Washington, D.C.—Twenty-six of the nation’s most respected interrogation and intelligence professionals today released a letter sent to all candidates for president urging them to publicly reject the use of torture as it is illegal, counterproductive, and detrimental to national security. The letter was sent to candidates in September 2015 and is signed by interrogators who include intelligence gathering professionals from the armed services, CIA, FBI, NCIS, DEA, Army CID, and federal law enforcement, some of whom have interrogated core al Qaeda members.
“Torture is not only illegal and immoral; it is counterproductive. It tends to produce unreliable information because it degrades a detainee’s ability to recall and transmit information, undermines trust in the interrogator, and often prompts a detainee to relay false information that he believes the interrogator wants to hear,” wrote the interrogators. “It also increases the risk that our troops will be tortured, hinders cooperation with allies, alienates populations whose support the United States needs in the struggle against terrorism, and provides a propaganda tool for extremists who wish to do us harm.”
Last year, Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforces the United States’ ban on the use of torture, including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The legislation—which passed in a 78-21 vote in the Senate and was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2016 Fiscal Year—is an historic victory in the fight to reestablish a durable, bipartisan consensus against torture.
The amendment passed the Senate with the support of a broad bipartisan majority, which included the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence, armed services, homeland security, foreign relations, and judiciary committees.
“The intelligence community has long known that national security is best served by humane interrogation,“ said Frank Anderson, a 26-year CIA veteran and former chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division. “When it comes to protecting American lives, torture actually makes us less safe.”
Signatories of today’s letter are part of a larger nonpartisan group of former national security, law enforcement, intelligence, and interrogation professionals who served in the U.S. military, and other intelligence agencies, and have decades of experience interrogating detainees, including high-level al Qaeda members and other terrorism suspects. In 2014 members of the group came together to develop a statement of principles that rejected torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment as illegal, ineffective, counterproductive, and immoral. Last year they were instrumental in educating senators on the importance of passing legislation to reaffirm the ban on torture.
“The interrogation procedures we endorse adhere to international human rights standards, and they employ cutting-edge behavioral science on what enables people to recall and report critical information accurately. We ourselves have used these rapport-based methods to secure timely, important, and actionable intelligence that allowed us to disrupt terrorists’ plots and save American lives,” wrote the interrogators.