Big Surprise: Torture Memos Belie Cheney’s Claims

August 25, 2009 7:13 a.m.

It’s hardly news that Dick Cheney isn’t likely to win any prizes for honesty any time soon. But yesterday offered yet another exhibit in the case.

During the debate over torture this spring, Cheney claimed that CIA memos, which he had asked to be declassified, would prove that torture proved effective in obtaining actionable intelligence.Well, yesterday, those memos were released, along with the CIA inspector general’s report. And, surprise surprise, they don’t begin to show what Cheney said they did.

The memos, from 2004 and 2005, do say that some detainees, particularly Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, gave up useful information during debriefing sessions. But nowhere do they suggest that that information was gleaned through torture.

Indeed, as Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent shows, most of the evidence suggests they came through traditional interrogation techniques. As Spencer puts it: “Cheney’s public account of these documents have conflated the difference between information acquired from detainees, which the documents present, and information acquired from detainees through the enhanced interrogation program, which they don’t.”

It’s no wonder that in his response to the memos’ release, Cheney is reduced to playing silly semantic games that a reasonably intelligent junior high-schooler could see through. “The documents released Monday,” said Cheney in a statement, “clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.” That’s true, but it’s totally different from Cheney’s earlier claim — that the documents would show it was the EITs themselves that elicited the information.

Human rights organizations are making similar points. Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights said the documents “don’t make the case for torture, they only show that the CIA is able to tailor documents to justify its actions after the fact.” And Tom Parker of Amnesty International added that the memos “are hardly the slam dunk we had been led to expect. There is little or no supporting evidence in either memo to give substance to the specific claims about impending attacks made by Khalid Shaik Mohammed in highly coercive circumstances.”

Over at the Plum Line, Greg Sargent makes a good additional point. The mainstream media trumpeted Cheney’s lies about what the documents show. But now that they’ve been made public and they contradict his claims, most reporters seem to have lost interest.

And, no doubt, when Cheney or his daughter want to go public with their next set of self-justifying crap, they’ll be welcomed as authorities, as if none of this ever happened.

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