Book Review: "Hard Measures"

In an email sent to potential supporters a few days before releasing his book on CIA torture, Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and its former Deputy Director of Operations, complained that his book, Hard Measures, would “be attacked from many quarters—mostly by people who will never read it.” 

Having just finished reading Mr. Rodriguez’s book, I am confident that its readers will be critics, too. Hard Measures is a shameless defense of torture, and it is a dishonest one. At its core, the book has two central contradictions.

First, Mr. Rodriguez portrays the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” simultaneously as lawful and therefore unexceptional, and as exceptional “hard measures” that democracies must employ when necessary. There is an inescapable tension between his two narratives. In the first, we don’t torture because “enhanced interrogation” isn’t torture. In the second, we have no choice but to suspend the normal rules and to design an interrogation regime “specifically for these terrorists, in these circumstances, and for this period of time.” (p. 232, emphasis is Rodriguez’s).

Mr. Rodriguez attempts to evade this tension with wink-and-nod descriptions of the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” He resorts to euphemisms—“necessary roughness,” (p. 96), “unpleasant,” (p. 230), “shock value,” (p. 66), “harsh treatment,” (p. 103)—to obscure that they are torture. And in his 60 Minutes interview (dissected by the ACLU’s Devon Chaffee here), he suggestively stated that the techniques were designed to let the detainees know that there was “a new sheriff in town.” His meaning was clear: the techniques carried with them a threat of even greater abuse. In Mr. Rodriguez’s world of dehumanizing abstraction, detainees “were brought to a point of cooperation” but not subjected to “gratuitous pain.” (p. 64).

The formula described would be familiar to many of history’s torturers: mistreatment carefully calibrated to communicate a threat of worse treatment but to leave no marks. Rodriguez aims for a fiction: the “sweet spot” of torture.

We know from experience that Rodriguez’s defense of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as lawful is wrong. Our own history and our State Department’s reports on the human rights violations of other countries teach us that some of the techniques employed by the CIA amounted to torture or to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. They were war crimes, and they were domestic crimes. And at times even the CIA, Rodriguez reveals, recognized as much: “Long before the interrogation techniques became known and the subject of public and media debate, we elected to stop using some of them. Despite the fact that we had been given legal authorization, we simply weren’t comfortable with their use and never again employed them.” (p. 68).

Rodriguez also details the time that Senator Bill Nelson requested to be waterboarded by the CIA to decide for himself whether it was torture. The CIA refused, “[d]espite the fact that he appeared to be in great shape,” because they “wondered what would happen if he suffered a cardiac event during the experiment.” (p. 238).

Second, Rodriguez’s central claim that the CIA resorted to torture because it “heard the time bomb ticking,” (p. 253), is undercut by the facts as even he presents them. 

Rodriguez asked the contractor who helped him design the torture program how long the “enhanced interrogation techniques” would take to work. The answer: “Thirty days.” (p. 62). How could the program be justified by the ticking-time-bomb theory if it wasn’t expected to work for thirty days? Rodriguez apparently didn’t expect it to: “We never suggested that the EITs would be a panacea. Once detainees became compliant, that did not mean that they would tell us everything they knew.” (p. 235). “Even the most severe technique, waterboarding, . . . did not produce immediate results.” (p. 92). 

In attempting to claim the ultimate trophy sought by torture’s proponents—that torture led to the killing of Osama bin Laden—Rodriguez’s discussion is similarly strained: “I never said that the EITs were the immediate cause, or that they instantly led us to UBL. But without the EITs we might never have started on the long march that eventually allowed CIA analysts to come to the conclusion that UBL was probably holed up in Abbottabad.” (p. 109). 

It is hard to accept that torture was necessary in the “long march” (nearly ten years, we now know) to locating Osama bin Laden. Two senators who have seen the evidence certainly don’t think it was. And it is hard to believe that a ticking time bomb was the true motivation for developing the program, when the program was not even designed to work for thirty days

This is the problem with allowing fear of a threat to justify torture. As soon as the moral leap to torture is made, torture looks like the solution to every hard interrogation problem.

Late in his book, Rodriguez asks: “Could we have gotten the same information using typical FBI practices.” His answer: “Maybe.” (p. 231). Experienced interrogators are less equivocal. You can read their resounding opposition to torture in a few recent statements here, here, and here.

Torture is illegal. It betrays our ideals. It is fundamentally un-American. And even if we were to accept that torture “works,” Rodriguez’s book shows why it is immoral. It dehumanizes not only the victim but the interrogator. 

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Rattoo

Excellent book. The evidence is in. Bottom line: Enhanced Interrogation as part of a HUMINT collection program works! Anyone who denies this knows nothing about interrogation or HUMINT. Jose Rodriguez is a great American Patriot. Thank God we still have a few people like this left to keep us safe. On the other hand, the book reveals what many Americans have suspected for some time: There are anti-American ideologues in the government and media, who will do everything within their power to destroy the U.S. and anyone who tries to protect and defend her. In simply doing his job, Rodriguez had to contend with self-serving bureaucrats, politicians and malignant reporters hell-bent on releasing classified information to the world. It is these illegal leaks, and not Rodriguez' noble and necessary HUMINT activities, that are criminal. The book demonstrates what a hopeless bureaucratic nightmare our intelligence and defense services have become; an endless charade of paperwork, rules, attorneys and confusing nonsensical, bureaucratic steps, just to conduct simple intelligence activities. Certainly, at this rate, we will not--we cannot--prevail in a war with a capable adversary. And the facts revealed, so far, demonstrate this is exactly what liberals in the U.S. want. Consistent with facts revealed in this book, and stated liberal ideology, we now see irrefutable evidence that the Obama administration and its corrupt Attorney General and his minions, are behind further leaks of classified information and a grand cover up of the same. No amount of sham regime "investigations," however, can cover-up the truth. Lawless Obama, Holder and treasonous leaker-liberals should be tried and jailed. Rodriguez deserves high praise and our gratitude for doing what needed to be done to keep us safe, in the face of liberal treason.

Rattoo

Excellent book. The evidence is in. Bottom line: Enhanced Interrogation as part of a HUMINT collection program works! Anyone who denies this knows nothing about interrogation or HUMINT. Jose Rodriguez is a great American Patriot. Thank God we still have a few people like this left to keep us safe. On the other hand, the book reveals what many Americans have suspected for some time: There are anti-American ideologues in the government and media, who will do everything within their power to destroy the U.S. and anyone who tries to protect and defend her. In simply doing his job, Rodriguez had to contend with self-serving bureaucrats, politicians and malignant reporters hell-bent on releasing classified information to the world. It is these illegal leaks, and not Rodriguez' noble and necessary HUMINT activities, that are criminal. The book demonstrates what a hopeless bureaucratic nightmare our intelligence and defense services have become; an endless charade of paperwork, rules, attorneys and confusing nonsensical, bureaucratic steps, just to conduct simple intelligence activities. Certainly, at this rate, we will not--we cannot--prevail in a war with a capable adversary. And the facts revealed, so far, demonstrate this is exactly what liberals in the U.S. want. Consistent with facts revealed in this book, and stated liberal ideology, we now see irrefutable evidence that the Obama administration and its corrupt Attorney General and his minions, are behind further leaks of classified information and a grand cover up of the same. No amount of sham regime "investigations," however, can cover-up the truth. Lawless Obama, Holder and treasonous leaker-liberals should be tried and jailed. Rodriguez deserves high praise and our gratitude for doing what needed to be done to keep us safe, in the face of liberal treason.

Anonymous

Enhanced Interrogation as part of a HUMINT collection program works! Anyone who denies this knows nothing about interrogation or HUMINT. Jose Rodriguez is a great American Patriot. Thank God we still have a few people like this left to keep us safe. On the other hand, the book reveals what many Americans have suspected for some time: There are anti-American ideologues in the government and media, who will do everything within their power to harm the U.S. and anyone who tries to protect and defend her. In simply doing his job, Rodriguez had to contend with self-serving bureaucrats, politicians and malignant reporters hell-bent on releasing classified information to the world. It is these illegal leaks, and not Rodriguez' noble and necessary HUMINT activities, that are criminal.

The book demonstrates what a hopeless bureaucratic nightmare our intelligence and defense services have become; an endless charade of paperwork, rules, attorneys and confusing nonsensical, bureaucratic steps, just to conduct simple intelligence activities. Certainly, at this rate, we will not--we cannot--prevail in a war with a capable adversary. And the facts revealed, so far, demonstrate this is exactly what liberals in the U.S. want. Consistent with facts revealed in this book, and stated liberal ideology, we now see irrefutable evidence that the Obama administration and its corrupt Attorney General and his minions, are behind further leaks of classified information and a grand cover up of the same. No amount of sham regime "investigations," however, can cover-up the truth. Lawless Obama, Holder and treasonous leaker-liberals should be tried and jailed. Rodriguez deserves high praise and our gratitude for doing what needed to be done to keep us safe, all in the face of liberal treason.

Anonymous

Whoever that it's trying to defend it must be 20 ways of crazy. I find it UTTERLY embarrassing.
These pple seek to make up"lawful" excuses as they go along. First it becomes legal to change things because "we're fighting a nee kind of enemy." Now THIS too?
Gimme a break. I just can't beLIEVE these people.

Vicki B.

Patriot my eye in a STY! All this stuff may be fun and games or whatEVER YOU people think, but someone in my family died in Tower 1 and the REAL bottom line is that MOST people will probably blame what happened to HIM as the whole reason the government WENT on their little TIrade of torture.
And more than a few people already HAVE blamed him, which I think is TOTAL baloney. The people who decided to DO it are the ones to blame and they're the ONLY ones.
Now if I could just figure out where President Bush and VP Cheney factored into this, I'd be quite happy. If the CIA lied to the White House then I'm no longer sure if those two can still be held accountable.
Then again, maybe I'm just desperate for a reason to NOT think I was a total DIMWIT when I voted for them again.

If RODRIGUEZ is a PATRIOT Attila the Hun is a saint.

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