Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CIA Stands Behind Their Techniques

This is a two-fer in hat-tips. The first goes to Ace @ AoSHQ for linking to Rantings And Ravings for their posting of General Hayden's recent interview that the Obama administration is being most disingenuous for the release of the OLC memos detailing our interrogation techniques. For the record, Vice President Dick Cheney has called on the administration to release all of the memos to show the nation what we learned during those interrogations.

To paint the methods as improper or useless is specious on the face as we did learn a great deal from the detainees who endured the interrogation methods we subjected them to, which brings me to the second hat-tip. This one goes to Captain Ed Morrissey @ Hot Air for linking to the defense presented by the CIA in an interview with CNS News about exactly what we did obtain, and what we were able to stop, thanks to those methods:

The Central Intelligence Agency told CNSNews.com today that it stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) -- including the use of waterboarding -- caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.

Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”

According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack -- which KSM called the “Second Wave”-- planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”

KSM was the mastermind of the first “hijacked-airliner” attacks on the United States, which struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia on Sept. 11, 2001.

After KSM was captured by the United States, he was not initially cooperative with CIA interrogators. Nor was another top al Qaeda leader named Zubaydah. KSM, Zubaydah, and a third terrorist named Nashiri were the only three persons ever subjected to waterboarding by the CIA. (Additional terrorist detainees were subjected to other “enhanced techniques” that included slapping, sleep deprivation, dietary limitations, and temporary confinement to small spaces -- but not to water-boarding.)

This was because the CIA imposed very tight restrictions on the use of waterboarding. “The ‘waterboard,’ which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits,” explained the May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo. “It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has ‘credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent’; ‘substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or deny this attack’; and ‘[o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for preventing the attack.’”

The quotations in this part of the Justice memo were taken from an Aug. 2, 2004 letter that CIA Acting General Counsel John A. Rizzo sent to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Before they were subjected to “enhanced techniques” of interrogation that included waterboarding, KSM and Zubaydah were not only uncooperative but also appeared contemptuous of the will of the American people to defend themselves. “In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques,” says the Justice Department memo. “Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak,’ lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’ Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will know.’”

After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.

Again, Thomas and I contend that this was not torture. These were enhanced techniques designed to break the toughest of the detainees we had in custody, and as the CIS states, it was only to be used on high profile al-Qaeda detainees that would have direct knowledge of a potential terrorist attack. These would not be used on the likes of John Walker Lindh -- the "American Taliban" -- or other low-level fighters. Those people could be, and would be, broken through the normal means of interrogation.

What we find sickening about the administration's release of the memos is that they are not being honest about the entire issue. At heart is whether or not these techniques were successful. If they were not, it would make sense the CIA would not have continued to use them. They were successful in preventing the "Second Wave" follow-up to the 9/11 attacks. We obviously had reason to believe that it was a relevant and very real threat. Had the Bush administration ignored this information, that attack might have occurred, and we can only imagine the aftermath of that attack. Three thousand dead might have been a drop in the bucket.

What irritates me is that the Obama administration has basically kept much of the Bush administration's policies in place when it comes to the war. The things they have changed, such as the Executive Order calling for the closure of the Guantanmo Bay detention facility and the release of these memos, means that we are vulnerable again. Not as vulnerable as we were on September 10, 2001, but the vulnerability is inexcusable. The administration took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and by extension that includes the nation. To turn their backs on that oath is completely inexcusable.



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