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US Intel Vets Warn Against Torture

By       Message Ray McGovern       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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Reprinted from Consortium News

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).
(Image by (White House photo))
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To those living "outside the Beltway" it may seem counterintuitive that those of us whose analysis has been correct on key issues that the U.S. government got criminally wrong -- like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- would be blacklisted from "mainstream" media and ostracized by the Smart People of the Establishment. But, alas, that's the way it is.

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Forget the continuing carnage in which hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions made refugees. Within the mainstream U.S. media and around Washington's major policy circles, there is little serious dialogue, much less debate about what went so hideously wrong; and Americans still innocently wonder -- regarding the people on the receiving end of the blunderbuss violence -- "why they hate us."

After more than 13 years of presenting thoughtful critiques to senior officials -- and having little discernible impact -- we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity are strongly tempted to take some solace in having made a good-faith effort to spread some truth around -- and, now, go play golf. But the stakes are too high. We can't in good conscience approach the first tee without having tried one more time.

Accordingly, we repeat the offer we extended on Feb. 26 -- this time to the winnowed candidate roster of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump -- to make our deep experience and proven expertise available to those of you interested in the tell-it-like-it-is analysis that has been our niche for so many years.

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Given our 13-year record for accuracy and insight, we had hoped that at least one or two of you would take us up on the offer, especially since a few of you have faced criticism for a paucity of foreign policy and national security experts.

Of more immediate importance to the nation and the world, statements by some of you in reaction to the Monday bombings in Brussels, seem to betray:

A) Gross naivete about how to counter terrorism;

B) Demagogic disregard for the civil liberty protections embodied in the U.S. Constitution; or...

C) Both of the above.

We can help round out your understanding of terrorism, its causes and its possible cures -- but with respect to "A" above, you may wish to begin by reading VIPS memorandum #15 (of June 18, 2007), How Not to Counter Terrorism, drafted by our VIPS colleague, former Special Agent Coleen Rowley, who was FBI Division Counsel, Minneapolis, during 9/11. (Rowley later blew the whistle about the ineptitude at FBI headquarters that thwarted the simple steps that would have prevented those terrorist attacks.)

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On Torture, Pols & Polls

Based on our lengthy experience in intelligence, we know that torture doesn't "work." So we confess to a certain disgust with the "new normal," fostered not only by some presidential candidates but also by the media, that torture techniques like waterboarding yield useful intelligence. They don't.

This issue has come to the fore again in the immediate aftermath of the Brussels bombings. We continue to be concerned that presidential candidates may be unaware, not only that harsh interrogation techniques don't "work," but also that they are a great fillip to the recruitment of more terrorists.

There are, of course, polls purporting to show that a majority of Americans still think that torturing "bad guys" can be justified. That simply means that many citizens have been seduced by artificially stoked fear into believing what all independent investigations -- including the detailed Senate study relying on original CIA documents -- have proven: that despite all the TV and Hollywood propaganda "showing" that torture "works," it doesn't.

The sole exception is if your purpose is to obtain unreliable or false "intelligence." For instance, if you wish to coerce an Al Qaeda operative into "confessing" that there were close ties between Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, well, then torture can work like a charm. A detainee will happily confirm a lie to stop the pain.

As for those responsible for implementing torture -- like former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden -- is it not clear that they have strong incentive to "justify" their criminal behavior? Some other complicit CIA officials and operatives, eager to protect themselves from the calumny that comes from torturing, also continue to pretend that torture helps "keep us safe."

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

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