Saturday, June 21, 2008

We Will Know Them By Their Incompetence

The New York Times has a story about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and, sure enough, there's another reason to condemn the Bush administration buried in the details:

In the Hollywood cliché of Fox’s “24,” a torturer shouts questions at a bound terrorist while inflicting excruciating pain. The C.I.A. program worked differently. A paramilitary team put on the pressure, using cold temperatures, sleeplessness, pain and fear to force a prisoner to talk. When the prisoner signaled assent, the tormentors stepped aside. After a break that could be a day or even longer, Mr. Martinez or another interrogator took up the questioning.

Mr. Martinez’s success at building a rapport with the most ruthless of terrorists goes to the heart of the interrogation debate. Did it suggest that traditional methods alone might have obtained the same information or more? Or did Mr. Mohammed talk so expansively because he feared more of the brutal treatment he had already endured?

A definitive answer is unlikely under the Bush administration, which has insisted in court that not a single page of 7,000 documents on the program can be made public. The C.I.A. declined to provide information for this article, in part, a spokesman said, because the agency did not want to interfere with the military trials planned for Mr. Mohammed and four other Qaeda suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The two dozen current and former American and foreign intelligence officials interviewed for this article offered a tantalizing but incomplete description of the C.I.A. detention program. Most would speak of the highly classified program only on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Martinez declined to be interviewed; his role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety. The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request...

The very fact that Mr. Martinez, a career narcotics analyst who did not speak the terrorists’ native languages and had no interrogation experience, would end up as a crucial player captures the ad-hoc nature of the program. Officials acknowledge that it was cobbled together under enormous pressure in 2002 by an agency nearly devoid of expertise in detention and interrogation.

“I asked, ‘What are we going to do with these guys when we get them?’ ” recalled A. B. Krongard, the No. 3 official at the C.I.A. from March 2001 until 2004. “I said, ‘We’ve never run a prison. We don’t have the languages. We don’t have the interrogators.’ ”

In its scramble, the agency made the momentous decision to use harsh methods the United States had long condemned. With little research or reflection, it borrowed its techniques from an American military training program modeled on the torture repertories of the Soviet Union and other cold-war adversaries, a lineage that would come to haunt the agency.

We kind of suspected this all along--when faced with the question of what to do when it came time to do what was necessary to defend America, the Bush Administration went with the Soviet option. Oh, and they videotaped it. And lost the videos, of course. But it was legal. Except it wasn't.

The fact that Condoleeza Rice was the National Security Advisor at the time--and is heralded by anyone who still believes it as an "expert" on the former Soviet Union--do you think she was the one who suggested that they go with the Soviet techniques? Do you think someone like Bob Woodward or David Broder would ask that question? Do you think anyone in the elite media is going to make that connection?

Is anyone paying attention when these little details emerge?


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