Interrogators Speak Out: America Is Morally Bipolar

This is a cross-post by Matthew Alexander in the Huffington Post

Another year, another round of the torture debate — the pattern keeps repeating itself. Each year, the pro-torture advocates submit a new mouthpiece to put forth the arguments of former President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

We’ve heard from Marc Thiessen, the former Bush administration speech writer, who argued that torture was moral according to his Catholic values. And then Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, who defended the use of so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and used his time at the agency to ensure there would be no accountability for torture. And there’s been a host of media pundits in the pro-torture camp, such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.

And each year the anti-torture advocates offer up whom? Well, they offer up actual interrogators — people who have successfully interrogated terrorists and criminals. Let’s review who is in this camp:

• Eric Maddox, the Army interrogator who found Saddam Hussein (a remarkable story recounted in his bookSearching for Saddam) and has conducted over 3,000 interrogations;

• Jim Clemente, a former FBI serial profiler who was sent to assist interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, and is a first-class expert on criminal behavioral analysis;

• Steve Kleinman, a Colonel in the Reserves and career Air Force Intelligence Officer with vast knowledge on the science of interrogations as well as experience interrogating going back to the invasion of Panama;

• Torin Nelson, an Army civilian interrogator with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay;

• Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who investigated the USS Cole bombing and successfully interrogated detainees, including Abu Zubaydah;

• Robert McFadden, a former NCIS agent who worked withSoufan;

• Mark Fallon, a former NCIS agent who ran the Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo Bay;

• Don Borelli, a former FBI agent;

• Stu Herrington, a retired Army Colonel and one the military’s most respected intelligence officers who conducted numerous successful interrogations in Vietnam (see his book Stalking the Vietcong);

• Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent and Al Qaeda investigator;

• Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and expert on detecting deception;

The list goes on to include even more professionals with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge about interrogations (just take a look at this video to see what professionals say:

And so we embark on another round where those who endorse torture, the men who have never done an interrogation, say it works and the anti-torture advocates, like me, who have successfully interrogated numerous detainees, say it doesn’t and/or it isn’t worth the long term consequences.

Well, count me in another group that says I don’t care if it works 100 percent of the time. Chemical weapons work 100 percent of the time and we don’t use those, even though (as the torture advocates assert), they would save lives. Flamethrowers are another weapon that work very effectively and could save lives, especially when clearing houses with suicide bombers, but we don’t use those either. Not because it wouldn’t save lives, but because these weapons cause unnecessary human suffering and the international community, led by the U.S., decided that they weren’t worth the moral cost.

The sad truth is that America is morally bipolar. The country that I signed up to defend with my life has become an endorser of torture, an evader of accountability, and a place where the rule of law is arbitrary, especially for government elites who craft torture programs. The accountability we preach to other countries that is so important for a just society is absent in our own when it comes to torture.

To reckon with this disgraceful era will require transparency, which is why I call on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to release the full version of its report on the handling of detainees and interrogation practices so that we can know the full truth about the torture that took place. Accountability starts with transparency.

America is a country I’m still proud of, that provided an enormous amount of leadership and resources to the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture. What pseudo-patriots like Rodriguez want to tell us is that all that doesn’t matter as long as we save lives. But what he fails to realize is that the very act of service means one is willing to give their life to protect our values. Our principles are worth that cost.


Published on April 26, 2012


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