As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Whatever Happened To "We Don't Torture"?

John Negroponte, the King of All Salvadoran Death Squads, spills the beans and says the obvious.

Negroponte: I get concerned that we're too retrospective and tend to look in the rearview mirror too often at things that happened four or even six years ago. We've taken steps to address the issue of interrogations, for instance, and waterboarding has not been used in years. It wasn't used when I was director of national intelligence, nor even for a few years before that. We've also taken significant steps to improve Guantanamo. People will tell you now that it is a world-class detention facility. But if you want to highlight and accent the negative, you can resurface these issues constantly to keep them alive. I would rather focus on what we need to do going forward.

It's an interesting new legal argument. Not guilty by reason of "yeah, we're guilty, but we fixed it!" I'll have to consult the Court to see if that holds.

By the way, if you want to know how to responsibly engage in interrogation, you can give this a read.

Piro says no coercive interrogation techniques, like sleep deprivation, heat, cold, loud noises, or water boarding were ever used. "It's against FBI policy, first. And wouldn't have really benefited us with someone like Saddam," Piro says.

Why not?

"I think Saddam clearly had demonstrated over his legacy that he would not respond to threats, to any type of fear-based approach," Piro explains.

"So how do you crack a guy like that?" Pelley asks.

"Time," Piro says.

(This interrogation eventually revealed that Saddam didn't have WMD, was wary of Osama bin Laden and viewed him as a threat. Clearly that was the WRONG kind of intelligence. Maybe they didn't do enough zip-bam Jack Bauer work on him so they got the wrong answers.)

Negroponte simply revealed what everyone already knew, and it's not like our country's been averse to coddling dictators and torturers for years. But there's something different in reading a public official say, in the most nonchalant matter possible, "Yeah, we tortured, so?" It's really wounding. It's one thing to know that your country has betrayed its supposed ideals. It's quite another to have that betrayal confirmed in the most putrid manner possible.

...I cross-posted this at Digby's, and to respect her position of neutrality I didn't add this. But in the aftermath of this confirmation of using a tactic that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, it's instructive to take a look at this endorsement from 85 Guantanamo lawyers, for Barack Obama.

We are at a critical point in the Presidential campaign, and as lawyers who have been deeply involved in the Guantanamo litigation to preserve the important right to habeas corpus, we are writing to urge you to support Senator Obama.

The Administration's Guantanamo policies have undercut our values at home and stained our reputation around the world. All of us are lawyers who have worked on the Guantanamo habeas corpus litigation for many years, some of us since early 2002, and we were all deeply involved in opposing the Administration’s attempt to overturn the Supreme Court's Rasul decision by stripping the courts of jurisdiction to hear the Guantanamo cases. We have talked with Senator Obama about why the Guantanamo litigation is so significant, and we have worked closely with Senator Obama in the fight to preserve habeas corpus.

Some politicians are all talk and no action. But we know from first-hand experience that Senator Obama has demonstrated extraordinary leadership on this critical and controversial issue. When others stood back, Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Administration's efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction, and when we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the Administration's bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us. Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo. He has understood that our strength as a nation stems from our commitment to our core values, and that we are strong enough to protect both our security and those values. Senator Obama demonstrated real leadership then and since, continuing to raise Guantanamo and habeas corpus in his speeches and in the debates.

It's not that I think that Hillary Clinton somehow would not be committed to closing Guantanamo and reversing the evil practice of denying habeas corpus, but you can read something into the emphasis upon which these leading candidates place on it. These lawyers are a trusted source. And Obama clearly has a real concern about the denial of Constitutional rights and the slippery slope where that can lead.

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