Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats Purge the Record

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Getty Images)
Its report on enhanced-interrogation techniques amounts to intelligence birtherism.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Democrats of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have released their summary report into the Bush-era CIA detention/interrogation program. While senior Democrats have little credibility on this issue — consider Nancy Pelosi, who has consistently misrepresented her CIA briefings — today they proudly claimed the mantle of honest objectivity.

The summary makes four key claims:

‐The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.

‐The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.

‐The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.

‐The CIA program was far more brutal than it represented to policymakers and the American public.

The product of selective half-truths and deliberate deception, these claims are ludicrous, because the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation techniques (EITs) were manifestly successful.

Breaking key figures in al-Qaeda’s international network, the EITs afforded America a unique window into al-Qaeda’s network structure, operational methodology, and strategic intent, as any honest examination of the record will show.

While the report claims that the CIA acted far more aggressively than represented by its officials, the simple fact is that the EITs were not designed to be pleasant. Moreover, as former CIA deputy director Jose Rodriguez outlined last Friday, Democrats knew about and supported the EITs.

They were right to do so, for the program was designed to defeat al-Qaeda training manuals. Those manuals inculcated AQ officers with the belief that U.S. interrogators would attempt to trick and manipulate them but would not apply measured physical or psychological force. And by applying the EITs, CIA interrogators were able to wrest control over their subjects and gain crucial intelligence.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also argues that CIA management failed to supervise the program and brief government officials. But this requires the suspension of reality. First, just last week, former president George W. Bush again insisted that he was kept fully informed by the CIA.

The committee’s claim is also weakened by its assumption that the CIA’s inherently bureaucratic nature was impossibly suspended. After all, were the report to reflect reality, it would mean that successive CIA leaders, mid-level management officials, and operations officers engaged in a collective multi-year conspiracy of lies, for absolutely no reason. Aware that Beltway politics are radioactive, CIA officials are obsessed with limiting their institution’s vulnerability to political blowback. And so, when it came to the EITs, officials would have known that the program’s inherently controversial nature induced major political liabilities. But that they nevertheless decided to continue the program even with those risks speaks to a basic, undeniable truth.

A large number of officials were convinced that the program was necessary and was generating irreplaceable results. And it was. Responding to the committee report, the CIA notes that EITs led to critical intelligence. Cross-referenced with other sources, the following CIA assertions, I am confident, are true.

‐Enhanced-interrogation techniques led to the capture of Hambali, the “South Asian bin Laden,” who planned to use South Asian operatives in a 9/11-style attack on the U.S. West Coast.

‐EITs led to the capture of the second shoe bomber.

‐EITs led to the identification of Dhiren Barot and his seven-man terror cell in the U.K.: an operationally capable group that intended to detonate explosives at multiple targets in the U.K. Incidentally, the CIA explains that the claim of the committee report that the CIA already had sufficient information to identify Barot prior to EIT applications is the result of the committee’s mixing up two suspects with the same name.

‐Admitting that it overemphasized his connection to a “dirty bomb” plot, the CIA insists that the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed led to the identification of U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda terrorist Jose Padilla.

‐The detention program was also critical in source corroboration leading to deeper understandings of al-Qaeda activities globally. While hard to tie down in individual arrest operation etc., these intelligence processes are the nuts and bolts of counterterrorism campaigns: patient covert action that supports a broader strategy.

‐Crucially, the CIA notes that EIT interrogations of two terrorists (one of whom was a courier for al-Zarqawi — remember him?) led the CIA to realize that bin Laden’s personal courier was recently operational and had gone into hiding. It also provided a corroborating counterpoint to efforts by KSM to throw his interrogators off the courier’s track. Applied as part of the broader analytic-intelligence process — a fundamental of intelligence that the committee report willfully ignores — the CIA acquired forensic intelligence on bin Laden’s inner circle, tracked the courier, and eventually killed al-Qaeda’s leader.

Defined by selective accounts and distorted by a partisan agenda, this Senate Intelligence Committee report is intelligence birtherism. Conspiring against truth, it sacrifices American patriots and America’s security in an “Oldspeak”-style of purging the record of any truth. Unconcerned by the propaganda victory they’ve given to U.S. enemies (contemplate how ISIS will manipulate this report), or the cost for liaison-intelligence relationships (foreign services will worry that future cooperation will be misrepresented), the Senate Intelligence Committee has shamed itself and the citizens it claims to serve.

Tom Rogan, based in Washington, D.C., is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and a contributor to The McLaughlin Group. He holds the Tony Blankley Chair at the Steamboat Institute and tweets @TomRtweets.

Tom Rogan — Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at TRogan@McLaughlin.com

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