Historically minded operatives know that pain matters. U.S. and allied espionage networks have been torn apart by foreign security services that don’t follow Marquess of Queensberry rules. After Vietnam, CIA junior officers were tutored by U.S. soldiers who had endured brutal foreign interrogations. Their counsel: In the hands of a trained adversary willing to use pain, the truth cannot hide. The lesson primarily engendered in ops officers concern for their foreign agents’ security. After 9/11, the issue for Langley was not whether “enhanced” interrogation worked but what types of pain could Americans morally use against holy warriors.
It’s not clear that the 6,000-page report even touches that question. Perhaps the operative Democratic assumption is that a captured jihadist and an arrested bank robber do not fundamentally differ: Both get lawyers and G-men interrogators trying to become their friends. If so, then that’s a worthy ethical and tactical debate that would certainly be aided by allowing the public to peruse Senate Democrats’ reflections on how al-Qaeda detainees have been handled.