Friday, September 15, 2006

How much longer is this conversation going to go on?

I'm disgusted. I can't listen to the radio, watch TV, or surf the internet without running into reporting & commentary about the battle to create legislation for judicial proceedings against suspected terrorists.

I'm not disgusted about the reporting; frankly, I'm disgusted we've worked ourselves into this position.

First, note this: For the purpose of prying actionable information from suspects, torture is essentially useless...

Earlier this week, I read an article about the differences between FBI and CIA interrogation techniques. I wish I could find it now, but I can't. The article noted how the FBI method -- diligent, consistent, long-term, built on relationships -- has not only yielded actionable information but guilty verdicts in terrorism cases. The CIA's harsher tactics have yielded... well, nothing more than phantoms and whispered words.

This NY Times article wasn't what I read; it is however, on the same topic. Here's what they wrote about FBI techniques:
According to accounts from five former and current government officials who were briefed on the case, F.B.I. agents — accompanied by intelligence officers — initially questioned him using standard interview techniques. They bathed Mr. Zubaydah, changed his bandages, gave him water, urged improved medical care, and spoke with him in Arabic and English, languages in which he is fluent.
From today's press:
President Bush fought back Friday against a Republican revolt in the Senate over tough anti-terror legislation and rejected warnings that the United States had lost the high moral ground to adversaries. "It's flawed logic," he snapped.
I don't actually expect the President to listen to those who disagree with him, but Powell, Warner, and McCain speak with some authority. And, they're not generally illogical. Today, the
president called a Rose Garden news conference to confront a Republican rebellion led by Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.

To the administration's dismay, Colin Powell, Bush's former secretary of state, has joined with the lawmakers. Powell said Bush's plan to redefine the Geneva Conventions would cause the world "to doubt the moral basis" of the fight against terror and "put our own troops at risk."
What makes the Powell letter more remarkable is that he has, until this point, stayed above the fray. He towed the line -- a good soldier -- as Secretary of State. The situation is so troubling that he has now spoken out.

And the President isn't listening.
"When conservative military men like John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham and Colin Powell stand up to the president, it shows how wrong and isolated the White House is," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "These military men are telling the president that in the war on terror you need to be both strong and smart, and it is about time he heeded their admonitions."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "Instead of picking fights with Colin Powell, John McCain and other military experts, President Bush should change course, do what the American people expect, and finally give them the real security they deserve."
I just wonder; if we screw around with how we treat prisoners, what do we expect when one of our citizens, be it a soldier or a CIA operative or a tourist in the wrong place, is held and treated similarly?

Perhaps you remember some of the treatments. A year ago, ABC news reported on several of the techniques, including waterboarding, my personal favorite. Note, however, that this isn't torture (it can't be; we've done it, and the President has said we do not torture):
Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
Doing sh*t like that isn't going to help our cause, I assert. As quoted in a recent New York Times article, said Senator Graham recently:
We are not going to win the war by killing every terrorist with a bomb or bullet. You win the war by persuading those people in the Mideast to reject terrorism.
David Stout, the author of the piece, notes "Graham is an authority on military law."

The President noted today that CIA operatives interrogating prisoners "don't want to be tried as war criminals." No kidding. Maybe they ought to reconsider what they're doing. Perhaps the President ought to reconsider before he's brought up on charges as a war criminal.

No, I'm not suggesting he is; however, I note that the President of the United States is not above the law.

So what is to come of all this? I don't often read the Daily Kos, but I stumbled across this piece about the CIA vs. FBI debate which is worth reading.

And this piece by Jason Vest who offers a quote from Jack Cloonan, a veteran FBI agent and an expert on terrorism and terrorists:
At the end of the day, you have to ask: Was it worth it? It’s no more complicated than that. Pictures have been broadcast all over the world; eventually the stuff all leaks out. Have we gotten enough information out of [Guantanamo Bay] or anywhere else to justify the negative? I think the answer from the authorities will be, ‘We’ve gotten great information.’ I’m less and less inclined to believe that. There’s a certain naïveté in thinking that any schmuck taken off the battlefield on any given day -- or taken of a street somewhere and flown halfway around the world and being held incommunicado with no rights and no charges -- will know where bin Laden is or what’s going to be planned in Iraq or Afghanistan. And when those people start to get repatriated and go back, what are they going to tell people about America? That it was a great three or four years in a stockade or in some other security services’ cell? Maybe one or two people will say we’re a great country. But we’ve probably created 450 new terrorists.
Just what I thought. Put me in the stockades in GITMO for several years and then release me; even were I to start out as the most peaceful Quaker in the land, I'd likely spent my remaining days plotting some sort of terrorist response the the country which had stolen my very life.

So, what can you and I do? Engage in the debate; you don't need to agree with me, just do the research and think for yourself... and then write your elected representatives in Washington. You can find them here and here. Conservative, liberal, progressive... whatever your political bent, I'm pretty sure you'd agree wholesale torture is not the American way.

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