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Post Enhanced Interrogation and the "Torture Report"
Created by John Eipper on 12/13/14 3:47 AM

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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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