FDU Professor: Torture Doesn’t Produce Good Information

A rogue CIA misled the White House, Congress and the American people. That’s the conclusion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after Sept. 11. The executive summary was culled from 6,700 pages of documents, most of which are still classified. Among the takeaways: the torture was more brutal and widespread than authorized. There was little oversight. Interrogators who tried to stop it were overruled. It did not help find Osama bin Laden. And it did not work. Fairleigh Dickinson Associate Professor of Political Science John Schiemann, author of Interrogational Torture: Or How Good Guys Get Bad Information with Ugly Methods told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the report confirms what many have been saying for years — that torture is not effective and should not be used.

Schiemann said the report showed that interrogators got even less information than he anticipated. He also said information obtained through torture is unreliable and that the method isn’t even successful.

“What’s less known actually is that often people will not provide information at all despite the most horrific torture. And we’ve seen that throughout history and we see it in this program,” Schiemann said.

Some have said the report shouldn’t have been released because it could put American lives in jeopardy, but Schiemann said while it’s always legitimate to be concerned about blowback, “I’d argue that in fact that American lives were jeopardized when we started using those techniques because we didn’t use the techniques that actually got us information to save American lives. And it’s hard to argue now that we shouldn’t release it because it endangers American lives when before, those who made the argument that this kind of torture is a problem for the rest of the world and endangers American lives, that argument is rejected by the same people who now say it doesn’t.”

Schiemann said people have known for a long time that this report was coming. “So I’m not sure there’s going to be a new understanding of what we did. I think it’s going to deepen people’s suspicion,” he said. “The horror of the details are gonna revive something that I think came out back in 2006.”

According to Schiemann there are more successful approaches to get information. He cited Abu Zubaydah as an example. He was one of the first prisoners involved in the program, but the valuable information he gave up was to FBI agents who didn’t use torture, Schiemann said.

When asked if the report provides any avenues for reform, Schiemann said, “Only in so far as it further solidifies our intuition and what people have been saying for years — that torture doesn’t work and we can’t use it. The only possible justification is that it generated good information. If it didn’t do that, then it’s not possible to justify it at all and so the reform would come in a more strict adherence to the treaties we’ve already signed.”