This morning, insurgent GOP candidate Carly Fiorina took a page from Dick Cheney’s book and came out in favor of using torture in the war on terror:
“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear — that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina told Yahoo News. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
Since Fiorina has revived this tired old lie that torture keeps us safe, let’s once again review:
Torture does not work.
This is the case for a number of reasons: It undermines effective, nonviolent interrogation skills. It has agents chasing unreliable leads based on bad information, wasting valuable time. Intense pain can damage torture subjects’ memory, meaning they legitimately forget the intelligence their torturers are trying to acquire or lose the ability to distinguish between true and false memories.
As one researcher concluded in what is considered to be “the benchmark work on torture”:
For harvesting information, torture is the clumsiest method available to organizations, even clumsier in some cases than flipping coins or shooting randomly into crowds. The sources of error are systematic and ineradicable.
The agency was successful in torturing at least 26 innocent people—even after realizing they were innocent—including a mentally challenged man who was brutalized so that his cries of pain could be taped and played to his family to coerce confessions.
It was also successful at endangering American soldiers, because news that the United States tortures innocents radicalizes people who otherwise might never have become terrorists. “I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,” writes Iraq veteran Matthew Alexander. “Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
Oh, and al-Qaeda in Iraq? Yeah, that’s the group which spawned ISIS. Use of torture, in other words, is a key way American intervention in the Middle East led to the rise of the scariest terror group around today.
So no, Carly Fiorina, torture did not actually produce necessary intelligence that couldn’t have been gotten otherwise. That is the opposite of what happened.
And repeating this lie that torture is an effective way to fight terror? That’s the opposite of keeping us safe.