Zubaydah: First Blood

His story is well known by now. Wiki's entry on him is here. if you have not read Ron Suskind's "One Percent Solution", it's time you did. The significant Washington Post piece is here. The critical thing to remember is that the first person to be subjected to the torture program was not the person Bush and Cheney thought he was, gave up lots of useful (and accurate) information under traditional interrogation techniques, had no information that came close to the "ticking time bomb" criterion used to justify the torture program ... and was brutally tortured anyway. More to the point, the idea that CIA officers were begging to use these torture methods is nonsense. They were forced to do so by higher ups. And all of this took place before they had even instructed Bybee and Yoo to construct patently bad faith legal defenses for all of it. Money quote:

[T]he harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said. Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”

And what was the effect of this very dramatic and clear first foray into the dark side? It was not to reassess and pull back, given the horror and failure of the first act of torture; it was to press on, get legal cover, and set up a program to finesse and intensify torture. Part of the problem is that the president had already bragged in public that Zubaydah was a central figure, and Ron Suskind has argued that the torture was ordered in part to save Bush's face. Tenet denies that strongly. If it's true, then president Bush, if he still has a conscience, must have a hard time sleeping at night.

Torture, you come to realize, was the tip of the spear of the Bush-Cheney war on terror. After first blood, they sharpened it.