In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, former president George W. Bush and his administration adopted a brutally cruel and illegal torture program that then-Vice President Dick Cheney oversaw. Numerous officials participated in the program with impunity after designing, implementing, and justifying the horrific and useless interrogation techniques that terrorized detainees.
Media Matters for America notes that Republicans are quite the fans of the torture idea. And that includes President Donald Trump, who, during one of the 2016 presidential debates, said:
“Not since medieval times have we seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) backed this statement during the debate, suggesting that we shouldn’t hold terrorism cases to the same humane standards traditional law enforcement uses.
In talking about torture, former President Barack Obama said:
“We need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.”
And he did indeed close CIA black ops sites and condemned torture after taking office. In spite of the Obama administration’s actions to curtail actual, actionable torture programs, the administration also curtailed some investigations into torture.
According to The Atlantic,
“All avenues for any form of accountability for torture—criminal, civil, even professional—were blocked by Obama-era officials.”
That included a Justice Department investigation into interrogators who violated “acceptable torture” guidelines. Detainees brought civil lawsuits, which the Obama-era Justice Department blocked when it invoked the state secrets doctrine.
Adam Serwer wrote that:
“All avenues for any form of accountability for torture — criminal, civil, or even professional — were blocked by Obama era officials.”
And other Democrats have looked the other way. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for instance, grilled CIA director nominee Gina Haspel in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Even though Haspel was the overseer of a black ops site that tortured at least one detainee, and she was influential in destroying torture recordings, Sen. Feinstein said:
“…She has been a good deputy director for the CIA.”
So now we have Cheney, Haspel’s former boss, spewing lies to an unquestioning Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business, who hangs on his words as if they were gospel.
So what did Cheney have to say during last week’s interview?
1. Torture Is Legal?
Cheney tried to insist that torture is legal and ethical:
“It [the torture program] was set up in a way that what we did was, in fact, consistent with our fundamental statutes and agreements that were in place.”
Oh, if only that were true. The torture program stems from a lie-filled and contradictory memo that was written in secrecy and created a major conflict between the U.S. and the Geneva Convention, Simon Malloy writes for MMFA.
And they did this primarily to protect those who wished to include torture in the lexicon of U.S. policy.
“To protect CIA officials and political appointees from prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1996, the Bush administration pushed legislation to redefine which acts constituted a violation of the Geneva Conventions.”
If you’re curious about that information, you can read about it here.
But Cheney and his cohorts didn’t work within the existing law. Instead, they instigated weird and secret legal rationales. And whenever necessary, they changed those laws to protect themselves, according to Malloy.
2. Torture Is Effective?
Cheney chooses to ignore the studies that prove otherwise.
“And it [torture] worked. We were able — waterboarding was applied, actually, to only three individuals. One of those was Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.”
But torture doesn’t work, Malloy notes, citing an article from The Week, in which author Ryan Cooper notes that torture doesn’t work. And it never will.
A report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that the Bush torture program was ineffective when it came to obtaining intelligence. Further, it wasn’t long before the CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed figured out that waterboarding had “proven ineffective” and that they’d “lost ground” with the interrogation.
But that’s not all they found. In interrogating Mohammed, they discovered:
“…The potential for physical harm is far greater with the waterboard than with the other techniques, bringing into question the issue of risk vs. gain.”
The New Yorker reports that in the end, the agents also realized:
“No information provided by Mohammed led directly to the capture of a terrorist or the disruption of a terrorist plot.”
Malloy notes that Cheney likely prefers that we focus on Mohammed, who’s truly cruel and has been linked to some plots to blow up airplanes and the U.S.S. Cole as well as U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
But then there are people like Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded a mind-numbing 83 times and who very nearly drowned because the U.S. was that convinced he was a top al-Qaeda operative.
3. Torture Provided Intelligence
Cheney claims waterboarding Mohammed led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“He’s [Khaled Sheik Mohammed] the guy who got waterboarded more than anybody else. I think what we did helped ultimately produce the intelligence we needed to be able to get [Osama] bin Laden.”
But once again this claim was roundly debunked by the Senate Torture Report which noted that:
“…The most critical — or the most valuable [information that culminated in bin Laden’s death] was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Instead, it’s because the CIA targeted the courier who eventually led the U.S. forces to bin Laden long before any of the detainees provided any pertinent information. Not only that but:
“…CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated information about [the courier].”
4. Options Are Limited Without Torture?
Cheney claims interrogators’ options for questioning detainees are extremely limited.
“If you know Khaled Sheik Mohammed is the mastermind behind all of this, if you know he is number two to bin Laden in terms of the attack, if you know he’s probably the guy who knows more than anybody else except bin Laden what’s next, what’s their next target, how many people are they going to kill and how they are going to do it, and then you tell me that the only method we have is ‘please please pretty please tell us what you know.’ Well, I don’t buy that.”
But what Cheney’s saying simply isn’t true. The Army Field Manual makes it entirely clear there is a whole range of ways to interrogate without causing physical harm. And legally, all military and intelligence personnel are supposed to follow this manual when interrogating people.
Interrogators soon found out that torturing Mohammed was completely fruitless.
This is a man whose company (Halliburton) profited massively, to the tune of $39.5 billion over a 10-year period during the war in Iraq. He is not troubled about profiting from death, so it should come as no surprise that something as horrific as torture is of no concern to him.
Which makes him disgusting.
You can watch Bartiromo’s interview with Cheney in the video below:
Featured image via YouTube video.