Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good Grief

Well, the good news is:

The Senate has joined the House in voting to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods.

The Senate approved an intelligence bill Wednesday that restricts the CIA to the 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, a technique that makes a suspect feel he is drowning.

CIA Director Michael Hayden has said waterboarding may not be legal under current law. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that limits CIA interrogation techniques.
The defense of this practice, however, just continues to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

Dan Froomkin notes that he has "written repeatedly" that Bush "has yet to offer any evidence that intelligence produced by torture thwarted a single plot or saved a single life." His links include this one, with an excellent list of questions, and this one, which notes in December 2007 what is still true in February 2008:

But it all boils down to the fact that, so far, no one from Bush on down has come up with a single documented example of American lives saved thanks to torture.
Jay Rockefeller said he had seen no evidence, even in private briefings, to indicate torture had saved lives or thwarted violent plots. In light of the Senate action, AG Mukasey offers a defense of waterboarding based on the idea that the people it is used on "self-select" for their ability to resist the technique (since, he claims, water-boarding was used on only 3 detainees out of 100. You know, if you don't tell us what we want to hear, it's your fault we have to torture you.). Further, General Mukasey argues that, if waterboarding was outlawed, then only outlaws would waterboard, and that would hamstring the President's ability to...well, to torture people. No, I'm not kidding. Listen to that Mukasey interview. If Congress outlaws waterboarding, then the CIA won't do it, and the President won't be able to order it, which means the President would have to do it himself if he wanted it done. That's Mukasey's argument.

Of course, 2 years ago investigators with the Pentagon:

... argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.
Two years later, we are assured through luminaries like President Bush and Sen. Kit Bond and, of course, Dick Cheney, that attacks have, indeed, been prevented thanks to torture of detainees. Justice Antonin Scalia chimes in that, when it's the "ticking bomb" scenario, who wouldn't allow Dirty Harry to torture the criminal to find the buried girl?* Except, of course, as any first year law student can tell you, that's ex post facto reasoning, and: change the facts, change the outcome. We don't know what the suspect knows until we torture them to get it, and we don't know the information is reliable even then. So can we torture in good faith? Or must we be able to show good evidence derived from the torture?

Which brings us back to Dan Froomkin's question: What attacks?

Well, they can't tell us that.

*Personally, I think Scalia just makes these pronouncements for the publicity value; but opinions, quite reasonably, vary.

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