President Obama says the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA both compromised American values and provided unreliable information. “Those are a convenient pair of opinions,” notes Scott Shane of the New York Times. But it's not going to be that easy for the new administration to defend its ban, as the battle heats up over whether torturous techniques did indeed prevent attacks.
Even intelligence officials opposed to torture acknowledge that the CIA produced valuable information, but whether brutal methods were necessary is unclear. The Justice Department memos, for example, argue that harsh techniques drew valuable intel from Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But Abu Zubaydah gave his most valuable information before being tortured, according to multiple accounts. Mohammed, meanwhile, was waterboarded 183 times in the first month of his captivity, meaning traditional methods were likely never tried, Shane notes.