Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post alleging that President Obama’s decision to yank the CIA from the lead role in questioning captured suspected terrorists has made the United States more at risk to an attack. His piece has an ominous tone and some frightening examples. Sessions notes, for instance, that the CIA has “taken no steps to detain or interrogate” Umar Patek, a suspected al Qaida sympathizer captured by Pakistani security officials.
Here is Session’s argument in a nutshell from his piece:
The CIA’s deeply diminished role in interrogating newly captured terrorists is on of several dangerous roadblocks that this administration has thrown up, constraining our ability to gather intelligence and, ultimately, putting this country at grave risk.
Yikes. This suggests that since President Obama has pulled the CIA back from holding and torturing suspected terrorists at secret “black site” prisons, nobody is around to question terror suspects.
Except that early in his administration, Obama simply pulled the CIA back from the lead role and established the so-called High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, housed at the FBI and overseen by the National Security Council. In other words, Obama just took the job away from the agency, he did not do away with the job, a fact missing from Session’s piece.
Almost any trained interrogator will tell you that the real expertise in interrogation resides with the FBI and the military, which is one of the reasons so many people were befuddled by the Bush administration’s use of the CIA for the job. In fact, when Bush tapped the CIA for the task, the agency did not have any trained interrogators on staff and had to resort to a small group of psychologist contractors who had no interrogation experience. Those men were, however, willing to torture people, something trained interrogator dismiss as an unreliable method of gathering intelligence.