Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Firestorm Brewing About Possible Torture Inquiry: Time to Slow Down

Major publications are reporting of support for a possible inquiry into the use of torture, that was approved by the previous administration. This is huge. The Daily Salt Shaker pleads caution.

The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON — President Obama left the door open Tuesday to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and did not rule out action by the Justice Department against those who fashioned the legal rationale for those techniques.


But under intense pressure from Democrats on Capitol Hill and human rights organizations to investigate, the president suggested Tuesday that he would not stand in the way of a full inquiry into what he has called “a dark and painful chapter” in the nation’s history.


In an indication of the crosscurrents the president has faced in dealing with the issue, his own national intelligence director said in an internal memo last week that the now-banned interrogation methods had produced valuable information, contrary to the White House view that they had not been effective.

“High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the Al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country,”
Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote to his staff last Thursday as the previously secret memos were released.


Bush administration veterans, starting with former Vice President
Dick Cheney, have argued that the harsh methods helped prevent terrorist attacks. In an interview Monday on Fox News, Mr. Cheney called for the Obama White House to release additional memos that he said showed that the techniques were useful.

“There are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity,” he said. “They have not been declassified.”

I'm going to plead humility here and say that I don't believe that an inquiry is the right thing to do at this time. There's still two ground wars going on, as well as the ongoing covert action against shifting/stateless terrorists. It's not time for a public shaming in the face of the enemy. Too much, too soon.

In the light of the terrorist attacks on 9-11, my crystal ball tells me public opinion will have less sympathy for terrorist scum that got waterboarded than top American officials who were desperate to prevent another attack. Torture is wrong, it should be stopped, it never should have happened. I agree. But, should we put an ex-President on the dock? (Because, that's what it will come to.) Think about the ramifications.

One can't help but think this is a cynical exercise by Obama to distract attention from the economy.

Now is not the time.

UPDATE: Congress would also have to answer, including Nancy Pelosi:

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter
J. Goss
of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

That makes me think an inquiry will never happen. Not while Pelosi is Speaker of the House.

via: Andrew Sullivan


  1. Your dead wrong. There is never a good time to break the law. Courts are not suppose to pick the right time to press charges. Should they conduct a poll on people`s feelings, before laying charges?
    The White House staff should not be above the law. The rule of law is for all citizens including the White Staff, this is a core principle of a Republic. It is time for Bush and Cheney to find out they are not above the law.

  2. You're right of course. However, pragmatically speaking, I think this would be opening Pandora's Box.It will be divisive, it will be all-consuming. The CIA are still out there chasing terrorists. The country is still fighting two wars, and dealing with an economic crisis. Obama hasn't been in office for 100 days yet.

    Should they have had Lyndon Johnson up on charges for trumping up the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in 1969 while they were still fighting in Vietnam? No, they needed to close that chapter first.

  3. I should add that I'm not 100% against having an inquiry. I'm bouncing around pros and cons.