Former Interrogator: ‘Why Are We Having A Discussion About Efficacy’ Of Torture?

Since Osama bin Laden’s death, conservatives have tried to resurrect the debate on the value of tortue in a seeming attempt to defend their own defense of illegal activity. Based on news reports that small pieces of information that eventually led U.S. intelligence to locate bin Laden were obtained under the Bush administration’s terror detainee torture program, right-wing torture apologists have projected that this must mean that torture works and Bush and co. were justified in authorizing it.

But aside from whether or not torture works (it actually doesn’t), today on a Center for American Progress-sponsored press call, Matthew Alexander, former Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wondered, “Why are we having a discussion about efficacy?” “Torture is wrong,” he said, noting that “it’s a moral issue…and it’s a legal issue.” He then astutely compared the issue to soldiers using illegal weapons on the battlefield:

ALEXANDER: And we don’t apply that same standard to other fields like the infantry, who despite facing some obstacles in battle, are not allowed to use chemical weapons which are 100% effective. So I reject the fact that we reduce this to an argument about efficacy.

Also on the call was Glenn Calme, a former CIA official who led the interrogation of a high level terror detainee. Calme told ThinkProgress yesterday that torture is never justified, and today agreed with Alexander’s point that debating the efficacy of torture is useless:

CARLE: No one would would accept in the United States that if we knew that there was one guilty party in a room of 20 people that we would kill all 20 people because that would eliminate the problem. We simply don’t do it. It’s unacceptable. Similarly you might believe that an individual has one bit of information or some information useful among a host of other things that he knows that are not relevant, you shouldn’t torture that person any more than you would kill 20 people to extract one theoretical piece of information. That is an insane argument that we’re actually even having.

Aside from the many reasons why the United States should never use torture, the fact is that not using torture works better! As Alexander noted during the call:

ALEXANDER: We do know that other interrogation techniques would have worked and produced more info definitively. And why do I say that? Because we have Saddam Hussein who was captured without using them. And we have Abu Musab al-Zarkawi who my team tracked down and killed without using them. We have an entire generation of interrogators in World War II, Vietnam, Panama, the first Gulf War, all did their jobs without enhanced interrogation techniques. There’s no doubt in my mind that we could have gotten more without enhanced interrogation techniques.

So why break the law, face international condemnation and risk creating more terrorists when you don’t have to?