In the lead-up to an expected executive order outlining new standards for military interrogations, social scientists from around the country are telling the government that, in matters of intelligence, pain does not equal gain. In fact, many of the coercive interrogation tactics—AKA torture—the military has been using since September 11 were adopted from a Cold War training module in which American soldiers were subjected to the worst and most sinister forms of abuse they might receive if captured by the Soviets. No evidence exists that such methods were effective, or even employed. Most of the post-9/11 “torture light” methods date from the Cold War, but at least one military interrogator claims that the even older World War II methods were both more humane and more fruitful—partly because the interrogators spoke the detainees’ languages. (There are only 6 Arabic-speakers are on staff at the palatial new American embassy in Baghdad; numerous government employees fluent in the language have been fired because they were gay or, well, Arab.) Bush’s executive order is expected to ban waterboarding (or mock drowning) but to authorize aggressive techniques not currently allowed by the Army Field Manual.
Now for part two of your double-header: A subsidiary of Boeing—the same company tapped to build a virtual fence along the border with no government oversight—helped the government enact its immoral and ineffective torture policies, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The suit charges that the company, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., of San Jose, “facilitated more than 70 secret rendition flights over a four-year period to countries where it knew or reasonably should have known that detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards.” In an article in the Oct. 30 New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported that a former Jeppesen employee told her that a senior company official announced at a board meeting, “We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights — you know the torture flights.”
But don’t get excited about learning something about the ultra-secret rendition program. The Bush administration will almost certainly request that the case be dismissed on the grounds that it will reveal state secrets. And even though the ACLU is basing the suit on “publicly available records” and a New Yorker article, the government will probably be granted its request because the “state secrets” privilege is wrongly recognized as a get-out-of-court-free card.