Could Aggressive Interrogation Have Prevented the Paris Attacks?

On November 5, nine days before the terrorist attacks on Paris, a 51-year old Montenegrin was stopped on an autobahn by German police. The officers found a revolver in the man’s glove compartment and continued searching the car. They discovered that the vehicle had been professionally modified to create secret compartments for weapons. The cache reportedly included eight AK-47s, two pistols, two hand grenades, fuses, detonators and a half pound of TNT. The man had driven from Montenegro through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria before being stopped in Germany. The GPS in his car was set for Paris.

Since his arrest, the man reportedly has said nothing. French intelligence officials have now arrived in Germany to question him. They are a little late, unfortunately.

The police also found several Parisian telephone numbers and addresses in the car. It is now assumed that the Montenegrin likely was delivering weapons to the terrorists who carried out Friday’s attacks, or to other Islamic terrorists associated with them. The man, identified only as Vlatko, is said to be a Muslim, but that is really irrelevant. He may simply be an arms dealer, or a courier for an arms dealer. The salient point is that the danger he posed was obvious, and if he had been aggressively interrogated–using waterboarding, for example–he might have provided information that could have disrupted the attacks.

The Europeans have pretty unanimously condemned the United States for using harsh interrogation techniques, even though we have waterboarded, if my memory is right, a grand total of three people, and even though waterboarding does no physical harm. However, if it turns out that Vlatko’s addresses and phone numbers are those of some of Friday’s terrorists, or that he otherwise could have given information that might have averted the attacks, watch for the Europeans’ self-righteousness to evaporate quickly.