Interrogate this

“Really!?!? We’re investigating whether the CIA told the 9/11 mastermind they were going to kill his kids? Liberals are wimps.” –Twitter post of my most conservative friend (who can out himself in the comments if he likes).


It is easy to debate with true believers, laugh at conspiracy nuts, and buy feminine hygiene products for bleeding hearts. When somebody dances on the edge of the spectrum, pushing him over the edge to Wingnut Chasm isn’t even sport. The real challenge is stepping out on the edge for a two-step with him.

That is, as I tend to hang out with all three of the above categories, I find myself either debating, laughing, or buying Vagisil all the time. There are times like this, however, that I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that I rarely do. I’m going to agree with my conservative friend.

So, the CIA (hi, guys!) and Bush administration is going to catch a lot of hell. First it was the waterboarding thing. Then it was the threatening with guns and drills thing (very Bond Villain, gentlemen…). Now it’s threatening to kill the children of suspected terrorists. Woah, that does sound horrible doesn’t it? Threatening the lives of mere children just to get information from someone? Only someone horrible would do that.

And for the most part, that is true. I received the breaking news alert on my iPhone when I left the gym this afternoon. Sweating and sitting in my hot car, I actually had a visceral reaction as I imagined the technique. It turned my stomach to imagine having information that somebody else wanted but I couldn’t give up and then be told if I didn’t talk, someone would kill my sons. It would take someone inhuman and inhumane to use such a tactic. I gave it a couple of hours and then forced myself to think about it another way. Here’s the scenario I imagined:

It’s 6pm on a Friday night and I’m standing over a man I’ve never met before. He’s tied up, sweating, and smiling at me. There is a moral part of me screaming as I stand above him. I do not have it in me to kill. I probably don’t have the will to beat the man. What’s more, if I do either of the violent options, I might go to prison. But I have a waterboarding kit, a Glock 9mm, and a Black and Decker power drill. I also know the names of the man’s children. I can choose to use any of the above to get the information I want.

The information I want: The location of my children who are scheduled to be killed at midnight.

Okay. That does sound a little wingnutty, but I don’t have a problem thinking of it that way. Because, as much as I think Americans could do a much better job of understanding other cultures and political systems, I think our government should have a right to protect its people like we would our children. There is a moral line when interrogating people and that line is only crossed when you inflict physical harm.

If it stopped there, this would be an easy debate. The problem is, we have to be able to trust the people we give the power to conduct these interrogations to use a great deal of discretion. That is to say, it’s perfectly fine for me threaten the kids of a kidnapper who I know had my kids locked in a closet somewhere. It’s not fine for me to waterboard some guy who looked at my kids funny on the playground. Further, I shouldn’t be able to hire a thug to go out and do my wet work for me.

Ah, yes. The whole Blackwater thing. While it doesn’t speak necessarily to interrogations, the other building controversy was the CIA’s reported use of a private security firm to hunt and kill terrorist leaders. Like the “security” Blackwater provided in Iraq or post-Katrina New Orleans, giving mercenaries carte blanche to do what our government cannot is less than unseemly. It almost sounds illegal.

That is all a long way of saying Americans should come to grips with the realities of war–and not the kind of Crusade we’ve been fighting for most of this decade, but the kind of war where people might actually want and have the ability to do harm to Americans. There are times protecting American soil is going to get ugly and we need to understand people in our government will have to do some ugly things. Rather than spending precious hand-wringing time worrying about how they get the job done, we should be paying more attention to making sure it’s done by the right people, for the right reasons, to the right people, and to as few people as possible.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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25 Responses

  1. Julius_Goat says:

    “Really!?!? We’re investigating whether the CIA told the 9/11 mastermind they were going to kill his kids? Non-neo cons are accountable to international and domestic law.”

    “Fixed it,” Goat said, glibly and smugly.

    But still. Come on, now.

    “Investigate” means precisely that. Investigate. As in, what happened or did not happen. What mistakes were made? How will they be prevented from being made again? And, yes, if necessary, who needs to be made accountable.

    I don’t doubt that there are times when rough men need to do rough things to secure our safety. I’m sure there’s a razor wire to balance upon, and decisions I would never in my life want to make. I would like to thank Colonel Jessup for his brave service, but I read the article.

    “Death threats violate anti torture laws,” it says.

    Death threats violate the law. Torture is against the law. Our government mustn’t as a matter of policy thumb our nose at the law, and if they do, there damn well better be an investigation. A “ticking time bomb” hypothetical isn’t enough. Yes, there are serious situations that are hypothetically possible, in which law may need to be set aside — within the context of that extreme situation — in order to do the utilitarian thing. But in no way does that mean that the law is superceded.

    We don’t, as a matter of policy, do inhuman and illegal things. We’ don’t. It’s about who we are. I’m clear on what they are.

    Let me be hypothetical. Let’s say that technology advances to the point that you can insert an H-bomb into a human. Now, let’s say I have the opportunity to disarm an H-bomb in the middle of LA, but can only do it by hacking apart the little girl it’s been installed in. I have five minutes to decide. It’s the only way to do it. My heart is pure. I do it and save millions.

    Therefore, hacking little girls apart should be legal.

    Or, maybe, just maybe, there should be an investigation. Was it necessary? What is the proof? Why was it done? What was the benefit? Where is the information? Because, you see, there are little girl parts everywhere.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and Kotex my heart.

  2. otis says:

    JG–Enough with the FilmChaw and Lost reviews. Start a political blog. Nice work.

  3. ToddCommish says:

    I’ve found that most of the hand-wringing, bleeding-heart, “don’t lower ourselves to their level” pantywaists typically don’t have children. That’s why they can’t fathom that there are sometimes steps that MUST be taken to protect some things.

    Frankly, if anyone is near my kids with intent to do harm (as, in the same country), I will throw aside the penal code, the Geneva Convention, the Golden Rule, and any unwritten laws to stop them. Childless people don’t feel that level of connection with anything.

    And Goat, these aren’t little girls (though I assume you used a little girl for rhetorical impact), these are scumbags who would kill you and your family just for being Americans. AND they would do so simply for the glory of doing it, no threat or implied threat is necessary. This isn’t a thought-game or a war game or a MMORPG. These are murderers, who want to kill YOU. About time we start treating them as such.

  4. Julius_Goat says:

    Otis — yes, I need another blog.

    Todd Commish. I have three beautiful little girls. And a moral compass.

  5. ToddCommish says:


    As long as your moral compass puts the safety of your kids ahead of any and all terrorists, then we agree.

    I’m pretty sure the parents of the people in the World Trade Center or the USS Cole or of US servicemen would gladly trade some flesh from detainees for the protection of their loved ones.

  6. Julius_Goat says:

    And I suppose I should be extra clear (and a little less sanctimonious) — my point was not that terrorists are little girls.

    I’m not fuzzy on terrorists. They are dangerous motherfuckers and killers and I won’t mourn their deaths. Fuck them and fuck their worldview that says that violence and fear rule us. I won’t bow to it.

    My point is about the rule of law, and how I hope it defines us, no matter who we face. My point is that hypothetical situations can be concocted to defend any action (for example, the “sheep-raper bomb deactivation button” scenario is popular in many Scottish circles). My hypothetical is just more far-fetched, but the logical path I use is the same that we now use to defend our shameful torture program.

    If one of these scenarios come into actual real-life, then there will be some people with some very serious decisions to make. If they really do think that torture will get them the info that Jack Baur needs to stop a nuke from going off in LA, then yeah I guess they should do it, and I’m guessing that even if it is illegal, they’ll do it. And they’ll be heroes. And goddam it, there should STILL be an investigation. That’s not weakness. That’s strength. Strength is doing the hard thing. The open thing. Weakness is doing the expedient thing. The secret thing.

    The reason this has me writing — what now, three times the length of the original post? — is that I have opposed this torture shit from the outset, and I’m getting honked off that it keeps getting framed back at me as the clash between the strong-willed and pragmatic folks that do the tough thing that needs to be done, and the lilly livered namby pamby liberal who just wants to invite the terrorist home for tea. Fuck that. What is the real resolve? Sticking to what truly makes us great, or pulling up the waterboard? Which is the braver thing to do? Which holds more risk? Which holds more honor?

    And as an aside . . . that ticking time bomb? That’s not the scenario under which we tortured. We didn’t have a nuke in LA. We didn’t ask about a nuke in LA.

    We’ got them to admit that there was a link between al Quaeda and Saddam, though. Which there wasn’t.

    Torture is most commonly used to illicit false confessions. Ask a Russian.

  7. Special K says:

    ToddCommish: “Childless people don’t feel that level of connection with anything.”

    Special K: “F.U. and the high-horse you rode in on.”

    That has to be the most unnecessarly insulting thing I’ve read in a long time. Sir, you ever get near my wife intending harm and you’ll learn how incorrect you are.

  8. ToddCommish says:

    Special K,

    Think about the connection you have with your wife (apparently very strong)… Now heighten it exponentially.

    That’s what it’s like to have a child.

    No denigration to you OR your wife (or my wife, for that matter) intended. In fact, I like the way you stepped up to announce your feelings… and indirectly, proved my point about caring about something to the point of not caring about the rights of a potential aggressor.

  9. CJ says:

    I don’t mind the quote being attributed to the source. I’d be surprised if people didn’t guess it was me.

    And really!?!?!?

    It’s against the law the threaten to kill someone’s family during an interrogation even though there is zero chance that the family will actually ever suffer any harm or even know there was any threat of harm?


    What kind of liberal weenie wrote that law?

  10. Mean Gene says:

    Here’s what I never got about the torture debate–there’s never any discussion of the torturer paying the appropriate consequences for the crime. Going with the kidnapped child scenario, let’s say I torture one of the kidnappers to find my child’s location. I should still be arrested and prosecuted for what I did. If I tortured the guy to death, I should be charged with some variety of murder, and let a judge and jury weigh the extenuating circumstances.

    Same goes with the ‘ol ticking-time bomb scenario. If the President is told that there’s a bomb in New York City, that it’s gonna blow in 60 minutes, and the only way to find the bombs location is to torture some guy strapped to a chair, the President should authorize it. He should then inform the Congress what he did and Congress should impeach him (along with any other officials involved). The President should be tried for his crimes–and that’s what they are, crimes.

    Would Congress really impeach a President who saved millions from dying by authorizing torture? Would a jury convict a father who saved his child from being murdered by torturing one of the kidnappers? Probably not, or the punishments would be mitigated by the circumstances. But the facts about what really took place would see the light of day, the rule of law would be obeyed, and that’s important. And that’s been borne out by the criminal activities carried out by the Bush Administration, who kidnapped people, held them without trial or counsel, and tortured them (some of them to death). And (so far at least) those responsible for those crimes have gotten away with it, to the great detriment of our democracy.

  11. Dr. Chako says:

    I love this Logic 101 crap. A bunch of “what if’s” designed to make liberals think.

    There is no black and white. Trust me on this one. One trip through Iraq and you’ll have that crap purged from your soul in a heart beat.

    It’s very easy (too easy) to tug at the heart strings by invoking the passion you feel for your kids. It’s also pointless. Here’s the bottom line: everyone has a breaking point. I respect the hell out of a liberal who says “no” to torture under any circumstances, but they are usually yelling “NAH NAH NAH” when you bring up the scenario of hurting their kids.

    Even though I swore the Hippocratic oath, I’d be willing to torture to save my kids. I’d argue that most of us would. What I want is for the torturer (not me) to have the ability to emotionally distance themselves from the terrorist so they have the best chance of getting actionable intelligence. I couldn’t do it, but I’d volunteer to be on the committee to choose they guy that would.


  12. KenP says:

    Wow! Double Wow!

    Didn’t expect such a post from Otis. As for the others, well emotions can make us all a bit infantile — certainly been there and done that.

    My take is that acts beyond the pale aren’t defensible. Tomorrow we go for the serial killer and the next day the rapist and we finally get it down to class whatever crooks. If you’ve followed the Illinois mess, you can see how it plays.

    But, the issue really seems to be the media. This did all surface from a truth in information request, right? Still head hunting the Dubya.

    So, the media gets some goodies and the vetting of it isn’t quite to Deep Throat standards. Who needs to know what happened? Who in the Congress with the need to know didn’t have access to that without the redaction? It is reporting old news that damages the nation in the Arab world.

    The media loves their expose. Oooo! Oooo! Ship me my Pulitzer. What was done was wrong. Torture was wrong for the right reasons but still wrong. What is worse is bring it all out at this point in time. It a great inclusion in a memoir 20 years from now as a warning and with the “War on Terrorism” behind us.

    Let Bush lie. He been a class act since he left. He was the wrong person in many ways. History or another expose won’t change that.

  13. KenP says:

    P.S. Otis, media responsibility would have been a better post and it isn’t too late…

  14. Julius_Goat says:

    Oy, I can’t let this go, I guess. Another essay.

    I would almost certainly torture to save my kids, though I find it highly unlikely that I’d be put in a situation where torture would actually be an effective way of doing so. That is action movie stuff, and interestingly in action movies there are never legal consequences for any action, as long as it takes down the bad guy. Take a room of cops hostage, hijack a hellicoper, engage in a firefight in a downtown location, as long as we the audience know the hero’s intentions are pure, it’s cool and at the end they swagger off into the sunset.

    But, however extraordinary and unlikely the circumstance, if I were faced with it, then yes, I’d torture. I’d probably do it instinctively and immediately, and I certainly wouldn’t be thinking about the legal consequences, I’d be thinking about my kids lives.

    In fact, I don’t think there’s a crime or a Mike Rowe’s Dirty Job you could put out there that I wouldn’t do.

    I’d also kill. I’m going to switch to that because I can much more easily envision the still very rare case where I’d have to kill to protect my family, than I can the rather extraordinary set of Michael-Bayish circumstances in which torture would actually somehow save my kids.

    Certainly, keeping the killing of another human being illegal doesn’t have a chilling effect on my willingness to do so in this situation, nor does my impression that fathers who have in fact been placed in this extraordinary circumstance and have done so have probably had to talk to the police about it, nor does my notion that probably some father somewhere is sitting in jail right now, because the evidence didn’t fall right and he got the shaft for doing what any of us would do. Even if I knew for a fact that every single father who had ever killed their children’s murderous attacker had been wrongly sent to jail, I’d still do it. In other words, in extraordinary circumstances, the law would no longer apply to my natural aversion to consequence, and my principles would no longer apply to my moral aversion to killing.

    But, were I in that rare and extraordinary situation (one I hope nobody reading this every has ever been in or ever will be in) I still expect there would be an investigation into the wheres and whys. And there should be. If I went to jail because of it, that wouldn’t be right. But I’d have no regrets as to what I’d done. And certainly the threat of me potentially suffering unjust consequences if I potentially found myself in a situation where I had to kill doesn’t mean we should dispense with investigations of killing or the whole “killing is illegal” thing. The police would have to investigate, because maybe I did the right thing, or maybe I accidentally killed my Uncle Bill who was trying to play a prank on me by sneaking up on me, or maybe I killed somebody I just didn’t like and am claiming that it was self-defense. Maybe my kids weren’t even in the house. They don’t know, they don’t know me, and there is a dead body. They have to find out what’s up. So it is with me, let it be with the government, right up to the top.

    I am intrigued by Otis’s premise, which I’d paraphrase as “We hope and expect that the government would protect us as we would protect our own children.” I have to think about about this, but I like it, sort of. I mean, I do think that the safety of its citizens is one of the government’s sacred trusts. Where it breaks down is that we are not the children of the government. We are their bosses. We are their power, and we are their accountability.

    I want our government to be willing to break the law in extraordinary circumstance? Yes, probably. But those circumstances would have to be pretty extraordinary, then. They’d have to place the decision maker past their natural aversion to consequence and their princpled aversion to atrocity. And afterword, I damn sure want us to investigate, to find out what and why and how, because torture and murder are horrible acts, and — outside of the truly rare and extraordinary circumstance, they are self defeating ones. At the end of the day, though we inarguably face some scary shit out there, we are not the children of Big Daddy Washington. We are the people, and we rule.

    (And, incidentally, an investigation would be a good time for us to have an open debate on the “threaten to kill a terrorists’ kids is illegal” thing –the theoretical foolishness of which was the original topic, I believe. Is that beyond the pale? Why is it beyond the pale? Why is that illegal in the first place? Is it an effective tactic? Do the experts think it backfires? I really don’t have much info on this particular point.)

    So, I still don’t see how the premise “I would torture to save my kids” leads naturally to the premise “therefore, there should be no investigation of the government torture program.” It is in no way clear to me that when we tortured, we prevented the kind of mushroom cloud scenario that we were being frightened with in 2002 and 2003, or that we even got good intelligence, or that we were even looking for good intelligence. It is in no way clear to me that by embarking on this torture program, we made ourselves more safe instead of less. And the reason that it is in no way clear to me is that we haven’t properly investigated it.

    Did Cheney and company act in good faith? Maybe that was the case. Like Dr. C rightly pointed out, there is no black and white. Maybe by threatening to kill somebody’s kid, we prevented a dirty bomb from going off in Seattle. Maybe we got it wrong, but we had damn good reasons at the time for thinking we were right. Maybe we just wanted to get some guys to tell us that Saddam was buddy buddy with Osama so we could send the troops into Iraq. Let’s find out. Either way, we need answers.

    Yes, I would do anything at all to save my kids. Shall we then allow the government unfettered access to do anything, to break any law, unchecked, as long as they promise they are doing so to keep us safe? No questions asked?

    I’d like to thank Otis for hosting my political blog for the last 24 hours, and I promise not to do this any more.

  15. Mean Gene says:

    There’s another important thing to understand about the torture conducted by the Bush Administration–the techniques used were developed by the Soviets and Chinese to extract false confessions, not actionable intelligence. When Soviet or Chinese Communist interrogators employed sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, waterboarding, etc, they weren’t trying to get the victims to reveal information that the government could use to prevent some catastrophe. These people were tortured so that they would fulfill their role in a production the government had already written. Those governments KNEW that these people were innocent, because it was the State itself that invented their crimes. When you’re using terror to control the populace you need that populace to be afraid. One way to accomplish this is by mass-producing enemies of the state, to keep the people constantly frightened that some malevolent force is trying to destroy them.

    You also keep people in a state of terror when they see people, seemingly ordinary people like themselves, pulled off the street and tortured and sent to labor camps (or the grave) after confessing to the most heinous of crimes. It keeps people terrified and docile, knowing that the least bit of dissent could mean that they’ll be the next one sent to a dungeon for interrogation.

    That’s why the whole “would you torture to save your child’s life” scenario isn’t appropriate, at least where the torture conducted by the Bush Administration is concerned. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 you could, perhaps, understand the hysteria that might move government officials to authorize torture. But the torture went on, and on, and on. Against people who had already been in prison for years (and therefore couldn’t have any actionable intelligence). Against people they knew had nothing to do with al Qaeda or any terrorist group. The purpose of this torture wasn’t to gather intelligence to prevent future attacks (torture that both the FBI and CIA said failed to produce useful intelligence). The purpose was to extract false confessions to justify whatever the Administration wanted justified. And that’s where the Bush Administration crossed over from hysterical incompetence into true evil.

  16. StB says:

    How long was Mean Gene in the CIA? Are you in a position to define “actionable intelligence” or just regurgitate what is said from a left leaning writer? Did you interview these people to confirm they had nothing to do with a terrorist group? How do you know the purpose of any CIA action?

    You present fact like it is opinion, yet you want people to purposely break the law to prevent people from being killed just to put them on trial and make them go through hell defending their actions while you become judge jury and executioner. Step in their shoes first.

    True evil. Our liberal friends need to review the tactics of the terrorist groups they defend. Consider the innocent victims that have had their throats cut like Daniel Pearl. That is true evil.

  17. Matt V says:

    So, starting around 6 years ago, CIA agents were given the task of interrogating people whom they thought were terrorists.

    Their supervisors as well as CIA & DOJ lawyers explained to them what they could and couldn’t do. Reasonable people may disagree about what they were allowed to do, but the agents were given assurance that what they were doing was legal.

    Now, the new DOJ management has a different definition of what torture is and is going to hold what the agents did 6 years ago to that standard.

    Jack Bauer style torture has never been legal. One CIA contractor has been convicted of violating the torture rules to date. If agents have broken the law, or what they were reasonably told was the law, they should go to prison. Retroactively changing the rules on them years after the fact only hurts the agency and the people who work there. It also makes us “less safe” because agents will have to guess what the future rules may be in addition to what the rules are now.

  18. KenP says:

    The CIA has disclosed that J. Goat is actually Mel Gibson.

    Although, they also said he was Tom Clancy.

    Which cover story is which?

  19. Average White Boy says:

    Before 9-11, we were the leader in all of the intelligence gathering disciplines with the exception of one: Human Intelligence (HUMINT). It was through this hole the 9-11 hijackers went through to pull off their act. It was – and continues to be – a major hole in our collection efforts.

    We struggle with being good at HUMINT because we believe in our hearts that “all men are created equal”. HUMINT is sausage-making at its ugliest. Countries have resorted to all sorts of methods to collect: Stealing, bribing, prostitution, kidnapping, rendition, false imprisonment, torture and yes, even killing innocent people for it.

    HUMINT is by no means a silver bullet, but when the intel is corroborated by other disciplines (SIGINT, OSINT, TECHINT, IMINT, MASINT, FININT, GEOINT in case you’re wondering) it is the most accurate information you can have. To know exactly what the threats are to our country, we cannot be weak in collecting Human Intelligence.

    The US intelligence community has been blasted by critics for not alerting the country about the 9/11 terror plots. Intel is now being blasted for implementing solutions to gather that needed intelligence. Through the efforts of all eighteen members of the US Intelligence Community we have thwarted all attacks on our country since 9/11. There’s a saying that comes to mind: “If you like the omelet, don’t ask how the eggs were cracked.”

  20. Random101 says:

    At some point we just have to trust the executive branch to do the right thing for national security. I hear a lot of loose talk about torture, morality, and lies from US Senators and Representatives. Show me the scars, missing toes, missing fingers, missing nails, x-rays of broken bones, or even a limp due to torture. John MacCain was tortured. If the subject is physically 100% after the interrogation, then the subject was not tortured. His terrorist ass was just punked.

  21. Da Goddess says:

    Changing the rules after something’s happened so that you can go back and punish those who acted under a different set of rules sounds a little slippery slope-ish to me. When will that happen to us in other parts of life?

    Dr. C: “Even though I swore the Hippocratic oath, I’d be willing to torture to save my kids. I’d argue that most of us would. What I want is for the torturer (not me) to have the ability to emotionally distance themselves from the terrorist so they have the best chance of getting actionable intelligence. I couldn’t do it, but I’d volunteer to be on the committee to choose they guy that would” – thank you for writing that. I’m on that same committee. I’ll even treat the terrorist after, giving him or her better care than anyone would give an American in the same situation.

    I simply cannot believe there aren’t times when we need info and we’re not allowed to get it because we didn’t pull the Ace of Spades in a blind draw.

  22. Mean Gene says:

    Random101 wrote, “At some point we just have to trust the executive branch to do the right thing for national security.”

    We trusted the Bush Administration when they said we needed to invade Iraq. They had WMD’s they’d use themselves or give to al Qaeda. Mushroom clouds over America’s cities. And it turned out to be total bullshit. How did trusting the executive branch turn out in that case? Also, blindly trusting your government is about the most anti-American thing I can conceive of.

    So far as the barbarous request to “show me the scars, missing toes, missing fingers…” that Random101 seems to think is the only relevant evidence that torture took place, remember again that many of the methods used (waterboarding, hypothermia, sleep deprivation, threats to torture friends and family members) were used because the Soviet and Chinese Communist tortures wanted to make it appear the victims confessed freely. That, when confronted with the evidence of their crimes and how these crimes injured the state, the victims saw the light and admitted their guilt of their own free will. You see a guy with no teeth and his thumbs hacked off apologizing for his crimes and people will think he confessed because he was tortured. You see a guy who looks physically intact apologizing for his crimes (which, for the most part were fictional) and the people will think not only that he was guilty, but that the benevolent state’s omniscient wisdom was enough to make the accused capitulate, utterly.

    Da Goddess says that changing the rules after something’s happened is a little “slippery slope-ish”. Thing is, the rules didn’t change–torture was always illegal under U.S. and international law. It was the Bush Administration that tried to change the rules with the briefs John Yoo wrote to give the tortures some semblance of legal cover. That cover is now being pulled away and lots of people in the CIA (and the Bush Administration) are no doubt becoming very, very nervous.

    If I had to waterboard a guy to get him to give up information about the location of an atomic bomb, and I knew that there was a good chance I’d be prosecuted for what I was about to do, my fear of prosecution would be as nothing compared to my concern for the hundreds of thousands at risk. I would commit a crime and face the consequences to prevent a greater crime from being committed. But I would be committing a crime. Period.

    And what we’ve learned is that people were tortured who there was no evidence that showed they were a terrorist, let alone a member of al Qaeda, let alone someone with useful information. Obeying an illegal order isn’t justified because some immoral DOJ lawyer wrote up a brief saying it’s OK. There are laws on the books forbidding what the interrogators did and the US has signed treaties saying that torture is illegal. Just because John Yoo wrote a memo doesn’t excuse them. That argument didn’t fly at Nuremberg, and it doesn’t fly now.

    The Justice Department report that was just issued shows that quite a few of the interrogators were concerned that what they were doing was illegal; that what they were doing would end up becoming public knowledge; that they would be prosecuted for their crimes; and that the government wouldn’t back them up. And that either has or is about to come to pass. Someone is going to take the fall, and just as with Abu Ghraib it probably isn’t not going to be the people who decided to torture and then issued the orders.

    I’d also like to say that I’m not so naive as to think the United States hasn’t tortured people in the past. What’s different now is that people seem to think that torture is…fine. The comments here prove that point. It’s fine if our government kidnaps people, holds them in a dungeon, and tortures them to death. So what if these people might be innocent (and, of course, hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo were released because not even the Bush Administration could think of a reason to hold them). If the government says they’re guilty, strap ’em to a board and drown ’em. They’re terrorists, they have no rights. And if they aren’t terrorists, if they’re just some guy who got grabbed off the street and shipped to prison to be tortured to death, well, if you don’t like the omelet, don’t ask how the eggs were cracked. So what if it destroys our standing in the world and makes hundreds of millions of people hate us and gives terrorist groups an endless stream of recruits?

    And people seem cool with all that. So what if indiscriminately torturing people without benefit of counsel or trial flies in the face of everything America allegedly stands for? That’s what’s so fucked up–people think that the best way to combat evil terrorists who hate everything we stand for is to…become just as evil ourselves and abandon everything we stand for.

  23. Average White Boy says:

    I didn’t swear an oath to uphold our standing in the world, I swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same”. I know were my guidance comes from, and it is not from the Hague. I am a professional who conducts himself lawfully as are 99% of the professionals in the Intelligence Community.

    If at the end of the day, I am taken away for what is then deemed “criminal behavior”, then bring it. It’ll mean the country I pledged allegiance to doesn’t exist anymore.

  24. Little Willie says:

    Ways to avoid torture by the CIA:
    1. Don’t be a terrorist
    2. Don’t know information they want to know
    3. If you do know that information, tell them

    Seems pretty easy to me.

  25. Special K says:

    ToddCommish: “Now heighten it exponentially.”

    You have no way of knowing that or proving it. Nice try. You nor your kid(s) are that special.