Peter Finn and Joby Warrick at the Washington Post report the findings of a document prepared by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and quoted in the just-released Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees by the U.S. military.

The military agency that helped to devise harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as “torture” in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon’s chief lawyer and warned that it would produce “unreliable information.”

“The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel,” says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.

It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that those who helped formulate the harsh interrogation techniques voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.

Here are some direct quotes from the document (which is not long, and can be read in full here):

The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible-in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life-has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. Conceptually, proponents envision the application of torture as a means to expedite the exploitation process. In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption. (NOTE: The application of physical and or psychological duress will likely result in physical compliance. Additionally, prisoners may answer and/or comply as a result of threats of torture. However, the reliability and accuracy information must be questioned.)
[…] … upwards of 90 percent of interrogations have been successful through the exclusive use of a direct approach, where a degree of rapport is established with the prisoner. Once any means of duress has been purposefully applied to the prisoner, the formerly cooperative relationship can not be reestablished. In addition, the prisoner’s level of resolve to resist cooperating with the interrogator will likely be increased as a result of harsh or brutal treatment.
[…] The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel. While this would have little impact on those regimes or organizations that already employ torture as a standard means of operating, it could serve as the critical impetus for those that are currently weighing the potential gains and risks associated with the torture of U.S. persons to accept torture as an acceptable option.

Emphasis is mine.

Kathy Kattenburg
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • I don’t really care if torture is effective or not – it’s wrong. Period. It’s so wrong that every civilized country condemns it.

    Those responsible for conducting torture should be prosecuted. As a member of our military, I was taught that I had a RESPONSIBILITY to resist an illegal order. We are talking about extraditing a guard from Nazi Germany – how can we say the people who conducted torture cannot be held responsible for their actions. The right thing to do would be to resign immediately.

    Those who provided legal justification for torture, and who practiced institutional blackmail to force underlings to torture, should also be held responsible. It should be a no-brainer.

  • dmf

    wait a sec. there’s a US military document that actually read “The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners“?

    how is this not a big deal?

  • dmf, it is a big deal, and I expect this assessment by the military serving under CIC Bush will get very wide attention.

  • kathyedits

    how is this not a big deal?

    It IS a big deal, as I assume you’re implying. I think GD might have misunderstood your meaning.

  • kathyedits

    Actually, reading GD again, I’M the one who misunderstood HIS meaning. 🙂

  • $199537

    Playing Devil’s advocate here, the pdf doesn’t say torture is not affective. In fact in their conclusion is the line:

    This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject’s environment in an effort to
    dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective.

    It sounds like they are making a discrimination between extreme torture and lesser torture (by using the euphemism “manipulation of the subject’s environment).

  • RevDave

    Well clearly there are some in the Dept of Defense who are a bunch of leftists who do not care to keep America safe so we can ignore their opinion – move along and walk with Peggy Noonan

  • Mr. devil’s advocate, the point is that torture, which is terror inciting hence terrorism, is more likely to yield false information. That’s consistent with its development, the purpose of which was to get false confessions. Tortured American servicemen did make false confessions to the North Vietnamese and North Koreans, which is what they wanted. With respect to our use, perhaps some perverse research could elucidate whether conventional methods or torture are more likely to get accurate information vs. false leads. But we don’t need the research, because

    Torture is reprehensible, immoral, indecent, inhumane, inhuman and globally illegal. If waterboarding is more likely to produce results, maybe breaking bones or cutting off fingers is even more effective. Or not. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s wrong. And it’s illegal.

  • kathyedits

    It sounds like they are making a discrimination between extreme torture and lesser torture (by using the euphemism “manipulation of the subject’s environment).

    Kind of like the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques”?

    • $199537

      Kind of like the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques”?

      Exactly. There are degrees of discomfort. To me it looks like the pdf is saying more severe methods are so unreliable as to make them worse than useless, but less severe (the euphemistic “manipulation of the subject environment”) can be useful.

  • kathyedits

    To me it looks like the pdf is saying more severe methods are so unreliable as to make them worse than useless, but less severe (the euphemistic “manipulation of the subject environment”) can be useful.

    Are you agreeing with me that “enhanced interrogation techniques” is a euphemism for torture?