One public instance of that lobbying is a Wall Street Journal op-ed authored by James E. Mitchell, a retired Air Force officer and former CIA contractor who says that he personally waterboarded three people at CIA black sites. With his forthcoming book, Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America, he is profiting from his experience strapping down humans, forcing water into their sinus cavities, flooding their lungs, and exploiting their fear of drowning to terrorize them into sharing information.
He is concerned that President-elect Trump won’t be sufficiently brutal to prisoners. “The president-elect needs to think through what to do when the U.S. captures a major terrorist who likely has information about an impending nuclear, chemical or biological attack,” he writes. “Is he prepared to say that if intelligence cannot be elicited using only the tactics contained in the Army Field Manual—as President Obama has directed—we will simply have to live with the consequences?”
Some in government have argued that for the U.S. to maintain the moral high ground, all harsh interrogation tactics should remain illegal, as they have been since the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 was enacted.
Yet in a ticking-time-bomb scenario, should CIA officers just do whatever is necessary and hope for clemency in the trial that would follow? As someone who was thrown under the bus by the Obama Justice Department, I believe it is unreasonable to expect CIA officers to put their lives at risk to protect a government that will not do its best to protect them in return.
Overemphasize political correctness, and we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks.
It is telling that even a former CIA operative who personally brutalized prisoners is now invoking the dubious ticking-time-bomb scenario when defending the practice––this despite the fact that his own behavior illustrates the slippery slope to be avoided.
According to a years-long Senate investigation, “the CIA's brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2002 to 2008 led to false confessions and fabricated information,” the Los Angeles Times reported, and it “produced no useful intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks and were so badly run that the CIA lost track of captives.”
Mitchell’s op-ed doesn’t claim that his brutal interrogations defused a ticking time bomb or prevented an impending nuclear, chemical, or biological attack. He simply references his actions, then slyly segues to those Hollywood-screenplay scenarios, as if terrorist organizations are in the habit of constructing time-bombs with countdown clocks that can be defused, but only if the hero gets rough with the bad guy in time.