Former NCIS special agent Mark Fallon speaks against use of torture

Jacquelyn Voghel, Editor-in-Chief

Mark Fallon, a former NCIS special agent and ’78 RWU alumnus, worked for the U.S. government for 31 years. Now, he wants the public to know the story of “a national policy of state-sponsored torture” that emerged post-9/11.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, Fallon visited the university to talk about his book, “Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture,” as well as his concerns with President Trump’s policies on torture.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Fallon was appointed deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force, which the Department of Defense created to investigate detainees suspected of terrorism.

When the U.S. opened Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Fallon was at first optimistic that the facility would operate in accordance with the nation’s values.

“I thought that [Guantanamo] was an incredible opportunity for our nation to demonstrate to the world how we operate under the rule of law, and that we would not resort to the tactics that our adversaries, or the things that brutal regimes would do,” Fallon said to The Hawks’ Herald. “Unfortunately, it quickly unraveled.”

Fallon instead described the reality of Guantanamo as “a human trafficking operation” where prisoners were indefinitely detained and tortured, often without trial.

It is a common misconception, Fallon said, that torture is an effective method that ultimately possesses the power to save American lives. In reality, the opposite is true.

“In the government, we knew how corrosive torture was, and we knew how counterproductive it was,” Fallon said to the audience. “Who didn’t know was the public.”

He continued, “We knew that we got false and fabricated information. We knew that we chased false leads. And we know that policy decisions were made based on false and fabricated information.”

Disturbed, Fallon tried to report his concerns to his superiors. No one disagreed with him, he said, but nor did anyone take action.

“What I had seen was a narrative to convince the public that what was done in your name was safe, necessary, and effective,” Fallon said. “And I can tell you it was none of these things.”

Under the Trump administration, Fallon has observed a continuation of this misunderstanding surrounding torture. On Tuesday, Jan. 30, Trump declared in his State of the Union Address that Guantanamo will remain indefinitely open.

Fallon has been troubled by Trump “irresponsibly trying to articulate policies based on brutality,” fearing that it will “embolden our adversaries” and draw more recruits to ISIS.

“When Donald Trump says we need to fight fire with fire, I say that’s the talk of an arsonist,” Fallon said. “You fight fire by depriving it of oxygen.”

Prior to the publication of “Unjustifiable Means,” the book underwent a 233-day review process in which sections of the text were redacted.

Confident that he had not tried to publish any classified information, Fallon was “shocked” at the delays in the publication process.

Fallon said that the government also would not tell him who, or how many agencies, were reviewing his manuscript, adding to his suspicion. While being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, he eventually learned that the manuscript was sent to 10 agencies, although he still does not know their identities.

Today, Fallon said, it is unclear just how the U.S. is handling torture.

The last time we went down this torture road, nobody was ever supposed to know…. It was a program that the U.S. government was prepared to deny exists,” Fallon said. “And so today, none of us in here knows whether President Trump could have issued a similar order. We know he said he would. We know he said he wanted to. But we don’t know if he has done that or not.”

Considering his knowledge on these “unjustifiable means” of torture, Fallon posed a question to the audience:

“How many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in a war that was justified based on false and fabricated information?”