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Truth needed in debate over interrogation techniques

Rocker Bruce Springsteen is running around telling everybody that he was born in the USA but now his country is in the "torture" business. Springsteen is echoing far-left propaganda that wants the world to believe that American policy is to rough up legitimate prisoners for the fun of it. Suddenly, in the dark world of the radical left, we are a gulag nation.

It is hard to get the truth about this torture business because much of the reporting on it is flat-out dishonest, and the president himself refuses to define what is permissible in the interrogation of captured terrorists.

A year ago, I interviewed Mr. Bush about the issue:

O'Reilly: Is water boarding torture?

President Bush: I don't want to talk about techniques, but I do assure the American people that we were within the law.

O'Reilly: But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?

President Bush: What the American people need to know is that we've got a program in place that is able to get intelligence from these people. And we've used it to stop attacks.

So the president is not going to debate interrogation methods, and this gives a huge opening to his opponents.

The best example of coerced interrogation or torture, depending on your sensitivity level, is what happened to al-Qaida big shot Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Captured in Pakistan in 2003, U.S. authorities used tough methods, including "water boarding," to break Mohammed. And break him they did. According to a multitude of reports, Mohammed gave up scores of al-Qaida operatives and detailed a number of potential terror attacks.

Both former CIA Director George Tenet and former CIA official Michael Scheuer, once the head of the bin Laden unit, told me that coerced interrogation methods often provided accurate intelligence that potentially saved thousands of lives.

So what, then, are we to make of a recent New York Times editorial that says: "Truly banning the use of torture would not jeopardize American lives; experts in these matters generally agree that torture produces false confessions."

But that is simply not true, and the Times knows it. Also, like President Bush, the newspaper does not define exactly what torture is. Could it be reading fallacious editorials?

Scores of left-wing newspapers are self-righteously calling for an end to harsh interrogation techniques. How these people would get information from hardened terrorists is left unexplained.

The only reason America hasn't been attacked again by al-Qaida is that aggressive U.S. action has aborted their plots and damaged their infrastructure.

Playing hypothetical games with people's lives is unacceptable. In a perfect world, a noble nation like the U.S. would not need to submerge killers in water. But thousands of dead Americans have changed the rules.

To allow captured killers wearing civilian clothing and fighting for no nation the privilege of name, rank and serial number status is not only stupid, it could be lethal.

How about a little truth in this debate? Our lives may depend on it.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.