Monday, December 8, 2008

Brennan: "The Big Torture Opponent"


From CBS Evening News, Sept 18 2006:

COURIC: All right, Bob Schieffer. Bob, thanks so much. Well, all of the political back and forth may have obscured the real issue here: How far exactly can CIA interrogators go when it comes to extracting important information from suspected terrorists? We asked national security correspondent David Martin to find out. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DAVID MARTIN, CBS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CIA Director Michael Hayden has briefed members of Congress on so-called stress-inducing techniques used to extract information from high-level terrorists -- tactics the president has called tough. Tactics former CIA official and now CBS News consultant John Brennan says would still be used.
(on camera): What are the tough tactics that the CIA wants to use?

JOHN BRENNAN, CBS NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Sleep deprivation, you know, long periods of standing, other types of things that will try to wear down a detainee`s resistance to questioning.

MARTIN (voice-over): Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch says that depending on how harshly the techniques are applied, they would violate the Geneva Conventions ban on cruel treatment, which now applies to prisoners held by the CIA.

TOM MALINOWSKI, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Extended sleep deprivation, forced standing, where a prisoner is forced to stand motionless for up to 40 hours at a time, induced hypothermia, in which a prisoner is subjected to extremely cold temperatures, and also the technique of using all of these techniques at the same time.

MARTIN: The CIA has used its most aggressive techniques, including waterboarding, in which the prisoner is made to feel like he`s drowning, against a handful of terrorists like Khalid Shaik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. But Brennan says the CIA now recognizes it went too far.

BRENNAN: I think the increasing consensus is that waterboarding and some of the more aggressive tactics like that are something that may be beyond what that line should be.

MARTIN: But human rights activists like Malinowski argue that any technique for inducing stress ends up being cruel.

MALINOWSKI: A little bit of cold, a little bit of discomfort isn`t going to cut it with a hardened prisoner like a Khalid Shaik Mohammed. If you apply these methods, you are always going to apply them beyond the point of a prisoner`s tolerance.


Brennan does not like waterboarding by most accounts, but it is unclear as to what he finds appropriate - and it is well documented that extended isolation and sleep deprivation are as tortuous and painful as other techniques.

What is also interesting is that Brennan seems unable to say the CIA has even used waterboarding from one moment to the next. Check out his CBS interview of Nov 2007:

BRENNAN: Yes, and a sort of classic water boarding, and I'm not saying the CIA has ever used water boarding, but there would be a constant stream of water
and a volume of water that is going to be continuous. Here they stop in between on

So what makes the difference here between Brennan acknowledging or not acknowledging it? I think an investigation of the political moment would be interesting. But I do not think this is the stance of a big torture opponent. On top of everything else of course.

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