The Bush Administration reportedly pressured interrogators to use particularly harsh methods against detainees in an attempt to scrounge up some evidence that would tie the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in some way to the al-Qaeda organization.
One former official in particular pointed to former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as “demanding proof of the links between al-Qaeda and Iraq that Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
Despite the systemic use of torture against detainees, the full extent of which is only now becoming apparent, the administration was never able to link Iraq with al-Qaeda. This did not, of course, stop the administration from claiming such evidence existed and using it as part of the pretext for the 2003 invasion. This inevitably raised the question of why it was so important to waterboard detainees scores of times in a single month in an attempt to provide evidence they were perfectly willing to manufacture out of wholecloth. The pressure to come up with authentic evidence where none existed does appear, however, to have played a central role in some of the interrogators’ worst excesses.