Thursday, February 14, 2008

Will the Real CIA Interrogators Please Admit Their Age?

White House mouthpiece Dana Perino gave another flimsy excuse for the Bush administration needing to torture people in American captivity. It turns out the Army Field manual is not the standard for interrogation anymore. Her excuse for the change? Young people, not old enough to drink, need explicit guidance on how to treat enemies in their hands. At the White House Press Briefing Dana had this to say:

This is done at the CIA, and it is done by professionals who are given hundreds of hours of training, who are — I think General Hayden said an average age of 40; who are being asked to do very hard work in order to protect Americans. The Army Field Manual is a perfectly appropriate document that is important for young GIs, some so young that they’re not even able to legally get a drink in the states where they’re from.

But Dana isn't the only one changing stories. Even John McCain flip flopped from his years ago position:

Senator John McCain (Republican), a former US navy pilot who was captured and tortured in Vietnam, wants an unequivocal ban on all "cruel and inhuman" treatment of prisoners in US custody, including those held by the CIA.

Why do I have a recollection of inexperienced CIA agents being blamed for interrogations gone awry? A look back at news reports show:

1. ABC's sources said that just over a dozen CIA interrogators were trained and authorised to use the "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

2. In a CIA facility in Kabul known as the "Salt Pit", an officer, described as young and inexperienced, used the "cold treatment" on a detainee, who was left outdoors, naked, throughout a freezing Afghan night. He died of hypothermia. The case is being investigated, along with several others in Afghanistan and Iraq where interrogators - CIA officers, civilian contractors or members of the special forces - went well beyond the guidelines and suspects died as a result.

3. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was US Secretary of State, said last week that he knew of more than 70 "questionable deaths" of detainees under US supervision up to the end of 2002, when he left office. That figure, he added, was now around 90.

4. America's covert forces are operating in a climate of impunity, described by Cofer Black, then CIA counter-terrorism chief, who told a congressional committee in 2002: "After 9/11, the gloves were off." At one point, according to Newsweek, the Bush administration formally told the CIA it could not be prosecuted for any technique short of inflicting the kind of pain that accompanies organ failure or death.

5. The CIA went ballistic when a former agent revealed prisoners had been waterboarded.

6. Military and CIA leaders lamented the impact of TV agent Jack Bauer.

US Army Brigadier General] Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise — that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security — was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires”...

Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally.

7. Meanwhile Bush high ups praise the Bauer model.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has said that "24" "frankly, . . . reflects real life" in presenting scenarios with "no clear magic bullet to solve the problem," and to former CIA Director James Woolsey, who has said that "24" is "quite realistic" about the threats that it depicts. And then there's the pop culture shout-out from former presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who said that if the government captured a would-be suicide bomber, "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that point, let me tell you."

8. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly defended that same fictional federal agent in 24, who often tortures terrorist suspects to save lives.

9. Harper's reported the psychologist used to create the urgent interrogation techniques were themselves inexperienced.

10. Yet, an experienced interrogator's knowledge and wisdom are ignored.

So who needs explicit instruction on interrogation, Dana? It looks like everyone needs to go back to school. Please implement "No White House Left Behind," and that includes wannabe's:

"I made it very clear that I think that waterboarding is torture and illegal, but I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual," McCain said before voting against holding the CIA to the field manual, which bans waterboarding.

And what does the Field Manual prohibit? It forbids eight methods including waterboarding, forced nudity, electric shock, use of dogs and mock executions. It looks like McCain's unequivocal ban got equivocated.

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