Winks N Nods

by digby

Big Tent Democrat picked up on something that I've noticed emerging as a village meme: the idea that liberals expect the CIA to torture when they "really need to" even if it is illegal.

While the Beltway wants the torture policy of the Bush Administration swept under the rug and forgotten, Bush Administration officials are working at cross purposes with their Media enablers. Outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden yesterday said:

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

I don't know where this comes from unless they have decided that Alan Dershowitz fairly represents the liberal position, which is just bizarre. But as far as I know, he's the only one who has asserted that he had "no doubt that if an actual ticking bomb situation were to arise, our law enforcement authorities would torture" and so argued that we should legalize it. It was a perverse argument based upon the assumption that we all agreed that the government must torture at times and therefore we must ensure that it's done with all the "i"s crossed and the "t"s dotted. It's one of those dry, bureaucratic arguments in the service of extreme immorality that chills you to the bone when you read it.

Perhaps there are others who make this argument and I've missed it. Surely there are those, including yours truly, who know very well that the government was torturing long before Bush and Cheney made a fetish of it. But to the best of my knowledge, only Dershowitz thinks that because they've "always done it" we should legalize it.

This isn't a complicated argument. Torture is immoral. It is illegal. It elicits false confessions and bad information. It creates ill will among people all over the world and puts the United States on the same moral level as some of the worst regimes in history. It should not be used at all, ever.

If Hayden is actually saying that sanctions against torture means that they will not do it under any circumstances, then that's the best argument for sanctions there is.

Update: Oh, and lest anyone still think of dredging up the argument that the Guantanamo prisoners, many of whom were tortured, are the worst of the worst, this article in today's NY Times should put that to rest:

While hundreds of suspects have been released from the detention camp in the seven years it has been operating, the recent decisions came after the Bush administration said it had reduced the population to the most dangerous terrorists.

While Mr. Bismullah’s case was decided by a military panel, the rulings for the other 23 detainees occurred in habeas corpus hearings in federal court. Since a Supreme Court decision in June gave detainees the right to have their detentions reviewed by federal judges in habeas cases, the government has won only three of them. The government is appealing some of the rulings it lost.

The cases provide a snapshot of the intelligence collected by the government on the suspects and suggest that there was little credible evidence behind the decision to declare some of the men enemy combatants and to hold them indefinitely.

In a decision on Wednesday ordering the release of a prisoner who had been a Saudi resident, Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court said the government’s case was largely based on inconsistent accusations from two other Guantánamo detainees whose credibility the government itself had questioned.

That case involved Mohammed el Gharani, who was detained when he was 14. One of the government’s claims was that Mr. Gharani had been a member of a Qaeda cell in London. His lawyers at the British legal group Reprieve argued that the government’s assertions would have meant that he was a member of the cell at age 11.

“Putting aside the obvious unanswered questions as to how a Saudi minor from a very poor family could have even become a member of a London-based cell,” Judge Leon said, “the government simply advances no corroborating evidence for these statements.”

In a separate case involving five Algerian detainees, Judge Leon, an appointee of President Bush, ruled last fall that he was not persuaded by the government’s claim that the men had planned to go to Afghanistan to fight Americans. The claim, he ruled, turned out to have been based on an assertion from a single unnamed person in a classified government document.

“The government’s failure in case after case after case to be able to prove its case calls into question everybody who is there,” said Susan Baker Manning, a lawyer for 17 Uighur detainees from western China who were ordered released by a federal judge in October. The Justice Department has appealed that order from a federal district judge, Ricardo M. Urbina, and the men are still at Guantánamo.

Yes it does.

I've heard rightwing gasbags cheering that Obama said in the Washington Post interview that he would consider his first term a failure if he was unable to close Guantanamo. They naturally assume that means he's planning to drag it out. Let's hope they are wrong.