When one of the unions that represent FBI Agents floated a trial balloon supporting Mike Rogers to be FBI Director, it got a lot more press attention than the unlikelihood of their request merited.
Let’s see whether this letter — from 5 retired FBI Agents — gets similar press attention. It raises concerns about two parts of Jim Comey’s past: his concurrence with a May 10, 2005 memo authorizing (among other things) torture — which I wrote about here — and his support for the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla.
However, the public record also shows that Mr. Comey concurred with a May 10, 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that justified those same enhanced interrogation techniques for use individually. These techniques include cramped confinement, wallstanding, water dousing, extended sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, all of which constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in contravention of domestic and international law. Further, Mr. Comey vigorously defended the Bush administration’s decision to hold Jose Padilla, a United States citizen apprehended on U.S. soil, indefinitely without charge or trial for years in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina.
Among the signatories is Jack Cloonan, a former member of the Osama bin Laden team who watched as CIA started interrupting successful interrogations to subject the detainee to torture instead. I’d be surprised, too, if he didn’t know Comey from the Southern District of NY days.
The letter suggests that Comey might not guard the FBI’s legacy as nobly as Robert Mueller (!) did.
The FBI, while not a perfect institution, has a proud history of dealing with terrorism suspects in accordance with the law. When other agencies and departments resorted to “enhanced interrogation” techniques, FBI Director Mueller directed FBI agents not to participate and in many cases FBI agents were pulled from the field where there were concerns about complicity with unlawful interrogation approaches. To date, the FBI has played a role in prosecuting within the civilian criminal justice system nearly 500 international terrorism cases–often leading to substantial periods of incarceration—
without having to resort to indefinite detention. Even Jose Padilla was ultimately given a trial in a civilian court, despite claims by Mr. Comey that prosecuting Padilla or otherwise affording him traditional due process protections would compromise national security.
They also tied Comey’s confirmation process to the declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report.
The Agents ask only that Comey “reject” the May 10, 2005 OLC memo. Me, I’d like the Senate to demand a full explanation for the circumstances of it. The memo was retroactive to cover someone who had already been tortured (though of course probably served to authorize Abu Faraj al-Libi’s torture, among others). At the very least the Senate Judiciary Committee could demand that Comey explain the circumstances of that retroactive approval.
In the last week, we’ve had two stories about how terrorists at Gitmo have made themselves comfortable.
First there was Michelle Shephard’s investigation into whether Majid Khan has a cat.
A week-long investigation into Guantanamo’s feline affairs couldn’t determine the case for sure.
“No detainees are provided pets, and detainees are not authorized to keep animals, as they present a health and sanitation hazard,” wrote Navy Capt. Robert Durand, the director of Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s Public Affairs, in a lengthy response to my cat query.
“Wild animals often carry diseases and pests such as rabies, lice, mites and other infections.”
However: “Recreation yards are surrounded by security fences that keep detainees in and unauthorized people out, but small animals can and do squeeze through any gaps.”
Durand’s emailed response goes on to describe the island’s wildlife: “The Cuban Rock Iguana is a protected species, and banana rats and feral cats lack natural predators, so these populations thrive in the areas immediately adjacent to the various camps.”Yes, but does Khanhave a cat?
“We do not discuss the details of any individual detainee.”
And now there’s Carol Rosenberg’s story explaining that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hennaed his beard with berries and juice.
Tuesday, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said in response to a five-month-old question that Mohammed “did craft his own natural means” inside the prison camps to concoct his self-styled beard dye.
“I don’t have his exact procedure,” Breasseale said, “but can confirm the use of at least berries and juice to create a kind of harmless dye.”
We paid Halliburton a lot of money to build this prison–and still shell out $800,000 a year to keep terrorists there. But apparently Halliburton couldn’t even keep feral cats out?
I’m guessing Jose Padilla doesn’t have a kitten in Florence SuperMax. And even when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was held at the local minimum security prison in Milan, he didn’t show up in court in a camo vest and dyed beard (he asked to wear a Yemeni dagger, mind you, and he looked too young to grow one, mind you).
So I’m beginning to think that Lindsey Graham and all the others that insist terrorists must be held in Gitmo rather in the real prisons in the US want the terrorists to have kittens.
Upate: h/t to joanneleon for alerting me that, by my spelling, I tried to kill KSM’s beard rather than color it.
Noah Shachtman does a good job of fact checking Obama’s claims about his drone program in a recent interview with Jessica Yellin.
But I’d like to push further on his comments about Obama’s claims to give Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (to say nothing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) due process by pointing to the way he ends this bit:
Our most powerful tool over the long term to reduce the terrorist threat is to live up to our values and to be able to shape public opinion not just here but around the world that senseless violence is not a way to resolve political differences. And so it’s very important for the President and for the entire culture of our national security team to continually ask tough questions about, are we doing the right thing? Are we abiding by rule of law? Are we abiding by due process? And then set up structures and institutional checks so that you avoid any kind of slippery slope into a place where we’re not being true to who we are.
Having started by saying that drones are just a tool, he ends up by saying that we will vanquish terrorism by upholding our values–rule of law and due process.
And then the Constitution Professor President describes “set[ting] up structures and institutional checks” to make sure that we deliver rule of law and due process.
This, from the guy whose Administration refused to litigate a suit from Anwar al-Awlaki’s father to make sure it was upholding the standards Obama claimed in this interview in Awlaki’s case.
This, from the guy whose Administration has claimed state secrets to make sure no court can review the claims of people who have been rendered or tortured or illegally wiretapped.
This, from the guy who wouldn’t do the politically difficult things to have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried–and surely, convicted–before a civilian court in NYC.
He’s looking for structures and institutional checks to make sure we don’t go down that slippery slope where we forget rule of law. And yet his Administration has repeatedly avoided the one mandated by the Constitution: courts.
Which, according to his own logic, means he’s not using the tool that would best work to keep us safe from terrorism.
On June 11, SCOTUS denied cert in Jose Padilla’s suit against Donald Rumsfeld, former DIA Director Lowell Jacoby, and others at DOD for his denial of habeas corpus and abusive detention. On June 28, DOD responded to a FOIA Jeff Kaye submitted on September 8, 2010.
There’s a lot in the IG Report Jeff received in response–on whether detainees at Gitmo or other non-SOCOM facilities were administered drugs as part of interrogation (the report concludes they were not)–of import that Jeff and Jason Leopold report on here.
In this post, though, I want to look at why DOD may have held off on responding to Jeff’s FOIA until after SCOTUS rejected Padilla’s suit.
As Jeff and Jason report, one of the more inflammatory things revealed in the unredacted parts of the report is that when “they” gave Padilla a flu shot on December 5, 2002 (the report doesn’t say who administered the shot), he asked (following up on earlier comments made by an interrogator) whether they had given him truth serum.
What happened next is redacted–one of just about 5 redacted paragraphs in the entire report. DOD cited exemptions 1 (properly classified), 3 (protected by statute, including any function of the DIA), 6 (personal privacy) and 7c (law enforcement personal privacy) in withholding this information.
The following paragraph reads,
(U/FOUO) We concluded from the interrogation recordings and interviews with the interrogator and brig personnel present on December 5, 2002, that [redacted--Padilla] was not administered a mind-altering drug during his confinement at the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig, Charleston, South Carolina. We further concluded that the [3-letter redaction] failed to follow legal review procedures established by U.S. Joint Forces Command to ensure that [redacted--Jose Padilla's] welfare was protected in accordance with guidance issued by the President. [my emphasis]
Then, the subsequent two paragraphs–which provide “Client Comment” and DOD IG’s response–are redacted.
We can be almost certain that DIA (headed at the time of Padilla’s detention by Jacoby) was the redacted rebuked entity because their response to this report is the only other section of the report that is substantially redacted and no other respondants to the report had any complaints about it, meaning the redacted response in the Padilla section must be a discussion of DIA’s response. The unredacted section of their response, however, makes it clear their own IG investigated the problem (albeit at the same time as DOD IG was doing so).
The DIA Inspector General (IG) investigated the information gap cited in Appendix II. The DIA IG report was provided on 12 August 2009. [my emphasis]
Still, we don’t know what DIA did that drew a rebuke from DOD’s Inspector General. It may be no more than misleading Padilla into believing he had gotten a truth serum, without prior approval for doing so by lawyers. (The paragraphs in question are only classified Secret, so they can’t be that significant.)
Or, it may be that the conclusion served to protect the President and Rummy.
Nevertheless, it is fairly clear that DOD’s IG found that DIA didn’t do what they needed to do to protect Padilla’s welfare. And it sure looks like DOD sat on that information until SCOTUS ensured that Padilla would never have legal recourse for the abuse done to him.
There has already been a lot of very good commentary across the internets and media on the notable decision in the 9th Circuit this week in the case of Jose Padilla v. John Yoo. Although many, if not most, commenters seem outraged, the decision is, sadly, both predictable and expected. I also think Marcy had about the right, and appropriately snarky, take on the decision embodied in her post title “Jay Bybee’s Colleagues Say OLC Lawyers Couldn’t Know that Torture Was Torture in 2001-2003“. Yep, that is just about right.
As to the merits, Jonathan Hafetz, in a very tight post at Balkinization, hits every note I would urge is appropriate, and does so better than I probably could hope to. Go read Jonathan. Above and beyond that, I think Steve Vladeck’s analysis is spot on:
In other words, (1) it wasn’t clear from 2001-03 that CIDT “shocks the conscience”; (2) Padilla’s mistreatment was not as severe as prior cases in which courts had recognized a torture claim; (3) it therefore wasn’t clear whether Padilla’s mistreatment was torture or CIDT; (4) it therefore wasn’t clear that Padilla’s mistreatment “shocks the conscience.”
Thus, the panel’s approach is basically that the mistreatment here falls between conduct that prior courts (including the Ninth Circuit) had held to be torture and conduct that prior courts had held to be merely CIDT. Because Padilla’s mistreatment was less severe than prior examples of torture, and more severe than prior examples of CIDT, it’s just not “clear” on which side of the torture/CIDT line Padilla’s mistreatment falls… Of course, the fact that A > B > C proves nothing about where B is. And under Hope v. Pelzer, the question in qualified immunity cases is not whether the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s conduct was at least as bad as something already acknowledged to be unlawful. As Justice Stevens explained, it isn’t the case that “an official action is protected by qualified immunity unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful.” Instead, “in the light of pre-existing law[,] the unlawfulness must be apparent.”
Perhaps the panel would have reached the same result had they not skipped these steps. But to my mind, these are fairly significant omissions…
Wheeler, Hafetz and Vladeck are all correct about the infirmities in the 9th Circuit’s version of Padilla (without even getting to the 4th Circuit’s version of Padilla, contained in Padilla/Lebron v. Rumsfeld).
At this point, arguing over key governmental personnel accountability, or lack thereof, is pretty →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The 9th Circuit has overturned a District court ruling holding that Jose Padilla could sue John Yoo for the torture and illegal detention that Yoo’s OLC work authorized.
While the decision sucks, I’m not so surprised by it, even coming from the purportedly hippie 9th Circuit.
In fact, I’m particularly interested in the way the opinion applies the Ashcroft v. Al Kidd standard about whether the conduct alleged–now obviously recognized to be illegal–was considered as such “beyond debate” at the time of that conduct.
We therefore hold that Yoo must be granted qualified immunity, and accordingly reverse the decision of the district court.
As we explain below, we reach this conclusion for two reasons. First, although during Yoo’s tenure at OLC the constitutional rights of convicted prisoners and persons subject to ordinary criminal process were, in many respects, clearly established, it was not “beyond debate” at that time that Padilla — who was not a convicted prisoner or criminal defendant, but a suspected terrorist designated an enemy combatant and confined to military detention by order of the President — was entitled to the same constitutional protections as an ordinary convicted prisoner or accused criminal. Id. Second, although it has been clearly established for decades that torture of an American citizen violates the Constitution, and we assume without deciding that Padilla’s alleged treatment rose to the level of torture, that such treatment was torture was not clearly established in 2001-03.
The circuit, in other words, argued that a poor little OLC lawyer serving in the 2001 to 2003 time frame might genuinely consider the treatment that Padilla received to be legal at the time.
And remember, a number of the memos cited in the complaint were signed by then OLC head, now 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee.
Oh good. We don’t have to question the competence of anyone on the 9th Circuit now, given that the 9th Circuit has judged that it was not beyond debate that Inquisition torture methods were torture when now-9th Circuit judges were signing off on claims they weren’t.
I was never able to keep up with my goal of doing daily link posts last year. That said, there’s so much out today that I want to at least note that I can’t keep up with my own posting unless I dump all these here.
Steven Aftergood notes that your elected representatives are clarmoring for more leak prosecutions.
The EU just caved to US demands for EU passenger data. With Israel dictating no fly lists to Europe and Julian Assange’s lawyer being placed an an “inhibited” list with no explanation, this probably will lead to the US unilaterally dictating who can fly where in this world.
The Guardian asked pastor Terry Jones whether he bears any responsibility for the deaths he may cause if he insists on conducting another Quran burning. The Guardian doesn’t appear to have asked DOD, which is trying to convince Jones not to conduct the burning, why it doesn’t first take responsibility for ending the anti-Muslim abuses and the Quran burning committed by some troops.
In addition to the cooperation with Libya in exposing refugees in the UK, the documents liberated in Libya last year also describe how MI6 collaborated with Moammar Qaddafi to set up a radical mosque in some Western European country to use as bait for Islamic extremists.
Obama just issued an Executive Order basically saying that Syria and Iran should not be able to use tech to crack down on the opposition in the same we the US does.
Apparently we don’t have enough spies so now DOD is rolling out a new (actually, newly renamed) Clandestine Service.
Micah Zenko addresses the stupidity behind refusing to acknowledged our Third War–the drone one–publicly.
As Jack Goldsmith notes in Charlie Savage’s piece describing Obama’s increasing reliance on executive orders to do the work of business, “This is what Presidents do.” Congress has, with its capitulation to big money and greed, basically turned itself into a rump institution doing no more than channeling money into DC’s main industry. I think Obama, with his congressional majority in 2008, might have been able to begin to reverse that if he had actually used his majority rather than pissing it away in a bid for bipartisan crap rather than effective legislation. But he didn’t.
Evgeny Morozov explains why Anonymous’ structure and disparate goals has led to increased surveillance rather than less. I think his analysis suffers from the classic chicken-and-egg fallacy, and fails to account for the degree to which these choices are probably being dictated by FBI-directed double agents. But it worthwhile analysis.
File this news–that half of Iran’s super-tanker capacity is sitting anchored in the gulf with no place to go–in the “whatever could go wrong?” file. If we’re lucky it will involve nothing more than pirates and not fully-laden tankers sunk and draining into the gulf.
Jose Padilla’s mom has appealed her suit against Donald Rumsfeld for torture to SCOTUS. This case is the best set of facts–but the least empathetic plaintiff–of several suits trying to hold the government accountable for torturing American citizens.
Glenn Greenwald and Adam Serwer already hit this part of 60 Minutes interview with Leon Panetta yesterday. But I wanted to tie Panetta’s comments about how, “in his book” a citizen who wants to attack our people and kill Americans is first and foremost a terrorist.
If someone is a citizen of the United States and is a terrorist who wants to attack our people and kill Americans in my book that person is a terrorist. And the reality is that under our laws that person is a terrorist. And we’re required under process of law to be able to justify that despite the fact that this person may be a citizen, he is first and foremost a terrorist who threatens our people. [my emphasis]
Now, Panetta suggests that if someone who, in Leon’s book, is a terrorist is here in the US, that person will get due process.
But the logic of the Fourth Circuit’s Padilla decision the other day defies that. As I read it, the Fourth Circuit argued that once Padilla became an enemy combatant–once Leon’s predecessors decided that, in their book, he was a terrorist, then he lost access to the legal means to (for example) seek redress for torture, much less to anything but habeas corpus–on the schedule the government chose, which effectively nullified it.
So while it sounds odd that all it might take is the CIA Director or the Defense Secretary to say, “in my book, he’s a terrorist,” that is actually how things are functioning.
As you’ve probably heard, the 4th Circuit rejected Jose Padilla’s suit against Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday. Both Lyle Denniston and Steve Vladeck have good summaries of the decision, which basically says the courts can’t grant damages for constitutional abuses not otherwise covered by law until such time as Congress sees fit to cover them in law:
The factors counseling hesitation are many. We have canvassed them in some detail, but only to make a limited point: not that such litigation is categorically forbidden by the Constitution, but that courts should not proceed down this highly problematic road in the absence of affirmative action by Congress. If Congress were to create a damages remedy here, we would trust that the legislative process gave due consideration to the broader policy implications that we as judges are neither authorized nor well-positioned to balance on our own.
But if that’s not circular enough reasoning for you, here’s a more disturbing one–one which may have troubling implications given the recent codification of indefinite detention.
The 4th Circuit Opinion hews closely to the argument the government made in its amicus brief which, as I described last year, itself engaged in circular logic. It effectively invoked national security to say that the court couldn’t consider Padilla’s deprivation of due process. And then having bracketed off the lack of due process that got him put in the brig with no access to lawyers, they effectively punted on the torture complaint.
To explain their failure to treat torture in their filing, they say 1) that the other defendants are addressing it and 2) they don’t have to deal with it anyway because the President has said the US does not engage in torture (which is precisely what Bush said when torture was official policy):
In this brief, we do not address the details of Padilla’s specific treatment allegations, which have already been thoroughly briefed by the individual defendants.1
1 Notwithstanding the nature of Padilla’s allegations, this case does not require the court to consider the definition of torture. Torture is flatly illegal and the government has repudiated it in the strongest terms. Federal law makes it a criminal offense to engage in torture, to attempt to commit torture, or to conspire to commit torture outside the United States. See 18 U.S.C. § 2340A. Moreover, consistent with treaty obligations, the President has stated unequivocally that the United States does not engage in torture, see May 21, 2009 Remarks by the President on National Security.
Note that bit, though, where the government acknowledges that torture is illegal?
That’s important, because they base their objections to the Bivens complaint in part on the possibility that a court could review Padilla’s treatment–treatment he alleges amounts to torture, which the government accepts is illegal–and determine whether it was in fact torture and therefore illegal.
Padilla also seeks damages in regard to the lawfulness of his treatment while in military detention. Thus, a court would have to inquire into, and rule on the lawfulness of, the conditions of Padilla’s military confinement and the interrogation techniques employed against him. Congress has not provided any such cause of action, and, as the district court concluded (JA 1522), a court should not create a remedy in these circumstances given the national security and war powers implications.
And they’re arguing Congress–which passed laws making torture illegal (to say nothing of the Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment)–didn’t provide for a cause of action.
That is, Padilla can’t sue both because Congress has made it illegal but not provided a cause of action here and … national security!
Effectively, then, the government shielded torture by shielding the initial lack of due process from all oversight under national security and therefore depriving Padilla of recourse once he lost his access to due process.
In my opinion, the 4th Circuit brief actually magnifies this problem. Check out the language in these two passages:
Special factors do counsel judicial hesitation in implying
causes of action for enemy combatants held in military detention.
With respect to detainees like Padilla, Congress has provided for limited judicial review of military commission decisions, but only by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, and only after the full process in military courts has run its course. 10 U.S.C. § 950g. And to the extent that the Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), permitted further judicial examination of the detention of enemy combatants, it did so using the limited tool of the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus—not an implied and open-ended civil damages
action. See id. at 797. [my emphasis]
That is, the 4th Circuit did not consider whether American citizens with no other recourse could sue under Bivens for having been turned into enemy combatants precisely to deprive them of their rights. Rather, it considered whether “enemy combatants held in military detention” and “detainees like Padilla” had access to Bivens. It thereby ignored the most fundamental part of the process, where the Bush Administration removed Padilla, a citizen, from civilian detention with access to due process, and made him an enemy combatant.
The 4th Circuit denies Padilla the ability to sue for being deprived of his constitutional right to due process by considering him not as a citizen deprived of his constitutional rights, but as a detainee whose constitutional rights had already been suspended.
Which makes the final passages of this opinion all the more nauseating. Having premised their entire decision not on Padilla’s rights as a citizen, but on his rights as an enemy combatant (even seemingly referring to him as a detainee, in the present tense), they then argue that there would be no incremental harm for Padilla between being a citizen convicted of a felony through due process and being an enemy combatant.
It is hard to imagine what “incremental” harm it does to Padilla’s reputation to add the label of “enemy combatant” to the fact of his convictions and the conduct that led to them.
This entire suit is about the magical power that term “enemy combatant” has to put an American citizen beyond the realm of due process (and, in Padilla’s case, to be tortured precisely because he has lost due process). That is precisely the logic the judges use throughout this opinion. And yet they simply can’t imagine what the difference between being a citizen–even one convicted of multiple felonies–and being an enemy combatant is?
And then there are the larger implications of this. In a world where indefinite detention is now codified into law, in a world where Padilla has always delimited the possible applications of claimed authority to hold American citizens captured in this country as enemy combatants, the circuit that covers CIA’s and JSOC’s actions–not to mention the two military brigs, Charleston and Quantico, that would be the most likely places to detain American citizens–just accorded that term, “enemy combatant,” magical status. Once applied to an American citizen, the 4th Circuit says, the Executive Branch is absolved of any infringements of a citizen’s constitutional rights, even the infringements of constitutional rights used to get him into that magic status in the first place.
In the entire two week debate over the detainee provisions of the Defense Authorization, the champions of military detention offered almost no rationale for it (a pity, then, that the opponents barely explained why it’s such a bad idea), aside from Lindsey Graham repeating endlessly that detainees shouldn’t get lawyers (he never explained how this claim jived with his promise that every detainee would have access to habeas corpus).
One exception is a statement that Jon Kyl submitted to the record but did not read (the statement starts on PDF 5). After reasserting the legality of the detainee provisions under Hamdi, Kyl’s (was it Kyl’s?) statement offered an “explanation” for military detention; I’ve reproduced that part of the statement in full below the line.
Now, the statement doesn’t make any sense. It invokes what it claims were CIA interrogations and treats them as military interrogation; though in fact a number of the interrogations the statement invokes were FBI interrogations.
The statement claims detainees wouldn’t have a lawyer, though the architects of the bill have made it clear (as has SCOTUS) detainees would have access to habeas corpus and therefore (presumably) lawyers.
Perhaps not surprising, the statement also invokes two discredited pieces of propaganda: Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby’s January 9, 2003 Declaration in opposition to granting Jose Padilla habeas corpus and George Bush’s September 6, 2006 speech announcing he was moving 14 high value detainees to Gitmo.
It relies on Jacoby’s statement to argue for the value of a “relationship of dependency,” which seems to no more than a rebranding of Bruce Jessen’s “learned helplessness.” And note, Jacoby’s statement, written six months after DOD took custody of Padilla, spoke of intelligence he might offer prospectively; it doesn’t claim to have gotten any intelligence using this “relationship of dependency.”
And it relies on Bush’s statement to claim that military or CIA interrogations exposed that KSM was Mukhtar and Jose Padilla’s plans, both of which came from Ali Soufan’s FBI interrogation of Zubaydah. It also claims the CIA interrogations yielded Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s location, whereas Soufan, at least, claims that came from an FBI interrogation in Bagram. And it claims CIA’s interrogation of KSM revealed the Liberty Towers plot that had been broken up a year earlier. In other words, Kyl’s argument for why we need military detention consists of repeating discredited propaganda claiming CIA credit for interrogations largely conducted by the FBI. The same FBI officers who will lose their ability to interrogate detainees if and when this bill goes into place.
In short, one of the most comprehensive arguments for why we need military detention instead makes the case for retaining FBI primacy. At the same time, it appears to endorse the “learned helplessness” that ended up making delaying any value to KSM and other detainee interrogations.
Even the champions of military detention offer proof that we’re safer with civilian detention.
What follows is the statement Kyl submitted to the record.
Wahy Military Detention Is Necessary: To Allow Intelligence Gathering That Will Prevent Future Terrorist Attacks Against the American People
Some may ask, why does it matter whether a person who has joined Al Qaeda is held in military custody or is placed in the civilian court system? One critical reason is intelligence gathering. A terrorist operative held in military custody can be effectively interrogated. In the civilian system, however, that same terrorist would be given a lawyer, and the first thing that lawyer will tell his client is, “don’t say anything. We can fight this.”
In military custody, by contrast, not only are there no lawyers for terrorists. The indefinite nature of the detention–it can last as long as the war continues–itself creates conditions that allow effective interrogation. It creates the relationship of dependency and trust that experienced interrogators have made clear is critical to persuading terrorist detainees to talk.
Navy Vice-Admiral Lowell Jacoby, who at the time was the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, explained how military custody is critical to effective interrogation in a declaration that he submitted in the Padilla litigation. He emphasized that successful noncoercive interrogation takes time–and it requires keeping the detainee away from lawyers.
Vice-Admiral Jacoby stated:
DIA’s approach to interrogation is largely dependent upon creating an atmosphere of dependency and trust between the subject and the interrogator. Developing the kind of relationship of trust and dependency necessary for effective interrogations is a process that can take a significant amount of time. There are numerous examples of situations where interrogators have been unable to obtain valuable intelligence from a subject until months, or, even years, after the interrogation process began.
Anything that threatens the perceived dependency and trust between the subject and interrogator directly threatens the value of interrogation as an intelligence gathering tool. Even seemingly minor interruptions can have profound psychological impacts on the delicate subject/interrogator relationship. Any insertion of counsel into the subject-interrogator relationship, for example–even if only for a limited duration or for a specific purpose–can undo months of work and may permanently shut down the interrogation process.
Specifically with regard to Jose Padilla, Vice Admiral Jacoby also noted in his Declaration that: “Providing [Padilla] access to counsel now would create expectations by Padilla that his ultimate release may be obtained through an adversarial civil litigation process. This would break–probably irreparably–the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.”
In other words, military custody is critical to successful interrogation. Once a terrorist detainee is transferred to the civilian court system, the conditions for successful interrogation are destroyed.
Preventing the detention of U.S. citizens who collaborate with Al Qaeda would be a historic abandonment of the law of war. And, by preventing effective interrogation of these collaborators, it would likely have severe consequences for our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks against the American people.
We know from cold, hard experience that successful interrogation is critical to uncovering information that will prevent future attacks against civilians.
On September 6 of 2006, when President Bush announced the transfer of 14 high-value terrorism detainees to Guantanamo, he also described information that the United States had obtained by interrogating these detainees. Abu Zubaydah was captured by U.S. forces several months after the September 11 attacks. Under interrogation, he revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the principal organizer of the September 11 attacks. This is information that the United States did not already know–and that we only obtained through the successful military interrogation of Zubaydah.
Zubaydah also described a terrorist attack that Al Qaida operatives were planning to launch inside this country–an attack of which the United States had no previous knowledge. Zubaydah described the operatives involved in this attack and where they were located. This information allowed the United States to capture these operatives–one while he was traveling to the United States.
Again, just imagine what might have happened if the Feinstein amendment had already been law, and if the Congress had stripped away the executive branch’s ability to hold Al Qaeda collaborators in military custody and interrogate them. We simply would not learn what that detainee knows–including any knowledge that he may have of planned future terrorist attacks.
Under military interrogation, Abu Zubaydah also revealed the identity of another September 11 plotter, Ramzi bin al Shibh, and provided information that led to his capture. U.S. forces then interrogated bin al Shibh. Information that both he and Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Under interrogation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided information that helped stop another planned terrorist attack on the United States. K.S.M. also provided information that led to the capture of a terrorist named Zubair. And K.S.M.’s interrogation also led to the identification and capture of an entire 17-member Jemaah Islamiya terrorist cell in Southeast Asia.
Information obtained from interrogation of terrorists detained by the United States also helped to stop a planned truck-bomb attack on U.S. troops in Djibouti. Interrogation helped stop a planned car-bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. And it helped stop a plot to hijack passengers planes and crash them into Heathrow airport in London.
As President Bush stated in his September 6, 2006 remarks, “[i]nformation from terrorists in CIA custody has played a role in the capture or questioning of nearly every senior al Qaida member or associate detained by the U.S. and its allies.” The President concluded by noting that Al Qaida members subjected to interrogation by U.S. forces: “have painted a picture of al Qaeda’s structure and financing, and communications and logistics. They identified al Qaeda’s travel routes and safe havens, and explained how al Qaeda’s senior leadership communicates with its operatives in places like Iraq. They provided information that ….. has allowed us to make sense of documents and computer records that we have seized in terrorist raids. They’ve identified voices in recordings of intercepted calls, and helped us understand the meaning of potentially critical terrorist communications.
[Were it not for information obtained through interrogation], our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this [interrogation] program has saved innocent lives.”
If the Feinstein amendment were adopted, this is all information that we would be unable to obtain if the Al Qaeda collaborator that our forces had captured was a U.S. citizen. It would simply be impossible to effectively interrogate that Al Qaeda collaborator–the relationship of trust and dependency that military custody creates would be broken, and the detainee would instead have a lawyer telling him to be quiet. And we know that information obtained by interrogating Al Qaeda detainees has been by far the most valuable source of information for preventing future terrorist attacks.
Again, in every past war, our forces have had the ability to capture, detain, and interrogate U.S. citizens who collaborate with the enemy or join forces with the enemy. I would submit that in this war, intelligence gathering is more critical than ever. Al Qaeda doesn’t hold territory that we can capture. It operates completely outside the rules of war, and directly targets innocent civilians. Our only effective weapon against Al Qaeda is intelligence gathering. And the Feinstein amendment threatens to take away that weapon–to take away our best defense for preventing future terrorist attacks against the American people. [my emphasis]