The inequities of the ‘War on Terror’

On December 14th, 1999, a man named Amhed Ressam was arrested crossing the Canadian-American border. Custom officials found explosives hidden in his spare tire, and more bomb making materials in his apartment in Montreal, Quebec. He was subsequently interrogated, and in return for a lighter sentence, Ressam would reveal the existence of a complex sleeper cell network to investigators, eventually leading to the creation of a report called “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US. This report was given to President Bush on August 6th, 2001. It was not discussed because at the time, Bush was on vacation.

Prosecutors worked a deal with Ressam for a lighter sentence in exchange for his information and help in prosecuting other terrorists. He agreed, but in the now 8 years since his incarceration, Ahmed is being re-sentenced. A judge found solitary confinement and repeated interrogations had made him cease to be cooperative in prosecutory efforts.

I’m not one for government conspiracy theories, so I will base my opinion on the long and detailed accounts of the United State’s continued use of torture to interrogate suspected terrorists. Even if they had somehow spared Ahmed this fate, it’s generally recognized¬†solitary confinement is itself a form of torture, as human beings have been known to go mad from isolation.

I’m not going to claim the change of heart from Ressam was a direct result of his treatment at the hands of his captors. Prosecutors are claiming rather than a mental breakdown, Ressam was unhappy about his sentence. But this directly conflicts with even his own response to the 22 years being tacked on. He told the court that “I’m a terrorist…I’m going to do it again when I get out”.

American investigators have always been overzealous in their efforts to uncover information about terrorist organizations, which is why their reputation around the world has suffered. Torture is not an effective investigatory technique precisely because the information gathered is likely to be inaccurate and highly compromised. An individual in duress is as likely to give bad information as good. The problem is there’s no way to know when it is or isn’t valid. Ahmed had been cooperating for years, but my guess is, after spending almost a decade in prison, his information began to lose value, and investigators began applying more and more pressure in the hopes of extracting some information.

The result of this gong show is Ahmed is now recanting his previous testimony, which means the real bad guys now have the ability to appeal their arrest and incarceration. So, not only did the US fail to use Ressam’s most useful information; now they have destroyed all the work they managed to accomplish. In other words, the US killed their golden goose trying to extract more eggs.

With so much competence in the war on terror, we’ll have this thing ‘won’ in no time, boys and girls!

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