Tag: khalid sheikh mohammed

Manhattan Says No to Terror Trials

Today, Politico Arena asks:

Terror trials: Is it time for the administration to retreat and rethink? Is it generally mishandling the terrorism issue?

My response:

On no issue is President Obama getting acquainted with reality more clearly than terrorism, or so it seems.  He blazed into office, guns holstered, as the anti-Bush, putting Eric Holder’s Justice Department in charge, not of the War on Terror, a phrase he banished from his administration’s lexicon, but of “bringing those who planned and plotted the [9/11] attacks to justice,” as Holder put it in November when he announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others would be given civilian trials in downtown Manhattan.  But as the manifold costs of such a trial became increasingly apparent, and as even New York Democrats have grown increasingly restive, the White House, it seems, has backed down.  We await the line of congressmen saying “Bring the trial to my district.”

How could it be otherwise?  The administration’s law-enforcement approach to terrorism has been unserious and folly from the start.  In an understated yet devastating piece in yesterday’s Washington Post, former CIA director Michael V. Hayden cataloged that folly, nowhere more evident than in the FBI’s handling of the would-be Christmas Day bomber, who was Mirandized and lawyered up long before he could be seriously interrogated by agents with the background to elicit the intelligence we need – not to prosecute terrorists, but to prevent future terrorist attacks.  The most telling revelation in Hayden’s piece came at the end, however.  In August, the government unveiled its High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) designed to interrogate people like the Christmas Day bomber, and it announced also that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general’s report.  Was the HIG called in to interrogate the Christmas Day bomber?  No – it has yet to be formed.  But the interrogations of CIA officers are proceeding apace.  So much for the administration’s priorities.  Is it any wonder that Scott Brown’s pollsters report that terrorism, and the administration’s mishandling of the issue, polled better even than Brown’s opposition to ObamaCare?

Lowry and Interrogation

Veronique de Rugy put up a post at The Corner referencing Rich Lowry’s defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and my response. Rich has since responded.

With regard to the apprehension of Uzair Paracha, an Al Qaeda facilitator in New York, it seems likely that the apprehension of Majid Khan in Pakistan four days after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s (KSM) apprehension came from material picked up with KSM and not from interrogation. The key here is that when Majid Khan was in Pakistan, Paracha was pretending to be Majid Khan in communications with immigration officials. Detective work was probably what brought this guy under the microscope.

However, I’m willing to lay that aside because, as Rich points out, there is probably more to the story that shouldn’t be declassified. As I said on Bill O’Reilly’s show, we cannot end this argument until we have declassified all of the dead ends we pursued, which has some serious strategic drawbacks. The CIA recently asserted in court that it cannot reveal any more without compromising sources and methods.

Rich also says that my preferred method of interrogation is “dangling the promise of reduced sentences.”

This is not my preferred method, but it is one that ought to be available to interrogators. Under the Army Field Manual, an interrogator cannot promise anything in the court system. As Matthew Alexander points out in his book, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court has the death penalty attached to almost all of what we consider “material support of terrorism.” I am saying that the Prisoner’s Dilemma is an effective tool if a lesser included offense is on the table so that the first to squeal gets a few years and the others get the noose.

But let’s not discount the lawful interrogation techniques. When I attended SERE, the psychological techniques were far more compelling than the physical ones. We were all young and tough, but the mind tricks that turned brothers in arms against each other were downright disturbing.