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Monday, January 18, 2010

Interrogating Terrorists and the Attacks these Interrogations Prevented

Check out this article in the National Review "Meet the Real Jack Bauers" by Marc A. Thiessen (h/t Michelle Malkin). Click on the link for the enlightening article.

From the article:

"The public view of interrogations had been shaped by the fictional Bauer, who captures a terrorist and proceeds to torture him — holding down his head in a bathtub full of water, using a Taser to shock him, lopping off his fingers with a cigar cutter — while screaming questions until the terrorist finally breaks and gives up the location of the nuclear bomb that is about to go off.

"For some critics of U.S. interrogation policy, this is not fiction, but a depiction of reality. In Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick has written that 'high-ranking lawyers in the Bush administration erected an entire torture policy around the fictional edifice of Jack Bauer.' And Philippe Sands, author of the book Torture Team, has written that the show has been the 'midwife' for torture’s 'actual use on real, living human beings.' None of this is true.

"Unlike these critics, I have had the chance to actually meet the real Jack Bauers — the CIA officials who questioned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other senior terrorist leaders and got them to reveal their plans for new terrorist attacks. They explained to my why their approach has nothing in common with the methods used by Bauer on the fictional 24.

[...]

"They began by clarifying precisely how the program actually worked. While 24 depicts violent scenes where interrogators inflict severe pain to get time-sensitive intelligence on terrorist dangers, in the real world, they told me, this is not how interrogations take place.

"They explained, for example, that there is a difference between 'interrogation' and 'de-briefing.' Interrogation is not how we got information from the terrorists; it is the process by which we overcome the terrorists’ resistance and secure their cooperation — sometimes with the help of enhanced interrogation techniques.

"Once the terrorist agreed to cooperate, I was told, the interrogation stopped and 'de-briefing' began, as the terrorists were questioned by CIA analysts, using non-aggressive techniques to extract information that could help disrupt attacks.

"The interrogation process was usually brief, they said. According to declassified documents, on average 'the actual use of interrogation techniques covers a period of three to seven days, but can vary upwards to 15 days based on the resilience' of the terrorist in custody.

"Most detainees, they told me, did not undergo it at all. Two-thirds of those brought into the CIA program did not require the use of any enhanced interrogation techniques. Just the experience of being brought into CIA custody — the 'capture shock,' arrival at a sterile location, the isolation, the fact that they did not know where they were, and that no one else knew they were there — was enough to convince most of them to cooperate."

The results of all this? It's described later in the article:

"Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of a cell of Southeast Asian terrorists which had been tasked by KSM to hijack a passenger jet and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

"Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, KSM’s right-hand-man in the 9/11 attacks, just as he was finalizing plans for a plot to hijack airplanes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport and buildings in downtown London.

"Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the capture of Ammar al-Baluchi and Walid bin Attash, just as they were completing plans to replicate the destruction of our embassies in East Africa by blowing up the U.S. consulate and Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan.

"Information from detainees in CIA custody led to the disruption of an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti, in an attack that could have rivaled the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

"Information from detainees in CIA custody helped break up an al-Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for terrorist attacks inside the United States.

"In addition to helping break up these specific terrorist cells and plots, CIA questioning provided our intelligence community with an unparalleled body of information about al-Qaeda — giving U.S. officials a picture of the terrorist organization as seen from the inside, at a time when we knew almost nothing about the enemy who had attacked us on 9/11.

"In addition, CIA detainees helped identify some 86 individuals whom al-Qaeda deemed suitable for Western operations — most of whom we had never heard of before. According to the intelligence community, about half of these individuals were subsequently tracked down and taken off the battlefield. Without CIA questioning, many of these terrorists could still be unknown to us and at large — and may well have carried out attacks against the West by now.Until the program was temporarily suspended in 2006, well over half of the information our government had about al-Qaeda — how it operates, how it moves money, how it communicates, how it recruits operatives, how it picks targets, how it plans and carries out attacks — came from the interrogation of terrorists in CIA custody.

[...]

"Harry and Sam [pseudonyms of two of the CIA interrogators] told me that the agency believed without the program the terrorists would have succeeded in striking our country again. Harry put it bluntly: 'It is the reason we have not had another 9/11.'"

And Obama wants to give these terrorists the Constitutional rights of American citizens and put on trial to ease the Left's conscience. Brilliant.

Apparently Thiessen has written a book about this subject Courting Disaster. I haven't read it, but it could certainly prove to be very interesting, and a contrast to the common perception of the CIA and its interrogations and de-briefings. Look it for it.

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