- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Five Republican senators — John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — have joined with Senate Democrats to oppose President Bush’s guidelines for prisoner interrogations to prevent another terrorist attack on the United States. President Bush, in our view, rightly defines reasonable rules for interrogating terrorists. These are crucial to protect American intelligence agents from specious criminal prosecutions or civil litigation simply for performing their jobs.

The methods used to interrogate al Qaeda terrorists have prevented terrorist attacks and saved lives of Americans — and those of our allies. In a Sept. 6 speech announcing the transfer of 14 senior terrorists from CIA custody to the Defense Department facility at Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Bush outlined several successes of the CIA’s interrogations. These include preventing an al Qaeda cell from developing anthrax, an attack against a U.S. Marine Corps base, a car-bomb attack against a U.S. consulate and thwarting the hijacking of passenger planes to be flown into buildings at London’s Heathrow Airport.

There’s considerable doubt that we will attain similar success at Guantanamo Bay. Writing in the New York Post, Richard Miniter, who returned last week from a visit to Guantanamo, describes a “surreal” atmosphere in which the 450 or so detainees are entitled to a full eight hours of sleep and cannot be awakened for interrogation. Interrogators bake cookies and serve sandwiches to their suspects. Interrogations aren’t videotaped, for fear of invading detainees’ “privacy.” Doctors refuse to share information with interrogators on “privacy” grounds.

The jihadists housed there have responded to the treatment in predictable ways, by setting up new terror cells, fashioning weapons and compiling their own intelligence on doctors and guards. Detainees routinely attack guards with homemade knives, or fling their feces at them. The parts of the prison where prisoners are treated most leniently are the very places most violent and dangerous. It’s difficult to imagine much useful intelligence gleaned in this atmosphere. Should the president try to change this atmosphere he would likely run into fierce opposition from many of the people now endangering the the CIA’s successful interrogation program. This includes Democratic and Republican senators, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pentagon lawyers, the editorial pages of The Washington Post and the New York Times, and even certain reporters at those newspapers who are unable to keep their opinions out of their dispatches.

We urge the president to stand firm. If the CIA is restrained by the refusal of Congress to write coherent rules and the terrorists succeed in another attack on America, the president’s critics, adversaries and enemies will answer for it.

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