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The 9/11 Commission and Torture

Posted in Américas, Opinião Pública/Mídia, Regiões by Nejme Joma on 01/04/2009

The bipartisan panel that investigated the terrorist attacks was widely praised. But did its final report rely on suspect information?

Powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill are clamoring for creation of a bipartisan “9/11 style” commission to investigate the legality of the Bush administration’s antiterrorism tactics—especially its use of harsh interrogation techniques.

President Obama has been notably cool to the idea. But the case for a “truth” commission was bolstered by the disclosure this month that the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of the interrogations and confinement of Al Qaeda suspects. A dozen showed the use of “enhanced” techniques routinely described by human-rights groups as torture.

Lawmakers say the obvious model for such an inquiry would be the 9/11 Commission—an independent bipartisan body praised for its authoritative account of the attacks.

But as a reporter who covered the commission from start to finish and later wrote a history of its investigation, I wonder if Congress understands the deep irony of establishing a “new 9/11 Commission” on these issues. Former commission investigators have acknowledged to me over the past year that the panel had a serious blind spot on questions about torture.

The commission appears to have ignored obvious clues throughout 2003 and 2004 that its account of the 9/11 plot and Al Qaeda’s history relied heavily on information obtained from detainees who had been subjected to torture, or something not far from it.

The panel raised no public protest over the CIA’s interrogation methods, even though news reports at the time suggested how brutal those methods were. In fact, the commission demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions.

That has troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report. In intelligence circles, testimony obtained through torture is typically discredited; research shows that people will say anything under threat of intense physical pain.

And yet it is a distinct possibility that Al Qaeda suspects who were the exclusive source of information for long passages of the commission’s report may have been subjected to “enhanced” interrogation techniques, or at least threatened with them, because of the 9/11 Commission.

While the CIA says it ended the use of waterboarding by early 2003, the agency continued to use other “enhanced” methods involving pain, sleep deprivation and extended isolation—all of which have been branded as torture. The CIA insists that its interrogation methods were legal and approved by the White House.

Disponível em: Newsweek

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