In Defense of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the former director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, has written a book with Bill Harlow, titled Hard Measures. Most of the book discusses how the aggressive actions of the CIA after 9/11 saved numerous American lives. The book begins by discussing Rodriguez's early career but quickly jumps into Rodriguez's arguments supporting the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques and why they worked. He also discusses why the critics of the program were wrong and their subsequent false claims. American Thinker interviewed the author to talk about his book and issues surrounding the War on Terror.
In the book, Mr. Rodriguez wonders if the C in "CIA" should stand for "controversial." This is an understatement, considering what he has had to endure as the director of the Counterterrorism Center and the deputy director for Operations. He played a vital role in sending CIA operatives to capture terrorists and gain valuable intelligence. Throughout the book, he is forced to defend himself, maintaining that the "tactics he oversaw were approved by the highest levels of the U.S. government, certified as legal by the Department of Justice, and supported by bipartisan Congressional leadership."
Today, many people are playing armchair quarterback. They look at the enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) such as the insult slap done with an open hand, sleep deprivation, stress techniques, and waterboarding and call them torture. (President Obama is no exception.) But Rodriguez makes a very compelling case that the terrorists were not tortured because they were not subjected to severe pain, but instead were made to feel very uncomfortable and to experience a sense of hopelessness. Instead of describing the CIA as torturers, people should consider them shields of protection in light of the interrogation strategy they presented President Bush.
With the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the program became operational. Hard Measures discusses the criticism of a Muslim FBI agent; this agent has publicly stated that these techniques were shortsighted, unreliable, and shameful. Yet in a past interview, this same agent also said that Zubaydah was a "staunch terrorist who had an emotional investment in the cause, and was extremely intelligent." Rodriguez explained to American Thinker that there was a need to "shift the focus away from law enforcement. In 2002, these techniques, although good, were used to collect evidence to be used in a court of law. This was not the priority. The priority was to stop the next attack. The FBI decided not to join us after a decision was made that we would become the lead agency and would use EITs. It was probably the right call since the FBI has to abide by its rules of evidence."
Rodriguez is hopeful that most Americans do not consider these techniques torture and understand that they were employed to protect Americans from cold-blooded terrorists. The point being, the critics of the program are not looking at the overall picture: these techniques were used shortly after 9/11, people were afraid of an imminent attack, and quick answers were desperately needed. Rodriguez further commented, "The waterboarding technique was based on the training of the SEALs, Air Force pilots, and special forces, the SERE Air Force program. The CIA got it right, and it was an incredible accomplishment."
The book fascinatingly points out that only a few terrorists were subjected to EITs, and that the CIA interrogators were very good at their job. Rodriguez refers to one example in which a debriefer was able to tell when a detainee was lying by his habit of licking his lip beforehand. The reader is reminded of how a baseball pitcher tips his pitches by some mannerism. He also explained how KSM and other high-value detainees could not wait to tell how "bad" they were and how much they knew about operatives. KSM in particular was described in the book as "the gift that kept on giving ... [who] provided a wealth of information."
It is also interesting how Rodriguez describes in the book then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D)'s convenient loss of memory when she stated at a news conference that she never was told about EITs. American Thinker asked Rodriguez what he was thinking at the time of Pelosi's comment. He stated, "My inner thoughts at that time were if I or anyone of us was subpoenaed to testify and we lied before Congress, we would be put in jail. Here the Speaker of the House at that time and a high-ranking senator were basically lying about this issue. I know because I was there, and I led the team that briefed her. As a matter of fact, no politician came to the CIA's defense except Cheney. I think he was the one stand-up guy that did. I never heard any support from anybody else. He came out strongly in our defense. I remember thinking, 'well at least Mr. Cheney is willing to, because nobody else is.'"
Toward the end of the book, Rodriguez touches on the Obama administration's new War on Terror policies. American Thinker asked him if he saw a disconnect between killing terrorists with drones versus the criticism of keeping them alive but using enhanced interrogation techniques. He responded, "It's a huge disconnect and one that baffles me. I think there is a place for drones, and they are actually very effective. I don't understand how this administration and most of the media do not see the contradiction that exists between basically killing and capture, even though some have been subjected to intense interrogation techniques. I will never understand that one. Worse yet, dead men don't talk. We are missing out on a lot of intelligence. Interrogation is a key tool in protecting this country. You never know what crisis is going to come up [for which] we will need to interrogate again. Giving it up unilaterally in such a political way does damage to our country."
Not only did President Obama rule out EITs, but he also took the interrogation duties away from the CIA. For example, Mullah Baradar, the Taliban's second-in-command, was turned over to Pakistani intelligence, who conducted the interrogation. Rodriguez minced no words in stating to American Thinker, "Prior to 9/11 that is what we used to do. It's going back in time. We turned detainees over to other countries to be interrogated because we did not have the capabilities ourselves. After 9/11, we decided it's too important to contract out the interrogation of these high-level terrorists, and we wanted to protect their human rights. What was done in the past was totally inadequate and did not work. We would rely on whatever information foreign governments would give us. They also were not as thorough or as interested in our national security concerns. Whenever we got an interrogation report back, we wondered how reliable it was."
The book ends on a somewhat sad note, since Rodriguez was given a letter of reprimand in 2011 for "failing to give the system 'one more chance' to do the right thing" and instead destroying the videotapes of the interrogations to protect CIA officials. When asked how he felt, Rodriguez noted, "Its all about the issue of insubordination. Instead, the current leadership of the Agency should have said, 'No. The man had been subjected to a three-year criminal investigation. Enough is enough.' There are still a lot of people at the Agency that continue to be hounded by their own government. The easy way out was to issue the letter of reprimand, done to placate the political forces. What about our future leaders who see what happened to me and say it's not worth it to make the hard decisions?"
Anyone who cares more about learning how and why the CIA protected Americans after 9/11, as opposed to caring about protecting terrorists' rights, should buy this explosive and gripping book. After reading this book, people should realize that instead of the men and women of the CIA like Mr. Rodriguez being maligned, these people should be given a medal and considered a hero.