Intelligence: July 19, 2005


  One of the reasons for the controversies swirling around Guantanamo Bay is the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Defense (DoD) have different outlooks on conducting interrogations. Both of these entities have differing objectives as well, and this explains how the controversy got started. The FBIs method of operation is to assemble a criminal case that can stand up in court. The DoDs goal is to prevent terrorist attacks, or discover where terrorists might be, and as a result, capture the terrorists. These dueling methods can sometimes lead to conflict, as the Guantanamo Bay controversy indicates.

The FBIs rationale for their position on getting information is simple. The objective is to get a slam-dunk criminal case that will stand up in court, and the rules of evidence in American courts preclude the use of confessions that are coerced. Unfortunately for the FBI, prohibited methods are sometimes used by DoD interrogators particularly in the case of Mohamed Qahtami, the 20th 911 hijacker. The valuable intelligence the military got from Qahtami would probably be thrown out of court. The FBI tends to prefer non-coercive means usually by building up a rapport with the subject of an interrogation and getting the information via persuasion (or non-coercive means).

The DoD has a much different objective in mind. There is no real thought towards building a court case, but instead to develop the information to solve the problem in an immediate and permanent fashion, or to get information to stop an attack that is pending. In both cases, time is of the essence and that warrants more coercive tactics. The DoDs intention is to get the information by any means that does not violate the UCMJ (military law). If the subject talks freely, thats great, but the DoD will use coercive methods if they need to.

This is not meant to reflect badly on either the FBI or DoD both agencies are doing their best to protect the United States of America from an attack. That said, al-Qaeda is an enemy that falls into a very gray area between crime and war. As a result, the usual law-enforcement approach does not work in a number of situations. On the other hand, the military and CIA cannot operate inside the country (as a matter of federal law) domestic counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence is something the FBI handles (and has done a reasonably good job at). Thus, these two agencies, with different methods and objectives have to work together. Resolving this culture clash will be crucial to winning the war on terrorism. Harold C. Hutchison (


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