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August 25, 2009

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So say we all.

SO SAY WE ALL!

Good post. It seems pretty clear that there were voices high up in the Bush Administration that countenanced going further than the OLC memos. Nothing stops prosecution of them. Holder is just drawing the line at grunts who relied on the White 0ouse's lawyers.

You've still got to fight the "who cares?" contingent and the "it's old news" contingent and the too-large "Aw, so what, so they made some nasty terrorists feel bad" contingent. It's still an uphill battle.

I saw our old friend Dan Bartlett on a morning show today while I was getting dressed, dutifully saying that this was all old news, that prosecutors (in the Bush DOJ) had already looked at this and decided it was OK, and it would have a chilling effect on our brave risk-taking CIA agents in the field. I expect a full-court GOP press today.

The anchor helped him along by asking, hey, wasn't this covered already?

When it was going on we were told to not ask so many questions. When we first found out, we were told the lawyers had cleared it so shut up already. Now we're told we shouldn't go back five years and worry about this stuff.

One message I'd like to hear hit hard is, gee, going back five years to investigate a crime is a problem? What if it was a ten-year-old murder, should we let it go?

There's a connection here, among the never ending torture stories, the Lockerbie bomber's humanitarian release by Scotland, and Lt. Calley's recent expression of remorse for the massacre of 100+ Vietnamese villagers in the early 70's (for which his sentence was commuted by Prez. Nixon after three years in stir)....but I'm not sure that I can verbalize it.

Why is so much of the document still censored? (he asks rhetorically)

What needs to be fought for is the end of censorship -except by a judge. Or make those who censor the document have to be named in an accompanying affidavit and each swear that each and every "redaction" was necessary for national security on penalty of significant jail time.

When I was at university i reviewed the 2nd Senate hearings re the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and compared what had been censored in the transcript of the first hearings that was not censored when quoted in the second hearings. My conclusion was that the original censorship had not been necessary to protect national security.

What if it was a ten-year-old murder, should we let it go?

Wouldn't beating a detainee to death constitute murder? That one also seems like a good place to start in discussing how the torture is obviously not about getting information.

"Glenn and others are critiquing Holder's decision to limit the scope of the prosecution. And I agree. It would be a gross injustice if only the lower-lever officers were prosecuted."

Me too. I like DeLong's labelling of the "anti-Nuremburg defense":
"I was just giving orders."

Z.Mulls,

It's worth the fight.

Why is so much of the document still censored?

Redacted, actually. The original classification was Top Secret; redaction was (presumably) necessary to declassify to Unclassified.

Yes, I am aware that classification has been used to keep things secret which are merely embarrassing, and not national security concerns. Doing that, however, is counter to classification rules, so I'd guess that the President, for instance, could summarily declassify anything that fell into that category.

I'm not really an expert on class/declass authority, though.

It looks as if this document was originally TS-codeword, and so they've redacted the codeword, which is itself classified. I'd guess that a decent portion of this document is legitimately classified, but I'd want someone with both NTK and declass authority to go over it to make sure that only that which is legitimately classified continues to be redacted.

Slarti,
You think that the headings in a table of contents can be legitimately classified?

Also, if the issue is that Sites 1,2,3,4 are in other countries- wouldn't it make more sense for a version of the document to be produced, replacing the name of site 1 with "Site 1'.

There is obviously value to the original document, and in the age after photocopiers and before computers, the release in only this form makes sense, but now with current technology shouldn't it be required to release as well in most meaningful form consistent with protecting legitimate national security concerns (if any)?

You think that the headings in a table of contents can be legitimately classified?

I can't know that until they've been unredacted, can I?

Possibly the author(s) could use a refresher course in keeping the outline of a document unclassified, though.

Also, if the issue is that Sites 1,2,3,4 are in other countries- wouldn't it make more sense for a version of the document to be produced, replacing the name of site 1 with "Site 1'.

I don't have a problem with doing that. It's a fairly frequently used technique in the DoD world, but it makes reading very clumsy. For instance, if a requirement is quantified by a classified number given the label "TT1a" (I just made that up), you're pretty much going to have to keep looking that number up in the classified appendix, every time you come across it. Because there are several dozen other classified parameters in the document, each given a similarly contramnemonic label.

Valid points, though; although the requirement for unclassified, possibly publicly available versions of all classified documents might cause some distress. Maybe you didn't mean that, but that's my interpretation.

Althought the redacted parts would be interesting to read more about, I think the fates of the various violators of written procedure ought to have been made more clear. But as those investigations were not part of the original report, you're not going to see it in the same body, I think.

I'm not entirely clear why there is so much flap over the decision by the AG to prosecute those who were clearly going beyond any reading of the law at the time. Those people, even on the official arguments of the Bush Administration, were in violation of the law. It is the duty of the Justice Department to see that the laws are faithfully executed, and (at last) it seems to be taking steps to do so.

If there are going to be prosecutions, this is obviously the place to start. That doesn't mean that it is the place to end. But it might be worth considering that it is never possible to do everything that you might like to do, or even need to do, simultaneously. Let's at least get started down the road, even if there are debates over how far down it we ought to go.

WJ:"I'm not entirely clear why there is so much flap over the decision by the AG to prosecute those who were clearly going beyond any reading of the law at the time."

The argument (per F. Townsend) is that career prosecutors in DOJ already considered prosecuting these cases during the Bush years, so that this amounts to a kind of double jeopardy for the perpetrators. (And we all know how apolitical the DOJ was during this period of time.)

Slarti: "censored?
Redacted, actually."

Just for my education, isn't "redacted" to "censored" as "enhanced interrogation techniques" is to "torture"?

Slarti: "if a requirement is quantified by a classified number given the label "TT1a"

I would require it be in the form "site 1", or "prisoner 17", "enhanced interrogation technique 32"

Just for my education, isn't "redacted" to "censored" as "enhanced interrogation techniques" is to "torture"?

Not at all. Redaction has a range of meaning in literature far beyond the commonly-known usage referring to the censoring of official documents.

You do not know what you are talking about.

Now let's talk about torture. Real torture. Torture that goes on even today in many places in this world or in recent history that constitutes real barbarism.

I can't speak to who the CIA subjected to interrogation but clearly every prisoner nabbed in this ongoing war (and you should really think about just what THAT means) was not given the rough stuff. No the CIA focused on Hamdan, al Masri and KSM. Every single one of these terrorist scum participated in plots that killed and maimed thousands of people in the US and Africa. You have far more regard for their rights than the rights of their victims much less MY right to be protected.

Funny the CIA doesn't march in the street calling for my death but the marchers cheer the efforts of the Osamas and KSM while you make the CIA's job impossible. If they dont get the intel, people may die and if they do get it, they get subjected to a tribunal run by people committed to the rights of KSM.

In WWII the US did far worse to many folks. The constitution survived just fine. Think what the IG's report of the CIA (the the OSS had to say then).

This shows just how morally occluded your position is. People are going to DIE as a result of your ideas and positions. Terrorists will now not have a CIA to worry about and the CIA will not want to do their job because of folks like you.

Poor KSM forced to tell us about his plans for LA. The single greatest crime in American history was learning what he knew; we should just have let half of downtown LA get blasted so you can feel righteous.

Compared to what the Stalinists, Nazis, Iranians, Saddam or any other real criminals ever did, the CIA did what considered to be the bare minimum to protect this country. How nice of you to judge them and blame them for doing their jobs and exercising their best judgment when lives were literally on the line.

Someday, the killers will come, it is who they are and people like me are going to blame you for it. The positions you take make us a target. Do not profess innocence when you are rightly accused of facilitating murder.

I have no illusions about the CIA but I trust them to protect me. you put your trust in a piece of paper; not the constitution, but a big kill me sign.


Just for my education, isn't "redacted" to "censored" as "enhanced interrogation techniques" is to "torture"?

I think you can probably look at it that way, but to me, the way it's supposed to work is: redaction removes text that makes the document classified, where censoring removes stuff that's been denoted by the government to be offensive, in some way.

Thus, we can have unclassified/offensive as well as unclassified/inoffensive, but we can't have classified/anything.

I would require it be in the form "site 1", or "prisoner 17", "enhanced interrogation technique 32"

Would that we had someone like you writing the classification guides.

I expect a full-court GOP press today.

Quoted for truth. Republicans actively support this stuff, far more strongly than the rest of the country. Many Democrats are too willing to turn a blind eye for political reasons (a week ago I would have unequivocably included Obama in that, but given that prosecution does seem to be moving in the right direction, however slowly, I'm a little optimistic. Six months ago he was implying there would be no prosecution at all), and that's bad, but nowhere near as bad as actively advocating for this stuff, or telling baldfaced lies about the extent of it, like:

I can't speak to who the CIA subjected to interrogation but clearly every prisoner nabbed in this ongoing war (and you should really think about just what THAT means) was not given the rough stuff. No the CIA focused on Hamdan, al Masri and KSM.

This is lying, or at the very least it's deeply and indisputably misleading by omission. Many people tortured by Americans were unequivocably not even suspected of anything like that. The guy with the hood on his head and electrodes on his arms in the Abu Ghraib photos, for just one example, was arrested for carjacking. (The picture was taken before he had been charged with a crime, let alone convicted.)

Johnny, I was referring to the complains from those who are upset that only those specific cases are being prosecuted, not to those who object to any prosecutions. Sorry I was not clearer.

As for the "double jeopardy" assertion -- it's nonsense. All double jeopardy means is that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime, i.e. if prosecuted and once found not guilty, you cannot be retried on the same charge. It has never meant that a DA cannot decide at one point not to prosecute, and then later change his mind (whether because he now has more evidence or for any other reason). (Any more than it means that it means that, if there is a hung jury, you cannot be retried.) Since there have been no trials, there can be no double jeopardy. Period.

Would that we had someone like you writing the classification guides.

As I look at my shelves of various classification guides from various agencies, all I can say is "Amen."

Someday, the killers will come

'ayatolla's' comment needs music.

You do not know what you are talking about.

You will of course pardon me if I find this kind of assertion hilarious, coming from someone who then proceeds to troll the thread by enthusiastically cheerleading for the torture of human beings and the violation of numerous laws again such.

I have to admit to being impressed, though. You hit all the notes. Terrorists are scary! Torture is great! And they deserve it! We did it all before in WWII anyway, so it's okay! People are gonna die if we prosecute torturers! And it'll be your fault! Be afraid, traitor! Ooga booga!

It reads like satire that can't decide if it's spoofing the Bush Administration, Jack Bauer Joeseph Goebbels, or Jack Nicholson's rant from the end of A Few Good Men.

If you were troll-spoofing and going for the funny... well played. If you actually thought this drivel was going to persuade anyone though, you've got a rude awakening coming once you finally realize that it's not 2004 anymore and most Americans are bored of being told they should be scared all the time. Nobody's buying what you're selling, and it must /really/ burn your ass.

I have no illusions about the CIA but I trust them to protect me.

That's funny, I wouldn't trust the CIA with my grocery list. But it makes for great amusement watching so-called conservatives fall over themselves in their eagerness to trust a government agency with an indisputable and documented history of atrocities and dishonesty.

WJ, you and I agree on the meaning of double jeopardy, but Townsend appears to think it is her "knock out" argument.

If I ruled the world Cheney et company would have already been shipped off to The Hague so that they could have a fair trial. More realistically, to me it is most important that the truth comes out so I would settle for some kind of public commission.

'ayatolla's' comment needs music.

I recommend this.

Or this, maybe.

AN Assassin being put upon trial in a New England court, his Counsel rose and said: "Your Honour, I move for a discharge on the ground of 'once in jeopardy': my client has been already tried for that murder and acquitted."

"In what court?" asked the Judge.

"In the Superior Court of San Francisco," the Counsel replied.

"Let the trial proceed - your motion is denied," said the Judge. "An Assassin is not in jeopardy when tried in California."

--Ambrose Bierce

No one in the Bush administration was ever in jeopardy.

I noticed while at the gym this morning that CNN was covering this story over a banner "How far is too far to go to prevent an attack?"

Buying into Cheney's framing of the issue 100%, in other words.

Sickening.

Or this, maybe.


Good choices slarti, esp. the second one, but I have to prefer this.

threatened murder of children

The two young children in question were in U.S. custody at the time that the threat was communicated to their father (Khaled Sheikh Mohammed), and he was aware of that.

These children were subjected by U.S. personnel to deprivation of food and water, and to having insects placed on them in an enclosed space in order to get them to provide information about their father.

The government has not provided any evidence or records to show where these children were and are since early 2003.

Much of the reference made to them in the IG report, paragraph 95, is redacted. Jim White/a> is asking the U.S. government to make this paragraph available and to provide proof of what happened to the children while in U.S. custody and afterwards (if they are not still held).

aaargh

Help from the kitty overlords, please.

I know my tag doesn't stop the damage for all browsers.

"There's a connection here, among the never ending torture stories, the Lockerbie bomber's humanitarian release by Scotland, and Lt. Calley's recent expression of remorse for the massacre of 100+ Vietnamese villagers in the early 70's (for which his sentence was commuted by Prez. Nixon after three years in stir)....but I'm not sure that I can verbalize it."

War is bad. It inevitably results in horrific actions, often by people who would not consider doing those kinds of things outside that context.

Unfortunately, it is also often done by people perfectly prepared mentally to inflict pain, or death, as a matter of course.

The weight of responsibility for the lives of service men and women, and civilians, creates decisions that are not easily accepted, or understood, by those without that responsibility. Sometimes they aren't the right decision.

For those who mock the threat to Americans on American soil, be glad someone is making all of those hard decisions, even when they don't do it right. They are why you can be so cavalier about your personal safety within our borders and dismissive of the threats from AQ and others.

We can't condone the mistakes, but we should not assume the motivations are evil or the outcome predetermined.

We can't condone the mistakes, but we should not assume the motivations are evil or the outcome predetermined.

Motivations are irrelevant to whether or not torture and murder are serious crimes in most of the world--including here. You cannot elide this by euphemizing it as "mistakes".

Some things are evil, regardless of the intended goal. I continue to find it stunning just how eager so many conservatives are to buy into moral relativism when it helps them justify atrocities committed by the blue team, always with the best of intentions.

You can dress it up in jingoistic appeals to trust those who have to make the hard decisions and thinly veiled contempt for the patriotism of those who dare criticize those decisions, but in the end you are arguing that we shouldn't prosecute people who ordered and committed torture and murder, because it was done by our side with the intent to protect the country.

Yours is an example of the attitude that makes it possible for an otherwise civilized people to justify committing atrocities and genocides against the Other. If that's not what you want to be, I suggest you seriously rethink what you're advocating and reflect on the historical company in which it would put you.

"You can dress it up in jingoistic appeals to trust those who have to make the hard decisions and thinly veiled contempt for the patriotism of those who dare criticize those decisions, but in the end you are arguing that we shouldn't prosecute people who ordered and committed torture and murder, because it was done by our side with the intent to protect the country."

Have you ever been in the position of deciding on inadequate information whether to commit the lives of young men and women to the defense of their country in any particular way?

Were you a commander in the field?

Were you a General in the Pentagon worrying about the fate of troops in a far off place with unrealistic force strengths to take on an enemy?

Were you a Captain of Police deciding whther to send SWAT into harms way?

Were you ever a soldier that actually had to kill someone so they wouldn't kill you?

Were you ever the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military power in the history of the world sitting helpless as the planes fell from the sky in the country you were responsible for?

.......What might you have done to prevent that from happening again?......

Jingoistic my a$$. Bad things happen, people make bad decisions. We learn from them. I didn't excuse a single thing. I just don't accept that everyone who ever did something wrong is inherently evil. I don't thinly veil anything. I questioned no ones patriotism. I also don't usually rant and rave wildly calling people names.

I am tempted to here but actually won't.

"Jingoistic my a$$."

Your whole reply was jingoistic.

"be glad someone is making all of those hard decisions, even when they don't do it right."


Marty, I have been following US politics from my vantage point north of the border for almost 50 years. My memory, which perhaps has got twisted, was, at the start of that period, that Republicans were the party of more efficient government8; that the Democrats were the party of special interests. Somewhere along the line Republicans came to stand for not just special interests but for incompetence in government.

This became most obvious with Hurricane Katrina- where an incompetent was disastrously in charge. But in retrospect it became clear that much of the problem with Iraq stemmed from similar administrative incompetence. I think it is understandable that it took a while to discover that Rumsfeld's appearance of comptetence was a facade.

But if one recognizes, as Senator McCain did this afternoon, that Al-quada' chief recruiting assets were the chaos Rumsfeld so blithely allowed to happen in Iraq in 2003 and the mistreatment of prisoners, one can hardly "be glad someone is making all of those hard decisions, even when they don't do it right."

Moreover, with respect to torture, again they hired people without relevant experience and reverse engineered from Communist torture programs designed - not to elicit information- but to elicit desired (false) confessions.

Their bungling has been a disaster for the US (and the free world) and will likely be so for at least another decade . If they had done nothing, US would have been better off.

Marty,

"Were you a General in the Pentagon worrying about the fate of troops in a far off place with unrealistic force strengths to take on an enemy?"

And no 21st century US general ever had to rely on unrealistic force strengths- US was in a position to impose overwhelming force, as Powell and Shinseki would have done.
I don't understand the US military code of honour, but would think any general faced with such an unnecessary choice should have resigned.


"Were you ever the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military power in the history of the world sitting helpless as the planes fell from the sky in the country you were responsible for?"

If I had ignored the intelligence reports in August 2001, I would have apologized to the people and resigned on September 12th, explaining that I had misunderestimated my capacity for the job, (like a Chamberlain getting out of the way).

"Their bungling has been a disaster for the US (and the free world) and will likely be so for at least another decade . If they had done nothing, US would have been better off."

I would like to believe this, and in some respects I agree with it. I don't believe that "had they done nothing" we would necessarily be better off. I do think they could have done much less, better, and we would be significantly better off.

Have you ever been [...] [etc etc]

No, and regardless of who or what you plug into that Mad Lib, it has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that torture and murder are heinous crimes against which we have laws which rightfully do not provide exceptions for "intent to protect the country".

Jingoistic my a$$.

I refuse to believe that anyone is this devoid of self-awareness.

I didn't excuse a single thing.

The hell you didn't. If you're not trying to make excuses for people who committed crimes in the name of our country, exactly what was the point of that lengthy block of italicized appeals to authority?

You can't have it both ways. You do not get to plead special circumstances in a bid for sympathy towards the people who committed these crimes, and then claim you're not excusing what they did.

"You can't have it both ways. You do not get to plead special circumstances in a bid for sympathy towards the people who committed these crimes, and then claim you're not excusing what they did."

I actually get to say exactly what I mean.

You will note that I was commenting on a comment about a thread running through the latest round of news, Lockerbie, Torture(per the IG report, and Calley's expression of remorse. So my original point was that War is bad, and makes other bad things happen as a result. So I get to stick with that point, thanks.


In WWII the US did far worse to many folks.

Like what?

They are why you can be so cavalier about your personal safety within our borders and dismissive of the threats from AQ and others.

There's a reason why all of the stuff everyone is so worked up about -- mock executions, threats to kill people's kids, beatings to death with flashlights, etc etc etc -- are illegal. And they are by god illegal.

It's not because we all want to live in la-la land where there are no bad people and even our worst enemies can be won over if we ply them with enough cookies and punch.

It's because the ability to do as you will with human beings is like crack to certain kinds of people, and when you marry that all-too-common impulse with the authority of the state basic human freedom goes out the window.

As a self-professed conservative, this should be a quite familiar, and in fact very congenial, argument.

People do indeed do bad things in wartime. And when they do them, we hold them accountable.

People serving in the US armed forces have been court-martialed, hung, shot, and jailed in every war this country has ever been involved in for the crime of exceeding whatever lawful limits applied to warmaking at that time.

I can't think of a single god-damned reason that now should be any exception.

"It's because the ability to do as you will with human beings is like crack to certain kinds of people, and when you marry that all-too-common impulse with the authority of the state basic human freedom goes out the window.

As a self-professed conservative, this should be a quite familiar, and in fact very congenial, argument."

I am quite comfortable with that argument.

" I do think they could have done much less, better, and we would be significantly better off."

Posted by: Marty | August 25, 2009 at 03:58 PM

I would agree, particularly if the "much less" had been confined to efforts to capture/kill Osama and gang, while Afghanistan had been left to wage its civil war on its own, and Hussein had been left to provide a counterweight to Iran.

I didn't excuse a single thing.

This is debatable, but even if not, you certainly do condone torture. You said at 2:27 that "We can't condone the mistakes," and yet in that same comment you gave a long list of reasons why we should disregard, overlook, pardon and/or forgive torture by Americans - the dictionary definition of condone.

Given that a certain amount of wrongdoing happened - and there's no room for honest debate over that, there are photographs and dead bodies proving at least that much - if you don't support hearings or investigations or something similar to figure out the extent of, causes of and appropriate responses to that wrongdoing, then you condone it. Start being honest about that and then we can talk about whatever's next.

"This is debatable, but even if not, you certainly do condone torture. You said at 2:27 that "We can't condone the mistakes,"

I wonder which part of this statement is unclear? There is a difference between condoning mistakes and understanding how things happened.

It is also true that the constant drumbeat of vilifying the previous administration as evil in every sense grates on my nerves. I have no problem with prosecuting people who broke the law, or exceeded their authority in a military or intelligence situation.

I do have a problem with the constant depiction of the people in charge as evil men plotting heinous things in a dark room somewhere.

This statement:

"A few successful prosecutions could hopefully be leveraged to go after bigger fish -- the ones actually responsible for implementing torture as national policy.

is a nonsensical view that we are going to get someone to say that the "Big Fish" actually told them to exceed the authority of the EIT rules.

They were trying to solve a longstanding problem of having inadequate intelligence to properly protect the country at a very difficult time. They expanded the rules, too far but not illegally IMO, and created the environment for the abuse. That was a mistake. It wasn't an evil plot.

Were you ever the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military power in the history of the world sitting helpless as the planes fell from the sky in the country you were responsible for?

So he invaded a country that had nothing to do with that attack, concocting a deliberate campaign of disinformation and propaganda in order to do so, leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

So he blithely shrugged off accusations of torture with "We don't torture," knowing full well that they/we were, in fact, torturing.

Not a mistake, not an error in judgment--pure evil. I don't care if it offends your sensibilities to hear that or not. Pure evil.

I do have a problem with the constant depiction of the people in charge as evil men plotting heinous things in a dark room somewhere.

I get the fact that it bugs you when people go on about it, but to be perfectly honest "evil men plotting heinous things in a dark room somewhere" seems pretty realistic to me.

I mean, really, it does. Not in a weirdo conspiracy theory way, just in terms of plain facts.

How bad does someone's behavior have to be before we get to call them evil?

How bad do their actions and intentions have to be before we call them heinous?

If you will substitute "in secret" for "in a dark room" I think we can make that bar as well.

Several of these folks deserve jail, and I'm not talking about the CIA hands-on guys, I'm talking about executive officeholders.

And that's not just me yapping, there are indictments and/or prosecutions on the table now in Italy, Spain, and perhaps other places that say the same thing.

This isn't just partisan ankle-biting. This is profound wrong-doing. If "evil" bugs you, just call it criminal. But dismissing it is about the worst thing we could do.

Several of these folks deserve jail, and I'm not talking about the CIA hands-on guys, I'm talking about executive officeholders.

They deserve far worse, but all the fitting alternatives to jail that I can think of just aren't civilized. bummer

Marty, sorry if it feels like we're piling on.
I vacillate between Uncle Kvetch's pure evil and thinking George Bush was just so ignorant and unengaged that he could be talked into believing anything: "no George, we don't torture, they are just carefully documented and approved enhanced interrogation techniques."

I think one of the gravest error's was Ford pardoning Nixon before conviction. If Nixon had had to face a trial and the American people come to grips with his wrongdoing maybe Republicans would have accepted that the President cannot authorize breach of the law. Instead it seems many continue to think if the President approves, it is OK, no matter how vile "it" is.

Marty:

Your "not illegally IMO", and the line you are trying to point out about these things, leaves problems.

1. On the "mistakes but not evil" line ("They were trying to solve a longstanding problem of having inadequate intelligence to properly protect the country at a very difficult time."): What then do you do with the picture of the persons who, not knowing anything accurate about means of effective interrogation, believed that subjecting people to the unbearable to break them, torture, was interrogation - without researching otherwise or going to the FBI's and Army's interrogation experts - and proceeded to set up a regime of such means from scratch? Beyond what point does a mistake, or a stack of mistakes and lack of due diligence, come to contain a moral component? Or does it ever at all, in this area, in your view?

2. If the OLC expansion of the rules was "too far but not illegal" in your view, and if we are to stand on that view and not seek prosecution... then what are we to do with the resulting situation, in which a powerful Executive branch that wants to be able to do something illegal can order their compliant underling lawyers to "write it up so it's legal", and the lawyers write an advocate's description of the law on toilet tissue that leaves out as much as it wants to and is made in transparently bad faith, and the Executive may now go ahead and the lawyers' product actually works and successfully protects everyone it covers from top to bottom (including the lawyers, who then contend that "just construing" isn't illegal)? Is that how it really is to work from here on? Or what is to be done?

If you are going to "have a problem" with differing views in those two areas, as being silly or irresponsible, then you have some blanks you should fill in yourself.

Jesus Fncking Christ:

As the session begins, the detainee stands naked, except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs, then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later; according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle for slamming the detainee's head against a wall.

After removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face -- to get the detainee's attention -- followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head-slamming, or "walling," which can be tried once "to make a point," or repeated again and again.

"Twenty or thirty times consecutively" is permissible, the guidelines say, "if the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question." And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.

I'm sorry, but I require a more significant answer to my question, I must now attach a leash to the collar around your neck and slame your head into the wall, possibly several dozen times. But don't worry, it's not torture.

And can we burn Langley to the ground now, please?

Posted by: Alex Russell | August 25, 2009 at 08:04 PM

Both very good points.

1)There is a moral component to each decision and the totality of them. I believe there is a contextual component of the evaluation of whether the decisions were morally questionable or just plain wrong. I have not objected to the conclusion that we, as a nation, or any individual, disagrees with the decisions made at the time on moral grounds. I simply think that examining them in context provides for a more rational evaluation of the decisions.

2)On your second point I think that in this situation, and the wiretapping situation, that the administration did what other administrations have done and stretched the boundaries of the powers of the Executive branch. However, in both cases there is enough evidence, for me, to establish that the appropriate oversight committees and leadership in Congress were briefed and were fully aware of what was being done.

Ultimately, in both cases, the shared responsibility between the Administration and Congress minimizes the legal question and requires the decisions to be evaluated in context as per the previous point.

Finally, I am against torture, I am against war, I am against the escalating power of both the Executive Branch, as expanded even more by the current President, and the federal government in general.

I am not for demonizing the individuals who are conscientiously trying to do a job in a complex world under difficult circumstances, even when they don't meet my standards for performance.

"Marty, sorry if it feels like we're piling on."

JC,

Sometimes I write things knowing they won't be popular here. In those cases I expect piling on.

I was a little surprised by this one as I thought my original comment was a broader indictment of war and the secondary negative effects that are the normal outome of operating under terrible pressure in a horrific environment.

My 3:30 comment fell into the category of expecting the reaction I got.

I am not for demonizing the individuals who are conscientiously trying to do a job in a complex world under difficult circumstances

Neither am I, and I really do get your concern.

Here's the thing.

There's a point beyond which the justifications of danger and the difficulty of the task are kind of dwarfed by the behavior you're trying to explain.

Different folks will draw that line in different places, but it seems pretty clear to me that these guys were well down the rabbit hole, and knowingly so.

More non-torture:

The CIA and the Obama Administration continue to keep secret some of the most shocking allegations involving the spy agency's interrogation program: three deaths and several other detainees whose whereabouts could not be determined, according to a former senior intelligence official who has read the full, unredacted version.
...
Also hidden from public scrutiny, according to the official, was the discovery by the CIA Inspector General that the CIA could not adequately account for several of the 100 al Qaeda suspects who were part of the detainee program that the CIA maintained had been well administered.

The official said "a few just got lost and the CIA does to know what happened to them."

What's a lost human being or three among friends?

In WWII the US did far worse to many folks.

Like what?

In fairness, the bombings of Drenden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were pretty damn bad. If Marty believes that we tortured prisoners in WWII to anywhere near the degree we have in the war on terror, though, he should cite a source for that or take it back and apologize.

" If Marty believes that we tortured prisoners in WWII to anywhere near the degree we have in the war on terror, though, he should cite a source for that or take it back and apologize"

For the record I didn't say this in the first place.

However, in both cases there is enough evidence, for me, to establish that the appropriate oversight committees and leadership in Congress were briefed and were fully aware of what was being done.

What the heck are you even talking about? You're saying that people in Congress were briefed, not just about EIT, but about the things the CIA did that went beyond the "authorized" EIT? Really? Evidence? Show us.

" You're saying that people in Congress were briefed, not just about EIT, but about the things the CIA did that went beyond the "authorized" EIT? Really? Evidence? Show us"

No, I didn't say this, I was referring to EIT only. Which was the decision the Administration made that led to the subsequent abuses. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

If Marty believes that we tortured prisoners in WWII

That was the ayatollah.

Cyrus, in checking back over the thread, you will find it is ayatollah ghilmeini | August 25, 2009 at 11:54 who made the comment you found so offensive, and attributed to Marty.

Marty, as far as I can determine Bush, Cheney, Yoo and company perceive that the President of the US and anyone acting under his authority can do anything they want even if it is prohibited by statute or the constitution and it is not illegal or criminal.

I was taught that there are two aspects to democracy, majority rule, but also certain fundamental rules (the constitution) that the majority or its representatives cannot violate that protect the rights of the individual and the minority.

When Cheney/Yoo say the President can do/authorize what he likes outside the law, this is worse than almost any crime.

During the war crimes trials after WWII, following orders was not an acceptable defence. Why shouldn't the Bush administration be held to the same standard? or do you wish to go back and pardon the Nazis/Japanese so convicted?

I'd also like to come back to your statement: ..." why you can be so cavalier about your personal safety within our borders" My perspective is that Bush was incredibly dismissive of the danger to America from terrorists in the pre-9/11 period, scandalously so, and his behaviour thereafter was an attempt to appear so diligent on the subject that the electorate would not punish him for his prior negligence.

Perhaps you forgive the Bush administration their post 9/11 excesses. I think the US would be far better off if it came to grips with the wrongdoing, which I find possible to understand, but imprudent to whitewash.

@Marty:

Ultimately, in both cases, the shared responsibility between the Administration and Congress minimizes the legal question and requires the decisions to be evaluated in context as per the previous point.

I am troubled by your conviction that the President and a handful of confederates in Congress have the right to ad hoc set aside laws they find inconvenient.

Finally, I am against torture, I am against war, I am against the escalating power of both the Executive Branch, as expanded even more by the current President, and the federal government in general.

A non sequitur tu quoque. How charming.

I am not for demonizing the individuals who are conscientiously trying to do a job in a complex world under difficult circumstances, even when they don't meet my standards for performance.

How exactly is it demonizing to observe that individuals clearly and blatantly violated laws on the books, especially in the face of them voicing concerns that they could face prosecution for doing so? They were well aware that what they were doing was extralegal. Morality need not enter into it; they knew that the best that could be said about what they were doing was that its legality was very much in question, and in some cases it's hard to see them believing even that (e.g., mock executions).

Throwing up one's hands and saying, "Well, what else could they do?" is slightly ridiculous, given that they could certainly have sought to have what they were doing formally legalized. If they were doing something of questionable legality in a situation with stakes so high, they should be erring on the side of caution. If they so strongly felt they "needed" to do it regardless of its illegality, and for some reason could not have it legalized, then let them stand trail and present a necessity defense. Rule of law demands no less.

Also, what russell said.

Ah, Russell and Johnny are right, sorry about my 12:03 comment, Marty. Duh.

It's really this simple:

Fact: the UN Convention Against Torture, to which we are a party, says that [emphasis mine] "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Fact: the Bush administration ordered actions which were flagrantly in violation of this Convention--some of which were the exact same things for which we have prosecuted both our enemies and our own soldiers. That these crimes were committed is not disputable or up for argument. It is a matter of documented fact on the public record, with the only remaining question being "who did what".

Fact: at no point since the Nuremburg Trials has "just following orders" been an affirmative defense against prosecution--nor do we ever consider "just giving orders" to distance an official from the actual execution of the atrocities they ordered.

Query: do you support the prosecution of anyone who ordered or committed crimes as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture? There is no room for equivocation, hedging, or mitigating circumstances here. This is a yes or no question.

If you do think these crimes should be prosecuted, then stop trying to carve out excuses for the people who committed these crimes. It doesn't matter what kind of pressure they were under. It doesn't matter what their fears or motivations were. Circumstances and sympathy are utterly without relevance here.

If you do not think these crimes should be prosecuted, then quit using ephemisms and trying to weasel out of it. Make your argument honestly: you are asking that Americans should be allowed to torture without consequences, provided that it was ordered or done with good intentions and that the circumstances were extraordinary.

This is not an area with middle ground. Either you think torture should be prosecuted, or you think there should be exceptions.

Believing the latter is your right, but it is utterly without support in any law or treaty to which everyone--including the President of the United States--is answerable.

"During the war crimes trials after WWII, following orders was not an acceptable defence."

This was actually a sharp reversal of all precedent in international law up to that point. The trials held that even being complicit for reasons of fear of your own life was not adequate defense. Punishiing people who were coerced into the acts of complicity, not even acts of actual violence was not a high point I would like to see repeated.

"I am troubled by your conviction that the President and a handful of confederates in Congress have the right to ad hoc set aside laws they find inconvenient."

I find it interesting that the ire of most commenters is focused on the Administration and never talks about the Dems in Congress who provided oversight and were the "confederates" to whom you refer.

I think it was charming also, although the tu quoque part was an accidental bonus.

given that they could certainly have sought to have what they were doing formally legalized.

I am sure that legal opinion plus oversight approval equaled formally legalized to them.


And rule of law demands no such trial.

"and his behaviour thereafter was an attempt to appear so diligent on the subject that the electorate would not punish him for his prior negligence."

See I think his behavior thereafter was a reasonable response to try and ensure the safety of Americans.

Yours is a negative assessment of his motives, mine is a positive assessment of his motives.

The difference is then how that assessment impacts the evaluation of the subsequent actions.

I understand yours, I just disagree with it.

So the short answer is "Yes, there should be exceptions to prosecuting torture."

Thank you.

I find it interesting that the ire of most commenters is focused on the Administration and never talks about the Dems in Congress who provided oversight and were the "confederates" to whom you refer.

If the President orders the FBI to start murdering everyone named Bob, this action does not suddenly become legal simply because the President tells Congress of his plans beforehand. Informing Congress is not sufficient. Now, Congressman might have failed egregiously in their jobs depending on what they do in response to this information, but they're not guilty of killing people. Maybe they should be thrown out of office; maybe not. But their culpability is simply not even close to that of the execute branch and the people who are actually killing Bobs.

I'm still not entirely clear what Dem congressman should have done. Should they have stopped the illegal acts with their sheer force of will? Committed a felony by releasing classified information to the public? Passed new laws since the administration that refuses to follow old laws will surely follow new ones? What?

I find it interesting that the ire of most commenters is focused on the Administration and never talks about the Dems in Congress who provided oversight and were the "confederates" to whom you refer.

Three thoughts:

1. Democratic lawmakers have accused the CIA of witholding key details on torture. The CIA has admitted that it did.

2. The administration implementing a program is always more culpable than the bystanders that wouldn't and/or couldn't stop them.

3. That being said, if any Dems were criminally culpable, they should face the full brunt of the law. For those in the know that didn't blow whistles, they deserve moral opprobrium.

"Fact: the Bush administration ordered actions which were flagrantly in violation of this Convention--some of which were the exact same things for which we have prosecuted both our enemies and our own soldiers. That these crimes were committed is not disputable or up for argument. It is a matter of documented fact on the public record, with the only remaining question being "who did what"."

You state this as a "fact" and then caveat it at the end. "Who did what" seems to me to matter. The rest I have addressed multiple times.

See I think his behavior thereafter was a reasonable response to try and ensure the safety of Americans.

Much of the information in the report shows the administration was not pursuing a reasonable response. They left interrogation to the CIA, an organization that had little institutional competence in interrogating hostile detainees. The CIA, recognizing that they had no clue what to do, brought in some SERE psychologists. But those guys, like most SERE experts, didn't actually have any experience or training or knowledge of how to interrogate someone. Rather, they knew how to torture people.

The efforts documented in the report are simply not what a reasonable person would do to protect the country, unless you assume that they are really really dumb.

The trials held that even being complicit for reasons of fear of your own life was not adequate defense. Punishiing people who were coerced into the acts of complicity, not even acts of actual violence was not a high point I would like to see repeated.

Wow. So you actually oppose the Nuremberg precedents. I'm surprised you're being so open about it. Again, I note that you do, in fact, condone torture despite your own admission that people shouldn't.

I find it interesting that the ire of most commenters is focused on the Administration and never talks about the Dems in Congress who provided oversight and were the "confederates" to whom you refer.

To quote myself in my first comment to this thread: "Many Democrats are too willing to turn a blind eye for political reasons... and that's bad, but nowhere near as bad as actively advocating for this stuff, or telling baldfaced lies about the extent of it, like (a drive-by commenter I already confused with you once)." I still think that's true, and forgive me for putting words in peoples' mouths but I'm willing to bet most non-conservative commenters here would agree with me. If so, you're simply wrong about the ire.

I am sure that legal opinion plus oversight approval equaled formally legalized to them.

The oversight approval was a sham, and the whole thing went on behind closed doors. You seem to think that even so it's sufficient, but it's not, it never has been, and it's contrary to among other things the principle of openness in government.

"their culpability is simply not even close to that of the execute branch"

Nice, whether or not intentional.

"Much of the information in the report shows the administration was not pursuing a reasonable response. They left interrogation to the CIA, an organization that had little institutional competence in interrogating hostile detainees. The CIA, recognizing that they had no clue what to do, brought in some SERE psychologists. But those guys, like most SERE experts, didn't actually have any experience or training or knowledge of how to interrogate someone. Rather, they knew how to torture people."

Thats all great except that foreeign intelligence operations are the defined responsibility of the CIA, who I am sure(no cite available) didn't push back and say "we shouldn't do this, get the FBI to do it".

But I would like to see a cite that says the CIA didn't know how to do this task. Not even to question your assertion, I just would be interested in how they do their job if they aren't competent to do interrogations.

But I would like to see a cite that says the CIA didn't know how to do this task. Not even to question your assertion, I just would be interested in how they do their job if they aren't competent to do interrogations.

From Jane Meyer's book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals:

Behind the tough talk, however, was a bureaucracy in disarray. Despite the CIA's sweeping new authority to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, or kill suspected terrorists almost anywhere in the world, at the time, the CIA had virtually no trained interrogators. It had been years since the Agency had questioned hostile witnesses. The CIA had numerous polygraphers and psychological profilers as well as agents skilled in debriefing defectors. But after Vietnam says an outside adviser to the CIA, "they had very little experience with interrogation. When 9/11 hit, it was fifty-two card pickup."

A former CIA operative involved at the time said that at first the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. "It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly," he recalled. "They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Queda or the Arab world. You hear all this hubub about hanging people upside down," he said. "But the key to interrogation is knowledge, not techniques. We didn't know anything. And if you don't know anything, you can't get anything."

If you think about it, this shouldn't be shocking: why exactly would the CIA need to interrogate hostile witnesses in the late 90s? In the real world, the CIA does not act like James Bond. If you continue reading Meyers' book, it is useful to contrast the CIA interrogators with real FBI interrogators who had been hunting down terrorists for years and had amassed a very impressive prosecution record. They were appalled at what they saw the CIA doing, and were forbidden from even watching because the whole enterprise was so criminal. But what does the FBI know?

Posted by: Turbulence | August 26, 2009 at 02:41 PM

Thanks.

"Wow. So you actually oppose the Nuremberg precedents. I'm surprised you're being so open about it. Again, I note that you do, in fact, condone torture despite your own admission that people shouldn't."

Opposing the Nuremberg precedents and condoning torture are not the same.

The Nuremberg precedents applied to people who were not acting outside the defined scope of what they were ordered to do.

Inthat case, Many of them were complicit out of fear for their lives and did exactly what they were ordered to do.

In this case, many of the participants were acting outside authorized techniques.

The Nuremberg precedents would not apply anyway.

Thats all great except that foreeign intelligence operations are the defined responsibility of the CIA, who I am sure(no cite available) didn't push back and say "we shouldn't do this, get the FBI to do it".

Actually, I've read books that say that the CIA got this task essentially because George Tenet was a pushover. The White House wanted to do all manner of illegal things to detainees and the DOJ/FBI said "no way, we can't touch this stuff, it would make prosecution impossible...plus it is sick". Rumsfeld and the DOD said "we're not taking it" in part because some military officials felt the same way as the FBI did. While the CIA was ill-equipped to do the job, it was much better equipped than any government group left once the DOJ and DOD dropped out of the picture. I believe that there was even some resistance within the CIA, but Tenet's position was quite precarious and he was utterly dependent on Bush's favor. That made it really hard to say no.

This was actually a sharp reversal of all precedent in international law up to that point.

Which as arguments go is an appeal to tradition, not a rebuttal of any sort. Many of the Nazi defendants in the Nuremburg Trials made precisely the same argument. So if you're arguing that the Nazi arguments in those trials were correct, and that we were wrong to prosecute them for war crimes, that's a consistent argument to make, although not a particularly credible one.

If you're not arguing that, then I have no idea what your point really is. We're not talking about what international law and precedent were in 1945. We're talking about what they are now--and now, 64 years later, the Nuremburg Principles are precedent and embodied in international law.

The trials held that even being complicit for reasons of fear of your own life was not adequate defense. Punishiing people who were coerced into the acts of complicity, not even acts of actual violence was not a high point I would like to see repeated.

I'm inclined to agree with you on this narrow point--but it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not we should prosecute people who committed torture crimes who were not coerced under threat of violence, or for that matter the people who gave those orders.

And rule of law demands no such trial.

I have no idea what you're trying to say here. The law is quite clear. You may wish to read it.

See I think his behavior thereafter was a reasonable response to try and ensure the safety of Americans.

Yours is a negative assessment of his motives, mine is a positive assessment of his motives.

The difference is then how that assessment impacts the evaluation of the subsequent actions.

Motive is irrelevant with respect to torture committed in contravention of the UN Convention Against Torture. Your opinion (or Johnny Canuck's, or anyone else's) of those motives has even less relevance. The law states: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

What part of this do you imagine is equivocal? What part of this allows wiggle room for motive?

[Catsy] "Fact: the Bush administration ordered actions which were flagrantly in violation of this Convention--some of which were the exact same things for which we have prosecuted both our enemies and our own soldiers. That these crimes were committed is not disputable or up for argument. It is a matter of documented fact on the public record, with the only remaining question being "who did what"."

You state this as a "fact" and then caveat it at the end. "Who did what" seems to me to matter. The rest I have addressed multiple times.

The question of "Who did what" is not a caveat to "the Bush administration ordered [crimes]". The fact that one or more persons in the admin did so is documented in their own words, and is not debatable. The fact that those orders subsequently led to subordinates carrying out said crimes is equally indisputable. The facts at hand are more than enough to require a criminal investigation. There is zero doubt that crimes were committed. What remains is to determine who committed which crimes, and prosecute those crimes where the law requires it. The law requires that we prosecute torture as a crime.

So yes, "who did what" does indeed matter. The purpose of a criminal investigation is to determine that. You seem to want to skip the investigation part and let bygones be bygones. That simply isn't how a functional justice system works. It's not how ours works either.

The rest I have addressed multiple times.

No, you've just cherry-picked individual statements, responded to them with so-called arguments that are utterly irrelevant to the question of whether or not we should prosecute Americans who commit the crime of torture, and once again refused to answer that simple "yes" or "no" question.

Either you think that torture should always be prosecuted, or you think we should be able to make exceptions for circumstances or good intentions. Based on your replies so far I can only assume that your argument is, in fact, that we should be able to make exceptions if an American commits or orders torture because they were trying to protect us.

Such an argument is completely indefensible, whether legally or morally.

I find it interesting that the ire of most commenters is focused on the Administration and never talks about the Dems in Congress who provided oversight and were the "confederates" to whom you refer.

I find it interesting that you again derail into a tu quoque rather than addressing the fact that you're advocating the government being able to suspend rule of law on the whim of, say, a dozen people.

I am sure that legal opinion plus oversight approval equaled formally legalized to them.

Really? Formal legalization? A secret legal opinion stating that it's okay to blatantly contravene plainly written laws, that they didn't even allow to limit their behavior? A handful of Congressional members bound to remain silent about what they're told partially briefed on what was going on? If they thought that was formal legalization, their comprehension of our government is sufficiently awful that they should not be allowed to work for it.

Look. "EITs" that are explicitly outlawed under American law were carried out, with not so much as an executive order to overturn the law in question (not that that should be sufficient to give the executive free reign, but still). To assert that anyone with the least comprehension of our governing system and the laws in question could in good faith claim to view such actions as clearly legal defies credulity.

And rule of law demands no such trial.

To the contrary, we have an investigation strongly suggesting that the law was broken, even if we were to choose to view the OLC opinion as definitive. To brush this under the rug for political reasons is to say that the law defers to political expediency. If there is good cause to suspect that the law was broken, indictments must go forward if the law is to be applied even-handedly. To do otherwise is to cede to the executive the privilege of de facto overturning legislation it does not find to its taste. Therein lies rule of man.

Opposing the Nuremberg precedents and condoning torture are not the same.

I didn't say they were. I suppose I should have put an "and" between the two sentences, but they stand on their own.

I'm trying to be careful not to say that you "support" torture, and as far as I can tell you don't support it. As for my claim that you condone it, admittedly, yes, you say you "have no problem with prosecuting people who broke the law." But you also say you "don't accept that everyone who ever did something wrong is inherently evil". You bring up motives and outcomes, even though, as has already been pointed out, that's irrelevant to the legality of it. You bring up Congressional Democrats' complicity, even though that too is irrelevant and nobody here had praised their conduct so far. You attribute Americans' "personal safety within our borders" to the fact that "someone is making all of those hard decisions, even when they don't do it right." That's very dubious in the first place, and again, "hard decisions" refers to, in context, waterboarding prisoners.

All of this - and those are just a few of the examples from this thread - ignores the harm, empathizes with the torturers, gives them every benefit of the doubt, diffuses the blame. If you admit you do all that but still maintain that you don't condone torture, well, the cognitive dissonance must be painful.

In this case, many of the participants were acting outside authorized techniques.

This may be true, but it is misleading. The core of the problem, including procedures you defend like waterboarding, were probably authorized. (Illegal, but authorized.) I'm sure some things were outside authorized techniques somehow, but authorized techniques also included war crimes.

Let me summarize all of the above(because there is a lot and i am now on limited time).

Several of you believe there is enough evidence, in fact proof, to prosecute a large number of people up to and including the former President.

I don't.

The fact that I don't is interpreted as weaseling on whether I endorse, support whatever word, torture.

It doesn't.

At least one of you believes this should cause cognitive dissonance for me.

It doesn't.

Finally, if the appropriate authorities investigate and determine that there is enough evidence to prosecute and the deciding authority determines there is enough proof to convict, then I will be wrong.

If they don't, I won't be necessarily right.

I still won't be for torture though.

Several of you believe there is enough evidence, in fact proof, to prosecute a large number of people up to and including the former President.

I don't.

Correction: those of us who have read the IG report now know, beyond any reasonable standard of doubt, that someone ordered and someone else committed acts which violate the UN Convention Against Torture, to which we are a party and which carries the binding force of federal law. There is zero discretion whatsoever in the question of whether or not to prosecute these crimes. There are no mitigating circumstances or other wiggle-room in the law that would make the details of why the crimes were committed in any way relevant to whether or not they should be prosecuted.

This is different from:

a) naming a specific person in CIA or the Bush administration;
b) arguing that specific people must go to jail for these crimes, or;
c) otherwise arrogating to myself the role of judge or jury.

The disagreement here seems to stem from the usage of the word "prosecute". It is not the same as "convict", something you yourself acknowledge later in this comment. There is an overwhelming mountain of evidence that a number of serious crimes were committed. You can disagree in good faith about who is culpable for them, but you simply cannot refute the fact that they happened--not and have anyone believe that you've actually read the IG report or any of the other relevant documents, or ever take you seriously on the matter again.

Torture occurred. At this point denying that is getting into flat-earth, lalala-can't-hear-you territory. If we cannot agree on this single indisputable fact, irrespective of the question of who did it or why, meaingful dialogue with you on this topic is impossible.

If you can agree to at least that much, then the question then becomes: do we prosecute it or not? Note that at this point I am not asking, "do we convict Cheney or not?" I am asking whether we initiate criminal proceedings where there is sufficient evidence to do so.

I want an investigation. I want any torture that was committed to be prosecuted in accordance with the law. This ought to be an uncontroversial position.

Instead, you seem to be arguing that there isn't even enough evidence of wrongdoing for us to even try. This does not in any way comport with the real world.

Posted by: Catsy | August 26, 2009 at 05:58 PM


Catsy,

This is a great comment. I tend to think from a philosophical /psychological viewpoint. I have no problem with an appropriate investigation, establishing the facts and whatever prosecution or conviction that comes out of that. I believe the legal system is fundamentally sound and that we live by the rule of law.

I object to the assumption that certain people are evil and should be punished because "someone should pay" for whats been done. The constant depictions of Bush and others as doing things "blithely", for example, strikes me as a more political lens then actual.

If I have not made it clear that I believe torture has occured that is me not being clear.

I do believe it would be worth having some legal action, BTW, that would allow us to actually challenge the Nuremberg precedents that were based entirely on the precept that "someone should pay whatever it takes to get it done". These precedents are then the unhealthy foundation of almost all of the legal chain from that to the International Laws to the US Laws on enforcing the International laws.

Again, the torture is wrong, the remedy is not as clear cut to me, but in no case do I object to an investigation and appropriate action within the legal system of the US.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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