Brit Hume falsely suggested there is no evidence that the United States' use of torture has served as a "recruiting tool" for terrorist groups. In fact, military and FBI interrogators have stated that terrorists have employed the United States' use of torture and harsh interrogation techniques as a recruiting device.
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During the April 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume falsely suggested there is no evidence that the United States' use of torture has served as a "recruiting tool" for terrorist groups. Responding to the suggestion from NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson that terrorist groups will no longer be able to point to U.S. interrogation techniques to boost recruitment, Hume stated: "Oh, as a recruiting tool? Where's the evidence of that?" In fact, military and FBI interrogators have stated that terrorists have employed the United States' use of torture and harsh interrogation techniques as a recruiting device. For instance, using the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, an Air Force senior interrogator who was in Iraq in 2006 wrote: "I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq."
Alexander further wrote in his November 30, 2008, Washington Post op-ed that "[i]t's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse." From Alexander's op-ed:
I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."
Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.
Alexander, along with Air Force interrogator Steven Kleinman, also wrote in a March 10 New York Times op-ed that President Obama's ban on torture "will enhance the country's security by undermining Al Qaeda's most effective recruiting theme."
Moreover, in prepared testimony for a June 10, 2008, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "coercive interrogation techniques," retired FBI special agent John Cloonan -- who stated that he has interrogated members of Al Qaeda -- asserted that such techniques have "helped to recruit a new generation of jihadist martyrs":
Senator Leahy and distinguished members of the Committee. Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify about coercive interrogation techniques, their effectiveness, the reliability of the information obtained in this way and the FBI's knowledge of these matters. It is my belief, based on a 27 year career as a Special Agent and interviews with hundreds of subjects in custodial settings, including members of al Qaeda, that the use of coercive interrogation techniques is not effective.
There are 3 questions I would like this committee to ponder. Has the use of coercive interrogation techniques lessened Al Qaeda's thirst for revenge against the US? Have these methods helped to recruit a new generation of jihadist martyrs? Has the use of coercive interrogation produced the reliable information its proponents claim for it? I would suggest that the answers are "no", "yes" and "no". Based on my experience in talking to al Qaeda members, I am persuaded that revenge, in the form of a catastrophic attack on the homeland, is coming, that a new generation of jihadist martyrs, motivated in part by the images from Abu Ghraib, is, as we speak, planning to kill American and that nothing gleaned from the use of coercive interrogation techniques will be of any significant use in the forestalling this calamitous eventuality.
Torture degrades our image abroad and complicates our working relationships with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies. If I were the director of marketing for al Qaeda and intent on replenishing the ranks of jihadists. I know what my first piece of marketing collateral would be. It would be a blast e-mail with an attachment. The attachment would contain a picture of Private England (sp) pointing at the stacked, naked bodies of the detainees at Abu Ghraib. The picture screams out for revenge and the day of reckoning will come. The consequences of coercive intelligence gathering will not evaporate with time.
From the April 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:
JUAN WILLIAMS (Fox News political contributor): Don't you think it speaks, first of all, to the very nature of the terrorist, who think the worst of us and think that we are monsters, to say no we don't engage in these activities -- and to protect our military men and women from that kind of treatment.
HUME: Do you seriously think that some Al Qaeda terrorist, having captured an American, will be more merciful in the treatment of that American because of this?
WILLIAMS: No, I'm saying to you, those -- listen, those people will chop your head off in a second, Brit.
HUME: There you go.
WILLIAMS: But what I'm saying to you is they will also know that we don't operate by their rules and they don't set the terms of engagement for us as Americans, that we don't live by standards of torture. And that because of that guy --
HUME: Wait a minute. Hold on a second. What are the positive benefits of that, as it were?
WILLIAMS: What are the positive benefits --
HUME: -- of their knowing that. How does that benefit us?
WILLIAMS: Listen, it's not a matter of their knowing. They know that we are decent and we are law-abiding --
HUME: And how does that help to have them -- have them --
WILLIAMS: How does that help?
HUME: How does that -- how does it help for terrorists to think that?
WILLIAMS: Because I think that -- I think that they --
HUME: Doesn't it just simply make it --
LIASSON: As a recruiting tool. The argument is that they can't --
HUME: Oh, as a recruiting tool?
LIASSON: -- that they -- yeah. Well, look, that --
HUME: Where's the evidence of that?
LIASSON: Look, the image of the world -- of the U.S. in the world does count. On a practical level, the question is: Can now terrorists kind of train themselves to resist everything that they know we're going to use or not?