Big Mac says "torture" didn't, and doesn't, work....
Begin with former top intel chief Gen. Michael Hayden's WSJ op-ed last week putting "birthers, truthers and interrogation deniers" together. He flatly states:
So that there is no ambiguity, let me be doubly clear: It is nearly impossible for me to imagine any operation like the May 2 assault on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that would not have made substantial use of the trove of information derived from CIA detainees, including those on whom enhanced techniques had been used....
....If they truly believe that these interrogations did not and could not yield useful intelligence, they should demand that the CIA identify all the information derived directly or indirectly from enhanced interrogation. And then they should insist the agency destroy it. They should also insist that significant portions of the 9/11 Commission Report be rescinded, as it too was based on this data. This would be perfectly consistent with the interrogation deniers' transcendental faith that nothing of use could have come from enhanced interrogations after 9/11.
Now, once more with feeling: "torture" and "enhanced interrogation" are not synonyms. Read the precise U.S. law governing implementation of the convention against torture (Title 8 C.F.R. sec. 208.18) and see for yourself. The first six provisions in subsection (a) cover substantive definitions of criteria for torture under U.S. law (not, mind you, international or European law, which sharply differ from ours). Note provisions 4 & 5 (boldfaced italics mine):
(4) In order to constitute torture, mental pain or suffering must be prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from: (i) The intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (ii) The administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (iii) The threat of imminent death; or (iv) The threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the sense or personality.
(5) In order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. An act that results in unanticipated or unintended severity of pain and suffering is not torture.
Under the Supremacy Clause the federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It thus prevails over international law as well. Hence the above cited U.S. law governs what we define as torture. Jennifer Rubin disposes of one other avenue--mock execution--as not applicable to the manner in which waterboarding KSM & two other detainees was actually conducted by CIA personnel. Rubin answered subsequent criticism from two McCain staffers.
Waterboarding, the poster child for the "torture" assertions, is designed to inflict temporary extreme discomfort at most, not the "prolonged mental harm" called for in sub-section (4) above. It is used to train our own special forces personnel to resist interrogation. Note that we do not gouge eyes, apply electric shocks or drills to the body, rip out tongues, rape family members--or detainees themselves (male & female), as Iran's jailers do (to the stomach-turning silence of the "international community" that endlessly carps about what America does.). Especially note the second sentence in sub-section (5): So long as waterboarding was not intended to inflict "severe pain and suffering" OR that same was "unanticipated" by interrogators, a given technique is not "torture" under American law. By a fair reading of this country's law waterboarding is not torture.
Now to Big Mac's four points. First, the fact that another detainee first revealed the name of bin Laden's courier does not mean that a second mention by KSM was unnecessary. A second mention confirms the accuracy of the first mention, and is thus useful intelligence. Second, that KSM lied does not mean he did not provide useful information by so doing, as lying, if detected, tells us what he was trying to keep from us as being information KSM thought would be valuable to us. Third, in future wars we can agree to refrain from harsh techniques, if we fight an adversary who reciprocates. But the North Korean, North Vietnamese & al-Qaeda types do not reciprocate. Fourth, it is not morally wrong to waterboard detainees to learn of terror attacks that may kill many thousands. It may be an evil, but is surely the lesser evil.
Finally, the senator misses a key point: enhanced techniques were not used to elicit information, but to break the will of detainees to resist. Thus, subsequent voluntary, gentle questioning that yielded intelligence would not have been possible had the detainees' will to resist not already been broken. Author Marc Thiessen demolishes McCain's factual arguments point by point.
One major factor in President Obama's increased reliance on targeted killings is that under new interrogation constraints hard cases are unlikely to talk. The SEALs were empowered to kill bin Laden without affording him a chance to surrender. Applicable law does not require that during wartime an opportunity to surrender be given; this did not stop the UN from seeking a briefing on the raid, so its "human rights" investigators can harass us as they cheerfully ignore massive human rights violations in Muslim countries (Iran, Syria, etc.).
Having chucked enhanced techniques, we thus are running a fresh market test on the value of nice interrogations: US interrogators were gven access to bin Laden's wives & kids in Pakistan. Waterboarding is out, despite solid evidence that enhanced techniques yielded valuable intelligence as to terror plots in the making.
World Trade Center '93 prosecutor Andy McCarthy adds this about how good interrogators work:
McCain curiously makes much of the fact that KSM and al-Libi sought to protect Kuwaiti — the former by minimizing his role, the latter by withholding his true name. But as any good interrogator will tell you (and as any layman who has ever sat on a jury can attest), what a witness lies about can be just as edifying as what he comes clean on. In this instance, given what the CIA knew about Kuwaiti from all sources, the lies and obfuscations of KSM and al-Libi served to underscore his importance — they were a boon, not a distraction.
What’s more, the misinformation did not come during the waterboarding. Thiessen points out that, if an interrogator asked questions at all while the abusive tactics were being employed, they were questions to which he knew the answers. The purpose of waterboarding (and some other harsh tactics) was not to get information while the tactic was being employed; the purpose was to break the source’s will. The misinformation from KSM and al-Libi, just like the accurate information they provided, came later. Once they became ostensibly cooperative, they then did what every ostensibly cooperative informant does: impart some true information and some untrue information. Determining which is which is the discipline of corroboration. Investigators and intelligence agents don’t stop when the source says something they want to hear — they compare it with other information they know, do follow-up investigation, and figure out whether the source is being straight.
(McCarthy attributes a malice re this to Big Mac that I reject; I simply think him rarely consistent.)
On May 16 the American Enterprise Institute held a serious panel discussion on interrogation issues. The Event video (1:28:50) is replete with quality discussion, featuring top experts. I asked the panel what limits, if any, should pertain were a nuke detonated in a US city, and suspecting Pakistan but unable to prove it we snatched A. Q. Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear program to try to confirm if the source of the device was Pakistan's arsenal. One panelist, a former CIA operative, said he would go beyond the current Army field manual. Two other panelists likely would, I judge, with one wavering and the human rights panelist (who is more moderate than most such folks) likely to balk. I would go beyond even the techniques President Bush authorized, and I believe most Americans would support same.
Bottom Line. We did not torture terror detainees, as the harsh methods we did employ are legal under American law. We did learn from those we waterboarded useful information pertinent to finding the man who planned & ordered the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people on American soil.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, 9/11, National Security, Terrorism, Homeland Security, Foreign Policy, UN, Conservative Politics