Obama May Create New Interrogation Unit for Detainees
The Wall St. Journal reports today that President Obama may be considering a big change in the way the U.S. interrogates high-value detainees.
The Obama administration is considering overhauling the way terror suspects are interrogated by creating a small team of professionals drawn from across the government, according to people familiar with a proposal that will be submitted to the White House.
The new unit, comprising members of spy services and law-enforcement agencies, would be used for so-called high-value detainees, they said. In a switch from Bush-era efforts, it wouldn't be run by the Central Intelligence Agency, though who might be in charge isn't specified.
Among the expected changes: [More...]
One of the team's tasks would likely be to devise a new set of interrogation methods, according to one person familiar with the proposal. Those techniques could be drawn from sources ranging from scientific studies to the psychology behind television ads.
The unit would focus more on gathering intelligence than obtaining evidence of crimes for prosecution. The WSJ says that's a similarity with the Bush administration. I don't think that's necessarily true.
Under Bush, people were captured, interrogated and abused and then left to rot at Gitmo or in overseas prisons. Hopefully, Obama's unit, if it is created, will (1) allow high value detainees to challenge their designation in federal court, (2) make efforts to gather information using non-coercive methods from any who are confirmed to be high-value detainees, and (3) send detainees back home after they have no more information to give if no criminal prosecution is instituted.
A new interrogation policy is also in the works.
In addition, the team would be asked to devise noncoercive procedures that may differ from the 19 permitted in the Army Field Manual, which include providing rewards for information and playing on a detainee's anxiety or other emotions. That document has emerged as a favored standard among many lawmakers and some human-rights groups.
The task force working on the proposals is called "The Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies." It's led by J. Douglas Wilson, chief of the national-security unit in the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of California. Members include "representatives from the director of national intelligence, Pentagon, CIA and other security agencies."
Who is this guy the Wall St. Journal quotes:
Some CIA veterans warn that the Obama administration shouldn't limit itself to noncoercive interrogations because there is a middle ground of techniques between the Army Field Manual and torture. Techniques such as sleep deprivation and blasting loud music are considered coercive but not torture, said John Radsan, a former CIA lawyer and federal prosecutor.
"We have to figure out tactic by tactic: Would we allow some things that go beyond the criminal-justice system or the Army Field Manual?" he said.
Clearly his answer is "yes." I hope he's speaking as a pundit and not someone working on the proposal. As Amnesty International tells the Journal,
Tom Parker, policy director for counterterrorism and human rights at Amnesty International USA, argues that the Field Manual itself should be amended to specifically prohibit techniques such as sexual humiliation by members of the opposite sex, forced use of enemas and forced shaving of Muslim detainees.
Torture encompasses far more than water-boarding and slamming a detainee against a wall, but I think Obama gets that.
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