In releasing the Justice Department memos from 2002 and 2005 on the enhanced interrogation techniques, the director of national intelligence noted that we look back on these events from a “bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009.” This perspective could have been much different. The successful defense of the homeland over the last 8 1/2 years was not an accident or simply good fortune. It was the result of major organizational change (Department of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence), a variety of government programs (NSA’s terrorist surveillance program, CIA’s detention and interrogation program, among others), and a host of military and civilian professionals doing an outstanding job every day. Weakening the programs and failing to support those professionals is wrong and undermines the safety of our country.
Liberals, in their zeal to smear the Bush Administration, paint with a broad brush and essentially argue that Americans mistreated everyone we came in contact with in our efforts to fight terrorists. They try to link the misdeeds of 20-year-old MPs at Abu Ghraib with “torture” sanctioned at the highest levels of government. It is a bridge too far as anyone who has read the countless reports stemming from investigations of Abu Ghraib can attest.
The CIA’s detention and interrogation program was run by professionals under carefully controlled conditions. If the released memos reveal anything, it is the strict guidelines and supervision involved in the interrogations. The memos also make a reasonable case that, under these carefully prescribed circumstances, the 13 specific techniques were not torture. Even liberals have a hard time arguing that a liquid diet or a facial hold is torture. Thus, they must group all of the techniques under the category of waterboarding. Reasonable minds can differ about the appropriateness of that technique, but under the controlled circumstances and doctor supervision, it bears no resemblance to anything done in North Korea in the 1950s.
It cannot be contested that the techniques were effective at eliciting information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed refused to talk until the techniques were applied. He then divulged information about a second wave of attacks. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives may have been spared as a result. But lost in the muddle of name-calling is the simple fact that only three detainees were ever subject to waterboarding. A tremendous amount of essential information was obtained through the less controversial techniques utilized by professionals.