In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said. Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. . . . None of [their earlier claims] was accurate, the new evidence showed.
Abu Zubaydah was not who president Bush wished he was. Bush had declared him chief of operations for al Qaeda, but Zubaydah was far more peripheral. But here's the critical dynamic for the use of torture:
As weeks passed after the capture without significant new confessions, the Bush White House and some at the CIA became convinced that tougher measures had to be tried. The pressure from upper levels of the government was "tremendous," driven in part by the routine of daily meetings in which policymakers would press for updates, one official remembered. "They couldn't stand the idea that there wasn't anything new," the official said. "They'd say, 'You aren't working hard enough.' There was both a disbelief in what he was saying and also a desire for retribution -- a feeling that 'He's going to talk, and if he doesn't talk, we'll do whatever.' "
This is the rabbit hole you disappear into once you bring torture into the equation. Notice how very far this is from any ticking time-bomb scenario, the one routinely hauled out by Bush apologists. Notice how revenge is never easily separated from intelligence-seeking when it comes to torture. Notice the unintended consequences. This particular torture led to the torture of another person, Jose Padilla, an American citizen who also turned out to be far less significant a figure than the Bush administration suspected. It also led to dozens of false leads, wasted time, and bad information. (Remember how the critical bad information that Saddam and al Qaeda were connected came from torture as well.) Cheney and his apparatchiks continue to insist that they got reliable and vital information from these torture sessions, but they can never verify it:
Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.
We sold our souls for lies.