Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dead Terrorist Tell No Tales

Obama is increasingly using drones to attack and kill al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and other places. Often in the past the CIA and other agencies have sought to capture these various leader in order to obtain valuable information about their networks and future plan of attack. These practices seem to have been put on hold for some reason. There is nothing wrong in killing these leaders where ever they are found, but at the same time we should remain aware that when we kill them important information also dies.

The question seems to be is president Obama afraid to use enhanced interrogation methods in order to obtain information and that being the case has decided to kill them where they are found and disregard the fact that, "dead terrorist tell no tales"!

To be sure, unmanned drones are critical in the struggle against al Qaeda. They allow the United States to reach terrorists hiding in remote regions where it would be difficult for special operations forces to reach them, or to act on perishable intelligence when the only choice is to kill a terrorist or lose him. Constantly hovering Predator (or Reaper) drones also have a psychological effect on the enemy, forcing al Qaeda leaders to live in fear and spend time focusing on self-preservation that would otherwise be used planning the next attack. All this is for the good.

The problem is that Obama is increasingly using drone strikes as a substitute for operations to bring terrorist leaders in alive for questioning -- and that is putting the country at risk. As one high-ranking CIA official explained to me, in an interview for my book Courting Disaster, "In the wake of 9/11, [the CIA] put forward a program that had a lethal component to strike back at the people who did this. But the other component was to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again. And for that, killing people -- especially killing senior al Qaeda leaders -- is potentially counterproductive in that we can't know or learn of future attacks. You can't kill them all, and you don't want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew."

read more from Foreign Policy

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