Last week, during Congressional hearings top security and counter terror executives agreed; another attempt at a terrorist attack was, essentially, imminent.
The President has placed severe limits on rational, legal intelligence gathering in the interest of protecting our “values”. The inherent problem with that sound bite is that the “value” that has been minimized is protection of the population. Many who agree with the President and consider enhanced interrogation to be torture also agree, under duress, that the price for the Presidents definition of “values” and the abandonment of enhanced techniques is American lives. Many more are not tortured (pun intended) by this trade off in the interest of terrorist sensibilities and shallow international opinion.
Terrorist related intelligence gathering is, in large measure, a function of the ability to capture and effectively interrogate terror suspects. The ability to identify, trace, disassemble networks and detain additional suspects to continue the chain of information is the goal. Identification of a progression of involved parties is what the exercise is, in part, about.
A significant majority of what we know about al Qaeda is the result of detainee interrogations utilizing enhanced methods. A significant and unsettling unknown for prior detainees was where they were and what would happen to them. Those unknowns set the broad context for effective interrogations. Those unknowns are now completely absent, in part due to the shut down of black interrogation sites and politically correct definition of “torture”. We have created the potential for a black hole of absent information. The actual facts of the KSM interrogations are proof of the necessity to securely hold detainees and to effectively interrogate them.
You may be gratified at the clean, video game, feel of things as we engage in Predator attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Don’t be! The administration has, apparently, replaced the idea of capturing terror suspects with killing them; values? Continuation of that policy dries up the potential flow of intelligence with each successful strike.
President Obama eliminated the potential for extended secret detention of terror detainees. Two weeks, that’s it! At that point the International Committee of the Red Cross must be notified with the concomitant guarantee of detainee information leaking. The option for executive extension of the two week period has been eliminated. Hold out for two weeks and you’re home free. Simple result: networks and cells now have the ability to roll up operations more quickly than before. As terror networks shut down contacts and operations, the potential for our intelligence personnel to follow the trail to bigger fish is eliminated. Where once, based on interrogations, we could watch as terror cells and networks operated for months on end, now have two weeks!
Fear not, potential terror suspects. Evidence indicates that you can expect constitutional guarantees, habeas corpus, lawyers and no potential that you will be subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Your personal copy of the Army Field Manual, in the language of your choice, insures you know exactly what will happen and what will not; no uncertainty, no fear! Just shut up and hang on for two weeks.
Based on the threat of prosecuting intelligence professionals that have been twice cleared the administration succeeded in creating the liklihood of a risk-averse culture surrounding the very people we need to support in taking rational risks. Same for the legal community that meticulously attempted to define the legal parameters for enhanced interrogation and may now be faced with disbarment for offering carefully constructed legal opinions which were demanded by President Bush in an effort to insure the legal lines were clearly drawn.
The current administration has exposed the memoranda and the details of the techniques involved. Were the administration to attempt to reestablish those techniques, their impact would be in question as the bad guys know exactly what’s coming and what the goals of enhanced techniques are.
The 1980’s saw an effort to amend the Geneva Conventions to cover terror suspects supported by the PLO. Many of our allies signed on to Protocol I. President Regan refused, based on his belief that POW protections for unlawful combatants and terrorists would encourage yet more terrorism. President Obama has essentially adopted the provisions of Protocol I as U.S. policy without the messy process of treaty approval. It will, as President Reagan projected, embolden terror attempts by reducing the price tag for those attempts. Encourage bad behavior and you’ll get more of it; a simple concept and yet seemingly foreign to the administration.
Military commissions were thrown off track as the result of two Supreme Court decisions instigated by self admitted left wing legal organizations. Many of those lawyers are now working for Attorney General Holder in the Justice Department. AG Holder’s own firm and many others were dead in the middle of a massive pro-bono effort to insure constitutional rights for illegal combatants well beyond the long standing historical context and legal precedence for this class of detainee. Of all the possible issues these firms could have committed pro-bono legal resources to; this is the one they choose. The intelligence community is well aware of where the legal muscle in Justice is these days, insuring risk-averse behaviors. Based on the literally thousands of pro-bono lawyer hours applied to detainees in Gitmo we may as well close it down. The restrictions on interrogation and the constant flow of legal resources render our intelligence gathering efforts essentially worthless as the ability to effectively gather and cross check secure information is nearly moot.
In the Karma department the administration has problems. Detainees that cannot be brought to trial and yet represent a serious danger and cannot be released are becoming a focus of these self same lawyers. Regardless of consequences these lawyers want these detainees tried or released, no matter potential liabilities. Pundits such as Jane Mayer, a fierce opponent of enhanced interrogations are now beginning to focus on the Predator attacks as inconsistent with our “values”. Incomprehensibly Ms. Mayer’s arguments against the drone attacks are the lack of an ability to gather intelligence. The U.N. has made noises that the Predator attacks may be a violation of international law.
The Abdulmutallab case is a clear reflection of attitudes and intents. It is also a clear reflection of the administrations willingness to expose information that should be closely held. “He’s talking again, see…. everything’s fine”. No, not really, because that family we flew over to convince him to talk is now under an undeclared but permanent death sentence from Jihadists.
The Fort Hood Report refuses to separate Islamic extremism from any other type of extremism despite the clear and generally accepted mind set of Major Hassan; proof positive that political correctness will not be easily eliminated from our discourse.
The Army Field Manual is designated as the only acceptable outline for interrogation of prisoners. The Army Field Manual exists in the context of legal combatants, POW’s. It assumes a viable definition of legal combatants and pays appropriate homage to the Geneva Conventions. Terrorists are, by administration implication, simply POW’s by another name. The manual provides more leniencies for terror suspects than what a cop on the street is allowed to do in a criminal arrest. The manual does not address acceptable procedures in the “ticking time bomb” scenario. By current policy, we have no acceptable procedures for the “ticking time bomb” situation short of direct Presidential intervention.
Effective security policy? You decide!