Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 13, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

McCAIN vs. THE BASE, PART 487....National Journal sets the stage for today's Senate vote on a bill banning the CIA from using torture:

Supporters will need 60 votes to advance the bill, meaning they will need some Republicans to cross party lines. [Harry] Reid said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., could be a major swing vote, given his previous support for legislation against torture. But a spokeswoman for McCain, a Republican presidential candidate who has been trying to bolster support from party conservatives, did not return telephone calls and an e-mail late Tuesday seeking comment.

And why was the famously anti-torture and press-friendly senator avoiding phone calls last night? Because he ended up voting against the bill.

But hey — who can blame him? It's one thing to be against torture in a primary debate where you're trying to appeal to independents and crossover voters, but it's quite another thing to be against torture after you've won the nomination and need to appease a conservative base that's righteously pissed off and not afraid to let you know it. A base that Joe Klein watched in action last November when McCain told Mitt Romney, "We're not going to torture people. We're not going to do what Pol Pot did. We're not going to do what's being done to Burmese monks as we speak":

I attended Frank Luntz's dial group of 30 undecided — or sort of undecided — Republicans in St. Petersburg, Florida, last night...and it was a fairly astonishing evening. Now, for the uninitiated: dials are little hand-held machines that enable a focus group member to register instantaneous approval or disapproval as the watch a candidate on TV.

....When John McCain started talking about torture — specifically, about waterboarding — the dials plummeted again....Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.

These are the voters McCain needs now, and these voters don't want a president who opposes state sanctioned torture of captive prisoners. So McCain doesn't oppose it anymore. Any questions?

Kevin Drum 9:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (121)

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Comments

Another reason to donate to the FightMcCain effort by the DNC:

https://www.democrats.org/page/contribute/FightMcCain

Posted by: J.S. on February 13, 2008 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

This is why McCain will lose.

Well that and the rollover he performed after the beating he took in 2000.

Maverick? He shed that mantle when he kowtowed to Bush years ago.

Anything for a vote huh?

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on February 13, 2008 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Well, he's doing it, pandering to the wingnuts. Bye bye independent voters...

Posted by: elmo on February 13, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Is euthanasia a form of torture?

Posted by: wingnut panderer on February 13, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

So......, move left for the primary and the right for the general.....

That may make sense for a Democrat...., but for a Republican???????

He's got the direction of movement all wrong.

Posted by: JSmith on February 13, 2008 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is the new abortion in conservative politics.

Posted by: Memekiller on February 13, 2008 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

How long before America officially declares War on Math and War on Facts?

Posted by: anon on February 13, 2008 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

This is why McCain will lose.

Why? Because he shifted positions to align with the base he needs to appease at the moment? The degree of wingnut support Romney got shows that flip-floppery isn't much of an obstacle for that base, as long as a candidate is saying the right things now.

Posted by: bobb on February 13, 2008 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

>"How long before America officially declares War on Math and War on Facts?"

Didn't they already do that in Texas when they legally defined the value of pi as '3'?
(or maybe it was Oklahoma...)

Posted by: Buford on February 13, 2008 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Maverick!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 13, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

The Repukeliscum is now the Fully Fascified Party. There is no longer any pretense that there is separation between fascism and conservatism.

Posted by: POed Lib on February 13, 2008 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Are my fellow Democrats going to attack him on this flip flop? And when they are shouted down for disparaging this honorable maverick, are they going to push back ten times as hard?

Posted by: Brian on February 13, 2008 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see the problem here. I went to a coffee shop and spoke at some common people, and it was pretty clear they agreed with what I told them: this further proves John McCain is a straightalkingmaverickmoderatepostpartisanauthenticamericanwarhero. We -- all of us -- have to do things we'd rather not at times, but that's just part of life. This vote is an example of what makes John McCain one of the greatest politicians in the history of this country. He is willing to do violence to his own personal principles because he puts the good of the country and the overarching need for bipartisanship in all things ahead of his own stated beliefs. He's even willing to risk being called a flip-flopper and a man who will say anything to get elected, because he knows getting this bill passed in a bipartisanship manner is more important to the country than his own campaign or reputation. Bow down, you extremist denizens of the internet, to John McCain, who always does the courageous, right thing, even when he does the cowardly, wrong thing. He's never so much better than the rest of the politicians than he is when he's being worse.

Posted by: David Broder on February 13, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Pi = 3 - that was Indiana.

I live in St. Louis. Around here, if you are an ignorant, totally stupid boob, you are called a Hoosier. That's really appropriate, for sure.

Posted by: POed Lib on February 13, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

I was dismissive of Yglesias take on this because it seemed like unsubstantiated snark. I do trust your analysis a little more so it goes further to convince me that:

A yea nay vote on this comprehensive conference report on all intel operations was *strictly* about the torture provision.

Still, is everyone really sure thats why the votes broke down the way they did? Why also was cloture *not* a close fight; it passed with 90 something votes? Is it all just a set-up for a whitehouse veto?

And as an aside it does seem like little a cheap shot to attack McCain's vote as 'pro-torture' but not Obama's nor Clinton's whom did not vote at all. Are they 'ambivelent' about tortue? (countervailing argument on my own cheap shot: McCain misses more votes than anyone not in a coma, but he did decide to make *this* one.)

Posted by: Kolohe on February 13, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

He was against it before he was for it.

Posted by: fljim on February 13, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Where is Romney now bobb?

Waiting in the wings?

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on February 13, 2008 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

So much for honor.

The vain glorious son of a seadog will sell out any principle to become President.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 13, 2008 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

this further proves John McCain is a straightalkingmaverickmoderatepostpartisanauthenticamericanwarhero.

Best. Post. Of. The. Day.

Posted by: elmo on February 13, 2008 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

And as an aside it does seem like little a cheap shot to attack McCain's vote as 'pro-torture' but not Obama's nor Clinton's whom did not vote at all. Are they 'ambivelent' about tortue?

There's a difference between voting Yea on a vote that needs X Yea's to pass and skipping a vote where your Nay doesn't matter because it's going to pass anyway.

McCain voted Yea to torture. HRC and Obama skipped voting on a bill where not a single Nea mattered.

Posted by: Math on February 13, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Math-
Actually a "yea" for was for the enrolled bill and *against* allowing waterboarding.

And the final vote was 51-45, so it was not a sure thing; passage was achieved by 5 republicans voting for it.

Still I do imagine it was calculated and coordinated between the candidates and senate leadership so their votes would not be decisive

Posted by: Kolohe on February 13, 2008 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder at 10:03AM

Damn, but that was good. You ought to blog more and column less. This venue clearly suits you.

Posted by: Jeff S. on February 13, 2008 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's support for torture isn't really news. This is merely a reminder that he is so desperate to be President that he will say and do anything that he thinks will get him there.

On the other hand, while it isn't news that a guy who supported the unprovoked assault on the Iraqi people supports brutalizing people who haven't been found guilty of anything, it is disgraceful to remember that he both wore the uniform of our military and was tortured himself. Perhaps it is just the revenge fantasies in his addled brain.

Posted by: heavy on February 13, 2008 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ahh, but remember the Military Commissions Act. St John made a big show of his opposition. Bush set up a secret meeting with him. He then voted for the bill. I have to assume some sort of quid-pro-quo, vote for my bill, and I won't swiftboat you in the primaries (like I did in 2000 hehehe).

Posted by: bigTom on February 13, 2008 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Going on to practical matters, I don't think it will be possible for the Dem nominee to convince the public at large that an ex- prisoner of war is pro- torture.

Posted by: gregor on February 13, 2008 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Going on to practical matters, I don't think it will be possible for the Dem nominee to convince the public at large that an ex- prisoner of war is pro- torture.

Still I'd like to see him up there splitting hairs to explain why this wasn't really a vote for torture and how he was against torture before he was for it.

Posted by: DrBB on February 13, 2008 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

A cannibal was walking through the jungle and came upon
a restaurant operated by a fellow cannibal. Feeling
somewhat hungry, he sat down and looked over the menu...

+ Tourist: $5
+ Broiled Missionary: $10.00
+ Fried Explorer: $15.00
+ Grilled Republican: $100.00

The cannibal called the waiter over and asked, 'Why such a
price difference for the Republican ?'

The cook replied, "Have you ever tried to clean one? They're so full of crap, it takes all morning."

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 13, 2008 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

ROFLMAO! Damn you Doc!

Posted by: elmo on February 13, 2008 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. Seems like some enterprising civil rights attorney ought to investigate every case that John Shevlin was ever involved in, given his strange idea that suspects are guilty until... well, they're just guilty. And if they confess their guilt under torture, then they're really really guilty.

Posted by: josef on February 13, 2008 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

It's an open question in my mind whether the torture-approving demographic cares that McCain is only pandering. Seems like McCain would have that vote regardless as such a voter would never support even a centrist Democrat like Obama.

Posted by: don'tknow on February 14, 2008 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Given the chilling Scalia commentary approving torture for detained suspects (a comment for which he should be impeached and disbarred), the move of America towards fascism is chilling. The insipid NASCAR nationalist movement, with its holier than thou and utterly hypocritical and selfish stand on many important policies and issues, vapid anti-intellectualism, and Toby Keith-lyric proclivities, has brought us this abomination.

John McCain knew better, and didn't care. He knew the truth, but sought solace in power. He himself knows better than anyone the contemptible wrongs of wars of aggression and torture, and drew them close to his breast like solemn religious vestments. He has through his demonstrable hypocrisy, no character from which to draw strength--nothing righteous from which to lead. A man satisfied that ends justify the means. He is like one of Stalin's former enemies after re-education. Kick the crap out of these zombies at the polls. Demand better from every party, and protest like Hell the killing of America.

And Hillary is little better. She found no time to preserve the 4th amendment while she campaigned in town. To lead, one must inspire; and to inspire, something of one's self must be invested in issues that matter. There must be a willingness to lose but fight to the bitter end; especially on matters of constitutional significance. It is as if our politicians are looking for favorable obituaries on Fox News, after a lifetime of cocktail parties and granite counter-tops.

Posted by: Sparko on February 14, 2008 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

As a total surprise to me, John McCain is making himself easier to beat this November. He just set himself up for the flip-flop routine...what the hell was he thinking?

Being a prisoner of war is a political plus, sorry to be so blunt about it. But to go backwards on a stance you made bluntly clear during the Republican debates is the most astonishingly stupid I've seen. He just hurt HIMSELF on this matter...which was a potential strength for his candidacy.

What a strange race.

Posted by: Boorring on February 14, 2008 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn`t vote for him anyway but I feel obligated to remind you folks that what a candidate (any candidate) says during a campaign has absolutely NOTHING to do with what said candidate will actually do once in office.

It is called playing to the peanut gallery.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

Posted by: daCascadian on February 14, 2008 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, daCascadian, that may be so in general. But I would remind you that this was a vote in Congress, not one of the platitudes he supposedly eschews. This one left marks. Literally and figuratively.


Posted by: Sparko on February 14, 2008 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

The difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic with a bill of rights. We are becoming a democracy, what the Founding Fathers feared.

Posted by: Luther on February 14, 2008 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

McCain's very presence on the national stage is torture for millions from both parties. So, of course he's for it!

Posted by: Kenji on February 14, 2008 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

The utter cravenness of this geriatric old fool shines through....

For a man who has experienced torture, to condone it's use on another human being is beyond the pale. What happens when McCain tries to appeal to the members of the conservative base who want to kill every last Muslim on Earth and nuke Iran?

Flush this old turd away...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 14, 2008 at 5:32 AM | PERMALINK


Well, at least the McCainiacs are on the left side of something: the Bell Curve for IQ.

Hamlet

Posted by: hamlet on February 14, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I can't stop thinking about the English Patient when ever I see him.

Posted by: kevin Kelly on February 14, 2008 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

There's a difference between voting Yea on a vote that needs X Yea's to pass and skipping a vote where your Nay doesn't matter because it's going to pass anyway.

McCain voted Yea to torture. HRC and Obama skipped voting on a bill where not a single Nea mattered.
Posted by: Math

Votes always matter. Even if only symbolically. McCain voted knowing this was coming...

The New York Times Times notes that “the White House has long said Mr. Bush will veto the bill, saying it ‘would prevent the president from taking the lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack in wartime.’”

So even thought he knew it would not go into law, he voted. That said, and knowing only what I know, I am disappointed. I am also wary of a similar situation to how the repub base accuses him of being against tax cuts, when he was against tax cuts without corresponding cuts in expenditures.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,"

This is the real problem - the news media have not adequately explained to the public that water is filling the lungs of the "subject"; this is not a mere matter of having water poured on the face.

Posted by: JM on February 14, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

This is the real problem - the news media have not adequately explained to the public that water is filling the lungs of the "subject"; this is not a mere matter of having water poured on the face.
Posted by: JM

Problem is, that is not a true statement. They drape a rag over the face and pour water on the rag. You're inverted so it'd be an uphill climb for the water into the lungs. It feels like you're drowning. but you're not.

If the dems want to prohibit waterboarding, they should propose a law prohibiting waterboarding, not restricting it to the AFM or other. The more I read, the more I see this was a political maneuver focused on November 2008. And a good one at that. Pit McCain against the base. Well done.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appalingly.

What about pouring acid on his face instead? Or raping him? Problem with that? What about tearing off his fingernails one by one? C'mon, Republican voters -- just how manly are you? You're not going to wimp out at a little acid, are you?

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

An important fact about the bill that Kevin and others have conveniently ignored is that this vote was not about a ban on waterboarding. As even the article Kevin linked to makes clear,

The bill requires the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and bans waterboarding.

The NY Times article acknowledges what this means:

The prohibition of harsh interrogation techniques is part of a wider intelligence authorization bill and would restrict all American interrogators to techniques allowed in the Army Field Manual, which bars the use of physical force.

In other words, this wasn't simply about banning waterboarding - the most severe interrogation method previously authorized for CIA interrogators (and one that has been prohibited by the CIA director since 2006). Rather, it was about banning all the techniques that were previously made available to CIA interrogators under certain conditions. That means isolation, exposure to loud music, and all the rest.

To argue that the Army Field Manual should govern how the CIA interrogates terrorists is to ignore the reality that the CIA and the Army are not the same thing and do not have the same mission. The Field Manual restrictions were put in place to stop soldiers from using these techniques on individuals they had captured. It is not the place of a conventional military unit to do this type of activity.

On the other hand, the CIA is charged with interrogating terrorists to understand their networks and identify potential threats. This is why when the military captures high value targets, they are turned over to the CIA. And the CIA has been authorized, under the law and under an escalating series of requirements from top levels of the government, to use techniques such as isolation, loud music, and (prior to 2006 and in only 3 occasions) waterboarding.

To support this bill was to take away not just waterboarding as a tool for CIA interrogators, but essentially all the techniques beyond those available to the military. For folks that think that anything beyond "name, rank, serial number" is torture, this does not matter. But for folks that disagree with waterboarding but are willing to accept the need for other techniques such as isolation or loud music, the decision to vote against this ban makes sense.

I'm not asking anyone here to agree with my position on it (and God knows we've debated it plenty). But I am asking that we describe this bill for what it was - a blanket ban on all enhanced interrogation techniques and not simply a ban on waterboarding.

And I agree with sjrsm that the failure of CLinton and Obama to vote on this bill is a real disappointment. This issue is one of the critical issues of our time and one that they both have spoken at length upon. To note register their vote on this issue is unacceptable.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

If the dems want to prohibit waterboarding, they should propose a law prohibiting waterboarding, not restricting it to the AFM or other.

We already have laws prohibiting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture and assault, and we have laws prohibiting torture and assault.

Or is he suggesting that we need to have a specific law targeted at each individual instance of torture an inventive Republican sadist can think up -- so we'll need to pass one law specifically banning waterboarding, one law banning pouring acid on someone's face, one law banning stretching someone on the rack, one law banning putting someone in an Iron Maiden, etc. etc. etc......

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

There are already laws against waterboarding you sick torture approving fuck. Our very constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment - sure, waterboarding isn't done as a punishment, since the victim hasn't been convicted of anything. But what kind of malign thug thinks that this then means that things that can't be used against convicted criminals can be used against the innocent (remember the presumption of innocence)?

It is disgraceful to see the defense of torture from people who claim to have worn the uniform our this nation. It makes one wonder what happened to our military that it can churn out such unprofessional America hating creeps.

Posted by: heavy on February 14, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Many Americans are very bad people. These Americans think they are entitled to act out a national violent rage. Patriotism equals terror and death. They will not be satisfied until a million people are murdered for each victim of 9/11. Most of these Americans claim to be Christians, but they are the ignorant servants of Kali. Their fear of death inspires them to applaud the torture of the helpless.

Mother Earth destroyed the first European settlement in Florida. She knew the Europeans who would settle there, naming their settlements after saints, were the missionaries of death.


Posted by: Brojo on February 14, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

I see another Republican Hack is trying to pin McCain's support of torture on the Democrats. Sorry Hack, McCain has come out in favor of torturing innocent people. And that is the most salient feature of torture - it is done to those who are legally innocent of any crime. And, in a particularly sickening moment, John "I approve Torture" McCain has also come out in favor of cruel and unusual punishment with his claim that such treatment was okay for someone who had killed 3000 people. In other words, McCain is not just in favor of torture, he also doesn't believe in our Bill of Rights. Someone should ask him which other rights he is willing to abandon in his pandering to the sick fucks that make up the base of the Republican party.

And, as a final thought, what's his threshold for when it is okay to torture? I'm interested because he personally dropped bombs on people and so I would be interested to know how close to his threshold for approving torture his body count is. Perhaps I've misunderstood this all along - perhaps he feels that the Vietnamese merely treated him in an appropriate fashion. Perhaps others who have also dropped bombs on innocent people should also be tortured?

Posted by: heavy on February 14, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

When the practice of waterboarding was authorized for CIA interrogators it became legal (under the constraints contained in the policy) and will remain so until the practice is rescinded or a court finds it to be unconstitutional or illegal.

We don't need laws against the other things on your list because those things have not been authorized. The whole effort at defining what the CIA could and could not do lawfully with regard to interrogating terrorists.

Your have every right (though I would argue not every reason) to be appalled, outraged, offended by the fact that the administration authorized these techniques. But you cannot call them illegal when CIA interrogators use them in accordance with the policy.

The issue therefore become what should those legal practices be. I know your position, so it makes sense to me that you don't care if it is restricted to waterboarding or not since you previously stated that you thought anything beyond asking questions was torture. Fine. But for others, there may be a significant difference between waterboarding someone and, say, pumping loud music into their cell. It is for those folks that I think we need to be clear and fair about what this bill did and did not say.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

These are the voters McCain needs now, and these voters don't want a president who opposes state sanctioned torture of captive prisoners. So McCain doesn't oppose it anymore. Any questions?

Yeah-- I don't see what any of this has to do with Obama's v. Hillary's pledged delegate and super delegate count.

*just kidding!!!*

*ducks tomatoes...*

Posted by: Swan on February 14, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Or is he suggesting that we need to have a specific law targeted at each individual instance of torture an inventive Republican sadist can think up --
Posted by: Stefan

Waterboarding was a previously approved method, now not approved. It's more symbolic than anything now. Here's what McCain said:

The leading Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war who steadfastly opposes the use of torture, voted against the bill. Mr. McCain said the ban would limit the C.I.A.’s ability to gather intelligence. “We always supported allowing the C.I.A. to use extra measures,” he said.

At the same time, he said that he believed “waterboarding is illegal and should be banned” and that the agency must adhere to existing federal law and international treaties.

This was as much a democrat ploy for November 08 as it was a vote against torture. Forcing the CIA to restrict itself to what the Army restricts foot soldiers to is dumb. There are smarter solutions.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

heavy,

Show me where I blamed McCain's vote on the democrats.

All I am saying is that this bill was not an effort to ban waterboarding but an effort to ban all interrogation techniques beyond "name, rank, and serial number."

Frankly, McCain has previously said that he thought the Field Manual was a reasonable guide so he has in fact changed his position (for the better I believe, but that's not relevant). But it is misleading to say he was now voting to allow waterboarding. The truth is that he was voting to continue to allow the CIA to interrogate terrorists more aggressively than soldiers are permitted to interrogate individuals they capture.

And most Americans, I believe, have very different reactions to waterboarding someone versus holding them in isolation for a day or two. By calling the bill a vote on banning waterboarding, the media is being hugely misleading. Not exactly a shocker, but something I thought worth calling attention to.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see what any of this has to do with Obama's v. Hillary's pledged delegate and super delegate count.

Other than its also being torture-related...

Question: Why doesn't the "Remember personal info?" radio button work? The only people that's making things easier on is the people who want to write under 10 different handles on your site.

Posted by: Swan on February 14, 2008 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

I have to assume some sort of quid-pro-quo, vote for my bill, and I won't swiftboat you in the primaries (like I did in 2000 hehehe).

SILENCE OF THE MAVERICK:

SCENE: The Oval Office. BUSH and MCCAIN face each other across a desk. Off in the corner propped on a handcart is CHENEY, his body strapped in a straitjacket and a steel mask strapped across his mouth and jaw.

MCCAIN: Once I become president, I'll issue a pardon to you.This is where you can stay afterwards. You'll be safe from international law. You'll never have to face a jury at the Hague War Crimes trials.

BUSH: "Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center." Sounds charming.

MCCAIN: That's only a part of the island. There's a very, very nice beach. Terns nest there. There's beautiful...

BUSH: [cuts him off] Terns? Mmh. See, what ya gotta understand, see, if I help you, John-Boy, it will be "turns" with us too. Quip quo pro. I tell you things, you tell me things, heh heh heh heh. Not about this case, though. About yourself. Quip quo pro. Yes or no?
[pause]

BUSH: Yes or no, John-Boy? Poor little Ahmed is waiting.

MCCAIN: Do you mean quid pro quo?

BUSH: Wh-what?

MCCAIN: I think you mean quid pro quo. That's what the phrase is. It's Latin.

BUSH: Well I wasn't born in Latin America, see. I speak some of the Spanish, though. Not like Jeb, though. He's pretty fluent, got that hot Mexican wife. Yeah, Jeb speaks Spanish pretty good, just like everythin' else. "Why can't you be more like Jeb", that's all I ever heard.....

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike,

I'd be really interested in seeing a list of the torture that the CIA currently uses and which is not allowed by the military. You mention loud music, isolation and splashing water on someones face as they are laid backwards but is that a complete list?

BTW, fool, simply holding someone upside down in water does NOT prevent the water from entering the lungs. Well, I suppose it would if he/she was already dead but what do you think happens to the water when the person inhales?

Wait, maybe you should contact the Red Cross immediately. Red State Mike has a simple technique to prevent people from drowning - simply keep the head below the feet. No water will enter the lungs!! You'll be a hero man.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Problem is, that is not a true statement. They drape a rag over the face and pour water on the rag. You're inverted so it'd be an uphill climb for the water into the lungs. It feels like you're drowning. but you're not.

It feels like you're drowning because you can't get any air into the lungs, so you are in effect being asphyxiated because the flow of air to the lungs has been cut off. If it continues you'll die because you can't breathe. You'd get the same effect by slowly choking someone. There's no way to "simulate" drowning without, in effect, suffocating the victim.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe that McCain betrayed his fellow POWs during his imprisonment in Vietnam.

But he has now.

Posted by: cowalker on February 14, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Waterboarding was a previously approved method, now not approved.

The fact that it was "previously approved" by the Bush regime does not make waterboarding legal, anymore than "previously approving" other forms of torture, such as rape, would make it legal. Waterboarding has always been torture and as such has always been illegal under US and international law, no matter what some secret torture memo may have said.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

It feels like you're drowning because you can't get any air into the lungs, so you are in effect being asphyxiated...
Posted by: Stefan

It feels like drowning because when you breath you are drawing in water mist through the cloth. Very disconcerting. If you actually keep a puddle on the cloth, then you are in fact blocking the breathing. But my experience is that is not how it is done. And I have had it done on me in survival training.

BTW, fool, simply holding someone upside down in water does NOT prevent the water from entering the lungs.
Posted by: Tripp

BTW, moron, that is not what is being done. read and learn.

It is still torture. But get it right so you don't look stupid.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp,

ABC had this out in 2005 about the six enhance interrogation techniques approved for the CIA. None of these would be permitted by the bill that we are discussing. Here is what they are:

The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Mikey,

So you know for sure that what they did to you in survival training is exactly what the CIA does? And you know that how? As Malfoy says "Prove it."

Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer.

At least one Republican finally has the guts to admit that torture is not about saving lives. It is about vengeance. Ah yes, righteous wrath is the best! All the torture, none of the guilt.

I bet the idiot dares to call himself a Christian too. Hypocrite.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

You are simply wrong about the legality of the practice. The policies in place remain lawful until and unless they are rescinded or ruled illegal through the courts. That was the whole point of defining what the CIA interrogators could and could not do.

You are certainly free to argue that the practices should be illegal and the policy overturned. But you are wrong to state that they are, in fact, illegal because they quite simply are not.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

So you know for sure that what they did to you in survival training is exactly what the CIA does? And you know that how? As Malfoy says "Prove it."
Posted by: Tripp

Listen, I have boots on the ground personal experience in this. The CIA trains their interrogators at mil survival schools, I know this. However I may be wrong about what I said.

But you made the initial assertion, so it is your burden prove it. Otherwise I could just (to borrow from LBJ's famous line) accuse you of being a pig$%^-er and watch you squirm as you attempt to disprove it.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

Thank you for the information. Interestingly enough the description of waterboarding does not match Mike's. I wonder if either are correct.

I'm sure the CIA would be happy to release the tapes to verify what they do, no? No?! Well I guess we just need to trust them.

For items 1,2, 3, and 5 there is some information missing. How many times are these maneuvers performed? Dripping a drop of water on someone's forehead is not torture either. Unless it is done for a long period of time with no escape possible.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the information. Interestingly enough the description of waterboarding does not match Mike's. I wonder if either are correct.
Posted by: Tripp

That one frankly doesn't make sense. The feeling of water ingestion is what makes the suckitude go off the scale.

Whatever, I'm aginst it no matter.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I strongly recommend this video by Emily Hirschleman at On Day One, a project of the UN Foundation. A point made lightly, but I dare say, compellingly.

Posted by: On Day One on February 14, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Mike,

I have no doubt about your personal experiences. I believe you. You've also implied that your experiences in this matter are irrelevant, which takes guts and I also believe they are irrelevant.

Now, since there is some debate about whether waterboarding is simply smothering someone who is bound and head down while water is poured over them to simulate drowning or the same position is used while an amount of water is inhaled into the lungs I think we both can agree that until we know exactly what methods are used we cannot determine whether it is torture.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Hmm, this reminds me of something, but what...aha, here it is:

During Argentina’s infamous “dirty war,” the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported in 1980 the use of the “submarine” torture technique during interrogations. It was described as: “Immersion by means of the so-called submarine, where the victim’s head is covered with a cloth hood and intermittently forced into a vessel containing water, in order to induce asphyxiation as a means of obtaining information from the prisoner.” (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “Right to Personal Security, Country Report on Argentina,” 1980.)

While Uruguay was under military dictatorship, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported in 1981 that a detainee in Uruguay was subjected to the “submarine” technique that lead to his death. (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Resolution No 17/81. Case 1954. Uruguay, March 6, 1981.)

In the 1980’s, political dissidents in Zimbabwe were subjected to “submarine drowning torture,” according to a 1999 report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. (Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe and the Legal Resources Foundation, “Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace,” April 1999.)

In 1999, the U.S. State Department reported that the Zimbabwean military police repeatedly submerged a newspaper editor in water in order to extract information about a possible coup. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department)

In China, a pro-democracy and labor rights advocate Zhang Lin had his head forced under water until he submitted to the guards, in a “re-education camp” for political dissidents. (“Torture—A Growing Scourge in China—Time for Action,” Amnesty International, February 12, 2001.)

www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/06/01/usint8632.htm

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

Another old favorite:

On April 30, 2004, The Washington Times reported that in North Korean prisons, “[s]ome of the most feared forms of torture cited were surprisingly mundane: Guards would force inmates to stand perfectly still for hours at a time, or make them perform exhausting repetitive exercises such as standing up and sitting down until they collapsed from fatigue.”

Burmese authorities have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for forcing detainees to squat or remain in other uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department)

In Chechnya, in 2002, detainees were forced to stand for hours on end at a detention facility run by Russian military, according to Human Rights Watch.

A labor camp survivor in North Korea described the following torture techniques he experienced in the North Hamgyong Provincial Security Agency: "The most commonly practiced punishments there included: Pigeon rope tightening (tightly binding a prisoner with his/her arms drawn up behind them by rope in such a manner that the victim is unable to move his/her body); clock torture (standing on one leg with both arms stretched out to mirror the hands of a clock and the other leg swinging like the pendulum of a clock); 'motorcycle torture' (forcing a prisoner to imitate for hours on end the physical motions of riding a motorcycle); and endlessly repeating the process of sitting down and standing up." (“I was the Seventh Refugee Forced to Return to North Korea,” Life Funds for North Korean Refugees.)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin recalls his experience with sleep deprivation in a Soviet prison in the 1940’s: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget....Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it…I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty. He promised them—if they signed—uninterrupted sleep! And they signed....And having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days....The main thing was—to sleep." (Menachem Begin, White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, trans. Kafie Kaplan (Jerusalem: Steimatzky, 1977))

In Saudi Arabia in 2001, seven foreign nationals, including Canadian and British citizens, who were accused of planting bombs, were subjected to sleep deprivation while undergoing interrogation, as reported in press stories around the world, which eventually led to false confessions. (Paul Kelso and David Pallister, “Britons tortured by Saudis in bombings inquiry fiasco,” The Guardian, January 30, 2002)

In Iran, political prisoners are commonly subjected to sleep deprivation, according to the U.S. State Department and recent Human Rights Watch research. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department)

In Chile, during Pinochet’s reign in the 1970’s, detainees were often kept sleep deprived. Human Rights Watch (then Americas Watch) reported the allegations of a community leader who was kept awake for 48 hours continually.

In Afghanistan, Soviet forces and their allies deprived detainees of sleep for days on end during interrogations (Human Rights Watch).

www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/06/01/usint8632.htm

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Just when you start to think "John McCain isn't so bad..."

Posted by: Blue Moon on February 14, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

In 1957, the CIA enlisted two Cornell University medical school doctors to study KGB tort...excuse, me, enhanced interrogation techniques. Here is their summary of the effect of prolonged standing:

"After 18 to 24 hours of continuous standing, there is an accumulation of fluid in the legs...the ankles and feet of the prisoner swell to twice their normal circumference...the edema may rise up the legs...Large blisters develop, which break and exude watery serum...Eventually, there is a renal shutdown, and urine production ceases. If continued long enough...this simple technique can lead to psychosis 'produced by a combination of circulatory impairment, lack of sleep, and uremia."

www.opensocietypolicycenter.org/pub/doc_121/Press%20conference%20background%

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

You are simply wrong about the legality of the practice. The policies in place remain lawful until and unless they are rescinded or ruled illegal through the courts. That was the whole point of defining what the CIA interrogators could and could not do. But you are wrong to state that they are, in fact, illegal because they quite simply are not.

Incorrect. Waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal under US law. In fact, the US has prosecuted waterboarding torture for over the last hundred years:

Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime
By Evan Wallach
Sunday, November 4, 2007; Page B01

As a JAG in the Nevada National Guard, I used to lecture the soldiers of the 72nd Military Police Company every year about their legal obligations when they guarded prisoners....The The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: "I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure." He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. "Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning," he replied, "just gasping between life and death."

Nielsen's experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.....

As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the "water cure" to question Filipino guerrillas.

More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that "the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee's mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation."

In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners' civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to "subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning." The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Evan Wallach, a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, teaches the law of war as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170_2.html


Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

State Dept. Study Cites Torture of Prisoners:
Rumsfeld Approved Similar Practices

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page A10

The State Department's annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs -- methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.....

In the lengthy report, the State Department described as torture the interrogation techniques of a number of key U.S. allies that appeared similar to the accusations involving U.S. detainees -- though in many cases the other countries also used more extreme methods.

In Egypt, the report said, the police and intelligence service stripped and blindfolded victims and doused them with cold water. Tunisia was accused of using sleep deprivation and submerging the head in water, a technique known as "water boarding" -- rumored to have been used in some detentions of terrorism suspects. Saudi Arabia was reported to have used sleep deprivation, along with beatings and whippings....

Iran and North Korea, both labeled part of an "axis of evil" by Bush, also used techniques similar to those employed in U.S. terrorism detentions. Iran favored prolonged solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, long confinement in contorted positions and sleep deprivation. The "methods of torture" used in North Korea included severe beatings, p rolonged periods of exposure, public nakedness and being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse, the report said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60540-2005Feb28.html

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I really have a hard time understanding how John McCain is winning the Republican primary. I've watched him for many years on the talk shows and have often said I would never vote for him. Ross Perot where are you.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 14, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I really have a hard time understanding how John McCain is winning the Republican primary. I've watched him for many years on the talk shows and have often said I would never vote for him. Ross Perot where are you.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 14, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

From a Gestapo memo regarding what they referred to as "enhanced interrogation techqiques" ( Verschaerfte Vernehmung) to be used on suspects:

The sharpening can consist of the following, among other things, according to circumstances: simplest rations...hard bed, dark cell, deprivation of sleep, exhaustion exercises, but also the resort to blows with a stick (in case of more than 20 blows, a doctor must be present).

andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK
These are the voters McCain needs now, and these voters don't want a president who opposes state sanctioned torture of captive prisoners.

So, when do we see the ads painting McCain as both pro-torture and a wishy-washy flip-flopper?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Are you surprised? I mean the US government is teaching those techniques plus assassination methods to foreigners at the so-called "School of the Americas."

But like I say, righteous wrath is da bomb! Praise the Lord and pass the waterboard! Hallelujah.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Flooding the zone is an effective way of distracting folks from the question but I'm not biting. There is no doubt but that many of the practices the CIA has been legally authorized to do are completely illegal if anyone else (a soldier, a sheriff, a civilian) does them. That's the whole point of having policies that enable the CIA to use these practices.

I realize you are arguing that these practices of obviously torture no matter who does them. We disagree on that and have no hope of changing the other's point of view. But ultimately that doesn't matter when it comes to determining whether or not the CIA using these techniques in accordance with government policies is legal or not. It is lawful until deemed otherwise.

To take a simple example, the Texas sodomy law, which I think we can all agree was preposterous, was in fact legal until it was struck down by the courts. That is how our process works. Prior to that, one could rail on about how stupid, immoral, unconstitutional the law was but it wasn't until the courts said it was (personally I think the TX legislature should have rescinded the law but that's another story).

So even in this case, where we can both agree existing policy was wrong, the legality of the policy was not in question. It was the law until the law was overturned. And the CIA interrogation policy (which I agree with) with remain legal until and unless it too is overturned.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think we both can agree that until we know exactly what methods are used we cannot determine whether it is torture.
Posted by: Tripp

If you argue that waterboarding is torture because it is X, when it is in fact a lesser Y, you unnecessarily open yourself to argument. I realize this takes nuance to understand, something often in short supply around here.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I don't think even the maniacs in the Luntz focus group have that big of a hard-on for torture. What they are is Bush dead-enders who view the election as a referendum on the last 8 years, and who take it personally when a Republican tries to distance himself from Bush. Needless to say, the rest of the country is 180 degrees opposed to them, and hates Bush as much as this dead-end core loves him.

Hence the general election strategy for Clinton or Obama: juxtapose McCain and Bush at every opportunity. Either way he answers, whether embracing the Bush legacy or edging away from it, McCain loses.

Posted by: kth on February 14, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

There is no doubt but that many of the practices the CIA has been legally authorized to do are completely illegal if anyone else (a soldier, a sheriff, a civilian) does them.

These techniques have been illegally authorized. Torture is probitibed under US law. The executive branch, in the person of Bush and/or the DOJ, has no legal authority whatsoever to unilaterally revoke the applicability of US law. The only way that these techniques would be legal under US law would be for the Congress to repeal its federal anti-torture statutes and to withdraw from international treaties providing the same. This has not happened, ergo these laws remain on the books and apply to all US personnel, including the CIA.

To argue otherwise is to claim that the president somehow has some power not to make the law apply to selected individuals or groups, which is plainly absurd, unconstitutional, anti-American, and not supported by law.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 14, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

To take a simple example, the Texas sodomy law, which I think we can all agree was preposterous, was in fact legal until it was struck down by the courts. That is how our process works.

I realize that rightwingers have to rely on Orwellian doublespeak in order argue since they can't rely on simple logic and fact, so I'll explain the inapplicability of this analogy. The Texas sodomy law was legal until struck down precisely because it was a law. The Texas legislature had duly passed a statute forbidding sodomy.

In the case of torture, the situation is reversed -- there is no law explicitly allowing waterboarding or other forms of torture. Quite the opposite, in fact -- the federal legislature has passed statutes and ratified treatis explicity forbidding torture. Unless and until those statutes and treaties are revoked, they remain law, and hence torture is illegal in this country.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

There is no doubt but that many of the practices the CIA has been legally authorized to do are completely illegal if anyone else (a soldier, a sheriff, a civilian) does them.

Please cite the relevant provision of federal law that legally authorizes the CIA to torture prisoners in contravention of other applicable US statutes and international treaty obligations. Be specific and include a link.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

One of the vario8us things the pro-torture crowd neglect, is that we don't always know whether the person tortured is really guilty or not anyway. That's why we need the rule of law the most, aside from whether it might be a valid moral dilemma trade-off to torture someone *given* the assumption per argument that they do know what we need.

Posted by: Neil B. on February 14, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan, the crickets are chirping merrily in the February sunshine, aren't they?

I'm sure Hacksaw is googling his fingers down to the bone and will soon have a link to relevant laws and statutes.

Posted by: cowalker on February 14, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK
When the practice of waterboarding was authorized for CIA interrogators it became legal.... Hack at 10:31 AM
That is pure sophistry. Merely because some authoritarian political hacks say an illegal act is legal, doesn't make it so.
....Forcing the CIA to restrict itself to what the Army restricts foot soldiers to is dumb. ,,,, sjrsm at 10:34 AM
The fact that the CIA has to be told yet again to obey the law proves that agency should be disbanded. In fact, Americans have already tortured people to death Posted by: Mike on February 14, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well Stefan you have once again (an unsurprisingly) started with a false premise.

The government cannot "legally [authorize] the CIA to torture prisoners in contravention of other applicable US statutes and international treaty obligations." And it has not.

As you well know, the process by which the CIA was authorized to use, under carefully proscribed processes, these techniques was undertaken through a series of legal opinions within the Justice Department (and with the awareness of the Congressional oversight committees) that examined both the applicability of international law to detainees and what measures interrogators could take that would fall short of the definition of torture under US law. A list of those findings is here.

Again, you may disagree (and many have) with the findings of these individuals, but the courts and not your personal opinion, are the place where such matters are decided.

However, I would throw this question your way. If the current practices are so obviously torture and therefore illegal, then why did the bill before Congress not simply require the CIA to obey "applicable US statutes and international treaty obligations"? Why the need to compel the CIA to follow the Army Field Guide, which provides guidance for a very different type of detainees?

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

cowalker,

Actually, it's called lunch.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"So even in this case, where we can both agree existing policy was wrong, the legality of the policy was not in question. It was the law until the law was overturned. And the CIA interrogation policy (which I agree with) with remain legal until and unless it too is overturned."

What an interesting idea. If the President gets a memo from John Yoo stating that crushing the genitals of a terror suspect's child is, on fact, legal...then it's legal. After all, the President says so. Shall we presume that any fallacious or preposterous memo that can be generated by the OLC automatically carries force of law...without ever having been legislated??

There is another name for that legal theory: Despotism.

The unitary President idea has been widely challenged, and not just by liberals. Maybe you need to visit the Balkinization blog from time to time.


Posted by: celtic-dragon on February 14, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

As you well know, the process by which the CIA was authorized to use, under carefully proscribed processes, these techniques was undertaken through a series of legal opinions within the Justice Department choke choke choke

In other news, E. Howard Hunt Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy used carefully proscribed processes to conclude that the Watergate break-in was legal, and Nixon himself believed it to be legal until the courts concluded otherwise.

Was it?

Related stories:

"Operation Northwoods: The Carefully Proscribed Process Concluding the Legality of Murdering Americans to Justify a War with Cuba"

"The Enron Story: A Shitload of Carefully Proscribed Processes Including Opinions from Lawyers and Accountants that Ripping People Off and Causing Blackouts in California Was A-OK!"

"Iran Contra: Our Hearts and Carefully Proscribed Processes Told us That Selling Weapons to Our Enemies and Coke to our Kids to Fund Terrorists in Other Countries Was Legal. And it Would Have Been, too -- Had it Not Been for those Meddling Prosecutors!"

The bottom line is: torturing these people was illegal. Period. End of story. The White House instructed the DOJ to come up with theories that the President can do any fucking thing he wants. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: trex on February 14, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

celtic-dragon,

The Legislature authorizes, in this case, the CIA and the Justice Department to develop the policies governing CIA interrogators. Every federal agency has reams of documents in the form of policy manuals, personnel guidance, rules, and procedures describing in painful detail what folks are supposed to do and how to do it. These are not voted on by Congress, they are part of what Congress authorizes the executive agencies to do. The restrictions are that these actions must fall within the boundaries of the agency's mandate and must comply with the law.

That is what was done with regard to developing interrogation policies for the CIA to use against terrorists. It wasn't despotism or governing by fiat, it was the same process that any executive agency uses to develop its procedures. And the remedy for a case where such an agency either oversteps its bounds (i.e. exceeds its mandate) or violated the law is for Congress to pass specific legislation to address the matter or a court to rule on the agency's decision. Just because you did not agree with the decision does not mean that whole thing was either illegal or extra-legal.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

As you well know, the process by which the CIA was authorized to use, under carefully proscribed processes, these techniques was undertaken through a series of legal opinions within the Justice Department (and with the awareness of the Congressional oversight committees) that examined both the applicability of international law to detainees and what measures interrogators could take that would fall short of the definition of torture under US law. A list of those findings is here.

Again, Justice Dept. legal opinions do not have the power of law. Only the legislature in the person of Congress can make law. DOJ is a creature of the executive, and as such is charged with executing laws, not making or revoking them.

The Justice Dept. could issue an opinion that I'm allowed to sleep with a 16 year old hooker, snort some coke and go rob a bank, but that doesn't make it legal. Similarly, the DOJ can issue as many opinions as it wants that torture is not really torture and that even if it is it's kind of OK just because we say it is, but that has no force of law and does not in any way revoke the myriad of federal laws banning torture, including the War Crimes Act and the federal anti-torture statute.

Moreover, the US has already specified that torture cannot be allowed or excused on the basis of the findings or orders of a superior officer, in its' report to the Committee Against Torture that: “Every act of torture within the meaning of the Convention is illegal under existing federal and state law, and any individual who commits such an act is subject to penal sanctions as specified in criminal statutes. Such prosecutions do in fact occur in appropriate circumstances. Torture cannot be justified by exceptional circumstances, nor can it be excused on the basis of an order from a superior officer."

http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/05/24/usint8614.htm

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Legislature authorizes, in this case, the CIA and the Justice Department to develop the policies governing CIA interrogators....These are not voted on by Congress, they are part of what Congress authorizes the executive agencies to do. The restrictions are that these actions must fall within the boundaries of the agency's mandate and must comply with the law.

Exactly -- these actions must comply with the law. Torture is against the law, hence no agency can be authorized or given permission to break the law. Simple as that.

Every federal agency has reams of documents in the form of policy manuals, personnel guidance, rules, and procedures describing in painful detail what folks are supposed to do and how to do it.

Indeed -- and what they are supposed to do is comply with US law, and what they are not supposed to do is break it.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

And the remedy for a case where such an agency either oversteps its bounds (i.e. exceeds its mandate) or violated the law is for Congress to pass specific legislation to address the matter or a court to rule on the agency's decision.

Well, lookee here, it seems that Congress has passed specific legislation:

18 USC Sec. 2340A
01/05/99

TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I - CRIMES
CHAPTER 113C - TORTURE

HEADING

Sec. 2340A. Torture

STATUTE

(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if -

(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

And yet more legislation!

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441§ 2441. War Crimes

(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

(b) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

(c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2441.html

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

You may have been writing when I last commented, but I'll reiterate that Congress authorized executive agencies to execute their missions and those agencies are responsible for developing the policies for that execution. If an agency's policies are believed to be in conflict with existing laws and statutes, then either Congress will act to sort it out or the courts will be called upon to determine the legality of the policy. Since neither has happened in the case of the policies governing the CIA interrogation policies, they remain legal.

Why?

Because they have been crafted specifically to permit only those techniques that have not been judged to rise to the definition of torture. Now I can practically hear your squealing in protest about how this is all obviously torture and on and on but the reality remains that that is a matter of your interpretation and stands in conflict with the interpretation of the US government and a sizable portion of the American people.

Once again, if this was all as simple and obvious as you claim it is, why then did Congress pass a bill restricting the CIA to the Army Field Manual rather than simply demanding the CIA comply with existing US law?

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

And yet more legislation, this time in the form of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which treaty was ratified by the US Senate and hence is the supreme law of the land here:

General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984, entry into force 26 June 1987, in accordance with article 27 (1)

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture....

Article 10
1. Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.

Article 11
Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"And the remedy for a case where such an agency either oversteps its bounds (i.e. exceeds its mandate) or violated the law is for Congress to pass specific legislation to address the matter or a court to rule on the agency's decision. Just because you did not agree with the decision does not mean that whole thing was either illegal or extra-legal."

********************************************

Since torture and degrading treatment have been explicitly illegal (by federal law as well as sundry treaties)for many years, it is difficult to believe that a radically different interpretation of long standing precedent can be taken at face value. Simply, torture was literally defined out of existence. Under Addington and Yoo, the new OLC opinion was that anything that did not kill, or cause a major organ to fail, was now lawful and proper. I fail to see how that is not creating new law by fiat, as you put it. Some respected constitutional scholars see it the same way, as well as a number of JAG lawyers in the military who were shut up and threatened with poor evaluations in some cases. Again, finding sychophants who tell you that something is legal DOES NOT MAKE IT SO!
In the case of remedy by the congress, the options seem limited. This President (whom I voted for, to my shame) typically ignores laws he dislikes by using signing statements as a form of extra-constitutional veto. He merely states that he refuses to be bound by the law, and will ignore it. Note that veto actions are only taken when there is some political advantage to do so.

In my opinion, the use of torture is a shameful stain on our national character, and does more damage to our institutions then terrorists could ever hope to achieve. By abusing the nature of his office to allow and encourage torture, rendition, and unlimited detention without counsel or charge...George Bush has essentially dared the congress to get out of his way, or take the only other possible (and legal) option of impeachment.

That isn't going to happen, of course, and nobody quite knows what to do with a President who just simply ignores the law when it suits him and smirks at you when you call him on it.

Posted by: celtic-dragon on February 14, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK
.....Because they have been crafted specifically to permit only those techniques that have not been judged to rise to the definition of torture .... Hackat 2:25 PM
When you keep repeating blatantly false sophistry when confronted with the actual laws, you become a really foolish joke. The acts of authoritarian nutjobs like Yoo and Addington do not make law. They are deliberately and willfully misinterpreting law for Bush's anti-American political agenda. Posted by: Mike on February 14, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

As we discussed a while back on a different thread, this issue here has never been about the US permitting torture, the issue has been what rises to the level of torture. You have stated that anything beyond questioning is torture, which is your right, but is certainly not the universal opinion regarding what constitutes an "act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession."

The Justice memos were an effort to delineate what practices could be used in interrogations because they did not rise to "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." You have once again highlighted the wrong portion of the text.

Per celtic-dragon, these deliberations came about because the existing texts had not anticipated the type of opponent we face in al Qaeda. Prior to this, a whole slew of laws governed how we treated military adversaries, rules far more restrictive than even what the UN convention permits. When confronted with this new opponent, the government had to determine which rules applied since they were clearly not lawful combatants but, under US laws cited at length by Stefan, still had some general protections against torture. The administration therefore had to define what exactly occupied the space between Geneva protections for soldiers (name, rank, etc.) and US prohibitions against torture. And that is what they have done. You may view them as torture (hell according to Stefan, grabbing a guy by the shirt is torture), but these practices were specified to define what could be done short of torture.

The debate therefore should be about what practices fall short of torture (hence the current Bill which offered the practices from the Army Field Manual) and not a generic assertion of torture (however broadly defined) and an insistence that therefore it must be illegal.

It goes back to Engram's excellent question:

What is the harshest interrogation technique that you will support because it falls just short of actual torture?

That is what this debate really should be about and not merely blanket accusations based on broad prohibitions against torture that fail to bother to define what torture is and, more importantly, isn't.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Mike,

If you argue that waterboarding is torture because it is X, when it is in fact a lesser Y, you unnecessarily open yourself to argument. I realize this takes nuance to understand, something often in short supply around here.

Well golly, thanks Mike. If my Grandma had balls she'd be my Grampa, too.

Did I argue that 'waterboarding' is torture? No.
Nice straw man.

Here is my argument.

1. I think that the US and its agents (CIA, FBI, soldiers, whatever) should not torture.
2. I suspect that the CIA (and possibly others) have been torturing people.
3. You tried to reassure me that what the CIA does is not torture because the army did it to you and it was not torture.
4. When I pointed out your personal story was not relevant and what the CIA calls "waterboarding' might indeed be torture you chide me about nuances?

You want nuances? Nuances are sneaky names like 'advanced interrogation techniques" and "School of the Americas" and half truths and secrets about who does it, where they do it, what they do, and how long they do it. Nuances are our government claiming other countries torture when they waterboard and then claiming when we do it it is somehow different, although no one is willing to show exactly how it is different.

It comes down to "trust us" from a government that has lost all credibility (legally, fiscally, and morally) and apparently has lost all sense of simple human decency.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

(hell according to Stefan, grabbing a guy by the shirt is torture)

Ahh yes, the popular Republican debating technique of lying about your opponent. I just skimmed through Stefan's post and cannot find that citation. Would you please point it out to me?

Face it, people arguing for torture lie about why they want it, lie about the law, and lie about the arguments against it. You weasel around splitting hairs, calling names, complaining about the mountains of rebuttal, and squirm like a worm on a hook to avoid admitting the US and its agents should never torture.

What ever happened to "personal responsibility?"

If you are ambivalent about torture then at least be a man like Bill Kristol and admit it. Stop playing games.

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Per celtic-dragon, these deliberations came about because the existing texts had not anticipated the type of opponent we face in al Qaeda. "

************************************

You mean those notorious softies like the Nazis and the North Koreans? I guess we just couldn't really get anything out of them...

************************************
"When confronted with this new opponent, the government had to determine which rules applied since they were clearly not lawful combatants but, under US laws cited at length by Stefan, still had some general protections against torture."

************************************

The term "unlawful combatant" is of our own device. Agin, since the administration did not want to afford members of Al Quaida the status of POW, it was necessary to have another designation that would skirt the relevant treaties we are signatories to. I have some degree of sympathy towrds this, but I cannot see where a person captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan or rendered hors de combat and under the direction of his (at the time) recognized government can be considered "unlawful". That would not apply to KSM, or others who were captured in Pakistan, but who should be (lawfully!) interrogated, prosecuted and likely executed like any other murderous criminal.

Note to Hacksaw: The Founding Fathers did anticipate murderous thugs and the like. That's why we have the system that exists to deal with them.

**************************************

"The administration therefore had to define what exactly occupied the space between Geneva protections for soldiers (name, rank, etc.) and US prohibitions against torture. And that is what they have done."

***************************************

What they have done is define torture out of existence, as I have said and you refuse to acknowledge! ANYTHING that does not leave too many visible marks (which would be damning) appears to be within bounds. Even if it did constitute some form of reliable intel...which is highly debatable, the damage done to our world standing, as well as our form of liberal democracy outweighs whatever was gained. There is such a thing as winning the battle, but losing the war. We may be losing both.

Posted by: celtic-dragon on February 14, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

3. You tried to reassure me that what the CIA does is not torture because the army did it to you and it was not torture.
Posted by: Tripp

Holy short bus, batman. Show me exactly where I said waterboarding is not torture. Here, I'll help you by steering you to my 10:55 AM post where I said it was torture.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Straight Talk Express.

Straight-up yer kiester.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on February 14, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

You have stated that anything beyond questioning is torture, which is your right, but is certainly not the universal opinion regarding what constitutes an "act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession."

It doesn't matter whether it's the universal opinion or not, it matters what the black letter statutes say, and those are quite clear. It is the opinion of the laws of the United States of America that torture is defined as:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C > § 2340Prev | Next § 2340. Definitions
As used in this chapter—
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from— (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;

and as:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Per celtic-dragon, these deliberations came about because the existing texts had not anticipated the type of opponent we face in al Qaeda...when confronted with this new opponent....

Existing US and international law prior to 2002 had not anticipated the existence of terrorists? Really? Seriously, that's the argument?

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer.

He thinks the hi-jackers survived the crash? And he works for the Federal Government? Oh wow, we are so lost.

Posted by: Mooser on February 14, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Holy short bus, batman.

Holy oleo Robin. You've had military training. What do they say about quibbling?

C'mon soldier, stop dancing and be a man. Concerning the US and its agents using torture are you for it, against it, ambivalent, or some other longer answer?

I'm against it. What about you?

Posted by: Tripp on February 14, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm against it. What about you?
Posted by: Tripp

I'm agin' it. Been vocally against it every time it comes up here. Check the threads. I do prefer some precision in the argument against it.

But of course my being against it doesn't fit into the meme, so I automatically get lumped in the pro-waterboarding crowd. You are far from the first.

It's kind of fun to watch.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 14, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Celtic Dragon,

Stefan had in a previous thread said he thought anything beyond questioning someone constituted torture. Moreover, the "shirt grab" is the first of the six techniques the CIA was authorized to use, and would be banned under the bill just passed.

As for the Nazis and North Koreans, they fought us with regular military forces and thus we complied by the laws governing armed conflict. Revealingly, when we capture folks who broke the rules of armed conflict, we shot them.

Unlawful combatant is not a recent invention but a concept built into the law of armed conflict. Folks that did not wear a uniform or broke the rules of war (fought from houses of worship for example) have been separated out from regular soldiers since the law of war was created. The issue becomes what rights do they have. Which leads to:

Stefan,

Existing laws prior to 9/11 did not anticipate the type of threat we face. A trans-national entity that as a matter of practice (not exception) ignores the rules of armed conflict and (crucially) is capable of causing tremendous harm to the United States. When terrorists involved plane hijackings, it was all well and good to prosecute them after the fact. When they involved the 9/11 attacks, the nature of how we combat terrorism had to change. And part of that change involved how you interrogate terrorists.

You have time and again cited the broad definitions of torture - "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" - and linked needlessly and redundantly to ample example of US and international laws saying torture is illegal. But it is all entirely beside the point.

The issue, as I suspect you know, is what rises to "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." The administration has argued that the six methods the CIA is authorized, under certain circumstance, to use do not meet that definition.

What you have steadfastly refused to acknowledge is that there is not more to the definition of torture than this generic "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." There is no detailed body of law governing what does of does not meet that general criteria. If a detainee is put in a cold holding cell for 10 minutes before being questioned is that torture? For 30 minutes? Is grabbing someone's shirt and shaking them torture? Is solitary confinement torture?

The answer is there is not answer beyond the maddeningly broad "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." Now if its a matter of sawing off someone's hand, I think we can all agree that meets the test. But does everything beyond asking questions meet the test. You think so, but I wonder how many others here agree.

The administration put forth its definition of things that obviously exceeded simple question but which did not rise to "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." The most controversial for good reason was waterboarding and was therefore used only 3 times and discontinued in 2006. The most severe technique left is now keeping a detainee in a 50 degree cell. Is that obviously, unarguable, irrefutably "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." Is belly slapping? Bright lights? That, and not endless, mindless excerpts from international laws that I have not disagreed with is the question at hand.

(Sorry for the long post)

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 14, 2008 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan had in a previous thread said he thought anything beyond questioning someone constituted torture.

Another lie. I said that questioning someone as the police and FBI did to criminal suspects was what I was willing to permit. I did not say that grabbing someone by the shirt was torture.

As for the Nazis and North Koreans, they fought us with regular military forces and thus we complied by the laws governing armed conflict.
Revealingly, when we capture folks who broke the rules of armed conflict, we shot them.

What about, for example, the Viet Cong? An irregular un-uniformed insurgent force, and yet when we captured VC we didn't shoot them, but treated their prisoners in line with the Geneva Conventions.

Unlawful combatant is not a recent invention but a concept built into the law of armed conflict. Folks that did not wear a uniform or broke the rules of war (fought from houses of worship for example) have been separated out from regular soldiers since the law of war was created. The issue becomes what rights do they have.

Completely irrelevant. No one, whether an unlawful combatant or not, may be subjected to torture, no matter what their status. The issue of what rights they have is laid out in the Geneva Conventions and various other federal and international statutes and conventions, many of which I have previously cited.

Existing laws prior to 9/11 did not anticipate the type of threat we face. A trans-national entity that as a matter of practice (not exception) ignores the rules of armed conflict and (crucially) is capable of causing tremendous harm to the United States.

Oh, bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. What about, for example, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing? People seemed to have heard of that.
And c'mon, no one had ever seen a James Bond movie or read a Tom Clancy novel? No one ever even once considered the possibility of a terrorist group perpetrating a mass casualty attack? Don't make me laugh.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

If a detainee is put in a cold holding cell for 10 minutes before being questioned is that torture? For 30 minutes? Is grabbing someone's shirt and shaking them torture? Is solitary confinement torture?

There's a fairly simple way to decide this: arrest the perpetrators and let an international war crimes tribunal decide. If the judges decide it's not torture, then they get to free, if not, they're punished.

The most severe technique left is now keeping a detainee in a 50 degree cell. Is that obviously, unarguable, irrefutably "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental."

You know, with torture as with rape, if you're unsure about whether what you're doing is torture or not I'd say that that's about all the clue that you should need that it's probably not something you should be doing.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

What you have steadfastly refused to acknowledge is that there is not more to the definition of torture than this generic "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." There is no detailed body of law governing what does of does not meet that general criteria.

Another outright lie. There is on the contrary quite a detailed body of law governing what constitutes torture. See, e.g. the Nuremberg and Japanese war crimes trials post WWII.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Is that obviously, unarguable, [sic] irrefutably "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental."

Wrong question. The right question is "is that obviously, unarguably, irrefutably NOT severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental."

Existing laws prior to 9/11 did not anticipate the type of threat we face. A trans-national entity that as a matter of practice (not exception) ignores the rules of armed conflict and (crucially) is capable of causing tremendous harm to the United States.

So basically a group that engages in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorism, sabotage and acts of mass murder -- and the claim is that before 2001 there were no laws dealing with this, that our law enforcement and court system was powerless before such a strange and alien concept? This claim is simply laughable on its face.

Posted by: Stefan on February 15, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

To begin with, I apologize if I incorrectly described your thoughts on torture. My recollection was that your answer to What is the harshest interrogation technique that you will support because it falls just short of actual torture? was that we should, as you just reiterated, "[question] someone as the police and FBI did to criminal suspects." To my mind, that meant anything beyond this (which would include the shirt grab) would in effect constitute torture. If not, I would be interested where in fact you would draw the line. But either way, sorry if I had it wrong.

So basically a group that engages in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorism, sabotage and acts of mass murder -- and the claim is that before 2001 there were no laws dealing with this, that our law enforcement and court system was powerless before such a strange and alien concept? This claim is simply laughable on its face.

Agreed, but that was not my claim. What I said was that existing laws (governing interrogation and torture) did not anticipate the type of threat we face. So when we confronted the question of how we could deal with interrogating terrorists, we were dealing with new ground so far as existing laws and policies were concerned.

The existing laws and conventions made clear that (1)you can't do anything to military personnel beyond name, rank, serial number and (2) for unlawful combatants and all other detainees you cannot inflict severe physical or mental suffering. Previously, factor 2 did not matter much because we were dealing with enemies who fell under the 1st factor (or in the case of the VC fought alongside a regular military opponent).

With al Qaeda the situation changed dramatically and we faced an enemy that in no way met the criteria for military forces under Geneva, that presented an incredible threat to the United States, and that fought in a completely unconventional way (making timely intelligence far more important than it is on a conventional battlefield).

Geneva and other conventions and laws clearly allow for different treatment of this type of opponent. For military personnel, you can't even ask detailed questions let alone cause them any degree of physical or mental suffering, severe or otherwise. For unlawful combatants, the restriction is severe physical or mental suffering. So when it came to determining how to interrogate terrorists, the issue was what exactly determines if something causes severe physical or mental suffering.

That is precisely what the administration has tried to do. It has been trying to determine what is lawful in accordance with, not in defiance of, existing laws and conventions. And, to finish the point, they had to do this because prior to 9/11 the existing laws had not anticipated how we would do this.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 15, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK


hack: And, to finish the point, they had to do this because prior to 9/11 the existing laws had not anticipated how we would do this.


why didn't they go to congress who writes the laws and work with them?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 15, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Irony,

They did go to Congress and briefed them on the interrogation program. The reason they didn't ask for Congress to pass a new law was that agencies are empowered to develop their own policies.

Congress, in other words, has already authorized the CIA to interrogate individuals. The question before the CIA was how exactly do we interrogate terrorists. On this there were no detailed guidelines beyond the very broad definition of torture. So they developed their guidelines to define what could be done that would not rise to that definition of torture. And they briefed the oversight committees on those guidelines.

The only time Congress would need to pass a law would be if they wanted to direct an agency to change its guidelines. And that is what this bill aimed to do, which is fine from a procedural point of view. But it is incorrect to state that Congressional action (i.e. new legislation) was needed to develop these guidelines.

Posted by: Hacksaw on February 15, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

hack: On this there were no detailed guidelines beyond the very broad definition of torture.

really?

how did the the terrorists who attacked the wtc in 1993 get interrogated...

in a way that the justice dept. under the clinton admin. was able to get convictions in a court of law..

without gitmo..without torture...

and

show the world how a world-class legal system works?

was mcviegh tortured?

up until 9-11...mcveigh killed the most americans inside the usa by terror..

weird huh..

Posted by: mr. irony on February 15, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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