This Looks Like A Bad Idea

| April 28, 2005 | Reply

This article strikes me as a very bad idea.

The New York Times reports today on a new manual about to be issued by the US Army which greatly revises its interrogation policy. The new manual, which exact title is found in the article along with the date it is to be released, specifies exactly what methods of interrogation are “legal” and which are not. It is, if the report is accurate, very detailed.

The reporter, Eric Schmitt gives us some details of what may and may not be done with a prisoner, as given by an Army director.

As examples of the new rules, Thomas A. Gandy, director of human intelligence and counterintelligence for the Army, said interrogators questioning a prisoner in a small room could throw a chair against the wall in a fit of mock rage to frighten the captive, a technique called “fear up.” But under no circumstance, he said, could the interrogator throw the chair at the prisoner or otherwise threaten him directly.

Army interrogators have never had such a set of specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.

“It’s going to be specific yeses and noes,” Mr. Gandy, a career military intelligence officer, said in an interview. He provided details from the manual’s final draft and emphasized that the document would require adherence to the Geneva Conventions, as does the current manual.

The interrogations manual applies only to Army forces, but the Army controls the vast majority of detainee operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mr. Gandy said there had been a effort to synchronize the Army’s policies with practices of the other armed services.

The new manual would not govern interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency at its detention sites. But in a change, it expressly prohibits the C.I.A. from keeping unregistered prisoners, called “ghost detainees,” at Army prisons like Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Gandy said the new document banned physical or mental torture, slapping or humiliation. But he declined to offer more examples of specific techniques that would be allowed, saying he did not want to tip off potential captives on what they could expect. “The key to interrogations is uncertainty and putting the guy on edge,” he said. “We don’t want to tell them where the edge is.”

Here’s why this strikes me as a bad idea. We are, as some of us may remember, still fighting a war against terrorists and their sponsor states. We can expect to take prisoners in the future and we’ll need ot interrogate them to get vital information. Now, thanks to this article, terrorists know there’s a new policy going into place. They know what the manual is called and when it will be released. They know there’s a classified addemdum chock full of scenarios that outlines exactly what is or is not permitted. They know that the CIA’s interrogators have been further handcuffed by the new policies also. In short, they know more than enough to get a copy of the manual.

This article basically tells the terrorists that if they get their hands on these manuals (and given their resourcefulness and the very real likelihood that they will find sympathetic peple who have access to it and the classified addendum) they will know exactly what methods we will and will not use. Armed with that information, they will be better able to train their people to resist the methods we will use and not to waste time learning how to resist methods we have prohibited ourselves from using.

This article seems to have handed that information to them on a silver platter. That really bothers me. To be honest, it makes me angry. It’s like we’ve forgotten what it takes to fight and win a war. Our desire to know everything and to chew a story a thousand times has trumped our common sense.

The Times isn’t the only one at fault here, though. The military owns some blame for even releasing, or talking about this information. What news they released should have been limited to the fact that there is a revised manual coming and that it will be specific and comprehensive. That’s it. Anything more than that is handing very valuable information to people who very much want us dead by the millions.

Or did we forget those folks are still out there?

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