Friday, January 07, 2005

How Tied Are Our Hands?

This article by Heather MacDonald is a must read on the torture debate. In light of the media and liberal blather regarding our supposedly inhumane treatment of terrorist prisoners, you will be surprised at how restrained our interrogators actually are:
Around the first anniversary of 9/11, urgency to get information on al-Qaida grew. Finally, army officials at Guantánamo prepared a legal analysis of their interrogation options and requested permission from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to use various stress techniques on Kahtani. Their memo, sent up the bureaucratic chain on October 11, 2002, triggered a fierce six-month struggle in Washington among military lawyers, administration officials, and Pentagon chiefs about interrogation in the war on terror.

To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the military has been in its approach to terror detainees—and how utterly false the torture narrative has been. Here’s what the interrogators assumed they could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to eat—vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators promised that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, pending local approval and special training.

The most controversial technique approved was “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing,” to be reserved only for a “very small percentage of the most uncooperative detainees” believed to possess critical intelligence. A detainee could be poked only after review by Gitmo’s commanding general of intelligence and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, and only pursuant to “careful coordination” and monitoring.

Read the entire article. This situation is ridiculous and untenable. We do not retain the moral high ground when we allow murdering butchers to laugh in our faces while American lives are at stake. In fact, we cede the moral high ground when we refuse to effectively respond to the actions of our enemies.

If we want to get serious about obtaining critical intelligence from terrorist prisoners, we have got to give our interrogators the ability to make these people talk. If the terrorists know that our interrogators have no credible threat of coercion, then our ability to collect actionable intelligence is completely hamstrung.