Many people have already noted a key takeaway from Scott Shane’s article on the CIA’s arbitrary torture regime: it didn’t work. A couple things about it are also worth noting. First of all, remember this old scam?
In March 2002, when Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan after a gunfight with Pakistani security officers backed by F.B.I. and C.I.A. officers, Bush administration officials portrayed him as a Qaeda leader. That judgment was reflected in the Aug. 1, 2002, legal opinion signed by Jay S. Bybee, then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
The memo summarizes the C.I.A.’s judgment that Abu Zubaydah, then 31, had risen rapidly to “third or fourth man in Al Qaeda” and had served as “senior lieutenant” to Osama bin Laden. It said he had “managed a network of training camps” and had been “involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by Al Qaeda.”
Since 2002, the C.I.A. has downgraded its assessment of Abu Zubaydah’s significance, while continuing to call his revelations important.
Makes you wonder how many confident assertions that the allegedly second, third, or fourth most important members of the highly decentralized terrorist organization had been captured have been downgraded.
Even more important, for the gullible few who might be inclined to buy the few-bad-apples defense:
The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation.
So the Bush administration almost certainly knew about and approved of the useless illegal torture. Moreover, it should be noted that none of the elements of the bullshit “ticking bomb” scenario used to hypothetically defend illegal torture are in place here: there’s no direct knowledge of an imminent attack, no serious evidence that the tortured individual knew anything about an imminent attack, and no reason to believe that legal interrogation methods wouldn’t work if the suspect did know anything about an imminent attack.
Arrest Yoo. Do it now. Arrest and impeach Bybee. Do it now.