9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey in an Op/Ed for the Wall Street Journal.  They say the point of interrogation is intelligence, not confession.  An important distinction to how intelligence officials approach interrogating terrorists compared how law enforcement officials approach it.  They go to write:

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.

I understand there is a concern about interrogation practices.  While I don’t entirely agree with this Administration’s position on some of the practices I do commend them for not disclosing the names of those who implemented them.  They did so with legal cover, and they should not be punished just because the rules have now changed due to a changing of the guard.

I don’t agree, however, that the interrogation techniques practiced by trained CIA and military interrogators should be considered torture, I think we broaden the definition too much when we do so.  I’ll be clear, that I do not approve of torture.  I do not believe it is effective.  I think we should be above that.  I do shake my head when I hear people who consider sleep deprivation, insults, mind games, loud music, and even waterboarding (while I’m not supportive of that practice) torture.  Do they physically injure or endanger the life of the person being interrogated?  No.

Also to those who bring up Abu Ghrahib, the authors point out the distinction that it was “an incident that had nothing whatever to do with intelligence gathering.”  So to bring up what happened there is disingenuous, and those who favor enhanced interrogation techniques were just as appalled by the behavior of those few soldiers.

I am also unclear, as the writers are, of the value of disclosing all of what had taken place in the past.  Even if those tactics are not employed by the CIA under the Obama administration, how does it benefit us to let the terrorists know exactly won’t be done?

It doesn’t.  Anyway, be sure to read the whole piece.

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