2004 September 14 Tuesday
Seymour Hersh On Botched Guantanamo Interrogations

Seymour Hersh has a new book coming out Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib

But the interrogations at Guantánamo were a bust. Very little useful intelligence had been gathered, while prisoners from around the world continued to flow into the base, and the facility constantly expanded. The CIA analyst had been sent there to find out what was going wrong. He was fluent in Arabic and familiar with the Islamic world. He was held in high respect within the agency, and was capable of reporting directly, if he chose, to George Tenet, the CIA director. The analyst did more than just visit and inspect. He interviewed at least 30 prisoners to find out who they were and how they ended up in Guantánamo. Some of his findings, he later confided to a former CIA colleague, were devastating.

"He came back convinced that we were committing war crimes in Guantánamo," the colleague told me. "Based on his sample, more than half the people there didn't belong there. He found people lying in their own faeces," including two captives, perhaps in their 80s, who were clearly suffering from dementia. "He thought what was going on was an outrage," the CIA colleague added. There was no rational system for determining who was important.

Two former administration officials who read the analyst's highly classified report told me that its message was grim. According to a former White House official, the analyst's disturbing conclusion was that "if we captured some people who weren't terrorists when we got them, they are now".

Mark Bowden (of Black Hawk Down fame) has written that experts on interrogation say that infliction of pain can be counter-productive and should be resorted to only as a last resort. One reason for this is that subjects of torture fear the threat of pain but that once they actually experience the pain manyfind they can handle it better than expected. Another reason to hold back on delivering pain is that patient and talented interrogators sometimes manage to turn the interrogatee to shift his loyalties so that he begins to provide accurate information voluntarily. Read all his links at that post of mine. One conclusion I reached from reading them is that if some facility is inflicting pain on large numbers of its inmates then it is a very unprofessonal operation. Well, that is what Donald Rumsfeld has set up and defended in Guantanamo Bay.

I am disgusted by the Bush Administration because they are more interested in inflicting pain out of a macho desire to get even than they are in actually defending us from future attacks. Take the most expert and experienced advice on how to set up professional interrogation facilities? That just doesn't feel tough enough to them - and who wants to do all the mental work required to think through complex arguments anyway? Or seal the Mexican border to prevent entry of terrorists? That flies in the face of Bush's quixotic and foolish gambit to get Hispanic voters.

Bush is not acting in our interests. I don't know that John Kerry would be any better. But even if you are a very partisan Republican for the sake of your country recognize just how many ways the Bush Administration's policies are harmful for our country and our security.

The 9/11 Commission's recommendations on visa and immigation policy represent a good starting point for a rational and effective response to the terrorist threat. Better immigration and border control policies would not only reduce the risk of future attacks but reduce the crime rate, reduce the demands for social spending, raise living standards for America's poorest, and reduce crowding and pollution.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 September 14 03:35 PM  Terrorists Western Response


Comments
John S Bolton said at September 15, 2004 12:49 AM:

There is another drawback, as mentioned above, to the offensive policy which is accompanied by close to zero defense. Our standards tend to become more like those of the countries which we engage militarily. The less necessary it is to go to them, because our leaders are patriotic enough to defend the borders, the less we slide down to the death-dealing torturing standards of the terrorist-generating nationalities.

arcane said at September 16, 2004 5:16 AM:

Nothing from Seymour Hersh can be trusted. NOTHING.


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