Most Americans oppose the use of torture because they believe it is morally wrong. Others, like President Bush, insist that torture is so useful in uncovering the plans of terrorists that matters of morality should be set aside. The problem is that even from a practical point of view, torture is ineffective.
Yesterday a Canadian commission of inquiry released a 1,204-page report relating to the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian wireless technology consultant, who was snatched by U.S. agents at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City and transported to Syria, where, for ten months, he was kept in a six-foot by three-foot cell, before being transferred to a collective cell. Under torture, he confessed to being an Islamist extremist who attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. In reality, not only was Arar not an Islamist terrorist, but he had never even been to Afghanistan. He was ultimately released without charge and the Canadian commission affirmed that he was completely innocent.
As Congress debates President Bush's demand that he be allowed to continue using torture techniques, it is worth keeping in mind that American time, money and human resources have been wasted pursuing alleged plots and leads and connections to which various prisoners like Maher Arar have "confessed" for no other reason than to stop their interrogators from torturing them.
Follow David Wallechinsky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ALLGOV