Meet Jose Rodriguez, the man who designed, lobbied for and oversaw the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation program. While he had a long career with the CIA, Rodriguez did not have experience in interrogation techniques, nor did he have any background in Middle Easter affairs. Nothing says this is the perfect guy to design an interrogation program than someone with these qualifications, right?
After graduating from law school, Rodriguez joined the CIA where he worked for 31 years. He worked in the Latin division for 21 years where he became the Chief of the Latin America Division for the Agency’s Directorate of Operations. Following 9-11, Rodriguez was appointed Chief of Staff of the Counter Terrorism Center (CTC).
He designed the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation program which included using waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and humiliation.
After retiring from the CIA in 2008, Rodriguez spent some time writing his recently published book, “Hard Measures”. His interview with Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes” was largely a recitation of the all too familiar talking points we have heard.
The essence of Rodriguez’s argument is torture or “enhanced interrogation” works because we say it works. We needed torture to save lives and the information must be acquired as quickly as possible because time is of the essence. (This, in sum, is the ticking time bomb argument.) Where have we heard that before?
When the FBI says something to the contrary, it’s wrong. In fact there is an ongoing dispute between the FBI and the CIA as to which interrogation techniques can be credited for information obtained from Abu Zubaydah. Rodgriguez’s response to Leslie Stahl’s question regarding this dispute was:
“He shuts down.
But the FBI’s lead interrogator said he didn’t shut down, and that they should continue with their traditional methods of questioning. Jose Rodriguez, though “heard the ticking time bomb and felt a sense of urgency.”
And a bit later in the interview, there was this exchange:
“Lesley Stahl: In fact, what they say is everything important that he gave up, he gave up to them before the harsher interrogation techniques kicked in.
Jose Rodriguez: Well, that is just not true. It’s not true.
Lesley Stahl: Well, now they say that. And you say, “It’s not true.” What am I supposed to think? “
When the Inspector General says torture doesn’t work, it means his work is sloppy and well, he’s wrong too, as reflected in this exchange during the 60 Minutes interview.
“The question is whether the information they got from KSM was truthful and helpful. In his report, the CIA’s inspector general says that the CIA’s office of medical services concluded that when it came to the waterboarding–
Lesley Stahl: There was no reason to think that it had been effective or that it was safe. This is your inspector general.
Jose Rodriguez: Well our own inspector general in many cases did very sloppy work. That report is flawed in many different ways.
Lesley Stahl: Why would they make it up?
Jose Rodriguez: I don’t know if it’s made up. I don’t know if they were advocates. You know, the inspector general himself, he was opposed to this. I mean, but this was the policy. So he was wrong.
That’s it. When reduced to its simplest form, Rodriguez’s counter claim to people who argue that torture doesn’t work is they are wrong because torture was the policy.
Rodriguez relied on the ticking time bomb scenario as a significant factor in favor of the “enhanced interrogation methods” that he believes are comparable to a work out at the gym, jet lag and getting a little water splashed on your face.
According to Rodriguez, it was necessary to get actionable intelligence under the ticking time bomb scenario but… here’s where it gets interesting. By Rodriguez’s own admission, the torture program was designed with the understanding that it would take 30 days to get … results. From the transcript
Jose Rodriguez: You know, he had speculated that within 30 days we would probably be able to get the information that we wanted, yes.
Ironically, that’s the same time period it would take to get results under methods that are compatible with American values, morality, law and all those niceties that even the best pitchman for torture can’t get around. In other words, he inadvertently destroyed his primary selling point. If conventional methods take too long to acquire information in a ticking time bomb scenario, and if using methods that constitute crimes against humanity take the same time period, then notwithstanding other issues that go with torture, it does not provide an advantage over conventional interrogation under a ticking time bomb scenario.
Moreover, the objective, as acknowledged by Rodgriguez is to acquire needed information to head off potential attacks. However, if the information is more about giving the torturer what they want to hear, what does it accomplish aside from wasting time and resources? Here’s is the exchange on this point.
But many of the tips from detainees reportedly led to blind alleys and expensive wild goose chases. Jose Rodriguez maintains the information from KSM and the other detainees enabled the CIA to disrupt at least 10 large scale terrorist plots.
It’s very conceivable that the CIA may have disrupted large scale terrorist plots. However, even Rodriguez concedes a couple of important points in the following exchange. One cannot conclude that torture was the sole and exclusive means by which to acquire that information. Moreover, Rodriguez once again discredited the ticking time bomb argument in defense of torture.
“Lesley Stahl: Would the plots have been stopped without the harsh interrogation techniques? In other words, could it have happened without waterboarding?
Jose Rodriguez: I can’t answer that question. Perhaps. But the issue here was timing. We needed information and we needed it right away to protect the homeland.
Lesley Stahl: You told us that the whole rationale, justification for the whole interrogation program was to stop an imminent attack. The inspector general says it didn’t stop any imminent attack.
Jose Rodriguez: I submit to you that we don’t know. We don’t know if, for example, al Qaeda would have been able to continue on with their anthrax program or nuclear program or the second wave of attacks or the sleeper agents that they had inside the United States that were working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to take down the Brooklyn Bridge, for example. So, it’s easy, years later, to say, “Well, you know, no ticking time bomb– nothing was stopped.”
So in other words, torture was justified in the name of a ticking time bomb, except there wasn’t one. Time was of the essence, except, if successful, torture would not produce results faster than methods that are more compatible with our values, morals and the law. Torture produced a lot of false leads, but he claims it did provide some valuable information, which Rodriguez concedes may have been acquired through methods that are more compatible with American values, morals and law.
Frankly, in his effort to justify the torture program he created, Rodriguez inadvertently discredited his own arguments.
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