In April, Vice President Cheney insisted that then-classified CIA memos prove that the torture program he helped authorize saved lives. At the time, President Obama said he had read the documents, and they don’t “answer the core question which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques?” The Obama administration released the memos this week, along with a 2004 CIA inspector general (IG) report, and indeed, none provide any evidence to back up Cheney’s claim.
But last night on Fox News, Weekly Standard writer and Cheney biographer Steve Hayes refused to accept the truth. Obama was “simply misrepresenting what is in the report,” Hayes said. He then read a quote from the report claiming that it proves torture was “effective”:
HAYES: And forgive me, indulge me for reading one of these about Al Nashiri, who was the plotter of the USS Cole attack, “Following the use of EITs (techniques), he provided information about his most current operational planning as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of the EITs.” It doesn’t get clearer to that.
So we can debate the morality, we can debate whether this was torture. We can’t debate any longer about whether this was effective.
Hayes is to be commended for the strong effort. The quote he picked out of the 2004 CIA IG report does indeed make it seem like it says torture worked. However, looking back at the actual report, the sentence just before what he quoted on Fox expressly states that it is unclear why Al-Nashiri gave up information:
Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify exactly why Al-Nashiri became more willing to provide information. However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and REDACTED as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.
So who is “misrepresenting” the report? Certainly not President Obama.