Dumb Intelligence

The torture memos prove that the U.S. sacrificed its moral authority for nothing

Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

It's easy to forget that when the U.S. began interrogating al-Qaeda operatives in 2002, the CIA had no idea what it was doing. The last time the agency had been charged with conducting hostile interrogations was during the Vietnam era, and most of those officers were long retired. The wisdom inside the CIA has always been that the best intelligence is obtained through persuasion rather than coercion. New CIA recruits have even been counseled against using blackmail because the information it produced couldn't be relied on.

When the CIA was asked to resume hostile interrogations after Sept. 11, some agency leaders...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!