I hope all of you have read today’s Wall Street Journal editorial about the CIA Inspector General’s report on interrogations. The WSJ editors capture the essence of the report in the sub-title of their piece: “Interrogations were carefully limited, briefed on Capitol Hill, and yielded information that saved innocent lives.”
John has already made the first point — that the CIA IG’s report shows “how humane our treatment of captured terrorists was intended to be, and generally was.”
The second point — that Congress was briefed on the interrogation program — takes on particular significance because it strongly suggests that Speaker Pelosi has not told the truth about this matter. As the WSJ editors put it:
The IG report belies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that she wasn’t told about all this. “In the fall of 2002, the Agency briefed the leadership of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of both standard techniques and EITs. . . . Representatives . . . continued to brief the leadership of the Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of EITs and detentions in February and March 2003. The [CIA] General Counsel says that none of the participants expressed any concern about the techniques or the Program . . .” Ditto in September 2003.
Finally, on the issue of effectiveness, the IG’s report is compelling:
While the report doesn’t take a position on the value of enhanced techniques, the facts speak loudly that they caused detainees to yield important information. The report notes that early on Zubaydah provided some information, but that the waterboard resulted in “increased production.” It also notes that since the use of the waterboard, “Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative.”
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was not waterboarded. “However,” says the report, “following the use of [enhanced techniques], he provided information about his most current operational planning as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of [enhanced techniques].”
Before and after — you can’t get better evidence than that.
Then there’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who directed the 9/11 attacks. The report cites him as the “most prolific” provider of information. Yet it later notes that KSM, “an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete.” The report explains that KSM was then waterboarded 183 times, and it redacts the rest of the section. This suggests that what interrogators gleaned was valuable enough that it requires classification even today.
This conclusion is buttressed by two other CIA documents released this week, one from 2004 and another from 2005, that outline interrogation results. One provides details of how interrogations brought down Hambali, mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings. KSM provided information about al Qaeda operative Majid Khan, who had been tasked with delivering money to an operative named Jubair. Khan, who had been caught, revealed information to capture Jubair, who divulged that he worked for Hambali, and provided information for Hambali’s arrest. KSM then admitted that Hambali’s brother was his likely successor, and that brother in turn provided information to take down an entire terrorist cell in Karachi. Hambali admitted these terrorists were to be trained to fly airplanes into U.S. targets.
My only quibble with the editorial is with its conclusion:
The outrage here isn’t that government officials used sometimes rough interrogation methods to break our enemies. The outrage is that, years later, when the political winds have shifted and there hasn’t been another attack, our politicians would punish the men and women who did their best to protect Americans in a time of peril.
It is not our politicians as a whole who are committing this outrage; it is a collection of liberal Democrats and Attorney General Holder.