Tuesday, February 05, 2008

CIA Admits to Torture

It's Super Tuesday, a great exercise in American democracy, but also a day when the news media and the nation's attention is focused on the presidential race. Apparently the CIA decided it was a perfect day to fess up to the fact that they have tortured detainees. From Reuters:
The CIA on three occasions shortly after the September 11 attacks used a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress on Tuesday.

"Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was the first time a U.S. official publicly specified the number of people subjected to waterboarding and named them.

Critics call waterboarding a form of illegal torture. Congress is considering banning the technique.

Those subjected to waterboarding were suspected September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and senior al Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hayden said.

He said waterboarding has not been used in five years but was used then because of concerns of imminent catastrophic attacks on the United States and because authorities had limited knowledge of al Qaeda.

"The circumstances are different than they were in late 2001, early 2002," Hayden said.

So presumably the circumstances could change and they would torture again. Hayden says these were extraordinary times, but it is precisely in extraordinary times when moral character is tested. Hayden says the interrogations were "fruitful" and led to useful information about al Qaeda. Because it worked, it's justified. We don't know, of course whether it worked or not. We have the word of people who are willing to torture to get information, but who also happened to destroy the torture tapes.

Regardless of whether it worked or not, torture is never justified. It is not the mark of a civilized democracy. Let's hope we get a President in 2009 who says 'never on my watch' and 'never again.'

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