Questioning Interrogation
President Bush should take a much stronger line.


Deroy Murdock

While its critics wag silver tongues worthy of Tiffany’s, the Bush administration finds itself characteristically tongue-tied on torture. From cable-news studios to the campaign trail, the narrative continues without interruption that places such as Guantanamo are personal, recreational torture chambers operated for the Bush administration’s amusement.

“Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights,” former president Jimmy Carter told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer October 10. Referring to terror suspects detained at Guantanamo, Carter added: “we’ve said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused.”

Said Democratic presidential contender Senator Barack Obama (D., Ill.): “The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security.”

In response to these critics, President Bush lamely and defensively stated: “This government does not torture people.”

For her part, White House counterterrorism chief Fran Townsend explained in the October 10 USA Today that robust interrogation techniques have “produced vital intelligence used to locate terrorists, disrupt plots and save lives.” Unfortunately, Townsend offered no specifics, although they are abundantly available in the unclassified literature, including passages later in this piece.

According to ABC News’s invaluable investigative reporter Brian Ross, the CIA has stopped waterboarding, an uncomfortable but non-lethal questioning technique that has yielded mounds of intelligence, which in turn has helped stymie al-Qaeda plots to maim and murder masses of innocent Americans and our allies.

GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R – Arizona), who suffered genuine torture at the hands of the Vietcong, said in Ross’ September 14 report: “I have sought that result for years. Water-boarding is a form of torture. And I’m convinced that this will not only help us in our interrogation techniques, but it will also be helpful for our image in the world.”

All of this has landed the Bush administration, for about the 500th time, smack-dab in the middle of a public-relations tar pit.

Here is how the administration can extricate itself and fight back on this crucial issue: First, remind people of the legal niceties and creature comforts enjoyed by detainees at Guantanamo. Contrast these humane, relatively luxurious conditions with the genuine torture that al Qaeda unleashes on its victims.

Then, outline the priceless intelligence America has gleaned and the plots we have unraveled, thanks to intense interrogation of the Islamofascist killers who our brave soldiers and spies have captured.

Finally, for both psychological and tactical reasons, the Bush Administration should announce that America will reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique, effective immediately.

For starters, the legal coddling that terror detainees enjoy is beyond parody.

U.S. military judges, last June, dismissed charges against Guantanamo detainees Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen (allegedly Osama bin Laden’s personal driver), and Canadian Omar Khadr (arrested in Afghanistan, officials say, for killing Army Special Forces Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer with a grenade in 2002). While Hamdan and Khadr remain incarcerated, their charges must be re-filed.


The 2006 Military Commissions Act governs “unlawful enemy combatants.” The Pentagon declared these Muslim zealots “enemy combatants.” These nitpicking judges forgot that terrorists with neither uniforms nor flags operate beyond the Laws of War. Nonetheless, without the word “unlawful” on their indictments, Hamdan’s and Khadr’s charges are moot, pending appeals and additional paperwork.

Like many Gitmoites, these Islamic-extremists consult attorneys. Khadr previously had nine lawyers, outgunning O.J. Simpson’s legal “Dream Team” in his original double-murder case. They also enjoy courtroom-style hearings and occasional access to civil judges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Hamdan’s case that the Pentagon lacked authority to conduct military commissions, which Congress then granted. On June 29, the Court agreed to hear detainees’ legal challenges to the very tribunal-authorization statute the Supreme Court suggested that Congress enact.

While Guantanamo’s lawyers and magistrates debate how many loopholes can encircle a bayonet, al-Qaeda’s buck knives slice hostages’ heads clean off. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports, congressional Democrats plan to use the Pentagon appropriations process to chop Guantanamo’s funding in half.

Compare America’s pampering of bin Laden’s suspected chauffeur, an alleged bomb-throwing assassin, and their incendiary colleagues with how al-Qaeda handles its prisoners.

Coalition Forces on May 21 liberated five males from a padlocked room in a building in Karmah, Iraq, the Pentagon reports.

Inside were four men and a boy who had been kidnapped and severely beaten with chains, cables, and hoses. The four captives also showed signs of torture, and the boy stated the terrorists had hooked electrical wires to his tongue and shocked him.

During an April 24 raid on an al-Qaeda-in-Iraq safe house, GIs found a man dangling from the ceiling. He said his Islamofascist tormentors flogged him daily. Soldiers encountered torture devices, including whips, cables, vices, electric drills, and meat cleavers. They also discovered a manual, instructing terrorists on how to torture captives for information.

“They made it in a cartoon manner, so that no matter what your literacy rate, what nationality you are, all you’ve got to do is look at these pictures to understand how to conduct torture of innocent people,” Army Major General William Caldwell told CNN.

These grotesque cartoons demonstrate how to suspend someone from a ceiling while electrifying his nipples. Other images illustrate breaking a captive’s limbs and impeding his breathing by hanging his arms backward over an open door; applying a blowtorch to his skin; gouging out his eyeball; or dragging him, chained and handcuffed, behind a moving car. Interestingly enough, three white supremacists in 1998 used a pickup truck to drag to death James Byrd, a black man from Jasper, Texas.

The establishment press has largely snored through al Qaeda’s torture text.

“Most of the liberal media are deliberately silent,” said Media Research Center President Brent Bozell.

This is the same self-righteous liberal media that ran more than 6,000 stories and countless photos of Abu Ghraib and the abuse of prisoners there by several U.S. soldiers. Where are they now? Why will they not show the American people what al-Qaeda is actually doing in Iraq right now? Whose side are they on?

As’s Neal Sheppard wondered, “Given the media’s fascination with what American soldiers were doing at Abu Ghraib, is it safe to assume that the same level of attention will be given to what our enemy is doing? Or, would that be too much like journalism?”

Rather than confront these critics, the Bush administration mimics their cries for Gitmo’s closure. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush have said as much, with equal, maddening sheepishness.

Rather than cry and run away, yet again, the president, his top advisors, and his spokesmen should explain why Americans should be proud of what U.S. personnel are accomplishing at Guantanamo: Isolating sadistic, homicidal, medieval killers from their potential victims while pumping them successfully for information to prevent their comrades from murdering innocent men, women, and children.

For example, the U.S. has unraveled al Qaeda conspiracies by extracting counterterrorist intelligence from Guantanamo detainees; Abu Zubaydah started identifying such al Qaeda agents as Omar al-Faruq, Rahim al-Nashiri, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh after Americans loudly blasted him with the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed was silent until exposed to a few minutes of highly uncomfortable but non-lethal waterboarding, after which he babbled like a teenage girl on the telephone. What he squealed to American personnel prompted the arrests of Islamo-butchers Majid Khan, Hambali, Rusman “Gun Gun” Gunawan, Yazid Sufaat, Jose Padilla, and Iyman Faris.

“KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again,” a former CIA official who knows KSM’s case told ABC News. The terrorists, who KSM ratted out, masterminded such atrocities as Jemaah Islamiyah’s October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings (202 dead, 209 wounded), and an August 2003 blast at a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta (12 dead, 150 injured), as well as a conspiracy to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s supporting cables and plunge it into the East River.

Rather than cower in shame, President Bush should start pinning medals on the lapels of the interrogators who question these savages, the guards who supervise them, and the senior officers who keep the entire, priceless operation humming.

Until then, the White House should respond to American liberals and the global Left who consider Guantanamo “W’s dungeon.” It should remind them that Gitmo’s complimentary luxuries extend beyond helpful judges and hotshot attorneys.

Guantanamo’s library offers detainees such soothing titles as John A. Day’s The Book of Clouds, Pete Carmichael’s The World’s Most Beautiful Seashells, and Tony Sweet’s Fine Art Flower Photography.

Detainees’ Islamically correct meals include fruits and nuts shipped from their home countries during special events.

Atop taxpayer-funded prayer mats, prayer-bead-wearing detainees hear the call to prayer five times daily. That’s when everything at Gitmo stops — including interrogations — so these Muslim fanatics can face Mecca. That’s easy: They follow the large, northeasterly arrows painted on the floor.

Gitmoites also enjoy modern medical attention about which many Americans only can fantasize.

“These people want the same healthcare as the evildoers,” Michael Moore yells on behalf of a boatful of uninsured Americans he tries to sail into Guantanamo Bay in his movie, SiCKO. According to a Gitmo-based U.S. military doctor quoted in the film, Guantanamites get cancer screenings, cholesterol monitoring, and colonoscopies — all free of charge. Their top-flight dentistry also is gratis, and they enjoy a one-to-four doctor-patient ratio.

The so-called “Good cop/Bad cop” grilling technique, standard in policing, requires approval before it can be employed at Guantanamo. While documents that Democrats seek may say otherwise, previous reports indicate that interrogators no longer may adjust sleep patterns, modify heating and cooling, or place hoods over suspects’ heads to make them disclose terrorist plans to murder Americans. Nor may they limit food rations to encourage detainees to talk. Indeed, Gitmoites typically gain 10 pounds behind bars.

As George Mason University Law professor Kyndra Rotunda detailed in April 18’s Wall Street Journal, Behavior Science Consultation Teams previously scrutinized interrogations from behind two-way mirrors. BSCT members observed combatants’ body language to evaluate their candor. When the International Committee of the Red Cross called this “a flagrant violation of medical ethics,” the Pentagon curbed BSCT involvement in gathering intelligence from America’s sworn enemies.

Rotunda also described America’s Camp Bucca in Iraq, where a tent — off limits to GIs — served as a mosque for militants. They expressed their gratitude by turning it into an armory. Detainees attacked guards in a failed, four-day bid to seize the desert outpost.

Finally, the White House should overrule the CIA and return waterboarding to the menu of interrogation techniques available to those who question the Islamofascist agents who have dedicated their lives to ending ours. As KSM proves, waterboarding works. Shelving this tactic could spell the difference between connecting the dots before the next September 11, and having to do so after thousands of Americans have been converted into flying torsos and dangling limbs.

Waterboarding should be reinstated publicly. Let al-Qaeda’s agents conduct their evil with this thought in the backs of their wicked heads: I sure hope I don’t get caught and have to endure that awful waterboarding business. Publicly scrapping waterboarding has aided and comforted America’s enemies by giving them one less thing about which to worry.

Ending waterboarding supposedly burnishes America’s image abroad. That’s doubtful. Beyond the disdain this decision generates among those who consider it a sign of weakness, the Bush Administration’s critics at home and abroad always will find something about which to flog this country.

Referring to the waterboarding ban, Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton told, “I can say it’s a good thing, but the fact remains that the entire program is illegal.”

The Bush administration bought itself exactly nothing by sinking waterboarding and quite possibly covered its ears to knowledge of future terrorist attacks.

Alas, that is all too typical of President Bush’s easily intimidated and constantly outsmarted government. Al Qaeda and its comrades understand the nature of this war and fight relentlessly to win. Meanwhile, like nearly everything else here, America’s struggle against Islamofascism is being lawyered to death.

– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.