I am seeing a number of pieces written by former intelligence professionals who decry that they witnessed or conducted detainee abuse. Well, I witnessed detainee abuse and I reported it. As for the rest of you, carry your own damned burden. Perhaps if you acted you could sleep better. But please do not politicize your failures. I watched an ex-Military interpreter strike a detainee multiple times. In fact, upon arrival for the “interview” he had the detainee in a various stress positions. This was wrong so my team told him to stop and after the interpreter struck him multiple times, we ended the interview and reported the interpreter to higher echelons and he was removed from our post.
Once I watched a Military Intelligence Staff Officer throw a chair around the room as he screamed at a detainee while he – against my teams will – “interrogated” the individual. We insisted that it was our lane to operate in and not his, but alas he pulled rank as the S2 OIC. So I watched him do this, it was not torture. In fact my issue with it was that most unprofessional questioners shoot right for the “Fear Up (Harsh)” method because they watch too many movies. This is amateur. You rarely if ever begin with Fear Up (Harsh).
It is vital to understand that most interrogations that have occurred over the last 13 years were highly regulated by strict standards that abided by the rule that “at no time are we allowed to have physical contact.” To be certain the only improper questioning I had seen was performed by personnel who were not supposed to be questioning detainees in the first place. Actual questioning occurred in rather tightly controlled scenarios. In my experience, whenever a scenario like this was identified there was an intervention to stop it.
Regarding what most of these methods are that the general public considers to be torture such as sleep deprivation, stress positions, “meal management”, blaring loud music and lights, yelling et al; let me remind you that I went through the same methods pledging a fraternity. I recall thinking “what the hell, this is against Geneva conventions.” Let that soak in…I was tortured far more pledging fraternity than any detainee I met in my year in Iraq. And to be sure, we detained a lot of people. For most detainee operations there is no issue with detainee abuse. In the limited cases where a detainee was designated as “high value” they were sent up higher.
If you think we tortured carte blanche, you should see what the Iraqis did. I remember vividly asking a detainee if he preferred to be handed over to the Iraqi Army or to stay with the US Army. His response was unsurprising. Trust me, if you are going to be detained by any Military-Intelligence apparatus in the world you want it to be the Americans.
The take away from all of this media hype is that out of the tens of thousands of individuals the US detained over the last 13 years, only a small number went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or an OGA site. Of that number only three have been reportedly “water-boarded” in 13 years of a global war. Three confirmed high level known terrorists. Hell, ISIS has water-boarded that many people in the last year.