Last week a new Intelligence Science Board study (sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity) indicated that there is no credible scientific evidence to back up the use of controversial interrogation techniques/torture in the fight against terrorism.
Additionally some of the Study participants suggested that torture could actually undermine intelligence gathering. These findings contradict the rhetoric of many Administration officials and their allies outside government who have argued in favor of torture.
To be clear even if torture was a net positive in the intelligence procuring business I would be against its use both because it is in violation of international law/ core norms and frankly because this country cannot be a global leader if it tortures people – simply put using and justifying torture defines a nation. I also strongly believe that the use of torture creates many enemies for the torturing country. Karen Hughes, in her public diplomacy role at State, seems to echo this perspective. In a recent FT interview she noted that “The toughest thing I’ve told the president is that he needed to improve the detainee policy…I felt it was important it was understood that was how we were being seen in the world.”
At this juncture, it seems that the wisest course of action for the Congress is to create an Independent Bipartisan Commission on Torture and U.S. Interrogation Policy; it is past time that the U.S. comprehensively address the scandals of Abu Gharib and beyond.
Such a Commission should be tasked with bringing together a broad range of experts able to collectively comprehend the totality of the issue, its consequences and necessary policy prescriptions. The experts would be drawn from the intelligence, foreign policy, law enforcement, military, veterans, legal and human rights community. Additional members could include representatives of the faith community, theologians, cultural specialists and historians.
Crucially the Commission would publicly air the findings of the Intelligence Science Board that torture is ineffective thereby ensuring that the country as a whole can move forward together with an understanding that an “end to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment” policy is both the morally correct thing to do AND is the best counter-terror approach for the U.S. to take.