Friday, April 17, 2009

The Torture Memos

The Department of Justice has released four memos written by the Bush administration that detail the interrogation methods used by the C.I.A.

The Justice Department made public on Thursday detailed memos describing harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama said that C.I.A. operatives who carried out the techniques would not be prosecuted.

One technique authorized for use by the C.I.A. beginning in August 2002 was the use of “insects placed in a confinement box,” presumably to induce fear on the part of a terror suspect. According to a footnote, the technique was not used.

The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and what was released on Thursday afternoon marked the most comprehensive public accounting to date of a program that some senior Obama administration officials contend included illegal torture.

Read them in full here.

I’ve only read the first one, dated August 1, 2002, by Jay S. Bybee, then Assistant Attorney General. It goes into great detail as to what is and what isn’t torture and the laws pertaining to such. I’m neither a lawyer or an expert in interrogation, but I don’t think you need to be either to read them and come to the conclusion that what Mr. Bybee considered in the memo would constitute torture and therefore in violation of U.S. laws.

Mr. Obama has said he does not wish to pursue prosecution of the C.I.A. officers who conducted the interrogations. But he says nothing about not prosecuting the people who ordered the interrogations or the people who allowed these techniques to be instituted.

I am sure there are those who will defend these actions and say that we should be as ruthless to them as the terrorists are to us, or since no one has been killed or permanently wounded, why should we show them anything other than the remorseless power we can wield?

Two reasons: First, because all the reliable and objective experts in the field of interrogation have stated that torture does not work. Second — and most important — because we’re better than that.