Torture Wasn’t About Getting the Truth

I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “Do good and you'll be lonesome.”

Whoever said, the case Air Force Reserve Colonel Steve Kleinman proves its truth. Col. Kleinman is one of the heroes of Jane Mayer's book, “The Dark Side.”

Kleinman was sent to Iraq in the fall of 2003 to offer advice on interrogation, and was horrified to find that military-CIA task forces were abusing prisoners in ways that had been reverse engineered from a torture-resistance training program.

He tried to stop it. As Mayer wrote: “For bucking these direct orders from the top rungs of the Pentagon to inflict illegal levels of cruelty on the prisoners, Kleinman soon found himself 'the least popular officer in the whole country. I got into serious arguments with many people. They wanted to do these things. They were itching to. It was about revenge, not interrogation. And they thought I was coddling terrorists.'”

In a new article at, Kleinman asks why the president's legal advisers were so intent on rationalizing the violation of longstanding law in order to adopt an approach –- coercion — that experienced interrogation practitioners agree is not just ineffective, but counterproductive.

Whatever was going on, it doesn't seem to have been about actually getting the truth out of people.

Setting aside the moral arguments against torture, the considerable time and energy spent in establishing a legal justification for harsher methods, such as the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” would have seemed a more reasonable course of action if substantial evidence existed that these methods were objectively of superior operational effectiveness than more traditional approaches and/or had proven necessary in the context of a new dimension of conflict.

The CIA, the agency exclusively authorized to operate under this separate set of standards, did not — and could not — offer objective arguments that would justify such a conclusion.

Of course, this is the administration that doesn't ever let facts get in its way…

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