I suggest that Ms. LightningRose read Ed Brayton’s comment @ #12 before making a further fool of herself.

  15. 15
    LightningRose

    Ed, I was calling your claims “made up crap” simply because you kept making them without providing any citations. And as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, without knowing *why* a given dispensary is closed, it’s just hyperbole.

    As far as the claim, “..the administration has unleashed an interagency cannabis crackdown that goes beyond anything seen under the Bush administration, with more than 100 raids…”, I’ll counter that there are vastly more dispensaries than there were during the last Bush administration.

  16. 16
    slc1

    Re LightningRose @ #12

    Apparently, the Justice Department is gearing up to lower the boom in Oregon.

    http://wweek.com/portland/blog-27225-us_attorney_oregon_m.html

  17. 17
  18. 18
    reverendrodney

    This is word on the street here in the SF Bay Area therefore I have no citations. But one medical marijuana dispensary is closing, not due to state or federal pressure, but because drug dealers are trying to muscle in and use the dispensary as an outlet. That sort of thing may be what is bothering Holder and Obama… (?)
    Of course the entire problem would evaporate if having marijuana were not illegal!
    Meanwhile patients with MM cards must go farther and farther afield to get their medication.
    But I still think Obama harkens to the demands of big pharma.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    AJ Milne

    Well, sure, it didn’t get any useful information from detainees…

    But it did convince observers around the world that the US government and many of their supporters are a bunch of lawless, unprincipled thugs with a strikingly selective respect for human rights.

    (/That’s good, right? I mean, I just kinda have to assume now that was what they were actually going for.)

  21. 21
    kermit.

    AJ Milne: But it did convince observers around the world that the US government and many of their supporters are a bunch of lawless, unprincipled thugs with a strikingly selective respect for human rights.

    (/That’s good, right? I mean, I just kinda have to assume now that was what they were actually going for.)

    Perhaps what they were shooting for was having US citizens realize that our government consists of “a bunch of lawless, unprincipled thugs with a strikingly selective respect for human rights.”

    It makes folks so much more compliant when they get picked up by authorities, for whatever reason. Not to mention the threat effect for opposing folks who are normally ina position of power.

  22. 22
    Marcus Ranum

    I was calling your claims “made up crap” simply because you kept making them without providing any citations.

    That’s “lacking citations” not “made up” and – unless you’re a complete doofus – you know it.

    2 + 2 is still 4, whether I include citations or not. I did not make that up. Nor, when talking anyone with a basic education, are citations needed. Ed was nice enough to provide some information but a less patient person would have suggested you do your own fact checking.

  23. 23
    twincats

    Then you don’t know shit. As I said, it’s made up crap.

    Piling on, just because you don’t want to believe it’s happening doesn’t mean it’s not actually happening.

    FFS, all you have to do is google “medical marijuana dispensary raid” and up pop a whole slew of newspaper articles. Just on the first page; stories on raids in: Oakland CA, Valejo CA, Spokane WA, Oaksterdam CA, West Hollywood CA, San Diego CA, Spokane WA, Washington state in general, Portage MI, Berkely CA, and an article about Barney Frank criticizing the Obama Administration’s dispensary crackdowns for good measure.

  1. 24
    Torture | The Bronze Blog

    [...] One issue that’s been bothering me for a long time is the use of torture. It disturbs me that it’s an issue at all. Not only is it obviously evil, it’s worthless. [...]

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