A Glimpse of the Dark Side

April 24, 2009 8:01 am

Dick Cheney apparently kept a file in his office marked “Detainees” (.pdf).

The document in question, obtained by Greg Sargent, is Cheney’s request to the National Archives to declassify and release certain documents that he says “proves” that U.S. torture produced actionable intelligence.

In particular he requests two CIA reports: a 12-page report dated July 13, 2004, and a 19-page report dated June 1, 2005.

But note especially that Cheney’s request identifies a specific folder marked “Detainees” kept in “OVP Cheney Immediate Office Files.”

Late Update: I’ll leave it to others more expert than I am in the timeline of the evolution of our torture policy to figure out where those two CIA reports fit in, but I’m a little surprised at first glance by how late those reports are dated, coming well after the 2002 capture of Abu Zubaydah and the 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Later Update: Ask and ye shall receive. Spencer Ackerman explains why those dates are significant. The point here is that by 2004-05, the Administration’s self-justification for its torture policy was well underway. These reports are not contemporaneous accounts of what intelligence the torture yielded. Rather, the CIA and Cheney were papering the file well after the fact.

Now, I know some of you will say it doesn’t matter whether torture worked or not. This is true, as far as it goes. But there’s a large body of evidence not only that torture doesn’t work generally, but that that it didn’t work specifically when implemented by the U.S. (or didn’t work any better than non-criminal methods would have worked). So while I’ve seen a lot of well-reasoned arguments about why the debate shouldn’t be framed as did the torture work or not, I would say that is merely one part of a wide-ranging debate, and there’s no reason to concede that point to Cheney’s mendacity.

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