If you've heard the latest news coming out of Washington D.C., then you know that the Armed Service Committee in the Senate has passed a terror detainee/trail bill which will basically grant the terrorists various right and privileges that US citizens and POW enjoy when detained. While it's great to push through laws to show that we practice what we preach, the sad truth is that our enemies could give less than a fig about showing any semblance of respect towards our captured soldiers. In the short-run this legislation might allow our senators to claim the moral high ground but in the long-run it ties our soldiers hands behind their back and prevent them from applying aggressive tactics towards a captive during a interrogation which is used to derive actionable intelligence on future terrorist acts.
Thankfully, the editorial board over at the Wall Street Journal is on the case and has an editorial (OpinionJournal - e-mail registration req.) out today which lays out a good argument on why the moral crusade on behalf of McCain(A fine naval pilot and POW who spent close to six years at the "Hanoi Hilton")is something that will definitely make it hard for our troops and our leaders to effectively fight and win a war on Islamic terrorism. I have to say the WSJ summed up the whole mess that McCain's legislation has and will create for this great nation:
In only one respect does the Field Manual recognize any difference between lawful and unlawful combatants: The latter may be separated from their compatriots. Otherwise, terrorists who have violated the rules of war by targeting civilians and fighting out of uniform are to be treated exactly like POWs and considered honorable fighters who have a right to keep their secrets.I know that this blog is one that calls for the light of liberty to reach the dark corners of the world but in this matter we are fighting a war against Islamic fanatics and it is our duty to the people of this country and the world in general to achieve an overwhelming victory over such forces.
So Iraqi and Afghan insurgents won't even face the prospect of your average good cop/bad cop routine. The manual allows for a watered down version called "Mutt and Jeff" in which interrogators can affect different personalities. But the Manual admonishes strongly that the intelligence "collector must be extremely careful that he does not threaten or coerce a source. Conveying a threat may be a violation of the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice]." We kid you not. "Mutt and Jeff" is the worst that Abu Musab al Zarqawi could have expected from the Pentagon had he been captured alive.
And what if he had been turned over to the CIA? The permissible methods for the spy agency remain classified, and on a visit to our offices last week Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would say only that the CIA would engage in no conduct that "shocks the conscience." He added that this concept was context-dependent, since the "shock" threshold may be higher with the likes of KSM--who planned 9/11--than for ordinary detainees. At least we hope it is.
In theory, this means there's still room to employ some of the aggressive techniques--such as stress positions, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes--that have been used successfully against al Qaeda bigwigs. But in practice we fear those approaches are a thing of the past. Reports that CIA interrogators have been buying legal insurance in the expectation of future prosecution are another way of saying that they will no longer use aggressive methods that could be second-guessed on Capitol Hill. (See John Kerry's revealing letter.)
Like any careful bureaucracy, the CIA will also now be asking for constant legal guidance from the Justice Department. Few Justice attorneys will be eager to offer robust advice after watching a fine lawyer like John Yoo run out of polite society for authoring the so-called torture memos that allowed us to break KSM.