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At What Cost Intelligence?

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In an article just out in Military Review, (PDF) Major Douglas Pryer describes the struggle of the TF 1AD, an elite military intelligence unit serving in Iraq, with Bush-era torture techniques:

Importantly, interrogators at the facility never employed enhanced interrogation techniques, even during the brief period in which CJTF-7 explicitly approved such techniques. In fact, across Baghdad, Brigade S2s [intelligence officers] and 501st MI Battalion leaders refused to allow their interrogators to employ these techniques. Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Groseclose, who was in charge of HUMINT operations at TF 1AD’s 3d Brigade before taking charge of interrogation operations at the TF 1AD detention facility, said the following: “When that memo [CJTF-7’s 14 September 2003, interrogation policy] first came out, I went to Major Crisman, the S2 at the brigade, and showed the memo to him. I told him that I thought this memo was a very bad idea. It just didn’t look right to me. He agreed. So, we never used those techniques. I didn’t see any purpose for them.”

Groseclose’s counterpart at TF 1AD’s 1st Brigade, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenneth Kilbourne, echoed Groseclose’s comments. “This memo was idiotic,” Kilbourne said. “It was like providing a new, dangerous piece of equipment to a Soldier and telling him that he is authorized to use it, but you don’t have an instruction manual to give him to show him how to operate it.”

These experienced HUMINT leaders believed that it was not only wrong for American Soldiers to employ enhanced interrogation techniques on real world enemies, but that such techniques were largely ineffective. “For an interrogator to resort to techniques like that [techniques derived from SERE schools] is for that interrogator to admit that they don’t know how to interrogate,” said Groseclose, who was awarded the U.S. Defense Department’s HUMINT Collector of the Year Award for 2003. He added, “Our interrogations produced results.”

As Pryer notes, the intelligence officers managing the task force’s operations decided to take guidance from the standards laid out by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, starting with his injunction to “treat prisoners with humanity.” Pryer’s study shows that those units that simply rejected the invitation to torture actually yielded the best results in human intelligence gathering–putting the lie once more to the arguments of torture apologists like Republican publicist and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen.

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