Almost immediately in his article, Mr Shane indirectly justifies torture and paints a fantastic picture of the interrogator:
"Mr. Martinez came in after the rough stuff, the ultimate good cop with the classic skills: an unimposing presence, inexhaustible patience and a willingness to listen to the gripes and musings of a pitiless killer in rambling, imperfect English."
He then goes on to describe the "rapport" that Martinez built up with KSM, as well as the "ad-hoc nature of the [CIA interrogation ] program," and even painting the CIA as "nearly devoid of expertise in detention and interrogation."
The rest of this article is more of the same. He gives a brief bio of Martinez that sounds like it might have been plagiarized from a Clancey novel's introductory bio of Jack Ryan. Next, he goes on to describe, in glowing fashion, Martinez' work - even concluding the article by describing Martinez doing "more lucrative work with government contractors" at "a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program."
Mr Shane never mentions the CIA Kubark manual from 1963, which encourages the use of psychological torture, nor the updated version from the 1980s that was widely used in Central America. The CIA's knowledge of "detention and interrogation" goes back to at least 1950, when they started funding academic studies - and it can easily be argued that it goes back to the end of WWII when they were still the OSS recruiting Nazi scientists.
Mr Shane never mentions that the CIA manuals say that "all coercive techniques are designed to induce regression" and that:
"The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject's tendencies toward compliance."
It's clear to me that Mr. Martinez was playing the role of the "father-figure" here. The idea that Martinez is some kind of hero because "He chose to leave the infliction of pain and panic to others, the gung-ho paramilitary types whom the more cerebral interrogators called “knuckledraggers”," is absurd. Martinez, intentionally or not, was playing a role in a method of interrogation that has been laid out by the CIA for over 40 years!
I didn't look all of this up after I read the NYT article - it has been freely available for years. The CIA manuals have been public since 1997, and there has been plenty of analysis by folks far more knowledgeable than myself. Stephen Soldz has written many understandable-to-the-layman articles discussing both the psychological and moral aspects, both on OEN and his own blog. For those with short attention spans (like myself), there was this article published almost two years ago on KOS that explained the basics of CIA torture!
With such a wealth of research on the subject, the NYT article can only be explained - IMHO - in two ways. Firstly, Mr. Shane and the editorial staff are complete fools who wouldn't know journalism if it came up and slapped them in their faces! Or, Mr. Shane and the editorial staff knew exactly what they were doing, and this is possibly the most tasteless and morally bankrupt piece of propaganda ever written in this country (although I have to admit - as propaganda, it's slick!) In other words, the question is whether they are ignorant or willing tools.
In the end, I wonder if it even matters? Torture has been a topic of public debate since the revelations from Abu Ghraib in 2004. When I read an article like this in 2008, I can't help but think how far public perception (and morality) in this country has slipped in that short time-span. We've gone from saying - as a country - that torture is completely unacceptable, to debating what circumstances it should be used in! In public debate (outside of a few bloggers), the idea of psychological torture is not distinguished from physical torture. In fact, the concept of mental coercion isn't even mentioned in the public discourse!
Kudos to the NY Times and Mr Shane! I've never understood how a nation could undergo a collective denial of reality like the Germans under Hitler, but they've made it clear as day how it works now!