Sullivan yesterday noted an odd silence over the torture memos, and I predict that will end now that the new talking points have been released in the WSJ op-ed pages. For fun, look for instances of the phrase “tied his own hands” in the right-wing blogosphere when they discuss the subject.
*** Update ***
The Bushbots are out in force. Frances Townsend on CNN says releasing these memos “handcuffs” us. It seems Bush Republicans measure the security of this nation using an odd metric. Apparently the safety of this country can be determined by gauging how sadistically we brutalize prisoners in our care.
Oh, I can tell you at least one of the points. It’ll be something along the lines of "Obama wants to do it too."
They’ll cite the Panetta hearing, in particular the NYT article that had this within it:
just watching Morning Joe and Joe has just defended torture. In fact there seemed to be unaminity around the table listening to his rant that torture was justifiable and the unspoken assumption was that Obama has now made America less safe…..
I’d tune into Morning Joe 2-3 times a week thinking at least I’ll get an honest insider Conservative’s viewpoint on stories. No more. The man is an intellectual cripple.
Interesting the Op Ed was co-authored by Mukasey, the rat bastard aka Mr. "I Love the Rule of Law Unless It Stops Me From Hurting Islamofascists in Which Case Torture ‘Em All" And, may I add, fuck Chuck Schumer.
Sullivan must not be watching Morning Joe. Ol’ pig-faced, rednecked Joe Scarborough is still spouting the same crap about how waterboarding gave such great intel and how torture led to the capture of KSM.
Every time I see that sanctimonious SOB say this, I want to reach through the screen and slam him into a wall. I follow it with fantasies of waterboarding the ignorant SOB.
When you hear the talking points, just keep reminding them of this: Detainee’s Torture Foiled No Plots:
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
On the subject of torture, the wingers make a fundamental and unpleasantly revealing error– the goal of an interrogation is not to hurt your adversary, but to defeat him.
Sulli (last post yesterday I think) had a link to a Mike Allen Politico piece which really pushes the envelope on giving the talking points and makes Obama the bad guy.
The Grand Panjandrum
I was listening to BBC Radio last night and they interviewed former Bush speech writer David Thiessen about this very thing. Defensive and downright indignant doesn’t begin to explain his answers. The interviewer had to cut him off in the middle of his filibuster to get in another question. Thiessen erroneously declared that torturing KSM (I think that is his nom de guerre in the blogosphere) and other high value targets had prevented a whole litany of terrorist attacks. All of which have been refuted in the MSM and blogosphere. Evidently the Rovian strategy of repeating a lie until it is mainstreamed as common knowledge is part of the plan.
I, for one, am disappointed that we may never have any of these war criminals get the needle. Call me a fool but I still think justice requires severe punishment of those who authorized this activity. (Are you feeling me Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld?)
I doubt that Joe would want his own son subjected to the "procedures". So how does this protect the children..especially since torture is not a reliable way to get truth.
But, more to the point, this implies that our vaunted CIA is incapable of devising useful interrogation methods that transcend the use of torture. Torture is quick, easy, and gets an (usually wrong) answer expeditiously, but it gets an answer, so it is the method of choice for the impatient, impetuous crowd. It also satisfies that underlying sadism so rampant in the Bush administration. That may have been the whole reason to use it, given its undependability; the Bushies just wanted to hurt the prisoners.
Obama would only have tied his hands if torture had any utility at all. I have seen no proof that it does.
I’m pleased to see pundits openly spinning in support of torture. It marks them for life for what they truly are. That videotape will haunt each and every one of them for their entire lives. That’s the kind of sophistry that ruins careers.
There is something intellectually and morally disreputable about the argument that because U.S. personnel who may have ordered or committed torture probably had good intentions, there should be no investigation. In the real world you and I live in, that might count as mitigating evidence at a trial. I can’t just say, "But I meant well," and be done with it.
For me there is deep satisfaction that the people who for 8 years denied all of this was going on are now on the record defending it. Maybe we can get spliced videos of the denials with the new talking points?
Excellent that these memos are out, now we see their true colors.
Here’s what you need to know about the WSJ op-ed.
"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."
"Gen. Hayden was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009."
I think Obama should be aggressive in prosecuting war crimes all the way up to and including Bush because its the right thing to do, but for those who think there is a political downside you have hit on the exact reason that ultimately there will not be. If the Obama administration prosecutes the Republicans, as they instinctively do, will defend it, and the public will recoil in horror from the Republican party for decades to come when they double down on torture by defending everything Bush and Co. did.
It seems appropriate on several levels that it "handcuffs us". First, the guys that authorized and pushed these "interrogations" are fetish perverts, and probably like being handcuffed. Second, it handcuffs those wierdos who like torture and didn’t want anyone to know about it.
Those guys need to visit some S/M hookers and get it out of their system. Freaks.
So let me get this straight: the Bushbots in particular and the Republicans in general are going to be reacting to the release of the memos by defending torture? This could very well be yet another example of Obama getting the opposition to quite willingly and quite effectively wreck itself.
As an adult there are plenty of times I "handcuff myself" (After reading David #14 it was a little harder to write that) because it’s ultimately a better choice as a rational human being. Like no matter how much I want to, I don’t grab a baseball bat and beat my teenage son within an inch of his life for his attitude. It might make me feel better at the moment, and he wouldn’t be able to cause trouble for a while, but then I would have to live in fear of him doing the same thing to me when I’m at the retirement center.
Apparently Frances Townsend is a sick, sadistic bitch who is mad because they shut down her chamber of earthly delights.
** Atanarjuat **
Indeed, one step forward — releasing the torture memos — and one step back — vowing to never prosecute the CIA agents involved.
However, this is better than than the alternative, which was to keep these things hidden from public view so as to somehow protect the already damaged legacy of the Bush administration.
As far as the names of those CIA agents that were redacted in the torture memos, I earnestly believe that there’s no statute of limitations on punishing war crimes. Maybe not during Obama’s administration, but the sick, violent perverts who are responsible for all the beatings and waterboarding will eventually be outed — and yes, Virginia, while they are still very much among the living.
I’m not ruling out that a future administration will try to rationalize the acts of torture to mitigate the circumstances, more’s the pity, but this kind of stain the nation’s honor cannot remain untouched.
No, the safety of this country can be determined by gauging how well we conceal how sadistically we brutalize prisoners in our care. Get with the Program, JC.
"Obama is ‘sugarcoating’ [sic] terrorists" was the statement by a young conservative & Rush fan of my acquaintance a couple months ago. I’m sure I’ll be hearing about "handcuffs" any day now…
Oh, dear. Handcuffs. Tied hands. Another instance where I don’t just feel as if I have some disagreement with conservatives. I feel like they live in another universe.
When you take a restrained prisoner who is in your custody, wrap a towel around his neck, and bash his head into a wall, you’re violating not just law and treaties, but a really basic moral precept.
He’s yours. You put him there, and you accepted responsibility for his basic safety when you tied his hands or handcuffed him. That’s what "in custody" means. There’s a custodian. You’ve rendered him helpless. He can’t defend. Whatever happens to him, it’s on you.
I don’t know how they get it so wrong. It scares me a little, because it’s the same moral duty idea that applies to children.
April 15: Take to the streets in protest of Obama, call him a fascist tyrant intent on destroying America as we know it.
April 16: Full-throatedly defend torture and the people who authorized it.
This is correct.
@** Atanarjuat **:
Actually, what he said was "In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."
I think it critical to note that Obama has an interesting history of being rather precise when making official statements, statements he’s had time to prepare as accompaniment to official actions. For that reason, parse the above and pay attention, as there are several critical phrases.
The first parse of which to take note is what it is they will not be subject to. Prosecution, not investigation. I think it’s worth keeping that firmly in mind.
The key phrase, however, is "relying in good faith", followed closely by "those who carried out their duties". I think it worth reminding everyone of the case of Specialist England of Abu Ghraib. She’d made a plea bargain which was vacated by the judge on one simple rock – she didn’t do this in good faith. There were two aspects that sank that. First, testimony that others in her presence questioned the orders. Second, that she discussed this questioning and dismissed it. Once the specter of questioning whether an order is legal arises, reliance in good faith on the supporting legality becomes much more difficult.
There are several, I think, who would be exonerated under this clause. It’s slightly different from ‘just following orders’, but the difference is key. Those who had any reason to believe otherwise but tortured anyway have no defense.
And an investigation will go a long way to sorting who falls in which category.
Take a deep read of Eric Holder’s comments on prosecutions. There will be no prosecutions of people who were following orders in "good faith." There is no mention of blanket immunity for all bad actors, espcially not those giving the orders. And if certain "bad egg" operatives exceeded the orders or were not following in good faith, they too are prosecutable.
This is a long game. Patience.
I agree with Kirk Spencer. President Obama is a lawyer. This statement is grounded in a key legalism: "good faith." Generally "good faith" is a matter of fact determined by the weight of the evidence. It is an affirmative defense that must be proved by the actor asserting it. One can’t just say, "hey I relied in good faith," and that’s the end of it. An inquiry into the facts must be done to determine whether or not this is true. An inquiry into the facts can be most damning.
Prosecutors have discretion. This has been ignored in this discussion, but it exists.
When states did a review of whether there was racial bias in death penalty imposition, they hired people to run numbers. Those people were stumped, because they were not finding jury bias. They knew we were imposing the death penalty on black people at a rate that exceeded that of white people, but they didn’t find bias in juries.
They found it in the charging instrument.
Prosecutors were charging black defendants with death penalty eligible crimes at a rate that exceeded that of white defendants, with the same essential set of facts. In other words, the bias was baked in by the time it got to the jury. White defendants weren’t up on a charge that included the death penalty. When white defendants WERE charged with a crime that indicated the death penalty, juries delivered it, at the same rate as they did with black defendants.
It is simply not true to say that all discovered crimes are prosecuted, or that all prosecutors impose the same charges, given the same set of facts. It’s never been true.
I think it should be stressed that it said "relied". If someone was unaware of the opinion, or varied from what the opinion said, did they in fact rely?
Speaking of handcuffing and sick fucks, since teabagging was unsuccessful as a metaphor one of our fellow snarks is advising the right to move straight on to fisting.
As to the point at hand, I agree with Obama here that if an operative believed, in "good faith", that his or her actions were legal that person should not be prosecuted. But this only covers those who were told it was legal, not those who determined it was legal. Also, by signaling yet again that he isn’t going to make these investigations Holder’s top priority he is telling Congress to do it. This I disagree with as it is the executive’s job to execute the laws of the land.
@kay: You’re exactly right, and another key finding in that data is that defendants with hired legal representation were the *only* ones who avoided capital charges to death-eligible crimes. Every person (in the large Maryland study and a smaller Harris County, Houston, TX study) charged with a capital crime had a public defender.
@just wow: Joe Scarborough is a smug, smarmy, knuckle dragging neanderthal and Morning Joe is a putrid, super-sized, steaming pile of excrement. Scarborough, Hannity, Beck, and O’Reilly are dumbing our country down to death.
The only morning news program worth watching on cable is Washington Journal on C-SPAN.
I’m of two minds about this. The first says, well, you’re crazy. The second is, well, that is an honest insider Conservative’s viewpoint — honestly insane and borderline retarded.
On the other hand, he’s left it open for the Justice Department to prosecute based on what Congress finds. On the other other hand, I have little to no faith in Congress to accomplish anything.
I read the New Jersey study, which was fascinating. Like a detective novel.
Here’s another one: there are 25 children who die each year because their parents inadvertently leave them strapped in a car seat when they park at work. It gets hot, and the child dies. The stories are completely heartbreaking. They just forget. They THINK they have dropped the child at daycare. The child falls asleep on the ride in the car, the parent goes into work, believing the child is at daycare, the child dies in the car.
Almost 50% of county prosecutors decline to charge at all. The other 50% ? They charge. They charge because the incident fits the elements: negligent or reckless, dead child. It depends on what county you’re in. Completely discretionary.
Here is a great example of this.
I wish I was as confident as many of you that having Republicans defending torture on TV will hurt them. There are a lot of Americans who think like Joe Scarborough. I have never been confident that most Americans feel that torture against Arab Muslims is a crime. At least now we can excoriate Republicans over not knowing what meaning of "pain" is.
Those memos put anything Bill Clinton did to shame. Yet somehow I think most people can handle their president being tried in the public sphere over a blow job. A lot of them do not want to hear about different men that we tortured. I think Americans protect themselves from their sins at all cost. And unlike what Clinton did, this is not a TMZ sin, this is a national sin, that most will not acknowledge.
I have wondered since yesterday if CIA agents will be interviewed (with their identities protected) about this program now. There have to be plenty of guilty consciences. I can see 60 Minutes doing it and I think the only way it may become real for a lot of people is if it is on TV.
@kay: Sure, discretion makes it appear random, but as the death-penalty studies highlight there are often patterns to the use of discretion, either by police or prosecutors. For years people thought police were race-biased until some very strong studies turned up the fact that police were harder on people that didn’t give them the proper "respect". Of course this correlates with race and attitudes toward police so it appeared that all cops were racists (and sure, some are).
My guess is with the car seat prosecutions, and I agree the events are tragic, discretion may hinge on things like the defendant’s resources to hire a defense, the activity of the parent at the time (work more favorable than say going into a bar), and perhaps even the gender of the parent (with "bad" moms more likely to be prosecuted than "absent-minded" fathers).
You are right, but at worst 30-40% of the population which equals 90m to 120m people, but they are a minority and the remaining 60-70% will be horrified if it becomes clear that this nation explicitly embraced torture and that in effect it is the policy of one of the major parties in this country. It is one thing if a person can pretend it is not happening, but if it is shoved right in the publics fact and the right defends it I will not live to see the day when the right comes out of the political wilderness in this country, and I am only 47.
@Lola: It obviously won’t sway the committed quarter that will support torturing anyone they disagree with and perhaps another 10% who would favor it for anyone labeled a "terrorist". Like wise 35% on the Left will oppose any form of torture. This leaves the middle third where all elections are waged (after firing up and turning out the base). I suspect many of these folks would say, "yeah, if he knows where the nuke is flay him and feed him his own skin." But when presented with the general statement, "is torture wrong" they will say "hell yeah". So I suspect that having this out in the open will tend to swing them and that’s what counts.
I agree with you. It’s the reason my hair was on fire during the US Attorney scandal. The pundits were pretending that prosecutors are following some formula when charging, and I know they don’t. It’s why you can’t have political hacks in there. It’s too easy for them to cover their tracks.
The car seat cases were worse, in a way. They interviewed the prosecutors who charged, and those who didn’t, and most of the decision whether to charge or not rested on whether that individual prosecutor could imagine leaving a child in a car seat. One of the prosecutors who charged said there was no conceivable set of circumstances where he could make an error like that: he said " I’m a conscientious father". One who didn’t charge had actually inadvertently left a child at day care because he and his wife both thought the other was picking up that day.
Well. Okay then! As long as we’re relying on legal doctrine!
John Cole @ Top:
A perfect summary, John. I couldn’t agree more.
I said several times yesterday that I do not think anyone will be able to convincingly argue that they relied on the OLC opinions in good faith. The interrogators in the CIA did not live in a vacuum where torture had never been discussed before. Prior to the Bybee memo, people had been prosecuted and convicted as war criminals for performing these torture techniques. Also, for those interrogators who went through SERE training, they knew that these methods were torture. They did not go through SERE training so that they could leard what to do to suspects, but to learn what might happen to them if they were captured by the "enemy."
The point that needs to be driven home is that a bunch of cowards without any type of military or intelligence experience used shoddy legal "reasoning" to tell our military and intelligence agencies that they could torture people who we suspected might be terrorists. This was even done to an American citizen. Therefore, none of us is safe.
As I said once already, every single Republican and their defenders need to be asked what their reaction would have been if the Chinese had done these same exact things to captured American airmen in 2001. I doubt the answer will be the same as the bullsh-t they are spouting this morning.
One time this Inquisitor put me in the rack and asked if I had anything to confess. I was like "Dude, I so prepared for this". He gave the order and the two dummies started turning it and turning it and I was like "Dudes, this tickles." I mean, it might have hurt if I was surprised but I was totally prepped for it and it didn’t hurt, I didn’t confess, and now I’m totally 2 inches taller as well.
@The Grand Panjandrum:
I agree, but jail, not the needle. No truly civilized society will engage in capital punishment, and I don’t want us to lower ourselves to the level of Bush/Cheney and their cronies ever again.
But I know Democrats who voted for Obama that think like Joe Scarborough and have no shame saying they think stripping down terrorists and making them wear leashes is A-OK. I think the tacit or implicit support of torture goes beyond the Republican Party.
I like the part of the Hayden/Mukasey Op-ed where they say that this is sure to generate "faux outrage." Because, you know, no one is ACTUALLY opposed to stuffing people in boxes and dumping insects on them.
Guys, if we are truly indeed sickened by torture and those bastards who advocate it, LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Glenn Greenwald is right. If 250,000 moronic teabagging sessionist-wannabes are able to form rallies, SO SHOULD WE.
Let’s do this. Let’s protest. Speak out. March. Find a date to gather on the National Mall, fill out the permit paperwork, and LET’S GO! Hell, I will pay the 50 bucks for filling out the permits for ya, deal? You hear that, Glenn? You up for it, Sullivan? Hilzoy? Who’s with me? C’mon dammit!
I think they’re protecting Bybee. The federal judge. Who should be impeached.
Mukasey is a complete tool of the right, and has been exposed as such, as far as I’m concerned.
They may as well drag out Monica Goodling.
That’s actually my current working theory as to why Obama declared that he’s going to protect the CIA operatives.
If he goes after the low-level guys, there’s an enormous opportunity for one of them to play the "CIA Agent Who Got His Hands Dirty To Protect Three Hundred Million American Lives" role on TV. That would be an uglier mirror of the end of the Iran/Contra affair, where North played into every possible conservative trope (Fat Complacent Liberal Congressmen Going After A Good Soldier Who Was Doing His Duty By Obeying His Commander In Chief!) and swung public opinion behind actions that were (absent the theatrics) an outrageous power grab by the executive branch of government.
This time I want the Bybees and Gonzaleses of the world to see justice for their crimes.
Well Joe Scarborough is fun to kick around, but more frustrating is the AP story on page 7 of my local newspaper. The headline is Obama Clears CIA Interrogators.
The main spin of the story is that the documents offer justification for using the "tough tactics", and that critics have argued that the document release would make the United States less safe.
There is at least 1 Republican who is honest today:
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE
Rick Moran even credits Andrew Sullivan and the esteemed John Cole with setting him on the right track.
Absolutely. I can already see it bubbling up with the few wingnuts I can stand to talk to. The immediate reaction was to defend torture or weakly claim they they still don’t "consider" waterboarding, etc, torture. It’s absolutely stunning.
Round up the bastards and shoot them. It’s the only way we’ll get this country’s soul back.
i think if i were on the other side of the issue, i would just lie low and hope it goes away. but if i were foolish enough to want to venture out in public and justify these acts it does seem like repeatedly pressing the ZOMG MUTANT TERRORISTS ARE COMING AND NOW WE CAN’T STOP THEM button is probably the most uh pungent approach. the american buffalo is better known for stampeding than cogitating.
i wonder if it is difficult being 100% cynical 100% of the time.
i agree with the poster above who pointed out that now at least the defenders will be on the record, just like defenders of racism and suchlike, as defending these practices.
ps: "good faith" has a highly specific meaning in the land of constitutional torts. it may not mean what you think it means
Obama didn’t tie his hands, – he tied the past administration’s hands. They are now implicated in illegal actions and should probably just fade out of the limelight now.
Roger the Cabin Boy
But releasing detailed information on interrogation techniques could give the terrorists an edge in resisting them. For example, they could learn to breathe through their ears which would render waterboarding completely ineffective, in addition to enhancing Mrs. Terrorist’s sexual satisfaction. And there’s that h-bomb hidden somewhere in one of John McCain’s houses…..tick….tick…tick…..
So the government should not release these memos because the government has been successful in not releasing these memos. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. The arrogance these people have towards transparency and accountability is maddening.
No, no. Wait till they demand that Obama be impeached for America less safe by revealing war crimes Bush committed to keep us safe.
Obama did not, in fact, tie America’s hands. We tied our hands when we signed the Geneva Conventions against torture and passed American laws against torture. I am grateful that we did, and I wish every other American was, too.
Surely the practical reasons for opposing the use of torture are important as well as the moral reasons.
We have made it clear to the world that we will torture our prisoners. This makes it clear to the world that they should torture any of our soldiers who are captured in future wars. And since many of the prisoners we tortured were not soldiers in any army, we are making it clear to the world that seizing and torturing any citizen of a country you oppose is something we see as acceptable.
In other words, we can no longer consider the fate of Leon Klinghoffer as evil or wrong. We see it as the kind of thing we might do to a citizen of a country we consider an enemy.
That’s what it means to accept the use of torture by our government.