Thursday, May 13, 2004

Harsh C.I.A. Methods Cited in Top Qaeda Interrogations

WASHINGTON, May 12 - The Central Intelligence Agency has used coercive interrogation methods against a select group of high-level leaders and operatives of Al Qaeda that have produced growing concerns inside the agency about abuses, according to current and former counterterrorism officials.

At least one agency employee has been disciplined for threatening a detainee with a gun during questioning, they said.

In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee who is believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as "water boarding," in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.

Sorry, while I think that some of the conduct of a handful of U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison was beyond the pale, my sympathies do not extend to high-level Al Qaeda operatives like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

These techniques were authorized by a set of secret rules for the interrogation of high-level Qaeda prisoners, none known to be housed in Iraq, that were endorsed by the Justice Department and the C.I.A. The rules were among the first adopted by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 attacks for handling detainees and may have helped establish a new understanding throughout the government that officials would have greater freedom to deal harshly with detainees.

Defenders of the operation said the methods stopped short of torture, did not violate American anti-torture statutes, and were necessary to fight a war against a nebulous enemy whose strength and intentions could only be gleaned by extracting information from often uncooperative detainees. Interrogators were trying to find out whether there might be another attack planned against the United States.

I think that there is a case to be made that we now find ourselves in a situation in which is so different from any other we have encountered in the past, that the measures that we employ should be re-evaluated. If we continue to strictly adhere to "rules of civilized warfare" in this particular conflict, we will lose. These aren't uniformed soldiers on a field of battle, they are plain-clothed civilians who are eager to take their own lives in order to kill as many of our plain-clothed civilians as they can. This is the Muslim paradigm of warfare and we must develop our own new paradigm if we are to defeat it. According to this story, that is exactly what we are doing.

Let not the barbarians use our own charitable and civilized nature against us.....again.

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