It's an extremely rare occurence that someone in the federal government, especially in the intelligence field, asks for less power. Intra-government wrangling is almost always predicated on securing more authority for either yourself or at least for the branch, service, or office you represent. So it is not just unusual but in fact extraordinary that fourteen U.S. military and intelligence professionals, all of whom have experience with U.S. interrogations and some of whom are quite prominent within their community, have signed a letter asking Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to revoke key interrogation authorities. Specifically, they are requesting that the Pentagon revoke Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, a controversial document granting many of the "harsher" interrogation techniques.
Harper's Scott Horton, who has a copy of the letter, explains that the authors worry that "separation," a useful and humane technique in which prisoners are allowed their own cell, has become more difficult to use because of its similarity to the much harsher "isolation" techniques, which is part of Appendix M. Horton writes:
The interrogators call these techniques “ineffective” and “counterproductive.” “The use of sensory deprivation techniques, extreme isolation and stress positions is likely to lead to false information, facilitate enemy recruitment, and further erode the reputation of the United States,” they write.
... Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator who developed the information that led to the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, told me that he had not signed the letter, but said, “I’m in complete agreement with the letter."
... The letter is also drawing support from human-rights advocates. Calling Appendix M a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Human Rights First has issued a report (PDF) backing up the interrogators.
Read the letter, and the bios of its fourteen signatories, here.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.