[Guest post by DRJ]
I’m not sure if this has been covered in the numerous prior posts on this topic but I haven’t followed every conversation in detail. In any event, it seems to be a topic that is of widespread interest. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe waterboarding is like abortion … it should be safe, legal, and rare. Given that I may be in the minority in that regard, This Post Is Not About Waterboarding.
However, since ABC reported that waterboarding has only been used by the US in three cases, that means the vast majority of terrorism detainees are not subjected to waterboarding. Therefore, I think we should talk about the techniques interrogators actually use, and this recent report addresses that topic:
“Everybody in the world believes that they know how we do what we do, and I have to endure it every time I turn around and somebody is making reference to waterboarding,” [veteran interrogator Paul] Rester said. He insisted that Guantanamo interrogators have had many successes using rapport-building and said that technique was the norm here.
For security reasons, he would only discuss one of the successes, and that was only because his boss, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, already had described it in a speech last month. Buzby said several detainees, using poster board paper and crayons, drew detailed maps of the Tora Bora area in eastern Afghanistan that enabled coalition forces to wipe out safe houses, trenches and supplies last summer as Taliban forces were returning to the stronghold they had abandoned more than five years ago.
Buzby, in a separate interview with the AP, said a U.S. commander in Afghanistan had requested the information on a Friday and it was obtained and sent to Afghanistan by the end of the weekend.
Rester indicated the interrogators casually asked the detainees about their knowledge of Tora Bora, not letting on that it was tactically important for a pending military strike. “And it may in fact, since it was five years old, have seemed totally innocuous to the persons we were talking to,” Rester said.
Buzby, the top commander of detention operations at Guantanamo, said the intelligence “had a very positive effect … for us and a very negative effect on the enemy operating in that area.” He declined to be more specific.”
I think we can all agree that it would be best if we could rely solely on rapport-building interrogation techniques or, as Rester calls them, normal techniques. Rester claims that more coercive (non-waterboarding) interrogation tactics were used on two detainees who refused to provide information using normal techniques. Lawyers for detainees scoffed at Rester’s statement, claiming there have been conflicting reports by detainees and FBI agents.
One detainee who Rester acknowledged was subjected to harsh interrogation has claimed that he was “beaten, restrained for long periods in uncomfortable positions, threatened with dogs, exposed to loud music and freezing temperatures and stripped nude in front of female personnel.” In other words, Abu Ghraib-type actions. If true, this is harsh treatment and while I doubt the more extreme tactics have been used much after Abu Ghraib, I’m unwilling to say these tactics should never be used. (But what do I know? I’m willing to waterboard in rare cases.)
Thus, I have two questions:
1. Do you support the use of harsh interrogation tactics like these and, if so, which ones and under what circumstances?
2. If you do not support the use of any harsh interrogation tactics under any circumstances, should military and CIA interrogations be subject to the same rules imposed on the police or do you support even more restrictive rules?