Friday, April 24, 2009

A Word From Deacon Philip

Besides being a top official in the Bush State Department, Philip Zelikow was executive director of the Sept. 11 commission. His even-handed New York Times op-ed anticipates what the executive summary of a bipartisan fact-finding torture commission report (as opposed to a partisan get-or-save-Dick-Cheney free for all) might sound like:

A professional evaluation of the C.I.A.’s claims [about the effectiveness of the harsh interrogation techniques] would have to examine these cases to sift and weigh the contributions. The Senate Intelligence Committee is embarking on an important effort to sort out the claims and counterclaims.

What the committee may well find, after all the sifting, is that the reports were a critical part of the intelligence flow, but rarely — if ever — affected a “ticking bomb” situation.
That "rarely -- if ever" brings the reader up short. Tell us, please, if there was such a situation. But whether the techniques were effective or not, Zelikow argues that the U.S. Army's anti-al-Qaeda program in Iraq, which complied with international standards, was highly effective as well. As for the CIA's program, allies and even the FBI kept at arms length because they couldn't or didn't want to be associated with practices that smacked of torture. From studying Sept. 11 closer than anyone, Zelikow knows all too well what happens when intelligence gatherers aren't working togeteher.

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