Except when we do.
...the Administration appears to be relying on a very fine reading of an imprecise clause in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994), requiring “substantial grounds for believing” that a detainee will be tortured abroad.
... Reports have suggested that C.I.A. prisons are being operated in Thailand, Qatar, and Afghanistan, among other countries. ...
Gonzales, the new Attorney General, argued during his confirmation proceedings that the U.N. Convention Against Torture’s ban on “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” of terrorist suspects does not apply to American interrogations of foreigners overseas....
...the fiercest internal resistance to this thinking has come from people who have been directly involved in interrogation, including veteran F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents. Their concerns are as much practical as ideological. Years of experience in interrogation have led them to doubt the effectiveness of physical coercion as a means of extracting reliable information. ...
By holding detainees indefinitely, without counsel, without charges of wrongdoing, and under circumstances that could, in legal parlance, “shock the conscience” of a court, the Administration has jeopardized its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world.
...in the summer of 1998. According to the Wall Street Journal, the C.I.A. provided the Albanian intelligence service with equipment to wiretap the phones of suspected Muslim militants. Tapes of the conversations were translated into English, and U.S. agents discovered that they contained lengthy discussions with Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. The U.S. pressured Egypt for assistance; in June, Egypt issued an arrest warrant for Shawki Salama Attiya, one of the militants. ... Albanian security forces, working with U.S. agents, killed one suspect and captured Attiya and four others. These men were bound, blindfolded, and taken to an abandoned airbase, then flown by jet to Cairo for interrogation. Attiya later alleged that he suffered electrical shocks to his genitals, was hung from his limbs, and was kept in a cell in filthy water up to his knees. Two other suspects, who had been sentenced to death in absentia, were hanged.
Most authorities on interrogation, in and out of government, agree that torture and lesser forms of physical coercion succeed in producing confessions. The problem is that these confessions aren’t necessarily true. Three of the Guantánamo detainees released by the U.S. to Great Britain last year, for example, had confessed that they had appeared in a blurry video, obtained by American investigators, that documented a group of acolytes meeting with bin Laden in Afghanistan. As reported in the London Observer, British intelligence officials arrived at Guantánamo with evidence that the accused men had been living in England at the time the video was made. The detainees told British authorities that they had been coerced into making false confessions.
Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, told me that “the U.S. accepts quite a lot of intelligence from the Uzbeks” that has been extracted from suspects who have been tortured. This information was, he said, “largely rubbish.” He said he knew of “at least three” instances where the U.S. had rendered suspected militants from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. Although Murray does not know the fate of the three men, he said, “They almost certainly would have been tortured.” In Uzbekistan, he said, “partial boiling of a hand or an arm is quite common.” He also knew of two cases in which prisoners had been boiled to death.
In 2002, Murray, concerned that America was complicit with such a regime, asked his deputy to discuss the problem with the C.I.A.’s station chief in Tashkent. He said that the station chief did not dispute that intelligence was being obtained under torture. But the C.I.A. did not consider this a problem. “There was no reason to think they were perturbed,” Murray told me.
...Tom Parker, a former officer for M.I.5, the British intelligence agency, who teaches at Yale, argued that, whether or not forceful interrogations yield accurate information from terrorist suspects, a larger problem is that many detainees “have nothing to tell.” For many years, he said, British authorities subjected members of the Irish Republican Army to forceful interrogations, but, in the end, the government concluded that “detainees aren’t valuable.” A more effective strategy, Parker said, was “being creative” about human intelligence gathering, such as infiltration and eavesdropping. “The U.S. is doing what the British did in the nineteen-seventies, detaining people and violating their civil liberties,” he said. “It did nothing but exacerbate the situation. Most of those interned went back to terrorism. You’ll end up radicalizing the entire population.”
Etc. etc. More details, a good summation of recent history. It doesn't, as a matter of course, bother me much to create a finer classification for what they call "illegal combatants" - which is largely meaningless terminology but one could make a distinction between would-be terrorist suspects, mercenary suspects and assassin suspects from regular troops. That's super, and I think they should, and apply the practical and moral restraints against torture to it that the sick barbarians running our country seem to think they've found a loophole out of, when they're not trying to make the loophole a legal reality.