The Washington Post reports that Abu Zabayda, one of the Bush administration's "high value" detainees, gave little in the way of actionable intelligence despite being subjected to torture under the administrations' "enhanced interrogations" policy. This isn't exactly news -- Jane Mayer reported the same findings in her book, The Dark Side, last year. The FBI had interrogated him lawfully prior to his being turned over to the CIA, and the agents interrogating him believed they were making progress. After Zubayda was tortured, Bush claimed in 2006 that Zubayda had provided three important sources of intelligence, among them the identity of Jose Padilla, an American who is suspected of planning to plant a "dirty bomb" in an American city. Former administration officials quoted in the article point to Padilla as proof of both Zubayda's value and the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation." But Mayer writes in her book that it has been "widely reported, and undisputed" that Zubayda told interrogators about Padilla before he was tortured. (Mayer writes that the other two claims were also dubious.) It's also fortunate for Padilla's future prosecutors that Bush's claim about Padilla appears to be false, because otherwise that would make whatever evidence offered by Zabayda regarding Padilla inadmissible.
Arguing that the torture of terror suspects produces valuable intelligence is necessary for those who defend such methods because they cannot be defended on moral terms. But it's important to note, once again, that the techniques on which the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation" procedures were based were intended to elicit false confessions, not actionable intelligence. So it's not surprising that Zubayda "sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads." He just wanted it to stop.
-- A. Serwer
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