Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan’s piece in the New York Times is remarkable in many aspects. It’s relevant: as a member of the FBI team interrogating detainees in the old-school, no-waterboarding way, Soufan was right in the middle of what transpired and has credibility as an observer. With clarity of thought and detail of exposition, Soufan cuts right through the chaff thrown up by the likes of Dick Cheney and John Yoo, demonstrating convincingly that no, the hundreds of instances of water torture led to no useful information, and that yes, traditional interrogation methods had worked just fine.
I don’t agree with Soufan’s policy prescriptions, but nevertheless I recommend that you read all of what Soufan has written. I was particularly struck by this passage:
In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
Agent Soufan just told us that if we think the 266 instances of water torture used against just 2 U.S. detainees is a big deal, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Soufan tips the public off: there’s more American torture, against more people, than you’ve been told by your government.
If the administration of Barack Obama is really as committed to transparency as it says it is, then we should expect to learn more, a lot more, about American torture as the next few weeks roll by. If we learn nothing more, it is less an indication that nothing happened and more an indication that our government doesn’t want us to know what happened.