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Post McCain, Patriotism, and the Torture Report
Created by John Eipper on 12/12/14 4:57 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


McCain, Patriotism, and the Torture Report (Joe Listo, Brazil, 12/12/14 4:57 am)

I would like to ask our esteemed Editor JE to make a major correction to my post of 11 December: I did not question Senator McCain's patriotism. On the contrary, I have nothing but respect for him and for the ordeals he went through during the Vietnam war. What I meant to say was that on various occasions he sided with the Democrats while he should support members of his own party. I was clearly referring to Senator Feinstein´s opportunistic partisan decision to open the report to the world when, in my view, it should be restricted to governmental spheres to avoid potential backlashes from terrorists. That is why the sentence read, "Her patriotism leaves a lot to be desired," and not his.

Secondly, I would like to ask John why he considers my statement that "EIT has prevented major terrorist attacks post-9/11" a fallacy? Perhaps we will never know if EIT actually prevented major terrorist acts, but the fact remaining is that we have seen none since 9/11. In my view, the killing of bin Laden alone is enough to justify EIT.

Finally, I resent JE's contention that my post was based on partisanship, particularly in light of the fact that on the same post I criticized a member of the Republican Party. If my post sounded ideological, I apologize to WAISdom. I merely attempted to opine on an issue that may affect America in a nasty, dangerous way.

JE comments:  I rubbed both Joe Listo and Randy Black (as we'll see) the wrong way yesterday.  My apologies, Joe--but the argument that "Enhanced Interrogation" prevented further terrorist attacks is a fallacy.  Sic hoc ergo propter hoc is finding causality in correlation.  Wikipedia gives the example of the rooster crowing before sunrise, therefore the rooster causes the sun to come up.  Couldn't we claim by the same token that the iPhone launch prevented a new 9/11?  How about Detroit declaring bankruptcy?

I have made a few SHEPH arguments as well, as sometimes they just "obviously" make sense.  Here's one of mine:  the EU has prevented a continental war from breaking out in Europe.  Nigel Jones has taken me to task for that one, but offers a different SHEPH in reply:  NATO has prevented war in Europe since 1945.

Anyhow, Joe, no hard feelings, please.  (I'll take my medicine from Randy Black in a few hours.)

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  • Correlation, Causality, and Torture (Leo Goldberger, USA 12/12/14 12:30 PM)
    John, you have it quite right! (See Joe Listo, 12 December.) Many non-statistically minded folks confuse causality with correlation. Correlations per se may be due to any number of intervening variables, each of which needs to be considered separately. CIA director Brennan was right on target when he said that the relevance of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" in causing a prisoner to reveal significant and reliable information is open to question--as the application of one or another technique was embedded in so much else going on in the total context of the imprisonment situation.

    Needless to say, political partisanship may likely add to the confusion!

    As an aside, I must confess my outrage--not to mention shame--at being in the same profession as those two psychologists who hoodwinked the CIA into an $80 million torture program that had little, if any, scientific base. After the Church report back in 1975, I had high hopes that those days of gruesome tactics by the CIA would have been over. But, then, I did not fully appreciate the tremendous emotional impact the 9/11 terrorist broadside on the USA was to engender.

    All the best for the coming holiday season and its message of Peace on Earth.

    JE comments: Peace on Earth--someday, someday. But in the meantime, I wish all the Holiday best for Leo Goldberger. (And for our friends in Mexico and the Philippines, a joyous Guadalupe day: we are flying to Guanajuato tomorrow for a little R & R, so we'll be missing the celebration by one day.)

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    • Psychologists and "Enhanced Interrogation": a Question (Robert Whealey, USA 12/13/14 4:21 AM)
      Leo Goldberger (12 December) does not name the two unprofessional psychologists who hoodwinked the CIA into an $80 million torture program.

      A question: are those names still confidential, or are they buried somewhere in the Feinstein Report?

      JE comments: There must be a book, or if there isn't there should be, on the history of psychologists who have worked for the dark side of intelligence gathering. I'm thinking of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Proceso-era Argentina, and even of societies we tend to think of as far more benign.

      I hope Leo Goldberger can shed light on this.

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      • "Enhanced Interrogation" Psychologists Identified (Nigel Jones, UK 12/13/14 8:40 AM)
        To answer Robert Whealey's question (13 December), the two psychologists who assisted the CIA in devising the EIT (aka torture programme) have been named in the British media, and in the US as well.

        According to Friday's London Daily Mail, which also published blurred photographs of both men, they are James Mitchell (now 63) and his colleague Bruce Jessen, (now 65), both retired USAF psychologists who originally devised their EIT techniques in training USAF personnel to withstand post-capture interrogations. Both are Mormons, which may or may not be relevant.

        Interestingly, the Daily Mail, a rather right-wing newspaper, has gone ape with rage over the story, devoting several pages to denouncing the CIA for all its worth and working to expose British participation in the rendition and torture sessions. The Mail, of course, hates Tony Blair and the Labour party under whose rule this all took place.

        My own view, for what its worth, is that the CIA were perfectly entitled to use a little happy slappy and sleepy weepy techniques if it saved a single life. The West is in an existential struggle with Jihadi Islam, and in that sort of situation any--repeat any--methods are permissible. We would have to plunge a lot deeper anyway, to reach the abysses of bestiality plumbed by AQ and IS.

        Thank God that during WWII we were not governed by the sort of bleeding-heart liberals who rule us now, otherwise Pearl Harbor would not have been avenged and we would all be speaking German and Japanese.

        JE comments:  The Mormon affiliation of the two psychologists is extremely interesting, but like Nigel Jones, I don't know what to make of it.

        The problem I have with EIT, besides my opposition on moral/humanitarian grounds, is that if the Good Guys practice these "techniques," the Bad Guys will feel more justified than ever to respond in kind--on us.  And what's worse, the good/bad disjunction ceases to exist.

        (Aside to Nigel:  Couldn't a case be made that FDR was the bleedingest heart of all the liberal US presidents?  I'll make that case.  Who would rival him?  JFK?  Wilson?)

        Next up:  Leo Goldberger on psychologists and intelligence gathering.

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        • More on Torture; Was FDR a Liberal? (Nigel Jones, UK 12/14/14 3:05 PM)
          John Eipper (December 13) asked me whether FDR wasn't an uber-Liberal (after I had claimed that WWII was won because we weren't ruled by lily-livered, jelly-bellied liberals as we are today).

          Answer: if by "Liberal" you mean soft, kindly to enemies, and always governed by strict moral principles à la the disastrous Woodrow Wilson, then no, FDR was definitely not a liberal. He was, rather, a ruthless, duplicitous, arrogant and authoritarian personality whose record as America's greatest President is in urgent need of re-assessment. His successor Truman, in my humble opinion, was a better President and a greater man by far.

          John also questions whether torturing Jihadists might not make them even more angry with the West than they are already. Believe me, they need no such excuse for their abominations.

          Let's do some number crunching and get this torture into some sort of proportion:

          Number of deaths caused by CIA torture: 1 (possibly).

          Number of lethal Islamist terror attacks since 9/11: 25,000 (and counting).

          I think I know who still holds the high moral ground here. The West is beating itself up about something that is an everyday--no, make that an every second--occurrence in the Middle East.

          JE comments: I was thinking more along the lines of FDR's social(ist) programs. Either way, FDR might be a top-five president in many historians' appraisals, but Lincoln invariably gets the #1 spot, with Washington and Jefferson not far behind. WAISers know that I am also a fan of Harry Truman, although the nuking Japan part puts me in a moral quandary.

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      • Psychologists and "Enhanced Interrogation" (Leo Goldberger, USA 12/13/14 10:37 AM)
        For what its worth, here are my thoughts on John E's request (13 December) for references on the subject of the history of the "darker side" of psychology/psychiatry:

        While there have been several books recounting the details of psychological/psychiatric participation in various aspects of the CIA's intelligence gathering--such as John Marks's The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate" and Colin A. Ross's The CIA Doctors, the topic has generally been under-researched, with only scant mention of practices in other than the USA and Nazi Germany. And such popular trade books did not have professional historians at the helm.

        A fairly recent volume, published by Routledge this year, as part of its "Intelligence Series" is entitled:  Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative & Interdisciplinary Analysis, edited by Christopher Andrew and Simona Tobia (of Cambridge and Reading Universities respectively) is an exception. It strikes me as a solid beginning towards an eventual comprehensive history on the subject.

        JE comments:  Excellent recommendations.

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      • Psychologists and "Enhanced Interrogation" (Paul Pitlick, USA 12/15/14 5:20 AM)
        A couple of links to answer Robert Whealey's question (13 December) on the psychologists who devised the "Enhanced Interrogation" program. Those psychologists aren't hiding. Google their names, and there are lots of links.

        This whole torture thing isn't really new. Didn't everyone know we were doing it? The notion that the Senate is giving our enemies fodder to hate is really strange. They already know what we are doing. Sort of like the Iran-Contra experience--the only people who didn't know about that were us Americans.

        It reminds me of a dinner experience I had maybe five years ago. My wife and I went out with some good solid Republican friends. He had just bought an iPhone, and early in the evening, he was telling me all the cool things one can do with it, like surf the web. Later on, somehow the conversation strayed into the CIA/torture arena, and I mentioned that I had read that the CIA had actually killed someone under interrogation. He refused to believe that. After some back-and-forth, I eventually said "Let's look it up on your iPhone!" He refused--he didn't want to know.

        It's in the report--somebody did die of hypothermia. There was also mention of someone who was interrogated by the FBI, and when they were done with him, the CIA sent him to Egypt. He later "committed suicide" in a Gaddafi prison (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-husseini/what-both-sides-are-ignor_b_6315678.html ). I guess the CIA didn't kill him, at least not directly.

        Finally a follow-up to Timothy Brown's note of 13 December: It's interesting that the Viet Cong agent didn't need to be tortured to give up his information. All that was needed was an experienced listener.


        JE comments:  As Nigel Jones pointed out on 13 December, the two psychologists are James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.  Paul Pitlick underscores an important point:  waterboarding and other "enhanced" measures were already openly discussed several years ago.  But we Americans have a short memory.  The Torture Report may give a short-term propaganda bump to Putin and his ilk, but what about its lasting impact on the United States' world standing?

        As a related question, can anyone tell us what the Chinese are saying about the Torture Report?

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        • Dr James Mitchell (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 12/15/14 8:18 PM)
          Dr. James Mitchell, USAF psychologist, explained at length on Fox News that he was asked to review the survival and resistance program used to train our pilots, and figure out what resistance behavior the Al-Qaeda detainees displayed from their own training.

          One added issue was that many of the High-Value Targets had gone through SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training and knew how to resist interrogation--including waterboarding. Mitchell was one of the psych class experts called to retrain our agents on how to defeat the Jihadist training. One of his suggestions was to modify the timing of waterboarding.

          He was then asked to help interrogate Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. He waterboarded Al-Qaeda's #2 after CIA Director Tenet and CIA attorney John Rizzo got approval from the White House, the US Attorney General and the oversight committee leaders.

          All of this was known, approved and encouraged both by Feinstein and Pelosi.

          JE comments: So Dr. Mitchell was following very specific instructions, even if they don't line up with the psychologist's ethics code.  How will history remember Mitchell?  This question will probably spark another WAIS polemic.

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          • What About Mitchell's $80 Million? (Leo Goldberger, USA 12/17/14 5:07 AM)
            As a former academic contractor for the Air Force's Aerospace Medical Laboratory (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio) back in the 1950s and '60s doing some basic psychological research on the effects of sensory deprivation and LSD, I wonder how Dr. Mitchell and his partner were able to generate over $80 million for their expert advice and training efforts.

            Did the fine folks at Fox News ask him about that? Just curious...

            JE comments: The $80 million figure has been attached to Dr. Mitchell's waterboarding program, but I'm unclear on what the money was used for. I presume it wasn't just for Mitchell and Co.'s individual research. In the academic world, an $80 million grant is what we'd call "humongous." Humanists scramble here and there for $500.

            Leo Goldberger has piqued everyone's curiosity with his reference to sensory deprivation and LSD research. Leo, you must tell us more!

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            • Psychologists and the CIA: a Personal Experience (Leo Goldberger, USA 12/19/14 5:12 AM)
              On 17 December, John E asked about my experience as a researcher for the US Aerospace Medical Laboratory.  There isn't too much to tell.

              Briefly, it was not until I received a phone call from a New York Times investigative reporter, shortly before the Church Report in 1975, that I learned that my academically inspired research--dating back to the 1950s and '60s and focused on some purely theoretically inspired aspects of sensory deprivation as well as individual differences observed in response to a small amount of LSD (administered to a sample of volunteer subjects with their full informed consent)--had been cited in some CIA records along with my name. I was obviously very chagrined, and openly told the reporter everything I knew about whatever he asked--but in return I asked him not to inflict any potential injury to my reputation by mentioning me by name in the article he was writing. To have been an unwitting bystander in the CIA mess ought not to be further compounded by being named in the NYT.

              From the reporter I learned for the first time that my brief stint at Cornell's Medical Center in NY, within its newly formed "Human Ecology Program," had been a blatant CIA front. It also served as a grantee to prominent behavioral scientists of special interest to them, not just for their relevant work but also because of their name recognition. (By the way, the details of its nefarious operation makes for fascinating reading in John Marks's book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, which came out in 1979, within which my name is omitted--thanks to the investigative reporter mentioned earlier.)

              Within the context of the Human Ecology Program's project at Cornell, I was assigned the task of evaluating 100 Chinese nationals stranded in the USA following the loss of mainland China to the Communists. Though the official "cover story" providing the scholarly rationale for the study was to determine the temporal link between the experience of stressful life events and clusters of illnesses, the tacit purpose, I later learned from the reporter, was an attempt to ferret out likely candidates to become potential spies for the CIA once they returned home. Needless to say, I was quite stunned by this revelation--and especially perturbed by not having known that my "boss," a senior psychologist, was actually a full-time CIA psychologist, who made only irregular visits to our office and then gave no sign of his many other operational involvements that I subsequently read about in the transcript of Senate Investigation Committee's interview with him.

              In other words, I was deliberately deceived and certainly never asked for my "informed consent" as a researcher. Of course, I am aware of the fact that during the Cold War period, the CIA and other military agencies had a legitimate concern in trying to understand the dynamics of "brainwashing"--there were the confessions of our prisoners of war in Korea, there was the question of the role of torture and drugs, then, too, there was Cardinal Mindszenty confession which loomed quite large in the news those days--but why the intelligence folks did not have enough trust in the scientists whose insights they sought and from whose research findings they drew unwarranted extrapolations is what bothered me. I feel certain that many of us would have willingly provided our informed consent. After all, most of us were patriotic and concerned about what was happening around the globe during those trying times.

              On a happier note, let me conclude by mentioning the good fortune that befell me when my draft number was called and I was provided the opportunity to serve a civilian contractor for the Air Force (1959-62). My task was assisting in the space crew selection program, based on my prior work on evaluating personality differences in response to stress. All I can say is that everything I experienced within the Aerospace Medical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was on the up and up. It was truly an exciting assignment of which have only fond memories.

              JE comments:  I'm grateful to Leo Goldberger for sharing this fascinating story.  The CIA must have been distrustful of academics in those days; I suppose they still are.  But how accurate is the information gleaned from a researcher who believes he or she is actually working on something else?

              I've pestered Leo Goldberger enough for now, but I hope that in a future post, he'll share some memories of working with the astronauts during the Golden Era of space travel.

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  • Enhanced Interrogation and the "Torture Report" (Timothy Brown, USA 12/13/14 3:47 AM)

    I was a Marine Embassy Security Guard and then intelligence linguist and trained POW interrogator (Thai and Spanish) during my ten years as a Marine.

    For twenty-seven more years as a diplomat, I handled extremely sensitive information on a regular basis. I've tried a couple of times to bring my experience into
    this discussion, which I feel is based on simplistic views of an extremely complex subject by an impassioned few.

    Do Enhanced Interrogation Techniques produce information? Is any of it of value? The only honest answer is maybe, then again maybe not. Did any of the instances of EIT in question produce information
    that helped prevent a terrorist attack? Again, maybe. But, then again, maybe not. Even when you have near perfect information, one additional piece of
    information, even if it appears to an outsider who does not have the same information as irrelevant, when considered by an expert alongside other information, may be the key to
    solving a major question.

    But, then, again, it may be useless. Are the results of sic hoc ergo proptor hoc reasoning always and invariably wrong because it is a fallacious form of reasoning?
    Or, despite the flawed process, might it reach an accurate conclusion? After all, even calculating a correlation coefficient can lead to an accurate conclusion.
    In my personal experience, the key to something can be both minute and critical.

    Just one example:  While I was a District Senior Advisor in Vietnam, a South Vietnamese Army junior officer working in my intelligence and operations center (DIOCC) made a tiny slip that meant nothing to me.

    But it raised the suspicions of my counter-intelligence officer, and led to his being able to unmask the junior officer as a Viet Cong spy. To even a relatively astute observer with almost a decade of intelligence experience, his had slip meant nothing. But in the hands of an expert, it had meant everything.

    JE comments:  Tim Brown originally wrote this as an off-Forum comment for me only, but I asked him for permission to post.  I think Tim's honest expert opinion deserves an airing:  we simply don't know if (and when) torture can yield valuable intelligence.  Likewise on the question of causality:  "enhancement" might prevent nasty things from happening, sometimes.  Or it might not.

    This is why I'd prefer to live in a society that errs on the side of non-enhancement.  At least it permits us to keep our moral compass.

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    • Enhanced Interrogation and the "Torture Report" (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 12/13/14 10:51 AM)
      I would like to supplement the current discussion of EITs by pointing out that Senators have complete immunity when they speak from the floor--as Feinstein and McCain did. On the other hand, the CIA Director and his members of the Intel Community are bound by a secrecy agreement. This non-disclosure contract carries severe penalties. As noted by other WAISers, the public statement by Brennan is exceptional for the head of a "secret agency," and we should appreciate its deeper meaning.

      JE comments: An important point.  Doesn't this make it all the more urgent for Senators to help the nation get at the truth?

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      • "Torture Report" and Senate Complicity (Randy Black, USA 12/14/14 6:04 AM)

        What some WAISers are ignoring is that Senators Feinstein, 81, Pelosi, 74, (Jay) Rockefeller, 77, and other "senior" leadership in the Senate were informed from the get-go as to exactly how the CIA was conducting its programs of intelligence gathering, including EIT methods. Feinstein and the rest of the senior leaders in the relative Senate committees were briefed in great detail beginning just after 9-11.

        For Feinstein to submit her "majority" report during what is the final 30 days of her party's control of the Senate in itself is telling. I find her "holier-than-thou" attitude hypocritical and suspicious. There is a clear reason that she assembled and held onto this report for months if not years. Certainly, her timing is a damning statement about her lack of honor.

        Naturally, if she had read this report, years in the making, before the recent election, her party would have lost even more seats in the Senate and the House. While the recent election was a clear mandate from conservative and liberal voters alike, the results would have been even worse for the Democrats.

        As a result of Feinstein's bias, she has single-handedly destroyed any hope of a positive relationship with Obama appointee John Brennan, director of the CIA. I wonder how the President is handling Feinstein's destruction of his relationship with a member of his own cabinet.

        "(Brennan) was hardly praiseworthy of Feinstein and fellow Democrats, calling it 'lamentable' they interviewed no CIA personnel to ask, 'What were you thinking?' He called the investigation 'flawed.'"

        For your information: Brennan earned an MA in Middle Eastern studies from U Texas-Austin and speaks Arabic fluently. Prior to his appointment as director of the CIA by President Obama, he was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

        When I researched "Did the CIA advise Senate Democrats about EIT," I found the following revelations:

        Time Magazine, Dec. 9: "(Nancy Pelosi) added that she heard about the use of some of the EITs in early 2003, but did not speak out due to government secrecy rules and worked to ban the use of torture through legislation and electing a Democratic President in 2008. Jose Rodriguez, a former top CIA official in charge of the post-9/11 interrogation program, charges that he briefed Pelosi of the EITs, including waterboarding, had been used in 2002."

        From The Washington Post Op-Ed, Dec. 5: Author is Jose Rodriguez Jr, a 31-year veteran of the CIA:

        "The men and women of my former organization, the CIA, are accustomed to frequent and sudden reversals of direction from their political leaders. But the latest twists and turns are especially dramatic.

        "In one ear they hear the public, the media and members of Congress raising alarms about the terrorist threat from the Islamic State: Do something! Do it now! Why didn't you do something sooner? Politicians from both sides of the aisle are saying that the militant group is an enormous challenge and must be prevented from bringing its brutality to America's shores. The president assures us that the United States will 'degrade and ultimately destroy' these terrorists, while the vice president doubles down and says we will follow the Islamic State to 'the gates of hell.'

        "But shouting in CIA officers' other ear are people such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) regarding the 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the agency's interrogation efforts, which is expected to be released next week. The report's leaked conclusion, which has been reported on widely, that the interrogation program brought no intelligence value is an egregious falsehood; it's a dishonest attempt to rewrite history. I'm bemused that the Senate could devote so many resources to studying the interrogation program and yet never once speak to any of the key people involved in it, including the guy who ran it (that would be me).

        "According to news accounts of the report, Feinstein and her supporters will say that the CIA violated American principles and hid the ugly truth from Congress, the White House and the public. When the report comes out, I expect that few of the critics who will echo Feinstein's charges will have read it--and far fewer will read or understand the minority response and the CIA's rebuttal.

        "The interrogation program was authorized by the highest levels of the US government, judged legal by the Justice Department and proved effective by any reasonable standard. The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and of both parties in Congress were briefed on the program more than 40 times between 2002 and 2009. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to deny that she was told in 2002 that detainees had been water boarded. That is simply not true. I was among those who briefed her.

        "There's great hypocrisy in politicians' criticism of the CIA's interrogation program. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil. Members of Congress and the administration were nearly unanimous in their desire that the CIA do all that it could to debilitate and destroy al-Qaeda. The CIA got the necessary approvals to do so and kept Congress briefed throughout. But as our successes grew, some lawmakers' recollections shrank in regard to the support they once offered. Here are a couple of reminders.

        "On May 26, 2002, Feinstein was quoted in the New York Times saying that the attacks of 9/11 were a real awakening and that it would no longer be 'business as usual.' The attacks, she said, let us know 'that the threat is profound' and 'that we have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves.'

        "After extraordinary CIA efforts, aided by information obtained through the enhanced-interrogation program, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan. Shortly afterward, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN's Late Edition on March 2, 2003. Rockefeller, who had been extensively briefed about the CIA's efforts, told Wolf Blitzer that 'happily, we don't know where [KSM] is,' adding: 'He's in safekeeping, under American protection. He'll be grilled by us. I'm sure we'll be proper with him, but I'm sure we'll be very, very tough with him.'

        "When Blitzer asked about how KSM would be interrogated, Rockefeller assured him that 'there are presidential memorandums that prescribe and allow certain measures to be taken, but we have to be careful.' Then he added: 'On the other hand, he does have the information. Getting that information will save American lives. We have no business not getting that information.'"



        JE comments: Nancy Pelosi is not a Senator, but rather a US Representative.  Randy Black believes that Sen. Feinstein delayed the release of the "Torture Report" until after the Mid-Term elections, as it would have further hurt the Democrats with the US electorate.  Feinstein probably saw it the same way, but I'm puzzled:  wouldn't a stain on Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. have helped the Democrats in November?  Why didn't the Senator release the report earlier?

        If Jose Rodriguez is the CIA operative who "ran" (his words) the Enhanced Interrogation program, we might approach his op-ed with caution.  Rodriguez makes the argument that the public was demanding EIT, and Congress supported it.  As we've seen on WAIS recently, this is probably half true--or more specifically, this was true for about half the population.

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