Outsourcing the war on terror

Posted on February 18, 2010

The capture of the Taliban's second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in a joint operation with Pakistan appears to be a major success in the war on terror. The Obama administration deserves credit for bringing him in alive.

Baradar is a potential treasure trove of intelligence on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. After months of criticism of President Obama's handling of terrorist detainees, and a nearly successful attack on the homeland, he seems to have rediscovered the virtue of capturing and interrogating terrorists, instead of killing them or reading them their Miranda rights. But problems with his approach to terrorist interrogation remain.

In his first year in office, Obama dramatically escalated the targeted killing of senior terrorist leaders, while eliminating the CIA's program to detain and question high-value terrorists for intelligence on planned attacks. Under that program, about 100 high-value terrorists were taken into CIA custody, and their questioning helped the United States stop a series of terrorist plots. While news of Baradar's capture leaked within days, under the CIA program captured terrorists were often held in secret for months before al-Qaeda realized they were being interrogated. This approach allowed us to capture still other terrorists who did not know they were in our sights.

But according to The Washington Post, there have been "no reports of high-value detentions" in the past year. Baradar's capture does not change this reality. He is not in American custody. He is being held and interrogated by Pakistan's intelligence services. In another time, he might have been secretly transferred to CIA custody for questioning. But under Obama, we no longer have this capability.

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