On Sunday, the British ambassador to the United States said Britain was close to identifying Foley’s killer.
A number of possible identities have been suggested by British media although sources on both sides of the Atlantic have told Reuters that there was little likelihood of the British government naming the suspect imminently.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Foley and at least 3 other captives are known to have been waterboarded:
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
I can believe America’s enemies probably were inspired to waterboard because of all the media hype and hysteria over the issue; but I find it difficult to believe it was modeled with the same exact guidelines that the CIA were restricted to operate under, including time limit and doctor-supervised. And it absolutely did not serve the same purpose: The CIA used it (on only 3, worst of the worst HVDs) not for the purposes of confessions or obtaining information- but to induce a state of cooperation by making the HVDs feel that their situation was hopeless and could only be made better by working with the CIA debriefers. For ISIS, does anyone doubt waterboarding was performed merely for the sake of gratuitous pleasure? Certainly they weren’t doing it because Foley or the other captives had intelligence information on them that could save the lives of Muslim civilians who might be attacked by the West.
“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” said a U.S. official, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
The blame-Bush Firsters are drawing the correlation; and calling out hypocrisy because the Bush Justice Department did not call waterboarding torture when our CIA did it; yet we are ready to label it exactly that when it has been done by Islamic terrorists. Perhaps they do have a point there. However, even had the CIA never operated a Detention and Interrogation Program that incorporated “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”- mischaracterized as being far worse and far more severe than they were- does anyone really believe that these global jihadis are only “acting out” and torturing people (American, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim- you name it!) because of the CIA, GITMO, and abu Ghraib? (and of what good would releasing photos at this time in history, serve, aside from jihadi propaganda and recruitment?) Even in the absence of American abuses and scandals, these perverse Islamist terrorists would still be torturing and executing with gruesome violence.
“They [Islamic State militants] believe these actions serve them,” said Scott Stewart, vice-president of tactical analysis for the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor.
“For months, they’ve been beheading, amputating the hands of thieves, crucifying people in areas they control in Syria,” said Stewart, a former special agent with the U.S. State Department who was involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations.
“Despite these barbaric displays … it’s been successful. They’ve been able to grow and flourish, and they have been able to attract people to their cause despite this barbarity — perhaps because of it.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release their 6,200 page, 5 year “torture” report for the general public (and America’s enemies) consumption. It will happen, though, in the absence of Republican participation, as well as being without the input of the very people intimately involved in the CIA Program- the interrogators and CIA officials themselves.
Of what possible good does this do for America? It only reignites partisan divisions and provides propaganda for America’s enemies. It will not lead to the criminal prosecution of President Bush or anyone involved with the Bush Administration, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, or with any CIA officials. Nor will it help us move past this by “owning up to the sins of our past”. Waterboarding (of only 3 HVDs- the worst of the worst) as a CIA practice effectively was ended not by President Obama but in 2006 under Bush; and no HVD had been waterboarded since 2003.
And putting aside, for a moment, the controversy over whether or not the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program (specifically those who received EIT treatment- about 30 of the 100 in the CIA program) yielded any results and actionable intelligence, let’s pretend, shall we, that we have an ISIS captive, known to have beheaded and crucified others, believed to have knowledge of the whereabouts of current ISIS captives as well as the name and location of Foley’s executioner. He’s been trained to resist standard interrogation practices. Would any of you protest were he subjected to something as harsh as waterboarding (again, put aside for a moment the question of whether or not it or any of the other EITs obtained positive results)?
Would any of you shed a tear of guilt or feel we’ve sacrificed our values were we to waterboard Foley’s killer to induce a state of cooperation in him, in order to debrief him for intelligence information on his colleagues? In order to save lives?
One of the 3 HVTs in CIA custody who received the waterboard treatment is KSM. KSM, for anyone with short memory, beheaded another journalist. Daniel Pearl. It’s confirmed. This happened before OIF. Before Abu Ghraib. Before the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program and EITs. Nothing the CIA could possibly have done to KSM amounts to this level of barbarism.
But lets keep wringing our hands over abu Ghraib photos of 10 years ago; let’s keep lamenting over CIA waterboarding (of only 3 HVTs!), release a partisan investigation; let’s blame Bush and Cheney for the waterboarding of Foley and for the rise of ISIS; and let’s keep bellyaching over why they aren’t being tried as war criminals.