Since he wrote the post, however, a number of comments have appeared on conservative blogs questioning Nance's military service record. (Small Wars Journal had to delete a number of particularly ad hominem comments.) Nance doesn't want to dignify the attacks -- "it's vet-versus-vet warfare," he laments. But he says he heard from a staffer for the Democratic majority on the committee that a Republican aide has been "questioning my credentials" to members in preparation for the hearing. In response, Nance sent the committee "17 years' worth of evaluations" from the Navy and told staffers how to find more material if needed. Emphatic about not getting swiftboated, he warns would-be assailants, "I'll chew your ass out."
Assuming that Nance gets through the hearing without having his integrity dragged through the mud, subcommittee members will get an earful about the unacceptability of reverse-engineering SERE torture-resistance techniques in order to design torture regimens to use on detainees in the war on terrorism.
"Our body of experience shows a friendly approach is most successful" in interrogation, Nance says. SERE's historical memory goes back to the French and Indian Wars in understanding torture methods that captured U.S. troops might face and devising strategies to resist them. He relates the story of Hans Joachim Scharff, a master Luftwaffe interrogator who spurned abusive techniques used by the Gestapo (also, interestingly, termed "enhanced interrogation") in favor of rapport-building. Scharff's legendary success is still studied by U.S. interrogators. Unfortunately, he says, "after Guantanamo, I thought, how can anyone at SERE ever teach the Geneva Conventions again?"
A trove of accumulated institutional familiarity with torture led to a slide that Nance shares, from an old (and unclassified) SERE PowerPoint presentation to trainees. It asks outright, "Why Is Torture The Worst Interrogation Method?" The first answer: "Produces Unreliable Information."
Nance remarks, "Two centuries of knowledge were thrown out the window" when the administration decided after 9/11 that, to use Cofer Black's famous phrase, "the gloves come off." What administration officials mistakenly thought, Nance says, is that "these were actually gloves, not empirical data. Dude, it's not a glove. It's a fact. But they thought it was one more tool in the tool box."
The result, Nance says, is that al-Qaeda now has, essentially, its own SERE school in U.S. detention facilities, as released detainees have given numerous accounts of their interrogations. What's more, he warns that the world is about to see an uptick in the use of torture as "cops in Bogota, everyone" now believes that the U.S. has lent torture its imprimatur -- or, at least, isn't in a credible position to criticize foreign countries' human rights abuses. He says he's testifying in part to help his old comrades in SERE, which he sees as a vital tool for training U.S. troops. "SERE needs to be increased," Nance insists, "but what needs to be stopped is the transfer of SERE techniques to official interrogations."