The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released the executive summary of its study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) rendition, detention, and interrogation program, along with corollary reports from the SSCI minority and the CIA. Release of this information has sparked a renewed debate regarding whether the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” was necessary and appropriate to keep the nation safe. Any such debate should be informed by the real-world experiences of professionals in the areas of counterterrorism, interrogation, human intelligence collection, and national security policy. We, the undersigned, have such experience, having served as national security officials, interrogation and interviewing professionals, and intelligence officers in the United States military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Moved by the same commitment to the Constitution and to the ideals that serve as the foundation of this great nation—a commitment that led each of us to a lifetime of service to this country—we offer our unequivocal and unanimous collective voice to the following statement:
Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment are illegal, ineffective, counterproductive, and immoral. These we reject unconditionally.
Torture is Illegal.
America is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment, signed by President Reagan, ratified by the Senate, and by virtue of Article VI of the Constitution the supreme law of the land. America is also a party to the Geneva Conventions, is bound by the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and inhuman punishment, and has passed federal anti-torture legislation. If we are a nation under the rule of law, we cannot torture.
Torture is Ineffective.
Torture is a manifestation of atavistic impulses to denigrate, subjugate, and dehumanize individuals perceived to pose a threat to indivuals’ or society’s safety. It is primitive, unreasoned, and an affirmation of anger. It is an unreliable means for consistently gathering accurate, timely, and comprehensive information. This is not only our professional opinion based on our extensive experience in real world intelligence and law enforcement operations, it is also supported by relevant studies in the behavioral sciences and publicly available evidence.
The application of psychological, emotional, and/or physical pressure can force a victim of torture to say anything just to end the painful experience. The challenge of interrogation is not “to make people talk”; instead, it is to obtain precise and credible information. Coercive interrogation practices have historically only proven effective in support of propaganda campaigns, where small kernels of truth are surrounded by a litany of falsehoods and unfounded allegations. Effective national security policies can only thrive when driven by reliable intelligence information; there is no place for questionable, coercion-based information within the U.S. justice, intelligence, or security processes.
This same form of pressure will substantially impair an individual’s memory, his psychophysical ability to accurately recall critical details about people, places, plans, or events. The information needed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies resides in the memory of selected individuals; such information cannot be extracted by force, only elicited through carefully developed relationships and deft questioning. The scientific literature on this is unequivocal.
Any assessment of an individual’s knowledgeability—the depth and breadth of information learned through direct experience—has inherent limitations. In cases where coercive force is employed in a misguided attempt to obtain an individual’s compliance, that individual will, at best, only provide limited information that directly responds to the questions asked, and is unlikely to offer additional details or spontaneously share information outside the narrow scope of questioning. Torture only guarantees pain; it never guarantees the truth.
Torture is Counterproductive.
Torture and other forms of abusive or coercive techniques often serves to strengthen an individual’s resolve to resist, deepen his commitment to a cause, serve as a foundational theme for recruiting campaigns designed to attract others to violent extremism, and generate a lingering division among allies and international partners. In sum, it not only undermines an interrogator’s ability to elicit useful information, it also undermines our nation’s ability to counter threats to its security. Torture makes our nation less secure.
Torture not only deprives the United States of the moral standing to demand humane treatment of captured Americans, it invites reciprocity. We must not overlook the graphic symbolism of Western hostages clothed in orange prison garb similar to that worn by detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Throughout history, conflicts have been waged where respective values, standards of behavior, and ways of life are at stake. America’s ideals of fair treatment and respect for human rights and the rule of law must not be surrendered in the name of national security.
America has been threatened by ruthless, aggressive, and sophisticated adversaries in the past. The interrogation methods that have kept America safe for generations are sophisticated, humane, lawful, and produce reliable, actionable intelligence in any interrogation scenario. To promote a return to that respected level of professionalism, there must be a single well-defined standard of conduct — consistent with our values as a nation — across all U.S. agencies to govern the detention and interrogation of people anywhere in U.S. custody.
The interrogation procedures we endorse are vetted by a rigorous adherence to international standards for the treatment of individuals in detention, supported by cutting edge behavioral science to ensure an individual under questioning is able to accurately recall and report critical information, and enhanced by standards of conduct that create a compelling model that, in turn, attract allies and the uncommitted to our cause while undermining the false narrative of extremist groups that seek to harm us.
We categorically affirm that there is no conflict between adhering to one of our nation’s essential and founding values — respect for inherent human dignity — and our ability to obtain the intelligence we need to protect the nation.
Frank Anderson – CIA (Ret.)
Jennifer S. Bryson – Formerly DIA
Tony Camerino – USAFR (Ret.)
Donald Canestraro – DEA (Ret.)
Glenn Carle – CIA (Ret.)
Charles DeVita – Secret Service (Ret.)
Gerard F. Downes – FBI (Ret.)
Barry Eisler – CIA (Ret.)
Eric Fair – Formerly U.S. Army
Mark Fallon – NCIS (Ret.)
Brigadier General David R. Irvine – U.S. Army (Ret.)
Steven Kleinman – U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
Marcus Lewis – Formerly U.S. Army
Brittain Mallow – U.S. Army (Ret.)
Mike Marks – NCIS (Ret.)
Robert McFadden – NCIS (Ret.)
Charles Mink – Formerly U.S. Army
Joe Navarro – FBI (Ret.)
Matthew E. Parsons – NCIS (Ret.)
William Quinn – Formerly U.S. Army
Oliver “Buck” Revell – FBI (Ret.)
Ken Robinson – U.S. Army (Ret.)
Mike Rolince – FBI (Ret.)
Lena Sisco – Formerly U.S. Navy
Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster – U.S. Army (Ret.)