The LWOT: Who’s Interrogating Mullah Baradar?; Scoring Biden vs. Cheney

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a new weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban No. 2 arrested

In late January, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), supported by the U.S. CIA, arrested (perhaps by accident) Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the operational commander of the Taliban. This is not an LWOT story yet, per se. But it will be. Look for details about which force (Pakistani, Afghan, or U.S.) is holding and interrogating him and whether he might be tried for crimes to come in the next few weeks.

Hoover Institution fellow Kori Schake, at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog, for one, asks: "Is the administration permitting the Pakistani interrogators to employ harsh methods the administration has put off limits to American intelligence professionals? They are unlikely to feel bound by our definitions of harsh interrogation."

Taliban No. 2 arrested

In late January, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), supported by the U.S. CIA, arrested (perhaps by accident) Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the operational commander of the Taliban. This is not an LWOT story yet, per se. But it will be. Look for details about which force (Pakistani, Afghan, or U.S.) is holding and interrogating him and whether he might be tried for crimes to come in the next few weeks.

Hoover Institution fellow Kori Schake, at Foreign Policy‘s Shadow Government blog, for one, asks: "Is the administration permitting the Pakistani interrogators to employ harsh methods the administration has put off limits to American intelligence professionals? They are unlikely to feel bound by our definitions of harsh interrogation."

Rumors abound that Baradar’s successor might be one Abdul Qayum Zakir, who spent time at Guantánamo Bay before being inexplicably released to Afghan custody in 2007, despite apparently failing to renounce his jihadist views.

Biden and Cheney spar over interrogation and detention policy — again

In a special Valentine’s Day edition of the battle of the Sunday talk shows, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and current veep Joe Biden continued to fight over how to best handle terrorism suspects.

Cheney said that as early as 2002 he disagreed with the Bush administration’s decisions to try shoe bomber Richard Reid as a civilian, release prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, and discontinue the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Biden said Cheney is "misinformed or … misinforming." But he left open the possibility that alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and four others could face a military tribunal rather than a civilian trial.

A quick update of the score card suggests Biden won this round, as ABC’s Jonathan Karl caught Cheney out.

The gallery chimes in …

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also took to the airwaves to protest against trying detainees in civilian courts. He went so far as to define all U.S. territory as the "battlefield" in the war on terror:

As we all know, this was a failed attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit by a trained al Qaeda operative. After being captured and fresh off the battlefield, he was read his Miranda rights within one hour of questioning and asked for a lawyer. Days later and only after his parents encouraged him to cooperate did he begin talking again. Can we really rely on the parents of future terrorists to work with the FBI?

… as does the White House

The New York Times published a long profile of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as excerpts from the interviews that went into the story. Holder praises President Barack Obama‘s support for a civilian trial for KSM:

[Obama understands the example we would set] trying this case in the criminal justice system that we say is the best in the world…. [That this] country sucked it up, did it, and did it successfully, and did it in a way that is consistent with who we say we are is a strong, strong message, both to those who want to work with us and those who seek to do us harm.

Obama orders review of Miranda rules

In an apparent response to criticism over the government’s handling of failed airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Obama has ordered a review of how suspected terrorists in the United States are arrested and held. One plan under review would require the FBI and Justice Department to notify intelligence agencies before Mirandizing a suspected terrorist. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post noted the divide between law enforcement officials and important members of Congress over this issue.

No Canadian evidence for Gitmo detainee

The Canadian government asked the United States to use intelligence gathered by Canada in its planned July military commission trial against Gitmo detainee Omar Khadr. The Canadian evidence reportedly comes from interviews of Khadr conducted by Canadian agents at Gitmo in 2003 and 2004. Canada’s Supreme Court condemned the interviews last week. In a motion filed Feb. 18, Khadr’s lawyers criticized Canada’s refusal to demand their client’s return to Canada.

Canada’s Supreme Court also refused to hear arguments from another Gitmo detainee seeking access to Canadian intelligence files.

Trials and tribulations

  • A U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by the families of two men who allegedly committed suicide while in custody at Guantánamo in 2006.
  • Spain has offered to take in three Guantánamo detainees, in addition to the Yemeni and Palestinian detainees the country had previously agreed to accept. This makes Spain the leader among nine European countries accepting former prisoners.
  • A Pakistani judge refused to grant bail to five Americans imprisoned in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism. Lawyers for the five had argued that the accusations and evidence against their as-yet uncharged clients was unsubstantiated.
  • An Australian court sentenced five Muslim men to up to 28 years in prison for "conspiracy to commit acts of terror."
  • It turns out that the CIA does not have Americans on its "hit list," as the Washington Post had previously reported. The military’s Joint Special Operations Command reportedly still has several Americans on its list.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.