Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The "We didn't know" defense

The New York Times outlines how the members of the Bush Administration (and Congress) who advocated for and approved the torturing of prisoners in its custody had no fucking clue what they were agreeing to.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was "a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm," a former C.I.A. official said.
This is why the rule of law matters. Because sometimes those in power lack the competence required to be put in charge of life-and-death decisions.

I am sick with disgust.

Read the entire story.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

1 comment:

eileen said...

i agree with being "sick with disgust"
i am so sick of hearing about waterboarding and the ridiculous arguments of whether it's torture...i so want these fools who are ranting to volunteer to try it to see if it's torture....