White House Poised To Release IG Report on Torture

In a Washington Post article about ongoing congressional investigation into CIA compliance (or lack thereof) with DOJ interrogation guidelines, there is big news about the May 2004 Inspector-General’s report that has been much referred to recently, but so far remains classified (emphasis in original):

Specifically: The White House has decided to declassify and release a classified 2004 CIA report about the torture program that is reported to have found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots on American soil — directly contradicting Cheney’s claims. The paper cites “allies” of the White House as a source.

Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the “holy grail,” because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works — and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives. Tellingly, neither the CIA nor the White House knocked down the story in response to my questions, with spokespeople for both declining comment. Here’s the key nugget from the Post piece:

Government officials familiar with the CIA’s early interrogations say the most powerful evidence of apparent excesses is contained in the “top secret” May 7, 2004, inspector general report, based on more than 100 interviews, a review of the videotapes and 38,000 pages of documents. The full report remains closely held, although White House officials have told political allies that they intend to declassify it for public release when the debate quiets over last month’s release of the Justice Department’s interrogation memos…

Although some useful information was produced, the report concluded that “it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,” according to the Justice Department’s declassified summary of it.

This news is particularly timely in light of Cheney’s continuing high-profile claims that torture may have saved “hundreds of thousands of lives.” The report is the one I wrote about recently that the ACLU obtained through litigation in highly redacted form. It has an entire redacted section that discusses the “effectiveness” of torture — or lack thereof.

Eric Martin reminds us that the issue is not, or should not be, whether or not torture is effective:

While it’s all well and good that the Obama administration plans to debunk some of the Dick Cheney’s mendacity, we should resist the urge to engage the frame of discourse that Cheney has sought to impose: Assessing the desirability of implementing a torture regime based on whether or not torture “works.”  In short, it shouldn’t matter.  Although many respected experts in the realm of interrogation best practices contend that building a relationship/rapport is a more effective of extracting reliable information (rather than false confession), the reason that we, as a nation, should abstain from torture is because torture is a morally reprehensible practice.

Full stop.

Well, not quite full stop:

Let’s be clear: These things don’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if torture works, because it’s illegal. (Heather at Crooks & Liars points to Salon’s Joan Walsh slamming this “does it work?” argument.)

And it doesn’t matter what the polls say, because it’s still illegal. The use of torture isn’t a popularity contest.

And while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade. As constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Rachel Maddow the other night:

It’s obviously disturbing to hear torture still referred to by the president as a “technique.” That’s like saying bank robbery is a “technique” for withdrawing money from a bank. It’s not a “technique”, it’s a crime…

Despite the past eight years, the United States is governed by the rule of law. We don’t sign treaties only to disregard them, and we don’t allow those who break the law to go unpunished.

Let’s reconsider the torture argument in these terms: Do we want to be known to the rest of the world as a country that flagrantly ignores its own laws, not to mention the international human rights laws it agrees to? Does our government have a “do as we say, not as we do” approach to the law?

We do not. So let’s refocus here. Torture is illegal: There’s no two ways about it. It’s never acceptable. …

11 Responses to “White House Poised To Release IG Report on Torture”

  1. Booogie-Mann says:

    Wow, I wish Bush had declassified documents from the Clinton Administration … like the ones pertaining to Osama Bin Laden and Clinton’s failure to take him out when he had the chance …

  2. Shade Tail says:

    Boogie: I wish that too. It would have been nice to see a republican provide evidence that Clinton, in fact, never had that opportunity, and that the story that he did is a lie they (the republicans) invented.

  3. Matt says:

    Boogie,

    The reason Bush didn’t want to declassify those documents is because they show Clinton tried to kill Bin Laden several times, but every time he did the Republican Congress got their panties in a knot and cried about it

    You know if they had something tangible on Clinton, Cheney would have released it. Instead they had guys like Richard Clarke and John O’Neal telling Bush Co. that Al Qaeda was a threat that they ignored. Those guys both then quit in disgust (and O’Neal then died on 9/11).

    Why do you think Bush had his lawyers present when he faced the 9/11 Commission?

    Obama should release the Clinton documents on their efforts to kill Bin Laden. But Republicans will regret it…

  4. Billy says:

    But wait, torture isn’t illegal if you get a bunch of hack lawyers to write up a spiffy new “legal opinion” that says everything you want to do is legal, right? I think Bush even got it notorized.

    He learned the idea because Cheney used to make him get a hall pass to walk around the white house.

  5. Booogie-Mann says:

    “The reason Bush didn’t want to declassify those documents is because they show Clinton tried to kill Bin Laden several times, but every time he did the Republican Congress got their panties in a knot and cried about it …”

    Ugh, you’re kidding right?? As if the Republican Congress even had their foot in Clinton’s White House or any Congress for that matter. It was Clinton’s call, not the GOP. Your rant is partisan and delusional.

    Torture you say Billy?? 3 Guys water boarded and the Left is comparing Bush & Co to the Inquisition … geez, hardly. Let’s at least not make unreasonable comparisons. Is holding your head under the sand for so long torture Billy??

  6. Kathy says:

    3 guys waterboarded over 266 times between them, B-M. And one time is a war crime.

  7. Booogie-Mann says:

    Kathy, this whole debate is over 3 guys who leveled the WTC on 9/11 and sliced off the heads of young Americans. These guys may have had information about other planned killings, maybe even your family. These are the worst of the worst, the most fanatical Islamic Terrorists. So what kind of morality do you endorse?? Had an attack gone through would you feel the warm blood on your hands?

    Besides, they are not US Citizens, not part of any Army, thereby we are not obligated to cover them under the Geneva Convention.

  8. gerry says:

    Boogie-Mann…technically as soon as you hold anyone (enemy combatants, uniformed or civies, soldiers or collaterals) in a military facility or process them through a military court then the Geneva Convention does apply.
    Hey if they were threatening my kids would I do it ? sure of course but I am neither rational nor the stuff of politicians I am the guy that works every day and hopes to some god somewhere that I never have to see another war zone but more to the point that my children wont have to !

  9. Kathy says:

    B-M,

    First of all, none of the “3 guys” you are talking about sliced off the heads of anyone to the best of my knowledge, and only one of them had anything to do with leveling the WTC on 9/11.

    Second, the kind of morality I endorse is the kind that says we do not use the barbarity of others to justify committing barbarities ourselves.

    Third, the public has not, actually, been shown, or informed about, any evidence whatsoever that any specific attack or “planned killing” was stopped by torturing KSM, Abu Zubaydah, and Binalshibh, among many others.

    Fourth, their citizenship is irrelevant to domestic and international law on torture. Torture is illegal, at all times, in all places, against anyone, and for any reason. There are no circumstances under which torture becomes legal. None.

    Fifth, you are misinformed on the Geneva Conventions. Common Article 3 specifically protects categories of combatants who do not fit into any of the other categories for protection. Common Article 3 forbids torture and/or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against anyone who does not meet the requirements for the GC’s other categories. There is, in fact, no category of human being who is left outside of the GC’s protection. Everyone has some level of protection, and at minimum that would include protection from being tortured.

    Sixth, and arguably most important: Torture. is. illegal. It’s illegal whether you’re talking about mean people or nice people, civilized people or savage people, citizens or non-citizens, uniformed combatants or non-uniformed combatants, civilians or soldiers, terrorists or pacifists. There are very, very few blanket prohibitions in law, but this is one of them. There are absolutely no circumstances in which torture becomes acceptable under the law. Period.

  10. Booogie-Mann says:

    KSM said he beheaded Daniel Pearl. Second there has been plenty of talk about an airplane attack in LA which was averted thanks to info gained from KSM’s water boarding.

    We’ve had this discussion before about Torture. This SERE style water boarding which our own troops go through is hardly “severe” as defined in the GC. Secondly there are plenty of areas in the GC which exempt these guys from its rules. I suppose you can point to GC text which supports your view as I can find plenty that support mine. The definition of “severe” is important as well according to the GC. No broken bones, no blood, no scars = not severe. Stress positions and loud music were once considered the new form of “harsh interrogation” … now people like you want to consider it “torture”. Seems to me you want to redefine “torture” to mean anything uncomfortable.

    Some idiot pointed out the “Nuremburg Rules” previously as the forerunner to the GC and defines turture, etc. Turns out these rules referred to by a Liberal on here relate to Human Testing, per Mengele’s atrocities. They have nothing to do with this issue, yet your friend there pretended to know what the hell he was talking about. All this talk of “24” scenarios is kinda false in the sense that the 24 show has only scapegoated Muslims once, then apologized for it. Other years the Germans, Russians, USA Corporations, Jack’s Father, etc. were the evildoers. I think USA Corporations are owed an apology for this years show. Muslims are made out to be harmless innocents who get unfairly targeted …

    Lastly thanks to people like you so eager to take down Bush the Abu Graib photo’s were splattered all over the place. A situation in Iraq arguably winding down then exploded because people like you gave them the ammo to recruit with. Now, even your own hero Obama agrees releasing this kind of material is harmful to the War and our Troops. Same thing I have been saying all along, but only now does a Liberal like Obama agree …

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_pentagon_abuse_photos

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