In the Thursday piece, Gjelten is explaining how some of the first leads in tracking down Osama Bin Laden's courier came "from detainees who were interrogated while in CIA custody." Gjelten tells us that "about a third of the CIA detainees were subjected to what the agency euphemistically called enhanced interrogation techniques." So far, so good. It's helpful that he describes CIA spin as euphemism. A listener might expect that the next step would be to have someone from the ACLU or Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch come on to detail just what these now-admitted techniques (and unadmitted ones) were and how many detainees didn't make it through the enhanced care of the CIA.
The CIA and US military need not fear that Tom Gjelten or NPR would dare shed any light on the gruesome details of US torture. For an unbiased description of the techniques, Gjelten turns to - guess who? - former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, who gently explains,
"They range from something as innocuous as something called the attention grasp or the facial grasp. You know, grabbing somebody by the lapels or grabbing them by the chin, to a variety of things that had to do with sleep and diet or stress positions."
God, and to think I used to think that US POWS in Vietnam were tortured...silly me, now I know they were just subjected to "a variety of things" like "stress positions."
Just to be sure that you can't accuse NPR of not being "fair and balanced," Gjelten tosses out that old NPR sop of some say: "Critics of enhanced interrogation techniques say they're tantamount to torture." See, it has nothing to do with law, treaties, or actual facts - it's just some anonymous "critics" who allege that its kind of like torture. In case these unnamed "critics" might undermine the very serious and important Michael Hayden, Gjelten notes that critics have also pointed out that real information came from detainees "after the harsh interrogations stopped. And General Hayden says he wouldn't be surprised by that."
And here's where Gjelten really enters his zone of cooperation, handing the microphone to the good General Hayden himself: "
I'm willing to concede the point that no one gave us valuable or actionable intelligence while they were, for example, being waterboarded. The purpose of the enhanced interrogation techniques was to take someone who was refusing to cooperate with us and to accelerate the process by which we would move from a zone of defiance to a zone of cooperation."
Well, I hope NPR will now do a piece (or two or three) debating the positive and negative effects of the enhanced interrogation sessions that the North Vietnamese applied to US POWs. Given that the civilian slaughter waged against Vietnam by the US military makes the events of 9/11 look like nothing more than a disturbing footnote in the history of atrocities, and given that the North was successful, then maybe all that enhanced treatment to move US prisoners from "a zone of defiance" to "a zone of cooperation" helped them win the war and was justifiable after all.