Obama officials were surprised to learn this was all that the program entailed. Yet these techniques worked. In 2007, a terrorist named Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was captured. He was the highest-ranking al-Qaeda leader taken alive in many years — a former member of Saddam Hussein’s military, he had joined al-Qaeda in the 1990s, served for a time as a member of al-Qaeda’s ruling Shura council, and risen to become a senior bin Laden adviser and a top paramilitary commander in Afghanistan. When he was taken into custody, agency officials told him, “We’re the CIA.” He replied, “I’ve heard of you guys. I’ll tell you anything you need to know.” And he did — because he was not aware that the worst he would face was a tummy slap and a little lost sleep.
Today, this could never happen — because Barack Obama declassified all the documents explaining the limits of our interrogation techniques and restricted our interrogators to the Army Field Manual, which is readily available on the Internet. Terrorists now know they have nothing to fear — and thus have no incentive to talk.
On Christmas Day, we were given an unexpected gift. A terrorist fell into our hands who possessed invaluable intelligence: the locations of the camps where he trained; the names of the people who trained him; the identities of those who trained alongside him for follow-up missions; the phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and bank-account numbers of those who sent him to kill Americans and may be sending others to do the same. We questioned him for 50 minutes, then read him his rights. If we get hit again, we will look back at that decision as the worst intelligence failure since Sept. 11, 2001.
– Marc Thiessen is the author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack. For more information, click here.