Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cruising the Web

When I first heard that the Senate Democrats were going to release their tendentious report on interrogatory techniques used by the CIA during the years after 9/11, I suspected that this might backfire on them. Now I'm even more convinced of that. I suspect that the people who are very upset about the supposed torture that we used on captured terrorists are people who have already made up their mind and don't need any more purported evidence to convince them. Other people are either indifferent or, more likely, are those who will be angered by this. It will remind a lot of people of the the tergiversations that many Democrats have traveled when it came to fighting terrorism.

Jose Rodriquez, a 31-year veteran of the CIA, reminds us of how many of the same people backing this report today were encouraging the CIA back in the time after 9/11.
The men and women of my former organization, the CIA, are accustomed to frequent and sudden reversals of direction from their political leaders. But the latest twists and turns are especially dramatic.

In one ear they hear the public, the media and members of Congress raising alarms about the terrorist threat from the Islamic State: Do something! Do it now! Why didn’t you do something sooner? Politicians from both sides of the aisle are saying that the militant group is an enormous challenge and must be prevented from bringing its brutality to America’s shores. The president assures us that the United States will “degrade and ultimately destroy” these terrorists, while the vice president doubles down and says we will follow the Islamic State to “the gates of hell.”

But shouting in CIA officers’ other ear are people such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) regarding the 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the agency’s interrogation efforts, which is expected to be released next week. The report’s leaked conclusion, which has been reported on widely, that the interrogation program brought no intelligence value is an egregious falsehood; it’s a dishonest attempt to rewrite history. I’m bemused that the Senate could devote so many resources to studying the interrogation program and yet never once speak to any of the key people involved in it, including the guy who ran it (that would be me)....

The interrogation program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, judged legal by the Justice Department and proved effective by any reasonable standard. The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and of both parties in Congress were briefed on the program more than 40 times between 2002 and 2009. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to deny that she was told in 2002 that detainees had been waterboarded. That is simply not true. I was among those who briefed her.

There’s great hypocrisy in politicians’ criticism of the CIA’s interrogation program. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil. Members of Congress and the administration were nearly unanimous in their desire that the CIA do all that it could to debilitate and destroy al-Qaeda. The CIA got the necessary approvals to do so and kept Congress briefed throughout. But as our successes grew, some lawmakers’ recollections shrank in regard to the support they once offered.
He quotes from Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller who went on TV and told us that we would be doing whatever necessary to get information from captured terrorists including sending them to other countries where they might be tortured for information.
If Feinstein, Rockefeller and other politicians were saying such things in print and on national TV, imagine what they were saying to us in private. We did what we were asked to do, we did what we were assured was legal, and we know our actions were effective. Our reward, a decade later, is to hear some of these same politicians expressing outrage for what was done and, even worse, mischaracterizing the actions taken and understating the successes achieved.
The Democrats spent over $40 million putting together this report but didn't interview any actual CIA agents involved in these interrogations. They say that they couldn't because of ongoing Justice Department investigations of the agents. However, since 2012 the Justice Department had closed those investigations. It was a choice not to interview those that the Democrats are accusing. Rather like Rolling Stone not trying to interview the members of the fraternity they accused of a brutal gang rape.

NBC's Richard Engels doesn't pull any punches for condemning the Senate report.
NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel said that Senate Democrats who released a report on CIA interrogation techniques on Tuesday were “scapegoating and rewriting history” in an attempt to wash their hands of any involvement in approving CIA practices in the post-9/11 environment.

“So many people knew what was going on. This wasn’t a program that was over one or two weeks in a couple of dark sites,” Engel told MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow. “Everybody knew about it.”

Engel said that some of those implicated told him that they were being used as scapegoats by the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by outgoing Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.).

“The CIA was asked to do this; was given authorizations to do this. And now many people involved are saying to me privately, ‘Now we’re being held out to dry. You asked us to do this, and now the world is coming down on top of it,” Engel said.
>Ed Morrissey links to the website that former officers of the CIA have put up to defend what they did. They headline the site with quotes supporting what they did from Democrats such as Feinstein herself.
The recently released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Majority report on the CIA's Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program is marred by errors of facts and interpretation and is completely at odds with the reality that the leaders and officers of the Central Intelligence Agency lived through. It represents the single worst example of Congressional oversight in our many years of government service.

Astonishingly, the SSCI Majority staff interviewed no CIA officers responsible for establishing, implementing, or evaluating the program’s effectiveness. Let us repeat, no one at the CIA was interviewed.

Worse, the Committee selectively used documents to try to substantiate a point of view where ample and contrary evidence existed. Over 5 years and at a cost of $40 million, the staff "cherry picked" through 6 million pages of documents to produce an answer they knew the Majority wanted. In the intelligence profession, that is called politicization.

The SSCI Majority would have the American people believe that the program was initiated by a rogue CIA that consistently lied to the President, the National Security Council, the Attorney General, and the Congress. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.
Morrissey reminds us that the administration has already tried once to scapegoat these CIA officers.
Recall that the Department of Justice already did an investigation into these interrogations, a much-ballyhooed probe that was supposed to prosecute the people who supposedly besmirched America’s reputation. The effort started in 2009 amid much posturing, but it ended a few weeks after Barack Obama ordered the hit on Osama bin Laden — which was only made possible because of the enhanced interrogations as noted above. The DoJ continued its prosecution of two cases where detainees were killed during interrogations, but all of the other criminal probes were summarily dropped — without any explanation from AG Eric Holder at the time....

That’s not to say it’s not possible that such allegations are true. Of course they may be true. It’s also true that Americans deserve at least an accounting of what was done and how effective it was, whether the techniques crossed over into torture, and how we can prevent abuses in the future. However, any report that makes those allegations should have accounted for all of the facts, not just those that fit their preferred narrative. One way to do that would have been to engage the Republican minority more, or wait for the next session of Congress to press for the GOP to meet Democrats halfway. Instead of accountability, we’re basically chewing over the same bones we did three years ago, only with a little more meat on them.
Meanwhile, Marc Thiessen reminds us how untrue it is to say that these interrogation methods did not achieve anything.
Then, in March 2003, the CIA captured Khalid Sheik Mohammed, or KSM, as he is known. When KSM was first taken into custody, he was defiant and refused to provide any information about future attacks, telling his questioners scornfully, “Soon, you will know.” But after undergoing enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding, KSM became a font of information. He told the CIA about active al-Qaeda plots to launch attacks against the United States and other Western targets. He drew charts of al-Qaeda’s operating structure, financing, communications and logistics. He revealed al-Qaeda travel routes and safe havens, identified voices in intercepted telephone calls, and helped intelligence officers make sense of documents and computer records seized in terrorist raids. And he provided the names of many of his top operatives.
Read his column for more details on what was accomplished with these enhanced interrogation techniques. If this information is presented fairly to the American people, I suspect that most people will be fine with how these terrorists were treated.

Two Ex-CIA Directors and three former Deputy Directors write today in the WSJ to refute the report pointing out that the Senate Intelligence investigators never spoke to them. They directly refute the claim that the program was ineffective.
• It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield.

• It led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.

• It added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it.
They claim that the senior al Qaeda operatives captured through information gained in these interrogations saved thousands of lives because of the plots that they were working on when they were captured.
Here’s an example of how the interrogation program actually worked to disrupt terrorist plotting. Without revealing to KSM that Hambali had been captured, we asked him who might take over in the event that Hambali was no longer around. KSM pointed to Hambali’s brother Rusman Gunawan. We then found Gunawan, and information from him resulted in the takedown of a 17-member Southeast Asian cell that Gunawan had recruited for a “second wave,” 9/11-style attack on the U.S. West Coast, in all likelihood using aircraft again to attack buildings. Had that attack occurred, the nightmare of 9/11 would have been repeated.

Once they had become compliant due to the interrogation program, both Abu Zubaydah and KSM turned out to be invaluable sources on the al Qaeda organization. We went back to them multiple times to gain insight into the group. More than one quarter of the nearly 1,700 footnotes in the highly regarded 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 and a significant share of the intelligence in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on al Qaeda came from detainees in the program, in particular Zubaydah and KSM.

The majority on the Senate Intelligence Committee further claims that the takedown of bin Laden was not facilitated by information from the interrogation program. They are wrong. There is no doubt that information provided by the totality of detainees in CIA custody, those who were subjected to interrogation and those who were not, was essential to bringing bin Laden to justice. The CIA never would have focused on the individual who turned out to be bin Laden’s personal courier without the detention and interrogation program.
They refute the claim that the CIA misled the Justice Department, WHite House, Congress, and American people which the report based on whether they were using unauthorized techniques and whether the program was ineffective. They remind us that the Justice Department under Eric Holder had investigated that same claim and didn't find any evidence to support the allegation that they used unauthorized techniques. Then they conclude that the Democrats left out the context of the program.
The detention and interrogation program was formulated in the aftermath of the murders of close to 3,000 people on 9/11. This was a time when:

• We had evidence that al Qaeda was planning a second wave of attacks on the U.S.

• We had certain knowledge that bin Laden had met with Pakistani nuclear scientists and wanted nuclear weapons.

• We had reports that nuclear weapons were being smuggled into New York City.

• We had hard evidence that al Qaeda was trying to manufacture anthrax.

It felt like the classic “ticking time bomb” scenario—every single day.

In this atmosphere, time was of the essence and the CIA felt a deep responsibility to ensure that an attack like 9/11 would never happen again. We designed the detention and interrogation programs at a time when “relationship building” was not working with brutal killers who did not hesitate to behead innocents. These detainees had received highly effective counter-interrogation training while in al Qaeda training camps. And yet it was clear they possessed information that could disrupt plots and save American lives.

The Senate committee’s report says that the CIA at that point had little experience or expertise in capture, detention or interrogation of terrorists. We agree. But we were charged by the president with doing these things in emergency circumstances—at a time when there was no respite from threat and no luxury of time to act. Our hope is that no one ever has to face such circumstances again.

The Senate committee’s report ignores this context....

How did the committee report get these things so wrong? Astonishingly, the staff avoided interviewing any of us who had been involved in establishing or running the program, the first time a supposedly comprehensive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study has been carried out in this way.

The excuse given by majority senators is that CIA officers were under investigation by the Justice Department and therefore could not be made available. This is nonsense. The investigations referred to were completed in 2011 and 2012 and applied only to certain officers. They never applied to six former CIA directors and deputy directors, all of whom could have added firsthand truth to the study. Yet a press account indicates that the committee staff did see fit to interview at least one attorney for a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.

We can only conclude that the committee members or staff did not want to risk having to deal with data that did not fit their construct. Which is another reason why the study is so flawed. What went on in preparing the report is clear: The staff picked up the signal at the outset that this study was to have a certain outcome, especially with respect to the question of whether the interrogation program produced intelligence that helped stop terrorists. The staff members then “cherry picked” their way through six million pages of documents, ignoring some data and highlighting others, to construct their argument against the program’s effectiveness.
Why is this report so injurious to our security in the future?
As lamentable as the inaccuracies of the majority document are—and the impact they will have on the public’s understanding of the program—some consequences are alarming:

• Many CIA officers will be concerned that being involved in legally approved sensitive actions can open them to politically driven scrutiny and censure from a future administration.

• Foreign intelligence partners will have even less confidence that Washington, already hemorrhaging with leaks, will be able to protect their cooperation from public scrutiny. They will cooperate less with the United States.

• Terrorists, having acquired now the largest haven (in the Middle East and North Africa) and string of successes they have had in a decade, will have yet another valuable recruitment tool.

All of this means more danger for the American people and for our allies.

The liberals claim that it is essential to close Guantanamo because it is used as a recruitment tool for terrorists. Do they think this report won't be used as a recruitment tool?

I always marvel at the logic that says it's fine to blow suspected terrorists up with a drone or special forces attack that might kill their family members or bystanders, but not okay to have them submit to waterboarding or standing naked.

As Abraham Lincoln said at a different time, we can't prosecute this war with "elderstalk squirts, charged with rose water."

Or as Orwell wrote that pacifists are "[t]hose who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."

Timothy Carney refutes the self-comforting explanation that liberals have given as to why they've almost totally lost the South. They blame it all on the supposed racism of the South. They ignore that South Carolina just elected the first black man to the Senate since Reconstruction. And they also ignore the stances that the Democratic Party has taken to offend many in the South who, as Obama said, bitterly "cling to guns or religion."
Naturally, Democrats and the Left have tried to pry Southerners away from their guns and religion. Gun control has largely been a culture war effort for Democrats. “Some of the southern areas have cultures that we have to overcome,” was Congressman Charles Rangel’s explanation for why gun control was both needed and difficult.

The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten cursed the Second Amendment as "the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches."

Obama and his party waged this culture-war crusade with glee — and failed, but not before making it clear that they disapproved of the way Southerners live.

And the Democrats have made it clear that they are willing to use government to impose their morality on others. Through the courts, the Left has banned prayers at high school football games and forced states to remove the Ten Commandments from public grounds.

The Obama administration, through its birth-control mandate that includes abortifacient drugs, has told Christian employers that they can’t run their businesses as Christians.

There’s no mystery here, and no need to assign widespread racism to why Southerners have rejected Democrats. It’s simple: Democrats and the Left have tried to outlaw Southerners’ way of life.

Here’s a related factor in the realignment: Democrats have given up on being the populist party, and — as they have increasingly won over the wealthy suburbs and the college-educated — have embraced their status as the party of the economic elite.

As crony capitalism and corporate welfare have grown, and as the Washington region has sucked in more and more of the nation’s wealth, Republicans have started to take up the populist mantle....

Democrats have become the party of Hyde Park and Chevy Chase — elitist on culture and economics. It’s no wonder they cant also be the party of Charleston and Shreveport.

Jim Geraghty mocks Rolling Stone's supposed appalled reaction to the cultural linkage of sex and violence.

Ramon Lopez has an essay at The Federalist about why Jon Stewart's show is bad for America. While I wouldn't go that far since I don't think our political system is being brought down by a cynical comedy show, he does make some interesting points.
“The Daily Show” seems at first glance to also be a genre-bending show. It deals with substantive policy questions and reports on serious political events while maintaining a comedic outlook. But Stewart rarely leaves the comfortable zone of comedic absurdity. When he does, he ventures into righteous indignation (some of it justified), but usually after he has constructed a straw man through humor. Given Stewart’s admitted ideological leanings, the straw men constructed for liberals and conservatives are importantly different. The common trope on “The Daily Show” is that Democrats are spineless and incompetent, while Republicans are stupid and morally suspect. Stewart is frustrated and disappointed with Democrats, but he’s outraged by and disgusted with Republicans. The problem with the Democratic Party is one of means; the problem with the Republican Party is one of ends.
Stewart builds his ridicule of Republicans, much as Obama does, on the backs of a whole army of straw men.
But because of its heavy dependence on comedic straw men, “The Daily Show” rarely presents the best of each side. Any position can be poorly defended by the ignorant, the cynical, or the morally defunct, but oftentimes there are good, honest, reflective people who hold that position as well. The reason “The Daily Show” does not present the best of each should be obvious: it’s looking for a laugh. Those who are most easily shown to be absurd will be those most often profiled, and given Stewart’s ideological leanings, the Right will be castigated far more than the Left. This kind of presentation leaves the uninformed viewer with the sense that there are no good arguments on one side, and those who hold that position should be mocked, rather than engaged.
Lopez goes on to argue that Comedy Central encourages cynicism which leads to civic apathy. Perhaps. I'm not convinced that the people watching Comedy Central would have been civilly engaged otherwise. And I'm also not encouraged that cynical apathy is totally a bad thing.

My A.P. Government class just finished our unit on federalism. A few times a semester we have an extended period during which teachers try to plan an engaging lesson that will get the students actively involved in the material. Every year, this Ex-Day lands at the end of the federalism unit and I've struggled to come up with such a lesson. This year, the other teacher of AP Government and I came up with a lesson based on Professor Randy Barnett's proposed Federalism Bill of Rights. It was very successful and I wrote Professor Barnett to thank him for providing us with the material for our lesson. He was kind enough to post my letter on the Volokh Conspiracy where he is a blogger. We had a lot of fun and I was thrilled to see how involved the students got in debating his proposed amendments. They just took the test on federalism today and I can tell that they understood the concepts.