On the second anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, the Boston bombings remind us that we must continue to be vigilant in the face of terrorist threats. Vigilant, but not fearful.
Although the Boston attack was, by all accounts, different from those on Sept. 11 the Tsarnaev brothers appear to have acted alone, not as agents of a terrorist organization Americans are once again facing pressure to give up our rights and values.
Having served 23 years in the clandestine services of the Central Intelligence Agency, including during the dark years after 9/11, I know what effective counterterrorism looks like, and I know how easy it is to overreact. Calls to declare the Boston bombers "enemy combatants" hype the threat and ignore the fact that the U.S. civilian criminal justice system has effectively dealt with terror suspects in nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism since 9/11.
Americans should find it offensive that lawmakers assert that our laws are not robust enough to protect us. I took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and to uphold our laws, not to apply different standards to different people.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, some politicians have even called for the return of the so-called "enhanced interrogation" program. But as someone who was involved in the program and later in the exploitation of the intelligence it produced I can state with certainty that it betrayed our values and Constitution, obtained poor intelligence and made us less safe.
An individual under duress in physical or psychological pain of course becomes more hostile and more likely to say whatever is necessary to make the pain stop. The reliability of whatever the detainee says in these conditions becomes substantially more difficult to assess, and it becomes more difficult to use any "information" so obtained.
In my own interrogation, my detainee was responding usefully, based on my painstaking development of rapport with him. But headquarters wanted more and had other ideas. "The absence of an answer is proof of guilt," I was told, calling for enhanced measures. I protested. I warned that enhanced interrogation torture would cause the detainee to stop cooperating and would make it harder to evaluate the reliability of anything he said. But I was overruled. As I predicted, the detainee became angry and uncooperative under enhanced interrogation. Who would not? We went backward.
Perhaps, despite my experience, you don't want to take my word for it. You shouldn't have to. The "debate" over the enhanced interrogation program can be settled once and for all if the government would declassify the relevant information.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has admirably led the Senate Intelligence Committee through a multiyear study of the CIA program, culminating in a 6,000-plus page report. Yet some want to prevent this study from ever seeing the light of day. This is shameful to all of us who believe with Apostle John that we must "know the truth, and the truth will set (us) free."
The committee should vote to make the report public, and the administration should work with the committee to make redactions. But as one whose book had quotations of Rudyard Kipling redacted (British imperial poets, apparently, can be very dangerous), I can testify to the excesses of intelligence censors, whose purpose all too often seems to be to protect the CIA from embarrassment. The Senate report should be redacted only where legitimate sources and methods need protection, not failed programs.
Two years after the death of bin Laden and weeks after the Boston bombings, we must affirm the strength of our legal system. And we should demand to see the Senate report on CIA interrogation. The truth, like our values, will make us stronger.
Glenn Carle served in the Central Intelligence Agency for 23 years and was the deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats at the National Intelligence Council.