However, the Attorney General's move to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing in the implementation of those policies has provoked a backlash from the Obama administration's critics. They claim this will threaten intelligence gathering operations and make our country more vulnerable to attack.
A former FBI counterterrorism official, Jack Cloonan, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the Defense Department's best interrogators, Col. Steve Kleinman, and the senior DoD interrogator who tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Matthew Alexander, all say that argument is wrong.
Cloonan and Kleinman both interrogated suspects after 9/11. They both also say that the arguments we're seeing between Democrats and Republicans are political in nature. Their professional assessment is that we must examine what we've done since 9/11 in order to understand our true vulnerabilities and prevent the process from going off the rails in the future. From their interview with The Public Record:
"I respectfully disagree profoundly with the assessment that any effort to look back would make us more vulnerable, Kleinman said. "In fact, we have to look back to show our utmost vulnerabilities.
"I've had the honor of testifying before four committees of Congress and I am always astounded at the profound political partisan politics that surround this issue. I'm a professional interrogator I have 25 years of experience in this and I don't have any concern whatsoever that an investigation into how we conducted ourselves since 9/11 would in any way undermine our ability to continue gathering intelligence."
More or less, they argue that the only people who have anything to worry about from an investigation are the ones who acted unethically or improperly. Kleinman even goes so far as to say that the "true professionals" are actually privately in support of such an inquiry.
The three experts have written to Congress asking for the creation of an independent commission to examine both failures in the implementation and in the creation of the policy, as going after just those who carried out the orders does not necessarily do anything to prevent policymakers from going down this road again.
Furthermore, they categorically refute Dick Cheney's claim that these methods thwarted terrorist attacks and saved American lives. The article also notes that even former NSA and CIA director Gen. Hayden has backed off from such claims. The truth, all three say, is that these policies cost us far too much, in terms of opportunities squandered, intelligence tainted, and lives lost as terrorist attacks increased worldwide.
These guys have been in the field. They have seen our enemy first-hand. They've done the real work. I believe them when they say we got it wrong on this and we need to fix it. It is the rule of law and our respect for the rights of all human beings that separates us from the extremists. If we give those things up, then what are we fighting for?