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Polling the Torture Memos:

Rasmussen Reports has some interesting polling results on the treatment of detainees and release of the torture memos. Among their reported findings:

  • 77 percent of voters say they have "followed news reports about the release of government memos about the Bush administration's interrogation of terrorism suspects" either "Very closely" or "somewhat closely."

  • 42 percent of voters believe America tortured terrorist detainees; 37 percent disagree.

  • 58 percent of voters oppose further investigation of the Bush Administration's treatment of terrorist detainees.

  • 58 percent of voters believe the recent release of memos describing interrogation techniques "endangers the national security of the United States."

I also found this question particularly interesting.

Some people say that there is a natural tension between protecting individual rights and national security. In the United States today, does our legal system worry too much about protecting individual rights, too much about protecting national security, or is the balance about right?

37% Legal system worries too much about protecting individual rights

21% Legal system worries too much about protecting national security

33% Balance is about right

The usual caveats about polling data apply. Your mileage may vary.

UPDATE: This new ABC News poll contains related questions with slightly different results.

ruuffles (mail) (www):
Ahem. The Second Amendment is an individual right. They did not include any specific examples of "individual rights" in the formulation of their questions.
4.26.2009 10:37am
ruuffles (mail) (www):
And here are the results of a similar poll by ABCNews released today.

Most Americans support Obama's release of previously secret Bush administration records on torture, but by a fairly tepid 53-44 percent, with strong supporters and strong opponents about evenly matched. And the public continues to divide, now by 51-47 percent, on the question of an investigation into the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, with vast partisan and ideological divisions.
4.26.2009 10:40am
jimbino (mail):
So these are what we need to reconcile:

1.America is an just country because of its respect for individual human rights.
2.Torture signifies disrespect for individual human rights.
3.Torture is justified if needed to protect a just country.
4.No country is worth protecting that disrespects individual human rights.
4.26.2009 10:55am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
58 percent of voters oppose further investigation of the Bush Administration's treatment of terrorist detainees.


That's the Rasmussen headline, but I think it's quite disingenuous. Here's the actual question:

Should the Obama administration do more investigating to find out how the Bush administration treated terrorism suspects?


Emphasis added. Lots of people might think that further investigation is warranted, but that it should not be done by "the Obama administration." Many people would think of an independent panel as separate from "the Obama administration." Likewise for a Congressional investigation. Some ignorant people might even think of a DOJ investigation as separate from "the Obama administration." Some people might even think the UN or some international or foreign entity should do the investigation. And so on.
4.26.2009 10:58am
dmv (mail):
The most shocking result:

Torture still remains illegal under both domestic and international law. Article 2(2) of the Convention Against Torture still precludes invocation of "exceptional circumstances" (of any kind "whatsoever") to justify torture. We still have an international commitment to investigate (in some form, not by initiating a criminal case) what happened. Amnesty for international crimes is still contrary to an established norm of customary international law. And we still believe ourselves to be a country dedicated to the rule of law, which would seem to have implications for precisely how we "move forward."

Funny thing, law.
4.26.2009 11:23am
dmv (mail):

We still have an international commitment to investigate (in some form, not by initiating a criminal case) what happened.


That should, of course, read:

We still have an obligation under international law to investigate (in some form, not necessarily by initiating a criminal case) what happened.
4.26.2009 11:25am
Bruce Wilder (www):
1.America is an just country because of its respect for individual human rights.
2.Torture signifies disrespect for individual human rights.
3.Torture is justified if needed to protect a just country.
4.No country is worth protecting that disrespects individual human rights.

See, all you need is a little editing.
4.26.2009 11:25am
DCP:


77 percent of voters say they have "followed news reports about the release of government memos about the Bush administration’s interrogation of terrorism suspects" either "Very closely" or "somewhat closely."


I consider this claim to be highly dubious given the current state of the economy, the seasonal change to nicer weather, all that is happening in the sports world and the general ignorance or indifference by the general public to current events, particularly those of a highly complicated or technical matter.

I congregate in highly educated and political social circles and I have heard hardly a peep on this issue.

That just looks suspiciously like something a person would say to avoid the appearance of ignorance. Since most people consume their news online these days, I would be curious to see hit reports from major news sites on torture articles versus say, the flu outbreak, the Masters or the death of Bea Arthur.
4.26.2009 11:29am
Gilbert (mail):
The polls clash, and (as usual) Rasmussen polls find themselves on the opposite end of the 50/50 split from other polling agencies, like the ABC poll noted above.

The conclusion I draw is not that one poll or the other is more reliable, but that partisanship has so irredeemably poisoned our politics that we can find a way to polarize even over the issue of torture.

Maybe it's a lack of leadership on Obama's part. One would think that he could at least try to oppose prosecution in a way that would provide some modicum of reconciliation. Anything would be better than what he did -- essentially telling us to get over it.
4.26.2009 12:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Poll:

As a combatant, put the following in rank order of preference where first in the list is most preferred.

1. Suffer a blast from a nearby M18A1 Claymore Antipersonnel Mine
2. Suffer a leg wound from a 5.56 x 45mm NATO round
3. Suffer a non-fatal chest wound from the above
4. Suffer a non-fatal head wound from the above
5. Spend 1 year in solitary confinement (23 hours per day) in United States Penitentiary, Marion
6. Spend two weeks in the Oakland Kaiser hospital for a serious illness requiring competent care.
7. Suffer 50 waterboardings from the CIA
8. Suffer 100 waterboardings from the CIA

My rankings 2,7,8,3,4,6,1,5
4.26.2009 12:11pm
Thoughtful (mail):
The amazing thing to me is the idea that revealing information about torture is thought to place the US at risk, damage our national security. Our enemies are not scanning our front page headlines to determine whether or not we torture. They already know, assume, or believe we torture. The only point of trying to hide this information is to keep the American public in the dark. And a significant portion of the American public is happy to go along with being kept in the dark.
4.26.2009 12:13pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The amazing thing to me is the idea that revealing information about torture is thought to place the US at risk, damage our national security."

I don't think the issue is whether or not the CIA uses methods that some people consider torture. It's the strategy and tactics of the interrogations process that we want to keep secret.
4.26.2009 12:28pm
the_pathogen (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov, we've known about water boarding since 2007. Very few tactics were released in documents that one could not expect.

Is there a word for a society that decides to selectively enforce laws on certain classes of people?
4.26.2009 12:38pm
guest890:
Some people say that there is a natural tension between protecting individual rights and national security. In the United States today, does our legal system worry too much about protecting individual rights, too much about protecting national security, or is the balance about right?


Where's the option for those of us who disagree with those "some people"?
4.26.2009 12:38pm
Oren:

Where's the option for those of us who disagree with those "some people"?

You mean to serious propose that protecting individual rights and national security are totally orthogonal?
4.26.2009 12:43pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
the_pathogen:

"... we've known about water boarding since 2007. Very few tactics were released in documents that one could not expect."

I have not read the recently released memos, and I should. If they don't contain any useful details about the process that an adversary could exploit, then I agree with you.
4.26.2009 12:45pm
TNeloms:
I haven't seen this answered fully: What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?

My answer to whether they should be prosecuted depends on how sound the legal case would be. If there's some actual statute that they violated, and it makes sense to prosecute them under that statute, then I'd be much more likely to support it than if it's just some expedition to prosecute without regard for whether it makes sense legally.
4.26.2009 12:59pm
Tim H. (mail):
Rasmussen...nice...give me a break...

how bout I use R2K dailykos polls b/c they serve my point?

Rasmussen was by far the worst on the presidential election...(other than zogby) and have been caught in some embarrassing push poll questions as of late

show me gallup, usa today, cbs, or a reputable polling company and then we'll talk
4.26.2009 1:06pm
PC:
What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?

This. Subsection "c" in particular.
4.26.2009 1:18pm
PersonFromPorlock:

I haven't seen this answered fully: What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?

I suspect some variation on aggravated assault would do for a start. I'd accept a defense of necessity, though: if Muhammad, under torture, reveals a plot to kill ten thousand people and that plot's thwarted, that's a pretty good defense. On the other hand, if Hassan is tortured, admits nothing or admits something to accommodate his torturers and is eventually proven to have been innocent all along... then I'd say no defense of necessity obtains.

In other words, torture, if it's an option, ought to be one that's risky for its practitioners.
4.26.2009 1:24pm
Pro Natura (mail):
In other words, torture, if it's an option, ought to be one that's risky for its practitioners.
I can understand the thinking that lewads to this conclusion.

But what to make of those who regard themselves as enlightened ethicists for supporting the proposition it is better that several thousand innocent people die and thousands more suffer unimaginable torments rather than have one guilty individual deliberately subjected to a relatively brief and non-fatal period of mental and/or physical discomfort?
4.26.2009 1:52pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
There are several problems there, Pro Natura. Firstly, you present a false dichotomy; in no case shown yet can it truly be said that only by obtaining information by torture prevented anything, much less catastrophe. Secondly, how do you know they are guilty? It seems pretty clear that a good deal of the mistreatment and torture some detainees were subjected to was trying to discover evidence of collusion between al Qaide and Saddam, which did not exist. Finally, can you actually find anyone that maintains your straw argument, hat it is better for many to die than for one person to be tortured? I don't say that, nor have I ever seen anyone make that claim. Torture is wrong. Period. Doing it in my name is wrong. Period. I don't want anyone to die. But that does not, and never will, justify torture. It doesn't matter if it works or not. It is evil.
4.26.2009 2:08pm
Oren:

I don't want anyone to die. But that does not, and never will, justify torture. It doesn't matter if it works or not. It is evil.

It's at least theoretically possible (leave alone the contentious claim of whether it's actually so) that you can't have both of those desires filled at the same time.
4.26.2009 2:30pm
Ben P:

But what to make of those who regard themselves as enlightened ethicists for supporting the proposition it is better that several thousand innocent people die and thousands more suffer unimaginable torments rather than have one guilty individual deliberately subjected to a relatively brief and non-fatal period of mental and/or physical discomfort?



We had a symposium on Torture here last year. One of the questions presented by the moderator was "assume we have a "24" ticking time bomb nuke type of scenario, and torture is used to avert it, what's the outcome."

The response that most stuck with me was one by Lord Robin Butler (the former british home secretary) who said something to the effect of "well it would certainly be against the law, but that doesn't mean it would or should necessarily be prosecuted or that any jury would or should convict if charges were brought.

A murder committed in self defense is still a murder, but the law recognizes that it may sometimes may be justified. At trial we require the Defendant present at least some evidence to show it was justified by self defense. (I hesitate to say it's truly an "affirmative defense" because places differ on the burden of proof and production in Self defense cases)

But More importantly, in a great many self defense cases charges are never brought because the Prosecutor recognizes a reasonable jury would see the issue of self defense clearly, so he exercises his discretion not to waste the resources in pressing charges just to find out.


If I were to draw the closest analogy using this comparison I think it would be the following.

A man who is a pillar of the community is involved in a fatal shooting.

He claims it is a clear case of self defense, (maybe: "he had a knife and was charging at me") but an investigation of the facts shows inconsistencies with his story. (another witness never saw the knife, and evidence indicates the victim wasn't moving toward the defendant at the time he was shot or something) There's no other apparent motive for the shooting, so at the very least our choice is between good faith self defense (subjective standard) and reckless use of deadly force that resulted in a death.

As I said before, the shooter is an upstanding pillar of the community, and further evidence comes to light (and is leaked to the press) that the victim was a real scumbag. This not only makes people say "well he deserved it anyway" but raises the inference that the .


As the prosecutor, you know that if you press ahead and try to try this guy for murder when the primary question is whether or not he subjectively believed he was in danger, (and consequently tanish his reputation with this trial) you'll create a ton of bad blood between you and the community and encounter the very likely possibility that you'll be replaced next time your terms up. What do you do?

It may or may not be the "correct" decision, but I think you can very rightfully decide that all of the negative consequences of pressing the issue to a trial when the result goes very plausibly either way make it so the best choice is to not press charges.

Tying it back into torture. I know the law is different but the issues are fundamentally the same. The "issue" will be whether or not they thought it was necessary to "save lives" and whether or not that turns out to be true you can plausibly go either way. But the negative consequences of pressing ahead with this are big enough that we're probably just changing our practices so this doesn't happen again and going ahead.
4.26.2009 2:37pm
SG:
Finally, can you actually find anyone that maintains your straw argument, hat it is better for many to die than for one person to be tortured? I don't say that, nor have I ever seen anyone make that claim. Torture is wrong. Period. Doing it in my name is wrong. Period. I don't want anyone to die. But that does not, and never will, justify torture. It doesn't matter if it works or not. It is evil.

For god's sake you're making the claim right there. How can you claim it's a strawman in the exact same paragraph that you say it represents your view?
4.26.2009 2:37pm
the_pathogen (mail) (www):
To extend on Owen Hutchins, and PersonFromPorlock,

We must not forget the purpose of torture is not to extract useful information. The history of these techniques (and torture throughout history) is to retrieve a false confession or to confirm information already known. Surely several of these "terrorists" admitted to crimes they had no idea of - I could get anyone to admit terrible things after water boarding them 183 times in a single month. The confession of "Muhammad" and his plot to kill thousands would just be a fabrication, we could never assume it's a real plot unless substantiated. If the CIA or the DOD had some level of success through torture, we would be hearing real world examples (like the FBI and Fort Dix), yet we do not. If we have had such success, please, let us weigh it against the use of barbaric torture.

I don't mind killing people and dropping bombs, I did it professionally for 4 years, but torturing people is just sick and useless.
4.26.2009 2:38pm
Anderson (mail):
I haven't seen this answered fully: What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?

Conspiracy to violate the Torture Act (linked above), at the very least.
4.26.2009 2:49pm
vmark1:
Owen, You are so against torture. It is evil. How do you feel about murder? That must be REALLY evil, right? A month ago. Our own Predator drones killed at LEAST 26 people who were suspected of being Taliban in Pakistan. (Obama's crew in charge) What if they were innocent? (Due process? Did I miss it? You all seem to be lawyers...to the great unwashed, explain how it wasn't an execution?) Does the next pissed off member of the GOP w/an axe to grind, executive power, unlimited support from a group of right wing lunatics in congress get to try Obama for murder? He authorized the killing. Does the GOP get to jump and down and say; "NO Predator killings in MY name!" And get the tacit of approval of the press?
Do we get to stage some postmortem murder trial on Truman because of the innocent victims of the atomic bomb in Japan?

This entire mess will cost people millions in lawyer fees, reputations, time they will never get back, and solve absolutely nothing.
4.26.2009 2:51pm
davod (mail):
Polling the torture Enhanced interrogation! memos.

It is my understanding that the memos were issued precisely because the US acceptance of the UN convention included the caveat that it applied to Serious and Life Threatening acts.

I would suggest that is why the Enhanced Interrogation Memos are writtn the way they are.

Definition is everything.
4.26.2009 2:54pm
PC:
If the CIA or the DOD had some level of success through torture, we would be hearing real world examples (like the FBI and Fort Dix), yet we do not.

I have to disagree. Later memos that justified the torture showed that waterboarding ripped apart the space time continuum and allowed agents to foil a plot to fly planes into the Liberty Tower in Los Angeles. According to many conservatives this plot should have been allowed to occur, so it would kill as many liberals as possible, but luckily our time cops were able to stop it.
4.26.2009 2:54pm
Oren:

The response that most stuck with me was one by Lord Robin Butler (the former british home secretary) who said something to the effect of "well it would certainly be against the law, but that doesn't mean it would or should necessarily be prosecuted or that any jury would or should convict if charges were brought.

Indeed. If a CIA agent tortures a suspect and then finds an actual bomb, it won't even be close.
4.26.2009 2:56pm
PC:
Does the GOP get to jump and down and say; "NO Predator killings in MY name!"

If they want to be hypocrites? Sure. It's never stopped politicians before.
4.26.2009 2:59pm
Bill Snowden (mail):
If I learn of a plan to destroy _________ (insert your hometown, your neighborhood here), but do so by means that you have indicated that you would find objectionable, should I bother to let you know?

Just askin....
4.26.2009 3:00pm
MarkField (mail):

I'd accept a defense of necessity, though: if Muhammad, under torture, reveals a plot to kill ten thousand people and that plot's thwarted, that's a pretty good defense. On the other hand, if Hassan is tortured, admits nothing or admits something to accommodate his torturers and is eventually proven to have been innocent all along... then I'd say no defense of necessity obtains.

In other words, torture, if it's an option, ought to be one that's risky for its practitioners.


I agree.

I meant to say this earlier, but I was interrupted.
4.26.2009 3:02pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
I believe the Supreme Court (in the Oakland Cannabis Club case perhaps?) has held that there is no necessity defense to federal criminal statutes.

Congress could create one though. And as a strong opponent of torture, I'd welcome this accommodation to the so-called "ticking time-bomb" scenario, [i]provided we actually prosecuted violations of the torture statute.[/i]
4.26.2009 3:05pm
PC:
If a CIA agent tortures a suspect and then finds an actual bomb, it won't even be close.

Agreed. I'm completely against torture as policy, which is why instituting a torture regime is abhorrent. If there were a situation where a real life Jack Bauer saved the nation by torturing a terrorist, I'd vote to acquit.

Why is it the torture apologists never answer the questions put forth about the innocent people we have tortured? We have documented cases. These aren't exigent circumstances or targets of opportunity, they were situations where we had shoddy intelligence and used that to torture (first hand or by proxy) innocent people. For people that don't trust government very much it surprises me how conservatives will defend the government's right to torture.

You have nothing to fear if you haven't done anything wrong. It puts the Bush commissioned right wing extremist report in a whole new light.
4.26.2009 3:06pm
PC:
If I learn of a plan to destroy _________ (insert your hometown, your neighborhood here), but do so by means that you have indicated that you would find objectionable, should I bother to let you know?

Just askin....


If the government kidnaps Bill Snowden and tortures him for three months when they were really looking for Bill Smowden, would you be bothered by that?

Just askin...

In this case the torture of a person based on spelling mistake is not speculation.
4.26.2009 3:11pm
rosetta's stones:

Adler:
I also found this question particularly interesting.


Some people say that there is a natural tension between protecting individual rights and national security. In the United States today, does our legal system worry too much about protecting individual rights, too much about protecting national security, or is the balance about right?

37% Legal system worries too much about protecting individual rights

21% Legal system worries too much about protecting national security

33% Balance is about right




I find this interesting as well. The polling seems evenly split on whether or not these coercive interrogations are torture. But there is a clear bias toward national security over individual rights.
4.26.2009 3:12pm
Tom952 (mail):
If I heard that the United States government sanctioned flaying, scourging, disemboweling, racking, quartering, eye-gouging, emasculation, bone-breaking, denailing, kneecapping, raping, or tooth-extraction (sans anesthesia), I would be enraged regardless of the victim. When I hear that the United States government permitted our intelligence agents to subject a soldier of OBL to waterboarding to coerce verifiable intelligence to uncover details of further planned attacks after some of his insane compatriots flew stolen airliners full of kidnapped civilians into office buildings full of civilians and murdered thousands, I am glad we employ people who have the strength to deal with the threat to my safety that OBL and his insane soldiers pose.

Only the weakest minds could actually equate waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other coerced interrogation methods used by the CIA with true physical torture, which makes me suspect that most of the continuing drumming of this issue is motivated by politics and hatred of the Bush administration.
4.26.2009 3:14pm
vmark1:
A nurse was sued recently. She gave a pre-op med called versed to her patient. It has sedative effects and "loosens" the tongue so to speak. It's sometime referred to as 'truth serum." The nurse mentioned this to the patients wife, (Uh oh...we all know where this is going...) who then questioned her husbands fidelity, who under the effect of versed, he confessed to a number of affairs, and other marital transgressions that have ended up him w/a nasty divorce. Lawsuits all around...another mess.

Did that constitute torture? If not, can we begin using versed on our enemy combatants? I know it's not foolproof, but neither is swearing on a Bible you won't fib.
4.26.2009 3:28pm
PC:
If I heard that the United States government sanctioned flaying, scourging, disemboweling, racking, quartering, eye-gouging, emasculation, bone-breaking, denailing, kneecapping, raping, or tooth-extraction (sans anesthesia), I would be enraged regardless of the victim.

Get ready then. Binyam Mohamed claims he was sent to Morocco by the US to be tortured by authorities there (in violation of the CAT). In Morocco he claims he had his genitals sliced up. Not exactly flaying, but a distinction without a difference. Being one of the worst of the worst, the US later dropped all charges against Mohamed and released him.

Or we could talk about Khalid el-Masri, the unfortunate case of a spelling error (the US was looking for Khalid al-Masri). In that case the US kidnapped him while he was on vacation and tortured him in Afghanistan. He was repeatedly beaten and claims to have been sodomized by US interrogators (this time we didn't outsource the torture). Over a spelling mistake.

Outraged yet? I can continue.
4.26.2009 3:30pm
Oren:

I believe the Supreme Court (in the Oakland Cannabis Club case perhaps?) has held that there is no necessity defense to federal criminal statutes.

No, they simply said that getting your preferred medicine (even if it's somewhat better than the legal alternative) is not a sufficiently grave concern to merit breaking the CSA.

If your daughter's kidnappers demand 20lbs of marijuana as ransom, you can be damned sure the necessity defense will get you out of a trafficking charge.
4.26.2009 3:35pm
josil (mail):
Re polls, their proximity to dramatic events overpowers the results. As we are now some distance from 911, I wonder how the polls would read if they were taken a few weeks after a similar event...like the plot to blow up the airliners over the Pacific.
4.26.2009 3:36pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Only the weakest minds could actually equate waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other coerced interrogation methods used by the CIA with true physical torture..."


Here's what they actually did:

* Chained the detainee naked by his wrists from above, so that he was forced into a standing position for weeks at a time.

* Alternatively, the detainee was locked in a small box, or kept in some other stress-position for weeks at a time.

* At the same time, kept the detainee awake for weeks at a time.

* At the same time, doused the naked detainee with cold water, while keeping the room air-conditioned.

* At the same time, deprived the detainee of solid food.

* At the same time, used all kinds of disorientation techniques -- loud music, bright lights, etc.

* At the same time, physically abused the detainee (slapping him, slamming him into walls, etc.)

* All this was one in addition to repeated waterboarding, hundreds of times over -- as many as 183 times in a month.

So it wasn't just any one method in isolation -- it was the combination of all of these methods for weeks at a time, over and over.

Is there anybody where who claims that this process does not result in "severe physical or mental pain or suffering" (the legal definition of torture)?
4.26.2009 3:37pm
Oren:

Binyam Mohamed claims he was sent to Morocco by the US to be tortured by authorities there (in violation of the CAT).

Just a technical point, the CAT prohibits rendition "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture". Substantial grounds is a fairly high standard here -- I don't know what the evidence we have about Morocco's intelligence services are.
4.26.2009 3:38pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"No, they simply said that getting your preferred medicine (even if it's somewhat better than the legal alternative) is not a sufficiently grave concern to merit breaking the CSA.

If your daughter's kidnappers demand 20lbs of marijuana as ransom, you can be damned sure the necessity defense will get you out of a trafficking charge."


That's not how I read it. My original description of the holding (which was off the top of my head) was probably too broad, but under the logic of the case, there's no necessity defense if the legislature doesn't see fit to put one in the statute:

"Under any conception of legal necessity, one principle is clear: The defense cannot succeed when the legislature itself has made a 'determination of values.'"


Thomas goes on to claim that, "We need not decide, however, whether necessity can ever be a defense when the federal statute does not expressly provide for it," but I'm not sure how one claims there is not already a "determination of values" in any given federal statute.
4.26.2009 3:44pm
geokstr (mail):

Ben P:
...the shooter is an upstanding pillar of the community, and further evidence comes to light (and is leaked to the press) that the victim was a real scumbag.

The motives and prior reputations of the accused here are irrelevant and immaterial.

A lot of the people claiming to be against torture are obviously consumed with Bush/Cheney hatred, and have been since long before 9/11. They had already decided in 2000 they were the real scumbags for having been "Selected" over Gore. (I actually had a co-worker tell me years ago that if Gore hadn't had the election stolen from him, 9/11 would not even have happened.)

This torture stuff is the best excuse they could find to go after Bush/Cheney now, and they will use it to smear everything about these men, their policies in general, and anyone else who served in their administration that they don't like. If the "torture" issue had not been available, they would have just gone back to "Bush lied - people died" or some other meme.

They are not concerned that the precedent set by criminalizing political differences might come back to haunt them. Unfortunately, with strong control over 2.4 of the 3 branches of government, moves already under way to rig the 2010 census, a number of likely SCOTUS appointments coming up, the Secretary of State positions in the swing states, ACORN set to received a billion dollars in "bailout" funds, and a lock on the MSM, Hollywood and the teaching professions, they may be right too.

And it all serves as a convenient distraction, to keep the minds of the rubes in flyover country focused on the circus while the entire economy is being radically restructured.

It's enough to make a life-long atheist say - "God help us now."
4.26.2009 3:49pm
PC:
Substantial grounds is a fairly high standard here -- I don't know what the evidence we have about Morocco's intelligence services are.

Google is a useful tool, but I'm not sure if our government was aware of it at the time Mohamed was sent to Morocco. Perhaps the government was watching Casablanca and thought it would be a good place for vacation?

The case of Maher Arar may be even more telling in that aspect. On the flight to Syria, Arar claims that he pleaded with the pilots not to send him there because he would be tortured. Apparently a Canadian telecommunications engineer knew about Syrian torture, but US officials did not.
4.26.2009 3:50pm
davod (mail):
torture apologists Proponents of Enhanced Interrogation.

The weakening of America and its values continues. In its effort to destroy the hopes of millions around the world that the USA will stand to fight against the tyranny and injustices, the ratbags must drag us down to below the level of those who, as a matter of law, kill homosexuals, allow rape, beheading, stoning to death, amputation, the lash and treat theor women as worth less than a man.

This is why Enhanced Interrogations are touted as torture far and wide. So the enlightened ones can remold America's image into their idea of utopia.

The most vocal here admit to not reading the memos, what about the US law the memos were based upon.

Watch the latest video from Abu Ghrab if you dare. Look at the video of someone having his head sawed, yes sawed, off.
4.26.2009 3:53pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"They are not concerned that the precedent set by criminalizing political differences might come back to haunt them."


Right, it's not like the Republicans tried to impeach anyone in recent history...
4.26.2009 3:54pm
PC:
Right, it's not like the Republicans tried to impeach anyone in recent history...

You don't understand. That was about the rule of law. This is about _______.
4.26.2009 4:00pm
Mac (mail):
I believe that while listening into phone conversations the CIA was first alerted to something going on with the Brooklyn Bridge. Subsequent enhanced interrogation of a suspect led them to the perpetrators. It was deemed that the plan was being put into action and was viable. So, there is another example of hundreds of lives saved by enhanced interrogation.

Of course, better that not one madman be made uncomfortable than hundreds of lives be saved.

Compared to putting people through chippers and cutting out tongues and throwing people off of buildings among many other things as Saddam did, when we call what the CIA did torture, what word do we use for this or for the blessedly departed Dr. Mengele?

If a non-life threatening assault is called murder, then what word do we use for, well, murder?
4.26.2009 4:03pm
vmark1:
Binyam Mohamed...

His lawyer speaks...after admitting to a visit to the local Taliban school of lets kill the infidels...

>>Mohamed claims that he was not going to use his skills against America. Mohamed told his personal representative that "he went for training to fight in Chechnya, which was not illegal." In 2005, Mohamed's lawyer echoed this explanation in an interview with CNN. "He wanted to see the Taliban with his own eyes," Mohamed's lawyer claimed. "I am not saying he never went to any Islamic camp," the lawyer conceded, but he "didn't go to any camp to blow up Americans."<<<<

OK,now. Let's put down the waterboards, and sanctimonious blather about hating torture. His lawyer said it. It's true. I also hear Binyam ended up in Afghanistan; "to get away from drugs..." that's right. The opium capital of our solar system. That's where this guy ends up for rehab. It must be true. He said so. Besides. You can all relax, this friendly chap is in England or Pakistan or Iraq...Obama let him go. Nasty protests in London for his release...nothing to see...
4.26.2009 4:03pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Compared to putting people through chippers and cutting out tongues and throwing people off of buildings among many other things as Saddam did, when we call what the CIA did torture, what word do we use for this or for the blessedly departed Dr. Mengele?"


I don't see the logic in this argument.

Suppose I kill somebody by giving them an overdose of sleeping pills. Is that not murder because someone somewhere uses much more brutal methods to kill people?

And what a great argument: The United States is not as bad as people who put their victims into wood chippers!
4.26.2009 4:09pm
geokstr (mail):

PC:

If a CIA agent tortures a suspect and then finds an actual bomb, it won't even be close.

Agreed...

So far I've seen here a listing of all the nasty things that the detainees or rendees have claimed. Much of it allegedly happened in other countries, but I've seen no proof of that either. And no one has ever answered my questions in previous threads about why a country that promotes terrorism like Syria would torture a rendee who was on their side and would willingly tell them anything they want.

And then there is the issue of the detainee who claims his genitals were sliced. Is this documented by a physical exam by an objective physician? Next we'll here about the victim who screams in perfect English that they cut out his tongue.

In case you didn't know it, al-Qaeda trains it operatives to yell "torture" every time they see a microphone or a TV camera, and their religion commands them to lie to infidels. But these guys always tell the truth, and BusHitlerites always lie, right?
4.26.2009 4:10pm
PC:
If a non-life threatening assault

What type of non-life threatening assault requires the presence of a doctor and a trach kit? And good luck with the, "at least we aren't as bad as Saddam!" defense. My America is a few orders of magnitude better than a 3rd world tyrant. If you are using brutal dictators to justify the actions of our nation, maybe you're doing it wrong?

vmark1, I could point you to a list of logical fallacies, but I doubt it would help. In lieu of that you may want to follow the legal proceedings in the UK. Or maybe you would care to bring up the criminal actions of Maher Arar and Khalid el-Masri?
4.26.2009 4:13pm
PC:
geokstr, can you show me any evidence that Khalid el-Masri and Maher Arar are al-Qaeda operatives? If you have some I'm sure the federal government would like it.
4.26.2009 4:14pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"In case you didn't know it, al-Qaeda trains it operatives to yell "torture" every time they see a microphone or a TV camera, and their religion commands them to lie to infidels. But these guys always tell the truth, and BusHitlerites always lie, right?"


The excerpts I've seen from the ICRC report show that their claims are pretty credible. Multiple detainees tell of the same methods, even though they were kept separated. The methods they described were consistent with what was in the memos. And they had scars and other physical symptoms corroborating their statements.

But let's posit a hypothetical: If it were true that the interrogators did all the things I listed above, would you say that amounts to torture?
4.26.2009 4:16pm
davod (mail):
"The excerpts I've seen from the ICRC report show that their claims are pretty credible."

"And they had scars and other physical symptoms corroborating their statements." Photographic evidence of the Guantanamo detainees?

Whay scars and physical symptoms would there be of the methods allowed under the enhanced interrogations approved by the OLC memos.
4.26.2009 4:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Torture is one of the instruments of war. In wars people are gassed, burned, shot, bombed and subjected to many kinds of physical trauma. On Iwo Jima US troops used flame throwers to clear the Japanese out their bunkers as you can see in this video. We can do all that, but not use physical means to get information? Especially against a foe who follows no treaty and will employ any means he chooses against you.

Moreover the US used torture in WWII. I had a professor who was in part of psychological warfare campaign against Japan. What he described was certainly torture. After WWII, the US tortured German civilians through exposure and hunger.

Suppose your child was kidnapped and buried alive. Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would.
4.26.2009 4:36pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
I haven't seen photographic evidence, but maybe it's in the report. I doubt the RC is lying though.

"Whay scars and physical symptoms would there be of the methods allowed under the enhanced interrogations approved by the OLC memos."


When you chain someone from above by their wrists into a standing position for weeks at a time, eventually their legs give out, causing the shackles to cut into their flesh. Also, this causes severe swelling/edema of the legs.
4.26.2009 4:37pm
MarkField (mail):

Substantial grounds is a fairly high standard here -- I don't know what the evidence we have about Morocco's intelligence services are.


I read it as a very low standard. For example, review of administrative decisions often uses a "substantial evidence" standard. All this means in practice is that there needs to have been "non-frivolous" evidence which supported the decision.
4.26.2009 4:37pm
MarkField (mail):

Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would.


Which is one reason why we don't let people be judges in their own cases.
4.26.2009 4:38pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"On Iwo Jima US troops used flame throwers to clear the Japanese out their bunkers as you can see in this video. We can do all that, but not use physical means to get information?"


There's an obvious difference in how we treat adversaries engaged in contemporaneous combat versus prisoners who are disarmed and in our custody and control.

Are you claiming that it would be acceptable for us to burn detainees alive?
4.26.2009 4:42pm
PC:
We can do all that, but not use physical means to get information?

Without changing US law and withdrawing from some treaties, no.

Suppose your child was kidnapped and buried alive. Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would.

I would too. I would do it knowing that I would be prosecuted for doing so.
4.26.2009 4:43pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Suppose your child was kidnapped and buried alive. Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would."


And would you expect there to be no investigation of whether or not it was legal for you to do so?
4.26.2009 4:50pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Mahan Atma (3:37 p.m.),

The only thing to be said in favor of what was done to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad is that there are damn few people on the planet who might be said actually to deserve what was done to him, and by some amazing stroke of luck he happened to be one of them.

It seems to me that we can't prevent American personnel from torturing if they feel the need to do so is great enough; but we can make sure that torture is used only in greatest exigency — by making the punishment for torture very harsh, and by applying it infallibly, whatever the political pressure to do otherwise. I do not think that any American should torture any prisoner unless whatever he's trying to avert seems larger and more important to him than his own death. If you'd die to get the information, and you think you can get the information only through torture, then go ahead, but be confident that you will, in fact, be executed, whether you succeed in getting it or not.

Any hint that, well, we'd never actually follow through on that sort of thing will ruin the scheme. There has to be a firm understanding that, if you do this, you will die for it; that's the only way to limit it to the few strange, hypothetical cases where people tend to concede there might be a point. You can do this, but only at the price of your own existence; whatever you hope to preserve has to be more valuable than that.
4.26.2009 4:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Are you claiming that it would be acceptable for us to burn detainees alive?"

No because there's no useful purpose to be served. But suppose we capture a general who we know has valuable and time critical information. If we can break him with torture then we save many American lives. What would you do?

If you don't you might one day get a letter from a mother asking you why you put the captured general's well being ahead of her son? Life's not easy.
4.26.2009 4:59pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
PC:

"I would too. I would do it knowing that I would be prosecuted for doing so."

Ok. Now you are on the jury. Do you vote to convict? I wouldn't. I am not going to condemn a man for doing exactly what I would do in his place. Not guilty. The judge cannot reverse my decision or hold me in contempt. In other words-- jury nullification.
4.26.2009 5:02pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"And would you expect there to be no investigation of whether or not it was legal for you to do so?"

Of course there be an investigation. There's an investigation everytime a policeman fires his gun.
4.26.2009 5:04pm
sputnik (mail):
Zarkov, you obviously should know that torture never produced and reliable results, right? Sorry interrupting your watching "24".
P.S. I had no idea you applied for an immigration to Yemen...
4.26.2009 5:04pm
Oren:

It was deemed that the plan was being put into action and was viable.

The plan to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches was entirely impossible from its conception. Even if you could somehow managed to get to the cable and start burning through them, it would take hours to destroy even a single suspension cable (have you ever even been to Brooklyn and seen the bridge?).

No engineer in his right mind (even 100 years ago) would build a bridge that fragile. It's an insult to bridge builders everywhere that anyone even considered such an amateurish and futile scheme.

(Oh, and evidence from the NSA indicates that the plan was not being put into action, but was called off.)
4.26.2009 5:06pm
Hazel Motes:
Suppose your child was kidnapped and buried alive. Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would.

I would too.



End of story then. After all the pomp and self-righteousness, you would have no problem torturing people.
4.26.2009 5:06pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
sputnik:

"... you obviously should know that torture never produced and reliable results, right?"


Sputnik you spend too much time in orbit. Come down to earth and see what goes on in the real world. How can you possibly say "never?" You don't even know about the successful cases.
4.26.2009 5:08pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
What I and others have repeatedly suggested is that interrogators should be allowed a defense of necessity.

It would work the way it always has in common law: If you commit a crime, you can argue to the jury that you reasonably believed that what you did was necessary to prevent a greater harm, that the other greater harm was imminent, and that there was no alternative.

But the point is that we don't accept anyone's claim of necessity just on their say so. Rather, they face a jury of their peers, there is evidence on the facts of the case, witnesses are examined, etc. Then it's up to the jury to decide whether the defense applies.

Now, given the questioned validity of the necessity defense against federal statutes in light of the Oakland Cannabis case, it seems to me that Congress ought to enact one.

But we also ought to investigate, and where appropriate, prosecute cases where there is sufficient cause to believe someone broke the law. Then the defendant can argue necessity to the jury.

Who here actually thinks that they should be able to torture their alleged child's kidnapper without so much as an investigation into the matter??
4.26.2009 5:11pm
PC:
You don't even know about the successful cases.

We know of two successful cases: the time traveling agents that stopped the attack on the Liberty Tower and the plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blow torches (magical blow torches that don't produce any light with invisible terrorists hanging from on the cables of a highly trafficked bridge).

Any other examples you would care to share?

Oh, Maher Arar. Apparently between the sessions of being beaten with shredded cables he admitted he was a member of al Qaeda. See, torture works!
4.26.2009 5:15pm
Brian K (mail):
Suppose your child was kidnapped and buried alive. Would you torture the kidnapper to save your child? I would.

A more accurate scenario would be torturing 20 people, 19 innocent and 1 guilty, to obtain that information about your child. would you still do it? should you not face any consequences?

now suppose instead of your child being kidnapped, your child was one of the 19 innocent people tortured. would you demand punishment or would you shrug your shoulders and say your child shouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time?
4.26.2009 5:21pm
whit:

A murder committed in self defense is still a murder, but the law recognizes that it may sometimes may be justified


false.

murder , by definition is illegal and is never justified.

the word you mean to use is HOMICIDE, not murder.

there is such a thing as a justifiable homicide.

there is no such thing (in the law, there may be in morality) as a justifiable murder.

homicide simply means a person(s) caused the death.

basically, death at the hands of another. it says nothing about illegality.

we break homicide down into various types - murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, excusable homicide, etc.
4.26.2009 5:25pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Brian K.

"A more accurate scenario would be torturing 20 people, 19 innocent and 1 guilty,..."

That's not more accurate. Suppose 10,000 people were at risk, how many false positives would you tolerate to save them? Some people would say zero. Where we draw the line is a hard decision. I am simply against dogmatic positions that say we can never ever torture anyone.
4.26.2009 5:28pm
PC:
I am simply against dogmatic positions that say we can never ever torture anyone.

Then you should work to change the law and get the US to withdraw from the CAT and the Geneva Conventions.
4.26.2009 5:30pm
Oren:

You don't even know about the successful cases.

The burden is on those that demand extraordinary measures to produce extraordinary proof. Something better than magical blowtorches.

You'd think by now we'd have found at least one cache of explosives . . .
4.26.2009 5:35pm
Ben P:

The motives and prior reputations of the accused here are irrelevant and immaterial.


Your point is basically irrelevant to the one I was trying to illustrate and really only proves my point.

The fact that I talked about the accused being a "pillar of the community" and the victim a "scumbag" was only meant to Illustrate the the difficulties that would be encountered in a prosecution.

If you think your local district attorney wouldn't consider the probable public reaction if he's considering the prosecution of say a local politician or influential local businessman you need a reality check.

That isn't to say the prosecutor shouldn't prosecute those people if he has solid evidence of a crime, but where the circumstances are already within there where it would be plausible for him to prosecute or not prosecute, the fact that a prosecution would be difficult and political risky certainly comes into consideration.

Your response to characterize "this torture stuff" as the "best excuse" people have to vindicate their political hatred against Bush is so close to Pavlovian it only reinforces my point.

No matter what evidence comes out, how many people are going to insist that the *only* rationale for prosecutions is "political hatred" and that it's all a sham to cover up [x, y, z, Fluoride in the water], and then of course, when Republicans are next in power be screaming and shouting at the top of their lungs for them to return the favor and prosecute Obama for *something.*


That's exactly why going ahead with the prosecutions would be a bad idea, and why it won't happen.
4.26.2009 5:38pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
PC:

I never used those as examples. Obviously bringing down the Brooklyn Bridge is a terrorist pipe dream. The New York Bridge and Tunnel system is under intense surveillance, and New York City has the resources to do it. The NYC police is bigger than the whole FBI.

How about an anthrax attack on airports? Ten grams of anthrax released in each of all the airports in a major metropolitan area would bring down the economy of the area. Just imagine if Dulles, Washington National and Baltimore airports had to shut down and remained down for months! Would you torture someone to get information to thwart such a plot? Let's also take note that the Soviet Union manufactured weaponized anthrax by the ton at their plant in Sverdlovsk.
4.26.2009 5:43pm
Brian K (mail):
That's not more accurate. Suppose 10,000 people were at risk, how many false positives would you tolerate to save them? Some people would say zero. Where we draw the line is a hard decision. I am simply against dogmatic positions that say we can never ever torture anyone.

so in other words, when we change the hypothetical you proffered in support of your desired conclusion to one that is less favorable to you you refuse to answer it.

you also ignored part 2. how would you react if your innocent son was one of the victims tortured? would be as lenient on the torturers as you are now?
4.26.2009 5:45pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

"The burden is on those that demand extraordinary measures to produce extraordinary proof."

Torture is not extraordinary. It's been used for thousands of years by everyone. It's quite ordinary.
4.26.2009 5:45pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Brian K:

No you changed the hypothetical.
4.26.2009 5:46pm
John Moore (www):
Here's a simple, not-improbable scenario.

The lower levels of Pakistan's officer corps (up through colonel) is known to have many (perhaps a majority) who support the jihadists.

AQ initiates another Mumbai style attack - but worse.

India goes to a state of war alert (they were close on Mumbai).

Pakistan disperses it's nukes to war-alert positions.

The jihadists, with the aid of military insiders, capture one of the nukes as it is being transferred.

This information becomes available to the western news media, and AQ brags that they are going to destroy a US city.

You are in the middle of torture show trials, after having revealed critical information about our interrogation techniques, including video of the interrogations.

Now take your poll of public opinion about waterboarding.

NOTE: Pakistan appears to use crude, HEU gun-assembly nukes. These have activation codes that the bad guys may not be able to get. However, given just the HEU, it is easily within AQ's capabilities (or that of any engineer with access to machine tools - and AQ is full of engineers) to turn that into a working, small nuke, without knowing the codes.
4.26.2009 5:50pm
John Moore (www):
the_pathogen:

A. Zarkov, we've known about water boarding since 2007. Very few tactics were released in documents that one could not expect.

absurd, as should be obvious.


We must not forget the purpose of torture is not to extract useful information.

Right.

Keep on going...
4.26.2009 5:51pm
PC:
Would you torture someone to get information to thwart such a plot?

If torture was the only way to stop it? Sure. And I would do it knowing that I would be prosecuted. That's how laws work. If a jury sees fit to acquit me, good. If not, my personal freedom is worth less to me than the lives of thousands of innocent people.

It's been used for thousands of years by everyone.

Which is why we know it is effective. Look at all of the witches that were uncovered!

Which reminds me of a question I've asked before, but no one has really answered. If the US tortures an innocent person, should that person have legal recourse to address the injustice?
4.26.2009 5:52pm
Oren:

Let's also take note that the Soviet Union manufactured weaponized anthrax by the ton at their plant in Sverdlovsk.

And gave it out as party favors at their big dissolving-the-Empire bash!
4.26.2009 5:54pm
John Moore (www):
PC:

If the government kidnaps Bill Snowden and tortures him for three months when they were really looking for Bill Smowden, would you be bothered by that?

If the government locks up for life Fred Smith, because a jury voted him guilty of murder, but really Fred Riley did it, would you be so bothered that you would prosecute the prosecutor (who acted in good faith)?


Get ready then. Binyam Mohamed claims he was sent to Morocco by the US to be tortured by authorities there (in violation of the CAT). In Morocco he claims he had his genitals sliced up. Not exactly flaying, but a distinction without a difference. Being one of the worst of the worst, the US later dropped all charges against Mohamed and released him.

Get ready. With our more gentle methods now prohibited, Obama will have no choice but to hand over critical terrorists to those folks (or the Jordanians, who are reputedly the best at extracting information from terrorists).


Right, it's not like the Republicans tried to impeach anyone in recent history...

You don't understand. That was about the rule of law. This is about _______.


And that really worked out well, didn't it. This will be at least as bad.
4.26.2009 5:54pm
Brian K (mail):
No you changed the hypothetical.

as i said i did. did you even read what i wrote?
4.26.2009 5:56pm
Ben P:

false.

murder , by definition is illegal and is never justified.

the word you mean to use is HOMICIDE, not murder.

there is such a thing as a justifiable homicide.

there is no such thing (in the law, there may be in morality) as a justifiable murder.

homicide simply means a person(s) caused the death.

basically, death at the hands of another. it says nothing about illegality.

we break homicide down into various types - murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, excusable homicide, etc.



Somewhat Semantic, but Fair enough, the common law definition does include the word "unlawful."

On the other hand my particular state statute reads

"A person commits murder in the first degree if.....(2) with the purpose of causing the death of another person, the person causes the death of another person."


Then in a completely different chapter of the statute book it reads "A person is justified in using deadly physical force against another if the person reasonably believes the other person is: [Various list of conditions leading to valid self defense]."

Now I read that to state that killing in self defense to be "murder but justified" as opposed to "killing but not murder," but your construction is perfectly plausible too.
4.26.2009 5:56pm
John Moore (www):
Oren:


Let's also take note that the Soviet Union manufactured weaponized anthrax by the ton at their plant in Sverdlovsk.


And gave it out as party favors at their big dissolving-the-Empire bash!

Your point? The Soviets engaged in every manner of torture and war crimes, and engaged in prohibited biological weapons production at a huge scale.

I haven't heard a large outcry on the left suggestiing we should go after them. Hey, they only killed about 40,000,000 of their own folks.
4.26.2009 6:02pm
whit:
my construction is not "perfectly plausible too".

my construction is correct. yours is incorrect. you are seriously arguing, ON A LEGAL BLOG that the term "murder" under the law does not necessarily mean that it was NOT justified? you are high.

and the cite you reference supports my point, not yours.

there is no such thing IN THE LAW as "justifiable murder".

the term MURDER necessarily has a component of ILLEGALITY

homicide does not.

i'll make it extra simple for you.

all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders.

murders are a subset of homicides, that NECESSARILY involve CRIMINAL conduct.

justifiable homicides are a subset of homicides that do NOT necessarily involve any criminal conduct.

you are simply WRONG.

\
4.26.2009 6:05pm
dmv (mail):

Torture is one of the instruments of war.


That, combined with the blather about necessity, is really quite striking. Read Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture.

What is also striking is how short-sighted you torture-lovers are. We're always grumbling about Europe, about the U.N., about how the rest of the world is ZOMG SO STOOPID!!!1!111!!1 Yet if we genuinely tried to conform to the ideals that we hold, to the ideas that we preach to the rest of the world, to what we have purportedly always stood for, I think you'd find the world a much more friendly place. How do you torture-lovers not see that we have the unique and awesome opportunity to inspire? Yet we fritter it away so that you can get your rocks off imagining someone bleeding.

I think it really comes down to fear. You're so terrified that you'll stop at nothing to get rid of it. You'll burn the world that you may feel safe. I abhor, reject, and denounce torture, whether it's committed by terrorists decapitating civilians or by the United States of America. Yet, I'm not afraid. Why are you? Have you forgotten that great lesson of our Founders? That there are, in fact, things worth dying for, ideals that it's better to die for than betray.

Be not afraid.
4.26.2009 6:09pm
PC:
If the government locks up for life Fred Smith, because a jury voted him guilty of murder, but really Fred Riley did it, would you be so bothered that you would prosecute the prosecutor (who acted in good faith)?

And we have now jumped the shark. Do you seriously mean to compare: a jury trial where a defendant can offer a defense, has the benefit of council, and the government has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt; to kidnapping some guy while he's on vacation and torturing him for 3 months because our intelligence agencies can't figure out the difference between "el" and "al?" Really? Seriously?

With our more gentle methods now prohibited, Obama will have no choice but to hand over critical terrorists to those folks (or the Jordanians, who are reputedly the best at extracting information from terrorists).

And if he does he will be in violation of the CAT and should be held accountable for it.

And that really worked out well, didn't it. This will be at least as bad.

Forcing the government to be accountable for its actions is rarely easy.
4.26.2009 6:10pm
gerbilsbite:
Do we really think the same people who suffered through the despotic George III actually intended their Constitution to empower the federal government to torture people to death in secret overseas prisons?
4.26.2009 6:17pm
the_pathogen (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov, Mr. Moore, or anyone else, can you give me a credible example of a time in history where torture was used to extract useful information? One or two examples should be entirely sufficient as a precedence.

I contend that torture is a tool used to extract false confessions, and confirm already known information. Torture is never justified because it's never useful unless your goal is to spread fear. Prove everyone wrong.

Bill Snowden post is the hypothetical example that seemingly justifies torture in most people's minds: hurting one person to retrieve information that could save many. Unfortunately, the person being tortured understands that we have no way of verifying the truthfulness of any statements, and is prone to giving false information. Unless we are confirming information, or wishing to terrorize a group of people, torture is useless.
4.26.2009 6:21pm
dmv (mail):
pathogen:

Even if you are, of course, correct, I don't accept the premise that if it did turn out to yield useful information, then perhaps it could be legitimately considered. Torture is wrong (legally, ethically, and morally) on its face. We don't even need to reach the as-applied question. In fact, that this point has to be made is, I think, symptomatic of how profoundly we've lost our own sense of national identity.

And that is tragic.
4.26.2009 6:26pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

"And gave it out as party favors at their big dissolving-the-Empire bash!"

Do you really think this kind of snarky comment contributes to the discussion.?

I cited Sverdlovsk plant capacity to show that it's possible to manufacture tons of anthrax when you only need grams to mount an attack. Unlike cutting the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge anthrax is a real threat with enormous consequences. I'm not saying that we take a decision to torture lightly, but I wouldn't rule it out either in extreme circumstances. If that requires withdrawing from treaties, then we should do just that.

I studied and modeled defensive measures against anthrax attacks years ago and the results were really scary. We tend not to take these things seriously until they happen like the emerging swine flu epidemic.

If the US suffers a major attack with millions (not thousands) of deaths, and the US governments appears to care more about legalisms than protecting the country, it could fall.
4.26.2009 6:28pm
the_pathogen (mail) (www):
I agree DMV, completely. Yet, there are still a persistent group of people - who watch too much television apparently - who believe that situations exist that justify torture. I have never heard of one, and if there is, I would certainly like to examine it myself.
4.26.2009 6:30pm
John Moore (www):


If the government locks up for life Fred Smith, because a jury voted him guilty of murder, but really Fred Riley did it, would you be so bothered that you would prosecute the prosecutor (who acted in good faith)?



And we have now jumped the shark. Do you seriously mean to compare: a jury trial where a defendant can offer a defense, has the benefit of council, and the government has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt; to kidnapping some guy while he's on vacation and torturing him for 3 months because our intelligence agencies can't figure out the difference between "el" and "al?" Really? Seriously?


Absolutely. In both cases, the government is acting with intent to protect the citizenry, and made a mistake. In both cases, the result is terrible, although frankly torture for some limited period of time would seem preferable to life in prison.
4.26.2009 6:32pm
John Moore (www):
the_pathogen:

I contend that torture is a tool used to extract false confessions, and confirm already known information. Torture is never justified because it's never useful unless your goal is to spread fear. Prove everyone wrong.

Perhaps you should read the other threads on TVC on this issue, before you make such silly, repetitious posts.

Here is what you have to prove: Nobody has ever used torture with the intent to extract useful information. Furthermore, you will be unable to prove that nobody has ever succeeded in extracting useful information with the use of torture.
4.26.2009 6:37pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
the_pathogen,

Unfortunately, that's not really true. Providing you can check information for veracity very quickly after you get it, there's no reason torture should not "work." To steal an example from an article whose author I'd credit if I could remember his name, if a thug had your debit card and demanded your PIN, and he could immediately check whether you'd told him the truth by trying it in an ATM, you might possibly give him the wrong information once, before he shot out one of your kneecaps, but odds are that when he promised to shoot out the other one if you answered wrong again, you would give him the correct PIN the second time.

Very likely there are relatively few situations where we can check information obtained under interrogation (of whaever kind) as rapidly as that. But this is what people are talking about when they insist torture "works." I think they're obviously right, in these cases, which is why I think it's a very bad idea to make the case against torture on the grounds that it doesn't "work."

The stronger and prior case is that it is wrong even if it does work; perhaps especially wrong if it always works, if that is so because it involves anguish so intolerable that no one could resist it for long.
4.26.2009 6:42pm
Floridan:
Using the argument that torture is OK if it works can justify almost anything, such as holding prisoner's pregnant wife over a vat of acid, threatening to drop her in if the prisoner doesn't give up the information wanted.

Would that be OK to try to get information to thwart a plot to blow up a building? To stop the smuggling of arms into the country? To get information to stop a serial killer?

No, the only valid argument in this case, I would argue, is that the techniques being discussed are not torture.

If they are, the game's over.
4.26.2009 6:53pm
dmv (mail):

No, the only valid argument in this case, I would argue, is that the techniques being discussed are not torture.

If they are, the game's over.


Note to Floridan:

The game's over.
4.26.2009 6:55pm
John Moore (www):

If the US suffers a major attack with millions (not thousands) of deaths, and the US governments appears to care more about legalisms than protecting the country, it could fall.

It wouldn't take millions.

It would be a matter of the form of the attack, and AQ knows this.

For example, a small nuke detonated in a city (see my scenario above that the moralists have not yet responded to), the whole country would be terribly panicked.

Also, Anthrax is far from the most significant biowar agent. It is very useful militarily because it is not particularly contagious, so it has the area impact characteristics of an extremely persistent chemical agent.

True religious fanatics might turn to something far more contagious and nearly as virulent - such as SARS or a new flu. Genetic engineering (both base sequencing and decoding) has been following a Moore's law progression, already bringing it into the garage hobby category (yes, people are really doing that). At the same time, tens of thousands of people are being trained in the skills needed to manipulate the genetics of pathogens. The full genetic sequence for several strains of SARS was posted on the internet - perfect for the aspiring terrorist (we came VERY close to losing it with SARS).

Those who post on these threads have a failure of vision about the threats we really face. The probabilities of catastrophic attacks are rising, and the consequences would be dramatic.

Not only would the questions about torture turn to "why didn't you use torture to prevent the attack" and "who can we torture next to save my kids," but the whole rule of law would be greatly threatened by the resulting panic. Don't like the surveillance state? You'll be living with it when the eventual serious attack happens. Love the TSA? They'll be involved in your automobile travel.

In other words, in the not too distant future, the whole debate about waterboarding is going to look really, really stupid.
4.26.2009 6:55pm
Harvey Mosley (mail):

If you'd die to get the information, and you think you can get the information only through torture, then go ahead, but be confident that you will, in fact, be executed, whether you succeed in getting it or not.


Unless you rape a child, of course.
4.26.2009 6:55pm
Tugh (mail):
Still waiting if at least one of torture apologists answers Brian K's hypothetical about their reaction if their own innocent child is tortured.
4.26.2009 6:56pm
John Moore (www):

Using the argument that torture is OK if it works can justify almost anything, such as holding prisoner's pregnant wife over a vat of acid, threatening to drop her in if the prisoner doesn't give up the information wanted.


Yes, it can. Of course people with some degree of refinement in their thinking might consider that the word "torture" does not represent an indivisible atom, but rather a continuum.

Then we have the slippery slope issue, which has been well dealt with in may threads here.

But almost everything has a slipper slope.
4.26.2009 6:57pm
Tugh (mail):
John Moore:

What you call "legalisms" are the core American values. I am an immigrant, and it is simply amazing to me that a person who enlisted to fight for America has such a profound misunderstanding of what America stands for.
4.26.2009 6:58pm
Tugh (mail):
Of course, torture represents a continuumm, with some techniques more cruel and barbaric than the others. This is precisely why the international conventions and the US law prohibit all torture.
4.26.2009 7:03pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Harvey Mosley,

I'm describing the regime of punishments for torture that I would like to see in place, not the one we've actually got. It's exceedingly unlikely that we would execute anyone for maltreating prisoners even if it led to many deaths. I think the last time we executed anyone of our own forces for any crime was somewhere in the early 60s. (And IIRC it was, in fact, for the rape of a child.)
4.26.2009 7:04pm
MarkField (mail):

The stronger and prior case is that it is wrong even if it does work; perhaps especially wrong if it always works, if that is so because it involves anguish so intolerable that no one could resist it for long.


Yes, exactly. As I've pointed out on other threads, defending torture by claiming to learn information is like defending bank robbery because you got money.
4.26.2009 7:07pm
whit:

Still waiting if at least one of torture apologists answers Brian K's hypothetical about their reaction if their own innocent child is tortured.


what would dukakis say?

WWDS?
4.26.2009 7:09pm
Tugh (mail):
In addition, what has not been sufficiently addressed is that according to at least some information, torture (pardon, Gulag-like enhanced interrogation techniques) was used to extract false information to confirm Iraq-Al Qaeda links. If this information is correct, then the moral depravity of the people who authorized this knows no bounds. Perhaps, this is one of the main reasons why they so resist an impartial investigation.
4.26.2009 7:13pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Tugh,

Of course, torture represents a continuum, with some techniques more cruel and barbaric than the others. This is precisely why the international conventions and the US law prohibit all torture.

But that's just the problem. What we need to know is where the dividing line lies between "uncomfortable" and "torture"; it's not helpful to prohibit "torture" when we don't have a clear definition of the word.

I take it that it's not prohibited to keep prisoners isolated from one another, to give them bland though adequately nourishing food, to keep them in small spaces, to give them nothing but a few feet to pace in, a place to urinate and defecate in, food enough to live on, and a flat space to lie down. That basically describes most Western prisons, and I take it we're not assuming that all of the West employs torture on its own citizens on a massive scale.

So "torture" begins after that point, but how far after? How cramped does the space have to be, how squalid the housing, how meager the food, before you've crossed the line between "these are bad conditions, but not torture" and "this is torture"? When one side of the line is allowable, though nasty, treatment, and the other is anathema, the line had damn well better be visible. Right now it isn't.

Tugh, wanna take a stab at it? How do you define torture, in a way that makes it clearly separate from ordinary incarceration — bearing in mind that the distinction has to be clear enough that no conscientious corrections officer or policeman could conceivably step outside that line except through deliberate, malicious intention.
4.26.2009 7:19pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
John Moore:

I agree with you. There are far more frightening bio-attack scenarios than anthrax. I choose anthrax as an example because,

1. It's a working technology.
2. It's been used against the US
3. The accidental release at Sverdlovsk in 1979 provides a real world example of how effective it is.
4. I have a working familiarity having done work on the defensive end.
5. There's a lot of information in the public domain about it.

We know that troops will mutiny when they perceive their survival probability falls below 50%. We should take a lesson from this. Once the public believes that its government is unwilling or unable to protect them from an existential threat, all bets are off. Then they kill the lawyers. Of course the government knows this and will clamp down hard on civil liberties. Watch how fast all these legalism disappear. People should think about the ultimate threat to civil liberties when they say "never ever use torture no matter what."
4.26.2009 7:21pm
Tugh (mail):
Michelle Dulak Thompson,

Of course, there is gray line between the acceptable, although not pleasant methods, and torture. However, it is not my job to determine where exactly this line is; our courts are plenty capable of doing so.

If your point is that the line is so grey that it was not clear whether the methods used on the CIA prisoners qualified as torture, I disagree. Some of the techniques were torture under any reasonable definition, such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Sleep deprivation in particular was perfected in Gulag, and was very well described by Solzhenitsyn.

As became known, the agency that administers SERE advised in 2002 that the planned techniques were torture.

So, yes, the line is not bright, and Congress should perhaps specifically and explicitly outlaw some of the techniques; but it is unfair to pretend that noone understood that some of these techniques were, in fact, torture.
4.26.2009 7:27pm
AntonK (mail):
"Ted Olson: “Torture” probes will never end"

Excerpt:
If there is a 9/11-style commission, prospective members will have to be found, appointed, vetted, cleared of conflicts of interest, given security clearances -- and that's just for the eminences on the panel. Full-time staff will have to be recruited, and they will go through the same sort of scouring. Then commission will have to find office space and a SCIF. (For those unfamiliar with Washington security culture, that's a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility -- a totally sealed room for the handling of the most highly classified information.) There will be hearings, and subpoenas, and witnesses, and draft reports and final reports.

"And then," Olson added, "if they do that, many people are going to say you can't stop with John Yoo or Alberto Gonzales. You're going to have to investigate every member of Congress who was briefed on this, what their notes were, what records they kept, who they talked to. You're going to have to investigate leaks that implicate the press, who told what to whom. There's no foreseeable limit to how far they're going to have to go."

And that's before we get to potential prosecutions, separate investigations by various congressional committees, lawsuits in civil courts, bar association probes, and possible legal tribunals around the world.

And then -- well, why stop at the memos? "If it's prosecutable because we waterboarded somebody or deprived him of sleep, what about sending a drone to blow him up without a trial or a hearing?" Olson asked. "What if the person we blew up was carrying a three-year old child? We know things like that have happened. We know innocent people have been killed. We know this administration has done it. Are they going to be prosecuted for that?"

And finally, when everyone is finished investigating, what's to stop the next president from holding Obama administration officials "accountable" for some "controversial" action?

It might sound extreme, but the investigation machine has revved out of control before. And it will happen this time -- unless the president puts a stop to it. Olson told me he hopes there will be no replay of past probes, and then added: "But I'm too cynical to think it can be avoided."

4.26.2009 7:29pm
PC:
"But I'm too cynical to think it can be avoided."

Actually Mr. Olson, an investigation could have been easily avoided. If we didn't torture anyone there would be no need to investigate. It amazes me that a former solicitor general has so little respect for the rule of law.

Wait a second. Ted Olson? Do you mean the same Ted Olson that ran the Clinton witch hunt? The same Ted Olson that was involved in the Arkansas Project?

El. Oh. El.

No wonder Ted Olson doesn't want an investigation. He's afraid that whoever runs the investigation would turn it into as much of partisan circus as he would!
4.26.2009 7:43pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Tugh,

If your point is that the line is so grey that it was not clear whether the methods used on the CIA prisoners qualified as torture, I disagree. Some of the techniques were torture under any reasonable definition, such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding. Sleep deprivation in particular was perfected in Gulag, and was very well described by Solzhenitsyn.

But I'm not asking whether some of these techniques were torture; I'm asking whether anyone could take the list of techniques in those memos and reliably check off which were torture and which weren't, such that any reasonable citizen would give the same answers. I doubt it very much.

At one end you have waterboarding, which I at least am quite prepared to call torture. At the other end, in the same memos, you have grabbing a prisoner's jaw and "getting into his face," which I doubt anyone is prepared to call torture. In the middle are a host of things that are unpleasant and abusive to some degree, and the question s whether you call the degree "torture."

But if there is a "question," can there be some sort of uncrossable line? This of all lines ought to be clear and bright, because you make it the difference between bad judgment and an appalling crime. But you won't tell me where it is; and I rather suspect that if you explained where you thought it lay, you'd get a lot of argument from others who'd prefer to put it somewhere else.
4.26.2009 7:46pm
Oren:




Let's also take note that the Soviet Union manufactured weaponized anthrax by the ton at their plant in Sverdlovsk.





And gave it out as party favors at their big dissolving-the-Empire bash!




Your point? The Soviets engaged in every manner of torture and war crimes, and engaged in prohibited biological weapons production at a huge scale.

My point was that half-literate religious wackos don't usually have genetics labs and legions of scientists like the Soviets did. Hence my skepticism about the relevance of a weaponised anthrax attack to a thread about AQ.

There is no evidence that any terrorist has now or has ever had in his possession any anthrax, weaponized or otherwise.
4.26.2009 7:47pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?"

"This. Subsection "c" in particular."


That law was passed in 2007. How would it apply to events in 2004-2005? How would John Yoo be part of a "conspiracy" if all he did was write a legal opinion? He was not in the chain of command. I should think it extremely difficult to get Yoo convicted, and if you did what lawyer is then ever going to work for government?

Besides this witch hunt really seeks to divert the public's attention from the financial crisis. It's Bush, Paulson, Bernake, Obama and Geithner that might one day face criminal charges.
4.26.2009 7:52pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Oren,

There is no evidence that any terrorist has now or has ever had in his possession any anthrax, weaponized or otherwise.

You mean, apart from the guy or gal who mailed all those little anthrax gift packages several years ago? I'm not sure what your out is — wasn't that person a "terrorist" who [ever] "had" anthrax "in his [or her] possession"? Or is it that a nameless someone who mails lethal envelopes to various people doesn't count as a "terrorist" because s/he hasn't issued a manifesto?
4.26.2009 7:55pm
davod (mail):
Mahan Atma: Where did you get your list of Enhanced Interrogation methods from?

"When you chain someone from above by their wrists into a standing position for weeks at a time, eventually their legs give out, causing the shackles to cut into their flesh. Also, this causes severe swelling/edema of the legs."

The ICRC report contains what the interrogated people say was done to them.

Show me where the US documentation about Enhanced Interrogations shows this.
4.26.2009 7:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Oren:

"My point was that half-literate religious wackos don't usually have genetics labs and legions of scientists like the Soviets did."


Anthrax has nothing to do with having a genetics lab, weaponization is basically a chemical/mechanical problem. Without the proper treatment anthrax clumps and won't disperse. Once you solve that problem, you have a weapon.

Many of the terrorists do have degrees in engineering and other technical subjects including computer science, and they have the money to buy expertise.
4.26.2009 7:59pm
Bad (mail) (www):
Even if you're okay with torture for the purposes of a ticking time bomb... are you ok with torture for the purposes of an administration trying to find information to justify its policies, demanding a specific result from the interrogations, torturing even more when they don't get it, and ultimately not finding anything?

Because it's pretty clear at this point that we performed the latter kind of torture as well as the former.

And we also tortured people that we ourselves later found were innocent: people who were in our custody primarily on the basis of a couple of local warlords in Afghanistan selling them to us for a bounty.

So even if you're okay with judicious use of torture in extreme circumstances, is THAT really the sort of process under which you think it should occur?

Personally, I'm still not sure exactly where the law should be on this. But I'm pretty sure the "the American people have no right to know what violations of human rights treaties being done in their names" attitude is pretty despicable.

And the noodling about what is or isn't torture is sort of pathetic. If it causes intense pain, especially when deliberately extended over a prolonged period, it's torture. Stress positions maintained for days on end are as excruciating as anything. And I find it extremely disturbing that the apparent appeal of these techniques is that they don't sound "so bad" to a layperson and don't leave easily identifiable physical wounds. If we're going to torture people we should at least have the balls not to hide behind these sorts of evasions.
4.26.2009 7:59pm
PC:
That law was passed in 2007.

Er, what? Someone feel free to correct me, but I thought the federal torture statute was passed in 1994.
4.26.2009 8:01pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
PC:

"Er, what? Someone feel free to correct me, but I thought the federal torture statute was passed in 1994."


At your link it says:
Title 18 of the US Code as currently published by the US Government reflects the laws passed by Congress as of Jan. 3, 2007, and it is this version that is published here.
Now it could be that a prior law about torture does apply, and you should supply that.
4.26.2009 8:07pm
gerbilsbite:
The legislative history on the link provided indicated initial passage in 2007. If it supplanted an earlier version, that's not indicated on the site. Someone could research that, but I shouldn't even be here with an exam <2 days away.
4.26.2009 8:10pm
PC:
Here's the official text with amendment history. Conspiracy to torture became a federal crime thanks to the PATRIOT Act.
4.26.2009 8:11pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Bad,

And the noodling about what is or isn't torture is sort of pathetic. If it causes intense pain, especially when deliberately extended over a prolonged period, it's torture. Stress positions maintained for days on end are as excruciating as anything.

I agree with you there; what you're describing I would unhesitatingly call torture. But we have to "noodle" about "what is or isn't torture," because no one, even people who think we must entirely abjure torture or anything that even looks comparable to torture, really thinks that we have to put prisoners under interrogation in entirely comfortable circumstances.

There are uncomfortable circumstances for prisoners that don't amount to torture. We need to sort out which are which, and also to sort out whether the people applying them understood which was which.
4.26.2009 8:17pm
Bonze Saunders (mail):

Oren:

My point was that half-literate religious wackos don't usually have genetics labs and legions of scientists like the Soviets did. Hence my skepticism about the relevance of a weaponised anthrax attack to a thread about AQ.

There is no evidence that any terrorist has now or has ever had in his possession any anthrax, weaponized or otherwise.




The Aum Shinrikyo cult assiduously acquired a whole range of bioweaponry, including anthrax: from Emerging Infectious Diseases: Aum Shinrikyo: Once and Future Threat?.

They never developed weaponized anthrax, but were pursuing sarin production on an industrial scale. Note that it's trivially easy to acquire anthrax, while weaponizing it is tricky; but if you can do it, you have a biological weapon which 1) won't spread out of control beyond your target population, since it's not virulent, and 2) imposes catastrophic economic impacts because the spores are hardy and decontamination is difficult.
4.26.2009 8:22pm
Bad (mail) (www):
I agree. We can and should debate and formulate some sort of policy on the border cases. But the existence of gray areas don't prevent it from being perfectly obvious in the cases where we're solidly over in the black or in the white.

And personally, if the United States is going to torture on occasion, I think that something we should undertake only after some serious public airing and discussion, not anything close to the slapdash and nutty process that actually occurred... and especially note while the President of the United States was telling his 300million bosses that he wasn't doing what he was, in fact, doing.
4.26.2009 8:26pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Bonze Saunders,

And I repeat to Oren that I can't imagine what our own domestic anthrax mailer was doing, if it wasn't "terrorism"; so we not only know that "terrorists" had anthrax, but that at least one has used it.
4.26.2009 8:27pm
dmv (mail):

Those who post on these threads have a failure of vision about the threats we really face. The probabilities of catastrophic attacks are rising, and the consequences would be dramatic.


We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
4.26.2009 8:31pm
MarkField (mail):

But that's just the problem. What we need to know is where the dividing line lies between "uncomfortable" and "torture"; it's not helpful to prohibit "torture" when we don't have a clear definition of the word.


This is a hopeless endeavor; it's just a dodge to avoid banning torture. Suppose we outlaw "sleep deprivation". Nobody thinks that depriving someone of sleep for 10 minutes is torture. In contrast, depriving someone of sleep for 10 days certainly would be. But what if sleep deprivation were combined with other "techniques"?

The problem is, it's pointless to identify a "technique" as torture and ban it. All we can really do is ask "was this person tortured, taking into account all that was done to him?". And that's what the torture statute does. It lets judge and jury find if the key elements have been proved. Just like every other criminal statute (think "malice aforethought").
4.26.2009 8:33pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
Vmark1- DBAFI. That's really all I have to say about your "arguments".
4.26.2009 8:35pm
MarkField (mail):

And personally, if the United States is going to torture on occasion, I think that something we should undertake only after some serious public airing and discussion, not anything close to the slapdash and nutty process that actually occurred... and especially note while the President of the United States was telling his 300million bosses that he wasn't doing what he was, in fact, doing.


It's fascinating that we hear on the one hand that America doesn't torture, and on the other that torture is essential for our survival.


We have nothing to fear but fear itself.


The Depends crowd must post from under their beds. Patrick Henry must be so ashamed.
4.26.2009 8:36pm
John Moore (www):

In addition, what has not been sufficiently addressed is that according to at least some information, torture (pardon, Gulag-like enhanced interrogation techniques) was used to extract false information to confirm Iraq-Al Qaeda links. If this information is correct, then the moral depravity of the people who authorized this knows no bounds. Perhaps, this is one of the main reasons why they so resist an impartial investigation.

Agreed. I seriously doubt it was true. The idea that the Bush administration went into Iraq just because they wanted to is nonsense.

Zarqawi, infamous deceased leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was in Northern Iraq with the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group before the invasion. He made trips into Baghdad and was not interfered with by Saddam's secret police. There are other ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, for those who care to look.

But the Iraq was was about a set of dangers presented by the Saddam regime, where an Al Qaeda link was hardly critical.

So good luc proving that absurd conspiracy theory.
4.26.2009 8:39pm
John Moore (www):

At one end you have waterboarding disemboweling the detainees relatives in front of him, which I at least am quite prepared to call torture. At the other end, in the same memos, you have grabbing a prisoner's jaw and "getting into his face," which I doubt anyone is prepared to call torture. In the middle are a host of things that are unpleasant and abusive to some degree, and the question s whether you call the degree "torture."


Fixed, to put this into some resaonable perspective.
4.26.2009 8:40pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Bad,

I agree. We can and should debate and formulate some sort of policy on the border cases. But the existence of gray areas don't prevent it from being perfectly obvious in the cases where we're solidly over in the black or in the white.

I disagree. We've spent the last couple weeks talking about the "torture memos," but how many of the "enhanced techniques" are you prepared to call torture? How many would you be certain your neighbor would also call torture? Shall we color-code the ten "techniques"? Which are you going to color "black," and are you sure others will overwhelmingly agree with you? Which would your next-door neighbor call "white," and can you be at all sure that you would agree with her?

If anything is clear from this mess, it's that it's all "border cases." Some people flatly deny that waterboarding is torture; some people flatly deny that sleep deprivation is torture. I think they do so because they are thinking of other modes of torture, the kinds that produce permanent physical damage. I don't think of physical damage as the sine qua non of torture, but then I've never been tortured.

Nothing is solidly in the black or the white. I seem to remember Andrew Sullivan arguing a week or so ago that anything was torture that caused someone to give up information that s/he was determined to conceal — which would mean that anything that produced actionable intelligence would be torture by definition. Bummer.
4.26.2009 8:40pm
PC:
The idea that the Bush administration went into Iraq just because they wanted to is nonsense.

Heh.
4.26.2009 8:42pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
John Moore,

Are you alleging that we did this (disembowled a detainee's relative in front of him), or that someone else did this? Cite?
4.26.2009 8:45pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
John Moore,

Never mind; I get your drift. Only I still would like a cite.
4.26.2009 8:48pm
John Moore (www):
Oren:

My point was that half-literate religious wackos don't usually have genetics labs and legions of scientists like the Soviets did. Hence my skepticism about the relevance of a weaponised anthrax attack to a thread about AQ.


You betray a sad, and critical ignorance of Al Qaeda. it's widely acknowledged that a significant number of the group's top leadership had engineering backgrounds. Further, the terrorist organization works to attract engineers to its ranks.

Zawahiri is an MD.

The Al Qaeda biowar specialist had a US PhD from MIT in neuroscience.

My daughter studied neuroscience at Johns Hopkins and has worked with bioengineering of micro-organisms - it was part of the undergraduate training - well within the reach of a PhD biologist.

There are essentially four steps to producing weaponized Anthrax:

1) Get an Anthrax strain - easy to do in the middle east as it is endemic, with reports on the Pro-Med mailing list once a month or more.

2) Provide antibiotic resistance (not done in the US attack). This can be done either with simple genetic engineering, or by using directed evolutionary techniques where the B. Anthracis is grown in medium with antibiotic gradients in it, and perhaps exposed to UV to enhance mutation. Adding in genetic material from other pathogens with resistance (such as common staph) can quicken this process without using formal genetic engineering techniques.

3) Solve the clumping problem to greatly increase the infectivity. This was done in the US attack, was done by Saddam, and is by now probably not a well kept secret - especially for terrorists with money and thousands of poorly paid Russian scientists running around.

4) Grow a bunch of it. Saddam had a plant for this in 2003, used to grow B. Thuringiensis, a very close relative of Anthrax commonly used as a bio-insecticide (check out the anti-mosquito tablets at your local hardware store). In any case, it isn't hard to do.

Or, there's another approach: bribe someone - which was one of the fears about Iraq.

But Anthrax is only one possible terror weapon. Others are easier to weaponize, even if they are harder to contain once loosed.
4.26.2009 8:58pm
PC:
Fixed, to put this into some resaonable perspective.

The water cure was the usually the first step of an interrogation during the Spanish Inquisition. Inquisitors were to remain "cautious, circumspect, and charitable." A doctor was always present. Torquemada even set reasonable limits on the water cure: no more than eight liters of water could be used in a given session.
4.26.2009 9:03pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I think our country's enemies are, in public, howling with outrage at the "torture" that was committed by the US forces. In private, they are laughing their bottoms off thinking, "Americans must be wimps if they think THAT is torture!"
4.26.2009 9:20pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
The same Ted Olson whose wife was murdered by the savages you want to aid.
4.26.2009 9:29pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
PC,

I realize that Torquemada was the agent of what is now a EU state, but I boggle at the idea tht he specified water-torture materials in liters.
4.26.2009 9:33pm
Xenocles (www):
I'm way late to the game here, but I'm starting to formulate my own dividing line for "torture."

I would say that if a person is in your custody without the possibility of escape or directly harming you or your agents, you are obligated to (for lack of a better phrase) leave him unmolested. Asking questions is not molestation, but slapping, pushing into a wall, etc, are. These actions may not meet the threshold of torture, but are certainly mistreatment.

In this country we can't even threaten a suspect with punishment if he doesn't give up information against himself. Why on earth do some of us think it's legal to drown someone until he does?

For full disclosure, yes, I probably would torture a person horribly if I thought it would save the life of my child. That's because the threat to my child would trigger so strong an emotional response as to unhinge my rational faculties; it would make me insane. Do we want insane people holding life-or-death power? Looking at the hypothetical from the rational third person, I would expect that person to be prosecuted and I would probably counsel that person to use an insanity defense. Understandable? Yes. Illegal? Also yes.

I also agree that should a catastrophic attack happen it will probably be the end of the republic as we know it. The ensuing fear would be so easy to exploit that the government wouldn't even be necessarily intending to do it. The result would be a system where anything is tolerated in the name of public safety. Thanks (IMO) to the collectivist bent of our public schools for the past 40-60 years, we're well on our way. The public will offer up their rights at the altar of security without even forgetting that those rights are what made this country in the first place.

Totalitarianism will not come to this country in a gaudy uniform stomping on the people. It will arrive with a smiling neighborly type with the best of intentions. We will lose just as much liberty, though...
4.26.2009 9:35pm
John Moore (www):

For full disclosure, yes, I probably would torture a person horribly if I thought it would save the life of my child. That's because the threat to my child would trigger so strong an emotional response as to unhinge my rational faculties; it would make me insane.

That is not irrational. You would torture the person because it offered a chance to save your child.
4.26.2009 9:43pm
Anderson (mail):
The same Ted Olson whose wife was murdered by the savages you want to aid.

Cf.:

Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

Bob's contempt for the comment policy is conspicuous.
4.26.2009 9:45pm
PC:
Bob from Ohio,

This isn't about them, it's about us. I can sympathize with Mr. Olson's desire to torture the bastards that killed his wife, but torture remains illegal.

Michelle Dulak Thomson,

I'm assuming it was a unit translation from a gill, or whatever unit of measurement was used at the time. Here's the source.
4.26.2009 9:46pm
Xenocles (www):
"That is not irrational. You would torture the person because it offered a chance to save your child."

Pragmatically, it's perfectly rational. I'm not a pragmatist.

It's wrong to torture no matter the goal. I would do it given a personal enough goal. That doesn't make it right, it just shows that I'm subject to emotional overrides of my logical faculty. (IOW, I'm human.)
4.26.2009 9:56pm
PC:
(or the Jordanians, who are reputedly the best at extracting information from terrorists)

I failed to address this earlier, but I think it's instructive to look at what the State Department has to say about Jordan and torture:

The most frequently alleged methods of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions, and extended solitary confinement.


Do any of those methods look familiar? Later reports also refer to forced standing. It's torture when Jordan does it, but it's not torture when we do it.
4.26.2009 9:59pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
PC,

Sorry, that was a lame attempt at humor.

That description sounds so close to "waterboarding" that I'm disposed to be a little skeptical. I doubt that many topics have been researched as closely as the tortures of the Inquisition, so it ought not to be difficult to check.

For what it's worth, there's an Arthur Conan Doyle story involving "The Extraordinary Question," aka "The Torture of the Water," in which the one tortured is strapped to a "horse" (of the kind gymansts vault over) and made to take in water through a large funnel. This is meant to represent a torture of the Inquisition, and there's no doubt in the story that it is torture, though it's made clear afterwards that the woman tortured in the story was the cold-blooded poisoner of many people.
4.26.2009 10:10pm
Dave N (mail):
PC,

Aren't you being a tad disingenuous? Anton K quotes what Ted Olsen said on the substance and YOU engaged in an ad hominem attack on Ted Olsen without addressing the merits of Olsen's comments.
4.26.2009 10:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
How do you prove a plot was thwarted?
In honest argument, it's not always easy.
In dishonest argument, the counterfactuals fly, the alternatives grow exponentially, and Occam's razor is pitched out the window.
It matters not what plot, no matter how horrible, no matter how iron-clad the links from "torture" to thwarting, if it happened on Bush's watch, the usual suspects will never admit they were wrong, at least once.
So we went from "torture never works" to "even if it works, it's wrong". There's no obstacle for those who lied the first time and forgot to say, "oops" going into "even if...", to keep them from simply denying that it worked in the instant case.
Now, if it happened on O's watch, it would be indication of a man who has the strength to make the hard decisions.
4.26.2009 10:15pm
Porkchop:
Just a question: If it is not torture, does that mean it is okay if the Taliban or Al Quaeda do it to our people?
4.26.2009 10:18pm
John Moore (www):

Just a question: If it is not torture, does that mean it is okay if the Taliban or Al Quaeda do it to our people?

Not exactly relevant, since they would actually torture our people, sawing off their heads if past behavior is any guide.

Second, why do you assume reciprocity. It is not OK for the Taliban or Al Qaeda to do ANYTHING to our people, since our people are innocent, while they are monsters.

Get it?
4.26.2009 10:23pm
PC:
Michelle Dulak Thomson,

The article I linked to explains the way the Spanish Inquistion supposedly did the water cure. In 1926 the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the water cure was torture. Although it may not be the exact technique we used, the intent was the same: make the victim feel like he was drowning.

Dave N,

I engaged on the substance first. No torture = no investigation. Then I went into ad hominem because Ted Olson is a hyper-partisan. If someone is going to quote Mr. Olson about out of control investigations it's disingenuous to skip over that whole Clinton thing.

Next Byron York will be quoting Ken Starr about partisan witch hunts and the abuses of independent counsels.
4.26.2009 10:24pm
Tugh (mail):
What torture apologists don't discuss is why professional FBI investigators and many CIA interrogators were against these Gulag-like techniques. They understood that a) using these techniques amounts to torture, b) torture is illegal no matter what a dishonest results-oriented opinion from the OLC says, and c) torture is either ineffective or as effective as legal techniques. Nevertheless, there was a push from the very top, probably primarily from Tenet and Cheney to use these techniques. It's repulsing. Of course, we should investigate to see what really happened and the guilty should stand trials. This is not vengeance, this is simple justice.
4.26.2009 10:37pm
Xenocles (www):
"Second, why do you assume reciprocity. It is not OK for the Taliban or Al Qaeda to do ANYTHING to our people, since our people are innocent, while they are monsters."

Not really. We're at war with them, so our people are their "enemy combatants."

It is true that since we're a civilized country, we are supposed to fight our wars according to a set of limiting rules. Stipulating that AQ is an extremely brutal enemy, not civilized in the least, "It's only okay when we're doing it" is not a valid response. If you're going to defend our use of certain torture techniques to unearth enemy plots, you are obliged to accept the use of those same techniques on their part to gather intelligence from our people. The fact that they go much farther than we do is not a justification for our techniques. If you are less wrong, you are still wrong. Got it?
4.26.2009 10:40pm
John Moore (www):

Not really. We're at war with them, so our people are their "enemy combatants."

No, our people would be POWs, since the wear uniforms and adhere to Geneva Convention.


It is true that since we're a civilized country, we are supposed to fight our wars according to a set of limiting rules. Stipulating that AQ is an extremely brutal enemy, not civilized in the least, "It's only okay when we're doing it" is not a valid response. If you're going to defend our use of certain torture techniques to unearth enemy plots, you are obliged to accept the use of those same techniques on their part to gather intelligence from our people.

Unless we win, in which case we can prosecute and execute them, wihch apparently is far less objectionable to the moralist crowd here than merely waterboarding them.

War isn't pretty. Neither is nonsensical moral equivalence.

So why don't you explain why, when we have prisoners we are legally authorized to execute, that we merely waterboard them, and once we get the information from them, treat them very humanely by anyone's standards?
4.26.2009 10:47pm
PC:
So why don't you explain why, when we have prisoners we are legally authorized to execute, that we merely waterboard them, and once we get the information from them, treat them very humanely by anyone's standards?

Because we have enacted a number of treaties and passed a federal law banning torture.
4.26.2009 10:52pm
PC:
s/enacted/entered into/
4.26.2009 10:52pm
Tugh (mail):
John Moore said:

So why don't you explain why, when we have prisoners we are legally authorized to execute, that we merely waterboard them, and once we get the information from them, treat them very humanely by anyone's standards?


Your question relies on the false premise. We are not legally authorized to execute prisoners without some due process. This is what the Supreme Court held, outlawing the military commissions in Guantanamo. The US cannot simply execute prisoners just because it wants to.

And your statement that we treat them humanely once we get the information would make Stalin proud. In Gulag, many prisoners were let go after they signed false confessions implicating others in made-up crimes.
4.26.2009 10:55pm
Xenocles (www):
"No, our people would be POWs, since the wear uniforms and adhere to Geneva Convention."

I find it interesting that you would expect a non-signatory organization to still uphold the GC while dismissing our obligation to obey our own laws and the the treaties we have signed categorically prohibiting torture.

"Unless we win, in which case we can prosecute and execute them, wihch apparently is far less objectionable to the moralist crowd here than merely waterboarding them. "

I'm okay with executing these guys if we can make a case for it via legal channels. Summary executions aren't okay. Neither is prohibited action short of execution.

"War isn't pretty. Neither is nonsensical moral equivalence."

True, but then again I'm not the one trying to make us more like (note: NOT exactly like) them. Being better than our enemy may cost us, but I happen to think being civilized is worth it.
4.26.2009 11:06pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
zarkov:

I have not read the recently released memos, and I should. If they don't contain any useful details about the process that an adversary could exploit, then I agree with you.


Fair enough. Assuming we don't intend to torture again, the "useful details" should be minimal. Also, there are plenty of prisoners who learned a bunch of things about our methods while being held by us. I don't think we ever got them to promise that they would go out of their way to protect our secrets. Another reason not to make a big fuss about the details in the memos supposedly helping our enemies.

suppose we capture a general who we know has valuable and time critical information. If we can break him with torture then we save many American lives. What would you do?


Torture him, but only if I'm convinced that I can convince a jury that the facts are exactly as you say, and that there was no other choice. And then I should be required to face that jury. And go to jail if I'm wrong.

Now you are on the jury. Do you vote to convict?


Maybe, maybe not. It depends. Likewise if I were a juror at the Cheney/Yoo/Bybee/Bradbury trial.

Of course there be an investigation. There's an investigation everytime a policeman fires his gun.


Then there should be a very thorough investigation of our torture policy and practices. I can't tell if you agree. Do you?

You don't even know about the successful cases [of torture]. … Torture is not extraordinary. It's been used for thousands of years by everyone. It's quite ordinary.


Then you should tell us about the successful cases. History indicates that torture is generally not effective.

It's popular not because it's generally good at getting information (compared with other methods of interrogation). It's popular because there are powerful human motivations to torture: intimidation, revenge, punishment, and false confessions that have political utility.

And if it is ever really the case that an instance of torture leads to saving lives (something that has still not been demonstrated), even that wouldn't tell us that torture is good policy. It is also theoretically possible that someday I will consult a Ouija board and come up with information that thwarts a plot and saves lives. That doesn't mean we should treat a Ouija board as a valid tool in our counterterrorism arsenal.

So "successful cases" of torture are not proof that torture is good policy. And of course this is apart from the moral and legal issues.

I am simply against dogmatic positions that say we can never ever torture anyone.


I think most torture critics aren't saying "we can never ever torture anyone." They're saying only do it if you're prepared to face the music.

That law was passed in 2007. How would it apply to events in 2004-2005?


USC 2340, the federal anti-torture statute, was enacted on 4/30/94. And as PC pointed out, it was amended by the 2001 Patriot Act. The conspiracy clause was added at that time.

At your link it says:

Title 18 of the US Code as currently published by the US Government reflects the laws passed by Congress as of Jan. 3, 2007, and it is this version that is published here.


Now it could be that a prior law about torture does apply, and you should supply that.


That date (2007) is a revision date with regard to Title 18 as a whole. It has nothing to do with 2340, the Torture Act. There is no need to refer to "a prior law about torture." The key law in this discussion is USC 2340.

How would John Yoo be part of a "conspiracy" if all he did was write a legal opinion? He was not in the chain of command.


That argument didn't fly for these guys.

I should think it extremely difficult to get Yoo convicted, and if you did what lawyer is then ever going to work for government?


Lawyers who think they can manage to do their job without enabling war crimes.

How about an anthrax attack on airports?


You need to enlarge your thinking. Be strategic. In the long run, the best defense against terrorism is to drive a wedge between radicals and moderates, in their own communities. Because terrorists depend on support from a larger community. Trouble is, our policies have been having the opposite effect, because those policies are exceptionally dumb.

If the US suffers a major attack with millions (not thousands) of deaths, and the US governments appears to care more about legalisms than protecting the country, it could fall.


We can have the rule of law (what you derisively call "legalisms"), or the rule of men. Choose one. If we choose the latter, the US is hardly worth defending. Live free or die. I have no patience for cowardly bedwetters who hate democracy.
4.26.2009 11:11pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
gerbilsbite:

The legislative history on the link provided indicated initial passage in 2007.


Wrong. USC 2340, the federal anti-torture statute, was enacted on 4/30/94.

================
hazel:

End of story then. After all the pomp and self-righteousness, you would have no problem torturing people.


It's not that I would have "no problem." It's that I would do it reluctantly, and with the knowledge that I was heading for a courtroom and possibly a jail.

================
owen:

It seems pretty clear that a good deal of the mistreatment and torture some detainees were subjected to was trying to discover evidence of collusion between al Qaide and Saddam, which did not exist.


Correct. In the instance of al-Libi (link, link), the torture stopped when he gave us the false confessions we were looking for. And then Bush used those false confessions to help sell the war. So, as always in history, one of the key reasons for torture is to produce false confessions that have political utility.

================
tugh:

according to at least some information, torture (pardon, Gulag-like enhanced interrogation techniques) was used to extract false information to confirm Iraq-Al Qaeda links. If this information is correct, then the moral depravity of the people who authorized this knows no bounds.


There is no longer any doubt about this. Exhibit A: al-Libi.

Congress should perhaps specifically and explicitly outlaw some of the techniques


Not really a good idea. It is for good reason that most laws don't try to list all the possible ways to violate the law. Does a murder law list all the ways you can kill someone? Of course not. Because when a law goes in that direction, it opens the door for a clever criminal to invent a new method. And then they get to say this: 'I figured it must be legal because it's not listed in the law.'

MarkField also explained this better than I could.

================
bad:

are you ok with torture for the purposes of an administration trying to find information to justify its policies, demanding a specific result from the interrogations


Exactly what we did with al-Libi. And probably with others too, but in his case the proof is especially clear.

and especially note while the President of the United States was telling his 300million bosses that he wasn't doing what he was, in fact, doing


Indeed. Bush told us repeatedly "the United States does not torture." Those statements are documented here.

================
pathogen:

If the CIA or the DOD had some level of success through torture, we would be hearing real world examples


I don't know why you would suggest that an example which embodies time travel is not "real world." As PC pointed out, LA owes its survival to the time cops.

torture is a tool used to extract false confessions


What we did to al-Libi is a perfect example.

Surely several of these "terrorists" admitted to crimes they had no idea of


That's exactly what al-Libi did. It's almost comical. From a Senate report:

According to al-Libi, he continued "to be unable to come up with a lie about biological weapons" because he did not understand the term "biological weapons."
4.26.2009 11:12pm
John Moore (www):

Your question relies on the false premise. We are not legally authorized to execute prisoners without some due process. This is what the Supreme Court held, outlawing the military commissions in Guantanamo. The US cannot simply execute prisoners just because it wants to.

We are, in the field. And the due process (at least in WW-II) was military tribunals with no civilian jurisdiction.


And your statement that we treat them humanely once we get the information would make Stalin proud. In Gulag, many prisoners were let go after they signed false confessions implicating others in made-up crimes.

A silly and unnecessarily inflamatory comment.

Do you really believe that what we are doing is equivalent to what Stalin did. Are you familiar with the Russian phrase "he got his nine ounces?"
4.26.2009 11:12pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
oren:

You mean to serious propose that protecting individual rights and national security are totally orthogonal?


Straw man alert. There is a zone of reality that falls somewhere between "totally orthogonal" and 'zero-sum game.' I think the complaint about the poll question is that it assumes the latter.

================
ben:

But the negative consequences of pressing ahead with this are big enough that we're probably just changing our practices so this doesn't happen again and going ahead.


But by not "pressing ahead" we are virtually guaranteeing that this will indeed happen again. When laws are not enforced, they tend to be ignored.

No matter what evidence comes out, how many people are going to insist that the *only* rationale for prosecutions is "political hatred" and that it's all a sham to cover up [x, y, z, Fluoride in the water], and then of course, when Republicans are next in power be screaming and shouting at the top of their lungs for them to return the favor and prosecute Obama for *something.* That's exactly why going ahead with the prosecutions would be a bad idea, and why it won't happen.


Do you remember a big fuss over a blowjob? "When Republicans are next in power" they are going to try to "prosecute Obama for *something*" no matter what. Even if Obama turns his back on the torture issue. So this is a poor reason for Obama to turn his back on the torture issue.

================
vmark:

Our own Predator drones


A major problem with your Predator tantrum is that Bush did the same thing (at the very least). And, at the time, we didn't hear a peep from anyone in the GOP. So your partisan opportunism is screamingly transparent. On the other hand, please let us know when you can demonstrate that Clinton waterboarded someone 183 times. Also, show us which Democrats defended him while he was doing that. Then I will agree with you that those Democrats have lost their right to complain about Bush's torture policy. Trouble is, it's a group with this many members: zero.

And let me preempt your followup regarding Pelosi by saying that I think she should hang too, if that's where the facts lead.

And let me preempt your followup regarding Clinton and rendition by pointing out that rendition goes back to St. Ronnie. Not all forms of rendition are alike. Dubya took it to a new level.

This entire mess will cost people millions in lawyer fees, reputations, time they will never get back, and solve absolutely nothing.


I don't know why people keep bringing up Ken Starr.

She gave a pre-op med called versed … Did that constitute torture?


I wonder if you might consider reading the statute. Pay particular attention to what it says about "custody." Also "color of law." Also "outside the United States."

================
davod:

the memos were issued precisely because the US acceptance of the UN convention included the caveat that it applied to Serious and Life Threatening acts


Really? "The US acceptance of the UN convention" is here, and it contains no such "caveat." Why are you making shit up? And, more importantly, the federal anti-torture statute also contains no such "caveat."

I would suggest that is why the Enhanced Interrogation Memos are writtn the way they are.


I would suggest that you're making it really obvious that you don't expect to be taken seriously.

The most vocal here admit to not reading the memos, what about the US law the memos were based upon.


That's hysterically funny, since I just demonstrated that you haven't read the law. Or is it that you read the law, and are just being dishonest?

the ratbags must drag us down to below the level [of AQ]


The ones who are dragging us down to the level of AQ are the torture apologists who argue that our torture is OK as long as it's not as extreme as their torture. When you rely on that argument, you succeed only in demonstrating that your standards are too low. We need to measure ourselves against our own values, not against theirs. It's true that our behavior is different from their behavior. Just not different enough.

This is why Enhanced Interrogations are touted as torture far and wide.


If a future enemy waterboarded a US soldier 183 times, using the same procedure we did, would you refrain from accusing that enemy of torture? Would you accept their claim that they had used only "Enhanced Interrogations?"

================
bill:

If I learn of a plan to destroy _________ (insert your hometown, your neighborhood here), but do so by means that you have indicated that you would find objectionable, should I bother to let you know?


Yes. And if the means are not just "objectionable," but illegal, you should probably stand trial. And, as many have pointed out, no jury will convict, if the facts are as you say. And this is the proper answer to the tired old 'ticking time bomb' hypothetical.

================
tom:

If I heard that the United States government sanctioned flaying, scourging, disemboweling, racking, quartering, eye-gouging, emasculation, bone-breaking, denailing, kneecapping, raping, or tooth-extraction (sans anesthesia), I would be enraged regardless of the victim.


Really? Even in the instance of a ticking time bomb, where lives are in the balance? How many lives are you willing to sacrifice as a consequence of your squeamishness? In particular, sodomy and electric shock can be done in a manner that causes no permanent physical harm. Would you really rule them out? Just curious.

Only the weakest minds could actually equate waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other coerced interrogation methods used by the CIA with true physical torture


What do you think of the 'weak minds' who prosecuted Japanese for waterboarding, using a procedure essentially the same as ours? Why did those 'weak minds' accuse the Japanese of torture?

And if a future enemy waterboarded a US soldier 183 times, using the same procedure we did, would you refrain from accusing that enemy of torture?

And do you realize that the federal anti-torture does not limit itself to only "physical" torture? Why do you think that statute should be ignored? Why do you despise the rule of law? Why do you hate democracy?

================
geo:

I actually had a co-worker tell me years ago that if Gore hadn't had the election stolen from him, 9/11 would not even have happened.


Which is a perfectly rational belief. After reading the famous PDB, Gore would probably not have spent the following month clearing brush. Gore would probably not have spent his first 234 days in office telling us that we needed SDI to protect ourselves from terrorism. And Gore's SecDef would probably not have been arguing, on 9/9/01, that SDI was more important than counterterrorism.

So far I've seen here a listing of all the nasty things that the detainees or rendees have claimed.


Whatever you do, don't read the OLC torture memos. Because they are essentially a confession by the CIA of what the CIA actually did. Not just "things that the detainees or rendees have claimed." And here's an example that has nothing to do with waterboarding: let us know if you thnk it's torture to be forced to stand continuously for 180 hours. While being completely deprived of sleep. In shackles and a diaper. While on a starvation diet.

================
mac:

I believe that while listening into phone conversations the CIA was first alerted to something going on with the Brooklyn Bridge. … It was deemed that the plan was being put into action and was viable.


You "believe" all sorts of things that have only a tenuous connection with reality. You are doing something Bush did: try to convince us that his wiretapping was a success because it supposedly helped us catch Iyman Faris. A mentally ill person who thought he could disassemble the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. No, that (literally) crazy idea was never "viable."

If a non-life threatening assault is called murder, then what word do we use for, well, murder?


Please explain why it's called torture when the Japanese do it but not when we do it.
4.26.2009 11:12pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
anderson:

I haven't seen this answered fully: What would Justice Department officials actually be charged with if they were prosecuted?


Conspiracy to violate the Torture Act (linked above), at the very least.


Yes. And it's important to notice that events seem to have happened in the following sequence:

a) the CIA came up with a list of techniques it wanted to use

b) the CIA explained those techniques to Bybee

c) Bybee wrote a memo that seems to have been specifically tailored to condone the use of those techniques (and there is no sign that he said no to anything they requested)

d) the CIA IG found that the CIA was exceeding the limits expressed in the Bybee memo

e) Bradbury wrote some more memos that seem to have been specifically tailored to condone the use of those more extreme techniques

Looks like conspiracy to me.

================
michelle:

I do not think that any American should torture any prisoner unless whatever he's trying to avert seems larger and more important to him than his own death.


My view is pretty much identical to yours, except I think life in prison is sufficient punishment. And that should only happen if the torturer can't convince the jury that torture was absolutely necessary.

What we need to know is where the dividing line lies between "uncomfortable" and "torture"; it's not helpful to prohibit "torture" when we don't have a clear definition of the word.


There are many laws that don't draw a perfectly clear line. Too bad. That's life. That's how the world works. It's an unavoidable problem. Drawing the line in a perfectly clear manner is an impossible goal. And those lines are expressed not just in statutory language but also in case history.

If you think that you might be close to the line, that's a pretty strong indication that you're too close to the line. Anyone who wants to avoid criminal penalties needs to avoid criminal behavior, and that means staying a comfortable distance away from the line.

Our torturers went blasting across the line. And not just with waterboarding. Here's a very big clue: if we've called it torture when other countries did it, it's probably torture. And the memos acknowledged this (that we had called various techniques torture when other countries did it), and said we should do the stuff anyway.

I'm asking whether anyone could take the list of techniques in those memos and reliably check off which were torture and which weren't, such that any reasonable citizen would give the same answers.


That task is challenging, and it requires expertise, but it's quite feasible. It involves looking at legal precedents in a responsible, objective way. Exactly what OLC didn't do.

Some people flatly deny that waterboarding is torture; some people flatly deny that sleep deprivation is torture.


Those people are generally people who issue those denials only when we do those things. They will quickly forget those denials when someone else does it to us.

I can't imagine what our own domestic anthrax mailer was doing, if it wasn't "terrorism"


Obviously it wasn't terrorism, because for years Bush and Bush defenders have been bragging about how after 9/11 he made sure there was no more terrorism.
4.26.2009 11:13pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
moore:

If the government locks up for life Fred Smith, because a jury voted him guilty of murder, but really Fred Riley did it, would you be so bothered that you would prosecute the prosecutor (who acted in good faith)?


I would want to take a close look at that claim of "good faith." Because it's hard to picture how to make a mistake that big if there's really "good faith."

In both cases, the government is acting with intent to protect the citizenry, and made a mistake.


When there's a serious "mistake," there needs to be a serious penalty. Even if the "intent" was "to protect the citizenry." Because I'm not interested in letting my government get away with serious mistakes. You, on the other hand, have exceptionally low standards. Although I bet you were once very upset about a blowjob.

The Soviets engaged in every manner of torture and war crimes, and engaged in prohibited biological weapons production at a huge scale. I haven't heard a large outcry on the left suggestiing we should go after them. Hey, they only killed about 40,000,000 of their own folks.


I'm concerned about criminals everywhere, but I have a special duty to speak up when I notice criminals on my own payroll.

you will be unable to prove that nobody has ever succeeded in extracting useful information with the use of torture.


Of course there are instances of "extracting useful information with the use of torture." Your illogic is rampant. Every now and then, all of the following will give correct ("useful") information: a stopped clock, a pair of dice, a Ouija board, and torture. Relying on none of those things is good policy.

I seriously doubt it was true [that we tortured to get false confession regarding Saddam and AQ].


As usual, what you "seriously doubt" is a proven fact. Read about al-Libi.

Zarqawi, infamous deceased leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was in Northern Iraq with the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group before the invasion. He made trips into Baghdad and was not interfered with by Saddam's secret police. There are other ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, for those who care to look.


As usual, you're promoting talking points that went stale years ago. These claims were explicitly repudiated by the Senate Intelligence Committee (when it was still controlled by Republicans). They concluded this (pdf):

Conclusion 1: ... Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa’ida to provide material or operational support. ... Saddam distrusted Islamic radicals in general, and al-Qa’ida in particular. ... bin Ladin attempted to exploit the former Iraqi regime by making requests for operational and material assistance, while Saddam Hussein refused all such requests. ... Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa’ida.


And this:

In 2005, the CIA assessed that prior to the war, "the regime did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates." ... [p.92]

Conclusion 5: ... Postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi. [p. 109]


Please keep up.

But the Iraq was was about a set of dangers presented by the Saddam regime, where an Al Qaeda link was hardly critical.


More baloney. Look at the statements that were made to sell the war. We were constantly warned about Saddam giving WMD to terrorists. And the false confessions we tortured out of al-Libi played a key role in those claims.

Not exactly relevant


There you go again, ducking a question. What a surprise. Here, I'll give you another chance to duck it: If a future enemy waterboarded a US soldier 183 times, using the same procedure we did, would you refrain from accusing that enemy of torture?

Unless we win, in which case we can prosecute and execute them, wihch apparently is far less objectionable to the moralist crowd here than merely waterboarding them


Which has something to do with this little thing we quaintly call due process. Which is something you would value if you didn't hate democracy.

So why don't you explain why, when we have prisoners we are legally authorized to execute


We are not legally authorized to execute them without some form of a trial. And a trial is something Bush never wanted to give them.

we merely waterboard them, and once we get the information from them, treat them very humanely by anyone's standards


By "information," you mean false confessions. We stopped torturing al-Libi only after he gave us the false confessions we were looking for.

True religious fanatics might turn to something far more contagious and nearly as virulent


The fanatics who scare me most are not the ones who live in a cave on the other side of the world. They are the ones who live down the street. Like the one who "spent hours posting racist messages on an extremist right-wing Web site, decrying blacks and Latinos and warning of forthcoming economic collapse fueled by the 'Zionist occupation' of America."

Those who post on these threads have a failure of vision about the threats we really face.


I see that you are speaking about your own "failure of vision." And the irony is rich, especially when you post something that looks a lot like a threat from Poplawski:

I fear that the release of the torture memos, and other activities by the regime now in power, will lead to right wing anger almost as blind and irrational as the Bush Derangement Syndrome so strongly displayed by many even to this day. … The left often refers to a theory of a "cycle of violence." We are approaching that with this latest overtly political criminalization of policy disputes, and threatened persecution of officials of a former administration.


Isn't it funny that it's fine for you to talk darkly about "irrational … right wing anger," but DHS is condemned when they talk about the same thing.
4.26.2009 11:13pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
antonk:

the investigation machine has revved out of control before. And it will happen this time -- unless the president puts a stop to it.


English translation: 'The GOP, with my help, ran an investigation that turned into a circus. Therefore there should never be another investigation.'

As PC pointed out, the irony is stupendous.

================
pc:

Torquemada even set reasonable limits on the water cure: no more than eight liters of water could be used in a given session.


That's interesting. So we weren't quite as bad as him. 8 liters is 2.1 gallons. The CIA limit was 1.5. Hurrah for us! Not quite as wet as the Torque!

================
lucius:

I think our country's enemies are, in public, howling with outrage at the "torture" that was committed by the US forces. In private, they are laughing their bottoms off thinking, "Americans must be wimps if they think THAT is torture!"


I don't care if they think we're wimps, as long as they know we're wimps who respect the rule of law. They hate democracy. Why do you hate democracy?
4.26.2009 11:13pm
John Moore (www):

This is what the Supreme Court held, outlawing the military commissions in Guantanamo.

I know that lawyers worship SCOTUS, and it is a fact that currently they are the final deciders of legal matters (unless congress short sheets them).

However, many SCOTUS rulings are poorly reasoned, often based on non-constitutional grounds, and seem to be made for political reasons.

In other words, members of SCOTUS are human, not gods.
4.26.2009 11:14pm
Xenocles (www):
"We are, in the field."

We call that murder where I'm from.

"And the due process (at least in WW-II) was military tribunals with no civilian jurisdiction."

That's still due process. Those trials were also exceptionally fair given the exceptionally grievous crimes that went on. If you look into it you'll find that some people actually got off. I have a feeling that if you were to offer Nuremberg as the example for us to follow today you wouldn't get much objection here.
4.26.2009 11:19pm
loki13 (mail):
man, i love me some torture threads.

i'll have to get some more popcorn.

anyone convinced yet by the rational discourse between torture supporters and those upholding the rule of law?

didn't think so.
4.26.2009 11:30pm
Ricardo (mail):
This business about the torture statute (18 U.S.C 2340) being enacted only in 2007 is quite bizarre considering the fact that the now infamous OLC memos actually referred to in this post make repeated reference to the statute. And, of course, go to great pains to suggest that waterboarding among other things does not violate the statute.
4.26.2009 11:33pm
PC:
Here's an interesting article about the military interrogator that got the information about where Zarqawi was hiding. A few choice quotes, but I recommend reading the entire thing:

"The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology," says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq.

In his compelling book How to Break a Terrorist, Major Alexander explains that prisoners subjected to abuse usually clam up, say nothing, or provide misleading information.

Major Alexander says he faced the "ticking time bomb" every day in Iraq because "we held people who knew about future suicide bombings". Leaving aside the moral arguments, he says torture simply does not work. "It hardens their resolve. They shut up."

It is quite untrue to imagine that torture is the fastest way of obtaining information, he says.

He refused to take part in torture and abuse, and forbade the team he commanded to use such methods.

----

I'm sure some torture apologists can list their personal experiences that fly in the face of this guy's.

Oh, and Bob from Ohio, do you think Major Alexander wants to help the terrorists? He's dead set against torture so he must be a terrorist coddler, right?
4.26.2009 11:37pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Churchill sacrificed Coventry to protect Ultra.
That is, knowing a Luftwaffe raid was scheduled, deliberately did not reinforce either the RAF, the AAA units, nor the rescue organizations. A noticeable lean toward Coventry on the part of the Brits might have caused the Germans to wonder how they knew.
There could have been a hundred ways, but Ultra was too valuable to risk even that slight possibility.
So, how would you "prove" that Ultra saved enough lives to justify the extra deaths in Coventry--there would have been some in any event.
First, if you're a partisan, you exaggerate the extra deaths, since you can always claim the Luftwaffe would have turned back in the face of determined opposition, which happened more than once.
Then you think up other ways lives could have been saved, or were saved by other means even though Ultra was in use.
Then, you claim no "proof" is available, although the only proof which would be satisfactory--rerunning WW II without Ultra--would be too expensive.
IOW, the usual suspects, British edition, could claim that Coventry was sacrificed for nothing and nobody could prove otherwise.
Of course, it could be proven quite satisfactorily in ways we prove things outside the chem lab, but the usual suspects have only to deny believing it and on they go.
It only requires a motivation.
I think we'd call it CDS. Churchill Derangement Syndrome.
4.26.2009 11:46pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
jukeboxgrad:

The Nuremberg trials are a bad example as the trials themselves were simply a victor's revenge. Stalin liked show trials, and the US and UK accommodated him. The trials were also hypocritical considering that the Allies did many of the same things to German civilians after the war. Albert Speer was tried for using slave labor. But after the war the Allies used German POWs and even civilians as slave labor sending slaves to work in the France and the USSR. Von Braun also used slave labor in his rocket program, but he got a pass because he and his team were useful for the US. Finally I'm not aware of any German lawyer who acted in a purely advisory capacity getting convicted of a war crime. If you a specific name give it to us. I have gone over all the reference for the above statements with you in prior threads.
4.26.2009 11:56pm
Oren:


So, how would you "prove" that Ultra saved enough lives to justify the extra deaths in Coventry--there would have been some in any event.

Because there are documented cases after Coventry in which decoded intercepts were used to tactical advantage. The examples of that are legion.

If (when all that jazz was declassified) we found out that Ultra produced no actionable intelligence, Churchill would look quite the fool.
4.26.2009 11:56pm
Guest12345:

anyone convinced yet by the rational discourse between torture supporters and those upholding the rule of law?


The rule of law went away a long time ago as regards our politicians and government.
4.27.2009 12:02am
A. Zarkov (mail):
One of the officers commanding the Ultra Program told his men that he would personally shoot them if they were even careless about keeping the Ultra secret. That's how important Ultra was to the British. If necessary they would have tortured people to keep it secret.
4.27.2009 12:10am
MarkField (mail):
Those who insist we have to define "torture" so as to include every last act which might be torture and exclude every single act which is not, might consider 10 USC Sec. 933:

"Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

The phrase "conduct unbecoming..." is probably no more nor less precise than "severe physical or mental pain or suffering", yet nobody thinks of demanding that this or hundreds of other similar statutes be amended to describe every single offense which might violate the section.

For a similar provision, see 10 USC Sec. 934.

As I said before, the demand for precision is phony.
4.27.2009 12:11am
Oren:

Those who insist we have to define "torture" so as to include every last act which might be torture and exclude every single act which is not, might consider 10 USC Sec. 933:

The CIA is civilian, and is not subject to military discipline.

I know for a fact that you can join the CIA and not have to buzz your hair either.
4.27.2009 12:17am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

My view is pretty much identical to yours, except I think life in prison is sufficient punishment. And that should only happen if the torturer can't convince the jury that torture was absolutely necessary.

See, there's where we differ. I don't want torture to be an option when it looks like you can convince a jury that it was "absolutely necessary" and you therefore shouldn't be punished. I want it to be something that you resort to only when the alternative is so terrible that you would willingly die to prevent it. And in practice the only way to insure that is to make it punishable by death, and make that stick. If you do this, you do it because the alternative is nastier than your own execution.
4.27.2009 12:17am
Brian K (mail):
Tugh,

Still waiting if at least one of torture apologists answers Brian K's hypothetical about their reaction if their own innocent child is tortured.

This type of question is rarely answered as any answer would show the blatant dishonesty in the arguments of the torture supporters.
4.27.2009 12:26am
Tugh (mail):
John Moore said:


Do you really believe that what we are doing is equivalent to what Stalin did. Are you familiar with the Russian phrase "he got his nine ounces?"


I didn't say that what we are doing is equivalent to what Stalin did. I said that your comment about humanely treating prisoners after we get what we want would make Stalin proud and I stand by my statement.

Being actually an emigrant from Russia, I would like to inform you that Russia (and the Soviet Union when it existed) used the metric system, and therefore, the phrase "he got his nine ounces" is very unlikely to have been in use in Russia.
4.27.2009 12:36am
Tugh (mail):
A. Zarkov said:

The Nuremberg trials are a bad example as the trials themselves were simply a victor's revenge. Stalin liked show trials, and the US and UK accommodated him.


Highly misleading statement. The trials were definitely not a victor's revenge, as some of the defendants were actually acquitted. Your take on the trials is not mainstream, to say the least. The are generally viewed as establishing modern international law, especially as it relates to crimes against humanity. For your information, in the Soviet Union it was virtually impossible to get the actual transcripts of the Nuremberg trials; as parallels between Nazism and the Soviet totalitarian system would be obvious.
4.27.2009 12:42am
bbay:
While National Security "made public" will NEVER be a wise practice… What are the new interrogation methods? Will they encourage a new policy of terror bargaining and financial retributions?

And what will morph from that? Communication restrictions which challenge our ability to acquire critical information such as hidden bomb locations, size and scope; in the equally critical moments after a thwarted attack?

And as we are trying to re-establish the principals of our Nation; we should encourage the application of (impartial) third party inquiry; as best represents our very founding...

I DO have serious questions as to why we cannot allow ANY former administration the ability to disclose incident, specific conclusion; and the guide-lines that were followed…
4.27.2009 1:01am
John Moore (www):


"And the due process (at least in WW-II) was military tribunals with no civilian jurisdiction."



That's still due process. Those trials were also exceptionally fair given the exceptionally grievous crimes that went on.

You mean the grievous crime of commandos not wearing uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge so they could misdirect allied traffic? Those were the charges sufficient for execution.


German infiltrators penetrate U.S. lines: A German commando was captured wearing an American uniform during the Battle of the Bulge. The surprise offensive was accompanied by an elite unit of English-speaking Germans trained to gather intelligence, conduct sabotage, and raise general havoc behind Allied lines. Small groups of these commandos, riding captured American jeeps and wearing GI uniforms, managed to penetrate U.S. lines in the early hours of the attack, causing great consternation. Considered spies, those unfortunate enough to be captured were shot.

Al Qaeda personnel were guilty of far worse.
4.27.2009 1:04am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Tugh:

"Highly misleading statement. The trials were definitely not a victor's revenge, as some of the defendants were actually acquitted."

I don't see how that changes anything. For example, with regard to Speer, according to Wikipedia, "... the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, alleged, "Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries,..." Exactly what the Allies did to the Germans after the war. How can you not say what was done to Speer was not done out of revenge?

"For your information, in the Soviet Union it was virtually impossible to get the actual transcripts of the Nuremberg trials; as parallels between Nazism and the Soviet totalitarian system would be obvious."

Exactly. The Soviet citizens knew all about show trails.

"Your take on the trials is not mainstream, to say the least."

Some much the worse for the mainstream. Most of the mainstream doesn't know that more German civilians died right after the war than during the war. How can anyone possibly justify causing millions of deaths after the war was over.

From Wikipedia:
Past research provided estimates ranging from 13.5 to 16.5 million people who fled or were either evacuated, directly expelled or killed. Recent research places the number at more than 12 million, including all those who fled during or directly after the war to both the Western and Eastern zones of Germany and to Austria.[12] At least two million people perished due to flight and expulsion, 400,000 to 600,000 of whom by physical force.[13]
That's not even the whole of it.
4.27.2009 1:06am
John Moore (www):

"The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology," says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq.

Actually, it was outrageous media and Democrat howling about those events that was a great recruiting aid for AQI - as I predicted it would be at the time. Probably the most effective was the photos from Guantanamo, leaked by a reloative of the accused soldiers and passed to the press. It would be hard to come up with better propaganda.

But we already know that the event from which those illegal photos came was not authorized by anyone at all, but rather was a party thrown by the guards. The female soldier shown humiliating Iraqis (a great way to create anti-American feeling among Arabs) was not even a member of the unit, jus ta girl friend of one of the guards.

Before those photos came out, there was no propaganda event. The release of those photos was utterly irresponsible and let to many American and Iraqi deaths.

Major Alexander explains that prisoners subjected to abuse usually clam up, say nothing, or provide misleading information.
4.27.2009 1:11am
John Moore (www):

Major Alexander explains that prisoners subjected to abuse usually clam up, say nothing, or provide misleading information.

Note the word "usually." Note also that it is highly unlikely that this major had either the authority or training to use the stronger techniques used on high level AQ's, and he probably didn't have the facilities for the coordinated, complex task of the sort of interrogation the CIA did.
4.27.2009 1:13am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
moore:

We are not legally authorized to execute prisoners without some due process. This is what the Supreme Court held, outlawing the military commissions in Guantanamo. The US cannot simply execute prisoners just because it wants to.


We are, in the field.


It's truly amazing to watch you make a series of blatantly false claims, while not making even a pretense of offering proof to support them. No, "we are not legally authorized to execute prisoners without some due process." Not "in the field" or anywhere else.

And the due process (at least in WW-II) was military tribunals with no civilian jurisdiction.


"Military tribunals" are a form of due process. No one ever said that due process requires "civilian jurisdiction." But aside from that, the 1949 GC was not in effect during WWII, so comparisons with WWII are not necessarily relevant.

GC Common Article 3 clearly indicates that we are not legally authorized to execute prisoners without some due process. Why did you say "we are?" Even Bush finally was forced to acknowledge that we are bound by CA3. His White House referred to Common Article 3 as "The Standard That Now Applies To The Treatment Of Detainees By U.S. Personnel In The War On Terror."

Do you really believe that what we are doing is equivalent to what Stalin did.


Nice job with the straw man. No one said we're not different from Stalin. The problem is that we're not different enough.

Are you familiar with the Russian phrase "he got his nine ounces?"


That is a reference to nine ounces of bread, which is at least a solid food. Are you familiar with the CIA euphemism "Dietary Manipulation?" That's a reference to the way we provided no solid food, and limited calories to create what amounted to a partial starvation diet. And we did this because "dietary manipulation makes other techniques, such as sleep deprivation, more effective."

Have you even read the OLC torture memos?
4.27.2009 1:15am
John Moore (www):

If (when all that jazz was declassified) we found out that Ultra produced no actionable intelligence, Churchill would look quite the fool.

Or, to people who don't do Monday morning quarterbacking, he would have appeared as someone who made a tragic choice, given the best information he had at the time.
4.27.2009 1:16am
John Moore (www):


So, how would you "prove" that Ultra saved enough lives to justify the extra deaths in Coventry--there would have been some in any event.




Because there are documented cases after Coventry in which decoded intercepts were used to tactical advantage. The examples of that are legion.

Nope, because you still have to prove that protecting the citizens of Coventry would have caused Ultra to have been blown. The Germans ignored the evidence that the allies had airborne radar, because their physicists told them it was impossible.

They could easily have made the same error with Ultra, since its breaking was the result of a covert capture of an Ultra device, and not readily anticipated advances in cryptography and computing by an eccentric English genius - Turing. More likely, they would have had a spy hunt - looking for the dastardly British spy who found out about the impending raid.

BTW, as an ironic aside, the raid on Coventry did not kill an unusual number of people, in spite of its unprecedented intensity.
4.27.2009 1:20am
John Moore (www):

See, there's where we differ. I don't want torture to be an option when it looks like you can convince a jury that it was "absolutely necessary" and you therefore shouldn't be punished. I want it to be something that you resort to only when the alternative is so terrible that you would willingly die to prevent it. And in practice the only way to insure that is to make it punishable by death, and make that stick. If you do this, you do it because the alternative is nastier than your own execution.

Well, that's pretty radical. Good luck selling that to any human with sense - like Americans.

For that matter, sponsor a bill to do that, and when the next attack comes, people will be calling for your execution.

Insane, really insane.
4.27.2009 1:22am
John Moore (www):


Still waiting if at least one of torture apologists answers Brian K's hypothetical about their reaction if their own innocent child is tortured.



This type of question is rarely answered as any answer would show the blatant dishonesty in the arguments of the torture supporters.


I would be madder than hell, just as I would be if a judge and jury sent my innocent child to jail.

The call for absolute perfection on the part of torturers, but not on the part of the judicial system which does in fact cause people to be executed, merely indicates the derangement of some of the "torture" opponents.
4.27.2009 1:24am
bbay:
Before those photos came out, there was no propaganda event. The release of those photos was utterly irresponsible and let to many American and Iraqi deaths.
I agree, as indicated in graphs which coincide with the many political discredits... As demonstrated HERE.

Google the spike time-lines, and you will see the problem.
4.27.2009 1:24am
John Moore (www):
bbay,

Please be specific.
4.27.2009 1:26am
Xenocles (www):
"You mean the grievous crime of commandos not wearing uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge so they could misdirect allied traffic? Those were the charges sufficient for execution. "

Espionage has often been a capital offense in history, and the rules of war require that you actually wear the uniform of your side, so yeah, go ahead and execute them if you can convict them. For what it's worth, I was going for more along the lines of the industrialized murder of 6+ million people but sure, your example works too.

Saying that Al Qaeda has done worse than that is a) not true, and b) irrelevant. This isn't a binary question; you aren't either pure or a Nazi. There's a lot of room in the continuum of heinousness. Again, go ahead and execute worthy criminals IF you can convict them. Torture is not an option; we can disagree on the ethics but the law is clear. Since you've been to SERE school I'm going to assume you've taken the same oath to support and defend the Constitution that I have. In case you were wondering, the obligation doesn't just apply to the parts we like.

(To amend slightly my comments above re Nuremberg, the selection of who to prosecute may have been unfair but the trials of the accused were fair.)
4.27.2009 1:27am
Nekulturny (mail):
Here we go again...

Clinton got a blowjob and did or tried other acts of sex, consensual and nonconsensual, incl. Monica, and of course Paula Jones who sued. Presumably we can agree that his sexual excesses had no greater purpose than his own pleasure?

Clinton perjured himself in the Jones deposition. A technicality? Too important to be troubled with low socioeconomic status tramps? But nooooooooooooooo, the law's the law!

The Senate did not agree...

so now, the people who think that perjury was a technicality that anyone who discovered it should ignore, raison d'etat, no more no less - or, because he's our SOB,

want all the i's dotted and t's crossed on Gitmo etc etc etc.

Could we skip the replies from the "I don't know what you're talking abouts" and confine it to the "Yes but I can twist it like this to avoid the deadly hypocrisy charge" types? I'm not really interested in people who want to tell me that Clinton never had eyes for anyone but Hillary.
4.27.2009 1:27am
John Moore (www):


Are you familiar with the Russian phrase "he got his nine ounces?"



That is a reference to nine ounces of bread,

No, it is a reference to the 9mm bullet used to execute KGB prisoners.
4.27.2009 1:29am
Xenocles (www):
"The female soldier shown humiliating Iraqis (a great way to create anti-American feeling among Arabs) was not even a member of the unit, jus ta girl friend of one of the guards."

Wait, what? Is it your contention that it's better that the guards were so unprofessional that they allowed random people to abuse their prisoners too? As to making the photos public, can you at least admit that there would be no photos of abuse to expose if there were no abuse?
4.27.2009 1:33am
John Moore (www):

Saying that Al Qaeda has done worse than that is a) not true, and b) irrelevant. This isn't a binary question; you aren't either pure or a Nazi.

It is most certainly true. Those commandos didn't cut peoples' heads off. They were just soldiers.


There's a lot of room in the continuum of heinousness.

There's a lot of room in the continuum of treatment of interrogatees. Many here draw a clear (to them), very sharp (i.e. arbitrary) line at water-boarding.

Again, go ahead and execute worthy criminals IF you can convict them. Torture is not an option; we can disagree on the ethics but the law is clear.

The law is clear once you agree on the definition of torture.

But I do disagree, and furthermore also disagree on the ethics, which is the heart of my objection to this insanity. Oh, and I also strongly suspect that the motivation for the release of the OLC memos was to appease the slavering BDS left wing of Obama's party, at the expense of national security.
4.27.2009 1:34am
John Moore (www):

Wait, what? Is it your contention that it's better that the guards were so unprofessional that they allowed random people to abuse their prisoners too?

How in the world did you arrive at that conclusion. Of course not. It simply shows that these guards were not performing their assigned military duty, but rather were using their positions for their own sadistic fun. Not exactly government policy.



As to making the photos public, can you at least admit that there would be no photos of abuse to expose if there were no abuse?

The abuse in question was unacceptable, and a result of poorly trained and lead soldiers (which is why their commanding general is suddenly so friendly to the story that it wasn't "her" fault - it was the evil CIA and MI folks.

Those soldiers were already under investigation and ultimately were given due process and punished for their violation of their military duty,
4.27.2009 1:37am
Nekulturny (mail):
Oh and if my son, like Nick Berg or Daniel Pearl, were joke-trialed and decapitated like sheep at Ramadan, I would destroy the killers' countries with nuclear weapons if I could. I would certainly hope at least to kill the killers and all their line.

"So why shouldn't they?" That's why they call it war, and each side wants to win. I want the enemy to submit, abandoning their values, or die. I want them, frankly, to be more concerned with our displeasure than with Allah's.

We all know what they want.

Pick one.
4.27.2009 1:38am
Nekulturny (mail):
BTW John it was "nine grams" which is appx 140gr, ballpark weight for a 9mm slug. 9 oz. of what? ;>
4.27.2009 1:39am
bbay:
The troops stood for what most cannot begin to articulate, during the most turbulent of times...

While troops hold guns, and not politics; indeed, politics were used... The fact is, our brave men and women endured more than any man or woman can imagine...
This link again.
4.27.2009 1:39am
John Moore (www):
Nek, they don't have the cojones to face the issue squarely. They are too busy with their purist, BDS derived witch hunt. Hell, half of them probably believe Bush invented Al Qaeda just so he could have his torture fun.
4.27.2009 1:39am
John Moore (www):
Nekulturny... bad translaation in what I read then, which used the phrase "9 ounces" which is clearly a heck of a lot more than the weight of a 9mm slug. I took it to be Russian black humor.
4.27.2009 1:40am
John Moore (www):
bbay,
Whatever you are trying to prove with the link is not obvious to me. So simply throwing it out there again is hardly useful.
4.27.2009 1:41am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Xenocles:

"(To amend slightly my comments above re Nuremberg, the selection of who to prosecute may have been unfair but the trials of the accused were fair.)"

For a different take on the fairness of the Nuremberg Trials, read this, which reviews the memoirs by memoirs of Telford Taylor, an American Assistant Prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal and Chief Prosecutor at the subsequent 12 Nuremberg Trials under American jurisdiction. Taylor wrote
As to the verdicts, Taylor feels that Grand Admiral Dönitz should not have been convicted on the evidence, nor Julius Streicher, whose main crime was that of being repulsive, but the Tribunal may have been influenced "by the likelihood of a negative public reaction if Streicher got anything less than the worst" (p.599
Do those sound like fair trials to you? And mind this is a comment by the Prosecutor.You can be sure the reality is much worse.
4.27.2009 1:47am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
oren:

The CIA is civilian, and is not subject to military discipline.


I don't think mark is suggesting that CIA is subject to 10 USC Sec. 933. I think he's simply offering that as a classic example of a law that is necessarily imprecise.

===============
michelle:

I want it to be something that you resort to only when the alternative is so terrible that you would willingly die to prevent it.


I respect your view, and I'm glad that you take such strong position against torture. One reason why I take a slightly different position: I'm morally opposed to the death penalty.

===================
moore:

it was outrageous media and Democrat howling about those events that was a great recruiting aid for AQI


Really? Prove it. What makes you more knowledgeable than someone who "personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq?"

we already know that the event from which those illegal photos came was not authorized by anyone at all, but rather was a party thrown by the guards.


You say this over and over again, and each time I point out that Taguba says you're wrong, and I ask you to explain what you know that he doesn't. And you ignore the challenge and simply move along with your next bogus talking point. And that's what you're going to do this time, too, right?

Those soldiers were already under investigation and ultimately were given due process and punished for their violation of their military duty


Welcome to the GOP concept of personal responsibility: shift the personal responsibility to the little guy.

The call for absolute perfection on the part of torturers


Who is calling for "absolute perfection?" They're only being expected to justify their actions in a court of law. And if they did nothing wrong, why should they be afraid of that?

Many here draw a clear (to them), very sharp (i.e. arbitrary) line at water-boarding.


You must be joking. Your views on this subject are nothing if not "arbitrary." When are you going to explain why waterboarding is in and sodomy is out? And when are you going to explain why it's called torture when the Japanese do it but not when we do it?

===================
nek:

Clinton got a blowjob


Please tell us that you really think a lie about a blowjob is more important than torture.
4.27.2009 1:48am
Ken Arromdee:
It is not OK for the Taliban or Al Qaeda to do ANYTHING to our people, since our people are innocent, while they are monsters.

It's hard to tell if you're being sarcastic. In the off chance you are, I think that it is wrong for an armed bano robber to shoot a police officer, but fine for the police to shoot the armed robber. You could phrase that as "you think armed robbers are monsters and police aren't", but that fails to capture all the nuances.
4.27.2009 1:50am
Ricardo (mail):
Oh and if my son, like Nick Berg or Daniel Pearl, were joke-trialed and decapitated like sheep at Ramadan, I would destroy the killers' countries with nuclear weapons if I could.

Nuke Pakistan. Now there's a measured, carefully thought-out response, especially for a country with nuclear weapons of its own.
4.27.2009 1:56am
Tugh (mail):
It remains a fact that noone demonstrated that any information obtained with the use of Gulag-like methods could not have been obtained by other techniques. It also remains a fact that some people just don't see any difference between a mistake that happened despite a fair trial, when an innocent person is nevertheless convicted, and a mistake that happened due to torturing an innocent human being, who had no way of defending himself (or herself.
4.27.2009 1:57am
Xenocles (www):
John, I can't talk to you anymore. It hurts my brain too much. Based on your response to me, you either believe that Al Qaeda has done something worse than the Holocaust or you have only minimal reading comprehension. Either way, I'm done.

I don't care what the motive for releasing the memos was. They are evidence of a crime, and we should take action against criminals, especially when they are in our government. This is not weakness, it is republican government at its finest. If exposure of these crimes is so bad for national security, I blame the people who committed them, not their accusers.
4.27.2009 1:57am
Tugh (mail):
The abuse in Abu Ghraib was not a result of a few fringe soldiers, it only became possible as a result of a culture of lawlessness, sadism, and lack of fundamental human decency which came about because of the pro-torture policies set by the Bush administration. Read the report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which was agreed to by all members, including Republicans.

I shudder to think what the next detainee abuse photos will show. Of course, torture apologists will always find an explanation as to how Democrats are at fault.
4.27.2009 2:01am
John Moore (www):

This is not weakness, it is republican government at its finest. If exposure of these crimes is so bad for national security, I blame the people who committed them, not their accusers.

It is partisan witch hunting at the expense of national security for years to come. It is extremely stupid policy, just like it was idiotic for Obama to stir the pot, not to mention releasing valuable intelligence, by releasing those memos.

People on here talk literally as if waterboarding is worse than murder. They have no interest in anything but "upholding the law" even thought they really know that many times offenses are properly not prosecuted, for policy or other reasons.

I'm a little sick of it. Do you think I enjoy defending "torture?"


Based on your response to me, you either believe that Al Qaeda has done something worse than the Holocaust or you have only minimal reading comprehension.

It would appear to be your reading comprehension. I have written nothing here regarding the Holocaust.
4.27.2009 2:05am
Ricardo (mail):
It is partisan witch hunting at the expense of national security for years to come. It is extremely stupid policy, just like it was idiotic for Obama to stir the pot, not to mention releasing valuable intelligence, by releasing those memos.

Can you point to anything specific in the memos that constitutes "valuable intelligence"? Waterboarding has been public knowledge for quite some time. The only new technique discussed in the memos is that weird bit about placing one of the detainees in a box full of insects. The fact that the government waterboarded at least one detainee dozens of times in a month is also new but I fail to see how that in any way dangers national security. It does strip away the fig leaf of legality though, considering that the first OLC memo on waterboarding only approved the technique for much more restricted use.
4.27.2009 2:11am
Tugh (mail):
John Moore:

You profess being "a little sick if it". Pardon me, but it does appear that you enjoy defending torture. Perhaps, not enjoy it in the literal sense, but you appear to be willing virtually anything to defeat enemies (i.e. Islamofascists). In doing so, you forget who we are; yes, we are at disadvantage because we cannot use the same techniques as practiced by terrorists, but this is what separates us from them; this is what makes us free, and decent, and normal human beings. It is amazing that you are willing to forgo all of this to defeat the enemies.
And you are wrong on the merits too: I submit to you that the pro-torture policies that you advocate with such lust are one of the main reasons for terrorist recruitment. You don't seem to understand that treating even the worst enemies by American standards (pre-Bush standards) strengthens America. Your policies weaken it.
4.27.2009 2:12am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
tugh:

It remains a fact that noone demonstrated that any information obtained with the use of Gulag-like methods could not have been obtained by other techniques.


Not just that. Non-torture was working, and then torture made things worse:

Thomas described for the OIG the techniques that he saw the CIA interrogators use on Zubaydah after they took control of the interrogation. Thomas said he raised objections to these techniques to the CIA and told the CIA it was "borderline torture." He stated that Zubaydah was responding to the FBI's rapport-based approach before the CIA assumed control over the interrogation, but became uncooperative after being subjected to the CIA's techniques.


pdf; See p. 111 in Adobe Reader. Emphasis added. Also see here.

The abuse in Abu Ghraib was not a result of a few fringe soldiers, it only became possible as a result of a culture of lawlessness, sadism, and lack of fundamental human decency which came about because of the pro-torture policies set by the Bush administration.


Exactly. Taguba is the two-star general who led the first investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. He said this:

I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.


And there's this:

senior defense officials were involved in directing abusive interrogation policies


Those "abusive interrogation policies" started at the top.
4.27.2009 2:13am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
moore:

They have no interest in anything but "upholding the law" even thought they really know that many times offenses are properly not prosecuted, for policy or other reasons.


You think it's OK to just ignore certain "offenses?" Where were you when the GOP was making a big deal about a blowjob? What position did you take then with regard to "upholding the law?"
4.27.2009 2:16am
Nekulturny (mail):

You think it's OK to just ignore certain "offenses?" Where were you when the GOP was making a big deal about a blowjob? What position did you take then with regard to "upholding the law?"




"Tu quoque" isn't just a popular beach shoe anymore!
4.27.2009 2:48am
Scott Shephard (mail):
The problem with releasing the four memos is has nothing to do with admitting that the US committed torture. The problem is the reduction of the effectiveness of US interrogation techniques.

The problem is that if the prisoners know that the techniques will not kill them, not permanently injure them, and not disfugure them, they will be much less likely to tell us of their deeply held secret plans to murder innocent Americans and others. One needs for the interrogated prisoner to believe that you are going to drown him if he doesn't answer your questions.

Water boarding clearly will not kill you, or permanently injure you, or disfigure you; we water board our own pilots in routine military training. But we decrease our intelligence gathering capability with every jihadist who comes to understand this.
4.27.2009 2:52am
Nekulturny (mail):

nek:

Clinton got a blowjob



Please tell us that you really think a lie about a blowjob is more important than torture.


Null content. Check grammar, meaning, and rephrase. I'm not paid enough to untangle your ratty, frizzy, greasy syntax.

If you are wondering whether Clinton would have liked a license to grope (etc.), and would have traded some torture privileges for it, uh, sure, i guess so, what do you think?

Well...do you think, or are you going purely on reflex?


Oh right I wasn't talking to you, haha you fooled me again, so, whatever, don't explain yourself and I'll ignore you and everybody's happy.
4.27.2009 2:55am
John Moore (www):
Ricardo,


Can you point to anything specific in the memos that constitutes "valuable intelligence"? Waterboarding has been public knowledge for quite some time. The only new technique discussed in the memos is that weird bit about placing one of the detainees in a box full of insects.



What Scott Shephard wrote
4.27.2009 2:57am
John Moore (www):
Actually, now that they have revealed the uses of the boxes, I am free to discuss part of SERE that has been classified for at least 40 years. Thanks, guys.
4.27.2009 2:58am
Nekulturny (mail):
Tugh (mail): blah blah blah

Truth: all that would have been needed to 'protect our shining image' (LOL) would have been to keep a lid on it.

All you people who think the USA is or ever was so aseptic, should look back at the Indian wars. You might learn something about torture. I wish I could recall the book I read as a child...bio of Daniel Boone IIRC...not for the squeamish.

Oh and "everybody else is worse" is a defense. I could have gotten off a speeding ticket if I had a witness to support my contention that I was being passed on the right AND the left.
4.27.2009 3:00am
John Moore (www):
Tugh

In doing so, you forget who we are; yes, we are at disadvantage because we cannot use the same techniques as practiced by terrorists, but this is what separates us from them; this is what makes us free, and decent, and normal human beings. It is amazing that you are willing to forgo all of this to defeat the enemies.

Oh, the moral equivalence!! Alas, we are just as bad as they are, since nothing now separates us from them.

Save the the idiotic moral eqjuivalences.


And you are wrong on the merits too: I submit to you that the pro-torture policies that you advocate with such lust are one of the main reasons for terrorist recruitment. You don't seem to understand that treating even the worst enemies by American standards (pre-Bush standards) strengthens America. Your policies weaken it.


The damage done was a result of disclosure of the techniques, indeed widespread media celebreations and virtual circuses in the street ob Bush haters, trumpeting the pictures to denigrate Bush (it was an election year), never mind the damage that in fact such outrageous behavior did to national security. When those people say they love America, I have reason to doubt them.

Of course, that was Abu Ghraib and the National Guard, which makes this really outrageous. Their behavior was being pushed as a Bush policy, or an inevitable result of a Bush policy, when in reality it is a result long known to occasionally happen in prison/prisoner situations, and was a result of soldiers acting AGAINST their orders and by extension, that of the NCA>

Now, we are going through the circus again, with the released memos, and the demands to release the videos. Same cast of characters, same outrageous political motives, same damage to national security, same unwillingness to face either the facts as they stood at the time of the actions, or the damage this latest circus will cause.

So, yeah, I'm really f*cking sick of it. Pampered, perfumed moralists are once again damaging the country I served, and it sickens me.
4.27.2009 3:04am
Nekulturny (mail):
Oh, and the FBI, blah blah: Let's turn back time, go to 1993, waterboard David Koresh and his people, and take OBL, KSM &co., and burn them alive.

Let's make rapport with Randy Weaver, and shoot Zubaydah's wife and son before his eyes.

Let's make excuses to jack up Moussaoui and poke around his computer, and cut down on bothering innocent Americans with the NFA and no-knock raids on wrong houses.

Mm'kay? Good trades? Win-win?

Yeah, naw, let's definitely do whatever the FBI says. Who could disagree with J. Edgar Hoover (and live)?
4.27.2009 3:07am
John Moore (www):
JBG


You think it's OK to just ignore certain "offenses?" Where were you when the GOP was making a big deal about a blowjob? What position did you take then with regard to "upholding the law?


I already answered that in a thread you were writing all over, but apparently not reading.

I was for the impeachement. I regret that (and have previously stated so). I have realized that even though Clinton, the chief law enforcement officer of the land, committed one of the most serious crimes against the judicial system (perjury, by a government official), the resulting damage from the prosecution (impeachement) to the country was not worth it.

We should have gotten our political hay from the incident itself, and then let it drop without bringing in a special prosecutor (one of the most dangerous inventions in modern lego-po.itics) and without going for impeachment.


If you ask this a third time, I will rip off your head and ... oops, you're virtual. Okay, and will virtually....
4.27.2009 3:12am
Ricardo (mail):
The problem is that if the prisoners know that the techniques will not kill them, not permanently injure them, and not disfugure them, they will be much less likely to tell us of their deeply held secret plans to murder innocent Americans and others.

This is wrong for two reasons. First, the memos say absolutely nothing about what in practice was or was not actually done to prisoners. The CIA prepared a list of tactics it wanted legal clearance to use, submitted it to OLC and got its answer. That's it.

Second, we already know that techniques that will kill, permanently injure and disfigure are violations of the torture statute. There's nothing controversial about that--even John Yoo would agree. Nobody in the CIA would ever ask the OLC of its opinion on tactics that kill, permanently injure or disfigure because there's no serious argument that these are legal. Given that, no reasonably informed person would have ever suspected that such tactics would be mentioned in the OLC memos while they were still classified.
4.27.2009 3:14am
John Moore (www):

This is wrong for two reasons. First, the memos say absolutely nothing about what in practice was or was not actually done to prisoners. The CIA prepared a list of tactics it wanted legal clearance to use, submitted it to OLC and got its answer. That's it.

Oh please. I read part of the memos and it is clear to me that there was lots of useful information in them. But don't take it from me - check with the various intelligence chiefs who have said the same thing.


Given that, no reasonably informed person would have ever suspected that such tactics would be mentioned in the OLC memos while they were still classified.

Ah! This means that the waterboarding did not involve the threat of death, which is one of the main characteristics that people on this blog weused to call it torture. Thanks f0or clearing that up.

But you are so simplistic. Al Qaeda operatives, well trained as they are, are not lawyers and are likely to be, um, shall we say, not very trusting of the US government. After all, we are the great enemy, and they are used to powerful governments using all measure of torture up to and including death on them.

Reducing the uncertainty that we are going to do that has significant consequences in interrogation.
4.27.2009 3:24am
John Moore (www):

Nobody in the CIA would ever ask the OLC of its opinion on tactics that kill, permanently injure or disfigure because there's no serious argument that these are legal.


Ah, so you agree that there is a serious argument about whethe rour other tactics are legal, eh>?
4.27.2009 3:26am
Ricardo (mail):
I read part of the memos and it is clear to me that there was lots of useful information in them.

Such as what, exactly?

Ah! This means that the waterboarding did not involve the threat of death,

Who ever said anything about "threat of death"? I said tactics that actually kill someone are illegal. OLC thought for a time that tactics that threaten death are not illegal — that's not a mystery.

But you are so simplistic. Al Qaeda operatives, well trained as they are, are not lawyers and are likely to be, um, shall we say, not very trusting of the US government. After all, we are the great enemy, and they are used to powerful governments using all measure of torture up to and including death on them.

This makes absolutely no sense. Since Al Qaeda operatives do not trust the US government (I agree 100%) how, then, does releasing the memos provide valuable information to the enemy? They don't trust the U.S., so why would they trust a declassified memo issued by the very government they think is the Great Satan? I was going to make this point in the last post but thought it was too obvious. Thanks for making it for me.
4.27.2009 3:34am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
nek:

"Tu quoque" isn't just a popular beach shoe anymore!


Didn't you say "I won't choose to address you anymore?" As I said, promises, promises.

And you should consider educating yourself about tu quoque, because it has legitimate uses. Like this one.

=====================
scott:

One needs for the interrogated prisoner to believe that you are going to drown him if he doesn't answer your questions.


And why does this matter, unless we're not done torturing? Anyway, thanks for confirming that waterboarding meets the legal definition of torture. Because threatening death is one way to meet that definition.

Water boarding clearly will not kill you


Waterboarding is a form of asphyxiation. Asphyxiation leads to death 100% of the time, for 100% of humans, if sustained for just a few minutes. The whole point of the procedure is to make the victim feel like he is about to die. You just confirmed that for us. That is the natural reaction to the experience of asphyxiation. Feel free to explain why any captive should feel particularly confident that his captors might not go a little too far. Considering the number of prisoner deaths which our military ultimately classified as homicides, such confidence would be highly irrational.

we water board our own pilots in routine military training


Maybe you should consider reading the OLC torture memos. If you did, then you would know this (pdf, p. 41):

the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant


And just to be clear about "different:" the SERE waterboard technique is much milder than the CIA technique. This is documented in the memos.

You're repeating one of the major lies we've been told about torture: that we only do to our prisoners what is done at SERE. The memos reveal this to be a lie. And of course people like you and moore are still shamelessly promoting that lie. What a surprise.
4.27.2009 3:37am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
moore:

Their behavior was being pushed as a Bush policy, or an inevitable result of a Bush policy


It's not what was being "pushed." It's what's true. Taguba found that Abu Ghraib was result of policies set at senior levels. And we see those same policies reflected in the OLC torture memos. Why are you still pretending to know something that Taguba doesn't know?
4.27.2009 3:45am
Leo Marvin (mail):

"Polling the Torture Memos"

That's gotta be a CAT violation.
4.27.2009 5:31am
mattski:
"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."

There was never a lily-livered, America-hating, commie-fag coward liberal like George Washington.
4.27.2009 7:09am
davod (mail):
There is a lot of noise here from those who deny the value of Enhanced Interrogations.

Does any of what went on at Abu Ghraib appear on the OLC memos?

WRT to ULTRA and the bombing of Coventry. It is my understanding that intially they only new that an attack was brewing. When they target was clearer they repositioned aircraft, anti-aircraft batteries and emergency services.
4.27.2009 7:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren.
Documented cases that Ultra saved lives.
I can imagine letting he-who-must-not-be-named loose on those.
Or about two-thirds of the folks on this board.
It all depends on the motivation, which is to say, among other things, what ad homs can be addressed to the sources of your (sneering tone) "documentation".
I'll give you just one. If the Allies hadn't had Ultra, they'd have had something else almost as good and wouldn't have had to sacrifice Coventry. In fact, they did.
[They didn't, but I'm channeling he-who] But because Churchill was a murderous nineteenth-century imperialist, he continued with Ultra when it was unnecessary. See how that works?
They would, for example, mention that a destroyer en route to someplace happened to spot the ABC thing getting started, hoping nobody knew that the destroyer was sent to that area to provide an alternative reason to have found that the ABC thing was going on, instead of Ultra.

IOW, Oren, there is little honesty in this argument, and a great deal of partisanship.
4.27.2009 7:48am
Leo Marvin (mail):
davod:

There is a lot of noise here from those who deny the value of Enhanced Interrogations.

"Enhanced Interrogation?" Enhanced how? Mood lighting? Enhanced interrogation is what happens when a law firm you're interviewing with takes you out to dinner. Forcibly convincing someone's body reflexively that it's about to drown... there's a much better word for that.
4.27.2009 8:12am
Leo Marvin (mail):
(... speaking of Orwellian)
4.27.2009 8:13am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mattski:

There was never a lily-livered, America-hating, commie-fag coward liberal like George Washington.


Washington established a US anti-torture tradition that has been disgraced by Bush's torturers and torture apologists. Who are such cowardly bedwetters that they hide from the fair, simple questions that have been raised here.

====================
davod:

There is a lot of noise here


I love it when you're inadvertently truthful. A terrific example of noise is the pure crap you posted here:

the US acceptance of the UN convention included the caveat that it applied to Serious and Life Threatening acts


You have a vivid imagination. You made that up. I proved it. Your willingness to be brazenly, transparently dishonest is breathtaking. But you have lots of practice; making claims with no connection with reality is something you've been doing for years (example, example).

What a surprise that people who make excuses for torture also have no problem spreading lies.

those who deny the value of Enhanced Interrogations.


We're still waiting patiently for you to show some proof of that "value." That is, proof that doesn't require a belief in time travel. We're also waiting for you to explain why you know more than the eyewitness FBI interrogator who said "Zubaydah was responding to the FBI's rapport-based approach before the CIA assumed control over the interrogation, but became uncooperative after being subjected to the CIA's techniques."

You have a strange idea of "value:" causing the prisoner to become "uncooperative."

And it's hard to tell what's more brazen: your dishonesty or your cowardice. You insist on using the Orwellian term "Enhanced Interrogations." The same term the Gestapo used. And you're too much of a coward to answer the question that's already been raised, the same question that all the other torture apologists refuse to answer: If a future enemy waterboarded a US soldier 183 times, using the same procedure we did, would you refrain from accusing that enemy of torture? Would you accept their claim that they had used only "Enhanced Interrogations?"

We're counting on you to demonstrate your complete gutlessness by running away from this question, just like moore and a bunch of other people. This many torture apologists here have had the courage to address that question: zero.

And likewise for this question: why is waterboarding torture when the Japanese did it, but not when we do it?

Does any of what went on at Abu Ghraib appear on the OLC memos?


Do you really not know? Look it up. The Taguba Report is here (pdf). His comments about "what went on at Abu Ghraib" are here and here. Let me make it so simple that even the likes of you can understand:

senior defense officials were involved in directing abusive interrogation policies


Here's something else that's so simple that even you'll be able to understand: "The torture trail starts and ends in the White House." It's important to understand why Bush started torturing:

torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda


Torture was used to produce false confessions from al-Libi and others (link, link). And then Bush used those false confession to sell the war. And once the torture train was rolling along, no one saw any reason to stop it. Next stop: Abu Ghraib.

But Bush et al are cowards, just like you. Instead of taking responsibility for the rampant abuse at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and elsewhere, their strategy all along has been to blame the little guy. And to repeatedly lie to us. And of course you're following in those despicable footsteps.

How do you sleep?
4.27.2009 8:23am
Dan M.:
I get so tired of this idea that we can't use the same tactics as our enemies because we must be morally superior. I'm more concerned with winning a war than I am with conducting it nicely. If we can look back approvingly of dropping atomic bombs on Japanese civilians (and then executing their soldiers for the incomparable act of waterboarding because, well, we won and that's what winners do), then I'm not going to lose any sleep over torturing terrorists. And I'm a proud American.

But the terrorists are trying to win, too. I don't really condemn terrorists based strictly on their methods, because they're trying to win with what they have. Is there an objective moral difference between beheading civilians to try to get the occupying force to leave and dropping nuclear bombs on civilians to get the enemy to give up?
4.27.2009 8:27am
Dan M.:
The reason torture so often gets false confessions is because that's all you can get when you are torturing people who have nothing to confess.

What else could you possibly get when you are torturing someone suspected of being a witch? Intelligence to break up another ring of witches?
4.27.2009 8:45am
Dan M.:
Also, Mark Thiessen has responded to the charges of time travel here.
4.27.2009 8:51am
ArthurKirkland:
Why disparage witch-hunters? I understand some witch-hunters had impressive track records with respect to obtaining information. (It is impossible that some summer associates -- Liberty grads would have been a nice touch, from a historical perspective -- were researching their work for the Office of Legal Counsel or the Office of the Vice President a few years ago?)

It appears some people who get control of the levers of our government still have a taste for that type of work. Sometimes they outsource -- Central American death squads, "contract" interrogators, rendition involving butcher shops in Uzbekistan or Syria -- but more recently it appears they elected to get more personally involved in their work.

It would be nice to hope that the American people would refrain from placing such people in power. The more practical approach is to establish effective safeguards to prevent the immoral and weak from acting on their impulses.
4.27.2009 9:52am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dan M.
Or jbg.
Point is, it's much tougher to make the case that we should give up the information gotten this way and accept the hits that would result.
So tough that the case that "it doesn't work" keeps on keepin' on.
So the argument now is that the intel community is lying.
Fallback position is that the intel community could have gotten that info in other ways. That is arguable, until the intel community details they weren't getting anywhere.
However, this will not convince the "it doesn't work" community to give up on that meme and to start making the honest argument that we should be prepared to take the hits.
Oh, and that if it happens while Obama is president, it's all good.
4.27.2009 10:11am
Tugh (mail):
John Moore said:

<blockquote>
The damage done was a result of disclosure of the techniques, indeed widespread media celebreations and virtual circuses in the street ob Bush haters, trumpeting the pictures to denigrate Bush (it was an election year), never mind the damage that in fact such outrageous behavior did to national security. When those people say they love America, I have reason to doubt them.
</blockquote>

The outrageous behavior is the abuse that took place and that you excuse by faulting a few soldiers gone wild, despite Army's investigation that concluded that this behavior was a result from the policies instituted from above. You are blaming the thermometer for showing that the patient is sick. When people who excuse this despicable behavior say that they love America, I have reason to doubt them.

<blockquote>

Of course, that was Abu Ghraib and the National Guard, which makes this really outrageous. Their behavior was being pushed as a Bush policy, or an inevitable result of a Bush policy, when in reality it is a result long known to occasionally happen in prison/prisoner situations, and was a result of soldiers acting AGAINST their orders and by extension, that of the NCA>

</blockquote>

Of course, this is simply false. You refuse to acknowledge General Taguba's investigation that concluded that the abuse was not a result of soldiers acting against their orders, but rather a result of pro-abuse mindset and policies instituted from the top. Why is it so hard for you to face the facts?

<blockquote>
Now, we are going through the circus again, with the released memos, and the demands to release the videos. Same cast of characters, same outrageous political motives, same damage to national security, same unwillingness to face either the facts as they stood at the time of the actions, or the damage this latest circus will cause.

So, yeah, I'm really f*cking sick of it. Pampered, perfumed moralists are once again damaging the country I served, and it sickens me.

</blockquote>

Your problem is that you see everything through political prysm. I don't care if it were Bush or Democrats who condoned torture and abuse. It is torturers and their apologists who did grave damage to national security and who are unwilling to face the facts. "Pampered, perfumed moralists" --are you referring to Cheney who got like 5 deferments? Or maybe John Yoo? Or maybe Feith?
4.27.2009 10:28am
rosetta's stones:

Oren:
The plan to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches was entirely impossible from its conception. Even if you could somehow managed to get to the cable and start burning through them, it would take hours to destroy even a single suspension cable (have you ever even been to Brooklyn and seen the bridge?).

No engineer in his right mind (even 100 years ago) would build a bridge that fragile. It's an insult to bridge builders everywhere that anyone even considered such an amateurish and futile scheme.



Oren, Oren, Oren, you gotta stop playing engineer, man.

There are 2 (two) suspension cables in the Brooklyn Bridge, similar to most suspension bridges. You need only cause a failure in one of them to create an eccentric loading condition, and bring about a catastrophic failure in the entire structure. Give me access, and I can cut that one suspension cable in less than an hour. Bubbye bridge.

The suspension cable anchorages are at ground level, so no work at height is required. Just gotta get through enough of that one cable to cause it to fail. I figure it's a 3-man job, maybe 2 and even 1 with the right equipment.

Blowtorches? Perhaps, but more likely plasma cutting for this type of mass work. A stepvan carries everything. And I'm sure convenient electrical outlets and lighting would be available at the site.

Drilling and explosives might be an equally efficient method to cutting.

Even slicker would be to quickly cut the <36" cable using common demolition shearing equipment, which can trash much tougher material than mild steel cable. One guy could hack into that cable and keep chomping. I've seen bigger units than the one in these pictures, too.

Shortly after 9/11, I went down to the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, to scope out the area, just for fun. From all the graffiti painted on the suspension cable anchorage, and the ramshackle fence surrounding it, we can assume site access was a very informal formality. So, at this time, terrorists had much access, and the potential demolition methods were remarkably unsophisticated. Show up at midnight, and the bridge is down before sunrise, most assuredly.

This is the problem with Monday 4/27/09 quarterbacking. Laymen really don't know how vulnerable they were on 9/12/01, and even yet today. Just one vial of cyanide in a municipal water supply system. One hijacked piece of demolition equipment. And a small band of fanatics with the right technical knowledge. I wish the terrorists were all lawyers, so we wouldn't have to worry about their technical knowledge.

I'm guessing that like Bush, Obama now does understand the threat, which is why he's basically going along with Bush's policy, as are the congresscritters.
4.27.2009 10:36am
Tugh (mail):
Dan said:


I get so tired of this idea that we can't use the same tactics as our enemies because we must be morally superior. I'm more concerned with winning a war than I am with conducting it nicely. If we can look back approvingly of dropping atomic bombs on Japanese civilians (and then executing their soldiers for the incomparable act of waterboarding because, well, we won and that's what winners do), then I'm not going to lose any sleep over torturing terrorists. And I'm a proud American.
But the terrorists are trying to win, too. I don't really condemn terrorists based strictly on their methods, because they're trying to win with what they have. Is there an objective moral difference between beheading civilians to try to get the occupying force to leave and dropping nuclear bombs on civilians to get the enemy to give up?


Ah, the old "the ends justify the means" idea. First of all, dropping the nuclear bomb is very much controversial to this date. But for you to claim no moral difference between dropping the bomb and terrorists cutting off the heads is disgusting. I am sorry for you that you don't see a moral difference between us and them. If this is the case, then nothing really separates you from a terrorist.
4.27.2009 10:43am
MarkField (mail):

The CIA is civilian, and is not subject to military discipline.


C'mon Oren, you're smart enough to get the point and respond substantively. I gave an example; it's not necessary that the example be identical, it only has to illustrate the principle. That principle is, or should be obvious: that laws are passed in general terms and the specifics of application are determined in court. That's what a common law system is, and it's the way every single statute works.


The reason torture so often gets false confessions is because that's all you can get when you are torturing people who have nothing to confess.


That's certainly one reason. But here's the real problem: how do the torturers know when they've reached the point where the victim has nothing left to confess? After 83 times? 183? 1083?
4.27.2009 10:47am
Dan M.:
Wait, are you actually suggesting that cutting off someone's head to bring about the end of a war is objectively less moral than ending a war by dropping an atomic bomb that murders hundreds of thousands of civilians?

It's more barbaric, sure, but you're a joke if you think it's less moral.

Is that what this is, you simply don't approve of torture because it's barbaric? Maybe we just need more high tech forms of torture so you can feel morally superior again.
4.27.2009 10:51am
Tugh (mail):
Dan,

You are a joke if you don't see the difference between the dropping the bomb in 1945 on a nation that declared the war on us to end the war and jihadists' torture and cutting off heads. I don't approve of torture because we are morally superior than terrorists, yes. Too bad that you don't see that.
4.27.2009 10:54am
Dan M.:
Um, we declared war on Iraq. So if a terrorist cuts off the head of an American civilian to end the war in Iraq, again, how is that less moral than bombing Japanese civilians to end World War 2?
4.27.2009 11:03am
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Bob's contempt for the comment policy is conspicuous.


Your side calls people who disagree on this issue every name in the book. For instance, just going back three comments from this, Jukeboxgrad called someone:


But Bush et al are cowards, just like you.


I don't see you denouncing your side.

You personally call people "supporters of NKVD tactics" all the time.

So, physician, heal yourself.

In any event, maybe the motives of the person who made the Ted Olson comments is not to aid the enemy, but the efect is to provide such aid.


This isn't about them, it's about us. I can sympathize with Mr. Olson's desire to torture the bastards that killed his wife, but torture remains illegal.


No, its about them. You are helping them.


Just a question: If it is not torture, does that mean it is okay if the Taliban or Al Quaeda do it to our people?


If they only waterboarded them, I'd be grateful. Alas, they don't.


Oh, and Bob from Ohio, do you think Major Alexander wants to help the terrorists? He's dead set against torture so he must be a terrorist coddler, right?


Major Alexander's opinion is important, he's in the field faced with hard choices. He's not Monday morning quaterbacking like you are. I assume he has his reasons.

Yet, he should not have made those public comments in my view. He made a mistake, again, as I see it.

I can respect someone and still think he made a mistake.
4.27.2009 11:04am
Dan M.:
Er, sorry, we didn't technically declare war on Iraq. That alters my point entirely.
4.27.2009 11:05am
Tom S (mail):
So John Moore's main concern about all this torture stuff is that it is such a partisan witch hunt that he must call up every conceivable argument (true and false) to defend it? It is a Democratic Party strategy to make the Republicans look bad?

Look, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, as did everything else that has been discussed. In a show of bipartisanship (based on the horror of the moment, and the desire to support the geater good of the United States...and to avoid having their votes used against them in the next election), many Democrats in Congress voted for much of what the Bush administration wanted done in response; much of which we now know was either misguided from the beginning or carried out so incompetently that it ended up being counterproductive.

I suspect that most of those you label as "partisan democrats" on this thread would be as critical--if not more so--of a Democratic adminstration with the record of misguidedness, incompetence, and defensiveness that the Bush administration displayed during its eight years in power. Clearly you and other Bush adminstration supporters are not capable of such reflection, which says more about how the last eight years has debased the Republican Party and its supporters, and have raised the concept of psychological transference to an art form.

Would John Moore be as vehement defending a Democratic administration's policies toward the use of torture if they were identical to those of the Bush adminstration? Color me skeptical.
4.27.2009 11:07am
Tom S (mail):
Dan M.

By the time Al Qaeda in Iraq started cutting people's heads off in Iraq, we had already won the war in Iraq, according to our President. Major military operations had ended, Saddam was out of power, candy and flowers were being showered on our troops, as they triumphantly cakewalked their way across Iraq, yadda yadda.
4.27.2009 11:12am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom S.
I don't know what's wrong with me. I must be partisan.
I have absolutely zero confidence that O's screwups will get any dem's back up, except if it means working with republicans.
In fact, what would be screwups under Bush is most likely the objectives of a good many of O's supporters. Ruin the economy due to messing (euphemism) alert...? I know people who think "we" need to change our ways. Live in rabbit warrens. Except from time to time they say "people", meaning the betas. Not them.
No, I see O getting a free ride unless he does something a republican would have done.
4.27.2009 11:14am
Tom S (mail):
Richard Aubrey:

There appear to be a number of things that are getting Obama supporters' backs up. For starters, his apparent waffling on what to do about the Bush administration's policies on the use of torture. I take it you support Obama's apparent waffling?

When the Republican Party can shed itself of the sort of people who are currently likely to cost Arlen Spector the nomination for PA senator, because he dared to work in a bipartisan manner, perhaps we can discuss bipartisanship sensibly.

Until then, I hope you are happy with what the Republican Party is becoming. I am, except for the fact that it means that 20-30% of the electorate apparently respect Sara Palin, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity more than John McCain and Arlen Spector, which says little for their intelligence, let alone any desire to work in a bipartisan manner.
4.27.2009 11:45am
Anderson (mail):
"Enhanced Interrogation?" Enhanced how? Mood lighting? Enhanced interrogation is what happens when a law firm you're interviewing with takes you out to dinner.

I want to be Leo when I grow up.
4.27.2009 11:47am
Tom S (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

If the Obama Administration adopts the same policies toward the use of torture as the Bush administration did, you can bet that I will be critical. Will you? Or will you suddenly become an Obama supporter?
4.27.2009 11:50am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom S.
As I said, what annoys dems is O working with, or like, republicans.
But there are a couple of reports on electronic comm monitoring which might refer--if anybody were bothered enough to look into it--to various things for which Bush was pilloried.
The issue of tu quoque, which is so often the response to ".... did it too...." is misunderstood.
Point is not that tq is a defense. The point made presumes instead of states the conclusion:
"You didn't care when Clinton did it, and that you pretend to now means you are not principled but partisan. Or you would have opposed it then." Whatever "it" is.
But, presuming the conclusion is so clear, the folks making the argument leave themselves open to deliberate misrepresentation of their point and the response that "tu quoque is not a defense" or "two wrongs don't make a right".
IOW, we are going to see O doing things for which Bush is pilloried and getting a free ride from your side.
Bank on it.
4.27.2009 11:52am
PC:
IOW, we are going to see O doing things for which Bush is pilloried and getting a free ride from your side.

Which is a good opportunity to point out the hypocrisy. But I'm not sure what this has to do with investigating torture. I don't remember Clinton instituting a torture regime and Democrats defending it. Likewise I don't remember Obama defending torturing detainees. Quite the opposite, Obama signed an executive order barring the use of torture on his first day of office.

There's nothing hypocritical coming from the masses that are calling for an investigation. There is very likely something hypocritical coming from any congresscritters that were briefed on the program and are now crying foul. That's why we need a full airing of the facts. Some of us really don't see this as a left/right or Democrat/Republican thing.

I'm getting the feeling that the torture apologists are trying to make this a partisan issue so they can dismiss the results of any investigation. If torture apologists can stir the pot enough with cries of partisanship! and witch hunt! it may become fait accompli.

It's sad that the self-professed law and order crowd has so little respect for the actual law.
4.27.2009 12:08pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"I get so tired of this idea that we can't use the same tactics as our enemies because we must be morally superior."

Yep, annoying thing, that morality.
4.27.2009 12:14pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC.
You don't remember Clinton instituting a torture regime?
That's because his renditions are all okay. He's a dem, see? Only the victims objected.
Jeez. Are you slow or something?
Now, I know the response is "well, that wasn't right, either".
But the point is...nobody was bothered back then and now they are....
I suppose you could assert any issue is being painted as partisan in order to discredit it. Not the first time. I'd suggest the dems not try to make that point. It would look odd, coming from them.
4.27.2009 12:15pm
Nekulturny (mail):
I believe I was the tu-quoquer, or is it the tu-quoquee? Anyway, my point was that Clinton did things which were wrong to a greater or lesser extent; compounded these with the cover-up; was impeached; was not convicted; and it was all a big mess which was no good to anybody.

The contention of my opponent appears to have been, So it should have been hushed up by all concerned, Paula Jones should have been found in the trunk of a car or something, but Clinton should have been insulated from the consequences of his habit of letting his small head calling the play.

This is based on, as far as I can tell, either raison d'Etat, or the natural desirability of letting powerful white males oppress women without let or hindrance.

So now we turn to Bush. Arguendo - he chose (or the buck stops with him) to authorize greater or lesser or borderline forms of torture; compounded this by um I don't know defending himself; told Congress; was not impeached; is now a target when he is least able to defend himself, as are all his subordinates.

My contention is that this was based on raison d'Etat as defined by necessity. It was not necessary to stain Monica's blue dress or to invite a campaign worker to suck it or to tell a rape victim to "put ice on that." It is not even remotely defensible a a perception of necessity. Reasonable people, in other words, cannot disagree. No one can really say that Clinton's foibles were necessary or in any way justifiable, unless they are trying to sell something.

Reasonable people can disagree, and have been IMHO, over the necessity of torture. The rape victim was arguably tortured - sexual abuse is torture, right? - and for what? For Clinton to get his sick jollies. Could she tell him where OBL or Milosevic was? Could she help him get funding for a pet program? No, he just wanted either sex or to oppress a smaller weaker less empowered human being.

So the biggest grudge of some types is that anybody made trouble for him over it. It shoulda been covered up even though any harm done by exposure was a) personal to Clinton and b) evidently ephemeral.

But we should open the bag on torture. Despite the harm it will do.

"We can't have any torture going forward." Would you have stopped Clinton from more sexual misconduct? More perjury?
4.27.2009 12:32pm
EH (mail):
Richard Aubrey:
Jeez. Are you slow or something?


Grow up.
4.27.2009 12:35pm
PC:
Richard Aubrey,

Could you point me to the Clinton era OLC memos authorizing US agents to use waterboarding, forced standing, stress positions, exploitation of phobias, etc.?

kthx

Shorter Nekulturny: Sure, Bush administration officials might have violated domestic and international law and broken a few treaties, but, but the Clenis!
4.27.2009 12:39pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

Also, Mark Thiessen has responded to the charges of time travel here.


Can someone translate that article into English? It contains lots of irrelevant gibberish, but as far as I can tell he's basically just repeating his claim. And he says it must be true because a CIA memo says it's true. Duh. The CIA believes in time travel, just like he does. But he never addresses the central issue: how did torturing KSM in 2003 help us thwart a plot that had already been thwarted in 2002?

In this latest 2000-word article of his, see if you can find the following word: "derailed." You won't. Why is that word important? Because on 2/9/06, Bush declared that the Library Tower plot "was derailed in early 2002."

Thiessen completely glosses over the fact that Bush made that statement. Why? Because Thiessen is still making this laughably outlandish claim: "KSM’s interrogation disrupted the West Coast plot."

If the plot "was derailed in early 2002," how does it make sense to claim that it was "disrupted" in 2003? Either it was "derailed" or it wasn't. Thiessen can't possibly explain this, and that's why he's hoping that we're going to forget what Bush said. And that's why he completely glosses over what Bush said.

These people are still pushing time travel. They are incredibly desperate. The lies are getting more and more outlandishly transparent.
4.27.2009 12:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Just to clarify, above when I say "CIA memo," I mean the 2005 OLC memo that is uncritically regurgitating false claims made to OLC by CIA.
4.27.2009 12:55pm
John Moore (www):
Tom S 1104am.


So John Moore's main concern about all this torture stuff is that it is such a partisan witch hunt that he must call up every conceivable argument (true and false) to defend it? It is a Democratic Party strategy to make the Republicans look bad?

No, my main concern is that witch hunt has and will continue to damage both our national security and our national cohesion. It is utterly irresponsible.

Would John Moore be as vehement defending a Democratic administration's policies toward the use of torture if they were identical to those of the Bush adminstration? Color me skeptical.
4.27.2009 12:57pm
John Moore (www):

Would John Moore be as vehement defending a Democratic administration's policies toward the use of torture if they were identical to those of the Bush adminstration? Color me skeptical.

Then you would be surprised. I don't give a fig about defending Bush at this point - that's history. I do care about allowing our intelligence agencies to defend us.

I learned my lesson with the Clinton impeachment, which I supported and have since come to recognize was a bad mistake, because it did more harm than good.
4.27.2009 12:59pm
John Moore (www):
Let me correct that.

I do care about confronting propaganda by Bush haters. However, that is not remotely related to my views on the torture issue.

I believe the president acted properly, in accordance with the wishes of the people and the congressional oversight committees (who also had the knowledge). Now we have classified information being released with the sole purpose of feeding Obama's left wing, regardless of the harm it does to the national security and partisan healing.

Obama, who made such a big deal about healing the country, has just made that impossible.

The photographs are yet to be made public, but apparently will be. For those who say that Abu Ghraib was the greatest recruiting tool for AQ, let them answer why these need to be made public. I say the reason, regardless of the evasions, is to attack the hated former Bushies, against regardless of the national security consequences.
4.27.2009 1:10pm
EH (mail):
John Moore: I think your analogy is inapt. How can you call it a witch hunt when witches do not and are not possible to exist?
4.27.2009 1:11pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
rosetta:

There are 2 (two) suspension cables in the Brooklyn Bridge, similar to most suspension bridges.


Have you ever seen the Brooklyn Bridge? Have you ever been to Brooklyn? Have you ever even seen a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge? Because it's painfully obvious just from glancing at a photo of the bridge (example, example, example) that it has four main cables, not two.

Your willingness to promote complete baloney while speaking in a very authoritative tone of voice is quite entertaining. I especially like the way you made sure to use 2 (two) different ways of writing the number 2 (two). I think that indicates that your capacity to embarrass yourself is roughly 2 (two) times greater than your pals. Which is saying a lot.

By the way, "most suspension bridges" of any appreciable size have more than two main cables.
4.27.2009 1:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC.
Nit picking. Rendition to member countries of the UN Human Rights commission--such as Syria--can get you hurt pretty bad.
So let's see some contemporary outrage.
We see the outrage about the memos of death.
Let's see some contemporary outrage about exrend, huh?
Point is, it wasn't a republican doing it, so the public self-exposers of moral superiority weren't there. Now a republican is doing something bad, and they show up.
Makes you wonder.
Except if you have half the brain God gave a goose, in which case there's no need to wonder.
4.27.2009 1:18pm
PC:
Now we have classified information being released with the sole purpose of feeding Obama's left wing, regardless of the harm it does to the national security and partisan healing.

They were actually declassified (as in no longer classified) pursuant to a lawsuit from the ACLU. According to press accounts there was a heated debate in the White House about fighting the lawsuit or releasing the documents. They decided to release the documents since they would probably lose the lawsuit.

Now that the documents have been released, we can see that it does not effect our national security one bit. The methods described in the torture memos are no longer used so how can our enemies train against irrelevant tactics?

regardless of the harm it does to the national security and partisan healing.

Is this the same national healing proposed by the RNC in renaming the Democratic Party to the Democrat Socialist Party? The same partisan healing that goes along with threats of secession? Partisan healing is a strawman.

The photographs are yet to be made public, but apparently will be.

Yes, the Bush administration was ignoring a the order of a Federal judge to release the photographs. Once again you fall on the side of lawlessness.

You know what wouldn't have caused negative national security consequences? Creating an environment where detainee abuse was discouraged instead of codified.
4.27.2009 1:22pm
rosetta's stones:
Good catch, box, you are good for something afterall. The Brooklyn Bridge has 4 (four) suspension cables, which I'd likely have known if I'd ever been there.

But yes, the point stands, that most suspension bridges, of all sizes whether "appreciable" or not, have only 2 suspension cables: the Ambassador Bridge, the Golden Gate, the one across the straights of Bosphorus, that longest one in the world in Japan as I recall... and in fact you've just pointed out the only exception I've ever heard of to that practice.

By the way, box, since you're so knowledgeable on all this, have you ever inspected a cable anchorage for a suspension bridge?
4.27.2009 1:31pm
John Moore (www):
eh:

John Moore: I think your analogy is inapt. How can you call it a witch hunt when witches do not and are not possible to exist?

You'd have to ask the witch hunters about that.
4.27.2009 1:35pm
John Moore (www):

They were actually declassified (as in no longer classified) pursuant to a lawsuit from the ACLU. According to press accounts there was a heated debate in the White House about fighting the lawsuit or releasing the documents. They decided to release the documents since they would probably lose the lawsuit.

Uh huh. You're asking me to trust the Obama administration on this?

Now that the documents have been released, we can see that it does not effect our national security one bit. The methods described in the torture memos are no longer used so how can our enemies train against irrelevant tactics?
4.27.2009 1:36pm
John Moore (www):

Now that the documents have been released, we can see that it does not effect our national security one bit. The methods described in the torture memos are no longer used so how can our enemies train against irrelevant tactics?

That's pretty circular. It's also wrong, since the documents give a lot of insight into the thinking of the intelligence agencies. They don't just cover waterboarding (foolishly banned by O) - they cover the whole range of techniques, which are AFAIK not banned.
4.27.2009 1:37pm
PC:
So let's see some contemporary outrage.
We see the outrage about the memos of death.
Let's see some contemporary outrage about exrend, huh?


If you think we should investigate the history of extraordinary rendition and its use, I fully agree. It stretches back to Reagan (who apparently used it once), grew under Clinton and grew even more under GWB. I think it would be an important point of any investigation to examine the history of such programs.

Now a republican is doing something bad, and they show up.

I was preoccupied with coeds at the time, so I apologize that I wasn't more critical back then. The folks that were outraged about the Rule! Of! Law! in the late 90s don't have a similar excuse now.
4.27.2009 1:38pm
rosetta's stones:
Well, looks like Levin is caving in to the pressure, no Senate investigation forthcoming. Just got this in my email from him:


Dear Mr. rosetta's stones:

I thought you might be interested in knowing that the Senate Armed Services Committee released its full declassified report on its investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody earlier this week. The report, which was approved by the Committee on November 20, 2008, has been under review for declassification by the Department of Defense.

The Committee’s report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse, which occurred at places such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), and in Afghanistan, to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as the one made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a “few bad apples,” were simply false.

The truth is that, early on, it was senior civilian leaders who set the tone. On September 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that the United States turn to the “dark side” in our response to 9/11. Not long after that, after White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called parts of the Geneva Conventions “quaint,” President Bush determined that provisions of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to certain detainees. Other senior officials followed the President and Vice President’s lead, authorizing policies that included harsh and abusive interrogation techniques.

The record established by the Committee’s investigation shows that senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques. Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses. As the Committee report concluded, authorizations of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials resulted in abuse and conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.

In a May 10, 2007, letter to his troops, General David Petraeus said that “what sets us apart from our enemies in this fight… is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings.” With last week’s release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, it is now widely known that Bush administration officials distorted Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training, a legitimate program used by the military to train our troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations, by authorizing abusive techniques from SERE for use in detainee interrogations. Those decisions conveyed the message that abusive treatment was appropriate for detainees in U.S. custody. They were also an affront to the values articulated by General Petraeus.

SERE training techniques were never intended to be used in the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. Some have asked why, if it is okay for our own U.S. personnel to be subjected to physical and psychological pressures in SERE school, what is wrong with using those SERE training techniques on detainees? The Committee’s investigation answered that question.

On October 2, 2002, Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Banks, the senior Army SERE psychologist warned against using SERE training techniques during interrogations in an email to personnel at GTMO, writing that:



[T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large number of potential negative side effects… When individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder… If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. This will increase the amount of information they tell the interrogator, but it does not mean the information is accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain… Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low. The likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the level of resistance in a detainee is very high…


Likewise, the Deputy Commander of DoD’s Criminal Investigative Task Force at GTMO told the Committee in 2006 that CITF “was troubled with the rationale that techniques used to harden resistance to interrogations would be the basis for the utilization of techniques to obtain information.”

Other newly declassified emails reveal additional warnings. In June 2004, after many SERE techniques had been authorized in interrogations, another SERE psychologist warned: “[W]e need to really stress the difference between what instructors do at SERE school (done to INCREASE RESISTANCE capability in students) versus what is taught at interrogator school (done to gather information). What is done by SERE instructors is by definition ineffective interrogator conduct… Simply stated, SERE school does not train you on how to interrogate, and things you ‘learn’ there by osmosis about interrogation are probably wrong if copied by interrogators.”

If we are to retain our status as a leader in the world, we must acknowledge and confront the abuse of detainees in our custody. The Committee’s report and investigation makes significant progress toward that goal. There is still the question, however, of whether high level officials who approved and authorized those policies should be held accountable. I have recommended to Attorney General Holder that he select a distinguished individual or individuals – either inside or outside the Justice Department, such as retired federal judges, to look at the volumes of evidence relating to treatment of detainees, including evidence in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report, and to recommend what steps, if any, should be taken to establish accountability of high-level officials, including lawyers.
My complete floor statement and a link to the full report can be found on my website at [http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=311783].
Sincerely,
Carl Levin


Emphasis mine. Some boilerplate bushbashing of course, but Levin's obviously punting on this, and this report will likely be the only thing he does on it. All is lost, because he's aout the only congresscritter I'd trust to do it reasonably.

Holder and Obama did their jobs, and now Levin and Pelosi are doing theirs. Stonewall.
4.27.2009 1:44pm
PC:
jbg,

I think rosetta's has a point about cutting a single anchor cable destabilizing a bridge. The idea of terrorists being able to cut an anchor cable on a NYC bridge post-9/11? Laughable.
4.27.2009 1:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PC. Co-eds can get your attention. I'm trying to flog a couple of shorts the theme of which is an unhealthy forty-year attention span.
Anyway, so you now being a grown-up, you can look back and see exactly who was concerned. But I'll save you the time. Nobody.
Rosetta's. One of four cut would be a problem, since the load is supposed to be symmetrical. Now, when was it you wandered around the Ambassador Bridge? Mid-Sept 2001, I think you said. So it may laughable, as in, if you didn't laugh, you'd cry.
Two points regarding guarding. At some point, we run out of resources and end up guarding 1000 Important Things. So the terrs go after the thousand and first. The material damage is less, presuming we were rational in picking the first Thousand. But the political damage runs close to identical.
One Canadian aviation commenter said that he wasn't worried about airliners any longer, but about a Pilatus Porter with a ton of fuel taking off from some municipal strip in the middle of Alberta.
Second, to put it another way, guarding something against an expected threat may make you more vulnerable to another threat. See lining up the aircraft on Ford Field in late 1941 to make it easier to guard against sabotage.
4.27.2009 1:54pm
RPT (mail):
"John Moore:

I do care about confronting propaganda by Bush haters. However, that is not remotely related to my views on the torture issue."

I am curious about the fact that Bush is one guy who has made no public comments abut this. Does he not care because he was only passively involved, as contrasted with active proponents Cheney and others? I am certain he has no fear that anything he actually did do will have any effect on the rest of his easygoing life, i.e. travelling abroad, etc.

On another point, is there anyone on the "right" (term used for convenience) doing an actual reading and analysis of the pertinent documents and records similar to the work of Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake? It does appear that it is a substantial commitment of time to actually read and correlate everything; if anyone else is doing it, it would be good to know to compare conclusions. Conclusionary comments about her ideological perspective without addressing the merits would not be particularly helpful.
4.27.2009 1:56pm
rosetta's stones:
"With last week’s release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, it is now widely known that Bush administration officials distorted Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training, a legitimate program used by the military to train our troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations, by authorizing abusive techniques from SERE for use in detainee interrogations."

I'll let you lawyers parse Levin's tortured statement (Oh how he must have worked to clean this up properly.), but my take here is that Levin is affirming that the coercive interrogations are (distortedly) derived from the SERE training.

That seemed to be the whole point of those memos, that what's good for the SERE goose is good for the terrorist gander, and Levin's acknowledging a connection between the 2 (two), even if he's not agreeing with that use.
4.27.2009 1:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Back to public relations, guys.
Most people know torture. It's so bad you don't want to think about it. Blood and guts and hopeless howling and pleas for death.
This ain't it, no matter how you wail.
You can't sell this to a normal person.
But sometimes hyperventilating is, just, sufficiently contagious.
4.27.2009 2:06pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Fighters get into the ring and punch the crap out of each other. Since that is a voluntary activity, by the logic displayed here, it is quite in order to walk up to people on the street and punch the crap out of them.
4.27.2009 2:07pm
Dan M.:
jbg

You don't need to keep linking the same article over and over again in the same thread. We've already read it.

It doesn't matter what Bush said in 2002. Your entire argument now seems to be "The plot couldn't have been ongoing in 2003 and then thwarted because Bush thought we thwarted it in 2002!"

It's quite apparent that you can accept the facts presented in Thiessen's article and simply assume that Bush either lied or made a mistake in asserting that we thwarted the plot in 2002.

So if Bush lied, where's the time travel?
4.27.2009 2:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dan. Waste of time.
The "proof" which is ordinarily demanded is a statement from somebody involved. That won't fly here because it's the wrong "proof".
Next is an investigation by somebody not originally involved.
That won't fly, either, because the actual details about KSM's tribulations turn out to be a bit more complicated. For example, the rough stuff started earlier, according to the CIA, than the FBI guy reported in his NYT op-ed.
Just a teeny example.
That won't help jbg and his type, so that won't count either.
Fact is, if it doesn't lead to trials for Bush&Co, it isn't any good, no matter its provenance and origin.
4.27.2009 2:37pm
John Moore (www):

I am curious about the fact that Bush is one guy who has made no public comments abut this. Does he not care because he was only passively involved, as contrasted with active proponents

Bush is doing what ex-president's normally do - staying out of current politics.
4.27.2009 2:39pm
RPT (mail):
John:

That makes sense. But apparently he does not feel any need to defend himself. Does this suggest that he was only passively involved?
4.27.2009 2:49pm
John Moore (www):

That makes sense. But apparently he does not feel any need to defend himself. Does this suggest that he was only passively involved?

We shall see. My reading of Bush is that he really doesn't care about the current kerfuffle, because he believes history will vindicate him. He is a pretty secure guy, unlike his predecessor, and the partisan bickering really doesn't seem to bother him. His parents, on the other hand, are quite angry about the "torture memo" release, and have said so recently on TV.

I agree that history will vindicate him on the "torture." It may or may not find his actions in Iraq to have been prudent, and it will certainly find the prosecution of the war in 2004-2006 to have been deficient.
4.27.2009 3:09pm
MillerTime:
Dan,

Interesting point about dropping atomic bombs on Japan re the moral equivalence/hypocrisy canard. So, I assume that when Iran drops a dirty bomb in the middle of Manhattan, jbg and Co. will not complain because we did it too, or that it was our fault for doing it first (i.e. to end a war and save hundreds of thousands of lives). After all, its the same action we used earlier against the Japanese!! Thankfully, I don't think it will come to that as Obama is gearing up his "measured" response of "dialogues".
4.27.2009 3:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
My sis knew Bush slightly when he was governor. She said--not that this is an original observation--that he seemed happy in his skin. Something like that. It's been said since.
Perhaps he has no interest in being loved by those who claim he stole elections.
4.27.2009 4:33pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

I want to be Leo when I grow up.

That's very kind, but everything I know, I learned from the blogs.
4.27.2009 4:41pm
RPT (mail):
Richard:

Of course GWB is happy in his skin. He's lived a worry-free, accountability-free and recession-proof life. He doesn't need to be loved by either side.
4.27.2009 5:13pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

IOW, we are going to see O doing things for which Bush is pilloried and getting a free ride from your side.

If I see you drop a candy wrapper on my lawn, you'll hear from me about it. But you'll have gotten away with it. I'd call that a "free ride."

If you empty your septic tank on my lawn, you'll hear from me. And my neighbors. And it will be loud and long. And I'll do everything I can to see you don't get away with it.

Differences of degree matter. When they're big enough they can be almost indistinguishable from differences of kind.
4.27.2009 5:15pm
Anderson (mail):
The CIA believes in time travel, just like he does.

Good lord. Even with time travel, they couldn't prevent 9/11? They *are* incompetent.

That's very kind, but everything I know, I learned from the blogs.

Leo has much too much free time if he has discovered that particular source of persiflage. And having too much free time is something *else* I want when I grow up. Leo continues to be my role model!
4.27.2009 5:39pm
Nekulturny (mail):
Shorter PC (4.27.2009 12:39pm): I don't want to think and you can't make me!


He's right, too.
4.27.2009 7:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Leo. When I said "doing things for which Bush is pilloried", there was not the slightest reference to difference of degree or kind.
Nice try, though.
On second thought, it was a lame try.
4.27.2009 8:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

Your entire argument now seems to be "The plot couldn't have been ongoing in 2003 and then thwarted because Bush thought we thwarted it in 2002!"


What do you mean by "entire?" My "entire" argument about torture? Of course not. It's not even the "entire" argument about time travel. But it's an important part.

And indeed, please explain how it makes sense to claim that plot was "ongoing in 2003" while also claiming "we thwarted it in 2002."

It's quite apparent that you can accept the facts presented in Thiessen's article and simply assume that Bush either lied or made a mistake in asserting that we thwarted the plot in 2002. So if Bush lied, where's the time travel?


What you're saying is so bizarre I find it hard to believe that you actually wrote what you wrote.

You seem to be suggesting that on 2/9/06, when Bush declared that the Library Tower plot "was derailed in early 2002," that Bush was telling a lie. Because the plot was really "derailed" in 2003, after we tortured KSM (in 3/03), but Bush decided to lie and say the plot "was derailed in 2002."

Huh? What? First of all, what possible motivation would Bush have to tell that lie? It would gain him nothing whatsoever. And if it was a lie he told deliberately to gain something, then why should we waste any time treating statements coming from his camp as having any credibility whatsoever? If Bush is a liar, why should we assume that Thiessen is anything other than a liar?

Then again, you also said that maybe Bush "made a mistake." Huh? What? OK, fine, so he made a mistake. If so, then how come no one has ever corrected the mistake? How come he never corrected it? And how come Thiessen isn't telling us Bush's statement was a simple mistake? Instead, Thiessen is pretending the statement was never made. Why do that, if he could simply tell us the the statement was a mistake?

And if you want to think that Bush "made a mistake," you should realize that it's not just something he said in his speech (a major, prepared speech, and not just casual remarks). The same claim was made elsewhere. The same day of Bush's speech, 2/9/06, there was also a press briefing to discuss this exact plot:

Press Briefing on the West Coast Terrorist Plot by Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism


In that briefing, Townsend offered details to corroborate what Bush said in his speech: that the plot "was derailed in 2002."

And the same claim was made more than a year later. See here:

We Also Broke Up Other Post-9/11 Aviation Plots. - In 2002, we broke up a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it into the tallest building on the West Coast.  During a hearing at Guantanamo Bay two months ago, KSM stated that the intended target was the Library Tower in Los Angeles.


That's from a fact sheet released by the White House on 5/23/07.

So if the claim was a lie, it was a lie that was repeated over and over again. And it was a lie for no purpose; the story would have been just as impressive if it had been dated 2003 instead of 2002.

And if the statement was a mistake, it was a mistake that was repeated over and over again. Why would they do that? And if they did that, why has no one, like Thiessen, stepped forward to point out that it was a mistake? He would have every motivation to do so, because it would get him out of his time-travel trap.

The story you're peddling makes not even the slightest amount of sense.

You don't need to keep linking the same article over and over again in the same thread. We've already read it.


Really? You've read it? I guess you didn't read it very carefully. If you had, you would have known that the claim was made not just once, but multiple times. Which means you would have known that it would be absurd to claim that it was a "mistake" or a "lie."

And this story is important because it proves that the torturers are so desperate they are willing to tell a lie that is both major and transparent. And it also underlines the distinct absence of proof regarding the alleged effectiveness of torture. They just tried to put their best foot forward, and tell us the best story they had, and it turns out to be complete bullshit.

What a joke.
4.27.2009 8:58pm
Dan M.:
So it still seems that your argument that they foiled the plot through time travel is that since Bush said multiple times that the plot was foiled in 2002, you can't accept any evidence that that characterization isn't totally accurate.

And even if a plot is derailed in early 2002, that doesn't mean it couldn't have gotten back on the rails by early 2003 and derailed again. So Bush said multiple times that we foiled the plot in 2002, which may or may not have been totally true. You don't seem to want at all to address the claims made about the continuance of the plot and seek to simply use Bush's claims as your only argument that they are lying about later foiling the plot in 2003.
4.27.2009 9:56pm
Dan M.:
Bush also said "We don't torture" multiple times. I don't think I can use his repetition of that statement, even if he believed it or whether it's only true depending on whom he was referring to as "we," to contest assertions that, well, maybe we do torture, just a little bit.
4.27.2009 9:59pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
since Bush said multiple times that the plot was foiled in 2002, you can't accept any evidence that that characterization isn't totally accurate.


The weasel-word in that sentence is "totally." What would it mean for the statement to be something other than "totally" accurate? When he said "2002," did he really mean '2002, give or take a year or two?' Or is it the word "derailed" that wasn't "totally" accurate? Is it possible that when he said "derailed," he actually meant 'not derailed at all?'

You seem to be suggesting some alternate interpretation, other than the obvious one (that "2002" actually means, oddly enough, '2002,' and that "derailed" actually means, oddly enough, 'derailed'), but I'm having a tough time guessing what that alternate interpretation might be. I think the underlying problem is that I'm simply not as imaginative and creative as you. For example, I'm not imaginative enough to imagine the arrow of time moving in reverse.

Here's another great word you used: "evidence." As if there's "evidence" to support the claims Thiessen is making. Haha, that's a good one. As if Thiessen has shown evidence that Bush's statement was some kind of a mistake or a lie, when in fact Thiessen is going out of his way to pretend that Bush's statement (multiple statements, actually) don't even exist.

Thiessen writing his two articles while also utterly failing to mention and deal with Bush's statement is very much like Yoo writing his famous memo and failing to mention and deal with Youngstown. The omission is stupendously glaring. And in Thiessen's case, he's counting on the idea that most of his readers have no idea what he's leaving out. And he's right.

It's truly marvelous to watch you engage in contortions to avoid accepting the fact that Bush said what he said, and the words mean what they mean.

even if a plot is derailed in early 2002, that doesn't mean it couldn't have gotten back on the rails by early 2003 and derailed again.


Why not just claim that the plot got derailed and rerailed and derailed and rerailed over and over again, every few minutes, every time we tortured someone new?

And if your claim is correct, that the plot somehow kept reincarnating itself, then why is that narrative nowhere to be found? This story you just invented, of self-reincarnating plots, appears nowhere in the material Bush put out in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and it appears nowhere in the OLC memos, and it appears nowhere in the two Thiessen articles. When you look in all those places, you see a story about one plot. That was "derailed." Period. You don't see a story about a plot that kept coming back from the dead.

See, here's the problem. The wacky, fictional story you just invented is the wacky, fictional story that Bush should have adopted years ago. Because it's a better story than the one he actually told. And in the long run, it would have given him more flexibility. In other words, he wasn't a clever enough liar.

You don't seem to want at all to address the claims made about the continuance of the plot


That's because the idea that the plot was "derailed" and the plot had some kind of "continuance" are mutually exclusive.

seek to simply use Bush's claims as your only argument that they are lying about later foiling the plot in 2003


It's not just that Bush made multiple statements, both personally, and via that press briefing. There are other statements that showed up in various places, like this:

a senior administration official familiar with the case said the administration knew "the plot had been disrupted before" Mr. Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003


I imagine you will now go ahead and explain to us how the word "before" doesn't really mean "before." At least not "totally."

Bush also said "We don't torture" multiple times.


Yes, of course he did. And it was lie. He's told lots of lies. He's a world-class liar. But you're ignoring what I already explained: it makes no sense to claim that his statement ("2002") was a lie. Why? Because all his other lies have painfully obvious motives. In this case, he had no motive whatsoever to falsely claim that it was 2002, if in fact the truth was 2003.

And if he did have a motive to lie, and if he did lie, then he's a liar. And if he's a liar, then why should we pay any further attention to any claims emanating from him or his surrogates? Like you. Birds of a feather etc.
4.27.2009 11:55pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

Leo has much too much free time

I suppose from the other side of the screen procrastination looks a lot like free time.
4.28.2009 2:43am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

When I said "doing things for which Bush is pilloried", there was not the slightest reference to difference of degree or kind.

I know there wasn't. That's why I brought it up. You create a false equivalence, and then you feign puzzlement when things that are dissimilar provoke different reactions.
4.28.2009 2:44am
Dan M.:
So, basically, since Bush said the plot was foiled in 2002, all the other guys that they arrested in 2003 are totally irrelevant?
4.28.2009 6:56am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

So, basically, since Bush said the plot was foiled in 2002, all the other guys that they arrested in 2003 are totally irrelevant?


Please consider the following narratives:

A) Sit down, boys and girls, because it's time to hear a story. Once upon a time, George 'Codpiece' Bush saved us from some very bad people. Those very bad people had a very bad plan. It was called the West Coast Plot. And what was the West Coast Plot? It was a plan to put a big hole in LA, right near Mickey Mouse's house. And how did George 'Codpiece' Bush save us? By derailing the plot in early 2002. That's when he arrested the cell leader. Then, over the next year or so, he swept up the remains; i.e., he nabbed some other bad guys who had been involved in this plot before it had been derailed.

B) Sit down, boys and girls, because it's time to hear a story. Once upon a time, George 'Codpiece' Bush saved us from some very bad people. Those very bad people had a very bad plan. It was called the West Coast Plot. And what was the West Coast Plot? It was a plan to put a big hole in LA, right near Mickey Mouse's house. And how did George 'Codpiece' Bush save us? By torturing KSM in 3/03. That led to the discovery of the plot.

C) Sit down, boys and girls, because it's time to hear a story. Once upon a time, George 'Codpiece' Bush saved us from some very bad people. Those very bad people had a very bad plan. It was called the West Coast Plot. And what was the West Coast Plot? It was a plan to put a big hole in LA, right near Mickey Mouse's house. And how did George 'Codpiece' Bush save us? By derailing the plot in early 2002. That's when he arrested the cell leader. Then, over the next year or so, he swept up the remains; i.e., he nabbed some other bad guys who had been involved in this plot before it had been derailed. And torturing KSM in 3/03 helped us find some of those other bad guys.

Do you realize where I got all these stories? I made up none of them (I just added some color). All of them came from Bush and/or his surrogates. More specifically, one of those stories came from Bush himself, and it was told repeatedly (by him and his staff) in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Another one of those stories came from the OLC memos (and this story has also appeared in the two Thiessen articles, and also in a WSJ article by someone else, and also in a bunch of lesser places). And one of those stories came from you.

Can you figure out which is which? Can you match each item from Column A (a set of stories) with its corresponding item in Column B (a set of places where stories have appeared)? I sure hope so.

Now, each of those stories is a fine story. Each of those stories contains no internal contradictions. But the important thing to notice is that story A and story B are mutually exclusive. Here's what that means: a rational person (i.e., the kind of person who knows that the arrow of time only moves in one direction) cannot believe both story A and story B.

You have introduced story C in a valiant effort to reconcile the contradiction between A and B, but your effort fails. Why? Because B and C are quite different. You're suggesting that C reflects reality. Trouble is, C is not the story that Thiessen et al have been telling. And why have they not been telling that story? Because it's not very impressive. In particular, it does a poor job of proving that torturing KSM saved us. And that's a crucial defect, because the whole point of all these stories is to prove that torture saved us. Trouble is, we now know that waterboarding didn't start until 8/02, and the plot was derailed in 2/02.

And here's the interesting thing about story B. Who made it up? The CIA. And when did they make it up? In 2005. And why did they make it up? Because Bradbury was writing one of his torture memos, and the torturers wanted that memo to include a passage supposedly demonstrating the effectiveness of torture. So why did they do such a half-assed job? Why did they make up a story that was in contradiction with story A (which is probably a rough approximation of what actually happened in 2002)? Here's why: because they never expected the OLC memo to see the light of day. So they figured it was OK to come up with something that was only superficially convincing. You know the saying: good enough for government work. And, after all, they didn't have anything else to work with. It was the best they could do.

And when Bush stepped up to the microphone in 2005, 2006, and 2007, telling story A, he was contradicting story B, which was placed in the OLC memo in 2005. But he probably didn't know. After all, he doesn't read much. And there were probably some people around him who did know, but they didn't give a shit about the contradiction. Why? Because they never expected the OLC memo to see the light of day.

The other interesting thing about story B is that it wasn't just good enough for government work. It was good enough to fool the pathetic wingnuts who read Thiessen and don't realize that 1+1 does not equal 3. But story B is not good enough for the reality-based community. That means the 79% of the country that chooses to not identify itself as Republican (the highest that number has been in 26 years). Because the reality-based community doesn't have amnesia, and it remembers story A, and its patience for being told lies ran out years ago.

There's only mystery left to be solved: why do you keep digging?
4.28.2009 8:54am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Oops: there's only one mystery left to be solved.
4.28.2009 8:55am
Dan M.:
I don't see much difference between A, B, and C. So we can claim we disrupted the plot in 2002 by getting the cell leader, then learned in 2003 what the plot actually was and that it was ongoing, and tortured KSM to find the other guys still trying to go through with the plot.

We can argue all day about how politicians, law enforcement agencies, and intelligences agencies constantly lie to procure more power for themselves. Their inaccurate statements can be used to support not trusting them, but not as actual evidence disproving the stories that they tell.
4.28.2009 10:58am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

I don't see much difference between A, B, and C.


And some people also "don't see much difference between" time moving forward and time moving backward. I can't help them, and I also can't help you.

So we can claim we disrupted the plot in 2002 by getting the cell leader, then learned in 2003 what the plot actually was and that it was ongoing, and tortured KSM to find the other guys still trying to go through with the plot.


Except that the actual language in the OLC memo, which forms the foundation of Thiessen's articles, is that "the interrogation of KSM … led to the discovery" of the Library Tower plot. And the whole point of that language is to make the following claim: that if not for "the interrogation of KSM," we would not have 'discovered' the plot, and therefore LA would have been vaporized.

And as far as "still trying to go through with the plot," you're still trying to have it both ways. If the plot was truly "derailed," what those "other guys" wanted, or were allegedly "trying" to do, doesn't matter. You can't say the plot was "derailed," and also say it was "ongoing." Those two concepts are mutually exclusive.

Let's remember the central question that's really at stake here. That question is this: what is the value of what we got from torturing KSM? Consider these two possibilities:

X) Torturing KSM saved LA. As a result of torturing KSM, we 'discovered' a plot we didn't know anything about, and we were then able to stop that plot. If we hadn't tortured KSM, LA would have a big hole in it.

Y) Long before we tortured KSM, and in fact long before we even captured him, we had already "derailed" the plot. But then much later, we tortured him and he told us some things to enhance our understanding of the plot that had already been derailed, and he helped us capture some of the guys who had been associated with the derailed plot. So torturing KSM was somewhat helpful, but it didn't save LA.

The whole point of the passage in the memo, and Thiessen's articles which are based on that passage, is to promote the idea of X. Trouble is, it's impossible to promote the idea of X without completely erasing all the statements Bush made in 2005, 2006 and 2007, when he told story A. So that's why Thiessen pretends those statements were never made.

Back here on Earth, where Bush actually told story A over and over again, the idea of X is obviously a fairy tale. Back here on Earth, an honest person who wanted to defend torture would stick with promoting Y. Because Y is congruent with A. Trouble is, Y isn't impressive enough. And Thiessen isn't an honest person. So that's why he's peddling the idea of X, by telling story B.

We can argue all day about how politicians, law enforcement agencies, and intelligences agencies constantly lie to procure more power for themselves. Their inaccurate statements can be used to support not trusting them, but not as actual evidence disproving the stories that they tell.


Sorry, but that's complete gibberish. You're basically saying this: 'I claim that some statements coming from Bush and his surrogates are complete lies, but at the same time I expect you to accept various other statements coming from Bush and his surrogates as gospel truth. And how do I sort out one category from the other? I just make it up as I go along, based on whatever happens to be convenient for me in the moment. Because depending on the immediate needs of my current argument, I might find some of their statements helpful, and some unhelpful. So I accept whatever I feel like accepting, and I reject whatever I feel like rejecting.'

If I know that they are making "inaccurate statements," and have therefore decided that "trusting them" is a bad idea, it makes no sense to look at other "stories that they tell" and treat those stories as having any value whatsoever.
4.28.2009 12:58pm
Dan M.:
The narrative I get is that they discovered the plot by interrogating KSM, and learned that they'd disrupted it by capturing the leader, and then they tortured KSM and got the rest of the people involved with the plot who were still determined to carry it out. Is that not possible? Is your only quibble with the use of the word 'derailed' as opposed to 'disrupted'?
4.28.2009 1:37pm
Dan M.:
And you've seemingly just accepted my premise that you are not addressing the new story at face value and you're simply arguing that since it's slightly contrary to their previous statements it can't be true and you don't trust them.

I said that attempts to argue that they are untrustworthy liars are acceptable to convince someone that they shouldn't be trusted, but they are not arguments about the facts of a situation.

So, if you can present an argument that the plot was not ongoing in 2003, a full year after it was supposedly disrupted, that is based on evidence other than Bush's use of the word 'derailed,' I'd love to hear it.

Otherwise, just say "I only trust Bush when it fits my agenda" and be done with it.
4.28.2009 1:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
they discovered the plot by interrogating KSM


I think most people would find it hard to understand how it's possible to derail something that you haven't discovered. The discovery would generally precede the derailing.

got the rest of the people involved with the plot who were still determined to carry it out


If the plot had really been derailed then it doesn't matter how "determined" they were. If the plot was dead, it was dead. On the other hand, if they were indeed making progress on their intentions to carry it out, then the plot hadn't really been derailed. Again, you're trying to have it both ways.

Is your only quibble with the use of the word 'derailed' as opposed to 'disrupted'?


It's true that "derailed" is a stronger word than "disrupted." The meaning of the former is pretty absolute. But you would still have a problem if Bush had said "disrupted," because it's hard to disrupt something before you've discovered it.

But this is not a "quibble" over semantics. You're still not grasping the fundamental issue, which is that Bush can't take credit for saving LA more than once, unless there were two plots against LA. And Bush et al have never claimed there were two plots against LA.

It's like playing a card, and then deciding you want to play it again in a different way, even though there's only one card, and the rules say that there are no do-overs. Once you play the card, you don't get to change your mind and take the move back and play the card some other way.

In 2005, 2006 and 2007, Bush took credit for saving LA. And he claimed that he saved LA by derailing a plot in 2/02.

Fast forward to 2009, when Bush decides to tell us, again, that he saved LA. Except this time he wants to tell us that he saved LA by torturing KSM in 3/03. Trouble is, you can't save LA twice if there was only one plot against LA.

This would all be very different if Bush had told a different story years ago. Let's say that in 2005, 2006 and 2007, he had claimed that he had saved LA not once, but twice. Because there were two separate plots. And one plot was derailed in 2/02. But then somehow another plot sprang up (maybe via some remnants of the first plot), and then he killed that second plot in 2003.

Fair enough. That makes a good story. Trouble is, it's not the story he told back then. Not even close. And it's also not the story we're hearing now. Because no one (exccpt maybe you) is claiming that there were two plots, or that the plot died and was then reincarnated. Thiessen is telling a story about one plot, a plot that was killed once. Period. Except he's rewriting history with regard to when it was killed.

you've seemingly just accepted my premise that you are not addressing the new story at face value


Try English. I have no idea what you're trying to say.

you're simply arguing that since it's slightly contrary to their previous statements


You have an odd concept of "slightly." The previous statement was 'I saved LA from the West Coast Plot in 2/02.' The current statement is 'I saved LA from the West Coast plot subsequent to 3/03.' I don't call that "slightly contrary." If you do, I can't help you.

you're simply arguing that since it's slightly contrary to their previous statements it can't be true and you don't trust them.


I'm not saying that the new story "can't be true." I'm saying that the new story and the old story can't both be true. And if Thiessen would like to explain why we should discard the old story and embrace the new story, that would be helpful. But it's very significant to notice that instead of presenting such an argument, he's simply pretending that the old story was never told. This is a very strong clue that he's completely full of shit.

I said that attempts to argue that they are untrustworthy liars are acceptable to convince someone that they shouldn't be trusted, but they are not arguments about the facts of a situation.


When there is no source for "the facts of a situation" other than a bunch of people who have demonstrably contradicted themselves, and who are demonstrably trying to hide the contradiction, then only a fool would treat those "facts" as facts.

When your only source for "facts" are "untrustworthy liars," then those "facts" aren't facts. They are unsubstantiated claims that only a fool would take seriously.

So, if you can present an argument that the plot was not ongoing in 2003, a full year after it was supposedly disrupted, that is based on evidence other than Bush's use of the word 'derailed,' I'd love to hear it.


So, if you can present an argument that the plot was ongoing in 2003, that is based on evidence other than statements made by people who are "untrustworthy liars," and who have demonstrably contradicted themselves, and who are demonstrably trying to hide the contradiction, I'd love to hear it.

Otherwise, just say "I only trust Bush when it fits my agenda" and be done with it.

See, here's the fallacy in your argument (actually, there are a bunch, but I want to highlight one in particular). You're claiming that I "trust" Bush with regard to the story he told about saving LA in 2/02. Wrong. I don't trust Bush at all. I'm inclined to think that all these different stories he's been telling are complete bullshit (and indeed, there is evidence that the so-called plot was never a serious plot). So it's not that I'm deciding to "trust" a particular story he told. I'm just pointing out that at least one of the stories he has told must be false. And in the absence of help from him figuring out why he told at least one false story, I'm inclined to reject all the stories.

You, on the other hand, are deciding to treat one his stories as true, while simply ignoring his prior story. Because all the clever new stories you're advancing are incongruent with his prior story. So "I only trust Bush when it fits my agenda" does not apply to me, but it does indeed apply to you.

Projection is a big problem for the GOP.
4.28.2009 3:28pm
Dan M.:
I'm not claiming that it's two plots. I'm claiming that it doesn't really falsify any of the claims to say that it's one plot that was unwittingly disrupted in 2002, and that in 2003 they learned that there was a plot, that they'd previously captured the leader, but that the surrogates were still working on it, and that they tortured KSM to get information about the surrogates.

You are still basing your argument on your assertion that something that has been derailed cannot have resumed and been in planning more than a full year later.

I'm really not claiming anything as the truth, I'm simply countering your assertion that they are now claiming to have totally derailed the plot through time travel, when it's pretty clear to me that no one is claiming that.

And this is all just to prove your ridiculous assertion that torture doesn't work. Did finding those other operatives in LA, even if perhaps that particular plot had been derailed already, not demonstrate the torture is effective at getting information if there is information to get?
4.28.2009 4:57pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I'm not claiming that it's two plots.


It doesn't matter whether or not you're claiming that it's two plots. The problem is that Bush's old story and Bush's new story can't both be true unless one believes there were two plots. But if there were two plots, Bush would have said so. Both then and now. But what he's always said (both personally and via various surrogates) is that there was only one plot.

it's one plot that was unwittingly disrupted in 2002, and that in 2003 they learned that there was a plot, that they'd previously captured the leader, but that the surrogates were still working on it, and that they tortured KSM to get information about the surrogates.


The key word there is "unwittingly." Yes, I understand the internal logic of the story you're telling. Yes, I understand that we might have "unwittingly" derailed the plot; that is, arrest someone without really knowing (at the time), the full significance of what the person was planning to do. And without understanding, at the time, how many lives we had saved by making that arrest. And only after torturing KSM did we find out all these things that we didn't know at the time of the arrest.

Yes, that's a plausible story, but it still doesn't address the underlying issue, which is this: what saved LA? Is the original arrest what saved LA, or is torturing KSM what saved LA? It can be one or the other, or some combination. Trouble is, when Bush rolled out the story that we "derailed" the plot in 2002, he was telling us that the arrest in 2/02 is what saved LA. It saved LA (according to Bush) even though (supposedly, you now say) we didn't understand that at the time. Consider these two things:

J) The torture of KSM saved LA
K) The torture of KSM opened our eyes to the fact that when we arrested a certain person in 2/02, we had "unwittingly" saved LA

Now, K might be true. Trouble is, K is not a very impressive way to justify the torture of KSM. In order to justify the torture of KSM, Bush's surrogates are now saying J. (For example, Thiessen said this: "without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.") Trouble is, when Bush told the story about "derailed," he was giving up the option of peddling J. Because if the plot was truly derailed in 2/02, then any subsequent events did not save LA. Subsequent events could only have the effect of helping us understand that we had saved LA.

By the way, pay attention to what a weasel Thiessen is. He said this: "In numerous … speeches, President Bush said that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program." That statement is true. But Thiessen truncated the truth. If Thiessen wasn't deliberately trying to hide something, he would have said this: 'In numerous … speeches, President Bush said that the West Coast plot was disrupted in 2/02 because of the CIA program.'

So Thiessen completely glosses over, and declines to address, the main problem with his claim. And he glosses over the main issue again in this statement: "the Director of National Intelligence has repeatedly affirmed the accuracy of the statement that the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program." Duh. The issue is not whether or not "the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program." The issue is that "the West Coast plot was disrupted because of the CIA program" in 2/02. That's reality, at least according to Bush.

in 2003 they learned that there was a plot, that they'd previously captured the leader, but that the surrogates were still working on it, and that they tortured KSM to get information about the surrogates.


I have already addressed this, and you're simply repeating yourself without addressing what I have said. You can't have it both ways. If it is really true that "the surrogates were still working on it," in some material, potentially dangerous fashion, then Bush's statement ("derailed") was a falsehood.

You are still basing your argument on your assertion that something that has been derailed cannot have resumed and been in planning more than a full year later.


But the story Bush used to tell was not that it was "derailed" and then "resumed." The story he told was that it was "derailed," period. Derailed means derailed. Derailed does not mean 'it was derailed, except it wasn't really derailed.' It's complete nonsense for Bush, in 2006, to take credit for derailing it in 2002, and then in 2009 to say 'well, when I said it was derailed, I forgot to mention that it wasn't really derailed; what I really meant to say was that it wasn't quite derailed, but it really got derailed in 2003.'

This is like a kid saying the dog ate my homework. These are the same shenanigans Bush et al pulled with WMD. That stuff used to work, but it doesn't anymore. Fool me once etc.

Did finding those other operatives in LA, even if perhaps that particular plot had been derailed already, not demonstrate the torture is effective at getting information if there is information to get?


Pay attention to what I said here about a Ouija board.
4.29.2009 9:42am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
torture is effective at getting information if there is information to get


That's what you say. According to someone who was there, the effect of torture was to make the subject "uncooperative."
4.29.2009 10:01am
Dan M.:
Sure, if you're picking people at random, the overwhelming majority of them innocent, and torturing them, then you could probably compare that to a Ouija board.

If an Al Qaeda operative captured a CIA agent or maybe even a high level member of the presidential administration, do you think that a rapport-building approach is going to get secrets out of them?
4.29.2009 10:41am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

Sure, if you're picking people at random, the overwhelming majority of them innocent, and torturing them, then you could probably compare that to a Ouija board.


To be considered effective, torture obviously has to do more than just beat a Ouija board. It has to beat non-torture. And the evidence seems to show that it doesn't.

And speaking of "majority of them innocent:" that's a pretty good description of who we locked up and tortured:

Denbeaux, who has worked with Seton Hall University's Law School in studying the Guantanamo detainees' cases, said that 55 percent have never been accused of committing a hostile act against the United States or its allies and that 60 percent were neither fighters for the Taliban nor for al-Qaeda.


Those claims are well-documented (pdf).

More proof that we locked up innocent people is here.

If an Al Qaeda operative captured a CIA agent or maybe even a high level member of the presidential administration, do you think that a rapport-building approach is going to get secrets out of them?


When you look at the actual historical data regarding torture, what you find out is that it's not very effective:

Truth is, it's surprisingly hard to get anything under torture, true or false. For example, between 1500 and 1750, French prosecutors tried to torture confessions out of 785 individuals. Torture was legal back then, and the records document such practices as the bone-crushing use of splints, pumping stomachs with water until they swelled and pouring boiling oil on the feet. But the number of prisoners who said anything was low, from 3 percent in Paris to 14 percent in Toulouse (an exceptional high). Most of the time, the torturers were unable to get any statement whatsoever.

And such examples could be multiplied. The Japanese fascists, no strangers to torture, said it best in their field manual, which was found in Burma during World War II: They described torture as the clumsiest possible method of gathering intelligence. Like most sensible torturers, they preferred to use torture for intimidation, not information.


More here.

But feel free to fantasize.
4.29.2009 10:09pm
Dan M.:
Funny how you always accuse others of ducking questions. Shall I ask again?

If Al Qaeda captured a CIA agent or a member of the Presidential administration, would you expect such a person to respond positively to a rapport-building approach and spill secrets?
4.30.2009 2:23am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Funny how you always accuse others of ducking questions.


There's nothing funny about it. I accuse others of ducking questions when they do this: duck questions.

If Al Qaeda captured a CIA agent or a member of the Presidential administration, would you expect such a person to respond positively to a rapport-building approach and spill secrets?


It depends mostly on how skilled AQ was at doing conventional interrogations. They're probably not very skilled at it, which means the example is poor and irrelevant. I'm not making statements about what AQ should do. I'm making statements about what we should do.

Unlike AQ, we have a lot of history and experience (going back to Washington) of handling prisoners without torturing them. Despite this, we've managed to survive somehow. It probably has something to do with the fact that conventional techniques are very effective, if you know what you're doing. And if you're interested in real intel, rather than false confessions.
4.30.2009 2:54am
Dan M.:

There's nothing funny about it. I accuse others of ducking questions when they do this: duck questions.


Indeed, and it's amusing when you subsequently duck a question.


It depends mostly on how skilled AQ was at doing conventional interrogations. They're probably not very skilled at it, which means the example is poor and irrelevant. I'm not making statements about what AQ should do. I'm making statements about what we should do.


Is that a no, or a deflection? Are you assuming that Al Qaeda interrogators are less skilled than the WW2-era Japanese, or the French of 500 years ago? Surely torture is more effective in the hands of skilled interrogators. Could a skilled interrogator get important secrets out of high level US officials without torturing them?


Unlike AQ, we have a lot of history and experience (going back to Washington) of handling prisoners without torturing them. Despite this, we've managed to survive somehow. It probably has something to do with the fact that conventional techniques are very effective, if you know what you're doing. And if you're interested in real intel, rather than false confessions.


I never suggested that torture shouldn't be used in conjunction with conventional methods. Abuses should be dealt with, but I applaud those who approved the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
4.30.2009 5:12am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

Is that a no, or a deflection?


Neither. It's a serious answer to an unserious question.

Are you assuming that Al Qaeda interrogators are less skilled than the WW2-era Japanese, or the French of 500 years ago?


Yes. I know you think AQ has had lots of practice, but the French had even more. It was done officially, by the government, for a long time.

Could a skilled interrogator get important secrets out of high level US officials without torturing them?


In my opinion, yes. If you have a different opinion, good for you. Please recall that "high level US officials" often end up in the news because they betray the public trust in some way. So the idea that "high level US officials" are, in general, perfectly principled, stalwart and immune from influence is hysterically funny.

I applaud those who approved the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.


Then you applaud those who undermine the rule of law. Why do you hate democracy? And does everyone get to break laws with impunity, or just certain elite members of the government? What do you think is the proper word for a system where elite members of the government are allowed to break the law with impunity? Hint: the proper word is not "democracy."
4.30.2009 8:53am
Dan M.:

Neither. It's a serious answer to an unserious question.


It was certainly a serious question.


Yes. I know you think AQ has had lots of practice, but the French had even more. It was done officially, by the government, for a long time.


Skilled torturers, sure, but I specifically asked about their actual investigation and interrogation skills.


In my opinion, yes. If you have a different opinion, good for you. Please recall that "high level US officials" often end up in the news because they betray the public trust in some way. So the idea that "high level US officials" are, in general, perfectly principled, stalwart and immune from influence is hysterically funny.


So, if someone nabbed Leon Panetta, or Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton, you think they'd just give up everything up under interrogation? Is this simply without torture or is it entirely without violence or threat of violence? Regardless, I disagree.


Then you applaud those who undermine the rule of law.


Sometimes. There are things called prosecutorial discretion and jury nullification. I'd vote to acquit those who approved the torture of high level Al Qaeda members.

If CIA members didn't follow that advice, and they tortured anyone without compelling evidence that he is an Al Qaeda member, then that should probably be prosecuted.


Why do you hate democracy?


Democracy is vastly overrated. Regardless, this isn't a democracy.


And does everyone get to break laws with impunity, or just certain elite members of the government?


Neither. I simply think that torture is in the country's best interest sometimes and in some situations some people deserve it. Richard Poplawski, for example, is a rare case where I don't find prison rape all that disturbing.


What do you think is the proper word for a system where elite members of the government are allowed to break the law with impunity? Hint: the proper word is not "democracy."


I'm sure it's called by many names. Fascism. Communism. Monarchy. Etc. Regardless, democracy is just as bad.
4.30.2009 10:41am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
It was certainly a serious question.


It's only a serious question if you think we should compare ourselves to AQ, or emulate them in any way. And you've made clear that this is what you're inclined to do. That's why we have this difference of opinion regarding the seriousness of the question.

So, if someone nabbed Leon Panetta, or Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton, you think they'd just give up everything up under interrogation?


If "give up everything" means deliver false confessions, then torture is the way to go. But if the goal is accurate intel, then there is no reason to think that they (or R politicians) would behave differently than other people have behaved over the history of interrogation. And the history of interrogation shows that torture is generally less effective than non-torture. If you're interested in valuable intel, and not just false confessions.

There are things called prosecutorial discretion and jury nullification.


Prosecutorial discretion doesn't apply with torture, because the treaty specifically obligates us to prosecute all torturers.

I'd vote to acquit those who approved the torture of high level Al Qaeda members.


If you're talking about how you would behave as a juror, I don't really have a problem with that. If they have a fair trial and the jury acquits, then justice has been served. But I thought your position was that there should be no further investigation and no trial. Maybe I misunderstood you.

If CIA members didn't follow that advice, and they tortured anyone without compelling evidence that he is an Al Qaeda member, then that should probably be prosecuted.


By "that advice" I assume you're talking about the OLC memos. Maybe you don't realize that there's already quite a bit of evidence that the CIA didn't adhere to the limits articulated in the memos. Anyway, this statement of yours (if I understand it correctly) tells me that your position is not that different from mine.

Democracy is vastly overrated.


It's the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Regardless, this isn't a democracy.


You know what I mean, and that's a separate issue.

I simply think that torture is in the country's best interest sometimes and in some situations some people deserve it.


But if there's no review by a court, then abuse is almost inevitable. But it sounds like you're saying you're OK with review by a court.

I'm sure it's called by many names. Fascism. Communism. Monarchy. Etc. Regardless, democracy is just as bad.


If our system is just as bad as those other systems, then why should we fight to protect our system? Are we just fighting for our physical survival?
4.30.2009 11:53am
Dan M.:
I don't think we're fighting to protect our system, at least not overseas. That's what we do in politics, but we don't fight wars to protect our system. We fight wars either to protect our economic interests, out of silly idealism about spreading democracy (perhaps ultimately to enhance somebody's global economic interests), to fulfill obligations to some stupid treaty or international organization, or in self-defense.

I'd prefer to avoid them. But once you're in, you have to win. And I believe that reserving torture as an option in extreme circumstances is conducive to that end. Torturing everyone absolutely is not.

I would absolutely support an investigation in theory. But if you're not going to prosecute the actual torturers then I don't think you should prosecute the people who crafted the policies that they abused. The intelligence agencies certainly could use more discipline.
4.30.2009 12:59pm

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