Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The Other McCain continues the waterboarding discussion. In a nutshell he finds it justified. So do I with the following caveats:

1. There is a difference between police work and intelligence gathering. I would never approve of this type of technique for use by any police agency. The popular hypothetical is the concealed WMD and the prisoner knows the location. Fine then turn him over to the CIA and let them handle it, afterwords make the prisoner disappear. This is not a police matter it's a national security matter.

2. Even when used in national security cases there has to be limits. One of the defining definitions of torture in US law is that it causes long term mental or physical harm. In the recent NY Times article it is claimed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times continuing, at superiors insistence, even after interrogators believed he had revealed everything he knew.

While I have a lot of difficulty feeling any pity for KSM this type of use, if true, would cross the line in my mind. The long term application is likely to cause both long term physical and mental problems and the fact that the on scene experts were recommending against it makes it seem unnecessary.

2a. Techniques of this type should always be a last resort and should require written justification. As soon as possible the chain of command should be briefed on their use. Except in the most exigent of circumstance they should never be undertaken without written approval. Not only does requiring justification and approval make it less likely that the techniques will be abused but it protects the agent who has to perform them. There should also be an internal review process so that results can be collated and tracked. If one interrogator is continually recommending enhanced interrogation with results that don't justify it he can be removed.

So there is the basis of my policy for harsh enhanced interrogation techniques.


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