'Unanswerable' Questions on Torture Are Actually Answerable

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Richard Cohen is afraid of his own imagination ["Torture's Unanswerable Question," op-ed, Sept. 1]. He equivocated about the need to torture an imaginary terrorist based on his interpretation of half a sentence in a heavily redacted section of the CIA inspector general's report on the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Having read 259 pages of the redacted report that was posted online, I know it documents in detail how Abu Zubaida, Mohammed and others were forced into confessions using nonviolent techniques, pitting one detainee's testimony against another's. None of the documented evidence, including plots involving weapons of mass destruction, was extracted using torture. Mr. Cohen falsely asserted that torture is a more expedient form of interrogation and that rapport-building and other techniques take too long. The CIA report states that none of the operations or plots uncovered could be called "imminent."

I know from my experience as a U.S. Army interrogator in Iraq that torture does not work. Nonviolent, legal techniques are used by dedicated CIA, FBI, military and intelligence professionals the world over with great success. These techniques reflect the wisdom and strategic vision that are also shared by our own legal system -- that one cannot overcome a barbaric foe by turning his barbarism against him. To win, one must rise above it.



The writer is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, focusing on interrogation and detainee treatment.


Richard Cohen argued that "no one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor."

Well, I certainly feel safer with the restoration of the rule of law, the return to a moral compass, and the end of the legal and moral abuses of the Bush administration.



© 2009 The Washington Post Company