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The delicate, unmentionable foundation of the 9/11 Commission's findings for 16 June

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Having already touched on the content of the two 9-11 Commission reports and related testimony for 16 June, 2004, Overview of the Enemy and Outline of the 9/11 Plot, I thought it useful to draw together the threads that speak to the sources for goodly portions of the information presented: sustained, off-books detainee interrogation.

Recent portions of the commission's staff reports and testimony are sweeping in the unclass exposure of how al Qaeda worked (I use past tense and a new generation of middle managers is in place and so things may be/must be different in some respects). Around the edges there is mention of the contribution of key interrogations to that understanding. To the degree that is true, it begs the questions as to who, where, and how. We know some of the 'who,' but little of the 'where and how,' but one must not jump to the conclusion that every interrogation is Abu Ghraib writ large.

One in particular, Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin), once considered to be al Qaeda's key operative in Asia, is said to be jabbering away without duress on Diego Garcia. (For those not following his interrogation, it is admitted that Hambali may be practicing some deception, but his data has been corroborated by other means.) One not so likely to cooperate is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda chief of operations and architect of 11 September, captured in Pakistan, yet he is said to be providing sound information. Given the seminal position of this individual, I would think that very serious attention is being paid to his interrogation and 'just say no' is not an acceptable option.

Khalid is among the high value ghost detainees invisible to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). While the US has acknowledged holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq, it has not mentioned Diego Garcia. (This island's isolation in the Indian Ocean is both boon and curse -- a boon to isolation and a curse to transparently and quickly moving in interrogation teams.) Khalid's interrogation techniques are said to be demanding and to include the 'washboarding' ostensibly now outlawed at Abu Ghraib.

I am leading the reader to make their own value judgment as to the merit of retaining a high value target such as Khalid where he is and under his current conditions of incarceration as it is one thing to read the commission transcripts as an antiseptic document and possibly another to consider their full means of construction, i.e., do ends justify means. I urge readers to follow their conclusions to a logical end instead of just stopping with a keep or release.

I am already on record as stating that I "favor the Israeli model in which we formally deny and selectively employ over a blanket rejection that puts dangerous tools into the hands of the unsupervised and unskilled while opening our already low global image to further predation and our troops to further peril."

To guide your decision I would recommend two earlier notes: Gresham's Law of Competitive Behavior and Applied competitive behavior: al Qaeda humint targeting.

In "Gresham," I comment that, "We are going to have to make increasingly difficult decisions to resolve the survival of our national wellbeing and polity in the face of increasing aggressive adversaries armed with potent weaponry and waging a war unlike any that we have experienced." "Life is indelicate when one’s continued existence is at odds with one’s ethics, especially when the foe is assuredly not a Geneva signatory and feels that he can torture and kill you at will to achieve his aims."

As I noted in Applied competitive behavior: "The Battle of Algiers", neither answers nor comfort are easy to obtain.  While we are mired in an armed struggle, I maintain that the solution goes well beyond the military realm and will demand a timeframe and political adjustments that the US will find daunting. Your mileage may vary.

The Terrorist Talks: Al-Qaeda's top man in Asia sings to interrogators about the group's operations
By SIMON ELEGANT I KUALA LUMPUR
TIME, Sunday, Oct. 05, 2003

US hides high-profile prisoners
By Jon Manel
BBC Radio 4 Today programme reporter
BBC NEWS
Published: 2004/05/21 16:23:52 GMT

Focus: The confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Sunday Times (UK)
March 28, 2004
Christina Lamb in Kabul

Gordon Housworth



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