Color Me Unconvinced

As Mustang Bobby noted yesterday, the CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations of suspected terrorists, during which interrogators used "severe interrogation techniques." Today, the NY Times reports that the White House, Justice Dept. officials, and then-majority GOP Congressional leaders claim they urged the CIA to keep the tapes. The decision to destroy the tapes was allegedly made by one guy, Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., then the chief of the agency's clandestine service, without, supposedly, the knowledge of any of the departments who warned against such a maneuver.

As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in 2003, Porter J. Goss, then a Republican congressman from Florida, was among Congressional leaders who warned the C.I.A. against destroying the tapes, the former intelligence officials said. Mr. Goss became C.I.A. director in 2004 and was serving in the post when the tapes were destroyed, but was not informed in advance about Mr. Rodriguez's decision, the former officials said.
Does anyone else smell a scapegoat? I find it simply amazing that no one else was aware of this decision—especially when the now-destroyed tapes evidently stood to discredit the administration's torture policy from every conceivable angle. Drum:

So here's what the tapes would have shown: not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical "confessions" under duress. This was all prompted by the president of the United States, implemented by the director of the CIA, and the end result was thousands of wasted man hours by intelligence and and law enforcement personnel.

As dissenters of the administration's "controversial interrogation methods" policy have been saying for ages, torture, aside from humanitarian concerns, simply doesn't work. It's conceivably useful only in the very specific circumstance that a person with unknown information about an imminent event (e.g. the exact location of where a bomb is about to go off) is detained for questioning at precisely the right moment—and even that circumstance is contingent upon the distinctly unlikely occurrence that the suspect will provide accurate information in response to torture in time to stop the event, despite little incentive to do so, given that the torture will presumably stop the moment even bad information is given, and freedom will not be forthcoming even if good information is.

When a suspect is tortured in order to extract any random information they may have, torture becomes an even less useful tool. Someone who knows something also knows that some rubbish info will stop the torture just the same as real, good info, and someone who legitimately knows nothing will either be tortured to death before yielding viable info or will just say something knowingly false to get the torture to stop.

Torture, dissenters have been repeatedly saying, begets goose chases, not actionable intelligence. These tapes couldn't have been clearer evidence of that—which is why I find it hard to believe that no one else besides Mr. Rodriguez took any active interest in seeing them destroyed.

And I see I'm not alone. Steve Benen notes:

[T]he White House emphasized yesterday that Bush has "no recollection" of being made aware of the tapes' destruction before Thursday, when CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden briefed the president.

Given the quality and reliability of White House denials of late, I'm inclined to assume this means the president keeps a DVD copy of the video in his desk drawer and has held multiple screenings of the interrogations in the White House screening room.

Or maybe I'm just cynical.
If you're not cynical at this point, you're not paying attention.

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