Jake Tapper anchors “The Lead” at 4 p.m. on CNN. He comes at his guests with short, direct questions, listens to the answers and plows through his interviews. Rarely does he come off as “dumbfounded,” as he confessed today after a tense interview.
Now behold the discussion that he had this afternoon — moments ago — with former CIA director Michael Hayden, who has been making the media rounds to defend his actions in light of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the agency’s interrogation methods.
One of the things that the CIA did, as exposed in the report, has been getting a fair amount of rotation in news reports about the report. Let the New York Times take it away:
In exhaustive detail, the report gives a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects. Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.”
Seems like a strong material for a question to put before the ex-CIA director. So Tapper opened a discussion of “unauthorized” procedures, and cited rectal dehydration as an example. Away they went:
Hayden: No, stop! That was a medical procedure. That was done because of detainee health — that the people responsible there for the health of these detainees saw that they were becoming dehydrated. They had limited options in which to go do this. It was intravenous with needles, which would be dangerous with a non-cooperative detainee; it was through the nasal passages —
Tapper: Pureeing hummus and pine nuts and —
Hayden: Jake, I’m not a doctor and neither are you, but what I am told is this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated; these were medical procedures. To give you a sense …
Tapper: You’re really defending rectal rehydration?
Hayden: What I’m defending is history. To give you a sense as to how this report was put together — this activity, which was done five times and each time for the health of the detainee, not part of the interrogation program, not designed to soften him up for any questioning. The committee, the Democrats on the committee, have used one half-assed unwarranted comment in one e-mail to justify the story that you have now bought hook, line and sinker that we use this to abuse other human beings.
Tapper: Well, without question, the CIA has acknowledged abuses, right, and I’m talking about rectal rehydration. The report says that it was unnecessary and that it was forced, and you’re disputing that.
Hayden: The report, referring to one e-mail with one very bad-taste comment, has used that e-mail to make this judgement. Now, don’t you think they should have talked to someone. What did you mean by this?
Tapper: Let me grant you the point right now that the committee should have interviewed witnesses. A hundred percent I agree with you. And let’s even say that it would be better if this report were a bipartisan report and the entire committee signed off on it. I agree with all of that. I’m a little dumbfounded that you’re saying that rectal rehydration, which I’ve never heard of — when they force-feed prisoners in Guantanamo, I can understand that’s being done in the name of keeping those prisoners alive because there’s no other way to keep them alive. I’ve never heard of it being done rectally and the report seems to make clear that it’s a method of interrogation.
Hayden: No, it wasn’t a method of interrogation, and why do you presume, automatically without any further evidence, that we were doing it for interrogation purposes but it’s just and noble when being done at Guantanamo?
Tapper: It is described as a method of torture —
Hayden: Described by whom?
Tapper: In the Senate report.
Hayden: They an objective observer? … Did they talk to witnesses? We’re coming full circle, Jake.
Tapper: We have already agreed that they should have talked to witnesses.
Hayden: You say they should have talked to witnesses and now you’re accepting their conclusion.
The interview then moved onto another topic. As he wrapped up the segment, Tapper again proclaimed himself “dumbfounded.”
And he wasn’t finished:
Physicians for Human Rights calls “rectal rehydration” “a form of sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment” http://t.co/y6O4VvTbPm
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 11, 2014
Just for purposes of reference: Here is where the report cites (page 111) the CIA’s chief of interrogations quote about rectal rehydration and “total control” of the detainee.