How Far Should the CIA Go to Keep Us Safe?

 

The report just published by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee about the CIA’s interrogation of captured terrorists after 9-11 is so badly flawed — so overtly partisan, so ideologically-driven, so far below the basic standards of reporting and analysis — that the clowns who wrote it couldn’t even get hired by Rolling Stone.

In the interests of turning a lemon into lemonade, let’s use this report, and the political explosion it’s triggered, as an opportunity to put the issue of how we want the CIA to deal with captured terrorists into the public square — and let’s get it resolved, finally, one way or the other.

First, a bit of background: In the aftermath of 9-11 the Bush administration — reeling from an attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans, terrified that a second attack could come at any time, facing a threat to our homeland no administration in American history had confronted — pulled out all the stops and took down all the guardrails. And the CIA was at the leading, or rather at the bleeding, edge of all these efforts. Did the administration make mistakes? Of course it did. Did the president and his top officials sometimes go too far to protect us? Alas, yes. Did the CIA sometimes act clumsily, put the wrong officials in the wrong jobs, and sometimes make a mess of things? Absolutely.

Still, in the more than 13 years since 9-11 there hasn’t been a second mass-casualty attack on our country. There’s nothing wrong with being critical about how this miracle was accomplished. But just a bit of gratitude mixed into the criticism, and perhaps even a dollop of admiration for the men and women who achieved it, would be nice.

And here’s the problem: From the moment after 9-11 when President Bush unleashed the CIA, Democrats in Congress and some Republicans have found fault with the CIA’s efforts to get information from captured terrorists. In all fairness, this is precisely what oversight is designed to accomplish. But at some point the CIA’s critics crossed the line from oversight to — well, to whining. Everything the CIA did was wrong, and nothing the CIA did was right. Every mistake was blown out of proportion, and every success was ignored. In short, to the CIA’s critics there is simply no connection between the absence of a second mass-casualty attack and the CIA’s activities. (Come to think of it, to many of these very same people there was absolutely no connection between President Reagan’s policies and our Cold War victory. Hmmmm.)

Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep us safe. Let’s use what’s called the Ticking-Time-Bomb scenario to illustrate this point:

A terrorist group announces that it’s placed a nuclear device somewhere in San Francisco. They say it will detonate in 72 hours. The senior senator from California — that would be Dianne Feinstein, outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the former mayor of San Francisco — urges residents of her home town to remain calm and not panic. The senator adds that while her thoughts and prayers are with the people of San Francisco, she will remain at her post in Washington DC, about 2,000 miles away from the likely blast radius.

The next day CIA undercover agents in Yemen capture one of the terrorists. They ask him, politely, to tell them where the bomb is located. The terrorist remains silent. “Please tell us,” one of the CIA agents begs. “Surely you don’t want to turn one of the world’s most beautiful cities into a pile of radioactive rubble.” The terrorist replies, “Allahu Akbar, God is Great, Americans must die.”

Okay, Senator, at this point what do you want the CIA to do with this terrorist? Please don’t tell us — yet again — what you don’t want our agents to do. Tell us what you want them to do. And if your answer is, in effect, to give this poor misguided wretch a hot meal and put him in a cell with an iPhone 6 and a 54-inch flat-screen TV with 200 cable channels including Al Jazeera, then let’s make sure the doomed people of San Francisco understand precisely what you’re saying, and what their likely fate will be. Let’s make it absolutely clear that if Dianne Feinstein speaks for them, no CIA official will risk his or her career — or his or her life — to save people who have no wish to be saved.

I’ve been to San Francisco dozens of times. And even though the city’s lunatic-to-square-foot ratio is fairly high, I believe the overwhelming majority of its citizens would want the CIA to waterboard this captured terrorist — and if that didn’t make him talk they’d want the CIA to get really nasty with him. My guess is that even good liberals in those multi-million-dollar condos overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and maybe even a majority of the left-wing crazies in nearby Berkeley, would want the CIA to pull out the terrorist’s fingernails, break his legs, and do anything else — anything else — to make him tell our agents where the bomb is located before it explodes. And my guess is that the overwhelming majority of Americans in other cities would feel precisely the same.

So, why don’t we just ask them? Why don’t we start organizing petitions from one end of our country to the other — in as many cities, towns and states as we can — to put this question to voters on the next election ballot:

How far should the CIA go to stop a terrorist attack on (Insert name of City, Town or State):

Option One: The CIA should not use any of these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques to stop an attack. I’d rather die.

Option Two: The CIA should do whatever it takes to keep my family safe, and if that means beating the crap out of a captured terrorist so be it.

And, while we’re at it, why don’t we pose this same question to every candidate for the House and Senate in the next elections? Shouldn’t we also ask this question of every Republican and Democratic candidate for President? Of course we should, and we should keep asking this question until each candidate gives us a straightforward answer.

Okay, there may be better ways to word the question. But you get my point. And unless everything I’ve ever learned about Americans is wrong, with the possible exception of Ann Arbor Option One will win in a landslide from one end of the US to the other.

Reader, this could be the sleeper issue of 2016.

 

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There are 47 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Contributor

    Herbert E. Meyer: Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep us safe.

    I wholly agree this didn’t happen and that the bulk of the responsibility lies on political officials for not asking the right questions. And while I also agree that some gratitude is in order, it’s been hard to escape the impression that any criticism or inquiry is met with “We’re trying to protect you, so shut-up and be grateful.”

    The NSA’s probably been the worst offender that way.

    • #1
    • December 11, 2014, at 11:48 AM PDT
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  2. Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer Post author

    Fair point….

    • #2
    • December 11, 2014, at 11:53 AM PDT
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  3. Member

    I’m all in with you Herbert. As I very slowly work my way through the report there is an implicit assumption that EIT was ineffective because it didn’t produce any “Perry Mason” moments. Nobody just admitted they were the murderer. But, while I’m no expert, there is a huge failure of understanding about how intel works. It’s fact here, implication there, try this, then try that, and so on. If water boarding produced any relevant facts that help clarify what was or was not the case, then it was not just okay, but effective.

    We’re never going to get an answer to your question from the self-indulgent windbags like Diane Feinstein. Here we have both intellectual and moral cowardice. But I agree this should be an issue in 2016. It could be dispositive. And should, God forbid, another major attack (or a series of minor ones, although there really is no minor event), the Dems and their Pres Candidate could get squished.

    • #3
    • December 11, 2014, at 11:55 AM PDT
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  4. Contributor

    Mike Rapkoch: As I very slowly work my way through the report there is an implicit assumption that EIT was ineffective because it didn’t produce any “Perry Mason” moments. Nobody just admitted they were the murderer. But, while I’m no expert, there is a huge failure of understanding about how intel works. It’s fact here, implication there, try this, then try that, and so on. If water boarding produced any relevant facts that help clarify what was or was not the case, then it was not just okay, but effective.

    Then why do those who support the use of such methods always turn to that hypothetical, as you yourself did yesterday?

    A ticking time-bomb is one situation; corroborating information about bin Laden’s location circa 2010 is quite another. You might well justify both, but they’re incredibly different.

    • #4
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:22 PM PDT
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  5. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Herbert E. Meyer: Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep us safe.

    I wholly agree this didn’t happen and that the bulk of the responsibility lies on political officials for not asking the right questions. And while I also agree that some gratitude is in order, it’s been hard to escape the impression that any criticism or inquiry is met with “We’re trying to protect you, so shut-up and be grateful.”

    The NSA’s probably been the worst offender that way.

    Which is why I have no objection to release of the summary report. The people do have an interest in having a general understanding of what goes on. They can then make informed decisions about what is going too far. I’ve been thinking this over, and while I have few qualms with the techniques employed, I do believe that threats to kill a man’s wife and kids comes awful close to over the line. It would be over the line to murder his wife and kids. Murder (as the taking of an innocent lief) would be impermissible even if it would prevent a holocaust.

    Also, it does appear that the CIA was less than forthcoming with Conngress and Pres. Bush. That was wrong because our leaders must have a clear idea of what’s going on and why. That is their role in governing the country.

    I do have another question. If some agents committed acts that violated the law why are they not being prosecuted?

    • #5
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:24 PM PDT
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  6. Contributor

    Mike Rapkoch: I’ve been thinking this over, and while I have few qualms with the techniques employed, I do believe that threats to kill a man’s wife and kids comes awful close to over the line. It would be over the line to murder his wife and kids. Murder (as the taking of an innocent lief) would be impermissible even if it would prevent a holocaust.

    I’m glad you think that, but that’s not what I took you to argue yesterday:

    Mike Rapkoch: Unfortunately, there likely is no alternative. The issue ultimately comes down to whether the end justifies the means. Except that is not the proper question. The end always justifies the means since the end sets the terms for its accomplishment. The right question is “does the end justify any means?” The standard answer is that an intrinsically evil means can never be used even to achieve a good end. That, however, is colored by extant circumstances. Ordinarily it would be wrong to use excessive force to stop a bandit. But when the bad guy is gunning for your family such niceties must give way. If the assailant won’t stop his attack it is entirely permissible to shoot him in the arms, legs, and other sensitive body parts. That’s a form of torture, but your family is more important than subtle ethical pleasantries. You do what it takes to bring down the bad guy.

    • #6
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:29 PM PDT
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  7. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch: As I very slowly work my way through the report there is an implicit assumption that EIT was ineffective because it didn’t produce any “Perry Mason” moments. Nobody just admitted they were the murderer. But, while I’m no expert, there is a huge failure of understanding about how intel works. It’s fact here, implication there, try this, then try that, and so on. If water boarding produced any relevant facts that help clarify what was or was not the case, then it was not just okay, but effective.

    Then why do those who support the use of such methods always turn to that hypothetical, as you yourself did yesterday?

    A ticking time-bomb is one situation; corroborating information about bin Laden’s location circa 2010 is quite another. You might well justify both, but they’re incredibly different.

    That’s a legitimate question. Of course it’s a rhetorical tool, and may (I’ll acknowledge this in my own case) be sophistical to some degree. We, too, want an easy justification and that often leads to arguments that are less exact than they should be. On the other hand, there may be cases that do lead to specific successes and they must also be considered within the overall conrext of the situation.

    The release of the report has launch a debate that is important. I doubt this will top the news after a few days have passed. But here is a suggestion as to how to address both the successes and the failures:

    Senate Report: EIT produced no results and were immoral or unlawful;

    CIA and Bush/Cheney: EIT did produce results and was not inherently wrongful;

    Voters: EIT is/is not permissible depending on all the circumstances that the CIA can reveal.

    And we must balance the national interests of security and need to know. This is the most difficult challenge.

    But the question Herbert asks, and that I asked yesterday, is what should we do?

    • #7
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:38 PM PDT
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  8. Member

    Is it possible to condone painful interrogations without granting a blank check to use any means at all? What principles, if any, should limit or guide interrogative “torture”? Should politicians, generals, or intel chiefs attempt to thoroughly codify the times when torture becomes acceptable, or the decision of means be left to individual prudence?

    Some don’t want to contemplate such a brutal subject. Some think even to consider limits is to deny harsh necessities. Some fear political backlash for wading into the controversy. If the will exists to even have this discussion seriously, I doubt that it can happen in the public sphere.

    As I insinuated in Mike’s thread, our military might be able to save American lives by intimidating enemies with mutilated bodies and hanging corpses, but we don’t apply an “end justifies the means” philosophy that far. There are complications within our own thought processes that are difficult to clearly express. Likewise with the deliberate infliction of pain, there is more to consider than only whether or not it is necessary or effective.

    We must be brutal at times. But we must not confuse brutality with simplicity. Sometimes a scenario demands immediate and assertive action. After the event, reflection and preparation for similar scenarios is merited.

    • #8
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:42 PM PDT
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  9. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: A ticking time-bomb is one situation; corroborating information about bin Laden’s location circa 2010 is quite another. You might well justify both, but they’re incredibly different.

    A pivotal element in the decision of whether or not to torture is time, yes? If the information is needed immediately, there is no time for a gradual escalation of interrogation techniques or hope that a tried technique will eventual lead to a breakthrough.

    Unfortunately, time is often an unknown quantity. A terrorist’s location is a good example. How long he will remain there is anybody’s guess. Even the terrorist’s own plans and incentives might change unexpectedly.

    Whatever our policies on interrogation, there must certainly be leeway for the prudential judgments of individual officers. Oversight of those decisions must likewise depend on prudence (ala the famous judicial determination of porn: “I’ll know it when I see it.”).

    Modern culture has a tendency to place too much faith in codes and systems.

    • #9
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:50 PM PDT
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  10. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch: I’ve been thinking this over, and while I have few qualms with the techniques employed, I do believe that threats to kill a man’s wife and kids comes awful close to over the line. It would be over the line to murder his wife and kids. Murder (as the taking of an innocent lief) would be impermissible even if it would prevent a holocaust.

    I’m glad you think that, but that’s not what I took you to argue yesterday:

    Mike Rapkoch: Unfortunately, there likely is no alternative. The issue ultimately comes down to whether the end justifies the means. Except that is not the proper question. The end always justifies the means since the end sets the terms for its accomplishment. The right question is “does the end justify any means?” The standard answer is that an intrinsically evil means can never be used even to achieve a good end. That, however, is colored by extant circumstances. Ordinarily it would be wrong to use excessive force to stop a bandit. But when the bad guy is gunning for your family such niceties must give way. If the assailant won’t stop his attack it is entirely permissible to shoot him in the arms, legs, and other sensitive body parts. That’s a form of torture, but your family is more important than subtle ethical pleasantries. You do what it takes to bring down the bad guy.

    And I should have addressed this with greater precision. I’ll admit that. However, the larger context is still that circumstances do set what is or is not allowed. Herbert’s example is on point. Beating the crap out of a terrorist to prevent wholesale massacres may make us uncomfortable, but if that is necessary then our moral standards have to be reconsidered.

    There is a utilitarian element in this, and I generally reject that moral philosophy. Still, it is sometimes the only way to identify what is or is not acceptable. As I argued in one of the comments (too lazy to look up which one) identifying bright lines is nearly impossible in the WOT. Killing a man’s family is fairly obvious. Threatening to do so is not.

    • #10
    • December 11, 2014, at 12:54 PM PDT
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  11. Contributor

    Mike Rapkoch: And I should have addressed this with greater precision. I’ll admit that. However, the larger context is still that circumstances do set what is or is not allowed. Herbert’s example is on point. Beating the crap out of a terrorist to prevent wholesale massacres may make us uncomfortable, but if that is necessary then our moral standards have to be reconsidered.

    And you and I would not disagree in that circumstance, though we might in others. For the record, that makes neither you a monster, nor me a holier-than-thou.

    • #11
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:03 PM PDT
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  12. Member

    I don’t trust this report. It’s a political document. From what I understand people in the CIA were not interviewed. When you’re at war, no one stays withoin the boundaries. No one.

    • #12
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:06 PM PDT
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  13. Member

    Aaron Miller:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: A ticking time-bomb is one situation; corroborating information about bin Laden’s location circa 2010 is quite another. You might well justify both, but they’re incredibly different.

    A pivotal element in the decision of whether or not to torture is time, yes? If the information is needed immediately, there is no time for a gradual escalation of interrogation techniques or hope that a tried technique will eventual lead to a breakthrough.

    Unfortunately, time is often an unknown quantity. A terrorist’s location is a good example. How long he will remain there is anybody’s guess. Even the terrorist’s own plans and incentives might change unexpectedly.

    Whatever our policies on interrogation, there must certainly be leeway for the prudential judgments of individual officers. Oversight of those decisions must likewise depend on prudence (ala the famous judicial determination of porn: “I’ll know it when I see it.”).

    Modern culture has a tendency to place too much faith in codes and systems.

    It occurs to me that codes are all but useless in setting limits. The common law approach might work better. A common law court examines case after case and rule after rule, but the application of the rules to particular cases depends on the facts. The rules are a general guide, but a CL court has to decide what rules apply and how are they violated. It appears that this was John Yoo’s approach. Set basic rules, but allow the guys on the ground and their supervisors to determine the circumstances to which the rules apply. Granted this leaves the men in the trenches with enormous power, but we have to trust that higher ups review and decide what crosses the line. The Pres and Congress have the final say, but always in consideration of the circumstances.

    • #13
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:08 PM PDT
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  14. Contributor

    To answer my father’s excellent question:

    In situations directly affecting life and limb (i.e., genuine ticking time-bomb scenarios) pretty much anything goes, so far as I’m concerned. At the very least, anyone guilty of doing so should be pardoned.

    As for other situations, I’d have to get some more information. I’d first like to interview some folks who actually have some experience extracting actionable, timely intelligence out of those who are unwilling to disclose it. I would include, for example, police officers and ask them how they interrogate organized crime officials. Then, I would ask them how they would adapt their practices if we relieved them of the burden of having to prove the matter in criminal court.

    I’d then run those recommendations past intelligence figures, asking whether they had reason to believe anything here would be culturally inapt or ineffective. After making such revisions, that’s what I’d recommend.

    • #14
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:15 PM PDT
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  15. Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Herbert E. Meyer: Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep us safe.

    I wholly agree this didn’t happen and that the bulk of the responsibility lies on political officials for not asking the right questions. And while I also agree that some gratitude is in order, it’s been hard to escape the impression that any criticism or inquiry is met with “We’re trying to protect you, so shut-up and be grateful.”

    The NSA’s probably been the worst offender that way.

    This is the universal fault line between the combat vets and those non-combat types. The ability to perform whatever task is needed to obtain a result is a clearcut characteristic of the combat types.

    Cops are not expected to do any of this – for the simple reason that (a) we believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty (in a court) and (b) these are still us. But the enemy combatant is NOT us. He has professed a solemn wish to destroy us. He has demonstrated his ability to do whatever he thinks he can to do that. And please don’t bring in the NSA – they have been spying on us. We don’t allow the cops to do that, and we don’t allow the NSA to either. On the BG – have at it.

    This debate on “moral” grounds will go nowhere. Far more useful would be what was (I think) proposed by the poster – to set out what we (the uninvolved) are willing to accept for behavior of our agents in the field. Because trust me, this gets personal for those in the field facing the enemy.

    And anyone who claims they would not do this or that if up against it either is a saint (I am not) or just doesn’t know himself. There was a case in Texas where a father came upon a perp raping his little girl. He not only knocked the guy off but then proceeded to beat him to death. Grand Jury l0oked at the case and came back with No True Bill. I don’t have any problem with that, but it seems people here might.

    Which is unfortunate, as they have lost their will to survive and to defend themselves. But what do I know – I was a Marine. And Feinstein ain’t.

    • #15
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:15 PM PDT
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  16. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch: And I should have addressed this with greater precision. I’ll admit that. However, the larger context is still that circumstances do set what is or is not allowed. Herbert’s example is on point. Beating the crap out of a terrorist to prevent wholesale massacres may make us uncomfortable, but if that is necessary then our moral standards have to be reconsidered.

    And you and I would not disagree in that circumstance, though we might in others. For the record, that makes neither you a monster, nor me a holier-than-thou.

    You probably are holier than me:-):-)

    What about summary executions? That is really what was done to Bin Laden isn’t it? I don’t know all the circumstances, but as I recall the Seals were sent in to kill him, period, nothing else. He was not afforded due process. Suppose the CIA got its hands on someone it knew had planted a bomb on a school bus. Would it be wrong to drag him into the street and shoot him? I’m not sure it would. The motives could be to make him an example to other terrorists and to exact immediate justice. Michael Novak observed years ago that in defeating terrorists we have to infiltrate in the hopes of getting an agent close to the leader. He asked whether our agents might have to themselves commit terrorist acts to establish their bona fides. If that were necessary would it be immoral? I’m ambivalent, but do not reject out of hand that this may be allowed.

    • #16
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:19 PM PDT
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  17. Thatcher

    There are only two reasons to be against torture of your enemy as I see it:

    1. If you do it, the other side will do it. Obviously, this one is out the window with Islamic fighters. Their holy book tells them to torture non-Muslims. So they do.

    2. Torture corrodes the soul of the person doing it. This one always applies, and I think is a reason not to do it.

    However, waterboarding is not torture, and I think we should do it to every single person we capture to find out whatever they know, right up to when they stopped wetting the bed.

    This is in line with my thoughts that I am willing to accept thousands of enemy dead to save the life of one American. It is us against them, and I want us to win with the least casualties possible.

    • #17
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:25 PM PDT
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  18. Inactive

    Aaron Miller:Is it possible to condone painful interrogations without granting a blank check to use any means at all? What principles, if any, should limit or guide interrogative “torture”? Should politicians, generals, or intel chiefs attempt to thoroughly codify the times when torture becomes acceptable, or the decision of means be left to individual prudence?

    Some don’t want to contemplate such a brutal subject. Some think even to consider limits is to deny harsh necessities. Some fear political backlash for wading into the controversy. If the will exists to even have this discussion seriously, I doubt that it can happen in the public sphere.

    As I insinuated in Mike’s thread, our military might be able to save American lives by intimidating enemies with mutilated bodies and hanging corpses, but we don’t apply an “end justifies the means” philosophy that far. There are complications within our own thought processes that are difficult to clearly express. Likewise with the deliberate infliction of pain, there is more to consider than only whether or not it is necessary or effective.

    We must be brutal at times. But we must not confuse brutality with simplicity. Sometimes a scenario demands immediate and assertive action. After the event, reflection and preparation for similar scenarios is merited.

    Perhaps the MUCH more important question is to honestly evaluate the techniques used and find which worked and which didn’t. Let’s stop all this “torture” nonsense and concentrate on what actually works.

    eg. sleep deprivation has little useful result. The Brits did it extensively in their Irish actions against the IRA, and found, of their own admission, that it was pretty useless.

    There is little reason to relearn old lessons. We fought a whole insurgency in Vietnam, and ONLY AFTER IT WAS OVER did we discover an (obviously) little known publication by the Marine Corps on doing just that – gleaned from their experiences in Central America and the Philippines. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have (and use!) that during the war.

    • #18
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:26 PM PDT
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  19. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’d first like to interview some folks who actually have some experience extracting actionable, timely intelligence out of those who are unwilling to disclose it.

    Unfortunately, whether you’re talking about soldiers or cops, they generally will not share any experiences publicly and in detail which might get them in trouble with the political class. Occasionally, they share stories privately among friends which they would not want shared with a general audience. At least, they would not be comfortable publicly standing as the sources of such stories.

    The general public will never get the full truth on these matters because (1) many people really don’t want to know and (2) most persons with first-hand experience don’t want to be crucified by politicians, employers, the media, or neighbors.

    So we don’t have the facts with which to discuss real situations and proposed methods. All we can do is discuss general principles and hypotheticals informed more by Tom Clancy than by reality.

    • #19
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Inactive

    Aaron Miller:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’d first like to interview some folks who actually have some experience extracting actionable, timely intelligence out of those who are unwilling to disclose it.

    Unfortunately, whether you’re talking about soldiers or cops, they generally will not share any experiences publicly and in detail which might get them in trouble with the political class. Occasionally, they share stories privately among friends which they would not want shared with a general audience. At least, they would not be comfortable publicly standing as the sources of such stories.

    The general public will never get the full truth on these matters because (1) many people really don’t want to know and (2) most persons with first-hand experience don’t want to be crucified by politicians, employers, the media, or neighbors.

    So we don’t have the facts with which to discuss real situations and proposed methods. All we can do is discuss general principles and hypotheticals informed more by Tom Clancy than by reality.

    And (3) they really don’t want to give away anything that might be useful to the enemy.

    • #20
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:55 PM PDT
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  21. Contributor

    Aaron Miller:

    Unfortunately, whether you’re talking about soldiers or cops, they generally will not share any experiences publicly and in detail which might get them in trouble with the political class. Occasionally, they share stories privately among friends which they would not want shared with a general audience. At least, they would not be comfortable publicly standing as the sources of such stories.

    The general public will never get the full truth on these matters because (1) many people really don’t want to know and (2) most persons with first-hand experience don’t want to be crucified by politicians, employers, the media, or neighbors.

    So we don’t have the facts with which to discuss real situations and proposed methods. All we can do is discuss general principles and hypotheticals informed more by Tom Clancy than by reality.

    I am affectionately attached to the republican theory. This is the real language of my heart. In candor, [however,] I ought also to add that… I consider its success as yet a problem. — Alexander Hamilton.

    • #21
    • December 11, 2014, at 1:56 PM PDT
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  22. Member

    I’ll say what I’ve said elsewhere: If we want to be Czarist Russia rooting out anarchists, Ottoman Turkey breaking nationalists, or Habsburg Austria trying to stamp out the Black Hand, then by all means, have at it. Break people’s legs and force them to stand on them for hours. Keep them awake for a week at a time. Shove food up their butts in the name of “rectal feeding.” Subject them to mock executions. Just stop pretending we hold the moral high ground. If we want to replicate the brutal practices of despotic gulags and comfort ourselves with the thought that “we’re just protecting ourselves,” well, then we have to stop looking down on the French, because they did the exact same thing in Algeria and Vietnam.

    We didn’t torture captured German or Japanese POWs in the Second World War, and counted ourselves virtuous because of it – especially when we saw the horrors of the Concentration Camps, or learned about the atrocities the Japanese committed across Asia. Yes, we were fighting the uniformed forces of recognized nation-states, and the Laws of War do not cover terrorists who skulk in the shadows and deal death out to innocents. But if we torture stateless ragamuffins when we refused to do so when faced with the raw power of the Wehrmacht or brutality of the Imperial Japanese Army, each drawing upon the organized power of an advanced industrial society…

    If we do that, we have to admit that we’ve fallen from where we were in 1943, and that our shining city on the hill is just another grey capital, covered deep with the old world filth of realpolitik and empire.

    Edit:  I realize I might have come off sounding a little too Zinn-ish, so let me clarify. I don’t have too many problems with us taking a turn for the worse. In so far as I’ve studied human history, I’m fairly convinced that this sort of dirty violence is rather inevitable if we want to have ordered civilization. Any nation that claims to be completely above this sort of thing is almost certainly either very good at hiding it or so small and inconsequential as to not attract any attention. If we’re going to be the world power, we very well may have to follow in the steps of empires before us and crucify some Middle Easterners to forestall religious revolt. But we have to realize what we’re doing and drop the hypocrisy.

    • #22
    • December 11, 2014, at 2:58 PM PDT
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  23. Member

    You ask a great question Herbert.

    The men and women tasked with getting actionable intelligence immediately after 9-11 were placed in an almost impossible situation. I’m sure some things went over the line but that will happen in the heat of battle. We should pray for these brave men and women and hope that if their consciences are troubled that they have repented and sought God’s mercy and forgiveness. By all means we should learn from what transpired and agree to what we can do when the next situation occurs.

    I get so angry when I hear leftists like DiFi and BHO talk about our values and justice. What values are they talking about? They seem to value the right to unlimited abortion that kills millions of humans every year but yet seem to value the dignity of a terrorist more – especially one who claims to be a muslim. Until leftists can value the life of the unborn with the fervor with which they value the rights of the terrorist who has committed mass murder, I will grant them no respect.

    • #23
    • December 11, 2014, at 5:01 PM PDT
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  24. Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer Post author

    Hi, Scott,

    What an extraordinary point you’ve made: These people value the life of a terrorist more than the life of an unborn child. We should raise this point every single time these people blather on about how we should treat people who are trying to kill us.

    My compliments….I only wish I’d thought of the point myself.

    • #24
    • December 11, 2014, at 5:35 PM PDT
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  25. Inactive

    Herbert E. Meyer: In the interests of turning a lemon into lemonade, let’s use this report, and the political explosion it’s triggered, as an opportunity to put the issue of how we want the CIA to deal with captured terrorists into the public square — and let’s get it resolved, finally, one way or the other.

    Shoot, shovel, and shut up.

    • #25
    • December 11, 2014, at 5:53 PM PDT
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  26. Member

    Would more money for intelligence gathering make a difference?

    If we were able to double the budget and hence the intelligence gathering and processing , would we be able to use less enhanced interrogation?

    • #26
    • December 11, 2014, at 6:22 PM PDT
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  27. Member

    I would trust President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush with the use of torture being available to them but not President Obama.

    There has not been a mature adult in the Washington, D.C., leadership for the last six years.

    • #27
    • December 11, 2014, at 6:30 PM PDT
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  28. Member

    I’d be willing to bet that every other line in this new report starts with “Under President Bush.” This report is a snow job by the Democrats, which makes me wonder, why now?

    The Republicans are rushing to defend the use of torture when they should be demanding a full unbiased accounting by the Republicans themselves. I bet this report is some type of attempt to cover up something. I know that because that is the way the Democrats operate. These are not trustworthy.

    This president is going to leave us with a huge mess that will take twenty years to clear up.

    • #28
    • December 11, 2014, at 6:42 PM PDT
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  29. Member

    I suspect that there’s a consensus that the CIA should go as far as it needs to.

    The unanswered question really seems to be what the CIA should do rather than just how far it should go. Is it doing the right thing? Is all of what it is doing effective? Is any of it counter-productive?

    Urging them to do as much of what they’re already doing as they want doesn’t really address that.

    • #29
    • December 12, 2014, at 2:32 AM PDT
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  30. Member

    Zafar: The unanswered question really seems to be what the CIA should do rather than just how far it should go.

    I don’t approve of an “anything goes to save lives” mentality, but that doesn’t mean I reject current methods or very brutal techniques. Rather, I’m wary of where such a philosophy could lead in the future.

    Not knowing much about our current procedures, my only specific recommendation would be to prefer methods which inflict pain without inflicting injury when possible (less possible in fieldwork). Waterboarding seems a good example. If it is unnecessary to destroy the person’s future health to extract what we need, then injuring him is mere cruelty or revenge. (To condemn revenge is not to condemn soldiers for failing to resist that temptation in the field.)

    Necessity is the pivotal point. Good people are brutal when they need to be, but only when they need to be and to the extent they need to be. (Again, this is a judgment of behavior, rather than a judgment of soldiers or operatives who fail to live up to their own ideals in heated moments.)

    The reason for preserving a prisoner’s future is based on my Christian worldview which allows for redemption of wicked persons and hope for enemies. Vile as terrorists generally are, many of them were indoctrinated very early in life and remain youthfully naive of ideologies beyond their host culture. If a terrorist is taken as prisoner and not sentenced to execution, then the purpose in holding him can only be hope for his repentance.

    If you don’t care about a prisoner, why preserve him by locking him up? If you’re honest, you will hold him only while he is potentially useful and then kill him.

    • #30
    • December 12, 2014, at 9:55 AM PDT
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