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Where’s the Outrage? Where’s the Detention Policy?


The Obama administration is working with Pakistani intelligence to interrogate Mullah Baradar, reportedly the Taliban’s number-two man. We’ve been a little underwhelmed by the Left’s reaction to this news.

As others have pointed out, the Pakistanis made the arrest and are taking the lead in gathering intelligence from Baradar. But the Pakistanis are not subject to President Obama’s ban on interrogation techniques that go beyond those authorized in the Army Field Manual. The Pakistanis don’t know the Army Field Manual — and probably think the enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, used in years past against certain al-Qaeda detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, are rather quaint.

The Left’s silence on Mullah Baradar is convenient. Gone are the hysterical cries of torture. Missing in action are the opponents of rendition. One searches in vain for impassioned denunciations of Obama’s outsourcing of interrogations to countries with long histories of torture. What happened to the sputtering self-righteousness of yesteryear, when Bush and Cheney were routinely compared to Hitler and Pol Pot? To the Left, it would appear, it’s totally cool as long we’re not the ones doing it.

Further, the interrogation of Baradar may not be working. According to the LA Times, which based its account on sources in the Obama administration, the “joint” interrogation of Baradar by Pakistan intelligence and the CIA has not provided information that could lead to the capture of other Taliban leaders or “inform the planning of U.S. military operations.” Maybe this is because, as some have suggested, instead of breaking out the medieval torture devices, the Pakistanis are treating Baradar with kid gloves. Perhaps the Pakistanis have no real interest in gathering intelligence from Baradar. They want to use him as a bargaining chip to enhance their advantage in any post-war settlement, as we have discussed.

So CIA officials are trying to convince the Pakistanis to transfer Baradar to U.S. custody in Bagram, according to the LA Times. So much for the Pakistani cooperation celebrated by the Obama administration as recently as last week.

If it succeeds in transferring Baradar to U.S. custody, which is far from certain in light of Pakistan’s conflicting purposes in capturing Baradar, the Obama administration will face a dilemma on what to do next. What happens if Army Field Manual interrogation techniques don’t work on Baradar? Will the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, Obama’s answer to President Bush’s CIA program, be called in to come up with a new interrogation strategy? Will President Obama risk provoking the ire of the ACLU and the New York Times by authorizing techniques of which they will not approve? Is the HIG, some seven months after it was announced, even operational yet?

Time will tell. What is becoming increasingly clear — from the administration’s myopic preference for killing rather than capturing terrorists for interrogation, motivated, it would seem, by its distaste for sending detainees to Guantanamo; from its obsession with closing Guantanamo without a long-term plan for trying or holding terrorists in custody; from its unthinking Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber; from its outsourcing interrogations to countries, such as Pakistan, without a history of the tiniest respect for human rights or consistent cooperation with the U.S. — is that the administration has no meaningful policy on detention of terrorists and enemy combatants like Baradar. It’s playing everything by ear.

We suspect this is because the Obama administration worries day and night about being accused by its base of Bush/Cheney-like behavior, even though it understands that many Bush-administration policies were effective in protecting the country. They needn’t worry. The Left has already shown that it will avert its eyes when it’s Obama calling the plays.