Leadership: Dealing with Lawfare and Interrogation


November 10, 2005: The Department of Defense has issued a new directive concerning interrogation. This directive had been in the works for the last eleven months. The new rules restate prohibitions already in place (stated in the U.S. Army's interrogation handbook, among other places). The fact remains that many of these changes are due to lessons learned from just over four years of dealing with detainees captured during the war on terror.

Two major changes have occurred. One is the prohibition on the use of dogs during interrogations. The use of MPs in interrogation has also been prohibited. Other changes are also being made, many of them based on the findings of investigations (like those of the abuse at Abu Ghraib and during the investigation into allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay). A classified annex is being prepared for the Army's interrogation manual, which presumably includes lessons learned from the interrogation of detainees like Mohammed al-Khatani, and others captured during the war on terror, but not for public consumption. Also, at the same time, abuse allegations are dealt with. In October, two soldiers in Afghanistan were charged with striking detainees.

Other allegations (like those at Guantanamo Bay) have turned out to be unfounded, but have led to an effort in Congress to set standards into law, even though the review process has been completed and directives that have taken into account lessons learned during the war on terror. The new directive will not placate human rights groups, who will launch new rounds of lawfare. It will also fail to stop reporters sympathetic to human rights groups from giving the lawfare plenty of news coverage, nor will it stop Congressional meddling.

What the new directive will do is make the interrogations of detainees more productive. Many of these changes will not get much public attention if the Defense Department has its way. Interrogation of detainees is something not discussed so that actionable intelligence can be gained. The allegations and scandals, which have been aberrations, have drowned out the successes made possible by actionable intelligence acquired from detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)


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