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O'Reilly, Hersh & the Rules of Interrogation

Reported by Marie Therese - September 15, 2004 -

The O'Reilly Factor. September 13, 2004. 8:37 PM to 8:45 PM EDT.

O'Reilly: "Many Americans are divided about how to interrogate suspected terrorists. Some believe they should be afforded Geneva Convention protections. Others say no, they are not lawful combatants. That controversy is at the heart of the Abu Graib scandal...."

Seymour Hersh, whose new book "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Graib" has just been released, spoke with host Bill O'Reilly about some of the revelations in his book. The material for "Chain of Command" grew out of a series of articles he penned for the New Yorker magazine on the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Graib.

In the interview Hersh noted that practices sanctioned at Abu Graib actually were first introduced at Guantanamo Bay. Hersh claims that in the summer of 2002, a highly placed intelligence official traveled to the Guantanamo Bay facility. According to Hersh his source was troubled because the intelligence centers in Washington "weren't getting anything really useful, the really good stuff wasn't coming. We weren't getting advance information..." After returning from GITMO in the fall of 2002, his source wrote a "blistering report" claiming that "we weren't differentiating between those who belonged there and those who did not." One of the more disturbing incidents concerned several prisoners in their 80s who were left in chains sitting in their own feces.

O'Reilly countered that "that's disputed by the Bush administration, which says it did get good intelligence, intelligence to disrupt Al Qaeda operations, to capture a number of these people...to disrupt operations that would have blown up the Brooklyn Bridge, other sites here in New York City and around the country..."

Hersh responds by saying "Let me give you another point of view ... there's no question we have some special units operating that have done very good work....We've snatched some people but in general it's very clear - what do we know about the insurgency in Iraq? What did we know a year and a half ago? These people began to hit us and hit us and hit us and we couldn't get inside. We're not inside now."

O'Reilly agrees with Hersh but then goes on to say that the scandal at Abu Graib ends with General Janet Karpinski. Hersh disagrees, claiming that a group of "reservists from West Virginia" could not have figured out the exact humiliations that would be most effective in breaking down an Arab male. Hersh goes on to say that "General Sanchez may end up being the fall guy in this."

O'Reilly: "Is Sanchez guilty of promoting torture at Abu Graib?"

HERSH: "They all looked away...

O'Reilly: "So you think that Sanchez knew that dogs were bein' in there and they were stripping them down, they were takin' pictures..."

HERSH: "I think the SOP - Standard Operating Procedure - for a prisoner - a recalcitrant prisoner, a prisoner you wanted to work on - was to do that, yes."

The two men go on to discuss the issue of "blind sources". In earlier promos O'Reilly indicated that he didn't like the idea of a "blind source" but Hersh argued for them and noted that at the New Yorker "the editors know who my sources are. They do more than just know. They're independently checked by fact checkers. These people talk to my fact checkers, my fact checkers let them know what's being written for two reasons, one, to verify the stuff and the other thing is I'm dealing with guys who go to meetings - high level meetings - and you never know when a guy's gonna say something to me that I quote that he said at a meeting two nights ago....We want to protect them. We're very sensitive about the issue that you raise and I'm totally with you. It's complicated."


If you're on a limited budget, buy Seymour Hersh's book, not the Kitty Kelley gossip fest. How a society treats it enemies is a pretty good indicator of its value system. Abu Graib was a wake-up call. As Hersh pointed out in this interview, all the credible research on prisoner interrogation contends that "the way to get good intelligence is not by coercion. It's by establishing rapport."

The real question is: Do we observe the Geneva Conventions or not?