We’ve written many times about the valuable information that the CIA obtained through its enhanced interrogations of high-level al Qaeda detainees. We join former Vice-President Cheney in calling on the Obama administration, now that it has released the memos that assure any terrorists we may capture in the future that they won’t be harmed, to also declassify and release the memos that document the lives that were saved by using effective interrogation techniques rather than saying “pretty please.”
In today’s Washington Post Marc Thiessen, who like Cheney has first-hand knowledge of the successes gained through the CIA’s interrogations, points out that the memos released by the Obama administration document the effectiveness of the measures used–a fact that has generally gone unreported:
The memo continues: “Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will find out.’ ” Once the techniques were applied, “interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates.”
Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ” In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.
This, though is what I really want to point out: Thiessen notes that the portions of the memos that were declassified contain information about the successes of enhanced interrogation that is already in the public domain. Beyond that, however, Obama’s minions preferred not to go:
All this confirms information that I and others have described publicly. But just as the memo begins to describe previously undisclosed details of what enhanced interrogations achieved, the page is almost entirely blacked out. The Obama administration released pages of unredacted classified information on the techniques used to question captured terrorist leaders but pulled out its black marker when it came to the details of what those interrogations achieved.
Why would the Obama administration not want the public to see detailed and previously undisclosed information about intelligence successes achieved through enhanced interrogation? Why does that information need to remain classified, when the administration is happy to give terrorists a road map to our interrogation techniques, along with assurances that those techniques are intended only to frighten, and they will never really be harmed? How could our security be compromised by giving the American people the details on how successful the CIA’s program was?
It’s hard to think of any non-political answers to these questions. The logical inference is that Obama wants to release information that he thinks will smear the Bush administration, but does not want the American public to be fully informed about the benefits that were gained from the Bush administration’s policies–policies that he now proposes to abandon. All the more reason to join in Dick Cheney’s request that, if the administration is going to open the book on enhanced interrogation, the American people should be able to see the whole record.