Featured Article: A Brief History of Scandals…
A Brief History of Scandals: Special Oversight Challenges in National Security Interrogations
by Erik Jens
A history of (at least) American national security operations and initiatives shows, fairly convincingly, the need for external oversight. Time and again, executive branch agencies have, with the best of motives as they perceived them, violated Americans’ civil rights, compromised foreign relations, or otherwise behaved in ways irrelevant or counterproductive to national defense. The Church Committee report, the Pentagon Papers, Iran-Contra, and numerous other exposes during and since the Cold War have illustrated the range of abuses committed by executive branch agencies in the name of national defense.
More recently, a partly-declassified, Senate report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention program has shown once again that in the intelligence arena, “there are no secrets, only delayed disclosures.” History has amply demonstrated that interrogation succeeds best, and with the least amount of excess and abuse, when conducted by trained and certified personnel, pursuant to a formal program of instruction, with provisions for regular oversight by both the local chain of command and outside observers.
Among the myriad potential legal and ethical issues related to intelligence work, interrogation
holds a special place. Interrogation, more than any other branch of intelligence, implicates the most
dangerous and primal aspects of human behavior: self-righteous anger, urge for revenge, and a
desire to dominate. All these emotions can potentially compromise the interrogator’s sole legitimate mission—to elicit within the limits of domestic and international law actionable intelligence for military or national security purposes…
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Erik Jens, J.D., a graduate of UCLA and Michigan Law School, serves on the faculty of National Intelligence University, where he teaches national security law and ethics, intelligence collection, and analysis. An Army veteran and Defense Intelligence Agency civilian, Mr. Jens served five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as an intelligence officer, detachment chief, and ISAF HQ staff officer.
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