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Krauthammer's Asterisks

Charles Krauthammer, in his Washington Post opinion column this morning, tries to find loopholes for impermissible evil.

"Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances," he writes.

"The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent's life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge. In such a case, the choice is easy."

Actually, no. The ticking time bomb scenario only exists in two places: On TV and in the dark fantasies of power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians. In real life, things are never that certain. And trained interrogators say that even in the most extreme circumstances, traditional methods are the most effective.

Krauthammer continues: "Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting them from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander."

Actually, no. They are normal people who share the post-World War II international consensus that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Indeed, the idea of putting someone without a healthy respect for human rights at Centcom is abhorrent -- unless of course you believe that human rights don't matter.

Krauthamer: "The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great."

This of course is a blatant post-facto attempt at rationalizing the (inevitable) misdiagnosis of the ticking time bomb scenario. Now all of a sudden the standards are lower. Krauthammer is advocating fishing expeditions -- with a waterboard.

"Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do."

Krauthammer's core argument then is that the ends justify the means. He quotes two former CIA officials, both deeply invested in covering their asses, who unsurprisingly insist that torture worked. But none of the claims they or others in the complicit chain of command have made held up under even modest public scrutiny.

And he mocks the idea put forth by President Obama on Wednesday -- and supported by people who actually have experience in interrogation, rather than in watching TV and fantasizing about being Jack Bauer -- that traditional interrogation techniques are extremely effective.

For instance, he writes: "KSM, the mastermind of 9/11 who knew more about more plots than anyone else, did not seem very inclined to respond to polite inquiries about future plans. The man who boasted of personally beheading Daniel Pearl with a butcher knife answered questions about plots with 'soon you will know' -- meaning, when you count the bodies in the morgue and find horribly disfigured burn victims in hospitals, you will know then what we are planning now."

But as Scott Shane recently pointed out in the New York Times, with more than a little understatement: "Mr. Mohammed, captured on March 1, 2003, was waterboarded 183 times that month. That striking number, which would average out to six waterboardings a day, suggests that interrogators did not try a traditional, rapport-building approach for long before escalating to their most extreme tool."

And almost nobody who knows anything about the Pearl case (see, for instance, Lawrence Wright and Peter Bergen) actually thinks KSM -- who confessed to the killing after being tortured -- had anything to do with it. Torture after all is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. That we got plenty of from KSM.

But his "soon you will know" boast was all bluster -- sort of like Saddam Hussein's claim to have nuclear capability. ("Responding to bluster with war crimes" -- there's a great motto for an administration.) Nothing KSM said came close to thwarting any imminent attack. One hundred and eighty three waterboarding sessions later, the "bodies in the morgue" and the "horribly disfigured burn victims" were still only a fantasy of the torturers -- and certain opinion columnists.

Krauthammer: "The other problem is one of timing. The good cop routine can take weeks or months or years. We didn't have that luxury in the aftermath of 9/11 when waterboarding, for example, was in use."

But his compacting of the timeline is shameless revisionism. Top officials of the Bush administration -- and yes, I'm looking at you, Mr. Cheney -- panicked. And they continued to panic after any excuse for panic was long over. Waterboarding was conducted over a period of several months, long after 9/11 -- from August 2002 at least through March 2003. Other torture tactics were widely employed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo over a period of years. Legal memos defending various forms of torture were being commissioned by the White House until virtually the end of the Bush administration.

And in his final defense, Krauthammer argues that the lack of objections at the time from Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress who were briefed on interrogation policies is proof that "at the time the information was important enough, the danger great enough and our blindness about the enemy's plans severe enough to justify an exception to the moral injunction against torture."

Precisely what members of Congress were told and how they responded should absolutely be a part of any thorough official investigation into the abuses of the Bush years. The enablers must be exposed as surely as the complicit. And members of Congress who knew what was happening and remained silent must be held to public account for their moral cowardice.

But their failure to speak out does not change the fundamental moral equation.

If the United States is to live up to its core values, if it is to once again be a beacon of human rights to the world and a champion of human dignity, then when it comes to torture -- to impermissible evil, as Krauthammer himself puts it -- there can be no asterisks.

By Dan Froomkin  |  May 1, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Torture  
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Comments

Bravo Mr. Froomkin. You should have this article or ask your employers to have this article opposite Mr. Krauthammer's piece as presenting a counter argument. This cannot be only available online.

Posted by: ovwong | May 1, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

In a so-called "ticking time bomb" scenario an individual might be tempted to commit crimes to avert a disaster. Later, a jury of their peers can decide whether those extenuating circumstances merit lenience. There is no need to provide them immunity from prosecution before the fact.

The moral relativism of people like Charles Krauthammer has been used to justify war crimes and atrocities throughout human history.

Posted by: fletc3her | May 1, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The public seems to forget that before Bush started using torture this was the argument the US used against "bad" nations. Bush and Gingrich are on the record, criticizing nations like Iraq and China for their human rights violations on torture.

If you Agree torture is a human rights violation just as vile as genocide and slavery then the moral argument against torture trumps the ends justify the means argument. It is sort of like Krauthammer is arguing to bring back slavery to reduce labor costs which might help the economy out of the recession.

Posted by: joejoe2000 | May 1, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Froomkin. Nice to see someone with a sense of morality writing on this issue.

Posted by: musickna | May 1, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

of course, torture would never have had to be used at all had the FBI and the CIA simply communicated with one another about all the clues emerging during the summer of 2001 and done their job in preventing 9/11 in the first place.
Not to mention that peculiar silence and inaction from Bush and his officials when they WERE warned. Must not have been prudent to interrupt something that might provide a rationale for invading Iraq. As we have learned, one of the purposes of the torture was an effort to link Al Queda with Iraq to provide that very rationale.

Posted by: cms1 | May 1, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Fletc3her refers to the "moral relativism" of Charles Krauthammer. But Krauthammer and his fellow neo-cons, especially Cheney, are not moral relativists but moral absolutists: in their book, "we" have an absolute moral right to do anything we please to keep "us" safe, and people who are different from us have no rights at all.

Posted by: herzliebster | May 1, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Spot on, Mr. Froomkin.

First, they argued that it wasn't torture. Now, they're pushing a new meme - that it was justified torture. Thank you for the reasoned response to this absurd and offensive claim.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 1, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

One more indicator that the torturers and their enablers are on the run.

Posted by: sm11 | May 1, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

This is all so silly. It is ok, under the rules of war to kill and maimed someone. And there is a good chance that someone will end up with wounds that will cause them pain and suffering for their entire life (itself a form of torture, probably worse), but that is ok, cuz it is the result of trying to kill them. But now you catch someone, who may have information of value, and keeping them from sleep, making them think they are drowning, making them really uncomfortable, etc., etc., is wrong. Sorry, I'm having trouble reconciling the two. And don't give me the "one is against the law and the other isn't". How can that be?

Posted by: mmourges | May 1, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer: "...we would never make one of them (conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances) Centcom commander."

Froomkin: "...the idea of putting someone without a healthy respect for human rights at Centcom is abhorrent..."

Me: Are you saying that only "someone who will never fight in any war under any circumstances" qualifies as someone with "a healthy respect for human rights"? You either never fight in a war or "you believe that human rights don't matter"? In other words anyone who does fight in a war believes human rights don't matter. In other words, everyone who has died in a war (meaning they were not a concientious objector) didn't believe human rights mattered. That is a very extreme point of view that is not made possible had people never fought in wars before (I'm thinking the American Revolution, for starters.)

Differences of opinion are healthy, but strawman arguments dumb down the debate. The flawed logic I just pointed out is just as inexcusable as pretending that the ticking timebomb scenario happens in real life. It's just, apparently, a little harder to spot by the average bear.

Posted by: carloz0 | May 1, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Bravo. I heard on NPR last night this equation. If you use torture they may tell you where the house is. If you use rapport building, they will tell you where the house is, and if the house is booby-trapped.

Posted by: abbyowner1 | May 1, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Dan for this wonderful clarity.

I can't bring myself to read Krauthammer, the man is vile. I can only wonder why WaPo dignifies this loathsome man with a column, he seems to lack any human decency and functions only as an apologist for the war criminals among us.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | May 1, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin stops just short of noting that Mr. Krauthammer's comments about the efficacy of torture are bald faced lies that are easily refuted. I feel no need to step so softly. Krauthammer and other Bush apologists simply lie their butts off to try to make their case. It's not working.

Posted by: CardFan | May 1, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

He had me at "impermissible evil." How can one add qualification to an absolute like that? The human genome should be checked for a torture gene (and a tortured logic gene).

Posted by: nealbt | May 1, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The Us Military learned the value of torture from the North Vietnamese.

But the indiscriminate chopping off of someones arm or head was not used in Guatanamo.

Waterboarding = Torture--Maybe

What they did worked. Get over it--deal with it.

Terrorism is not pc and cannot be rationalised.

Posted by: Ciap | May 1, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer writes with an appalling combination of ignorance, arrogance and conviction that add up "might makes right" and "the end justifies the means."

To him, torture is by definition something other people do; we virtuous Americans could NEVER do something as despicable as torture. And even if we did, it's totally okay because his amoral worldview justifies it.

For the people who share this point of view, the "ticking time bomb" is always there, their paranoia is always validated and the world is seething with enemies who are far smarter, crueler and more ruthless than a million Jack Bauers. Rule of law be damned, they want 1) to feel safe, which can only happen if their enemies (potential and actual) are brutalized, 2) revenge for their enemies' actions, and 3) to send a message to anyone who would ever think about messing with the US: do something to us and we'll torture you.

This is crazy, people. Krauthammer is trying to rationalize war crimes and crimes against humanity. Let's take a second and realize something-- if we make it okay to torture, it will happen again. And again.

But next time, it might be our soldiers who are tortured. I don't want to see that. The best way we can try to prevent it is to make torture unacceptable. It has to start here. And Krauthammer is part of the problem.

Posted by: drewbitt | May 1, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The Us Military learned the value of torture from the North Vietnamese.

But the indiscriminate chopping off of someones arm or head was not used in Guatanamo.

Waterboarding = Torture--Maybe

What they did worked. Get over it--deal with it.

Terrorism is not pc and cannot be rationalised.

Posted by: Ciap
**********
Do you know anything?
Waterboarding has been considered torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition. That is NOT a matter of personal opinion or some squishy liberal squeamishness-- that is exactly the sort of behavior for which the Nazis were tried AND FRIGGIN' EXECUTED after World War II.

Let's be clear, Ciap: You are okay with our soldiers and elected officials acting like Nazis.

Posted by: drewbitt | May 1, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

of course, torture would never have had to be used at all had the FBI and the CIA simply communicated with one another about all the clues emerging during the summer of 2001 and done their job in preventing 9/11 in the first place.
----------
Bush, and therefore Cheney, had the memo a full 5 weeks before the attack.

He did nothing.

This is the truth.

If he had acted, we wouldn't have cause for this conversation, now would we?

We have to face the truth about Bush and his lack of ability, the fact 2 such horrifically incompetent, if downright clinically insane men (Cheney, anyway) were in charge of "protecting" this country.

And how do we stop it from happening again?

If the President is incompetent, or the VP insane, we, as a nation, are not protected.

American defense does not "just happen."

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 1, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Thank gods there is at least one sane voice on the Post's editorial staff (correct?), who actually agrees with the rest of the civilized world what it means to be civilized. Good on ya, Mr. Froomkin.

Posted by: iamnotspoonbender | May 1, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Thank you thank you thank you! A reasoned and clear response to Chuck's typical whining and fear mongering! His use of "bodies in the morgue" and the "horribly disfigured burn victims" marks him undeniably as a bush/cheney wannabe and stooge!! Once more I'll say SHAME ON YOU CHUCK!!!

Posted by: dhassler | May 1, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't Krauthammer state in the first sentence that the people in charge ought to 'do what they have to do and take responsibility'? Isn't he right? If he's right, they did what they HAD to do, and now it's time for them to take responsibility - confess to the crime and do the time! Bush could have asked congress to change the law on torture or asked the courts to reinterpret the laws to allow torture - he didn't. Isn't always the conservatives who say 'if you can't do the crime, don't do the crime'?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I would support Mr.Froomkin and others on his side if we are fighting with a Country or Army. If we did any torture in Iraq its not permissible [well..we actually did ..abu grahib].

where as against Al Queda and its ilk it is perfectly Ok...for the simple reason that an agreement or accord can only be honored with both sides in agreement. So unless Mr.Froomkin and his friends make a personal visit to Bin Laden and his friends and get them to stop the beheadings and make them honor Geneva conventions their arguments are hollow.

Posted by: reddy531 | May 1, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Let me add support to the idea of running Dan Froomkin's piece in print. This controversy is actual incredibly important, unlike so many that get discussed to death in online blogs. Charles Krauthammer's "exceptions" deserve a real, measured response.

Posted by: lilduck79 | May 1, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I love it when Dan gets on a roll.

Well put and nicely done Dan! I wholeheartedly agree.

Posted by: msp81 | May 1, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

From what i hear terrorists are treated better than any average American in their workplace..with full medical care etc. Besides ..none of them show any distress in the pictures we see every now and then.

They are given all supplies, Khorans and nice food...kept along with their buddies..heck it sounds they are treated better than tv stars in reality shows.

On the other hand we should get them into the american judicial system and put them in the regular jails along with regular prisons and see how long they last before their asses gets ripped into pieces. I am that will teach them a good lesson than any of these 5 star gitmos.

Posted by: reddy531 | May 1, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Ah Fridays...I have been reading the Post ever since I was a child (where Tony was all I turned to) and have seen the feature of Kraut evolve in to what can only be described as "here...see we are not just a liberal newspaper" I think that being balanced is fine, but this is a little ridiculous.

I am all for keeping the WaPo in the left-middle lest it be regarded as "fair and balanced" as Fox News, which is pretty much disregarded by the left. But would it be so bad for the WaPo to dump some of it's more crazy columnists? Sacrificing a small amount of balance for a deluge of sanity?

Posted by: biochemist | May 1, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Excellent piece, Dan. You've been one of the few voices of true morality commenting on politics the past few years (along with Jon Stewart!), and it's good to see that more people are remembering what's right now that we don't have "leaders" teaching us that principles are only for the weak (and then only during peacetime).
I teach history and to me, there are a few simple moral lessons that history teaches over and over again: 1) the good guys don't torture people, 2) the good guys don't hire mercenaries to do their fighting/dirty work for them, and 3) the good guys don't have secret prisons. The good guys don't do these things because, if they start doing them, they become bad guys in a hurry. There are very few people who are so morally strong as individuals that they can be put in a position where they are not held accountable for their actions and still act morally; condoning torture, hiring mercenaries, and keeping prisoners in secret all remove moral accountability while teaching the classic fear-driven authoritarian mindset--suck up to those above you and stomp on those below.

Posted by: hheyck | May 1, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

"...that is exactly the sort of behavior for which the Nazis were tried AND FRIGGIN' EXECUTED after World War II."

Not quite. They weren't executed for waterboarding or wall-throwing, they were executed for poisioning and burning. The closest thing to waterboarding were the Nazi doctors/researchers that threw live Jews into frigid waters to see how long it would take for them to die. The data was used to create a rescue timetable for pilots/sailors who managed to find themselves in the brink...

Posted by: mustang946 | May 1, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It's just the usual Krauthammer column: start with the conclusion, then cherry-pick or make up facts to support arguments in favor of it.

Posted by: thrh | May 1, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Is Krauthummer suggesting that it is ok to torture journalists who won't divulge who their sources are?

Posted by: Jerry_Fresno | May 1, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

So basically, Froomkin does not believe a ticking time bomb scenario will ever occur, because we will never be certain we have a terrorist with relevant knowledge in custody prior to a certain attack. Fair enough. But at the risk of getting into an epistemology debate, must we be absolutely 100% certain of these 3 questions before we take decisive steps to garner information? What if we have 95% certainty of all 3 of them, and 1 million lives are at risk? Isn't there a moral necessity to take whatever means is necessary in this instance to acquire as much intelligence as possible in a short period of time?

Regarding Froomkin's 2nd point, the truth is that we don't know what intelligence KSM revealed, because the Obama administration has not declassified this information yet. So there is no point in having this discussion at all, at least until President Obama decides that we can have an intelligent discussion about it.

Posted by: Dellis2 | May 1, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

"'Responding to bluster with war crimes' -- there's a great motto for an administration."

POETRY! And I second "ovwong" that your blog here is WAY too important not to be run in the print edition as a formal rebuttal of CK's admission of his own inhuman soullessness.

Posted by: mobedda | May 1, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Dan...as usual you're the one outstanding voice of reason and reality in a stormy sea of blathering idiots like Krauthammer, Broder, Hiatt, Gerson and others!

Thank you again for standing up for the principals that made this nation great, and for actually taking on one of the senior columnists at WaPo.

Keep up the great work Froomkin!

Posted by: wagonjak1 | May 1, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't Krauthammer state in the first sentence that the people in charge ought to 'do what they have to do and take responsibility'?
-----------
He fails to understand the greater contingencies of the use of torture and its effect on democracy, on the viability of the American government.

ANY use of torture is indicative of an ill mind, and I mean that, the more you are able to see, and reason, the clearer it becomes these people are mentally ill.

And "these people" are in charge of the country, running 2 wars, not understanding WHY, say, the economy is faltering, why American defense has been so BADLY compromised, why we are failing to maintain our economic superiority under their "leadership."

When we pull our heads out of our $senses, we see we don't act unilaterally, and we really have to function within a world where America has enemies, within a world where the behavior of an IDF or an Al Qaeda kook is detested and scorned.

People who advocate for the use of torture, under any circumstance, simply aren't smart enough to play, internationally.

It is a weak, exploitable hole in our defense.

And it shows in the state of the Union.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 1, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Why is this response only online? What is with the Post for continuing to publish insanely conservative views that do not merit the paper they're printed on?

Post, please listen up: as someone who appreciates rational arguments, I'm sick of the Op-Ed pages. I no longer read them.

Why? Because, far more regularly than I care, you publish one, two, three pieces a day espousing a viewpoint who's rightful home is Fox (I wouldn't deem to call them news).

Kraut is offensive in his relative moralism and, coupled with the not-surprising study showing white Christians as more likely to want torture (of course, because they know they wouldn't be suspects), it's getting really irresponsible.

I don't watch Fox for a reason; now I don't read the Post Op-Eds for the same.

Posted by: nagatuki | May 1, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Facinating that conservatives who fret constantly about the corrosive effect on our culture of two people of the same sex sharing a bed together in the privacy of their home, could care less about the corsening of our moral sentiments if the best we can offer to a state that engages in torture is a don't-bother-me shrug.

Posted by: TedFrier | May 1, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It is sadly obvious that Krauthammer has fully devolved into an apologist for evil.

It is unfortunate that the Post persistently publishes such morally debased partisan propaganda.

It is inexcusable that the Post does so without giving equal exposure to views such as Mr. Froomkin's.


Posted by: FoolontheHill1 | May 1, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

One hates to personalize an argument, but wasn't Mr. Krauthammer once a practising psychiatrist?

There's something geniunely creepy about a psychiatrist who believes that physically abusing other human beings could ever be justified.

I think I'd rather be on the couch with Hannibal Lecter.

Posted by: Gladiator2008 | May 1, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the Bash administration asked the Iraqi courts to consider why Sadaam was using torture during his trial? Perhaps he was torturing people to stave off imminent threats against his country. Perhaps he was looking for that elusive ticking time bomb. Possibly the Iraqi’s executed an innocent man.

carloz0 those statements from Foomkin and Krauthammer can be mutually exclusive. I see no contradiction there at all. I don’t get your point.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Aren't you pretending to be a journalist? These "commentary" blogs are blowing your cover, and if you blow your cover as a journalist, then the credibility of your "YAY Obama!" posts will be hurt.

I do appreciate you bringing your extensive experience in matters of foreign policy to bear.

Posted by: whughes1 | May 1, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Of course, the difficulty in this equation is the question of what the definition of torture actually is. The UN definition of torture can be interpreted so broadly as to define it as simply incarcerating a person no matter the ameneties, since it includes both physical and psychological discomfort among its qualifications.

Even when accepting this expansive definition, the law itself is not clear on when and if torture is permissible, nor is it clear on what torture is under the law. For instance, the Geneva Conventions only bind signatories to that treaty, and therefore individual illegal enemy combatants would not fall under its purview.

This leaves us in a legal and moral gray area, since the definition of torture is left to a conventional "moral shock test." As Dennis Blair has said, some of these procedures would shock the conscience on a bright, sunny day, but when the shadow of war darkens the landscape, the ethical equation is complicated. The Bush administration realized this, as evident by their extensive legal inquiries into interrogation techniques, and through their ultimate finding that the techniques used were not against the law.

But legality has never spoken directly to morality. Even when something is illegal, some may find it moral, and vice versa. When Krauthammer says that "torture" is "impermissably evil, except in two cases," he is expressing this. We may find that torture is always wrong, and believe that waterboarding is torture, but it's not altogether clear that this is illegal.

Further, we may also dispute whether or not simply employing coercive techniques (which impose psychological or physical stress) is beyond the pale as it relates torture. While this stops short of a specific "ticking time bomb" scenario, it at least expresses the reality that one kind of interrogation may be more or less efficacious for one person, and not as much for another. This is not moral relativism, but a criticism of the broad definition of torture that would restrict nearly all forms of stress from being used in interrogation.

Posted by: camcgee97 | May 1, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I really don't care if it works or not.

We spend too much time worrying about the improbables (the "ticking time bomb") while ignoring the real risks (Afghanistan and Pakistan, which finally are being addressed directly by the President). It's in our culture: we'll cut back on saturated fat but somehow tolerate drunk drivers.

I could get a promotion if I was allowed to kill off my boss and a couple of key co-workers (just for insurance).

That does not make it right, and certainly does not make it American. (Or so I thought.)

Posted by: wistlo | May 1, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Torture is the unfair and ineffective exploitation of the tender human body's tendency to experience pain. Flagellation and waterboarding do not get a man talking sense nor changing political position. However, the joy of revenge is satisfied in the torturer and his overlords. Our wholly unsatisfactory elected leaders wanted revenge against those clever anti-Americans who successfully turned American technology against America. Cheney still believes that camel driving former tent-dwelling nomads should get what any uppity slave would get, because he's the Authority with the whip in his hand and they are mere nothings who got the better of him.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | May 1, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

With all respect, I think you're skirting the fundamental issue with a wave of your hand. I don't think you can dismiss the "ticking time bomb" hypothetical by just saying "it could never happen." Of course it could happen. And what is the answer if it DOES happen? Do you think it is obviously morally correct to choose the option of allowing thousands of people to die rather than engage in whatever interrogation method is most effective on a particular person or in a particular situation? By refusing to engage the hypothetical, I think we know what your answer is: you just don't want to say what it is because it doesn't meet your current political motive.

The point of the hypothetical is to demonstrate that there is at least one possible, plausible circumstance under which the need to obtain information might be so compelling that torture might be justified. Once you accept that hypothetical possibility, you have to look for the line. Krauthammer is, in good faith, looking for that line. You are refusing to acknowledge the possibility that the line even exists. But by refusing to engage in the hypothetical, I think you are establishing that you are not taking your position in good faith.

You're refusing to engage in the discussion for one reason and one reason only: you know you can't win it.

Posted by: leeotis | May 1, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh, DELLIS2, that's rich. You write:

"So there is no point in having this discussion at all, at least until President Obama decides that we can have an intelligent discussion about it."

Do not - and I repeat, do NOT - talk about "intelligent" discussions as a way of insinuating that, if only Obama could give us all the info, we could be mature here.

The Bush administration refused to give any info, EVER, to the public. Cheney, whining about getting said info, was there for 8 YEARS and could've very well defended their use of torture with said results.

But they didn't. Why? Because they didn't even want to admit they were torturing people; kinda makes 'em look bad.

So. Again, please, get off your high horse about intelligent discussions and framing the issue as something wrong with the Obama administration. Bush and Co could've been honest with the public their entire tenure and refused; I've never seen Cheney more worked up about "honesty." I hope they all are punished for putting us - the American public - at risk for their ego boost.

Posted by: nagatuki | May 1, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful rebuttal. I agree with the first poster that WaPo should print both of these articles side-by-side.

BTW, did anyone notice that Mr. Krauthammer used a word that none of the right-wing, neo-con, GOP, Fixed Noise people never used? All those people call it "enhanced interrogation." At least Mr. Krauthammer was honest in admitting it was, indeed, torture.

Posted by: ecglotfelty | May 1, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for taking the time to point out the utter nonsense put forth by Krauthammer.

I think another interesting angle is that at its core, the argument made by neocon, Jack Bauer-style advocates - like Krauthammer - is based on cowardice, though it's often put forward (as by Krauthammer) as some sort of macho willingness to stand tough in the face of a threat. What these guys argue is that, in order to feel safe, we have to throw American ideals like civil rights, freedom, and respect for human dignity out the window.

To me, it's far braver to take the position that we refuse to compromise those ideals, even at the expense of feeling less secure.

Posted by: diesel4 | May 1, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Krauthamer states that torture is permissible except when..... I don't think that any nation practices torture just to be mean. It's usually used to get information from an enemy to ensure his defeat. Under those circumstances any party can justify torture. Al queda can justify torture in saying that they are defending themselves against the evil godless western infidals who are bent on destroying them and their culture. What Mr Krauthamer is saying that torture is OK when done by us but is barbaric when praticed by people we don't like.

Posted by: browneri | May 1, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

On a less abstract ethical note, Dan, wouldn't you say that your argument that "torture is only good for eliciting false confessions" is refuted by the stated opinions of the people involved in these cases that the techniques used yielded valuable information? You can't have it both ways: if we found out useful information through the techniques we used, then your only charge can be that we resorted to them much too quickly. But then you're only talking about tact and urgency, aren't you?

Posted by: camcgee97 | May 1, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Leeotis said it right. Many of you Rah, Rah Dan posters are living in a utopian fantasy world. Unfortunately, the ticking time bomb scenarios do exist, and just because Dan says that they are fantasy doesn't make it so.

Good luck to all of you.

Posted by: mwuagi | May 1, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"The point of the hypothetical is to demonstrate that there is at least one possible, plausible circumstance under which the need to obtain information might be so compelling that torture might be justified. Once you accept that hypothetical possibility, you have to look for the line. Krauthammer is, in good faith, looking for that line. You are refusing to acknowledge the possibility that the line even exists. But by refusing to engage in the hypothetical, I think you are establishing that you are not taking your position in good faith.

You're refusing to engage in the discussion for one reason and one reason only: you know you can't win it."

Leeotis makes a good point, even if he is being a bit unfair to Froomkin: the people who are summarily dismissing all of our techniques used a torture, and then calling any of that illegal and wrong, are unwilling to really debate the morality and legality of the issue. At least the memos released show that the Bush administration seriously engaged with the issue, unlike those who are so dismissive of anything other than the idea that all of these techniques were wrong.

Posted by: camcgee97 | May 1, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Froomkin. Allover history there have been always justification not only of torture but also of large war crimes by people in power and their supporters. The gestapo, KGP,... all have done that. The origin of the problem in democracies is that the secret service cannot be controlled by a parliament committe simply because it is secret. The parliament committee thus gets a report which does not include all the activities. This structural problem has to solved first in order to avoid these crimes in the future.Adequate control and accountability is necessary.

Posted by: mansour112 | May 1, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The one fallacy all the "ticking time bomb" scenario nuts miss is this: If you only have one hour to find the nuke, you torture and he finally screams "LA!", you assume he's telling the truth. So you run to LA, search all over the LA basin in 60 minutes and get the call... NYC just blew up. You run back to the terrorist, slap him and say, "You said LA!". He smiles and says, "I lied."


C'mon, guys. The victim wants the pain to stop. He'll tell you whatever it takes to get the pain to stop. And you'd do the same thing yourself!

And for the "the terrorists get better care than Americans", if you think it's so wonderful, go sign up. Damned thing, though, I doubt any of them would stay in their cage if given the chance to go home.

This isn't "24" kids. Welcome to life, which doesn't have a script.

Posted by: lmb02 | May 1, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

This is all so silly. It is ok, under the rules of war to kill and maimed someone. And there is a good chance that someone will end up with wounds that will cause them pain and suffering for their entire life (itself a form of torture, probably worse), but that is ok, cuz it is the result of trying to kill them. But now you catch someone, who may have information of value, and keeping them from sleep, making them think they are drowning, making them really uncomfortable, etc., etc., is wrong. Sorry, I'm having trouble reconciling the two. And don't give me the "one is against the law and the other isn't". How can that be?

Posted by: mmourges

I think there is an implied "fairness" to 2 combatants engaged in battle shooting, etc at each other rather than physically assaulting someone who is strapped to a waterboard. I agree that the end result may be the same, but the soldier who is killed or maimed at least had the chance to defend himself.

Posted by: Pywacket1 | May 1, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

always with the beheadings. a bullet in the back of the head is no different from a beheading. murder is murder.

prisoners whom we tortured died.

Posted by: johannesrolf | May 1, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for setting the record straight.

As I noted on Charles's column: his opinions would be more interesting if he first got his facts straight.

But then, for torture apologists, the facts are pretty much all inconvenient.

Posted by: jpk1 | May 1, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Ciap |

Waterboarding = Torture--Maybe
What they did worked. Get over it--deal with it.
Terrorism is not pc and cannot be rationalised.


Dude, torture and terror are cut from the same cloth. Clad yourself with either and you look the same.

There is NO evidence that torturing prisoners was productive. get over THAT.

Posted by: ostrom808 | May 1, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Even when accepting this expansive definition, the law itself is not clear on when and if torture is permissible, nor is it clear on what torture is under the law. For instance, the Geneva Conventions only bind signatories to that treaty, and therefore individual illegal enemy combatants would not fall under its purview. – camcgee97

This is a fallacy perpetrated too often in our country. If your country signs the conventions and is party to them it guides how your country must treat POW’s etc… Not how your troops are to be treated if captured. But interpreting the conventions this way dovetails nicely into the Bush administration’s position that AQ is not a signor of the conventions therefore the conventions do not apply to them, which leads to the position that people in our custody are not POW’s and not subject to Geneva’s protections. However the position that they are not POW’s and not subject to Geneva’s protections 1) is wrong and 2) at the very least is at odds with the administration’s position that POW’s should not be granted access to the courts.

Well what is it? Are they POW’s who should not have access to the courts until the conflict is over? Or are they not POW’s in which case, they should have access to some sort of fair legal system?

Also camcgee97 remember those putting forth the statements that we garnered valuable information, sans blair, are also generally those at legal risk. So it might be interpreted as “I didn’t do it” Other than that think about this. If it is not torture, why do they have to justify a darned thing? Torture is and has been illegal. So when they spend a lot of rhetoric trying to re-define torture, or parsing the language down in a manner similar to the Rodney King trial where the defense analyzed the tape frame by frame to show “was he still resisting here, how about here etc…, in order to confuse the issue on exactly what torture is, or when they spend a lot of time and energy trying to justify what they did, chances are they did it and what we are seeing is exactly we have been told it is.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm embarrased. Mr Froomkin's reply to CK is the correct one. My earlier comment was wrong. Actions on the battlefield of war have no bearing on actions of the captured enemy in our "protective" custody. Thank you Mr Froomkin.

Posted by: ghp60 | May 1, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

It would really help if you would report on the permanent injuries or deaths attributed to our use of waterboarding. No one has revealed those critical statistics. Are they available?

Posted by: RNELSON4 | May 1, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon:
the two points can be mutually exclusive, you are right. but in this case they are not, because froomkin's point is used as a rebuttal to krauthammer's.

read it again, the paragraph begins with "Actually, no." He is rebutting by substituting his characterization for krauthammer's, so they are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: carloz0 | May 1, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Dan, you are quite wrong. There is such thing as a ticking time-bomb. In fact, the situation is encountered all too frequently. You have based your liberal gobbledy-gook argument on a falsehood.

Posted by: csforst | May 1, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Torture should only be allowed in the course of murdering our children.

Otherwise how would we cover up the consequences of our sexual indulgences.

Posted by: randfb | May 1, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Very well said. As well, I'd like to add one more point about the "ticking time bomb" scenario. Everyone seems to miss one of the major issues with torture: time horizon. If a prisoner knows that a bomb is set to explode in twelve hours, they already know that they only have to endure that long – which means it isn't torture any longer, just barbarism.
The other point is that, even in the case of 9/11, bread and butter police work had uncovered much of what the suspects were planning, but because of bureaucratic mis-steps, the dots were not connected. As well, most, if not all plots following 9/11 were uncovered through police work and not through torture.

Posted by: mike_lakewood | May 1, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer: "...we would never make one of them (conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances) Centcom commander."
Froomkin: "...the idea of putting someone without a healthy respect for human rights at Centcom is abhorrent..."
Krauthammer is clearly stating that a conscientious objector would be a poor choice to head Centcom, I will go further and say they would be a poor choice to head any military organization and that they most likely would never join in the first place. I read Froomkins statement as not wanting anyone without a respect for human rights in that leadership position. You can have respect for human rights and not be a conscientious objector. I fully agree with both men. You do not want someone in charge who is going to run willy nilly over the local populace ala’ Sadaam or Adolph, nor do you not want someone in charge who does not want to fight.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Listening to an algore speech, now THAT'S torture!

Posted by: NeverLeft | May 1, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

With all respect, I think you're skirting the fundamental issue with a wave of your hand. I don't think you can dismiss the "ticking time bomb" hypothetical by just saying "it could never happen." O
----------
Actually, no, with appropriate intelligence, those hypotheticals are rendered mute.

In addition, rather than institutionalizing the practice, if LE feels torture is necessary, they better be able to justify their actions in a court.

If they can't, it wasn't necessary, and certainly shouldnt be accepted policy.

See the problem?

We have a bunch of stupid weenies trying to cover their *sses within the CIA.

And the CIA shouldn't be full of weenies --REAL tough guys don't respect weenies, they roast them.

These people are the dumbest, ever.

DUMB people can't provide defense.

This means yours, too.

And another round of "We are the World" from the infantile, narcissistic Half-Wits, please.

There are no Mulligans in defense.

It's my impression the CIA/military kooks simply aren't smart enough to get it, it's my impression they can't cope.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 1, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him" - Winston Churchill

Posted by: jshkrauss | May 1, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@ "camcgee97" [et al]: Yes, we ARE refusing to believe that turture is ever justified. It's also explicitly illegal in this country and under international law.

Posted by: mobedda | May 1, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

mmourges: "Sorry, I'm having trouble reconciling the two. And don't give me the "one is against the law and the other isn't". How can that be?"

Without getting into the intricacies of the rules of war, the distinction is that a soldier on the battlefield is subject to attack, while a captured soldier is not on the battlefield and is protected from attack and torture.

Posted by: gggg2 | May 1, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him" - Winston Churchill

-------
Well, you should go with your beliefs, then, and good luck.

But it you lose, well, there is a price.

Me?

I wouldn't ask the military equivalent of a North Carolina bimbo to protect me, but then, that's me.

ROTFLMAO

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 1, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

fletc3her at 10:26 makes the salient point. We already have the mechanism for considering extraordinary and extenuating circumstances. This ticking time bomb scenario - realistic hypothetical or pure fantasy - does not justify writing a moral blot into our countries laws.

Posted by: ath28 | May 1, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer keeps trying to defend torture so torturously because it is linked so deeply to his real Cross and Cause: the utter failure of his Neocon vision of invading Iraq and turning it into a big WallMart parking lot--minus 100,000 innocent civilians and close to 4500 brave American soldiers (and 10,000 plus severely wounded). He, Richard Pearle and all the others who set the strategy for the panicked wet-the-pants policies of Cheney, Bush and Rumsfield, are deeply guilty for slipping torture in to bolster domestic political lies. Sickening. Thanks Dan for being a counterbalance to this Kraut. But you aren't a real columnist like he is, are you?

Posted by: walden1 | May 1, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone other than myself notice the end of Charles Krauthammer's first paragraph?

"Even John McCain, the most admirable and estimable torture opponent, says openly that in such circumstances, "You do what you have to do." And then take the responsibility."

Which member of the Bush Administration is taking responsibility for waterboarding?

Posted by: cgroark | May 1, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan. While the impulse to ethical relativism is as dangerous as the impulse to moral absolutism, Krauthammer's comments tend to the latter insofar as he believes the ends justify the means. We are a nation of laws, and we are a nation fundamentally moral at our foundation. Respect for law and for morality should insulate us from any temptation to use torture or anything like torture as an instrument of national policy. I'm from the South, and it's not too much of a stretch to remember when racism was "justifiable" since it accomplished the "laudable goal" of keeping the races separate. We Southerners, black and white, are still paying the price for that insanity, and for a while at least it bore the stamp of legislative and therefore official approval. We do learn from our mistakes, don't we? Krauthammer is simply wrong. I surprised that anyone listens to him.

Posted by: sailmaker1943 | May 1, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Geez, Dan you're being kinda mean to Uncle Chuck. His nurses usually put him to bed long before "24" in on.

Posted by: HughBriss | May 1, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

While the Post's Op Ed page is a haven for neocons, full of of spurious rationalizations of the worst behaviors of the Bush administration, the venom and hatred that inhabits the wretched writing of Krazyhammer never ceases to appall me. He is a sick, nasty man.

Posted by: hellslittlestangel1 | May 1, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan. :/ As an independent who often supports conservative positions on many issues (such as abortion and gun control), I find myself in the odd position of wanting to scream at somebody whose opinions I often agree with. It's disheartening to see Charles Krauthammer buying into the unspeakable lie that torture, an unmitigated evil in any circumstance, can be permissible if we think someone has information that *might* save lives. That position leads nowhere but to the corruption of what this country is supposed to stand for, and ultimately its destruction. There really are some lines you don't cross if you want to retain your humanity. That's one of them. For his own sake, I hope Krauthammer never faces that decision because I'm afraid he'd make the wrong choice.

Posted by: sakeneko | May 1, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

You can't play footsie with an organisation thats willing to tape a human beheading as a shock factor.

They didn't pull anyones fingernails out.

They didn't drill holes through their skulls.

They waterboarded, intimidated and scared them.

Tell you what. Lets ask the Chinese or North Koreans or the Taliban what they consider torture and compare waterboarding to that.

Posted by: Ciap | May 1, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

This needs to be on the same page as the ugly editorial it is responding to.

Posted by: datdamwuf2 | May 1, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

csforst writes:
"Sorry, Dan, you are quite wrong. There is such thing as a ticking time-bomb. In fact, the situation is encountered all too frequently. You have based your liberal gobbledy-gook argument on a falsehood."
--------------------------------
The "ticking bomb" scenario wasn't the base for Mr. Froomkin's argument. The base for his argument was an ethical stance that torture is wrong, period.

His comment about the "ticking bomb" scenario was that it was a scenario that wasn't really based in reality.

You say this happens "all too frequently". Can you come up with, say, 5 examples? This should be easy, if it happens so often. But to help bolster Mr. Krauthammer's argument, can you also show that torture helped resolve the situation?

For those of us that condemn torture (including, by the way, a number of WWII vets fighting a much more deadly war - and those that actually were interrogators), it's not important that there is a chance that torture is a successful tactic. It's simply wrong, even evil. Murdering your boss might get you a promotion, but I still consider it evil. That's hyperbole, of course, but simply because an action can have positive results does not make the action one that I condone.

Posted by: iamweaver | May 1, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Best Froomkin post in a long time, this is. Other commenters are right - this one should have been a print column, run opposite Krauthammer's. Why Krauthammer's lies and distortions keep getting paper space is a mystery to me. One of his columns would NEVER meet the criteria regularly applied to op-ed submissions.

Posted by: martimr1 | May 1, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"ou can't play footsie with an organisation thats willing to tape a human beheading as a shock factor.

They didn't pull anyones fingernails out.

They didn't drill holes through their skulls.

They waterboarded, intimidated and scared them.

Tell you what. Lets ask the Chinese or North Koreans or the Taliban what they consider torture and compare waterboarding to that."
------------------------------------
What is this, Kindergarten? "But teacher, Johnny is so much worse than I. That makes me good!" No. It simply makes your actions *less* reprehensible.

Posted by: iamweaver | May 1, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin - interesting side step of the ticking time bomb scenario. Of course we can't be 100% certain, but if we have highly reliable actionable intelligence of a huge terrorist event in our city and to not aggressively interrogate devalues the lives of innocent Americans. As John McCain - who opposes torture - said, you do what you have to in these cases. Using your logic, if we saw Iran with a nuclear rocket on the launch pad and aimed at Israel, we couldn't act, because we can't be "certain". Come on, in the real world sometimes aggressive interrogation does get results.

Posted by: sarno | May 1, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Why Krauthammer's lies and distortions keep getting paper space is a mystery to me. One of his columns would NEVER meet the criteria regularly applied to op-ed submissions.
-------

And isn't it OBVIOUS WHY the WAPO is seeing profit fall?

I read Dan because he's smart, and he reasons intelligently.

I don't read Krauthammer, ever, because he's trite, tired, and honestly, it would appear he has a thought level no greater than that of Rumsfeld, that is, a thinking raccoon.

I certainly wouldn't buy a newspaper for that level of thought.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 1, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"Why Krauthammer's lies and distortions keep getting paper space is a mystery to me."

Maybe WaPo management figures that the Luddites still getting their news in hardcopy are mostly political reactionaries and unreconstructed fifteenth century types, suitable audience for somebody like Krauthammer.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Nagatuki:

My point was not to say that we do not have enough information to be "mature", in your words. My point is that we cannot have a meaningful discussion about the intelligence we got from KSM when we do not yet know the intelligence we got from KSM, because the Obama administration has refused to release it. You do not refute this point - instead you only launch into an aside about how much you hate the Bush administration. This is irrelevant.

Posted by: Dellis2 | May 1, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

A beacon of light of sanity on the pages of the Washington Post. Thank you Mr. Froomkin.

How odd that we are even having this discussion about whether or not to torture. It truly shows the depths of depravity we have succumbed to in this country.

Sometime children behave badly but you still love them. Sometimes your country behaves badly, but you still love it too.

Posted by: ChicagoTodd | May 1, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

"Come on, in the real world sometimes aggressive interrogation does get results. "

"Aggressive interrogation" Haw Haw Haw. You can't even call it what it is. Torture, the crime that dare not speak its name. Sure, it gets great results, if false confessions and misinformation are what you're after. And our torturers got plenty of both.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Some paranoid nut (see above) posted-

"Come on, in the real world sometimes aggressive interrogation does get results."

Which real world? The one you watch on TV? Or the one in which American soldiers use persuasion and alliances everyday to stop violence in Iraq and Afghanistan? Another point to illustrate your rampant ignorance: How does torture prevent Iran from firing a missile at Israel? What would be the aim of that water-boarding session? To find launch codes? Would you then disable the missile with a GPS device and a cell phone, you "24" addicted sofa vegetable? Do you even know what you are talking about anymore?

It's sad to see a small percentage of literate (semi, at least) people still think torture is justifiable and productive.

Posted by: Appalled | May 1, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Self-defense is an extraordinary and circumstantial but legitimate defense for murder. That doesn't make murder okay or legal.

Krauthammer's insistence is basically, "Of course torture is bad, but it's not really THAT bad, and anyway, surely our unique interests trump moral concerns." He basically admits he is a monster who should be kept away from children, never mind power...

The "ticking time bomb" scenario might happen. And if it does, and we torture someone -- what's to stop them from giving us the wrong information? Or simply having TWO bombs? It's a ludicrously simple-minded scenario, designed to say "SEE? I told you so!" without any logic behind it.

I suppose torture-defenders could invent a scenario where a masochist agrees to give up the location of a secret time bomb if we torture him, or where we have a terrorist who, as if in a fairy tale, will magically only divulge his secrets if we waterboard or brand or cripple him... but again, this assumes that torture is a magical truth-mechanism that is qualitatively superior to all other forms of interrogation and prisoner interaction. That is an assumption that has NO BASIS IN FACT.

Besides, what the hell does "Give me liberty or give me death" mean, anyway? It means that, sometimes, protecting our values IS more important than protecting our physical bodies. If we killed all the women and children in every town we raided, wouldn't that cut down on attacks from women and children? Sure it would. But America doesn't behave that way. Not my America!

Posted by: john_clavis | May 1, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Mr. Froomkin. If we abandon our morality for a spurious safety, the terrorists will indeed have won.

Posted by: elizabeth3 | May 1, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how Froomkin can put up with the insanity spewed out by the neocons on the pages of the Washington Post on an almost daily basis now. The influence and hubris of the neocons is ruining our country.

In 2004, Krauthammer said the pictures of Abu Ghraib were shocking and appalling and he agreed that the low-level grunts should be prosecuted and imprisoned. In 2009, Krauthammer will say anything to erase the guilt of his high-level neocon fellow travellers. Shocking and appalling indeed.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | May 1, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

This should be in the valuable real estate of the WaPo's editorial page, not Krauthammer's dreck. In a way, the positioning of a clear-eyed, sensible article like this in an online ghetto while the Bush administration-coddling gobbeldygook gets opinion page placement pretty much sums up the state of the "debate" over torture in this country. Sad.

Posted by: tim_callahan | May 1, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Could the pro-torture folks who worry about the ticking time bomb thing please provide 3 instances in American history (there's rather a lof of it) where American faced the 'ticking time bomb' situation and torture did or would have made the difference.
1.
2.
3.
If it's NEVER HAPPENED why are you worried that it will happen?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the degenerate GOP, the torture party.


Morals and values my foot.

Posted by: artmann11 | May 1, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Bybee's 2002 memo permitting the torture techniques was explicitly predicated on the ticking time bomb scenario based on 9/11-level chatter and the capture of high-value detainees. Something must have gone very wrong with the ticking time bomb scenario for Krauthammer and his fellow travellers to now posit an additional exception to the so-called right to torture. Is it that they blew the ticking time bomb exception with respect to the waterboarding of Al-Nashiri and only tortured him to get a confession about past crimes such as blowing up the Cole and his relationships rather than future plots on the United States? Why, yes, I believe it is. These men are desperate now.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | May 1, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Froomkin. Excellent response. Keep fighting the good fight.

Posted by: jar2574 | May 1, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

The problem with both Krauthammer's column and this response is that they both beg the question of whether what was done to these people was torture. This is not a black and white issue and to define some of these techniques (face slapping, in a box with a caterpillar, prolonged standing, ...) as torture is to strip the word of any meaning.

Arguing that waterboarding is always torture because we have charged others with it is just plain nonsense. It certainly can be torture but unless we are willing to prosecute those members of our armed forces who regularly perform it on their fellow service members as part of SERE training, we need to acknowledge that it can also NOT be torture.

Drawing such lines is never easy and you may disagree with where these lines were drawn but it does us all a disservice to pretend that there are no lines needed.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Even Mr. Krauthammer should NOT be tortured after his tortuous argument in favor of torture.

Posted by: mouli_7982 | May 1, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

mmourges - on a battlefield a soldier is armed (or presumed armed even if his weapon is hidden), or is under the protection of his armed buddies. A prisoner is unarmed, and is now under your protection. We could get into an argument akin to a "ticking time bomb" arugement about this, like, if you came upon an enemy soldier separated from his unit whose clothes had been burned off so that he was naked and you were sure he wasn't hiding a gun somewhere and you were sure he was alone and not with an armed buddy who threatened you, would it be permissible to shoot him? in the back? And is that different from his being your prisoner? But really, its kind of a pointless arguement (as is the 'ticking time bomb" arguement. In the unlikely event of finding yourself in such an exeptional incident, one has to let their conscience be their guide.

Here's the rub for those who would rationalize torture because there 'might' be a ticking time bomb. Our behavior in Iraq and Gitmo and black sites, etc, were the pillars upon which the terrorists built a giant recruiting machine. Not torturing "might" hypothetically make us less safe by missing a ticking time bomb, assuming the "confession' was actually real and didn't lead us on a wild goose chase that make us overlook a more pressing threat (and so far, you have to admit, the vast majority of what was confessed to under torture was bullcrap). But actually torturing has actually, really, in real life, not hypothetically, made us less safe. Our behavior has not only inspired more terrorists, but it has kept others who knew where terrorists were hiding from talking - what incentive did they have to help us? I quote an erudite poster here: "Dude, torture and terror are cut from the same cloth. Clad yourself with either and you look the same.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Excellent column. You've said everything that I wanted to say to Krauthammer when I read his infuriating defense of the indefensible.

Also, I very much like this format better than your old one. I just don't have time to read five pages of news-summary, even if I find it quite interesting.

Posted by: zosima | May 1, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Great column, Dan!

Posted by: brett_marston | May 1, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

If torture were legal we woud nto be having this conversation...that is why they spent a lot of time and effort trying to redefine and legalize torture. muddy the waters if you will. Here's the rub, right now the on;y muddy water is in the US.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin's column is baffling and stupid. If torture is only good at elicting false confessions, then why is it being credited for preventing a major attack on LA?

Once again, we're faced with spineless liberals who live in a cocoon in which abstract moralizing controls over actually protecting fellow Americans. Reagan once legendarily said that it's hard to ignore the fact that everyone who favors abortion rights has already been born, and similarly those who favor coddling terrorists and feeding them bon bons instead of fists has never faced true terrorism.

Terrorists are not just uneducated poor people forced into it by mean ol' American imperialism. Osama Bin Laden was a millionaire. The guys who tried to blow up Heathrow were doctors. The guys recently convicted of planning attacks on Fort Dix were students. These people want martyrdom and death, so frankly they've earned a little "torture"/discomfort. Think of it as a downpayment. Applying your abstract Western morals to people actively trying to destroy the West in all its forms makes about as much sense as refusing to hit a guy stabbing you in the chest just because he's wearing glasses.

Posted by: zippyspeed | May 1, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Krauthammer and the neocons are willing to admit that the waterboarding of the detainees was torture, a point also made by President Obama. That's the ball game. International and domestic law permit no exceptions for torture despite the lobbying of the neocons to permit torture warrants or the like. Case closed. The torturers are in serious legal jeopardy. Of that there is no doubt. They are panicking and making mistakes now.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | May 1, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I have a question for the defenders of torture here - What does it mean to you to be an American?

What American principles are you willing to die for?

Is it being from "the land of the free - freedom from government intrusiveness into your private life? If so it would follow that you support "don't ask-don't tell" since the goverment wouldn't be welcome in your bedroom. It would also follow that you would not support warrantless wiretapping. Is that so?

Is it being from the "home of the brave"? Brave enough to die for American principles? Which principles are you brave enough to die for? Can you name them?

Is it "might makes right"?

Really, to you and Charles Krauthammer, what does it mean to be an American?

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives, like Krauthammer, are simply doing what they have always engaged in - a "rational" justification for immorality.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"If torture is only good at elicting false confessions, then why is it being credited for preventing a major attack on LA?"

Oh, zippyspeed, how did waterboarding capturing KSM in 2003 prevent a plot that was broken up in 2002?

Tell me zippyspeed, what does being an AMerican mean to you? What American principles are you brave enough to die for.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

In all my years of reading the Post, I can never recall an article that was so offensive and anti-American! Krauthammer should be severely reprimanded and censored for even suggested such heinous acts.

No exceptions in regards to torture is the law of the civilized world. For him to justify any act of torture is more heinous than those who claim the Holocaust never happened. It is the duty and the responsibility of the Washington Post Editorial Board to publicly censure Mr Krauthammer immediately.

We enjoy a free press and that is good, but when the press is being used as a mechanism for supporting immoral acts of treason, it has crossed the line from free speech to hate crimes.

Posted by: fide | May 1, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

To all these "ticking time bomb" torture fans:

You claim that such situations exist, and that such situations justify torture.

Leaving aside the historical fact that torture is more likely to get the tortured to tell you what he thinks you want to hear rather than truth (and the Bush administration has proved those two things often at wide variance with each other), I ask any one of you to cite three examples of historical "ticking time bomb" situations that occurred in the last hundred years -- just three -- where officials legitimately had a known perpetrator in custody and could "justly" have tortured said perpetrator to prevent a ticking time bomb from going off.

Just three, in the last hundred years. If such situations do exist, citing three of them from the last hundred years of world history should be a piece of cake.

Otherwise, stick your "ticking time bomb" fantasy where the sun don't shine. After all, that is where you pulled it out of.

Posted by: tbetz | May 1, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Our core values now include the torture of detainees held in any confinement facility in or out of the U.S. We have amply demonstrated this. We are a nation of barbarians not fit to be part of a civilized planet. There will be investigaions. There will be prosecutions. But there will be no convictions. And for that we will be branded as a rogue nation and hopefully never be trusted again.

Posted by: davidbn27 | May 1, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin your an IDIOT. First you say the ticking time bomb never happens.. yet it did. Zacarias Moussaoui was captured on August 16, 2001, less than a month before 9/11. He knew all about the upcoming attack, problem was we didn't know something was in the works, but if we did we could have interogated him. Of course Froomkin would rather protect ONE TERRORIST rights than perhaps stop a plan that would kill 3000 Americans.. Froomkin say's the end doesn't justify the means. Well not always but SOMETIMES it does...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Lets ask the hundreds who dove to their deaths from hundreds of floors up at the WTC if Waterboarding those responsible is excessive in their eyes.

Posted by: Ciap | May 1, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I wrote a long response to this one Dan but I think I will hold onto it for now. May put it on auction through ebay giving the proceeds to my favorite charity, me. As like alot of Americans, I am experiencing Emergency Negative growth now. Here are some ticklers as advertisement:

- Torture gains faulty Human Intelligence

- They never learn, oh well, that's just politics and short memories

-Real Patriots keep their mouths shut

-Attention seekers babble and they do babble for profit too

-Revisonist History can be reverse engineered

-NSA ought to stay focused rather than focusing on us

-Lives were not just put at risk, lives were lost through self homicides

-Modern day Nazi like Dr. Mengalas were identified by ABC

-Were the demands of Jack Bauer fans satisfied ?

-Those thinking that they were "In the know" got played

-Politics would have advertised "Imminent threats" thwarted

-Not fearmongers, Terrorists as terrorism seeks to fear the populus

So now, maybe someone can prove me wrong, I dunno, can't argue with them at this juncture due to plausible denials speaking of legislation pending before Congress known as the "State Secrets Act".

Posted by: truthhurts | May 1, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU, DAN!!!!

Posted by: solsticebelle | May 1, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin, I am confused. I thought that it was the official policy of the Washington Post to only print articles in favor of allowing these barbaric war criminals to walk free. How on earth did your response ever squeak by the censors?

You are one of the few heroes left at the Washington Post who is willing to speak truth to power. Your employer, formerly one of the world's greatest newspapers, has become a willing collaborator to a truly evil regime. Years of parroting the lies and venom spewed by the Bush administration seem to have rotted out more than a few minds over there.

Keep up the good work, Dan. Our nation will never be the same until we can bring ourselves to repudiate torture under ANY circumstances, grant EVERY detainee the basic right to habeus corpus and trial by jury, and punish all of the decision-makers who betrayed their solemn promise to defend our Constitution. Anything less is an insult to the brave men and women who died to protect the precious freedoms which their spoiled descendants are so willing to abandon. We should all be deeply ashamed of what our nation has done, and we need to do what it takes to make sure that this NEVER happens again...

Posted by: jerkhoff | May 1, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I remain deeply troubled by this defense of torture in the "ticking time bomb" case. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died on the battlefield defending this country. What did they die for? After all, Hawaii wasn't even a state yet in 1941, and Germany nor Italy ever attacked the mainland US. So what principles were the 400,000 men (and women) who died in that war defending? And where did they get the courage from to die for those principles?

The Founding Fathers said "give me liberty or give me death". The currente generation says "take my liberty, just promise me I won't have to die for it". ?The "greatest generation" was not afraid to die for American principles. Yet the first time our generation was tested, our courage failed us. We suddenly decided America had no principles except "might makes right" and "better him than me".

No nation or power endures forever. The funny thing is though, history suggests that the darkest, evilest powers have the shortest lifespans. How long did Pinochet or Mussolini or Hitler or even Stalin last compared to the tenure of American democracy? If we cloak ourselves in their tactics, we will surely earn the same fate.

I am encouraged by this comment board that perhaps all is not lost yet. But I am deeply, deeply disappointed in President Obama if he fails to expose the evils of the beliefs of the zippyspeeds and the Krauthammers in the world.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

ask any one of you to cite three examples of historical "ticking time bomb" situations that occurred in the last hundred years -- just three -- where officials legitimately had a known perpetrator in custody and could "justly" have tortured said perpetrator to prevent a ticking time bomb from going off.
_____
See what I wrote above about Zacarias Moussaoui. And we don't know if KSM had any plots about to happen that was stopped. We'll have to wait and see if that is ever disclassified. BUT saving 3000 people.. even if only one it should count for three...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes, one other little fun item of relevance: George W. Bush would of course have no part of Krauthammer's argument that it's OK in certain situations.

"In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism": George W. Bush, April 16 2008.

I guess Charles better have a little come-to-Jesus talk with George. If it's wrong, it's wrong, always, period, says George.

Dan had a nice column on this here:

Posted by: jpk1 | May 1, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer writes for cash. Each time he presents these ridicules arguments he gets more cash. He is not for or against anything he is paid to a certain thing and he does that. The sad part is that many people take the rubbish that he puts out seriously. If you pay a prostitute to say "I love you" she is every bit a sincere as Krauthammer.

Posted by: vwallen@bellatlantic.net | May 1, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

zippyspeed,
1. Torture of KSM did not stop any over-hyped LA terrorist attack.
"In a White House press briefing, Bush's counterterrorism chief, Frances Fragos Townsend, told reporters that the cell leader was arrested in February 2002, and "at that point, the other members of the cell" (later arrested) "believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward". A subsequent fact sheet released by the Bush White House states, "In 2002, we broke up a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it into the tallest building on the West Coast." These two statements make clear that however far the plot to attack the Library Tower ever got—an unnamed senior FBI official would later tell the Los Angeles Times that Bush's characterization of it as a "disrupted plot" was "ludicrous"—that plot was foiled in 2002. But Sheikh Mohammed wasn't captured until March 2003." - http://www.slate.com/id/2216601/

2. As for Reagan - "Ronald Reagan, May 20, 1988, transmitting the Convention Against Torture to the Senate for ratification:

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution." - http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/01/shifts/index.html

The fact is that torture has made us LESS safe. The war in Iraq has made us LESS safe. Conservative dreams of being action heroes put people in danger. Republicans have gone so far to the extreme right that Reagan now appears as a lefty.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

ok libs
just how are you!!!! going to explain
that in a possble future attack 300,000 americans killed in a future terrorist attack could have be saved using these so called torture techniques!!!!!

if this happens the american people will want your BLOOD

Posted by: steveuchic | May 1, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

The "greatest generation" was not afraid to die for American principles.
_____
I agree they were the greatest generation but lets' not kid ourselves FDR put 110,000 Americans in interment camps for no reason other than they were of Japanese decent. What American principle is that??? And Truman dropped 2 A bombs killing mainly civilians, 240,000 of them. Was he aiming at a military target? No. His goal was to shock the Japanese by killing everyone in those cities. What American principle is that?? I don't blame FDR and Truman, they were trying to keep Americans safe and end a war, but don't stand there and claim because Bush waterboarded three terrorists he was the guy that went over the line to protect America. FYI no one in the FDR or Truman admainistration was ever investigated or prosecuted for what they did.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

steveuchic,
the big bad meanies have really scared you haven't they? You have a far greater chance of dying from driving down the street or from some conservative letting e. coli tainted food get to you than from any terrorist attack.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I challenge any of you holier than thou absolutists to clearly draw the line that cannot be crossed when questioning a terrorist. Is that line the same as the line for a criminal defendant? The same as for a lawful combatant under the Geneva Conventions? Please be specific, what can an interrogator do other than ask nicely for the information needed?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen,
The line is where it should be - what is legal and what works. They are both the same thing. And it is not torture.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

zippyspeed, torture did NOT prevent a terrorist attack on LW. Sadly you are Bush were too spineless to try to CHANGE THE LAW on torture, and now that Bush has violated the law you think he should get away with it. I thought you guys were all about personal accountability, but now I see that applies to others, not peeps on your side. More proof that conservatives think like infants

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Sovine08 - regarding Moussaoui. He was arrested on an immigration violation. Are you suggesting we subject all of the thousands of people arrested on immigration violatons to torture? My grandpa was a WOP, can I pull his fingernails out?

WRT Moussaoui, if our friends in the FBI didn't have their heads up their butt, old fashioned police work might have foiled the 9/11 plot. Senator Grassley reported: "agents would have found information in Moussaoui's belongings that linked him both to a major financier of the hijacking plot working out of Germany, and to a Malaysian al-Qaida boss who had met with at least two other hijackers while under surveillance by intelligence officials. "

As as to why WAPO and the NY Times continue to print such idiotic "Conservatives" - I don't know if they're the only ones talking, if they're the only ones talking provocatively enough to get people to buy papers, or if they just hope printing such nutjobs will make the Right look foolish. I used to think it was #3, but now that the nuts have taken over the WAPO editorial pages, I guess it must be #1 or 2

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Sovine08 it is interesting that you bring up Moussaoui in the process of calling Froomkin and idiot and then mention that we didn’t’ know something was in the works. Well, we did know something was in the works, FBI Agents had noted that Arab men were leaning to fly but not land or take off and umm, there was that PDB entitled Bin Laden Determined…. You get the picture? I’m surprised that you use this as your example because the more we look at it the more the incompetence of the previous administration jumps out at us. Also hey, look, it was a ticking time bomb and the Bush administration had no clue the time bomb was ticking in their lap. Not being allowed to torture has nothing to do with screwing up 9/11 absolute total incompetence is more to blame. Oh and as to KSM? Everything they (the Bash administration) said about information that he gave up regarding plots, has been disproved and fairly easily too.

One more thing, the argument is not about protecting one terrorists life at the expense of 3,000 Americans, it is about protecting the rights of every person. It is about protecting the constitution (I.e. America) and protecting the image we are selling around the world. Face it these guys ordered the torture because they like the idea of extra judicial punishment. You never once mention that perhaps we might be also torturing innocents? I suppose that is ok with you though.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

1000PointsofFright, the law says torture is that which is:
"intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering"
and "“severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality"

So, which of the techniques authorized violates these proscriptions without exception?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Please be specific, what can an interrogator do other than ask nicely for the information needed?

Well, yesterday a military investigator who was brought in after a 3 year futile search for al Zarquawi reported that he started reading the Koran with detainees. In 3 months of Koran reading (as opposed to the prior 3 years of detainee abuse) Zarquawi's position had been given away and he was dead.

Next I suppose you'll say that we wouldn't have had 3 months if Zarquawi had planted a ticking time bomb. But the problem with that arguement is, we did have 3 years either

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with biochemist who suggests it is time for the WaPo to get rid of Krauthammer. Journalists who can actually think - like Dan Froomkin - decimate his arguments every time. It doesn't make the WaPo look good having Krauthammer's weak-minded writing. Also, Froomkin's response to Krauthammer's column should be published in tomorrow's print edition.

Posted by: gposner | May 1, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

sovine08, the Internment of the Japanese isn't being defended here or anywhere, so there is no comparisan. In the case of the torture, it was illegal, period. Bush could have gone to congress and changed the law and he didn't. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime! I see nobody has taken up the challange to list three times there has been a ticking time bomb situation in the USA where torture would have changed the outcome, so I guess the ticking time bomb thing is now moot? Maybe if you cons hadn't supported a certified boob who wasn't interested in the memo stating 'OSAMA PLANNING TO ATTACK THE USA' that might have helped more than torturing low level operatives and innocents.

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I love these folks who scream "the libs will be responsible if we don't torture someone." There are 6 billion people on this planet, which ones is it okay to torture?

We didn't find any WMD in Iraq but I am sure we could torture some more people? Maybe then we'll find them.

Al Queda was linked to Saddham, maybe we should torture some people into making them agree with this statement.

If we are relying on torture to save anyone we are in some serious doodoo. Let's go back to being civilized, demonstrating that we are a people with a moral compass, not compelled to sink to the level of our enemies.

We attack those who attack us and they will stop. We focus on Osama and he will be stopped. Torture doesn't bring back those killed in 9/11, nor will it save us in the future. Any argument for torture is dead wrong, when you resort to torture you have already lost.

We are a thinking nation, with a diverse set of skills that can far exceed the wits of any group of terrorists. We may lose some battles but we will always win the war as long as we stay on the higher ground.

That said, I still the Washington Post needs to seriously consider publicly censuring Krauthammer for his repugnant attack against all things American.

Posted by: fide | May 1, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen,
Waterboarding, of course. Sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, prolonged standing, "walling", take your pick. And before you respond, look at the medical and psychological evidence of what happens to someone subjected to such techniques (and/or the threat of them). Rapport-building is legal and works best. You use torture if you are trying to get false confessions - like "intelligence" to back up your long-standing plans to invade a country which is not a threat.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Nice response Mr. Froomkin. I would only add that Congress standing by and knowing what was going on is no more an excuse or proof of legality of the torture than a cop who sits idley on a street corner as the bank across the street is robbed. Lack of action by those overseeing the Executive's actions does not endorse nor validate those actions. If a crime was committed it was done by the Executive. The Legislative Branch will need to self examine why it let it happen, but lack of oversight is no excuse for commiting crimes and is neither a defense of such crimes. The crimes stand on their own. Its now up to Justice to determine how to judge these crimes.

As for Kruthy's explainations, well, he can theorize all he wants and make up scenarios. What he misses is that allowing torture releases the sadists in our society, and every society has them. Once their actions are legalized, all hell breaks loose and what seems limited can become the standard operating procedure.

Maybe we should all agree on this: Torture should be a last resort, and you make it a last resort by making it illegal. If a situation arises and someone feels torture will resolve the situation they should be so certain it will work and the stakes high enough that they will accept the punishment to be later applied. That's how you make it a last resort. If you make it legal in any way or situation, it will be applied first, as it seems to have been applied to KSM first. No tears for KSM, but plenty for what the Bush administration has brought America down to, a nation that tortures like a 3rd world dictatorship.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I think it's interesting that Condoleezza Rice yesterday told a Stanford student that she did not give the orders for anyone to be waterboarded; no, she was merely conveying orders... Sounds to me like she just admitted to a conspiracy. But, hey, Dick Cheney long ago confessed to numerous felonies and he's still walking free. Why, exactly, did we invade Iraq again?

Posted by: gsross | May 1, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

marcedward1, your argument that Bush could have asked the Congress to change the law is disingenuous. Congress debated changing the law to specifically outlaw waterboarding, the Kennedy Amendment. That amendment failed. Interestingly, it has never been resubmitted despite Democratic control of Congress.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

It's so funny, you'd frame the issue like this David.

You know who my hero from this period of baseball history is?

Mark McGwire.

I'll take a man who doesn't sell out his friends over a weasel who does anyday.

It's amazing how sanctimony undermines an otherwise reasonable discussion.

http://benfrankln.blogspot.com/

Posted by: benfrankln | May 1, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin, your shrill and ill tempered diatribe is void of credibility. You can be emotional in the sunlight of April 2009, but in the context of what was occurring at the time, enhance interrogation techniques were of immense value. You don't even come close to getting the 183 times waterboarded story right. Probably because you are too lazy to really do your homework on this issue. Now, sit back on your sectional sofa, sip your latte, and Wii, while the grown-ups protect and defend this country and keep you free so that you can whine.

Posted by: WordsMatter | May 1, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"One more thing, the argument is not about protecting one terrorists life at the expense of 3,000 Americans, it is about protecting the rights of every person. It is about protecting the constitution (I.e. America)... You never once mention that perhaps we might be also torturing innocents? I suppose that is ok with you though."

good one, m_mcmahon.

Here's the rub on Abu Ghraib. The Red Cross said 70-90% of the detainees were innocent - caught up in raids that just arrested everyone present in the home or the restaurant or the town squrare where their lead said a terrorist might be.

After the abuse scandal broke, we just let thousands of prisoners go. Just google Abu Ghraib in the days, weeks and months after the story broke. 600 released onw day, 1200 once in a single day, etc. If they were guilty, why did we let them go? If they were innocent, why were we imprisoning them without charges or trials and abusing them?

You can try to limit the arguement to 3 suspects and a waterboard to try to hide the general pattern of our behavior, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

I remember looking at the pictures of Tiannenmen Square and wondering where that kind of courage came from. Now I'm starting to get it. If I die from a terrorist attack, it is more likely to be from simple incompetence than failure to torture. But, I would rather take the chance of being one of 300,000 Americans killed in a terrorist attack than let the right wing crazies who want to take control of my country and shred the Constitution and take my liberty scare me into having their way.

Here's what I want to know about Krauthammer and zippyspeed and steveuchic, and sovine08 - where is your courage? Why are you such a coward that you would rather commit torture than to die for your nation's principles? Because if you are what America is made of, we are doomed.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

1000PointsofFright, if all those techniques are torture whenever and however they are used, are you in favor of prosecuting those US service members who perform them on a regular basis to their fellow service members as part of SERE and other training?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, wordsmatter, please due share with us the correct story then...

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer was and is a court singer for W - Bush could do no wrong and anyone else could do no right. He has no credibility outside of his clique, and is not even worth responding to - but a good piece of analysis nonetheless Mr. Froomkin.

Posted by: jimsxn | May 1, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

oh, nhansen, cut the strawman already.

If you punch me in the nose, I'll press charges for assault. But if I'm in a boxing ring in the middle of a match boxing with you and you punch me in the nose, then I won't.

Get the difference?

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin's piece is in admirably stark contrast to Krauthammer's amoral attempt to justify the unjustifiable. Froomkin gets it. Krauthammer does not.

Posted by: tbarry3 | May 1, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

steveuchic wrote: "ok libs just how are you!!!! going to explain that in a possble future attack 300,000 americans killed in a future terrorist attack could have be saved using these so called torture techniques!!!!! if this happens the american people will want your BLOOD"

Look, we invaded a country based on false information gained from torture. There are now over 4000 American soldiers dead and countless Iraqis dead and Iran has been strengthened, oh yea, and we are $1T poorer. Where are the WMD? Where was the connection? Just whose BLOOD should I be asking for?

If you think torture is so reliable why don't you ask an expert if you are right? They've already said you are not. Why do you ignore the experts? Or does torturing our enemies give you some satisfaction? Because the experts say it is not useful.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

patriot16, no he probably does not get the difference, Rush, Hannity, O'riely and the Fox crew have not used that example so it does not register.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The Left and the anti-"torture" crowd amuse. We're a country where the majority has long believed in killing fellow American citizens when they've committed capital crimes but god forbid we hose down the heads of terrorists in an effort to gain potentially life saving information.

Please, PLEASE go forward with prosecutions.

Posted by: JimboWHO | May 1, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

What wordsmatter is referring to is that the 183 reflects the number of water pours, not the number of separate waterboarding episodes.

That means if there were six pours per episode (that is, if the cloth was placed over the respiratory tract and water poured in six times), then he was waterboarded only 31 times and not 183 times - that is, once a day.

That is somehow supposed to make it all better and somehow supposed to make it sound like we're making false accusations against them. In this vein, we are supposed to think it was somehow better if he was brought from his cell once a day and subjected to the procedure six times, instead of brought from his cell six times a day and subjected to the procedure once each time.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

patriot16, so there are circumstances when being punched in the nose is legally permissible and there are some when waterboarding is as well. Can you think of a circumstance when other forms of behavior normally considered to be torture are equally permissible? How about this account of what occured to a Chinese dissident:

"On the night of September 21, 2007, my husband, with a black hood thrown over his head, was kidnapped and brought to an unknown location. For 59 days, many people tortured and ravaged him in all kinds of ways, including beating him with an electric prod, inserting bamboo sticks into his reproductive organs, holding lit cigarettes close to his eyes and nose, etc., so that his eyes would burn and he would be forced to inhale smoke. My husband told me later that he was in such unbearable pain at the time that his sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids covered the floor."

What circumstances would this be permissible?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen,
That is being completely disingenuous and you know it. SERE was designed to enable our soldiers to resist the techniques used by the Chinese in the Korean War. (And now the US) It is training and they are voluntarily submitting to it. Even so, it is still a horrible experience and even our soldiers have been broken under it. They have not suffered long-term effects because it was VOLUNTARY. Would you defend rape as simply being the same as sex? Your arguments, like those of Limbaugh, who equated it with frat hijinks, show what kind of limited thought goes into the defense of the indefensible. Being subjected to something against your will is completely different from something for which you volunteered. If you don't realize that, there is truly something wrong with you. Your question is absurd. The techniques were used to defend our soldiers from people who think like you.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

SOMEONE WROTE: "Excellent piece, Dan. You've been one of the few voices of true morality commenting on politics the past few years (along with Jon Stewart!), and it's good to see that more people are remembering what's right now that we don't have "leaders" teaching us that principles are only for the weak (and then only during peacetime).
I teach history...."
--------------------------------------
I laughed at first when reading this. Jon Stewart said that dropping the A Bomb was a war crime so i was laughing my tail off that someone would equate Jon Stewart with rational thinking or even moral thinking. Then I got to the part where this dork is a teacher. Now I am sad. This leftist revisionist nerd is educating our kids. When my boys get old enough to start learning history in school, I am going to have to go over with them what they learn so I can teach them what really happened and why. Anyways, I am amazed at the out pouring of sympathy for these evil men. I don't feel at all bad for them. They chose their life and now they are dealing with the consequences. In the real world, there are and there should be consequences for supporting mass murder. If waterboarding is one of them then so be it. If I ever am complicit in the murder of over 3,000 men then you may waterboard me. I am really beginning to think that the left is anti-American. As I recall lefties didn't want the photos of 9-11 shown over and over because they were afraid of inciting anger. Now the same people cannot wait for photos of American "torture" to be shown nor can they wait to air out my countries dirty laundry. It seems as though the left is afraid of American anger and what I may cause but is actively encouraging Islamic anger regardless of what it may cause.

Posted by: m11618 | May 1, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

"The Left and the anti-"torture" crowd amuse. We're a country where the majority has long believed in killing fellow American citizens when they've committed capital crimes but god forbid we hose down the heads of terrorists in an effort to gain potentially life saving information."

But this is hardly a valid comparison, is it? Convicted murderers are....convicted. KSM could be convicted and subject to the death penalty. But now that will never happen because we broke the law torturing him.

Thousands of innocent people have been locked up without charges or trials or convictions. Many of these people were subject to all manner of abuse at our hands. Fox probably doesn't publish their stories, but they are available everywhere else. I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but even I can see a HUGE difference between imprisoning someone without charges or trial and physicially abusing or killing them, and the formal execution of convicted murderers.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Sovine08 - regarding Moussaoui. He was arrested on an immigration violation. Are you suggesting we subject all of the thousands of people arrested on immigration violatons to torture? My grandpa was a WOP, can I pull his fingernails out?

_____
Patriot16 you start out saying Moussaoui was arrested on an immigration violation BUT then go on the say "
agents would have found information in Moussaoui's belongings that linked him both to a major financier of the hijacking plot working out of Germany, and to a Malaysian al-Qaida boss who had met with at least two other hijackers while under surveillance by intelligence officials. " So unless your father had the same backround... NO I wouldn't have pulled his fingernails out. But go ahead blame the FBI, the CIA, Bush anyone else??? Bottomline IF we got Moussaoui to talk, we could have prevented 9/11. You see the question was when has there been a ticking time bomb.. WELL THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE TIMES!!! And if using old fashioned police work got him to talk fine.. But the question is want if it DIDN'T.. How far would you go to PREVENT 9/11. Is waterboarding ONE terrorist worth saving 3000 American lives????

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer is a psychotic serial liar. Don't believe ANYTHING that man says...talk about deranged! Uh, Charles, torture is WRONG, period, end of story. And thanks, Mr. Hiatt, for giving this sociopath a platform on your Op-Ed page. Excellent choice...if you like murderous, immoral blowhards.

Posted by: ExceptionalTorture | May 1, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, after the 9/11 attacks President Bush never tried to change the laws on torture, nor did he go to the courts to get the laws re-interpreted. The administration chose to break the law, so shouldn't they, as Krauthammer put it 'take responsibility'? This is why we need an independent counsel. Congress will make a circus of any 'investigation', and DOJ was part of justifying torture, so they ought to be out of the loop. If the supporters of torture believe it was all legal, why not welcome an independent counsel - that way Bush's name would be cleared, no?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Dwight D. Eisenhower didn't believe in waterboarding prisoners - does that mean he was a pacifist that couldn't be trusted to command US troops?

As for torture "working" - when the North Vietnamese tortured John McCain, he lied to them - giving them the names of the Green Bay Packer's offensive line as his squadron mates. Imagine a "ticking timebomb" situation where the bad guy only needs to tell hard-to-check lies until the bomb goes off. Torture there is worse than no information at all - it sends the good guys off on wild goose chases instead of doing something useful...

Posted by: Common_Sense_Not_Common | May 1, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

m11618,
You remind me of the Americans who signed treaties with the Indians only to break them time and time again. Do laws and treaties mean anything if you can simply rip them up when you get scared? If so then do you think America should pull out of the Geneva conventions and should we apply torture not only in times of war but also to local crime? When is torture not permissible and when so laws apply?

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

1000PointsofFright, so you are saying that these techniques which we regularly subject our own personnel to are only torture when done to terrorists?

What is disingenuous is your assertion that these techniques are always illegal. They clearly are not. The law makes a distinction between consensual intercourse and rape. It makes no such distinction in the case of torture, does it? As I said earlier, eht Congress had an opportunity to specifically outlaw waterboarding and they chose not to.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

marcedward1, he did not go to Congress to change a law because he, the Congressional leadership and the DOJ believed that what the CIA proposed was legal under current law within certain parameters.

If the law was as clear as you make it out to be, why was a change in the law proposed to specifically outlaw waterboarding? A proposal that was rejected.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"If I ever am complicit in the murder of over 3,000 men then you may waterboard me. "

If you supported the war in Iraq, then I guess somone should be taking you up on this offer.

Further, if the suicide kid who explodes the suitcase nuke in the US joined the terrorists because of Abu Ghraib, then I guess you'll be in line for it again, wouldn't you.

Please help me see inside your head - what is the America that you think you love and we hate? What principles does she stand for? Because to us you and your friends on this board either look like cowards who would do evil rather than risk dying for their country, or sadists who believe in might makes right

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Reading both this and Krauthammer makes me jealous of people with the ability to delude themselves so greatly as to render the other side so obviously wrong and themselves so obviously right that they are no longer forced to equivocate. The self-righteous moralism of Froomkin must make him feel great about himself, despite its absurdity. I’m sure Krauthammer feels the same way on his side of the fence. Of course ticking time bombs can happen - there will be more terrorists, someone may be captured who knows their plans, and there may not be time to "build rapport." Of course torture is wrong, and it does set us apart from those who might practice it. But pacifism and a desire for peace allowed Hitler to become a threat to the whole world. Preemption led us to kill innocents in Iraq. Which is better? The world is full of tough choices, and absolutes are few and far between. I'm sure many on here objecting to torture now were fine with it on September 12th, and I'm sure many who support waterboarding would have objected if Bill Clinton had done it. Even waterboarding itself is subject to debate; the Eskimos have many words for snow, so surely we should use a different word to describe waterboarding than we do to describe the iron maiden.

Again, I wish I were as delusional as the rest of you; it must make it much easier to go through life without having to actually think.

Posted by: NYCReader3 | May 1, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

To the ones who say it is like killing or maiming in combat - not at all. It is more like executing POWs who are handcuffed. You can't do that, morally, either.

Posted by: catherine3 | May 1, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what's more entertaining: Froomkin's reliably unhinged rants, or the comments they inspire. Danny isn't quite good enough to get a real column at the Post, and instead posts shrill nonsense on the web. His fellow Bush-Derangement sufferers self-righteously respond in kind. Yes, these are precisely the people I want defining the limits of the nation's security capability.

Posted by: danner1 | May 1, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, you're claiming that the torture practiced by the CIA was legal, right? If so, do you support an independent prosecutor to investigate it? After all, if you're right the investigation would clear the names of everyone from Bush on down! Of course we all know that the DOJ does NOT get to determine what is legal - Congress makes laws, Courts interpret laws, the Executive ENFORCES laws. DOJ did not have the power to 'legalize' torture (and under US Law Waterboarding is torture, period)

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: marcedward1
sovine08, the Internment of the Japanese isn't being defended here or anywhere, so there is no comparisan. In the case of the torture, it was illegal, period.
____
And locking up 110,000 Americans for no reason is LEGAL??? The comaprisan is NO one thought of prosecuting people in the FDR administrtion for what they did. And FDR is still a hero for the Left. Why if he broke the law is FDR a hero and Bush a crimminal???

Posted by: marcedward1
Bush could have gone to congress and changed the law and he didn't. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime!
____
Bush went to his LEGAL COUNCIL and got them to come up with guidelines on how far the CIA can legally go in interogating a prisoner. And Congress? he advised Congress what he was doing. If they THOUGHT he was breaking the law it was their duty to speak up.. NO???

Posted by: marcedward1
I see nobody has taken up the challange to list three times there has been a ticking time bomb situation in the USA where torture would have changed the outcome, so I guess the ticking time bomb thing is now moot?
____
Read closer I brought up the case of
Moussaoui who was captured in Aug 2001 and he knew about the 9/11 plot. That's the definition of a ticking time bomb situation.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"So unless your father had the same backround". But Sovino08, you rewrite history. Thousands of people are arrested for immigration violations. This was pre-911 - what reason did they have to torture only Arabs? You are thus saying we should have been torturing everyone arrested on an immigration violation. Is that the kind of country you want to live in?

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The ticking time bomb argument is always the last refuge of those who want to hurt people. It always will be, because it's very hard to refute on an instinctual level. Who really can say "Yes, I'd rather see my family and friends die than have this guy smacked around." Human emotions and nature make this nearly impossible to say. Our instinct is to attack to defend our own. We are Kirk, not Spock. Defenders of torture know this.

This scenario is always meant to shift the discussion away from what is really the question, which is do our elected officials have the authority to make this decision for us in secret, without asking us? Do they have the authority to break international and domestic laws without telling us they're breaking them, or without holding a public hearing on whether we, as a society, want to break them or rewrite them? The answer is always no. The ticking bomb argument is always used as a cheap way to derail the core issue, and cast derision on those who want to discuss the core issue.

Posted by: SanDiegoBS | May 1, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen,
I never made such an assertion. The techniques are not always illegal. They are not illegal when done on a volunteer. That is not torture. What makes it torture is the fact of it being INVOLUNTARY and being done to someone who is in captivity and therefore powerless. Use your brain. Whipping someone would be considered torture if done to someone against their will and in captivity. Whipping a volunteer in some S+M game is neither torture, nor illegal. Techniques are torture, just like sexual acts are rape, when done to someone against their will. Get it? And Congress has in fact outlawed torture. Reagan and Congress did it when the Convention Against Torture was signed.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

LOOKS LIKE THE SOROS BRIGADE STARTED EARLY THIS MORNING BERATING AN EXCELLENT, AS USUAL, CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER ARTICLE. THE LACK OF FAVORABLE COMMENTS CONFIRMS THE LIBERAL BIAS OF THE WASHINGTON POST READERSHIP.

Posted by: jgm7975 | May 1, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 wrote: "Read closer I brought up the case of Moussaoui who was captured in Aug 2001 and he knew about the 9/11 plot. That's the definition of a ticking time bomb situation."

Just listen to yourself sovine. Yes he had information, but the only policy under which he could have been tortured would be torturing all people arrested for immigration violations just in case they may be involved in some unknown plot against the US. Is that what you believe should be our policy? Do you know how many people would be tortured each day?

My God you people don't think, then speak (type), then continue to refuse to think! Move to Cuba. I think they may have such a policy there and you'll definitely feel safer there than in America where we are afraid to torture people and thus leave ourselves open to easy attack.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

What does The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that you quote from so loftily have to do with this issue? That document is about people who are behaving.

The foundational right is to be secure in your person. Governments are instituted primarily to safeguard that right.

People who fly jets full of passengers into office buildings full of people have violated lots of rights. Our government has laws and treaties governing how to proceed to safeguard us. If you would trouble to do the research, bingo, you'd find that adhering to such law has been a guiding concern in dealing with such attacks on our ourselves.

Posted by: Chazzle | May 1, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 - again, nobody is defending the Internment of the Japanese and 100% of the Left thinks it was the worst thing Roosevelt did - the point is moot. Again, Bush didn't change the law, Bush violated the law - your lawyer can 'advise' you that you can drive 65 mph in a 25 mph zone, but if you get caught that argument won't work in court. Finally, you've at least proven there HAS NEVER BEEN a ticking time bomb situation where torture would have helped in the least. If Bush would have bothered to pay attention to the memo titles 'OSAMA DETERMINED TO ATTACK THE USA' it might have done some good.
Game
Set
Match

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I want to know about Krauthammer and zippyspeed and steveuchic, and sovine08 - where is your courage? Why are you such a coward that you would rather commit torture than to die for your nation's principles? Because if you are what America is made of, we are doomed.
Posted by: patriot16
____
What are you nuts.. you think we are cowards because we don't want to protect Khalid Shekih Mohammed rights? Having principles does not mean committing suicide??? Why don't you understand while waterboarding KSM is bad it is nothing compared to saving innocient lives. And I'll tell you if it comes to saving my kids lives.. I'll waterboard OR worse KSM myself...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

jgm7975 wrote: "LOOKS LIKE THE SOROS BRIGADE STARTED EARLY THIS MORNING BERATING AN EXCELLENT, AS USUAL, CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER ARTICLE. THE LACK OF FAVORABLE COMMENTS CONFIRMS THE LIBERAL BIAS OF THE WASHINGTON POST READERSHIP."

But what really matters is the votes of the American people and so far they are voting against those who tortured in their names and electing those who value American principle. Bias smiass, the neocon policies have been rejected. May they remain buried forever.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

My 2 cents....

Mr. Krauthammer,

I disagree with every single word of your recent article on torture. Every crackpot dictator and war criminal in history could rely upon the defense that his decision to inflict torture was based on the belief that he might extract "high-value information" from his victims. Once you introduce that loophole into the discussion, all the boundaries break down, and we would never hold anyone accountable for war crimes. Further, we are obligated under the terms of the Geneva Conventions to follow through with investigation and prosecution of war crimes. Our Constitution has a specific provision that establishes that our signature on an international treaty makes the terms of that treaty the law of the land. If we are not going to honor our commitment to that document, then why should other nations take us seriously as a partner in the future?

We spent $60 million and the better part of two years harassing a President for his romantic adventures; surely we can muster up the wisdom and the courage to do the right thing in this instance. The majority of Americans believe that our Constitution, our signature on the Geneva Conventions, and the Rule of Law should be honored. Not because we are interested in retribution and settling political scores, but rather because the way we deal with these horrific war crimes will define who we are as a people. How will the history books treat the Obama Presidency if he shrinks from his obligation to uphold the law and the Constitution? How do we enforce the law going forward if we have chosen to ignore it for reasons of political onvenience? In which instances do you believe the law should be respected? Political pundits don't decide when it is appropriate to investigate and prosecute-- the Justice Department has that responsibility.

The fact that Nancy Pelosi (and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, and no doubt many others) may have failed in their obligation to speak truth to power does not mitigate the circumstances. Their heads should roll also.

Posted by: gizmo4 | May 1, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Forest for the trees. The underlying matter facing our leaders is how best to secure and preserve the safety and security of their constituents. That is not at issue; what is at issue is how to carry this out most effectively. This is where a major, fundamental disagreement exists. This disagreement has yielded reasoned opinions on both sides, regardless how vehemently opposed one side may be to the other.

On one side, torture ("aggressive interrogation") is morally compelling if through it a possibility is thought to exist that valuable life-saving (safety/security enhancing) information may be gained.

On the other side, torture (which equals "aggressive interrogation") is morally repulsive ("evil") whether or not it yields valuable information. We cannot gain by torture, and we can be happy we are not torturers, regardless of what our enemies may perpetrate against us.

And people tend to come down on one side or the other on the basis of their view of the presence and nature of evil in the world, and the nature of man relative to evil.

The practical predicament for our leaders is what do we do with a captured combatant who has clear, direct, and informed links to hostile forces that are still engaged in murderous or terrorist activities against us? How do they answer to an American population who is depending on them to do all they can to protect us?

Posted by: s-maz | May 1, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Why oh WHY are the likes of Krauthammer allowed to dictate the conversation with myths, lies and strawmen?

Whether torture "works" is IRRELEVANT!!

The LAW of our land is written (and ratified by the US Congress) in the Convention Against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Article 2, Sect 2 explicitly says "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever...war, threat of war, internal political instability or ANY OTHER PUBLIC EMERGENCY may be invoked as a justification of torture".

Period! It is the LAW. Jack Bauer and Dick Cheney be damned!! It is the LAW OF OUR LAND!!!

Posted by: nick_marble | May 1, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this excellent column which exposes the moral relativism and rank dishonesty of Mr. Krauthammer and others like him who live in the tv fantasy world of Jack Bauer. Having been a member of Amnesty International for years, I am more than familiar with various arguments for the use of torture. However, the fact remains that in addition to being morally repugnant and against the law, it does not work, no matter how much Charles Krauthammer and his rightwing pals would like us to believe.

Posted by: jconroy65 | May 1, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The ability to construct a hypothetical scenario in which torture might be justified in a consequentialist sense (the ticking time bomb) is no defense of the legalization or institutionalization of the practice.

For an analogy, you can imagine a very poor man who has to choose between either stealing to feed his family or letting his family starve. Now I might honestly say he is justified in stealing in this instance. But I would never say that theft should be made legal.

Or, if we can be a little more creative, imagine that a madman who claims to have a bomb in some major metropolitan area tells you that unless you rape a baby he will detonate the bomb and kill thousands of people. Should we make rape legal because we can conceive of a situation in which it might be justified?

The reason we have absolute prohibitions on acts like theft, murder, rape, and torture is because our legal system is not set up to evaluate cases on an individual basis, and these actions are not justified in the vast majority of cases. What's more, those who wish to do evil, whether they are con men or government officials, are terrible at drawing the line between corner cases and crime.

Posted by: evenadog | May 1, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting them from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander."

Gee, I met a few conscientious objectors in my youth. They were Army Medics, and Chaplain's assistants. The had a curious way of looking at being conscientious objectors; they felt that it was unfair of them to expect others to die for their moral values. The Medics wer every one of them that I met COMBAT MEDICS, and serving in combat infantry units. You see, while they were truly objectors, they were also men of conscience, and no more afraid of dying than any other GI.

They would have made lousy Bush Republicans, like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Buchannon, Quayle, ...

Of course, currently you can't join the military if you are a "Conscientious Objector"

I wonder why?

Posted by: ceflynline | May 1, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

During WWII in Britain, captured and suspected spies were interned at Camp 020, the interrogation center operated by MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service.

Spies were not “tortured” because MI5’s objective was to break and turn them. This explains Winston Churchill’s alleged assertion that "we don't torture".

According to Nigel West, the author of MI5, (Stein and Day, 1981, p. 148), “The interrogation methods used at 020 were subtler than the crude use of physical force. A variety of sophisticated techniques were employed but all concentrated on the mental balance of the suspect rather than short-term advantage. To have used obvious torture would have undermined the stability of those experiencing the turning process (emphasis added), and, indeed, affected the confidence of the individual case officers, who were generally not professional intelligence officers and would have resented the use of violence on persons for whom they later had to take a responsibility, quite apart from any humanitarian considerations.”

However, not all suspects could be broken or turned. Camp 020’s “Hanging Committee” decided if such suspects should be prosecuted under the Treachery Act of 1940. All but one of those who were prosecuted were hanged.

You've seen the future.


Posted by: rgraves2 | May 1, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Here Here. You impressively dispatched Mr. Krauthammer's movement conservative obscurantism with such clarity and directness that it was quite refreshing.

Posted by: ohjamboree | May 1, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

How many years interrogating terrorists do you have? Has terrorism ever touched you or your family? What will you say after the next 9/11.
It's easy to pontificate from your position.
I hope you wiped after giving birth to this turd.

Posted by: cesplin | May 1, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 wrote: "What are you nuts.. you think we are cowards because we don't want to protect Khalid Shekih Mohammed rights? Having principles does not mean committing suicide???"

Franklin said it best: "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither", or something like that.

sovine08 wrote: "Why don't you understand while waterboarding KSM is bad it is nothing compared to saving innocient lives."

Again you ignore the experts who say torture is not reliable. Why do you ignore those who know much more about this than anyone on this board?

sovine08 wrote: "And I'll tell you if it comes to saving my kids lives.. I'll waterboard OR worse KSM myself..."

And he'll lie to you to make the torture stop and you will chase those wild geese. Somehow you think that is better? Your emotions won't save your kids, thinking will. If it ever happens, God forbid, let the cops handle it. They know torture won't work. They also know its illegal. They'll save your kids and keep you from going to jail.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 1, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

sovine once again Mousaoui is a bad example for you. It is the ticking time bomb bush & co had sitting in their lap and did not recognize. It just once again points out the utter incompetence of the Bush administration. Had they read the PDB Bin Laden Determined to Attack… and taken action on it, perhaps they could have foiled 9/11. You yourself keep point out that they didn’t torture Mousaoui and 3000 people died. I’ll point out that they had no clue what they had because they were incompetent and did not regard terrorism as a big deal.

Of course if you had your way who would we torture to get information? Since Bush & co could not recognize a ticking time bomb sitting in their lap I would assume that eventually everyone would need to be tortured to see what they knew? You can go first.

But what if, play the game with me will you? What if Bush & co told their legal counsel here’s what we want…provide us with legal cover. Those memos read as if that is the case. They are horribly written and poorly reasoned. They are bad work. If my company contracted an outside legal firm for work and they provided us with something like any of those memo’s we would not pay them, plain and simple. The second what if is what if the administration authorized and pushed the interrogation and torture of these guys not to diffuse any plots, but to provide cover for going to war with Iraq…is it ok then? Somehow I think it is always ok with you.

BTW the Burge torture trial is underway in Chicago. Was that torture ok? He got convictions…most of which have been overturned because the confessions were made under torture…and other suspects have been indicted. It will be interesting to see how that case plays out.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

"If I ever am complicit in the murder of over 3,000 men then you may waterboard me. "

If you supported the war in Iraq, then I guess somone should be taking you up on this offer.
Further, if the suicide kid who explodes the suitcase nuke in the US joined the terrorists because of Abu Ghraib, then I guess you'll be in line for it again, wouldn't you.
Please help me see inside your head - what is the America that you think you love and we hate? What principles does she stand for? Because to us you and your friends on this board either look like cowards who would do evil rather than risk dying for their country, or sadists who believe in might makes right.Posted by: patriot16
--------------------------------------
Not only did I agree with the invasion of Iraq, I served in the infantry during it. Abu Gharib and the "torture" of these Al Qeada types are no more going to create more terrorists than the beheading of Daniel Pearl made me join the Army. All these incidents do is confirm in their minds the "evil" of western society but then again so do Brittany Spears and Lohan.

Posted by: m11618 | May 1, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 your entire argument is based on the idea that the government doesn't make mistakes. For torture to 'work' you must always have the right guy. For the sake of future arguments, can we assume you believe the government is right 100% of the time? What about 75% of the time? 50% of the time? Put more simply, if you don't trust the government to run health insurance, why would you trust them with torturing people?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Dan, for smacking down this bloodthirsty neo-con Krauthammer. Can you please do us long-suffering WaPo readers an additional service and help this guy find work somewhere else? Maybe the Washington Times or the Weekly Standard?

Posted by: TruthTeller41 | May 1, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 - again, nobody is defending the Internment of the Japanese and 100% of the Left thinks it was the worst thing Roosevelt did - the point is moot
_____
It's NOT moot. The people who came up with this were never prosecuted, and if what they did was worse.. and there is a good argument that locking 110,00 Americans for no reason is worse... how can you say Bush HAS to be prosecuted now?


Again, Bush didn't change the law, Bush violated the law - your lawyer can 'advise' you that you can drive 65 mph in a 25 mph zone, but if you get caught that argument won't work in court.
____
Yes it would IF the reason was you were speeding to SAVE SOMEONES LIFE. (See somtimes the law can be broken if the reason to do so is good enough). And that is what Bush was trying to do.. prevent another 9/11. Besides the problem was it wasn't clear how far someone can go to interogate before they break the law. To this day there is disagreement. So there is also a good argument Bush didn't think he was breaking any law.

If Bush would have bothered to pay attention to the memo titles 'OSAMA DETERMINED TO ATTACK THE USA' it might have done some good.
_____
How??? Nothing in there said anything about time, place or method. Only a vague idea that Osama WANTS to attack us. Now questioning Moussaoui might have gotten results.. but we didn't use harsh interogation back then.. So he would have had no pressure to do so.. besides I'm sure his lawyer would have told him to keep quiet.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The Kraut has no good argument, but he has a platform and free speech. The simpliest way to dicount his dogma to greater america is to hold up the mirror.

"Kraut believes torture is good."

Posted by: yarbrougharts | May 1, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin, you deserve a medal for maintaining your values and defending the values of the United States of America.

Posted by: carlfer | May 1, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 your entire argument is based on the idea that the government doesn't make mistakes. For torture to 'work' you must always have the right guy. For the sake of future arguments, can we assume you believe the government is right 100% of the time?
______
And IF Bush waterboard EVERY PERSON picked up you might have a case but they didn't. Waterboarding was used on just THREE HIGH LEVEL terrorists. Now unless you can show me any of those three guys are innocient.. your point is MOOT...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

"where as against Al Queda and its ilk it is perfectly Ok...for the simple reason that an agreement or accord can only be honored with both sides in agreement. So unless Mr.Froomkin and his friends make a personal visit to Bin Laden and his friends and get them to stop the beheadings and make them honor Geneva conventions their arguments are hollow. Posted by: reddy531"

No, torture is wrong, even when you are sure you are doing it to your real, immoral, utterly debased enemies. That is what makes, (well, would make) our side virtuous. Thou Shalt Not Steal doesn't exclude those who steal from us, and Thou Shalt Not Murder doesn't exclude those who murder us. Fundamentally, torture is morally wrong, even when used by Dominicans on heretics. And that is when they are absolutely known to be heretics, known to be thieves, known to be murderers, known to be depraved terrorists.

And of course, most of the victims we tortured weren't actually known to be any of those things, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and had made the wrong enemies.

Those who try to defend torture need to carefully examine their moral underpinnings, because those underpinnings are lose sand and flowing silt when they aren't muck and mire and the worst kind of offal. The Catholic who can support such things in public and claim to be pro life will have a very hard time before his final judge.

But that is just moral theology and stands no chance against Republican bravado.

In this world.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 1, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The idea that there is no 'ticking time bomb' is ridiculous and defies all reason because it implies that how long it takes to get information is not important. In fact how long things take is central to the issuue.

Also, having someone provide lots of information much of which is false, was not really a problem for us in this situation. Our intelligence at that time was really poor, and our resources broad, so tracking down 10 false leads for every usefull one doesn't really seem like a chore since we were in many ways groping in the dark.

I note again that not one of the 'expert' analysts Mr. Froomkin sites worked directly on KSM. All the ones who did, claim that water boarding worked.

Anyways, please Mr. Obama release a complete analysis of all of the KSM interrogations so the American people can decided for themselves whether or not waterboarding works and then decide whether or not we want our intelligence services to use it or not. It is after all our lives at stake.

Posted by: DCDave11 | May 1, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Okay, now I've read the comments, and what I want to know is, why aren't all of you fuming mad at your president who has ordered Predator drone attacks in a country with which we are not at war to annihilate with explosive missiles (summarily, without any process) suspected belligerents and any others assembled (innocent or not) without even bothering to drop them a Miranda leaflet first?

Obama is the real violator of human rights!

Posted by: Chazzle | May 1, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much Mr. Froomkin for being one of the last to actually have journalistic integrity. Your articles are an oasis amongst all the hateful muck that has begun to clutter the Washington Post.

Posted by: CypressTree | May 1, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin as usual takes the easy, intellectually dishonest approach of debating gray issues as if they were black and white. How comfortable is everyone with adopting Froomkin's approach--a ban on interrogations of all foreign fighters? If we are OK with that, let's by all means pass a law. If our troops are then massacred in battle or our cities bombed, and we could have found out ahead of time and prevented it, we will instead die happy, knowing that we did the right thing. I would be OK with that. But what we get instead is these idiots who after 8 years of safety want to criminalize borderline conduct that may well have saved lives, while at the same time saying behind the scenes to the CIA "oh by the way if you guys know of an attack, do whatever it takes!" Disgusting. It's by the way hilarious to hear Amnesty International members complain about "moral relativism," since most of them spend the other half of their day protesting against Zionism and "right-wing fundamentalists."

Posted by: HT12 | May 1, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

sovine08--we had warning of the impending 9/11 plot. Bush ignored it. Your claim of "if we'd only tortured him" is pure fantasy. The grounds for suspicion could've been gained by straightforward police work. From that point on, you're fantasizing like every 24 fan that only physical abuse gets real answers.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 1, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

sovine you have an answer for everything in order to defend the deity known as Bush. Here’s the thing I know it and most sane people know that the internment of the Japanese in WWII was wrong, it was un American and against our constitution as it definitely created a second class of citizens. Brining this up over and over only under cuts your argument as everyone readily agrees that the internment was dead wrong. So if we all agree that was dead wrong, then can’t you see how torture is dead wrong? Heat of the moment be damned because by the time they started torturing the heat of the moment was over and they had already moved on from Alqueda to Iraq.

Your speeding example is also very flawed. Lets say you did 65 in a school zone but you were rushing someone to the hospital for some noble cause, to save their life to have a baby etc… regardless of the cause you are still speeding. Now a cop if he stops you might not write a ticket, and if he did write a ticket a judge might throw it out, but regardless the law would have been broken. And the circumstances of the ticket being thrown out or not being written at all would depend on the judge or police officer actually investigating the truth and making their decision. So lets let the authorities investigate and see what happens. Don’t worry no one will go to prison, non one beyond the poor dupes caught on camera at abu grhaib. All that will happen is that the already tarnished and battered reputation of the Bush administration will be further diminished.

Also as of right now you pretty much have only the word of the Bush administration that only three people were water boarded. No word on how many were really water boarded and how many total were tortured.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

When Froomkin comes clean on Extraordinary Rendition under Clinton-Gore as the worst torture this government sanctioned, then I will believe that he is truly interested in torture rather than a political agenda.

In the meantime, Charles Krauthammer vs. Dan Froomkin? Nolo Contendre

Posted by: hz9604 | May 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Another irony of all of this is that the people so against "torture" who believe that it is "fundamentally wrong" are usually opposed to fundamentalism and are themselves relativists. Ironically, the concepts of human rights, equality, et cetera are all thoroughly Western in origin, and thus these people embrace the fundamentalist notion that the Western secular humanist worldview is fundamentally superior, while simultaneously condemning Western society for its flaws and professing to believe in relativism and that we cannot impose our will on others (though we are apparently perfectly justified in imposing those views on those within America, even if we are "citizens of the world"). Compounding this irony is the fact that our self-assumed relativism makes us weaker than our enemies (fundamentalist Muslims, for example), because their clarity and certainty allow a will to succeed that we cannot match with relativism, and thus we will ultimately lose to those whose convictions are stronger. How absurd life is that the creeds of relativism and tolerance, so attractive to the intellectual, sew the seeds of their own destruction at the hands of the intellectually weaker but more motivated fundamentalist opposition.

Torture is wrong, war is wrong, let us all live in peace... until Wahabist fundamentalists conquer the whole world and kill us.

Posted by: NYCReader3 | May 1, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

What I like about you, Dan.

Posted by: SarahBB | May 1, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

sovine writes:
"You see the question was when has there been a ticking time bomb.. WELL THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE TIMES!!! And if using old fashioned police work got him to talk fine.. But the question is want if it DIDN'T.. How far would you go to PREVENT 9/11. Is waterboarding ONE terrorist worth saving 3000 American lives????"

I see no reason to argue "what if" and extreme cases. my answer is, "No". I believe my principles (and those our nation is founded on) are worth dying for - or even letting others die for.

Posted by: iamweaver | May 1, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Thank God some self-important and idealistic jerk like you is not responsible for our safety. I hope your family is never attacked in the middle of the night and you have to make the moral decision to either kill the intruder or let your family die. I'm not too sure how well your loved ones would fare. Or would your hypocritical stand be revealed as the farce it is? We live in a bad world with bad guys who truly beleive they earn their place in Paradise by killing innocent Americans for no reason other than they're American and not like them. Coddle them with silly rules if you like, but it portends disaster for you. The Consititution was never designed to be a suicide pact.

Posted by: edhornyak | May 1, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that conservatives are talking about issues that are various shades of grey now? For so long everything they did was predicated on the notion that all things were black and white and easily to decipher. If now they are arguing that the Bush adminsitration took us into the grey area, the unknown if you will, then 1) isn't that a repudiation fo their black/white thinking and 2) why woudl Bush go into the grey if there was already black and white boundries outside the greay area?

Nope its not a matter of grey area's they simply wanted to do this and looked for legal advise telling them what they wanted to hear, and then once discovered they marketed their various ideas relentlessly in order to try and sell them. Sorry guys only 28% of the country buys what you are selling.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Coddle them with silly rules if you like, but it portends disaster for you. The Consititution was never designed to be a suicide pact. – edhornyak

No it is not a suicide pact, it is the law of the land, or as you seem to put it, the silly rules of the land. Try living in a country without these silly rules. I think you’ll like it,

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: m_mcmahon
sovine once again Mousaoui is a bad example for you. It is the ticking time bomb bush & co had sitting in their lap and did not recognize. It just once again points out the utter incompetence of the Bush administration.
_____
Who have got to be kidding me, who do you think picked Moussaoui up.. some guy from the Republican party??? The FBI picked him up and the FBI is NOT Republican or Democrat. And what you think the President is informed everytime someone is arrested in America??? Bush never even new this guy existed until AFTER 9/11. But why blame the FBI, that does you no good, better to blame a political party instead.

Posted by: m_mcmahon
Had they read the PDB Bin Laden Determined to Attack… and taken action on it, perhaps they could have foiled 9/11.
___________
HOW??? What details were in there that would have told us the when, where and how of 9/11???

Posted by: m_mcmahon
You yourself keep point out that they didn’t torture Mousaoui and 3000 people died. I’ll point out that they had no clue what they had because they were incompetent and did not regard terrorism as a big deal.
____
I point out getting Moussaoui to talk would have been the only way to get details of the plot. If they didn't know what they had it was because his capture had never got up to them.

Posted by: m_mcmahon
Of course if you had your way who would we torture to get information? Since Bush & co could not recognize a ticking time bomb sitting in their lap I would assume that eventually everyone would need to be tortured to see what they knew? You can go first.
____
Not everyone just TERRORIST LEADERS.. and I'm not one.

Posted by: m_mcmahon
But what if, play the game with me will you? What if Bush & co told their legal counsel here’s what we want…provide us with legal cover. Those memos read as if that is the case.
____
In your slanted viewpoint I guess it would... I prefer what IF Bush wanted to find out how far the CIA can go in interogation to get someone to talk WITHOUT breaking the law.

Posted by: m_mcmahon
The second what if is what if the administration authorized and pushed the interrogation and torture of these guys not to diffuse any plots, but to provide cover for going to war with Iraq…is it ok then?
_______
Nope... But do you have ANY PROOF of this????

Posted by: m_mcmahon
BTW the Burge torture trial is underway in Chicago. Was that torture ok?
____
Don't know anything about this case. Was it to prevent another 9/11 and save thousands of American lives? Was it done on the mastermind of 9/11??? If not I would say that torture was not ok.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 in 2001 the FBI was run by a Republican President and funded by a Republican congress. It was Republican AG who took money AWAY from going after terrorism because he believe that INTERNET PORN was a bigger threat. Republicans - totally incapable of running anything!

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

One of the worst elements of the arguments that the US program wasn't really torture is that each single element of a program designed to break people's will entirely, to destroy their resistance and make them pliant.

Remember that dozens of prisoners at Gitmo were having to be force-fed to keep them alive. They were starving themselves to death to get out of the unending hell they were in. What do you think it is that broke them down so badly that they lost their will to live. Abu Ghraib was typical, even mild, compared to the way hundreds and likely thousands of prisoners were treated at Gitmo and Bagram and elsewhere. It wasn't three people, it wasn't this technique OR that technique, it was an entire, systematic regime to break human beings, inspired and modeled on the techniques of the communist regimes America once strove to be better than.

And Krauthammer and the Republicans and the barbarians all over the net righteously defend it. Thank God for Dan and the other people who hold their twisted excuses for logic up the light of day.

Posted by: bullsmith | May 1, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Max for saving at least 100,000 lives and a city to boot.

Now, we are going to prosecute you because to get the information that saved so many lives, you tortured that poor guy who divulged where the nuclear device was.

Again Max, thank you and have a nice 30 years in jail.

Posted by: ahartnack | May 1, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

i agree with froomkin, but just a quibble if i may: i believe that the scott shane article reporting 183 waterboardings was incorrect, that the language of the documents used as sources for the waterboardings were confusing and there were more like six (6) actual waterboarding sessions total. so, ok—six war crimes. but the inaccurate number of 183 reduces the credibility of froomkin's well researched and well reasoned rebuttal.

Posted by: silverfish1 | May 1, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Froomkin. A bravuro response to 'rational' lunacy.

Posted by: SouthFloridaLawyers | May 1, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 Roosevelt was wrong to lock up the Japanese Americans. However the decision was upheld by the SCOTUS. The US Government has since admitted we were wrong and paid restitution, so NOBODY is saying it was right (even if it was legal). By the way, would you trust the government to run a health insurance system? Would you trust the government to fund good artwork? If you wouldn't why would you trust the government in picking out whom to torture?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Of course the author does not acknowledge the quotes that Charles Krauthhammer put in from George Tenet. That would not conveniently fit his fantasized world where the morally superior way is always the most effective way. Mr. Tenet explicitly said waterboarding worked. I would trust the opinion of someone who was actually a CIA director more than the sources sighted by a .org outfit.

Posted by: brentlundberg | May 1, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I can't take anyone with a beard and mustache seriously.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | May 1, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Not everyone just TERRORIST LEADERS.. and I'm not one. – sovine08

How do I know that?

You think these guys walk around with signs on their chest and carrying membership cards declaring that they are terrorist leaders? Was massoui a terrorist leader? Or just a foot soldier? Do we torture the rank and file? How do we know they are leaders or foot soldiers, do they have insignia? I still say you could be a suspect and just might need to be subjected to water boarding.


Nope... But do you have ANY PROOF of this???? – sovine08- other than the words of the government officials who have said as much? NO I DON”T HAVE PROOF. However if investigated, it sounds like proof exists at the very least from the testimony of Bush era government officials.

Burgge had nothing to do with 9/11 he was a Chicago cop who had a torture chamber set up in his precinct. He got confessions and convictions out of some very bad people for some very heinous crimes…unfortunately sometimes (read frequently) he got the wrong guy, and sent them to prison. But wrong results here don’t matter do they? All that matters is that he solved the crime.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 1, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 wrote: "Read closer I brought up the case of Moussaoui who was captured in Aug 2001 and he knew about the 9/11 plot. That's the definition of a ticking time bomb situation."

Just listen to yourself sovine. Yes he had information, but the only policy under which he could have been tortured would be torturing all people arrested for immigration violations just in case they may be involved in some unknown plot against the US.
Posted by: bevjims1
_____
Look I was JUST responding to a post that said we have NEVER had a ticking time bomb situation. You saying yes he had information are just COMFIRMING what I was saying. Now of course knowing what we did then it didn't justify using harsh interogation... but MY POINT IS a situation could come up like that again. and if there is an attack coming and we have one of the people involved, like we had Mousaoui, and he won't talk.. how far would you go before you say we can't do anything more and just let the attack happen?

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

brentlundberg,
Lemme get this straight: Mr. "Slam dunk" is now trustworthy?

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

And just where do we find the outer limits for those who so easily attack Krauthammer for his "ends justify the means" amoralism? Try this thought experiment: On the basis of incontravertible intelligence we learn that Al Qaida has smuggled a nuclear device accross the border into the U.S. We then capture one of the small group in charge and he knows where the device is and when its detonation (in a major American city) is planned. If that detonation occurs, millions will die immediately or within a year or two; the country's institutions would be paralyzed for months (some for years) to come and this would cause much additional death and, likely, the breakdown of our political system. Still, no waterboarding or sleep deprivation? Surely, "realpolitik" applies under these circumstances. Absolute standards, then, do appear to apply only within, but not beyond, quantitative limits.

Posted by: elimelech1 | May 1, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I am married to, and associate mostly with liberal people. I am a moderate who is socially very liberal, but not so fiscally and definitely not of like mind with most of todays' Democrats on national security. I very much enjoy intelligent and spirited debate with those who don't share my point of view.

But I am saddened, truly, to have to share the same air as most of you people - and certainly I am unabashedly ashamed to share this country with you. You all toe the party line on every issue; regurgitate the crap that you read on kos, huffpost, salon and watch on MSNBC. None of you seem capable of departing from the party line on the slightest issue at all.

In 2002, "Faith-based" was wrong. But now your boy BHO is in favor of EXPANDING it - where's the liberal outcry now?

For 6 years, you screamed (whined, more like it) about how wrong we were to be in Iraq AND Afghanistan. Now your boy BHO is sending missiles into Pakistan, talking about staying in Iraq longer than promised and INCREASING the presence in Afghanistan. Where's the outcry?

If I once saw even a significant number of you homers opposing ANYTHING that ANY Democrat does (you re-elected Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, William Jefferson and the dozens of other crooks who wouldn't step down even when their crimes were known), I might have some respect that your hearts were really in your opposition. Problem is that your heads are so far up your asses that you reflexively oppose ANYTHING the GOP says or does, and just turn the other cheek when the Dems do anything dirty.

By your own stated positions on moral equivalence and the moral high ground, until you start standing up to the morons in Congress who have D's next to their names and to our President, you have no moral standing to criticize anything that happened during the last 8 years.

To any of you who subscribe to crap like " torturing has actually, really, in real life, not hypothetically, made us less safe", you might ask the families of the hundreds of thousands of Israeli, Iraqi, Lebanese citizens and US soldiers who have been indiscriminately blown up or beheaded or otherwise killed whether they believe their tormentors would really act civilized if we hadn't poured some water on THREE people in captivity.

Get some semblance of a clue, please - before you're dead and it's too late to think clearly.

Posted by: awolfson | May 1, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Blindly objective: How come most posters fail to recognize the the central point of the piece by Krauthammer is the hypocrisy of Nancy Pelosi and her fellow democrats?

Even the writer of this piece acknowledges,"Precisely what members of Congress were told and how they responded should absolutely be a part of any thorough official investigation into the abuses of the Bush years. The enablers must be exposed as surely as the complicit. And members of Congress who knew what was happening and remained silent must be held to public account for their moral cowardice."

At least he and Krauthaaer are bi-partisan about one aspect.

Posted by: Cocoanut1 | May 1, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Remember that dozens of prisoners at Gitmo were having to be force-fed to keep them alive. They were starving themselves to death to get out of the unending hell they were in. Posted by: bullsmith
_____
What do you think these are the first people to go on a hunger strike because they don't like being locked up or to protest something??? Tell it to the I.R.A. These people strap bombs on and blow themselves up. They fly planes into buildings.. Doesn't sound to me killing themselves is that big a deal for them...

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Ciap, sarno, reddy531, csforst, zippyspeed, camcgee97, sovine08, DCDave11, HT12, edhornyak

For some reason people unskilled in interrogation believe that torture produces accurate information. It does not.

The facts repeatedly demonstrate that torture doesn't produce accurate information and should not be used for interrogation. Torture does produce, as others have noted above, false confessions, boasts, deception and saying anything to stop the pain.

650+ Americans were imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, many tortured to the point of death, others were paralyzed, many had no counter-interrogation training.....yet they didn't give up key secrets. These Americans broke under torture, but they continued to deceive their torturers.

Those of who lived through that era remember the photos of smiling prisoners in a staged Christmas photo all giving the finger to the photographer.

If torture "works" why would these Americans give false information?

For this simple reason, if you have a prisoner of high value or low value, why would you use a method that doesn't work?

Posted by: boscobobb | May 1, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

elimelech1,
So you think someone who is prepared to murder millions of people would not lie? How would you know it was a lie until time was wasted in checking that city, that building, that floor, that room... Under torture you could get someone to admit they killed JFK. You could get a thousand lies before anything even approaching the truth is uttered. If you do not supply them with leading questions, you would have to ask about every major city in the US, without this person "confessing" to the bomb being in NYC. No, Chicago. No, LA...In the meantime, Americans die. Someone who is tortured will not cooperate with you in the future. And you will be endangering lives. How did we get this "incontravertible intelligence"? How do we know "he knows where the device is and when its detonation...is planned"? Why would we have time for sleep deprivation yet none for tactics that actually work? Your mental gymnastics in order to excuse war crimes is quite pathetic.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Not everyone just TERRORIST LEADERS.. and I'm not one. – sovine08

How do I know that?

You think these guys walk around with signs on their chest and carrying membership cards declaring that they are terrorist leaders? Was massoui a terrorist leader? Or just a foot soldier? Do we torture the rank and file? How do we know they are leaders or foot soldiers, do they have insignia? I still say you could be a suspect and just might need to be subjected to water boarding.
_____
Being I'm FOR waterboarding terrorists and you are against it.. I would say that makes it more likely YOU are the terrorist. As far as how we know who is a leader and who we should interogate.. I'll leave that to the experts. Never said to start off with harsh interogation.. just say in the FEW cases we have someone high up, (and we find that out by gathering a lot of information by a lot of ways), and nothing else is working, the CIA should have some leeway to get the answers we need.. Obama has decided how far they can go now. i'm okay with that. But I don't blame the CIA or the govenment for a different standard before.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

The real crime is that Krauthammer's demented neo-con fantasies rate publication in the paper, but your reality-based takedown is relegated to the website only.
I guess we can take heart that this is the future, not the dead-tree version, much as I like reading it.
Waterboarding = TORTURE
Torture = WAR CRIME
Bush and Cheney = WAR CRIMINALS
It's just that simple.
Keep up the good work, Dan!

Posted by: arsubscriberfor30years | May 1, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

If this was Bill CLinton, or Barak Obama who had broken the laws of civilization I have a suspicion that krauthammer and the rest of the rat wing scum would be writing about "moral certainties" and "slippery slopes." Instead they are falling over themselves to try to justify disgusting and disgraceful crimes because it was "their team" who committed them.

Posted by: John1263 | May 1, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree with the suggestion that this column needs to appear in counterpoint to Krauthammer's. It is lost online. Let both sides of this argument be presented, then people can make up their minds about whether it is ok to friviously torture. Waterboarding 183 times in a month??!!

Posted by: truthman3 | May 1, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I hope and trust that Mr. Krauthammer has support and care in what appears to be his less than lucid years.

Our, (mine and Mr. Krauthammer's) differ.

Thank's for your incisive and concise view of the subject.

Posted by: marcel2 | May 1, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Froomkin.

Sourpus had it coming.

Posted by: binkynh | May 1, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

First, waterboarding 183 is the number of times water was poured and not the number of sessions. Second, this article and these comments paint a world that does not exist. It all depends on what your definition of torture is - for me pouring water on the 9/11 creator does not constitute torture.

Posted by: dhancocknc | May 1, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I just love the "protecting the American people" argument. I would like to ask all the people in favor of the Bush interrogation policy the following:

Would you be in favor of the police/military arbitrarily being able to stop anyone in the US at any time, arrest them without charge hold them indefinitely and interrogate them without attorneys present?

Should police/military be allowed to arbitrarily enter any private residence at any time to search for terrorist info or ticking time bombs?

Would you be willing to give these rights up in order to protect the American people? If not, explain the difference as there's no doubt that we would be much safer. The above actions wouldn't cause anyone physical harm like "enhanced interrogation" and it would be extraordinarily effective in uncovering plots, revealing terrorist cells, turning off ticking bombs etc.


Come on people, what's giving up a few rights when you can be safe? I mean if your not in favor of this, you're coddling the terrorists.

Posted by: beloveddog | May 1, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Our enemies the Islamic terrorists take people torture them and then chop there heads of sometimes on film. We drip water on there head with no chance that it will hurt them and it is "torture". Bin Laden was right we have become weak and wimpy. he said we would give up. Anyone who thinks if we play nice with them they will back off is insane. When the next attack Occurs and there will be one. i am sure the lapdog MSM and Obama will find some way to blame the evil "Bush"

Posted by: harley2002 | May 1, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

dhancocknc,
The world of "24" does not exist, no matter how much you wish it did. Waterboarding involves more than just "pouring water" on someone. Waterboarding is torture and a war crime. Japanese torturers were executed for it. It is torture. Your opinion is irrelevant.

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

marcedward1, First, I reject the notion that it was torture. I do not support an independent prosecutor because one is not necessary. The people we entrust to make these decisions, to draw these lines did so. The DOJ is entrusted with interpreting the law for the executive, the Congress performed its proper oversight and all approved. Waterboarding is, at best ambiguous under US law, if it were clearly torture, there would have been no need to make it so which is what a minority in the Senate wanted to do when the kennedy Amendment was presented.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

You're lying about the efficacy of waterboarding. EVERY CIA director involved, including Obama's, has acknowledged that very useful information was gained. And the ticking time bomb scenario was what we faced from the captured perpetrators of 9/11. Saving the LA Bank Tower was worth scaring three Al Qaeda leaders. If you want to see what actual torture looks like, watch the tape of the UAE prince torturing some guy who he believed cheated him in a business deal.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who claims waterboarding is not torture should be waterboarded, then asked what they think. How can they know
if it's torture unless they have experienced the technique first hand?

Posted by: shaman7214 | May 1, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Why do all the pro-torturists begin with the assumption that they are certain they have the right guy or guys? As the number of tortured prisoners grow, why are they so certain that each and every prisoner tortured was guilty? If they are comfortable with torturing innocent people by mistake, in the pursuit of the really bad people with the information, how many innocent people is OK? 5? 10? 100? Would it be OK to torture 5,000 people, mostly innocent, if they can stop a bomber who would kill a thousand innocents? How do these equations work, and where is the tipping point in their minds -- how much is too much?

I can believe it would be effective to stop a single terrorist known to be in a building by killing everyone in the building. Would that be OK? If you think torture is OK, why wouldn't indiscriminate and comprehensive killing to eliminate a threat be just as acceptable?

I'd love to hear Mr. Krauthammer's response to this.

Posted by: DigiMark | May 1, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who claims waterboarding is not torture should be waterboarded, then asked what they think. How can they know
if it's torture unless they have experienced the technique first hand?

Posted by: shaman7214 | May 1, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Chukie has become quite adept at the "Pampers/Crack" defense.
"I was only selling rock 'cause my baby needed pampers and formula!"
Well, I'm sure next week he'll suggest we open the prisons and let those pour unfortunates out so they can take care of their children. They do seem willing to sacrifice for the good of another, don't they?
Well Done Dan, we need more rational voices like yours.

Posted by: dijetlo | May 1, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

"Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do."

Except, of course, engaging the opposition, the Congress, and the American people in your resetting of the rules, you know, the sort of thing a Great Uniter would do...

Posted by: rmnelson | May 1, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

harley2002,
Yes, "the Islamic terrorists" do decapitate people. Does that make you more or less likely to cooperate with them? More or less likely to join forces against them? More or less likely to ignore their stated "reasons" for killing people? More or less likely to fight to the death to avoid capture? More or less likely to join some group opposing them? More or less likely to excuse the killing of their families? More or less likely able to convince people to fight against them? More or less likely to excuse the destruction of a village where they hide among innocent people? Now what if they treated US prisoners of war humanely? Followed international law in their treatment of prisoners? Would your arguments against them hold as much power in trying to convince others to help you if international law was followed and prisoners were treated humanely? Would it help or hurt your efforts to try and paint the enemy as inhuman monsters who should be fought against by any means necessary?

Posted by: 1000PointsofFright | May 1, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

The ticking time bomb scenario is a canard, and falls apart the minute someone asks these apologists if a they would allow the gang rape of their daughter or a small child if that were the only way to gain the information they think they need so desperately. If you aren't willing to torture your daughter to stop the burned and disfigured victims, then you are the most heinous hypocrite on the face of the planet, Mr. Krauthammer.

Secondly, it is the hero of these idiots, Ronald Reagan himself. Article 2 of the Reagan-endorsed UN Convention on Torture: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

None. Not a ticking time bomb, not a high-value detainee, none. Eat that, Mr. Krauthammer.

Posted by: hillary12 | May 1, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious- Almost all of the fraternities my friends were a part of had hazing and initiations that were comparable in almost every way to the methods of torture described in the memos. There was intense sleep deprivation, "stress" positions, naked poses and naked incidents involving vomit and feces, forced consumptions of large quantities of alcohol, slamming into real walls, etc etc.

Many girls I've known have told me stories of their "mean" older brothers chasing them around with a dead bug in order to terrify them, or locking them in a closet for a short period of time with a harmless spider. Hell, I have a legitimate (though irrational) fear of many bugs, and my older sister used to "torture" me by running around chasing me with a bug in her hand. And for me, it really did feel like torture.

Should these cases be considered torture? If so, fine. But I hardly think that we should be comparing what some of the al-qaeda prisoners have gone through to every other case of torture ever. Why does it need to be painted with such a broad brush?

I have a feeling that a lot of people are full of sh-t about this issue. A lot of people who scream that we should rip their finger nails out would never be able to do it if actually faced with the chance, and a lot of people who cry that any type of torture whatsoever (including putting a caterpillar in a box with a prisoner) would do so in an instant if they thought they could retrieve information from someone to save their family. I really do find it ridiculous to say that "torture" no matter what is wrong and immoral and disgusting and now we're no better than nazis. Why can't there be some nuance on the issue? Why can't context be used more? Aren't certain things relative?

And I agree with the comment above when he says "this article and these comments paint a world that doesn't exists." All these people who say torture is always evil and never acceptable are doing is painting a picture of their own personal world where they get to appear moral and heroic and better than everyone else, when all they're really doing is acting morally superior behind a computer. That's easy. Actually trying to deal with this insanely complex and nuanced issue is much, much harder.

Posted by: dorondiamond | May 1, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

So you think someone who is prepared to murder millions of people would not lie? Posted by: 1000PointsofFright
____
Of course they would lie. In fact I suspect the CIA expects them to lie. That's why ALL information provided by these people (no matter how it is gotten)has to be checked out and verified. Now IF waterboarding is as unpleasant as you say eventually they will tell us what we want to know. It might even take 187 times if the guy is tough. What you don't answer is if we can't use harsh interogation what would you do to get say KSM to talk?? You think you can reason with him? OR maybe convert him to our way of thinking??? More power to you if you can but what if that doesn't work what's your next step???

Posted by: sovine08 | May 1, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Dan: well thought out opinion piece re: Krauthammer as sociopath (my word here). When paired up with Glenn Greenwald's posts of the last few days. In deed the pro-torture commenters here would be fellow sociopaths as well. Which is ok I guess. If we are stlll going to torture we need sociopaths to do the torturing since they seem to have no qualms about the morality, legality of it. Any mind kind of get off on it. Kind of sad and pathetic actually. The Iranian American woman, Roxana Saber, reporting for public radio and now accused of espionage by Iranian Mullahs. I guess then it's ok if the Iranians waterboard her. She may know important information that may stop an Israeli attack. The only way to get her to confess is to waterboard her 6 times a day for a month until she confesses here crimes. Thats what a sociopath would do. Whether they're mullahs or neocon pundits or dimbulbs commenting to this site.

Posted by: mickster1 | May 1, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

1000PointsofFrigh - Thanks for the insult.

Posted by: dhancocknc | May 1, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Very well put and truthful. Once again we must, all, thank Dan Froomkin for all he does in standing up for Truth, Justice, and the real American way. Thank you Mr. Dan Froomkin!

Posted by: ghostcommander1 | May 1, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

"What are you nuts.. you think we are cowards because we don't want to protect Khalid Shekih Mohammed rights? "

Not everyone just TERRORIST LEADERS.. and I'm not one. – sovine08

But what if I say you are? And have the power to imprison you without legal recourse on my say so? If you surrender your right to habeas corpus, how can you so sure any government secret police will always be your friend?

It's NOT about KSM rights, its about MY rights. MY rights not to live in a country where people can be picked up by the police and jailed interminably without charges, and be abused or tortured on suspicion alone.

I lived through the Nixon administration and now the BA. I have read history. I have seen our leaders subvert democracy to protect power. I have read the Patriot Act and the Enabling Act. I do know that Clinton also engaged in extraordinary rendition (though on a scale miniscule compared to the BA, that doesn't make it righter). We must always be on guard for our rights against those like you who would find justification to take them away for our "protection".

What I truly don't understand is how you can be so sure that the government agents will always be on your side. Because if they can do it to KSM, they can do it to YOU. And the history books are full of examples of how it starts out to protect the people, until they find themselves living in a virtual or actual police state.

It was not safe for the men who wrote the Delcaration of Independence. It was not safe for the men who wrote the Constitution. Why on earth should it be any safer for me to stand up for them?

It takes courage to say that I would rather live in a free country with a Rule of Law, habeas corpus, and respect for human rights, even the human rights of people suspected of but not yet convicted of crimes, even if it slightly increased my chances to die at the hands of a terrorist.

As for your other arguements, KSM was picked up in in 2003. This was no case of a ticking time bomb shortly after 9-11, it was two years later. They were trying to get info to justify an unjust war. Given the body of existing information on the incorrect information given up by torture (some of it gathered from experiences of our own soldiers from WWII or Nam or from consensual Army training maneuvers), it is quite likely that they were aiming not to protect us from a ticking time bomb, but rather for the false intelligence they needed to justify their war.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Check your facts. The 183 times of waterboarding apparently were 183 times that water was used during 5 waterboarding events on KSM. Not quite as heinus as your article suggests.
jrwmd1

Posted by: jrwmd1 | May 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Without you and a precious few other people at the Post, Mr. Froomkin, the Bush years would have been much harder to endure. Thank you.

Posted by: pythonS | May 1, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

sovine08 under torture people will say anything, especially an innocent person. So when the innocent victim of torture CANT give torturers anything, what is the option but to KEEP TORTURING? By your method, they'd keep torturing the innocent, figuring 'he's tough to crack!', while wasting assets and resources chasing down bad leads. sovine08, you don't know tactics or strategy, much like our last President.

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Harry Truman incinerated 200,000 innocent men, women, and children.

FDR imprisoned thousands of innocent American Citizens.

GWB waterboarded a mass-murderer and gained valuable intelligence that saved American lives.

My oh my, how times have changed!

Posted by: smragan | May 1, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

It must be nice to live in the heads of liberals, along with Peter Pan and the Easter Bunny. In their minds, terrorists are always innocent goatherds and no form of interrogation beyond asking nicely ever works, so there is no moral conundrum to be faced.

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been caught and interrogated before 9/11 (assuming he told anything), Mr. Froomkin would be telling us with the same 100% certainty that plots to hijack planes with boxcutters and fly them into buildings were nothing but the twisted fantasies of Charles Krauthammer and his ilk.

Because "ticking bombs" only exist on TV. Never mind 4 heads of the CIA saying otherwise, Froomkin knows better.

I really wonder whom Froomkin is going to blame when we get hit again...I say "when" advisedly, as Obama is declaring open season on the US by acting as if there were no more terrorsts and no more threats.

One place Froomkin should look for blame is in a mirror, but since liberals always consider themselves morally pure by definition we know he won't do that.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

"ALL information provided by these people (no matter how it is gotten)has to be checked out and verified.."

Right! 1) So while you're verifying, and before you can get your torturer warmed up for a second round with the subject, the ticking bomb goes off (remember the ticking bomb?) 2) Anybody who anticipates torture will make sure they don't know where the bomb is by the time they're questioned. And 3) once the other side knows somebody has been captured, of course they change the plan enough to make the subject's information valueless, and finally 4) nobody has more than a very few people they can name ("cells"). That's elementary, Watson.

The ticking bomb scenario is a total crock. If torture worked, the SS would have mopped the floor with the French Resistance.

Now back to yore Tee Vees, I think "24" is starting soon.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen - you write 'First, I reject the notion that it was torture' Waterboarding is torture as stated by the Geneva conventions which are US law. Our constitution forbids our government from carrying out cruel and unusual punishment. Is the basis of this discussion that we can toss out inconvenient facts, or is it only just you?
' I do not support an independent prosecutor because one is not necessary.'
Because you know Bush is guilty. Chicken.
'The people we entrust to make these decisions, to draw these lines did so.' Wrong again - DOJ does not get to make law or interpret law. If there was ANY question about the legality of torture, it's not up to the Executive to determine what the Exectuive can do - that's a dictatorship.
'The DOJ is entrusted with interpreting the law for the executive, the Congress performed its proper oversight and all approved.' First I reject that (you said we could). Secondly the job of DOJ ISN"T interpreting laws for the President! Do you even know what the DOJ does? Secondly there was not congressional oversight, some members of congress were informed. Big difference.
'Waterboarding is, at best ambiguous under US law'
It wasn't when we punished US soldiers from doing it and it wasn't when we imprisoned Japenese for doing it. You don't know what you're talking about, probably because you 'reject' facts that don't fit into your worldview - freep much?

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The ticking bomb scenario is a total crock. If torture worked, the SS would have mopped the floor with the French Resistance.

They did. Read some more history, you are obviously not very familiar with WWII. Most resistance plots were broken by Gestapo. Coercive interrogation is effective when you have the right guy and you already know enough to double check what he tells you. This goes for all forms of coercive interrogation, running the gamut from psyching the guy out to sleep deprivation to waterboarding to real torture.

The resistance groups who succeeded had to operate in cells where no one person could tell enough to destroy the network. The very fact they had to do that proves that the Gestapo's methods worked.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer's piece was about Pelosi's hypocricy. This author ackonwledges this truth.

Posted by: Cocoanut1 | May 1, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

"The very fact they had to do that proves that the Gestapo's methods worked."

No, that proves the methods used to work before the French started using cells, which is exactly what I referred to. The Resistance was growing in size right up to D day. Sure the SS stopped many plots, but not all. Sabotage was widespread. But these days of WMDs, all it takes is one successful plot, right? QED torture is not effective.

But the ticking bomb scenario is really a crock, because the story never stops after a single plot is prevented from coming to fruition. And that's why torture is illegal and, beyond that, impermissible.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

NadineSC, how many innocents do you torture hoping you get the right guy? How many resources do you waste chasing down bad leads? Oh, please post a link to your 'proof' that German torture was effective for getting good information! I'm betting you have nothing.

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 1, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

If waterboarding is torture, then we have tortured thousands of our own pilots and special forces during administrations of both parties -- as this has been a normal part of their training. You liberal wusses should be whining about this, not about the three AQ planners of 9/11 and follow-up attacks.

How many of us expected on 9/11 that almost eight years later AQ would not have succeeded in striking us again? Responsible, patriotic adults kept us all safe, including you feckless morons, and they deserve our gratitude.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The hilarious irony of this whole debate is right wingers who are usually unable to deal with nuance, see all kinds of shades of gray, and left wingers (among whom I count myself) see this as a black and white, law and order issue.

Posted by: Gutavo | May 1, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

i respect froomkin's absolutism and krauthammer's exceptions as well. here's why krauthammer's right.

froomkin says, "Actually, no. The ticking time bomb scenario only exists in two places: On TV and in the dark fantasies of power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians. In real life, things are never that certain."

oh? well last week the taliban was 60 miles from islamabad and while i don't know where the pakistanis keep their nukes, the fall of islamabad, obviously at least a 3 out of 10 chance, might give political, and therefore physical, control of those nukes to the taliban and therefore al queda, and if either of them gets its hands on the a-bomb, the assumption must be that they'd use it.

given these circumstances, the bomb can be considered to be ticking even now. perhaps the countdown is "only" at 40 minutes out of 60 given my foregoing odds, but at somewhere around 29 minutes 59 seconds, would froomkin still refrain from pulling out a fingernail or two if it could even possibly keep the city and government from falling and the nukes dispersing? how about at 15 minutes? 10?

not all doomsday scenarios are the work of power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians. some of these scenarios are fairly close at hand. rather, as the pakistani example shows, they are on one's tv screen today.

and consider this: the left thought both goldwater and reagan were so dangerous that THEY might use nukes if elected. if the left thought that quite ordinary american politicians were threats to initiate a first strike on the world, doesn't it follow that some of the world's power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians might possibly have to be stopped in quite possible scenarios and not just fantasies?

this is not a pro-torture post. but let's let al gore be the judge here:

An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir "Against All Enemies" is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke's proposal for "extraordinary rendition," where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating. While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. "Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides," Mr. Clarke writes. "Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"

keevan d. morgan, chicago

Posted by: keevandmorgan | May 1, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

fans of torture,

Read the writing of Ali Soufan, Matthew Alexander, two US interrogators who have risked their careers to refute torture.

Or read Robert Coram's biography of Col. Bud Day, US Medal of Honor Awardee who was held and tortured by the North Vietnamese longer than John McCain. Col. Day had been commander of a secret Air Force squadron code named Misty. He also been involved in developing US nuclear operational doctrine.

Bud Day broke under torture...but never revealed US nuclear information, and no captured American ever revealed the Mistys or their commander.

If torture is so effective why doesn't it work?

Posted by: boscobobb | May 1, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin,

Beautifully written, and it's good to see someone in the MSM calling a spade a spade. Here I thought Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald were the only guys with any moral fiber out there. Good on you.

Posted by: cmerr | May 1, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

emmet1, you ignore the crucial distinction of volition. The people who go through the SERE program volunteer to undergo the process. If you don't understand the difference, you can't be convinced.
whughes1, Did you find this article on the OPINION page?

Posted by: Gutavo | May 1, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

"rather, as the pakistani example shows, they are on one's tv screen today."

Islamabad is threatened, but the opportunity to save it by pulling fingernails is still pure fiction. Pakistan has lost control over the northwest of the country, period full stop.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

boscobob, no one is a fan of torture, except some of the regimes the Clinton administration rendered captured terrorists to. Enhanced interrogation, like surveillance and infiltration of terrorist cells, is an essential part of gathering the intelligence required to prevent attacks on America. No, it doesn't always work and it's not always necessary. It should be used sparingly but unflinchingly when necessary.

That's why Clinton engaged in rendition and Churchill, contrary to Obama's misinformed statement, tortured some German prisoners.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

emmet1,

You have no comprehension of what you're writing.

SERE (Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training is designed to prepare those who go behind enemy lines for how they will be mistreated and yes, tortured, should they be captured.

SERE is modeled on how Americans were mistreated by North Korean North Vietnam and other totalitarian regimes. Those regimes sought to break the will of captives primarily so they would make false public confessions which would have propaganda value.

SERE is a multi-day training exercise, not an indeterminate prison sentence.

SERE was never designed, nor intended to represent an interrogation method. The goal of the North Koreans and NVA propaganda, not information.

Posted by: boscobobb | May 1, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

9/11 was a lucky attack by 19 people and the danger of further attacks was immediately and easily fixed by stronger airport security. In other words, there were no further dangers.

Instead, Bush and the neocons used the tragedy of 9/11 as propaganda to fulfil their long-held goal of attacking Iraq. And torture was used to force Al Qaeda members to say there was a link to Iraq to justify that attack, even though there was no link to Iraq.

People who say that torture was to protect the US in a ticking bomb scenario need to objectively look at the facts.

Posted by: martingifford | May 1, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Gustavo and boscobobb, The same method of waterboarding was used on American pilots and special forces as on KSM. I'm sure it's more psychologically grueling for a prisoner than for a serviceman, but the method is the same. We wouldn't use thumbscrews or electrodes on our servicemen or chop off their fingers until they talked. We don't do those things to captured terrorists either, nor should we.

Conflating carefully supervised waterboarding to torture is dishonest, though I agree it's borderline and should be used ONLY on the highest value terrorists like KSM.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Also, torture advocates focus on short-term issues like a ticking time bomb and ignore long-term issues like maintaining America's moral authority to influence the world.

To torture advocates, there is always an immediate emergency and long-term goals are forgotten in their ongoing panic.

Posted by: martingifford | May 1, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Remarkable. Against my better judgement, I was swayed a bit by Krauthammer's argument. This riposte is devastating. I'm curious as to if Messr. Krauthammer would care to respond.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 1, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse


If you believe that the nation is in danger and torture can save it then you can make your own decision. After that you should be held responsible for any laws that you violated.

Posted by: akula | May 1, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I see Froomkin is taking the Olbermann route. If you have nothing to say, talk about other people in the profession. Olbermann will be out of a job the minute O'Reilly retires. Mind your step, Mr. Froomkin.

Posted by: enaughton27 | May 1, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Of all the singularly asinine comments here, I think this one's my favorite:

"The ticking time bomb argument is always the last refuge of those who want to hurt people."

By God, SanDiegoBS, you've done it, you've cracked the issue wide open. Bush and company, sadistic scoundrels that they are, were simply intent on "hurting people," and only invented the threat of terrorism as a kind of subterfuge. Oh that's brilliant.

Then there's this from hillary12, who's clearly quite taken with her ability to analogize:

"The ticking time bomb scenario is a canard, and falls apart the minute someone asks these apologists if a [sic] they would allow the gang rape of their daughter or a small child if that were the only way to gain the information they think they need so desperately."

The sheer stupidity of this speaks for itself.

Beginning with Froomkin, this entire line of argument is nothing more than an exercise in chest-beating self-righteousness. Yes, you're all morally superior. All arm-chair moralists invariably are.

Posted by: danner1 | May 1, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

He had me at "impermissible evil." How can one add qualification to an absolute like that?
==================

Froomkin is just getting into the sort of legal and moral absolutism that always made his fellow Jews such easy prey for those who took their predatory insticts into government or war istead of the Jews preferred predatory grounds of business, machinations and manipulation of laws, and money-lending.
That is, until the New Jew of Israel came into existence (now threatened by the rise of lawyers as Israel's new ruling class.) The Jew who was pragmatic, who knew that war and self-defense entailed doing truly terrible things....but those things were not "impermissible evils"...what was more evil was people who obsessed about "rule of our laws" so much they behaved like timid, craven sheep who had so little regard for their lives and their family's lives that they let themselves be rounded up and slaughtered without fighting back. Going to their doom proud that they "loved the laws 1st."

Now, fortunately, Americans are not the pre-Israeli sort of Jews. Otherwise we would have never had the ability to forge a nation or stand up and fight and defeat the Nazis. And if Jews had taken over America prior to the Civil War, slavery would still be argued in courts today as Jewish lawyer factions battled for the "right" interpretation of the laws.

Fortunately, for now, both America and Israel will still operate in war on the principle that self-preservation, of necessity, may trump any scrap of paper containing law on it. Nuking a city or several is millions of times worse than doing coercive interrogations on a few enemy. Yet we would do so if ever nuked. Have no doubt about it.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | May 1, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

Thanks for all your work. I'm not quite as entralled with our president, as you appear to be. Of course, he seems to be a tremendous improvement. But not correcting the use of torture by the CIA makes him just like every other president. He's no solution to the money problems in our society, he's just placating the problems we already have. My husband says, "If they can't pay, they should lose their house", and why not the banks or AIG who doesn't pay compensation for the private military contractors, who were paid to drive trucks or other other necessary jobs to fight a war. Now I am not quite as vindictive as my husband, but I've always paid our bills, even when Chase charged us a late fee when we didn't actually receive their bill in March. By the way both of us are on Social Security,(which isn't enough to survive.) Now,our solution is to not ever charge anything again. Of course, the convenience of paying at one time and ordering online makes this an inconvenience. But I'm willing to go through that to not be charged an inappropriate late fee. As for our new president, I think that he IS, as much as all the other players, just that and I really don't think that he has the solution. Really, he's one of them. After all, how does one think he got elected?

Posted by: sailorflat | May 1, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

martingifford, do you think "maintaining America's moral authority" is furthered by calling those who have kept us safe "torturers"? Will Obama's moral preening and eagerness to abase America's past impress those who cheer the jihadis and support their brutal methods? Or will our weakness and lack of resolve embolden them to press their advantage.

Personally, I think Ahmadinejad will decide to be our friend once he realizes we mean well. That's how the world works, isn't it? In your fantasies.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Thank you. Thank you. The "ticking bomb" scenario is an ancient canard. In real life this scenario is virtually non-existent, but it's constantly invoked as a justificaiton by those who wish to open the door to torture.

And we know that once the door to torture is open, there are always plenty of twisted individuals eager to walk through....

So in Krauthammer's world, the ban on torture is conditional, situation. Torture is OK, but only when you are really, really threatened by something....

And is he prepared to grant that same "conditional right to torture" all every other country in world?

Or just to specially virtuous ones, like us and our friends?

Posted by: TRobert | May 1, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

"self-preservation, of necessity, may trump any scrap of paper containing law on it"

But of course you don't ever really know whether self-preservation is involved, at the point where you decide to use torture. So I guess we should just go by whether anybody in the room feels scared, eh?

Great idea.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

akula said it exactly right:

"If you believe that the nation is in danger and torture can save it then you can make your own decision. After that you should be held responsible for any laws that you violated."

Posted by: DigiMark | May 1, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

"akula said it exactly right"

What he said was: "you can make your own decision." But you're not making your own decision. You're deciding for the rest of us. Sorry, that won't wash, even with after the fact penalties. Government needs to be held to a higher standard.

The idea that the government has signed up to do whatever it takes to keep us all safe and sound is a very bad notion.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

The right-wing nut jobs are very invested in restricting the torture debate to waterboarding 3 people. Then they can do the absurd ticking time bomb thing, the "weak on security" thing, and the absurd thing about it must be OK if SERE does it, which is the same level of thought as when my kid wants to get out of punishment for lying by saying "well you told Aunt Mary you liked the dinner she made when you really didn't".

We rounded up THOUSANDS of innocent people. We tossed them in prison with no charges, no trial, and no legal recourse for the crime of walking on the town square where we heard a terrorist might be. THOUSANDS We subjected them to treatment that are considered by our own treaties to be torture, even if it wasn't waterboarding. We released THOUSANDS of prisoners after the Abu Ghraid scandal broke. THOUSANDS. If they were innocent why were we imprisoning and mistreating them? If they were guilty, why did we just let them go? This is way so much bigger than waterboarding 3 guys.

But, I can hear the rebuttals now, they're not Americans. I will hear another rightie allude (they rarely have the balls to say it outright) to the fact that innocent American lives have more value than innocent Iraqi lives. And fortunately for us we still have a Supreme Court to stand up for AMerican citizens. Remember that Oregon guy mistakenly arrested for the Madrid bombings (where the FBI mistakenly matched the fingerprints from a database even after Interpol and several independent experts told them they did NOT match). His case was public, and he had a lawyer and the resources to force the FBI to admit their mistake. I had to put my fingerprints into a database to get a job once. It could have been ME. If emmett1 and nadinesc and the others had their way the innocent Oregon man could be THEM, plucked up for the crime of suspicion of terrorism, erroneously, and jailed without charges or trial or legal recourse. But you're an American citizen, it can't happen to you? Prove you're a citizen. Oh, you don't have a lawyer to fetch your birth certificate? Well, then, tell it to the judge. Oh, you won't be seeing a judge? Well, who cares, you must be a terorist or we wouldn't have arrested you. Enjoy the drink of water.

This isn't about KSM rights, or comfort. Or even the THOUSANDS of innocent Iraqi's at Abu Ghraib. Its about MY RIGHTS, and what will happen to them when the police state runs amok.

Yes, I am safer refusing to torture in a ticking time bomb scenario than I am letting the nutjobs have free reign with rights that I might need someday, the next time the FBI decides to mismatch my prints in that database with some terrorist, or arrests me for walking on the town square becasue they heard there was a terrorist there.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

The right-wing nut jobs are very invested in restricting the torture debate to waterboarding 3 people. Then they can do the absurd ticking time bomb thing, the "weak on security" thing, and the absurd thing about it must be OK if SERE does it, which is the same level of thought as when my kid wants to get out of punishment for lying by saying "well you told Aunt Mary you liked the dinner she made when you really didn't".

We rounded up THOUSANDS of innocent people. We tossed them in prison with no charges, no trial, and no legal recourse for the crime of walking on the town square where we heard a terrorist might be. THOUSANDS We subjected them to treatment that are considered by our own treaties to be torture, even if it wasn't waterboarding. We released THOUSANDS of prisoners after the Abu Ghraid scandal broke. THOUSANDS. If they were innocent why were we imprisoning and mistreating them? If they were guilty, why did we just let them go? This is way so much bigger than waterboarding 3 guys.

But, I can hear the rebuttals now, they're not Americans. I will hear another rightie allude (they rarely have the balls to say it outright) to the fact that innocent American lives have more value than innocent Iraqi lives. And fortunately for us we still have a Supreme Court to stand up for AMerican citizens. Remember that Oregon guy mistakenly arrested for the Madrid bombings (where the FBI mistakenly matched the fingerprints from a database even after Interpol and several independent experts told them they did NOT match). His case was public, and he had a lawyer and the resources to force the FBI to admit their mistake. I had to put my fingerprints into a database to get a job once. It could have been ME. If emmett1 and nadinesc and the others had their way the innocent Oregon man could be THEM, plucked up for the crime of suspicion of terrorism, erroneously, and jailed without charges or trial or legal recourse. But you're an American citizen, it can't happen to you? Prove you're a citizen. Oh, you don't have a lawyer to fetch your birth certificate? Well, then, tell it to the judge. Oh, you won't be seeing a judge? Well, who cares, you must be a terorist or we wouldn't have arrested you. Enjoy the drink of water.

This isn't about KSM rights, or comfort. Or even the THOUSANDS of innocent Iraqi's at Abu Ghraib. Its about MY RIGHTS, and what will happen to them when the police state runs amok.

Yes, I am safer refusing to torture in a ticking time bomb scenario than I am letting the nutjobs have free reign with rights that I might need someday, the next time the FBI decides to mismatch my prints in that database with some terrorist, or arrests me for walking on the town square becasue they heard there was a terrorist there.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

If, as you is stated, torture is only good for eliciting false information, how is it that they were unable to coerce even 1 of these prisoners to admit to working with Saddam or any Iraqi official? Sorta debunks your whole basis doesn't it?

Posted by: jpsd | May 1, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"do you think "maintaining America's moral authority" is furthered by calling those who have kept us safe 'torturers'?"

Do you maintain that what happened was *not* torture? Or are you just another one of those deluded fools who believes reality is however we describe it?

Yes. Telling the truth is an important prerequisite for having any moral authority, especially where nations with a checkered past are concerned. We're all torturers now. I hope you felt safe.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

In September 2001, I remember everyone saying another attack was inevitable. Amazingly, our security forces Civilian, military and yes political came through and protected us. They are given no credit on the left; only opprobrium. If Obama had done the same he would be Knighted by the Queen and the left would demand he be on Mt. Rushmore.

The New York Times has repeatedly revealed secret programs protecting America during the war on terror. The left applauds this endangerment of America. If a Republican leaning news outlet had done the same during WWII, FDR would have interned them and the left would have agreed with it whole heartedly.

Posted by: kentwebb6464 | May 1, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

"Personally, I think Ahmadinejad will decide to be our friend once he realizes we mean well. " (said sarcatically)

An Irani colleage pointed out to me the similarities in personality between W and Ahmadinejad - incurious, immature children. We tossed ours child leader and his friends out in favor of a grown-up (who I don't always agree with, but who at least is a grown-up). But remember the effect of Chavez calling Bush a devil? Bush's approval rating shot up (temporarily), and the nation rallied behind him against Chavez. We would have been perfectly happy to bite off our noses to spite or face rather than let Chavez have the upper hand.

Iran will soon have the opportunity to toss their child-leader out. If they perveive it as being in their best interest, they will do so. If they perceive it as another chance to poke us in the eye with a stick, they will not.

Someone here earlier said it best - terorists and torturers are cut from the same cloth. If they think they can control the child enough to keep him from getting them bombed, why should they do somthing that might help a nation they perceive as a bunch of hypocritical torturers? We reap what we sow.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Charles Krauthammer is a moral cripple.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | May 1, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

"Amazingly, our security forces Civilian, military and yes political came through and protected us."

That's pretty amazing, alright. In fact that's quite a heap you have there. Government issue heap, I might add. Has it ever occurred to you that another way for you to be amazingly safe is for somebody to have exaggerated the threat? Possibly to enlist your political support? Do you remember the amazing correlation between the terrorist warning alert level and various electoral contests? Pretty amazing indeed.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Some of the comments approving torture here regard it as retribution. Others cite the ticking time bomb scenario.

Putting morality aside, what evidence is there that torture, as a means of getting reliable information rather than coercing confessions, was useful to any organization? See, for example, Jacque Delarue's _The Gestapo: a History of Horror_; Klaus Barbie made much use of an icy bathtub, but did not get a huge amount of information from French Resistance prisoners. The CIA's KUBARK manual speaks of the fear of torture being more effective than torture itself in Latin America; Pribbenow's "The Man in the Snow White Cell" (Studies in Intelligence, CIA), indicates the South Vietnamese did not get much. Even at the show trials in the 1930s Great Terror of Stalin, some resisted and argued after obvious torture. While the French officer, Roger Trinquier, planned torture in Algeria, see Daniel Moran (Naval Postgraduate School)'s "Two Sides of the Same COIN: Torture and Terror in the Algerian War, 1954-62" regarding its secondary effect. Also see the definitive analysis of North Korean "brainwashing", Biderman's, "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War".

But, I suppose, Jack Bauer trumps these and other sources.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 1, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

You liberals need to remember that President Clinton started the rendition program in August, 1995. The CIA officer who put the program together and ran it for 40 months, wrote this week: "All of the whining to date has been nothing more than a Democratic effort too politically hang Mr. Bush--which is not a bad idea for his starting of the Iraq war-- and to make sure that the far worse things that happened to those rendered under the directions of that merry pair of felons, Clinton and Berger, are hidden from public view." So lets have a Truth Commission, starting from the very beginnig..the Clinton Adminstration!!!!

Posted by: Sherri04 | May 1, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of both the Sept 11 attacks and of the 'second wave' attacks. But the 'second wave' attacks never happened. Why not? Because we broke him and rounded up the East Asian terror cell that had been tasked with carrying them out. If he had kept his secrets, thousands of innocent people would be now be dead.

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wasn't a ticking bomb, what was he? All of you who claim that the 'ticking bomb' scenario doesn't exist, you're staring one in the face. Stop denying reality to make yourselves feel better!

One would think that after 9/11 people would take the threat seriously. One would be wrong.

The day after the next attack, the same lot of you who are now displaying your delicate sensibilities will be demanding to know why the CIA failed to 'connect the dots' and keep you safe. That, I can guarantee.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

patriot16, you cast a pretty wide net with your "rightwing nutjob" aspersion -- four CIA directors, the Clinton administration (rendition to Egypt and other actual torturers), Bush, Cheney, Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller, Justice Department lawyers, and CIA officers. What would you have done when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed refused to disclose AQ's planned attacks and said only, "You will find out soon enough"? Provide him with an ACLU attorney?

People with actual responsibility trying conscientiously to keep us all safe are not "nutjobs". That would be those who write posts like yours or who blithely pretend that we could have gotten the same crucial information by asking politely.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"The New York Times has repeatedly revealed secret programs protecting America during the war on terror."

When you were after Bill Clinton, the mantra was "Rule of Law". Even the Secret Service had to be questioned about what they knew. The blue dress must be tested. No stone could go unturned in the pursuit of Rule of Law.

But when W broke the law, it was wrong to reveal it. Oh, because it hurt "national security ". So, the Rule of Law isn't really absolute, its a matter of convenience? When its safe, we hold our leaders accountable to Rule of Law. But certainly, Rule of Law isn't worth dying for?

The day that Americans think Rule of Law is a matter of convenience rather than a principle worth dying for, our country begins to die.

I do not wish to live in a police state, where my government can spy on me and habeas corpus is a matter of convenience and torture is justified. The Founding Fathers never promised it would be safe to be an American. They never promised doing the right thing would make us safe. If I die because we didn't torture a ticking time bomb location out of someone, I will be a martyr for the Rule of Law. I will not consider my life wasted or my death in vain. The day the majority of AMericans disagree with me is the day we are finished as a power. The Soviet Union lasted about 75 years, which is a record for a torturing, abusive state power. Most are ever so much shorter.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

"One would think that after 9/11 people would take the threat seriously. One would be wrong."

Au contraire. After 9/11 the Bush administration realized that terrorism was the large problem it had been portrayed as, and they belatedly began applying ordinary caution to the situation. Then they trumped up the plans and capabilities of the opposition in order to cover their political arses and get whatever they wanted out of the rest of us.

They decided to torture KSM until he stumbled on inventing the one piece of information they desperately wanted to hear: a link to Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately he went insane instead and got repetitive.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Dan- take a step back and realize that you have no personal experience from which to declare that certain scenarios do or don't exist. The ticking time-bomb scenario exists. If anything, the problem is that it exists too often and must be narrowly defined. Pretending it doesn't exist is a lazy, false way out. I don't always agree with Krauthammer, but he confronts both sides of this problem and articulates a solution. You just pretend there is no problem and stomp about aimlessly on self-appointed moral high ground. And there is nothing quite so nauseating as someone who knows nothing about war suddenly volunteering to be everyone's conscience during wartime. You have a lot to learn from a writer like Krauthammer.

Posted by: mindkiller1 | May 1, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

patriot16 and fzdybel, there hasn't been any "torture", as defined by American criminal law. There will be no prosecutions because they would certainly fail, probably in the pre-trial stage. Obama is grandstanding to appease the real "nutjobs" who form his base. Sadly, he's our first anti-American president.

Sooner or later, we'll be attacked by our very real enemies. Obama will no doubt go to the UN for a resolution condemning the slaughter and then try to blame it on his predecessor. You'll buy it, but most Americans will come to their senses. Like they did after 9/11.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

"The day that Americans think Rule of Law is a matter of convenience rather than a principle worth dying for, our country begins to die."

Guess we began dying in 1861 when Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and it really accelerated it in 1942 when FDR ordered internment camps.

All done to US citizens. Enhanced interrogations on foreign terrorists doesn't hold a candle. You have no argument

Posted by: jpsd | May 1, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Froomkin, for yet another great post. A footnote: Mr. Krauthammer has provided a great rationale for excusing the Holocaust. If Hitler and his colleagues truly believed that Jews were a terrible danger to the German state, they would be justified in whatever they did to the Jews, whether or not the danger proved later to be imaginary. Somehow I imagine Mr. Krauthammer would not be willing to accept this, but it follows necessarily from his argument.

Posted by: judith2 | May 1, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh NadineSC, the second wave attacks ring was broken up in 2002. KSM was arrested in 2003. Just because Dick Cheney said torturing KSM broke up that ring doesn't mean the US owns a secret time machine that made it happen that way .

That Clinton started rendition is a straw man. Like the 9-11 commission findings, there will be plenty of blame to go around from a Truth Commission.

You delude yourselves that we "lefties" are naive children. Many people have been acquitted of crimes when the circumstances were revealed and judged by their peers to be redeemable. Anybody remember Rodney King? But the point is, there were laws against what they did, they were legally arrested after a warrant, they had legal recourse, and received a trial by jury of their peers. Yet, you would have us abolish those laws just because there might, one day, be a circumstance in which it would be permissable to break it.

Even more incomprehensible, you would reserve that right to habeas corpus only to your friends. You seem to have no problem deciding who is innocent and who is guilty without evidence or trial. You seem to have no trouble exacting retribution just because YOU think they're guilty. Those are the words of tyrants.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

If the insane neo-con Republicans in the Bush/Cheney administration were so certain that what they ordered done wasn't torture, then they would have gone to Congress and asked that our elected representatives de-ratify the Geneva Conventions and the international Convention Against Torture, as well as getting congressional approval (via a law) saying that what the insane neo-con Republicans had ordered done to detainees was necessary and legal.

But no, the insane neo-con Republicans got Bush to issue secret executive orders, while Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld lawyers wrote secret memos in which they used specious arguments to justify the use of torture against detainees, blowing off established U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution, as well the centuries-old anti-torture stance of America, while blocking all attempts to have their torture policies reviewed by our courts.


This fact alone (all the secretiveness) proves that the insane neo-con torture-embracing Republicans in the Bush/Cheney administration knew, absolutely knew that what they had ordered done to detainees was reprehensible, repulsive and illegal, to the max.

And Krauthameer's defense of this highly illegal Bush/Cheney administration torture policy that led to brutal un-American practices proves that he's just as insane as any of the rest of the neo-con Republicans.

Posted by: wizard2000 | May 1, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

"Why not? Because we broke him and rounded up the East Asian terror cell that had been tasked with carrying them out."

Broke him decidedly. Rounded up yes. The latter because of the former? Evidently not. It seems that apart from S&M games somebody was doing some actual investigation.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

fzdybel, so you know more about the matter than George Tenet, General Hayden and Porter Goss, all heads of the CIA? They say point blank that KSM refused to talk before he was waterboarded but broke and talked freely afterwards, giving information that prevented further attacks.

Care to explain your better sources of information?

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

I think those that planned and conducted the 9/11 attacks should be tortured just to make them suffer. And with real torture, not this baloney waterboarding nonsense.

Posted by: columbus1947 | May 1, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

There are some things in life that cannot be defined ex ante and consequently there is no set of rules that can be applied to all conditions and circumstances before the facts are known. The use of torture is one of them.

Is there any one out there who would not apply extreme torture to the known kidnapper of his child to save that child's life? Anyone at all?

And if you would do anything to save your own child, would you not do it for the child of your brother or sister or your best friend? And if for them, why not others?

You people are all too squeamish and concerned with moral posturing. Real life does not fit your simplicities. When faced with the raw decision of trading one life for another, a question that comes up every day in the real world, you will weight which life is more important to you, and I assure you your moral grandstanding when grappling with this question will be abandoned in a second.

Posted by: cdjwalker | May 1, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

"fzdybel, so you know more about the matter than George Tenet, General Hayden and Porter Goss, all heads of the CIA?"

No, but unlike them I'm free to tell the truth in bald terms. Check out how their claims are couched. And what you were told about the essential time-line with the KSM information is absolutely correct.

Appeals to authority won't help in the face of the record, especially when authority has been impeached.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

NadineSC, did you actually watch the whole interview with Chris Wallace? Wallace actually pressed him on this point and he admitted that the actionable info we got from KSM was before torture.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

"I assure you your moral grandstanding when grappling with this question will be abandoned in a second."

The point is that the question was never grappled with. It was invented to impress you.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

hey wizard, Congress was briefed on the findings which Bush signed on coercive interrogation. All very proper and legal.

If Bush and Cheney are implicated, so is Congress. So is the Clinton administration, which started the rendition program, which sent suspects not to CIA interrogations but to the indisputable torture dished out by various Arab and Central Asian dictators.

Bill Moyers had a lawyer named Danner (sp?) on tonight. Very liberal, as you would expect, but I liked his intellectual honesty. He is for holding an independent commission because Congress is implicated, as well as the Bush and Clinton administrations. He's right about that, which is why such a commission will never happen. The Democrats don't want to expose anything like the whole story, only the bits that will hurt the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is telling the least persuasive set of lies since the time she tried to convince us that the Roman Catholic Church really was okay with abortion (if you understood them like she does).

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

i agree kraut's argument was weak. he should have just outright condoned it and moved on. A terrorist plot was foiled due to information obtained with the help of these enhanced interrogation methods. This has been corroborated by various qualified sources, including tenet, a clinton nominee. You libs can speculate all you want in your fantasy land but rational americans see the point as easily made.

MY main point is this: wtf is ballz doing writing this piece? any of you lefties that think the post is conservative, may i offer this as irrefutable evidence in the contrary. ballz is SUPPOSED to be the white house beat reporter, an objective journalist. he is NOT an op-Ed columnist. Debate the torture issue all you want, but this article exposes the WaPo charade.

Posted by: batigol85 | May 1, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

"fzdybel, so you know more about the matter than George Tenet, General Hayden and Porter Goss, all heads of the CIA? "

No, actually they speak "Bush-ese" where they appear to say something without really saying it. One by one as these guys leave government employ we are learning the truth when they speak freely.

"Guess we began dying in 1861 when Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and it really accelerated it in 1942 when FDR ordered internment camps. "

Read your history beyond what they tell you on Fox. Lincoln made a temporary order when Congress was out, and he had Congress pass legislation to correct the concern quickly. He did not try to permanently subvert the Constitution secretly. While the Japanese internment is a blot on our record, it was approved by the Supreme Court, and we apologized and made amends for it.

Posted by: patriot16 | May 1, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

wizard, do your homework! The "insane" bush administration DID go to Congress. The CIA fully briefed the leaders of both parties and the leaders of the intelligence committees about enhanced interrogation. There are many witnesses and a paper trail.

The legalities of enhanced interrogation methods were studied in depth by the top legal scholars in the Justice Department. These are highly prestigious jobs staffed by the sort of attorneys who clerk for Supreme Court justices. If anyone has any evidence that they weren't describing the law as they interpreted it in good faith, I've yet to see it. You might as well prosecute a judge who issues an opinion you don't like.

There will be no prosecutions. This is a cynical exercise that will lead nowhere but damage the CIA and our intelligence capabilities for a generation.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

"He's right about that, which is why such a commission will never happen. The Democrats don't want to expose anything like the whole story, only the bits that will hurt the Bush administration."

Indictments and trials would serve the same function: the defense would be quick to pull in any evidence of complicity on the part of other authority. Hold a commission and we just have to sit through the trial later anyway.

What the heck is so fancy about high crimes and misdemeanors by the President and his appointees that a Grand Jury can't take care of matters? What better way to assure absolutely non-partisan handling?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

patriot16, if you are referring to Chris Wallace's interview of Gen. Hayden, which mentioned the interrogation of Abu Zubaydeh, Hayden specifically REFUTES the NYT report that Zubaydeh gave up the actionable intelligence before he was waterboarded:

"After that decision was made and the techniques were used, he gave up more valuable information, including the information that led to the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh. After the New York Times story yesterday, I called a few friends to make sure my memory was correct, and I guess, to quote somebody from your profession, we stand by our story."

(Ramzi Binalshibh was the one who gave us the identity of KSM, who until then had only been ID'd as "the mukhtar". So it was very valuable information.)

The transcript is here
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517158,00.html

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure you can discuss this with our Islamic enemy....just before they blow you and your family up, because you didn't want to be called a torturer....

I remember 9/12...America was stunned and scared....

Your high horse will only bring disaster...

Posted by: dadling | May 1, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

"These are highly prestigious jobs staffed by the sort of attorneys who clerk for Supreme Court justices."

This is what you call ad hominem argumentation (arguing as to the source). Do you think that Nazi Germany lacked such complicit legal beagles? They too were tried at Nuremberg, found guilty, and sentenced.

The question you pose is properly to be decided by a jury.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

If the ticking bomb, solved by torture, is so common, surely there should be numerous examples -- not necessarily U.S. alone -- of how effective it is. Care to cite some historical specifics? None of this lib'rul morality stuff: examples of how it was effective, say, in Nazi hands.

Now, if you do take some Nazi examples, do compare the Gestapo with the effectiveness of Hanns Scharff in Luftwaffe interrogation. Compare and contrast methods.

Have you read Roger Trinquier's quite thoughtful _Modern Warfare_? The French used his methods in Algeria against the FLN. Were they strategically effective?

Surely you've studied all aspects of the Vietnam War. What was the efficacy of the Cuc Dich Van with its methods? Opinions on the methods of Sedgwick Tourison or Stuart Herrington?

I mean, really, if you are going to tell us how all these scenarios exist...

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 1, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

"Read your history beyond what they tell you on Fox. Lincoln made a temporary order when Congress was out, and he had Congress pass legislation to correct the concern quickly"

Learn what suspend means, and :Lincoln suspended it 3 times...

http://www.csulb.edu/~crsmith/lincoln.html

http://www.slate.com/id/2059132/

Posted by: jpsd | May 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

"There will be no prosecutions. This is a cynical exercise that will lead nowhere but damage the CIA and our intelligence capabilities for a generation."

Quite true. It's deeply ironic to see how bitter the CIA people against this betrayal by the new Obama administration. Why, just think of all their efforts to undermine George W Bush and get a Democrat elected! The leaks to the Times! The faux outrage over Valerie Plame! The political hatchet jobs published during a presidential election! And THIS is their thanks!

The ironies are rich. Be careful what you wish for, CIA. Because you just got it.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

That was an outstanding response, Dan. I hope the catharsis of setting it down was almost as enjoyable as reading it was for me. Thanks for that.

Posted by: jsmith2988 | May 1, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

"It's deeply ironic to see how bitter the CIA people against this betrayal by the new Obama administration."

If you think they're bitter about that, you should ask them what they think of Cheney.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

HCBerkowitz, there are numerous examples of ticking bombs. For instance, take this example where the Israelis had a suicide bombing planner in their hands:

"A few days after the Aug. 21 attack [Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem on 8/21/97], Israeli and American newspapers reported that the man who masterminded it, Abdel Nasser Issa, had been in Israeli custody two days before the bombing.

Israeli authorities had arrested Mr. Issa on suspicion of terrorist activity and questioned him the same way they would question anyone else: posing questions and waiting for answers. Mr. Issa revealed nothing unusual to his interviewers. It was only after the bus bombing that Karmi Gilon, then chief of Israel's secret service, the Shin Bet, authorized the use of ''moderate physical force.''

The next morning, Mr. Issa, who had not been told of the bombing of Bus 26 the day before, told the Israelis about his plan for that attack. He also provided information that led to the arrests of 37 Hamas militants who had been planning additional bombings."
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/19/opinion/israel-s-fine-line.html

Posted by: NadineSC | May 1, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I am so very proud of you Dan F.
So you wont get invited to CK's next barbeque this summer. I hear he burns his wursts and the condiments are sour. "Impermissible" indeed but btw we have some caveats!! He slipped down that slippery slope in his column after a few lines. And you pointed it out. Thank you for exposing someone who'd rather carry water for a discredited admin. than uphold a simple but important principle that no one is above the law.

Posted by: mendonsa | May 1, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Froomkin. Finally someone has both the moral decency and the logical clarity to give the right answer to those rigged "What would you do if you knew...?" questions. The questions are rigged to make torture seem reasonable under a particular set of hypothetical circumstances; but could those hypothetical circumstances ever actually arise? "You know that Mr. X has the information you need to avert a catastrophe." How do you know that? (Do you know it the way George Bush knew that Saddam Hassam had weapons of mass destruction?) And how do you know that torture is your best way of getting him to divulge it?

If somebody was waterboarded 183 times in a month, that says to me that the people who were doing it were not really after information. If they had been after information, by the time they had done it, oh, let's say 50 or 75 times, even the dumbest interrogator would have noticed that it wasn't working and decided to try something else. They did it 183 times because they were just like the torturers of any other time or place: they enjoyed hurting somebody.

Posted by: Alexis3 | May 1, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

American laws, based on our constitution, exist to balance excess and prevent tyranny. When Americans wage war it is inevitably against tyrants (e.g. Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Osama) whose goal is tyranny. If this is not so, please contadict.

So to force an equivalence between American methods of war and those of our enemies (e.g. bombing, killing, interrogation) is to ignore the big picture and deceitfully focus on one detail, like torture, enlarging the detail as if it were the whole. This is a classic piece of crooked and dishonest argument.

The real argument is "Should America defend itself and its way of life?" and if the answer in your mind is "No", then the discussion is over, and details of acceptable and unacceptable torture are a waste of ink.

If the answer is yes, then as civilized and honorable people we can discuss if their should or should not be a definition of acceptable methods of warfare, without spewing out ad hominem attacks on those we disagree with.

The real problem here is that many people who post wilfully denigrate the other side as "evil' without once trying to see their point of view. They stereotype whole classes of people (whether "neocons" or "moonbats") as "evil" and "contemptible". If it is a hate-crime to vilify a gay person for being gay or a black person for being black, why is it quite acceptable, nay, applauded, to vilify a political opponent for their views?

All vilifying is evil and to practice it makes you no better than the "other side".

Posted by: scribulator | May 1, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

You should have read the memo a little more closely. KSM had water poured on him 183 times. All this might have happened during one waterboarding session in under half an hour. Anyway, who gives a FF about KSM and his comforts? He's still alive and enjoying his daily meals and prayers.

Posted by: prospector | May 1, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

The most immoral people in the world are those who can never see gray.

Posted by: aloysius1 | May 1, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

NadineSC, I agree about the CIA. They tried for eight years to undermine Bush and now Obama is calling them torturers. We'll soon be back to the insular, bureaucratic, cover-your-butt culture described by the 9/11 Commission.

Berkowitz (Son of Sam, is that you?), your erudition is impressive. The meme that torture (or, as in this case, enhanced interrogation that stops short of torture) doesn't work at eliciting valuable information is silly and dishonest. You can make a morally serious argument against using these techniques but not against their efficacy. Electrodes attached to your genitals can make you disclose where your daughter is hiding from the Gestapo. It's been done.

If we had found out about 9/11 beforehand and thwarted it, you would be saying that it is ridiculous to believe that a few morons with box cutters could have caused any real harm. Likewise, you don't take the L.A. Bank Tower plot seriously. Alternative history is impossible to prove, but I'm glad we had serious men and women who kept us safe.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 1, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

"The real argument is 'Should America defend itself and its way of life?'"

That's right, if you can't win the argument, redefine it. Especially if you can redefine it to a ridiculous straw horse.

If torture is so important to the survival of western civilization, don't you think some spiffy new torture laws would be a good idea? After all we signed away much of the Bill of Righs under the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the new improved Spy on Everybody Act. Why should presidents just get to invent torture on their own whenever they feel like? Or aren't we a democracy anymore?

Anyway, the last time Congress was heard from it said "Don't do that."

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Waterboarding sounds far more humane than stress positions/sleep depravation and several orders of magnitude more humane than electrocution, eye-drilling, hand shredding, and molten lead swallowing. To make a moral equivalence between the end members of this spectrum is dishonest and immoral in and of itself. Why are some obsessed with non-violent, non-harmful methods and silent on the vicious alternatives? Some strange brew of partisan vengeance, methinks.

Posted by: prospector | May 1, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

aloysius1 said: "The most immoral people in the world are those who can never see gray."

Never? There are no such people!

But nonetheless, you have just imposed yourself as judge and jury over some nameless class of people "who cannot see gray".

You sound authoritarian. Are you?

Posted by: scribulator | May 1, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

"Waterboarding sounds far more humane"

Suffocation fan, eh?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 1, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

"Precisely what members of Congress were told and how they responded should absolutely be a part of any thorough official investigation into the abuses of the Bush years. The enablers must be exposed as surely as the complicit. And members of Congress who knew what was happening and remained silent must be held to public account for their moral cowardice.

But their failure to speak out does not change the fundamental moral equation."

So let me get this straight, the administration officials are criminals, but the members of congress, (who constitute not only an import check AND balance on the executive, but also the sole body capable of establishing or clarifying the law in this regard which they either failed or neglected to do) are merely moral cowards? Ms. Pelosi wasn't merely silent, she failed to raise her voice as speaker of the house until after the so-called scandal broke into public view. Likewise, the current occupant was a member of congress during a time when he certainly was aware that waterboarding had happened, and what record do we have of him speaking against this "crime", and what exactly did he say in his remarks upon releasing the memos as President -- anything about the activities under question being a crime? Seems like a lot of moral cowards if not criminals complicit in a governmental coverup. Or perhaps the moral question is indeed a bit of a question, all preening aside.

Posted by: macwalrus7 | May 1, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Emmet1, whether you care to make jokes about my name, I have the balls to use it, unlike yourself. Care to exhibit your erudition and give specific examples, rather than handwaving?

Actually, I could give some examples where torture got results, but not necessarily the right ones. Even setting morality aside, quickly going to torture is often unwise tradecraft. al-Zarqawi got his very own JDAMs not because the interrogators used torture, but because they used effective psychological methods, backed with analytic support, and complemented at least with IMINT. It wasn't based on adaptations of SERE techniques that the JPRA people themselves were saying were not intended for interrogation. I can and will make an argument against efficacy, just as I will say that Schlesinger and Turner gutting CIA HUMINT in favor of technical methods was idiotic. There's no one magic wand in intelligence collection, be it SIGINT or SERE.

And just how do you know what my analysis of the LA Bank Tower may, or may not be? Actually, it would be more accurate to speak of KSM's planned "second wave" -- apparently using much of the same approach as on 9/11, an approach that was negated on Flight 93.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 1, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

This torture debate is as pointless as abortion arguments. Simulated drowning is torture and repulsive to some, a technique to gain information without maiming the victim to others. Terminating pregnancy is a practical matter with only the mother having a say to some, murder of children to others. Each camp generally thinks the other is cretinous and without decency. We will never form a consensus about any of this crap. I guess all the screaming makes folks feel better.

Posted by: bender1 | May 1, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

When "the United States did not torture Krauthmammer was silent on the issue. Now that it has been exposed he offers lame defenses.
Yes, Mr. Froomkin, this piece of yours needs to be on the front page editorials as a point by point rebuttal to Krauthammer's lame lame defense of torture.
Also, Krauthammer needs to be reminded that we executed and/or sent to years of hard labor Japanese convicted for water boarding our soldiers during WWII. Water boarding is a serious crime that is used only to extract false confessions for the sake of propaganda.
Indeed, there is mounting evidence that the Bush White House was looking for "confessions" linking Iraq to al Queda as an excuse to get the U.S. into what has been one of our most costly and lengthy toilet bowl wars.

Posted by: drum_sing | May 1, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin, this is the most excellent analysis I have read in the Washington Post in ages. You are to be commended for responding so thoroughly and effectively to the appalling column that Mr. Krauthammer penned in favor of American torture. I don't know how a gifted mind such as his could have descended into the factless abyss currently being spun by torture apologists, but I mourn the loss of intellectual credibility on the right in this country. Sadly, Krauthammer's shameless endorsement of torture has completely eviscerated his credibility for me, possibly for good, on any topic (because the endorsing of American torture represents an irreconciliable break with reality and with morality).

Posted by: etherealjeb | May 1, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

fzdybel, I asked a hypothetical, as a frame of reference we could all agree on.

Actually I agree with you. There should be a list of acceptable and unacceptable methods of torture (or whatever word we want to call it).

What I find deeply disturbing are those people posting who think it is good to win the argument at all costs.

Haven't you ever "won" an argument but later wished you had "lost"?

Posted by: scribulator | May 1, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

1000PointsofFright, surely consent is not the dividing line of legality as we are confining these individuals without their consent. Under normal circumstances, depriving someone of something as basic as liberty is illegal and yet no one questions our legal ability to confine combatants until the end of hostilities. Clearly, taking up arms and committing acts of war results in the forfeiture of the ability to fully consent to what may or may not happen to you.

Also, you must admit that there are some things that are illegal regardless of consent.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 1, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

"Anyway, the last time Congress was heard from it said "Don't do that."

Come on, Congress (Democrat-controlled!) can do better than that, can't they? Send up some articles of impeachment? Surely such a moral, nay criminal slam dunk warrants the full deal (on a Republican Administration.) Funny, they don't seem to have tried too hard (or to be trying too hard now, for that matter).

Posted by: macwalrus7 | May 2, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

"This torture debate is as pointless as abortion arguments."

There's just two teeny tiny little differences. 1)Abortion isn't against the law, and 2) torture affects many more people than just one and a half.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

emmet1, Yes, we are definitely returning to a post-Church commission CIA, as detailed in "Legacy of Ashes".

Did you notice how HCBerkowitz is simply ignoring the example of a ticking bomb I supplied him with, after he demanded an example? It was perfect example too; for the prisoner knew of imminent attacks, failed to talk under normal questioning, but told all under "moderate physical pressure". Unfortunately, that pressure came too late to save the innocents killed and maimed on the next bus that was bombed.

You can bet that the Israelis deeply regret not applying that pressure a day sooner. Does HCBerkowitz think it should never have been applied, so that not only that one attack, but all the others to follow, could have come off successfully? Shall we ask him?

I doubt he will reply, as it would force him to admit that the 'ticking bomb' is not some TV fantasy, but a scenario that can and does happen. Then he would have to grapple with the moral conundrum instead of pretending that there isn't one.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Berkowitz, I'm sorry about the cheap joke on your name. I was trying unsuccessfully to be clever.

I'm against torture almost categorically. In extreme circumstances, say a kidnapper has buried my child alive, not so much. The bad guys in history have used torture for two reasons: sadism and it works. Stalin used it to force false confessions. Peter the Great put his own son on the rack after a failed plot.

Other bad guys have used torture to gather actionable information -- as have some of history's heroes. Churchill, for instance, contrary to the Andrew Sullivan blog entry that Obama relied on the other night, ordered captured Germans tortured during WWII and even for a time afterward. The Guardian newspaper reported on this extensively in 2005.

I think reasonable people can disagree about whether waterboarding is torture, whether it's legal to use under highly restricted circumstances, and whether it was justified in order to foil al Qaeda attacks similar to 9/11. Reasonable people cannot disagree about whether waterboarding in fact gained us valuable information. George Tenet said that more than half of what we learned about AQ after 9/11 resulted from the enhanced interrogation of a handful of high-value terrorists. He should know.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Dan, why do you knowingly and willfully publish known false statements? You state a known false statement, that KSM was waterboarded 183 times, which is provably false by the testimony of KSM himself to the International Red Cross in their February 2007 report (published over two years ago). I know you know this statement is false, because you are a journalist for a major paper, the Washington Post, and as such, you are required by your editor, Mr Brauchli, to research your stories. If you did not research your stories, a paper of record like the Washington Post has editors, who would prevent you from publishing a willfully false story, so I can only assume Mr Brauchli is conspiring with you to willfully publish known false material.
The IRC report from February 2007 states KSM testified to being waterboard a total of 5 times.
Think about it. What would it take to be waterboarded 183 times? If not successful after 182 times, why would anyone do it a 183rd time? The only reason is cruelty, not intelligence gathering.
You knowingly stated a falsehood. For what reason? To falsely declare the CIA agents as sociopaths? Why? What motivates such false statements. Malice? That seems the only rational reason.
As for the idea of a ticking bomb, you miss the point. Sometimes, a ticking bomb scenario does occur. The Barbara Mackle case is an example. Krauthammer is making a moral argument. That if given a ticking bomb scenario, torture is moral. It is moral to inflict pain on one person to save the life of another person because we value life. One persons life has greater value than another person's comfort. It is immoral to not inflict pain on someone if not inflicting that pain results in someone losing their life because we value life.
Regardless, I request Mr Brauchli demand you correct your story to state the facts. What has journalism become, that the the news is no longer facts, but simply statements journalists want to be true, no matter how unbelievable, and no matter how knowningly false. You and Mr Brauchli may get to decide what is in the Washington Post, but you do not get to decide what is news, and you surely do not get to decide what is history.

Posted by: meh130 | May 2, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

"This torture debate is as pointless as abortion arguments."

There's just two teeny tiny little differences. 1)Abortion isn't against the law, and 2) torture affects many more people than just one and a half.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

What is "one and a half"? Also, some would argue that waterboarding is not torture so it`s not illegal either. I know, I know...they`re cretinous and without decency.

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

most people ITT have sand in their vaginas hth

Posted by: obblehit | May 2, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

NadineSC, your example is flawed, by your own admission. It didn't give results in a timely manner. It's also a short-term tactical situation, with a relatively small number of people at risk.

Are you suggesting, by "earlier", that physical pressure should be applied in all cases of suspicion, immediately? The French tried that in Algeria. In retrospect, it may have lost the war for them, because the FLN insurgents were also torturing -- there was no place for the people in the middle to go.

You make a sweeping assumption that pressure in this case prevented all future attacks. Indeed, it is a hard calculus as to whether overenthusiastic short-term measures do more to recruit future bus attackers. It's very easy to win battles and lose wars.

Pretty self-assured to pontificate "I doubt he will reply, as it would force him to admit that the 'ticking bomb' is not some TV fantasy", as opposed to asking me to comment. So far, you haven't given me a ticking bomb situation. You have given me a single tactical situation that was not stopped.

In the Second World War, the Allies took major losses rather than risk the disclosure of their penetration of Axis codes. In war, the choice is often the least bad one. Yes, sometimes you will lose a busload, or even a whole convoy -- and the convoy losses were worth protecting ULTRA. That's reality; the question is whether the right choice of intelligence and counterinsurgency methods will harm the least number of innocents in the long run. Jack Bauer doesn't need to plan for the future.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Hey fzdybel,

1. Waterboarding is not torture and is legal under some circumstances. This is a legal fact under US law.

2. Abortion is legal in the first trimester and mostly illegal thereafter, depending on state law. It is not murder in the first trimester but may be thereafter (for example, perps who have caused women to miscarry have been charged with murder). This is also a legal fact under US law.

Both these sets of laws have people who are unhappy with them and want to change them. So there is no difference in that respect.

The only difference is that YOU like one set of laws and don't like the other, so you think there is a big difference. But this country runs on laws, not your feelings.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

marcedward1, first the Geneva Conventions do not mention waterboarding. Common Article 3 makes no mention of any specific techniques, it prohibits cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment

It is well established under US law that the Executive is empowered to interpret the meaning and application of the text of international obligations including Common Article 3. The DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel is designated to provide authoritative legal advice to the President and all the Executive Branch agencies.

Congressional oversight, performed by the leaders of each house and the chairmen and ranking members of the respective intelligence committees is the norm when dealing with highly classified intelligence operations.

We did prosecute some Japanese soldiers for waterboarding. I have already conceded that waterboarding can be torture but seeing how it is done regularly to our own service members, it is not always torture. The differences between the practice committed by the Japanese, which consisted of pouring water straight down the throat is very different than what the CIA was authorized to perform.

You simply are unwilling to accept that there are no brightly defined lines delineating what is and what is not acceptable. I ask again, what techniques would you have authorized? Where would you have drawn the line?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 2, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

"Haven't you ever 'won' an argument but later wished you had 'lost'?"

I won't argue unless completely scandalized. Then if somebody's feelings get hurt I don't care, unless I should prove to have been completely mistaken. But that's losing, not winning.

On the other hand, I've been in many an argument I wished had never been necessary. This is certainly one of those.

The guy who was facetiously arguing that it had been all downhill for constitutional governance since Lincoln was exactly correct. It's a road that has no turning, a road for the digging in of the heels. How far we now propose to fall, and for how slight a cause, and to what great detriment. We've left the road, have blasted through the armco, and are in free-fall. Those who argue for torture should be ashamed.

Reduced to this by a bunch of shave-tail rag-heads armed with box-cutters and fake bombs. Oh the ignominy, the calumny. How can you propose that they should triumph so?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, mr Froomkin, for an excellent rebuttal of Krauthammers toxic reasoning.
There is one reason against torture that I've missed in this whole discussion: torture creates martyrs and heroes who inspire new followers. It is harder for Islamic radicals to demonize an enemy that stands by its fundamental principles of justice and fair treatment no matter what, than one that abandons its principles whenever that may seem opportune. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo American treatment of its prisoners has been at odds with everything we profess to stand for. It has defined us as hypocrits. It has shifted opinion against us not only among our enemies but even among allies, and made this world a more dangerous place for us. Torture may or may not have "saved" lives, but there can be no doubt that by galvanizing the opposition against us it has cost us American lives and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Posted by: archaeoman | May 2, 2009 12:49 AM | Report abuse

"Waterboarding is not torture and is legal under some circumstances. This is a legal fact under US law." Oh? I wasn't aware it was ever adjudicated. Citation, please.

I am aware of some Office of Legal Counsel opinions that it might not be torture. If it was flatly legal, why, then, do the OLC opinions go into so much analysis of the nuances of 18 USC 2340? That part of US Code doesn't deal with any specific technique from spraying with cheap perfume to yanking out eyeballs.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 12:49 AM | Report abuse

"Waterboarding is not torture and is legal under some circumstances. This is a legal fact under US law."

No, it isn't. That's why we're having this conversation. I'll give you the novelty of your brazen assertion.

"The only difference is that YOU like one set of laws and don't like the other, so you think there is a big difference. But this country runs on laws, not your feelings."

I like both sets of laws. I'm very consistent about it. I disagree with you about what the law says. If you think torture is legal, you should be very happy to have a trial to settle the matter.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

When Froomkin becomes an actual WP columnist, I'll respond to his childish, transparently political arguments.

You can tell he's a second rate columnist by the number of fawning responses to this exercise in moral preening. If he was an actual columnist with views that were mature enough to be debated by adults, he'd have more of the opposition here responding to his specious arguments. But because he is a straight-line leftist idealogue it's a waste of time to even attempt some kind of rational dialogue.

The opinions of your groupies in the choir to which you are preaching don't count, Mr. Froomkin. At least, not in the real world of national security where the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, could be at stake. Yes, the ends-- when you are talking about planned acts of genocidal mass murder against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians-- justify the means. If you doubt me, just wait and see the public response if such an atrocity were to occur, which is now far more likely given that the Obama administration is in control of national security.

American security should not be compromised by the naive and ill-considered views of American liberals. Obama will probably come to understand that at some point, and there is some indication that he already is beginning to understand the stakes in the arena of clandestine global warfare.
Unfortunately, he's been indoctrinated in liberal ideology for a very long time, and I don't think he fully comprehends his responsibilities under the law.

Posted by: theduke89 | May 2, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

How far we now propose to fall, and for how slight a cause, and to what great detriment. We've left the road, have blasted through the armco, and are in free-fall. Those who argue for torture should be ashamed.

Reduced to this by a bunch of shave-tail rag-heads armed with box-cutters and fake bombs. Oh the ignominy, the calumny. How can you propose that they should triumph so?

Posted by: fzdybel |

Wow. I guess our politicians will propose that the "shave-tail rag-heads" ultimately triumph so by describing our interrogation techniques in detail. What a PR bonanza! Then we can follow up with photos to be distributed which may cause more terrorist recruitment for years to come. We could also promise to never do it again. It`s all part of making us safer.

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 1:03 AM | Report abuse

"NadineSC, your example is flawed, by your own admission. It didn't give results in a timely manner. It's also a short-term tactical situation, with a relatively small number of people at risk."

This is precisely the scenario that you liberals are always demanding: the bomb is about to go off, and there are no other options. Time is short, you need the information NOW, you don't have a month to build up a rapport. Otherwise innocents will die. This is the PERFECT 'ticking bomb' scenario.

If this is not a ticking bomb scenario, please describe - in detail - what would be.

Or is a bus bombing too small for you? 50 lives on a bus are too few for you to care about, perhaps? The bomb doesn't tick unless it will kill thousands, is that what you are saying? Or maybe the bus has to be in your home town instead of Jerusalem?

As for it not being timely, the interrogation gave results the same day it was applied. Can't you even read? It would have been timely if it had been applied the day before the bombing instead of the day after. In the event, it was timely enough to round up the other 37 Hamasniks and stop the next round of bombings that they would have done.

"Are you suggesting, by "earlier", that physical pressure should be applied in all cases of suspicion, immediately? "

Of course not and that's a typical strawman argument. Nobody suggested it. You do it when you know the guy you have knows something and you already know enough about it to doublecheck him. There needs to be oversight and there was oversight in both the US and Israel.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough on the name, Emmet1.

"The bad guys in history have used torture for two reasons: sadism and it works. Stalin used it to force false confessions." Exactly! There should be little argument that it can be used to coerce confessions. There is much argument, however, that it works to produce reliable intelligence, especially at the strategic level. There is considerable argument that it can lure intelligence personnel away from less dramatic but ultimately more productive methods.

COL Steven Kleinman, director of intelligence for the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which is responsible for SERE training including waterboarding, testified to the Senate on the situation immediately after 9/11: "As a result, interrogation was no longer an intelligence collection method; rather, in many cases it had morphed into a form of punishment for those who would not cooperate... When this proved ineffective in producing the type of actionable intelligence that senior leaders required, ...we had the choice of getting smarter or getting tougher. Unfortunately, we chose the latter. Nonetheless, the intelligence shortfall continued, and operational commanders demanded more intelligence."

JPRA repeatedly warned that the SERE techniques were part of a program to increase resistance, and were not interrogation techniques. Over decades, overall gutting of U.S. human intelligence capability, under multiple Administrations, left us with very few qualified strategic interrogators. I'm perfectly willing to agree that GWB didn't create that situation.

Desperation doesn't make for wise decisions. Look at the slaughter of Task Force Smith at the start of the Korean War, accomplishing nothing. Unfortunately, in this specific situation, a desperate measure that needed to be reexamined got caught, in part, by Cheney and Addington's theories of expanding Presidential authority.

By 2006, military intelligence was being smarter. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi didn't die immediately from the airstrike that killed him; I wonder if he had time to reflect that he had been outsmarted. I'd like to think so. The intelligence that aimed those bombs came from a variety of techniques, including psychological interrogation with appropriate analytic support.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

"What a PR bonanza!"

Is that worse or better than the fall of a Republic?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

"You liberals." My, my, Nadine. How easy it is to toss labels around. You have no idea of my politics. "If this is not a ticking bomb scenario, please describe - in detail - what would be"

I don't go to the easy strawman, of assuming, in what is necessarily a long war, that there are ticking bomb scenarios -- or that scenario should drive intelligence policy. Yes, it may have stopped one Hamas attack. Whether that source might have, given more careful interrogation, given enough to roll up multiple Hamas networks is another issue. Now, if a strategic goal would be served by very controlled pressure -- I wouldn't rule it out, but I'd consider it a last resort.

It was the correct, but hard, decision to let WWII Allied convoys sail into the path of a German submarine wolfpack -- if there was no plausible way to divert that convoy without suggesting that Nazi communications were being read. Losing ULTRA could have lost the war.

This is a long war and the long view has to be taken.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

"Or is a bus bombing too small for you?"

No, the question is starting to be: what's not too small for you? Torture to save one person's life? Where do you draw the line on how little justification is sufficient?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

"What a PR bonanza!"

Is that worse or better than the fall of a Republic?
Posted by: fzdybel

|


Brother/sister, with respect; The Republic will not fall from PR disasters caused by mindless circulation of waterboarding photos. The Republic will not fall because of the waterboarding itself. The Republic will not fall because there is much disagreement among us. Which brings us full circle to my original point...this debate is as futile as an abortion argument. But I don`t believe it makes us any safer.

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 1:22 AM | Report abuse

"The Republic will not fall because of the waterboarding itself."

No, it goes like this: one step upon the next. Unless we are scared, in which case we run.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer disgraces the Washington Post.

Posted by: nodebris | May 2, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

It is so comforting to know that in a ticking time bomb situation Charles Abraham Krauthammer would torture his own baby if there were no other way to get the information necessary to "save American lives."

Posted by: RealCalGal | May 2, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

"The Republic will not fall because of the waterboarding itself."

No, it goes like this: one step upon the next.
Posted by: fzdybel

Ah, the slippery slope analogy. So do you think we will descend into the realm of permissible infanticide in our republic as well?

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

"Ah, the slippery slope analogy. "

No. We have the power to stop. If we can control our fear. You speak of being safe as if that were all that mattered.

As I said, it began with Lincoln. How many more steps do you imagine we have left to take before we reach our dreadful destination?

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

No. We have the power to stop. If we can control our fear. You speak of being safe as if that were all that mattered.

As I said, it began with Lincoln. How many more steps do you imagine we have left to take before we reach our dreadful destination?

Posted by: fzdybel

I like your style. Safety does matter to me a great deal. Im` a career firefighter/paramedic so I`m in the biz. But fear isn`t any part of what I`ve said. I believe you are sincere in fearing we could have a dreadful destination. Believe me when I say I don`t think it`ll happen and that releasing info and photos is counter-productive.

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 1:55 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin,

I normally do not respond to anything in the Jayson Blair Times or the Washington Compost, but your diatribe against Sir Charles of Krauthammer merits it.

Anybody can resort to ideological bigotry, which seems to be the only thing left in the leftist arsenal. Yet you don't offer any alternative solutions.

Basically, here is how the left works:

A) Bush is evil
B) Bush favors X, X being anything
C) I as a liberal must be against X

Liberals don't become conservatives until they get mugged...or shot...or blown to kingdom come.

We are at war, and there is nothing in the Constitution that says we have to sit back and get obliterated.

Liberals may claim that getting obliterated is not their position...yet they never express what their position is. We know what they are against.

Now if only they could ever be for something.

I will take Neocon strength over leftists weakness any day.

eric aka the Tygrrrr Express
http://www.tygrrrrexpress.com

Posted by: blacktygrrrr | May 2, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse

HC Berkowitz, I am not making a brief for torture. Far from it. I loathe torture and recognize its misuses and its inability to substitute effectively for other intelligence gathering methods.

Your last post is well-reasoned and subtle, more balanced than the earlier post which I criticized. I agree with your point that a method can be tactically effective but strategically disastrous -- especially, as here, when our classified methods are revealed in a way that damages national security. The enhanced interrogation methods by all accounts elicited very useful information, but the present unseemly and unnecessary debate will cause us great harm among both friends and enemies.

Again, reasonable people can disagree about which methods are morally acceptable, but not about whether useful information was gained. In the long run, as you suggest, our moral position may be weakened and that of those who saw off heads with dull knives strengthened. It's an absurd result, except to those who, like our president, see America as morally corrupted and the source of most of the evil in the world. "White man's greed drives a world in need". De-fanging America is the goal of the left.

The consequences, however, will be dire. As Dylan put it, we're "waiting to find out what price we have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice".

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 2:12 AM | Report abuse

"Believe me when I say I don`t think it`ll happen."

I'm sorry, I've read too much History. At this point in our evolution the President is a sort of elected potentate. The changes since my own childhood are huge. My brother speaks of "boiling the frog." The temperature goes up just a little at a time.

Think of your constitutional protections as a piece of Swiss cheese. We are adding new and larger holes all the time, with increasing speed in the name of safety. Each new precedent of presidential power enlarges on its predecessor. After 9/11 Congress basically gave away the store, and pretty much every new power granted since 9/11 has already been abused at least once. The power to torture wasn't even granted, but it too was abused in furtherance of a political agenda.

Far from believing you, though sure of your good intentions, I'm warning you on your complacency.

Posted by: fzdybel | May 2, 2009 2:18 AM | Report abuse

I used to think of the POTUS more as a hood ornament on a tractor-trailer rig but Bush and Obama are both freaky idealogoues taking the wheel and careening through oncoming traffic. I liked the phrase, "elected potentate" and I am a big fan of Swiss cheese. Anyway, keep up the good work making your case to others and may the deity of your personal preference shine some righteous good fortune on you and yours. Nite.

Posted by: bender1 | May 2, 2009 2:28 AM | Report abuse

The comments here are so pathetic.. every one of you ivory tower back seat drivers would do what you had to do if it was your own children at risk and you know it.. your pathetic and I am glad GWB was the one protecting us the last 8 years.. god help us us now.

Posted by: justcalltony | May 2, 2009 3:59 AM | Report abuse

This is indeed an interesting article and conversation. I know there are some situations in which torture seems like an acceptable approach, but I think it is clear that mostly many people over-reacted. The danger with continuing to make it sound like a good idea is the possibility that it really does become an "approved" approach. It we begin to see this as okay fairly often, we really will live to see it used as a technique not against foreign enemies, but against people the party in power views as enemies. It will happen because the bar will have been lowered. That is not what we want. This may happen from time to time, but it is important that, as a nation, continue to see this truly as a last resort. If we don't, we will become a nation that accepts control of our lives, our actions, and even our thoughts because we fear recrimination and punishment from our fellow citizens.

Posted by: jm817 | May 2, 2009 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Each individual dunking is counted. The 183 is not sessions. When I was in Vietnam, I was a LRRP (Ranger) and doing missions behind enemy lines with small groups (5 men). I was intensely afraid of being captured alive. I assumed torture would be in the offing. I was rather young and new nothing of American CIA torture, one way or another. I believe one of the things that always carried American POW's through years of degradation and torture was a sense of being superior. As in..."We don't do that!"

Typical of the Democrats, they killed that small measure of comfort, for our POW's in all future wars. If Democrats and Republicans have been doing this stuff for decades, all the Dems had to do was end it when they came in power. No reason to use common sense if you can find a way to harm America.

Posted by: martyatmgc | May 2, 2009 4:13 AM | Report abuse

"I don't go to the easy strawman, of assuming, in what is necessarily a long war, that there are ticking bomb scenarios"

Assume, hell. You rejected a classic ticking bomb case - literally, a ticking suicide bomber - and I challenged you to find a better. Your answer? "I don't assume there are ticking bomb scenarios." You weren't asked to assume anything, but to define what a REAL ticking bomb case would be, having called my example "flawed." Well, if my example was flawed you must know what would be better, right? -- but of course you won't, because it would undermine your whole pretense that difficult situations never arise and there are no hard decisions to be made.

Hey, why don't you just pretend there is no terrorist threat while you're at it?

Pathetic. And obvious too. I know you are a liberal because only the left is currently indulging in this much wishful thinking about the nature of the long war with Islamo-fascism. They simply cannot reconcile their faith in PC and the basic reasonableness of everybody with the facts as they exist. So they fall back on fantasy. If only we act nicer they won't hate us! Let's appease their grievances! They must be reasonable! They're victims of Western oppression, so we must be wrong!


I really wonder what Obama will say when we get hit again. Will he tell people it's Bush's fault, or America's? That's what the left believes. That's what he believes too, I bet, but I think he's too smart to say so. Probably he'll just make empty promises to "bring the criminals to justice" like Clinton did.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Most of you here, from Mr. Froomkin on down are just a bunch of phonies. None of you care about torture, inmates at Gitmo, or American values. It is only a last ditch attempt to prevent Bush's victory. You folks will be the first to squawk at the next terrorist attack and demand, just like Nancy Pelosi, that we should do more.

Posted by: inhk1 | May 2, 2009 5:46 AM | Report abuse

"It was the correct, but hard, decision to let WWII Allied convoys sail into the path of a German submarine wolfpack -- if there was no plausible way to divert that convoy without suggesting that Nazi communications were being read. Losing ULTRA could have lost the war."

ULTRA was valuable for the war effort.

Having the reputation of providing a comfortable Club Med for captured terrorists, complete with habeas corpus rights, that none of them need to fear, is NOT valuable for the war effort. Quite the contrary.

Perhaps you prefer the Clinton administration's approach, where they just rendered the prisoners back to Egypt or some other country ready to torture them. Kept our hands nice and clean.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 5:49 AM | Report abuse

I am also going to address the editorial staff of the Washington Post.

Dan Froomkin is the best opinion writer at the Post. (Eugene Robinson has been a favorite for years too, and he deserves his Pulitzer.)

I appreciate having the full range of the political spectrum represented, but Krauthammer and Will have become sclerotic, caviling, and transparent in their apologia "columns". The New York Times has started including opinion pieces by Rod Dreher on their website, much to their credit. The Post should be looking forward to the next generation of moderate conservatives rather than allowing these corporatist shills to keep disgorging their dreck.

We still haven't forgotten George Will's blatant misstatements on climate change, Mr. Hiatt.

In regards to torture: torture is outlawed, and inherently repugnant to all people of good taste, because it is infinitely more useful in provoking false confessions than in eliciting actionable intelligence. What our government does to foreign enemies it will eventually do to its domestic enemies, and a government that tortures its people (no matter how vile they may be) is one that has abandoned the principles that have evolved and been built upon since the Magna Carta.

Right, Newt Gingrich?

Unfortunately we have some 20-30% of the voting population that would willingly give up the civil rights we have fought so hard to defend (WWII anyone? MLK, RFK, ) in order for an ILLUSION of safety.

I find it ironic that many of these same people call Obama a "socialist", when they seem to promote a more autocratic, secretive police state similar to the hated Soviet Union, or modern North Korea.

Remember the Pledge of Allegiance: "One nation, under god, indivisable, with LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL."

Posted by: tragic_slider1 | May 2, 2009 5:56 AM | Report abuse

Froomkin goes well beyond the usual lines of analysis with this key insight:

"[Krauthammer's second exception: torturing a broadly high-value suspect] is of course is a blatant post-facto attempt at rationalizing the (inevitable) misdiagnosis of the ticking time bomb scenario."

It's worth extending it one further step. Just as the purely fictional ticking-bomb scenario justifies the torture of anyone thought to be "high-value" (they might know of a ticking bomb), so the semi-fictional "high-value" scenario justifies the torture of just about anyone (they might be "high-value"). And now we've arrived at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and other places whose names we will learn in due time.

Obama (along with his allies in the military and the CIA) deserves great credit for delivering from this trap of escalating stupidity, taking some basic steps to restore competence to the intelligence gathering process. Those who believe that we are safer with bad intelligence, because it makes them feel good to gather it, should seek employment elsewhere.

Posted by: hquain | May 2, 2009 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Those who argue against harsh interrogation methods and posit the success and personal and national moral elevation of interrogation methods of rapport, live in a world that exists largely in only their minds and in that in the narrow band of their acquaintence. Before any of those who condemn harsh interrogation methods and smile indulgently about an argument based upon a fictional scenario of the "ticking atomic bomb in a city of our country" can be considered to even have a position to rebut, they should be required to offer two things:1)an explanation of the methods that should be employed for the pupose of obtaining critical information from persons intent upon our destruction whose moral imperatives differ radically from our own;and, 2) at least a handful of actual successes that these high moral methods of interogation have brought about. Otherwise, what the "objectors" offer is as bland as the Army Field Manual and as useful to our safety.

Posted by: mmmetal | May 2, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Reading through Froomkin and his bitter left-wing warriors, I conclude that it[s easier for you folks to hate America than to love the Obama who seems to fall somewhat short of the vlndictiveness you so crave.

Posted by: ajsrmm | May 2, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Mr Froomkin:

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES DID NOT WORK?

Have you seen the CIA memo that relates what high value information was gained by the methods?

The Obama admin was VERY EAGER to release the CIA memos. Yet, they have not rushed to release the memo's letting the American Public know if any AMERICAN lives might have been saved by these techniques.

Let the PUBLIC decide by giving them all the information. If ANY information was gained that stopped any terrorist attacks or led to the arrest of "high value" terrorists, I guarantee that the public support for the enhanced interrogations under certain circumstances will be OVERWHELMING!!!!

What is the administration afraid of.

If god forbid a terrorist attack happens during the Obama administration, it will be the end of Obama and the end of the Democratic party as we know it.

Posted by: tunaman | May 2, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Bravo! An insightful analysis of the typical lines of defense of the defenseless act of torture.

Positions espoused by apologists for torture like Mr. Krauthammer should not see a moment in the sun before receiving this type of sharp rebuttal.

Allowing myths justifying heinous acts of torture or genocide to go unchecked is what fed the fires of the Nazis, the Serbs, and the Stalinists.

Thank you Mr. Froomkin.

Posted by: bill2810 | May 2, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Charles Krauthammer is simply and inarguably one of the best minds in this country. He was spot on right about Waterboarding. And the left knows it and that is why their panties are all in a dither.

Posted by: cucukacho1 | May 2, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree with every single word. Thanks, Dan.

I'm so glad I'm not a Republican.

It must be a very disgusting state of mind to have to defend torture for the sake of the ever-incompetent George W. Bush and the ever-arrogant Richard B. Cheney.

Posted by: freespeak | May 2, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

With the inaccuracy rating of the C.I.A.'s intelligence gathering throughout the years, we ought to just get rid of them, right? I mean, there's no certainty in intelligence, so let's scrap it. I'm sure everyone, including our allies who hated our guts under W. would breathe a sigh of relief. And since they (particularly our European allies) are fit to judge us morally when we make the tough decisions and even tougher sacrifices that also benefit them, maybe we could submit to their moral superiority instead of gathering intel.
Look Froomkin, this whole issue was brought into the light in the interest of making our last President look bad. You succeeded. Now that it is no longer an issue, it seems you want to make your pride of more interest than our national security. If you'll be honest with yourself (and read a little history) you'll see that the trend in the west is shifting toward passivity, not aggression, toward our enemy.

Posted by: kategriffin | May 2, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Aren't we all glad Froomkin isn't in charge of US security? The enemy uses drills, nailed boards, wires connected to batteries and of course knives and terror, while we must refrain, he says, from waterboarding, face slaps, and caterpillars.

Instead we must use 'traditional' methods. Well, what are they? Building a rapport takes time, and you don't have much when your country is attacked and you are expecting more attacks. Did Cheney 'panic', as Froompkin suggests, or was he acting rationally and performing his job, a job that should never be entrusted to the so sensitive Froomkin.

BTW, the number of times KSM was waterboarded, 183, counts ounce for each time water was poured, not once for each waterboarding session.

If the country is attacked again, I pray Krauthammmer's rules are in effect and not those of Frookin.

Posted by: mikefromusa | May 2, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

OK so lets say that we delve into the amoral cesspool and accept that it is OK to torture some poeple because they terrorists. My question is who gets to decide if someone is a "terrorist". Do we have a trial and jury or does some CIA agent just pick some guy up of the streets because he looks like he is a terrorist. Of course after 183 waterboardings he admits be being a terrorist and so we are justified. If you believe that torture is every OK then you are beyond hope.

Posted by: antojr65 | May 2, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan. You speak for all reasonable citizens. Charles Kraut is a blot on journalistic ethics.

Posted by: rowens1 | May 2, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

"The enemy uses drills, nailed boards, wires connected to batteries and of course knives and terror"

Which is exactly the reason that *we* must not, because what morons like mikefromusa and Krauthammer fail to understand is this: torture is not about the person who is being tortured. It is about the person (or country for whom that person is an agent)who is torturing. The minute we engage in torture-whether it's knives and nails or waterboarding and sleep deprivation-we become the same as our enemy.

Mike, you may *yearn* to be like the guys pounding nails into people-or waterboarding them 183 times to gather bogus information-but I'll take a different path, thanks. Because unlike you, I value my soul.

Posted by: hillary12 | May 2, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES DID NOT WORK?"

The CIA said it didn't.

Posted by: hillary12 | May 2, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The Post publishes several wacko right-wingers like Krauthammer without anything comparable on the left (like a real Marxist or anarchist, for example). But to its credit it still allows Froomkin to criticize his own coworkers, a rarity in the newspaper business (albeit almost buried down on the Opinion page). I am waiting for the axe to fall on Froomkin.

Posted by: skeptonomist | May 2, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

When we get hit again, I am sure you will be the first to ask - when did you know it and why didn't you stop it?
War and the actions that flow from it can never be moral under any circumstances. It is amusing to hear the discussion since you are not discussing the subject with the enemy - they must be really amused!
How many people in LA who didn't die, would now give up their lives to bet that "torture" didn't work? I just hope you are right, that these killers will respond to fair treatment and world peace will ensue. We shall see, won't we.

Posted by: Janeway2 | May 2, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Janeway 2

When you make an argument, try to reason correctly and get your facts straight.

What conclusion did you mean to draw by commenting that, "...war can never be moral under any circumstances?"

Do you mean that anything goes? Once you're in war, you can commit genocide? Once you're in war, you can break your laws? abrogate your treaties? Or do you simply mean that you can selectively torture individuals but no more? Where can you stop? Who decides?

As to your reference to LA, there is no evidence at all that either 1)waterboarding prevented an attack on LA or 2) that this information wouldn't have come from non torturous methods.

First think, then write.

Posted by: bill2810 | May 2, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

to mikefromusa
from billfromusa(just in case you thought you owned patriotism)

thank you for pointing out that 183 times counted the number of times water was poured and not the number of sessions. i feel so much more relieved.

perhaps if you had had one "pour" or one "session" yourself, you wouldn't speak of torture as if it were some neatly turned double play but as a brutal act with limited value.

Posted by: bill2810 | May 2, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad, NadineSC, that you have the grace to admit that there are hard choices in war -- and this is a war -- but then go off into hypothetical flights about "Perhaps you prefer the Clinton administration's approach, where they just rendered the prisoners back to Egypt or some other country ready to torture them. Kept our hands nice and clean."

Perhaps you might actually ask? Clinton handled the situation badly, but it didn't start with Clinton. The breakdown of human intelligence capabilities, which include skilled interrogation, goes back, at least, to the Carter administration. It's not a partisan matter; while Turner and Schlesinger gutted HUMINT, Casey's crusade of anyone-to-fight-Soviets gave funds to the Services Offices, which morphed into al-Qaeda.

Make up your mind. Do you want to discuss the role of torture in interrogation, which I thought was the question here? Do you want to talk about appropriate national security policies against the current (not new) threats?

Or did you want, instead, to wave hands and live in a convenient world of sound bites, introducing absurdities like Club Med? The prisoners who gave up al-Zarqawi, quickly enough to kill him, were hardly in a vacation spot. Sometimes, it was the fear of something worse that got them talking. Love of family was effective in other cases.

I suggest that "I know you are a liberal because only the left is currently indulging in this much wishful thinking about the nature of the long war with Islamo-fascism" establishes your intent. Islamo-fascism? Again, sound bite. Long war, yes...where have I seen that recently? Ah...COL Brian Drinkwine's recent analysis from the Army War College, "The Serpent in Our Garden: al-Qaida and the Long War." Not an Islamofascism in 83 pages. Quite a bit about strategic countermeasures to the enemy, and properly identifying Salafism and its jihadist subset as targets.

Tunaman, a reason to question this approach is the overall history of intelligence, and that these methods have not proven as productive as other techniques. In post-WWII analysis, the Nazis that used torture generally got less than those that used more thoughtful methods. In the current situation, the developers of the SERE programs in question warned that they were not effective interrogation methods.

I keep hearing hypotheticals about "what will you say when the next attack isn't stopped?" It's an imperfect world. There will be attacks. Ideal intelligence and policy coordination might well have caught the 9/11 attack, just as it might have stopped the Pearl Harbor attack. "Preventing attacks" is not a strategy to win wars. Strategic intelligence works. Breaking up enemy coalitions works. Grasping for simplistic immediate fixes doesn't work, any more than those uncouth insurgents at Concord and Lexington were going to go away with a few volleys from Redcoats. On the other hand, the Hukbalahap were defeated.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"I'm glad, NadineSC, that you have the grace to admit that there are hard choices in war "

Ah, you like it when I admit it? But YOU choose to weasel out of the hard choices and pretend they don't exists. "Nope there are no ticking bomb scenearios, they don't exist, your example is flawed, I won't give a better one." What chickens---.

"-- but then go off into hypothetical flights about "Perhaps you prefer the Clinton administration's approach, where they just rendered the prisoners back to Egypt or some other country ready to torture them. Kept our hands nice and clean."

All you show in this paragraph is that you don't know what "hypothetical" means.

Clinton's renditions happened, which means it is not a hypothetical case. Ticking bomb scenarios exist too, which means they are not hypothetical either. You use "hypothetical" to avoid admitting hard choices exist.

Posted by: NadineSC | May 2, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

HC Berkowitz, there is a glaring flaw in your argument above. You say, "The prisoners who gave up al-Zarqawi, quickly enough to kill him, were hardly in a vacation spot. Sometimes, it was the fear of something worse that got them talking."

Hasn't Obama repudiated the "fear of something worse"? The good cop/bad cop routine can't work when the terrorists know there is no bad cop, that "bad cops" will receive harsher treatment than they will.

My position, and that I believe of every previous administration, is that harsher methods, stopping short of torture, should be available as a last resort for a handful of high value detainees whose information could save lives. It is far better that we conduct these interrogations ourselves as humanely as possible rather than render the detainees to allies like Egypt who are less scrupulous than we are.

This is reasonable and prudent. It should never have been exposed and politicized.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

DAN -- I AM SO PROUD OF YOU MAN! You came out swinging with passion and the facts to back them. I cannot find anything else much to say except to Krauthammer:

Did Chuck ever serve in the military? It seems the right wing chicken hawks are usually the loudest proponents of torture but none have served; i.e., krauthammer, hannity, bush, cheney, kristol, etc.

Posted by: winoohno | May 2, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

winoohno, "chickenhawk" is the dumbest of all liberal epithets, on a par with "Hitler". Is Barry Obama a chickenhawk? He never served in the military, yet he's prosecuting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What could be more "chickenhawk" than using Predator drones to drop JDAMs on "militants" and their wives and children in Pakistan?

The next administration must hold everyone involved accountable! Having a bomb dropped on your family is worse than being waterboarded. Oh, the horror!

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Emmet1, we seem increasingly to be in agreement. "Something worse" isn't necessarily torture. No, I don't think Obama has repudiated situations such as the one below. My point is that you try noncoercive interrogation first, and go to increasingly coercive measures sensibly, rather than leaping to torture too early.

In the al-Zarqawi kill, targeted prisoners were in a first-level, short-response military interrogation facility in Iraq--think advanced screening. A major fear, in this case, was transfer to long-term imprisonment, principally at the Abu Ghraib of 2006. There were also some significant successes using what is called a "Love of Family" approach -- not imprisoning relatives.

Every session was recorded and analyzed extensively. Perhaps not ticking bomb, but the goal was finding leadership within days to weeks. Interrogators went back into sessions primed with information from other interviews. The pieces came together to allow manipulation with "We Know All", or false documents, or other things that worked. In some cases, the prisoner didn't directly give the answer, but just enough that some unexplained photographic intelligence now made sense.

Not every terrorist is going to be in deep isolation. These were urban terrorists, who had jobs and regular lives -- yet also were connected, two to four levels below, al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. One, for example, was the electrician that made the circuits for the suicide bombers' vests. Another, who at first seemed to be a mundane photographer, turned out to be the psychological operations director.

The picture came together well enough to identify an upcoming meeting place for al-Zarqawi, which was put under surveillance. When he was spotted, it was bombed.

Nadine, would you try to restate, with grammar, coherence, and correct spelling: "But YOU choose to weasel out of the hard choices and pretend they don't exists. "Nope there are no ticking bomb scenearios, they don't exist, your example is flawed, I won't give a better one." What chickens---.

Even, Nadine, stay on topic? Yes, Clinton's renditions, such as Abu Talal al-Qasimi, happened. That didn't stop the East African embassy bombings or 9/11. Taking out bin Laden might have helped. Indeed, Reagan not directly funding al-Khifa and indirectly funding Maktab al-Khadamat might have helped. Of course, that would be thinking ahead.

It's an imperfect world, but, with hindsight, better intelligence analysis might have spotted 9/11. The information was there, but not correlated. Actual hijackers were on watchlists but not detained. What has this to do with torture and ticking bombs?

I'll respond to something that is not hand-waving rhetoric.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 2, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

If said terrorist was waterboarded 6 times per day for a month and he survived, is waterboarding really torture? What some people do to themselves, like getting tatooed, is more torturous than waterboarding. You are alive and free to write your liberal drivel because of our "enhanced interrogation techniques" Danny.

Posted by: piekonchar | May 2, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

HC Berkowitz, very interesting post. You illustrate that smart interrogation techniques administered by skilled professionals can yield extremely valuable information.

I didn't mean to imply that torture or extreme measures should have been the next step. It's useful, however, for the detainee to believe that torture, or at least rough treatment, is an option. The Geneva Convention approach toward captured soldiers in uniform of "name, rank and serial number" rarely yields information beyond that.

When a sergeant in the field fires his rifle near the head of a prisoner and threatens to shoot him unless he reveals the site of the IED he just planted, it helps if the prisoner does not know that the sergeant won't actually shoot him.

My point is that there are measures that should not be used at all or else used extremely sparingly, but the terrorists need to believe that we'll do whatever is necessary. We don't win Brownie points with these moral monsters by publicly tying our hands.

All this public self-abasement, hand-wringing, and disclosure of secret interrogation techniques will have consequences, I fear, that none of us will welcome.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Why should our national security and safety be sacrificed on the grounds of ethics? I am sure KSM was a very ethical man when he brought the idea of crashing planes into civilian targets to USB. These people want to kill us and we are worried about everyone else thinks about what we do. Countries like France and Britain are less inclined to divulge information to us because the media allows the everything to be scrutinized. The goal of national security is to keep Americans safe. We should not sacrifice that safety on the grounds of ethics.

Posted by: bpatric8 | May 2, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

There is an assumption at the bottom of every defense of torture that always goes unchallenged; that the bully always wins, that having the most power and using the most force always gets you what you want. (This was also the flawed assumption behind the Iraq war -- and "shock and awe." But six years and more than 4000 deaths later, despite its over-whelming strength and power, the US still doesn't have, and is likely to never get, what it originally wanted from that conflict).

As a 95 lb, 62 year old woman, let me tell you something -- the assumption that "winning" or getting what you want is always and only determined by who has the greatest ability and willingness to harm others is an absurd assumption.

The fact is, the bully and the torturer both have a grave and exploitable weakness -- there is something they, often quite desperately, want. But being able to do great harm to someone is not at all the same thing as getting what you want from them. The bullied and tortured may give up their safety and life in the process, but by simply refusing to give a hated enemy what they want they always "win." So why, especially in a situation where they know their enemy is as likely to be satisfied with lies, tell the truth?

The fact is, torture is not an effective way at all to get what you really need in these situations -- the other person's COOPERATION.

Posted by: mschumacher1 | May 2, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

msschumacher1, what you say is true for normal relations among civilized people. War, however, is different, especially war between a peace-loving nation like ours and a vicious terrorist organization, whether stateless like AQ or Iran-sponsored like Hamas or Hezbollah. In that case, "cooperation" is not possible unless you are willing to surrender to their demands.

The jihadists want nothing less than our destruction or submission. Our existence as infidels who refuse to accept the authority of Allah's laws, as revealed to Muhammed, affronts their religious sensibility. Our power and prosperity contrasted to their weakness and backwardness makes us their mortal enemy. Obama's apologies and expressions of goodwill will only make them despise us more and convince them that they're winning.

Sometimes it really is about who's strong and who's weak, and who has moral confidence and resolve and who doesn't. Weakness is provocative to bullies and thugs. The next few years will be extremely dangerous.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

emmet1

Your observations about the nature of our enemy in this case undermines your argument. It's especially illogical to think that the best way to get cooperation from fanatic terrorists who hate you so much and are so convinced of your evil that they believe it is worth committing suicide to cause you harm is to confirm their assumptions of your evil and give them even more reason to despise you.

You are absolutely correct that "Sometimes it really is about who's strong and who's weak, and who has moral confidence and resolve and who doesn't." But allowing our enemies to goad us into giving into the temptation to evil that torture represents demonstrates moral weakness, not strength.

As for the canard about weakness as a provocation. The fact is, great power is as likely to be a provocation to resentment and attack as perceived weakness. If not more so. Rome was defeated by barbarians. Mighty Britain was defeated by its ragtag and divided colonists, etc. In fact, if stockpiles of weapons and overwhelming destructive strength was a dependable protection against the resentment of others and and violent attack the US would be the most beloved nation in the world, with no enemies at all, and 9/11 would never have happened.

Posted by: mschumacher1 | May 2, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

mschumacher1, I'm not advocating torture, though I am convinced that rough interrogation methods are necessary in certain extreme circumstances and should not be categorically excluded.

The idea of cooperation with the terrorists who saw off heads and fly planes into buildings is naive in the extreme. What could there possibly be to cooperate about? Their goals and values are the exact opposite of ours.

You don't seem to understand that the radical Islamists are coming after us no matter how much we try to appease them. "The borders of Islam are bloody", as Samuel Huntington wrote, and always will be. Look at Israel, India, Nigeria and the Philippines. Iran will soon have nukes, which means Hamas and Hezbollah might also have nukes, or at least nuclear protection. Pakistan, which already has nukes, may soon fall under the control of radical Islamists sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Turkey has an increasingly Islamist government, and Lebanon is about to elect a Hezbollah dominated government. Countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have populations that sympathize heavily with the radicals who want to kill us.

We live in a very dangerous world that is likely to get even more dangerous no matter what we do. We're going to need all the strength, resolve and intelligence we can muster, but we don't seem to understand the challenge we face. We cannot afford to show weakness or irresolution.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 2, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm skeptical of all of the information they say they got from these men. Abu Zubaydah was not playing with a full deck when they captured him and he's the one who fingered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who fingered the guy who confessed the other day that he came here to carry out secondary attacks after 9/11. But we don't know what these "secondary attacks" were and was he going to do them all by himself? If he had co-conspirators, did the harsh interrogation techniques yield their identities? Are they also in custody or were they never found?

So, did they capture someone and torture him and that person either gives them a name or is shown a photograph of someone already in custody and then says "That guy is the mastermind" and then that guy is tortured and tells them about some plot he was planning? A rational person wouldn't trust any of that, nor would a rational person trust any information that resulted from torture. What if Bush & Co. tortured these people for the purpose of making them non-credible? So there would be a bunch of "terrorist masterminds" in custody and they can confess to something and THAT is believed but if they say anything contrary, then they are crazy people and cannot be believed. Either way, lock them up.

Posted by: Malia2 | May 2, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I was referred to this article by the Glen Greenwald piece which equally excoriates Krauthammer for his inane excuses for torture. I'm glad to see forceful,articulate arguments made by the likes of Greenwald and Froomkin against the sort of tripe characterized by Krauthammer wind up in main stream media. Perhaps there's still hope.

Posted by: miscellany101 | May 3, 2009 2:37 AM | Report abuse

emmet1

When you interrogate someone you are asking them to give you something you need, in this case information. Whether you choose brutal methods or otherwise, you are asking them to do something FOR you (that they most likely are not personally inclined to do nor will benefit from doing). That is the sense in which you need their cooperation.

Of course, you can torture just for the sake of torture -- merely for revenge or to terrorize -- but torture's defenders, like Krauthammer in this essay, claim the need to get vital information from the tortured subject as its reason and justification. In other words, they are making the assumption, and the argument, that torture is an effective, in fact the most effective, way to get someone's cooperation -- to get what we want and need from them.

Common sense and the testimony of experts in interrogation methods suggest that assumption isn't true. Using a method for getting vital information to "save lives" and "keep us safe" that doesn't work, doesn't of course save lives or keep us safe at all.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place. That's why our thinking about how to provide security for the nation has to be much more sophisticated than assuming that others will always and can simply be scared or terrorized into submission to our wants and needs.

Dangerous people are generally bright enough to recognize their enemies' fear of appearing weak for what it is -- fear. And bright enough to devise ways to exploit that fear. That is, in fact, exactly what terrorism is; using fear to weaken and hopefully destroy a much stronger opponent.

The genuinely strong don't worry constantly about whether they appear strong -- instead, they act naturally from their strength. Torture isn't acting from strength -- it's acting out of fear and desperation.

Posted by: mschumacher1 | May 3, 2009 5:43 AM | Report abuse

To me - the most horrific part of this "enhanced interrogation" was the facial slap (as taken directly from one memo):

"The goal of the facial slap is not to inflict physical pain that is severe or lasting.
Instead, the purpose of the facial slap is to induce shock, surprise, and/or humiliation."

How can we treat people this way? As a country?

Posted by: nora7 | May 3, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

mschumacher1, enhanced interrogation methods DO work. The argument to the contrary is simply to avoid the difficult moral decision involving unsavory means and highly valuable ends.Dick Cheney has asked President Obama to release the CIA memos about what we learned from the three waterboarded terrorists -- according to CIA Diector George Tenet more than half of what we learned about al Qaeda -- but so far Obama has refused.

We did try non-coercive methods at first, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed told us defiantly that we would have to wait and see what further attacks they had planned. Thankfully, we didn't wait and he soon coughed up the information, so to speak. American lives were saved by making a vicious terrorist experience the sensation, but not the reality, of drowning. The Democrats who were briefed unanimously approved, as they should have.

I've read enough history to know that the appearance of strength is almost as important as the reality, even more important for deterring attacks. In the Middle East there is no sympathy for the weak. Ask the Kuwaitis whose only 'crime' was to have a much smaller army
Saddam's. Ask the Kurds. Ask any ethnic or religious minority.

Bin Laden said that everyone admires the strong horse and despises the weak one. People who are thugs or who think like thugs respect nothing except strength. We're not that way -- the Canadians don't lie awake worrying that we'll invade their country -- but we live in that world.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 3, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

When I was in grade school in the '40s, one of the principles that we learned was that in a democracy, the human rights of the individual were respected by law, even if the situation was incendiary. We had come a long way towards making that a reality, until the Bush administration decreed that detainees were non-human and began their tortuous justifications.
Thanks for your very clear commentary.

Posted by: kstokesla | May 3, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Emmet1, we may disagree, but you are thoughtful. Thank you.

Huntington, in the _Clash of Civilizations_, indeed has one fairly apocalyptic vision of Islamic growth. It is not, however, the only one. It is several years old; Barrett presents a different model in the _Pentagon's New Map_. There is an excellent recent paper on long war approaches to counter militant Islam at the Army War College strategicstudiesinstitute.mil, The Serpent in Our Garden: Al-Qa'ida and the Long War by COL Brian Drinkwine. While interesting, however, the immediate topic is interrogation, and I don't want to get too far away.

Quite correctly, you suggested that a prisoner has to look at the possibility things can get worse. A good deal of the serious literature in interrogation calls that inducing a state of futility against resistance. As Mschumacher1 points out, however, that individual may be willing to martyr himself, so "worse" does not necessarily mean death or pain -- KSM claims he wants death. Worse can include disorientation. One method, which some Common Article 3 people might say is humiliation rather than torture, but that I can accept, is disrupting defenses: for example, some fanatics have tried to resist by praying aloud. A countermeasure, which I certainly wouldn't mind but I'm not a fanatic, was to have a female interrogator rub him with scented oil. In his belief system, that made him unclean to pray, and took away that defense.

Things get much more blurred under the Convention Against Torture whether methods such as sensory deprivation are illicit, but, putting morality aside, contrast them to waterboarding. The disorientation creates a need for interaction and contact. Conversation, even interrogation, becomes a reward. Contrast that with the instantaneous need to make waterboarding stop. Think about shots past the ear and fake executions, widely accepted as Common Article 3 violations, from the dynamics of interrogation, with someone prepared to martyr. If you'll look at the analyses in the CIA KUBARK manuals, there are arguments that such treatment actually can strengthen the prisoner's resolve, because he has lived through it.

Putting aside morality, or any long-term creation of more enemies, read the JPRA testimony about how they advised against SERE methods in 2001 and 2002. There's a pattern that senior Administration officials, primarily lawyers, convinced themselves this was the only approach, and got both legal opinions and psychologists to support their preconception. By roughly 2005, the military was taking steps to fix the strategic interrogator shortage, not something you can do overnight.

Nora7, I'm afraid there can be value in physical measures to get attention, rather than produce I'll tell you anything to stop this.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 3, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Emmett1, just to be clear, the Obama administration has not "refused" to release the reports on what was learned from torture. They are processing the requests, which takes time, and they have promised to release all such documents without cherry picking. And to be equally clear, you simply cannot state unequivocally that they do work. There are many credible experts who were directly involved in interrogating these very people who state that they didn't.

But even if it does work (which based on the evidence is highly doubtful), it is totally and absolutely irrelevant. Torture violates the bedrock principals of our entire legal and ethical system.

It is irresolute and weak to abandon our principles in the face of fear. We spend more on defense than the next ten largest countries combined, and yet we have resorted to craven and cowardly means of responding to this threat. The only way terrorists can destroy us is to make us choose to abandon the very values that make us unique. We have only ourselves to blame if that happens.

Posted by: RationalCenter | May 3, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

RationalCenter, you too are begging the question as to whether the techniques used were torture. Where is the line between coercive and torture? Would you like to try to answer that? It is all well and good to disagree with the reasoning in the memos that the techniques are not torture, but intellectual honesty requires some attempt at a similar level of reasoning to to justify the conclusion that they are.

Also, every Director of Central Intelligence and Director of National Intelligence, of both parties, familiar with the program has stated that the techniques were successful. Cheney would not have asked that the documents be released if he was not certain that they attested to the utility of the program.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 3, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Rational Center, nnhansen answered your post effectively, but I'll add my 2 cents.

I read an op-ed from two FBI agents who believe that we could have gotten the same vital information about AQ follow-up attacks without waterboarding the three high-value detainees. Obama said so at his press conference. I'm not good at alternative history, which is by nature mere speculation. The fact remains we did get the information, captured more terrorists, and thwarted their plots for mass murder. As far as efficacy is concerned, that's good enough for government work.

I respect views on both sides of the issue of what techniques are morally and legally permissible, as long as someone doesn't approach the issue in a partisan, overly emotional or dishonest manner. The question of where to draw the line is extremely difficult.

Most people agree that coercive techniques are sometimes necessary but that torture is unacceptable. If there exist coercive techniques that work as well as torture, then it becomes a moot question. Waterboarding, in the view of some, works as well as devices everyone would agree are torture, like Tower of London or Gestapo stuff.

So, does waterboarding tiptoe up to the line or actually cross it? Reasonable people can disagree. It is absolutely terrifying but does not cause unbearable pain or permanent injury. We have waterboarded thousands of our own servicemen and even some journalists who have volunteered. It's obviously not equivalent to electrodes, thumbscrews or the rack, but its use is certainly not our proudest moment, either. If there are other methods that work equally well, we shouldn't use it. But in my opinion protecting innocent American lives is a higher value.

Posted by: emmet1 | May 4, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

In order for the ticking time bomb scenario to be valid, you must know that there is a ticking time bomb…how did you get that information? If the knowledge of the ticking time bomb plot was gained through torture, how do you know it is reliable information? Is it just your certainty of knowledge that torture works that allows you to know that the plot exists?

Regardless, with the couple we know were tortured, Zub and KSM, what exactly was the ticking time bomb situation that they were tortured over? None that have ever been publicly mentioned.

Seems to me that the feelings that are coming out of the pro-torture crowd is that they want to do it and support it because valuable information is gathered from it and thus lives saved. But if valuable information is gathered and can be gathered using legal methods, they don’t want to go down that route because it is too nice to the suspect, it is coddling them, it is not authoritarian enough. In other words even if the exact same information can be gathered by winning the trust of the suspect it is not the way the torture apologists will want to go, which leads me to one conclusion, they support torture because they like it. They support torture because they want to take out punishment against these people because they (the apologists) fear our court system.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, you assume a lot in making your grossly unfair conclusion. No one as best as I can tell has advocated any of these measures, whether they consider them torture or not, as punishment.
You assume that the techniques were used in what was believed to be a ticking time bomb situation. We did not know when the next attack was scheduled to take place but KSM did lead us to believe that another attack was coming. Should we have risked allowing the time to pass and hope we had enough time to allow non-coercive measures to work?
Your next assumption is that those non-coercive measures always work given enough time. They don't. The professionals in charge of the interrogations determined that they were not likely to work in any reasonable time frame and sought permission to use other means. You, and other professionals, may disagree with their judgment but they were the ones there and you were not.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

nnhansen, your statement that "they were the ones there and you were not" can't be dismissed. Let me note that I distinguish among noncoercive methods, coercive methods, and torture.

Part of the problem is that there were insufficient professionals in charge of interrogations. Note, for example, that the CIA contracted with retired JPRA/SERE psychologists to develop techniques. In 2001-2002, the largest reservoir of skilled interrogators in the U.S. government was in the FBI -- and it was deficient there. There were political factors why top-level leadership fixated on modified SERE techniques, not even listening to the people who used those techniques in their intended context and insisted they were not useful for interrogation (e.g., Kleinman, Baumgarner, Ogrisseg), as well as continuing review from others with interrogation experience (e.g., Herrington, Soufan, Cloonan), some of whom had worked directly with Islamic terrorists.

I can understand desperate acts in 2001, and through a good deal of 2002. By the fall of 2002, however, other methods were being presented, but the top leadership had fixated on these. Jack Goldsmith, certainly no liberal, and with full information, tried and failed to reverse direction in 2003, pointing out potential liabilities. By 2006, a good deal of the deficiencies in strategic interrogation had been addressed and better, quickly actionable information was being developed.

I don't propose to go into the Second Wave and KSM here, but there is other intelligence suggesting that al-Qaeda itself concluded it did not have the resources to do it, and that other methods of continuing attack would be likelier to work. Al-Qaeda was continuing its trend to decentralize; there was far less control over Madrid and London than there was over 9/11, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, or the East African embassy bombings.

nnhansen, I agree that people have not rationally proposed them -- but, looking through this thread, there are people who seem to want them to be used more for retribution. There are others that simply seem unaware that there are other methods. Also, there can be coercive measures that are useful, and that fall into the murky area between a very rights-driven interpretation of Common Article 3, and the U.S. ratification, with caveats, of the Convention Against Torture. I'm not opposed to coercion, but I will merely note that it's hard -- not impossible -- to go back to other methods once information has been coerced.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 4, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, let’s just say that you and I will disagree on this issue. I don’t assume the “techniques (for your terminology )/Torture (for mine) were used in a “ticking time bomb scenario. I am suggesting that the TTB scenario is frequently used as a major justification. Re-read some of the comments, TTB is a major selling point for some of these commenter’s. My point was that how do we know if a TTB situation even exits and if we did, how did we know that information in the first place? Extrapolating that notion to KSM and Zub why torture them absent any notion of a ticking time bomb scenario? Where is the immediate life threatening situation being used to morally justify torture buy so many?

You are doing exactly what you are accusing me of doing, you are ASSUMING that the “professionals” in charge tried and failed with traditional non-coercive methods. Think about that very phrase you used, non-coercive methods. Think about it. The professionals from the FBI disagree with you, and disagree very strongly. KSM told us what he thought we wanted to hear, thus far none of the public explanations/justifications put forth have turned out to be valid…none of them. Remember too that the hired guns were there on the scene and you too were not there, so all you, or I have to work with are the words of others. I for one will take the words of the FBI agents over the words of Krauthammer, who was not there, or dirty dick who I am at a loss for words to describe.

Now if dirty dick has some information that would help his cause I’d love to see it, but I will venture to say that the memo’s/justification originate from his office, and like the library tower plot (actually solved before the torturee’s were captured) these explanations will turn out to be fictional. But in the long run all of this posting has not convinced me that the original act of torture is legal. Regardless of the information gained. If the act is illegal, then the information gained from it is illegal, or at least it has been according to our laws for 200+ years. And if illegal, which I don’t think there are too many people who would classify torture as legal, all this sparring over justifications for it is simply to provide cover.

I stand by my assertion that people torture because they want to. Re-read thhe comments above and in some other threads on the topic. Inevitably you will find many comments along the lines of these people killed 3,000 people of course I’m for …

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

HCBerkowitz, I appreciate very much the knowledge and insight you bring to this discussion. What leads you to your conclusion that political leaders were fixated on these techniques? It seems to me that they listened to different opinions on the subject and simply disagreed with those presented by one side. There is a real distinction between not listening to someone and hearing what they have to say and simply rejecting their advice. The libraries are full of books by experts who claim that the powers that be would have been better off had they just listened to them.

I do not doubt that interrogation methods improved. I would certainly hope that interrogators, like most others, learn from mistakes and constantly improve their skill craft.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, the ticking time bomb scenario is used as an example against those who make absolutist statements, nothing more.

The biggest problem I see with your train of thought here is that you are equating the situation faced by the interrogators with a criminal justice situation. It was not. The FBI is a law enforcement agency and as such their interrogators are focused on obtaining information that would be admissible in a court of law. The vast majority of law enforcement interrogations are intended to find out what has occurred and who did it. Techniques that are normally effective in such a situation, where time is not rarely an overriding concern, may not be best suited in this situation. The purpose of these interrogations was to obtain intelligence that would prevent future attacks and be of use in future military operations. Different situations often call for different tactics.

Your assertion that if the techniques were illegal, the information is illegal highlights your lack of appreciation for the different circumstances. The interrogators were not interested in the admissibility of the information in court. If you don't want to take Cheney's word for it, how about George Tenet, Adm. Blair, Gen Hayden, AG Michael Mukasey? They have all attested to the programs effectiveness.

Your completely irrational distrust of Dick Cheney aside, you still have not explained why you disagree with the conclusions reached by the DOJ that these techniques were not torture and therefore not illegal.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

If you have followed my comments here on various froomkin threads you would know why I find the “techniques” to be torture. For one they are considered torture everywhere outside of the Bush administration and their supporters. Heck last week froomkin linked to a British story about WWII where the individuals involved knew they were torturing people and if you changed everything from Germans to Arabs you could swear it was written today. Couple that with John McCain saying we torture to what has seemed like and the near constant attempt to redefine torture and to find out where that line lies in the “grey area” that we should not cross. Then toss in a little bit of the fact that the program/techniques come right out of our how to resist torture program and most people would come to the conclusion that we are torturing. That, I think is the main reason why there is so much energy being expended on the debate of…did we get useful information out of this. Useful information is simply a selling tool, it belays the fact that this is torture. Right now I’ll take the word of the people who are saying that the administration pressured them to torture in order to link Iraq and 9/11 or AQ, that story seems far more plausible than any the former administration has put forth.

But why am I at odds with the Bush ERA DOJ? Hmm, let’s see…I read the memos as they were being released perhaps? These things are some of the most poorly written poorly reasoned pieces of legal advice that I have ever seen and I see a lot of it. I work in tax and read tax opinions all the time. Granted tax is not criminal law, but quality and reason cross all boundaries. There was absolutely no reason for these memo’s to ever have been classified other than to hide what they wanted to do. I’m not alone in my assessment that this stuff is horribly written. Oh yes, if these opinions were valid then why did they stop some of the torture methods? If the opinions were valid why shortly before leaving office did the administration send out a memo rescinding all of them? If they were legal you would think the Bush administration, which professed to be all about our safety, would have left them in place…or were they purposefully trying to hamstring the Obama administration on national security?

Lastly if the opinions and the ”techniques” they allow to happen are legal than investigations should not matter, there is nothing to hide. However if investigations bring out a host of people talking about useful information and invoking 9/11 rather than defending the substance of the memo’s, well that will tell me that no, they don’t want anyone to critically examine the reasoning and they want to divert the argument away from the actual substance.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, that is three paragraphs of cop out. You disagree because you disagree, thank you for the clarification.

Now, how about some specificity in responding to the question asked? Which of the techniques described in the memos inflicted extreme pain or suffering? Is there a legal definition of severe pain or discomfort? If so, what is it? If not, what is yours and why? If the definition of torture is dependent on the infliction of severe pain or suffering, how do you account for the fact that we utilize these techniques against our own service members? Are we torturing them? Does consent mitigate pain or suffering? If so, how? Is the difference is in degree rather than kind?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

And if you look at Mr. Krauthammer's life he has chosen never to fight to defend his country or way of life.

I know he had the swimming accident in his 20's but the Army doesn't fight in many of those.

Posted by: williamwertman | May 4, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

williamwertman, so only people who serve in uniform are entitled to express an opinion? I have, so I guess I'm OK, how about Froomkin, Obama, Holder, you?

This excuse for an actual argument is pointless.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse


dellis2 said:
"What if we have 95% certainty of all 3 of them, and 1 million lives are at risk? Isn't there a moral necessity to take whatever means is necessary in this instance to acquire as much intelligence as possible in a short period of time?"

It was reasonable to assume this could be the case after 911. Then considering the argument that waterboarding is not torture vs what was done to John McCain, I see absolutely nothing wrong with Krauthammers assertios. Froomkin is just appeasing the pacafists.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen 3 para's of a cop out? Whatever dude. Read and get whatever you want out of it. Just keep blindly supporting, it seems to be the strategy.

As to only those in uniform being allowed an opinion? Ever walk by the WWII memorial? That is a not uncommon sentiment. I was there on a weekend when they had a fairly large anti-war rally and many of the vets expressed just such an opinion. I think that phillosophy works well for Heinlein, but not in our world. If I was serving only to preserve right for a few, I woudl have never served. But overall I think you miss the point he was trying to make is that many many promoters of war and projecting America's muscle abroad, have never and would never serve.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse


rowens1 spewed:
"Charles Kraut is a blot on journalistic ethics."

Nah... Dr. Krauthammer is a great American. Top notch in reporting the facts and without equal in his class. His writings have achieved world-wide acclaim, and serve as guidance for both the layman and pro. The uninformed sometimes criticize, showing he is the big dog that little dogs bark at, as it were. May his values and beliefs render assistance to those in need of enlightenment.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin belies his intended concept with subtle ad hominem against Krauthammer. This is typical of those who knock reason with wordy diatribes intending intellectual discussion. Perhaps he best leave his views on torture to dedicated journalists and those who must deal with terrorists and dedicated killers.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, still unable or unwilling to provide any semblance of reasoning to justify your assertion that the techniques employed were torture? Pathetic but not unexpected.

You are missing the point that service is not in any way a prerequisite for commenting on or advocating public policy.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse


nnhansen1 sais:
"You are missing the point that service is not in any way a prerequisite for commenting on or advocating public policy."

What do you think service would be a prerequisite for?
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Billw3, not a whole lot. VA benefits...

The men and women I served with were not interested in restricting the political rights of fellow citizens.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse


nnhansen said:
"The men and women I served with were not interested in restricting the political rights of fellow citizens."

So what outfit did you serve in and when?
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Billw3, I retired 5 years ago and served in a number of I Corps, XVIII Abn Corps, and 7 ID(L) units in addition to a few TRADOC and CENTCOM assignments. How exactly is this relevant?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, if you can not connect the dots laid out, then you never will. we did what we did and it is what it is. Just because you and a few think it is not so does nto make it that. Now that you've stooped to the point where petty insults is your best retort I cna only guess that either 1) you have tacitly admitted you have lost or 2) second shift has arrived and your replacement is not quite up to speed on how to respond. See ya.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, you are clearly incapable of justifying your own position. As I said, that does not surprise me at all because no one seems willing to back up the claim that what we did was torture beyond merely asserting that it is so. I asked a series of fairly straight forward questions. Questions that the attorneys in the DOJ, who you accuse of poor reasoning, had to answer and yet you do not even attempt to answer them. The devil is in the details and yet you are unwilling or unable to discuss the matter at the level required.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse


To nnhansen,
Just curious since you seemed either modest
or to not have served. Looks like the former. BTW I served in the 101 Airborne, the Marines, and the 351st Infantry.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Billw3, would you like a copy of my DD214? Do you want service history down to bn level? What exactly are you looking for?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse


To nnhansen:
I said:
Just curious since you seemed either modest
or to not have served. Looks like the former. BTW I served in the 101 Airborne, the Marines, and the 351st Infantry.

You replied:
"Would you like a copy of my DD214? Do you want service history down to bn level? What exactly are you looking for?"

No thanks, as I was accepting your word above. Why do you ask if I "want service history down to bn level"?
.
.

Posted by: Billw3 | May 4, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Billw3, disregard. I misunderstood.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I hate to cut and paste, but since nothing else I write gets through to you…

Waterboarding is considered to be torture by a wide range of authorities, including legal experts, politicians, war veterans, intelligence officials, military judges, and human rights organizations. David Miliband, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary described it as torture on July 19, 2008, and stated "the UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture." Arguments have been put forward that it might not be torture in all cases, or that it is unclear. The U.S. State Department has recognized "submersion of the head in water" as torture in other circumstances, for example, in its 2005 Country Report on Tunisia.

The United Nations' Report of the Committee Against Torture: Thirty-fifth Session of November 2006, stated that state parties should rescind any interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, that constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.


Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, concurred by stating, in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he believes waterboarding violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.


… the United States has a historical record of regarding waterboarding as a war crime, and has prosecuted as war criminals individuals for the use of the practice in the past. In 1947, the United States prosecuted a Japanese military officer, Yukio Asano, for carrying out various acts of torture including kicking, clubbing, burning with cigarettes and using a form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II. Yukio Asano received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor


Bent Sørensen, Senior Medical Consultant to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and former member of the United Nations Committee Against Torture has said:

It's a clear-cut case: Waterboarding can without any reservation be labeled as torture. It fulfils all of the four central criteria that according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) defines an act of torture. First, when water is forced into your lungs in this fashion, in addition to the pain you are likely to experience an immediate and extreme fear of death. You may even suffer a heart attack from the stress or damage to the lungs and brain from inhalation of water and oxygen deprivation. In other words there is no doubt that waterboarding causes severe physical and/or mental suffering – one central element in the UNCAT's definition of torture. In addition the CIA's waterboarding clearly fulfills the three additional definition criteria stated in the Convention for a deed to be labeled torture, since it is 1) done intentionally, 2) for a specific purpose and 3) by a representative of a state – in this case the US

So other than laws and morals etc... nothing will shake your beliefs. enjoy the rest of your shift defending Bush positions.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | May 4, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

m_mcmahon, two can play at this... Waterboarding is NOT considered torture by a wide range of authorities, including legal experts, politicians, war veterans, intelligence officials, and federal judges.

General Michael Hayden, former Director, National Security Agency, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Director, Central Intelligence Agency attests that it is not torture when done within the guidelines that it was used. He is joined in that assessment by former US District Court Judge and US Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

It is by no means clear cut, seeing that we do it to our own service members. Are you claiming we are torturing them?

Why are you unwilling to answer the questions I posed?

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

To nnhansen:
You make a lot of sense, to bad others here cannot understand your very valid points.

We thank you for your service.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 4, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

To sovine08 - Thank you and you're welcome. It was my pleasure.

To m_mcmahon - If you are going to engage in argumentum ad verecundiam (argument to authority), you should ensure that what your authority is saying speaks to the issue at hand. What Dr.(?) Sørensen says regarding waterboarding is largely premised on water being forced into the lungs but if you had bothered to read the memos, you would know that the technique employed by the CIA resulted in no water entering the lungs. The angle at which the terrorist was placed prevented this. Water may have accumulated in the mouth and nasal cavity and it may have been swallowed (this is why saline solution was used instead of plain water to reduce the possibility of hyponatremia) but none was forced into the lungs.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 4, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen,

Can't say thanks enough for taking the time to continue writing. I returned to the thread expecting more mud-slinging and was happy to see it had largely ended. Politics has obscured the main point, both here and elsewhere (loved the inclusion of a Miliband quote - no ulterior motive there).

The difference between coercion and torture is the bottom line, but it’s been obscured in the public conversation. An interrogator is allowed to tell a detainee (facing a serious enough charge) that if he does not cooperate he will never see the child his new wife is expecting - no first steps, no first words, not a single loving smile from what will forever remain his only child, his only legacy on this earth. He will receive the death penalty or a life sentence, without parole, to be served far from home. The interrogator can do all this, complete with photographs of the family in question.

But can he put a caterpillar in the cell?

Is the fear of never seeing your family again more or less meaningful than a fear of butterfly larvae? The threat of losing your family - or your status, your job, your freedom - are powerful psychological inductions to talk. Waterboarding threatens a detainee with losing... nothing. It's based on a subconscious reaction to having water in your nasal passage. It isn't based on pain or a threat to the security of the detainee or anyone else.

Yet you can tell a detainee that his wife may be forced to turn to prostitution to support herself when her husband never returns. It's true. Is that torture? You aren't doing anything to anybody - you're just describing the actual fate the detainee may condemn his family to if he decides not to cooperate.

Three words largely define torture in various international documents: cruel, inhuman, degrading. An obvious example is the behavior at Abu Gharib. Is waterboarding any of these? Here is where honest people disagree, each with a legitimate worldview, and no single conclusion can be lorded over all others. Here is where Froomkin fell short and Krauthammer did not.

I think waterboarding should be restricted to an absolute minimum of cases, with the authority for its approval reserved with the president. Should a detainee in the same position as KSM was when captured, I would absolutely authorize it. I do not think it is torture, but I think it is a practice powerful enough to be closely restricted.


Posted by: mindkiller1 | May 4, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, as far as fixation, one good source is Jack Goldsmith, who was appointed as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in 1993, after previously working in for the General Counsel of DoD. He was appointed by the Bush Administration, in part, because he was a conservative legal scholar opposed to the "judicialization of international relations". Eventually, he resigned, citing, in part, a fixation by Cheney and Addington on what they believed to be a Constitutionally legitimate reestablishment of unitary Presidential authority to wage war as he saw fit.

Rice and others were briefed on the CIA proposals in May 2002, but apparently were presented with only the SERE-derived techniques, described as essential. If you look in the report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, you'll find the first inquiries into SERE techniques as early as December 2001, with a constant refrain, by the SERE people, that their methods were not intended for interrogation. Their memos on the topic do not seem to have gone higher than the DoD General Counsel, who was close to Cheney.

In other words, there was a fixation on these techniques in a group of politicians and lawyers, who asked the wrong question: "can we make this legal and increase Presidential authority", as opposed to "do they work", and "are there alternatives". COL (ret) Stuart Herrington had consulted to MG Dunlavey at GTMO and argued for traditional interrogation, but that does not seem to have gone up the chain; the SERE methods were in the forefront of some of the military leadership's minds, and apparently had been used in Afghanistan by TF180 and USSOCOM. Remember, some of this was before the capture of Abu Zubaydah in March 2002 and well before KSM in March 2003.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 4, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

HCBerkowitz, I am familiar with Mr. Goldsmith (although I believe you meant to say he was appointed in 2003 rather than 1993) and his book The Terror Presidency but I am not sure I took away from it what you did. "Fixated" to me implies a somewhat unhealthy or improper obsession. If you are not using it in that way, I apologize.

I believe, and I think Mr. Goldsmith agrees, that the Bush White House had a real and legitimate obsession with preventing the next attack. They properly held that their first duty was to prevent such an attack and were willing "to act aggressively and preemptively to do so." They operated under a certain set of assumptions that Goldsmith may have disagreed with but he does not question the motivations of those who made those assumptions.

As for the SERE techniques, the thoughts of the SERE people you reference surprise me. I have not been through SERE but I have many friends who have. The course is designed to familiarize service members with interrogation techniques that have been effectively used. To argue that the techniques are not effective strikes at the heart of the program.

I think you are mistaken in the priority of the questions being asked. I think the main question was, "Will this help prevent another attack?" Everyything else such as "how the world will view us" or "does this increase presidential power" were secondary at best.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

nnhansen, sorry about the date. Let me address SERE and then come back to Goldsmith. I'm walking a delicate line in discussing the policies behind the methods, in that the article we are discussing is more about methods.

In the first Senate Armed Services Committee testimony with JPRA/SERE personnel, where I earlier quoted COL Kleinman, Sen. Carl Levin asked, "Are the physical and psychological pressures, which are designed for use in SERE school for training students, intended to be used against detainees to obtain intelligence?"

The JPRA psychologist, Dr. Jerald Ogrisseg, responded "Those techniques are derived from what has historically happened to our personnel who have been detained by the enemy. From those, we derived some learning objectives and some situations to put students through so that we can test their decisionmaking-building, and also use some of those strategies to increase their resistance and the confidence that they would be able to survive if they are subjected to them. It's not the same at all."

A JPRA memo that went to Haynes at DoD and Rizzo at CIA, published by the Post on April 25, 2009, spoke more generally "The application of extreme physical andlor psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject's environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation ofthe subject's environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns."

In other words, methods that can be coercive, and indeed on the border if not beyond Common Article 3 and argued both ways with the Convention against Torture AS RATIFIED by the U.S., can work. Extreme pain, a perception of immediate death, etc., were not recommended.

Yes, there were obsessions, yes, they were sincere, and yes, they were unwise. Goldsmth, pages 125-6: "Addington awoke every morning primed to do battle with the terrorists and not what might happen next year or beyond. ''We'll deal with that when and if it is necessary to do so'' he would say whensomeone raised the possibility of difficulties that might result later from being overly aggressive now...we're going push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop." Goldsmith goes on about political philosophy.

But the very nature of this war is that it will be long, it will take years, and strategic thinking is needed.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 5, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

HCBerkowitz, I would start out by commenting on the weakness of Sen. Levin's question. Of course the tools and techniques designed for training service members were not intended to be used against detainees to obtain intelligence, they were intended to be used to train service members.

A much more appropriate question is whether those same techniques could be successfully used to obtain useful information from a detainee? According to any number of sources, the answer to that question is yes.

No one denies that coercive interrogation techniques may result in obtaining unreliable information but that is no less true of non-coercive measures. An important distinction has to be made between an interrogation designed to elicit a confession and one designed to obtain intelligence. The latter is subject to verification from other sources and by other methods. While we may never learn the truth if a confession is coerced from someone, the same cannot be said for coerced information of future activities.

I would also take exception to your reliance on the Convention against Torture or Common Article 3 as the applicable standard. The CAT is non-self executing, it required implementing legislation. That implementing legislation is 18 USC § 2340 and that is the applicable standard.

Now whether or not you and Goldsmith are correct that the obsession was unwise is surely debatable. Given the absence of that "next attack," it is hard to argue it was not effective.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 5, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

On some points, I think we are in more agreement than disagreement. Yes, 18 USC 2340 is definitive. My reference to the CAT was more to emphasize that the Senate ratified it with considerable, and in my opinion not unreasonable, qualifications based on not going beyond the Constitution. Those who use the literal CAT language are not citing that to which the U.S. agreed. I have not meant to state that Common Article 3 is binding; it's simply too vague to be binding other than as a statement of direction.

Whether or not the obsession was unwise goes beyond merely preventing a next attack. I don't want to get too far afield here, but I will comment that some of the planned additional attacks were cancelled by al-Qaeda. They had a significant problem in finding enough pilots for the "Second Wave" airliner attacks on the West Coast. In any event, simply from what we saw from those brave souls on Flight 93, and the attempted shoe bombing, that method would not have worked a second time. Other attacks were abandoned for reasons of infeasibility, such as not being able to cut cables on the Brooklyn Bridge. Their ability to operate was certainly hurt, but not destroyed, by taking away sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Now, the capture of KSM and others also hurt their planning ability. I'll join in cursing him, but he was competent.

If these techniques had been restricted to the High Value Detainees, it would be one thing. Unfortunately, they diffused (Rejali's term) to military interrogators in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, and were too widely used, in some cases creating additional enemies.

Remember that the intelligence community was improving overall operations after 9/11. With hindsight, the dots could have been connected but were not; I'm not fingerpointing but saying that there were many more defensive activities than these interrogations.

I literally don't know if the interrogations, as claimed by some, were focused on making a connection with Iraq. One of the questions yet unanswered is whether information gained there helped make the decision for the 2003 invasion. I certainly don't know. I do believe that was counterproductive, if for no other reason that it distracted from Afghanistan and even Pakistan.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 5, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree we are moving far afield from the topic and I will close with the thought that the relative success or failure of the program should not be judged solely on whether or not we can prove that specific attacks were prevented solely because of information obtained by interrogations. Information that furthered our knowledge of AQ's structure and operational methods would have been extremely useful in and of itself.

Posted by: nnhansen | May 5, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

nnhansen, first, thank you for the discussion. It was unusually thoughtful for what can often be a hand-waving blog.

I agree that getting away from the specific attack rationalization makes more sense. For the overall structural information on al-Qaeda -- "wiring diagram" being the counterintelligence term of art -- that tends to come more from bit-by-bit analysis from many sources, rather than any one revelation. One of the challenges is that they apparently use mission-oriented orders and decentralized execution to a very great extent.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | May 5, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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