Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama vindicates Bush?

Several commentators, includingJoe Klein (to cite a Lefty) are noting that the release of the "torture memos" is problematic: "There are real concerns in the intelligence community--and a potential rebellion in the clandestine service." Letting our enemies know what we will do to them when we catch them could prepare them to resist more effectively.

On the other hand, the President is probably correct that the memo had to be released, if only because of world opinion, and the opinion of America’s elite class too, I suppose. All kinds of rumors have spread all over the world about what, exactly, the US was doing. Judging by what I have seen so far, the memo suggests that the Bush Administration hardly wend medieval on our enemies. A sample:

The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002, described the CIA’s plans for using insects this way:

“You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him.”

If that’s an illegal interrogation technique, there’s a problem with the law, not the technique.

If the techniques were, as a rule, closer to that than not, and if only three people were waterboarded, and if such methods were only used on people who were carefully selected, as seems to have been the case (for the most part), it suggests that by releasing the memo, President Obama has shown that the Left was rather misguided in its understanding of things. It was the mistrust of Bush, combined with the (not unreasonable) concern with secrecy, that snowballed into a conspiracy theory. There is a trade-off between security and public information. Legitimate concerns about security might have led the Bush administration to go too far. No doubt, as one report notes, there are concerns about "a potential rebellion in the clandestine service" over this. On the other hand, the CIA, like any other bureaucratic organization needs to be reminded who is boss sometimes. The trouble is that the CIA has a history of taking its pound of flesh from Presidents who do things it doesn’t like.

Update. Here’s a bit more info:

Prisoners could be kept shackled in a standing position for as many as 180 hours. The documents also noted that more than a dozen CIA prisoners had been deprived of sleep for at least 48 hours, three for more than 96 and one for the nearly eight-day maximum allowed. Another document seemed to endorse sleep deprivation for 11 days.

In some cases, the memos address specific interrogation plans. When the CIA proposed putting an Al Qaeda suspect in a small box with an insect, the Justice Department endorsed the idea but added conditions it said were necessary to keep the agency from violating the international convention against torture.

"If you do so . . . you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain," said a 2002 memo sent to the CIA’s acting general counsel. A footnote clarified that the CIA never carried out the insect interrogation plan.

Anyone else surprised by just how lawyered up this stuff seems to have been? (There’s a reason why the old "Mission Impossible" began with tapes concluding, "should you or any of your team be apprehended, the secretary and I will deny any knowledge of its existence." That reflected an understanding, which used to be more common, that certain acts by govermment must be off the books) There also seem to have been relatively few involved.

Discussions - 11 Comments

In Obama's 'Kumbaya World,' there are no enemies - only people who if we can figure out how to relate to them and feel their pain - will no longer intend to hurt us. This is a really good way to get a lot of good Americans killed.

And now the President wants to tell the enemy what techniques we've used in the past so they can be better prepared. Talk about a recruiting method for Al Quaeda!

We can drop a Predator on them...but we can't scare them? By this standard, UNICEF trick-or-treaters are war criminals.

"No Caterpillars at Gitmo...Or It's Butterflies at Nuremberg!"

The fact that we got to know the guy so well as to realize his fear of insects is scary and suggest that in reality the psychological aspects of torture are far more effective than actual beatings. A taylor made torture like is sounds so much like room 101 it is hilarious.

The trouble is that the CIA has a history of taking its pound of flesh from Presidents who do things it doesn’t like. You can't be implying that they killed jfk and set up nixon.

Talk about a recruiting method for Al Quaeda!



Yes, because the "War on Terror" and our "Axis of Evil" has done a wonderful job of deterring the enemy . . .

I was not thinking about JFK and Nixon. I was thinking of more run-of-the mill bureaucratic infighting over policy and the use of selective leaks.

"I put the frog in my brother's bed. Guilty, your Honor. Never Again."

It's all kinda goofy, but it's not torture. In fact, scaring them could prevent us from being forced to waterboard.

President ladybug is telling the world's cockroaches that he means them no harm.

I'm sure its just a coincidence that HUSSEIN Obama releasing those memoes will help the terrorists. Funny how this happens just after he bowed to that Arab king. But that is just another coincidence too I guess.

What I find interesting is that while methods such as bug-in-a-box, standing shackled for a straight week, or going without sleep for days (which seem to be dismissed here as softball tactics) were deemed "unnecessary" by the interrogators themselves (with HQ pushing them to do more), such Christ-like methods are unlikely to be the full extent of the tactics used. But then again, if the suspects are just "cockroaches" (nice one Noel, the Nazis loved to use the cockroach analogy, too, as I'm sure you recall from history class), why not slice their genitals to get them to tell us that life-saving information, just like poor Jack Bauer would do when we see him on the TV! And hey, if we only sliced the genitals of ONE single cockroach, that's not bad, we're still not as bad as the evil-doers who slice genitals and burn eyes with cigarettes.

In what universe does putting someone in, more or less, a closed coffin for 18 hours a day - with or without an insect (when that person is known to have a phobia for them) not qualify as an intent to cause severe mental pain?

Here's one for ya:


From page 112 of Volume 1 of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago:

"Sleeplessness was a great form of torture: it left no visible marks and could not provide grounds for complaint even if an inspection-something unheard of anyway-were to strike on the morrow."

I imagine someone saying, in Russian, "If that’s an illegal interrogation technique, there’s a problem with the law, not the technique."

Hey Matt...maybe it did work! Haven't heard of any other attacks here since 9-11, have you? What if the memos that have not been released yet show the methods you don't like yielded information that prevented a repeat of the NY attack? Would you still disapprove? What if they saved a loved one (assuming someone loves you)?

Comment 9 by Craig Scanlon 4/21/2009 3:47 PM
First of all I would like to say that giving away State secrets is the highest of treason. That being said, I would love to hear your interpretation of acceptable torture. Those you mentioned in your post, are called persuasion, not terror.

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