TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The Efficacy of Coercive Interrogations?It remains controversial whether coercive interrogation methods effectivelyelicit timely and accurate information from detainees. A number of officialshave offered indications that interrogations are of vital importance to US nationalsecurity.• During a 2006 speech, President Bush claimed that CIA’s use of “enhancedinterrogation techniques” on a number of al Qaeda membersprotected US interests and gave interrogators information thatstopped new attacks from reaching the operational stage. 152• Former CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed in 2007 that CIA interrogationsof high-value detainees have been “historically the singlegreatest source of information we’ve had” on al Qaeda. 153• Current CIA Director Leon Panetta echoed Hayden’s sentiments,noting that through its interrogation program CIA had “obtained intelligencefrom high-value detainees when inside information on alQaeda was in short supply.” 154 It is nevertheless unclear whether theseinterrogations used coercive methods or more traditional means ofeliciting information.Coercive techniques, however, may result in the US obtaining faulty information,which in turn may lead to poor analytical outcomes and misinformedpolicy decisions.• Experts disagree whether Abu Zubaydah, one of the first al Qaedaoperatives caught after 9/11, provided critical information to US interrogatorsthrough enhanced interrogation techniques. Accordingto press reports from 2009 quoting senior US officials, Abu Zubaydahprovided the most useful information prior to being subjected toharsh measures, and no significant al Qaeda plot was thwarted due toinformation gathered through these harsh measures. 155• According to a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report issued inFebruary 2002, al Qaeda operative Ibn Shaykh al-Libi probably providedfalse, coerced information concerning a high-level relationship72 Trials by Fire: Counterterrorism and the Law

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