Did They Work?
2:30 AM, Aug 25, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
That question has been among the most hotly disputed issues at the center of the continuing controversy over the CIA's interrogation of suspected terrorists. The report released Monday from the former CIA Inspector General John Helgerson should end the debate.
Throughout his report, Helgerson goes out of his way to avoid expressing an opinion about the effectiveness of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs). On page 85, for instance, he writes generally about the CIA's detention and interrogation program:
Then he adds this caveat about EITs:
On page 89 he writes:
And later, on the same page, he argues:
I'm not sure what he means that such judgments are "not without some concern." But is it really the case that it is difficult to judge the effectiveness of EITs because of different fear thresholds among the detainees and differences in the application of the techniques by interrogators? And does it really matter, in judging whether the techniques were effective, if the CIA doesn't know exactly how much information each detainee possesses?
A hypothetical. One detainee, we'll call him Detainee #1, has a low tolerance for EITs. So his interrogator, we'll call him Interrogator #1, uses four of the ten approved EIT techniques and does not use the waterboard. Still, Detainee #1 shares 70 percent of the totality of the intelligence he possesses, including information that leads to the detention of other high-ranking al Qaeda terrorists. Detainee #2 has a higher fear threshold. So Interrogator #2 uses all of the approved EITs, including the waterboard, and manages to extract, say, 80 of the totality of the intelligence the detainee possesses, including details about organizational structure and specific information about al Qaeda operatives planning attacks in the United States.
So we have 1) the inability of interrogators to extract 100 percent of the information held by the detainees; 2) different fear thresholds among detainees; and, 3) different application of EITs by interrogators.
Would anyone suggest that the use of EITs in these cases was not effective?
Consider the details in the IG report. On page 90, we learn about EITs and Abu Zubaydah. Although the report redacts the specific number of intelligence reports generated before the use of EITs and after they were employed, we do know that his cooperation increased.
If it was a mere coincidence, the same thing happened after EITs were used on Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the al Qaeda operative behind the attack on the USS Cole.
And what about 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad? More coincidence? From page 91:
The section immediately following this overview of KSM's pre-waterboard disclosures is redacted. But flip back a few pages in the IG report, to page 87, and we learn the details of KSM's post-waterboard intelligence. KSM provided so many leads to other terrorists and plots that the IG described him as "the most prolific" source of information among the detainees. So, what did he tell us?
Let's review. Abu Zubaydah gave up some information before the use of EITs. But "since the use of the waterboardâ€¦Abu Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative," and gave up even more intelligence. Al Nashiri provided mostly historical information in the short time before EITs were employed. "However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planningâ€¦" And "accomplished resistor" Khalid Shaykh Muhammad provided mostly useless information before the application of EITs. Afterwards, he "provided information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists" - so much information, in fact, that he was regarded as the "most prolific" intelligence source.
Reasonable people can - and do - disagree about the morality of using EITs. But only the most accomplished resister could continue to claim that they were not effective.