When people ask me “Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?” I say part of the answer is in the public’s growing distrust in the political establishment. The recent report on the USA’s enhanced interrogation/torture programme is a great example: it’s now the accepted wisdom that the USA used torture (rather unsuccessfully if the report is to be believed – and I think it is) and no one seems to be about to be punished for it. When elements of the political establishment can get away with torture, you can kind of understand why elements of the public think conspiracies are causally responsible for some of the other bad things which happen in daily or public life.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report’s release (read here) was followed up by an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by a group of former CIA directors (and this astonishing website, CIA Saved Lives). That was then followed up by Sen. Ron Wyden – who was on the committee – writing a point-by-point critique of the flaws in the WSJ op-ed. Read that here.
Fascinatingly, a number of the CIA’s claims now about the effectiveness of the torture/enhanced interrogation programme are contradicted by their internal records. So, either the CIA is being dishonest with the public about the effectiveness of torture or they keep pretty piss poor records. Whatever the case, it’s a bad look.
James Mitchell was the architect of the enhanced interrogation programme and doesn’t like the criticism it or he has been receiving. Like a lot of people connected to the CIA at the moment, he’s claiming the report about the effectiveness and harshness of enhanced interrogation is just plain wrong (although, like our local Cam Slater about that Judith Collins report, he’s coy as to what errors have been committed; it’s just that there are errors). The Guardian interviewed Mitchell and it’s interesting reading.
In re the actual report, Rolling Stone has a list of the ten most crazy (I’d say “disturbing”) things in the report.
Also, even people in the CIA were aware, whilst the programme was on-going, that it was not effective.
If you want an example of something really disturbing, consider this story about an innocent detainee who underwent “enhanced interrogation” and how the CIA framed the failure to get any useful information out of a suspect as evidence that other sources were bad. There’s justifying a practice and then there’s really justifying a practice.
Finally, one of the many unintended consequences of programmes like the use of torture/enhanced interrogation can be summed up with an analogous story, that of the rise of ISIS and how America played a role in its establishment. This piece by Martin Chulov strongly suggests that if the US had not been in Iraq, then ISIS would not exist. A similar argument is made by some former CIA operatives about the existence of the Taleban in this article looking at how realistic “Homeland”‘s portrayal of the CIA is.