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.