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Belmont Club

13 Rue Madeleine

April 30th, 2012 - 2:04 pm

Former CIA counterterrorism chief Jose Rodriguez says Nancy Pelosi lied when she declared she had not been briefed about the use of waterboarding, according to an article in the Washington Post.

In his new book, “Hard Measures,” Rodriguez reveals that he led a CIA briefing of Pelosi, where the techniques being used in the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida were described in detail. Her claim that she was not told about waterboarding at that briefing, he writes, “is untrue.”

“We explained that as a result of the techniques, Abu Zubaydah was compliant and providing good intelligence. We made crystal clear that authorized techniques, including waterboarding, had by then been used on Zubaydah.” Rodriguez writes that he told Pelosi everything, adding, “We held back nothing.”

… So we’re left with a “he said-she said” standoff? Not at all. Rodriguez writes that there’s contemporaneous evidence to back his account of the briefing. Six days after the meeting took place, Rodriguez reveals, “a cable went out from headquarters to the black site informing them that the briefing for the House leadership had taken place.” He explains that “[t]he cable to the field made clear that Goss and Pelosi had been briefed on the state of AZ’s interrogation, specifically including the use of the waterboard and other enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Have a little sympathy for former Speaker Pelosi. Like every other politician she has to square a circle. On the one hand she has to tell her liberal constituency that violence accomplishes nothing. On the other hand she has to make sure that nobody disturbs the illusion of a safe, gun-free environment by taking over a shopping mall and holding every one in it hostage.

People must never be told that upholding a high moral standard may be costly; that you may have to risk danger by refusing to resort to certain measures. No. The candidate must describe a world in which you can have your own cake and eat it too. It’s a world in which B-17s didn’t have to fly straight into flack to accurately bomb a target and not hit civilian targets. It’s a world in which you don’t have to make a choice between invading Japan and killing 5 million civilians and bombing Hiroshima and killing 70,000 civilians.

That’s the perfect world.

Unfortunately we don’t live in such a world. Jean Paul Sarte’s play The Dirty Hands explores the problem of guilty action. We mean well but it doesn’t always work out that way.

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The tragic thing about coercive interrogation is that it works. Anyone who has operated a clandestine network knows that the first thing a cell does when one of its members is captured is to regroup using methods that are unknown to the captured person. They do this because they anticipate that the lost member of the cell will break under torture. The only thing that a person under interrogation can do is hold out for long enough to his cell to scatter. People knew this once, long ago. That very few, perhaps no one, could hold out indefinitely. Not even James Cagney.

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