On November 29, 2008, in the wake of the Mumbai massacre and the election of Barack Obama (no connection drawn, just historically close in time), I wrote of the dilemma faced on whether to kill or capture terrorists: Giving Terrorists “Rights” May Lead To More Terrorist Deaths
The issue was whether, in light of the coming changes in U.S. interrogation policy, there was any added value in capturing terrorists rather than dropping a missile or bomb on their hideouts.
I predicted that once we lost the ability to effectively interrogate detainees, more terrorists would be killed because there was no logic to capturing terrorists you could not interrogate:
Currently, there is a strong incentive for the US to capture rather than kill terrorist suspects, in order to obtain information regarding terrorist plans and structure.
Rather than dropping a bomb on a house, it is in the US national interest whenever possible to send troops into the house to capture the targets. The intelligence benefits from these efforts are mostly secret, but what has leaked out shows that the capture rather than killing of terrorists has benefited the US effort against terrorism. Sometimes, such as in areas of Pakistan, this is not possible, and a missile fired from a drone is the only alternative.
Removing the incentive to take terrorists captive may have an unintended consequence of leading to more terrorist deaths. The closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Gitmo), and providing terrorists captured abroad with the full panoply of US constitutional rights, makes this unintended consequence more likely.
There was a corollary to the scenario in my post, which is that there also would be a lower incentive for friendly governments to capture terrorists and turn them over to us. That is how we obtained possession of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and many others.
And now it has come to pass, Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts:
When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.
The White House authorized the second option….
The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.
Capturing this wanted person really made no sense under the Obama administration policy.
Even if we captured him, the terrorist would have been entitled to legal counsel and the right to remain silent.
We do not even have a high-value interrogation team in place, and we appear to be unwilling to follow interrogation procedures which fall far short of waterboarding or other controversial techniques.
I’m not getting all wet in the eyes about the fact that we dropped a missile on a car rather than risk our soldiers’ lives.
But in the war on terrorism, the Obama administration has no moral high-ground because by taking effective interrogation off the table, the administration has narrowed our options and weakened our defenses.
And as I have further predicted, just wait until the left in Europe and elsewhere turns on Obama, and starts seeking indictments for “extrajudicial assassination.”
I’ll stand by Obama when the Spanish judges come after him or his top officials.
And I will be joined by many others on the right who oppose Obama’s interrogation policies, because we realize that al-Qaeda terrorists do not differentiate among Americans.