The Covert Objective for the Use of Torture

As pertinent U.S. government documents slowly emerge from the dark, a record of criminal violence, subterfuge and suppression of evidence is shown to run very deep. The main purpose of torture was not, as the American people had been led to believe, to prevent a ticking bomb from detonating and thereby save lives.

The real goal that was sought was achieved whether the information prisoners provided was true or false. In the aftermath of 9/11, the White House was hell-bent on a war against Iraq; an essential factor to make the case for war was to produce something that would show a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, and the possession by Iraq of WMD (“weapons of mass destruction”). Extorting a confession – whether it be true or false would do equally well.

The Senate Intelligence Executive Summary notes (on p. 141, footnote 857) that amidships cries of pain Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, a Lybian national held at an unidentified “black site” indicated that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. However, Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted that claim after he was rendered to CIA custody in February 2003. He claimed that he had been tortured and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear.”  By then, Secretary Colin Powell had cited al-Libi’s confession in his speech to the United Nations to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. So, from the perspective of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the use of torture was successful.

Operating from a parallel moral compass, the Senate Intelligence Executive Summary notes that Mitchell and Jessen deemed their interrogation of Abu Zubaydah as “a success” even though Zubaydah never divulged any information when he was tortured. The report cites a cable in which they stated that their objective in using brutal interrogation techniques was NOT to obtain important information about threats to the U.S., but rather to confirm that they “have broken any will or ability of the subject to resist.”

“Our goal was to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist or deny providing us information (intelligence) to which he had access. We additionally sought to bring subject to the point that we confidently assess that he does not/not possess undisclosed threat information, or intelligence that could prevent a terrorist event.” (p. 46)

(Read also, Neil Lewis. Interrogators Cite Doctors’ Aid at Guantanamo Prison Camp, The New York Times, 2005; Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and Open Society Foundations (OSF). Columbia University, 2013)