The role of the CIA is different from that of the military. It is different from that of the FBI. It only stands to reason that interrogation practices should be shaped to serve their respective needs.
In the vast majority of cases, Petraeus said, the “humane” questioning standards mandated by the U.S. Army Field Manual are sufficient to persuade detainees to talk. But though he did not use the word torture, Petraeus said “there should be discussion … by policymakers and by Congress” about something “more than the normal techniques.”
There is no disagreement amongst interrogators- military, FBI, and CIA- that humane treatment and the relationship-building approach is the ideal model; even those interrogators involved in the CIA’s EIT program will say as much; even vocal “torture deniers” like Marc Thiessen will confess to it- and you won’t even have to waterboard him for him to admit to it. However, there may be extraordinary circumstances that call for extraordinary measures; and the CIA should have some flexibility to navigate outside the norms when it comes to saving American lives.
John McCain understood this at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing for General Petraeus. And he understood it back in 2008 when he, a vocal opponent of torture (and waterboarding), supported President Bush in 2008 on his veto of legislation that would specifically ban waterboarding (something that hadn’t been done since 2003; anyway and on only 3 committed, hardened terrorists):
McCain has said that, while he opposes waterboarding, he agrees with the Bush administration that the CIA needs to be able to use tactics banned by the military but which fall short of torture or cruel treatment.
“Limiting the CIA’s interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet. . . . If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the Field Manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives,” Bush said.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has also spoken out against the Senate bill and defended the methods as lawful and effective.
“The US Army and CIA clearly have different missions, different capabilities and therefore different procedures,” Hayden wrote in a message sent Saturday to CIA employees. “CIA’s program, a tightly controlled and carefully administered national option that goes beyond the Army Field Manual, has been a lawful and effective response to the national security demands that terrorism imposes.”
Even after President Obama’s executive order put an effective end to the CIA interrogation program shortly after he was sworn in (please note: His supposed “ban on torture” was redundant since its language basically reiterated Bush’s own 2007 EO), loopholes remained:
The new order prohibits interrogation techniques not in the Army Manual, but Hoekstra notes that it also includes a provision under which the attorney general could in the future provide, quote, further guidance, unquote, on what intelligence officers can and cannot do while interrogating detainees.
Rep. HOEKSTRA: That doesn’t sound much different than what we have today.
GJELTEN: It’s a balancing act for the Obama administration to ensure nothing like torture happens again during interrogation while at the same time, leaving room for whatever flexibility may be needed.
Petraeus, who said he opposed torture generally because “it’s the right thing to do,” expressed his preference for capturing rather than killing Al Qaeda militants, while pointing out that the CIA currently neither holds nor interrogates detainees.
One of Thiessen’s criticism of President Obama a year ago was in the (over)reliance of Predator drone attacks to kill rather than capture and interrogate al Qaeda operatives for intell information.
Liberals obsessed with calling the CIA interrogation practices under President Bush as “torture” are squirming uncomfortably over Petraeus’ Senate confirmation hearing statements on the issue, since they’ve been regarding him as an “anti-torture” hawk, like McCain.
Petraeus, incidentally, was mentioned by name in captured bin Laden documents.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.