Admiral Guter on Tavis Smiley: President Obama will be “a formidable Commander-in-Chief”

Former U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Don Guter appeared on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS on Monday, Janurary 26 2009. Admiral Guter is a member of HRF’s coalition of military leaders; he met with President Obama and his legal team to discuss torture and Guantanamo during and after the presidential campaign, and attended the signing ceremony for the executive order closing the controversial detention camp. Admiral Don Guter served in the U.S. Navy for 32 years. Watch the video here.

Some highlights from the interview:

GUTER: As you know, Human Rights First is the organization that got us all together because we were kind of single voices out there trying to get our message across and Human Rights First pulled us all together as a group and gave us a strong voice to talk about these issues.

SMILEY:How do you respond to conservatives – I know you’ve heard this a thousand times – who made the case that terrorism is not a pretty thing, it’s not an easy thing? You’re an admiral, so you know this, and that getting the kind of information we need doesn’t come easily and it may not be pretty to get that information. You respond to those critics in what way?

GUTER: Well, first of all, I think you have to understand that the group of admirals and generals that form to address these issues, it wasn’t just the 14 or 16 that you’ve seen in various pictures. This was 50 admirals and generals approximately and it included a former commandante of the Marine Corps and it included some other four-star admirals and generals.

So this is a very experienced group of people. It also included a former deputy head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. It included psychologists, it included lawyers, it included – I call them straight stick war fighters. So a lot of expertise went into these

The second thing I think I would emphasize is that we have a good track record using approved interrogation techniques complying with Geneva conventions and our expert interrogators have told us time and again and it’s been in the media, so I know that the public has at least had some exposure to it, that the best thing you can do is to try to gain the confidence of these folks.

Because, yes, you can use harsh techniques and, yes, you can get a detainee or whoever’s being interrogated, you can get them to say pretty much anything you want them to say, but that’s one of the problems.

What we’re after is good, actionable intelligence. You run the risk of not getting accurate and actionable intelligence when your techniques are so harsh that the person is going to say anything they have to say to make those techniques stop.

So we think the better course and the better long-term course for the United States in terms of how we’re viewed and whether we live up to our ideals and our values is to only use the techniques that have been approved by Geneva conventions.

You know, I commented one time on another interview that I did not think that the idea was for us to become them. Then I think we’ve already lost the war of ideas, and that’s really what this is about. It’s a war of ideas and it’s not gonna be over quickly.


Published on January 28, 2009


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