What About the Next Time?
August 26, 2009
National Review Online
“All volunteers step forward. We have a person in
custody who is high-ranking al-Qaeda. He taunts that an attack on United
States soil is imminent but laughs mockingly when we ask for specifics. We
need interrogators.” Such was the threat in the summer of 2002 when the CIA
asked the Justice Department for guidance on what its personnel could do to
get such information from captured al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubdayah.
Since then, the lawyers who stepped forward to provide carefully structured
counsel have been criminally investigated and told that, even if they are
not prosecuted, their conduct will be turned over to their state bars. The
interrogators who stepped forward were promised in early spring by President
Obama that, even if they erred in judgment while protecting our country, the
president would rather “move forward.” However, in late summer, they are
under criminal scrutiny.
Even though an earlier investigation by career prosecutors reviewed the same
conduct and refused prosecution of all but one contract employee who was
brought to trial in 2007. Even though congressional leaders had knowledge of
the interrogation techniques and made no attempt to stop them. Even though
the conduct is more than six years old. Even though the CIA has taken
administrative action against some of the personnel involved in the
interrogations. Even though being just a target of a criminal investigation
costs thousands of dollars in legal fees. Even though being just a target of
a criminal investigation takes a horrendous mental toll. Even though the
morale of the CIA will plunge to the depths it did in the wake of the Church
Committee attacks. Even though the release of the names of those being
scrutinized will make them terrorist targets for the rest of their lives.
Even if they are cleared.
The next time our government employees are asked to step forward to get
information of a possible, even probable, imminent attack, no one will. Even
though . . .
— Ms. Toensing is a former chief counsel for
the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former deputy assistant
attorney general, criminal division. She is in private practice in