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CIA Interrogations Have
Their Day in Court

Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Ghailani provided a test case for CIA interrogations. The interrogations passed.


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Marc A. Thiessen

He concluded: “The government has offered credible evidence indicating that the decision to place Ghailani in the CIA Program was made in the reasonable belief that he had valuable information essential to combating al-Qaeda and protecting national security. The same evidence shows that the government had reason to believe that this valuable intelligence could not have been obtained except by putting Ghailani into that program and that it could not successfully have done so and prosecuted him in federal court at the same time.” Therefore, “Two years of the delay [while Ghailani was held by the CIA] served compelling interests of national security.”

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The judge also rejected “Ghailani’s claim that he was so affected psychologically by the alleged CIA mistreatment that his ability to assist in his defense has been impaired.” The court appointed a psychiatrist to examine Ghailani, and, “On the basis of the psychiatrist’s report and the entire record, including the evidence from the defense psychologist, the Court found that Ghailani suffers from no mental disease or defect, that he is capable of assisting in his defense, and that he is mentally competent. The Court is not persuaded that his mental state has been affected in any material degree by anything that took place while he was in CIA custody.”

The ruling was a major victory for the prosecution. And it was also a major vindication of the CIA interrogation program. The Obama Justice Department has now argued in federal court that the CIA program was necessary for our national security, that it was effective in producing actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda plots that could not have been obtained in any other way, and that it caused no damage to the terrorist’s mental state. A federal judge has reviewed the intelligence, heard the counterarguments of the terrorist who was interrogated, and agreed with the Obama administration that in the case of Ahmed Ghailani, the CIA interrogation program “served compelling interests of national security.”

– Marc A. Thiessen is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, and the author of Courting Disaster, just published by Regnery. David B. Rivkin Jr. is co-chairman of the Center for Law and Counterterrorism at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a contributing editor to National Review, and a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker and Hostettler, LLP.



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