pageok
pageok
pageok
About-Face on Torture?

Are key Senate Democrats moderating their unequivocal opposition to the use of torture or less-severe coercive interrogation techniques? Glenn Greenwald thinks so. In particular, he notes that Senators Dianne Feinstein (who is the incoming Senate Intelligence Chair) and Ron Wyden had previously insisted that the CIA comply with the Army Field Manual when conducting interrogations, and even co-sponsored legislation to write this limitation into law. Now, however, both are indicating a more flexible stance.

If Senators Feinstein and Wyden have indeed altered their positions -- and Greenwald makes a pretty strong case that they have -- this would be consistent Orin's postulate that Democrats must now be more supportive of broad executive power now that a Democrat will occupy the White House. We'll have to see whether Republicans who took a permissive view of the Bush Administration's interogation policies also have a change of heart.

Nunzio:
Since soon-to-be-President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have the country's best interests at heart, as opposed to W. and the Republicans in Congress, waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques are no longer torture.
12.4.2008 10:37am
grackle (mail):
But then, Feinstein, as is well known, is a Democrat in name only, and then only sometimes.
12.4.2008 10:39am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
No change of heart here.

Not every person changes their attitude because of whom sits in the White House.
12.4.2008 10:45am
Brian Mac:
Further proof that Greenwald is Orin's sock puppet!
12.4.2008 10:48am
David Drake:
Whatever Bush &Co. have been doing appears to have prevented another 9/11 style attack in the U.S. Therefore, Obama &Co. should keep doing it, whatever it is.

This will not be the last of the "flip flops" by the Speaker and other Democrats. Hope the bloggers keep reporting them.
12.4.2008 11:00am
A Law Dawg:
Whatever Bush &Co. have been doing appears to have prevented another 9/11 style attack in the U.S. Therefore, Obama &Co. should keep doing it, whatever it is.


My city has also been subject to severe drought since I got my new job. Maybe I should quit.
12.4.2008 11:11am
dhdcnr (mail):
Whatever Bush &Co. have been doing appears to have prevented another 9/11 style attack in the U.S. Therefore, Obama &Co. should keep doing it, whatever it is.


"Lisa, I want to buy your rock".
12.4.2008 11:21am
Tracy Johnson (www):
I think torture could just be entertainment in some of San Francisco's neighborhoods! Just check the Saturday Night Live skit when Feinstein took office a couple years back.
12.4.2008 11:23am
Al Maviva:
But then, Feinstein, as is well known, is a Democrat in name only, and then only sometimes.

She sure is Grackle. The American Conservative Union score of 0 last year (on a 1-100 scale) sure bears out your assertion, and her lifetime average ACU rating of 9 further enforces how radically right wing she is. If she got any more conservative, she'd be practically wearing brown suits on C-Span and goosestepping around National Review headquarters, along with those other raving right winger DINOs with very similar (+/- 2%) ACU ratings, like Dodd, Harkin, Levin, McCaskill, Menendez, Hillary Clinton, Wyden, Brown, and Rockefeller. Of course that reactionary Barney Sanders isn't much better with a lifetime ACU rating of 6, but I guess we'll have to settle for it. Stupid DINOs.
12.4.2008 11:23am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"Lisa, I want to buy your rock"

In case anyone is wondering, the full script is here.
12.4.2008 11:25am
Rick Ellensburg:
Further proof that Greenwald is Orin's sock puppet!

No he's not. Greenwald has a New York Times Best Selling Book on the Bush Administration and its abuses of power. And he has one of the most-read blogs on the Interent, after 9 months of blogging. And Senators read from his blog at Senate hearings and his posts lead to front-page news stories in major newspapers.
12.4.2008 11:33am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
People in power believe in power. Nothing new.

However, you can be sure that I will continue to lobby my congressmen (Republicans and Democrats) to oppose torture.
12.4.2008 11:39am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Drake:

Whatever Bush &Co. have been doing appears to have prevented another 9/11 style attack in the U.S. Therefore, Obama &Co. should keep doing it, whatever it is.


And whatever Clinton was doing after the 1993 WTC attacks was working too.....
12.4.2008 11:42am
OrinKerr:
Just for the record, Glenn Greenwald is not my sock puppet. There has been some speculation over the years that that "Rick Ellensburg" is Glenn Greenwald, but I tend to doubt that.
12.4.2008 11:44am
Anderson (mail):
I would love to know where this newfound moral flexibility is coming from.

Torture continues to be torture, whether under a Repub or Dem administration.
12.4.2008 11:52am
A Law Dawg:
I would love to know where this newfound moral flexibility is coming from.


Evolving standards of decency, you know.
12.4.2008 11:53am
DangerMouse:
I would love to know where this newfound moral flexibility is coming from.

Notice how jukeboxgrad isn't complaining about this? That means the original complaint was all partianship to begin with.
12.4.2008 11:59am
MJH21 (mail):
Color me unsurprised. Most of what has seemed utterly ridiculous to me about the rabid, anti-Bush arguments of the left - he's a fascist, he runs a theocracy, he's a tyrant bent on securing unprecedented power - is that they were not screaming they same things when President Clinton pursued similar policies and took actions, like, for example, supporting FISA, not seeking U.N. approval before bombing Bosnia, every conceivable assertion of privileged communications possible, the Elian Gonzalez matter, Waco, etc.. They are likely to be silent and/or even defend similar actions when and if President Obama takes them, and he likely will - being President makes you make brutally tough decisions.

In short, there were certainly legitimate criticisms to be leveled at President Bush, but about the last five years the left has screamed "Tyrant!" and "Fascist!" mostly because they hate the man, not because his actions were substantially different than would be those of any President's faced with the situations that this President has.

I defended President Clinton where his actions were justified, defended President Bush just the same, and will defend President Obama too, not because I'll likely agree with everything he does, but because I won't let my objectivity be overwhelmed by the fact that the President doesn't share my world-view. The Left will simply put on rose-colored-glasses for the next four to eight years.

I'm sure I'll come back here to point that out a time or two.
12.4.2008 11:59am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MJH21:

Clinton was better at hiding his tyrannical tendencies. Bush was more blatant. You can consider it if you will to Marcus Antonius and the incident with the diadem.....
12.4.2008 12:14pm
Brian Mac:

No he's not. Greenwald has a New York Times Best Selling Book on the Bush Administration and its abuses of power. And he has one of the most-read blogs on the Interent, after 9 months of blogging. And Senators read from his blog at Senate hearings and his posts lead to front-page news stories in major newspapers.

Obviously can't fool your razor sharp mind!
12.4.2008 12:16pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

I would love to know where this newfound moral flexibility is coming from.


The results on November 4, of course.
12.4.2008 12:43pm
MJH21 (mail):
If President Clinton was hiding, he was hiding in plain sight, with the help of a willfully blind media and supporters who, considering their rantings against President Bush, saw no evil and heard no evil:

July 15, 1994, Washington Post, page A-19 — "Administration Backing No-Warrant Spy Searches."

"The Clinton administration, in a little-noticed facet of the debate on intelligence reforms, is seeking congressional authorization for U.S. spies to continue conducting clandestine searches at foreign embassies in Washington and other cities without a federal court order. . . .

The Clinton Administration said it would back a law that would require these searches to go to the FISA court, so long doing so "does not restrict the president's ability to collect foreign intelligence necessary for the national security."

Marches in the street? No. Cries of fascism? No.

Some Presidents are more equal than others.
12.4.2008 12:48pm
MarkField (mail):

Just for the record, Glenn Greenwald is not my sock puppet.


Ah, but if he were, would you admit it? Perhaps you wouldn't mind posting your birth certificate (properly authenticated). If you've got nothing to hide....


Most of what has seemed utterly ridiculous to me about the rabid, anti-Bush arguments of the left - he's a fascist, he runs a theocracy, he's a tyrant bent on securing unprecedented power - is that they were not screaming they same things when President Clinton pursued similar policies and took actions, like, for example, supporting FISA, not seeking U.N. approval before bombing Bosnia, every conceivable assertion of privileged communications possible, the Elian Gonzalez matter, Waco, etc.. They are likely to be silent and/or even defend similar actions when and if President Obama takes them, and he likely will - being President makes you make brutally tough decisions.


This seems like a peculiar criticism in light of the fact that the source post was one by a "leftist" criticizing two Democrats.
12.4.2008 12:48pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
A quick review indicates that those who have commented on Adler's next post, 3 minutes after this one, are not commenting on this one. (And vice versa)

Make of it what you will.
12.4.2008 12:51pm
Bart (mail):

If Senators Feinstein and Wyden have indeed altered their positions -- and Greenwald makes a pretty strong case that they have -- this would be consistent Orin's postulate that Democrats must now be more supportive of broad executive power now that a Democrat will occupy the White House. We'll have to see whether Republicans who took a permissive view of the Bush Administration's interogation policies also have a change of heart.

The congressional Dem leadership and members of the intelligence committees supported coercive interrogation until the press disclosed the program. Then the Dems pretended to oppose such interrogation to appease its leftist base. Now that the election is past and Dems have the White House, they are going back to their original support.

Because the GOP has no leftist base to appease, it is doubtful that they will change their position in support.
12.4.2008 1:01pm
Michael B (mail):
Glenn Greenwald impresses with his Julius Streicher-like self-regard. A different ideological outlook, but the egoism and the manichean "with him or against him" quality is very similar.

(And he's been blogging for a good while longer than nine months.)
12.4.2008 1:01pm
MJH21 (mail):
MarkField,

That one lone writer is criticizing two U.S. Senators - including the next head of the Senate Intel Committee - who were both vitriolic critics of the Bush Administration's policy on interrogations but are now backtracking since "their" guy is going to be president, actually proves my point: The Left's rage was directed at the man in the White House, not his polices, which were just a vehicle to bash him, and which aren't going to be much different than the next administration's. The people who screamed bloody murder will barely make a peep. That only one writer is pointing it out IS the point.
12.4.2008 1:14pm
Sarcastro (www):
I demand every liberal ever to post come onto this thread and decry torture once again, or else all liberals are hypocrites!
12.4.2008 1:21pm
Psalm91 (mail):
ChrisIowa: Happy to post on this thread as well.

As with Mukasey, let's gather and disclose more information about what happened, and who is taking what position where. To expand on my point in the Adler thread, is there any third party military or actually experienced intelligence source who has concluded that "harsh interrogation/torture" actually has worked in real life, ever, or should be rationalized and practiced on a going forward basis? Of course, the new Admin will be bombarded and/or blackmailed with these explanations. But, in the meantime, everything analytical I have read indicates otherwise. Remember, Jack Bauer is (1) fictional, and (2) acknowledges that what he does is illegal and warrants prosecution and punishment. He does not create faux-heroic office-fantasy narratives of his/their own toughness, a la Cheney-Bush-Addington-Yoo-Haynes, et al, none of whom have real world military or intelligence experience, save their September 2002 jaunt to Guantanamo.
12.4.2008 1:32pm
MarkField (mail):

That one lone writer is criticizing two U.S. Senators - including the next head of the Senate Intel Committee - who were both vitriolic critics of the Bush Administration's policy on interrogations but are now backtracking since "their" guy is going to be president, actually proves my point: The Left's rage was directed at the man in the White House, not his polices, which were just a vehicle to bash him, and which aren't going to be much different than the next administration's. The people who screamed bloody murder will barely make a peep. That only one writer is pointing it out IS the point.


I don't find this very persuasive in light of the fact that Obama hasn't even been inaugurated yet. There's no way to criticize policies which haven't happened. The fact that Greenwald jumped all over Feinstein and Wyden at the least hint of backtracking pretty strongly suggests that you're wrong. As does Anderson's post in this thread and several in the other one. To all of which I'll add my own.

As for your Clinton examples, most aren't very similar to torture, so I'm not very impressed at the difference in reaction. I will say this -- if Clinton approved extraordinary renditions (and there's evidence that he did), I believe he committed a very serious crime and should be tried for it.
12.4.2008 1:32pm
a knight (mail) (www):
You should tread softly Professor Alder. What could this possibly me to me? I've never been a registered Democrat in my life, but have come to the conclusion that they may well be The Lamer of Two Evils. To use Feinstein as any sort of justification for what has been done in the last seven years, is to offer more evidence that contemporary conservatism continues on its long spiraling descent into the black well of moral relativism. It also causes me to believe that the right-side has short attention span deficit disorder. Sen. Feinstein has hardly been a rock when it comes to Guantanamo Bay, or habeas corpus, or The FISA Amendments Act. I consider her to be a proper target of opportunity, albeit secondary. There will still be Seven of the Nine Reprehensible Republican Senators who voted against McCain's anti-torture amendment to the FY 2006 Military Authorization Act on October 5, 2005 in the 111th Congress: Christopher S. Bond, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, John Cornyn, James M. Inhofe, Pat Roberts, and Jeff Sessions. If fortune is kind enough, I will curse them in their epitaphs.

U.S. NAVAL BASE, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA, Jan. 27, 2002 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld flew here today to visit Joint Task Force 160 troops at Camp X-Ray, where 158 Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees are now under U.S. military control.

The U.S. servicemen and women at Camp X-Ray "are doing a first-rate job," Rumsfeld noted during an afternoon press conference at the facility. "I came down to say 'thank you,'" he added.

Four U.S. senators accompanied Rumsfeld to Guantanamo: Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also accompanied Rumsfeld on the trip. A previous congressional delegation visited the camp Jan. 25.
[. . .]
Rumsfeld told reporters on the flight to Cuba that Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees at the Guantanamo Bay and Kandahar, Afghanistan, facilities "are not POWs" and characterized them instead as "unlawful combatants." He emphasized the detainees are being treated humanely.

"Don't forget, he said, "we're treating these people as if the Geneva Convention applied."
[. . .]
The senators and Rumsfeld then held a press conference. All concurred that the detainees were being treated well. Feinstein said the detainees live better than inmates in some California prisons she's seen. Stevens and Inouye seemed to suggest that the detainees were getting better treatment than perhaps they deserved.

"This is not an egregious situation," said Feinstein, noting that the Guantanamo detainees are not being mistreated.

Hutchison said the Joint Task Force 160 troops are doing a good job providing religious materials and medical care to the detainees -- the same type of medical care available to U.S. troops and their family members, she noted.

Cox noted the detainees receive three meals a day -- including two hot -- have medical care, receive Korans and have the opportunity to practice their religion.

"The detainees are not being mistreated," Cox emphasized.

Gerry J. Gilmore-American Forces Press Service, "Rumsfeld Visits, Thanks U.S. Troops at Camp X-Ray in Cuba", Department of Defense January 27, 2002
12.4.2008 1:38pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):
I love this: "Remember, Jack Bauer is (1) fictional, and (2) acknowledges that what he does is illegal and warrants prosecution and punishment."

Doesn't (1) pretty much obviate the significance of (2)?
12.4.2008 1:41pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Ah, Orin, but whose sock puppet are you? There's a puppet inside a puppet inside another puppet . . .

Kidding aside, about-faces on executive abuse and torture really are pretty shameful. It would be nice if we could have an adult national conversation about these things, since they really do reflect gravely on the national character. But in the last such "conversation" the intellectual sophistication of the election season capped out at who was going to spread Joe the (unlicensed, taxes in arrears) Plumber's imaginary wealth, so I wouldn't count on that happening.
12.4.2008 1:42pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
I don't know if I see the connection between the substantive (CIA torture policy) and the institutional (doing it on the basis of inherent executive power versus regulating it by stature) you throw in at the end. I am particularly confused given the myriad other reasons that the incoming Chairperson of the Senate Intel Committee could change her views as she moves from an opposition to a responsibilatorial role.
12.4.2008 1:44pm
Cornellian (mail):
Further proof that Greenwald is Orin's sock puppet!

At least he'd be a leading sock puppet.
12.4.2008 1:53pm
Cornellian (mail):
I like Dianne Feinstein. I read an article she wrote in WaPo a while back that had a very thoughtful explanation of why she was supporting a school voucher program in D.C. She's not a knee jerk partisan. I hope she's just treading water at the moment and waiting to see what Obama will do in January. I'd be disappointed if she abandoned the principled stand on the torture issue.
12.4.2008 1:56pm
Oren:

Remember, Jack Bauer is (1) fictional, and (2) acknowledges that what he does is illegal and warrants prosecution and punishment.

This is the proper position. If the situation is really one of these "ticking bomb" cases that we hear about hypothetically but never is reality, then the agent ought to break the law and face the jury.
12.4.2008 1:58pm
Oren:
s/"never is"/"never in"/
12.4.2008 1:59pm
a knight (mail) (www):
MJH21 - Are you serious, claiming that Clinton's "seeking congressional authorization for U.S. spies to continue conducting clandestine searches at foreign embassies in Washington and other cities without a federal court order" is anywhere close to Bush's wiretapping of American citizens?

Would it not be more appropriate to investigate the Congressional Records from 1995 and 1996 regarding The Terrorism Prevention Act, in which many Democrats proposed extending the use of roving wiretaps for terrorism investigations, but only under Court Approval, yet it was vehemently opposed by Republicans, and defeated. Roving wiretaps were already allowed for organised crime, and drug trafficking investigations. The Republicans in Washington D.C. jacked around the Terrorist Prevention legislation, blocking many proposals, then added onto the legislation's title "and effective death penalty act", as they gutted habeas corpus appeals for persons imprisoned in The United States, laughably claiming that speeding up the imposition of death sentences somehow magically deterred terrorists from acting.

Now explain to me how the use of espionage in the limited setting of a few embassies in America is somehow equal to what Mr. Bush has done, and while your at it, explain to me why conservative politicians have not been down on their knees, begging forgiveness from The Citizenry for their preventing effective terrorism investigative law enforcement methods, six years before September 11, 2001, which are minor league by post PATRIOT Bill standards.
12.4.2008 2:07pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"This is the proper position. If the situation is really one of these "ticking bomb" cases that we hear about hypothetically but never is reality, then the agent ought to break the law and face the jury."

When the law fails to meet the needs of society, and survival is a need, it should be junked.
12.4.2008 2:12pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Vernando,

It is very simple. Democrats believe morality is relative, using this very simple principle:

If Democrats do it, it's always moral. If Republicans do it, it's immoral when Democrats say it is.
"I am particularly confused given the myriad other reasons that the incoming Chairperson of the Senate Intel Committee could change her views as she moves from an opposition to a responsibilatorial role."

Furthermore the same act performed by Democrats and Republicans can be moral when done by Democrats and immoral when done by Republicans. Because Republcans are bad, and Democrats are always good.
12.4.2008 2:24pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
And, Vernando, there is a still simpler explanation.

The Democrats lie.
12.4.2008 2:27pm
pete (mail) (www):
I think Dianne Feinstein should be tortured for endlessly running those terrible campaign commercials in the early 90's about how she becamse mayor of San Fransisco after rhe previous mayor was shot. Any California resident of the time would probebly agree with me regardless of party if they remember those commercials.
12.4.2008 2:28pm
Sarcastro (www):
Thomas_Holsinger makes his point! A good half of this country is just dag-nasty evil haters.

I know hundreds of Dems, and I can tell you. Every single one, ad dag-nasty hater!

Not that you could ask them about it, cause they lie. But me and my angry generalizations are too clever for em and don't listen to anything they say.

And the Dems hate everything Republicans do! Thus, we are justified in hating everything they do.
12.4.2008 2:53pm
OrinKerr:
Sarcastro,

When the set up is so easy, I think a soft touch works a bit better.
12.4.2008 2:57pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
a knight, I don't think the logical connection between many of your comments is as solid as you think it is. You seem to mishear others in an effort to get to making your preset points.

That is a very general criticism, and unfair of me to say without making a laborious point-by-point case. It does, I admit, leave you little space to respond without sounding defensive or oversensitive. Nonetheless, I think you should consider my general point on your own.
12.4.2008 3:00pm
Sarcastro (www):
[OrinKerr noted.]
12.4.2008 3:02pm
Halcyon (mail):
I thought since we were going over stuff she said we should look at the full quote:


"The law must reflect a single, clear standard across the government, and right now the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual," Senator Feinstein said. "I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new Administration to consider them. However, my intent is to pass a law that effectively bans torture, complies with all laws and treaties, and provides a single standard across the government."
12.4.2008 3:06pm
Sarcastro (www):
[New statement from Feinstein:

I strongly believe there should be a single, clear standard for interrogation across the federal government, and that this standard should comply with the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and U.S. law. I plan to introduce legislation in January that would close Guantanamo, make the Army Field Manual the single standard for interrogations, prohibit contractors from being used to carry out interrogations and provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with access to detainees. If the incoming administration decides to propose an alternative to this legislation, I am willing to hear its views. But I believe we must put an end to coercive interrogations by the CIA.

]
12.4.2008 3:19pm
Michael B (mail):
Some additional material, in turn containing supporting links, excerpt, emphases added:

"Some top legal advisors and supporters of Barack Obama, whose name [Guantanamo] detainees chanted on election night, are now rethinking the President-elect's absolutist campaign position on shutting the center down and flooding our mainland courts with every last enemy combatant designee. ...

"... Believe it or not, the Obama crowd is now contemplating a preventive detention law and an alternative judicial system for the most sensitive national security cases involving the most highly classified information. Information that has no place being aired in the civilian courts for public consumption.

"Listen to relentless Bush critic David Cole, who told the New York Times last week: "You can't be a purist and say there's never any circumstance in which a democratic society can preventively detain someone." Added Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution: "I'm afraid of people getting released in the name of human rights and doing terrible things."

"Moreover, Obama transition team members have suggested to the Wall Street Journal that despite his campaign season CIA-bashing, "Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight.""

Yea, that "terrible thing" stuff, now - and only now - becomes so problematic. Seems a more "nuanced" approach is - now - appropriate.

Change!
12.4.2008 3:31pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
"Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue."
12.4.2008 3:48pm
Sarcastro (www):
"Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins."
12.4.2008 3:51pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
If Feinstein is backtracking, she would not be the first democrat to do that on torture. She is also wrong. Her vote in favor of Mukasey was when she blinked on all this stuff. She has been way too weak on this for reason that are only known to her. But she is certainly not alone. I think she is blinking because there are too many democratic senators and congresspersons (like her California representative colleague Jane Harman) who went along with the torture, whatever their current public protestations.
Best,
Ben
12.4.2008 4:19pm
MJH21 (mail):
a knight,

My point was that President Clinton too asserted the inherent authority to conduct warrantees searches in the name of national security - remember the William Aimes spy-case? - and took the position that he'd submit to congressional oversight ONLY so long as it was understood he was not ceding his inherent authority: AND NO ONE ON THE LEFT SAID BOO ABOUT IT.

That's because IMHO the Left only cares - and screams like hysterical old-women - when it's not their guy/gal taking aggressive national secuirty/law enforcement stances.

That. Is. Hypocrisy.
12.4.2008 4:55pm
Psalm91 (mail):
"Conrad Bibby quoting Ps91:

I love this: "Remember, Jack Bauer is (1) fictional, and (2) acknowledges that what he does is illegal and warrants prosecution and punishment."

Doesn't (1) pretty much obviate the significance of (2)?"

Unfortunately, many conservatives, from Justice Scalia on down, treat (1) as irrelevant. They prefer the fantasy world of war. Since the "tough guy--gloves off--dark side" strategy works in the fantasy world, why worry about the more complicated real world inhabited by real people?

In fact, why should we listen to any of the armchair warriors here or anywhere) over the Guantanamo prosecutors and FBI interrogators who have actually "been there and seen that" torture doesn't work, and that the torturer's absolute power over the victim corrupts the torturer absolutely.
12.4.2008 4:56pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"In fact, why should we listen to any of the armchair warriors here or anywhere) over the Guantanamo prosecutors and FBI interrogators who have actually "been there and seen that" torture doesn't work, and that the torturer's absolute power over the victim corrupts the torturer absolutely."

Have these people said 1) they tortured prisoners, 2) it didn't work, 3) they are now absolutely corrupt?

If they are indeed absolutely corrupt, why should we pay any attention to them?

If they are not absolutely corrupt, then they didn't torture, so why should we pay any attention to them?
12.4.2008 5:06pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Senator Feinstein's opinions concerning the war in general have been more thoughtful and moderate than those of most senior Democrats, and she has been somewhat more wobbly on this particular issue than, say, Senator Boxer. IMO, though, Feinstein has been pretty clearly of the opinion that the Bush administration's interrogatation standards are wrong, unlawful and very possibly criminal under American law. She just hasn't taken extreme positions in that regard, and she has certainly avoided inflammatory language on the matter, at least by Boxer's standards.

I have not carefully parsed Feinstein's past statements on the subject, though, and haven't looked at all any she might have made since her side won last month. It wouldn't surprise me if she has in fact changed her position.

But Senator Feinstein has a track record of being somewhat cautious, and therefore as non-committal as circumsntances will allow, on really controversial issues where a forthright position might boomerang on her. This makes it possible that, buried somewhere in one of her past statements on the interrogation issue, she created some wiggle room giving her "plausible deniability" on a contention that she has changed her position since the Demorats won the White House.

So good luck pinning anything on her about this.
12.4.2008 5:09pm
whit:

But I believe we must put an end to coercive interrogations by the CIA.


people need to get real.

these things have always happened and they will always happened. i don't care if we elect dennis friggin' kucinich, you are living in a dreamworld if you think our use of coercive interrogations (in some circumstances) is going to cease. whether or not the CIA does it, or some other agency, or it's farmed out to try to hide it even better, etc.---- it's going to happen.

obama is a politician, but he's not an idiot. he is not going to stop this stuff and risk our country, let alone his career when the next attack gets through.

people can talk hypotheticals and principles all they want, but i would bet big $$$ that these "coercive interrogations" will continue.


the comments about political hay, etc. are spot on. yes, there are plenty of people on the left who are against torture/coercive interrogations. it's quite easy to be against it in principle. those who are in power, otoh, will ensure it continues as needed.

that's yer friendly dose of reality. you can return to your world of hypotheticals and jack bauers now.
12.4.2008 6:06pm
MarkField (mail):

When the set up is so easy, I think a soft touch works a bit better.


My grandpappy always said that a 2x4 was the softest touch a mule would understand.
12.4.2008 6:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
On "coercive interrogations" I think we have to start with the premise that not all coercive tactics amount to torture. If the police get you to confess because they tell you about all this evidence (90% guesses, not evidence) that you are guilty, and you confess even after read your rights, that is coercive. Nobody would argue that it is torture.

One thing I thought McCain might actually better suited to stop a lot of the torture than Obama because of his military experience and the fact that he was on the receiving end of torture.
12.4.2008 6:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
MarkField:

Great line from Babylon 5:

"As I always say, you get more with a kind word and a 2x4 than you do with just a kind word."
12.4.2008 6:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Michael B quoted someone else saying:

"Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight."


Honestly, this is exactly what McCain was advocating. Largely the rationale has to do with publishing accepted means of interrogation. However torture is torture and needs to be treated as such.
12.4.2008 6:30pm
Psalm91 (mail):
"Eliot123:

Have these people said 1) they tortured prisoners, 2) it didn't work, 3) they are now absolutely corrupt? "

You are pretty close. The FBI interrogators and resigned prosecutors have said that others did torture prisoners, that it didn't work, and that they refused to participate in the absolute corruption.

Unfortunately, Mr. Whit, there is no correlation between torture/coercive interrogation and keeping the country safe. Stopping those practice does not increase any risk. You have to keep your eyes and ears open, read the PDB's and act on them, reward, not punish, those who see the real threats and give honest advice, and so on. It was the con/neo-con guys who were on the watch on 9.11.01, in all of its failures, and the event is on their heads. That's the real world.
12.4.2008 6:30pm
whit:

If the police get you to confess because they tell you about all this evidence (90% guesses, not evidence) that you are guilty, and you confess even after read your rights, that is coercive


no, it's not. not under US law. coercive interrogations are suppressable. this would not be.

please don't make up terms for your own use.

by no legal (or commonsense fwiw) definition, would the above be viewed as coercive. in fact, so called "tactical deception" is a well accepted 100% legal tactic, and has gained the acceptance of the courts. it is NOT coercive, by definition.

when people are speaking of coercive interrogations what they ACTUALLY mean is methods that would not be legal in domestic criminal investigations, but don't necessarily rise to the level of torture. sleep deprivation would be a good example.
12.4.2008 6:33pm
whit:

Unfortunately, Mr. Whit, there is no correlation between torture/coercive interrogation and keeping the country safe.


in your unsubstantiated opinion.
like i said, we can play dueling experts if you want. plenty disagree with your (convenient) assessment.
12.4.2008 6:35pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Mr. Whit:

Let's act as if this was an academic or evidence based forum.

There is no published and corroborated evidence of any strategic or tactical or intelligence benefit from the torture. I have identified generally those who take this position based on their first hand knowledge. If there are "plenty of experts who disagree", please name them. If they have written books, or articles, or studies, please identity them. What and who. You don't create a dispute by mere assertion. Make your offer of proof.
12.4.2008 6:42pm
WHOI Jacket:
We are no longer a nation of laws, but of men. Thus, when a Republican President authorizes or has something occur on their watch, it is "SHREDDING THE CONSTITUTION" and "THE DARK SPECTRE OF FASCISM", but when a Democrat President assumes the office, these become "necessary for security" and "well-monitored and approved".

In the end, this mindset will rip this nation apart, I fear.
12.4.2008 7:22pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
The claim that torture does not work as an interrogation tool is a lefty article of faith. It does work. This is a matter of record and well known recorded history. That it is unreliable when used by unskilled personnel means nothing. Such is true of any interrogation technique.

The single most effective indicators of the reliability of information produced by interrogation are the skill of the interrogators with whatever interrogation methods they happen to be using (which includes torture), and the interrogators' familiarity with the prisoner's culture.

Coercion and torture are not the same. Lefties love to equate the two.

The distinguishing features of torture are:

a) its ease of use relative to other interrogation techniques, which is why it is so often resorted to unnecessarily, particularly by unskilled personnel (lack of disicpline by the using group is another major cause);

b) its dramatic emotional effects on the victims plus, though obviously to a lesser degree, the interrogators, and;

c) its tendency to be misused as a tool of political coercion on subject populations (the "slippery slope to hell", which really does exist). Use of torture on a large scale as a means of political coercion often, and possibly usually, leads to a backlash which is thoroughly counter-productive to the users' interests. French misuse of torture in the Algerian War of Independence is probably the best documented example of the latter, and is certainly ghastly.

It is also generally true that is is not possible to have any productive, or even reasonable, discussion with lefties on the subject.

Psalm91,

You asked for a citation about the effectiveness of torture as an interrogation tool. Here is one. It also describes the sliippery slope to hell upon the use of torture spreading from interrogation to political coercion.

Insurgency and counterinsurgency in Algeria, by Alf Andrew Heggen

I also recommend A Savage War of Peace, by Alistair Horne.
12.4.2008 7:33pm
Psalm91 (mail):
Mr. Holsinger:

You can talk about "lefties" but the fact is you have no idea who the posters are here, including me. That tactic is ad hominem and worthless.

If Algeria is your best proof of the value of torture and the production of a good result then you have different standards than I. But your use of that example is a concession that the use of torture by the con/neo-cons against both "bad guys" and the known to be innocent, has been, as the sources I cited emphasized, completely worthless in the "war on terror". Where are the "experts" regarding the US use of torture? The bottom line is that it has provided no strategic or tactical security benefit to the US.
12.4.2008 8:14pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Psalm91,

I note that you are backing away from your prior contention that torture is ineffective as an interrogation tool.

You wanted sources. I gave your sources. The footnotes in those books are particularly useful in that regard.

Now you are averting your eyes from the horrid facts.

Torture is an effective interrogation technique when used properly, which generally requires both training and experience in the interrogators.

The price of developing that sort of expertise is certainly high, and arguably horrid.

Torture, when used more than occasionally for interrogation, particularly when used by non-experts, almost invariably starts the using side down the absolutely for real slippery slope to hell into its widespread use as a means of political coercion of whole populations.

Studies of the Algerian war of independence are both available and informative on these issues. I cited two books on the subject, with Horne's being well-known and available in most public libraries.

Your response also tends to prove my point that:
"It is also generally true that is is not possible to have any productive, or even reasonable, discussion with lefties on the subject."

I invite you to prove me wrong on the latter.

I don't think you will even try, because you know you can't.

Your side loses on these issues, including in public opinion. Polls show that wide majorities in the United States and abroad feel torture should be safe, legal and rare.
12.4.2008 9:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"You are pretty close. The FBI interrogators and resigned prosecutors have said that others did torture prisoners, that it didn't work, and that they refused to participate in the absolute corruption."

Well, if they cut their participation short, how do they know?

But, let's have a show of hands. How many are such stout hearted stalwarts that torture will not work on them? Don't be shy.
12.4.2008 9:49pm
MarkField (mail):

"As I always say, you get more with a kind word and a 2x4 than you do with just a kind word."


This is a riff off a saying attributed to Al Capone. Just substitute "gun" for "2x4".

I really should watch Babylon 5.
12.4.2008 10:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
From time to time, certain anti-coercion advocates claim that information garnered through one level or another of coercion is not admissible in court. See the posts above referring to cops lying to a suspect about evidence.

That's stupid. If I may be euphemistic about it. The point is not court-eligible evidence, but tactically useful information. As if the person claiming suppressability certainly knew.
12.4.2008 10:54pm
Soup:
I just want to chime in to say that I oppose torture under President Bush. If it occurs under President Obama, I'll oppose it then just as vigorously. Evil is evil, whether you have a D or an R by your name.
12.4.2008 11:37pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Thomas Holsinger - thanks for the cites on Algeria I will read them. Do you know anything about the authors? My sense from the French is that only the extreme right wing (Le Pen) defend the torture in Algeria. In fact, the Algerian War remains a blackhole in the French conscious - not easy to get French people of the period to talk about what France did. Of course, the French also lost Algeria.
Best,
Ben
12.5.2008 12:15am
Ricardo (mail):
If Democrats do it, it's always moral. If Republicans do it, it's immoral when Democrats say it is.

Partisan hacks will always exist. For instance, a Berkeley professor back in the 1990s railed against Bill Clinton for waging the war in Kosovo without explicit Congressional authorization and accused Clinton of abusing his powers as Commander in Chief. The professor, of course, was John Yoo.

Then we have a former Bush, Sr. Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney who went on 60 Minutes in the early 1990s to defend Bush's decision to stop the troops at the Iraq border during Operation Desert Storm. First, he noted that the multinational coalition the U.S. had assembled would never support such an invasion. Then, he went on to argue that an invasion of Iraq would lead to large-scale sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, would lead the Kurds in the north to mount a campaign of secession, and the resulting fractured Iraq would become vulnerable to influence from Iran and Syria which could destabilize the Middle East by upsetting the prevailing balance of power.
12.5.2008 2:30am
whit:

Let's act as if this was an academic or evidence based forum.

There is no published and corroborated evidence of any strategic or tactical or intelligence benefit from the torture. I have identified generally those who take this position based on their first hand knowledge. If there are "plenty of experts who disagree", please name them. If they have written books, or articles, or studies, please identity them. What and who. You don't create a dispute by mere assertion. Make your offer of proof


after (somewhat :) ) extensive review, I can't find any evidence to support my claim, so I'll withdraw it and admit i was wrong.

there is no (that I have found) documented evidence/expert testimony that says torture/coercive interrogation is effective.
12.5.2008 3:08am
LM (mail):
Conrad Bibby:

I love this: "Remember, Jack Bauer is (1) fictional, and (2) acknowledges that what he does is illegal and warrants prosecution and punishment."

Doesn't (1) pretty much obviate the significance of (2)?

For Jack Bauer to be the object of gushing adulation by Rush Limbaugh, Michael Chertoff, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, (1) is pretty much necessitated by (2).
12.5.2008 4:24am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ben D. The misdirection is obvious. "Defending" the French actions in Algeria is not the same as asserting that torture worked. So your statement is worthless.
You will note that the French won the Battle of Algiers.
They managed to screw up the rest of the war.
12.5.2008 8:41am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
danger:

Notice how jukeboxgrad isn't complaining about this? That means the original complaint was all partianship to begin with.


Because it makes perfect sense to assume that anything I don't explicitly complain about is something I approve of, right? And of course you don't mind accepting the same standard when it's applied to you, right?

By the way, you are far from the first person to falsely claim (or imply) that I'm not willing to complain about Ds. That myth is debunked here.
12.5.2008 8:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ricardo:

Cheney … went on 60 Minutes in the early 1990s to defend Bush's decision to stop the troops at the Iraq border


Citations regarding Cheney's "quagmire" statements are here.
12.5.2008 8:56am
Psalm91 (mail):
Mr. Holsinger:

I note that you are backing away from your prior contention that torture is ineffective as an interrogation tool.

You wanted sources. I gave your sources. The footnotes in those books are particularly useful in that regard."

Not backing away at all, as so far no one has provided any cites or information regarding alleged utility of the US' use of torture. So far there is no rebuttal to my and others' assertion that it has been of no tactical or strategic value in the GWOT, et al.

As to the entire history of the world, pardon me if I have other things to do besides keeping up with you on this blog. I am generally familiar with the French Algerian colonial conflict, but have not read the sources you cite. I do not understand that the French use of torture in that conflict has been deemed effective.
12.5.2008 9:33am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
My guess is that anybody in a position to prove torture worked is not going to want to say he was in a position to prove torture worked.
Anybody who was not wielding the electrodes but still has information that torture worked will not be accepted as having the authority to say so.
So, I guess the historical record of torture when all the participants are dead is the only useful information.
And since the guys involved were Nazis, anybody claiming that their experience shows torture worked will be accused of favoring Nazi tactics. Or communists, and anybody who claims that the commies made torture work will be accused of McCarthyism.
So I don't guess there will be much resembling a genuine discussion coming to a conclusion.
12.5.2008 11:18am
Thomas_Holsinger:
The funny thing is that the French experience in Algeria shows the absolute disaster that will befall a democracy if it allows torture as an official policy. IMO this could not present a better argument against ever letting torture be legal.

And I repeat, torture is an effective interrogation tool when used by properly trained and experienced interrogators. It is less effective when used by inexperienced interrogators. The problem is that torture is more effective than other interrogation techniques when used by inexperienced personnel, and it produces results much, much faster. Skilled interrogators using techniques other than torture will produce more effective and reliable results than less experienced personnel using torture, but producing those more effective results will take the experienced interrogators far more time than the less experienced torturers.

I.e., when you want results fast, torture is more effective.

So ease of use by non-specialists, and speed in producing results, are the major, and compelling, advantages of torture over other interrogation techniques. That is why torture has been used so widely in interrogation throughout recorded history.

Which lefties cannot admit as a matter of faith.

But the French experience in Algeria shows what happens when a democracy goes there.

IMO Marc Bowden's two articles in Atlantic Monthly are the most thoughtful and informative available pieces on line concerning this subject. His general conclusion is that torture must remain available as an option in emergency situations, with draconian official penalties for its use to discourage personnel from using it except in true emergencies.

The links for his articles are here and here.

The elephant in the living room for his pieces, though, is that, for torture to be an effective interrogation technique, it must be used by suitably trained and experienced interrogators. And I repeat what I said above:

The price of developing the necessary expertise in torturers is horrid. For them to have that expertise when emergencies arise, they must either practice torture on unwilling subjects in non-emergency situations, or develop it the hard way in the field.

Another alternative is to out-source it to, as Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley put it, "our cannibal allies". Which we seem to have done.
12.5.2008 11:18am
Thomas_Holsinger:
BTW, there is a reason why there is no evidence, from the American experience in the war on terror, that torture is an effective interrogation technique:

We haven't used it. At all.

Ourselves.

A more informative question would be, "Have non-American interrogators, working for their own governments but in cooperation with American interrogators, used torture to produce reliable intelligence information concerning terrorist activities?"

IMO the answer to that question is "Yes. Many times."

I.e., we've out-sourced it to cooperative foreign governments.
12.5.2008 11:24am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Thomas.
Which gives us multiculti cover. Who can judge another culture?????
12.5.2008 12:30pm
wfjag:

Who can judge another culture?????

And now, Richard, we've come full circle. London Litigator asserted in another thread, that torture was a crime subject to universal jurisdiction. However, that assumes having universal normative standards agreeing on what constitutes torture, which standards are strong enough for nations to waive their soverneignity sufficiently that they will allow their citizens to be criminally tried in other nations (or will honestly try their citizens in domestic criminal courts and apply such universal standards), or that enough nations are willing to force unwilling nations to accept that situation. There must be great willingess to judge other cultures, and sometimes condemn them, for this. Otherwise, it is merely partisan political posturing for domestic audiences of political leaders in various nations.
12.5.2008 1:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
wf.
Yeah, multicultis run into some cognitive difficulties.
A variable is whether the authentic, culturally relative multiculturally unique culture is working for or against the US.
12.5.2008 1:44pm
Smokey:
After reading reams of comments here and elsewhere on what is or isn't torture, my view is that waterboarding is not torture.

To me, torture is something that causes physical damage or unbearable pain. I personally draw the definition of 'torture' at discomfort. The same discomfort is used on our own military personnel to show them what to expect from waterboarding. No damage results. No intolerable pain. Everyone goes out and has a beer afterward.

And now it comes out from the lib side that maybe 'coercive' techniques can be excused after all. So about 90% of the arm-waving was politics. Obama can order waterboarding and we'll hear hardly a peep from Big Media. Maybe a little hand-wringing, along with some phony alligator tears and rationalizations.

Then it will fade into the background noise.
12.5.2008 7:04pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

"Because it makes perfect sense to assume that anything I don't explicitly complain about is something I approve of, right? And of course you don't mind accepting the same standard when it's applied to you, right?"

You have applied this same standard to others of assuming something in the absence of a direct statement otherwise, such as Gov. Mark Sanford here:

"You should tell us how you feel about Mark Sanford, the Republican governor of South Carolina. He serves as the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of South Carolina, where Ayers holds the title of "Distinguished Scholar." We haven't heard a peep out of Sanford, condemning Ayers, and condemning the decision to grant him this title. I wonder why. Maybe you should consider the possibility that it's because Ayers has actually done some good things."

and here, when in response to the comment by a VC'r of "Who thinks Ayers is mainstream." you posted:

"Apparently Mark Sanford, the Republican governor of South Carolina. He serves as the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of South Carolina, where Ayers hold the title of "Distinguished Scholar."

No one reasonably expects that if you don't register a comment for or against an issue, you must be against or for the issue. The same goes for others.
12.5.2008 7:34pm
LM (mail):
I'm not sure which elected position jukeboxgrad holds that makes him Ex-Officio Chairman of VC Commentators Opposed to Torture, but whatever it may be, I say impeach him!
12.5.2008 8:42pm
LM (mail):
Jukeboxgrad is a "CINO" (commenter in name only).
12.5.2008 8:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
fury, LM answered you better than I could, and with more wit. Sanford has an official relationship with Ayers. On the other hand, I have no official duties which are related to any matter being discussed here. I'm surprised that this very simple and obvious distinction even needs to be mentioned.

I didn't suggest that Sanford is obliged to speak up about Ayers simply because they happen to share the same planet.

No one reasonably expects that if you don't register a comment for or against an issue, you must be against or for the issue.


No one except dangermouse. Because what he did is exactly what you claim "no one" would do.
12.5.2008 11:54pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
lm:

I'm not sure which elected position jukeboxgrad holds that makes him Ex-Officio Chairman of VC Commentators Opposed to Torture, but whatever it may be, I say impeach him!


And onlookers could be rightly suspicious. After all, some of them might notice that I've failed to release any official paperwork proving that I am not, indeed, Ex-Officio Chairman of VC Commentators Opposed to Torture.

And why would I hesitate to do that, if I had nothing to hide?
12.5.2008 11:54pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Well, of COURSE certain lefties like jukeboxgrad will still oppose torture, retaining their Absolute Moral Authority.

The slick part is that no one except righties under an Obama administration will call anything torture, which conveniently obviates the need for them to actually, you know, oppose.
12.6.2008 7:49am
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

"I didn't suggest that Sanford is obliged to speak up about Ayers simply because they happen to share the same planet. "

I do understand the point you are trying to make

I was making a larger point using Sanford as an example. I would not expect him as an ex-officio Chairman of the Board of Trustees to comment or know of faculty appointments. You have previously made the point that because we have not heard Sanford "condemn" Ayers, that was apparently a sign that Sanford considered Ayers "mainstream".

The point was one should not read into Sanford not making explicit statements about Ayers as being akin to tacit support for Ayers. The same goes for a VC'r drawing conclusions about other VC posters by their lack of comments on a particular topic. Assumptions are not always correct.
12.6.2008 9:09am
Elliot123 (mail):
Given all the retreads Obama is appointing, the Bush economic policies he is adopting, and the punting on Don't Ask Don't tell, is there any reason to think his policy on torture will be any diffrent from Bush's policy?
12.6.2008 6:16pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Elliot.
Yeah. It will be easier, and they can go further with it because the lefties and the media will be paying attention to something else.
12.7.2008 11:40am
AntonK (mail):
Waterboarding is really not that bad: they do it to me every time I go to the dentist. I wish they would let me control the suction.
12.7.2008 12:25pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. 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.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.