Ineffective, Short-sighted, and Wrong

One of the most striking things to me as I work my way through the documents is how much opposition there was to the Bush torture program, from within the administration and from men and women in the U.S. military and intelligence services, from the very beginning.

Chapter 2 recounts a showdown between an FBI interrogation team and the CIA team led by the psychologist Dr. James Mitchell in a secret CIA prison in Thailand over the treatment of Abu Zubaydah. That confrontation led FBI Director Robert Mueller to prohibit FBI interrogators from participating in any interrogations involving techniques the FBI does not normally use in questioning suspects in the United States – a policy that remained in effect throughout the Bush administration.

That policy, which came to include instructions to FBI agents to report incidents of detainee abuse, gave rise to one of the most important summary documents available, the May 2008 report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) entitled, A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq (PDF).

Recounting the clash over Zubaydah's interrogation, the OIG's report describes a 2002 meeting with Director Mueller, FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Pasquale D'Amuro, and Andrew Arena, Section Chief of the FBI's International Terrorism Operations. “Arena stated that there were discussions with the FBI regarding “should we go down that track?” the report relates. “Arena told the OIG that during the meeting D'Amuro predicted that the FBI would have to testify before Congress some day and that the FBI should be able to say that it did not participate.”

The architects of the torture program often cite the atmosphere in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a justification for harsh interrogations. CIA Director George Tenet, in a 2007 60 Minutes interview, insisted:

…So the context is it's post-9/11. I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City , apartment buildings that are going to be blown up, planes that are going to fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don't know—I don't know what's going on inside the United States. And I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: the palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know.

But operating in the same climate, the FBI – the one agency with real interrogation experience and a proven record of eliciting information from al-Qaeda detainees – declared from the outset that abusive interrogations were ineffective, short-sighted, and wrong.


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