Dick Cheney in an extraordinary interview on Fox News Sunday made all the key points on the decision to reinvestigate CIA operatives who conducted enhanced interrogations: we are damaging our intelligence capacity, the president is ducking responsibility, and the new interagency setup for interrogating high-value suspects is a disaster waiting to happen.
He was most effective, and most detailed, in describing the latter, which has in some sense been overshadowed by the controversial and colossally misguided decision to investigate (for a second time) CIA interrogators:
“It’s not even clear who’s responsible. . . . The Justice Department is, then they claim they aren’t. The FBI is responsible, and they claim they aren’t. It’s some kind of interagency process by which they’re going to be responsible for interrogating high-value detainees. If we had tried to do that back in the aftermath of 9/11, when we captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, we’d have gotten no place. . . . They’re going to have to have meetings and decide who gets to ask what question and who’s going to Mirandize the witness. I think it’s silly. It makes no sense. It doesn’t appear to be a serious move in terms of being able to deal with the nation’s security.”
But if you aren’t serious about interrogating terrorists and don’t believe there is much to be gained by trying, it’s the perfect system for doing nothing. And keep in mind that the interrogation-by-committee is going to be limited by the Army Field Manual. So the committee presumably will be supervising nothing much at all.
If you wanted to construct rules and a bureaucracy to prevent the U.S. from gaining information from terrorists, you’d be hard pressed to do “better” than the Obama team. And one suspects they won’t be capturing many of these terrorists anymore. What would be the point?