February 11, 2010

From Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly:

I suppose it was only a matter of time before far-right voices started criticizing President Obama for having too much success killing terrorists. Here's former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, writing, "Dead Terrorists Tell No Tales."


I see. The conservative line for the better part of a year is that President Obama isn't doing enough to go after terrorists. Reality shows the exact opposite is true, but for the right, this is an inconvenient detail best ignored.

If Thiessen's piece is any indication, however, the argument is now shifting. President Obama is doing too much to go after terrorists, and is taking out too many bad guys before they can be captured and tortured.

I can see the campaign slogans now: "Vote GOP: Obama kills too many terrorists." Read on...

Transcript via Nexis Lexis.

O'REILLY: "Impact" segment tonight, a former speechwriter for President Bush, Mark Thiessen says that President Obama's use of drone missiles to terrorize and kill al Qaeda may be counterproductive in some areas. Mr. Thiessen is the author of the bestselling book, "Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack."

He joins us now from Washington.

All right, now look, I've been a big supporter of President's Obama's drone missile. And the CIA is obviously executing this very, very well. Wiped out a lot of al Qaeda, a lot of Taliban in Pakistan. We've dropped a few in other places in the world. And you are saying not so fast. So explain it?

MARK THIESSEN, FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, predators are an important tool on the war on terror, but the problem is that Obama is escalating the predator attacks, at the same time that he has eliminated one of the most important intelligence capabilities we have, the CIA's program to detain, capture and detain and interrogate terrorist leaders. Dead terrorists cannot tell you their plans for new attacks. So if you vaporize a terrorist with a predator strike you're vaporizing all the intelligence in his head that we could be getting by interrogating him.

O'REILLY: All right, that's true.

THIESSEN: And that could be the difference between an attack-

O'REILLY: But here's what I've been told by very, very high level intel people. Number one, we have people on the ground in Pakistan in violation of their sovereignty, although the people say the Pakistanis know about it, are looking the other way. Try to hunt these people down and capture them. That's number one, that we are trying to capture them. We have people, special forces and CIA trying to do that.

Number two, Obama has not eliminated rendition, where if we pick one of these guys up, we can send him to a third country and they can interrogate them there using God knows what. He's not eliminated that. So you say he's wiped out all of the interrogation possibilities. I think some of them are still in play?

THIESSEN: I don't agree with that. The administration is no longer capturing and interrogating senior terrorist leaders, bringing them into CIA custody or U.S. custody, and interrogating them--

O'REILLY: How do you know that?

THIESSEN: --effectively for intelligence.

O'REILLY: How do you know that? I mean, because my information is counter that - counter to that. Go ahead.

THIESSEN: Because they have said that they've eliminated secret detention. So what that means that is if we (INAUDIBLE) like Khalid-

O'REILLY: Then why hasn't he outlawed rendition? Why hasn't he signed an executive order outlawing rendition then?

THIESSEN: --well, because rendition is also bringing people as well. I mean, because he hasn't eliminated it. That's fair.


THIESSEN: But he's not capturing - listen, the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's of the world are being killed. They're not being brought in for intelligence. When we had the CIA program running, we - when we found Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and where he was located-


THIESSEN: --we didn't send a predator drone to kill him.

O'REILLY: No, but at that point-

THIESSEN: We brought him in.

O'REILLY: At that point, these people were accessible. Now let me ask you this very specific question. You're in the Oval Office, all right? Leon Panetta walks in as he does almost every day. And he puts a sheet of paper because Obama's got to sign off on these drone attacks, all right?


O'REILLY: He puts a sheet of paper on your desk. He says we got a Taliban big shot in this village. We can get him with a drone missile, a hellfire missile. Okay. Should we or should we not? And you say, well, I'd love to talk to this guy and interrogate it. And Leon says you know what? We can't get in there. It's impossible. He's up in the mountains.


O'REILLY: This and that. You kill him, right? You don't let him live, do you?

THIESSEN: Oh, absolutely. No, listen, predators are a good tool on the war on terror. We need them.

O'REILLY: Okay, so-

THIESSEN: (INAUDIBLE) people in remote regions.

O'REILLY: I'm assuming though-

THIESSEN: When they're-

O'REILLY: I'm assuming though that this - the terrorists know that it's very difficult for them to operate anywhere in the world, which is why they are in northwest Pakistan in the most inaccessible place in the world away from authority. And I'm assuming we just can't capture them.

THIESSEN: Well, I think you're assuming wrong. I think that we can capture terrorists. The CIA is more than capable of doing it. And we're certainly not capturing the leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, who could have told us that the Christmas Day bomber was coming.

O'REILLY: And you really think so? I'm disturbed by this point of view. And I'm not saying you're wrong because I'm not in a position to know.


O'REILLY: I'm not in a position to know. I'm told that the Obama administration wants to capture these people and interrogate them. But you're saying.

THIESSEN: Well, then why are they doing it? We did it.

O'REILLY: You're saying flat out they don't want to capture them. And if that's true, that is extremely disturbing. Are you positive?

THIESSEN: I am positive. They are not capturing senior terrorist leaders. There were two terrorists that were captured in the very beginning the of the Obama administration. They were senior guys captured in Pakistan. "The New York Times" reported in the very first days. And instead of taking them into custody for interrogation by us, they were given over to the Pakistanis, interrogated for a few weeks and then sent back to Pakistan and Yemen. We have no idea what happened to these guys.

We have stopped - we have eliminated the capability in the interrogations program that we had, that we had 100 people came into the CIA interrogation program. The information we got from them stopped the terrorist attack on our consulate in Karachi, a terrorist attack on a Marine camp in Jabudi, and a plot to fly a plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. We had a robust program to get these guys and get the information and there hasn't.

O'REILLY: All right, okay.

THIESSEN: We're not doing it anymore.

O'REILLY: All right, Mr. Thiessen, we appreciate your point of view. Thank you.

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