AP: Obama Team Debating Violating UN Convention On Torture

The other day, the AP reported:

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans. Still under debate is whether to allow exceptions in extraordinary cases.

. . . Obama's changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said. They said the intent is not to use that as an opening for possible use of waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, such a "loophole" would constitute a violation of the UN Convention on Torture, codified as a crime under US law:

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 or war, internal political instability 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 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

Article 7

1. The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

Article 15

Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

If the AP is correct in its story, the incoming Obama Administration is contemplating committing crimes under US and international law. If this is what Obama plans to do, may I recommend that he first withdraw the United States from the UN Convention on Torture and ask for the repeal of US law that codified the Convention. Thus, while Obama may be engaged in barborous actions, at least he will not be commiting a crime under US law.

Oh by the way, I think outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden may had confessed to committing crimes (joining Dick Cheney on this):

These techniques worked," Hayden said of the agency's interrogation program during a farewell session with reporters who cover the CIA. "One needs to be very careful" about eliminating CIA authorities, he said, because "if you create barriers to doing things . . . there's no wink, no nod, no secret handshake. We won't do it."

To remind Hayden of the relevant language:

Article 2

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

Speaking for me only

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    There' nothing to debate (5.00 / 7) (#4)
    by mmc9431 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:02:22 AM EST
    It's way past time to end this debate. Torture can't even be considered in the country that is supposed to lead the world on human rights. Obama needs to flat out shut it down. This chapter of our history will be a stain on our nation for generations to come.

    I actually agree with you but (1.00 / 1) (#8)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:15:58 AM EST
    as president there are certain conditions that would make me break that law against torture.  So, let it be illegal to torture and if the president breaks that law, he should be put on trial in order to explain what the circumstances were.  That would allow us to continue to lead on human rights.

    No (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:18:53 AM EST
    You advocate for repeal if the UN Convention on Torture, or at least a rewrite.

    I think you need to be honesdt about what you are arguing for.

    BTW, war criminals always argue they were justified.


    I'd prefer a legal prohibition (1.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Salo on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:26:42 AM EST
    You sound like the dems who call for conscription, pulling out gives licence for a new inquistion. It's much better to have a slim possibility of prosecution for torture. Even if it rarely occurs.

    Excuse me (none / 0) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:00:42 AM EST
    I am not arguing that it should be done, I am pointing out that to avoid criminality under US law, it must be done.

    I would hope that the prospect of doing it would dissuade anyone from even contemplating it.

    BTW, to compare torture to conscription is obscene imo.


    Must be done (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by ricosuave on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:46:07 AM EST
    is the right phrase.  We are a nation of laws (or we are supposed to be).  We are not a nation of winks and nods.  If we think we need to torture, even in extraordinary circumstances, then we need to make it legal.  We need to decide what methods are legal, how much permanent damage can be done, who is responsible when someone dies under torture, how the torturers will be trained, and (most importantly) who gets to decide when torture is used and upon whom.  Do beat cops get to decide on their own that torture is necessary (kind of like a "hot pursuit" clause) or do they need a warrant?  And we need to pull out of all international treaties against torture as BTD says.

    Personally, I think this is ridiculous.  Nobody ever points to a real example of the "ticking time bomb," just to the possibility that it could exist.  Our worst terrorist incident in the US (9/11) was not something that would have been identified this way, nor was Pearl Harbor, nor Oklahoma City.  Other major incidents--the AMIA bombings, the USS Cole, the Africa embassy bombings, the Munich massacre--were not "ticking time bomb" scenarios either.  There really is no prevention argument outside of Hollywood movies.  So we are really just talking about using it for a post-disaster investigation technique. (And don't go with the "we're preventing the next one" unless you can name a serial bomber other than the Unibomber, who was a loner and could not have been stopped by torturing anyone else).

    So if you want the US to torture, even under some extraordinary circumstances, then have the C.O. Jones to say you will legalize it.  Or move to Saudi Arabia, where they openly operate more like you prefer.


    Yup. No indication yet that the P-E has the said (none / 0) (#44)
    by allimom99 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 06:04:29 PM EST
    C.O. Js to do anything especially principled. BTW, love your tag, ricosuave - really takes me back!

    Since you seemed to miss it in the post (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:19:04 AM EST
    The UN Convention On Torture, codified as US law, states:

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

    You disagree with this. Ergo, you wish to have the UN Convention on Torture modified.

    Time to deal with your argument and understand what you are arguing for.


    I could possibly meet you (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by ThatOneVoter on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:21:14 AM EST
    halfway, but this is really just a parlor game, since no President will admit to torture if there is a possibility of punishment. Torture can't be legal, ever. If the President thinks it is necessary in one case, then he must go to jail, no matter what the results of the torture are.

    No, actually, you don't (none / 0) (#30)
    by sj on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:20:49 AM EST
    I actually agree with you...

    mmc9431 states unequivocally that

    Torture can't even be considered in the country that is supposed to lead the world on human rights.

    You are equivocating. Saying but, but but... or even one "but" is not agreeing.  I, on the other hand, do agree with mmc9431. Obama needs to flat out shut it down.


    There are some things you do not compromise (5.00 / 7) (#5)
    by Saul on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:06:40 AM EST
    on.  IMO you must categorically object to torture without any exceptions.  Otherwise what was all this protest against Bush and Cheney all about. The slightest exception makes you look like a hypocrite.

    By allowing any type of torture then you are giving the green light to other countries to torture their captives and that includes our own military captives. You cannot complain if others torture our own soldiers if caught if we do it too.

    I'm more comfortable saying (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by andgarden on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:58:35 AM EST
    that they absolutely must not do this.

    That sick feeling in the pit of (5.00 / 8) (#22)
    by Anne on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:59:23 AM EST
    my stomach - the one that's there because I suspected that my fears of Obama talking out of both sides of his mouth on pretty much every issue that matters to me, and that he would end up coming down on the wrong side, were real - well, it just got a little stronger.

    I have a feeling that even when torture is explicitly prohibited, and there are no loopholes of any kind, there will still be those who will push it right up to the edge, and there will still be people dreaming up creative ways to interrogate detainees that would not fall under the heading of "torture" - at least until word of these new methods got out.  

    But, create a loophole - a classified loophole - and all bets are off.  There goes the transparency of detainee treatment - can't have people poking around checking on it, lest it be revealed how often and how creatively the loophole is invoked.

    And so much for elevating and repairing our standing in the world.  So much for our credibility on human rights.  

    I guess we now know that hope and change come with their own loopholes, too.

    Well, we know by now, (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:00:41 AM EST
    or should, that Obama has no problem endlessly torturing people who put him where he is with talk of torture loopholes.

    The question is are the loopholes he's talking about big enough to allow even more bush era torture fanatics like brennan in, to enable Obama to coopt far right GOP senators and reps?

    This is all about gaining "bipartisan" support, and power. Nothing else.

    As Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate noted back in  August 2007 in
    All Wet: Why can't we renounce waterboarding once and for all?, Barack Obama appears to have the same problem (or fantasy, depending on you POV) that George Bush had. There is virtually no sunlight between the two when it comes to amassing and retaining power, and when it comes right down to it any suggestion that thew presidential power be limited justifies "exceptions in extraordinary cases".

       What is it about waterboarding that makes the White House so reluctant to renounce it? It's an old torture technique from the Spanish Inquisition that consists of immobilizing your target on an inclined board, head down, with cloth covering their face. Pouring water over the face simulates drowning. The practice leaves no physical marks. It's illegal under the Geneva Conventions and has long been treated as a war crime by the United States. We even use this technique to train our own troops to withstand illegal torture by our enemies. As retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, a former top Navy lawyer and now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., testified at Mukasey's hearing last week, "Other than perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, waterboarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It has been repudiated for centuries. It's a little bit disconcerting to hear now that we're not quite sure where waterboarding fits in the scheme of things."

        For starters, Bush won't renounce waterboarding because it violates the two choice cocktails of anyone drunk on executive authority: Absolut secrecy and Absolut power.

        First, secrecy. It has long been the view of the Bush administration that nothing can be deemed illegal so long as it remains a secret. Never mind that it's a secret only to people living in igloos without wireless service. That's why, even while there's a major movie out about rendition, we call it a secret. Since they have yet to make a movie called Waterboard, Mukasey could take the absurd position that he isn't sure precisely what it involves. Cute trick. Call it a secret, and there can be no legal debate. As the White House insisted Friday, "Judge Mukasey is not in a position to discuss interrogation techniques which are necessarily classified." If the soon-to-be-AG cannot hazard an opinion on the legality of waterboarding, even when he can read step-by-step accounts of it on the Internet, who are the rest of us to condemn it?

        The problem with this argument is that the administration's use of waterboarding on detainees has been known publicly since at least May 2004. Everybody knows what it involves, and even if you live in an igloo without wireless, you can tell it's illegal. The argument that you can't call it torture until you've been "read into" the torture program is just a lawyer's trick that justifies keeping bad conduct secret to end-run the laws.

        Next, there is the absolute authority argument. The real reason the Bush administration clings to its power to order waterboarding has little to do with any strategic argument and everything to do with the old standby assertion that to renounce his authority to waterboard would be to give away the president's power.

    Change you can believe in....

    another hint as to why (4.00 / 1) (#18)
    by sancho on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:45:09 AM EST
    no one will be prosecuted for any of this stuff. all the "in the know" people know it happens and have decided it is ok. we can agitate all we want, the practices will continue. at best, the enacters can be provoked into becoming even more adroit dissemblers and different scapegoats may be brought forward. but the disconnect between what the citizens vote for and what the govt. actually does with its power could not be more clear or stark.

    I hate torture and I know it doesn't work (1.00 / 2) (#3)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:02:09 AM EST
    most of the time but if I was president, and I had someone in my grasp who could give us the information to prevent a disaster from happening, there is nothing I wouldn't do, especially if this person thinks he'll be going to join Allah with all the rest of us. If I had to, I'd cut his heart out with a fork or at least begin to.

    However, I think I would rather have laws against torture and under this extenuating circumstance I would break that law and then later on defend what I did as national self defense.

    There are times and conditions when talking doesn't work and if the situation is imminent what choice is there? I would not allow wholesale torture to be SOP and only allowed with the president's knowledge and approval.  If the people believe that the specific incident of torture was excessive, impeachment proceedings could take me out.

    As I say yo you in another comment (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:17:46 AM EST
    It seems to me you are advocating for the US to abandon the UN Convention on Torture.

    I won't get into the stale argument about the fact that torture has never ever worked, except on a TV show.


    Some background on the discussion here (none / 0) (#17)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:41:14 AM EST
    what treaties are... (1.00 / 2) (#40)
    by diogenes on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 01:43:45 PM EST
    Treaties are signed by the weak in order to bind the hands of the strong.  
    When the UN has a strong, binding mechanism to extradite torturers from, say, Burma or China and actually put them on trial then I'd say we should take the UN seriously.  As it is, if this administration goes through all the layers and decides that there is a compelling need for one or two individuals to be waterboarded in the next eight years, the world won't end.

    Dude, that is so 2001 (none / 0) (#43)
    by FreakyBeaky on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 03:25:07 PM EST
    Stop wasting syllables and just say "Might is right."

    The world won't end? (none / 0) (#51)
    by ricosuave on Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 10:49:53 AM EST
    I didn't know that was the danger of torture.  

    Of course, we could use your same logic and say that terrorism is just a tool used by the weak to inflict pain on the strong, that it causes no actual systemic damage, it never works over the long term, and that the world won't end if a few more civilians die while we uphold our ideals and refuse to sink to the terrorists' level.

    Of course, I wouldn't make that argument because it is utterly ridiculous, just like your own chest thumping.  So I guess we will have to judge the use of torture on its own merits: it is currently illegal, universally considered to be fundamentally wrong (even by the people like you who are OK if we use it), and is directly associated with the most heinous and dictatorial regimes in human history.


    examine the premises (none / 0) (#52)
    by diogenes on Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 06:57:18 PM EST
    1.  Currently illegal--that is defined by the US.
    2.  Universally considered to be morally wrong--even you would admit that the conservative part of the US would not agree to that blanket statement, and if you did a worldwide poll you would not find 100% in agreement.  Just the people who make treaties universally find it to be wrong.
    3.  Since when are people allowed to impose their morals onto public policy anyway, or so I am told in abortion discussions.
    4.  Associated with dictatorial regimes in history--so is the use of armed police, jails, fire departments, etc.  
    The merits are whether it works.  Ask Mossad if they will ever categorically rule out and make torture illegal in all cases and prosecute agents who do it.  If they take such a stance and actually prosecute agents, then I would agree with you on the merits.

    Let's hope he considers loopholes (none / 0) (#1)
    by talesoftwokitties on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:54:25 AM EST
    and REJECTS them.

    No no no... (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by weltec2 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:01:37 AM EST
    Once you step over that line, the door closes behind you and you become part of the problem. I understand that Pelosi and company went "over the line" to borrow Goodling's phrase, following lockstep after Bush, Cheney, and Rove. They were wrong to do so. We expected better from BO. He promised better.

    My hope for change... is dwindling.


    I agree with your fears but (1.00 / 1) (#6)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:10:16 AM EST
    don't you think that with today's ability to create catastrophes of the greatest proportion that the rules are changed.  What if one person has the location of a dirty bomb that will kill millions and you have no time to befriend this person and change him or her over to sanity.  What if he keeps repeating he is going to join Allah?  How can you not do whatever it takes to get that information?

    I am not talking about Bush's wholesale torture.  I am saying torture sanctioned by the president where the signs of imminent danger are present?


    It seems to me you are advocating for (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:15:58 AM EST
    the US to leave the Convention on Torture.

    Pulling out would (3.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Salo on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:28:19 AM EST
    Enable a new Torquemada to rise to power.

    I don't think so. (1.00 / 1) (#15)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:30:37 AM EST
    I want it to be illegal and codified but somes laws need to be broken for extenuating circumstances and the president, if he breaks the law, would have to defend his actions in a trial.

    It was illegal to block the E Street Tunnel in 1969 (or 1970- I can't remember the year) but we did it and we took the mace, tear gas, riot clubs of the Civil Disturbance Unit and some of us were put in jail.  We knew hat we were doing and we were all too familiar with the Washington, DC CDUs that were directed by Agnew.


    Excuse me (5.00 / 4) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:49:30 AM EST
    But that is absurd.

    If you say that torture can be excused, when the UN Convention on Torture says unequivocally it cann not, then you are arguing for a modification of the treaty.

    Please be honest about what you are arguing for.


    One more time (5.00 / 4) (#29)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:20:49 AM EST
    so you understand my point. From the Convention:

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

    It's unequivocal. (5.00 / 4) (#41)
    by oldpro on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 02:51:21 PM EST
    No torture.  No exscuses.



    Abuse of power (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by mmc9431 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:19:33 AM EST
    The problem with that scenario is that you are again trusting a select group of people to make this decision. I have no doubt that Bush and company felt they were doing this for the good of the country. As the saying goes "the road to h#ll is paved with good intentions". I just don't trust government to not abuse power.

    yeah but (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:37:13 AM EST
    Bush and Cheney didn't have to stand trial and they should have, where all the facts and circumstances would have come out.  I believe there needs to be a trial.  If the action, for example, saves the water supply of NYC, you can imagine the outcome.

    If you were a juror in that trial, where the president was able to save millions of lives by water-boarding or worse, one of the co-conspirators, how would you decide?

    Not everyone is the dispicable George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.


    This is nonsensical (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:55:47 AM EST
    The Un Convention on Torture does not allow for "justifiable exceptions."

    You fail to grasp this simple but important point.

    I repeat, you are rejecting the UN Convention on Torture. at least do it honestly.


    for your edification:

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

    I am trying to be honest (1.00 / 1) (#47)
    by cpa1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 07:36:34 PM EST
    in stopping 99% of the torture that would occur.  If the agreement were to include all torture but an out for circumstances you feel go beyond the normal use, that is an invitation to be subjective.  This terrible situation that I am worried about may never happen and if it does not I will never break the law if I were president.

    We need laws to stop the Bushes and the Cheneys and their unwarranted abuse is pretty clear when you know the facts.  I'd also pass a law that those facts have to come out and if National Security is threathened, a trier of fact must have access.

    I am torn because without an agreement like the one above we will continue to have wholesale torture and there is a good chance many militaries won't stop any torturing at all even if they sign the agreement.  I guess if I was president I would push for the agreement, sign it and worry about the consequences later.  If you are forcing me to tll you what my heart says, I would tell you that I deplore torture and if I found out anyone was doing it on behalf of the United States I would get the justice department after them.  If you were able to read my mind, however, you would find out that to prevent a disaster from happening I would do almost anything necessary.  Maybe that is implied or should be inferred from any world leader because I think anyone would exercise the option of breaking the law to prevent a catastrophe.  

    Let's say the bomb will go off in 5 minutes and prisoner x has the codes to disarm it.  If it goes off, NYC will be ashes.  You signed the UN agreement the year before.  The prisoner is not listening and mumbling things about Allah.  What would you do?

    I understand what you are tyring to say to me about not being honest.  I don't think most would be honest or pure in the scenario above.  Perhaps not being a purist is more accurate.  If all I had left to do for the next five minutes is torture, then that is what I would do.  So, you are sort of correct but you how else do we stop torture that is not in response to monstrous catastrophes without an agreement like this?  Is there any room for the pragmatist to step in to save 10 million lives?

    I'm not a lawyer and I don't think I could allow an innocent man to be executed for a crime my client committed.  I might break that law too.    


    If one does the same as Bush and Cheney... (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by sj on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:25:53 AM EST
    ...then one is as despicable as Bush and Cheney.

    And just as culpable. (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:00:32 AM EST
    We do not condone torture. At all. there is no justification for it.

    Absolut power corrupts Absolutly...that is all. (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by allimom99 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 06:09:44 PM EST
    Oooh...what if what if (none / 0) (#34)
    by ricosuave on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:56:42 AM EST
    What if they saved us all from evil aliens under the influence of Cthulu invading and turning us into slaves/food!?!  What if the torture kept the black hole at the center of the universe from expanding?!?  What if the torture turns out to have closed down a vile puppy mill???

    Just becuase you can think of something awful that a terrorist might have wanted to do doesn't mean we were actually ever faced with that situation.  Given that the Bushies can't name ONE SINGLE CASE where they stopped real terrorists ahead of time (they have named a few, but all of them turned out to be pretty bogus), it is pretty likely that they would have leaked the fact contemporaneously or that they would have been bragging now that they stopped a specific attack.

    Your mythical jury reminds me of the real cases where New Yorkers, confronted by actual crime and with pretty solid support of Guiliani's police methods, still were horrified by several high-profile police shootings that went wrong.  Sure, the jurors whose lives were saved by torture will be grateful, but what about the other ten juries in the case of the guy who was tortured or killed and it turned out he had no useful info?


    You may agree with (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:18:52 AM EST
    what you term weltec2's "fears" as a mechanism to justify your own fears, but almost no one anymore buys into the Bush manufactured and propagated "fears" that you still try to sell. But good luck. Maybe a few of the 26 percenters will fall for "boo!"

    Hey, Jack Bauer - (none / 0) (#25)
    by Anne on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:05:43 AM EST
    the Fox Studios are that-a-way. ---->

    UN (none / 0) (#32)
    by mmc9431 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:32:48 AM EST
    I hope Obama reestablishes us as a positive member of the UN. We've spent the last 8 yrs trying to tear it down. Has he said who he wants as UN ambassador?

    I keep hearing how "global" the world is now. That's not just an economical term. We can't and shouldn't be the world's military. Everyone agrees that the problems in the middle east aren't going to be solved militarily. We need a strong UN and we need to be part of it.

    It's Susan Rice. (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by allimom99 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 06:12:12 PM EST
    I'm not optimistic on this score. We have an opportunity to lead by example at the UN, and he gives us THIS?

    I don't understand the arguments (none / 0) (#35)
    by ThatOneVoter on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:00:26 AM EST
    for "limited" torture. If you think some degree of torture of terrorists is necessary to preserve our liberties, then why draw the line anywhere?
    Suppose you know for certain that Jimaka knows the location of a nuclear device which is set to go off in NYC within 72 hours. Why stop at waterboarding to get the answer? Wouldn't ANY technique at all be worth saving the lives?
    Heck, suppose you have 10 people in custody, and one of them knows (they are a cell of some sort), but you're not sure which one. How can you justify NOT torturing all of them to get the information from one?

    Maybe BTD is right (1.00 / 1) (#50)
    by cpa1 on Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 07:50:10 AM EST
    and I'm am not being fair or honest.  Perhaps I should not sign the agreement and look to modify it with a head of state final option where under certain conditions a head of state can do whatever is necessary to try to atop a catastrophe.  That's a world apart from torturing for background information.

    I keep going back to the same thing because faced with total disaster and no time for reason, I'd bet most of you would do what is necessary to prevent a catastrophe.  If I watched all my friends and family and everyone I know die because you, as POTUS, wanted to stick by this agreement and the moral high ground ans as a result millions died, I'd want you impeached and thrown in jail and if I were really being honest and I could see absolutely no justification for what you allowed to happen, I'd probably want to kill you myself, which I could never do but I'd want to.  That's no Mike Dukakis answer but it is no George W. Bush answer either.


    Sunday Times (of India) (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:27:42 AM EST
    Obama to end harsh interrogation; Will Order CIA To Follow Military Rules For Questioning Prisoners.

    However, in reading the article, it becomes apparent no decisions have yet been made and "Obama's changes may not be absolute."

    I've been trying to think (none / 0) (#39)
    by ThatOneVoter on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 01:06:03 PM EST
    of a good analogy for the torture debates, which shows how they operate from a fundamentally flawed premise. To me, these debates remind me of theological debates about saving souls.
    What are the lengths one should take to save an innocent soul? Can you kill a heretic who might poison that soul's innocence, thus damning it eternally? Surely that's a reasonable question, right?
    Or debates about witchcraft. As Volokh infamously observed a couple of years back, if you believe in witches, then witch trials and executions are worthy of consideration. His point was to exonerate those who killed "witches", to some extent.

    I think the similar, faulty underlying assumption is that something good comes from torture---at least sometimes. I'm not sure... but the whole debate seems fatally flawed by detachment from reality, IMO.

    The story *is* from AP (none / 0) (#42)
    by Alien Abductee on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 03:16:20 PM EST
    and therefore probably nothing but Republican-inspired lies if their recent record is any indication. Its anonymous sources hardly inspire confidence.

    If it is true, it would hardly be surprising if intelligence advisors retained from the Bush administration, like Brennan for example, might be pushing to retain what they did before. The simple fact of having an administration deliberately designed to bring in a multiplicity of viewpoints means that even reactionary views like these will get an airing in the development stages of policy, hopefully simply to tap into the concerns behind them and mollify them with more progressive solutions.

    What we do know (even from the story itself) is that "Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners." There are as many hints that he'll ban the use of torture by executive order as soon as he gets into office. We know the AG he picked says waterboarding is torture and that he would ensure US anti-terrorism policies were faithful to the "letter and spirit of the Constitution."

    All that said, preemptive pushback on this is no bad thing, even if the AP story about the consideration of a loophole is an utter lie. The more and the farther the new administration can be pushed to publicly repudiate everything about the Bush policies on torture the better for the country to be able to start putting this national disgrace behind us. And the next step has to be an independent commission of inquiry into what actually was done, by whom and how and why.

    Yes (none / 0) (#48)
    by squeaky on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:11:08 PM EST
    AP is not to be trusted.

    At least the Washington Bureau (none / 0) (#49)
    by Alien Abductee on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:32:36 PM EST