We're no experts

In the newly launched Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman has an article arguing that, surprisingly, the CIA had no real interrogation capacity prior to 9/11. Worse, after 9/11 they botched the job of building their capabilities:

Despite having nearly no off-the-shelf experience, the CIA was tasked by President Bush to come up with a robust interrogation program for the most important al-Qaeda captives. So the agency turned to its partners for assistance in designing its interrogation regimen: Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia—all countries cited by the State Department for using torture—among others. Additionally, as Mark Benjamin has reported for Salon, two psychologists named Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who worked as contractors for CIA, helped the agency "reverse-engineer" the military and CIA training on resisting torture for use on detainees. Suddenly, waterboarding, an illegal practice of simulating or in some cases inducing drowning, became an American-administered practice.

Interestingly, one place that the CIA didn’t look for help was the place where interrogations have been performed, lawfully, for decades: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "In terms of actual interrogations, when you have a suspect in custody, the FBI does that hundreds of times a day, 365 days a year, for 90 years," said Mike Rolince, who spent over three years as Special Agent in Charge of counterterrorism at the FBI’s Washington field office before retiring in October 2005. "The FBI brought serious credibility and a track record to the table. That said, the U.S. government decided to go about [interrogations] in a different way. The results speak for themselves. I don’t think we need to be where we are."
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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