POLI:3505:0EXW Fall14 Politics of Terrorism
Was the CIAs Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs), as a counter-terrorism strategy, effective?
In 2002, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Justice approved the CIAs request to perform what it called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). There were ten techniques in total, they are: attention grasp, cramped confinement, cramped confinement “with an insect”, facial hold, facial slap, sleep deprivation, stress positions, walling, wall standing and the most controversial of these being waterboarding.1 Following unfavorable media exposure of EITs the Obama administration banned it's use in 2009, just three years after the Department of Justice once again approved all techniques as being acceptable and not forms of torture. Information behind the interrogation program has recently been released in a report by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee following a five and a half year investigation. As stated by committee member US Senator Dianne Feinstein, during her address on Capitol Hill2, that the findings of the SIC are that EITs didn't provide any valuable information. Some would say that this is what the majority report states but that the minority report paints a different picture as to the programs effectiveness. Before taking Senator Feinstein's words at face value one first needs to understand that the purpose of EITs isn't to provide valuable information. It is a tool that aids interrogators in discovering valuable information.
To help decipher the goals of EITs and the Senate Intelligence Committees findings it seems reasonable to ask the source, in this case the 'architect'. One of the men behind EITs is said, by the New York Times and other news outlets, to be Dr. James Mitchell. The New York Times stated in it's article about Dr. Mitchell that “By the start of 2002, Dr. Mitchell was consulting with the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, whose director, Cofer Black, and chief operating officer, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., were impressed by his combination of visceral toughness and psychological jargon.”3 Though Mitchell isn't allowed to comment about his direct involvement due to a nondisclosure agreement with the CIA, in an interview with Vice News, he did provide some clarity as to the true purpose behind these techniques “the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is to get the detainee to be willing to engage with the debriefer. It wasn't designed to ask questions about actual intelligence while the detainee was experiencing the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. It was to facilitate getting actual intelligence [later on] by making a 'bad cop' bad enough so that the person would engage with the 'good cop'.”4 This might be an explanation as to why the Senate Intelligence Committee came to the conclusion that the program was a failure. Considering that the intent of the enhanced interrogation program is to function the way Dr. Mitchell said to Vice News, it should be no surprise that information gathered during an interrogation session wasn't unique nor valuable because the line of questioning, being directed at the time EITs were being applied, wasn't meant to provide unique or valuable intelligence. The typical questions asked during an enhanced interrogation session were questions that interrogators already had answers to so that they could distinguish the validity of the information that the detainee was providing. Dr. Mitchell also states, in regards to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, that he would be shocked if valuable intelligence was gathered while EITs were being applied.
It would seem difficult to prove the programs effectiveness in light of the fact that valuable intelligence was gathered later in a detainees tenure. Such valuable intelligence was provided by the interrogation program which assisted intelligence agents in locating and eliminating Osama Bin Laden. Bill Harlow, former...
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