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Right Turn
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 05/09/2011

The left’s self-delusion about enhanced interrogation

On Fox News Sunday Juan Williams perfectly articulated in this exchange with Chris Wallace and Paul Gigot the left’s false narrative regarding the part enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) played in the killing of Osama bin Laden:

GIGOT: I mean, the fascinating big picture here is the degree to which the Obama policies have inherited and even expanded and built on what Bush did. The architecture here of the war on terror, whether it be permanent detentions, or almost permanent detentions, Guantanamo, secret rules for state secrets —

WALLACE: Drones.

GIGOT: Drones — I mean, those things, across the board —

WALLACE: Surge in Afghanistan.

GIGOT: He has taken those, and he has basically inherited them. And much like Eisenhower took Truman’s Cold War architecture, built on it and said this is now a permanent part of American policy, I think Obama has done that with the Bush anti-terror architecture.

It’s worked, and enhanced interrogations is part of that. That’s the one area where he has differed from Bush substantially, and yet here we have evidence that his biggest success was built on that.

WILLIAMS: We don’t have any evidence that his greatest success —

GIGOT: We do, too.

WILLIAMS: ... this is so petty, that somehow now Republicans are trying to say we must be sure to credit President Bush. President Bush deserves credit for what he did. He kept the country safe after 9/11; we did not have a subsequent attack.

But to somehow say it’s because we were engaged in enhanced interrogation, and that led — and it’s a very uncertain path that it leads directly to the murder of Osama bin Laden — it seems to me petty, and it seems to me an attempt to diminish President Obama. . . . it’s not in our values to pull out people’s teeth and eyeballs. And secondly, you know what? We can get that information in other ways.

You see, dwelling on EITs is only useful when it comes to labeling the Bush team war criminals. A crucial part in the death of the 9-11 mastermind? Oh, no, never mind. Is it “petty” to set the record straight after the current president and his liberal base decried the techniques as not only “torture” but as useless? Some would call that an essential reassessment.

Moreover, Williams is simply being untruthful when he says EITs didn’t contribute to bin Laden’s death and that we could have gotten the information by other means. The latter is unknowable (although certainly unlikely), and the former is factually incorrect.

As for the techniques, which certainly did not include pulling “out people’s teeth and eyeballs” (note the despicable inference that this is what the Bush administration authorized), Dick Cheney on the same program explained:

CHENEY: Well, I think we’ll know more in the days ahead, and a whole range of issues with respect to the bin Laden operation. But, as best I can tell, from the people I talked with and worked with, that when we talk about Jose Rodriguez, who ran the counter — the insurgency —

WALLACE: Counterterrorism.

CHENEY: — the counterterrorism program, Michael Mukasey, who was the attorney general, . . . Leon Panetta . . . all have said one way or the other that the enhanced interrogation program played a role. That is to say some of the early leads came out of that program. My guess is that’s probably the case that it contributed, just as did a number of other factors.

Later in the interview Cheney reiterated, “I think the program provides us with the capacity to collect that intelligence. And, again, that program, together with our terrorist surveillance program, those two things, I think, are the most important steps we took that kept us safe for seven years.”

Cheney makes the point that if we captured another high-value target like bin Laden “it’s not clear” we could employ EITs if needed to extract critical intelligence. It therefore would seem essential — not “petty” but essential — to relook at whether limiting interrogators to the Army Field Manual leaves us less able to conduct counterterrorsim.

Moreover, Cheney raised another critical reason why the EIT issue shouldn’t be swept under the rug:

WALLACE: As you know, the Obama Justice Department reopened an investigation of half a dozen CIA officers for whether or not they used undue force in interrogation after 9/11. This is an investigation that had been closed in 2007 during the Bush administration. Now, last June, Attorney General Holder said that this investigation was close to its end. It’s still going on.

CHENEY: Correct. It’s unfortunate. These men deserve to be decorated. They don’t deserve to be prosecuted.

And the fact of the matter is there was a complete investigation done. It was done by a career attorney in the Justice Department, concluded that nobody had violated the law, and the whole matter was closed.

The Obama people came in, Holder reopened it. And the investigation, I understand, is still underway today.

Now, these are our government employees. They did nothing wrong. As best as any of us knows, it was, in fact, a matter where they followed the policy set by the president of the United States, lawful decisions and lawful policy. And, now, we’re in a situation where the Obama administration won’t abide by the findings of the career lawyer who checked it out originally in the first place, but they have kept it open and refused to close it. . . . I’m saying it is an outrage that we would go after the people who deserve the credit for keeping us safe for seven and a half years. And that these men — all devoted, capable officials — shouldn’t have to look over their shoulder and worry that if they follow the orders of this president to carry out this interrogation program, that at some point down the road, when there’s a change in policy, that they can expect to be prosecuted. It’s a terrible precedent.

The White House and its liberal chorus might want to ignore these unpleasant facts, but the U.S. Senate should not. Confirmation hearings for the current CIA chief (named to replace Robert Gates as defense secretary) and the future CIA chief (Gen. David Petraeus) are coming up. I can’t think of a more fruitful line of inquiry than EITs: Did they work, are we putting ourselves at risk by eliminating them and why are we persecuting CIA operatives who played a role in extracting information that the current CIA director says helped us kill bin Laden?

And as for Williams, he is not alone in making up or ignoring key facts on this issue. It is a measure of how intellectually dishonest and unpopular has become the left’s argument on this topic.

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 05/09/2011

 
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