TEHRAN - The techniques that the CIA used to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects were “in accordance with law”, says Professor Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of counter-terrorism at the CIA.
"It (CIA) followed legal opinions from the Department of Justice, and it followed the instructions of the top policymakers in the Bush administration,” Pillar says in an interview with the Tehran Times.
The torture techniques, released by the Senate on December 9, sparked an outcry in the U.S. and abroad. The report said the CIA carried out "brutal” interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks and misled other officials about what it was doing.
Pillar says it is "unlikely” that those who authorized such actions face punishment.
This is the text of the interview:
Why is the Senate report published in such a time?
It is difficult to identify exactly what purpose this report serves, given that the activities in question have been public knowledge for some time. But when something in the United States becomes a matter of major public controversy or consternation, the U.S. Congress usually has some kind of investigation and sometimes issues a report. Such investigations and reports are an opportunity for American politicians to make a statement and to try to show that they are as outraged by what happened as anyone else is.
Some experts claim Democrats disclosed the torture techniques to send this message to the public that these acts were committed during the reign of Republicans. Do you think it has any effect on the American society?
The current Democratic President, Mr. Obama, has made it clear that such interrogation methods will not be used as long as he is president. Even if a Republican is elected president in 2016, it is extremely unlikely that--at least in the absence of a spectacular attack such as 9/11--use of such methods would be resumed. There has been some of the usual partisanship in debates about this issue, but views have not taken strict party lines.
Obama said these acts are torture, but the CIA director Brennan, who called some of the techniques "harsh,” "abhorrent,” and "outside the bounds” of the rules, defended the program nonetheless. What is your analysis?
There is nothing contradictory in observing that the methods used did yield some information that helped to secure the United States, but that such methods still should not be used because they are contrary to American values. There are trade-offs involved. It is a matter of weighing security against other values.
Did the CIA act based on law? Or, let say these acts were based on "state security” rather than "human security”?
The CIA did all it could to act in accordance with the law. It followed legal opinions from the Department of Justice, and it followed the instructions of the top policymakers in the Bush administration while notifying the appropriate members of Congress. The goal was the secure not just the state but individual citizens, and that is human security.
The UN, HRW, Amnesty International have called for prosecuting those involved in tortures. So is it possible to see those involved in such acts stand trial?
That is unlikely. If one started prosecuting people it would be difficult to know where to stop.