Thiessen Watch: Security Clearance = Expertise on Torture?

By Renée Schomp, Law and Security

This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, when former Bush administration speechwriter Marc Thiessen and author of a recently published pro-torture manifesto was asked what credentials he can claim as an expert on interrogation tactics, he replied, “I had a security clearance!”

Does Thiessen know that college students get security clearances before they are allowed to intern in many parts of the federal government? Security clearance aside, Thiessen has his facts wrong. He repeatedly claims that the Obama administration has eliminated its ability to capture, detain, and interrogate suspected terrorists even though alleged Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab is, according to news sources, providing intelligence to FBI officials.

His role as a speechwriter advocating on behalf of Bush administration counterterrorism policy gave Thiessen access to information sources within the CIA but this cannot reasonably be held up as expertise regarding intelligence gathering. As mentioned in a previous blog, people with real experience with interrogations, such as FBI interrogator Ali Soufan – who have repeatedly spoken out against using harsh tactics – are those who we should turn to when we consider how to best gather intelligence from suspected terrorists.

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Published on February 12, 2010

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