Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The Advocates of Ignorance

The arguments for a greater public understanding of the Bush administration's torture policies get stronger all the time, even as the arguments for moving forward in a state of willful blindness become more and more clearly a refuge for the complicit and their enablers.

So have we reached critical mass? As Mark Danner points out in a Washington Post opinion piece on Sunday, we've actually known for five years that the Bush administration had used waterboarding on terror suspects. But terrified Democratic leaders weren't interested in setting up a national security showdown with President Bush, even once they achieved the majority in both houses of Congress.

Now, a seemingly endless and horrifying series of revelations has unleashed an intense public reaction -- while at the same time calling attention to all that we still don't know. And with Barack Obama as president -- despite his own reluctance to "look backward," as he puts it -- serious inquiry into what happened seems a distinct possibility.

There is an obvious partisan aspect to the current debate, as Republican leaders have fallen in lockstep behind the former Bush officials defending torture as legal and necessary. But it doesn't need to be that way. And I suspect that as we learn more -- and as the defense of clearly repugnant and illegal acts becomes more of a political loser -- Republicans will choose not to allow Bush-era torture to define their party.

That would leave a motley -- and yet still consequential -- alliance of the directly and indirectly culpable as the final defenders of torture know-nothingism. That group includes not only former administration officials and members of the intelligence community, but the political and media leaders -- Republican and Democrat alike -- who chose acquiescence over outrage and were a key part of keeping the torturers' secrets for so long.

Danner writes in his opinion piece about the many paradoxes of the torture scandal, chief among them being "that it is not about things we didn't know but about things we did know and did nothing about.... [A]sk yourself what exactly the political elite of the country has been doing for the last five years. Or what it has not been doing. And why...

"Unlike Watergate or Iran-contra, today's scandal emerges not from a shocking revelation of wrongdoing but from a long process of disclosure during which Americans have stared at blatant lawbreaking with apparent equanimity. This means Democrats as well as Republicans, including those in Congress who were willing to approve, as late as September 2006, a law, the Military Commissions Act, that purported to shield those who had applied these 'enhanced interrogation techniques' from prosecution under the War Crimes Act.

"Though they could have filibustered the bill, Democrats let it pass into law. The midterm elections loomed, and it was no secret that the president had introduced the bill partly as a trap -- a little bait that might allow any Democrat who spoke up against it to be accused of wanting to 'coddle terrorists.' Having been burned by the 'politics of fear' in 2002 and 2004, Democrats stood aside."

Who is still against some form of investigation? The right wing, at least for now. The
Washington Times editorial board writes: "There is little doubt that the ultimate target of such investigations would be former President Bush, who some in the far left of the Democratic Party consider to be a war criminal deserving prosecution...

"There is no value in pursuing any of these tribunals, which would quickly take on the theatrical attributes of show trials. They would be a gift to America's enemies who have fought for years to delegitimize our conduct of the war on terrorism, and they represent a distinct danger to a polity already riven by deep distrust."

And some elements of the Washington establishment oppose investigation as well. David S. Broder writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the 'torture' policies of the past.

"Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

"He was right to do this. But he was just as right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government...

"Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

"That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice."

But Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "What Broder states today as fact (that the Bush presidency is 'one of the darkest chapters of American history') is almost verbatim that which, when it mattered, when it was happening, he vehemently and repeatedly denied...

"This is a crucial and oft-overlooked fact in the debate over whether we should investigate and prosecute Bush crimes. The very same pundits and establishment journalists who today are demanding that we forget all about it, not look back, not hold anyone accountable, are the very same people who -- like Broder -- played key roles in hiding, enabling and defending these crimes."

Hilzoy blogs for the Washington Monthly: "When people talk about 'criminalizing policy differences', there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely: that no one actually broke the law....

"If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality."

Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times opinion column that some opponents of a further investigation "would rather not revisit those years because they don't want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.

"For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract 'confessions' that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

"It's hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn't, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.

"Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws."

Here are some of the many voices increasingly calling for investigation of some form -- congressional, independent, or criminal.

Eugene Robinson writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "The many roads of inquiry into the Bush administration's abusive 'interrogation techniques' all lead to one stubborn, inconvenient fact: Torture is not just immoral but also illegal. This means that once we learn the whole truth, the law will oblige us to act on it."

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes: "As we are learning by the day, the Bush administration contorted the Constitution and concocted preposterous legal theories to protect itself while it pursued its war on terror. Its many failings included cynicism, recklessness, distrust of the public and disregard for law and history. To reclaim our heritage and standing, the nation requires rejection of all of those. What is needed now are trust, candor, care and patience -- enduring American values temporarily forgotten at great cost."

The Detroit Free Press editorial board writes: "Civilized people everywhere are anxious to know how a nation that considers itself the world's foremost champion of human rights came to embrace torture techniques perfected in the prison camps of North Korea.

"It's surely in the United States' interest to satisfy their curiosity, notwithstanding President Barack Obama's concern that an official inquiry into torture abuses could devolve into a divisive witch hunt....

"What matters now is finding out how legal and constitutional mechanisms established to protect basic rights were subverted, and to make whatever repairs or improvements are necessary to show the world the ideals enshrined in our founding documents are more than empty slogans."

Nicholas D. Kristof writes in his New York Times opinion column: "President Obama worries that [a] commission will be a distraction, but the truth is the opposite. Revelations will continue to trickle out — including a new hoard of photos of abuses scheduled to be released by May 28 — creating a constant roar of charges and counter-charges. Liberals will jab Mr. Obama from the left, and Dick Cheney from the right, until the president resembles St. Sebastian (the human pincushion). Mr. Obama won't be able to escape torture."

Kristof writes that a commission "could help forge a consensus against torture, for almost everyone in the national security world believes that the result would be a ringing affirmation that we should not torture." And, he writes: "It's in Mr. Obama's interest to reach such a consensus, because otherwise the next major terror attack — and there will be one — will be followed by Republican claims that the president's wimpishness left America vulnerable. His agenda on health care, climate change and education will then risk a collapse into dream dust. The way to inoculate his agenda is to seek common ground through a nonpartisan commission."

Frank Rich writes in his New York Times opinion column that "we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture."

And, (see my Wednesday post) Rich concludes that "the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration's ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee's memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) 'Downing Street memo,' in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' A month after Bybee's memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on 'Meet the Press,' hyping both Saddam's W.M.D.s and the 'number of contacts over the years' between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk."

In the meantime, the drip-drip of disclosure continues. And it appears that willful blindness -- and/or enforced ignorance -- was a core principle of the Bush administration's torture decision-makers.

Greg Miller writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The CIA used an arsenal of severe interrogation techniques on imprisoned Al Qaeda suspects for nearly seven years without seeking a rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

"The failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003. That year, the agency's inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, and recommended a study by outside experts on whether they worked....

"'Nobody with expertise or experience in interrogation ever took a rigorous, systematic review of the various techniques -- enhanced or otherwise -- to see what resulted in the best information,' said a senior U.S. intelligence official involved in overseeing the interrogation program....

"Former Bush administration officials said the failure to conduct such an examination was part of a broader reluctance to reassess decisions made shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks."

Peter Finn and Joby Warrick write in The Washington Post: "The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as 'torture' in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce 'unreliable information.'"

But: "A former administration official said the National Security Council, which was briefed repeatedly that summer on the CIA's planned interrogation program by George J. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, and agency lawyers, did not discuss the issues raised in the attachment."

Pamela Hess writes for the Associated Press: "Some former Bush officials argue that they were not properly warned by CIA officials about the potential perils of the severe methods, while others insist there were explicit cautions."

At particular issue is "a crucial May 2002 meeting that paved the way for use of waterboarding on a suspected al-Qaida leader....

"A former senior Bush administration official familiar with the deliberations told The Associated Press that during [that] meeting..., then-CIA director George Tenet, backed by agency lawyers and CIA officers, reassured former NSC director Condoleezza Rice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and others that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were both safe and necessary.

"The former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's continuing sensitivity, said Tenet and other CIA officials did not mention the techniques' potential legal and physical dangers....

"But a former senior intelligence official also aware of the internal 2002 discussions disputed that account. He dismissed the charge that Tenet had presented the harsh methods to the NSC as the only possible option. The intelligence official, who also spoke with anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the CIA had insisted on having the program legally reviewed to be sure it comported both with U.S. law and policy."

And former CIA director Porter J. Goss writes in a Washington Post op-ed: "In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's 'High Value Terrorist Program,' including the development of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

"Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as 'waterboarding' were never mentioned."

Was torture the only way to get 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to talk?
Joby Warrick and Peter Finn write in The Washington Post about how that "may never be conclusively known, in large part because the CIA appears not to have tried traditional tactics for much time, if at all. According to the agency's own accounting, Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times during his first four weeks in a CIA secret prison."

They also note: "It is unclear from unclassified reports whether the information gained was critical in foiling actual plots."

And, yes, counterterrorism officials said Mohammed and another tortured suspect "provided critical information about senior al-Qaeda figures and identified hundreds of al-Qaeda members, associates and financial backers....

"But the government's justification for the CIA program hinged on the need to break up imminent terrorist threats, not the mapping of strategic intelligence, which can take weeks and months."

And Warrick and Finn also point out: "Other officials, including former high-ranking members of the Bush administration, argue that judging the program by whether it yielded information misses the point."

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Time's Bobby Ghosh have more about Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent and author of a New York Times op-ed that, as I wrote on Thursday, persuasively and memorably rebuts the misinformation being spread by those complicit in torture.

Finally, don't be too swayed by the recent opinion polls that ostensibly show that the public is divided on torture and further investigation. I've previously mentioned a February USA Today/Gallup Poll, which showed that nearly two thirds of Americans support an investigation into Bush-era detainee policy – although they are split on whether it should be conducted by an independent panel or by federal prosecutors.

Now along comes two new polls, one from Washington Post/ABC and the other from the Pew Research Center.

Pew reports: "Amid intense debate over the use of torture against suspected terrorists... nearly half say the use of torture under such circumstances is often (15%) or sometimes (34%) justified; about the same proportion believes that the torture of suspected terrorists is rarely (22%) or never (25%) justified."

But the Pew pollsters granted torture advocates a good chunk of their argument in the phrasing of their question. The question they asked was not whether torture is justified, but whether "torture to gain important information from suspected terrorists is justified." Not surprisingly, in this age of "24", the ticking time bomb scenario does give people pause. But as should be increasingly clear, in the real world things don't work that way -- and interrogation experts maintain that in all realistic situations, traditional methods actually work better.

One Post question poses the "24" question, again without sufficient context, asking "do you think there are cases in which the United States should consider torture against terrorism suspects?" On that one, the public is split evenly.

And the Post question about investigations is phrased in unnecessarily partisan terms and is too limiting in its scope: "Do you think the Obama administration should or should not investigate whether any laws were broken in the way terrorism suspects were treated under the Bush administration?" The question shouldn't be about the "Obama administration" investigating Bush, but about whether there ought to be a criminal, congressional, or independent investigation of some sort. (And even with the current phrasing, by the way, 51 percent are in favor.)

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 27, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Torture  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Quick Takes
Next: Not a Mixed Verdict

Comments

Ariana Huffington said it best: It is not a right v. left debate. It's an issue of right v. wrong.

We are a nation of laws, or we are not.

Keep up the good work Dan!

Posted by: JCinCT | April 27, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The truth will come out eventually and NEEDS to come out for the good of the country. I agree that this is a matter of right vs wrong or, better put, legal vs illegal.

Some will no doubt say that torture is necessary and produces results, but they are wrong on both counts. I expect many comments will be posted saying that Cheny et al are right, that everyone else are wimps and cowards if they don't approve of torture "to keep us safe". They overlook that by torturing we already have forsaken our safety and have done it to ourselves.

Posted by: allenofwoodhaven | April 27, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I think that you are right, everything should be laid out on the table. What I am wondering though is why you insist on claiming against mounting evidence that waterboarding does not work and that it did not save American lives.

Simply put Mr. Froomkin is either badly misinformed or not very bright.

Obamas own head of National Security claimed that indeed in the case of KSM, it is likely that information obtained through waterboarding saved American lives, by breaking up the Asian Rim Airline Plot. Here ususally Mr. Froomkin switches to talking about Zubaiyada, who was Froomkin is right did not give us much of anything.

However, no one has come out and said that KSM was cooperating, or that they felt they would learn x, y and z without waterboarding. KSM was simply holding back information that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Americans. In this case Waterboarding worked and American lives were saved.

The counter argument rests on the possibility that some other forms of interrogation might also have worked. However, timing is important. We (the US) needed this information quickly, we had a method we knew would work, we used it, and it did work.

It is irrational to say that was the wrong decision because other techniques might or might not have worked. We couldn't and didn't take the chance of experimenting with other techniques which might or might not have worked.

To paraphrase the argument think of it this way, method x gets a man on the moon, yes there are many other ways that this could be accomplished that might have worked, or might not have worked. Does this mean that method X was wrong? Answer, no of course not, it would be idiotic to think that method X is wrong.

So yes please do put everything out there so Americans can have proof that waterboarding saved American lives, and so that we can all have a good laugh at Mr. Froomkins expense. It will be well deserved.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 27, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

All claims that torture kept the US safe are steadily unraveling. Not only do the timelines claimed fail, as in the case of Zubaydah and KSM, but several "plots" have been shown (like the proposed LA attacks) to have been conversation and not developed plans--in some cases, mere ideas planted by counterintelligence operatives.

The claims of any political associate of the Cheney/Bush administration is immediately suspect as a lie. That's the default position now, after years and years of exposed lies and incompetence.

For those who'd claim they kept us safe, never forget that Cheney and Bush allowed 9/11 to happen, despite repeated and urgent warnings. The torture was implemented as a means toward invading Iraq, and was only later used in collateral fashion in the name of "keeping us safe".

Krugman's word is best: Cheney and Bush and their people are monsters.

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 27, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

whizbang9a, the claim that we got good intel through KSM comes from Mr. Blair, Obamas head of national security not anyone from the Bush administration.

Besides which I am not sure where your distinction between conversation/plan etc... come from. Can you elaborate on this?

Do you have any evidence at all to support your claim? My claim is by the way simply repeating what the currents Administrations top buy said btw.....

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 27, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Also one more thing, Ali Soufan to my knowledge only worked on Zubayaida. I agree that the ball was fumbled on handling him. He didn't really know anything of much value.

But pretending that KSM and Zubayaida yielded the same quality of intel is ridiculous, just as impeaching the importance of information gleaned from KSM on the basis of the info obtained from Zubayaida, is equally ridiculous.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 27, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"method x gets a man on the moon, yes there are many other ways that this could be accomplished that might have worked, or might not have worked. Does this mean that method X was wrong? Answer, no of course not, it would be idiotic to think that method X is wrong."

If method x is morally and legally wrong, then yes, even if it works..it is wrong.

Obama's top security guy did say that information was gathered, not that it saved "thousands of American lives, and he did not speculate whether or not traditional methods would have worked as well or better. Perhaps if DCDave11 actually read the article he would have seen the numerous references to the mounting evidence that 1. It did NOT work in short term intel to prevent plots, and 2. There is NO credible evidence so far of any plots thwarted by any intel actually garnered. Of course the Bush-Cheney apologists are not interested in evidence..just George's 'gut' feelings, which told that compassionate conservative that torture was a good thing. By the way, don't you think after the first couple dozen waterboardings these guys knew they weren't going to be drowned?

Posted by: waltej1 | April 27, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice."

Anyone who reported on the Clinton impeachment cannot make such a statement in good faith. Fortunately we already know that Dean Broder is more interested in covering his ass than in getting to the truth, hence we can discount his apparent naivete.

The fact is that as long as there is a Republican Party, there will always be endless political warfare. The GOP has given up all pretense of compromise and will continue to slash-and-burn until their very end. This is why I and other progressives see little to gain from bipartisanship at this point in history - the term implies both sides making meaningful compromises while acting in good faith. Not going to happen anytime soon.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 27, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Obamas own head of National Security claimed that indeed in the case of KSM, it is likely that information obtained through waterboarding saved American lives, by breaking up the Asian Rim Airline Plot. Here ususally Mr. Froomkin switches to talking about Zubaiyada, who was Froomkin is right did not give us much of anything.

----------

Good to know.

But, if you look a little deeper, we're still losing the wars under the kook apologists,
same stupid Pentagon/CIA who failed when "helping" Dick, in his treasonous acts, now failing here.

And this IS Obama's responsibilty, to know NOT to take advice from the treasonous and the stupid.

BTW, is it your opinion this is a partisan, operative, Karl Rove type issue, or one of true intelligence?

Stupid people, those who see government in terms of "tricks," and "CNN," can't run, win or even SEE the war.

Understand the difference?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 27, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to read the torture apologists without gagging. Their talk reeks of euphemisms like "techniques"; no one in the torture room would use such pretty talk.

I remember when we were part of the civilized world. We were even regarded as a leader. No, really.

Posted by: jpk1 | April 27, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I have been reading ink in WaPo for the last 3 days defending torture, denying it happened, accusing Obama of endangering America's security, claiming the torture memos show how carefully these heinous, vengeful acts were considered, and urging us as a nation to just sweep it under the rug. I just read a piece by David Corn over at MoJo that explains why a special prosecutor may not be able to get to the bottom of this and reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Here's the deal. Crimes were committed, we know what they were. We know who authorized them. The US is obligated under our membership in the Geneva Conventions and described in the Supremacy Clause to investigate and prosecute these crimes... or else.

The "or else" is that if there is not a reasonable effort to prosecute those crimes domestically, we are abdicating our duty and opening the door for other nations to do so themselves.

How do you suppose this is going to look if Spanish police somehow got hold of Don Rumsfeld, threw him into prison, and charged him with authorizing torture of a prisoner of war to death?

Obama is dancing all around this issue and it's just another example of why America needs statesmen and women in office, not political entities. So far Obama has done everything he could to sell out progressives, Constitutionalists, and other groups normally assumed to be part of the Democratic Party. As soon as he figured that he had nailed the primary, he chucked the progressives who had done the legwork to get him there under the bus. Remember June of last year? That's when he started his run to the right... his FISA vote, his faith-based initiative, his flip-flop on public campaign financing, his parroting of the Bush line about "commanders on the ground" in Iraq, his turnaround about talking to Hamas (right before his speech to AIPAC, how convenient!), and yes, his signal that single payer health care is DOA.

So now we find ourselves in the middle of a mess that has both political and legal complications. Corn says we can't have an independent consul because the statute expired 2 years ago. Well, how about this... Bush ran his government by Executive Orders and signing statements... why can't Obama create an independent consul by fiat?

He could, but he won't. Once again, We the People are going to get screwed by the government. This time it will be a slap in the face to everyone in uniform who might be taken prisoner on the battlefield. It will be a slap in the face to every country we have ever told that we are "spreading democracy". And it will hardly be noticed, but it will be the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party, because they will have proven once and for all that they are spineless, gutless, mindless, political hacks that are unfit to lead this nation and unworthy of your vote.

-Wexler

Posted by: WWWexler | April 27, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me that people like Froomkin, who last time I looked has spent his entire life writing and not doing intel type work, knows all. Do I think torture works? Not all the time but some of the time. Do I think that the art of torture has improved so that torture experts can tell good intel as compared to bad? Sure, of course. Thinking otherwise is naive. So when you find bad guys that you know helped develop plans to kill massive amounts Americans and you know they are planning to do the same again, what do you do if you are in charge? Nothing and then when it happens say we are better than the terrorist but we now have 3,000 less Americans to convince of this or do I waterboard these guys? It's a no-brainer for me. I have more respect and admiration for my fellow citizens then I do for the guys who want to kill us.

Posted by: mmourges | April 27, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton is a man who KNOWS how to answer a question, a man who can think on his feet, a brilliant, though flawed man, still capable of world leadership.

No talking points and no medicore, thick PR kook with a belief in press control as a sort of god, pretending he's a real player, pretending he's an intellect, can ever lead this nation in any capacity.


Those people ARE dumb, and those people have been setting policy.

See the difference between the two types?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 27, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Excellent coverage, as always. You are side by side on the WaPo's front page with Gerson, now one of the chief apologists for the torturers. Suddenly it is a high-stakes game and in order for the torturers to "win" a majority of the public will be convinced to agree that torture is justifiable. Is that how this game works?

Question: do we know yet how many people died while being tortured? Do we know how many people disappeared into secret sites and were never seen again?

Posted by: gposner | April 27, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Why is this issue debatable?

According to US and International law, waterboarding is torture and torture is illegal.

Period.

Anyone who claims torture IS legal needs to cite points of law to justify their position. Do they suppose there was a law passed in secret that decriminalized torture?

Those opposed to prosecution of lawbreakers should not be allowed to get away with making the claim that we have a simple difference of opinion regarding the prior administration's polices. Laws were broken.

Mr. Froomkin, debate is pointless and unnecessary. Waterboarding is torture and torture is illegal.

Period.

Posted by: jgau4 | April 27, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Another poster:

"Do I think torture works? Not all the time but some of the time. Do I think that the art of torture has improved so that torture experts can tell good intel as compared to bad? Sure, of course. Thinking otherwise is naive."

This rhetorical self-question/answer/conclusion is exactly the device used in virtually every public utterance of someone we all know.

Are you Dick Cheney?

-Wexler

Posted by: WWWexler | April 27, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I am not Dick Cheney. Are you Alice in Wonderland?

Posted by: mmourges | April 27, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I was running late getting back to work, there was an accident on the road i usually take. I took another route and was speeding to make up for lost time.I got pulled over. I don't have any tickets or a bad rap sheet or anything, so I pleaded with the officer that I was only doing "ENHANCED velocity" so I wouldn't loose my job. It worked, no ticket - just a warning.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 27, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"The many roads of inquiry into the Bush administration's abusive 'interrogation techniques' all lead to one stubborn, inconvenient fact: Torture is not just immoral but also illegal.
_____
Here's another fact.. torture is a RELATIVE term.. I saw Amazing race last night and the contestants had to have their feet roughly massaged.. It was painful and some were crying some were sceaming.. But torture??? Yu could say yes you could say no.. but what we know is the producers of the show will not be prosecuted. And here it wasn't like they were trying to get information save American lives. They say Khalid Shehik Mohmammed was waterboarded 187 times and they ask why so many.. here's the answer.. because he was LYING or giving imcomplete answers the first 186 times. See when you don't REALLY torture it takes a while to get the information. If we REALLY tortured him he probably would have talk much sooner but the justice dept came up with rules they thought fell short of torture but still over time could get someone like KSM to talk.. It worked!! Now the Left wants to arrest people who only goal was to prevent another 9/11... it's ridiculous

Posted by: sovine08 | April 27, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Nope. Just someone with much keener powers of observation and analytical skills than you.

Your assertion that if someone thinks something other than what you say they are "naive" is... what's the word I'm trying to come up with?

-Wexler

Posted by: WWWexler | April 27, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

mmourges I can only assume that since you deride Froomkin for not working in the intelligence field and commenting on it, that you yourself have worked in the intelligence field? Safe assumption? Probably not, probably just a guy who fancies himself as a bit of a Jack Bauer.

Also for those who say releasing the memos and investigating torture put America at risk I say bunk! Not releasing them and not investigating/prosecuting puts us at risk. Al a terrorist attack can do it damage our property, kill some people and cost us money to fix what has been damaged and go after those who perpetrate the deeds. What not prosecuting, what not investigating costs us is our national identity, our very soul. If today we say what was good for the KGB, North Korea, Pol Pot, WWII Era Japan, the Spanish Inquisition, the Middle ages, our terrorist foes and dare I say it…Nazi Germany is good for us because it works. If we say that it works it keeps us safe then we grant legitimacy to all those horrid regimes and more. Granted they all carried it out on a far grander scale than we did (I hope), but to be in any way shape or form associated with those people carries a greater damage to our nation than people can imagine.

For example for the past few years warrantless wiretapping has been allowed in the US…But only for terrorists and their allies. And maybe for democratic congresswomen whose support to sell programs the administration might need. So the program went from protecting America to what appears to be political blackmail, though my view of that may change as more details emerge (if every). Let’s turn that same view to torture.

We only do it to high value detainees who are difficult to break, except KSM who it appears we were using the methods from day one, and zub who cracked, but apparently not far enough. But these are really bad people they have information we need to have so we have to torture, err, enhance interrogate them. So those are the two we talk about, what about John Walker Lihnd duct taped naked to a stretcher? What about the many unnamed people who were sent to dark sites in Eastern European Countries? What about them? What about the people in Abu Graihb? What about the others in GIMO? All really bad people of course, but remember the president had the right to classify these people. What if he classified me as a terrorist? Or perhaps Michelle Bachman or Gov Perry (who both appear to be inciting civil war), can they be whisked off to black sites and enhanced interrogated? What if they revealed plots to overthrow the government, would that justify the torture? How big of a leap is there to be made from one enemy of America, to politicians like I mentioned? How big a leap to get to you?

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 27, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Actually Sovine torture is defined and certain acts are torture, suchh as waterboarding.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 27, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

So let me get this straight, if an action is a crime but it is successful at it's goal, it should stay a crime, just not in this circumstance. So if our goal is to rid this country of conservatives, we could murder them without penalty because murdering them gets rid of them? How about the homeless? We could lessen the occurance of homelessness if we just murdered people who lose their homes, right? Less homelessness. Brilliant! Why on Earth didn't we think of this sooner???

Posted by: davidbn27 | April 27, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Totalitarian regimes understand such things. The Nazis under Hitler had their Gestapo, the German Secret Police. The Soviets under another group of kind-hearted folks, had their Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopastnosti, better known as the KGB or Committee of State Security. We Americans have the Central Intelligence Agency or C.I.A. All such fine organizations have the same dictate: to have a friendly chat with folks and “disappear” them after they are done torturing them. You are either with us or against us, and dead people tell no tales and leave no trails. Under the Nazis, Soviets, and King George, the Junior, those dissidents who weren’t stifled or who did not turn a blind eye to crimes were crucified.

After WW-II, “The West” explained to those kindly German folks who perpetrated crimes against humanity the downside of their actions. This scene was repeated in Japan. These folks were initiated into the “Order of the Hangman’s Noose”.

Seems that King George, the Junior, Uncle Dickey, and their company of co-perpetrators, instead of being initiated into “The Order”, all expect to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their exceptional and meritorious service to our country during the reign of terror of King George, the Junior,

Posted by: MrZ2 | April 27, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

//But Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "What Broder states today as fact (that the Bush presidency is 'one of the darkest chapters of American history') is almost verbatim that which, when it mattered, when it was happening, he vehemently and repeatedly denied...
"This is a crucial and oft-overlooked fact in the debate over whether we should investigate and prosecute Bush crimes. The very same pundits and establishment journalists who today are demanding that we forget all about it, not look back, not hold anyone accountable, are the very same people who -- like Broder -- played key roles in hiding, enabling and defending these crimes."//

Bingo. That they continue with the "no big deal" argument and characterize any investigation of wrong doing as political only underscores the importance of the same. When a serial murderer is brought to justice, I don't recall any inquiry into his politics.

Posted by: SarahBB | April 27, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The question is not "does torture work?" Most reliable sources say it does not work. The question is not, did the U.S. gain any actionable intelligence? The issue here is, if these harsh interrogation techniques are illegal, who broke the law and why. I think we are getting closer to the answer.
As President Obama has said, " no one is above the law". When we break the law there should be consequences, no matter how high up the office is. We are a nation of laws and moral character.
DeeJay Robinson

Posted by: donnajorobinson | April 27, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

DCDave11, Ali Soufan was the interrogator assigned to work on Zubayaida who and had built a pretty good rapport with him. However, he refused to use TORTURE on him to glean information and was told to leave due to that refusal. Then the Bush assigned person/people took over and no useful information was gleaned as a result.

We are supposed to be a country of LAWS; NOT MEN, and when we hear that torture was implemented from the TOP DOWN, as opposed to the bottom up, [i.e., England, Grainer, General Karpinski] we KNOW something was terribly wrong. I personally don't care if an 'R or a D' was behind any person's name or what their official status is/was, if they sat idly by and expressed no opposition/outrage when they were told about "enhanced interrogations" [torture], they too need to be investigated and let that investigation take things where they may.

After seeing Cheney on teevee talking about how much 'good intel' came from the 'torture' of KSM, Zubayaida or anyone else, it is quite apparent Cheney not only gave the order for it, but relished in knowing it was occurring. [What about those who died while in our 'care'?] It also seems to follow logic that with Cheney's knowledge, Bush also had to know and approve. It does not matter who was involved; it only matters that this issue is not swept under a rug and that an IMPARTIAL PANEL OF JUDGES be allowed to investigate. If in the end this points to anyone and/or everyone affiliated with torture, then they should be indicted, given a trial and prosecuted. However, it will not be found that torture NEVER occurred because we now KNOW that it did.

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | April 27, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

none of the poll queries get at the base of the issues: months of torture from initial capture, absurd legal memos of "justification", frame work of geneva conventions et al (e.g. no scenario can justify torture), use to develop phony testimony (e.g. purported saddam links to Al quaida in 2002, failure to consider alternatives, failure to assess results- or the transfer of the torture to Iraq victims dragged in off the street. Bush and others lies about the program. The real polls can only be taken after the full investigation coming here- or elsewhere in the world, if we don't.
Yes, the investigation will be divisive. So are shots coming out of the Bush hard core, now. Can you muzzle the cheney crowd? not hardly. Let's get digging- preferably a panel of objective non-party pros.

Posted by: auntywbush | April 27, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"So when you find bad guys that you know helped develop plans to kill massive amounts Americans and you know they are planning to do the same again, what do you do if you are in charge?"

You do what W. did! You tell the guy who gave you the memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S., "OK, now you've covered your ass" and then let it happen, because it will be great for PNAC/neocon policy.

And when it actually happens, you sit and stare into space for seven minutes, until Cheney puts you on a plane and disappears you for three days.

Torture is illegal! ONLY COWARDS TORTURE!!!

Anyone who believes torture is allowable isn't worthy of calling themselves an American.

Posted by: stephenlouis | April 27, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If an 'average American' committed an act such as torture [or even lesser felony crime], there would be NO DISCUSSION about not looking back but rather looking forward - our a@@es would be caught, taken to trial and thrown in prison. There CANNOT AND MUST NOT be a DOUBLE STANDARD for the powerful versus average person! We either are a nation of laws that we ALL follow or NO ONE follows.

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | April 27, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

So yes please do put everything out there so Americans can have proof that waterboarding saved American lives, and so that we can all have a good laugh at Mr. Froomkins expense. It will be well deserved.

That is what DCDave11 wrote. So we can all have a good laugh.

What kind of person is this DCDave11. We are talking torture here and he can go and have a good laugh.

Where I come from we have a description for people who take the issue of deliberately applied pain, torture, and that is disgusting immoral pervert. I think that is mild.

I do not think we got anything out of these people we tortured that saved any American lives but even if we did the ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

As for those sickos like DCDave11, he should check out North Korea's immigration policy because that is the country where he should reside.

Sometimes reading these comments makes me sick.

Posted by: nyrunner101 | April 27, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

According to the mainstream media:

--The real victims of torture are the perpetrators because they became monsters in order to us safe in our beddy byes.

--No one suffered more from the invasion of Iraq than the Urban Cowboy George W. Bush. He had to give up golf and his hair turned gray.

--Yes, Bush lied when he said "the U.S. does not torture," but what makes that lie any different than the others?

--None of us likes to inflict unbearable pain on another human being, but what if that human being were Osama bin Laden. Anyone who wouldn't want to torture the living daylights out of him is not a real American.

--We must base our interpretation of the law on episodes of the TV show "24" as has Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who ruled that torture does not violate the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it is "interrogation," not punishment. And that episode of "24" shows why torture is necessary, he added.

--Powerful people must never be prosecuted. The law is designed to keep the little people in their place. Enforcing the law against the powerful is "retribution" and "scapegoating," while arresting a single mother for parking tickets is "equal justice under the law."

Thanks for straightening us out. And let me add how fortunate you are to be among the legally exempt elite! Bravo!

Posted by: motorfriend | April 27, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and one more media proviso:

--The American Inquisition is one of the darkest chapters in our history. Let's keep it that way!

Posted by: motorfriend | April 27, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a legal issue, pure and simple. Was what we did torture? The legal answer, based on precedent, is unquestionably "yes." Is torture illegal? Again the legal answer is "yes," based upon both domestic and international law. Should those who broke the law be prosecuted? Legally, they should; and under various international treaties to which the US is signatory [and therefore they are part of our domestic law] we are obligated to prosecute. So there's really not much to debate.

Opponents of prosecution try to frame this as a political or moral issue. It's no more a political issue than prosecuting a bank robber. And the moral issue is not whether to pursue the wrongdoers, but whether the rules and statutes they violated should be repealed. And that wouldn't have any bearing on the prosecution of past crimes.

Posted by: thrh | April 27, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

After hearing all of the yea-sayers and apologists for torture, I am convinced it is not far fetched for those same folks to condone child sexual abuse if it were in the interests of national security. So much for traditional American taboos.

The legitimization of even the discussion of this policy shows how far our values, ethics and morality have declined.

Posted by: Spectator | April 27, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

@sovine08: "I saw Amazing race last night and the contestants had to have their feet roughly massaged.. It was painful and some were crying some were sceaming.. But torture??"

Didn't we already address this earlier this month? I'll type it for you real slow so it has more time to sink in:

the people on Amazing Race are VOLUNTEERS.

They want to be there. They can leave at any time - no one is stopping them.

Now was that any clearer, or should I assume you'll be back in a week spouting the same crap once again?

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 27, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Bush/Cheney and the Republican Party's use of torture made the US less safe and US citizens less safe when traveling abroad.

Republican torture isn't limited to waterboarding.

Its torture when a kid dies of Cancer.
Its torture when an old person dies of starvation.
Its torture when we have to listen to Repubicans try to justify their existance as a political force.

For the past eight years Bush/Cheney tortured the US, our constitution, and the world.

Bush, Cheney and the entire Republican Party should be puinished for what they've done to America and the world.

The punishment -- Torture!

Now, where did I put those garden sheers?

Posted by: svreader | April 27, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

"They would be a gift to America's enemies who have fought for years to delegitimize our conduct of the war on terrorism."

No, they would be a gift to the Republican Party's enemies and THAT is why they are fighting it.

Republicans don't stand up for Americans.
They stand up for themselves.

They left America in their rear-view mirror about a decade ago...

Posted by: vigor | April 27, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Everyone thinks the Republicans are the only ones that are worried about revelations in regard to torture.

Those who are really the most worried and have the greatest amount to lose are the Democrats.

When it is actually revealed who and how many of them knew about the torturing long ago and did nothing there will be absolute hell to pay.

Posted by: buzzsaw1 | April 27, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

the people on Amazing Race are VOLUNTEERS.
They want to be there. They can leave at any time - no one is stopping them.
______
I don't believe the KNEW everthing they had to go though when they volunteered. And yeah they CAN leave and lose out of winning a million dollars.. So it's not an easy choice is it? Besides does that make what they went though any less painful?? And FYI KSM VOLUNTEERED to join al Queda.. he could have left but instead chose to come up with a plan to MURDER 3000 Americans.. and now he EXPECTS if captured he should be treated like some guy who robbed a liquor store??? Sorry Charlie.. for TERRORIST LEADERS you don't get the same rights as a US citizen or a POW.. And you thinking he DESERVES to be treated BETTER than a contestant on a game show because he doesn't want to be where he is now is a little sick.

Posted by: sovine08 | April 27, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

The right-wingers have very conveniently mixed two very different entities having quite similar components: intelligence gathering and government-sponsored factories of torture and death. This confluence obfuscates reality.

We are not talking about intelligence gathering. No, we are talking about the creation of government owned large-scale production facilities having the charter to systematically provide two services: torture and death to the masses. The Nazis created their large-scale production torture and death facilities know as the concentration camps. The Soviets had their large-scale production torture and death facilities, known as Gulags. We Americans have our large-scale production torture and death facilities. We know about Gitmo and Bagram. There were other off-the-books “black” production camps.

The “Order of the Hangman’s Noose” is not for intelligence gatherers who pursue their craft professionally and in secret. “The Order of the Hangman’s Noose” is reserved for unique groups of people:

- those folks who are the enablers of any aspect of such activities,
- those folks who are the designs the production facilities of death and torture, and
- those folks who are the operators and managers of day-to-day operations.

We are talking about the government-sanctioned and enabled large-scale mass-production of cruelty and death.

Posted by: MrZ2 | April 27, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a legal issue, pure and simple. Was what we did torture? The legal answer, based on precedent, is unquestionably "yes." Is torture illegal? Again the legal answer is "yes," based upon both domestic and international law. Should those who broke the law be prosecuted? Legally, they should; and under various international treaties to which the US is signatory [and therefore they are part of our domestic law] we are obligated to prosecute. So there's really not much to debate.
_______
Of course there is... There's maybe circumstances which allow someone to commit a crime if the result is saving someones life. The D.A. has to review the whole case before they decide to proecute someone. But let me guess IF a person saves a childs life, but to do so he had to commit a crime.. Your response is throw him in jail no matter what crime he committed because the law is the law. Wow and you say Republicans are the cold blooded ones...

Posted by: sovine08 | April 27, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

As I recall, the Democrats who were briefed on these torture techniques, Jay Rockefeller, for example, were not permitted to bring staff with them, were not permitted to take notes, and were instructed to never talk about it to anyone, ever.
They were co-opted. Trapped. And now, they are in the VERY uncomfortable position of having to support NO INVESTIGATION because so many of them fell for it.
I am hoping that Obama is being very shrewd here: release the memos, release the photos from Abu Grabhe (sp.) and hand this over to the American People to DEMAND our honor back. Let US assume responsibility for seeing to it that these crimes are investigated.
Take it OUT of the hands of Congress because so many of them are implicated and they simply will not be able to investigate themselves.

Posted by: cms1 | April 27, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

These crimes should not go unpunished. I don't care who gets caught in the net; cast the net wide and let the chips fall where they may (sorry for the multiple metaphors).

Posted by: gsross | April 27, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

"...There's maybe circumstances which allow someone to commit a crime if the result is saving someones life..."


WTF??? You got some precedent for this? Not a self-answering hypothetical Jack Bauer scenario as pathetically posted, but an actual case that sets a precedence for your conjecture.


"maybe", "allow", " if " ...

The entire posting is ludicrous.


That said, and moving on, the Repubs took us down a road to nowhere and I am now concerned that Democratic legislators are too chicken-sh*T to fix things. I'm certainly not averse to ousting/indicting complicit Democratic party legislators/administrators.


..enuf is enuf...


Posted by: osmor | April 27, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

The mark of a strong nation is an ability to examine closely the policies of it's leaders. The United States has erred greatly, and, the proof of these errors is the continuing strength of al-Qaeda, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As long as we deny and, therefore support the Bush/Cheney legacy, we give support and motivation to those who would do us harm.

Whether it be a truth and reconciliation commission, or, a criminal trial, we must know what was done in our name and take the necessary steps to ensure it never happens again lest we face our own holocaust.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | April 27, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

So where's the outrage about Obama authorizing air strikes in Pakistan (an "ally") and killing innocent civilians as a result? If Bush goes on trial, you can be sure at some point Obama will too...

Posted by: jhorstma | April 27, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

This may have been already said - I didn't read all the comments. But the reason that the Democrats in Congress didn't pursue investigations 2 years ago when they attained majority status in both chambers is because THEY'RE IMPLICATED TOO. If you take out the Bush Administration and the CIA people, you also have to take out Pelosi, Reid, Rockefeller, and a couple of other Dems who were briefed on the waterboarding and other "enhanced techniques" at least THIRTY times starting in 2002. The Post reported that over a year ago.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801664.html

They're all compromised. People of San Francisco, please get yourself a new Representative.

Posted by: treen | April 27, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

mmourges states " art of torture has progressed"?
ART OF TORTURE! Are you vomiting through your key board, or is this an example of verbal diahrea.

Posted by: tniederberger | April 27, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

(Steve Benen, The Washington Monthly):

"QUOTE OF THE DAY.... The right sentiment for a U.S. president to express when it comes to government-sanctioned, government-directed torture policies:

"It's important for people to understand that in a democracy, there will be a full investigation. In other words, we want to know the truth. In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse ... there will be a full investigation, and justice will be delivered. ... It's very important for people and your listeners to understand that in our country, when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act. And we act in a way in which leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. ... In other words, people want to know the truth.

"That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn't be answering questions about this. A dictator wouldn't be saying that the system will be investigated and the world will see the results of the investigation."

You could probably guess by the frequent reference to "in other words" that this wasn't Obama, but rather, was George W. Bush, speaking to al Arabiya after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted."

Posted by: wizard2000 | April 28, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

I don’t see the investigation of former administrations as “criminalizing policy.” Nor do I fear a so-called endless cycle of retribution. Rather, I see it as an endless cycle of ACCOUNTABILITY. Maybe this is a good thing. Political elites who break the law have gotten a free pass up until now and it’s time for that cycle to stop.

They’re all hypocrites anyway. House Republicans cried during Clinton’s impeachment hearings that America MUST be a nation of laws or all would be lost. I remember—they were real tears. Now the GOP is saying that because torture works, the law should be ignored.

If the majority cannot bring itself to enforce the law, there would always be the possibility that a new administration (or congressional majority of the opposing party) will. As an independent, I have no qualms about investigating Democrats as well as Republicans. If congressional Democrats were properly briefed and they did nothing and that was illegal—they should go to jail too.

Lock them all up. Do the crime, do the time.

Posted by: johdi | April 28, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Of course sovine08 if the foot massage received on Amazing Race was actually classified as being torture, then the previous administration would have a memo out there somewhere, where the description and application of the said torture would be parsed enough to give what they believe to be political cover for their actions. And of course the punditry and their sheeples would be baaaing the company line about how we coddle the terrorists by giving them foot massages etc…

Your example only holds water for you.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 28, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Is there any evidence at all that waterboarding KSM did not provide us with usefull information?

It seems that the intelligence community is unanimous that waterboarding KSM did provide us with good intel at least if one is to believe both Obama's chief of intelligence (Blair) and Bush's chiefs of intelligence.

Most of the commentators from the intelligence community do not have direct evidence of what was gleaned from KSM and so are unreliable.

So please Mr. Obama release everything we got from KSM so we can have an informed debate about whether or not we should waterboard. I suspect that once the American public knows the facts, i.e. that the technique is and was effective that the answer will be yes, on some captives we should do this.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 28, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

@DCDave11: "It seems that the intelligence community is unanimous that waterboarding KSM did provide us with good intel."

"Most of the commentators from the intelligence community do not have direct evidence of what was gleaned from KSM and so are unreliable."

Damn man, and that was in one single post.

"Is there any evidence at all that waterboarding KSM did not provide us with usefull information?"

"I suspect that once the American public knows the facts, i.e. that the technique is and was effective that the answer will be yes, on some captives we should do this."

You're all over the map. You're also hanging your hat on the word of people who have a strong interest in avoiding investigations of any kind. Obama's chief of intel is flat wrong, and if you believe the word of any ex Bush official, do I ever have a bridge for you.

Everything we know about torture says that it doesn't work. The burden of proof is on those who claim otherwise. There is not one shred of verifiable evidence that suggests torture worked even once.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

No dcdave the intelligence community is not unanimously saying we got actionable intelligence out of torturing KSM.

What we do have is a list of what the administration said were the successes, which have been debunked one by one with none standing on their own. I find it sadly pathetically funny that republicans want Cheney’s memos released to prove that actionable intelligence was gathered, but that they don’t want reports released that were written before Cheney’s self serving memo’s which say that no worthwhile intelligence was obtained. Nope those reports would be cherry picking while the Cheney memo is good stuff and not cherry picked.

Regardless though whether there was even one bit of actual actionable intelligence gathered, torture is still illegal. Arguing the merits of the information gathered is simply a distraction devices to get everyone looking at the shinny objects and not at the ugly crimes. And of course re-defining torture and repackaging it as enhanced interrogation and calling water boarding a dip in the water does not change the fact of what truly was done in our name.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 28, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

This is for DCDave11 and his ilk who think that torture is A-OK as long as it works:

How many babies would you be willing to kill to get their watching parents give up to "save American lives."

You wouldn't have to make the babies suffer. You could use a nice soft pillow. You could use a colorless odorless gas.

I am aghast at how many people think something horrible is just fine if it "saves American lives."

And I bet you dollars to donuts the Japanese who waterboarded American soldiers did it to save Japanese lives.
The poin

Posted by: RealCalGal | April 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Also note how the argument has changed. It has always been national security, it has always been “we are teaching them our ways so they can now resist” (as if they don’t know what the SERE program (hardly national secret) entails), and besides its not torture anyways… Now it is all about the quality of the intelligence gathered and this is a political witch hunt etc… Well, if it is all legal and good intelligence was gathered and face it most of the methods were and have been in the public domain for years so the whole they’ll learn our methods argument is bunk, if all this is the case, then there should be nothing to hide and an investigation should show as much. Why the fear? After all didn’t Bush promise to be open and transparent and to bring honor back to the White House?

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 28, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"If an 'average American' committed an act such as torture [or even lesser felony crime], there would be NO DISCUSSION about not looking back but rather looking forward - our a@@es would be caught, taken to trial and thrown in prison."

Yup. And it has already happened. Just ask Lyndie England. Of course, she was just a lowly, not too bright, GI and she didn't think about getting a memo from OLC to cover her ass.

Posted by: RealCalGal | April 28, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"--We must base our interpretation of the law on episodes of the TV show "24" as has Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who ruled that torture does not violate the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it is "interrogation," not punishment. And that episode of "24" shows why torture is necessary, he added."

Ah yes, the Jack Bauer analogy. Of course it's silly on its face to use a fictional character's success as evidence of results in the real world, but this also ignores the fact that in 24, BAUER KNOWS ITS ILLEGAL!! He's willing to take, and has taken, the consequences. The ReThuglicans don't watch ENOUGH "24."

Posted by: RealCalGal | April 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"There's maybe circumstances which allow someone to commit a crime if the result is saving someones life."

Um, no there's not.

Posted by: RealCalGal | April 28, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

People here are conflating four seperate questions.

1, Is waterboarding ethical?

2, Is waterboarding legal?

3, Can you extract reliable information from someone using water boarding?

4, Was the information extracted usefull?

I was just talking about number 3 and number 3 alone. I know people don't really read anything carefully anymore and so it would be easy to misunderstand what I am saying.

My evidence that the answer to number 3 is in fact a yes has to do with two things.

1, Not one reader nor the author has been able to come up with one credible source for saying it is not true. I.e that KSM and Zubaiyada did not tell us what they knew. Almost all of Froomkins arguments center around conflating all 4 of these very different points in emotional rants. In this particular post all of Froomkins and the posters facts go after point 4, which is completely post hoc. By this I mean you are basically saying that waterboarding doesn't work (by work I mean case 3 above) because KSM and Zubaiyada didn't know anything usefull. This is entirely a seperate questtion.

and

2, Many credible sources including those in the current administration have explicitely claimed that waterboarding does get people to say what they know.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 28, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Also the readers here do know that Obama is infact himself doing many things which are illegal under international law. The most obvious of these is firing missiles into Pakistan without their governments permission.

Under international law this is called MURDER. So if you want to strictly enforce all laws, pretty much Obama is a criminal too.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 28, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Everyone who claims that waterboarding is not torture should be required to undergo a session or two, then asked what they think of it. This includes Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Posted by: shaman7214 | April 28, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I can't help but think after reading the statements by the defenders of torture that there isn't some kind of vicarious thrill taking by these warped and degenerate little people. I picture the mob abusing Jesus on his way to Golgotha and see an army of Republicans in business suits throwing rocks, shouting, laughing. I see the SS Troops shooting unarmed, naked men, women and children into unmarked mass graves in the forests of Poland. I see the bones of the tortured dead in the aftermath of Nixon's adopted war in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. I see these defenders of atrocity and I think that there really are evil people in the world, and they aren't jihadists, they are the pampered princes and princesses of America whose sadistic pleasure in the torment of others makes them feel good, like they are tough and not victims somehow, even though they are the greatest victims of all. Once torture stops, its over, but being a pathetic sycophant to power, an egger-on demanding the harm of another they themselves are too weak to fight, that is a mark that never leaves.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | April 28, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company