Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not By Accident

Glenn Greenwald sums up the CIA report on “enhanced interrogation.”

Manifestly, none of this happened by accident. As the [Inspector General] Report continuously notes, all of these methods were severe departures from long-standing CIA guidelines (if not practices). This all occurred because the officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government pronounced that this was permissible, the protections of the Geneva Conventions were “quaint,” obsolete and inapplicable, and the U.S. was justified in doing anything and everything in the name of fighting Terrorists. As stomach-turning as these individual acts of sadism are, it is far worse to consider that only low-level interrogators will suffer consequences while those who were truly responsible — the criminally depraved leaders and lawyers who ordered and authorized it — will be protected.

The historical record of what the U.S. did during this period is clear and growing. The only question that remains is what, if anything, we will do now that we are seeing the full picture.

Mr. Greenwald notes that he is a consultant for the ACLU, the organization behind the FOIA suit that got the report released.

In the meantime, the Obama administration has announced that it will continue the policy of rendition — sending terrorism suspects to a third country for interrogation — but with better oversight.

The argument isn’t whether or not we should torture suspects; it is against the law, and all of the “Yes, but…” excuses dreamed up by the defenders don’t mitigate that. The simple reality is that no reliable source has indicated that it works.

As for what should happen to the people who committed these acts, the temptation to go after the people who held the drill, fired the guns, or threatened the rapes is powerful since they were the ones who actually were there. They could have chosen not to do them, even if they thought they had legal clearance. But ultimately the responsibility comes down to those who gave the orders. They’re the ones who knew the rules; it’s why they get the big bucks.

Some folks are complaining that prosecuting the torturers will make us look weak in the eyes of the terrorists. But what’s more important; what a bunch of crazy religious fanatics think, or whether or not we live up to the ideas of the rule of law that we’re supposed to be fighting for?