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Friday, September 8, 2006

Words of a dictator

Mr. Bush said he had never authorized torture but indicated that aggressive interrogation techniques short of torture remained important tools in the administration’s efforts to combat terrorism.

"I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why," he said. "If I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary."

And if he says so, you have to take his word for it.

That's America now. Sure, it feels like the Soviet Union or Red China. But relax, we're getting used to it.

Comments (12)

The Freelancer has some interesting links on his site related to the 9/11 attacks. In one article, we learn through a declassified memo from the the joint chiefs of staff (during the Kennedy administration, but the individual allegedly responsible for advancing this agenda was appointed earlier) had orchestrated a terrorist attack on American soil, which "through the fabrication of false evidence, the US would blame Cuba and gain public support for an unpopular war." Substitute a country - say in the middle east, starts with an "i," ends with a "rack" - for Cuba and whaddya get?

Just wondering...

Anyhow, Bill's links leave a trail of breadcrumbs that, if you follow them, lead to some pretty disturbing stuff.

The problem is that the legislators do not know anything about interrogation techniques nor what constitutes “actionable” intelligence. Information from humiliated, tortured, or abused subjects fundamentally does not result in reliable intelligence and must be corroborated. The ticking bomb scenario is a falsity and the elected officials, and their ivory tower advisors, do not have the real world experience to realize that the legalization of these interrogation techniques will not realize the gains hoped for.

It is true that subjects, when captured, have a shelve-life, which is a crude way of saying that information in the subject’s head is time sensitive. This is especially true for terrorist cells. So presuming, for the sake of argument, a subject knows of a “ticking bomb,” the interrogator presumably has a limited amount of time to extract the location and nature of the bomb. Here is where the uninformed jump to the conclusion that the Jack Bauer approach of “Damn it! We don’t have time for that! I have to question him now!” is how the case is cracked. It simply is not true.

In real life the interrogator does not know there is a ticking bomb somewhere. If the interrogator knew of the ticking bomb prior to the subject’s capture, then the intelligence organizations would already have actionable intelligence enough to counter or mitigate the bomb. In other words, to justify torture one would have to already know with a reasonable degree of certainty that there was a ticking bomb AND the subject would know the location of that bomb or the subject would have the information that would indirectly lead to the bomb in time to defuse the bomb. If the interrogation had the amount of information to make that determination, then the intelligence community would already be acting on that information prior to the capture of the subject.

So, what is the information that real life subjects have upon capture that has a shelf-life? It is very little, quite honestly. The most immediate information you want from a source of that nature is the current location of cell members and means of communication. Is that the type of information that our country is willing to obtain through torture, especially when you consider that very rarely does a source quietly disappear without someone in the cell alerting the remaining at-large cell members. By and large, the actionable intelligence obtained through interrogation concerns “big picture information” like the means and methods, names, organization structure, banking/financing, current plans, future intent, strategic goals. In other words, this information is such that has no immediate consequence, meaning interrogation is a strategic tool.

However, like I said, subjects have a shelf-life. But, the shelf-life is not a “ticking bomb;” rather, the shelf-life is the initial shock and uncertainty of the subject upon capture. It does not take long (couple of days) for a subject to become accustomed to their new surroundings and adapt to the situation by coming to terms with being captured. Therefore, the interrogator has a limited amount of time to get the subject talking. Again, here is where the uninformed jump to Jack Bauer, which presupposes that torture speeds up the cooperation of the subject. In reality, torture, humiliation, and abuse harden the resolve of the subject to the point that the subject may talk to alleviate immediate pain but will likely say anything but the truth to stop the pain.

A skilled interrogator uses techniques to entice the subject to willfully cooperate AND provide truthful information. Some of the techniques that have proven effective, depending on the subject, may be sly, tricky, or mean (not cruel or inhumane). But, all these techniques have one common dominator, which is they avoid torture at all costs. The reason, again, is because if a tortured, abused, humiliated subject provides you information, it is not actionable until it is corroborated with secondary intelligence. If there is secondary intelligence, then why bother torturing?

Is there a possibility, however remote, that some terror cell can call in a bomb threat to a news organization and by chance we happen to catch a member of that cell? I suppose it is possible; however, it is exceptionally unlikely. I can only state that to the best of my knowledge, and I know very little about all that goes on in the world of espionage, that all actionable intelligence has come from sources that have willfully cooperated for one reason or another. To my knowledge, the world has not thwarted a ticking-bomb through torture.

Finally, setting aside the morality and legality of so-called harsh interrogation techniques, the important question to ask is, “What are the objectives we expect to obtain from additional techniques that we currently should not employ?” As I said, interrogation in the global war on terror is a strategic tool so presumably the answer is the objective is to win that war by denying terrorists from achieving their strategic objectives. If that is true, interrogation generally can be a very valuable tool. However, harsh interrogation techniques that violate international norms and shock our allies distracts from our achieving our strategic goal.

In the end, we lose more than we gain with these techniques. These harsh interrogation techniques become propaganda tools of terrorists (who by the way believe everything happens by the will of God), captured subjects harden their resolve immediately to not cooperate, sympathizers or fringe elements are discouraged to come forward with information since they naturally believe they may be detained or people they care about will be tortured, we lose allies, we estrange friends, we lose our moral high ground, we lose influence with NGOs, developing nations sympathize with the wrong side, and hostile regimes are embolden to saber rattle as our country is bogged down with chancing our tail.

TalkLeft has a list of the Authorized Interrogation Techniques

kum ba ya jack.. how about you invite the nice terroists to your house? maybe you can coax them with love and compassion to behave and quit all those pesky beheadings,suicide bombings and driving planes into our buildings. i am sure all they need is a hug and maybe some smores.. kum ba ya..
p.s. please dont make us wait any longer.. whats your brillant plan to deal with terrorist thugs?

Hey, I have a brilliant plan to deal with terrorist thugs: America should invade Iraq. That should do it. Thank you and good night!

If it gets information from them, USE it!!!! The lefties would like us to ask them for their name, rank and jihad number - and if they don't want to give that out, well let's read the Koran while we wait for your lawyer. Just like they do for any and all people that they capture on the battlefield - get a clue folks, they don't play nice and from time to time we shouldn't either.

"If it gets information from them, USE it!!!!"

Please cite one example of Bush's "aggressive interrogation techniques short of torture" getting information from an alleged terr'ist, and Bush using it. Just one.

"If it gets information from them, USE it!!!!"

I thought I covered that we just don't want information, we want accurate information.

Well it always works on "24", so it must be effective, right? Actually, I think abusive actions make some people feel like things are under their control and they are striking back. For those purposes, it probably doesn't matter whether the target is guilty or the information produced is accurate or useful.

I could care less how it makes "some people" feel.

I only care if it is effective or not, and still short of torture.

If it is effective (as in accurate and useful) then I think it is a valid technique to use.

And if also "abusive actions make some people feel like things are under their control and they are striking back", well then, Allan, maybe you should just consider that a bonus!

Jack, just remember, if we don't eliminate these terrorists your kids and mine will still be fighting them!

I don't believe we can eliminate them all (though I would like to see us try).

I do believe that we can demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice American life and treasure in sufficient quantities that
Al Qaeda (and other Islamists) will revisit their previously held views about Americans being too selfish and/or lazy to engage in protracted war.

If, in the course of waging war on America, the pain and probability of death are sufficiently high, the number of Islamist volunteers willing to "win this one for Allah" will eventually decline. Or, if we are too selfish and lazy to engage in protracted war, we will retreat from the defense of our strategic interests.

Expect $9/gallon gas, more American tourists being taken hostage (or killed) abroad, and an isolationist American foreign policy. No more world policeman, no more sole superpower, and no more strong dollar. Buy gold, sell your SUV, and begin learning how to speak Arabic or Chinese. Because it's only a question of when, not if.


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