Having recently finished reading Mr. Rodriguez’s book and giving myself time to think about what I can write without coming off completely crazy, I am confident that after the editors and professors read the book and criticized it the readers will be critics, too. Hard Measures is a shameless defense of torture, and it is a dishonest one. At its core, the book has two central contradictions. First, Mr. Rodriguez portrays the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” simultaneously as lawful and therefore unexceptional, and as exceptional “hard measures” that democracies must employ when necessary which as you will see he does not think that torture is wrong and unlawful which I have a problem with. There is an indescribable tension between his two narratives.
In the first, we don’t torture because “enhanced interrogation” isn’t torture when I and many of the critics don’t agree with. In the second, we have no choice but to suspend the normal rules and to design an interrogation regime “specifically for these terrorists, in these circumstances, and for this period of time.” My question is when did “these” terrorists get to the level that they should not be considered humans? All people deserve to be treated fairly regardless of the crimes that they committed. I don’t think that torture is ever the answer.
In Mr. Rodriguez’s world of detainees that were viewed as less than other humans and were brought in to torture because they weren’t cooperating, “were brought to a point of cooperation” but not subjected to “gratuitous pain.” We know from experience that Rodriguez’s defense of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as lawful is wrong and that he and many other don’t see a problem with torture in any sense of the word. Our own history and our State Department’s reports on the human rights violations of other countries teach us that some of the techniques employed by the CIA amounted to torture or to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
They were war crimes, and they were domestic crimes. And at times even the CIA, Rodriguez reveals, recognized as much: “Long before the interrogation techniques became known and the subject of public and media debate, we elected to stop using some of them. Despite the fact that we had been given legal authorization, we simply weren’t comfortable with their use and never again employed them.” My question then is if they were viewed as unlawful why wasn’t that talked about or used as a valid reason to stop using torture as a technique to get information out of people who didn’t want to talk.
Second, Rodriguez’s central claim that the CIA resorted to torture because it “heard the time bomb ticking,” is undercut by the facts as even he presents them and frankly don’t many any sense why would they ever need to resort to torture when they have so many different techniques in their arsenal to use to get someone to talk. Rodriguez asked the contractor who helped him design the torture program how long the “enhanced interrogation techniques” would take to work. The answer: “Thirty days.”
How could the program be justified by the ticking-time-bomb theory if it wasn’t expected to work for thirty days? Rodriguez apparently didn’t expect it to: “We never suggested that the EITs would be a panacea. Once detainees became compliant, that did not mean that they would tell us everything they knew.” “Even the most severe technique, waterboarding, did not produce immediate results.” My question to this is why on earth would the torture lead to all information being known. Someone isn’t going to want to talk after being put through the wringer, I certainly wouldn’t want to.
In attempting to claim the ultimate trophy sought by torture’s proponents—that torture led to the killing of Osama bin Laden—Rodriguez’s discussion is similarly strained: “I never said that the EITs were the immediate cause, or that they instantly led us to UBL. But without the EITs we might never have started on the long march that eventually allowed CIA analysts to come to the conclusion that UBL was probably holed up in Abbottabad.” It is hard to accept that torture was necessary in the hunt to finding and locating Osama bin Laden. Two senators who have seen the evidence certainly don’t think it was. And it is hard to believe that a ticking time bomb was the true motivation for developing the program, when the program was not even designed to work for thirty days.
This is the problem with allowing fear of a threat to justify torture. As soon as the moral leap to torture is made, torture looks like the solution to every hard interrogation problem. Later in his book, Rodriguez asks: “Could we have gotten the same information using typical FBI practices.” His answer: “Maybe.” Torture is illegal. It betrays our ideals. It is fundamentally un-American. And even if we were to accept that torture “works,” Rodriguez’s book shows why it is immoral. It dehumanizes not only the victim but the interrogator.
In the book, Rodriguez, who for years was unable to publicly respond to criticism of his interrogation techniques, defends his waterboarding program and his order to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogation sessions in which suspected Al Qaeda members were held down and subjected to simulated drowning. He also goes on the counterattack, pointing a finger at those he says hindered the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. “We got close to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a couple of times,” Rodriguez writes. “At one point we had narrowed down his whereabouts to a few square miles in Karachi. Working with Pakistani liaison, we tried to narrow it down. But then a corrupt Pakistani policeman who had somehow learned of the effort tipped off KSM. An email from the crooked cop was intercepted. In it, he told KSM, ‘They know where you are.’”
Rodriguez also goes after the FBI, whom he said publicly criticized the CIA’s interrogation methods and hampered its efforts. “Could we have gotten the same information using FBI practices?” Rodriguez asks. “Maybe. If we had all the time in the world, perhaps we could have. But we did not.” He also skewers CIA critics in Congress, none more so than House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, challenging her assertion that she was not informed about the use of waterboarding. “Pelosi said that we only briefly mentioned waterboarding and left the impression that it had not been used,” Rodriguez writes, explaining that he himself briefed her about waterboarding and its use, according to the Daily Beast review. He also says Pelosi posed no objection to the technique. “I know she got it.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that she, like almost all Americans less than a year after, wanted us to be aggressive to make sure that Al Qaeda wasn’t able to replicate their attack…. Pelosi was another member of Congress reinventing the truth.” Rodriguez even goes after the CIA inspector general’s office, which reprimanded him for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes and the Obama administration, whom he says has become too reliant on missile-armed drones to kill, instead of capture, terrorists. “Drones can be a highly effective way of dealing with high-priority targets,” Rodriguez writes in the book. “But they should not become the drug of choice for an administration that is afraid to use successful, legal and safe tactics of the past.” He adds, “Needless to say, there is no opportunity to interrogate or learn anything from a suspect who is vaporized by a missile launched by a keystroke executed thousands of miles away.”
In the end I definitely have to say that I am on the side with the critics, I don’t think that torture is something that ever needs to be resorted to even when they need information quickly. I think that if you are in the CIA there is different techniques that should have been taught so that torture isn’t something that would ever need to be resorted to. I think that after knowing even the state governments have said that torture that other countries have done is a violation of human rights says enough. I like how we can address other countries and the human rights violations that are happening with torture but can’t address our own countries known history with torture says a lot. How can we expect other countries to take us seriously when we cannot even address some of the issues that we have when all we talk about is the wrong doing that other countries have done.