The villain in "Torture: The Dirty Business," set for broadcast tonight on the Sundance Channel, is a Gulfstream corporate-style jet.
With compelling circumstantial evidence, "Torture" argues that a spooky agency of the U.S. government, probably the CIA, has been using the Gulfstream to transport terror suspects to countries where they are tortured for information about Al Qaeda and other links.
Much of the focus is on Maher Arah, a software engineer living in Canada who was stopped at the airport in New York and taken to his native Syria. Arah, now suing the U.S., says he was tortured for a year by Syrian intelligence officers and that to stop the torture he falsely admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda.
That latter assertion is the value of "Torture," the idea that torturing suspects, whatever its legal and moral failings, is a lousy way to get information.
"You cannot engage in these kind of tactics if you're not assured you're going to get accurate information," says former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, one of the original Osama bin Laden hunters. "It's a waste of time."
The U.S., "Torture" asserts, has been outsourcing the application of torture to keep from soiling its own hands. "Torture" provides good evidence, although the assertion is not new and has become a piece of domestic political fodder.
(Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week told a gathering in Moscow that the U.S. complies with the United Nations ban on torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of suspects and prisoners. The comment did not mollify European critics or human-rights activists in the United States.)
What is new in "Torture," at least to an American audience, is the understated outrage of Craig Murray, former British ambassador to the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, a staunch U.S. ally in its war in Iraq.
Murray says he has evidence not just that the Uzbeks are torturing suspects -- the pictures of corpses are graphic -- but that phony information derived from torture is polluting the files of the U.S. and British intelligence agencies.
Murray says he tried to get British authorities' attention. "I was basically told to shut up about it," he says.
Directed by Sarah MacDonald for Britain's Channel 4, "Torture" is good cop-beat journalism, reporters doggedly following a trail, knocking on doors, meeting people on their own turf, hang the risks. British and U.S. officials are given a chance to respond, and they seem to deny everything.
Still, certain actions seem to speak otherwise. The day after "Torture" tracks down the U.S. company that owns the Gulfstream, the company's name and the tail-number on the plane are changed.
`Torture: The Dirty Business'
Where: Sundance Channel
When: 10:45 to 11:45 p.m.
Ratings: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)
Narrators...Philip Hart and Paul Duncanson
Executive producers Eamonn Matthews and Ed Braman. Producer and director Sarah MacDonald.