Interrogators Speak Out: Torture is Illegal, Immoral and Ineffective

Every interrogation starts with analysis. That is, getting to know the detainee, researching their background, exploring their relationships with others, reviewing any available information and figuring out what makes them tick -- their background, motivations, what drove them into violent extremism and a baseline of how the detainee responds to questions.

To do this, an interrogator needs a detainee's trust, which is best developed by establishing rapport. Only then can interrogators leverage their knowledge to convince a detainee to engage with the interrogator, with a goal of obtaining accurate and reliable information. Every good interrogator can tell you this method of building rapport and evidence based-interrogation practices is the most effective and efficient manner in which professionals obtain intelligence and evidence from detainees. But others would have you think otherwise, such as Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA officer famous for destroying the torture tapes, whose new book Hard Measures argues that torture was necessary and saved lives. It's instructive to ask why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, those involved continue to advocate methods that are both unlawful and ineffective and why they continue to mislead.

Consider the first factor mentioned above: analysis. Like other torture advocates, Rodriguez wasn't a trained interrogator and lacked meaningful experience with Al Qaeda. Instead of asking experts and professionals who have had tremendous success acquiring intelligence and evidence from terrorist suspects, he turned to psychologists who lacked any experience in the art of interrogation and who had no experience with Al Qaeda. They failed to listen to subject matter experts, and without a meaningful experience base, or evidenced-based research, they created the unlawful techniques that have come to be called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, a euphemism for torture and abuse. It's unfortunate that they didn't turn to any of the professional interrogators with years of experience, who could have pointed them elsewhere, to techniques used with great success by the U.S. military as far back as World War II and those same rapport-based approached that have proven extremely effective against Al Qaeda over the years.

The public should realize that this is not a debate about whether or not torture works. There is no validated evidence that would lead anyone to that conclusion. This appears merely one more torture apologist misinforming the public with unsupported claims that they had to torture detainees to save lives, when the reality is that it has done just the opposite. We will never know how many new terrorists Al Qaeda was able to recruit, how much funding Al Qaeda was able to obtain and how the implementation of these misguided tactics have hardened resistance and emboldened Al Qaeda. What it has done is produced both inaccurate and unreliable information and it's very use became part of the Al Qaeda narrative.

What Congressional hearings into these matters also established is that these misguided tactics were the basis for the use of unlawful practices at Guantanamo Bay and those tactics further spread into Iraq and contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The final damage done will continue to unfold, as we look to bring terrorists to justice before Military Commissions and defense counsels shine light on the employment of these tactics.

What the evidence does support, is what professionals who have been combating terrorists and working against Al Qaeda for years have known. Torture's effectiveness is based in obtaining propaganda and has most often been used by our adversaries to mislead. It's unfortunate that some of those who have employed these techniques continue to mislead.

To obtain accurate and reliable information, the evidence is also clear... torture is illegal, immoral, ineffective and inconsistent with American values.