“If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong”

The allegations are false.

The following document was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pursuant to a FOIA request by The Washington Independent, and a second FOIA request by ProPublica:

Letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee

Bart Gellman notes,

I have come to believe I did an injustice to Jonathan Fredman, a senior lawyer for the CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On p. 187 I quoted an infamous line he is said to have delivered at Guantanamo Bay (“if the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong”), the source of which was an unsigned memo released by the Senate Armed Service Committee. Upon closer inspection and further reporting, I have lost confidence in this document, which purports to be minutes of a meeting Fredman attended but plainly departs from verbatim quotation. I have removed the reference to this alleged quotation in the paperback, with an explanation in the chapter notes.


Additional background is contained in the following articles:

National Journal: Inconvenient Facts and Detainee Abuse

Lawfare: Memo to the Press


“If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

One of the most quotable phrases coming out of Bush’s Global War on Terrorism now appears to be highly questionable. Then-CIA lawyer Jonathan Fredman was quoted by Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as having said that the standard of detainee treatment during interrogations was “basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

This quote continues to be used in articles and books, but reporting by Stuart Taylor, Jr. (no relation) in the National Journal and by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare sheds light on the shaky ground on which it rests.

Read more:



Memo to the Press: Just Shut Up About Jonathan Fredman

April 1, 2013

Memo to the Press: Just Shut Up About Jonathan Fredman.

The quotation is apparently too sexy to resist—too sexy even to Google its speaker’s name before running with it. A single Google search would, after all, yield this article by Stuart Taylor Jr. inNational Journal—an article that should put any journalist on notice that the quotation by a career CIA lawyer named Jonathan Fredman is sketchy:

“It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.

This was perhaps the most chillingly outrageous, widely quoted statement by a government official to be aired by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., at hearings last summer and in the committee’s December 11 report on abuse of detainees by U.S. forces.

But the quoted official, CIA lawyer Jonathan Fredman, told the committee on November 18 that he had made no such statement. In fact, Fredman added in a heretofore confidential, five-page memo, he had stressed at the 2002 meeting with interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility described in the Levin committee’s report, “Interrogation practices and legal guidance must not be based upon anyone’s subjective perception” (emphasis added) but rather upon “definitive and binding legal analysis.”

Remarkably, the 18-page report issued by the committee (headed “Executive Summary”) does not mention Fredman’s vehement—and, in my view, quite plausible—denial of the horrifying words attributed to him in a document of debatable reliability that the report, and Levin, have treated as established fact.

Yet one by one, reputable journalists and scholars keep sticking Fredman’s quotation in their books and articles.

Read more:  Memo to the Press: Just Shut Up About Jonathan Fredman


Comment:  http://ifthedetaineediesyouredoingitwrong.blogspot.com


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