There is no evidence that torture was an effective source of gathering intelligence against al-Qaeda, according to John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Brennan, who was the Deputy Executive Director of the CIA when the torture program began, was asked repeatedly by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) as to whether he was aware of any evidence that statements by Bush era-officials Jose Rodriguez, Michael Hayden, and Michael Mukasey that information gleaned from torture led to Osama bin Laden were correct. Brennan said there was not, admitting that there was no evidence to contradict the findings of a 6,000 page Senate report concluding that torture did not get bin Laden:
LEVIN: [A]re you aware of any intelligence information that supports Mr. Rodriguez’s claim that the lead information on the courier came from [torturing] KSM and al Libi?
BRENNAN: I am unaware of any. [...]
LEVIN: Michael Hayden, former CIA director said that, quote, what we got, the original lead information, began with information from CIA detainees at black sites. Chairman — the Chairman and I issued in the same statement the following, that the statement of the former Attorney General, Michael [Hayden], was wrong. Do you have any information to disagree with our statement?
BRENNAN: I do not [...]
LEVIN: Michael Mukasey, former attorney general [in] The Wall Street Journal: “Consider how the intelligence that led to bin Laden came to hand. It began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information —including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” Our statement, that of the Chairman and myself, is that that statement is wrong. Do you have any information to the contrary?
BRENNAN: Senator, my impression earlier was that there was information that was provided, that was useful and valuable. But as I have said, I have read the first volume of your report which raises questions about whether any of that information is accurate.
LEVIN: I am no referring not to the report, but the statement Chairman Feinstein and I issued on April 27th, 2012. We flat out say that those statements are wrong. Do you have any basis to disagree with us?
BRENNAN: I do not.
Watch the whole exchange:
Brennan also dismissed a common talking point from the pro-torture side — that waterboarding was no worse than what U.S. Special Forces had to go through during training — on the grounds that being trained simply wasn’t comparable to being tortured. The nominee’s conclusions about the efficacy of torture matched the consensus among former intelligence officials, all of whom conclude that torture doesn’t reliably provide good information and is hence inferior to traditional interrogation from an intelligence gathering standpoint.