Let's Just Go Ahead and Assume that, Torture or Not, Waterboarding is A-O.K. The Very Bottom Line? "Torture is Essentially Useless"
ON MAY 13, 2004, AS THE WORLD MEDIA WERE IN full serum over Abu Ghraib, an FBI agent who had spent time interviewing terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, fired off a gloomy e-mail to a colleague. Venting about what had happened in Iraq and expressing his fears that, despite the scandal's coverage, nothing would change, much of the agent's angst had to do with post-September 11 notions that treating terrorism suspects as human beings was neither necessary nor useful.
"From what CNN reports, [General Janis] Karpinski at Abu Ghraib said that [General Geoffrey] Miller came to the prison several months ago and told her they wanted to 'gitmoize' Abu Ghraib," he wrote. "If this refers to [intelligence] gathering as I suspect, it suggests that he has continued to support interrogation strategies we not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness ... we were surprised to read an article in Stars and Stripes, in which [General] Miller is quoted as saying that he believes in the rapport-building approach. This is not what he was saying at [Guantanamo Bay] when I was there."
One among tens of thousands of official documents pried out of government hands under the Freedom of Information Act (thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union), this one, like so many others, never found its way into anyone's story. But from a review of thousands of documents--e-mails, still-unreported communiqu6s, and other pieces of paper--certain themes have become increasingly apparent. Among the most consistent: FBI agents issued repeated objections to the use of torture against foreign terrorism suspects. And from this theme emerges a conclusion that future presidential administrations, and all American citizens, would do well to remember: For the purpose of prying actionable information from suspects, torture is essentially useless.