Mr. bin Laden, Would You Care To Chat?
A year later we're sorry to report that the McCain Amendment is creating obstacles to getting actionable intelligence via interrogation. The Army has released a new version of its Field Manual, which is available on the Internet for all to see. And the Manual makes it plain that Iraqi and Afghan insurgents can expect gentler treatment than common criminals get from American police.These are not the tools one wins a war with. What will it take to undo John McCain's damage, another massive loss of live that occurred because we couldn't gather intelligence? And if you think the CIA will be less restricted and more effective, think again:
In only one respect does the Field Manual recognize any difference between lawful and unlawful combatants: The latter may be separated from their compatriots. Otherwise, terrorists who have violated the rules of war by targeting civilians and fighting out of uniform are to be treated exactly like POWs and considered honorable fighters who have a right to keep their secrets.
So Iraqi and Afghan insurgents won't even face the prospect of your average good cop/bad cop routine. The manual allows for a watered down version called "Mutt and Jeff" in which interrogators can affect different personalities. But the Manual admonishes strongly that the intelligence "collector must be extremely careful that he does not threaten or coerce a source. Conveying a threat may be a violation of the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice]." We kid you not. "Mutt and Jeff" is the worst that Abu Musab al Zarqawi could have expected from the Pentagon had he been captured alive.
And what if he had been turned over to the CIA? The permissible methods for the spy agency remain classified, and on a visit to our offices last week Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would say only that the CIA would engage in no conduct that "shocks the conscience." He added that this concept was context-dependent, since the "shock" threshold may be higher with the likes of KSM--who planned 9/11--than for ordinary detainees. At least we hope it is.The disgusting thing is that the second-guessers on Capital Hill will, after thousands of Americans lose their lives because of their flawed priorities, second-guess the failures of whatever unfortunate administration is unable to stop the next attack because of horribly distorted views of what constitutes torture.
In theory, this means there's still room to employ some of the aggressive techniques -- such as stress positions, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes -- that have been used successfully against al Qaeda bigwigs. But in practice we fear those approaches are a thing of the past. Reports that CIA interrogators have been buying legal insurance in the expectation of future prosecution are another way of saying that they will no longer use aggressive methods that could be second-guessed on Capitol Hill.
Related Tags: Terrorism, War on terror, Islamofascist, Islamofascism, McCain, Torture