Tortured logic: "Trust us" is no longer good enough

By Retired Brigadier General David R. Irvine

The Convention Against Torture, which President Reagan signed 25 years ago, states "[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Reagan would be disappointed that many Americans reject that view.

In a recent poll, only 25 percent of Americans said the use of torture against suspected terrorists was "never justified," while a combined 47 percent said it was "always" or "sometimes justified." Public support for torture is surely based on the well-publicized claims that brutal interrogations were necessary to defeat Al-Qaeda and prevent future terrorist attacks.

As a former Army intelligence officer who taught prisoner-of-war interrogation for 18 years, I am skeptical of those claims. But, given how much evidence about the CIA program remains classified, I understand the public's confusion.

Even CIA director John Brennan recently expressed uncertainty about the interrogation program's efficacy. In 2007, he said the program "saved lives." But during his recent Senate confirmation hearing, he said reading the Senate Intelligence Committee's classified report on the program "raises questions about the information that I was given at the time . . . at this point, Senator, I do not know what the truth is."

The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment, of which I am a member, conducted a two-year study of treatment of counterterrorism detainees, and found serious flaws with many of the claims defenders have made about torture's efficacy.

For example, in the days after Osama bin Laden's death, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey claimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) "broke like a dam" after being waterboarded and gave investigators the nickname of a bin Laden trusted courier. It later became apparent this was untrue.

A month after the Abbottabad raid, former CIA director Michael Hayden acknowledged KSM had never revealed the courier's name or alias, but wrote "it is nearly impossible to imagine" how bin Laden could have been killed without intelligence gained from the CIA program. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, chairs of the Senate committees on Intelligence and Armed Services, said the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation showed Hayden was "wrong," and the original information on the bin Laden courier "had no connection to CIA detainees."

Torture defenders often cite a plot to crash planes into Los Angeles' highest skyscraper, the 73-story Library Tower, as an example of a "ticking time bomb" allegedly defused by the CIA torture program. Marc Thiessen has written that "without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York." The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel repeatedly cited supposed revelations from detainees about this plot in concluding that the CIA program was effective.

KSM was, in fact, involved in a plot to crash hijacked planes into a skyscraper in Los Angeles, using a cell of Southeast Asian hijackers. But the terrorist cell's leader, Masran bin Arshad, confessed many details of the plot after his detention by Malaysian intelligence in February 2002 – long before KSM was captured in March 2003. Two other cell members were captured after KSM, but it is unclear what role CIA detainees' revelations had in their detention, and in any case there is no good evidence the Los Angeles plot was reactivated after Arshad's arrest.

KSM's and two other CIA detainees' interrogations in 2003 did not stop a "ticking bomb" plot all three had allegedly been involved in financing. On August 5, 2003, a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb outside the lobby of the Jakarta Marriott Hotel, killing 11 people and wounding at least 81. But the attacks torture fails to prevent are too often overlooked in this debate – as are the false confessions, the terrorists recruited, and the witnesses who do not report their suspicions as a result of torture.

The officials, beginning with former President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who authorized the CIA's brutal treatment of prisoners, have an obvious motivation to argue the program saved lives. One would expect them to push for full public disclosure of evidence of these successes. If such evidence exists, the public deserves to see it.

But if – as I believe – the evidence does not exist, the public deserves to know that as well. More than a decade after 9/11, "trust us" is no longer a sufficient response.

David Irvine is a retired brigadier general of the U.S. Army, a former state legislator, and a Salt Lake City attorney in private practice.


"But the terrorist cell's leader, Masran bin Arshad, confessed many details of the plot after his detention by Malaysian intelligence in February 2002"
Does anyone think for one second that the malaysians didn't torture the snot out of that guy?

Torture is a tool of last resort but is stil a tool with allowable uses in certain situations. If we have compelling evidence that an imminent threat is on the cusp of occurring and we are 90% sure the person in custody has the ability to provide iformation to derail that threat then go for it. Shoot off knee caps for all I care. If he doesn't tell then he got his street justice for his active participation in the crime.

The problem is not with torture, it is with the incompetent idiots run amok administering it. It should be approved at the very top levels by someone willing to take the fall when they make a mistake about who they torture. It is all about accountability. Something that very few politicians and political appointees are willing to do. Any agent that lies to obtain the right to torture should be prosecuted. The Constitution allows for it to protect the populace. It would be irresonsible and a deriliction of duty to not use it.

'shoot off knee caps for all i care', coupled with all of your blame put on dumler's victims. phew, glad i don't know you or are related to you.

But let's make sure to keep beheading, ripping apart, and injecting poison into the beating hearts of our infants in utero. Just look the other way when the baby freaks out..

No problem..

If torture would stop Sean's inane postings then I'd take a place in line to administer it. After a judge approved it of course.

“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision”

The Nuremberg Code

"From the perspective of neuroscience, it is unclear precisely what "psychological" aspects
of a mature pain experience are in place at precisely what point in either human prenatal
or postnatal development. It is impossible for me to know with certainty whether another
adult, a teenager or a fetus experiences pain in precisely the same manner I do. Yet it is
entirely uncontested that a fetus experiences pain in some capacity, from as early as 8
weeks of development. Moreover, most modern neuroscientists have concluded that the
thalamic circuitry developed by 18 weeks post sperm-egg fusion is primarily responsible
for human experience of pain at all stages of life."

Maureen L. Condic, Ph.D.
University of Utah, School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy

@saywha? Talk to me!

Mother who does not want baby: Pro-choice!
Father who does not want baby: Deadbeat dad!

Who is wrong?

“I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity”

Hippocratic Oath
Declaration of Geneva
Following the Nazi Doctors Trial at Nuremberg

"I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:"

- Actual Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic oath ought to be somewhat suspect to anyone claiming belief in a Christian god.

BTW, it had nothing to do with Nuremburg, there was no such place in Hippocrates' day

Time for somebody to educate themselves about Nuremberg, Geneva, and Helsinki. Here's free start to your studies..

"The crime of abortion played prominently in two international trials held at Nuremberg following World War II—the Goering and Greifelt cases. Allied prosecutors made the case that voluntary and involuntary abortion were war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Goering Judgment identified policies promoting abortion as activities marking the Political Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party as a Criminal Organization. The Greifelt Indictment charged ten defendants with voluntary and involuntary abortion. A focus of the prosecution’s case was the removal of the protection of law from unborn children in occupied Poland and racially non-valuable unborn children of Eastern workers in Germany. The prosecution argued that voluntary abortion was punishable because it was a crime against the unborn child. The prosecution proceeded on the theory that Germany had a duty to afford protection of law to unborn children and that the deliberate failure of high level officials to do so constituted crimes against humanity and genocide by acts of omission. After summarizing evidence of voluntary abortion policies in its Judgment, the Greifelt tribunal found two defendants guilty and one not guilty of forcible abortion and seven not guilty simply of abortion. The Nuremberg tribunals generally limited their jurisdiction over crimes against humanity to offenses committed during wartime. The post-WWII doctrine that high-level government officials are liable for massive human rights violations committed against their own citizens in peacetime has become widely accepted and has major implications for international criminal law."

Seannie, you did note that those were forced abortions didn't you? Very different subject.

The author of Seannie's "sample" printed above is also the author of crap like "Christ’s Atonement as the Model for Civil Justice." I wonder what he would have to say about oaths to greek gods.

Thousands of innocent Americans are tortured (as per Geneva Convention's inclusion of medication without consent under listed acts of torture) every single day in this state, hundreds of thousands every single day in this country. It'd be nice if I wasn't the only one speaking out against THE TORTURE OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT AMERICANS DAY AFTER DAY BY STATE HOSPITALS BY MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSENT

Ranting in all caps is a classic sign of the need for medication. Thanks to the doctors who provide that valuable public service.

Notice the utter denial these folks go into when they learn a few things about human rights. They just pretend that it never happened, they can't see certain sentences, and things they wish not to be there vanish - because, well, they say so.

Holocaust deniers are a strange lot for sure. But that is what you need to be to have rejected "never again" in favor of "please, again."

"WHEREAS the child, by reason of his or her physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth"

United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What pray tell are you writing about Seannie? Who has denied the Holocaust anywhere on this page? BTW, you obviously didn't read anything more than the abstract of the article you linked to. I guess your still pretty busy with the master's program at PVCC taking all of your time, but really you ought to be more careful and consider that other might read what you've neglected and call you on it. Another point, neither United Nations declarations nor the Nuremberg trails have anything to do with current American law.

"The Greifelt Indictment charged ten defendants with voluntary and involuntary abortion. A focus of the prosecution’s case was the removal of the protection of law from unborn children in occupied Poland and racially non-valuable unborn children of Eastern workers in Germany. The prosecution argued that voluntary abortion was punishable because it was a crime against the unborn child."

I think saywha and Seannie are the same person.

Nope, the only other alias I use here is WhoaNelly.


Seannie O The Hills, there's what the UN declares and then there's policy, which is the reduction of 85 percent of world human population. Saywha, unless you're willing to admit the Holocaust has not yet ended than you are indeed a Holocaust denier. It is a historical fact that the US government orchestrated many of the Nazi regimes' top doctors, scientists, engineers, etc. escape from justice on the condition that they agreed to merge with what was about to become the CIA and share all of their expertise. The Holocaust has not stopped is has grown by leaps and bounds in it's horror and atrocity. The same Nazis and Nazi financier's are running the world and killing people by the millions every year, it's just that they have seventy years more experience and technological and scientific advancement, and their methods have become so refined and perfected that they have developed and constructed a society in which the majority of people either accept it or deny it's existence, interchangably, but never to admit it's a Holocaust and put an end to it.

Sean Cannan, Sean Cannan, Sean Cannan. Google him up, folks. He's skeezy.

You gotta love Hoolarious who only appears (without using his/her real name) to "out" other posters using aliases, claiming to know their real identities and telling us all that these named individuals are "skeezy" or are living in a "rabbit hole". Hoolarious, YOU are skeezy, whatever that means.

"The Holocaust has not stopped is has grown by leaps and bounds in it's horror and atrocity."
I know you won't be able to provide it, but I'll ask for evidence anyway. Citing your experience of being locked up as a paranoid schizophrenic as you wrote in another post won't be considered proof.

Seanie and Johnie, a match made in lunatic heaven...

Add diversion to their denial.. The moment you present these folks with facts, they must change the subject somehow, anyhow, any way they can..

The subject matter here is torture, and human rights. I have pointed out that we as a society commit painful torture on others as a matter of routine. Slaves were rarely whipped in public, and people then preferred to just look the other way also. Same exact anti-science about "not fully human yet" was employed in 1813 in Charlottesville to defend that as we employ now while we maim and kill at a much more efficient and consistent rate than anyone did 200 years ago.

I know you won't be able to provide it, but I'll ask for evidence anyway.

You're right Saywha, I can't hold up a mirror to your face over the comment thread