Ex-Defense Official: Senate Dems Target CIA With Torture Report

Monday, 25 Aug 2014 07:32 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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A Senate report on whether intelligence operatives abused detainees after 9/11 is likely to show that some captives were, in fact, subjected to interrogations that crossed the line into actual torture, a former U.S. defense official told Newsmax TV on Monday.

The same report — produced largely by senators of one party — will also be a political effort to "emasculate" the Central Intelligence Agency, redefine torture, and tilt the 2016 presidential election toward Democrats, Jed Babbin, a former deputy undersecretary of defense, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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And that, he said, is the crux of the battle between Senate Democrats and the CIA over the as-yet-unreleased report.

"We don't know, because we haven't seen the report yet, but I suspect there are things in there such as the CIA going beyond normal guidelines in certain interrogations and actually doing some things that they should be criticized for," said Babbin.

"There's a significant possibility that the CIA did, in fact, torture people," he said. 'And by using the word 'torture' I'm being very, very specific, not conflating the idea of usual and enhanced interrogations with the idea of torture."

But those distinctions will be ignored by the Senate Democrats behind the report, according to Babbin, because they are "trying to re-litigate a lot of the things that went on in the Bush administration" in order to hang past practices on the next Republican presidential nominee.

Given the political nature of the pending report, Babbin said that Senate Republicans who effectively boycotted the whole process should have taken a more active role in shaping its language and its conclusions.

Babbin, an author of several books on national security and the Middle East, wrote an article published last week in the Washington Examiner describing the fight surrounding the report.

On Monday, he revisited the original debate after 9/11 over what constituted torture, beginning with a controversial 2002 Justice Department memo.

The 2002 opinion said that enhanced interrogation techniques, including face slaps and waterboarding, did not constitute torture because their accepted use as a training tool on U.S. operatives had demonstrated that they did not inflict lasting physical damage or prolonged mental harm.

That finding — that waterboarding, hypothermia and other enhanced techniques, didn't violate U.S. law against torture — meant that those techniques were legal when interrogators used them after 9/11, said Babbin.

But they became retroactively toxic when Congress, responding to revelations of abuses in the war on terror, and at the infamous Abu Ghraib detention camp, passed the Detainee Treatment Act in 2005 expanding the definition of torture to include "cruel, inhumane and degrading" handling of prisoners.

Babbin said that the revised language effectively took enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) off the table — even though the very same techniques had been used without incident on "thousands" of American military and intelligence operatives as part of their formal training in Survival, Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE).

He said the upcoming Senate report will try to gloss over the differences between EITs and torture in a way calculated to make Republicans and intelligence agencies look bad.

Babbin said that it will also discount what he said former CIA chief George Tenet wrote in his memoir — "that the enhanced interrogation techniques produced more valuable intelligence than everything else put together."

"NSA, FBI, [and] all the rest of the assets and intelligence-gathering methods we had really didn't even measure up to what we got principally by the EITs," said Babbin.

Babbin said that EITs could assist in the fight against the latest wave of Islamic terrorists determined to confront the United States, but they haven't been used since President Barack Obama took office.

"That's terribly, terribly wrong," he said.

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