60 Minutes will be airing its interview with the ex-head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, this week. It appears Rodriguez will be going on the defense for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on terrorism suspects during the War on Terror and will be arguing they worked in extracting information from suspects that saved lives. Rodriguez specifically uses (like many before him) the example of Khalid Sheik Mohammed as a suspect that was tortured and provided valuable information. Now if only we could ask KSM’s opinion to either corroborate this story or debunk it we could prove whether torture worked on him or not and show if Mr. Rodriguez is correct.
Oh yeah. That happened already. Five years ago. Again, the widely reported quote that seems to be forgotten too often from KSM:
During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told the interrogators their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the U.S.
Now make no mistake here. KSM (and many criminals like him) is a terrorist and deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But the last part of his statement combined with another nugget of information produces an interesting situation. During Lesley Stahl’s appearance on the CBS Evening News to preview her interview, she tells Scott Pelley it was Rodriguez who ordered the destruction of the videos that recorded the “enhanced interrogations” of KSM and other terrorist suspects. He apparently ordered this destruction to both keep the interrogators identities secret and keep the harsh images from reaching the rest of the world and giving the U.S. a bad image regarding its use of torture. But what if there was a somewhat significant third motive?
What if Rodriguez also destroyed these tapes to save himself and his fellow torture advocates the embarrassment of proving KSM’s allegation about producing false alerts correct and show they could not tell when he was lying while being tortured? The recordings would have no doubt been dated so a direct trace could be made between the information given and the changing in the now ridiculed color alert system put in place by the Bush administration after 9/11.
Imagine how this would look. We would be shown a video of KSM being tortured and giving false information on a Monday. On Tuesday, the government raises the terror alert to…I don’t know. Eggshell white mixed with aqua blue and a hint of hunter green? The country goes into its collective panic expecting a terrorist attack. Then we are shown the video from a few days later of KSM laughing at an interrogator and telling them he lied and their methods are stupid. Then the government lowers the alert level and issues a statement saying an attack had been thwarted. Just a thought.
How’s torture being a useful tactic looking now? It’s at least possible and probably likely Rodriguez and others around him could see the problem here and had good reason to destroy these recordings. He did the “right thing” in his eyes and can now give his interview without the possibility of being proved wrong by those videos. Good for him and torture, I suppose. Bad for the country.