Gates on Release of the Interrogation Memos

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

The administration has recently pressed for the release of both the interrogation memos and the associated photographs.  Regarding this information:

“They should have fought it all the way; if they lost, they lost,” said Lowenthal, who retired from the Agency in 2005. “There’s nothing to be gained from it. There’s no substantive reason why those photos have to be released.”

Lowenthal said the president’s moves in the last week have left many in the CIA dispirited, based on “the undercurrent I’ve been getting from colleagues still in the building, or colleagues who have left not that long ago.”

“We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they’ve been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong,” Lowenthal says. “They don’t believe they have that cover anymore.” Releasing the photographs “will make it much worse,” he said.

Setting aside the issue of whether water-boarding is torture or whether certain interrogation techniques should be used, the release of detail concerning the same is bound to continue to undermine a CIA that lost much of its capability in human intelligence in the Clinton years.  Secretary of Defense Gates’ reaction to the release of the memos is interesting on multiple levels.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed concerns on Thursday that the release of Justice Department memorandums on harsh interrogation techniques might be used by Al Qaeda and other adversaries and put American troops at risk.

But Mr. Gates said that the public release of graphic, detailed information on American interrogation techniques for terrorists was inevitable and that he had focused his efforts in cabinet-level discussions on how the United States should deal with the expected international backlash.

Mr. Gates declined to say whether his private advice to President Obama was to release or withhold the documents and instead said he urged careful attention to dealing with the consequences of their disclosure.

“Pretending that we could hold all of this and keep it all a secret, even if we wanted to, I think was probably unrealistic,” Mr. Gates said. “My own view was shaped by the fact that I regarded the information about a lot of these things coming out as inevitable.”

The central question he posed in lengthy, intense debate among the president’s senior advisers, Mr. Gates said, was, “How do we try and manage it in the best possible way?”

Mr. Gates’s comments on the release of the documents by the administration were the first since they were made public. He spoke on a visit to Marines training here for a deployment to Afghanistan, and he expressed apprehensions that the release of the information “might have a negative impact on our troops” and that the “disclosures could be used by Al Qaeda and our adversaries.”

Mr. Gates said he had argued that Central Intelligence Agency officers who were following legal guidelines for interrogation be protected. He said he was concerned “first and foremost” that protection be guaranteed for “C.I.A. officers who were involved in the interrogations — and who performed their duties in accordance with the legal guidance they had been given by the Justice Department.”

Gutsy move.  Let’s translate the statement[s] above into a something more usable by giving the less political version that Gates doubtless wanted to say.

“Look.  You and I both know that this is stupid.  Whatever you might think of what was done, those involved should be protected.  It was inevitable, which means that I am alone on the Cabinet.  I did all that I could do, which is to argue for protecting the fidelity of our intelligence community and managing as best as possible the release of the information.  They were hell bent on doing it, and it was unrealistic to think that I could stop it.  Be glad you have me there – I am the lone voice of reason on the Cabinet.”

By the way, it appears as if Gates has recovered nicely from his broken arm.


You are currently reading "Gates on Release of the Interrogation Memos", entry #2759 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) CIA,Department of Defense,Secretary Gates and was published April 26th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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