February 15, 2008

Friday morning--still defending torturing

The great "maverick" John McCain denounced torture for months, but then when he had a chance to vote on a Senate bill banning it, he voted against the bill. Some have speculated he did it to get the endorsement of some he loathes (like Mitt Romney). Others have said he can't be in opposition to Bush on this particular issue as it will be too easy to divide and conquer. I say he isn't as principled as he would like to suggest.

Marty Lederman points to the odious testimony given by Steve Bradbury (of OLC justifying torture fame) in a great post entitled Lowering the Bar: Well, At Least We're Not as Barbaric as the Spanish Inquisition (which oddly reminds me of conversations here):
Instead, Bradbury tried to reassure Nadler, and later Representative Franks, that the CIA's waterboarding was not as bad as press reports would have it -- that our variant of the technique is materially distinct from the sort of water torture used by (i) the Spanish Inquisition; (ii) U.S. forces in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th Century; and (iii) the Japanese in World War II. In those earlier historical examples, there was a "forced consumption of a mass amount of water," and occasionally the interrogators would stand or jump on the stomach of the victim, sometimes leading to "blood coming of the victim's mouth." Which apparently crosses the line. Thankfully, we do not do such terrible things.

Some of you will recognize that the technique Bradbury is disclaiming is the one often called the "water cure." The CIA doesn't use that. Instead, the agency apparently is using the less dangerous version of "waterboarding" -- the sort popularized by the French in Algeria, and by the Khmer Rouge.[emphasis mine]


I would like to say that is the last word on torture. I am still amazed that we are in a country now where we "debate" the "morality" of torture. Thanks, George. And a special thanks to the moral majority people who backed his administration and stood by silent even when Bush defended torture. Thanks, guys.

Speaking of some of those people, Wiley Drake is back in the news. As our friend Tony notes, the IRS has announced an investigation into Drake's use of his church letterhead to endorse the Huck. Drake is unhappy, and we expect him to call down locusts or worse on the IRS. I am kind of surprised that he hasn't yet. But then again, I don't think that Mr. Drake is the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Then this morning, Bootlegger sent me this disturbing story about Paige Patterson suggesting that an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy were "evil doers" who are "just as reprehensible as sex criminals."

This just reminds me of the problems of institutions and power. Certainly not unique to the right, but perhaps easier to do with people who seem to gravitate to more authoritarian power and hierarchy, Patterson and Drake are good examples of people who have become more enamored with power than serving people.


This morning, we heard the President go back to his playbook:
"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said. "We've got to give our professionals the tools they need, to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."

"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack," the president said.
That really could go on his Presidential library as the quote that defines him. He has used a variation of this so many times. There is hope, actually, that democrats are finally refusing to cower in fear every time the President says "do what I say or the terrorists will kill you."
It might have something to do with the fact that the lapsing of the Protect America Act (PAA) won't substantially affect things at all. The old FISA law will kick back into effect. And authorizations granted under the PAA in the last six months to wiretap entire terrorist groups will stick for an entire year. In the words of House intelligence committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), "Things will be fine."
Keith Olbermann was in fine form in yesterday's Special Comment
“This Saturday at midnight,” you said today, “legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning, will be compromised…You said that “the lives of countless Americans depend” on you getting your way.

This is crap.

And you sling it, with an audacity and a speed unrivaled even by the greatest political felons of our history.

Richard Clarke — you might remember him, sir, he was one of the counter-terror pro’s you inherited from President Clinton, before you ran the professionals out of government in favor of your unreality-based reality — Richard Clarke wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”

And I liked this part because it has always bothered me:
But when you demanded it again during the State of the Union address, you wouldn’t even confirm that they actually did anything for which they deserved to be cleared.

“The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America.” Believed?

Don’t you know?

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