During Tuesday’s national security debate on CNN, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) tripled down on her hallucination that the American Civil Liberties Union is exerting some broad influence over the Obama administration’s national security policies.
Bachmann narrowed her critique this time, arguing that Obama had “outsourced” interrogation policy to the ACLU because it allowed underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty earlier this year, to be read his Miranda rights. Bachmann also said that the CIA is not allowed to play any role in interrogations. That is completely false.
Obama issued an executive order early in his presidency mandating that interrogations be governed by the Army Field Manual on interrogation, a document that was last updated during the Bush administration by Pentagon officials, not civil liberties advocates. The ACLU has actually objected to the current standards as still allowing techniques that could be considered coercive.
The CIA is part of the interagency High Value Interrogation Group (HIG), and as plays a significant role in interrogating terror suspects. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified during his confirmation hearing in June that “if it’s someone where intelligence is the…primary objective here of going after and trying to find that out, then…the CIA individual becomes pretty central to the questions that are asked.”
So Bachmann’s criticism of Obama’s national security policy is based on two obvious and verifiable falsehoods: One, that current restrictions on interrogation are somehow based on the prerogatives of civil liberties advocates, and two, that the CIA no longer plays a role in interrogating terror suspects. Her criticism really just comes down to a complaint that the US is no longer torturing people. Between the Obama administration’s hawkishness abroad and its relative continuity with Bush administration policy post-2006, torture is one of the only things Republicans have left to draw a contrast.