Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Truth about Torture and the Hunt for Bin Laden

This letter from Elisa Massimino, President and CEO, Human Rights First, published in the Organization's monthly "Rites Wire" of June 2011 is a trenchant, concise, and irrefutable analysis of the role of torture in the search for Bin Laden. (Surprisingly, it also demonstrates that not all of Senator McCain's principals have been compromised to gain points with tea baggers or the extreme right):

From the President and CEO

HRF's Elisa Massimino
Osama bin Laden

News of the Osama bin Laden operation wasn't even a day old when torture apologists began claiming vindication. To hear former vice president Dick Cheney and his allies tell it, without the CIA's water-boarding program, the United States would never have found bin Laden. Cheney and company want Americans to believe that torture makes us safe, and they don't seem to care about the dangers it poses—to our national security, our national character, and our men and women in uniform.

But their propaganda push has run into a few hurdles, otherwise known as facts. The truth is that torture hindered the hunt for bin Laden. It failed to get critical information, and two detainees lied under torture, setting back the investigation. In fact, just like the operation that led to Saddam Hussein, it was legal, humane interrogation that produced the key intelligence—not torture. This was no surprise to the many veteran interrogators who for years have argued that torture is inefficient and counterproductive.

Armed with these facts, opponents of torture are setting the record straight. After getting the inside story from CIA director Leon Panetta, Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor to reveal that the bin Laden operation had nothing to do with torture, and Americans shouldn't either. I went to the American Enterprise Institute to debate the issue with prominent torture supporters, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, on a panel moderated by John Yoo. Watch the debate here.

But the renewed debate has made clear that we can't sit back and let the torture apologists speak unopposed. We're doing everything we can to strengthen the consensus against torture. As the hunt for Bin Laden shows, torture isn't just wrong; it's also wrongheaded.


Elisa Massimino
President and CEO
Human Rights First

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