Friday, November 19, 2010

A Blue Dog Democrat trotted out a Guantánamo interrogation credential in his failed bid to get relected to Congress from a GOP district in Pennsylvania.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Nov. 18, 2010

A Blue Dog Democrat trotted out a Guantánamo interrogation credential in his failed bid to get relected to Congress from a GOP district in Pennsylvania.


It's one of the Pentagon's most sensitive and carefully guarded secrets: Who interrogated the prisoners at Guantánamo?

So it came as a surprise last month when a Pennsylvania congressman seeking reelection campaigned as the only member of the U.S. Congress to have interrogated a Guantánamo detainee.

It didn't work. Rep. Chris Carney, a Blue Dog Democrat, lost his mainly Republican district to a former federal prosecutor.

But the revelation raised eyebrows in Washington, where Carney served on the Homeland Security Committee, as well as questions about the Pentagon's effort to keep the identities of the people who have conducted Guantánamo interrogations secret.

Military commissions judges shield the interrogators' names and call them only by aliases such as Interrogator No. 1.

During recent hearings in advance of Canadian Omar Khadr's guilty plea to war crimes charges, Interrogator No. 3 testified in his dress uniform in court but the military insisted a courtroom sketch artist blur his features.


At the Pentagon, a spokeswoman said Carney, who remains a reservist subject to call up, did not need permission from Military Intelligence circles or others in his chain of command to disclose his interrogator role on his résumé.

``That was his call,'' said Army Maj. Tanya Bradsher. The Department of Defense does not make public the identities of its interrogators, she said, to protect its troops.

Whether the revelation will hurt Carney's chances to be used again as a military interrogator ``will simply have to be taken into account when this reservist is being considered for future assignments,'' she said.

The revelation, however, caught fellow lawmakers by surprise.

Carney, 51, apparently never revealed to his Democratic colleagues the top-secret portion of his intelligence résumé, even as he opposed President Barack Obama's plan to empty the Guantánamo prison camps and move some war-on-terror suspects' trials to civilian courts.

`It's news to me,'' said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Committee members made multiple fact-finding trips to Guantánamo, Thompson added, but the subject never came up.

As for how much time Carney spent in Guantánamo, who he interrogated and for how long, he and his staff aren't saying.

``The congressman is not at liberty to discuss details of his experience at Guantánamo Bay,'' said his spokesman Josh Drobnyk. ``Sorry I can't be of further help.''

Drobnyk also would not say why Carney chose to disclose this particular portion of his biography in the 11th hour of a fierce competition.

During the campaign, a political science professor in Carney's district theorized he might be ``trying to burnish conservative credentials'' in a predominantly GOP District that overwhelmingly voted for John McCain over Obama in 2008.

The message, though subtle, said Lycoming College professor Jonathan Williamson, was: ``I'm not soft on terrorism. I'm not shutting down Guantánamo Bay. In fact, I was there, doing good anti-terror activities.''

``It's pretty nuanced,'' said Williamson, ``and then it could backfire among some that would vote for him for liberal reasons.''

It may have. The district near Scranton voted 55 percent to elect Republican Tom Marino to the seat, installing a former George W. Bush-era U.S. attorney and denying Carney his third term.


When he first ran in 2005, Carney, a father of five and political science professor, described himself as a Naval Reserve officer who ``spent much of the last five-and-a-half years serving either overseas, or at the Pentagon as a senior advisor on intelligence and counterterrorism issues.''

According to military records released by the Pentagon last week, Carney served with the Defense Intelligence Agency and Office of the Undersecretary of Defense's policy division before he was elected and the DIA and Office of Naval Intelligence while in Congress.

Among his awards and decorations: the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, created after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for distinguished non-combat service.

He was a lieutenant commander whose congressional office publicized his promotion to commander in 2008, but has never included his Guantánamo stint in his official biography.

Carney also never highlighted his role as an analyst in a Pentagon policy office that sifted through intelligence to find a since-discredited link between al Qaeda and Iraq that became a pretext for the war against Saddam Hussein.

Carney had consistently portrayed himself as a national security expert.

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