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Human Beings Without Humanity

The profoundly disgusting memos made public yesterday -- in which government lawyers attempted to justify flatly unconscionable and illegal acts -- provide a depressing reminder of a time when the powerful and powerless alike were stripped of their humanity.

These memos gave the CIA the go-ahead to do things to people that you'd be arrested for doing to a dog. And the legalistic, mechanistic analysis shows signs of an almost inconceivable callousness. The memos serve as a vivid illustration of the moral chasm into which the nation fell -- or rather, was pushed -- during the Bush era.

President Obama deserves great credit for defying members of the intelligence community who wanted to keep these memos secret. But in calling for the nation to move on without any further looking back, Obama put his political needs above his moral and legal obligations.

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution," Obama said in a statement yesterday about his decision to release the memos. "I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

But the widely held desire for some sort of process of reckoning and accountability is not just a matter of retribution. In fact, these memos are a vivid reminder that the underlying issues are more important than mere politics.

Obama is also legitimately subject to criticism for his attempt to short-circuit the judicial process with his vow that "those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice... will not be subject to prosecution."

The president understandably doesn't want to get bogged down in what could well be a bitter and partisan process. But if, as he himself insisted yesterday, "the United States is a nation of laws," then he doesn't necessarily get to make that call -- unless he issues a pardon.

Greg Miller and Josh Meyer write in the Los Angeles Times: "Prisoners could be kept awake for more than a week. They could be stripped of their clothes, fed nothing but liquid and thrown against a wall 30 consecutive times.

"In one case, the CIA was told it could prey on a top Al Qaeda prisoner's fear of insects by stuffing him into a box with a bug. When all else failed, the CIA could turn to what a Justice Department memo described as 'the most traumatic' interrogation technique of all -- waterboarding."

Siobhan Gorman and Evan Perez write in the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Obama wrestled with the decision into Wednesday night, a senior administration official said, convening a meeting of top national security advisers and Greg Craig, his White House counsel. As recently as earlier this week, the president was considering proposals that would have redacted larger portions of the memos. When he made his decision, Mr. Obama called CIA Director Leon Panetta to inform him.

"One key factor was the online publication last week by the New York Review of Books of an International Committee of the Red Cross account of detainee interrogations. The president read the account and concluded 'virtually everything that was in these memos was out in the public domain,' said the senior official.

"As for the decision not to prosecute CIA officers, another senior administration official noted that Mr. Obama's responsibilities changed when he moved from candidate to president and began receiving daily threat briefings. 'It's a different set of responsibilities,' the official said. 'He's sitting in the Oval Office.'"

Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane write in the New York Times: "The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.'s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration's most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.....

"All legal opinions on interrogation were revoked by Mr. Obama on his second day in office, when he also outlawed harsh interrogations and ordered the C.I.A.'s secret prisons closed."

Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate write in The Washington Post that the announcement that the administration "will not prosecute CIA officers who used harsh interrogation techniques with the department's legal blessing... appeared to be designed to soothe concerns expressed by top intelligence officials, who argued in recent weeks that the graphic detail in the memos could bring unwanted attention to interrogators and deter others from joining government service.....

"Both Obama and [Attorney General Eric] Holder for months have indicated a desire to look forward rather than conduct investigations that could alienate the intelligence community and incite partisan rancor."

But Johnson and Tate write there may be some wiggle room in the carefully worded offer of immunity. Obama and Holder "left open the possibility that operatives and higher-level administration officials could face jeopardy if they ventured beyond the boundaries drawn by the Bush lawyers," they write.

Bloggers captured the significance of the memos even better than the mainstream media.

Andrew Sullivan, blogging for the Atlantic, calls the newly released Bybee memo "as chilling an artifact as you are ever likely to read in a democratic society, the work clearly not of a lawyer assessing torture techniques in good faith, but of an administration official tasked with finding how torture techniques already decided upon can be parsed in exquisitely disingenuous ways to fit the law, even when they clearly do not....

"Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any reasonable doubt."

Spencer Ackerman blogs for the Washington Independent: "These are medieval documents, these Office of Legal Counsel memos... OLC, like a medieval priest, finds the right incantation to transform a dark act into a holy one."

Kevin Drum blogs for Mother Jones: "Reading the OLC torture memos is enough to make you ill. The techniques in question are plainly and instinctively abhorrent by any common sense definition, and the authors of the memos obviously know it. But somehow they have to conclude otherwise, so they write page after mind-numbing page of sterile legal language designed to justify authorizing it anyway. It's not torture if the victim survives it intact. It's not against the law if it takes place outside the United States. Waterboarding is OK as long as it isn't performed more than twice in a 24-hour period. Sleep deprivation of shackled prisoners for seven days at a time is permissible as long as the victim's diaper is changed frequently. And on and on and on."

The call for prosecution is loud and strong among the liberals and civil libertarians.

Keith Olbermann appealed to Obama on his MSNBC show last night: "Mr. President, when you say we must 'come together on behalf of our common future' you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.

"That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration's torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal punishments, or merely new laws. Your only other option is to let this set and fester indefinitely. Because, Sir, some day there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and this country's moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush. Or what you did not do.

"And he will see precedent. Or as Cheney saw, he will see how not to get caught next time. Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn."

The Center for Constitutional Rights responded to the memos with this statement: "Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted. In the president's statement today, the most troubling contradiction is the contrast of the words, 'This is a time for reflection, not retribution,' followed shortly by, 'The United States is a nation of laws.' Government officials broke very serious laws: for there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again."

The ACLU repeated its call for an independent prosecutor. Said Anthony D. Romero: "We have to look back before we can move forward as a nation. When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability. President Obama's assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable. Enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law."

Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "I agree entirely that it is the DOJ lawyers who purported to legalize torture and the high-level Bush officials ordering it who are the prime culprits and criminals, as compared to, say, CIA agents who were proverbially just following orders and were told by the DOJ that what they were doing was legal. But leave aside the question of whether prosecutions would produce good or bad outcomes. After all, the notion that the law can and should be ignored whenever we think doing so would produce good results or would constitute good policy was the engine that drove Bush lawlessness. If, as Barack Obama proclaimed yesterday, 'the United States is a nation of laws' and his 'Administration will always act in accordance with those laws,' isn't it the obligation of those opposing prosecution to justify that position in light of these legal mandates and long-standing principles of Western justice? How can they be reconciled?"

Georgetown Law Professor David Cole writes for the New York Times: "It is not enough to say that when we have a president who does not believe in cruel and inhuman treatment and torture, the United States will not engage in such practices – while leaving open the possibility that if we again elect a president who does believe in such practices, they can be revived as a policy option. We must formally acknowledge that what was done was wrong, indeed criminal. At the very least, a credible independent investigation must be undertaken. The Convention Against Torture, which we have signed and ratified, demands nothing less wherever there is any evidence that persons within our jurisdiction inflicted cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment on another human being. These memos are that evidence."

Berkeley public policy professor Michael O'Hare blogs: "Obama has made it national policy to ignore violations of international law, human decency, and stepped on everything we've believed since Nuremberg, promising no prosecutions of CIA torturers and hinting at no prosecutions of their enablers and commanders....

"Torturing people systematically is not just criminal but outrageous, unspeakable. Having orders to do it is no excuse: we need every citizen and every spook to think before obeying orders that may for whatever reason be illegal, especially orders that are cruel, vengeful, and compromise the mission: this principle is so obvious movie plots are built on its universal validity."

Blogger Digby offers a thin reed upon which some Obama supporters can conceivably hang: "[I]t's obviously very difficult for the administration to take on the intelligence community unless there is a large public constituency demanding action.... I recognize that it's not easy, especially for a Democrat, although I think it's so important to the future security of the nation that I would have hoped the president would use some of his political capital to prove that the United States is a country of laws not men.

"However, I have to wonder if by releasing the memos they aren't at least obliquely asking for the public to 'make' them do it. They could have kept them secret, after all. If there were significant public pressure as well as pressure from congress, they would have enough cover to launch an investigation."

Meanwhile, former Bush administration officials Michael Hayden and Michael B. Mukasey write in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the release of the memos will "invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001...

"By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack.

"Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies."

They also once again trot out the canard that torture worked, and that Abu Zubaida, the CIA's first official torture victim and the subject of the first of yesterday's memos, "was coerced into disclosing information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the planners of Sept. 11, who in turn disclosed information which -- when combined with what was learned from Abu Zubaydah -- helped lead to the capture of KSM and other senior terrorists, and the disruption of follow-on plots aimed at both Europe and the U.S."

But as I've written previously, Bin al Shibh was captured almost half a year after Zubaida was, and author Ron Suskind reported that the key information about his location came not from Zubaida but from an al-Jazeera reporter who had interviewed bin al Shibh and KSM at their safehouse apartment in Karachi. Zubaida also did not provide information that led to KSM's capture. Suskind reported that a tipster led the CIA directly to KSM and subsequently collected a $25 million reward.

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 17, 2009; 12:43 PM ET
Categories:  Torture  
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Dan - thanks to you and everyone else who have made such efforts to keep these horrible policies in the spotlight. The release of the memos confirms that the Bush administration was populated by liars and criminals who deserved to be brought swiftly to justice.

Posted by: JCinCT | April 17, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I am totally in favor of the "torture" that occurred. I thank God that George Bush kept this country safe. I could not care less about these guys. I also praise Bill Clinton and Al Gore for Extraordinary Rendition.

Posted by: hz9604 | April 17, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

hz9604 are you too stupid to get that torture wasn't only carried out on 'guilty terrorists' but also suspected innocent people? How's that good? More to the point, what part of 'rule of law' don't you get? The constitution forbids the US government from carrying out cruel and unusual punishment, period. I'd say you're unAmerican, but I think the truth is America is a rather pathetic country, little better than Belgium, lower than France and Italy.

Posted by: marcedward1 | April 17, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

As an Air Force veteran, I was well-taught on the concept of illegal orders and our DUTY to not follow them. In addition, because the Air Force (and other military pilots) are more likely to be captured behind enemy lines if shot down, the Geneva Conventions were the golden rules. If we do not follow them, why should we expect less open and tolerant nations to follow them. I am not surpised that GW, Cheney, and a number of other officials are non-veterans. Maybe had they gone into the military they would understand how wrong it was to break the conventions.
The Washington Post had a good editorial. We need a commission to look into this, to punish those who wrote justifications to torture, to at least require to resign those interrogators who did not disobey a clearly illegal order to torture, and to write strong laws that leave no question that what was done was illegal and will not be tolerated in the future. Adolph Eichmann never personally killed anyone in the Holocaust, but his bureacratic solution was considered enough to hang him high. Though I think hanging would be extreme in this case, justifying illegal action should be punishable.

Posted by: cpusss | April 17, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"but I think the truth is America is a rather pathetic country, little better than Belgium, lower than France and Italy" Posted by: marcedward1 | April 17, 2009 1:45 PM


I really can't stand fools that go around insulting the USA. So I really hate this guy I've quoted above.

However, although his intent is to malign America, I'm not sure what he thinks is insulting about being compared to Belgium, France & Italy. They see like perfectly all right countries to me. Odd.

Posted by: ZZim | April 17, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

So we're letting the Bush torturers off the hook because they were "just following orders."? Hmmm, let me see, where did I hear THAT before?

What I'm also hearing is that political considerations trump the rule of law--or more to the point, nobody will be held to answer for this outrage.

Shame on Obama if he doesn't bring the "loyal Bushies" who put torturing in motion to the dock and hold them accountable . . . and I'm an Obama fan to the core.

The more we learn about the Bush administration the more creepy it gets.

Posted by: reporter1 | April 17, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution."

When is it time for justice?

When is it time for human decency?

Is this what you would tell the widow of a black civil rights activist who was lynched in the Jim Crow South?

Is this what you would tell the widow of Medgar Evers?

Mr. President, please don't add further disgrace to the office you hold.

Posted by: motorfriend | April 17, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The lawyers who wrote these memos must be prosecuted. If they are innocent, let it be proven in court. Being a lawyer does not make you automatically innocent. There also were lawyers who facilitated Hitler's regime, and probably there were lawyers who Pontius Pilot relied on.

Posted by: rjoff | April 17, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

As much as our Dear Leader would like to come off sounding magnanimous by saying that "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," its just more posturing from the BS’er in cheif. With the passage of the Military Commission Act in 2006, congress granted retroactive immunity to any individuals who were authorized by their superiors and relevant legal counsel to engage in dispensation of the dreaded pinkbelly of death all the way back to 98 I believe.

And for the record Froomkin, I think I’d take Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey’s opinion of what was and what was not accomplished with the dreaded pink belly than yours.

Thank God we had people who were willing to stick their necks out to get done what was needed to get done, and if the planner of 9/11 was kept awake for a few days and had to listen to AC/DC at 100decibles so be it.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 17, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama has made it national policy to ignore violations of international law, human decency, and stepped on everything we've believed since Nuremberg, promising no prosecutions of CIA torturers and hinting at no prosecutions of their enablers and commanders


No wonder Obama gets along so well with Castro. LOL.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 17, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"..nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past"

Have stupider words ever been uttered? Does this apply to other crimes as well?

Does anyone remember Nuremberg?

Do we still pretend to be a nation of laws?

Posted by: kcwhitney | April 17, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

It is our job to make Obama and more importantly congress to investigate and prosecute those who authorized torture. That would be Yoo, bybee, Cheney, Rumsfield, Gonzo, and Bush. We can grant limited immunity to the agents who did the deeds to get to those who ordered it.

Posted by: srw3 | April 17, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"I am totally in favor of the "torture" that occurred. I thank God that George Bush kept this country safe." hz9604

Didn't 9/11 and the anthrax poisonings (still unsolved) happen while Shrub was in office?

Funny how the 4000 + dead soldiers and 100.000 +++ dead Iraqis aren't so safe after going after Saddam who had nothing to do with 9/11.

Funny how OBL is still at large after 8 years.

Just sayin'

Posted by: srw3 | April 17, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

After every crime, every murder, every theft, every rape, there are conflicting impulses. There is the very human impulse for revenge. And, there is an impulse to put it behind you, to look forward rather than back.

As a society we give the government the power to prosecute crimes so that we can defeat our impulse for revenge. We do not need to take matters into our own hands. We can look forward while the police, the prosecutors, the judge and the jury take on our case and bring those who wronged us to justice. However, when the prosecutors refuse to act the whole system breaks down.

That these most terrible of crimes against humanity will go unpunished is an affront to our entire way of life. Obama is aiding and abetting these criminals today. The blood is on his hands as surely as it is on those who have tortured in our name.

Posted by: fletc3her | April 17, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

SharpshootingPugilist--"Thank God we had people who were willing to stick their necks out to get done what was needed to get done,"

What actually got done? NO convincing evidence has been presented that we got any actionable intelligence from torturing people. In fact, many sources say that much of the information gotten from tortured prisoners led to wild goose chases. And what about those who were innocent? Where is their justice?

I don't really care if the low level agents who were actually following orders get major punishment, but Yoo, bybee, etc. need to be prosecuted for their role in authorizing the torture of prisoners.

Posted by: srw3 | April 17, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Dan: Great meeting you yesterday. I guess I am off the hook, because when I revealed the illegal warrantless wiretapping program, that was in the past and we now only look forward. Whew, that's a relief!
I was honored to receive the Ridenhour truth telling prize yesterday. As I said then, we need to know the truth about what happened. Then, and only then, can we assess what crimes, if any are worthy of prosecution. Prosecutorial discretion is something that is exercised by lawyers in prosecutors office every day in this country. We do not prosecute every violation of the law. But if you are going to give immunity to someone, you have to first know what they did. In some instances, good faith may be a valid defense. But it is not always a defense. Seems to me the Nazis used the just obeying orders defense. We now know the government exceeded it's expanded authorities to wiretap. I believe that the truth will reveal far more extensive and invasive intrusions on privacy than are now known. As I said, we deserve the truth, we need the truth, we can handle the truth. Bring it on.
Thomas M. Tamm

Posted by: marctrain1 | April 17, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Froomy - we would not torture a dog like that because a dog would never saw anyone's head off on the internet. Thank God you were not President on 9/11.

Posted by: hz9604 | April 17, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin is to be thanked and congratulated for his tireless pursuit of the Bush administration's criminal subversion of the law, and I'm glad to see him keep up the pressure to prosecute those accountable in the face of new evidence.

As for President Obama's role in such prosecution, it may be asking too much for him to take the lead on an issue of such political volatility. Anyway, this is more properly a role for Congress and could go a long way to restoring that body's battered reputation.

Posted by: trubador1 | April 17, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin has gotten one thing right: "But in calling for the nation to move on without any further looking back, Obama put his political needs above his moral and legal obligations."

Yup. Obama political needs include being a successful President. In order to be a successful President, he needs to do everything in his power to keep us as safe as GWB did. And in order to do that, he needs to protect the CIA and FBI from partisan with-hunts and Spanish kangaroo courts.

Posted by: ZZim | April 17, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, is the United States 'ALLOWED' to commit torture regardless of whom the intended target of that torture be. Primarily after being signatories of the Geneva Conventions as well as the UN Treaties Against Torture, why would our government even think about manipulating the terms of torture to support the rule of law? Since when do we, the United States, believe that we are above the law, both national and international law, that torture should be committed in the name of 'war' while we tread on other nations rights to even defend themselves [Iraq]? Thess acts make us WORSE [or certainly no better] than any enemy we have. Every official from Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Wolfowitz, Rove, Bradbury, Yoo, Addington, Feith, Bybee, as well as any other OLC officials who contorted and manipulated the meaning of torture to apply to our laws needs to be held accountable so that we, as a nation, NEVER allow another POTUS and his criminal gang to get away with these actions which label ALL AMERICANS with that condoning mentality. I can only pray that if any of these people leave the safety of our borders, they will be picked up on warrants for their arrest for violating the law on torture.

As only one American, I never condoned torture and never wanted it applied in my name, but each American was NEVER given a chance to give an opinion or say 'NO, NOT IN MY NAME', until now that these memos were made public. No wonder so many countries hate[d] America and every American!

Please go to Patrick Leahy's website and sign the document he has provided asking for support to initiate a commission to study the Bush Torture Agenda.

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | April 17, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

If that really was Thomas M. Tamm ... you sir need to be put in front of a firing squad for what you did.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 17, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm an admitted "Obamabot" but I strenuously disagree with the president on this matter. How about justice? If we ignore war crimes, why not just completely shut the DoJ down? I find nothing wrong with prosecuting any and everyone that can be proven to be involved with war crimes. From an Air Force Staff Sergeant to the former President of the United States... NO ONE is above the law.

Posted by: CardFan | April 17, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

So much for protecting the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic...

Correctly issued Oath of Office or not, Bush Lied and Obama is Lying now.

Next time you're convicted of a crime, offer to tell the jury HOW you did it in exchange for walking free.

Good Luck with that. Seems Laws ARE just for those who can't afford to be above them.

In the immortal words of Darth Cheney, "So."

Posted by: LeftwithNochoice | April 17, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Why keep this all secret, then? What's there to hide? Terrorists don't hide their methods. If we're better, say so. If not, so be it.

Why Lie?

Posted by: LeftwithNochoice | April 17, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

if releasing these papars showing information puts Americans in danger, obama will be guilty of treason...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 17, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

At the very least, it is time for the legal community to demand that members of the OLC who authored these convoluted rationalizations for torture be disbarred and professionally disgraced.

Posted by: bgloberman | April 17, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

To those of you expressing support for these practices. Keep in mind that they were performed on innocent men as well as true terrorists. Your righteous hatred of the people who commit acts of terror condones the torture of how many innocents?

Posted by: ath28 | April 17, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

if releasing these papars showing information puts Americans in danger, obama will be guilty of treason...

Posted by: DwightCollins

Dwight, you are still an idiot. Obama hasn't done enough. Just because you're a paranoid sado-fascist doesn't mean the rest of us are. Most laws are to prevent chaos, murder, theft and mayhem. Where was the CIA to prevent 9-11? Where were they to stop us from invading Iraq, or Vietnam? Nowhere, because it's in their interest to keep goobers like you urinating in your pants and begging them to protect you.

Posted by: edwcorey | April 17, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"But in calling for the nation to move on without any further looking back, Obama put his political needs above his moral and legal obligations."

Yes. President: FAIL

Posted by: sobi1 | April 17, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

And whats with the title of this post "Human Beings Without Humanity"?

I think there is serious debate whether or not the terrorists detained by the US would qualify as human beings

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 17, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Please allow me to add my voice to the "faux outrage" over the fact that our once-great nation resorted to torture as a form of revenge against its enemies. Our nation has been forever tarnished by this, and the sacrifices of countless Americans who fought and died to preserve our freedoms are being disrespected. Torture and habeus corpus are as basic as it gets.

I applaud President Obama's decision to release these documents without extensive redactions, but the cynic in me says that the ACLU was going to win this victory in the courtroom if he hadn't done this.

The real question, Mr. President, is this: Are you going to do ANYTHING to make sure that this never happens again? As one of your strongest supporters during this past election, I am disgusted by your unwillingness to FOLLOW THE LAW and prosecute any who are found to have committed criminal acts. The people who went along with these illegal orders are criminals since the Nuremberg Defense does not apply here, and their culpability increases as you move upwards in the chain of command.

This issue is more important than ANYTHING ELSE facing our nation. If we blink now, we will never be the same again. Who ever would have thought that our seemingly rock-hard foundation could crumble overnight?

Posted by: jerkhoff | April 17, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Americans are in danger regardless of the memos' release, dwightcollins, not least from domestic terrorists.

How much testimony from experts do we need that torture produces unreliable results? Before long, the torturee says anything simply to escape pain.

It's a bit of sleight of hand, to claim that since terroristst torture, we should too, since they don't observe the Geneva Conventions. Forget the childishness of that premise--"He did it to me, so it's okay if I do it back!"--a larger point is that it's not just the terrorists who are monitoring what we do. Nationals of other countries, friendly and not, and the governments themselves, are watching. The individuals might be drawing emotional inspiration from the torture, hardening themselves into a future generation of US enemies. And adversarial governments will note that a precedent has been set.

To say "we don't torture"--and, in fact, not to torture captives--is not the same as, is many millions of miles away from saying, that we give no quarter to terrorists. That we are pledged to defeat them.

In fact, that's already happened. Iraq begat Georgia. If you deny that, you don't have a very useful brain. (And Georgia's just about equally as strategic in the Caucasus region as Iraq is in the mesopotamian.)

Besides, if you think about it without being blind with rage, the battle against terrorism isn't simply a matter of defeating enemies as endless as ants. It's more a matter of promoting peaceful values. Defeating the active enemy is certainly part of it; and the military certainly has a role to play; but it's only the first, and not even the largest, part.

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 17, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

ZZim, I'm not insulting America to compare it to Belgium or Italy (at least Italy has a rich cultural history). I'm just saying tht America is 'just another country', like Somalia or Cambodia. Our flag is just another colorful rag, fit for cleaning up cat pee, as it stands for nothing. Our Constitution is a piece of paper, less relevant to my life than a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken. What Bush has started Obama has finished - laws mean nothing, and honor is a word to use when disquising evil.

Posted by: marcedward1 | April 17, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes. I don't want retribution. I want justice. Obama making this public and then saying he won't prosecute makes a mockery of the rule of law. It's like telling a rape victim you know the chief of police did it, but you're looking forward, not behind. Move along, folks. And the WaPo editorial calls this courageous. Up is still down and around is still under whether it's Bush making such pronouncements or Obama.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 17, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The torture memos just show Americans are not so exceptional after all. These methods were used by the Nazis, Communist China, Stalin, Pol Pot, Iran, Saddam Hussein, and all the evil dictators. Most WWII generals (Patton, MacArthur, Bradley etc) spoke against torture "we are better than that". In the Nuremberg trials, the US prosecutors did not accept the justification that the torturers were only following orders. The jihadists including Bin Laden somehow showed the world that America adheres to lofty ideals in the best of times but America is just like any country - no ideals when push comes to shove. Pres. Obama is not going to prosecute but he is revealing our dark side.

Posted by: mstratas | April 17, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

And a kindergartner could have looked at these orders and would have known they were illegal and immoral, toady legal memos that told the president what he wanted to hear notwithstanding.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 17, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"President Obama deserves great credit for defying members of the intelligence community who wanted to keep these memos secret. But in calling for the nation to move on without any further looking back, Obama put his political needs above his moral and legal obligations."

Well said.

So how much better than Bush does that make Obama? They both condone crime.

Posted by: geezjan | April 17, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

There should be a Bush library torture room in which Bush, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Mukasey, and Hayden and other evildoers can meet. They can pat each other on the back and talk about what bada**es they used to be. Then specialists they had trained in enhanced interrogation can drop by and give them a special dose of what they ordered to be administered to others just so they could feel what it was like.

Posted by: Patriot3 | April 17, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

The Bush, and now Obama torturers are not off the hook.

This points to the greater failures of the military intelligence communities, manifested in our war losses and the very DECISION to torture.

If the Pentagon is truly interested in winning, it will have to rid itself of the weak and stupid, rid itself of the Brennans and those in command who support them.

I know, ostensibly, guys like Brennan are thought to be near the top of the chain, but somehow, given their illiteracy, I doubt it.

And even then, put in context, they are a small group, I would think their ability to even function on a day-to-day basis is hampered.

Poor Obama just hooked up with the wrong guys.

Well, Spain and Italy will always go after them -- in addition to their own...

And Holder looks weak, btw, first the refusal to hold Wall Street accountable, now this.

And they're missing it.

But then, it's the same people advising, isn't it?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

My initial reaction to this decision was one of disgust and revulsion. After sleeping on it, I've come to the conclusion that like the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have waged, what in my mind, has been an illegal war the past six years, the interrogators were also following what they believed to be lawful orders given by their commander in chief, though I still believe no person could have inflicted this kind of abuse without at least having second thoughts.

The real villains here are the lawyers, specifically, John Yoo and those on the OLC staff who came up with these fictions in the first place at the behest of Cheney and Addington.

If there is to be a blanket reprieve for those who engaged in torture, then there needs to be indictments of those whose opinions and actions promoted it.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | April 17, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

There should be a Bush library torture room in which Bush, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Mukasey, and Hayden and other evildoers can meet.

And now Obama.

Obama is a a part of the torture set now, too, a democratic kook.

Wonder if he will end up like the others you mentioned?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The one thing I took from WW2 was no one can blame his actions on another.

There are many, even posting here, who chose to leave rather than blather on about "obeying orders."

People fearful of Dick "Stinking meow" Cheney aren't fit to protect this country, CAN'T protect this country, and it shows every single day in our losses. They're stupid, god are they stupid, and they're cowardly.

It's the ones who refused that order that keep this country great -- the polar opposites of whom Obama is currently defending, but I dont know, maybe Obama likes the smell of trash around the White House.

And that's the truth, there is no way around reality.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I would certainly like to hear a serious discussion about whether the CIA's Directorate of Operations has, on balance, done good for the US. They overthrew the democratically elected governments of Iran and Guatemala, among others, and assisted in the overthrow of other democratically elected governments, like Chile, and tried to overthrow other governments, like Nicaragua. We supported torture and death squads in all of southern South American and El Salvador, among others. The "disappeared" of Chile and Argentina? The CIA had a hand in that. On the other hand, the CIA knew nothing about the fall of the Soviet Union and concealed information which would have stopped the 9/11 attacks. (The NSA under Hayden was also culpable in not stopping the 9/11 attacks.) The CIA's Directorate of Operations gives the President a private army, for whose actions he is accountable to no one. He doesn't have to go to Congress or tell the American people. The government of Guatemala was ordered overthown by Eisenhower for the benefit of United Fruit. The government of Iran was also ordered overthrown by Eisenhower, for the benefit of British Petroleum. This action against the government of Iran led directly to the taking of hostages from the American Embassy some 25 years later.

Posted by: dickdata | April 17, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

hz9604. You are wrong. G. Bush did not keep this country safe. The facts show that he and key members of his administration ignored repeated warnings and available intelligence for many months leading up to the events of September 11, 2001. History must show that those attacks (on US soil) happened under his watch... Secondly, torture, does not keep us safe nor does it provide reliable information... ask any respectable person with a solid intelligence background (including John McCain who underwent years of it). You, like G. Bush, may choose to ignore facts but that does not mean reality doesn't exist.

Posted by: geronimog | April 17, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

And those who would excuse the torture kooks, placing the blame solely on Yoo -- who do you blame the next time the same agency/military kooks obey an order to torture, or something even worse?

See the problem?

They can't think, if they can't think, they can't defend, anyone can manipulate them, and they're not a defense.

Again, no way around the truth, they're too fearful of the reality of war and the loss of their own lives to even function somewhat effectively. War, and intelligence, aren't safe. If Cheney and the others like him truly understood, they wouldn't have gotten themselves into this mess.

You know why real soldiers don't torture?

Beause they understand the risks, they understand their lives are always on the line, they understand WAR.

Pretenders like Brennan and the rest, well, they pretend.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama, and he blew it on this. The posters who are referencing Nuremberg are right. I think it was Jonathan Turley on Maddow's show who suggested that Obama appoint a special prosecutor and let the investigation go where it goes. Or there could be some similar mechanism to keep an investigation into the CIA interrogations as neutral as possible. But, according to descriptions in the memos released, war crimes WERE committed by officials in the name of the United States. This country, and Obama, should not just be able to move on and say we won't do it again.

Posted by: peck3 | April 17, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Strengthens case to just nuke terrorists [sorry, "persons of interest"] to begin with. Why even try to capture the bastards for vital intelligence?

Posted by: JoeTH | April 17, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't know enough about the CIA heirarchy to agree that their actions equate to soldiers in an illegal war, but I do like to think that those who solicited the legal opinions and those who offered the legal opinions will be investigated and, if warranted, tried. Those who conceived and implemented the Bush torture policy must be brought to justice. A future president with the inclination to circumvent our laws and treaties will not personally inflict torture on a captive, but WILL be justified in taking the Bush policy as precedent unless it is thoroughly, legally and publicly, condemned.

Julie, Dem in Arkansas

Posted by: jpel | April 17, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I would certainly like to hear a serious discussion about whether the CIA's Directorate of Operations has, on balance, done good for the US. They overthrew the democratically elected governments of Iran and Guatemala, among others, and assisted in the overthrow of other democratically elected governments, like Chile, and tried to overthrow other governments, like Nicaragua. We supported torture and death squads in all of southern South American and El Salvador, among others.

And look at it from the POV of those victimzed by that sort all these years, especially as they become nuclear.

I dont mean Osama, but those a little more on the ball, with brains -- no wonder they're angry.

But it's not like they have the abilty to hook up some kook US death-squad general's heart to the actions of his even stupider 1st in command, meaning every terrorist like action against innocents initiates a physical reaction using some undiscoverd method of optical laser physics, therefore tying the general's heart health to that of his stupid decisions and those of his 1st in command, kind of like a psychic choke collar on a dog, except this choke collar is cardiac, one wrong and sudden move, and it's flatline, TAPS, 21 guns and then on to hell with all the other failed mass murderers.

That would be Phillip K Dick, and that isn't reality, so, here we are, hoping the powers that be do the right thing for America, by way of the LAW.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I deem it most fortunate that, at the time of 9/11, Froomkin, Obama, Holder, Biden, Robinson and the remainder of the ultra-liberal Washington Post editorial staff were not in charge of this nation's security!

Posted by: david-mckenzie | April 17, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants to be able to create his own "illegal" laws and be immune from prosecution in the future. That is why he is not prosecuting now. Once again, he dips his hands into the blood while blaming others.

Posted by: tina5 | April 17, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

International law's will only have meaning when everyone on this planet lives with the same moral and ethical values. Unfortunately hundreds of millions of them have a value system much different them our own. When they take upon themselves to kill thousands of innocent people such as happen on 9/11 I say they are gave up their rights to be treated with what we call Human Rights. Don't fool yourself and believe that not given placed in the same situation our present elected officials if confronted with questions " do I save American lives" by using what would be considered illegal means to obtain information they would not do so. Ask yourself.. if one of my loved one's would have been on one of those planes that day would have I even have hesitated at all to decide how to get the information needed to save them or just let them die.

Posted by: lunashot1 | April 17, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

When they take upon themselves to kill thousands of innocent people such as happen on 9/11 I say they are gave up their rights to be treated with what we call Human Rights
Internecine war isn't the answer.

Again, why has the US been successful all these years, whereas other nations have failed?

And no one advocating torture can answer that question.

The weapons may change, the thinking behind the behavior does not.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

david-mckenzie @ April 17, 2009 4:12 PM posted: "I deem it most fortunate that, at the time of 9/11, Froomkin, Obama, Holder, Biden, Robinson and the remainder of the ultra-liberal Washington Post editorial staff were not in charge of this nation's security!" Bush, Cheney, and a host of Republicans were. They actually dismissed the warnings about an impending attack. You see, it did not fit into their world-view. So, 9/11 happened.

Perhaps if they were rational people, not ideologues, they might have actually kept the country safe on 9/11/01!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | April 17, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The responsible officials who authorized torture should all be prosecuted in absentia in the Hague. It is unlikely that this could be done here, without rancor and divisions and the explosive emotions that would be released. The actual operatives, who committed torture, repeatedly lied about it, and destroyed over 100 taped interrogations, should resign from government service and be publicly outed. This should also include all the medical personnel who collaborated with the torture. Not to be left out are the people who spied illegally on Americans. If these psychopaths were truly motivated by patriotism then they should fall on their swords, accept responsibility and punishment-to restore American honor. President Obama told the world that N.Korea should follow the rules and be held accountable. That there should be consequences for violating the law. All of these government employees swore an oath to uphold the constitution. If he is to restore confidence and moral authority he must not be seen covering up this outrageous misconduct. To be a profile in courage-he must risk his ratings, the support of our elites and the military-industrial-intelligence forces, who control our foreign policy, and his personal safety. Who cannot forget JFK-assassinated after refusing to use our Air Force, in the failed, illegal Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Between our government, Wall Street and our defense establishment-one would be hard pressed to find even one honest man. How about you Mr.President, our country disparately needs some real heroes.

Posted by: GSierra1 | April 17, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

davidmckenzie wrote:

"I deem it most fortunate that, at the time of 9/11, Froomkin, Obama, Holder, Biden, Robinson and the remainder of the ultra-liberal Washington Post editorial staff were not in charge of this nation's security!"

Bush, Cheney, Rummy and Tenet -- presumably your heroes -- were in charge of our security at the time of 9/11. And that worked out real well, didn't it? Only 3,000 dead. They did an outstanding job of protecting us, didn't they?

And to lunashot1 ("They are gave up their rights to what we call Human Rights"):

What part of "torture doesn't work" do you refuse to understand? As Froomkin points out yet again (and as countless others continue to point out), the "information" we got from torturing was garbage. Worthless. Didn't save a single life. Didn't get anyone of value captured. And in the rage it created and the blind alleys it sent us down, it only served to take even more American lives -- those of our military your folks keep claiming to "support". If I were still in the military my words to you and your kind would be: Keep your "support" to yourself and as far from me as you possibly can.

Posted by: rproctor1 | April 17, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Were the Nuremburg trials just "politics"? I think they cleansed the German citizens of their association with the monsters who perpetrated the holocaust. To this day, no one blames the citizens of Germany for being used like that

We Americans, however, will be seen for all times as being the torturing, sadistic bullies who carried out their evil deeds in our names. Obama thinks they are too powerful to take responsibility for their crimes.

It would have been nice to have had a dem in office for 8 years, but frankly, I think we voted ourselves another Gerald Ford folks.

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | April 17, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Good call, Dan, keep beating the drums for full enforcement of the law and the insistence on justice over expediency.

Posted by: j2hess | April 17, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps a hug and a nice fruit basket is all the misunderstood "community activists" need. Arms are made for hugging!!! Per l'amore di dio, its no wonder that 80% of dems still live in Moms basement.

Posted by: luca_20009 | April 17, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

regardless of what obama decides to do in the long run, it will be up to us the AMERICAN PEOPLE to never, ever let thise rest as long as those who are culpable are still breathing!! wherever they go, whether it be to speaking engagements or whatever the case amy be we should be there to display our disgust and displeasure with their actions. just as israel has pursued the NAZIS to the ends of the earth, we too should never lie down and allow this abomination to go quietly away!! today a suicide bomber from iraq was sentenced to 25 yrs. how many years should BUSH, CHENEY, YOO and the others get? i vote for life.

Posted by: wa_idaho_lonewolf | April 17, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Strengthens case to just nuke terrorists [sorry, "persons of interest"] to begin with. Why even try to capture the bastards for vital intelligence?

Well if the terrorists would only kindly do us the favor of clearly identifying themselves, that might be a practical option. As they're usually pretty hard to distinguish from regular people, that gets a bit tricky.
It's a nice idea that life is like a football game and that the opposing players will wear clearly identified jersies. Identifying the other guys is easy in a TV show because the writers compose the show that way. Real life tends to be a bit murkier.

Posted by: rlg3526 | April 17, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The only way these criminals will get punished is if it's done in another country.Obama will pussy foot around this.After all we can't have the rich and powerful found guilty of any crime.

Posted by: gary2547poh | April 17, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"And the legalistic, mechanistic analysis shows signs of an almost inconceivable callousness".

Kind of brings to mind the literal warehouses of meticulously maintained records kept by the Nazis of such things as the amount of gold fillings,pairs of shoes, children's toys, etc. recovered from prison camp inmates. Careful studies were also done to establish the productivity that could be expected of an inmate on a starvation diet before he expired. These were very useful to gage future manpower needs as well as to schedule cost efficient transportation of replacement inmates to the camps.

Posted by: markswisshelm | April 17, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I am totally in favor of the "torture" that occurred. I thank God that George Bush kept this country safe.
To the idiot who wrote the above: Apparently you weren't watching when George Bush was inaugurated in January 2001.

Posted by: bdunn1 | April 17, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Now that the Genie is out of the bottle with these memo's

Its only a matter of time before those Cowards who did the torture and those who authorized it are brought to justice.

Off to the Hague with them all!

Posted by: Regeman | April 17, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. President ,with all due respect sir, you must prosecute the people who violated the law.If any of the posters here violated a federal law would they be prosecuted? I bet the would! The people that work in the executive branch of our government are charged with enforcing our laws. If the President breaks our laws and refuses to enforce the law why should the average citizen obey the law? The Bush administration officials who did these nasty and illegal things must be held to account. You know this & it seems most these posters know this - -now act!

Posted by: eskieville | April 17, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm... I see bobmoses has been reincarnated aas hz9604.

Posted by: dhkern | April 17, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I'd really like to know--

Did anyone, anywhere in the the looong chain of command refuse to follow orders based on these policies?

Please advise. If we aren't going to punish the perpetrators, then we should celebrate the refusniks...

Posted by: Spectator | April 17, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Please note that, in footnote 5 of the first May 10, 2005, memo, the author says the subject memo does not suggest that the techniques under discussion would conform to the UCMJ or the possible application of article 16 of the CAT [Convention Against Torture]," which says "Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity." The footnote goes on to say that the memo also does not address "conditions of confinement or detention," nor does it "represent the policy views of the Department of Justice concerning interrogation practices."

Seems to me this memo offers VERY slim justification for the techniques it authorizes/rationalizes and that CIA personnel must have been grasping at straws to believe this was their "get out of jail" card.

Posted by: waggin | April 17, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Froomiekins is getting pretty darn lazy with his updates.

Posted by: alutz08 | April 17, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

It occurred to me today that perhaps the reason Bush had his attornies construct so many, legalistic, memos was because he KNEW the CIA and others would simply NOT go forward with torture simply because he ordered it.
It, therefore, became very difficult for the people instructed to do the torturing to object because they did not have the "lawyering" available to dissect the "legal" reasons put forward by the President's attornies. Even though they knew it was wrong, they were stuck.
How many times have you, yourself, known something is "wrong" but it is still "legal'? So, too, I suspect for those for whom these memos were designed.
Obama knows this. He is right to let these people off the hook because they, too, were victims of their leaders manipulations.
Obama is also right to place the responsibility for any prosecutions of these leaders on our people, themselves.
Do WE want accountability? Or, are WE going to leave it up to Congress?

Posted by: cms1 | April 17, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me BDunn1...

You are the idiot for supporting a President that never acted to take OBL when they had the chances in the 1990s.

If your beloved Clinton did that, none of the horror that took place would've occured.

Posted by: alutz08 | April 17, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, those carrying out the torture will avoid prosecution by reason of "carrying out orders". Much the same defense used at Neurenburg.

There should be no such avoidance of prosecuting those who gave the orders.

Posted by: buzzsaw1 | April 17, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

We must follow through and not sweep torture under the White Houses Rugs or the past will haunt Honorable Americans nearly forever. Evil walked the Halls of the White House for 8 long disturbing years.

Posted by: bdrevers | April 17, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants "reflection, not retribution"?!

Obama makes me sick.

Posted by: solsticebelle | April 17, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Come on Froomy. Please tell the truth that you are working on behalf of Rahm Emanuel. You are helping Emanuel inflame this country and continue the polarization that this administration so desires.

Posted by: hz9604 | April 17, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

It's not a pleasant thought, but it's a fair one: President Obama is flirting with complicity.

Posted by: kunino | April 17, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I favor a commission to look -- very publicly -- at the entire torture question. It would be an opportunity for us to look at our ethics, our world legal obligations, our integrity as a nation. And in the process, we can decide what we want to do about it. In other words, I favor education of American about what has gone on.

Revenge? or consequences? They're the same thing, except that revenge is all about feelings, and consequences is not.

thanks, dan, for an interesting column. I'm note, interestingly, that most ofthe people who favor President Obama's actions (a lot or a little) wrote well thought out responses. And most of those who are against President Obama's actions ... they rant, and call names.

Posted by: thetravelingmasseur | April 17, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

We didn't know about this during the Bush administration? Of course we did - the ICRC had already published most of their reports!

Obama's no dummy - release the memos, wait for the uproar (see comments above) to build to a crescendo, then go "Well, if that's what the people demand,... but don't blame me for initiating a witch-hunt!" (...or even better, let Congress take the heat).

Perhaps, we would move forward more positively domestically and internationally if we follow the example of South Africa and proceed with a formal "Truth and Reconciliation" process.

Regardless, let's move forward - as far as I'm concerned, our unconscionable health care system has done far greater harm to FAR more people than the (VERY EVIL) blip of the Bush human rights abuses.

As Mr. Obama is at the Conference of the Americas, should he, as some here imply in their harsh retributionism, promise prosecution of every surviving government official and spook who helped install and support each murderous central and South American junta that killed and tortured thousands, but was on the side of God because they opposed "Communism"?

No, the credibility and respect of our values will grow with our forward-acting policies from now into the future. Those policies -- actions, not retribution, will restore our respect in the world and among the disheartened here.

For the "My country right or wrong" crew, move to Texas and secede, PLEASE!

Posted by: fr3dmars | April 17, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I must say, I really do not like the new format the WA. Post has established for Dan Froomkin. It is just as not much fun as being able to answer a certain person about a certain issue or poinit.
I miss it. Don't you? But, don't you know? The neo-cons, the complicit Democrats, left us with a debacle. NO more real news. No more ability to borrow from a bank No more ability to "look forward" because all you can do is look "backword" and try to pay your mortgage?

Posted by: cms1 | April 17, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I think Cheney's defense of torture is disgusting and shows us a lot about the sort of person he is. But the liberals who criticize Cheney but who defend live birth abortion, i.e., drilling a hole into the skull of a well developed, live foetus and sucking out its brains with a vacuum, are they really better than Cheney? To me they seem the same.

Posted by: rohitcuny | April 17, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

This is first step. Congress must pick up the ball. And also if you look closely at what President Obama said - he did not say no one would be [prosecuted. He opened the door for those at the bottom of the food chain to start naming names. If you remember after Abu Ghraib disgraced the United States and started the ball really rolling for al qaeda recruiting, the bushies got a few lowly prison guards, sent them to jail and pretended these folks invented the whole thing. Instead, we should see those who AUTHORIZED AND CREATED a policy of routine torture investigated and if possible convicted and imprisoned.

If I were one of those bushies I'd not be sleeping well right now. But of course these are men without conscience or a sense of shame. If they were this would never have been one of those dark evil moments.

And for you ninnies who think 24 is real life - our own intel agencies showed that torture produced fake confessions, as it always does. Since you tea baggers obviously have no sense of morality, the case can be made in a simple self preservation level for you. (In civilization we don't condone the inhuman, but who ever claimed conservatives were civilized?) While our intel and armed forces were chasing the shadows invented by people trying to stop their torture, the real bad guys were wandering around unmolested. Get it/ Torture is not just bad, immoral, illegal, wrong, and barbaric. It produces the exact opposite of the desired results, and therefore makes us more vulnerable. Add to that the fantastic recruitment poster this made for usama -- and you get an evil immoral administration that vastly increased the dnager to Americans. Heckuva job.

Posted by: John1263 | April 17, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

You IDIOTS who still cannot get past the 24 mindset. It is always "I'm glad these guys got tortured..." Of course we know from cases documented in the poublic record that people who were guilty of nothing --nothing -- one guy was guilty of being a Canadian computer programmer -- were tortured. Which is exactly why we have due process, as does every other civilized nation on earth.

As to the efficacy of torture - our own people said it did not work. The false information sent them on wild goose chases when they should have been hunting terrorists. So to repeat for the simple minded:

And iof you are among the really stupid tea baggers you say things like "bush kept us safe" ignoring the above AND the FACT that his inpcometent bunch of thugs were so preoccupied with political games and nonsense that they missed the worst and most devestating act of aggression on US soil since the War of 1812. Wow -- he keot the US safe, except for that major terrorist catastrophe -- and the anthrax attacks -- and the tripling of international acts of terrorism against US and allied targets...

You tea baggers are really really really dim.

Posted by: John1263 | April 17, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama's no dummy - release the memos, wait for the uproar (see comments above) to build to a crescendo, then go "Well, if that's what the people demand,... but don't blame me for initiating a witch-hunt!" (...or even better, let Congress take the heat).



I think it was mistake for the lavendar kooks to think Obama could protect them.

Bush couldn't protect them, Cheney couldnt and Obama can't.

But the fact the torture kooks are in Obama's employment now, and losing again, should put things in perspective in terms of where this country is going, and why.

They're stupid, they're weak, they're impotent and they're owned.

Nothing worse than some high strung ivy league LOSER torture boy with a mommy thing, really,


Little cow thinks he's in a 1974 Gene Hackman movie.

Well, at least he doesn't think he's in some TV show called "Hawaiian Death Squad, '84!"


Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 17, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Why is the Obama Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder so vigorously pursuing the deportation of John Demjanjuk to Germany to face his crimes of 65 years ago while deferring prosecution of CIA agents because they were just following orders? Demjanjuk even has the extenuating circumstance of being a Nazi POW while following their orders.

What will the wingnuts say when, in some future war, the enemy brutally tortures Americans? Bush, Cheney, and all of the wingnuts who supported them will be the cause of the pain and suffering of Americans in the future.

My conscience is clear. I did not vote for Bush, Obama, or any Congressman or Senator who supported the war crimes committed during the previous 8 years.

Posted by: frazeysburger | April 17, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Bush administrators, including Boy-George, should loose their pensions, strip them of their security details and be forced to live with the rest of us common Americans in the "real" America they have held in contempt for the last eight years.

Posted by: tniederberger | April 17, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

This is what Americans, followers of the "New" (sic) Testament" do to their fellow human beings. Ironically, they, then, call Muslims barbaric

Posted by: Farnaz2 | April 17, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

There is no longer any doubt that the administration of GWB authorized and carried out Torture. By not prosecuting those involved the US and all its citizens are now complisit in these war crimes and crime against humanity.

btw... Since the US has now closed all the Black sites run by CIA all over the world, what has happened to all those people? Were they just released? Taken out and shot? Sent to Syria? What has become of all those people?

Posted by: twdindep | April 18, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The root of the problem is Congress.

First, they have abdicated their constitutional right and responsibility to declare war - it was the nation's being "at war" which primarily justified most abuses, and attainment of this power was likely a main objective of Cheney-Bush in invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Congress was given this power specifically to prevent the executive from doing what Cheney-Bush did.

Second, Congress doesn't need Obama to appoint a special prosecutor or to pass new laws forbidding specific torture techniques.

Posted by: skeptonomist | April 18, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This morning, I emailed the President at his site "" and told him that I was very disappointed with the decision to neither investigate or prosecute those who either actually committed war crimes or produced legalize to legitimacize torture for whatever reason. If we want to object to what our government is doing; then we need to inform our government of their inappropriate action: No IFS, ANDS OR BUTS. Complaning on this site may be karthartic, but will bring no action. I also plan to email both my senators and my represenative. Now the last one is a Repugnican't and that's probably a waste of time; but I plan to never-the-less. Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper would also put more pressure on those who represent us. What else have we got?

Posted by: sailorflat | April 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

This isn't anywhere near what really happened, it's just what they knew could be proved against them. Saddam was hung for less.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | April 18, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

//My conscience is clear. I did not vote for Bush, Obama, or any Congressman or Senator who supported the war crimes committed during the previous 8 years.//

I used to be able to say my conscience was clear because I didn't vote for Bush. But I voted for Obama, and his saying folks "just following orders" that any kindergartner would have known were illegal and immoral as well as his continuance of the war in Iraq, his expansion into Afghanistan, the appointment of Gaither and Summers and their cozying up to bankers and their bonuses while they denounce and unwind the advances made by organized auto workers deeply disappoint me.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 18, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

On the issue of punishing those who carried out the policy, I think this quote from Wikipedia regarding the Nuremberg defense of "I was only following orders" is on point:

Before the end of World War II, the Allies suspected such a defense might be employed, and issued the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which specifically stated that this was not a valid defense against charges of war crimes:
Thus, under Nuremberg Principle IV, "defense of superior orders" is not a defense for war crimes, although it might influence a sentencing authority to lessen the penalty. Nuremberg Principle IV states:

"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

The United States military adjusted the Uniform Code of Military Justice after World War II. They included a rule nullifying this defense, essentially stating that American military personnel are allowed to refuse unlawful orders.
[end quote]

While the efficacy of torture is not relevant since this is a moral issue, since many apparently deny the moral issue and argue its efficacy and importance in protecting and saving American lives, I would like to see an independent, creditable analysis of the effectiveness of torture in obtaining usefull and actionable information. I simply do not trust those now claiming its efficacy.

Finally, I am extremely concerned about the broader implications of statements quoted in the article above that are attributed to a senior administration offcial, namely:
"As for the decision not to prosecute CIA officers, another senior administration official noted that Mr. Obama's responsibilities changed when he moved from candidate to president and began receiving daily threat briefings. 'It's a different set of responsibilities,' the official said. 'He's sitting in the Oval Office.'"

The different set of responsibilities argument essentially assets that a President should not be held to ANY statements, commitments, or promises made as a candidate. That upon being elected, his condition and responsbilities having changed, a President is free to completely ignore anything thought or said in the past. Therefore campaigns are just a charade, a time to say whatever a candidate wishes to get elected because it has no moral claim once elected.

I am shocked first that we have any senior administration officials dumb enough to think this and second stupid enough to say it. I am not sure which is worse.

Posted by: mailrocky | April 19, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The discussions re the human urge for revenge being so strong after an evil act that we need the rule of law to prevent us from becoming a band of vigilante animals have this situation most clearly defined. When those we've entrusted with this power break down and become the animals we are lost. That's where we are today. Lost.

Posted by: SanDiegoBS | April 19, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

These memos gave the CIA the go-ahead to do things to people that you'd be arrested for doing to a dog.
Yeah but a dog is innoceint.. these Ba$tards murdered 3000 people!!! Obama shouldn't have released these memos but at least he is doing the right thing not to proscute. Bottomline the worst of these interogations involved waterboarding and it only was done on THREE high ranking terrorists. To proscute people whose only motivation was to keep this country safe for pouring water on Khalid Shekid Mohammed is stupid...

Posted by: sovine08 | April 20, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"In one case, the CIA was told it could prey on a top Al Qaeda prisoner's fear of insects by stuffing him into a box with a bug.
You mean they left him alone with an INSECT??? The HORROR!!! Froomkin you got to be kidding me.. that's torture? "Fear Factor" was a 100 times worst!!! So should we prosecute the producers of that show???

Posted by: sovine08 | April 20, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for pointing out the naked Emperor. First, the Bush Administration has much to answer for its hysterical fearmongering after 9/11. In retrospect, it's obvious they did the only thing they could think of doing, because they were so woefully ill-prepared for the event.

Second, the press is complicit, witness, to some extent, the muddled comments here from folks who somehow think the people subjected to waterboarding 1) were actually people who knew something we needed to know, and 2) would tell us the truth if they were tortured.

Who told these poor misguided folks that? And who failed to tell them how wrong that is? Ah, yes -- Cheney, Fox, and the rest of you inkstained wretches.

I agree that the line agents, so long as they stayed within the orders they were given, should not be prosecuted. Not because what they did was excusable -- indeed, the Bush Administration prosecuted PFCs for failing to recognize the wrong of orders to do far less-- but because it is too late.

But we sure as shooting should go after the folks who gave the orders.

Posted by: thaimex | April 20, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

and both partys are just branches of the corporate party so why would Obama let them put anyone in a court room?The only reason he would is if enough americans protested to make it look like he might not get re-elected.Don't expect to much from your government if it doesn't favor thier favorite corporation.

Posted by: gary2547poh | April 21, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Seems Obama's national security advisor disagrees with you, Danny-boy.

Posted by: pcannady | April 21, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

My goodness, all the raging moralism of hyperventilated Americans on display. Has anyone considered that President Obama is doing a slow aboutface on the issue of "higher-ups" for the following reason: given the growing probability that the stimulus package and the bailout monies will neither stimulate nor bail out effectively, what could be better to distract, divide and mobilize Americans than a fine Bush and Co. witchhunt, culminating, say around the fall of 2010? It is also a move that could more than placate his left-wing support when their preferred portions of the budget fail to materialize. Oops--but maybe I am to be faulted for suspecting too much shrewdness behind the noble brow of our great leader.

Posted by: knalepak | April 21, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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