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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 20th May 2016 > THE BRAIN’S BLACK SITE


Science shows that torture is useless at eliciting accurate information


IN EARLY 2003, Glenn Carle, an interrogator with the CIA, arrived at a secret detention facility overseas to question a recently captured Al-Qaeda suspect. The jail, whose location remains classified, was cold and dark—so dark Carle could not see his own hands—and music blared loudly all around. Inside the cell, a man lay shivering under a flimsy blanket; Carle called to him, and he looked up slowly, weary and confused. When questioned, the man could manage only a rambling, incoherent reply. “He was a wreck,” Carle says.

The man’s dilapidated state of mind was the result of a systematic program of torture inflicted on terrorism suspects by the CIA after 9/11. Nudity, temperature extremes, sleep and sensory deprivation, dietary manipulation, waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” were meant to break down detainees’ resistance to interrogation. The stress and disorientation induced by these methods, it was believed, would force them to cooperate and release whatever precious information they were hiding. But, according to Carle, this theory is wrong. “Information obtained under duress is suspect and polluted from the start and harder to verify,” he says.

His views have been vindicated by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which concluded in the executive summary of its 6,000-page study of the CIA program, released in December 2014, that the agency’s harsh methods failed to glean any intelligence not available through softer tactics. However, the CIA has disputed the Senate’s findings, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to reinstate torture if elected. Trump has been particularly raucous in his support for brutal interrogation, urging that Salah Abdeslam, apprehended as a suspect in the November 2015 attacks in Paris, be waterboarded.

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