The last defense of torture is that it produces intelligence faster than the old-fashioned way of long interrogations, getting to know the prisoner, building a relationship…
Great, I’m sure, the torturer replies, but we don’t have time for that. Torture gets results fast.
Unfortunately, the results torture gets are much too often false, counter-productive. The prisoner says whatever he or she thinks will make the torturers stop. True? False? Whatever they want!
When that kind of “intelligence” becomes “actionable,” it wastes time, money and human lives.
But even the time to strap some poor soul to a waterboard and undertake some torture and then ask some questions is too much for the accelerated decision loop favored for counter-terrorism by the JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command of the US Army.
The man who created that hi-speed command circuitry was Lt Gen Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser-to-be. Flynn was in Iraq in the terrible years of 2006-2007 and his job as JSOC Commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Intelligence Officer was to find and kill enemy insurgents or terrorists, especially those linked to Al Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq.
Flynn’s great idea was to use the storing, collating, analyzing powers of computer technology to refine all the information inputs from old-school informant reports, captured pocket scraps, and commissioned surveillance video from hovering drones to cellphones picked clean of everything they contained about the people they were taken from.
At the end of that refinement would be lists, of places where suspect people gather, places where suspect phones are being tracked on GPS, and sometimes but not always, the lists contain names.
After the commandos, directed by Mike Flynn’s intelligence, had completed their mission, after they’d not only subdued or eliminated their targets, but sent digital files to headquarters with the materials and cell-phones they’d taken from their victims, living or dead, even then, they might know their location and their phone number, but have no idea who they were.
Which makes the “success” of this “revolution in intelligence” very hard to judge.
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014.