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Monday, August 24, 2009

New Terrorist Interrogation Plan

Is it just me who thinks this is a bad idea?

From today's Washington Post we have this headline:
New Unit to Question Key Terror Suspects
Move Shifts Interrogation Oversight From the CIA to the White House
The reporter is Anne E Kornblut.

Here is my Problem A:
Obama signed off late last week on the unit, named the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG.  Made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the interrogation unit will be housed at the FBI but will be overseen by the National Security Council -- shifting the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.
This is too close to the White House.  If there is another problem with interrogations it will not point to someone with no Constitutional authority in the area, the VEEP.  It will point straight to the President.  Then Attorney General Eric Holder will not be considering who to go after in the CIA.  It will be if he should turn the files over to the US House of Representatives, for impeachment.  Space is important in politics.  As with electricity, it is an insulator.

My Problem B is that we are centralizing things and thus removing areas of competition.  If things are going correctly, that is a good thing.  However, if things start to slip within the unit, or there is pressure from the White House (or Congress)—say there is another 9/11 scale incident—then there are no alternative models, no alternative examples of how to do things.

My Problem C revolves around the fact that we have not decided if terrorism is a crime or an act of aggression, to be dealt on a military basis:
Interrogators will not necessarily read detainees their rights before questioning, instead making that decision on a case-by-case basis, officials said.  That could affect whether some material can be used in a U.S. court of law.  The main purpose of the new unit, however, is to glean intelligence, especially about potential terrorist attacks, the officials said.

"It is not going to, certainly, be automatic in any regard that they are going to be Mirandized," one official said, referring to the practice of reading defendants their rights.  "Nor will it be automatic that they are not Mirandized."
I guess the up side of this is that the fear of having to listen to lawyers eight hours a day might drive some suspects to confess to anything.

I understand the Administration's desire to signal a new direction:
The administration is releasing the new guidelines on the day when what it sees as the worst practices of the Bush administration are being given another public airing.  New details of prisoner treatment are expected to be included in a long-awaited CIA inspector general's report being unveiled Monday about the spy agency's interrogation program.
My hope is that by the time most Senators have read this that the White House will have done a "re-think" and this will go away.

Regards  —  Cliff

, Ms Korblut, 36, used to be with The Boston Globe.
  My own take on it is that the goal is to make it a law enforcement issue, but when we are facing a serious threat we sometimes have to bring in the military.  It is best when this is done overseas and not in the US.  While the posse Comitatus law was passed for ignominious reasons, it is, in the long run, good domestic policy.  The idea of doing it on a "case-by-case basis" suggests to me that they have no thought out game plan.  My answer is that it isn't either, but a spectrum.  Trying to make it one thing or another shows a lack of the flexibility of mind needed to successfully fight terrorism.  However, you need to know what phase you are in and not try to do it on a "case-by-case basis."


Craig H said...

It's not just you.

The first two words that spring to my mind are "Spanish Inquisition", and we've seen it all before when interrogators answer only to the monarch. I mean POTUS.

The second two words that spring to my mind are "Dick Cheney", and I shudder to think what Machiavellians like him might do with such an apparatus. We already know the terror alerts were politically influenced. Now just imagine the consequence of a politician deciding he or she needs a confession to influence legislation or to bolster their approval ratings.

We have to decide if we are defending our ideals, or opposing terrorists. We cannot have both.

Personally, I kinda like our Constitution, and think the oath to protect it is violated by this sort of initiative.

C R Krieger said...

Someone anonymously noted:  "Moreover, this comes perilously close to operationalizing the NSC (again).  When in the last several decades has that ever worked out for the benefit of the country or the presidency?"

Perhaps the reference was to the Reagan Administration and Iran-Contra.

Regards  —  Cliff