Monday, January 28, 2008

Let the Debate Continue

The Lede has a really great post up about a topic we don't hear enough about, torture. Apparently there's an intense rivalry between the CIA, who love torture, and the FBI, who hate it. However much I want to find a 'good guy' in this story, it's hard for me to feel anything but contempt for both agencies. While the FBI is apparently hoping that the CIA will have its dirty laundry aired before the world with the (cross your fingers) emergence of CIA interrogation tapes, even the more humane interrogation techniques of the FBI operate in undisclosed sites and in the absence of international law. But it's fun to see them squabble.

In the days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was tossing wisecracks on subjects serious and trivial. The cab that the former Iraqi leader hid inside? “He didn’t have the meter running.” Who’s going to be responsible for interrogation? “It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee.”

The job went to the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr. Hussein was added to the network of secret detention facilities that stretched from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay.

But Mr. Hussein’s fate would be much different than Abu Zubaydeh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, two members of Al Qaeda who endured harsh interrogation techniques while in C.I.A. custody.

Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials quickly pledged that he would be treated as a prisoner of war, although it took a month to make it official. And the three-minute decision was reassessed within weeks as the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the interrogation reins for the reason described in a January 2004 article:

The F.B.I. involvement reflects C.I.A. reluctance to allow covert officers to take part in interrogations that could force them to appear as court witnesses. In contrast, F.B.I. agents are trained to interview suspects in preparation for prosecutions.

In 2008, the two themes expressed in those sentences — C.I.A. aversion to public spectacle and F.B.I. experience on interrogation matters — are still being reinforced as a long-running rivalry continues to play out.

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