Sales in U.S. News: Playing With Fire

"The White House should be commended for its part in keeping al Qaeda at bay," says Professor Nathan Sales in an article appearing in U.S.News & World Report's Debate Club. "But treating terrorists like common criminals, and ending CIA interrogations, is playing with fire."

Sales calls the administration's most conspicuous counterterrorism failure its dismantling of the CIA's interrogation program, saying the CIA should be able to use techniques on terrorists that their counterparts on the police force are permitted to use on drug dealers. 

"Current interrogation policy is also risky from a civil liberties standpoint," he says. "If we can't question terrorists effectively, we might simply outsource the job to other countries -- including countries that use techniques considerably more brutal than the CIA's harshest methods."

Obama Keeps al Qaeda at Bay, but Handcuffs the CIA as Well, U.S. News & World Report, May 2, 2012. By Nathan Sales.

"Sometimes the White House does the right thing in spite of itself. September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will face justice before a military commission. That's because bipartisan pressure forced the administration to walk back its disastrous plan to treat KSM like an ordinary criminal and try him in a civilian courtroom a few blocks from ground zero in New York City.

"Similarly, the military continues to hold al Qaeda figures despite the administration's pledge to shutter Guantanamo Bay within a year. President Obama apparently now knows what candidate Obama did not: There is a small cadre of committed terrorists who can't be tried (because the evidence against them is classified and can't be introduced in court) but are too dangerous to release. For them, military detention may be the only realistic choice."

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