“Close Enough for Government Work” Torture

A newly-released Pentagon-funded study entitled “Educing Information” examines the  “concerns about recent U.S. interrogation activities, subsequent investigations, and the efficacy of contemporary tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

Surprise, surprise: the U.S. government has little or no idea what it is doing when it tries to beat the truth out of people.  A Washington Post story on the study today noted that “no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly.”

But this does not mean torture is barren for purposes of state.  Some of the key “evidence” linking Saddam and Al Qaeda was generated by torture.  The fact that the “confession” later turned out to be false did nothing to resurrect the scores of thousands of people who have been killed in Iraq since the U.S. invaded.

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor and an expert on the war on terrorism, observed, “Torture is what provides evidence for large important networks of terrorists where there aren’t really any, or aren’t very many, or aren’t enough to justify 800 military bases and a $500 billion military budget.”

The U.S. government has a pathetic batting average regarding alleged terrorists.  The vast majority of the people the feds have accused of being terrorists or labeled as terrorist suspects have turned out to be not guilty as charged.

This has often proved embarrassing.  And this may be where torture comes in.  Cole asks, “How do you prove to yourself and others a big terror threat that requires a National Security State and turn toward a praetorian society? You torture people into alleging it. Global terrorism is being exaggerated and hyped by torture just as the witchcraft scare in Puritan American manufactured witches.”  Cole explains that “Bush needs torture … to generate false information that exaggerates the threat to his regime, so as to justify repression. He needs the ritual of confession and naming others, to have it down on paper so he can show it to Congress behind closed doors.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency study did not examine this “benefit” of torture. 


18 Responses to “Close Enough for Government Work” Torture

  1. John Lowell January 16, 2007 at 1:32 pm #

    They say, “the efficacy of contemporary tactics, techniques, and procedures”, do they?

    I suppose nothing nauseates as much as the use of emphemism when it comes to clear instances of moral depravity, and who more the master of the art of ephemism in such cases than Joachim von Rice, our present Secretary of State. If BS were green, Rice would be an 18 hole golf couse. Her latest, “augmentation” when escalation, or better yet, violation describe the objective reality under discussion.

    John Lowell

  2. Jim January 16, 2007 at 1:47 pm #

    John – even better, they have a term – “eduction” – which supposedly makes the interrogations sound like scientific work.

    This report is a hoot. It concedes that “the history of the use of pain [by the U.S. government] to elicit information and intelligence is yet to be written.”

    I ain’t holding my breath for full disclosure any time soon.

  3. John Lowell January 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm #


    I see that I’ve really got a handle on the spelling of the word, “euphemism”, today. Inside of two sentences I managed to render it “emphemism” and ephemism”. Remarkable. Shall we call them out-an-out mistakes or, euphemistically, typos.?

    Sometimes if I didn’t laugh I’d cry.

    John Lowell

  4. bargal20 January 16, 2007 at 2:32 pm #

    What Nonsense! Look at the number of Americans Jack Bauer has saved by applying torture to suspects week after week on “Fox”.If that isn’t proof enough for you that torture works, then you’re beyond reason!

  5. Jim January 16, 2007 at 2:47 pm #

    … or at least beyond Fox.

  6. John Lowell January 16, 2007 at 2:56 pm #


    Just because something is popular doesn’t of necessity make it tasteless, it’s just that usually it does. 🙂

    John Lowell

  7. lawhobbit January 16, 2007 at 7:12 pm #

    I don’t know, Jim, I worry that you’re going to get yourself educted right between the eyes some day. I think that as a courtesy to your readers you should post commentary hourly so that we can be reassured you haven’t disappeared….;-)

  8. Jim January 16, 2007 at 8:19 pm #

    I ‘preciate the concern but frequent posting might inflame my redneck allergy to regular work.

  9. Adam S. January 16, 2007 at 9:28 pm #

    You have just perfectly explained why I hated public schooling: They were educating me. Notify John Taylor Gatto at once, we now know what goldbrickers mean when they say they educate people.
    This is stuff right out of the history books. Many of the most despotic regimes learned to torture people without the spilling of blood: hanging, drowning, or brainwashing. These were merely “educational”. Why don’t they just rename Gitmo “Disneyland” and say that people who were arrested under suspicion of terrorism “won the Super Bowl”? So now civil libertarians everywhere “Super Bowl winners” who can “go to Disneyland” at the drop of a hat.
    I swear having Bush for a President is like having Saparmurat Niyazov in charge, except Bush is funnier.

  10. Jim January 16, 2007 at 9:47 pm #

    Ya, and Bush sort of speaks English.

    Great idea about renaming Gitmo “Disneyland.” I’m not sure whether there would be a trademark dispute, but otherwise…

  11. Sunni January 17, 2007 at 7:27 am #

    Am I the only one suspecting that Adam S. is the reincarnation of George Orwell?

  12. MarkN January 17, 2007 at 1:47 pm #

    Of course, “science” will determine the best way to “educe” information. The ISB report suggests that the Pentagon should finance university research into such methods. And, if iturns out that pulling out fingernails or crushing testicles actually work to produce reliable, actionable intelligence, well, so be it. Right? After all, if “science” says it’s the way to proceed, then that’s what we should do. Who cares about morality. It’s not scientifically defined, so why bother about it.

    I imagine that universities such as, oh, the Univ. of Tennessee, which supports such “academic” activity as Instapundit, would be happy to collect taxpayers’ money for torture research.

    Heh. Indeed.

  13. Jim January 17, 2007 at 1:51 pm #

    I did a word search in the Pentagon-funded report and found no mention of ‘testicle.’

    But I didn’t word search for the 15 most common synonyms.

  14. JasonB January 19, 2007 at 5:12 am #

    What is the real reason why the US government employs and flaunts the use of torture on “terrorists?” All the experts tell us that torture does not work when trying to extract accurate intelligence. The Bush Regime knows this. So what is the real reason to torture? The same reason torture has been used throughout the ages: fear. Fear not only in the hearts of our so-called enemies but also fear in the hearts of Americans. Americans will more and more have second thoughts about opposing their government for fear of being tortured. If this policy of torture is not rebelled against and stopped, then every major city in America may have their own “Room 101.”

  15. Marc Swanson January 20, 2007 at 5:24 pm #

    Most people undergoing torture will confess to anything or even provide phony information they think their captors want to hear in order to avoid further pain and suffering. As Jim pointed out, “information” obtained in this manner was used, in part, to justify the Iraq invasion, a fools errand.
    Cruel treatment of prisoners and the accused began to be phased out as recently as two hundred years ago as more enlightened views prevailed in Europe and America. Although the clock is being turned back to the Middle Ages in an attempt to quickly obtain intelligence that’s worse than useless, few in Congress or the news media seem to be concerned.

  16. Jim January 20, 2007 at 7:52 pm #

    It is most exasperating how few people in Congress seem curious about the abuses they have sanctioned.

    I had some fun with this in a piece in the Los Angeles Times in August, arguing that we should be allowed to torture congressmen to make them answer a few questions. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-op-modestproposal27aug27,1,653426.story

    As far as I know, no one in Congress has yet formally proposed legislation to enact this reform.

  17. scooter libido January 23, 2007 at 2:10 pm #

    The Educing Information study has actually not been “released” — it was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News.

  18. Jim January 23, 2007 at 2:18 pm #

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Steven Aftergood, the guy who writes Secrecy News, does great work.