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Truth Indeed

William McSwain, executive editor of the 2005 Review of Department of Defense Detention Operations and Detainee Interrogation Techniques (The Church Report), goes after much of the inaccurate or incomplete rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration on enhanced interrogation techniques. He echoes what former Vice President Cheney has said about the effectiveness of these techniques:

Fortunately, aggressive interrogation techniques like those outlined in the memos to the CIA are effective. As the memos explain, high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of 9/11, and Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s key lieutenants, provided no actionable intelligence when facing traditional U.S. methods. It is doubtful that any high-level al Qaeda operative would ever provide useful intelligence in response to traditional methods.

Yet KSM and Zubaydah provided critical information after being waterboarded — information that, among other things, helped to prevent a “Second Wave” attack in Los Angeles, according to the memos. Similarly, the 2005 report by Vice Adm. Albert Church on Defense Department interrogation policies, the “Church Report” — of which I served as the executive editor — documented the success of aggressive techniques against high-value detainees like Mohamed al Kahtani, 9/11′s “20th hijacker.”

Nor does he buy into the notion that these techniques are “torture,” as that term is commonly understood:

I have personally been waterboarded, put into stress positions, sleep deprived, slapped in the face. While none of this was enjoyable, I am none the worse for wear.

So if we are to set up some sort of  “truth commission” the testimony of McSwain and the documentation he refers to will be illuminating. A young army captain in Afghanistan e-mails to a friend of mine:

The decision to release those memos was disappointing, but now that they are released. . . let’s lay it all out and have a full debate.  And, while we’re at it, let’s look too at rendition and other Clinton-era policies.  Maybe we lost our “moral bearings” then, too, and maybe some of those folks should worry about partisan witch hunts and criminal prosecutions.

Well, this will be one huge seminar in national security and morality, I suppose. If the administration and the rest of the Bush critics contend that enhanced techniques were unnecessary they will have the chance to make that case. But so too will others armed with first-hand recollections and documentary evidence concerning what measures were taken, who in Congress fully approved of them and what intelligence was gained from them. And the public, which already is sympathetic to the notion that even real torture would be justified to save American lives, can judge the results.


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