An excellent article in Slate saying that when American representatives torture abroad, it actually makes intelligence gathering more difficult in this country.
a significant portion of our foreign intelligence is obtained within our own borders, by the FBI. That’s because almost every country has its own foreign intelligence service—its version of the CIA—that sends agents to the United States to steal our defense secrets, commit economic espionage, and harass dissidents who have sought refuge here. The FBI has exclusive jurisdiction, as part of its counterintelligence mandate, to find out who these people are and what they are doing.
A second and arguably more important goal of the FBI is to persuade some of these people, or “targets,” to change sides and share the information they have about their own governments and countries with us…This means that the FBI is in a relatively strong position to produce a steady stream of valuable intelligence that is difficult to obtain abroad.
Who are these folks?
They are diplomats, scientists, or scholars with access to classified information or foreign nationals with important ties to their home countries.
And how does the FBI get them to help us?
It’s an FBI agent’s job to slowly win the target’s trust and help him rationalize his decision to switch his allegiance.
And what happens when these potentially helpful people find out the CIA is torturing people elsewhere?
Policies like the use of torture make it more difficult for the FBI to develop relationships based on trust. Even when torture is used on a few people and in another country, and by a different agency, it casts doubts on the U.S. government’s overall willingness to act in good faith. Targets often project the skepticism about the United States that torture fosters onto individual FBI agents, who are often the only face of the government they see. In short, torture is fundamentally at odds with the image of the United States as a country that will play by the rules, and that is how the FBI must be perceived in order to do its job.
Go read the whole thing. The information we get from people who trust us, and who believe in America as a fundamentally good place, is better than information gotten through torture. Even if torture worked, even if we didn’t think that it is an immoral and bad thing to do, it undermines intelligence gathering in other ways, and at home. We can’t have that.