Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shifting goalposts re effectiveness of waterboarding

Goalposts are shifting regarding whether or not waterboarding is effective. The question ought be: was valuable information obtained? If the answer is yes, then proof exists that enhanced methods can be effective.

The preferred question, for the goalpost shifters, is: were any specific imminent attacks conclusively foiled? Here, Plum Line excerpts WaPo quoting a leaked report(my bolding):

Although some useful information was produced, the report concluded that 
"it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks," 
according to the Justice Department’s declassified summary of it.

The bolded parts are weasel qualifiers. Having watched, for years, how Washington works, the weasel qualifiers appear inserted into the report to blunt and ease the impact of the real news: "some useful information was produced".  The real news is that waterboarding can be effective.

Standards of "conclusive", "critical" information, "specific imminent attacks" do not belong in a debate about merits of acquired intelligence. Sometimes, such standards might be met. Such is incidental, and is not the test of whether or not intelligence is valuable. 

If we did want to resolve debate about "conclusive" evidence of "critical" information about "specific imminent attacks", such could only be resolved via comprehensive analysis of classified material, and not via analysis of selectively leaked classified material. 

Who has seen the comprehensive classified material?  Presumably Pres. GWB, VP Cheney, CIA Directors Tenet and Hayden, all of whom claim terrorists were disrupted in their plots to attack American interests.  Arrayed against the judgment and the word of those four gentlemen is whomever produced an as yet unreleased report which admits 

"some useful information was produced"

then qualifies that with


"it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,"

Moving the public conversation goalposts into "specific imminent attacks" territory is - b/c of the the lack of access to comprehensive classified information - therefore moving the goalposts onto unprovable ground. Further, it's the wrong question for determining effectiveness of waterboarding. 


IF the leaked-to-WaPo report is actually declassified, I'm interested to read about the interrogation techniques employed, and to make personal assessment of the morality of said techniques.

However, on the issue of "Is waterboarding effective?", at this point it appears waterboarding is effective at eliciting valuable intelligence information. 

Link to video of former CIA Director Hayden on Apr 10 on Fox News Sunday. Text excerpt:

"Most of the people who oppose these techniques want to be able to say 
'I don't want my nation doing this ... and [these techniques] didn't work anyway'.
That back half of the sentence isn't true. The facts of the case are: the use of these techniques against these terrorists did make us safer. It really did work.
The honorable position you have to take, if you want us to not do this ... has to be: 
'Even though these techniques worked, I don't want you to do that.'
[Saying that] takes courage. The other sentence doesn't."

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