The real CIA scandal isn't (just) the torture, it's the lying to America


As far as I’m concerned, the most damage is being done by the lack of accountability. Getting caught red handed without consequences.


Another of our Happy Mutants has an excellent response to this in another thread. It’s compelling, and highly relevant to this thread as well.


Yeah sure. What an easy excuse for the US public.

“We didn’t know” - As a german citizen this defense is strangely familiar and most often bullshit. I think you can figure out what I’m talking about…

You could have known, and the rest of the world knew what was going on ten years ago even without the reports published.


Seems to me lying to America is systematic and permanent, and started long long ago. It’s not even a crime, most of the time. Ask any native american how it goes. The real scandal is in fact the torture.



And the secondary scandal is that, even after reading the report, some people in positions of power and influence still believe, or pretend to believe, it was justified by circumstances. These are not people I want to share a nation or a planet with.


The real scandal is that these war criminals will get away with it.


Add to that the simple fact that they are still defending breaking our laws and no one is going to jail.

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I’m highly skeptical of the “torture doesn’t work” line. I don’t think torture works perfectly, or consistently, or in a manner that can be reliably tested. However, I do think that it can occasionally yield valuable information, and that’s why it’s been in use for thousands of years. Does that make it moral? No, of course not. I just don’t trust the manner in which we are weaving together the morality and the effectiveness of torture. We should be able to take a stand on a moral position even if torture is extremely effective.

I also think it’s ubiquitous, and is practiced by every country that’s a significant player on the global military or economic stage. Even the tiniest countries, who of course don’t have secret prisons and private jets doing extraordinary renditions, are likely to “rough someone up real good” if they believe the need arises, even if the portion of the government that’s doing the torture is a simple police officer.

I agree, except that torture doesn’t work. Even if it did, I do not want to live in a nation that tortures people.

It hasn’t been in use for thousands of years because it works. It’s been used because horrible people are often put in positions of power, and sometimes safeguards are removed.


Torture is good for finding out what you want to know, and sometimes what you want to know is true. I don’t think that means that torture is reliable way of finding out the truth though.


The reason those opposed to torture are even addressing its effectiveness is because those who favor torturing our their enemies keep coming back and saying stuff like:

Yes, we should take a stand on the moral position, but every time someone claims that “thousands of lives” were saved by the application of torture they bring the effectiveness into the question.

It becomes a horrible, real-world application of the Trolly Problem.

We have to argue both points. Both are strong enough to silence any support for torture, but both will be ignored by people who want to torture.


I am dismayed by the manner and quality of the lies.

The lies are not intended for our enemies. First, because there is no point in lying about torture to our enemies. The truth is painfully apparent. Second, the primary publishing of the lies is in US media and US communities. This means that the lies are not intended to deceive our enemies. The lies are intended to deceive the US public. In this, our Intelligence community is keeping more secrets from US than they are from our enemies. And, their actions are doing more damage to US than they are doing to our enemies.

The quality of the lies are absurdly low. Lies work best when they are unpredictable and unverifiable. These lies are incessant. They are transparent. They are easily disproved. The sources of the lies have no skill. They have little intelligence, and they have no strategic vision. They also appear to believe that significant parts of America consist of gullible fools that are too stupid and lazy to think for themselves.

The people crafting and repeating these lies appear to have no long term benevolence towards the interests of the public. I look around me and see smart, educated and compassionate people. I know that these lies will not work on them. What is the point? Why so stupid?


Thousands of years of torture existed for many reasons, including simple punishment and the advantage of being able to get fabricated confessions. There is also the widespread belief that it might be a good way to find information; only relatively recently have people actually looked at it critically and found it is not so.

This report gives another confirmation, as nobody has been able to point out anyone who was helped by all this, but really most organizations concluded a long time ago that torture was pointless as well as evil. Still we tend to be told otherwise, so it was easy for a group of sociopaths to sell the practice. See for instance Robbins’s article and its references on this.

And I’m with davide405: it would be nice if the moral argument against torture was enough, but people have shown they’re willing to overlook that at the slightest suggestion of threat, so it’s important to counter the supposed effectiveness too.


Agreed that it might not be a “good way” to find information. I disagree with the blanket statement that’s being thrown around that it “doesn’t work”. It’s being phrased in a manner that suggests it doesn’t work like praying for rain doesn’t work. Again, this is completely separate from my moral position, as I, like most others, find torture to be a despicable act. I’m also not certain that the moral argument even combined with the effectiveness argument are enough to disincentivize torture. We have to follow through on punishment for torturers.

There was a comment in a Reddit thread on this same topic that has stuck with me. The poster said about torture:

It works. My little brother stole my $9 I had saved up when I was like 11.
He wouldn’t tell me where it was. I gave him a titty twister, he told me where it was.

Bawdiness aside, as a child growing up in a house with 4 kids, and as both the recipient and administrator of the aforementioned method of torture, his point has stuck with me.

If you’re equating anecdotes of childhood sibling rivalries with repeated water boardings, I don’t think there’s much point in talking with you about this any more.


I don’t think a transiently painful interaction between family is really a useful comparison here, to the point of being an insulting trivialization.

This has been studied this much more directly, and the uniform conclusion has been that torture is not a means that gives reliable information, particularly not compared to normal interrogation techniques. Again, you can see the article I linked and its references, such as the report from the Intelligence Service Board. Are you really going to disagree with the people who study this based on childhood anecdotes?

I agree the best deterrent would be holding the people responsible to account, though. Unfortunately America’s track record is that soldiers, intelligence agents, and even police rarely get punished for anything other than whistleblowing, so it’s not something we can depend on.

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No, it’s really just the torture.


Equating “a simple police officer” with “the government” in order to conclude that “torture is practiced by every country” is dangerous downplaying of the problem. *

By the same logic, the US practices extrajudicial execution of its own citizens based on race. But lest we make the US look bad, almost all countries (the Vatican and Liechtenstein being notable exceptions) kill their own citizens without sufficient reason. And of course, all countries use tax money to line the pockets of various people connected to the government.

But most countries are civilized in theory. Tax money may sometimes end up in private pockets, but the state is not considered private property of the ruler. Only the worst dictatorships are an exception to this rule.
Police may sometimes rough someone up, but only in the worst dictatorships has torture been official policy (It’s illegal in China, for example).
In the matter of torture, the Bush administration has officially aligned itself with those worst dictatorships (huge Godwin looming here).

* I found no adequately politically charged translation for the German word “Verharmlosung”. It’s a powerful term, and “downplaying” just doesn’t seem to do it justice… any bilinguals know anything better? The word “Verharmlosung” carries the strong connotation that the thing being downplayed is not harmless at all, and suggests that it may be immoral to downplay the matter.

EDIT: thanks to @chenille for suggesting “trivializing”.

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Disagree that it’s a uniform conclusion. I saw the report you had posted mentioned in the Wikipedia article on torture. There’s another report mentioned there that offers a counterpoint: . See section IV: Cases of Torture Revealing the Truth. Specifically:

“America’s most fa­mous interrogee, John McCain, mentions in his autobiography that he gave up more information than he intended to his North Vietnamese torturers.”

The report goes on to detail specific instances where torture was successful in extracting information.

Of course, two reports does not science make. I just feel as if we’re being fed an overly-broad generalization in regard to the “torture doesn’t work” line. And, to reiterate, I detest the use of torture as much as any decent human being. I’m just skeptical of the current black-and-white jargon surrounding its efficacy.