28 Apr

Making the Hard Measures

                                       

“The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer – it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration’s approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America’s standing in the world, not how you strengthen it.”-Senator Obama, 2007


“I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake.”

-President Obama, 2009

“And anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that’s not something we do. Period.”
-President Obama, 2011

“He is breaking the Covenant that exists between intelligence officers that are at the pointy end of a spear hanging way out there and the government that authorized them and directed them to go there.”
-Jose Rodriguez

Until Marc Thiessen’s book, Courting Disaster, came out in 2010, the critics of Bush-era enhanced interrogations (waterboarding specifically) of al-Qaeda high-value detainees have had most of the field to themselves in the media. Former VP Dick Cheney could not restrain himself from making public comments in response to the current president’s political attacks against the EIT program and those who supported it. Those involved directly within the CIA interrogation program itself were not at liberty to defend themselves against the attacks, distortions, smears, and misconceptions. They basically had to bite their lips and weather the storm of slander.

President Obama’s 2009 decision to release the “how-not-to-torture” OLC memos made details of Thiessen’s book possible. Courting Disaster challenged the mainstream narrative that the CIA method of waterboarding (just 3 HVDs) rose to the level of definition for torture and that it was ineffective.

In Dick Cheney’s memoir, In My Time pg 521-2, the former VP writes:

The president decided to declassify a different set of documents. These were the memos produced by the Bush administration Justice Department that explained the legal rationale supporting enhanced interrogation and also detailed the particular methods involved. At about the same time, President Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, signaled the possibility that the lawyers who prepared these memos and the intellgience officers who conducted enhanced interrogations might face professional sanction or even criminal prosecution.

I was appalled that the new administration would even consider punishing honorable public servants who had carried out the Bush administration’s lawful policies and kept the country safe. I was also deeply concerned about the selective fashion in which sensitive information was being declassified and made public. The administration had just revealed to the world, including our enemies, methods used to question detainees thought to have information about future attacks. Yet the information in the memos I had requested- detailing all we had learned, and the attacks we had stopped through the enhanced interrogation program- was being kept secret. A few weeks after President Obama released the legal memos, I heard from CIA Director Leon Panetta, a colleague and friend from my days in the House. He wrote to tell me that my request was being denied.

The memos Cheney wanted to have released eventually were made available. And still the debate over waterboarding and “torture” remain unsettled.

Early this month, we have the indictment of John Kiriakou and the State Department’s release of the Zelikow memo.

The former Bush vice president and the former Bush speech writer aren’t the only ones appalled by President Obama’s branding with the “torture” label libel. And they aren’t the only ones coming forth to give the other side of the story.

Next week will bring us the release of Jose Rodriguez‘s new book, Hard Measures. And it begins with an extensive 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl tomorrow night.

YouTube Preview Image

Rodriguez is the ex-CIA chief of the Counterterrorism Center who ordered the destruction of 92 interrogation tapes. Absolved of criminal wrong-doing, why were they destroyed? Rodriguez explains:

The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.

Especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Rodriguez writes, if the CIA’s videos were to leak out, officers worldwide would be in danger.

“I wasn’t going to sit around another three years waiting for people to get up the courage,” to do what CIA lawyers said he had the authority to do himself, Rodriguez writes. He describes sending the order in November 2005 as “just getting rid of some ugly visuals.”

*UPDATE 4/29/2012 14:42*

Dana Priest:

A blunt explanation

It became clear immediately that Rodriguez never even got the talking points, which was refreshing and surprising. Right away he began divulging awkward truths that other senior officers had tried to obfuscate in our conversations about the secret prisons: “In many cases they are violating their own laws by helping us,” he offered, according to notes I took at the time.

Why not bring the detainees to trial?

“Because they would get lawyered up, and our job, first and foremost, is to obtain information.”

Concerned that the location of one of the prisons was about to be revealed, Rodriguez writes that he ordered the facility closed immediately and the detainees moved to a new site. While dismantling the site, the base chief asked Rodriguez if she could throw a pile of old videotapes, made during the early days of terrorist Abu Zubaida’s interrogation and waterboarding, and now a couple of years old, onto a nearby bonfire that was set to destroy papers and other evidence of the agency’s presence.

Just at that moment, according to his account, a cable from headquarters came in saying: “Hold up on the tapes. We think they should be retained for a little while longer.”

“Had that message been delayed by even a few minutes,” Rodriguez writes, “my life in the years following would have been considerably easier.”

Those actions led to a lengthy and still ongoing investigation of the agency that produced no charges. Rodriguez retired in January 2008 and now works in the private sector.

~~~

Shredding the tapes

Rodriguez writes that he ordered the tapes’ destruction because he got tired of waiting for his superiors to make a decision. They had at least twice given him the go-ahead, then backed off. In the meantime, a senior agency attorney cited “grave national security reasons” for destroying the material and said the tapes presented ‘“grave risk” to the personal safety of our officers” whose identities could be seen on the recordings.

In late April 2004, another event forced his hand, he writes. Photos of the abuse of prisoners by Army soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ignited the Arab world and risked being confused with the CIA’s program, which was run very differently.

“We knew that if the photos of CIA officers conducting authorized EIT [enhanced interrogation techniques] ever got out, the difference between a legal, authorized, necessary, and safe program and the mindless actions of some MPs [military police] would be buried by the impact of the images.

“The propaganda damage to the image of America would be immense. But the main concern then, and always, was for the safety of my officers.”

Readers may disagree with much of what Rodriguez writes and with the importance of some of the facts he omits from his book, but the above sentence speaks volumes about why this book is important. In this case, a loyal civil servant — and the decision-makers above him who blessed these programs — were not thinking about the larger, longer-lasting damage to the core values of the United States that disclosure of these secrets might cause. They were thinking about the near term. About efficiency. About the safety of friends and colleagues. In their minds, they were thinking, too, about the safety of the country.

And after some back-and-forth with agency lawyers for what seemed to him the umpteenth time, he writes, Rodriguez scrutinized a cable to the field drafted by his chief of staff, ordering that the tapes be shredded in an industrial-strength machine. The tapes had already been reviewed, and copious written notes on their content had been taken.

“I was not depriving anyone of information about what was done or what was said,” he writes. “I was just getting rid of some ugly visuals that could put the lives of my people at risk.

“I took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.”

*END UPDATE*

I have no doubt that had these videos of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri’s interrogation sessions been made public, the only ones who stand to benefit would be Code Pink anti-war groups, bleeding heart human rights groups, the Taliban in Afghanistan, anti-Americanists around the world, and al Qaeda’s propaganda bureau. Not because there’s anything in the video that probably should alarm; but because by nature, those who live in modern civilized society are squeamish…and thus, would be alarmed and horrified. The EITs themselves were designed to make the HVD feel like the situation he was placed in is worse than the actual reality of it- a case of the bark being worse than the bite.

I’d say executions of mass murderers and serial killers is highly justified. But should they be witnessed by the public at large? Killing the enemy is necessary in wafare; but should all the sheep of society bear witness to what wolves and sheepdog do to one another? Maybe…but this isn’t the philosophical argument I’m wanting to have. My point is that watching the most sensationalized selective scenes that the media may find from these videos (devalued and devoid of relevant context) had they not been destroyed, would only be bad for our CIA…bad for our soldiers still in this fight on the frontlines…and ultimately bad for America.

“I don’t know what kind of man it takes to cut the throat of someone in front of a camera like that, but I can tell you this is probably someone who didn’t give a rat’s ass about having water poured on his face.”


~~~


“We made some al-Qaida terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days. I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives.”

-Jose Rodriguez, former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service

Rodriguez’s book probably won’t quell the debate anytime soon (A 3-year probe by Senate Democrats is scheduled to be released sometime soon, discounting the value of the EIT program) but it will most certainly enrich the debate to be had on both sides.

This entry was posted in Book Review, CIA interrogation program, War On Terror. Bookmark the permalink. Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 7:11 pm
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23 Responses to Making the Hard Measures

  1. Wordsmith says: 1

    I actually have a lot of respect for the work that “Matthew Alexander” did (as I do for Ali Soufan) in service to his country. But reading this makes me think it was written by a rabid-liberal activist rather than an informed, knowledgeable, respected expert in his field:

    Each year, the pro-torture advocates submit a new mouthpiece to put forth the arguments of former President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

    We’ve heard from Marc Thiessen, the former Bush administration speech writer, who argued that torture was moral according to his Catholic values. And then Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, who defended the use of so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and used his time at the agency to ensure there would be no accountability for torture.

    ~~~

    The sad truth is that America is morally bipolar. The country that I signed up to defend with my life has become an endorser of torture, an evader of accountability, and a place where the rule of law is arbitrary, especially for government elites who craft torture programs. The accountability we preach to other countries that is so important for a just society is absent in our own when it comes to torture.

    The usage of EITs was very limited. In general, the CIA used the same traditional interrogation methods as the kind that Alexander and Soufan advocate. And the CIA drew a clear line (as did the legal counsel) regarding what was and wasn’t permissible; and what crossed over into the territory of “torture”.

    I’m turned off by how flippantly Alexander throws around the torture label. It comes across like he is knee-jerk-resorting to hyperbole and shouting down rather than offering up a serious critique and exchange, based upon professional knowledge and expertise in the field of interrogation.

    He (and especially Soufan) could win me over if he wasn’t so dismissive of the other side. It’s like he’s arguing/attacking the image/perception/myth/aura of the CIA EIT program rather than tackling the actual substance and specifics of the program. Maybe he should actually bother reading Rodriguez’s book (I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually dismissed taking the time to read Thiessen’s book).

    Basically he’s trying to take the “chickenhawk” line of shutting down debate.

    ReplyReply
  2. John Cooper says: 2

    What these libs fail to understand is that war is the very antithesis of “the law”.

    ReplyReply
  3. Wordsmith says: 3

    Updated the post with the following entry:

    Dana Priest:

    A blunt explanation

    It became clear immediately that Rodriguez never even got the talking points, which was refreshing and surprising. Right away he began divulging awkward truths that other senior officers had tried to obfuscate in our conversations about the secret prisons: “In many cases they are violating their own laws by helping us,” he offered, according to notes I took at the time.

    Why not bring the detainees to trial?

    “Because they would get lawyered up, and our job, first and foremost, is to obtain information.”

    Concerned that the location of one of the prisons was about to be revealed, Rodriguez writes that he ordered the facility closed immediately and the detainees moved to a new site. While dismantling the site, the base chief asked Rodriguez if she could throw a pile of old videotapes, made during the early days of terrorist Abu Zubaida’s interrogation and waterboarding, and now a couple of years old, onto a nearby bonfire that was set to destroy papers and other evidence of the agency’s presence.

    Just at that moment, according to his account, a cable from headquarters came in saying: “Hold up on the tapes. We think they should be retained for a little while longer.”

    “Had that message been delayed by even a few minutes,” Rodriguez writes, “my life in the years following would have been considerably easier.”

    Those actions led to a lengthy and still ongoing investigation of the agency that produced no charges. Rodriguez retired in January 2008 and now works in the private sector.

    ~~~

    Shredding the tapes

    Rodriguez writes that he ordered the tapes’ destruction because he got tired of waiting for his superiors to make a decision. They had at least twice given him the go-ahead, then backed off. In the meantime, a senior agency attorney cited “grave national security reasons” for destroying the material and said the tapes presented ‘“grave risk” to the personal safety of our officers” whose identities could be seen on the recordings.

    In late April 2004, another event forced his hand, he writes. Photos of the abuse of prisoners by Army soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ignited the Arab world and risked being confused with the CIA’s program, which was run very differently.

    “We knew that if the photos of CIA officers conducting authorized EIT [enhanced interrogation techniques] ever got out, the difference between a legal, authorized, necessary, and safe program and the mindless actions of some MPs [military police] would be buried by the impact of the images.

    “The propaganda damage to the image of America would be immense. But the main concern then, and always, was for the safety of my officers.”

    Readers may disagree with much of what Rodriguez writes and with the importance of some of the facts he omits from his book, but the above sentence speaks volumes about why this book is important. In this case, a loyal civil servant — and the decision-makers above him who blessed these programs — were not thinking about the larger, longer-lasting damage to the core values of the United States that disclosure of these secrets might cause. They were thinking about the near term. About efficiency. About the safety of friends and colleagues. In their minds, they were thinking, too, about the safety of the country.

    And after some back-and-forth with agency lawyers for what seemed to him the umpteenth time, he writes, Rodriguez scrutinized a cable to the field drafted by his chief of staff, ordering that the tapes be shredded in an industrial-strength machine. The tapes had already been reviewed, and copious written notes on their content had been taken.

    “I was not depriving anyone of information about what was done or what was said,” he writes. “I was just getting rid of some ugly visuals that could put the lives of my people at risk.

    “I took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.”

    Hat tip: Daily Kos

    ReplyReply
  4. Wordsmith says: 4

    Ali Soufan on 60 Minutes last year.

    ReplyReply
  5. Wordsmith says: 5

    Soufan’s book is pretty critical of the CIA. His account of Zubaydah’s interrogation conflicts with that of the CIA. Which side is presenting the accurate narrative? The Black Banner came out after Courting Disaster; but the latter pretty much directly challenges Soufan’s claims, providing counter-arguments.

    Looks like Rodriguez is hitting back against FBI claims as well:

    The FBI. Rodriguez portrays FBI officials as an obstacle to CIA efforts to round up and interrogate terrorist suspects. He writes that FBI agents tried to “recruit” a captured senior Al Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, as a bureau source out from under the noses of his CIA captors. He quotes one FBI agent as telling Zubaydah, “Don’t pay attention to those CIA people … you work with me,” as he handed Zubaydah a candy bar. “AZ was offended that the agent would think that he could be bought for a Snickers bar,” Rodriguez writes.

    He says that while FBI officials publicly criticized the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques as counterproductive and at one point withdrew from the questioning of some terrorists, the bureau later petitioned the CIA to get back into the interrogation program because of the “windfall reported in the intelligence reports” from the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The FBI request was denied, Rodriguez says.

    He writes dismissively of the FBI’s gentler approach to interrogating terrorist suspects. “Could we have gotten the same information using FBI practices?” Rodriguez asks. “Maybe. If we had all the time in the world, perhaps we could have. But we did not.”

    More:

    House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other CIA critics in Congress. Rodriguez challenges Pelosi’s assertion that, while a ranking member of the House intelligence committee after 9/11, she was not informed in detail about the use of waterboarding.

    “Pelosi said that we only briefly mentioned waterboarding and left the impression that it had not been used,” Rodriguez writes, insisting that the California Democrat was fully briefed—by Rodriguez himself—about waterboarding and its use. “ He says that Pelosi was explicitly briefed on waterboarding and posed no objection to the technique. “I know she got it.”

    “There is no doubt in my mind that she, like almost all Americans less than a year after, wanted us to be aggressive to make sure that Al Qaeda wasn’t able to replicate their attack.” He writes that “Pelosi was another member of Congress reinventing the truth.”

    Rodriguez says that he believes many members of Congress have “watched too many episodes of the old TV series Mission Impossible—the part they liked best was the opening, in which the operatives were told that if anything went wrong, their leaders would ‘disavow any knowledge of your actions.’”

    60 Minutes

    Pt1

    Pt2

    ReplyReply
  6. Tom says: 6

    # Wordsmith,

    I just want to preference these questions by stating I highly respect your opinion and reporting efforts on these topics.

    You have possibly answered these questions previously, but I’d love to get your perspective.

    Leaving aside the legality, do you have any sympathy for the argument that enhanced interrogation goes against the ideals of America? I guess I would call this the “we’re too good to do that” argument. I find it quite powerful in its simplicity. There’s nothing easy about sticking to an ideal, but the nice thing about not crossing a line is that you don’t have to invent complicated excuses.

    Strategically speaking, what is the real tangible benefit of enhanced interrogation? Do you believe the incremental benefit of the intelligence that’s gathered out-weights the cost of what’s generated by the idea that America will do whatever it takes to get answers? If we’re going to recruit our own enemies, what are we getting in return? The best people on the other side will, rightly, see our actions as dishonorable: what is the payoff?

    Finally, has Obama’s decision not to continue “enhanced interrogation” adversely affected our security?

    ReplyReply
  7. Wordsmith says: 7

    Thanks, Tom:

    Leaving aside the legality, do you have any sympathy for the argument that enhanced interrogation goes against the ideals of America?

    I do. Aside from the judgmental slam against Rodriguez as a “pseudo-patriot”, I like Alexander’s soapbox sentiment:

    America is a country I’m still proud of, that provided an enormous amount of leadership and resources to the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture. What pseudo-patriots like Rodriguez want to tell us is that all that doesn’t matter as long as we save lives. But what he fails to realize is that the very act of service means one is willing to give their life to protect our values. Our principles are worth that cost.

    And as you note:

    There’s nothing easy about sticking to an ideal, but the nice thing about not crossing a line is that you don’t have to invent complicated excuses.

    I am not firmly entrenched in the idea that (CIA SERE-inspired, doctor-supervised, OCL memo-bound version) waterboarding didn’t cross a “line-too-far” or that it doesn’t arise to a definition of “torture”. I do reject not being able to distinguish gradations and intent- carefully controlled SERE-type waterboarding vs. waterboarding during Spanish Inquisition vs. water cure torture of Yukio Asano & others. Intent: Confession & information & cruelty for cruelty’s sake vs. achieving a state of cooperation.

    Tickling and simply incarcerating a person can also rise to a definition for torture by creating “mental anguish”. Where shall we draw the line in the sand?

    No, it isn’t easy to stick to our ideals when the chips are down- and this also sticks in my craw: That people who weren’t in “the situation room” easily condemn (from the comforts of their armchairs and hindsight) those who were there, making the tough decisions to do what they felt was right and what was necessary to protect American lives and prevent the next 9/11 attack. Going through the memoirs of Tenet, Bush, Cheney, Feith…Thiessen’s account defending the CIA interrogators who can’t publicly speak for themselves…they did their best in good faith to stand up for American values and protect our nation amidst all the buzz and chatter they were receiving about “a 2nd wave”.

    I think it’s okay to be critical and to argue against decisions taken by them. I just wish it were done with respect and an acknowledgment that they weighed and measured their decisions carefully and gave serious deliberations- from Iraq to EITs.

    In a real sense, we’re all “chickenhawks” at being PotUS. We can only assume and wishful-think what we would have done had we been in the shoes of the president in the immediate aftermath of a 9/11-scale attack or CIA officials being warned that another terror attack was “imminent”.

    Did you happen to see this post? I thought it was a fun exercise on hypotheticals (Some participants got irritated, missing the point, I think). It’s easy to say you won’t compromise your values when the stakes to do so are low; harder to do when you start tweaking the stakes around.

    Strategically speaking, what is the real tangible benefit of enhanced interrogation? Do you believe the incremental benefit of the intelligence that’s gathered out-weights the cost of what’s generated by the idea that America will do whatever it takes to get answers?

    If EITs did work and it unlocked a wealth of information (not directly, but where so much of what happened after- information, leads, captures, kills, how al Qaeda operates, its courier system, how it’s financed, etc.- can be traced back to interrogating a small handful like KSM), and if a handful of HVDs were resistant to standard interrogation techniques, then wouldn’t be worth finding out alternatives and to find out just where that line in the sand can be drawn as to what is morally and legally permissible?

    In the end, it might not have been worth it- not because what the CIA did and what the Bush administration allowed and endorsed was so horrible and so brutal- but because the charge that what they did amounted to the same thing as what the Spanish Inquisition did, what Pol Pot did, what the Vietnamese did to John McCain- that hyperbolic comparison is what harmed us. That kind of hysteria and conflation is what hurt America’s image. It’s the caricature rather than the actual character.

    Some people don’t disagree with the Jack Bauer approach to get information so long as it ultimately saves lives. That wasn’t Bush, however. It is not Cheney. They are not torture apologists. They are torture deniers, in defending that EITs did not morally or legally arise to the definition of what constitutes “torture”; nor compromise American values. Yes, we are and should be “better than them” and live up to an example of “something better”. Something nobler. And we have. Our CIA did not behead anyone. They didn’t drill holes into anyone. They didn’t bury anyone alive in sand. What they did do to only a handful of “the worst of the worst” was sleep-deprive, stress positions, “walling”, play Barney (“♫♪I love you, you love me…♫♪”), and waterboarded 3 HVTs committed to the death of your loved ones, my loved ones, and our fellow citizens. And they did this not to get confessions. Not for revenge. They did it to save innocent American lives. They did their jobs.

    If we’re going to recruit our own enemies, what are we getting in return? The best people on the other side will, rightly, see our actions as dishonorable: what is the payoff?

    Something else that irks me is that many of our foreign critics are no more higherminded than we are in moral standards and values.

    One of the things that has harmed us is in not doing more business with unsavory characters in the spy business. I think this was one of the criticisms in Robert Baer’s book.

    Finally, has Obama’s decision not to continue “enhanced interrogation” adversely affected our security?

    Rodriguez (and Thiessen before him) have criticized the president for killing over capturing operatives for purposes of interrogation. Is this really the case? It’s hard for me to believe that those we do capture aren’t interrogated.

    Personally, I don’t believe that waterboarding and other EITs will be making a comeback, even under a Republican president.

    What is unfortunate is that because details of this program were made public, future EITs would probably have to be even harsher if they were ever to be used as an alternative to standard interrogation (George Bush, btw, rejected two EITs suggested to him and only approved waterboarding as where to draw the line in the sand).

    As groundpounder comments:

    I’ve known Stu Herrington for 35 years and he’s an honorable man who’s well-intentioned. However, the interrogation methods that Stu espouses will only work on ninety percent of all POWs and enemy combatants. There’s a ten percent element of hardcore recalcitrant fanatics who will interpret humane treatment as a sign of weakness, and dig in their heels and play hardball and never divulge any useful information. The only thing that these “ten per centers” understand is violence! And in life and death circumstances, seasoned professional interrogators must have the option of using varying degrees of violence to extract information from captured enemies known to possess valuable information that can save the lives of American citizens.

    Most people will respond positively to standard methods; but you are always going to find those aberrations in society who don’t fit the norm. There is no “one-size-fits-all” and for KSM, EITs apparently worked- probably weren’t harsh enough on a guy like him. And let’s not forget that Zubaydah is purported to have thanked his interrogators and said, “You must do this to all the brothers.”

    In general, I absolutely agree with Soufan and Alexander’s claims regarding the relationship-building, standard interrogation approach. It’s a real art, too. As I relayed to BRob, I was in awe of my regional loss prevention manager who was like a magician when it came to interviewing employees suspected of internal theft. She could read and interpret body language in coordinated conjunction with the right questions asked at the right moments; know when to give up some slack just so the person being interrogated has enough rope to eventually hang himself with in a lie.

    I think I remember reading in a book called “Yankee Samurai” how the easiest way to get a Japanese POW to talk was to give him a cigarette and show some kindness. Like Abu Jandal, who Soufan interrogated with brilliance, Japanese soldiers were told to expect torture and harsh treatment if captured by Americans. So he was surprised when instead Soufan brought him sugarless cookies (after learning Jandal was diabetic) and a book in Arabic of George Washington, after learning Jandal liked reading about revolutionaries. Jandal was an al-Qaeda tough who ended up cooperating after Soufan won him over through humane, smart, psychology.

    Of course, it should also be noted that in Thiessen’s book, I don’t know what page at the moment, but one terrorist basically said, “You’re CIA aren’t you? I’ll tell you everything!” after being picked up, because of the mystique and mystery over CIA interrogation and reputation (however exaggerated or not) for “harsh, scary treatment” under captivity.

    ReplyReply
  8. Richard Wheeler says: 8

    An erudite and respectfull debate between folks like Tom and Word is worth the price of admission.

    Semper Fi

    ReplyReply
  9. Wordsmith says: 9

    There you go again, Rich….damaging my capital with conservative partisans. ;)

    ReplyReply
  10. Aqua says: 10

    @Wordsmith:
    Very nice.

    ReplyReply
  11. johngalt says: 11

    @Wordsmith:

    I have often felt, as Tom kind of alluded to, and you talked about, that America SHOULD rise above the rest, and be better than others, even if it seemingly hurts our ability to fight and prosecute a war. Even so, I’d never been critical of the EIT’s used during Bush’s presidency, mainly because I felt they didn’t rise to the truly despicable.

    It should be noted that America and her soldiers have never been “innocent” when it comes to war-time atrocities committed, from the Revolutionary war up to today’s ‘War on Terror’. What we have been, when allowed to prosecute a war “to win it” by the military’s civilian masters, is brutally efficient when it comes to winning battles, and, eventually, the wars themselves.

    I think that where America stands head and shoulders above others is in the aftermath of wars and the treatment of those we have battled with. Rebuilding cities and countries that we’ve destroyed, extending olive branches(to the extent it has been possible), and generally regarding the “enemy” with respect has gone a long way towards strengthening our position with them, to the point that some of those we beat into submission eventually became our allies in the continuing fight for freedom and liberty in the world.

    The goal in any war, during the war, should be to gain total dominance over the enemy. And in that respect, we should do almost whatever it takes to gain said dominance, including the EIT’s that some are squeamish about. Where is the “line” that we shouldn’t cross? I do not know that, and I hope to never be in a position to make a decision on such a thing, as it has to be one of the most difficult decision’s one could make as a president, or leader of a country. I only know that, in my opinion, we haven’t come close to the atrocities committed by other nations, or empires, in the history of the world. And in the aftermath of the wars, we, as a country, have stood above all others.

    ReplyReply
  12. Aqua says: 12

    @johngalt:
    There have been and will almost certainly continue to be isolated incidents; Abu Grhraib, and Mei Li to name a few. War does things to people and ultimately military folks are people. As a country, we have try to maintain the high road. To compare what happened to John McCain and the other residents of the Hanoi Hilton to what was done to KSM and the other two HVDs is ludicrous. Does anyone actually believe a medical team was standing by while McCain was being tortured? Did McCain go back to a clean cell with a nice Christian meal waiting for him?
    Word touched on it briefly, but just because something sounds barbaric doesn’t make it any less torturous than something else. Listening to the Barney Song all day would definitely fit into my category of torture. They could make it worse and fire up some It’s a Small World. There are so many more things that can be done to the mind that may never heal than can be done to the body.
    If you know anyone that has been to SERE, just ask them which they prefer……getting beat or the mind games.

    ReplyReply
  13. John Cooper says: 13

    I’m sorry, but all this armchair anguish over what countries have to do to win wars is making me want to puke. Would anybody like to discuss the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo while sitting safely in our homes sipping on a fine Chardonnay and sampling a selection of Brie?

    ReplyReply
  14. Nan G says: 14

    The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.
    The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform.
    But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target.
    It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.
    …..

    WHY????

    ReplyReply
  15. Pingback: Holding Pelosi’s Feet to the Water | Flopping Aces

  16. johngalt says: 15

    @Aqua:

    Don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t criticizing, nor was I cheering on, any of the acts that have happened in the wars we have been in. It is the aftermath of the wars that I was concentrating on, not the prosecution of the wars themselves.

    ReplyReply
  17. Aqua says: 16

    @johngalt:
    I was just adding to what you posted JG. I thought it was a good post.

    ReplyReply
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  19. Wordsmith says: 17

    Europe takes hard look at nations that allowed U.S. interrogations:

    East Europeans are sensitive to the use of torture and other harsh techniques because of their experience under totalitarian regimes, which arrested and abused opponents at will.

    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said his country won’t be silent about human rights abusers in its midst, “even if they do so with the world’s greatest superpower.” Judicial authorities recently charged the former head of intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, with exceeding his authority in allowing the CIA to set up a secret prison in the remote northern village of Stare Kiejkuty.

    European parliamentarians investigating alleged complicity in torture on the continent last week lashed out at Lithuania for shutting down an investigation into claims the former Soviet republic hosted two secret CIA detention facilities after Sept. 11.

    Romanian officials haven’t even looked into allegations of collaborating in torture, said French lawmaker Helene Flautre, head of a fact-finding mission preparing for a session this summer on Eastern European members’ alleged exposure of terrorism suspects to illegal treatment.

    ~~~

    Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the British human rights group Reprieve, described Rodriguez’s disclosures as proof that there was nothing classified about the interrogations by U.S. agents. He described Rodriguez’s account as “government officers trying to leak the perverse version of the truth that suits them, while gagging citizens who would like to expose their criminal misconduct.”

    A British lawyer also licensed to practice law in the United States, Stafford Smith represented Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed in his failed effort to sue CIA contractors who grabbed him in Pakistan in 2002 and shuttled him among secret CIA “black sites” for two years before he was taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was released without charges in 2009 and sent home to Britain.

    Some U.S. legal experts said they shared the views of Rodriguez that the interrogation methods were justified and legal.

    “The waterboarding technique that we used did not violate the Torture Convention, which prohibits severe physical or mental pain or suffering,” said Jeff Addicott, a professor of terrorism law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, conceding that he “may be the only law professor in the country who thinks waterboarding is legal.”

    ~~~

    Alexander Abdo, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, said the Rodriguez defense of waterboarding and criticism of President Obama for branding it torture posed little risk of diverting Europeans from their more introspective attempt to identify and punish those who broke the law.

    “This only highlights why our failure of accountability is so damaging, not only to national security interests in the past but what torture has done to our standing in the world and the rule of law going forward,” Abdo said. “One of the most senior officials in the CIA is claiming on national television that torture worked, and that we should subvert our values to its use.”

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