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Why Can't the Left Be Honest About the IG Report?

10:55 AM, Aug 27, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Here is Greg Sargent pretending to respond to my post from Tuesday. It's five paragraphs with almost zero substance. And that turns out to be an improvement on his previous commentary about the CIA and interrogations.

But we're left without answers to basic questions. What about Sargent's central claim, that the EITs did not work? How does he explain this finding about Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the mastermind of the USS Cole attack: "Following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [redacted] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs." Or the fact that KSM "provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard," - reports that were largely "outdated, inaccurate or incomplete" - but later became "the most prolific" and "preeminent" source of intelligence on al Qaeda, revealing names and locations of al Qaeda leaders and details of coming plots?

Sargent has argued that these techniques, specifically designed to elicit information from uncooperative detainees, did not work. Does he believe that KSM, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and a man who dedicated his life to killing Americans, simply had a change of heart? If not, then what, exactly, transformed KSM from "an accomplished resister" to the "preeminent" source of information on al Qaeda? Sargent does not tell us. It's a revealing omission.

In another post, Sargent had scolded Cheney for coming up with policies that put CIA interrogators in legal jeopardy. Sargent calls them "Bush/Cheney torture policies." So I pointed out that the CIA Inspector General's report make clear that senior CIA officials, not Dick Cheney, conceived and executed the controversial interrogation techniques. I quoted directly from the IG report. "The Agency was under pressure to do everything possible to prevent additional terrorist attacks. Senior Agency officials believe Abu Zubaydah was withholding information that could not be obtained through then-authorized interrogation techniques. Agency officials believed that a more robust approach was necessary to elicit threat information from Abu Zubaydah and possibly from other senior al Qaeda high value detainees."

It's a simple question: Why call the EITs "Bush/Cheney torture policies" when they were conceived and executed by senior CIA officals? Did Sargent fail to read the report or simply choose to ignore its findings?

Sargent later criticizes Cheney for defending the interrogators and suggests (without evidence) that he is doing so for political reasons. Here Sargent is just plain incoherent, arguing at one point that no one but TWS and Dick Cheney support EITs and elsewhere that Cheney's defense of the interrogators will be politically advantageous.

Where Sargent isn't confused, he's dishonest. In one post, he leads his readers to believe that the interrogators would not welcome Cheney's backing and did not support the policies. In Sargent's view, they were victims who saw the use of EITs as he does. But this is a hard case to make for anyone who has read the report. At several different points in the report, the IG makes clear that senior Agency officials were enthusiastic about the program.

What's more, they worried that they would be targeted by human rights groups - that is, people who make the kinds of arguments about EITs that Sargent does.

So how did Sargent deal with these basic facts? He chose not to report them. Here is his version:

During the course of this Review, a number of Agency officers expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or legal action resulting from their participation in the CTC program….One officer expressed concern that one day, Agency officers will wind up on some "wanted list" to appear before the World Court for war crimes…

And here is the actual text:

During the course of this Review, a number of Agency officers expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or legal action resulting from their participation in the CTC program. A number of officers expressed concern that a human rights group might pursue them for activities [redacted]. Additionally, they feared that the Agency would not stand behind them if this occurred.

One officer expressed concern that one day, Agency officers will wind up on some "wanted list" to appear before the World Court for war crimes. Another said, "Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this...[but] it has to be done."