Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Educing Information

Educing Information is the title of a new report commissioned by the Defense Department's Intelligence Science Board. The report argues, in the words of the New York Times story on the report, that "the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

The report--along with a recent speech by Philip Zelikow (available here as a .pdf file), former adviser to Secretary of State Rice, that harshly criticized some CIA and Defense Department interrogation methods--comes at an important time. The Times story continues:

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret "enhanced" techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series "24" to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of "highly coercive" techniques.

Three years after the Abu Ghraib photos revealed to the world the serious problems with American interrogation methods--problems that have risen to the level of torture in many instances--the Bush Administration still can't get it right. Nor can the American citizens who continue to applaud politicians promising even more in the way of "harsh interrogations."