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The Times Tells All

There are a number of points to make about this front-page New York Times article, “Inside a 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation,” in which the Times continues its self-appointed task of exposing to the world as many of the nation’s intelligence secrets as they can get their hands on. The first and most obvious point is the newspaper’s decision to name Deuce Martinez, one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s interrogators, notwithstanding the CIA’s request not to do so. In its online edition, the Times prints an Editor’s Note explaining its decision:

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

This is the same newspaper, mind you, that fulminated for years about Robert Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame, notwithstanding the fact that she wasn’t working undercover at the time either. Moreover, it seems fair to guess that the danger of retaliation is a lot greater for Martinez than for Plame.

The Times doesn’t even bother to explain its decision to name Thailand and Poland as the location of secret CIA prisons that were opened after 9/11 and have since closed. That information has previously leaked out, but of course it does great damage to our relations with close allies when their confidential favors for our intelligence services are exposed in the media.

Another point concerns KSM’s initial response to CIA interrogators:

Mr. Mohammed met his captors at first with cocky defiance, telling one veteran C.I.A. officer, a former Pakistan station chief, that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer – the experience of his nephew and partner in terrorism, Ramzi Yousef, after Mr. Yousef’s arrest in 1995.

But the rules had changed, and the tough treatment began shortly after Mr. Mohammed was delivered to Poland.

One wonders how the CIA will make future terrorist bigwigs talk when the rules have changed once again, effectively back to the pre-9/11 standard, by which even our most murderous enemies will have the potential to “lawyer up” just like an average criminal suspect as seen on so many episodes of “Law & Order.” In addition, Al Qaeda terrorists still on the loose will be helped by reading articles such as this one, full of operational details, which provide a virtual playbook for avoiding arrest and resisting interrogation.

Finally I was struck by the very last lines of the article describing what Deuce Martinez does now:

Like many other C.I.A. officers in the post-9/11 security boom, Mr. Martinez left the agency for more lucrative work with government contractors…. He now works for Mitchell & Jessen Associates, a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program. And his new employer sent Mr. Martinez right back to the agency.

Martinez’s job switch is part of a trend that has become increasingly pervasive in all government departments but especially in the military and intelligence services: Employees who have been trained and vetted at government expense leave to work for private contractors doing essentially the same work as before but for much more money. This sort of “outsourcing,” which first became widespread in the Reagan administration and increased as a result of the Clinton administration’s “Reinventing Government” initiative, is supposed to save the taxpayers money and increase governmental efficiency. But it is rife for abuse, since government employees can award lucrative contracts to their friends who will then hire them in the future. And contractors are not as accountable as regular government employees-a problem seen not only with Blackwater in Iraq but also with some outside interrogators hired by the CIA. The next administration, whether Republican or Democratic, needs to conduct a rigorous examination of the whole system of outsourcing and cut back on contracts that don’t make sense.



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