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Dec 16, 2014 2:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Zeldin And Bishop Differ On Effect Of CIA Interrogation Report

Dec 16, 2014 2:30 PM

On the heels of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence release of a controversial CIA interrogation report last week, which concluded that no actionable intelligence was produced by what some call extreme interrogation techniques conducted after the September 11 attacks, several high profile politicians have publicly commented on the report. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has justified the techniques while U.S. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war during Vietnam, has voiced his outright disdain for the techniques described in the report.

Closer to home, U.S. Representative-elect Lee Zeldin, who was trained as a Military Intelligence Officer and served Judge Advocate General Attorney in Iraq, said this week that he is skeptical of the so-called “torture report,” saying the techniques used could not have been in vain.

However, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who Mr. Zeldin will replace in Washington in January, is convinced that what the CIA did is difficult to defend.

“The United States of America should stand for something and one of those things is that it does not torture those it considers to be their enemies, but, in fact, that has been our policy and, in fact, we have prosecuted people from other countries who torture our prisoners as war criminals,” Mr. Bishop said. “For us to turn around … and let go of our values in an effort to protect our values, I think is awfully hard to defend.”

The 525-page report describes in detail methods interrogators used to extract bits of information from detainees in the years following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Examples of waterboarding, the use of insects to scare inmates, rectal feeding and sleep deprivation were used, according to the report. However, the CIA kept policymakers in the dark about those techniques.

The report states that the CIA’s justification of its techniques were based on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness and that the nature of such techniques were not fully disclosed to the Department of Justice. Additionally, the CIA is said to have impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making. Ultimately, it argues that the interrogations did not offer anything useful, but operated under the guise that they did.

Mr. Bishop said that the CIA “undertook these efforts with almost nothing to show for it.”

“That underscores how, in my opinion, it is indefensible,” he said.

Mr. Zeldin said, however, that the CIA’s techniques could not have turned up void and that the techniques used were done to prevent further acts of terrorism.

“If a single individual mentions a name, a time, a date, a location, any piece of information whatsoever, it all contributes toward having the intelligence necessary to have a better understanding of the enemy and how and where they’re operating,” Mr. Zeldin said. “Sometimes intelligence can come in the form of one person telling you exactly where a person is located and other times intelligence is acted upon after dozens of different clues are put together. I am highly skeptical that over the course of years, there was not a single clue given on anything of concern to us. That is just unbelievable.”

Mr. Zeldin said that if there was no intelligence to be gained from the interrogations, “actionable intelligence” would have to be defined as getting all the answers on a particular mission. He said desperate times called for desperate measures.

“I would hate to see a devastating consequence to America because we were overly cautious and timid in our response,” he said. “I think it is important not to, in the interest of trying to create the best possible image for our intelligence network, completely neuter them in the process.”

Many tactics though, like waterboarding, have been banned as the discussion on forms of interrogation has continued through the years. Mr. Zeldin said the report mentions these no-longer-used techniques without explanation why they were used and that revisiting these tactics now was a political move.

“I think that it would have been helpful if there was more of the other side of the story presented … regardless of whether or not someone analyzes it in a pejorative sense, there’s politics at play,” Mr. Zeldin said. “I could see if there was a political debate half a decade ago whether or not these tactics should continue. Maybe a member of Congress may feel compelled to make the debate more public in order to drive reforms, but for many of the tactics, the government has already made the conscious decision to cease particular methods and techniques.”

Mr. Zeldin said that releasing the dated information could compromise the safety of citizens and service men and women overseas and possibly damage any progress made in cultivating relationships with other countries and allies.

But that’s not likely to happen now, according to Mr. Bishop.

“Portions of it could jeopardize national security,” Mr. Bishop said, adding that those portions have been redacted or not included in the report. “I know there were heightened measures put in place in anticipation of a reaction in the Muslim world, but that has not happened. The existence of the program specifically made it clear that it’s something people have the right to know.”

Mr. Zeldin was less convinced saying that there was no demand for the information from the American people.

One thing both representatives could agree on is that they don’t see the value in disciplining those who were involved in the CIA’s questionable interrogation methods.

“I think it’s worth noting that the American people aren’t largely mobilizing to go back in time,” Mr. Zeldin said. “This is a very unique situation where we debate the best path forward.”

Mr. Bishop said he was a bit disturbed when he heard Mr. Cheney on “Meet the Press” say that he had no regrets about the tactics used during the Bush administration. Mr. Cheney said on the Sunday morning program that he would “do it again in a minute,” in reference to the interrogation program.

“It’s a little silly,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think the most important thing we should be doing now is looking forward. I think this needs to be a guide for the kind of behavior that ought not be repeated.”

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Why is anything Tim Bishop says now relevant?
By Frank Wheeler (1815), Northampton on Dec 18, 14 8:23 AM
Agree fully with Zeldin. Why is the press still comparing these 2 viewpoints?
The election is over and your guy loss.
By mexicokid (19), brooklyn on Dec 18, 14 5:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank goodness we are ridding ourselves of Tim Bishop and his left wing, anti American perspective. What a shame this newspaper holds him in such reverence.
By BillWillConn3 (177), Southampton on Dec 18, 14 7:31 PM
It was completely irresponsible in releasing that information to the public. Just go to the 9/11 museum and even if you were not directly impacted look at all the people who were. I say do whatever is necessary to insure our safety from those who wish us harm.
By North Sea Citizen (545), North Sea on Dec 19, 14 6:51 AM
Military intelligence... Now there's an oxymoron.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Dec 19, 14 8:22 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Dec 19, 14 8:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
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