In his May 6th Wall Street Journal essay, Mr. Mukasy, the former Attorney General, claims that the much of the information that led to the killing of bin Laden was the result of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Consider how the intelligence that led to bin Laden came to hand. It began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information—including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.
Moreover, these approaches were used discriminately.
The harsh techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of these techniques.
Senator McCain disputed Mr. Mukasey claim in a May 11th Washington Post op/ed piece, writing that Mukasey’s account was “false”.
The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda. In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true.
Yet, McCain ultimately concludes that the debate is not about the successfulness of torture. “[T]his is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are.” I think this is they key point.
It is hard to be opposed to the death of bin Laden who orchestrated the killing of countless people and continued to pose a threat through al-Qaeda. I have no desire to let him continue his course of death and destruction. Yet, to employ techniques that compromise human dignity seems a threat to our very way of life, as both Christians and citizens of the United States.
This threat is not just that we are hypocrites failing to live up to our principles. Nor is my claim that torture will backfire making us and our troops less secure in the end. In fact, I am willing to conceding to Mr. Mukasy’s conclusion that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were successful and provided us with reliable information.
The threat seems to me that the use of torture presumes a worldview at odds with Christianity and the principles of our country. To borrow from the Gettysburg Address, the use of torture implies that a country “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” cannot long endure without violating those principles. It assumes nations will collapse if they respect human rights and adhere to principles of justice. It means a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” will ultimately perish from the earth. In other words, the use of torture, regardless of its usefulness, implies a belief that creation is ultimately ruled by violence and not the right and the good.