Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Former Defense Secretary confirms likelihood of Bush-era Enhanced Interrogation Techniques contributing to Bin Laden Capture

 Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed on Fox News' 'Hannity' show last night that the receipt of voluminous actionable intelligence from the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the Bush Administration, including information received from the waterboarding of Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed, was likely ultimately responsible for the Obama Administration's successful capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, (the Al-Quaeda terror leader responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks on the world trade center in 2001 which killed 3000 Americans).  In that regard, the death of Bin Laden in last Sunday's daring raid on a sprawling Pakistan compound largely due to U.S. intelligence has kindled a fierce debate over just to what extent the Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques" contributed to the success of the operation as well as the appropriateness and efficacy of such techniques from a moral and legal perspective.  But again, don't just take my word for it.

"It is correct that today CIA Director Pendeta indicated that one of the individuals that provided valuable info had been waterboarded. I think that anyone who suggests that enhanced interrogation, let's be blunt, waterboarding,did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence isnt facing the truth. The facts are,Gen. Mike Hayden,who had no connection to waterboarding concluded that most of the intelligence came from the three men who had been waterboarded."-- Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense, 5/3/11

 The three men that both Obama CIA Chief Leon Panetta, Peter King, (R-NY) and the former Secretary of Defense above refer to were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.    

  While previous statements of Rumsfeld's that the Department of Defense procured no actionable intelligence from waterboarding at Guantonomo have been repeatedly misquoted out of context by the political left-- Rumsfeld subsequently explained he was only talking about alleged interrogations at Gitmo by the military, and NOT that done by CIA contractors at prisons in Eastern Europe during "rendition" where the controversial interrogation tactics were used to great success-- there is little doubt that it ultimately yielded the critical information about the identity of Bin Laden's trusted "courier" that led U.S. intelligence investigators to the Pakistan compound where Bin Laden was found.

  That however hasn't stopped the controversial interrogation tactics-- including that of "rendition" where an enemy combatant or terror suspect is taken to a foreign detention center overseas and out of the jurisdiction of American courts for aggressive interrogation techniques up to and including the water-boarding that Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed and the two other Al-Qaida terrorists were subject to during the Bush Administration-- from engendering a firestorm of debate.  Indeed, some of the techniques might well be considered "torture" if conducted on American citizens within the U.S. and subject to the same level of constitutional analysis that a typical and more common criminal case would be in the federal court system.  (Aye, but there's the rub, your average joe mohammed terrorist plotting mass murder just to make a political point is NOT typically a U.S. citizen and these are anything but "common" criminal cases, if only the Obama Administration would stop treating them as such!)  And this besides the fact that many military types-- in all probability including the very special-ops navy seal team which apprehended Bin Laden-- have voluntarily or as part of their training undergone such techniques with no lasting harm, (for an account of one who has written about the experience click HERE).

  But opponents, one of whom recently wrote me to protest what a "stain" on America such practices are, say that such techniques violate our fundamental constitutional values and only prove what the terrorists say about America as the "Great Satan."  Consequently, or so goes this narrative, they are used to recruit potential terrorists from Mid-eastern men who become "embittered" against the West by news of the interrogation tactics, (or, unfortunately, pictures).  Moreover, and in any case, such "torture" techniques --as opponents of such practices call them-- do not yield accurate or useful information anyway, (obviously one reason why the Obama Administration is fighting so hard to deny the former President's policies may have contributed to the apprehension of Bin Laden).

  Proponents of such techniques on the other hand say that to cling to Westernized Democratic concepts of constitutional "values" to appeal to still largely authoritarian and tribal societies who in all likelihood are going to hate us anyway is penny wise and pound foolish, and that in a crisis where a terror suspect in custody could provide "Jack Bauer" sort of "real-time" information that may be needed to stop an imminent and disastrous nuclear or chemical attack is not the time to "play nice," (especially so in an age when our attackers no longer come dressed in military fatigues and attack when and where we most expect them).

  According to this perspective, we simply must reserve the right for our military and intelligence communities to use whatever techniques as they deem helpful in stopping such attacks, and prohibiting them from doing so is simply naive and irresponsible.

 While it is admittedly a close call, and the debate is likely to rage on as long as we have those among us who would blow others up just because they don't agree with their beliefs or may not like our politics-- as a person who I recently met in a Starbucks near where I live stridently made clear-- it does seem to us, perhaps precisely because we don't find causing the deaths of thousands of innocent people just to achieve ones political ends at all rational, that whatever the merits of their political ends, (if there are any), the latter perspective makes more common sense from a "public safety" perspective in an age in which saving lives from wanton terrorist attacks must be the paramount deciding factor.   

  After all, while the blame-American-first crowd would certainly strenuously argue, as I'm sure my Starbucks friend and recent commenters would-- and our President publicly has-- that it is in fact American policies and arrogance that-- to quote Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright-- have caused the radical Islamist terrorists to "come home to roost," the bottom line as we see it is when one terrorist in custody has information on an active terror plot that could potentially kill tens of thousands of Americans, constitutional niceties such as reading terrorists miranda warnings and asking "please" just doesn't cut it.  Indeed, when it comes to stopping nuclear, chemical or other mass attacks that could kill thousands of innocent Americans in a population centers like New York City or Chicago in just moments, outright prohibiting such techniques for sake of a "principle" to benefit those who have none instead of allowing our President to make the tough choices necessary is akin to arguing over who forgot to change the battery in the smoke detector while the house is on fire.  

  And if the string of terror attacks and attempts in just the last few years is any indication, our house is indeed "on fire." 

 Moreover, to those who would emphasize constitutional principle over public safety we would like to point out this is no mere "academic" matter.  Rather, it is especially of great and timely interest going forward from Sunday's raid, as even prior to these recent events, warnings had been issued, ostensibly from high ups in the world-wide Al-Qaeda network, of dire consequences in the event their leader Bin Laden was killed or captured, see here and here.

  So it is with great interest we come to the former Defense Secretaries statements last night on Fox.  Now to be fair, surely some will say that he is just "covering" for his former boss.  Perhaps.

 However, also to be fair, and unless we are mistaken, he was also known recently to have opposed such practices personally, which, if true, would raise the credibility of his statements now.

 Add to that the fact that whatever his former employment, we see little reason to believe Mr. Rumsfeld would say things that could later, if proven untrue, undermine his own integrity and credibility.  Indeed, in addition to Donald Rumsfeld just seeming to us to be too much of a "shoot from the hip" straight-shooter kind of guy to beat around the Bush-- no pun intended!-- or care about political correctness, it makes little sense he would lie to defend his former employer who holds no sway over him now when he is a successful author and personality in his own right. 

 Between that and the Chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King's (R-NY) emphatic statements that he knows those who have personal knowledge of the intelligence gleaned from the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003 and that such information divulged the "nick name" of the human courier later identified from further interrogations of captured Al-Qaeda combatant Al-Libi in 2007 as the real-life courier of Bin Laden's which ultimately led U.S. intelligence to the compound in Iraq-- admittedly after further steps such as the electronic "pinging" of his cell phone--  we feel confident that in time the veracity of these accounts will be confirmed.  Indeed, when combined with declassified information from a 2004 GAO report supporting the assertions of efficacy of such techniques, (see yesterday's post), we feel the burden is on the other side to disprove such claims.

  After all, it's not as if Obama doesn't have reason to want to be seen as the "sole defender" of America against terrorism.  Indeed, his popularity in the polls have jumped nine points since announcement of the death of Bin Laden.  Let's just hope that the President will put the nation's good above his own political ambitions at re-election.  Our country just can't afford to play politics with the nations's safety.  jp

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