It is certainly the prerogative of the new president to say “we are not going to do that anymore” and thus assume the risk and the responsibility of taking away one of the essential tools we have used since 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack. It is indefensible, however, for him to selectively release documents and waffle on partisan witch hunts. Whatever the press speculation has been, releasing the official memos that describe the 13 techniques hands al-Qaeda our playbook. One of the critical factors working in our favor during interrogations is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. That uncertainty is gone. Beyond that, the terrorist trainers must be quite encouraged. Now they know that if caught, they will get solid food, a good night’s sleep, and run no risk of being physically threatened. In other words, keep quiet and they can’t touch you.
The effect of all of this is to leave those on whom we depend feeling that they have again been left dangling because of political expediency. They will be less inclined to take risks, at least without consulting with a lawyer first. And other countries will think twice before working with us for fear of the political winds changing and their cooperation becoming exposed.
It is even worse for congressional leaders, such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was among the group regularly briefed on the program — including the specific techniques — now to call for some kind of “truth commission” when they know the truth firsthand. Speaker Pelosi and the other congressional leaders who were briefed on the program at least 30 times starting in 2002 deserve accolades for supporting the necessary actions to keep our country safe. It is sad that their willingness to defend the nation and support those who are on the front lines does not extend to a “bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009″ and beyond.