Not Just A "Numbers Game"
12:59 PM, Aug 26, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
David Ignatius's Washington Post column on the release of the Inspector General's Report and other documents strikes some of the right notes, but his conclusion is far off the mark. Ignatius writes:
The document in question, "Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against al Qaeda," is not the document Cheney requested. Instead, it is a later version (by two days) of the document Cheney asked to have declassified. But that's not the main reason I think Ignatius's conclusion needs to be revised.
He is right that the "Detainee Reporting Pivotalâ€¦" document says that, in 2004, 3,800 of the total 6,600 human intelligence reports (HUMINT) were generated from detainees. He is wrong that this means it was just a "numbers game." The same report, which was authored in 2005, gives numerous reasons why those detainee-generated reports were incredibly valuable. In fact, intelligence from detainees played a role "in nearly every capture of al Qaeda members and associates since 2002." The report's authors concluded:
And think about the "numbers" aspect of this again. The CIA says that fully 57.6% (3800/6600) of HUMINT reports came from detainees. That is staggering. It means that all of the CIA's other HUMINT spy efforts accounted for significantly less intelligence, in terms of volume, than that gained from the detainees. We've known for a while that the CIA's spying capability had dwindled in the years leading up to September 11. But here we see evidence of just how much it had been depleted.
Given that the CIA's detainee interrogation program filled in many gaps in our knowledge of al Qaeda, you would expect that the CIA would want to continue conducting interrogations in some form. Not so.
As Ignatius reports, the CIA is glad the FBI -- Langley's traditional bureaucratic rival -- is taking over the interrogation work. One anonymous senior CIA official told Ignatius that "the agency is glad to be out of it." And a White House official told Ignatius that Stephen Kappes, the CIA's deputy director, "doesn't want to have anything to do with interrogation." Kappes "wants to let this go."
It is reasonable to assume the CIA wants out of the interrogation game because of the controversy surrounding the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and other practices. It's not that the interrogation program, as a whole, wasn't effective or didn't save lives. The documents released on Monday make it clear that the program worked. Regardless, the CIA wants no part of it. That's because national security concerns have been trumped by all of the gnashing of teeth over how senior al Qaeda terrorists were treated.