Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Release the other half of the story on those interrogations

Mark Thiessen, who worked in the Bush administration, has a column in the Washington Post arguing that, since Obama has released the information about the interrogation techniques used, it is only right to also release the information about what was found out as a result of that information. Usually the reason not to release such information is that you don't want the enemy to know how you got that information, but that is no longer a concern since the memos have been released. So let's learn the other half of the story so people can evaluate the entire story.
In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists "did not make us safer." This is patently false. The proof is in the memos Obama made public -- in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media.

Consider the Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005. It notes that "the CIA believes 'the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.' . . . In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques." The memo continues: "Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, 'Soon you will find out.' " Once the techniques were applied, "interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates."

Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques "led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the 'Second Wave,' 'to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los Angeles." KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that "information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the 'Second Wave.' " In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

The memo notes that "[i]nterrogations of [Abu] Zubaydah -- again, once enhanced techniques were employed -- furnished detailed information regarding al Qaeda's 'organizational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi' and identified KSM as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks." This information helped the intelligence community plan the operation that captured KSM. It went on: "Zubaydah and KSM also supplied important information about al-Zarqawi and his network" in Iraq, which helped our operations against al-Qaeda in that country.
Thiessen points out how much of what we know about Al Qaeda was found out from these interrogations.
Yet there is more information confirming the program's effectiveness. The Office of Legal Counsel memo states "we discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM" and notes that "intelligence derived from CIA detainees has resulted in more than 6,000 intelligence reports and, in 2004, accounted for approximately half of the [Counterterrorism Center's] reporting on al Qaeda." The memos refer to other classified documents -- including an "Effectiveness Memo" and an "IG Report," which explain how "the use of enhanced techniques in the interrogations of KSM, Zubaydah and others . . . has yielded critical information." Why didn't Obama officials release this information as well? Because they know that if the public could see the details of the techniques side by side with evidence that the program saved American lives, the vast majority would support continuing it.

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.
Former Vice President Cheney says that he has asked for the rest of the memos to be released because he knows for a fact about the information discovered from those interrogations.
"One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort," Cheney said.

Cheney said he's asked that the documents be declassified because he has remained silent on the confidential information, but he knows how successful the interrogation process was and wants the rest of the country to understand.

"I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country," Cheney said. "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was.
The administration has no defense why it redacted the parts of the memos on what information was gained from those interrogations. They're afraid that the public would read about the techniques and see the information gained and decide that they're glad that we got that information and don't find the reports of the techniques used on these three guys all that disturbing. Perhaps some reporters can interview people working at the Library Tower in Los Angeles and see what they think.


davod said...

New Abu Ghraib Torture video*

The video is not pretty

* http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.844/event_detail.asp

davod said...

What does DNA have to do with torture?

"Not just dead, but tortured, we are told. Their unrecognizable bodies dumped at a roadside that
had been wired with bombs.

According to an Iraqi military spokesman, the soldiers "were killed in a barbaric way."

The two young soldiers - both had been in Iraq but a few months - had been captured at a checkpoint on June 16 in an attack that killed a third comrade, Spc. David J. Babineau of Springfield, Mass.

If we are to properly understand - and fairly condemn - the revolting moral equivalencies that have sprung up regarding "violence begetting violence" in Iraq, the shocking deaths of Pfcs. Menchaca and Tucker would seem a proper place to start.

It is not the policy of the U.S. military to torture enemy combatants, certainly not to the point that DNA tests become necessary to determine which disfigured corpse is which. It is not the policy of the U.S. military to behead captured enemies.

Water-boarding and sleep deprivation strike us as bad and likely unproductive policies. Disfiguring torture and beheading strike us as the acts of barbarians and monsters. There is equivalence in this?"


Jaw Bone said...

So... if there was some useful intelligence spilled by someone the Bushies tortured, then it was a good idea? That would make it acceptable to you? Incredible.

Presumably then, you think it would be a good idea to introduce torture into domestic policing?

Yachira said...

Sorry, but try as I might, I simply can't find any reason to call the techniques revealed to us by these memos as "torture." Rough persuasion perhaps, but not torture.

Oh, and I've got no problem with rough persuasion in domestic policing.

mark said...

That memo claims many "facts" that are absolutely unprovable. It was written by the same people who ignored the memo titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US." And I believe that intelligence was gathered without the use of torture. Eight months before 9/11, and Cheney, Bush nor anyone in the administration can name one thing that was done about the threat to our country. Any credit the administration gets for keeping us from attack after 9/11 also provides evidence that 9/11 could have been prevented had Bush/Cheney acted upon the Aug. 6 PDF and other warnings.

equitus said...

Two tactics going on here.

1) Redefining torture from what has always been understood as damaging and disfiguring to include anything that may make a person uncomfortable. That's a radical redefinition, even by liberal/fascist standards.

2) Insisting that any discussion of "torture" be politically-correct. That is, acknowledging that in extreme circumstances it can be life-saving is in itself as evil as torture itself. There's no room left for discussion, and that is exactly how Obama and his followers like it!

mark said...

Actually, equitus, I believe waterboarding has long been considered torture. But you already know that, right? It is people like you and Yachira who have decided that it is now acceptable. Defending the indefensible. That's all that's left for you folks.

Bachbone said...

One of "Jaw Bone's" and "Bill B.'s" favorite complaints when presented with evidence opposing their points of view is that the presenter's opposing evidence was "cherry picked."

Former Vice Pres. Cheney, on Sean Hannity's Fox Show Monday night, said he has personally seen documents detailing the information gained from these interrogations and the plots that information helped stop. Cheney again called on Obama to declassify those documents just as he has declassified the ones documenting the techniques used.

Magic Mouth Obama is guilty of "cherry picking" his evidence, right "Jaw Bone" and "Bill B.?"

Jaw Bone said...

A CIA spokesperson yesterday confirmed that Cheney has made no request to release any information.

Cheney was lying on Fox news when he claimed he had made a request.

But you are ignoring the bigger point: so what? What if some information had been shaken loose by torture? (I don't believe any has, but for the sake of the argument I allow you the point). You think that justifies the American government using torture? I reject that completely. Government sanctioned torture of anyone is medieval. Medieval and evil.

And, yes, waterboarding is torture. In the late 1940's we (the US government) prosecuted a number of war crime cases against the Japanese for waterboarding our soldiers.

Bachbone said...

You ignore the question, "Jaw Bone." You and your alter ego, "Bill B." complain about "cherry picking" info. Magic Mouth Obama clearly cherry picked what info he declassified. Even if Cheney didn't request the declassification once before, he has requested it on national TV now. If Magic Mouth has nothing to hide, let him stop cherry picking his info and declassify now. You are against cherry picking info, aren't you?

Jaw Bone said...

Sorry bachy, your attempt to derail the discussion into something completely irrelevant is noted, but not followed.

Brace your shoulders, be a man, and state your view clearly - yes, you are so afraid that you want to live under a government that uses torture. Then move to Iraq, Israel, Syria or Saudia. You will be much happier there.

Pat Patterson said...

Reasonable people are going to have to struggle to determine just what is torture vs a view that any coercive force, especially if used in the West, is torture. How can the issue even be framed when one side has adopted the easy way by simply denying any form of questioning as illegitmate and the other having to dance around the fact that torture works and it works well quickly.

Pat Patterson said...

Jaw Bone's source on Cheney's request is as usual anonymous but it appears that he did make the request on the 31st of last month and that the National Archives confirmed the request and after a second news request the CIA said they did have the former VP's letter.


Let's see, who to believe, an unsupported anonymous source touted in opinion web sites or a dated receipt? Hmmm!

Jaw Bone said...

Always evading the point, Patty.

Waterboarding was torture when the USA prosecuted Germans and Japanese for doing it in WWII, and it is torture today, when the Bush Administration has done it.

Is there a Republican in here who can admit "Torture is morally wrong, and the Bush administration was morally wrong to do it"? Or are you all OK with a government that tortures its prisoners?

Betsy Newmark said...

Jaw Bone,

This is the last time I'll put through a comment of yours that uses the sophomoric tactic of calling some other commenter by your own made up name.

I assume that you're not in elementary school. Act like it.


Jaw Bone said...

So... still not a single moral Republican here who can admit "Torture is morally wrong, and the Bush administration was morally wrong to do it"?

So you are you all OK with an American government that tortures prisoners?


Pat Patterson said...

Again the prosecutions, I could only find one reference to use of waterboarding by Germans during World War II but none in the actual indictments at the Nuremburg Trials or the various military tribunals, but the instructive case, mentioned and abridged by the left like some magic talisman, is the one which included the civilian interpreter Yukio Asano. The indictment and conviction of that man and three others was for a series other crimes as well, which included beatings, kickings, stealing Red Cross packages, waterboarding with gallons of water poured from buckets into Allied POWs and in two cases of the forced exposure of naked prisoners during the freezing winter months.


These crimes were prosecuted because there was absolutely no attempt at gaining information but merely to inflict pain. There is absolutely nothing comparable even remotely to the waterboarding of the three al Qaeda terrorists that is roiling the water today.

How many American citizens would have been saved if perhaps Khalid Mohammed had been questioned and waterboarded if necessary before 9/11 and how many are not dead because of the information gained? Plus now that Pres Obama has promised not to prosecute and analysts, agents or questioners he too is in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

The kind of morality that Jaw Bone is asking of us is to simply to get on our knees and forgive the executioner or the guy captured with explosives and a map. Is it moral to allow your fellow citizens to die when relatively harmless yet nasty forms of interrogation are available?

Jaw Bone said...

Wow. The end justifies the means, Pat?

My America is better than that.

Pat Patterson said...

The latest Pew Poll (April 23rd) shows that there has been very little change of opinion about the use of harsh techniques. Almost 70% of the American public approved of their use ranging from often to rarely. Only 27% said never under any circumstances so that means most of us live in a different America than Jaw Bone. Which I am beginning to suspect has unicorns and beautiful princesses.