Torture: You're Doin' it Wrong

With the release of the OLC memos in May and Monday's re-release of the CIA Inspector General's (IG) torture report, it's easy to get buried in the minutia of torture. But it's through our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for details about the government's torture and interrogation program that we've learned the nitty-gritty of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques": bugs in boxes; waterboarding, and now, prolonged diapering.

But two recent news items crystallized another reason the Bush administration's torture program went so terribly wrong: ignorance, incompetence, and lack of training.

First, Tuesday night's Rachel Maddow Show featured former CIA agent Bob Baer. Baer talked about how ill-equipped the CIA was to handle interrogations in the first place:

[T]he problem is the CIA is not equipped to do hostile interrogations. Let me put the word torture nicely, hostile interrogations. It's filled with liberal arts majors who go out and collect intelligence without coercion.

So 9/11 comes along. The White House is desperate to do something. It turns to the CIA…So, guys, like you and me, will go out and then all we know about torture is we watch "24," and suddenly, these guys are put on the line and they improvise and they use mock executions. They threaten mothers and children and the rest of it. And it looks like the amateur hour because it is the amateur hour. (emphasis ours)

Thursday morning, a segment on NPR echoed the same sentiment. Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA said:

[The CIA] didn't have a playbook. They had never done anything like this. They didn't have the people, they didn't have the translators, they didn't have interrogators, they were being asked to do something they'd never done before, and they improvised. And the result of that improvisation was a series of legally dubious memos saying essentially: "There is no law in this matter." (emphasis ours)

Weiner contrasts the CIA's lack of experience in interrogations with the FBI, which has been interrogating terrorism suspects since World War I. He also points out that when the approximately 1,000 FBI agents went to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo after 9/11 and saw what the CIA was doing, they immediately reported the torture to then-FBI Director Robert Muller. (Muller later testified that he pulled his agents out of the interrogations "to protect them from legal consequences.")

Weiner also points to the now-well-known torture of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times by CIA contractors. As former FBI agent Ali Soufan famously testified in May before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Zubaydah was cooperative and forthcoming when the FBI was questioning him, but after the CIA started waterboarding him, Zubaydah clammed up. The FBI's interrogation of Zubaydah proves that when a detainee is properly interrogated, valuable intelligence is gained, which enhances national security.

Coinciding with Monday's release of the IG report, President Obama announced the formation of a new interagency task force on interrogations that will be based at the FBI. This might be encouraging in light of Baer and Weiner's comments, and the FBI's long experience in interrogations. But regardless of which agency is interrogating detainees, be it the FBI, CIA or Defense Department, it must comply with the Constitution and domestic and international laws governing torture and interrogation.

Orders that clearly came from the highest levels in government essentially told the CIA it was okay to torture and abuse detainees, and the CIA followed orders. Which is why it's crucial that accountability for torture must include an investigation of all the players involved, not just the interrogators. Clearly, CIA interrogators didn't wake up one morning and decide to start waterboarding a compliant detainee.

We will never achieve true accountability by limiting the scope of the investigation and overlooking those who commissioned and authorized these illegal acts. Urge Attorney General Holder to conduct a thorough examination of the Bush torture program.

View comments (17)
Read the Terms of Use

Ned Delaney

Another name; same game. Spring 1967: CIA begins applying electric shock to Vietcong prisoners strapped to tables in an experiment to see if the CIA could "depattern" communist indoctrination. All prisoners reportedly died. CIA Project Phoenix institutes assassination program against "suspected" VC (sympthizers). CIA establishes nationwide system of interrogation centers. According to testimony by CIA director Colby, over 20,000 suspected VC were killed in two and a half years. The South Vietnamese government estimates the number to be over 40,000. In the mean time, President Bush or Johnson authorizes the investigation of Congressmen and citizens opposed to the war.

And while we spin our wheels pointing fingers at subsequent crimes, the mother of them all, 9/11, remains off limits to investigation and legitimate discussion.


When Terroists rights are more important then even 1 american childs life. When the goverment wants to mandate forced untried vaccines on its own people & children. When the goverment wants to decide who of its people are worth treatment or not.
When those who think they are elite, seek power by confusion, attacks,& spending us into poverty.
We have these fools that think by coddling those who are responsible for all these attritions should be treated nicely & sweetly.
Tell those who have tried to keep us safe we appreciate them. Tell those fools on the hill to back off.

Isidoro Rodrigu...

Eric Holder et al., and Judges in Collusion to Declare Themselves Immune from Accountability.


At the outset, "[t]here is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law, and with the colors of justice …"– U.S. vs. Jannottie, 673 F.2d 578, 614 (3d Cir. 1982). As Thomas Jefferson stated more than 200 years ago, "[t]he germ of destruction of our nation is in the power of the judiciary, an irresponsible body - working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall render powerless the checks of one branch over the other and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated."

In this context, we must review the issue of the use of legal sophistry to circumvent the limitations on the powers of government placed on it “the people” in the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

First, history has shown that Democracies such as ours are precarious institutions. Therefore, constant vigilance must be maintained to preserve our Constitution from undue government encroachment. We must always recall the sorry behavior of German judges and lawyers use of cronyism during Nazi era which did play a key part in allowing Hitler to power, because “[b]y the time the gas vans came and the human slaughter factories were built in Auschwitz and the other death camps, the murder of the six million Jews and other persecuted minorities was done completely within the framework of German law.” Yad Vshem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority, 2004.

Second, we must make certain that as a Nation faced with the threat of terrorism, we do not transform ourselves into legal tyrannies by permitting the legal profession to utilize cronyism to immunize government employees and judges from accountability for negligent, or criminal acts outside of their scope of authority, judicial capacity, or jurisdiction.

In this contest, the evidence from my more than three decades of federal civil litigation confirms that the issue of immunity for the drafting and use of legal analysis justifying the use of torture, is but a subpart of the larger issue of the on gong criminal conspiracy of present and former government attorneys and judges to grant themselves immunity for tortious and criminal acts. This is particularly true regarding Attorney General Eric Holder, who when second in command of DOJ directed all forms of illegality by the government, See Isidoro Rodriguez, Esq. v. Ed.-in-Chief, Legal Times, et al., DC Ct. Of App. No. 07-5234 (Feldman, J.)(Beltway Attorney Eric Holder argued in briefs that the government “absolutely immune for tortious and criminal acts (; see also, Isidoro Rodriguez, Esq. and Isidoro Rodriguez-Hazbun v. NCMEC, et al., D.C. No. 03-0120 (Roberts, J.); and, See Martinez v. Lamagno and DEA, 515 U.S. 417 (1995)(A FTCA suit I filed where DOJ under Eric Holder argued that there was no liability for a DEA agent causing an accident while driving drunk and having sex).

This evidence confirms a conspiracy of Eric Holder and judges to deny access to an impartial jury trial and court so to assume away the restrictions on the power of government. But, as explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196, 220 (1882), “[n]o man in this country is so high that he is above the law.”


Isidoro Rodriguez, Esq.


Holder may be investigating but I believe that this is to distract us from the current bills Congress is trying to PUSH through. I don't think anything will come of this investigation. Mainly because Afghanistan is now Obama's War! He ordered the escalation now it is in his lap.


Of course the C.I.A.isn't much good at torture because traditionaly the C.I.A.
has gotten other people to do their dirty work for them,for example Osama Ben Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afganistan or Pinochet in Chile.


So we put some bugs in a box, make them stand up for long periods, and put a diaper on them, and waterboard them, and I'm supposed to be angry that my government did that to protect our safety and freedom. The ACLU needs to get a clue about who they should be protecting. It's not the terrorists and they weren't tortured.

Jay and Suzie

We have been driven out of our home by a crazy neighbor who has had me wrongfully arrested three times for "taking a picture of her" and claims I am harassing her. Although I have not taken any pictures, she admits to video taping us. Although all charges were dismissed in the preliminary hearing, I am $20,000 in debt because of Bond and attorney fees and must now stay 1/2 mile from my own home with a GPS bracelet per her demand to the Court. The Court initially went along with her crazy claims until it learned that she was just causing a Civil Conspiracy, enlisting two others against me because I prevailed in a Breach of Partnership Real Estate settlement where she clearly renegged on the deal. She has filed 3 false police reports, having me arrested, has made 2 additional false attempts and file 6 animal control reports to harass me as a result of my winning the Settlement Agreement over a year ago. She knows a Judge and is hiding behind the Law, however I cannot go within a 1/2 mile of my house and have been driven into near bankruptcy as a result of the expenses incurred. What should I do? I cannot trust her not to have me wrongfully arrested again and know her attacks will just continue; so I am temporarily moved to a friend's house and put mine on the market to avoid her Civil atrocity?


Civilized nations should have a process for any person who wants to become a citizen and or be a working person with the standard rights. Second, these persons must understand that these nations are of or have economic structures. The citizenship processes can be elongated for anyone. These situations are more United Nations standards as it fits to the countries process. The United States should always maintain civil clauses despite and distribute economic information. American's should be a society with laws against detaining. Identification procedures and addresses for all people and tourist communities. A perspective citizen being detained is wrong because there should be a United Nations database with any identification for any country person. As long as their former country and their new perspective citizenship process is an open duration it should not be anyone's problem. This is where you select your person diplomat for your country, selecting on or off rights people is not jurisprudence. These detained should be out of the legal process based on the standard laws of identification, residence, citizen status or perspective status, United Nations updated.


Thresa - your posting is full of holes. (1) Many completely innocent people (except for being Muslim) were tortured.
(2) Torture is illegal, without regard to justification.
(3) Little if any useful information has been shown to have been acquired by torture.
(4) What unproven vaccines are you talking about?
(5) The health care reform act does not include government decisions on who is treated.
(6) Most of the rich are conservatives and most of the lies being told are by conservatives who wish to divide us.
(7)We are a nation of laws. We should not allow breaking those laws when people lie to us.
(8) It has been the Republicans with their spend, but don't tax policies who have created much of our current public debt.

Maggie - I disagree that we can only do one thing at a time. I also disagree that nothing will come of the investigation or that it is intended to distract us from Afghanistan.

Did you feel that we should not have been in Afghanistan and Iraq when Bush was President? What has changed except the President? I think that we should get out of both countries as quickly as possible.

Piechowski - torturing people was not done to make us safer, that is merely the story used to fool the gullible.


Actually Roald I felt we should be in Afghanistan and not in Iraq. However I felt that they should not be there for long. Mainly from my understanding attacking Afghanistan was to get Bin Laden. I was OK with that. They should have finished the job and not gone on.

I believe we are dealing with politicians and you never know what might happen. Just who offers the better deal.

As for you #5 point- I disagree with that one. The government has already said they will not treat illegal immigrants. That will not make the ACLU happy.

On the LGBT Filtering Victory blog page I had someone use my name to write a very nasty response. That also did not make me very happy. Nothing I can do about it though except to keep an eye on what I write.


Stay Informed