Thursday, May 5, 2011

Enhanced Interrogation & The Death Of Bin Laden

The fact that we found bin Laden has had an unfortunate consequence for the left - it has shined a spotlight on the fact that Obama has virtually gutted our most important tool in the war on terror - the ability to gain intelligence by interrogating high level terrorists. The unassailable fact is that the seeds that allowed us to finally locate bin Laden arose out of interrogations of high level detainees who had been subject to the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Probably no one does a better job of laying this out than Ace at Ace of Spades:

1. 2003: Enhanced Interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad Results in the Nom De Guerre of bin Ladin's Courier. . . .

2. 2004: Enhanced Interrogation of al-Qahtani Confirms the Nom De Geure of bin Ladin's Courier. . . .

3. 2006 (?): Enhanced Interrogation of an Al Qaeda Captured in Iraq, Ghul, Produces the Real Name of the Courier. . . .

4. 2006-2009: NSA Begins Furiously Intercepting Any And All Communications Made By Anyone "al-Kuwaiti" Has Ever Known. . . .

5. Late 2010 (?): al-Kuwaiti Places a Very Ill-Advised Phone Call [that gives away his location]. . . .

6. 2011: Surveying Abbottabad, We Grow Confident We've Found Bin Ladin's Hideout. . . .

Do read the whole post as it both goes into detail while responding to the NYT and others who are busy indeed trying to pretend that enhanced interrogation played no or minimal role in finding bin Laden. (Likewise is this post from Ace on the same topic.)

Honestly, watching the left trying to spin this is like watching small children with their fingers in their ears stamping their feet in a tantrum while they scream: "Enhanced Interrogation is TORTURE, it is EVIL, and it had NO BEARING on our ability to find bin Laden." It would be merely pathetic were it not that our national security is very much at issue.

As a threshold matter, it bears repeating ad infinitum that, despite the labeling by the left, none of the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques - including waterboarding - rose to the level of "torture" as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture and U.S. law. It is also worth a reminder just how Obama and the left have gone about completely gutting our ability to interrogate high level al Qaeda detainees. As I wrote in a post last year:

Obama superimposed his warped morality on the mosaic of our national security. Obama baldly – and wrongly - slapped a label of “torture” on waterboarding and all the techniques of enhanced interrogation. In his effort to demonize the right and establish himself as the nation's Arbiter of Morality In Chief, he began to war on the CIA.

He allowed a witch hunt to go forward against the Office of Legal Council (OLC) attorneys who authored legal opinions responsive to questions asked by the CIA. The subject of those opinions was the legality of certain interrogation techniques. Obama thus ensured that, perhaps for decades to come, we will have risk averse intelligence agencies and that no OLC attorney in their right mind will ever again give legal approval to anything remotely controversial, regardless of what the law and precedent may be.

Obama's next step, in April [2010], was his decision to declassify those portions of the OLC opinions that suited his purpose of attacking the Bush regime. But Obama withheld – and does so even to this day – fully unredacted copies of memos showing that the enhanced interrogation techniques were at the heart of our success in the war against terror during the Bush years.

Assuming that a recent Rasmussen poll regarding U.S. attitudes towards waterboarding and interrogation of the undiebomber is accurate, Obama has clearly failed to convince the nation that his morality should trump his duty to use all legal means to see to the safety of Americans. Yet Obama, ever the ideologue, in his most recent speech, chastised his critics for their moral failings in disagreeing with him.

Obama further damaged the standing and morale of the CIA when, after Nancy Pelosi called the CIA liars over the substance of her briefings on waterboarding, Obama remained silent and allowed the charges to stand. By all accounts, morale at the CIA is at its nadir.

Not satisfied with merely ending the “waterboarding,” Obama went far beyond that. Almost as soon as he took office, Obama not only tossed out all of the techniques of “enhanced interrogation used by the CIA, he limited future interrogations to those 19 techniques used in the Army Field Manual. But the reason enhanced interrogation techniques were developed in the first place was because those techniques set out in the field manual, while they had historically yielded results in over 90% of interrogations since the WWII, proved near worthless when it came to interrogating the religiously motivated fighters of al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Ultimately, Obama took the step of taking the CIA out of the interrogation business. As of August, 2009, all high level interrogations were solely to be carried out by a team controlled by the FBI and under direct White House oversight.

The death of bin Laden should in fact bring the issue of interrogation and enhanced interrogation front and center. Since Obama took office, we have not interrogated a single high level al Qaeda operative. Obama would much rather kill them than have to deal with interrogating them. Nothing proves that more than raid on the bin Laden compound, where only one of the four men, all al Qaeda operatives, was armed and fired on the SEALS. Nonetheless, all four men on the compound were killed. Why were none, including bin Laden and his wife, captured? They could have been captured easily we now know. Unfortunately, by doing otherwise, we cost the U.S. the single greatest intelligence find we could possibly ever have grasped. It is a travesty.

We can either have the argument about enhanced interrogation now, or we can have it later, following the next major successful terrorist attack from al Qaeda or its clones. To date, the two major attacks, the Times Square Bomber and the Undiebomber, were thwarted not by the Obama administration acting on intelligence, but rather by some combination of the grace of God or terrorist incompetence. The only thing of which we can be sure is that more similar attempts will be made. Nonetheless, Obama and the left hope to put the argument off until after the 2012 election, irrespective of what that means for our national security.

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