Debra J. Saunders

White House Adviser David Axelrod told CBS's "Face the Nation" that waterboarding and sleep deprivation were "one of the key tools al-Qaida has used for recruitment."

Which begs the question: If these methods serve as a recruiting tool, why is Obama releasing the four Bush waterboarding memos? By his team's own lights, isn't that waving the red flag?

Obama banned "enhanced" interrogation techniques in his first week in office, as he had promised to do during the 2008 campaign. That's not enough, some opponents say. There needs to be a Truth Commission or federal investigation to make sure, as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., argued, "it never happens again."

The irony is that the CIA stopped waterboarding -- a practice used on three high-value al-Qaida detainees in 2002 and 2003 -- in March 2003. Sometime after 2005, the practice was removed from the CIA authorized list of techniques. Waterboarding ended during the Bush administration.

It ended in part because the longer a detainee was in custody, the more he was separated from usable information. Risk aversion -- intelligence operatives' fear of having to hire expensive lawyers to defend themselves -- and perhaps aversion to waterboarding itself -- did the rest. The mere prospect of a new round of federal investigations has sent the message to all U.S. intelligence operatives that there is no upside in aggressive interrogation. To the contrary, it's a career killer.

The 9/11 commission was supposed to, among other results, prevent intelligence lapses so that 9/11 could never happen again. Now some Democrats want to investigate what they see as post-9/11 intelligence excesses. This isn't about gathering more information to prevent further disasters. It's scalp collecting.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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