In April, 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release classified memos he said demonstrated how well "harsh interrogation methods" — torture — worked to prevent terrorist attacks and save lives. But investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) just released a report saying that the CIA memo Cheney cited as justifying U.S. torture contains "plainly inaccurate information" that undermines its conclusions.
The memo Cheney pointed to as justifying torture is called the "Effectiveness Memo." It is the same memo that Steven G. Bradbury, the Justice Department’s former acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, relied upon to write additional memos in 2005 and 2007 that gave the CIA the legal go-ahead to continue torturing captive terrorism suspects. The"Effectiveness Memo" reviewed the results of the use of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs), the government’s euphemism for torture, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and forced nudity, against two notorious terrorism suspects: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda. The memo claims that the CIA’s torture of Zubaydah extracted significant information about Jose Padilla, who "planned to build and detonate a ‘dirty bomb’ in the Washington, D.C. area." It further states that "Zubaydah’s reporting led to the arrest of Padilla on his arrival in Chicago in May 2003." But this information is wrong. DOJ says "In fact, Padilla was arrested in May, 2002, not 2003 … The information ‘[leading] to the arrest of Padilla’ could not have been obtained through the authorized use of EITs," since the use of such torture techniques was not authorized until August 1, 2002. Zubaydah was not waterboarded until later that same month. The Justice Department says Bradbury "relied upon this plainly inaccurate information." Moreover, the information about Padilla was extracted from Zubaydah by using traditional, non-abusive interrogations.
So Cheney relied on incorrect information when he frequently insisted in the media that U.S. torture is justified, even necessary. It remains to be seen whether he will acknowledge his mistake, backtrack on his claims, or apologize for misleading the few remaining Americans who still believed he was credible on the issue of national security. Whether or not he does any of those things, though, maybe this huge error will finally provide Cheney with the impetus he needs to quietly exit the political stage and let America move on from our dark era of sanctioning torture.