Friday, April 17, 2009
One of my biggest concerns about Obama was always that I felt he was weak on national security and I felt he would make the nation less safe. I never thought he would actually deliberately put the nation at risk, I don't mean it in that way, but that I believe he is naive in the ways of our enemies and holds too much to the "if they love us they won't hurt us" philosophy.
The release of the torture memos just confirms this in my mind.
The techniques of waterboarding and sleep deprivation have already been widely reported, Obama, early on, prohibited their use, and there is no real serious legal reason to release these, so why do it?
In any important decision, you have to weigh the benefits against the consequences and make a determination which is the best thing for you to do. So what are the benefits in releasing these memos? That the world will love us? To the contrary - the world will look at these and only feel affirmation in their disgust of Americans, an affirmation which is confirmed by Obama's constant apologies for America.
The consequences involved in releasing the memos is not so much that they reveal that we waterboarded prisoners (three, actually), but that it slams the door for any future president to possibly reinstate any of the interrogation methods. Obama has, as Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey said in the WSJ this morning, effectively tied his own hands and not just his own but those of everyone else.
Professor William Jacobson made a good point in his post on the subject when he said that, "What is important to note at the outset, however, is to distinguish between the law and morality. Not everything which is immoral is illegal" [emphasis mine]. Jacobson analyzes the legalities involved of the torture statute and you should take a look at that.
So putting a guy in a confined area with a caterpillar and telling him it will sting him is now illegal torture? It might be cruel, but it's not torture, but that's another issue.
Should we capture Bin Laden and bring him to an interrogation room, we are now restricted to only the Army Field Manual as an interrogation guide. Child's play for someone like Bin Laden. I'm pretty sure he's not afraid of caterpillars either.
As Mukasey and Hayden point out, and any good law enforcement officer would tell you, there is a difference between interrogation and intelligence. With interrogation you already know the answers. Intelligence would be information you don't have yet but can confirm. Big difference.
Hayden discloses that "as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations."
What American could disagree with the fact that knowing about al Qaeda and how they operate absolutely makes us a safer nation?
These are not common, battleground informants that we're concerned with when it comes to intelligence gathering. We're talking about terrorists that cut off people's heads (remember Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg?) They will not care if America no longer deprives them of sleep or puts them in cages with caterpillars. We must retain the ability to gather information from hardened terrorists when it comes down to saving American lives, otherwise we're simply dealing with these prisoners in a penal, law enforcement capacity rather than an intelligence gathering capacity and this is a huge mistake.
America now finds itself in the position of being unable to effectively interrogate prisoners for the purpose of gathering intelligence because we have now given away our secrets, our methods, and have enabled our enemies to train for and plan against them should any future president decide they are needed.