Released CIA documents show that interrogation of high-value detainees provided life-saving and attack-preventing intelligence
Back in May, as the controversy over detainee interrogation tactics used by the CIA heated up, former Vice President Dick Cheney had a simple request: release the documents.
By that, he meant various internal memos he had seen himself, memos which show that the interrogation of terrorist detainees were vital to saving American lives. The Obama White House had only selectively released memos, detailing the sensitive techniques but omitting any mention of results. During a national security address given on May 21, 2009, Cheney had this to say about interrogation, the memos, and the actions taken by the Obama White House:
In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations.
In top secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do. The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.
Our successors in office have their own views on all of these matters.
By presidential decision, last month we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know. We’re informed, as well, that there was much agonizing over this decision.
Yet somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.
Over on the left wing of the president’s party, there appears to be little curiosity in finding out what was learned from the terrorists. The kind of answers they’re after would be heard before a so-called “Truth Commission.” Some are even demanding that those who recommended and approved the interrogations be prosecuted, in effect treating political disagreements as a punishable offense, and political opponents as criminals. It’s hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.
Apart from doing a serious injustice to intelligence operators and lawyers who deserve far better for their devoted service, the danger here is a loss of focus on national security, and what it requires. I would advise the administration to think very carefully about the course ahead. All the zeal that has been directed at interrogations is utterly misplaced. And staying on that path will only lead our government further away from its duty to protect the American people.
Yesterday evening, the documents were released. And, though heavily redacted and devoid of any mention of “enhanced” interrogation techniques (only “interrogation” is mentioned), quite clearly we can see that the CIA’s work prevented terrorist attacks and worked to disrupt Al Qaeda and similar groups.
After the release of the redacted version of the CIA Inspector General Report on the interrogation program, the mainstream press chose to run with sensational over substance, reporting for example on a single instance where a CIA official crossed the line and incorporated a gun into the interrogation process rather than the many successes of the program.
The CIA Inspector General report was released along with several other documents pertaining to the report. All show that CIA interrogation of detainees yielded results. Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard posted a copy of an internal memo, currently circulating among congressional Republicans, which detail those successes explained in the CIA IG report:
- “Agency senior managers believe that lives have been saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali, and Al-Nashiri.” page 88 para 217.
- After the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques on the bomber of the USS Cole, “al-Nashiri provided lead information on other terrorists during his first day of interrogation.” pages 35-36, para 76.
- Hambali “provided information that led to the arrest of previously unknown members of an Al-Qa’ida cell in Karachi.” page 87 para 216.
- Intelligence derived from the CIA interrogation program led to a general increase in relevant intelligence reports, producing over 3,000 intelligence reports between 9/11 and the end of April 2003. page 86 para 213.
- A redacted entity “judge the reporting from detainees as one of the most important sources for finished intelligence.” Similarly, another redacted entity “viewed analysts’ knowledge of the terrorist target as having much more depth as a result of information from detainees and estimated that detainee reporting is used in all counterterrorism articles produced for the most senior policymakers.” page 88 para 218.
Also in the memo posted by Goldfarb, some highlights from other documents released along with the CIA IG report:
- “Results from the first al Qaeda HVT interrogated using the aforementioned enhanced techniques, Abu Zubayda, have been outstanding. . . . This has ultimately led to some instances of the US Government being able to neutralize Al Qaeda capabilities worldwide before there was an opportunity for those capabilities to engage in operations harmful to the United States.” CIA Business Plan discussing RDI program, page 13, March 7, 2003.
- “using the quality of the intelligence as the yardstick, the program has been an absolute success.” Interview with a senior CIA officer regarding CIA RDI program, page 1, para 2, July 17, 2003.
- “there was no other way CTC [CIA Counterterrorist Center] could have gotten the information they have obtained from the detainees.” Interview with a senior CIA officer regarding CIA RDI program, page 1, para 2, July 17, 2003.
- “detainees have provided information that led to the arrest of other terrorists Zubadayh provided information that led to the raid that netted Ramzi Bin al-Shibh.” Interview with a senior CIA officer regarding CIA RDI program, page 2, para 3, July 17, 2003.
- al Nashiri “is providing actionable intelligence” after the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques. Spot report regarding interrogation of al Nashiri, page 1, para 2, Jan. 22, 2003.
Furthermore, the internal Republican memo suggests that many more documents still have yet to be released, and are known to contain more evidence that the interrogations did in fact work. One such document, the CIA CTC [CIA Counterterrorist Center] Effectiveness Memo, states that “the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al-Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.”
This only serves to show that Barack Obama’s administration and the Democrats currently running the show on Capitol Hill wish to make a political game of our national security, and are willing to gamble American lives on an effort to portray the United States of America as a merciless bully, all the while concealing the true facts.
Friends and neighbors, we are at war. The brave American men and women in our intelligence community are on the front lines of that war. They protect American lives. The White House, however, is actively working against the interests of the United States of America, and should not be trusted with our safety and security. Every American should know this. Every person who frowns at the thought of enhanced interrogation must be told how it has worked.
Normally, at this point in a given piece, I feel compelled to give my impression on whatever issue is being fleshed out. In this case, however, anything I could say would be overshadowed by Dick Cheney’s own statement, made yesterday to the Weekly Standard:
The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks. These detainees also, according to the documents, played a role in nearly every capture of al Qaeda members and associates since 2002. The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions. President Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.