Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Congress Daily that President-elect Obama should keep Mike McConnell on as Director of National Intelligence and Michael Hayden as head of the CIA. He said Obama should keep “continuity” in the intelligence sector because we live in “a world that is very dangerous.”
Reyes dismissed concerns over Hayden and McConnell’s records as apologists for torture. He insisted that “there are some options that need to be available” to interrogators — presumably beyond the Army Field Manuel — to get the best information:
Regarding the CIA’s alternative interrogation program, Reyes indicated that his recommendations concerned finding a balance so the agency does not use torture but can get valuable information from suspected terrorists or other detainees.
“There are those that believe that this particular issue has to be dealt with very carefully because there are beliefs that there are some options that need to be available,” Reyes said.
“We don’t want to be known for torturing people. At the same time we don’t want to limit our ability to get information that’s vital and critical to our national security,” he added. “That’s where the new administration is going to have to decide what those parameters are, what those limitations are.”
As the Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman notes, Reyes “framed the debate as between effective torture and ineffective compliance with the law.” In fact, torturing does not provide reliable intelligence, as former interrogator (and author) Matthew Alexander told Jon Stewart Monday night:
STEWART: Did you ever see coercive methods pay off?
ALEXANDER: No. … When I was in Iraq, the few times that I saw people use harsh methods, it was always counterproductive. Because the person hunkered down, they were expecting us to do that, and they just shut up. And then I’d have to send somebody in and build back up rapport, reverse that process, and it’d take us longer to get that information.
McConnell and Hayden share Reyes’ approval of torture. McConnell has explained his refusal to move the CIA to the Army Field Manuel rules by denigrating Army servicemen, saying the Field Manuel was “designed for young and inexperienced” soldiers. He apparently does not consider waterboarding to be torture. Similarly, Hayden has dismissed torture as a mere “legal term,” saying we use the term “in a far too casual way.” Hayden apparently retaliated against the CIA’s inspector general for being an outspoken critic of waterboarding, and he may have destroyed interrogation videotapes to cover up the CIA’s use of torture.