Transcript: Is Roughing Up Prisoners OK If We Save American Lives?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, May 3, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unacceptable behavior, and we don't — I mean, the American people get it. We get it. You look at the pictures, you know this is not something that anybody would condone no matter what your interrogation objectives were.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: For all the outrage over mistreated Iraqi prisoners, my next guest says sometimes you got to do what you got to do. Mike Ritz is a former Army interrogator who runs workshops for law enforcement officers. He says rough stuff is OK if it saves American lives. Mr. Ritz joins me from Burbank, California. The big question, are civilians being naive about the realities of this war?

MIKE RITZ, FMR. ARMY INTERROGATION: Well, I don't know that society is ready for some of the realities that are bound to occur. You know, this is — I don't — your first comment — I don't want to misconstrue things in terms of police — what the police have to deal with as far as regulations are very different from what the military is dealing with in the interrogation capacity.

GIBSON: We're even talking about people who aren't military. I mean, the military is now kind of pointing fingers at either the CIA or civilian contractors saying they were the ones running this interrogation room. Look, I think everybody understands if the prisoners held here know where IED, improvised explosive device (search) factories are, great. If they're part of the resistance and are shooting at Americans, get the information out of them, but how do you justify these pictures?

RITZ: Oh, I don't justify them at all, and I never have. My only point was that to a certain extent interrogations can be a difficult situation. We have Geneva Conventions (search) that we have to abide by, and we should abide by them. I mean, one of the big problems with this whole thing is that you have a situation where they — true, they are humiliating soldiers. That is happening. But the glee and the joy in which they seem to be portraying is definitely something to be concerned about.

GIBSON: OK. Let's back up. Is there any interrogation technique that justifies, you know, having naked prisoners with hoods over their head making a human pyramid or having naked prisoners in the presence of an American female sort of being humiliated and triumphed over? I mean, does that make any sense in terms of interrogation techniques?

RITZ: They have crossed the line, and by Geneva Conventions they cannot do this form of activity. I think that the United States follows Geneva Conventions and adheres to it probably more than most of the other countries in the world, if not all of them, and that we have to follow those definitely. I mean, there's a big danger here. Our enemy sees this, and if this is the model that we're portraying, they're going to follow right along. They already are anyway, and this just gives them more justification to treat our own people badly. This isn't necessary. This isn't necessary to get information. There are plenty of interrogators that are working very hard day and night gathering intelligence and they are not resorting to such activity.

GIBSON: The other thing that's kind of startles to me is the presence of, you know, home, happy snap cameras in a place like this. I mean, if you are running a prison in Iraq and you are interrogating prisoners, are the interrogators, the prison staff allowed to come and go with cameras in their pockets?

RITZ: They should not be. I mean, I think this is a clear breakdown. There needs to be some standard operating procedures, and that needs to be set from the leadership on down. And it's quite evident that that hasn't occurred in this situation.

GIBSON: Do you think this will actually cost some American lives? Will there be more attacks on American soldiers because these pictures are floating around in Iraq?

RITZ: I don't know that there are going to be more, but I know that there will perhaps be more support toward action against Americans in a similar capacity as they have viewed in these pictures.

GIBSON: Mike Ritz runs a workshop for law enforcement officers on interrogation techniques. Mike, thanks very much. Appreciate you coming on.

RITZ: Thanks for having me.

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