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Archive for Sunday, December 16, 2007

Plenty to blame for interrogation tactics

December 16, 2007

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Who done it?

Sometime late in 2005, the CIA destroyed videotapes showing hundreds of hours of interrogations of two top al-Qaida suspects - while continuing to imply to the 9/11 commission and the courts that no such interrogation tapes ever existed.

What was on those tapes that made CIA officials so eager to destroy them, instead of just selling them to the producers of "24" and retiring in comfort? And who authorized (or knew of) their destruction?

Not our national Decider, who insists, via White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, that he didn't decide anything whatsoever, because he has "no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction." That's in contrast to former White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers, who apparently knew all about the tapes but didn't bother to share the news with her boss.

Unidentified administration sources assure us, though, that Miers recommended that the CIA preserve the tapes. (It's not hard to imagine her words: "Gee, if these interrogation tapes just happened to be lost or destroyed, it would sure make it tough for anyone to bring future war crimes or torture prosecutions against anyone in this administration, so I hope the CIA will take really good care of those tapes.")

Over at the CIA, another unidentified "former official" said no one at the White House ever ordered the CIA not to destroy the tapes - at least not in so many words: "They never told us, 'Hell, no,"' that official told The New York Times. And current and former officials said that the CIA's acting general counsel, John Rizzo, was in on the whole discussion about the tapes. Still another anonymous "official" asserted that Rizzo was out of the loop and "angry" at the tapes' destruction.

When it was his turn to pass the buck, current CIA Director Michael V. Hayden helpfully reminded Congress that he wasn't even at the CIA in 2005 and therefore had no idea who ordered that the tapes be destroyed, although he naturally intends to look into it.

As the president told ABC News, "It will be interesting to know what the true facts are." Uh-huh. But in many ways, the question of who ordered that the tapes be destroyed completely misses the point. It probably won't be all that difficult to answer that question - congressional inquiries are fairly good at that sort of thing. We may even see some prosecutions come out of this, because the tapes were, arguably, crucial evidence in criminal prosecutions and other legal proceedings. Those who want heads to roll for this probably will get their way.

But so what? In this case, as blogger and Georgetown professor Marty Lederman reminds us: "The cover-up is not worse than the crime, and they knew it. Those tapes must have depicted pretty gruesome evidence of serious criminal conduct." Waterboarding? For sure, according both to news accounts and to former CIA operative John Kiriakou. Other "enhanced" forms of interrogation that, to the unenhanced eye, would look indistinguishable from plain torture? It's a pretty good bet. If I had to guess, the tapes were destroyed because obstruction-of-justice charges are no big deal compared with war-crimes charges.

After we find out who authorized the destruction of the tapes, the true who-done-it will remain: Who gave the CIA the green light to use interrogation methods that the agency surely suspected were criminal? Who decided to let the United States adopt the interrogation methods of a hundred tin-pot dictators?

Answering that one will be far more uncomfortable. It would be nice to find a scapegoat (Aha! It was Dick Cheney!), but the unpleasant truth is that the blame is pretty widespread.

So ... who really done it?

Cheney, presumably, and the sinister little gnomes on his staff, and the checked-out Decider, who either knew and didn't care, or didn't care to know. And the CIA leadership and a whole cadre of operatives, who were willing to try a long list of discredited shortcuts they could borrow from our enemies. And blame the conservative punditocracy, which eagerly defended enhanced interrogation methods. And let's not forget the GOP leadership in Congress, which gave the administration a whole book of blank checks.

But save some blame for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who apparently uttered not a word of dismay when briefed in 2002 on enhanced interrogation methods that included waterboarding, and for quite a few other congressional Democrats as well, who thought that ignoring and overlooking administration criminality was a legitimate form of congressional oversight. And we can blame ourselves, too, collectively. After all, we're the nation that made "24" a hit show.

How does a democracy come to adopt a policy of torturing detainees? To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a village.

- Rosa Brooks is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Her e-mail address is rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com.

Comments

lounger 7 years, 1 month ago

When all is said and done the G.W. Bully white house will make watergate look like a tea party. Throw him out of office along with the head of the c.i.a.!!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

The same old defense of BushCo. Drag out some vague similarity to an (also indefensible) Clinton policy, and use that as a defense of BushCo taking it to the extreme by orders of magnitude.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

The scum who make up the terrorist community and their screwed up society have no regard for others, why should we have regard for them?

As for all those poor innocents that were tortured, how does anyone know that even one innocent was tortured? You terrorist huggers are just assuming that anyone in the hands of the US government has been tortured.

Terrorists deserve it and should be tortured, if necessary, to extract any useful information.

oldvet 7 years, 1 month ago

If torturing some scumbag terrorist would save the life of even one American or one of our allies, then all I can remind them is this... hook the black lead to the negative terminal and the red lead to the positive one...

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

Torture should not be a policy of any administration, past, present, or future. For the "but, but, but...Clinton did it first!" crowd: That makes it OK for Bush to do it?

Yes, the "bad guys" torture, and have done terrible things to Americans....that's why they're the "bad guys." America needs to stand above these a-holes and stop imitating them.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

"That makes it OK for Bush to do it?"

"Who said that?"

I did. It was a question. Care to answer, Ferd?

"My point is that we should acknowledge that the policy has been in place for 12 years. What possible problem could anyone have with acknowledging that?"

I've no problem with that, if it's true. See, that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that torture is a terrible thing for America to take part in.

ilikestuff 7 years, 1 month ago

I found Rosa Brooks article rather foolish as her arguements seem based on mysterious, nameless nonentities. I should think it's hard to build a case using the testimony of such.

This brouhaha seems fully political in nature. Those bearing such vindictive malevolence toward the current administration or the CIA will have to do much better than unidentified sources if they desire some sort of conviction.

Thank you

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

Those of you who condemn torture seem to have a common theme of, "it's what separates us from them".

Americans are not saints.

I know this is hard for a puratanical-based, holier-than-thou, self-righteous society like the United States of America to understand, but citizens of the USA are no better than citizens of any other country.

You only think so.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says:

Geez, what a stupid post. No one is speaking of citizens - the citizens aren't doing the torturing, special operatives of the CIA and the military are.

Are you really positing that the government of the USA is no better or different than that of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Darfur, etc?


Ah, so the people doing the torture are not citizens of the USA, eh? You idiot.

As for your second question, I am talking about citizens. Not government. You've got it all backward, cretin.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe we need to have another Geneva convention and pose some modern day questions.

OK, here's the scenario. A crazy terrorist knows the location of the Nuke set to blow up on Red Square. It is okay to allow Putin to torture the guy and find out where the nuke is?

Does the severity of the situation warrant extreme measures?

Can we agree on when that threshold is reached?

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

Jayhawklawrence, first you'll have to pry the agreeers arms from around those trees so we can have Hug A Terrorist Day.

Some of the people on this site are more concerned about terrorists' rights than our own interests.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says: Torture hurts the interests of Americans in the long term.


Someone's thrown a horse blanket over your head so you can go through life. How ignorant.

Americans have been torturing for a long time. We just don't tell anyone...ssshhhhhh.....

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says: jayhawklawrence says.... "OK, here's the scenario. A crazy terrorist knows the location of the Nuke set to blow up on Red Square. It is okay to allow Putin to torture the guy and find out where the nuke is?"

And our very own Terrorist Rights Advocate, Scenebooster, says... Stop watching "24" - this is not a realistic scenario.


Let's change a few words, scenebooster, and speek reel slow so you get it...."OK, here's the scenario. A crazy terrorist knows the location of the PILOTS set to blow up on TWIN TOWERS. It is okay to allow BUSH to torture the guy and find out where the PILOT is?"

Is that more realistic for you?

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says: Yes, that's right moron - nobody knows! I wonder, how are we viewed in the world right now?


American citizens are viewed just fine. Goes back to the citizens vs government arguement that flew past you a few posts back.

You really should get out more. Well, maybe people just don't like....you....?

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

Sometimes I almost feel guilty engaging scenebooster. It's just too easy.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

Try to stay on the subject secneboozer. You're ramblings are just that. Forget you.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

One thing someone said is true, Bill Clinton is to blame for 9/11. It all happened on his watch, except for the actual flying.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

scenebooster (Anonymous) says: How did I get off-topic?


Why sould I be minimally interested in policing your posts? Figure it out for yourself.

knee out

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for not answering my 1:07pm question, Ferd. You're a super guy and I wanna be just like you (gurp)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow, apparently even the mention of the name "Kevin" is grounds for removal of posts. I guess groanhagen must have left an awful taste in the mouths of the admin.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Who's letting Clinton off the hook?

But if he belongs on the hook, don't you agree that Bush, who's considerably stepped up that program, also belongs on the hook?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

As if I could reasonably expect a straight answer to that question.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

Kozakid:

For someone who denies ever having posted under previous booted screen names, it's certainly odd that you keep replying to posts directed at said names.

That makes you a .... liar.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

"Do you believe it's merely an accident that no Americans have been killed on American soil by terrorists since 9/11?"

Given our porous borders, yes.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

"Above you stated that facts did not matter to you."

That's BS, and you know it.

But this is my favorite:

I said: For someone who denies ever having posted under previous booted screen names, it's certainly odd that you keep replying to posts directed at said names.

Then you said:

"It's certainly odd that you would make such a claim since I have not done that."

Hmm. What about this?:

"17 December 2007 at 5:15 p.m. ndmoderate (Anonymous) says:

Thanks for not answering my 1:07pm question, Ferd. You're a super guy and I wanna be just like you (gurp)"

And then you replied:

"17 December 2007 at 5:19 p.m. kozakid (Anonymous) says:

ndmoderate:

I addressed it at 1:52 p.m. Given that you ackowledged that the facts do not matter to you, I didn't take your question seriously.

I'm afraid there is little hope of you ever being like me. I'm afraid you'll have to accept being ignorant and small."

Tsk, tsk. Lying again.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

"Let's look at what you wrote:"

I've no problem with that, if it's true. See, that doesn't matter to me.

Let's look at exactly (not a parsed snippet) what I wrote:

"I've no problem with that, if it's true. See, that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that torture is a terrible thing for America to take part in."

Which was an answer to your statement of:

"My point is that we should acknowledge that the policy has been in place for 12 years. What possible problem could anyone have with acknowledging that?"

That (at the end of your sentence) being the previously mentioned policy. That's what I had no problem with. My "that" was referring to your "that." Cripes. It's called reading comprehension. Try it sometime.

And it's funny watching you dig your hole deeper and deeper in your little identity crisis. I certainly hope you don't think you're fooling anyone.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Do you believe it's merely an accident that no Americans have been killed on American soil by terrorists since 9/11?"

Who needs bin Laden to kill Americans when BushCo does so much more efficiently.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"That doesn't even make sense."

You're right, bin Laden was much more efficient. But Bush funnels more tax dollars to his cronies in his efforts to kill Americans.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"I didn't realize bin Laden could funnel tax dollars."

You're right again, Kevin. Only Bush has the ability to waste trillions of US tax dollars.

"And Bush's efforts to kill Americans don't seem very effective."

Yes, we are aware that you'd love to see more dead US service members sent off to massage Dubya's ego.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 1 month ago

The only good terrorist is a tortured terrorist.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

I always knew Cheney was a wimp who had no critical thinking skills.

ndmoderate 7 years, 1 month ago

Logic, you're making me "implode" . . . with laughter!
Well done, well done.

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