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Torture Is Not for the Fallible

In his Washington Post opinion column on Friday, Charles Krauthammer continues his defense of torture, calling my critique of his May 1 column "stupid".

I had taken issue with, among other things, Krauthammer's assertion that a "ticking time bomb" scenario could exist in real life. Krauthammer responds with what he considers an example: The tragic case of Israeli soldier Nachshon Waxman, who was kidnapped 15 years ago by Palestinian terrorists. Israeli authorities apparently used torture to find out where he was being held. Then Waxman (along with four others) were killed during the rescue attempt.

In other words, in the one instance in all modern history that Krauthammer can find of a "ticking time bomb", there was none -- i.e. there was no imminent apocalyptic danger -- and torture actually hastened, rather than avoided, the worst-case scenario. Steve Benen blogs for Washington Monthly: "What Krauthammer has offered is a story in which bad guys kidnapped a good guy. If that's grounds for torture, practically every kidnapping would compel U.S. officials -- not just the CIA and the military, but state and local law enforcement, too -- to torture suspected accomplices with some regularity."

That said, I understand why Krauthammer and other torture apologists continue to hold the ticking time bomb scenario as their first principle.

If we knew with God-like certainty that someone we had in custody had information that could prevent an imminent attack on a large number of people -- and we knew that in this particular case torture was absolutely the only way to pry it out of him -- then, yes, I suspect many of us would use torture.

But we are not gods. We are humans. Such certainty doesn't exist for us (except, of course, on TV).

And because we are humans, not gods, we have chosen to be ruled by laws -- laws that draw clear lines between what actions are appropriate for humans, and what are not.

Indeed, ever since World War II, those laws have been codified to represent what civilized nations agree are -- or at least should be -- universal values. Chief among those is a respect for human dignity. The United States in particular has cast itself as the world's champion of human dignity. And nothing is more antithetical to human dignity than torture.

Furthermore, if we go the God-like path, where does it stop? Krauthammer's columns are a perfect example. His first exception for what he himself called "impermissible evil" is the ticking time bomb scenario. By the second, he is advocating torture for fishing expeditions, or as he puts it: "[T]he extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives."

The slippery slope Krauthammer so enthusiastically plunges down is, unfortunately, anything but theoretical. It has become increasingly clear that in a series of decisions -- documented in the February 2002 memo in which former president George W. Bush exempted war-on-terror detainees from the Geneva Conventions, the August 2002 Justice Department memos (one and two) explicitly sanctioning measures that by any reasonable definition constitute torture, and the December 2002 memo from then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorizing the use of stress positions, hooding and dogs -- the Bush administration opened the door wide to abusive and degrading practices. Far from being limited to ostensibly "high value" detainees, state-sanctioned cruelty was applied willy-nilly to many of those unfortunate enough to get swept up into the system, in such a way that history will judge us poorly and that the American public -- when it finally gets its head around what happened -- will undoubtedly reject it.

By Dan Froomkin  |  May 18, 2009; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Torture  
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Thank you for your simple, eloquent response to the tortured arguments of the torture-mongers.

Posted by: Palcewski | May 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree with your arguments. It would be one thing if the laws against torture fell into the same category as, say, the Jim Crow laws, which were morally wrong and unconstitutional, but were supported by popular opinion of the time. Suppose the anti-torture laws were like Jim Crow...where was the support for reversing these laws before the September 11 attacks? Where were the arguments that torture was useful, desirable even? It's just so plain that people like Krauthammer , who are supposedly well educated, well informed, rational and intelligent are only confusing lawful pursuit of justice with revenge and retribution. They are almost childish in their refusal to admit that if something is illegal and immoral, you do not do it, regardless of how satisfying it may be to you personally.

Posted by: momlogan | May 18, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Even in the fictional shows which right wingers like Krauthammer hold up as arguments in favor of decriminalizing torture the characters are aware that they are taking actions which can result in serious repercussions. The characters heroism stems not from their criminal actions, but from their willingness to sacrifice their own livelihood and freedom in order to do what they think needs to be done.

The people of Flight 93 will not be prosecuted for crashing a plane, but that does not mean that we need to create a law which says you can crash a plane under certain circumstances.

Krauthammer is using a straw man argument. Arguing against a prosecutor who does not exist. He is arguing that well in advance of prosecution, without any consideration of the totality of a hypothetical event, we should decriminalize conduct that is, historically, universally held in contempt.

And he is doing so in part to help stave off the prosecution of people who may have committed actual crimes against humanity, not in a ticking time bomb scenario, but at the urging of the Vice President. Torturing not for information, but for false confessions that would justify revenge against Iraq though they were not responsible for 9/11.

I would rather our nation foolishly cling to our ideals than to sacrifice them all at the alter of fear.

Posted by: fletc3her | May 18, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Froomkin. You're analysis of Krauthammer's arguments is absolutely correct.

I think that Krauthammer and other torture afficionados should be required to propose laws legalizing the techniques they wish to use. As it stands now, what Krauthammer espouses is illegal, under both United States and international law. Until that changes, his ramblings about the efficacy and desirability of torture are just that, ramblings. I'd love to see what he proposes as compenstation for those who are tortured based upon false assumptions and unfounded suspicions.

As far as being "stupid" for not agreeing with Krauthammer's values . . . we are in good company, as evidenced by the Geneva Conventions and the international Convention Against Torture.

Posted by: jack34 | May 18, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer is working overtime to keep his patrons out of hearings that might lead to war crimes indictments, but I wonder if he'd like to see the Constitution changed to reflect this thinking. What say you, Charles? A new Amendment to water down the Constitution? The 5th and 8th tend to be a bit troublesome to your current point of view, don't they? How about we drop the 2nd while we're at it? Surely allowing the public to arm themselves is more likely to produce the scenarios that you cite than prevent them, no? If not, if you're not ready to change the laws that form the basis of America, then maybe it's time to shut up and let those laws do what they're there for.

Posted by: SanDiegoBS | May 18, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin,

I have appreciated your columns on this subject (and others) because they have been the only ones consistently grounded in the facts. In this one however, you appear to cede ground on the argument regarding whether or not torture "works." It is not clear from the history of the Waxman episode that torture in fact "worked." Perhaps, as Mr. Krauthammer suggests, the person gave up the information in response to torture. But, perhaps the person gave information that resulted in the blood bath that occurred. It is not knowable from this abbreviated accounting of the facts whether or not torture "worked."

But more to the point, torture never actually "works" because, as even Krauthammer conceded in a 2005 op-ed in the Weekly Standard, torture produces unreliable results. Sometimes it elicits actionable intelligence, and sometimes it elicits fictions that the tortured invents to make the pain stop (or fictions that a sophisticated suspect would reveal at credible moments in the torture). Moreover, torture is of the least effectiveness when the "ticking bomb" is in play specifically because the reliability of the information is in question, which allows even a suspect who actually knows the information to buy sufficient time--you only have so many bomb squads to send out on wild goose chases.

The simple fact is that the most reliable interrogation techniques are the rapport building ones where information can actually be verified, where it is built up by an exchange of information, a la what Ali Soufan did with Abu Zubaydah. So, if those are the best, as in providing the best results, why would we ever use torture, even if there are isolated examples in history when someone was lucky enough to get the right person and from whom torture elicited the truth in sufficient time.

This is a sub-argument to your more general argument that we are fallible and cannot know that the person has the information and that torture is the only way to get it. But, it is an important sub-argument because, essentially, torture advocates are seeking to employ less effective interrogation methods, whether there is a ticking time bomb or not.

There are simply no practical or moral justifications for using torture. It is morally repugnant, against the law, and is not the best means of interrogating individuals.

Posted by: jphillip1 | May 18, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

thanks dan. what gives me chills about krauthammer and his relentless cheerleading for torture is that the man is an m.d. and a psychiatrist. he certainly has the training to understand what could go wrong with using such barbaic techniques -- both for the tortured and the torturer.

i also note chris cilizza's post today about a new poll showing a majority of americans are now accepting the argument that "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be used. this to me is the result of the media underreporting the story; using euphemisms and tap-dancing around reality with the ever-ready excuse of being neutral. i do wonder if the cheney rehabilitation tour is having an effect on the public as well. all the more reason to release the photos (some of which are already dribbling out according to frank rich) and to set up a commission outside of congress to lay the entire sordid horror of this program out for the public to really see. i don't think nice euphemisms could be used again. torture is what we did. and many, many people died as a result.

it seems the genesis of the whole torture program may have started with cheney desperately wanting to confirm his saddam-al qaeda link and to "find" the wmd. the post by lawrence wilkerson and statements by charles duelfer in his book make this clear. no ticking time bomb at all. torture to extract false information.

Posted by: shellinelson1 | May 18, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I agree, Dan. One thing I don't understand about Krauthammer's argument is why he thinks that the enormous potential for mission creep won't apply in this context. It seems to me that two basic answers are available: (1) any danger is outweighed by the value of the information extracted, seen as a whole, or (2) there are sufficient political controls to limit the mission creep.

As you note, the second seems unwise as a matter of historical experience. The first is just unproven at this point, and probably a full balancing analysis would show that costs outweigh benefits. So, I'm really just baffled by the argument - quite apart from the strange fact that we're having a debate over the reasonableness of torture.

Posted by: brett_marston | May 18, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

You know it is so convenient for idiots like Froomkin with his 20/20 hindsight vision to talk down aggressive methods of interrogation in 2008 and 2009, when the mood of the country back in 2001-2004 was starkly different.

How about calling the "special training" of our own special ops and undercover agents, before they are on assignment, torture. We use some of the same methods on our own people to toughen them against possible torture techniques that they may be subjected to if caught by a hostile party.

Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here can try and promote their holier-than-thou position, but I still question what his and everyone else's mindset was back in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds.

Have you forgotten? I guess we all know the answer to that.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

alutz08- No, we haven't forgotten 2002. We haven't forgotten how we completely blew the response to 9/11. We spent millions on a stupid war instead of prioritizing the security of our ports, airplanes, trains, etc. in a fashion that didn't trample on civil liberties. We tortured to justify the stupid war. And your children and grandchildren will pay for it.

Posted by: Appalled | May 18, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer loves the ticking time-bomb scenario because he believes '24' is a documentary.

The rest of us understand it's fiction. It's a TV show. On the show, ticking time-bomb scenarios come up all the time and Jack tortures and saves the day.

In real life, ticking time-bomb scenarios just don't present themselves. And effective interrogators know that the only thing torture is good at eliciting is false confessions. You want reliable information, you don't torture.

Krauthammer is welcome to his fantasy world (kind of a grisly fantasy, dude, but hey, whatever you're into).

The rest of us can distinguish fantasy from fact.

Posted by: jpk1 | May 18, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

@ alutz08

The post-9/11 "mindset" is no excuse. The whole reason we have LAWS is to put the brakes on the natural human impulse to do whatever our emotions (hatred, fear, revenge, shock, jealousy, protectiveness of our own, etc. etc.) would lead us to do in the passion of the moment.

If the passion of the moment makes it OK to abrogate laws, then the laws are meaningless and pointless, and the "rule of law" a mere sentimental concept that has no actual force.

Posted by: herzliebster | May 18, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

"Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here can try and promote their holier-than-thou position, but I still question what his and everyone else's mindset was back in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds."

Easy. I thought we should impeach Bush for letting it happen on his watch.

Still do.

Posted by: thrh | May 18, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

As an addendum to Dan's argument: If we had surefire knowledge that a suspect had planted a bomb due to detonate imminently, wouldn't the same sources that provided us with that knowledge provide us with the wherewithal to divine the location of the bomb?

In that sense, the "ticking time bomb" scenario implodes on itself. Apologies for the mixed metaphor.

Posted by: lguy1 | May 18, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh !!! Dan Froomkin !!! You have no idea how glad i was to see your article here on this issue. i hadn't seen your writings lately and was afraid that some 'powers that be' had shut you up !!! Our media needs a hundred more of truth tellers like you, spread out over the MSM. I think your 100% correct here in what you have written about this detestable torture and the weak and sorry excuses for supporting it. PLEASE KEEP UP YOUR GOOD WORK !!! Dennis Hoover

Posted by: dhoover1272 | May 18, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

alutz - my mindset in 2002? I was tragically sad for all the innocent lives wasted, and tragically mad at my government for continuing to act as bully in the Middle East, so that groups like Al-Quaeda would be able to find supporters to do what was done to us. Anyone who knows me will tell you I spoke out often against the war, and against American torture of captives once it became known. My position have not changed, and will not change on this issue.

And as to the red herring of our SERE school tactics you, and other torture apologists - always conveniently miss one key point. American Military personnel who go through SERE, where they are indeed physically tortured as part of their training, do so voluntarily in order to enter elite military units for the protection of thier country. Captives, whether held by the CIA, or Army, or FBI, are not there voluntarily, and thus do not get to decide if they will particiapte in the actions brought against them by their captors. That's why we have Miranda warnings here on U.S. soil, as well as due process including trials.

Posted by: kcsphil | May 18, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer's Rule of Torture:

It's wrong and we shouldn't do it, *unless* we believe it might work, on someone who might have information, that might save any lives at all, that they might not otherwise divulge.

How can anyone possibly find fault with that?

Posted by: ddipaula1 | May 18, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Concur. Krauthammer's argument was ludicrous. A ticking time bomb scenario is far removed from the Waxman incident he defeated his own argument.

I do find it curious this God fearing nation of ours has so easily thrown away basic human prinicples over the concept of fear. In the name of fear reasonable people became unreasonable. Now they are running around trying to justify it? Sad, but true. It doesn't say much about our human condition.

Posted by: blund | May 18, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The lamest, most chicken sh** excuse for torture made by the torturers is that we use torture intraining our own special forces.
What utter bullsh**. First off, in training you know its all pretend and your psychology is going in to endure it as long as you can with psychological support and camraderie of your unit you are training with. "Its all pretend and you know it!!!"
A prisnor has none of that. Never ever tell me or anyone with a lick of sense that its ok cause we do this to our own people, you only show how you aren't any better then any other torturer of any other regime. Scum of the earth is what you are, no decent human being or red blooded American will have anything to do with you.

Posted by: tniederberger | May 18, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I love how you demolished Krauthammer without ever once calling him "stupid" - which is the only way that Krauthammer can carry on his argument, via childish insults.

But torture mongers are fearful, yet bloodthirsty people who get off on imagining screams of agony in order to make themselves feel more powerful. Inside every torture monger is a sociopath.

Did Krauthammer ever practice medicine? If so, I'm glad I was never his patient.

Posted by: solsticebelle | May 18, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Excellent response to Krauthammer, Dan. It's strange that he would use such a bad example to buttress his defense of torture. Neocons don't seem to be trying so hard these days; or is true--they never had logical arguments to begin with, just the force of might to get their way. It didn't matter if they lied, because there would never be any accountability anyway.

Why didn't Israel get indicted for breaking the Geneva Convention when they tortured?

Why no accountability?

Posted by: lichtme | May 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Torture never works.

And though I agree it is a straw man, I also understand those who advocate torture have very muddled thinking, often unaware of exactly what they're projecting, and why.

Those who advocate for torture, those who try to sell torture, those with a simplistic belief in an Overton Window, say, are stupid narcissistic kooks.

One never runs a narcissist, a psychologically crippled man, in the Olympics, as his "best chance," now does one?



They're playing for real, and they don't understand the fight.

Which helps explain the decision making behind the wars, I suppose.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 18, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"You know it is so convenient for idiots like Froomkin with his 20/20 hindsight vision to talk down aggressive methods of interrogation in 2008 and 2009, when the mood of the country back in 2001-2004 was starkly different.

How about calling the "special training" of our own special ops and undercover agents, before they are on assignment, torture. We use some of the same methods on our own people to toughen them against possible torture techniques that they may be subjected to if caught by a hostile party.

Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here can try and promote their holier-than-thou position, but I still question what his and everyone else's mindset was back in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds.

Have you forgotten? I guess we all know the answer to that.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 11:42 AM"

Okay, I don't quite understand what your argument is. You've offered absolutely nothing to refute Froomkin's position, and you also resort to an ad hominem attack, which pretty much guarantees that you have no argument.

Yes, we do use TORTURE on our own special ops and undercover agents so that if they are captured by opposing forces, that they do not easily divulge information if they are TORTURED. You see what I'm getting at here? The U.S. Military and CIA already understand that waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques are torture, else if it wasn't torture, they wouldn't bother training their own people against it.

Unfortunately for you, you've just destroyed your own argument. My only question is this - are you so gleeful about torture because you want revenge, or do you actually care about saving lives? The FBI has already established that they were receiving really good information through interrogations by developing trust and rapport. With that said, it sounds like you just want to torture anyone - I guess it makes you feel better about yourself.

One last thing - torture would never help in a ticking time bomb scenario. You brought up - 9/11, it wouldn't have helped there either. None of the 9/11 suspects knew about one another. They were acting as individuals. Their "superiors" knew what would happen if one of them was captured and interrogated, so they kept them in the dark on purpose. If one of the 9/11 hijackers were to have been captured, the others would have still gone through with their plan. Torture would have produced nothing.

Posted by: ClandestineBlaze | May 18, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here can try and promote their holier-than-thou position, but I still question what his and everyone else's mindset was back in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds. Have you forgotten? I guess we all know the answer to that. Posted by: alutz08"

No, We haven't forgotten. We haven't forgotten that George could have prevented the whole disaster by listening to the Briefings he got from Al Gore, and by listening to the FBI and other Federal Agents who wanted to arrest some of the hijackers on legitimate immigration charges. They would have spilled the beans without the least coercion. That ticking time bomb, which George knew about, was left to detonate to let George have his grounds for an unnecessary war, and his totally immoral take over of the intelligence community to run his programs and show his manliness in ordering torture.

The people who actually do interrogations for a living, (not the contractors who claim that they can do it better) seem to universally oppose torture because it only makes their job harder.

But when you have sold your soul to the devil, and he wants torture, you torture and claim that it is necessary and it works.

You never let yourself even suspect what you know is the truth:

It doesn't, and it isn't.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 18, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I really wonder why Krauthammer and his ilk so vigorously defend torture. Are they turned on by the thought of US soldiers and CIA specialists "going to work" on our nation's enemies? Is there a sick torture-porn thrill that this gives them?

Maybe, but probably not. (At least, I hope not.) More likely they simply cannot believe that torture doesn't work or that "ticking time bomb" scenarios don't exist. These fantasies are exciting, they stir the blood--surely, they MUST be real!

But like the persistently delusional, there is no reasoning with them, no evidence they can be shown that could persuade them otherwise. They are fixated on the notion that:
1- torture yields information quickly and reliably;
2- torture projects strength (while talking projects weakness); and
3- it isn't really torture if the US does it because we are *intrinsically* incapable of anything immoral or evil.

Of course, none of those three points has any basis in reality but we're not talking about people with a strong grounding in reality anyway.

Posted by: dbitt | May 18, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight. If it's done against American troops it's torture and bad. If it's Americans doing it against brown skinned muslims, it's called enhanced interrogations and good?

Posted by: August30 | May 18, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I would think the use of torture has more a domestic purpose, ie, it is meant to intimidate those who aren't terrorists, keeping them fearful of their government -- whether they're American, Russian, Iraqis or Afgahnis.

Ya go to scare 'em, according to Bill Kristol.

It doesn't work. And I mean it doesn't work, for myriad reasons, all beyond the scope of guys like Cheney and Brennan and Krauthammer.

In addition, the stupid kooks are still in CYA mode, and will be forever.

Remember, these are the people directing the war efforts, currently, the "genius" of the asymmetric wars using torture to frighten a populace, IMO, waging wars against civilians, from the looks of it, as part of some kooky counterinsurgency method.

As someone else said, they really aren't grounded in reality, no one who tortures can be, psychologically.

Torture is a "runt" activity.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 18, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Froomkin for a brief but very complete response to the torture argument. I have been also arguing that "ticking timb bomb" scenarios in the form of abducted children are constantly coming up yet no one talks about allowing the police to torture even in such emotionally charged circumstances. The disconnect between torturing American suspects in a crime and foreign suspects in time of war seems simple to me, those who propose the torture of Americans can forsee the torture of themselves or friends and family if police were allowed to torture, but foreigners would not include themselves.

And torture does work, it extracts information, some of it even trithful. But once torture is applied the chance of a truthful answer drops and all information becomes less reliable. That is something I doubt anyone would argue against but is always left out of the arguments of those who propose torture.

Torture only satisfies one thing, the sadists in us all who want those attacking us to themselves feel some pain. And once torture is allowed those who want to apply their sadistic tendencies are the first in line to apply. Krauthammer has no idea the pandora's box his is trying to open, releasing sadists who are very difficult to get back into the box. He should visit nations where torture is allowed, interview detainees, talk to the people who live there, then get a clue. His defense that he has never watched "24" was laughable. If watching "24" could make you a fool for torture, then you are a fool to begin with.

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 18, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

August 30 - yes, that seems to be the jist of the argument. Not that race or religion have ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING mind you.

Posted by: kcsphil | May 18, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Let's try to think logically:

1. We know that Cheney-Bush ordered anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke to begin building a case against Saddam Hussein immediately after 9-11, even though all evidence cleared Saddam. We also know that Cheney-Bush was planning an Iraq attack even before 9-11.

2. We know that Cheney-Bush fabricated evidence (the Italian letter about Niger's uranium)and lied about an imminent attack from Iraq using WMD.

3. We know that based on this false evidence, that Cheney-Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 and for months afterward insisted that WMD would be found. In fact, they used the gullible NYT reporter Judy Miller to write that an empty warehouse had stored the WMD.

4. We know that torture doesn't work to gather actionable intelligence, based on the expertise of interrogators at the FBI and CIA. Of course, Bush-Cheney knew this, too, before they ordered its use.

5. We know that torture DOES WORK to obtain false confessions.

6. Now, we know that Cheney ordered torture to obtain false confessions from captives in order to link Saddam to Al Qaeda, thus justifying the Iraq war. Even after 183 applications of water torture, one alleged Al Qaeda operative provided no link, perhaps because he didn't know what the interrogators were fishing for.

7. Since that effort failed, we know that Dick Cheney is using his operatives in the media, Charles Krauthamer, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, William Kristol, Richard Cohen and others to rationalize the illegal acts based on hypothetical situations that did not apply.

8. We also know that Cheney-Bush is seeking to take down Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman and others in an effort to prevent investigation or prosecution. Use of blackmail is always the last tactic in a failing campaign to shirk culpability (used unsuccessfully by Bill Clinton in the last days before impeachement).

9. Thus, we know Cheney-Bush is guilty. What we don't know is whether we are a nation of laws and not men. We also don't know the real reason we invaded Iraq.

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

And torture does work

---I see no evidence ot support this whatsoever.

Anyone who gives up info may do so for any number of reasons not connected to torture.

I think it's an absolute load of sh*t, this new tact of 'torture works," (LOL) exposing more about those who make such an insipid arguement, and their tactic, than about any truth.

And then you're in over your head.

It's for real, we're at war, and they're pretending.


Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I find it completely amusing and a bit frustrating to talk to conservative loonies in here as well as in person who comes up with both the ticking time bomb sit and the SERE Training. Btw, many does not even know what SERE stands for. Not even going to respond to something that has been so completely and credibly refuted by many, including SERE instructors.

And as far as torture producing information to get a conviction - I am going to use the pipe analogy. Two water pipes, one with potable water and the other with untreated water, should their contents ever come into contact, nothing happens to the untreated water. It is still considered untreated. But the potable water is now useless as well.

So goes the evidence for a case like that. No self respecting jury will convict someone where the evidence was obtained by torture/coercion.

Posted by: Pillai | May 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

An interesting comment I read from a CIA interrogator was that the ticking time-bomb scenario is precisely the one where torture is going to be the least effective. Its much easier to hold out when you know you only have to do so for a given period of time.

Sorry I can't cite the exact source.

Posted by: tgoglia | May 18, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"...Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here can try and promote their holier-than-thou position, but I still question what his and everyone else's mindset was back in 2002, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds."

Not everyone is a coward, and decision making based on reason and logic in conjunction with empathy for fellow human beings is only as holy as you think it is.

Posted by: mobedda | May 18, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Excellent response to Kraut's "kidnapping" scenario. He should have thought about his example more throroughly.

Posted by: warrenjasper | May 18, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Excellent response to Kraut's "kidnapping" scenario. He should have thought about his example more throroughly.

Posted by: warrenjasper

What next, are you going to ask for the moon here?

Posted by: Pillai | May 18, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Dan.

Of course, the minute Krauthammer threw out the word "stupid" in a printed column circulated to perhaps a few hundred thousand, it was clear to any student of debate that he was effectively conceding the point that his position was without merit. The substance of his argument only underscored his initial concession.

Posted by: JPRS | May 18, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

My little flame of a post worked.... and brought out all the looney weirdos and their senseless talking points (especially the old, tired, and completely disproved notion that 'Bush knew'), just to defend their dear froomiekins.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@alutz08: "My little flame of a post worked...."

Doesn't admitting to trolling the comment boards get you banned here?

If not, can we at least get an individual "ignore" feature to hide d-bags who add nothing to the conversation and must insult columnists to reach orgasm?

Posted by: BigTunaTim | May 18, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

If torture works as the neo-cons state it does, then why dont we torture child molesters to reveal all their victims? Or kidnappers to reveal where their victim is? Or parents whose child has disappeared to see if they were involved? Easy its against the law...........

Posted by: rharring | May 18, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Buttonpushers like alutz08 succeed in making people irate because they reuse the tactics of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld themselves: insult, deny, and avoid all specifics. It can be effective cover in the absence of an argument.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 18, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer relentlessly continues to be a snail crawling along the edge of the straight razor of Torture. That's Krauthammer's dream, it's America's nightmare. Crawling, slipping along the edge of a straight razor, surviving as a messenger boy for Torturers because mainstream media like the Washington Post allows it to continue to exist.

Posted by: Patriot3 | May 18, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Dan for all your work on this issue. Please don't stop speaking truth to power on this most important issue which our country cannot just sweep under a rug and deny its occurrence. It must be kept out front until our country does the right thing and LOOKS BACK TO FIND OUT WHAT WENT SO WRONG before we can ever move forward as a nation based on laws; not men.

We need you to continue being our voice to the world so that we can one day heal from the psychological wounds of torture that were carried out in our names. We cannot allow those responsible to drift into the comforts of civilian life without facing the consequences of their illegal actions. I would think aa a nation built on laws, we would expect nothing less from the United States.

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | May 18, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Dan. You give me faith that the US will continue to stand up for human dignity.

Posted by: Ali8 | May 18, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

alutz08 wonders if we've forgotten 9/11. I for one haven't forgotten. I remember seeing so many people like alutz08 acting like Chicken Little - panicking, thinking that al Qaeda was now under their beds where the communists used to hide, and enabling stupid and ineffective responses to the attack. Such people are simply cowards. They are so afraid, and so disabled by their fear, that they start lashing out in all directions, generally unproductively. What's worse, our president and vice president encouraged us to be so fearful that we would abandon our laws and our liberties. The next time you hear the words of the Star Spangled Banner, alutz, try thinking about what it means to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

Posted by: wtyler | May 18, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The United Nations Convention Against Torture explicitly states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war … may be invoked as a justification of torture." This is an international treaty which the US negotiated and signed on to (under Ronald Reagan), and according to our Constitution such international treaties are the supreme law of the land.

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever." Can't get much more explicit than that, Charles.

Posted by: ddipaula1 | May 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The selective memories of Boehner, McConnell, Gingrich, Krauthammer, Kristol and a few others are outstanding.

Cutting to the chase here, back in the day the excuse was that Congress had big mouths. Bush/Cheney Administration refused to cooperate with Oversight in the open or behind closed doors because they inferred Congress could not keep a secret.

The most shining example to me came through John Bolten's shove up to the United Nations. Apparenty Mr. Kiss up or Shove down decided to play spy on his own and got caught. That episode was apparently hushed under that ole denial mechanism by stating "That's a matter of National Security". Of course Mr. Community destroying got a recess appointment which lead to no more recess appointments for the peter-principled fasttracker George Bush.

Anyhow, you know, Liz Cheney is speaking up for daddy now and I wish I could talk to her directly. I would say something like:

Oh come on, look on the bright side, how many times can a person get hung until death, just once, right ? It's not like anyone could get hung until death 3 or 4 times. Death is overated anyways, everyone dies sometime.

Sometimes you just got to plan for worst and hope for the best. Have to be reality based to do that I guess otherwise we would be buying face masks for 300 million people today. And it's always darkest before the dawn.

Liz, your father must be having a very difficult time adjusting to retirement. He should at least lay off the booze before appearing on Fox News because maybe Murdoch is providing the rope for a hanging, who knows for sure.

Posted by: truthhurts | May 18, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Dan, your response to Krauthammer is excellent and very restrained, under the circumstances. Because let's be clear: opinions of the kind that Krauthammer propounds are the slippery slope to the sort of brutal totalitarianism we saw everywhere in the world just seventy years ago. We do not need to go back in time to Krauthammer's gestapo mentality.

Posted by: gposner | May 18, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

To alutz08:

So I am a parrot and Fromkin is an idiot. I remember my mindset back right after 9/11 and I would not have tortured people under any circumstances back then either. But then I am a human being with morals and convictions. Perhaps you cannot understand the outrage that many of us feel about what was done in our names is because you, like Cheney, Bush, and their ilk, are not human beings with morals and convictions.

As far is torture is concerned there is and never has been a debate. It is wrong. It is immoral. And it is NOT done by any country I live in.

Posted by: nyrunner101 | May 18, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

My little flame of a post worked.... and brought out all the looney weirdos and their senseless talking points (especially the old, tired, and completely disproved notion that 'Bush knew'), just to defend their dear froomiekins.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 2:05 PM
No alutz08, it brought out very logical, thoughful responses regarding rule of law, our treaty obligations, and the importance of our nation having a moral compass. The problem with those who think like you, is that they think these qualities make one a "looney weirdo". As these qualities have been our country's standards since the founding of the nation, I suggest the "looney weirdos" label is better suited for you and your ilk.

Posted by: bienefes | May 18, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Homerun, Mr. Froomkin. The "ticking bomb" scenario almost never, if ever, occurs in the real world, yet it is being stretched to justify any use of torture, as in the case of the kidnap victim.

Krauthammer, and a few other Neo-cons in the Post, will be spending the rest of their lives twisting the truth to explain the shame into which they've helped lead this country. If the American people are ever to understand what has been done and rescue this country from the wholesale use of torture, it will take more folks like you exposing the sophistry of the Krauthammer's, the Cheney's, the Dershowitz's, etc..

Thank you.

Posted by: HankNTennessee | May 18, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Dan Froomkin, for taking that prize chump Krauthammer to task. And for demolishing his inane argument so swiftly and succinctly, not once but twice.

Krauthammer obviously thought that the latest rendition of his defense of torture (first published in the Weekly Standard on December 5, 2005) would receive the same rapt attention and agreement that it received from the small coterie of GOP party faithful (ie, the extremist lunatics) who read the Weekly Standard.

It must have come as a shock to him to have been so roundly scorned, ridiculed and corrected -- not only by you but by more than 1,000 Washington Post commenters.

He was so punch drunk and confused that he came back for a second round.

Same result. A quick knockdown -- followed by much writhing and mewling.

Posted by: pali2600 | May 18, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Is it torture to kill 3 teenagers with a bullet through their skull to protect the life of 1 man when there is only probable, not conclusive evidence he would be killed?

Posted by: bleep1 | May 18, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Dan, you are absolutely right. And I might add that Krauthammer has either lost all perspective on this subject---or is just perpetuating his role is Bush/GOP apologist (probably all of the above)..

Posted by: mlipsius | May 18, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

it seems the genesis of the whole torture program may have started with Cheney desperately wanting to confirm his saddam-al qaeda link and to "find" the wmd. the post by lawrence wilkerson and statements by charles duelfer in his book make this clear. no ticking time bomb at all. torture to extract false information.


Rachel Maddow nailed Cheney to the wall Friday night on her show.

Posted by: tinkabell1 | May 18, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse's sad that people are so stupid as to say that torture is never a viable option. If confronted with another 911 situation, there will be more "torture" and Obama will approve of it if he is even told. Just like Nancy Pelosi was fine with those tactics during those more desperate times, but now seems to have forgotten what she was told and when for political purposes. How convenient? She has got to be one of the worst SOH ever. God bless her!

Posted by: rphilli721 | May 18, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Is it torture to kill 3 teenagers with a bullet through their skull to protect the life of 1 man when there is only probable, not conclusive evidence he would be killed?

Posted by: bleep1


Are you saying that the three teenagers had only one skull that they shared between them? Boy, I'd like to see that!

But seriously, nice strawman argument related to Somali pirates. They took a hostage and would probably have killed him. I have no idea how you define the rescue of the captain as "torture." Looks to me like you are trying to make false linkages (see: Iraq and 9/11).

Posted by: castanea | May 18, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Both Dan Froomkin and Eugene Robinson are completely motivated by politics-- neither of them gives a damn about torture. I have asked both of them for comments regarding the TRUE torture associated with Extraordinary Rendition (ER) and they have not commented. ER was initiated by executive order of Bill Clinton and that bastion of civil rights Al Gore.

Let me try one mote time: Mr. Froomkin please comment on the TRUE torture associated with Extraordinary Rendition. If you are on a quest to expose so-called torture of your country, then why have you not addressed (you can go to your local video store to check out the move Extraordinary Rendition) the TRUE torture associated with ER?

Posted by: hz9604 | May 18, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin - please shave that teen pubic hair off your chin.

Posted by: pgr88 | May 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Thans Dan:
I have long lost any respect for Mr. Krauthammer. Especially his poor efforts on Washington Week or other Talk Shows.

I would like to see the right wingers find an Island they can all live on.

See how long they get along together before canibalism sets in..

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | May 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I also challenge all of these pro-Froomkin commenters to comment on Extraordinary Rendition.

Posted by: hz9604 | May 18, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: bleep1 | May 18, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Charlie The Kraut beat you like a dog, boy.

And, Froomkin, you sat there in your corner cowering as he slapped you all over the newsroom.

Be sure to bring Charlie The Kraut his slippers on your hands and knees in complete obedience to him.

Posted by: MarkinJC | May 18, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Liz Cheney slapped Gene Robinson around like a Master whips his Uncle Tom. Pulitzers just aren't worth anything and Robinson showed no guts or ability to think on his feet.

Froomkin was even more pathetic, curling up in a fetal ball as that Neocon coward, Charlie The Kraut, cuffed him all over D.C. Froomkin was so terrified of being called an anti-Semite that he simply allowed Charlie The Kraut to rape him of his dignity, professionalism, and any respect that might otherwise exist.

Robinson and Froomkin are completely useless - but they kept their seats in the corner at the D.C.-Georgetown Cocktail Party and that's really all that matters to either one of them.

Two more neutered wimps with the proper connections.

Posted by: MarkinJC | May 18, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a pretty sweet movie, hz9604. However, Dan, like most of us (and he's not an investigative reporter, either--don't forget that) is limited to what information has been declassified or leaked. What happened at those black sites has remained a very closely-kept secret.

Furthermore, extraordinary rendition has in fact been used for many years, but normally, it's to return a high-value criminal or suspect to the country requiring justice--NOT to outsource torture. Terrorists and criminals have been hunted down, captured and rendered to the litigating country for a long time.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 18, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

By the way, markinjc, Liz just repeated the same old lies her father's been spouting for a long time. She has nothing new or intelligent to add--just the sound of her voice. Krauthammer's lack of thinking skills is apparent to anyone with reading comprehension.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 18, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell you what stupid is: diving into a swimming pool without enough water in it like Krauthammer did and ending up partially paralyzed. An unfortunate accident but not very smart.

Posted by: bdunn1 | May 18, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse


Your explanation of ER seems to indicate a bird that is walking and quacking like a duck. ER torture was observed and supervised by the CIA.

So Froomkin is a politically motivated reporter with an agenda rather than an investigative reporter. Fair enough.

My insistence will be that if we start "lining 'em up" as James Taylor sings, then let's line 'em ALL up-- both parties.

Posted by: hz9604 | May 18, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

stupid is as stupid calls.

Posted by: natty-bumppo | May 18, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Froomkin: Mr. Krauthammer's reasoning and analogizing was clumsy at best... so I agree there, but that's where the agreement stops.

The most famous individual subject to interrogation techniques/torture was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The CIA knew he was the architect of 9/11 and thus on bin Laden's strategy team... The CIA knew from monitoring voice/e-mail traffic that other major attacks were imminent. Finally, Mr. Mohammed himself admitted that more attacks were coming and taunted that we'd find out what/where "soon". I assume you, Mr. Froomkin, would respond by thanking him for his time and then leave him alone in his room to pray and watch CNN so he could watch planes fly into more buildings.

We're talking about waterboarding... not about slicing innocent civilians' or journalists' heads off like our enemies do.

The "sippery slope" Mr. Froomkin talks about is a joke - waterboarding was limited to a grand total of 3 detainees of the ilk of Mr. Mohammed - that is, al Quaeda leadership. I agree that waterboarding is horrible and not a practice we want to take lightly or perform on a routine basis and from all accounts, we didn't. The CIA consulted with as many people within the administration and congress as legally possible before proceeding with this method for each individual. The practice stopped when we ran out of the precious few detainees we had that touched bin Laden's inner circle.

War is a terrible, tragic business and terrible things happen. If you think it was all rainbows and goodness during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Spanish-American War, Civil War, WWII etc., etc. - you truly are naive. Good guys have to do bad things to the bad guys sometimes to win wars. Sadly, that's how it's played.

Posted by: GodFamilyNation | May 18, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

GOPr's: Read this for your ticking time-bomb scenario. Torture takes time... sometimes 183 times!

Posted by: imike1 | May 18, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Wow. The rightwing trolls are out in force today. Grade school must've let out early.

Posted by: castanea | May 18, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

hz9604--I agree, that everyone involved in the decision-making process--including congressional leaders--should be included in any investigation. I detest nearly everything Bush and Cheney did but I'm not some blind partisan who thinks Democrats should be immune. If Pelosi claims to have a conscience now, but overlooked torture then, then she's absolutely subject to some sort of penalty (even if that simply be the truthe being exposed--which is the most I think we can hope for in any case).

I consider Cheney, Bush and their whole team to be monsters. But those who abetted the monsters are not free of blame, by an means.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 18, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

"Good guys have to do bad things to the bad guys sometimes to win wars. Sadly, that's how it's played."


Torture apologists like you are all the same--thugs who have managed to master the art of using a keyboard to spread foolishness.

Good guys who do bad things aren't really good guys, are they? It's not a trick question. The answer is "No." I guess your parents did a poor job teaching you.

Setting aside the fact that torture is illegal, something even Ronald Reagan admitted, you guys can't even come up with situations in which it has worked, and you can't even refute the expert testimony reported by the WaPo, and elsewhere in the media, that torture is counter productive to obtaining reliable information.

All torture does is give people who are tortured, and their families, reason to loathe the United States. All torture does is breed more terrorists.

Ah, but facts and logic mean nothing to a rightwing fanatic. All the proof in the world can't dissuade them from their Jack-Bauer-inspired beliefs.

Posted by: castanea | May 18, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Washington Post, I have a novel idea. As you claim that, "User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site," why don't you follow through on this. Reasoned (or even unreasoned) opinions might be allowed, but anybody who feels obliged to call names or impugn another human being would forfeit the right to be heard on this forum.

We might even go a step further and delete patently absurd statements, such as "the world is flat instead of round," or "Barack Obama is not an American citizen," or "House's dictum that everybody lies does not hold for Bush Administration officials."

Posted by: jimkahan | May 18, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Well at least I am not the one personally attacking other message board posters, or using explitives to respond to a poster or another journalist on these message boards.

Again, I seriously doubt that all of you were part of the 4% who disagreed with the government response following the 9/11 terror attacks. These were planned and set attacks on our country and our citizens, not on our military, but you and me. It was a war declared on us since the beginning of the 90's, and our country did not respond to each attack, the WTC in 1993, the USS Cole bombing, etc... So it was only until we were slapped hard enough that we responded, granted according to an ABC docu-drama and many other sources, this snake's head could have been chopped off long before 2001... but that argument has been done before.

This message board lacks rational thought because it is followed by those who seek a left leaning political writer to cling to.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Dear Castanea... since most of the left wing nuts posted early, and the right wing posters came later in the afternoon, it is only certain that left wingers don't have any work to do during the day, thus not adding anything to the productivity of the nation, while those who favor the right, are mostly hard at work during the day and then respond only during lunch hours and at the end of the day.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 18, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh, let me add one more patent absurdity (just look at the recent posts) of demonstrable liars, as in alutz08 today: "Well at least I am not the one personally attacking other message board posters, or using explitives [sic] to respond to a poster or another journalist on these message boards."

Try this: 11:42 am "You know it is so convenient for idiots like Froomkin ..." and in the same post "Froomkin, and the parrots who follow him here ... " Or this in its entirety from 2:05 pm "My little flame of a post worked.... and brought out all the looney weirdos and their senseless talking points (especially the old, tired, and completely disproved notion that 'Bush knew'), just to defend their dear froomiekins."

For the record, I was one of the people you cite in the 4%.

Posted by: jimkahan | May 18, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I recall, alutz08, in the aftermath of 9/11 being stunned almost into numbness, and not sure what to think or conclude. But I also knew, based on my own personal experience, that you don't make major decisions based on the immediate psychological aftermath of an event. You need to calm down first before you go making rash and harsh decisions on what seems best while you're slightly (or largely) out of your mind. (And this is giving Cheney in particular the benefit of the doubt--that he wasn't planning such horrific things before the attack, and mererly used 9/11 as visible justification.)

I do remember not being able to believe that the country could possibly be swayed by the ridiculous and at time comical run-up to the war in Iraq.

As for your snakes' head remark, under what premises before 9/11 could we have sent an invasion force into Afghanistan to bottle up bin Laden in the mountains...although Bush and Rumsfeld decided to let him go? Not every covert operation is a success.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 18, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

There are two important components to maintaining national security in the face of terror cell threats:

1. Engaging effective human intelligence assets in all our intelligence agencies, acting in concert with each other to share intelligence and aid the DNI to "connect the dots" with respect to potential terrorist strikes against the US and our western allies.

2. Effective psychologically-based interrogation techniques that avoid "enhanced interrogation techniques" and use subtle and nuanced approaches to create bonds betweenthe detainee and the interrogator.

The failure of number 1 leads to the "ticking time bomb" scenario that Mr. Krauthammer and others advocating the same excuses for torture continue to advocate. The example Mr. Krauthammer offered in his column as justification for his position was weak and not worthy of his intelligence.

I have always been of the impression that psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts are required to perform self-introspection as a pre-requisite for certification (i.e., one cannot be effective in offering counseling unless one has examined one's own weaknesses- ultimately, no one's psychological background is flawless).

Mr. Krauthammer does not seem to exhibit the humility that would emanate from self-examination.

Posted by: MillPond2 | May 18, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Does it make you a member of the liberal media to be correct?

Unfortunately, the people who have decided that torture is OK are not basing their opinion on fact or law or precedent, they are basing it on a vague sense of patriotism and of party loyalty.

Reason can not hold sway over people who decide something is right based on these faith-based rationales.

In the quote of a generation, Stephen Colbert said to GW Bush at the infamous press club dinner, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." Meaning, those who disagree with something can just blame the liberal media, no matter the topic, no matter the factual nature of the info, no matter the existence of overwhelming proof, no matter...

Don't belabor this, Dan. K-hammer is lost in a loyalty-based wilderness.

Posted by: farkdawg | May 18, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer has defined himself as a vastly despicable piece of work. His preoccupation with improbably scenarios mirrors the gun kooks and that sadistic intruder they always fantasize about, the dark-skinned killer who breaks into white churchgoing Americans' homes and rapes the wife in front of the husband before he starts taking her and the kids apart. Oh if only hubby had availed of his Second Amendment rights and bought a Glock.

Krauthammer apparently harbors sadistic notions. Why, if we refrain from torture, we might succumb to people without such delicate sensibilities.

Gotta ask, though, what exactly we're defending if we become completely despicable in the course of doing so.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | May 18, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow Froomkin is really sounding desperate now that he knows he is LOSING this argument. Bottomline Obama wants nothing to do with investigating this. And now that Pelosi has completely embarrassed herself he more than ever wants to move on. For Pelosi's part she was all fine when she thought Republicans were the target of these investigations.. but now that it's her who is caught LYING (thank you Leon Panetta for coming forward and telling what really did happen) watch her run from this. (C'mon she couldn't handle a press conf.. you think she wants to face a hearing under oath???) Obama is also showing how he feels about this by joining Republicans in not releasing interogation photos and still having military tribunals, next he'll delay closing GITMO you'll see. Admit it this lame attempt to GET BUSH and Cheney is all but over. Keith Olber@ss and Rachel MadCOW can whine all they want but the FACT is they and Froomkin lost and Cheney WON!!!

Posted by: sovine08 | May 18, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The reason for the explicit attacks (which are also actions that you apparently engage in as well-thank you jimkahan) is that many of us have no more patience for civility with you. We are tired of proving you wrong and wrong again and yet you continue to refuse to change your viewpoints. You have been proven intellectually bankrupt on argument after argument but you don't care about reason. You care about "us vs them" and probably think your emotions and prejudices provide the correct answers despite what logic and reasoning prove to the contrary.
You were probably out haranguing people for being traitors for questioning their government's actions following 9-11. Well guess what? Your ideology has held this country hostage long enough and I am sick of arguing with people like you because you are dead wrong but you don't even seem to care. Thus, whenever you post your absolute lies, filth, you name it-I don't want to have a discussion with you anymore. You have no comprehension of changing your viewpoints because someone makes a valid point. You just have your sick little paradigm firmly implanted in your drone brain. So rather than waste anymore time trying to educate you, I'm just going to call a spade a spade (a.k.a. you are an idiot and a true traitor to this nation). You wipe your a$$ with the Constitution and could care less. There should be zero tolerance for people like you anymore-you had your shot and you've ruined things enough. Now can it or change.

Posted by: CypressTree | May 18, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to take a ride on you Dan but Quid Pro Quo, right ?

Stupid me for thinking I could communicate directly with Liz Cheney but if I could, I would continue thusly:

Now Liz, I would probably go hunting with Uncle Dick but from a distance. I would try ice fishing with your father if he does not poke me in the eye with a tip up. I understand sporting accidents. I learned the "F" word by catching my grandfather behind the ear with a fishing hook. With my hook in his ear, he chased me down the lake bank screaming "Come here you little F'r" He was however good to me by taking me fishing and buying me orange sodas. All in all, I would say I would be safe doing retirement activities with your dad because I am NOT a close friend of his and that there is no booze in my hunting "lodge".

Otherwise, do you get it that some people thought that your dad was trigger happy to the nth degree, not cool enough to think before pulling the trigger ?

This morning I saw a pheasant fly across our front fields and it was a beautiful sight. That Pheasant was not on a wire indeed. Oh, and did I tell you, that one morning sitting in an one-hundred year old walnut tree on our propery, was a bald eagle, imagine that will you, imagine that.

Posted by: truthhurts | May 18, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse


That is one of the weakest arguments i have ever heard. Did local law enforcement torture Casey Anthony to reveal where he childs body was? Do we torture child molesters to give up all their victims? Quit watching 24 and get into the real world. We tried and convicted Japanese soldiers for doing the same thing to terrorists. We also tried and convicted US Army officers in Vietnam for the same actions. And KSM did not give up any new information regardless of what you and Glenn Beck think. Those involved have stated he gave up nothing new. To bad you arent smart enough to realize this.

Posted by: rharring | May 18, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

What deeply disturbs me is the renaming of torture to enhanced interrogation technique. That removes us from the inherent and real repulsiveness of these actions. We are talking about torture, here. Torture is the exact word for what has been done. It is an ugly word for an ugly activity. It is always performed by thugs and bullies, and bullies are always cowards. A sissy uses effective non-violent techniques, so believe the tortures. Torture is the action of warriors, so they believe. But torture represents a failure of civilization. It is a modified thrill kill.

Posted by: gaystaggo | May 18, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Because we are humans, not gods, we have chosen to be ruled by laws -- laws that draw clear lines between what actions are appropriate for humans, and what are not.

That is a great observation expressed in a pithy form.

The "religious right" in particular should be impressed, because the Bible is pretty clear in saying that the essence of sin is the denial of God and self-deification

Posted by: wstander | May 18, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin and his "Parrots",.. I like that, at least a parrot ia an intelligent animal and being winged, when the shi# gets to deep it can fly away, but I wonder what positive can be said about being a "ditto", "simply spewing forth what is programmed in?"

Posted by: tniederberger | May 18, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Krauthammer's and other right wingers' justification of torture is an excuse for substituting an end justifies the means rationale for precepts of law and morality. Under his vision we abandon our legal and moral obligations in favor of a "system" in which we trust the judgment of a few people to decide when and how to torture. The premise is that there are situations where torture is necessary in order to achieve a higher purpose and that a trusted elite will know when to use it and what to do.

That was exactly the rationale used by the Bolsheviks and Communists in the Soviet Union and by the Nazis. Read Robert Conquest's book The Great Terror. NKVD torturers abused their victims in order to coerce confessions for the greater good of survival of the Communist system. The methods they used -- including waterboarding, stress positions, beatings, and sleep deprivation -- were exactly the same as those authorized by the Bush Administration.

Krauthammer would undoubtedly say in response that the Communists were evil and that Bush's people were good. That's his subjective judgment. But, even if the decisions to torture Al Qaeda captives were motivated entirely by the purest of good intentions (and I have my doubts about that) how can one say with a straight face that such would always be the case?

In Jonathan Littel's terrific novel, The Kindly Ones, he writes about a society (Nazi Germany) that has abandoned all of its moral principles in favor of a moral relativism in which determinations of what is right and wrong are made by the Nazi elite. The premise of the book is that once a society substitutes moral relativism for concepts of absolute morality it embarks on an irreversible downhill slide that leads to total debauchery. There is nothing so unique about our society that would operate to prevent such a descent if we abandoned our principles.

The current campaign by the hard right in this country, Krauthammer included, is intended to provide cover and support for those individuals who created and then implemented our torture program. It is easy to see why. The torture excusers know that what was done violates international and domestic criminal laws and they know that there may exist no legal defenses if prosecutions are initiated. So, they are attempting a preemptive political strike to protect their own. It is in all our interests not to be cowed by these people. If crimes were committed they should be investigated and prosecuted and the guilty should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. No culpable person, including in particular, those individuals who designed or who signed off on torture, should be exempted from prosecution and punishment if found culpable. That is the only reasonable -- and legal -- way to protect ourselves against resuming the descent into moral relativism initiated under Bush and Cheney.

Posted by: stevenk2 | May 18, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

fletc3her @11:06AM cogently explains what I think is the most immediate argument:

"Even in the fictional shows which right wingers like Krauthammer hold up as arguments in favor of decriminalizing torture the characters are aware that they are taking actions which can result in serious repercussions. The characters heroism stems not from their criminal actions, but from their willingness to sacrifice their own livelihood and freedom in order to do what they think needs to be done."

If the torturists and their apologists feel they did the right thing, then they should present themselves for prosecution, comfortable in the knowledge that while they will have sacrificed themselves for the common good, they will be vindicated by history. Of course they don't, and that demonstrates their cowardice and moral failure.

Posted by: DigiMark | May 18, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

What a shame that the Post management isn't insightful enough to give Krauthammer's column to Froomkin. Froomkin is much smarter and certainly a better writer than Krauthammer.

Every time I see anything Krauthammer writes I picture Bugs Bunny saying...What a maroon. Yeah, it's that bad.

Posted by: pmorlan1 | May 18, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

The tyranny of this example is astonishing. On the one hand, I don't think I've got any very reliable intuitions about the efficacy of torture--or any other very unusual experiences, for that matter. On the other, I grant that I can see myself violating known laws out of a perceived need to protect, e.g., my family. What I can't see, though, is what effect this is supposed to have on the question of the legality of my actions.

So why not simply grant the point? Admit that the conduct was illegal, but that it was considered to be morally permissable. Doesn't the legal system exist, in part, to adjudicate clashes of this sort? Bring the charges, but give the defendants the opportunity to present a defense. If the torture was defensible, let it be defended, on the record, in public, giving the parties involved the chance to defend their actions. If they are brave, let them be brave.

So far, all I've seen are cowards.

Thanks for your good works, Mr. Froomkin.

Posted by: BlinnC | May 18, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

To all those commenting in favor of torture, how do you reconcile your position in light of the fact that the USA prosecuted and executed German and Japanese soldiers found guilty of torture by waterboarding?

Posted by: samantha3 | May 18, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for another good article Dan Froomkin

- Be interesting to see if this comment goes in, my comments under the William Kristol article "what did Rahm know?" seem to require approval of the blog owner and I'm wondering if that's the Washington Post or Kristol.

Posted by: BrettPaatsch1 | May 18, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

PS: Seems its Kristol.

Posted by: BrettPaatsch1 | May 18, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse


I concur. But Froomkin doesn't go to fancy dinners in Georgetown with members of the cabinet. (hint, hint, you Obama people should invite him!)

Posted by: boscobobb | May 19, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer is a waste of skin.

Posted by: pfk98 | May 19, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like Dan doesn't like Chuck Krauthammer very much.

Well, neither do I.

Thanks, Dan, for holding up the good side.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | May 19, 2009 12:36 AM | Report abuse

The one thing I note with distaste about the pro-torture side is their zeal. They don't approach torture as something they would do reluctantly or with a heavy heart. No, they're eager, they have no reservations or misgivings, they're practically jumping into line to apply the electrode, to pour the water.

This isn't about national security, this is about sadism and cruelty.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | May 19, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

The misuse of words is a powerful indictment.

"Enhanced interrogation" uses the cover of the word interrogation to mask actions that produce unreliable interrogations, resulting in a paradox.

I am incensed that they promoted torture. I'm professionally appalled that they literally devalued the reliability of prisoners, producing unreliable babbling and boasting. There is literally no way to replace a captive.

Posted by: boscobobb | May 19, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse


Even though calling me a "thug" is laughable (you really have no idea how hilarious it is to call me that), you do make a good point, but wouldn't your logic that "doing bad things means someone is not good anymore" eliminate a just war altogether (I'm not including Iraq as a just war, BTW)? Shouldn't we be allowed to defend ourselves? Of course I was using simplistic language: "bad things". The allies did bad things to Nazis, like kill them. I would be very interested to hear your alternative to the Khalid Sheik Mohammed scenario. How would you have responded?

Evil exists in the world... until it doesn't exist anymore, wars, pain, suffering and injustice will continue. Until then we have to do what we can to minimize war, pain and injustice. I would offer that if all we have to defend ourselves is a hug and kind words, we will be destroyed. Do you really think radical extremists will stop slicing peoples' heads off because we disbar some lawyers?

Part of me wishes we could become avowed pacifists like the Japanese did, but that only worked because they were backed up by the US and NATO.

It's a complicated, messy issue and I think this kind of debate needs to happen rather than fight it out in 4 word soundbites or use name-calling of people you don't know.

Posted by: GodFamilyNation | May 19, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what exceptions Krauthammer has for slavery and genocide. Wise people understand there can be no exceptions for human rights violations otherwise you or a loved one might become the next exception, besides torture is against the law.

Posted by: joejoe2000 | May 19, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

To all those commenting in favor of torture, how do you reconcile your position in light of the fact that the USA prosecuted and executed German and Japanese soldiers found guilty of torture by waterboarding?
Posted by: samantha3
Simple. One that Japanese officer (don't know what German officier was ever convicted and executed) did a lot more than just waterboard.. he did torture burning holes in Americans. Second you assume all waterboearding is the same. How it is done how LONG it is applied can make all the difference in what contitutes torture . Third these Americans weren't CRIMMINALS.. they were solders.. they were wearing uniforms.. they are provided the protection of the Geneva convention. Khalid Sheihk Mohammed is a criminal, who targeted innoceint civilains and wanted to do it again. Or put another way.. IF American TERRORISTS BEFORE WWII planned and executed a plan to MURDER 3000 Japanese or German civilians and if three of them were caught afterwards. IF the Japanese or German government waterboarded those CRIMINALS to find out if another attack was coming.. The Japanese or Germans who did it would NOT have been prosecuted or executed..

Posted by: sovine08 | May 19, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

The one thing I note with distaste about the pro-torture side is their zeal. They don't approach torture as something they would do reluctantly or with a heavy heart. No, they're eager, they have no reservations or misgivings
What's interesting to us is the zeal the pro-KSM civil rights side has to prosecute people who's only goal was to keep Americans safe. Hate Bush or Cheney or not.. they didn't do this for power or money but because they thought these methods were the BEST way to get information. They did go to the justice dept to get guidelines on how far interogations can go legally to get information. They did did inform Congress.. (including high ranking Democrats) to keep them informed of what they were doing. Pelosi knew and didn't raise one complaint. Now Obama is saying no CIA person should be prosecuted and Democrats aren't fighting him on that. But if you say it was torture according to what happened in Nuremburg the people who did it are just as guilty as the ones who ordered it. By giving them a FREE PASS Democrats are basically saying we aren't interested in the law.. we are ONLY interested in getting Republicans. This is a political ploy no more no less. Reasonable people can disagree on whether we should have waterboarded THREE terrorists to try to gather infomation to save American lives but it's the hate Bush/Cheney crowd that don't care what the intention was.. they only care that only Republicans (not the CIA) are locked up.

Posted by: sovine08 | May 19, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

jimkahan posted this:
For the record, I was one of the people you cite in the 4%.

Posted by: jimkahan

Dear Jimmie... if you will note, I was only launching a personal insult at Froomiekins, and not at any individual poster. Parrots are those to repeat what someone else says.

So please re-read my comments and THINK before responding.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 19, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Cypress Tree:

You too have fallen victim of looking before you leap. Like I said earlier, I did not come here to intellectually argue with you or anyone else. I came to call out Froomie for what he is... not a reporter, but a biased blogger intent on being stuck in the past because his and your hero Obama is not throwing the entire Bush adminstration into jail.

If my jawing is so irrelevant, how about you just try ignoring me. You will save bandwidth and 10 minutes of your time that you could better use to read a book with a conservative slant... so that you might expand your own horizon. Instead you wasted your time by responding and lowering yourself by tossing personal insults which I could flag you for, but as we both know, the WaPo does not police this at all.

Posted by: alutz08 | May 19, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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