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Fact 5

Last updated: July 19, 2023

Torture did not work.

Once the CIA began taking custody of detainees, it turned immediately to torture on the uneducated assumption—peddled by contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen—that torture was necessary to produce actionable intelligence that would save lives. It was not, and did not.

Detainees fabricated information just to stop the pain. For example:


Detainees were tortured notwithstanding interrogators telling CIA headquarters that the detainees were cooperating and the interrogators did not believe they possessed the information headquarters wanted:

In the end, none of the significant intelligence gathering “successes” the CIA attributed to torture was, in fact, a result of torture. The Torture Report “reviews 20 of the most frequent or prominent examples of reported intelligence successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’” including “terrorist plots thwarted, terrorists captured, and the collection of other terrorism-related intelligence.”

In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the EITs. In the remaining cases, the CIA inaccurately claimed that specific, otherwise unavailable information was acquired from a CIA detainee “as a result” of the EITs, when in fact the information was either (1) corroborative of information already available to the Intelligence Community from sources other than the CIA detainee (and was therefore not “otherwise unavailable”); or (2) acquired from the CIA detainee prior to the use of the EITs.”

None of this is surprising. As a group of the world’s leading interrogation researchers and experts on interrogation has explained, “harsh interrogation methods (including both physical and psychological coercion) are ineffective, particularly when compared with alternative, evidence-based approaches that promote cooperation, enhance recall of relevant and reliable information, and facilitate assessments of credibility.” Indeed, a report from the U.S. government’s elite, inter-agency interrogation component—the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group—has determined the same:

Based on the comprehensive research and field validation studies detailed in this report, it is concluded that the most effective practices for eliciting accurate information and actionable intelligence are non-coercive, rapport-based, information-gathering interviewing and interrogation methods.”