Blog of Rights

Expanding Failure

By Michael German, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:53am
On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA director Michael Hayden and told the Senate Intelligence Committee they believe the United States is still at great risk - even as they claimed their policies of torture and warrantless wiretapping are making us safer.

Hayden finally admitted the CIA has used waterboarding as one of its "enhanced" interrogation techniques, but he claimed it has only been used on three people. What Hayden failed to mention (but is well documented) is that the CIA has used other illegal torture techniques against countless detainees, including several who died while in U.S. custody.

Hayden also bristled at suggestions that the CIA be barred from using any techniques, including waterboarding, not authorized by the Army Field Manual (a provision in the 2008 intelligence authorization bill would require just that). But at the same hearing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples testified that the techniques outlined in the field manual have been extremely successful, even in life-and-death combat situations. FBI Director Robert Mueller also noted that the FBI does not engage in "coercive" interrogation techniques, yet FBI agents were able to successfully interrogate even the likes of Saddam Hussein.

McConnell began his testimony calling on Congress to give retroactive immunity to the telecoms that illegally gave the NSA access to our phone calls and e-mails. Using typical administration scare tactics, McConnell - once again on the eve of a FISA vote - warned of new threats against the U.S. McConnell's argument that the telecoms would not cooperate without immunity ignores the purpose of FISA - to give the courts authority to order compliance with government surveillance requests. The only surveillance request a telecom could have refused - and should have refused - is an illegal one.

Despite clear indications that their programs are failing to make us secure (and may actually be putting us at greater risk) both Hayden and McConnell supported the other's failed policies; McConnell talked about why the CIA should be allowed to torture, and Hayden pushed telecom immunity. And both used their failed attempts at making us safe to justify a request for more powers to expand the same failed programs.

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