April 17, 2009

Axelrod: Obama "thought very long and hard about" about opening up the CIA interrogation memos.

"He ... consulted widely, because there were two principles at stake. One is … the sanctity of covert operations … and keeping faith with the people who do them, and the impact on national security, on the one hand. And the other was the law and his belief in transparency."

In the struggle between 2 principles, in the mind of Obama, government transparency won.
"It was a weighty decision. As with so many issues, there are competing points of view that flow from very genuine interests and concerns that are to be respected. And then the president has to synthesize all of it and make a decision that’s in the broad national interest. He’s been thinking about this for four weeks, really."
He's the decider.

ADDED: Former CIA Director Michal Hayden and former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey write:
Although evidence shows that the Army Field Manual, which is available online, is already used by al Qaeda for training purposes, it was certainly the president's right to suspend use of any technique. However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual....

The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in these opinions. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government's knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.

Read the whole thing.

151 comments:

Michael Hasenstab said...

Axelrod made this decision? AXELROD? An effin' political consultant made the decision to break federal law by releasing information about CIA methods?

Taking campaign money from donors in the Middle East, bowing to the Saudi prince, cozying up to the Palestinians, wanting to chit-chat with Dinnerjacket, giving Iranian lobbyists access to the White House, and now releasing top-secret information about how the CIA interrogates prisoners.

They are giving away America to its sworn enemies.

rhhardin said...

Thinking long and hard isn't something you'd expect positive results from with Obama.

I think it's a rhetorical mistake to bring it up.

The Drill SGT said...

Mike,

For better or worse, the President is the ultimate decision authority on what constitutes classified material.

I on the other hand cringe at the idea that the WH view of safeguarding secrets is now aligned with the NYT, or perhaps that only applies if they are Bush memo's.

I seem to recall, the WH isn't as free with the "waivers" for Lobbyists entering government. Those memos apparently are not transparent, but rather attorney work product.

mrs whatsit said...

WHAT belief in transparency?

Eric said...

I'm trying to picture myself as a government lawyer writing "secret" opinions that may, or may not, end up on the front page of the NYT. It's a good thing Obama is a lawyer, because the next guy is gonna be completely unable to understand memos couched in lawyerly ass-covering.

Issob Morocco said...

Hmmm, hypocrisy which always lands on the side of what weakens our country. That is the Obama for whom so many cast ballots.

Too bad we don't have the transparency as to what was in pork bill, prior to passing it.

All hail Obama, Lord of Hypocrisy and Master of the Straw Man!

The Drill SGT said...

Nicely put Eric.

It's going to be doublely convoluted in this case because intelligence officers hate being provided wrong so they always caveat the hell out of any estimate or prediction.

jayne_cobb said...

So we need transparency in national security but not in the financial bailouts?


Yeah, this is going to end well.

Esther12 said...

Selective transparency.

"Realizing litigation may be the best option to receive records related to the financial industry bailout, yet another news organization lawsuit has joined the FOIA lawsuit parade.

The New York Times filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act on March 23 seeking documents from the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department. The newspaper’s various FOIA requests have gone unfilled, according to the complaint."

http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=10677

http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/Stop-the-stalling-and-show-America-the-bailout-books-43074792.html

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/Stop-stalling-and-show-us-the-bailout-books-43088037.html

Peter V. Bella said...

The whole world is laughing. I wonder, if like Clinton, he will decide give away nuclear secrets too. You know, to stop proliferation.

He might be a decider but the decisions are not necessarily good ones.

Lem said...

These memos were the missing chapter on Al Qaeda’s training manual.

Indeed.

If the memos presented a window into the “harshest” methods the US was prepared to go when there was a war, these memos now represent a recruiting tool in their arsenal, a recruiters dream for the ones on the fence.

I bet this shit is on every Qaeda laptop right now.

AJ Lynch said...

Obama is The Absolver. Philly
Inquirer headline this morning said...........

"Obama Absolves CIA for Torture".

They promoted Obama from Decider to Absolver.

I was promoted once in less than 180 days on a job but 90 days! Damn Obama must be kicking ass to get a promotion already.

Maguro said...

All this establishes is that Obama believes is in transparency and openness for controversial actions taken by the Bush administration.

Will he be as open and forthcoming when he and his staff wrestle with their own difficult legal/moral issues?

I wouldn't bet on it.

traditionalguy said...

The political North Star for the Axelrod/Obama Party is steering our ship voters entrusted back into the hands of the out of power Dems from November 2006 to 2008. The two new factors that everyone from NPR to Fox News do not include in their attempts to explain The course settings for Captain Obama's voyage are (1)His attempt to design the new and reduced role for North America in the new World Administration (2) Smiling sweetly at the same time like a Surgeon assuring the patient being operated upon that "this wont hurt very much." Obama's payoff for capturing and selling out the old Sovreign Republic started in 1787 will be on a scale that Blago could have only dreamed about scoring.With those goals in mind, everything Obama continues doing to reign in the USA's Superpower status makes sense.The news keeps coming that Obama's Administration is opening doors to agreement with our current enemies' talking points, and at the same time demonizing the Right Wing Crazy Criminal Nuts American people who will try to stop his plans once they are announced as a fait accomplie.

Peter V. Bella said...

What was so very important about releasing these classified files and memos? What was the rush? Is this a continuing attempt to make the last administration look bad? Instead of prosecuting them those in charge will persecute them? Or is this an attempt to show the world that supposedly hates us how open and cool we really are?

I wonder who really is advising Obama.

Henry said...

I think Obama got this one right: back-off the war crimes talk, but publicize the memos to make the option less likely in the future.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Anyone who thinks a pro wrestling match is a scripted charade with a predetermined outcome has never watched a liberal wrestle with his conscience.

Lem said...

This is how Obama saw it.

Keeping a promise to his base on the up-side and giving the appearance of shutting down a sinister program on the down side. (or is that the upside?)

I say give the appearance because it just means we are going to have to farm out everything. Rendition. That is until the base makes him change that too.

For the sake of connecting the dots more quickly the NSA and the DNC should exchange liaisons.

m00se said...

The more I read the memos, the more I'm struck by the lengths it seems they went to to ensure there was no lasting physical damage to the subjects.

Regardless of what you might think of "torture" in this context, the fact remains is that we also do things that other countries do which are far more serious than this. For instance: napalm, cluster munitions, white phosphorus, etc. All done in the context of war.

I find the froth regarding this issue to be nothing more than a feel-good exercise on the left tagged to the bugaboo term "torture".

trogdor said...

Maybe it's time for an "Obama is not like Bush" tag?

SteveR said...

That he would do this for naked idealogical and political reasons would at least make sense. That he thought "long and hard" about is more than a little bit scary.

Robert Cook said...

No, Obama got it wrong: he should ramp up the war crimes talk and prosecute anyone and everyone involved in our torture program.

Of course, this means many in Congress from both parties will be caught in the needed dragnet, but so be it.

Of course, it was never a credible possibility that Obama would prosecute anyone for torture or war crimes because he's part of the club. He's a smarter, smoother, more palatable face of American power, but he still represents and serves the same interests as his predecessors, the plutocracy.

As for those pissing their pants about "Al Qaeda now knows our interrogation methods," so what? Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to America and never was. Simply in terms of the number of deaths of Americans that can be blamed on Al Qaeda, drunk drivers are a vastly greater threat to us. We suffer roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities each year. Al Qaeda will never achieve a fraction of that tally.

WE are the existential threat to ourselves and WE will be our own undoing, as witness the parasitic Financial Services industry which still endeavors to hoover up whatever remains of America's wealth. The heads of the big banks and trading houses are more dangerous to America than Al Qaeda will ever be, rivaled only by a lawless government that commits war crimes and torture with impunity.

Al Qaeda serves the purpose the "commies" used to in America: they are the boogie men who are invoked to justify any outrageous military expenditures and the rescinding of rule of law and Constitutional protections.

Joseph Hovsep said...

However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from themGood. Now we might start to rebuild the kind of respect in the world that will allow the people who can have the most impact on infiltrating, sabotaging and eliminating terrorist cells from the Muslim world to help us in our fight--the billion plus Muslims in the world and their leaders.

Beta Conservative said...
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Joseph Hovsep said...

I still can't believe smart people in the United States are honestly debating the propriety of our government detaining and torturing people suspected of connections to terrorist groups and acts.

Eric said...

No, Obama got it wrong: he should ramp up the war crimes talk and prosecute anyone and everyone involved in our torture program.

Yeah, because that's how you ensure an orderly transition of power - throw the previous administration in jail.

I realize people on the left have a soft spot for Hugo Chaves. But I'll thank you not to turn my country into a banana republic, where every president declares himself "president for life" because otherwise he knows he'll end up in jail or executed. And nobody blames him.

Eric said...

Or, I guess, you could call him Hugo Chavez.

zedzded said...

So, Robert Cook, you have given up being a communist and joined al Qaeda? Excellent career choice, you raving left wing Nader-voting anti-semite. You will do well there.

Eric said...

Now we might start to rebuild the kind of respect in the world that will allow the people who can have the most impact on infiltrating, sabotaging and eliminating terrorist cells from the Muslim world to help us in our fight--the billion plus Muslims in the world and their leaders.

Oh God... you think professional wrestling is real, don't you? Just out of curiosity, where were these people in 2001?

John said...

"However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them Good. Now we might start to rebuild the kind of respect in the world that will allow the people who can have the most impact on infiltrating, sabotaging and eliminating terrorist cells from the Muslim world to help us in our fight--the billion plus Muslims in the world and their leaders."

Muslems are going to love us and help us now because we are no longer using these techniques. That has got to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. I guess maybe for some people it is easier to live in denial. The truth that there are a large number of people in the world who really do hate our guts regardless of what we do is a pretty hard truth. I guess it is easier to live in la la land. If we would just get rid of all of our nuclear weapons, North Korea and Iran will follow our moral example and do the same, right?

Beta Conservative said...

Why didn't Bush just tell the war protesters that far more Ametricans die from drunk driving than the Iraq war and they should just STFU?

The reasoning is asinine. Not paying attention to those who have an agenda of unending violence against Americans is suicidal.

Maybe the guys who behead female aid workers with dull butcher knives and video tape it to impress their buddies will be nice to us now that we are unilaterally disarming ourselves.

Pogo said...
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Pogo said...

It's Sept. 10 again in America!

Cedarford said...

Lem - If the memos presented a window into the “harshest” methods the US was prepared to go when there was a war, these memos now represent a recruiting tool in their arsenal, a recruiters dream for the ones on the fence.

I bet this shit is on every Qaeda laptop right now.
Whatever Obama makes transparent to the American people is also now transparent to any enemy or potential enemy the US has. It wasn't just the 10 "enhanced interrogation" techniques - it was also the whole psychological assessment of the enemy, what nterrogators are looking for and driving towards that is now Open Book to the North Koreans, Somali pirates, Chinese military and espionage Organizations, Iran, MS-13, the Mexican cartels, the KGB's successor organization.

Not just AQ's laptops. Add in 59 other violemt Islamist terror groups, and various non-Islamic terror groups operating domestically and abroad.

Obama's release is a "must read" for all of them.

=================

Quayle said...

Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to America and never was. Simply in terms of the number of deaths of Americans that can be blamed on Al Qaeda, drunk drivers are a vastly greater threat to us.But, you know, Americans have this funny aversion to seeing two 90 story buildings fall and kill bunches of people in one event.

And who doubts that we'd be upset if Manhattan couldn't be inhabited between canal street and 79th street because of a dirty bomb even where maybe only dozens of people died?

Does America only need to rouse itself when it is an existential threat, or can we be allowed to prefer to not have buildings collapse on us while we are running?

Robert Cook said...

"Yeah, because that's how you ensure an orderly transition of power - throw the previous administration in jail".

If the previous administration is guilty of war crimes and torture, absolutely.

An "orderly transition of power" is meaningless window dressing in a nation that has renounced the rule of law.

"Not paying attention to those who have an agenda of unending violence against Americans is suicidal".

No one, and certainly not I, suggests we should not "pay attention" to Al Qaeda. They are certainly a dangerous gang of criminals. However,exaggerating their number and capabilities and presenting them as an omnipotent and omnipresent and existential threat is simply dishonest propaganda, used to keep our citizenry in fear and thus amenable to any authoritarian measures our government might want to enforce at home and any schemes of mass murder and torture abroad, not to mention confiscatory expenditures on the American war machine.

As to whether Al Qaeda has an "agenda of unending violence against Americans," the question, aside from the validity of such a perception, is, "do they have the capabilities to succeed at their purported (by Westerners) goal of extermination of the West?"

In a word, no.

Freeman Hunt said...

If the memos presented a window into the “harshest” methods the US was prepared to go when there was a war, these memos now represent a recruiting tool in their arsenal, a recruiters dream for the ones on the fence. Have to agree with Lem.

"You mean to tell me that if we get captured, that's it? What?! They don't even do that anymore? Yes! Sign me up for the jihad!"

Henry said...

I don't think the need for US security is to build up the respect of muslims (or anyone else) abroad.

The need is for the US to maintain the commitment of a large majority of its citizens to active operations in a long term war.

As Robert Cook reminds us, this is very hard to do when a vocal, connected minority is committed to propagandize against any such actions.

The only way we lose is politically. Strict rules of engagement and (some) transparency about our operations may limit our tactical effectiveness, but those are costs we can and must bear as an open society.

Frankly, I think the harsh interrogations were wrong on principle. The decision to publish the memos is more debatable -- but I stand by what I wrote above: transparency is a fair trade-off for war crime prosecutions.

Freeman Hunt said...

In a word, no.Naive. It's one small part of a global movement, a global movement that is gaining ground, especially in Europe.

AJ Lynch said...

I think more traffic deaths were due to failure to wear a seat belt than drunk driving.

Maguro said...
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Maguro said...

Now we might start to rebuild the kind of respect in the world that will allow the people who can have the most impact on infiltrating, sabotaging and eliminating terrorist cells from the Muslim world to help us in our fight--the billion plus Muslims in the world and their leaders.

You raise an interesting point. What group of people do you think might have the most impact on "infiltrating, sabotaging and eliminating terrorist cells from the Muslim world"? Human rights lawyers and pantywaist Euro politicians? Or perhaps the intelligence services of countries like Yemen, Egypt and Algeria?

If the answer is the latter (and it is), then you know that our precious "respect for human rights" won't do a damned thing to combat terrorism.

Panetta raised the point himself - and I agree with him - that these leaks will positively discourage foreign intelligence services from cooperating with us in the future.

This type of holier-than-thou moral posturing goes down well with UN/EU human rights types but does nothing to protect America.

The Drill SGT said...

Robert Cook said... As for those pissing their pants about "Al Qaeda now knows our interrogation methods," so what? Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to America and never was. Simply in terms of the number of deaths of Americans that can be blamed on Al Qaeda, drunk drivers are a vastly greater threat to us. We suffer roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities each year. Al Qaeda will never achieve a fraction of that tally.that AQ only killed 3,000 instead of 100,000 was our good fortune, not the result of the lack of capability. If both of those towers had come down at once, the death toll would easily have been 20 times greater.

I used to plot nuclear blast zones and downwind patterns for a living, as somebody whose wife works down wind of the WH, within 1/2 mile of Capitol Hill, I am worried. Though not as much as I would be if I lived downwind of a big urban port complex.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Just out of curiosity, where were these people in 2001?This isn't 2001. Its 2009. In 2001 we had a groundswell of support and sympathy in the Muslim world, which the Bush Administration squandered with its lawless and sloppy invasion of a country unconnected to 9/11, its lawless indefinite detention and torture of Muslims suspected (not convicted or even charged) of terrorist connections. And so, years later, the Muslim world no longer sees the U.S. as a model or a partner that can be trusted or respected.

You can laugh all you want, but having a baseline of respect from a community is crucial to any attempt to regulate it.

And torture techniques? How did this crazy minority of Americans think this could ever become a legitimate way for our country to act? So counterproductive, and so immoral, and so unAmerican. We need to shed light on the backward thinking that led us to that place.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I dunno, I kind of like this idea of government not doing anything about anything that isn't an existential threat to the nation. Even if it does sound like the sort of notion those no-account teabaggers would come up with.

John said...
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John said...

"In 2001 we had a groundswell of support and sympathy in the Muslim world, which the Bush Administration squandered with its lawless and sloppy invasion of a country unconnected to 9/11, its lawless indefinite detention and torture of Muslims suspected (not convicted or even charged) of terrorist connections. And so, years later, the Muslim world no longer sees the U.S. as a model or a partner that can be trusted or respected."


In 2001 the Palistinians celbrated 9-11 in huge numbers. A few Arabs living in America had parties in celbration. There wasn't any groundswell of support for America in the Muslim world anywhere outside of your imagination. At best Muslims were ambivilent about 9-11 and at worst they were downright gleeful.

As far as torture goes, their own governments routinely practice forms of torture well beyond anything in these memos. The idea that they would not support a government that tortures is rediculous.

John said...

"I dunno, I kind of like this idea of government not doing anything about anything that isn't an existential threat to the nation. Even if it does sound like the sort of notion those no-account teabaggers would come up with."

That is a good point. What is the deaths of a few thousand civilians every few years. I don't know why anyone would ever worry about that.

Cedarford said...

Joseph Hovsep said...
I still can't believe smart people in the United States are honestly debating the propriety of our government detaining and torturing people suspected of connections to terrorist groups and acts.
I can't believe smart people still refuse to see the forest for the tree when looking at the Constitution.

The Preamble has the goals. The rest of the Constitution is verbage supposed to enable those goals. And you cannot have the Common Defense provided for, you cannot have domestic tranquility, and you cannot bestow the blessings of liberty if all those key goals are badly comprimised or abandoned altogether by favoring Enemy (or criminal) Rights over those of The American Citizen.

We interrogated about 30 people with a few of the "Awful 10" of
enhanced interrogation of the thousands of prisoners we had. Only 3 were "waterboarded", [along with some 115,000 Americans in our military in the last 30 years(including Drill SGT, I believe.)]

Of the 3 waterboarded for 2-3 minutes, one gave us the names of hundreds of operatives and their locations, including bin-al Shibib. Getting him in turn and waterboarding him gave us the location of the 9/11 organizer and head - Mastermind Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed.
Who not only gave up other operatives, but gave up his three active plots - intended to kill thousands of people at Heathrow, Singapore, and Los Angeles.

3 enemy waterboarded. Several thousand lives saved. The common defense was provided for. And the intel we got, which Hayden and Mukasky said is 50% of the intel we have to fight these deadly radical Muslims, allowed and still allows us to keep on the offensive against them, attriting their numbers and breaking up more deadly assaults on our citizens and troops.
Domestic tranquility was preserved - which is a tad perturbed when we don't know what the enemy has coming and planes crash and hundreds of burning bodies fall from skyscrapers.

And the "blessings of liberty" is being preserved still for US citizens. But an influential minority obsessed with the rights of terrorists, considered above the rights of American citizens in their millions and millions to "enjoy the blessings of liberty", threatens to compromise this. And their position makes no sense from a "macro" Constitutional compliance perspective, or from a position of common sense.
Simply, you kill thousands of citizens, you take away ALL their rights, all their liberties. And by terror affecting lives of others in travel, heavy debt they must eventually pay off, and over 300,000 troops put in harms way at some time sacrificing some of their own "blessings of liberty" - overconcern for terrorist rights is at odds with the goals of the Preamble in our struggle to one day restore the "blessings of liberty" to troops risking their lives in the field against Jihadis. And in restoring some of limits on liberty imposed by Congress for safer air travel.

Peter V. Bella said...

I do not know where the drunk driving comparison came from; but...

There is an organization called MADD- Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Maybe some of you people can start MATT- Mothers Against Terrorist Torture.

That's the ticket. Peope love organizations; the get to join up, write a check, and feel all warm and fuzzy. They even get a bumpersticker to put on the car.

Lem said...

I noticed those memos have a “top secret” stamp on them.

That “top secret” stamp represents a wall between the new administration’s transparency offensive and these so called enemies we were so mean to.

If you don’t keep any secrets the theory is they will love us back. Assuming we were loved at one time to beguine with of course. And assuming that they will be together of one mind to resume the love affair, disarm and come to Boston for the springtime.
I'm stayin' here with some friends and they've got lots of room
You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk
By a café where I hope to be workin' soon.

And she said, hey ramblin' boy, why don't you settle down
Boston ain't your kind of town
There ain't no gold and there ain't nobody like me
I'm the number one fan of the man from Tennessee.

Crimso said...

"In the struggle between 2 principles, in the mind of Obama, government transparency won."

Except it's actually Bush Admin transparency and not government transparency. The Obama Admin is not exactly transparent, unless it's with Bush documents. Transparency with Obama will have to wait until the next Republican Admin, but come it will. And I doubt Obama will be happy about it but you reap what you sow.

MnMark said...

Robert Cook said... As for those pissing their pants about "Al Qaeda now knows our interrogation methods," so what? Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to America and never was. Simply in terms of the number of deaths of Americans that can be blamed on Al Qaeda, drunk drivers are a vastly greater threat to us. We suffer roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities each year. Al Qaeda will never achieve a fraction of that tally.Since Robert makes this a matter of simple math - i.e., it's not the fact that Al Qaida is murdering our fellow citizens, it's the NUMBER of citizens that they're murdering that matters - then I would say the same principle of bean counting should apply to torture. We're only torturing 30 or so Al Qaidians. 30 is nothing compared to the thousands they killed...and we're not killing them, just giving them horrible fear for a while.

See Robert? It's not NUMBERS, it's PRINCIPLE. Either it's right to torture or it's not. It's as right or wrong for Al Qaida to kill one of our citizens as for them to kill a million. You can make the argument that torture is always wrong no matter how many of us they may kill if we don't use torture, but you're never going to win the argument by suggesting that making a few dozen suspects feel really bad fear or pain compares to the thousands or millions of us they want to kill.

Big Mike said...

Freeman and moose have it right. The "torture" involved no serious injuries to the prisoners, at worst a mild reddening of the skin (including blushes at being naked in front of a woman). If you showed this list to a Roman and tried to tell him that it constituted torture in the 21st century, he'd have peed his braccae laughing.

Then he'd start sharpening his gladius and smile a very chilling smile.

Lem said...

I have an idea.

As the WH released the memos it should also release Obama’s I-pod play list. So that the relevant agencies can (after thinking long and hard) gleam some sense as to where the new president is coming from.

Let’s help our president people!

Eric said...

You can laugh all you want, but having a baseline of respect from a community is crucial to any attempt to regulate it.

This is just dangerously naive, and not borne out by any serious reading of the historical record. I suggest you go back over bin Laden's speech about the strong horse and the weak horse. Weakness is provocative.

Lem said...

See... that’s why he gives an I-pod to the heads of states.

It’s all there!

garage mahal said...

3 enemy waterboarded. Several thousand lives savedHa. They wouldn't have destroyed those tapes if that were true. Where is all the evidence that Bush and Cheney stopped attacks? Even one. Didn't we waterboard Bin Laden's retarded driver who sent us on wild goose chases trying to protect shopping malls, power plants, banks, etc in order to stop the torture? Remember all the terror alerts?

And if waterboarding is just like SERE training they wouldn't have had to author memos legally justifying what they were doing, and they certainly wouldn't have lied about it.

Joseph Hovsep said...

John, Your view of the Muslim world's reaction to 9/11 is apparently limited to video of some Palestinians celebrating (Palestinians, no less, a group whose situation is about as unrepresentative of Muslims as any other) rather than the endless documentary evidence of Muslims from all over the world, common people, leaders, etc. all expressing sympathy and rejecting the senseless violence and destruction of 9/11. Your approach is as fair as people equating all Christians with Fred Phelps. Lots of polling data shows that worldwide, moderately favorable attitudes toward the US by Muslims worldwide started to collapse a year or two after 9/11.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Eric: Refusing to engage in torture is not weakness. It is strength. Based on your statement, I gather you are not part of a mainstream American religious tradition.

John said...

"Your approach is as fair as people equating all Christians with Fred Phelps. Lots of polling data shows that worldwide, moderately favorable attitudes toward the US by Muslims worldwide started to collapse a year or two after 9/11."

No one knew anything about torture in the year after 9-11. Further, the U.S. hadn't invaded Iraq. The U.S. had only invaded Afghanistan a war that was fully authorized by the U.N. and had wide world support.

So what accounts for the drop in US popularity in the Muslim world during the first year after 9-11? It wasn't torture, no one knew we were doing it yet. It wasn't Iraq, we hadn't invaded. The answer I think is that while Muslims feel bad and sympathize with America when other Muslims are killing us, that doesn't mean they support us when we defend ourselves.

Robert Cook said...

Either it's right to torture or it's not".

It's not.

It's not NUMBERS, it's PRINCIPLE".

Correct.

Thus, torturing even ONE person is wrong, no matter the rationale. Torturing even one person is abhorrent, a breach of our principles, not to mention our humanity. Torture is NEVER acceptable. Once we excuse and permit our use of the tactics of thugs, not only are we no better than thugs, we become thugs.

As John McCain, of whom I'm no supporter, succinctly and correctly said, (on the matter of torture and its propriety for use by us): It's not about who they are; it's about who we are".

John said...

"Thus, torturing even ONE person is wrong, no matter the rationale. Torturing even one person is abhorrent, a breach of our principles, not to mention our humanity. Torture is NEVER acceptable. Once we excuse and permit our use of the tactics of thugs, not only are we no better than thugs, we become thugs."


That sounds really good but somehow it rings holllow. In war we shoot people and burn them and bomb them and do so in ways that often kill innnocent people. They are known as collateral damage. We kill women and children. Not intentionally but we it happens. We can't help it.

Given that and the nasty nature of war, I find it difficult to beleive that we somehow forfeit our humanity when we waterboard some thug like KSM, but we haven't already by the nature of war itself.

Robert Cook said...

"It's as right or wrong for Al Qaida to kill one of our citizens as for them to kill a million".

Of course, but my point was not about the degree of Al Qaida's criminal culpability for murder but about it's realistic threat to us with regard to their actual capabilities of killing mass numbers of us or of "destroying" us, which some in America have said (and may believe) is their goal, and which must rationally be seen as relatively insignificant.

Pogo said...

"It's not about who they are; it's about who we are."

Boy that sounds good, until what you are is dead.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Boy that sounds good, until what you are is dead.Torturing suspects is not keeping us alive but it is deadening the very values that our national security is supposed to be protecting.

Robert Cook said...

"That sounds really good but somehow it rings holllow. In war we shoot people and burn them and bomb them and do so in ways that often kill innnocent people. They are known as collateral damage. We kill women and children. Not intentionally but we it happens. We can't help it.

Given that and the nasty nature of war, I find it difficult to beleive that we somehow forfeit our humanity when we waterboard some thug like KSM, but we haven't already by the nature of war itself"
.

But we do renounce our humanity when we engage in war and when we kill innocents. This is why war should always be an absolute last resort in any political or international disputes, to be engaged in only for self-defense, and why the waging of aggressive war--which we did in invading Iraq--is a war crime.

"The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war 'essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole'" (from Wikipedia)

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't share values like "We mustn't slap terrorists," or "We mustn't expose terrorists to harmless caterpillars." In fact, I don't think those are American values.

Eric said...

Eric: Refusing to engage in torture is not weakness. It is strength. Based on your statement, I gather you are not part of a mainstream American religious tradition.

Strength? No. It's squeamishness - the same sort of squeamishness that has people protesting against hunting but buying packaged meat in the grocery store. But it's immaterial. No matter how we perceive it, to them it's provacative weakness.

Remember, these are the people who inspired Kipling:
/When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
/And the women come out to cut what remains,
/Jes roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
/An' go to your Gawd like a soldier
.

You're right about me not being part of a "mainstream religious tradition." I have no problem breaking out the pliers and hot irons for the kind of people who perpetuate a bloody sneak attack on my country to make a political point.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Freeman: Yes, that's a good summary of the torture techniques we have approved and used.

SteveR said...

Torturing suspectsI guess I'm not inclined to call them suspects, since that implies a criminal investigation.

traditionalguy said...

The arguments here are treating Al Queada like it is an independent group of mercenaries with little ability to attack anyone. That is like characterising the Marine Corps as a small, light-infantry military club that meets on Tuesday at the American Legion hall.Both units are the frontline assault forces of great powers, and the goal of both units is killing the enemy before it kills them first, and then turning over the captured territories to a Regular Army for occupation. Why make Al Queada's work easier by going back to pretending they will go away, if we just declare that we will not fight back anymore.

Peter V. Bella said...

With all the hand wringing and gnashing of teeth here, one point is lost.

The last line of the article indicates, or speculates, that the release of the memos may be the result of an ACLU lawsuit that has been floundering and foundering around the courts for a while.

Maybe the Great Decider wanted to help out his pals at the ACLU or he may have feared that a judge would force the release of the documents creating an unwanted distraction.

Lem said...

As John McCain, of whom I'm no supporter, succinctly and correctly said..

What a pile of dung!

McCain is the last person I expect to look at this with any kind of objectivity.

McCain was torture! Let me say that again…

McCain was tortured … not given a cricket to play with, his nuts where not simulatedly busted – they were busted for real!

So, of course he is going to say we shouldn’t bust people’s nuts, nor break their arms nor electrocute them.

Quayle said...

Torturing suspects is not keeping us alive but it is deadening the very values that our national security is supposed to be protecting.On that same logic, we should never fight a war because killing other people is deadening the very values that we are supposed to protect.

It is simply silly to say it is OK to kill people "over there" but not to tap their phones over here, or to press them to talk if we, in fact, didn't kill them.

How do you draw such a line?

Kill them? No problem.

Capture them and press them to talk? THAT'S IMORAL!

Silly

Joseph Hovsep said...

Torturing suspects I guess I'm not inclined to call them suspects, since that implies a criminal investigation.

Well, people who have not done anything wrong, as has been the case with a number of people at Guantanamo and sent to dark sites. I think its a big problem where there is no process to decide whether someone has actually done anything wrong or knows anything about any wrongdoing and that person is locked up in secret and interrogated using torture techniques. And it still blows my mind that certain Americans don't flinch at this, especially (wait for it...), a law professor. Not to mention torture under any circumstances.

Paul Zrimsek said...

But we do renounce our humanity when we engage in war and when we kill innocents. This is why war should always be an absolute last resort in any political or international disputesMake up your mind: are you a pacifist or aren't you? If we renounce our humanity by waging war, then it's renounced no matter how we got involved. How is its being a last resort supposed to change anything?

Peter V. Bella said...

THE GREAT DECIDER

Lyrics by Rammed Buck

Oh yes I'm the great decider (ooh ooh)
Deciding I'm doing well (ooh ooh)
My need is such I decide too much
I'm decisive but no one can tell

Oh yes I'm the great decider (ooh ooh)
Adrift in a world of my own (ooh ooh)
I play the game but to my real shame
The left is a dream of my own

Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal

Ooh Ooh yes I'm the great decider (ooh ooh)
Just laughing and gay like a clown (ooh ooh)
I seem to be what I'm not (you see)
I'm wearing my suit like a crown
Deciding if you're still around

Yeah ooh hoo
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal

Oh yes I'm the great decider
Just laughing and gay like a clown (ooh ooh)
I seem to be what I'm not you see
I'm wearing my suit like a crown
Deciding that you're
Deciding if you're still around

Eric said...

And it still blows my mind that certain Americans don't flinch at this, especially (wait for it...), a law professor.

Why do you assume Althouse agrees with me and not you? She voted for Zero, though it's true that might have been professional courtesy.

SteveR said...

Please clarify instances where innocents were subject to techniques such as waterboarding.

As I understand the information, we are talking about 30 or so "hard core" people.

If you want to make the case that Gitmo detainees have been tortured, then there's really no point in arguing with facts.

Robert Cook said...

"Make up your mind: are you a pacifist or aren't you? If we renounce our humanity by waging war, then it's renounced no matter how we got involved. How is its being a last resort supposed to change anything?".

That's the difference between murder and self-defense, isn't it?

Why must I declare myself to be either a pacifist or not? That's binary thinking and does not correspond to reality.

I'd say I'm largely a pacifist, partly (but not only) because most war is not self-defensive but is about committing murder in order to gain power and land and resources. In short, most war is a criminal enterprise not merely in its results but in its motives, it's murder in the commission of armed robbery writ large. I certainly think, though, that if we face an imminent devastating attack from a force that realistically can destroy us, we should defend ourselves. The only war we've been involved in in living memory that I can think of that fits this description is WWII.

Joe said...

The most annoying aspect of this is how the left has continually redefined torture to mean any technique they disapprove of and any technique used on prisoners whose cause they sympathize with.

Unfortunately, while using the word "torture" gets the emotional response desired, its broad use renders the word meaningless.

Paul Zrimsek said...

So does Mr. Cook believe that people who defend themselves have renounced their humanity? Or was he talking nonsense when he said that war entails that?

Crimso said...

"Torturing suspects is not keeping us alive"

Someone in a position to know (and who thinks waterboarding is wrong) seems to think otherwise.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-markdavis_12edi.ART.State.Edition1.36db21e.html

"The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg"

Well, they certainly couldn't have been biased. I seem to recall that one of the charges they considered had to do with waging war from the air. Telford Taylor said that they dropped that one upon glancing out the window (even though they had already decided tu quoque would not be a legitimate defense).

Robert Cook said...

"So does Mr. Cook believe that people who defend themselves have renounced their humanity?

When they commit murder of civilians, such as we did in the firebombing of Dresden or the a-bombing of Japan, yes.

Paul Zrimsek said...

So we've established that the likelihood of renouncing our humanity is not a sufficient reason not to go to war. If you're going to deny being a pacifist, you should refrain from slogans that would only convince a pacifist.

zedzded said...

Aren't you the precious coddled little Nader voter - you forgot to mention the V2 buzz bombings of London. Oh, right - you think those things are ok if Nazis do them, as you are on the same side.

Back to the AQ meeting with you - you have much work to do to convince civilized people that we are better off with your kind in charge.

Cedarford said...

garage mahal said...
3 enemy waterboarded. Several thousand lives savedHa. They wouldn't have destroyed those tapes if that were true. Where is all the evidence that Bush and Cheney stopped attacks? Even one. Didn't we waterboard Bin Laden's retarded driver who sent us on wild goose chases trying to protect shopping malls, power plants, banks, etc in order to stop the torture? Remember all the terror alerts?

And if waterboarding is just like SERE training they wouldn't have had to author memos legally justifying what they were doing, and they certainly wouldn't have lied about it.
.
SERE?, ask Drill SGT. There was a possibility I would have gotten an assignment that required me to do SERE, and I was happy I got orders to a different assignment. But I heard it was no fun at all - sleep deprivation, slapped around, waterboarding (which was accompanied by info that you will talk and talk truthfully or they will waterboard you until you do.)

As for saving thousands, in 2005the US and Britain listed 10 plots they foiled after 9/11, mostly thanks to a dripping wet KSM singing like a bird. Operatives were found where KSM said they would be, detailed plans recovered on 4 of the plots and staffing assignments. Yes, waterboarding did save thousands. The only dispute is with those you claim if we had been nicer and more patient with the 9/11 Mastermind, he would have eventually cooperated willingly.

=================
Robert Cook said...
"So does Mr. Cook believe that people who defend themselves have renounced their humanity?

When they commit murder of civilians, such as we did in the firebombing of Dresden or the a-bombing of Japan, yes.
.


Imagine my shock on learning America renounced its humanity over 60 years ago!

Is Cook that stupid he thinks that sort of drivel convinces anyone?
===============

Revenant said...

So, in a struggle between national security and government transparency, government transparency wins.

In a struggle between keeping the details of a trillion-dollar bailout secret during the debate over its passage, and government transparency -- the spending wins.

From this we can conclude that our current government leadership considers vast increases in government spending to be more important than national security.

Freeman Hunt said...

Freeman: Yes, that's a good summary of the torture techniques we have approved and used.Joseph, I actually read the entire memo Althouse linked in her earlier post. The NYT referred to the techniques as "brutal." The slap and the caterpillar were the worst aside from waterboarding. Other "brutal" techniques included muscle fatigue induced by sitting or standing uncomfortably, pushing someone against a fake wall made to create a loud sound so that the person thinks he was pushed into it with more force, holding a person's face (to let him know that you will touch him), and sleep deprivation.

So, yeah, my accounting does accurately describe our methods of "torture." I'm sure the jihadis are shaking in their sandals.

Freeman Hunt said...

From this we can conclude that our current government leadership considers vast increases in government spending to be more important than national security.Heh. Of course, everyone should have known that before the election since they made it clear at the time.

buster said...

Robert Cook said:

"Thus, torturing even ONE person is wrong, no matter the rationale. Torturing even one person is abhorrent, a breach of our principles, not to mention our humanity. Torture is NEVER acceptable. Once we excuse and permit our use of the tactics of thugs, not only are we no better than thugs, we become thugs."

He's the kind of guy who carries his ideas step by step to their logical conclusion without once stopping to say: "By God, this is impossible!"

chickenlittle said...

Heh. Of course, everyone should have known that before the election since they made it clear at the time.I still blame BDS for that. Has BDS gone away yet?

buster said...

Robert Cook said:
Of course, but my point was not about the degree of Al Qaida's criminal culpability for murder but about it's realistic threat to us with regard to their actual capabilities of killing mass numbers of us or of "destroying" us, which some in America have said (and may believe) is their goal, and which must rationally be seen as relatively insignificant."

Does this mean that if the threat is real enough and great enough, it is OK to torture? If not, what's the point of your statement? If so, how can you say that it's always wrong to torture?

garage mahal said...

As for saving thousands, in 2005the US and Britain listed 10 plots they foiled after 9/11, mostly thanks to a dripping wet KSM singing like a bird. Operatives were found where KSM said they would be, detailed plans recovered on 4 of the plots and staffing assignments. Yes, waterboarding did save thousands.You don't have much evidence for this claim [as much as you'd like to think it's true], other than a heavily redacted confession from KSM at a GTMO tribunal. We know KSM made a bunch of stuff up -- if you have a source that could verify this for me I might actually change my mind on waterboarding.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Torturing even one person is abhorrent, a breach of our principles,

It isn't a breach of my principles. "Make sure our enemies are treated nicely" is nowhere on my list of principles.

If I could snap my fingers and cause everyone who felt joy when the Towers fell to die in screaming agony, I would do it. And then I'd go get some lunch.

Chip Ahoy said...

I do not accept Axlerod's explaination of Obama's thought process as anything other than poetry. He left out the part about impending law suits that call for exposing those documents and the calculus that spun in the Obama legal/political mind. They didn't fit the rhyme and meter.

Thank you all for carefully showing us once again the delicate constructs you've built up in your minds about how the world works, or rather should work, so clearly emphasizing the tender values that hold together all those cards and tissues, tensile popsicle sticks, filaments and floss.

But now I tire of reading this and so I'll stop, for this subject with its recurring loops and you grow tiresome.

Pogo said...

"...deadening the very values that our national security is supposed to be protecting"

Boy that sounds good, until you're dead.

Dulce et decorum est pro rectum mori

Pogo said...

"Thank God For Atom The Bomb" by Paul Fussell.

excerpts** "The experience I'm talking about is having to come to grips, face to face, with an enemy who designs your death. The experience is common to those in the marines and the infantry and even the line navy, to those, in short, who fought the Second World War mindful always that their mission was, as they were repeatedly assured, "to close with the enemy and destroy him." Destroy, notice: not hurt, frighten, drive away, or capture.

**After Biak the enemy withdrew to deep caverns. Rooting them out became a bloody business which reached its ultimate horrors in the last months of the war. You think of the lives which would have been lost in an invasion of Japan's home islands – a staggering number of Americans but millions more of Japanese – and you thank God for the atomic bomb.
"

Bob From Ohio said...

"Dulce et decorum est pro rectum mori"

Ha ha.

That about sums up the moral preeners.

Peter V. Bella said...

"If I could snap my fingers and cause everyone who felt joy when the Towers fell to die in screaming agony, I would do it. And then I'd go get some lunch."


If it were only that easy.

Robert Cook said...

"Does this mean that if the threat is real enough and great enough, it is OK to torture? If not, what's the point of your statement"?

No, it is never ok to torture.

The remark had to do with appraising Al Qaeda's realistic capacity to "kill all Americans" or to "destroy" us, as some allege to be their goals. Al Qaeda is a dangerous criminal gang, and by killing even one American they are culpable for murder, but they have no capacity to seriously injure us.

Robert Cook said...

"(Torture) isn't a breach of my principles".

You arent't America; you're just one insignicant speck of America. Your principles--or apparent lack of same--even if shared by many of your countrymen, do not equate with the principles of America, as set forth in our Constitution and our laws. For example, a majority of our citizens are Christians, but we are not a Christian nation.

chickenlittle said...

Robert Cook wrote:
No, it is never ok to torture.Nor is it always wrong. If you can't live with that conflict, deal with it!

Pogo said...

" they have no capacity to seriously injure us."

Sure, what's a few thousand people give or take, and a few 100 story buildings?

Heckfire, they'd have to kill ten times that number to reach Mr. Cook's radar, but even then it ranks far below the real murderers: Ford and GMC and RJ Reynolds.

Robert Cook said...

Yes, it is always wrong to torture.

chickenlittle said...

Yes, it is always wrong to tortureThat's like saying it's always wrong to kill.

Paul Zrimsek said...

This is supposed to be an exercise in moral posturing! Let's not have all this bickering about 'oo killed 'oo.

Issob Morocco said...

Robert Cook opined,

"The remark had to do with appraising Al Qaeda's realistic capacity to "kill all Americans" or to "destroy" us, as some allege to be their goals. Al Qaeda is a dangerous criminal gang, and by killing even one American they are culpable for murder, but they have no capacity to seriously injure us."

Tell that to those who died at WTC, the Pentagon and Shanksford. Oh wait you can't Al Qaeda seriously injured them to the point of death.

Your village is calling you home, Squire Cook.

zedzded said...

Is R. Cook Michael? Nah, he is slightly less insane.

But he is more anti-American, that's for sure.

Would I be wrong to call him a douchebag? Yes, yes I would. That would insult douchebags the world over, which, afterall, are useful things. Too bad his mother didn't use one.

hdhouse said...

Paul Zrimsek said...
Anyone who thinks a pro wrestling match is a scripted charade with a predetermined outcome has never watched a liberal wrestle with his conscience."

or a conservative lying to his???

hdhouse said...

zedzded said... "Would I be wrong to call him a douchebag? Yes, yes I would. That would insult douchebags the world over, which, afterall, are useful things. Too bad his mother didn't use one."

Does your mother know you talk like that? Do you think that talking like a goon makes you more a manly-man or something? Do you think you score with girls by being insipid and crude? Is that what you learned "makes points"?

Look, all you do is insult and slither around in your own muck. Go find some pubescent blog...MTV4SHITS.com perhaps? god, get a life boy.

Minzo said...

"still can't believe smart people in the United States are honestly debating the propriety of our government detaining and torturing people suspected of connections to terrorist groups and acts."

Erm, surely the key word there is 'suspected'? Are we to assume all the men captured are automatically terrorists? But lets say for the sake of argument they are and torture is permissble. How likely is it that accurate information will be obtained from them? Torture is more than just a moral and political issue

Revenant said...

You arent't America; you're just one insignicant speck of America.

Pardon me while I savor the humor value of a Ralph Nader voter telling me what America really believes. Offhand it is hard to think of a well-known American politician more repugnant to the founding principles of this country.

Your principles--or apparent lack of same--even if shared by many of your countrymen, do not equate with the principles of America, as set forth in our Constitution and our laws.

The Constitution does not forbid the use of torture as an interrogation technique.

Freder Frederson said...

And the "blessings of liberty" is being preserved still for US citizens.And where are the liberties if we revert to the practices we fought a revolution to escape?

I don't share values like "We mustn't slap terrorists," or "We mustn't expose terrorists to harmless caterpillars." In fact, I don't think those are American values.Well, they are they are the American values I am familiar with. And they are certainly the Christian and Catholic values you claim to adhere to.

The most annoying aspect of this is how the left has continually redefined torture to mean any technique they disapprove of and any technique used on prisoners whose cause they sympathize with. What the hell are you talking about? The right, Addington, Yoo, Bush, and Cheney are the ones who redefined torture to suit themselves. The definition of torture that I have been using for the last three years is the one that has been the U.S. statutory and international treaty definition of torture since 1984.

You are a fucking moron.

Freder Frederson said...

The Constitution does not forbid the use of torture as an interrogation technique.Some statements are so stupid, it is amazing they come from an organism that is capable of breathing on its own.

Have you ever heard of the 8th and 5th Amendment?

Revenant said...

But lets say for the sake of argument they are [terrorists] and torture is permissble. How likely is it that accurate information will be obtained from them?

Roughly 100% likely.

I know that it is a cliche -- and one that opponents of torture love to repeat -- that people who are being tortured will say anything to make the pain stop. What these cliche-mongers fail to realize is that that problem only applies to information that can't be independently confirmed. If you have the ability to independently confirm information, you can tie the continuation of torture to the failure to produce accurate information -- and tie the cessation of torture to the production of accurate information.

Say you want to know where a terrorist's safe house is. You start chopping off bits until he tells you the right address. He might start off by giving you wrong addresses, but when you check them out and don't find any signs of terrorists there you just come back and start chopping off bigger, more important bits. In fairly short order he'll start giving you the right addresses. Now of course this doesn't work if the poor schlub really ISN'T a terrorist, but I'm just responding to the "assume he really is a terrorist" scenario you posited, above.

The reason torture has a bad reputation as an information-gathering tool is that most of the regimes that used it weren't really interested in accurate information. They were simply using torture of suspects as a terror tactic against the civilian population. The Soviets, for example, would torture "traitors" until they named other "traitors". But they weren't really looking for traitors; they just to ensure that the citizenry lived in abject terror of coming under police suspicion.

rocketeer67 said...

We fought a revolution to escape open-handed slaps, being forced to sit in uncomfortable positions, and being deprived of sleep after having been caught out of uniform on battlefields?

Been reading Zinn again, haven't you?

rocketeer67 said...

Have you ever heard of the 8th and 5th Amendment?Have you ever read them? If you have, read them again, because your clearly don't understand them.

Peter V. Bella said...

Does your mother know you talk like that? Do you think that talking like a goon makes you more a manly-man or something? Do you think you score with girls by being insipid and crude? Is that what you learned "makes points"?Coming from the guy who refers to Texans as “crackers”. Did that make you feel more manly? Does talking like a goon help you score with whatever you sleep with? Do you score points with the wine, cheese, and tea crowd by being insipid and cruel.

Oh how the hypocrisy is just dripping from your fangs.

Revenant said...

Have you ever heard of the 8th and 5th Amendment?

Certainly. They are restrictions on how the government may punish people who break the law. They are not restrictions on the conduct of war.

That is why, for example, police are not allowed to carpet-bomb entire neighborhoods where suspected criminals live, but the military IS allowed to carpet-bomb neighborhoods where enemy troops are stationed. "Due process" applies to law enforcement, not the conduct of wars.

rocketeer67 said...

Certainly. They are restrictions on how the government may punish people who break the law. They are not restrictions on the conduct of war.I would add to your point, Rev, and note differences between who may be punished and how, in peacetime v. during war.

Freder Frederson said...

But lets say for the sake of argument they are [terrorists] and torture is permissble. Please cite, under U.S. or international law, where torture is legal under any circumstance.

If you have the ability to independently confirm information, you can tie the continuation of torture to the failure to produce accurate informationAnd if you have the ability to independently confirm information, the value of information obtained from torture is exactly what?

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
I know that it is a cliche -- and one that opponents of torture love to repeat -- that people who are being tortured will say anything to make the pain stop. What these cliche-mongers fail to realize is that that problem only applies to information that can't be independently confirmed. If you have the ability to independently confirm information, you can tie the continuation of torture to the failure to produce accurate information -- and tie the cessation of torture to the production of accurate information.

Say you want to know where a terrorist's safe house is. You start chopping off bits until he tells you the right address. He might start off by giving you wrong addresses, but when you check them out and don't find any signs of terrorists there you just come back and start chopping off bigger, more important bits. In fairly short order he'll start giving you the right addresses. Now of course this doesn't work if the poor schlub really ISN'T a terrorist, but I'm just responding to the "assume he really is a terrorist" scenario you posited, above.
Exactly right. Why do they keep repeating this tired cliched argument? it's so silly. As if only interrogators who don't use enhanced interrogation techniques corroborate what the detainee is telling them.
I will quibble slightly with you though in that we weren't cutting anyones bits off though the principle still applies.
In our case we were putting a cricket in the room because the detainee was afraid of insects. If he didn't cooperate, instead of chopping off bits we might also add cockroaches and spiders. Which is the absolute same thing as if we did chop off bits. Cutting off limbs, putting insects in room, It's TORTURE!!!!!!

Cedarford said...

Freder - you might want to read the Preamble rather than obsessing about Amendments.

The Preamble..you know...the goals of the Constitution that the rest of the verbage exists to make happen.

Provide for the Common Defense.
Ensure domestic tranquility.
Bestow the blessings of Liberty on We the People and future generations.

You do none of these things if you think the enemy's rights are absolute and paramount - while ALL rights of American citizens by the thousands can be discarded like so much WTC splatter trucked off with the ashes to the landfill.

++++++++++++++++++

Garage - You don't have much evidence for this claim [as much as you'd like to think it's true], other than a heavily redacted confession from KSM at a GTMO tribunal. We know KSM made a bunch of stuff up -- if you have a source that could verify this for me I might actually change my mind on waterboarding..
I don't think you are worth the effort to change your opinion.
I do note that now you seeme to be saying that 47 pieces of info wrung out of KSM that did check out and did save lives is not as important as if he made 3 things up.

Something about info not being 100% perfect isn't worth getting at all.

I would point out that voluntary sources like "Curveball" and Chalabi and his many stooges - all treated like princes and paid and given sanctuary for their willing info - lied through their teeth on most things they said were facts about Iraq and it's WMD.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I mention moral posturing an up pops House! Speak of the devil and smell brimstone.

Big Mike said...

(1) This seems to be a minority position on this thread, but what was done to the detainees was not torture. I wouldn't exactly volunteer for any of the techniques, not even being stripped in front of pretty female guards, but that's only because I don't want people to feel any more sorry for my wife than they already do. No one was injured, or even seriously hurt.

(1a) But judging from comments made in response to other Althouse postings, some of you would volunteer in a heartbeat to be stripped in front of the Professor. You know who you are. Meade's planning to visit. With an axe handle.

(2) The fifth and eighth amendments do not apply. The interrogation techniques were not used as punishment, nor is the information extracted intended for use in a criminal proceeding. The goal was to gather actionable and verifiable intelligence. It seems apparent that we did.

(3) John McCain's treatment at the hands of the North Vietnamese is nothing like the treatment received by the detainees. He was physically injured. He was "interrogated" long after he could possibly have any actionable intelligence to provide. His guards just used him to have fun.

(4) If it were possible to let the squeamish among the commenters die in terrorist attacks but save the people around them, I am cynical enough to suspect that they might just have a different opinion. But they know that they will be as safe as any other American while they act all upset and carry on with their posturing and pontificating.

(4a) As a corollary to (4), if you object to what is being done by rough men to keep you and your families safe, you are welcome to leave the country. But I will not allow you to jeopardize my wife, my kids, or my extended family for your flaccid principles.

jr565 said...

Freder wrote:
"And if you have the ability to independently confirm information, the value of information obtained from torture is exactly what?"
Not sure if you understand how interrogations work. We ask for specific information. If the detainee provides it without any coercion needed, then there is no reason to waterboard him,let alone use the army field manual. It would still require us to then confirm that he is telling us the truth so that we can stop pressing him though.

So if we asked who the head of Al Qaeda was and he said "ronald Mcdonald" we could then verify with people who have some intel and knowhow about groups whether in fact Ronald Mcdonald is the head of Al Qaeda.
If not, then the interrogations, whatever means used to extract information, continue. Usually, or in fact always, harsher interrogation techniques would be only be used simply because the basic tecniques did not in fact extract any information or the subject was refusing to cooperate.
Depending on the need to gather info, more extreme techniques would be warranted provided the basic techniques were not sufficient to extract needed information.

But in short, we wouldn't be able corroborate info, unless in fact the detainee supplied info, and sadly that is only usually given through coercion. So we couldn't independently confirm anything without the detainee telling us that thing no? You're skipping the step where the guy breaks and provides the details that we can confirm.

Revenant said...

"But lets say for the sake of argument they are [terrorists] and torture is permissble".Please cite, under U.S. or international law, where torture is legal under any circumstance.

Apparently the phrase "for sake of argument" is one Freder is unfamiliar with.

Revenant said...

I will quibble slightly with you though in that we weren't cutting anyones bits off though the principle still applies.

Yes, that's what I was getting at. I'm not saying we're cutting bits off of people; I was just using that as an example of using pain and suffering to extract information.

Revenant said...

And if you have the ability to independently confirm information, the value of information obtained from torture is exactly what?

Besides the obvious fact that you can't confirm a piece of information you haven't got?

Take the above scenario, finding a safehouse. You obtain a location via torture, then confirm it by going to that location and inspecting it. Now, had you refrained from torture, you wouldn't HAVE an address to confirm. You haven't got the foggiest idea where to look.

So in the torture scenario you only need to search the locations the subject gives up. In the non-torture scenario you have to search the whole planet. Advantage: torture.

If you have any other silly questions, feel free to ask. :)

Freeman Hunt said...

Me:I don't share values like "We mustn't slap terrorists," or "We mustn't expose terrorists to harmless caterpillars." In fact, I don't think those are American values.Freder: Well, ... they are the American values I am familiar with. And they are certainly the Christian and Catholic values you claim to adhere to.Reread what you wrote. Those are American values? Are you serious? And, no, endangering people to avoid slapping terrorists or exposing terrorists to harmless insects is not one of my religious values. Protecting people from killers, however, is.

jr565 said...

So in the torture scenario you only need to search the locations the subject gives up. In the non-torture scenario you have to search the whole planet. Advantage: torture.
And to follow up on this, if we asked for a location and it was provided, and we then confirmed that it was truthful information, there would be no need to go beyond that as far as interrogation methods are concerned. It would only be necessary were the detainee to continue lie about his information and/or refuse to cooperate to eve move to more extreme techniques, but those again would be required simply because the army field manual didn't actually work in procuring said needed information. Ok Freder?
Interogators at all times corroborate the info that the detainee is giving them, whether they are being "tortured" or whether we are sweet talking them or trying to be their friend. So, this notion that interrogators can't verify truthfulness when torturing is a crock of crap.
Now, thanks to Obama and the dems not only does Al Qaeda know our basic methods of interrogation, it also knows the extent to which we can go to interrogate them were the basic methods to fail. So interrogation is essentially useless, or made much more difficult.
Freder, you have a high level target. He definitively has valuable information that will potentially save lives, simply based on the fact that he is a high value target. Khallid Sheik Mohammad knows things, no ifs and ors buts. He also knows our basic interrogation methods and has trained to withstand them. And he spits on said techniques. What are you prepared to do to get said info Freder?

jr565 said...

Finally, if you actually read the memos it shows how much the govt went out of its way to make sure that anything done to the detainees produced no real harm and was being monitored. Do you think for a second that when Al Qaeda was cutting off nick berg's head that they had memos going back and forth about how sharp the knife should be or whether chopping off his head would produce long lasting harm?

The caterwauling at this point is becoming farcical.

Bob From Ohio said...

"What are you prepared to do to get said info Freder?"

Nothing, he'd rather parade his virtue for all to see.

Peter V. Bella said...

Hypothetically speaking:
You have a terrorist in custody for killing someone in a heinous, unspeakable and brutal manner. Citizens are appalled and demand justice. You have witnesses, evidence, maybe even video; in effect, a slam dunk case that a blind and deaf jury could convict on. The prosecutor refuses to approve charges unless the terrorist provides a written and signed confession. Said terrorist refuses. The prosecutors decision is backed up by the AG.

What do you do?

amba said...

public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from themOr, it could be misdirection. The way to uphold your brand as a humane enlightened democracy and yet torture those rare people you might need to torture is to have the black ops so far underground that there is deniability. Seems to me no sane country tells the truth about this stuff. Why assume we are?

chickenlittle said...

If I could snap my fingers and cause everyone who felt joy when the Towers fell to die in screaming agony, I would do it. And then I'd go get some lunch.FWIW, I just love it when revenant gets all Torquemada. :)

chickenlittle said...

What's up with the blogger comment editor on Althouse cramming all the lines together making comments look like twitfeed?

Revenant said...

FWIW, I just love it when revenant gets all Torquemada.:)

Yeah, but it really doesn't help my case for when I get in those "no, really, atheists can be decent and moral people too!" arguments with the local religious types. :)

Revenant said...

Chicken, it is eating all whitespaces (spaces, tabs and line feeds) following the <\i> tag. Just be sure to put some punctuation or something after the tag and it'll work as it did before.

chickenlittle said...

@Revenant:

Hey rev, recognize your love!

You have major fans regardless.

As for WTF is up w/ this space bar shit, whatever....
I just know that what I saw is not what I got! :)

Eric said...

What's up with the blogger comment editor on Althouse cramming all the lines together making comments look like twitfeed?

It's not Althouse, it's Google. About half the blogs I visit on a regular basis are doing it.

jr565 said...

you need to enter a "
" tag to manually get the line to break.

zuzu said...

Eric said...

"I'm trying to picture myself as a government lawyer writing "secret" opinions that may, or may not, end up on the front page of the NYT."
------------------------------------

I'm pretty sure that most OLC attorneys understand that, aside from the fact that FOIA exemptions are generally applied narrowly, the client has the prerogative to make any attorney-client communication public at any time.

And that classified documents may be de-classified at the discretion of the chief executive.

AlphaLiberal said...

Wow. Someone opened up a big can of dumbshit in here.

So, waterboarding was torture in WWII. But, now, it's not! How did that happen?

Under Dear Leaders Bush and Cheney US guards were trained in using Communist Chinese torture techniques.

What is the Republican Politburo telling you cons to say about that?

AlphaLiberal said...

Oh, great. Just great.

The former Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet was famous for making people disappear - the "desaparecidos". (sp?)

Sounds like he inspired Bush and Cheney. Dozens of detainees are missing and not accounted for.

We know some victims were tortured to death. Maybe there were many more than we thought.

And, remember! There are many innocents in Gitmo!

AlphaLiberal said...

And, I just don't believe anyone from the Bush Admin about the numbers of people tortured. What about the disappeared?

Anyway, here is a story on how waterboarding used to be a war crime when we were a more civilized nation:

Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

AlphaLiberal said...

Waterboarding used to be a crime.

Maybe for conservatives, it's only wrong when it's done TO Americans, not BY Americans. (Very principled, eh?)

Here's the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese:

They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.

And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water.

AlphaLiberal said...

Michael Hasenstab:
Axelrod made this decision? AXELROD?No. That would be President Obama.

Seems like you're still working on your reading comprehension.