Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Torture, Waterboarding and Intelligence

The Left is now going into a tizzy with the expectation that Obama will immediately close GITMO, and even a bigger tizzy over what is to be done the prisoners held there. A secondary issue is that Newsweek, of all places, has now started hedging around over torture, or at least the accuracy of the results of what they call torture.

An example of this is posted in Talk Left. The following is an expansion of a comment I published there this morning. The Newsweek article is here.

Definitions - Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, loud noise, temperature extremes and insulting cultural mores are not torture.

Waterboarding is rigorous interrogation that should not be routinely used, but reserved for situations where the expected results are important, and should be supervised at the highest levels.

I provide that so someone can't later claim I am for actual torture. Having defined that, I will say again that information obtained, either true or false is helpful, and that all information can be vetted for accuracy. And even then the results may not be 100% accurate.

Let me provide an example.
“Son, where did you and Bob go last night?”
“Oh, we went to the movie.”
“Was it good? What’d you see?”

Now you, knowing that Marley is no longer being shown at any movie theaters know that you have been lied to. It also lends credence to the information that someone has given you that they saw Bob and your son cruising in an area that is known to be used for street dope sales.

Intelligence information does not always consist of, a la Jack Bauer, "The bomb is in a trash can at 24th and Main!" It requires careful putting together of a mosaic of information to reach a conclusion.

But we all make decisions based on partial information on many things. Most of them are not important, some are more so.

The Doctor says, “We need to do exploratory surgery. Now, we have had good results, but there is some hazard…” Should you decline or decide to accept the risk to allow an early diagnosis and treatment?

And if you want to really see an example, just read the warnings and side effects of various drugs.

The Plame affair, to return more closely to the issues of intelligence, is instructive. Wilson was sent to Niger to determine if the reports that Iraq had purchased uranium was true. He reported to the CIA that Iraq had not, but that the ex-PM of Niger had said that they had sought to do so. The CIA found that this information was useful because it confirmed other information.

Wilson later claimed that the purchasing documents were false, although he admitted that he may have misspoke to the Washington Post because he could not known that since he had not seen the document. And they were false, but of course that wasn’t the point, said point being lost in all the brouhaha over Mrs. Wilson’s name.

The “attempt” to was correct and confirmed that Saddam was determined to produce nuclear weapons. We now know that he had not yet done so, but we also know that he had plans in place and was working towards doing that as soon as sanctions were removed.

Senate Intelligence Committee report.

As UN Chief Inspector David Kay said, “….now believes that any weapons the Iraqis had were probably destroyed before 1998. "There were continuing clandestine activities but increasingly driven more by corruption than driven by purposeful directed weapons programmes," argued the 63-year-old former diplomat and sleuth.”

Guardian article.

How does the thought of a corrupt regime selling nuclear and biological weapons to al-Qaida sound?

But even prior to that comes the question, how should the prisoner be designated?
It is obvious to anyone, I believe; if the prisoner is a prisoner of war, then the GC rules apply. And if they fall into certain other categories the GC rules apply.
But these prisoners meet no category of the GC. They are not POW's. They are illegal combatants, terrorists, guerrillas. There is no nation state to return them to after hostilities cease. There is no army that they wear a uniform for. When you set them free they are apt to attack again.

Citing a memo prepared for him by his staff, Hunter proceeded to discuss some of the at least 10 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo, only to re-join the fight against the U.S. coalition bringing democracy to Afghanistan…….

One of the more notable cases involved Mohammed Ismail (search), one of two teens held at Gitmo until he was let go last year. He was recaptured four months later fighting American troops in Afghanistan. The memo notes that at the time of his capture Ismail was carrying a letter "confirming his status as a Taliban member in good standing."

"One of the most publicized cases, Mr. Ismail, was released to great fanfare at Guantanamo," Hunter said. Ismail "did a press conference at which he thanked the United States for educating him, because we teach them to read and write at Guantanamo."

Link to source.

It would be interesting to see what would have happened had the Bush administration designated these people POWs. Under GC rules they would be retained until hostilities ended, which in this undeclared war could be years and years.

If that had happened, would we now be seeing the Left claim they are not POWs and demand they have Combatant Status Review Tribunals to see if they should be released? (That is how the process works.)

Link to source.

I mention the above because until you decide that, you can go no further, unless you are of the opinion everyone is to be treated as a POW, except differently.

The "difference" is a requirement for a full up US type criminal justice trial with all the rules of evidence, etc.

The above, I believe, is a accurate statement of the beliefs of the Left.

The result of those beliefs, I believe, has now dawned on some of the media, as well as Obama and some of his staff. Said result is that guilty terrorists may well be set free to kill again. And that information obtained through rigorous interrogation is useful and is needed in what is a guerilla war.

So with Bush gone you are apt to see a good bit of twisting and turning as the realities of the world sinks in, and that the responsibility now rests with Obama. He will reap the success and he will reap the failures. So have all Presidents.