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This is the single most damning sentence about the CIA's torture policies

A Guantanamo detainee stands at the fence in 2009.
A Guantanamo detainee stands at the fence in 2009.
John Moore/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

The 525-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture is a deeply disturbing read. It documents, among other things, CIA officers forcing hummus into a detainee's rectum, imprisoning an "intellectually challenged" man "solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information," and hiding the truth about the horror from the rest of the government.

Perhaps the worst part of all of it is that the CIA should have known inflicting all that pain was pointless — because their own officers told them. This is, in some ways, the most telling sentence of the entire report:

CIA officers regularly called into question whether the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, assessing that the use of the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate intelligence.

While the CIA was "rectally rehydrating" prisoners, many of their own experts were telling them that the torture was pointless. As the Senate report makes very clear, these dissenting officers were right.

"The Committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects," it finds.

"In some cases," the report concludes, "there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques." In the remaining cases, the information either wasn't new or was acquired before detainees were tortured.

This isn't an ancillary point. While the case against torture rests on the moral repulsiveness of inflicting pain on a helpless person, the case for torture depends on the fact that it saved lives by stopping terrorist attacks. The CIA's torture program didn't do that — as CIA experts said at the time. All of this brutality for naught.

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