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Dana Priest and Joe Stephens report in today's Washington Post that the Pentagon approved a list of tough interrogation techniques designed to extract intelligence from reluctant detainees at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, given the nature of the threat, the approval process and techniques employed seem reasonable:
In April 2003, the Defense Department approved interrogation techniques for use at the Guantanamo Bay prison that permit reversing the normal sleep patterns of detainees and exposing them to heat, cold and "sensory assault," including loud music and bright lights, according to defense officials.
The classified list of about 20 techniques was approved at the highest levels of the Pentagon and the Justice Department, and represents the first publicly known documentation of an official policy permitting interrogators to use physically and psychologically stressful methods during questioning.
The use of any of these techniques requires the approval of senior Pentagon officials -- and in some cases, of the defense secretary. Interrogators must justify that the harshest treatment is "militarily necessary," according to the document, as cited by one official. Once approved, the harsher treatment must be accompanied by "appropriate medical monitoring."
"We wanted to find a legal way to jack up the pressure," said one lawyer who helped write the guidelines. "We wanted a little more freedom than in a U.S. prison, but not torture."
Predictably, civil libertarians strenuously object to any interrogation that doesn't strictly comply with approved criminal investigative techniques. Priest and Stephens quote Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch as saying that interrogative strategies outlawed by the US Constitution domestically are also illegal abroad under wartime -- a ridiculous statement. The US Constitution, for one thing, specifically places the Executive in charge of war and makes no mention of its application on the battlefield, for good reason. Does Roth expect Marines to read POWs their rights when captured during battle? If not, why should he expect them to allow the POWs a phone call and a lawyer once they get back to the compound?
Let me state this clearly, so everyone can understand: war is not the same as crime. Many people, even presidential candidates, fail to understand this. Crimes can occur during war, but war is a completely different situation than a drug bust in LA. In war, intelligence makes the difference between dead Americans, civilians as well as military, and dead enemy fighters. While torture is never acceptable, you cannot hamstring military and intelligence units with the niceties of domestic criminal investigative rules.
Look at the list of techniques described by the Post:
* Using female interrogators to question male detainees
* Force the prisoners to stand for four hours at a time
* Interrogating disrobed prisoners
* Disrupt their sleeping patterns
* Play loud music
The article notes that the Pentagon strictly prohibited physical contact -- not even poking a finger in a detainee's chest is allowed under these guidelines.
Ask yourself this: had we been in the field, attacking these same forces in 1998 after the al-Qaeda bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and we had AQ suspects in custody, could these techniques have allowed us to stop the attack on 9/11? Take a look through the news over the past few months; the papers and news services have been peppered with stories about foiled bombing plots and the capture of the would-be perpetrators. Where do you think the information comes from to make those captures?
So, would a disrupted sleep pattern or two be worth the lives of 3,000 Americans? Would humiliating detainees on a case-by-case basis be an acceptable trade-off to saving the lives of 80,000 Jordanians? Would you approve the imposition of loud, obnoxious rap music in order to save Los Angeles?
This is war, and you'd better get used to the stakes involved.Sphere It View blog reactions
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