“They Had To Be Vigorous In Interrogation, But Vigorous Within The Law”
So why did Feith believe the Taliban — not Al Qaeda — was entitled to Geneva Conventions protections but not P.O.W. privileges? “This comes across as interesting law school debate, but we’re talking about American lives,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Yes, Republican of Indiana. He’s actually suggesting that that’s a good call because we could have been more brutal — shucks — but, still, it’s a good question.
“There was tension among [American] interests,” Feith replies. “We have an interest, obviously, in preserving the rule of law… The president laid that down. At the same time we had just been attacked on 9/11 and it was clear in the challenge that the most important information in prosecuting this war was in the heads of these terrorists… There was tension between [the need for] interrogations and compliance with the law. They [interrogators] had to be clear that they had to be vigorous in interrogation, but vigorous within the law.”
Yes, how could anyone have taken away a mixed message from that? As Alberto Mora testified last month, as soon as you go beyond the interrogation techniques specified in the Army Field Manual, you introduce ambiguity in instructions to people who take their responsibility to following military orders very, very seriously. In essence, Feith is saying — as an exculpation of himself! — that mere soldiers and interrogators were too stupid to understand the delicate instructions he approved.