Proponents of “enhanced interrogation techniques” point to the case of
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as evidence that the methods work. However, as
today’s article by the Washington Post explores, the situation is more complicated than just that.
KSM was uncooperative and gave deliberately misleading information
immediately after his capture. Yes, KSM appears to have become a
powerful asset for the Intelligence Community after waterboarding and
sensory deprivation. However, we must not make the mistake of assuming
that correlation implies causation.
A more thorough look at what
actually happened is required to reach any conclusions. First, we must
acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the less coercive
methods advocated by interrogators like Ali Soufan, Col. Steven
Kleinman, and Matthew Alexander would have given the same, or similar,
results. They weren’t used.
Second, we must consider that KSM
himself told the Red Cross that he deliberately gave up false or
misleading information during the application of EIT to get it to stop.
the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false
information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators
wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told
interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m
sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make
the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time,” he said.
In other words, even during the application of EIT, he was still messing with us.
the now-former CIA Inspector General’s report itself says that no
conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of particular
“Certain of the techniques seemed to have
little effect, whereas waterboarding and sleep deprivation were the two
most powerful techniques and elicited a lot of information,” he said in
an interview. “But we didn’t have the time or resources to do a
careful, systematic analysis of the use of particular techniques with
particular individuals and independently confirm the quality of the
information that came out.”
So, we really don’t know
yet how much of what KSM gave us was good, how much was misinformation,
or how to tell the difference.
Fourth, we have to consider
that KSM’s own megalomania drove his cooperation more so than the
actual methods applied. The Post article reports that a former US
official familiar with the interrogations suggests the methods applied
gave KSM an excuse to say that he was tortured into compliance.
wanted to show us how smart he was and how stupid we were. He lectured
at agents who didn’t remember earlier details he offered or who took
poor notes. He spoke at length about philosophy and politics.
former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden now says that the
interrogation of KSM did not uncover any imminent plots, but that KSM
provided strategic-level intelligence on al-Qaeda and its thinking.
of this suggests to me that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” and
explicit torture really have no business in our interrogation
- They did not stop any imminent attacks.
- The information gained during their application was of no proven value.
- The information available from the IG report suggests that KSM was really just playing us until the methods stopped.
it’s just a visceral response on my part, but I’ll all for getting what
we need out of terrorists without giving them what they want. KSM
wanted us to torture him. He wanted us to shred everything we’re
supposed to stand for, just so he could make us look stupid for doing
We can and should do better than that.