Perhaps Adm. Dennis Blair has divided loyalties. Today the NYT reports that
President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country," Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
But, and this is a major "but" in a follow-up statement from Adm. Blair:
"The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means," Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. "The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."
And yet, Adm. Blair defends torture, perhaps out of misplaced loyalty:
"I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past," he wrote, "but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given."
We also get this nugget: "Admiral Blair’s private memo was provided by a critic of Mr. Obama’s policy." A critical question for Admiral Blair, and for Mr. Obama, is who among the colleagues with whom the Admiral shared this private memo was enough of a critic to run with it to the NYT. There's whistleblowing, and then there's sabotage. Perhaps that report from Seymour Hersh that there Cheney left moles behind him should be seriously considered by the new administration.
Treating the issue of torture as a he said, she said proposition, as though this was a valid, legal policy choice made by the Bush administration, is for the NYT following down the same road they took in 2002. The road that helped take us into the Iraq debacle.
And speaking of Iraq, here's some of the "high value" information they got from torture: there was NO link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. That was high value information they tortured to obtain that they chose to ignore, high value information that did little to save any American lives. Instead, it's taken 4274 of them.
I wonder if the new knowledge that, in those early days, the impetus for torture was not all about discovering immediate threats to the U.S. but instead an effort to provide justification for attacking a country that had not attacked us would change Adm. Blair's mind about the war criminals.