In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use

The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved ”” not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees ”” investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, President George Bush, Terrorism

15 comments on “In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use

  1. Cole says:

    … investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

    Gruesome? I wish that the two reporters who wrote this article could witness what is really gruesome. How about the body parts buried in a collapsed office building or a plane crash site in Somerset County, PA? How about the kind of torture that leaves a POW with a broke jaw and other permanent orthopaedic injuries for life? How about capital punishment for crimes that are not even closely measured that way in the West? How about the genocide in Darfur? Scaring the wits out of a terrorist doesn’t compare to any of these incidents.

    I don’t believe the spin of this article, and I only fear that a turn away from defending our national security is a big mistake with gruesome consequences.

  2. Crypto Papist says:

    [blockquote]Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” ([i]intrinsece malum[/i]): they are such [i]always and per se[/i], in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exist acts which [i]per se[/i] and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object”. The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator”.[/blockquote]
    —[i]Veritatis Splendor[/i], 80.

  3. libraryjim says:

    Nothing fair and unbiased about this report! unbelievable spin to put the former administration in the worst possible light. The unreasoning hatred of GWB and his administration continues, in spite of “Change we can believe in”.

  4. Billy says:

    As a former Air Force aviator from the Vietnam era I can tell you that we were trained for POW situations – we were sleep and food deprived, made to exercise strenuously during interrogations, put in small boxes for relatively different periods of time where we could not move, and left in solitary confinement for lengthy time periods. We, also, had brainwashing techniques used on us. All of this was to show each of us how we would react to these methods, when used against us by the enemy. We were not subjected to waterboarding, but we saw a film in which it was shown and the effect on the prisoner – choking and gasping for air, but recovery pretty quickly, just like when water goes down the wrong way in a swimming pool. Other than those methods, it is hard to determine what the reports meaning of the term “gruesome” is.

    Waterboarding, in my opinion, could be considered gruesome, if it is overdone. But to people in the military the other techniques used on us were merely uncomfortable . Our media and Congress has to understand that they cannot apply 2009 “hurt my feelings” type standards to this. Taking away someone’s clothes is uncomfortable and may hurt their dignity somewhat, but is it really torture or gruesome when you are dealing with the likes of al Quaida? Forcing someone to exercise until they are exhausted is not torture – we see if in high school and college athletics all the time. Solitary confinement is used in our prisions. Waterboarding may be a different matter, depending on how often it was used and the amount of time spent in each procedure.

    Next point: Like all covert operations, these were not meant for the light of day. No covert operation by CIA or any intelligence organizatoin is ever going to meet the standards of the civilian world, or it would not need to be covert. We all need to understand that and get off of our high horses about it. The Bush Administration was lambasted for its lack of intelligence in knowing the bad economic and and social shape Iraq was in immediately following our short invasion and victory. The reason no one knew: our intelligence community had been gutted in the previous 8 years and we had no one there beforehand, because in order to have people on the ground in Iraq we would have had to break the laws of Iraq and other countries and the previous administration passed a law that our intelligence community could not break the laws of other countries in its intelligence gathering procedures. Intelligence gathering is not pretty; in every instance and in every country, it’s only a matter of degree in what is done.

    Final point: If government attorneys are going to be held up for criminal indictments (a question which is now open in this Administration) for writing briefs on subjects requested by the government, then who in their right mind would ever work for the government again. Writing briefs on issues is what lawyers are hired to do. As well, they are hired to make arguments on one side of an issue or the other. If the Administration does not like what a brief says from a previous Administration and indicts an attorney for writing it, then we are lost already as a country and we all might as well move, because the rule of law has been overcome by the rule of politics. We shall be no different than banana republics, whose dictators jail the previous dictator and his retinue and who get jailed, themselves, when a rival rises to power. (And by the way, this Administration is apparently telling the CIA employees who were involved in these interrogations that the Nuremberg Defense is good in this country, even though it has never been held to exonerate anyone before, ever since it was raised by the German officers after WWII. This is very muddled thinking at the highest level of our government – and a little scary that there seems to be so little understanding of policy governing the intelligence community.)

  5. Jeff Thimsen says:

    Well said, Billy.

  6. Harvey says:

    History also records that at the start of the US Revolutionary war a Protestant priest was quote as saying “..if there must be war let it begin here..” Then he pulled the trigger on a musket and brought down an enemy soldier.

  7. William P. Sulik says:

    Perhaps “left” and “right” can come together and agree that we will use no treatment on a prisoner that we would not use on a developing fetus, and vice-versa.

  8. Cole says:

    #2 Crypto Papist: I was trying to think of a way to respond to your post earlier, but you just made a quote without comment. What underlies my statement in #1 is to be judged concurrent to relevant recent headlines and policy shifts. I am guessing that your point is that there is no such thing as equivalency or a judgement of what creates the most harm. If I slapped my one year old child’s hand to stop him from burning it on a stove, there maybe good justification, but somebody may say it’s abusive. I think a first degree burn would be worse. If law enforcement officers use necessary force to protect themselves and the public, I think it also would be appropriate. If an individual took the idea of turning the other cheek to the extreme or was willing to give up their life so as to remain a passivist, that would be their choice and it may seem selfless and admirable. I don’t believe our nation should make the same choice. The quote in your post does not address self defense in the time of war. It is the duty of our government to protect it’s citizens. If the leadership thinks otherwise, then they need to be voted out of office before a worse harm may be realized. Anyway, I feel tortured each year preparing my income taxes and the liberals and NY Times aren’t standing up for me! LOL

  9. Terry Tee says:

    Senator McCain, whom no one could accuse of being a wimp, has roundly condemned torture techniques and has said in the Senate and elsewhere that this kind of thing is not worthy of the United States. As you know, he was subjected to torture himself.

    Crypto Papist raises a controversial point obliquely. Participation in torture is forbidden to Catholics. Para 2298 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this pretty clear, and by the way, it acknowledges that in past times the Church used torture itself, and is ashamed of this. It adds: ‘In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition.’ Were no Catholics involved in the Administration? Did conscience not raise its voice with any who were? Did Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular not lead to doubts and questioning among any of those involved?

  10. Dave B says:

    “the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods would darken the country’s reputation, blur the moral distinction between terrorists and the Americans who hunted them,”
    We insured that there was medical help available and that the interrogation was not to harsh. There is no moral comparison to forcing girls into a burning building to die so they will not be seen inproperly covered. There is no comparison to what we did and what happened to Daniel Pearl and many others. Water boarding is not near drowning. These programs were approved by bipartisan congressional commitees. This sends the worst message we can to people in our government who have to make hard decisions. When the other party takes power you might find yourselves facing criminal prosecution. Once again President Obama proves he is incapable of taking a reasoned stance and following through. No problem listening to America be bad mouth and making nice with very nasty brutal dictators and then he can not stand up for those who, with benefit of legal counsel, felt what they were doing was legal and needed to protect America.

  11. Crypto Papist says:

    It is not just that participation in torture is forbidden to Catholics, but that it is in fact incompatible with the Christian profession. Nothing the other side does can ever justify the use of immoral means. Now it is possible to debate what does or does not constitute torture, but it seems pretty clear that these techniques were so regarded pretty generally until now.

  12. libraryjim says:

    I don’t think the argument is over whether torture is right or wrong — and we all agree it’s wrong.

    I think the argument hinges on whether what we do to and how we treat enemy combatants in our custody can in any manner be called ‘torture’. And clearly there is no agreement between the two sides on this.

    One side, represented by the Bush administration, says: “no, it isn’t, and we took great care to make sure we didn’t use torture”

    And the other side, represented by some on the Democrat side say: “Yes, it is — Anything other than polite conversation is torture”.

    Frankly, based on what I’ve heard, I don’t believe we (The US) do practice torture.

    Jim Elliott

  13. Tegularius says:

    “Frankly, based on what I’ve heard, I don’t believe we (The US) do practice torture.”

    Are you willing to pardon the Japanese soldiers who were convicted of torture for waterboarding in WW2?

  14. Crypto Papist says:

    I’m not so sure . . . there is a prevailing attitude, even [url=]among[/url] [url=]those[/url] [url=]who[/url] [url=]profess[/url] the Christian faith, that since the enemy is so atrocious, we’re pretty much justified in doing whatever it takes to stop them.

  15. Dave B says:

    If we kill a terrorist leader and innocent people are knowingly killed does the political party assuming power then charge the out going people with murder in a second guess to gain political points? Should Clinton be tried for derelection of duty because he kept intelligence agencies from sharing data and didn’t take out Ben Lauden when he had the chance??
    The Japanese suffocated people till they passed out from lack of oxygen and the process went on for hours and hours. One American was court martialed for water torture in the field in Viet Nam (it was extensively used) and I can’t find out if he was convicted.