The question of whether torture yields reliable information is anwered by News From Davison, who quotes John McCain on his experience as a POW in Vietnam:
I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse. It seems probable to me that the terrorists we interrogate under less than humane standards of treatment are also likely to resort to deceptive answers that are perhaps less provably false than that which I once offered.
The question, "So What if these secret prisons exist? So What if we’re having allies or CIA operatives “handle” these terrorists for us?" is answered by Middle America Progressive, who points to history:
We did not need to officially sanction torture in World War II, nor in WWI. We used to be an honorable nation.
Our country is heading down a slippery slope simply by entertaining the notion that torture is sometimes necessary - and there will be ramifications. Kumbaya Dammit posted an excellent op-ed piece recently (The Word from China) that addressed those consequences:
First, as a self-acclaimed model of democracy, we are setting a dangerously low standard of procedural due process for other nations. If an emerging democracy wants to join our side, we basically send the message that if the domestic opposition is on the wrong end of the political spectrum, deny procedural due process. Incarcerate, interrogate, torture, deny counsel and then press charges - three or four years later.
Second, we lose all credibility and standing to challenge the human rights actions of other countries.
Have you noticed how we haven't been as outspoken in recent years regarding Rwanda, China, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia? We have, in essence, censored ourselves. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice comes to China and speaks timidly about human rights. Rumsfeld comes to China to lecture on democracy and transparency. Nobody listens. Why should they?
Third, image counts. We, the United States, cannot talk about something as serious as democracy and human rights if we are not willing to walk the walk. Although we are the military and economic superpower, we are being called out as hypocrites when it comes to respecting fundamental human rights, particularly given our perception as exceptionalists to codified human rights norms.
Human rights comprise the lowest common denominator of accepted standards of decency and values. Values shape policy, trust and alliances - the kind of alliances that propelled the United States to its exalted international stature. We are damaging these alliances and thereby our international position by blatantly violating basic human rights.
We've lost our moral authority and we've lost our credibility. It's important for people to speak out against this until something gets done. People's lives and human rights are on the line - not to mention our reputation.