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More on Interrogations

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

More on interrogations. In December, I had the chance to chat with Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) about all matter of intelligence questions, from Jose Rodriguez’s destruction of the torture tapes, to the current condition of intelligence on Iraq, Iran and the war on terrorism, to a bill he sponsored requiring CIA to videotape all its interrogations as a learning exercise. Holt, a member of the House intelligence committee and a brand-new intelligence-budget panel in Appropriations, had this to say about his videotaping bill:

I don’t know why it would not be useful to videotape interrogations, as opposed to taking notes, and using your memory, I guess. It might be harmful because it could be used for propaganda purposes if it was leaked. If such tapes got out, as the director of the CIA said to his employees recently, if this becane public, it would expose the identity of covert agents. My reply is, yes, they would be useful because we’ve still got poor language skills, because we’ve still got poor translation, and because an extra set of eyes looking at interrogations always sees something another set eyes doesn’t see or ears hear.

And we don’t make public the tapes public, just like interrogation notes are not made public. The [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency] must have millions of images they keep secret. We have ways of not revealing information.

Won’t the CIA consider the videotaping measure a vote of no confidence in its interrogation capability?

Years ago, when police departments started putting cameras in cop cars, cops would say, "What’s the matter? Don’t you trust us?" Now, they all understand that the camera is their best friend. District Attorneys all over the country require, in many jurisdictions, they require interrogations be videotaped. It’s just good practice, and it protects all concerned. And I come back to this other point. If there’s a problem with language or translation, which we know is not the best, we might want someone on the outside take a listen or a look.

Holt’s bill, H.R. 4660, is currently bottled up in the House intelligence and armed services committees. When I asked the CIA for its opinion of the bill, spokesman George Little replied, "The CIA does not, as a rule, comment on pending legislation."

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