Faux News Reveals True Motivation Behind Attacks on Pelosi

Not that reality-based bloggers didn’t know this already, but it definitely should be pointed out as frequently as possible (emphasis in original):

For weeks, conservatives have been launching hypocritical and disingenuous attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding her level of knowledge of the Bush administration’s torture program.

Fox News conservatives are revealing one of the underlying motives for these attacks — to diminish calls for a truth commission on torture. While interviewing Newt Gingrich, and later, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Fox host Neil Cavuto wondered whether “both parties will cease and desist” from investigations:

Is it a potential Mexican standoff? And by that, I mean, Senator, that Democrats feel they have the goods on the prior administration to drag out hearings on what they knew about Iraq and when. Now Republicans have the goods, presumably, on Nancy Pelosi about what she knew about interrogation and when. So to avoid mutual self-destruction, both parties cease and desist.

Mike Madden concludes that Dick Cheney’s National Torture Defense Tour is intended to turn everyone’s attention to what the Democrats knew about the Bush torture program, and away from the torture itself: who conceived it, designed it, authorized it, and carried it out:

You might have thought getting torture back in the news would be a bad move for any Republican; after all, it was the Bush administration that authorized the torturing. But the last few days have shown Dick Cheney knew exactly what he was doing when he went on TV last week and started talking about “enhanced interrogation”: It was a masterstroke of bureaucratic warfare.

Because just five days after Cheney admitted that George W. Bush personally signed off on the CIA’s plans to extract information out of detainees by no matter how they got it, the debate in Washington isn’t even remotely focused on the ethical and moral repugnance of torturing your enemies. Instead, the city is buzzing about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding. There’s a little side conversation going about whether torture is effective — but not whether it’s wrong. And the Obama administration, which is trying desperately not to get involved in an endless battle over what Bush officials were doing behind closed doors, is getting dragged into it, too, and infuriating liberal supporters in the process.

Mike Madden doesn’t get it, either. We don’t need a debate over whether torture is wrong. It’s irrelevant, just as it’s irrelevant that torture is ineffective. Torture is illegal. It violates our own statutes, and it violates several international treaties, most notably the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. There is no option to torture. It does not exist.

Republicans are very, very good at changing the subject. It’s one of the things they do best. Madden is right that they are playing a game of divide and conquer, and (so far) getting away with it. Reality-based bloggers, and everyone else who believes that criminal acts need to be investigated and prosecuted, should not let them do that. We should not be playing this game of what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it and what did she do about it. Instead, we should be bringing the focus back to the acts themselves, and to everything Republican leaders and senior officials in the Bush administration have done over the last eight years to ensure that Congress would never be in a position to know the full extent of what was going on, and — even more to the point — to ensure that Congress would never be in a position to do anything about the little they did know.

The arguments on the right will continue to be immoral, untruthful, disingenuous, misinformed, irrational, and lacking in either logic or consistency — but that does not mean we on the anti-torture, pro-rule of law side have to accept their irrelevant, manipulative framework.

Here is one example of what I’m talking about. Mark Steyn’s column yesterday in the Orange Country Register (emphasis mine):

Question: What does Dick Cheney think of waterboarding?

He’s in favor of it. He was in favor of it then, he’s in favor of it now. He doesn’t think it’s torture, and he supports having it on the books as a vital option. On his recent TV appearances, he sometimes gives the impression he would not be entirely averse to performing a demonstration on his interviewers, but generally he believes its use should be a tad more circumscribed. He is entirely consistent.

Question: What does Nancy Pelosi think of waterboarding?

No, I mean really. Away from the cameras, away from the Capitol, in the deepest recesses of her (if she’ll forgive my naïveté) soul. Sitting on a mountaintop, contemplating the distant horizon, chewing thoughtfully on a cranberry-almond granola bar, what does she truly believe about waterboarding?

Does she oppose it? According to Speaker Pelosi, yes. In her varying accounts, she’s (a) accused the CIA of consciously “misleading the Congress of the United States” as to what they were doing; (b) admitted to having been briefed that waterboarding was in the playbook but that “we were not – I repeat – were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used”; (c) belatedly conceded that she’d known back in February 2003 that waterboarding was being used but had been apprised of the fact by “a member of my staff”. As she said on Thursday, instead of doing anything about it, she decided to focus on getting more Democrats elected to the House.

It’s worth noting that, by most if not all of her multiple accounts, Nancy Pelosi is as guilty of torture as anybody else. That’s not an airy rhetorical flourish but a statement of law. As National Review’s Andy McCarthy points out, under Section 2340A(c) of the relevant statute, a person who conspires to torture is subject to the same penalties as the actual torturer. Once Speaker Pelosi was informed that waterboarding was part of the plan and that it was actually being used, she was in on the conspiracy, and as up to her neck in it as whoever it was who was actually sticking it to poor old Abu Zubaydah and the other blameless lads.

That is, if you believe waterboarding is “torture.”

I don’t believe it’s torture. Nor does Dick Cheney. But Nancy Pelosi does. Or so she has said, latterly.

The sheer dishonesty oozing out of every line in the quote above can drive you mad if you let it. Ah, but don’t you let it. There are really only four distinct points worth addressing:

  1. What do Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi think of waterboarding?
  2. Dick Cheney does not believe waterboarding is torture. I don’t believe waterboarding is torture. Nancy Pelosi does believe waterboarding is torture.
  3. But she did nothing about it.
  4. Nancy Pelosi is guilty under the law of conspiring to torture.

We don’t have to allow ourselves to get caught up in the amazing stupidity of these points. The answers are as follows:

  1. It doesn’t matter. Waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal.
  2. Who cares? Waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal.
  3. She did nothing about it because she signed an agreement not to disclose anything she learned in the briefings, but set that aside. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to impanel a truth commission to look at all the facts of this matter. Nancy Pelosi has called for such a commission. Do you support her on that?
  4. I’m no lawyer, but I think the legal definition of “conspire” includes taking an active part in planning the crime, but we absolutely need to nail that down. Nancy Pelosi has called for a truth commission that will answer all these questions. Do you support her on that?

That’s all we need to say in response to these points. If Mark Steyn and all the other torture apologists can’t or won’t or don’t want to address these points in a straightforward manner, then they need to shut up.

Cross-posted at The Moderate Voice.

25 Responses to “Faux News Reveals True Motivation Behind Attacks on Pelosi”

  1. Booogie-Mann says:

    Kathy: Do you think Nancy Pelosi has contradicted herself at all here?? Do you think she was briefed on water boarding (that it was in use) or not?? Should she have to testify before a Truth Commission?? Is it possible that Pelosi and other Democrats supported these actions after 9/11 opposing them only years later … perhaps for political reasons??

    What did Chuck Schumer think of Torture in 2004?
    http://www.nypost.com/seven/05162009/postopinion/editorials/pelosi_in_a_pickle_169535.htm
    Schumer: “I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake.” … seems Schumer is talking about more then water boarding …

    Did you see the Pelosi News Conference where she called the CIA a bunch of liars?? … now today she is trying to retract what she said and claims it was the Bush Administration folks who briefed her and lied, not the CIA.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6PU0Oq0ysA

    Democrats like Pelosi are furious that they are being lassoed into this via their own statements and actions. It was supposed to be a 1-sided political hearing where only Bush Officials are put on trial!! Will the “Truth Commission” live up to its name??

  2. Bryan says:

    You don’t get it, Boogie-Mann. Kathy just explained to you that the aim of conservatives is to change the subject. That means that we do not talk about any level of Democratic hypocrisy. We need to stick to the issues. 🙂

    1) Under the law, one’s opinion of waterboarding does matter. A person’s beliefs about their actions impacts our justice system in terms of moral culpability. This is easily understood by looking at the way the law treats juveniles and nutcases. For less obvious cases the “reasonable person” standard tends to apply. For Kathy, it is obviously unreasonable not to regard stress positions as something other than torture, which is not to say that any court would necessarily agree with her.

    2) Who cares? People who understand #1 (above) care. Steyn probably understands it. Kathy perhaps not.

    3) The excuse for Pelosi doesn’t wash. Sen. Harman was able to register an objection without divulging state secrets. Pelosi’s inability to accomplish something similar indicts her. A truth commission convened under Democratic leadership is hardly the only way to get to the bottom of it. Kathy ought to know as much, after having belittled the silliness of congressional action while commenting in another recent commentary thread. I do not support such a truth commission because of the unlikelihood that it would be anything other than a political witch hunt. Kathy will at some point explain how the laws congress passes are a joke while their truth commissions are “the only way.” Maybe.

    4) Kathy is in favor of prosecuting (for torture?) lawyers who gave legal opinions about the legality of torture but finds no conspiratorial involvement for the silent oversight of Nancy Pelosi? Yes, please nail that down.

  3. Booogie-Mann says:

    Hmmmm … well spoken and cognizant Bryan.

  4. Kathy says:

    Do you think Nancy Pelosi has contradicted herself at all here??

    I think that’s the wrong question. The correct question is, If the government officials in the Bush administration designed, authorized, and carried out a program of torture, and perverted existing law to avoid accountability, should they be prosecuted? Or, put another way: Torture is illegal. If high-ranking government officials in the Bush administration designed, authorized, and conducted a program of torture, then they broke the law. Should they be held accountable?

    Do you think she was briefed on water boarding (that it was in use) or not??

    I don’t know. I only know what she has consistently said, which is that she was not briefed on waterboarding, but Jane Harman was (in Feb. 2003), and she (Pelosi) was told by Harman that waterboarding had been used.

    Again, though, the relevant point is that waterboarding is torture; torture is illegal; and whether Pelosi was specifically briefed on waterboarding or not, Bush administration officials have broken the law and should be prosecuted.

    Should she have to testify before a Truth Commission??

    Yes, she should. As well, senior officials in the executive branch, such as Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Doug Feith, and the former president himself; the lawyers in the OLC who wrote the memos — John Yoo, William Haynes, and Steven Bradbury, e.g. — and C.I.A. officials who were involved in the interrogation program, should have to testify before a Truth Commission. Nancy Pelosi has called for a Truth Commission. Do you support her in that? Will you support Nancy Pelosi’s call for a Truth Commission?

    Is it possible that Pelosi and other Democrats supported these actions after 9/11 opposing them only years later … perhaps for political reasons??

    I don’t know. If they did, they should face the legal consequences, along with Dick Cheney, David Addington, Doug Feith, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, William Haynes, and the president himself — and Donald Rumsfeld, whom I neglected to mention above. Anyone who participated in conceptualizing, designing, seeking legal justification for, preparing legal justification for, supervising, monitoring, conducting, or taking part in, torture, should be prosecuted for war crimes.

    Does that answer your question?

    What did Chuck Schumer think of Torture in 2004?

    Irrelevant. Torture is illegal, regardless of what Chuck Schumer or anyone else thinks of it, or thought of it.

    Did you see the Pelosi News Conference where she called the CIA a bunch of liars??

    If you are speaking of her Friday news conference, I saw it. She did not call the CIA a bunch of liars. She said she was misled and lied to by the CIA officials who briefed her. Those are specific individuals. She did not call the CIA “a bunch of liars,” which would be something else, entirely.

    Democrats like Pelosi are furious that they are being lassoed into this via their own statements and actions. It was supposed to be a 1-sided political hearing where only Bush Officials are put on trial!! Will the “Truth Commission” live up to its name??

    First, a Truth Commission is not a trial. It’s a bipartisan panel of officials and experts who engage in fact-finding.

    Second, Nancy Pelosi has called for a Truth Commission. Leon Panetta, to the best of my knowledge, has not called for a Truth Commission. Do you support Nancy Pelosi’s call for a Truth Commission?

  5. Jack Jodell says:

    Fox “News” is disgusting. It is about as relevant to actual television news as the National Enquirer is to print media news. I wish they would simply go off the air and stop peddling their thoroughly biased bullshit. They, like the GOP at the moment, are simply trying to obfuscate the torture debate and shift the focus and blame away from Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld onto Pelosi and the Democrats. This is a very cynical ploy which will not work.

  6. Kathy says:

    The excuse for Pelosi doesn’t wash. Sen. Harman was able to register an objection without divulging state secrets.

    Sen. Harman wrote to Scott Muller, who was then the general counsel at the CIA. She wrote to Muller immediately after the February, 2003, briefing in which she (but not Pelosi) was briefed about the use of waterboarding, and about the existence of tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. Pelosi supported Harman in sending the letter, but she did not sign it or send a letter of her own because she was not in that briefing and so had not been briefed about the waterboarding. She had only indirect knowledge based on what Harman told her. Harman, who was in that briefing and who was the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee was the proper person to send the letter, and she did. You can read it here. As you can see, it’s polite but strongly worded. And the concerns she expressed in it were brushed aside and ignored.

    So there you have the reason Harman was able to object without divulging state secrets. Her objection was addressed to the top lawyer at the government agency that was conducting the interrogations. They already were in on the state secret.

    A truth commission convened under Democratic leadership is hardly the only way to get to the bottom of it.

    Yes, I’m aware of that. I would much prefer that the AG appoint a Special Prosecutor, myself, but if that isn’t going to happen, a Truth Commission is better than nothing.

    I do not support such a truth commission because of the unlikelihood that it would be anything other than a political witch hunt.

    I understand this concern. That is why the better choice is for the AG to appoint an independent, nonpartisan Special Prosecutor, one who has no political ties to either the Bush or the Obama administrations. Will you join me in calling for Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor, Brian? I know you want to get to the bottom of this as much as I do.

    Kathy will at some point explain how the laws congress passes are a joke while their truth commissions are “the only way.” Maybe.

    Please identify the location where I said that (1) the laws congress passes are a joke; and (2) truth commissions are “the only way.” I don’t recall saying this, or anything like it. If my recollection is correct, then perhaps you might consider taking the accuracy of your words more seriously.

    Kathy is in favor of prosecuting (for torture?) lawyers who gave legal opinions about the legality of torture but finds no conspiratorial involvement for the silent oversight of Nancy Pelosi?

    Nancy Pelosi signed an agreement forbidding her to discuss what she learned in the briefings with anyone on the outside. Had she done so, she would have been subject to criminal prosecution. She was also forbidden to take notes at the briefing, as were all members of Congress who were briefed. The briefers were allowed to take notes; the intellligence committee members of Congress were not allowed to take notes.

  7. Booogie-Mann says:

    Kathy: “Nancy Pelosi has called for a Truth Commission. Do you support her in that? Will you support Nancy Pelosi’s call for a Truth Commission?”

    No, I don’t think this issue rises to the importance to need any hearing or Truth Commission. What was authorized a few years ago is not authorized now, plain and simple. The Laws and Rules change all the time, doesn’t mean we have the right today to prosecute different policy decisions of the past. Obama has sided with the evil Bush/Cheney/Rove on Military Tribunals, NSA Spy Program, amongst other things. The Geneva Convention does not require the US to apply its rules to these Terrorists. The Military Commissions Act 2006 Authorized these Tribunals and past Presidents have used Military Tribunals as the standard to try POW’s. Only now has that standard been changed, FDR used them.

    So no, I don’t support Pelosi’s call for a “Truth Commission”. The Bush Administration gave legal standing to this SERE style Water Boarding that our Troops go through. A far departure from Japanese style Water Torture meant to inflict death. I don’t think it rises to the level of “Torture”. I believe it saved lives and gathered important intelligence. To go through all this bullshit and wring our hands over 3 Terrorist Murderers does not make sense to me. I’m also highly offended at the thought of Civilian Trials in the US for these guys, then possibly releasing them onto our streets. Pure Lunacy.

    Can’t really think of when Pelosi has ever been under such scrutiny. She has not handled it well and appears to be contradicting herself all over the place. Rarely does the Media get tough on a high level Democrat. Gingrich resigned for far less …

    So we’ll just have to disagree, but thanks for the response.

  8. Kathy says:

    No, I don’t think this issue rises to the importance to need any hearing or Truth Commission.

    Then you should stop accusing Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrats of lying about briefings or of falling down on their oversight responsibilities, because the only way to support or prove that accusation is to have an investigation to look at all the documentation.

    If this issue is not important enough for hearings or a Truth Commission, then what Nancy Pelosi did do or didn’t do, what she said or didn’t say, whether she lied or told the truth, is not important enough to concern yourself with, either.

    If you continue to do so, you will be arguing to no purpose, which does not advance the discussion and just turns people off. And I will no longer allow that to happen. Further comments in that vein, attacking Nancy Pelosi for “what she knew,” or for “lying,” therefore, will be deleted.

  9. Booogie-Mann says:

    I’m pointing out Pelosi’s hypocrisy. She wants a political witch hunt style hearing where only Bush Administration Officials take the stand or incur some kind of punishment. That’s what I’m against. But if Democrats want to move ahead, their involvement must reach the light of day as well and be judged by the standard they put forth. Also, as Cheney pointed, the success of the program needs to be Declassified. Let the American people judge how effective this program was, not just Congress.

    Your latest argument makes no sense, you guys want to hang Bush/Cheney from a tree, then ignore any double talk from Pelosi and I’m supposed to shut up about it?? Deleting comments is just weak, you accuse Bush/Cheney of lying at every turn on CFLF … in nearly every post ….here Pelosi is clearly “misleading” at best and I’m not allowed to point that out?? A bit tyrannical Kathy.

  10. Bryan says:

    Pelosi supported Harman in sending the letter, but she did not sign it or send a letter of her own because she was not in that briefing and so had not been briefed about the waterboarding.

    The point is that Pelosi could have done the same thing with respect to the meeting that she attended where the legality of various techniques was affirmed. Let me know if you disagree.
    By remaining silent she helped affirm the legality of the techniques and placed herself in a culpable position.

    That is why the better choice is for the AG to appoint an independent, nonpartisan Special Prosecutor, one who has no political ties to either the Bush or the Obama administrations. Will you join me in calling for Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor, Brian? I know you want to get to the bottom of this as much as I do.

    The office of special prosecutor doesn’t exactly have the greatest history, now does it? That option does not allay my concerns. I am not as concerned as you are about the legality of the the techniques used. I think a good argument was made in favor of what was done but the problem occurred from going beyond what was approved. Even though the CIA tends strongly liberal in its politics (as I understand it), I do not approve of prosecuting the agents except where clear evidence implicates some individuals as having knowingly exceeded approved methods. And that may well take place within the CIA structure itself. But I’d want the CIA to keep functioning at its best, on the other hand, and it may be difficult to reconcile those two goals.

    Please identify the location where I said that (1) the laws congress passes are a joke; and (2) truth commissions are “the only way.” I don’t recall saying this, or anything like it. If my recollection is correct, then perhaps you might consider taking the accuracy of your words more seriously.

    1) “The law was not changed. Torture has always been against the law. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 was just Congress being its typical gutless self and pretending that they were coming up with new law so they could avoid dealing with the fact that the Bush administration had been violating the torture statute and the Convention Against Torture and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions since 2002.”
    http://commentsfromleftfield.com/2009/05/now-condi-tells-a-fourth-grader-that-bush-admin-did-nothing-illegal#comments

    2) “She did nothing about it because she signed an agreement not to disclose anything she learned in the briefings, but set that aside. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to impanel a truth commission to look at all the facts of this matter. Nancy Pelosi has called for such a commission. Do you support her on that?”
    (bold emphasis added)
    Find that one directly above in the main post, next to the number three.

    Perhaps you meant to refer to the congressional action as “occasional gutless self”?

    Nancy Pelosi signed an agreement forbidding her to discuss what she learned in the briefings with anyone on the outside. Had she done so, she would have been subject to criminal prosecution

    Then why haven’t we forced the New York Times to reveal the sources used in breaking the story about secret programs at the NSA?

    1) If the techniques are illegal then whistle blower statutes apply
    2) Only if the techniques were plausibly legal does Pelosi not have whistle blower protection.

    If the techniques are obviously torture as you claim, Kathy, then Nancy Pelosi has no excuse.

  11. Kathy says:

    She wants a political witch hunt style hearing where only Bush Administration Officials take the stand or incur some kind of punishment.

    That is incorrect. Obviously, it’s the way you interpret events, but she never said anything like that and neither did anyone else.

    Pelosi has called for a Truth Commission to investigate everyone’s role in this and report the facts as the documentation reveals them. If you don’t support that, or a congressional investigation, or a special prosecutor, you don’t support the rule of law. Period.

    But if Democrats want to move ahead, their involvement must reach the light of day as well and be judged by the standard they put forth.

    It’s not “Democrats” who want to move ahead. It’s anyone who supports the rule of law. Obviously (although maybe not to you) any Truth Commission or other type of investigation would have to be (and would be) constituted as a nonpartisan or bipartisan body, with both Democrats and Republicans, and no one who could possibly be considered directly or indirectly involved should take part in the investigation. Everybody knows that, and nobody who supports an investigation has argued anything different.

    Also, as Cheney pointed, the success of the program needs to be Declassified. Let the American people judge how effective this program was, not just Congress.

    1. Congress is not judging how effective the program was and has not said anything about how effective the program was.

    2. The effectiveness of the program is irrelevant. What Congress believes about its effectiveness is irrelevant. What Dick Cheney believes about its effectiveness is irrelevant. What the American people believe about its effectiveness is irrelevant. Waterboarding, as well as the other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were and are torture. Torture is illegal. Illegal acts are subject to criminal prosecution. The “effectiveness” or non-effectiveness of torture is utterly, completely, 100 percent irrelevant.

    With regard to your last point: I’m allowing you to point it out, correct? Go back and read what I wrote about deletions policy going forward and maybe you’ll comprehend it this time.

  12. Kathy says:

    The point is that Pelosi could have done the same thing with respect to the meeting that she attended where the legality of various techniques was affirmed. Let me know if you disagree.

    I don’t disagree. But it’s unclear to me what she could have protested at that point. She was told only that the CIA had legal opinions from the DOJ authorizing them to use a list of specific techniques, but she was led to believe that those techniques were not actually being used at that point, when actually the CIA had been using them for at least a month at that point, on Abu Zubaydah. That in itself, if true, is a violation of law. She was told outright that waterboarding was not being used. And if my recollection of what Pelosi said she was told is correct, she was also told that if any of those authorized techniques were actually used, she would be informed. And by law, she was required to be informed before any of them could be used.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that this is an accurate account of what Pelosi was told in September, 2002, what could she have effectively protested? What do you think she should have protested? That the DOJ had told the CIA that a list of techniques were legal for use on detainees?

    The office of special prosecutor doesn’t exactly have the greatest history, now does it?

    That’s a fair point. And in its most recent use, to impeach Clinton, it was more of a witch hunt than any fair or objective search for truth or justice. But I don’t know why that would bother you, since presumably you supported that process in Clinton’s case.

    On the other hand, one could argue that Kenneth Starr was not a reasonable nonpartisan choice. He was a very partisan Republican. Obviously that’s a prescription for disaster. It’s my opinion that the special prosecutor route is the best way to go — obviously there has to be a prosecutor if there are going to be prosecutions. But the individual who fills that role obviously has to be chosen intellligently and carefully.

    I am not as concerned as you are about the legality of the the techniques used. I think a good argument was made in favor of what was done but the problem occurred from going beyond what was approved.

    Which would make the acts committed illegal, even by the atrociously reasoned standard of the Bush lawyers, wouldn’t it?

    I do not approve of prosecuting the agents except where clear evidence implicates some individuals as having knowingly exceeded approved methods. And that may well take place within the CIA structure itself.

    Well, surprise, Brian: I agree with you on that first point. I don’t think individual CIA agents should be prosecuted if they stayed within the guidelines they were told made the acts legal. But the fact is, in many cases, they didn’t. And in those cases, the individual agents must be prosecuted, and the prosecution must be conducted by an impartial body, not by the CIA.

    The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 was a joke, imo. That is not the same as the sweeping generalization you attributed to me; i.e., “the laws congress passes are a joke.”

    On the truth commissions, I see your point about my wording. I should have made it clear that I think some kind of nonpartisan or bipartisan investigative process — truth commissions, congressional investigation, special prosecutor, etc. — is the only way to get to the bottom of this. I did not mean to suggest that a truth commission is the only way — indeed, I think it’s one of the less desirable ways, but it’s better than nothing.

    Perhaps you meant to refer to the congressional action as “occasional gutless self”?

    No, my opinion of Congress is not that high. But being gutless, for Congress, does not necessarily mean passing laws that are a joke. It sometimes means NOT passing a law that needs to be passed. Or it could mean saying no to everything one party in Congress does but never coming up with a viable or reasonable alternative. In point of fact, I don’t think that the laws Congress passes are always a joke.

    Then why haven’t we forced the New York Times to reveal the sources used in breaking the story about secret programs at the NSA?

    1) If the techniques are illegal then whistle blower statutes apply
    2) Only if the techniques were plausibly legal does Pelosi not have whistle blower protection.

    The logic of your analogy here is a bit confused, Brian. The New York Times did not sign a legally binding agreement not to reveal the NSA surveillance program. In fact, the New York Times’ job as the press is precisely to investigate, uncover, and report that which is kept hidden from the public’s right to know by powerful authorities like government. That’s how a free press is supposed to function. The journalistic right not to reveal sources goes to the heart of the press’s First Amendment rights.

    Drawing an analogy between that, and Nancy Pelosi’s legal obligations to abide by a legal agreement she has signed not to reveal information given to her by the CIA, on the grounds that the information is classified, simply doesn’t work. The New York Times reporter’s obligation is professional, not contractual. Nancy Pelosi’s obligation is contractual. If she violates it, she will be (or can be) criminally prosecuted.

    Whistleblower statues don’t apply here. Pelosi is not employed by the CIA. She’s not going to be fired if she blows the whistle on illegal activities. She has oversight responsibilities that she is professionally (constitutionally) required to meet. But she can only do that if she has the information she needs and the ability to communicate that information to others. In the case of the CIA’s briefings regarding their torture program, they did everything possible to make it impossible for her and her colleagues to get that information and effectively use it. The CIA, and the White House, made it extremely difficult, IF not impossible, for Pelosi et al. to carry out their oversight duties. To now turn around and blame Pelosi and her colleagues for not doing enough to overcome a fortress barrier that the executive branch put in place to thwart them is ass backward.

    In fact, everything the CIA and the White House did was in service to the goal of preventing Pelosi et al. from getting the information they needed to make a judgment that the CIA was torturing prisoners. They did it very effectively.

  13. Bryan says:

    (I)t’s unclear to me what she could have protested at that point. She was told only that the CIA had legal opinions from the DOJ authorizing them to use a list of specific techniques, but she was led to believe that those techniques were not actually being used at that point, when actually the CIA had been using them for at least a month at that point, on Abu Zubaydah.

    She could have filed a letter of protest at that point that the Bush administration was giving legal approval for torture, if that is what she believed at the time. Or she could have gone to the New York Times as an anonymous source and spilled the beans. There’s plenty of precedent for that.

    Your point about Pelosi needing to be informed is a tad awry. It was incumbent on the administration to inform the relevant committee. By Pelosi’s own account, she wasn’t always there and not the ranking Democrat. Plus it remains to be seen whether the CIA or Pelosi has the more accurate account of what happened at the meetings. If it wasn’t recorded then the better set of notes and/or the better set of witnesses prevails. I won’t be betting on Pelosi.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that this is an accurate account of what Pelosi was told in September, 2002, what could she have effectively protested? What do you think she should have protested? That the DOJ had told the CIA that a list of techniques were legal for use on detainees?

    See above. Yes to the last question, and she could have added that the techniques were obviously illegal despite the DoJ finding if that is what she believed.

    I don’t know why that would bother you, since presumably you supported that process in Clinton’s case.

    I got to witness the Patrick Fitzgerald circus, if you will recall. That lovely affair where no crime was discovered yet a prosecution took place for obstruction of justice. I happened to also recall that you might see the Clinton prosecution in a similar light.
    Apparently you’re not satisfied that the Clinton DoJ selected well in choosing Ken Starr as the special prosecutor. But you have some reason for thinking that the Obama DoJ will do better. Perhaps it is because of Eric Holder’s history in greenlighting the pardon of Marc Rich. Or not.

    [quote]Which would make the acts committed illegal, even by the atrociously reasoned standard of the Bush lawyers, wouldn’t it?[/quote]

    It would make them illegal to the extent that the agents failed to follow their orders, at least. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the other techniques would qualify as torture. I mean, they could have applied the “softe cushions” even though they were not approved. That doesn’t make application of softe cushions torture, and it doesn’t necessarily follow, either, that the agents viewed them as such. It pretty much depends on what was done along with other circumstances, and again I’ll mention that it is plausible that breaches in that department could be handled appropriately by the CIA itself.

    The journalistic right not to reveal sources goes to the heart of the press’s First Amendment rights.

    Not in covering up a crime where whistleblower status does not apply. Legal precedent is pretty much all against the press on that one. Feel free to look it up. The press has no First Amendment right to obstruct justice. If no whistleblower statutes apply, then the Times’ should be forced to reveal its sources and they should be prosecuted. If you’re consistent.

    (T)he individual agents must be prosecuted, and the prosecution must be conducted by an impartial body, not by the CIA.

    It is at the prosecutor’s discretion whether or not to prosecute. You can assert a moral duty to prosecute, if you like, but that assertion does not match the practice in real life.

    [b]The term “prosecutorial discretion” refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute and unreviewable power to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring, in cases where the evidence would justify charges.[/b]
    http://law.jrank.org/pages/1870/Prosecution-Prosecutorial-Discretion.html

    Nancy Pelosi’s obligation is contractual. If she violates it, she will be (or can be) criminally prosecuted.

    The obligation of the Times’ sources was contractual, constituting a perfect parallel to Pelosi’s. It shouldn’t be that hard to follow the logic. I didn’t exactly suggest prosecution of the Times, did I?

    Whistleblower statues don’t apply here. Pelosi is not employed by the CIA.

    Pelosi is an employee of the federal government, and the DoJ, which would be the prosecuting body, is also an organ of the federal government. There are many whistleblower statutes, and even if not one applies, what prosecutor would go after Pelosi if her allegations were true? Again, why don’t we go after the officials who leaked to the Times and criminally prosecute them?

    But she can only do that if she has the information she needs and the ability to communicate that information to others.

    Pelosi freely admits that she was told of specific techniques that were found legal. Why isn’t that enough information to (figuratively) hang her, if she correctly believed to the contrary?

    To now turn around and blame Pelosi and her colleagues for not doing enough to overcome a fortress barrier that the executive branch put in place to thwart them is ass backward.

    It isn’t that she didn’t do enough, dearest, it is that she did nothing yet clearly had the power to act. Her actions indict her according to her beliefs.

    In fact, everything the CIA and the White House did was in service to the goal of preventing Pelosi et al. from getting the information they needed to make a judgment that the CIA was tortured prisoners.

    So you’re saying that the executive branch never informed Pelosi that it had found specific techniques legal? Or would that not have helped Pelosi make a judgment that the CIA was torturing prisoners?

    That seems like a strange way of keeping information from somebody. Jon Stewart said something relevant about his ability to stuff golf balls into his mouth. That wouldn’t mean he would actually do it, or something along those lines.

  14. Kathy says:

    Are Bryan and Brian two different people?

  15. Kathy says:

    She could have filed a letter of protest at that point that the Bush administration was giving legal approval for torture, if that is what she believed at the time.

    Sure, and she didn’t. So let’s have an investigation — congressional, truth commission, or special prosecutor — on the entire CIA interrogations program and get all the facts out about what it was, what was done, who authorized it, planned it, carried it out, everything. And as part of that investigation, by all means let’s thoroughly investigate and get all the information and all the legal precedents and facts on whether Nancy Pelosi should be criminally prosecuted for conspiracy to commit torture as a result of the fact that she did not file a letter of protest that the Bush administration was giving legal approval for torture.

    I think we can agree on this point. If Pelosi’s failure to file a letter of protest with the CIA and/or with the DOJ that the DOJ was authorizing the CIA to commit torture is a prosecutable offense, then I’m sure there can be no question that writing legal opinions to justify torture is a prosecutable offense, or that defending a program of torture from public scrutiny is a prosecutable offense.

    Your point about Pelosi needing to be informed is a tad awry. It was incumbent on the administration to inform the relevant committee. By Pelosi’s own account, she wasn’t always there and not the ranking Democrat.

    Yes, of course, Bryan. I thank you for being so precise about my words, but in this case I did not mean it literally had to be Pelosi and no one else whom the CIA briefed.

    It is at the prosecutor’s discretion whether or not to prosecute. You can assert a moral duty to prosecute, if you like, but that assertion does not match the practice in real life.

    Yes, that is true — but if violating constitutional law, statutory law, the Geneva Conventions, and the Conventions Against Torture, as well as centuries of accepted understanding of what constitutes torture is not sufficient to guide prosecutorial discretion to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is appropriate, I do not know what would be. If torture is not prosecutable, then nothing is.

    I got to witness the Patrick Fitzgerald circus, if you will recall.

    If I will recall? If I will recall what? What is it you think I should be recalling?

    Pelosi freely admits that she was told of specific techniques that were found legal. Why isn’t that enough information to (figuratively) hang her, if she correctly believed to the contrary?

    As I said above, you make an excellent point. Pelosi’s failure to tell the CIA in writing that the DOJ was authorizing torture could very well violate federal law, in which case she should definitely be criminally prosecuted and go to prison if proved guilty. I think there should be an official investigation to gather all the facts so we can prosecute Nancy Pelosi for not sending that letter of protest, and so we can also prosecute all the Bush administration officials who designed the torture program, justified it, and carried it out. Will you join me in that call?

    Her actions indict her according to her beliefs.

    Of course, just as Dick Cheney and John Yoo’s (et al.) actions indict them according to the law. That’s why we need an investigation. Agreed?

    One final thing. Do not ever address me with an endearment again, unless I actually am dear to you.

  16. Bryan says:

    Are Bryan and Brian two different people?

    No “Brian” has posted to this thread, so far as I can tell. If you would like for me to chide you for occasionally misspelling my name, I can do that. 😉
    Otherwise I’m not that concerned about y vs. i.

    If Pelosi’s failure to file a letter of protest with the CIA and/or with the DOJ that the DOJ was authorizing the CIA to commit torture is a prosecutable offense, then I’m sure there can be no question that writing legal opinions to justify torture is a prosecutable offense, or that defending a program of torture from public scrutiny is a prosecutable offense.

    Why would you think we would agree on that? I find the Bybee and Yoo memos good faith efforts to interpret the law. In contrast, Pelosi presents herself as one who found enhanced interrogation methods torture pure & simple yet acceded in silence to the administration’s announcement that the techniques were legal. The lawyers may well have acted in good conscience–it is hard to imagine Pelosi’s inaction representing good conscience if her testimony is accurate. And she was in a position of power in her oversight role. The attorneys were not.

    (I)f violating constitutional law, statutory law, the Geneva Conventions, and the Conventions Against Torture, as well as centuries of accepted understanding of what constitutes torture is not sufficient to guide prosecutorial discretion to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is appropriate, I do not know what would be. If torture is not prosecutable, then nothing is.

    True, though your statement utterly begs the question regarding the “accepted understanding of what constitutes torture,” let alone a tradition of centuries. On the contrary, it is more likely that contemporary mores account for the objections to the enhanced interrogation methods.
    http://www.uslaw.com/library/Legal_Commentary/History_Coercive_Interrogation.php?item=446411

    Why, for example, bother with “stress positions” when a jail of just three hundred years ago radically increased the opportunity for an ugly and rapid death because of the horrible conditions within?
    http://www.schools.bedfordshire.gov.uk/gaol/background/prisonconditions.htm

    I got to witness the Patrick Fitzgerald circus, if you will recall.

    If I will recall? If I will recall what?

    The role of the special prosecutor in the Plame investigation, of course. It is extremely unusual to indict for obstruction of justice where no crime was discovered. Armitage confessed and Fitzgerald continued to investigate.

    I think there should be an official investigation to gather all the facts so we can prosecute Nancy Pelosi for not sending that letter of protest, and so we can also prosecute all the Bush administration officials who designed the torture program, justified it, and carried it out. Will you join me in that call?

    I think the DoJ already has pretty much all the information it would need, and that prosecution under the ambiguous torture statute would be a joke. No public spectacle surrounding this issue will result in anything but a show. When Holder backed off on prosecuting the lawyers, that was the death knell for the push for an investigation. Even Pelosi probably realizes that, so her call for all the facts has no teeth in it.

    And we’ll be back to using stress positions and more once the terrorists get in a few more successful hits. Either that or you can go measure yourself for a burka.

  17. Kathy says:

    No “Brian” has posted to this thread, so far as I can tell.

    That’s a bunch of crap. I don’t know what your game is, but if you’ve been reading this thread from the beginning, you know damn well a “Brian” posted to this thread. I spelled his name “Bryan” and he told me to spell his name right. Now I see WHY I spelled his name with a “y.” So if you are that Brian, you can go f**k yourself.

    I find the Bybee and Yoo memos good faith efforts to interpret the law.

    Well, that doesn’t surprise me, but your view is not shared by everyone, to say the least. The documents that have been declassified so far make it crystal clear to any reasonable person — any person of “good faith,” as you put it — that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used in the CIA program were and are torture. We know exactly what was done now, thanks to those memos Obama released, and it’s pretty cut-and-dry. That’s torture. As far as the “good faith” of the attorneys who wrote those memos goes, obviously that would need to be addressed by the court system, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of torture law really would have to be a blind Republican partisan to think those memos were written in a good faith belief that the acts they authorized were not torture.

    Bottom line, there needs to be an official, nonpartisan investigation to gather all the facts and decide if prosecutions are warranted.

    In contrast, Pelosi presents herself as one who found enhanced interrogation methods torture pure & simple yet acceded in silence to the administration’s announcement that the techniques were legal.

    Pelosi’s beliefs and motivations are not germane to whether the acts committed by CIA agents and authorized by the Bush administration constituted illegal torture.

  18. Bryan says:

    No “Brian” has posted to this thread, so far as I can tell.

    That’s a bunch of crap. I don’t know what your game is, but if you’ve been reading this thread from the beginning, you know damn well a “Brian” posted to this thread.

    Admittedly I tend to focus on my on points in a thread, so I don’t necessarily read every post. But I was sincere in saying that “so far as I can tell” there was no “Brian” posting. I surveyed the posts after you had written and found no evidence of such a person.

    I spelled his name “Bryan” and he told me to spell his name right. Now I see WHY I spelled his name with a “y.” So if you are that Brian, you can go f**k yourself.

    I’m going to ask you never to ask me to f**k myself until you can spell my name correctly on a consistent basis. Or something like that.

    Well, that doesn’t surprise me, but your view is not shared by everyone, to say the least. The documents that have been declassified so far make it crystal clear to any reasonable person — any person of “good faith,” as you put it — that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used in the CIA program were and are torture. We know exactly what was done now, thanks to those memos Obama released, and it’s pretty cut-and-dry. That’s torture. As far as the “good faith” of the attorneys who wrote those memos goes, obviously that would need to be addressed by the court system, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of torture law really would have to be a blind Republican partisan to think those memos were written in a good faith belief that the acts they authorized were not torture.

    “It’s obvious” isn’t a real argument. Just sayin’.

    Bottom line, there needs to be an official, nonpartisan investigation to gather all the facts and decide if prosecutions are warranted.

    That isn’t likely to happen, because it will then become obvious that pretty much all of our politicians are complicit in what is lately viewed as torture irrespective of the law. The law is, in fact, rather ambiguous. And you’ll come face to face with that if you ever try to argue the issue down to brass tacks instead of by appeals to popularity or to anonymous authorities. I asked you some time ago if you would link me to your favorite real argument from your side of the issue. Are you reluctant to do that? Have you encountered no such “brass tacks” arguments?

    Pelosi’s beliefs and motivations are not germane to whether the acts committed by CIA agents and authorized by the Bush administration constituted illegal torture.

    They are germane to her moral culpability under the law, which is the historical linchpin of our legal system.

  19. Kathy says:

    I always spell your name correctly. And since you tell me you are not Brian, I did not ask you to go f**k herself.

    “It’s obvious” isn’t a real argument. Just sayin’.

    Well, normally, one does not have to go about making a “real argument” that torture is torture and that torture is illegal. It’s one of those concepts, like, for example, “slavery is evil,” that actually is obvious to most people and does not really have to be argued.

    That isn’t likely to happen, because it will then become obvious that pretty much all of our politicians are complicit in what is lately viewed as torture irrespective of the law.

    None of the several separate claims in the above are true. Only the people — politicians or lawyers or whoever they were — in the Bush administration, who were involved in the design of, authorization of, supervision of, maintenance of, and performance of, torture, are complicit — or, more precisely, are criminally prosecutable. Only those whose actions violated the law or were complicit in violations of the law are criminally prosecutable.

    “Lately viewed as torture irrespective of the law” is a lie. Nothing being discussed here is “lately viewed as torture irrespective of the law.” Quite the contrary — acts that have always been considered torture were, in the Bush administration, defined to be not torture. In fact, the Bush administration’s guiding principle was that nothing could be legally defined as torture if the U.S. did it. The legality was determined by whether Dick Cheney decided he wanted to use that practice. If he did, it was not torture. If the lawyer said it was, the lawyer was dismissed and another lawyer hired.

    The legal definition of torture has not changed. Mock executions (which is what waterboarding is) are torture — always have been. The U.S. prosecuted and executed Japanese soldiers after WWII for waterboarding. The Nazis were prosecuted and executed for waterboarding. Our own soldiers in Vietnam were prosecuted for waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

    This is the definition of torture under the Convention Against Torture:

    … 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.

    The list of techniques sanctioned and used by the Bush administration are torture.

    The law is, in fact, rather ambiguous.

    Actually, it really isn’t. The law on torture is quite straightforward and uncomplicated. Truly.

    If you tell me what you mean by “favorite real argument” or “brass tacks arguments” I’ll try to provide one. I don’t recall your asking for this (I’m not saying you didn’t; just saying I don’t remember), and reading these terms now, I don’t have a clear idea what you’re talking about.

    They are germane to her moral culpability under the law, which is the historical linchpin of our legal system.

    If Nancy Pelosi has broken any laws, and a complete investigation shows that; and/or if Pelosi has conducted herself unethically with regard to the interrogations issue and a complete investigation shows that, she should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and/or be sanctioned or face whatever political consequences are appropriate. I have no problem with that at all.

    Only a thorough, nonpartisan investigation will tell us whether either of these two possibilities are in fact true or likely to be true (in a legal sense — as in, indictable offense). In the meantime, my personal preference is to focus the bulk of my attention on the people who created, authorized, and conducted torture — people like Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Big Kahuna himself. Regardless of Pelosi’s potential moral culpability, she was not at the meetings where these torture techniques were conceived, planned, discussed, and implemented.

  20. Bryan says:

    I always spell your name correctly.

    You sound pretty sure of yourself. Why, if you are correct, do you refer to me as “Brian” no less than three times in responses to my posts in this thread?

    And since you tell me you are not Brian, I did not ask you to go f**k herself.

    If you can figure that much out, then you should also realize that I did not suggest that you had asked me that. Check the tape if you wish. And yes, I realize that you did not say that I said that you asked me to go f**k myself.

    (N)ormally, one does not have to go about making a “real argument” that torture is torture and that torture is illegal. It’s one of those concepts, like, for example, “slavery is evil,” that actually is obvious to most people and does not really have to be argued.

    Nobody’s asking for an argument that torture is torture. You’re being asked for an argument to the effect that stress positions and/or waterboarding as permitted by the Bush administration is torture. If you immediately smack on the label “torture” at the outset then you’re fallaciously begging the question, and even a novice at debate would recognize that. Likewise, any appeal to “most people think it’s torture” is fallacious (argumentum ad populum). To be sure, if your audience accepts your premise that waterboarding=torture then you require no additional argument. But it is fair to ask you or the audient who agrees with you on what basis you draw the equivalency. And at that point, “it’s obvious” is insufficient.

    None of the several separate claims in the above are true.

    We can dispute that once the occurrence of the investigation demonstrates that it was at least likely enough to have actually happened. Until then, my statement that it is unlikely to happen is prima facie reasonable given the playing field thus far (Holder punting to bar associations and Congress failing to jump on the Pelosi investigation bandwagon, for examples).

    “Lately viewed as torture irrespective of the law” is a lie.

    Prove it without spinning lies of your own.

    Quite the contrary — acts that have always been considered torture were, in the Bush administration, defined to be not torture.

    You ought to supply at least one concrete example.

    In fact, the Bush administration’s guiding principle was that nothing could be legally defined as torture if the U.S. did it.

    If I asked for substantiation of that claim, would you quote from the Bybee memo or from the Yoo memo? Or would we return to the Condi Rice thread?

    The legality was determined by whether Dick Cheney decided he wanted to use that practice. If he did, it was not torture. If the lawyer said it was, the lawyer was dismissed and another lawyer hired.

    And where will I find this set of claims substantiated?

    The legal definition of torture has not changed. Mock executions (which is what waterboarding is) are torture — always have been.

    It is my understanding that detainees who were waterboarded were informed that they would not come to harm. Do you count that as any kind of problem for your claim that the technique counts as a mock execution?

    The U.S. prosecuted and executed Japanese soldiers after WWII for waterboarding.

    Incorrect. The Japanese in those tribunals were prosecuted for violating the laws of war respecting POW status; they were not prosecuted under any sort of torture statute. Moreover, the “water cure” or “water torture” employed by the Japanese often included no precautions against aspiration or against swallowing large amounts of water.

    The Nazis were prosecuted and executed for waterboarding.

    The Nazis occasionally (that is, rarely) tortured via dunking. I am aware of no use by the Nazis of a technique significantly matching the “water cure” employed by the Japanese, let alone the Bush-approved version technique of waterboarding.

    There’s no evidence that either the Nazis or the Soviets used the technique, Rejali says.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15886834

    Our own soldiers in Vietnam were prosecuted for waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

    One, you mean? Court-martialed, you mean?

    Courts martial have the authority to try a wide range of military offences, many of which closely resemble civilian crimes like fraud, theft or perjury. Others, like cowardice, desertion, and insubordination are purely military crimes.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court-martial

    What were the specific charges in the case of the Vietnam court martial. Do you know?

    “torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering …”

    Where do we draw the line between “severe” and non-severe? Do you know, since you do not find it the least bit ambiguous?

    The law on torture is quite straightforward and uncomplicated. Truly.

    Great. Then answering my question above should be a snap.

    If you tell me what you mean by “favorite real argument” or “brass tacks arguments” I’ll try to provide one.

    Address my questions and you may have provided a real argument, depending on the content you ultimately provide. I use the terms to mean something non-fallacious and based on the law itself; beyond saying it is “obvious,” for example.

  21. Kathy says:

    Because I was responding to comments by someone who spelled his name Brian.

    I’ll address your other questions later.

  22. Bryan says:

    That makes no sense. You were responding to my comments, and I have not altered the spelling of my name.

  23. Kathy says:

    Prove it without spinning lies of your own.

    I haven’t spun any lies. And I don’t have to “prove” anything more to you about what torture is. I’ve given you the definition of torture (as if I even should have had to do that) You read the OLC memos that Pres. Obama released a month ago (presumably). If you can read those detailed descriptions of what was authorized — not even considering that CIA interrogators routinely went beyond those “guidelines” — and still have to ask me to “prove” that those acts were, indeed, torture, then there is nothing I can say that will satisfy your standards of “proof.” Have you read the ICRC Report on the Treatment of 14 High-Value Detainees? If you have read that, or if you read it now, and you still have to ask me to “prove” that those acts were, indeed, torture, then there is nothing I can say that will satisfy your standards of “proof.”

    You’re being asked for an argument to the effect that stress positions and/or waterboarding as permitted by the Bush administration is torture.

    Waterboarding is torture by definition. It always has been. The term itself is not very accurately descriptive of what the act entails. “Drowning torture” would be more accurate, because that’s what’s being done. The victim is, in fact, being drowned, and pulled away from death at the last moment. Or what is hopefully the last moment. It doesn’t always work that way.

    “Stress positions” is also a very vague and incomplete way of describing what this torture actually entails. However, if you have read the OLC memos and the ICRC report, as well as any one of dozens of other reports and articles from reputable, expert, informed sources on what “stress positioning” entails, then even if you use the term “stress positions” as convenient shorthand, you would know in your own mind what you mean and what you’re talking about and referring to when you use that term, and you would not be asking me to “prove” that those acts are torture — especially and even more so when used in combination with other pain- or suffering-inducing techniques, which they usually are.

    But it is fair to ask you or the audient who agrees with you on what basis you draw the equivalency. And at that point, “it’s obvious” is insufficient.

    It IS fair to ask, IF you have never seen the definition of torture in the CAT, or in the Geneva Conventions, or in the U.S. torture statute, and then compared that definition to the specific acts sanctioned and committed by the Bush administration in the voluminous body of written documentation that is available to you. If you have so done, then “it’s obvious” should be sufficient. If it isn’t, then there is something wrong with your thinking, not with my explanation (or anyone else’s).

    You ought to supply at least one concrete example.

    I already have, but I will do so one more time.

    1. Waterboarding (partial, sometimes completed, drowning; torture by suffocation; mock execution, are all synonymous terms).

    2. Hanging a person up from hooks in the ceiling, with arms or legs bound into painfully contorted positions, and/or hanging from the wrists with feet not touching the floor, for many hours, days, or even weeks at a time.

    3. Bolting a person to the floor in a standing position and chained in such a way that the person will start to fall and be yanked by the chain if they start to fall asleep, and being kept in that state for many days, up to 11 days or possibly more.

    4. Being stuffed into a box-like container not big enough to stand up in and being kept there, in that box-like container, pitch black inside with no source of light or fresh air, for five hours, or 10, or 18, or three days, or more. Additionally, being kept in this box-like container, which is pitch black and very tiny, with what you are told is an insect that you are phobically terrified of. The insect may not be that particular insect, or there may in reality not even BE an insect at all in the box with you, but you are told that there is, and you are forced to sit or crouch in that box-like container for many hours or even days, knowing the insect could be crawling on you at any moment.

    I hope this is sufficient. It’s more than you should need, more than you deserve, and all you’re going to get.

    If I asked for substantiation of that claim, would you quote from the Bybee memo or from the Yoo memo? Or would we return to the Condi Rice thread?

    Neither. My statement is founded on numerous — as in countless — press conferences, public statements, interviews, and news reports drawing on same. There are any number of YouTube videos where you can hear Bush and other senior officials saying this. You can do the googling.

    It is my understanding that detainees who were waterboarded were informed that they would not come to harm. Do you count that as any kind of problem for your claim that the technique counts as a mock execution?

    LOL! No, I do not.

    The Japanese in those tribunals were prosecuted for violating the laws of war respecting POW status; they were not prosecuted under any sort of torture statute.

    The laws of war include an absolute ban on torture, whether the victim is defined as a POW or not. There is no class of individual who is not protected by the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture.

    Moreover, the “water cure” or “water torture” employed by the Japanese often included no precautions against aspiration or against swallowing large amounts of water.

    It’s not at all clear, first of all, whether those precautions were actually observed. Moreover, that legalistic distinction, or parsing of the law, to the effect that mock drowning is not torture if you tell the victim you are going to bring him to the brink of death but will not allow him to go over the brink, and/or if the mock drowning includes “precautions” to prevent drowning, has no validity whatsoever. The entire purpose of the waterboarding was to induce in the victim such terror and/or physical suffering that he would say or do anything to stop it — or, in the official torturers’ wording, to induce in the victim such terror and/or physical suffering that he would “agree to answer questions.” If telling the victim he is not going to die or come to harm could actually calm the victim’s fears and remove or lessen the panic induced by the physical sensation of drowning, the entire exercise would be pointless.

    The Nazis occasionally (that is, rarely) tortured via dunking.

    “Dunking” is not waterboarding. “Dunking” is not mock drowning. “Dunking” is not torture.

    One, you mean? Court-martialed, you mean?

    I mean prosecuted. Is court-martial not prosecution? I always thought it was, and the definition you post indicates that it is. You may clarify, if you so wish. If not, that’s fine, too.

    I don’t know if it was one or more. If it was one, that makes the point just as well as if it were more than one.

    There’s no evidence that either the Nazis or the Soviets used the technique, Rejali says.

    Okay. Darius Rejali is an indisputably credible source on this issue. The Soviets, however, did use the tactic of combining torture techniques to enhance their effect.

    What were the specific charges in the case of the Vietnam court martial. Do you know?

    I do not know the specific charges.

    Where do we draw the line between “severe” and non-severe? Do you know, since you do not find it the least bit ambiguous?

    Common sense, not to mention intellectual honesty, would tell you that severity of suffering is defined by what the victim is feeling, not by what the torturer thinks he is feeling, or decides he will feel if a particular torture is done in a particular way.

    As well, common sense would tell you that if the victim is screaming, or crying, or begging for the torture to stop, severe suffering is taking place.

    And common sense should tell you that intentionally drowning someone to the point of blacking out and/or death — much less doing it 83 times, or 183 times — will cause severe suffering.

    Finally, common sense will tell you that if the purpose of subjecting a person to waterboarding, or to sleep deprivation, or to excruciating stress positions, or to exploitation of phobias, is to force the victim to comply with your request for information or answers to specific questions, then the suffering really should probably be severe, since mild discomfort is probably not going to do the trick.

    And yes, all of this IS obvious. Or should be, to a minimally intelligent and reasonable person.

    So much so, in fact, that I feel I’ve entered some Alice in Wonderland world just by answering these questions.

    Which is why I won’t, anymore.

  24. Bryan says:

    I haven’t spun any lies.

    Your argument is filled with inaccuracies which shall only become more obvious as we go. I take it that’s what you would call a lie? An inaccurate statement?

    I’ve given you the definition of torture (as if I even should have had to do that)

    You’re not doing it for my sake (I’m quite familiar with it). You’re doing it in an attempt to make your argument seem reasonable. And I’ve asked you a question about that definition. Now I’m very much looking forward to your answer.

    If you can read those detailed descriptions of what was authorized — not even considering that CIA interrogators routinely went beyond those “guidelines” — and still have to ask me to “prove” that those acts were, indeed, torture, then there is nothing I can say that will satisfy your standards of “proof.”

    Piffle. If you think this will get you off the hook for dealing with the ambiguity of the definition you cited, then you are sadly mistaken. Your statement above is just a longer version of “It’s obvious.” Documents produced by the Red Cross do not carry legal weight in terms of identifying what is torture and what is not.

    Waterboarding is torture by definition. It always has been.

    Fallacy of begging the question. There are many ways of using water on a prisoner, and not all are alike. You don’t get to assume your conclusion. If you can identify how waterboarding meets the definition of torture you cited, then do that. Don’t simply claim that it is obvious.

    “Drowning torture” would be more accurate, because that’s what’s being done. The victim is, in fact, being drowned, and pulled away from death at the last moment. Or what is hopefully the last moment. It doesn’t always work that way.

    Again, incorrect. Some of the techniques used by the Japanese were simulated drowning. They literally allowed the lungs to fill with water using a process that often took many minutes. Rather, the detainee is, usually in under a minute, made to experience a reflexive sensation of drowning that does not match the reality of the situation. If you read the so-called “torture memos” you should realize that, for it is clearly explained. Ignoring the truth will not make it go away.

    (I)f you have read the OLC memos and the ICRC report, as well as any one of dozens of other reports and articles from reputable, expert, informed sources on what “stress positioning” entails, then even if you use the term “stress positions” as convenient shorthand, you would know in your own mind what you mean and what you’re talking about and referring to when you use that term, and you would not be asking me to “prove” that those acts are torture — especially and even more so when used in combination with other pain- or suffering-inducing techniques, which they usually are.

    Am I supposed to accept that “pain” and “extreme pain” are identical terms, then? According to my recollection, the definition of torture you cited referred to “extreme pain” rather than just “pain.” Are you saying there is no difference between the two?

    My statement is founded on numerous — as in countless — press conferences, public statements, interviews, and news reports drawing on same.

    Great, then it will be exceptionally easy for you to substantiate your claim by linking to a representative example.

    There are any number of YouTube videos where you can hear Bush and other senior officials saying this. You can do the googling.

    Obviously I could search for hours without finding one of the instances to which you refer. Perhaps, like me, you doubt your ability to substantiate your claim. And that would explain your failure to bear your burden of proof (neither your opponent nor your audience is obligated to believe unsubstantiated statements you make).

    I tried a set of search terms borrowed from your claim and got a page full of hits that looked very unlikely to have anything to do with your claim. Why don’t you give it a try? Or am I supposed to check thoroughly through every search result until I succeed in supporting your claim for you?

    1. Waterboarding (partial, sometimes completed, drowning; torture by suffocation; mock execution, are all synonymous terms).

    You’re contradicting yourself. It is impossible that “partial” drowning and “completed” drowning mean the same thing (equivalent to saying that A=~A in logical terms, where A is “partial” and ~A is “completed”).

    No, I do not.

    Hmm. Then, AFAICT, our SERE instructors are torturing when they subject trainees to waterboarding. Shall we add them to your list of hoped-for prosecutions? If not, why not? Isn’t the ban on torture absolute? Or is that not what you said?

    The laws of war include an absolute ban on torture, whether the victim is defined as a POW or not. There is no class of individual who is not protected by the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture.

    The Fourth Geneva Convention took place in 1949. Do you really think it is relevant to war tribunals taking place in the mid 1940s? You’re not touching my point.

    The entire purpose of the waterboarding was to induce in the victim such terror and/or physical suffering that he would say or do anything to stop it — or, in the official torturers’ wording, to induce in the victim such terror and/or physical suffering that he would “agree to answer questions.”

    I think the CIA would disagree with your characterization. Waterboarding has the same purpose as playing Christina Aguilera tunes at Gitmo: To break down the prisoner mentally. And you have yet to offer so much as a shred of argument to the effect that waterboarding causes extreme pain rather than simply “pain.” Why do you keep ignoring that stipulation of the law you cited?

    If telling the victim he is not going to die or come to harm could actually calm the victim’s fears and remove or lessen the panic induced by the physical sensation of drowning, the entire exercise would be pointless.

    I agree with you, here. But isn’t the purpose of a mock execution to make the person believe he will die? Why doesn’t assuring the prisoner that he will not die mitigate that purpose?

    “Dunking” is not waterboarding.

    Score one for Kathy!

    “Dunking” is not mock drowning.

    Meh. You should have quit while you were ahead.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunking

    Dunking is keeping a person underwater. One can either dunk to the point of near-suffocation or to the point where the victim’s lungs do indeed fill with water. Somewhere between those two extremes most people locate “mock drowning.”

    “Dunking” is not torture.

    I guess you’re the expert. Is it “obviously” not torture?

    I mean prosecuted. Is court-martial not prosecution? I always thought it was, and the definition you post indicates that it is. You may clarify, if you so wish.

    The point is that a court-martial may well prosecute a military crime. Like if the Army decides you can’t smoke while tending the nukes and you smoke while tending the nukes then you get a court martial. That doesn’t make smoking illegal. And in this case you’ve admitted that you don’t know the charges brought during the court martial proceedings. Yet you stated that our soldiers were “prosecuted for waterboarding.” So you’re stating as true something you admittedly do not know to be true, AFAICT. Isn’t that a type of lying?

    I don’t know if it was one or more. If it was one, that makes the point just as well as if it were more than one.

    It would also make your statement incorrect (“soldiers”), not even counting the fact that you don’t know what charges were brought at the court martial. The media say it a few times and you think it’s true.

    Common sense, not to mention intellectual honesty, would tell you that severity of suffering is defined by what the victim is feeling, not by what the torturer thinks he is feeling, or decides he will feel if a particular torture is done in a particular way.

    So torture is entirely subjective and dependent on the feelings of the victim? You’re torturing me. Shall we add you to Eric Holder’s (non-existent) list of folks to prosecute?

    As well, common sense would tell you that if the victim is screaming, or crying, or begging for the torture to stop, severe suffering is taking place.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP, KATHY!

    Dang. You’re guilty.

    That’s reductio ad absurdum, just in case you forgot the term. Your reasoning, taken to its logical ends, is absurd.

  25. Kathy says:

    Kathy: Common sense, not to mention intellectual honesty, would tell you that severity of suffering is defined by what the victim is feeling, not by what the torturer thinks he is feeling, or decides he will feel if a particular torture is done in a particular way.

    Bryan: So torture is entirely subjective and dependent on the feelings of the victim? You’re torturing me. Shall we add you to Eric Holder’s (non-existent) list of folks to prosecute?

    Kathy: As well, common sense would tell you that if the victim is screaming, or crying, or begging for the torture to stop, severe suffering is taking place.

    Bryan: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP, KATHY!

    Dang. You’re guilty.

    And you, Bryan, are an idiot. Draw whatever conclusions you wish: I am through here.

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