Today in his radio address, President Bush announced that he had vetoed the Intelligence Authorization Act, which would ban the use of waterboarding and place the CIA’s interrogation program under the dictates of the U.S. Army Field Manual.
In the past few weeks, Bush administration officials have aggressively attempted to defend the CIA’s torture techniques. The most incredible statements came from spokeswoman Dana Perino and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. On Feb. 14, Perino defended the veto decision by denigrating the experience of U.S. troops:
The Army Field Manual is a perfectly appropriate document that is important for young GIs, some so young that they’re not even able to legally get a drink in the states where they’re from.
Before the Senate Intelligence Committee that same day, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell echoed Perino’s comments, stating that the Army Field Manual is “designed for young and inexperienced” men and women in uniform.
ThinkProgress spoke with ret. Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during DESERT SHIELD/STORM. He called Bush’s veto a “mistake”:
I think that he will be sending an unclear message to the troops. … Gen. Petraeus has made it very clear in his letter to the troops that the standard is the Army Field Manual.
Soyster also sharply criticized McConnell’s defense of the techniques:
I would say that if Mike McConnell worked for me, I’d fire him. That is one of the weakest arguments. The Army has a lot of good training, 10-, 18-week courses at the school. And many of our interrogators have been in the Army for 28 years. They’re not 18-year old kids. [...]
And the idea, in fact, these techniques [used by] the experts at the CIA — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, whatever those techniques are — it doesn’t take much expertise to use those. You know, dumb guys in the Middle Ages were doing the same thing. The KGB were strong on sleep deprivation. So there’s no skill required from the CIA. They may need those techniques because of their skill level. And they think that they need them.
Soyster added that one of the interrogation experts who had worked for him at the DIA laughed “at the idea that anyone would be so incompetent as to have to use any of these [torture] techniques.” Many interrogators, in fact, don’t even go to the extend that the Field Manual authorizes, “because good interrogators don’t need those techniques.”
Soyster also noted that the three-star commander in Afghanistan confirmed that the Army Field Manual “gives him everything he needs.”
UPDATE: The Gavel has responses from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as other military leaders.