In Newsweek’s cover story this week, Evan Thomas and Stuart Taylor, Jr., argue that President-elect Barack Obama should embrace Vice President Dick Cheney’s movement for the expansion of executive power. They conclude that Cheney’s work, especially with respect to torture, may be a necessary evil:
The issue of torture is more complicated than it seems. America brought untold shame on itself with the abuses at Abu Ghraib. It’s likely that the take-the-gloves-off attitude of Cheney and his allies filtered down through the ranks, until untrained prison guards with sadistic tendencies were making sport with electric shock. But no direct link has been reported. [...] It is a liberal shibboleth that torture doesn’t work—that suspects will say anything, including lies, to stop the pain. But the reality is perhaps less clear.
In recent interviews with NEWSWEEK reporters, U.S. intelligence officers say they have little—if any—evidence that useful intelligence has been obtained using techniques generally understood to be torture.
Experts widely believe that torture fails to provide reliable intelligence. In an article for Vanity Fair last month, the counterterrorism officials with whom David Rose spoke were “unanimous” in their belief that torture does not work:
Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts
Newsweek’s recent claim that torture is effective fails to consider the consequences of its usage. Not only has torture caused the United States to lose standing in the world, but the perception that the U.S. tortures “directly and swiftly” helps terrorists recruit.