Alberto Gonzales Explains Why Torture Didn’t Work Even While Defending It

As I noted in an update to my Mushroom Cloud Brigade post, even Univision joined in the torture apologist fun, inviting Alberto Gonzales on to talk about the killing of Osama bin Laden. And Gonzales did defend torture.

Jorge Ramos: Mr. Gonzales The New York Times reported that the information that led to the capture of Osama Bin Laden was probably obtained through torture, through waterboarding, do you know if that was the case?

Alberto Gonzales: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t describe waterboarding as torture, as you just described it. At least with respect to the application of this technique back during the Bush administration because the Department of Justice issued an opinion, a painstaking analysis of the anti-torture statute and provided guidance to the CIA that if certain precautions, certain safety measures were taken in the application of this technique that it would be lawful under the anti-torture statute and so, that’s the reason why this technique was applied only three times during the Bush administration, because the President understood the need to gather information which we now believe, many are reporting, led to actual intelligence which led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Yet Gonzales didn’t defend torture very effectively. Even this statement is full of equivocations: the seeming reliance on “certain safety measures” that we know weren’t used, the illogic that because it was legal it was only used three times, and his restatement of “we now believe” to “many are reporting” that torture led to OBL.

But that’s nothing compared to the way Gonzales completely undercuts the logic behind using torture here (in the question that preceded his answer on torture).

JR: Mr. Gonzales how do you explain that President Bush couldn’t get Osama bin Laden for eight years and Barack Obama did it in two years?

AG: Often time these kinds of successes are a function of timing, good luck, getting information from various sources, putting that information together which may then lead to actual intelligence. My understanding is this depended a lot on human intelligence and every intelligence expert I know tells me that it takes a great deal of time to develop human intelligence and so the fact that it took so long, for me I expected it to happen, I was not surprised that it happened, it was just a matter of time and it was as a result of a lot of hard work and dedication and you know the fact that it happened during the Obama administration it’s a credit to the administration, but I know this, working in the White House as the Attorney General of the United States, we did everything we could to try to find him ourselves. [my emphasis]

Implicit in the Techniques memo that authorized the Abu Zubaydah torture (which presumably served as the basis for the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed torture) is a ticking time bomb scenario. It refers to an increased level of chatter, suggesting that that means there must be an imminent attack.

Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of “chatter” equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks. In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described. as an “increased pressure phase.”

And one of Jay Bybee’s defenses of the memos signed by him specifically refers to the ticking time bomb scenario (relying on faulty intelligence about Jose Padilla that was collected using torture).

In other words, the “painstaking analysis” Gonzales claims DOJ did to authorize torture relies on the argument that torture must be used because only torture will reveal information quickly enough. But here we are, nine years after that analysis was done, and the recipient of one of the memos summarizing that analysis now concedes that “every intelligence expert” he knows confirms that “it takes a great deal of time to develop human intelligence.”

The decade long search for Osama bin Laden proves that torture did not deliver on that promise–it did not yield the most crucial intelligence immediately. And Alberto Gonzales, in his effort to defend the use of torture, concedes that it did not do so.


There’s a lot more that’s fascinating in this transcript (I’m looking for a link). Here’s the part of Gonzales’ appearance that pertains to torture.

JR: Do you think that President Bush deserves some credit for the apprehension and elimination of Osama bin Laden?

AG: Well I think a lot of people deserve some credit, obviously President Obama and the administration should be congratulated for executing such a wonderful plan, but clearly, President Bush implemented various policies that continue still today under the Obama administration and I think helped contribute to the success that we saw this weekend.

JR: Mr. Gonzales how do you explain that President Bush couldn’t get Osama bin Laden for eight years and Barack Obama did it in two years?

AG: Often time these kinds of successes are a function of timing, good luck, getting information from various sources, putting that information together which may then lead to actual intelligence. My understanding is this depended a lot on human intelligence and every intelligence expert I know tells me that it takes a great deal of time to develop human intelligence and so the fact that it took so long, for me I expected it to happen, I was not surprised that it happened, it was just a matter of time and it was as a result of a lot of hard work and dedication and you know the fact that it happened during the Obama administration it’s a credit to the administration, but I know this, working in the White House as the Attorney General of the United States, we did everything we could to try to find him ourselves.

JR: As Attorney General you wrote a controversial memo in February 2002 claiming that the protections of the Geneva conventions did not apply to certain prisoners and certain individuals in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think that it was legal to kill Osama Bin Laden?

AG: Well, I think what happened over the weekend is very separate apart from the discussions that we had in 2002 over the Geneva convention, you asked me whether I thought it was legal to kill him, again, I wasn’t there I don’t know all the facts, but based on what I’ve been told, and based upon the reporting it seems to me that it was in fact a lawful kill. Osama Bin Laden was an enemy of the state, he was a military target and consequently it was legitimate to kill him during our conflict with Al Qaeda. If someone is raising a question that in fact he may have attempted to surrender then of course international laws would prohibit the United States from killing someone once they’ve indicated that they’re going to surrender. But the fact that he may have been armed, he may have been unarmed, if in fact he resists capture or makes any kind of threatening move you have to remember you have the military in a very dangerous situation, decisions have to be made in a split second and based on what I understand I think that there’s no question this was a lawful killing.

JR: Mr. Gonzales The New York Times reported that the information that led to the capture of Osama Bin Laden was probably obtained through torture, through waterboarding, do you know if that was the case?

AG: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t describe waterboarding as torture, as you just described it. At least with respect to the application of this technique back during the Bush administration because the Department of Justice issued an opinion, a painstaking analysis of the anti-torture statute and provided guidance to the CIA that if certain precautions, certain safety measures were taken in the application of this technique that it would be lawful under the anti-torture statute and so, that’s the reason why this technique was applied only three times during the Bush administration, because the President understood the need to gather information which we now believe, many are reporting, led to actual intelligence which led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

JR: Mr. Gonzales, just to clarify, why according to you waterboarding is not torture?

AG: Well again, the question is whether or not does it violate the anti-torture statue. You and I may have very different definitions of torture, my job as a lawyer it’s always to see what does a law prescribe, not what makes me uncomfortable but what is unpleasant. And clearly waterboarding is unpleasant and I’m not here to defend it as something that we should all experience. But the Department of Justice, this is when I was at the White House not at the department, but the Department of Justice under General Ashcroft rendered guidance to the executive branch that this technique if administered, under the precautions, under the watchful eye of doctors and under various safety procedures that it could be administered on high value detainees, which are individuals that had knowledge of an impending attack that it would not violate the anti-torture statue. Now, you may be offended by it, I’m offended in terms it’s a very, very tough procedure no question about it. But the question as a lawyer is, does it violate the anti-torture statue? And the Department of Justice rendered opinion that it could be applied in a certain way and it not violate the statue.

image_print
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    His memory seems much better when not under oath. And he is still the member of BushCo that I hold in the deepest contempt.

    Boxturtle (He’s got strong competition, but it’s not even close)

  2. harpie says:

    Thanks for talking about this interview, EW.

    Couple of quick thoughts:

    …waterboarding used “three times”? He should have said against three people.

    I don’t know anything about this show or the interviewer, but

    JR: As Attorney General you wrote a controversial memo in February 2002 claiming that the protections of the Geneva conventions did not apply to certain prisoners and certain individuals in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think that it was legal to kill Osama Bin Laden?

    Isn’t he talking about the January 2002 “new paradigm” “renders obsolete” memo then White House Counsel” [AG does correct this later] wrote to his client Bush? This one also says [under “Positive” and “Preserves flexibility”]

    “The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors inorder to avoid further atrocities against American civilians […]

    Also, in the “techniques” memo “information” turned into “infonnation” [I think this often happens with certain fonts]

    …and a small typo : “Here were are […]”

  3. tjbs says:

    Only traitors to our constitution torture.

    Typical chickenshit cowards refuse to introduce laws to withdraw from CAT because two faced bastards say one thing while doing the opposite.

  4. radiofreewill says:

    In the quest to find Geronimo in the Tribal Lands, Gonzo is trying to sell Judge Roy Bean’s claim to be ‘the law west of the pecos’ as the Rule of Law:

    The Westerner – Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan

  5. felicity says:

    There exists no argument justifying torture. Aside from that, torture more often than not will result in false information which will then be acted on, a complete waste of money, personnel, and time while the actual plans of the terrorists continue as planned.

    I can’t forget that past administrations, Republican no less, referred to Cheney and Rumsfeld as the “crazies.” Bush, a crazy of the first order, advised by two other crazies, all of whom should have been committed years ago, but instead were handed the reins of government, gratis.

  6. mzchief says:

    The torture apologists are in full spin mode. Meanwhile, Obama getting on 60 Minutes and saying Bin Laden ‘deserved what he got’ is certainly consistent with publicly proclaiming Manning’s guilt when Manning hasn’t even received a trial. This Administration of war criminals are full speed ahead and entirely open about it.

  7. PeasantParty says:

    We have some real head cases in the Pentagon and Washington. The sad thing is that they have been there for years and locked themselves into agencies that they control from inside regardless of law, public sentiment, or even moral and ethical statutes.

    These problems and issues are going to continue to be part of us and our history until it is fleshed out in a real public way.

  8. harpie says:

    From Guantanamo detainee defender HC Gorman:

    1] And So He Is Dead; 5/2/11

    Doesn’t really matter for my clients….they had nothing to do with him anyway. I don’t suppose this means we can move on????

    2] Wax vs. Yoo [with internal link to article. Can’t find a transcript]; 5/9/11

    Federal Public Defender Steven Wax debated John Yoo at an Alaska bar event last week. Read a summary of it here….but I can tell you without your even looking at the summary that this was no even battle….Yoo never had a chance in debating Steven……
    Good job Steven.

  9. Knox says:

    Alberto Gonzales Explains Why Torture Didn’t Work Even While Defending It

    Maybe he’s trying to give the Obama Administration tips so that they can stop torturing w/o results and start torturing with results because, you know, torturing with results would be so much better in their twisted minds, the torture being a given and the appearance of results just being a justification for doing it.

    Btw, let me know when the trials begin. The American people should demand a far better class of leaders than these criminals.

    • bobschacht says:

      Btw, let me know when the trials begin. The American people should demand a far better class of leaders than these criminals.

      Sounds like you’re waiting for other people to do the heavy lifting. Ain’t gonna happen unless all of us get involved in the heavy lifting. You have a part, too, so get busy on whatever it is.

      Bob in AZ

      • bluewombat says:

        Ah, well said. In an e-mail correspondence I had with Philippe Sands some time ago, he said the main thing we can do is to push the media. That means letters to the editor and the like whenever there’s a news spike on the issue. Like now — I sent one to the NYT the other day.

        • bobschacht says:

          We used to have a feature called “Spotlight,” which provided a very handy way to push the media. It is missing from the pages of FDL today, however. I don’t know what happened to it.

          Bob in AZ

  10. ThingsComeUndone says:

    If torture worked why can the Taliban engineer a jail break and free hundreds of prisoners right under our noses?
    Nobody in the prison talked under torture about the jailbreak? Out of the hundreds of prisoners there I don’t know how many were tortured but nobody talked about the jailbreak?
    Maybe torture unified the prisoners so much that not one of them decided to be a jail house snitch? Not one prisoner wanted to go home so much they would betray their fellow prisoners for better treatment or even freedom, never mind no more torture?
    I think we can make the argument that torture produces over a long period of time a very united opposition getting hundreds of prisoners to keep a secret is a very impressive display of unity.

  11. nonpartisanliberal says:

    Was there a mistake in the transcript or is Jorge Ramos a liar? The New York Times asserted that torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” played “a small at most” role in obtaining the intelligence that led to bin Laden. In other words, torture played no discernible role.

  12. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Ask Gonzo if he thinks illegal immigrants should be tortured if intelligence suggests that al Queida is sending terrorists up through Mexico to America. Several Republicans said as much during the elections. Next ask him is it ok to stop suspected illegal immigrants driving through AZ because they look Mexican.

  13. Margaret says:

    I’ve gotta say, during the Bush years, I don’t recall the msm having either Gore or Kerry on weekly to tell us how they would have done things. I don;t recall a parade of ex Clinton officials being allowed time to defend their (entirely legal) actions and criticize the current administration.

  14. bluewombat says:

    I wouldn’t describe waterboarding as torture, as you just described it

    No wonder poor Gonzo had a hard time finding a job; a lawyer who doesn’t understand the law will always have a hard time of it.

    Having just read his entire quote here, I’m reminded of what Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman, “Every word she says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

    • waynec says:

      Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning.
      Although a variety of specific techniques are used in waterboarding, the captive’s face is usually covered with cloth or some other thin material, and the subject is immobilized on his/her back. Water is then poured onto the face over the breathing passages, causing an almost immediate gag reflex and creating the sensation that the captive is drowning.[1][2][3] Waterboarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage and, if uninterrupted, death.[4] Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.[5] The term water board torture appears in press reports as early as 1976

      How can this NOT be torture?

      • GeneralPudding says:

        If you compare waterboarding to some technique that would be nearly universally condemned as torture, i.e., cutting off fingers or toes, then it is not as bad. Would you agree with that? That doesn’t make waterboarding “not torture”, just not as severe as severing digits. My real question is, though: do you believe reasonable people can disagree on what precisely is torture? And if someone doesn’t agree with your definition, does that make them moral monsters?

        • waynec says:

          GP,
          You raise the question of “degree.”
          It is a very slippery slope you are going down. Is one technique of torture OK
          while another is not? Who is to decide which is which? The Convention on Torture can’t even come up with a definition.
          Is waterboarding a better technique that cutting off digits?
          Is cutting off limbs a better technique that cutting off digits?
          Is being forced to sleep naked in a freezing cell better or worse than something else.
          Is solitary confinement torture?
          Is threatening the life of a loved one to get info from you torture?

          BushCo are moral monsters because they committed crimes against humanity through torture or were complicit to torture.

          Are you a moral monster because if you don’t agree with me about what defines torture?
          Depends on what your definition of torture is

          • GeneralPudding says:

            waynec, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to torture, and I think you illustrate a lot of them. I don’t know if I’d be willing to classify “solitary confinement” as torture, but I can understand if someone else might. We can have a reasonable disagreement about what’s in the gray area without resorting to calling each other “torture apologists” or “terrorist coddlers”.

            • tjbs says:

              OK torture apologist, what about the 108 suspects who died while being “questioned”.

              I say they were murdered and your take is ?

              • GeneralPudding says:

                tjbs, you aren’t even discussing the issue rationally. That’s the problem. You’d rather get on your moral high horse and shout “Torture Apologist!!” than recognize the real moral and ethical quandaries involved. There is no universally accepted, cut-and-dry, black-and-white, concrete definition of torture. There just isn’t one.

                • tjbs says:

                  Sure did skip over the 108 murders but since nothing is cut and dry go ahead and set me straight.

                  As far as my moral high horse I’ve rode it my whole life because there is right and wrong.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  Karl Rove’s greatest trick was convincing us that facts didn’t exist, they were too complicated for citizens to ponder, or that what we were really arguing over were simple, honest differences of opinion, reasonably derived at.

                  Great way to avoid electoral consequences for incompetence; an even better way to avoid perjury and stay out of jail, more entertaining than repeating and repeating, “I have no recollection of that, Senator.”

        • tjbs says:

          How about crushing balls, is it torture when they grab them or when they start to scream ? Is it universally accepted that crushing someones balls is torture?

      • bobschacht says:

        Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning.

        There. Fixed it for you.
        When someone is waterboarded, they ARE drowning. It’s just that the waterboarder is supposed to stop before death actually occurs (“If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong”), and the means of resuscitation are supposed to be readily available, and resuscitation is supposed to happen before oxygen starvation kills too many brain cells, like maybe the brain cells that know what the torturer wants to find out, or the brain cells that control speech, or the brain cells that help the detainee understand your questions.
        Bob in AZ

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Thank you for that much needed fix.

          The Orwellian euphemisms abound. “Simulated” drowning is hard to talk about with water gushing into your lungs. “Some people claim” that it amounts to or should be called torture enhanced interrogation, which responsible officials describe as simply taking the gloves off. Anything to avoid plain speaking, because torture is a crime that all humanity agrees is despicable. It is the hallmark of tyrants, the opposite of the rule of law.

          Banal bureaucrats and puddingesque apologists are making it seem normal, attempting to strip it of legal consequences for its perpetrators, which makes it more likely that one of them will some day visit near you.

    • bobschacht says:

      “I wouldn’t describe waterboarding as torture, as you just described it”

      No wonder poor Gonzo had a hard time finding a job; a lawyer who doesn’t understand the law will always have a hard time of it.

      This is the AG, who is relying on hired gun John Yoo, to tell him what torture is. Which proves he doesn’t know which end of the horse is the ass.

      Bob in AZ

  15. GeneralPudding says:

    There is a lot of moral preening about torture. Of course every decent person is against torture. The problem is that we cannot all agree on what precisely constitutes torture. Not even the Convention Against Torture lays out a clear-cut, precise definition. There is a fuzzy gray area in the middle and I think waterboarding is somewhere in that gray area – at least if it is medically supervised, as the KSM waterboarding episodes were. So torture, like virtually everything else in the past 10 years, has become politicized – instead of having an honest disagreement, one side is quick to label the other as either monstrous sadists or terrorist coddlers. I just wish everyone would calm down for a moment and, without projecting evil intent on the other side, have a serious discussion about torture, national security, and the important issues that these questions raise.

    • bluewombat says:

      I think waterboarding is somewhere in that gray area – at least if it is medically supervised

      On behalf of my fellow Firepups, I would like to welcome Jay Bybee to the forums.

    • MadDog says:

      I don’t know how many times I’ve said this here in this forum as well as in others, but once more unto the breach:

      What torture apologists, including those who support waterboarding, are saying is the following:

      “Our opponents are criminalizing policy!”

      But the truth of the matter is that it is they who are:

      “Politicizing criminality!”

      • GeneralPudding says:

        MadDog, your argument is a non-sequitur.

        And because someone may not agree with you on what precisely constitutes torture, that makes the person a “torture apologist”? Sheesh. How can you complain about the lack of civility emanating from the right when you have no problem making such an accusation about them? Since you oppose waterboarding, would it be fair for them to accuse you of “coddling terrorists”? After all, fair is fair, right?

        • MadDog says:

          MadDog, your argument is a non-sequitur…

          Nonsense. Don’t politicize criminality. What part of against the law do you fail to understand?

          And because someone may not agree with you on what precisely constitutes torture, that makes the person a “torture apologist”?

          Nonsense again. Try reading both the US federal law on torture, the international laws against torture, the fact that the US has prosecuted folks for waterboarding because it is against the law, and then tell me that waterboard supporters aren’t torture apologists.

          …How can you complain about the lack of civility emanating from the right when you have no problem making such an accusation about them?

          You are comparing apples to toadstools.

          The right insists that this breaking of both US and International law should not mean the criminals have to go to jail, and that someone who identifies criminals as criminals is being uncivil to said supporters of criminal acts. Boo-hoo!

          …Since you oppose waterboarding, would it be fair for them to accuse you of “coddling terrorists”? After all, fair is fair, right?

          More evasive simplistic nonsense.

          • GeneralPudding says:

            Nonsense. Don’t politicize criminality. What part of against the law do you fail to understand?

            Because you have taken it upon yourself to define what is “against the law”. The law itself is not as clear as you make it out to be. No law, rule or treaty has yet come up with an objective, clear-cut, black-and-white definition of torture.

            Nonsense again. Try reading both the US federal law on torture, the international laws against torture, the fact that the US has prosecuted folks for waterboarding because it is against the law, and then tell me that waterboard supporters aren’t torture apologists.

            I have read these things. They don’t offer a clear-cut, black-and-white, objective definition of torture. They are all vague to an extent, relying on things like “techniques which cause undue duress”. Well, who defines what is “undue”? You have concluded that waterboarding falls within these definitions. I think that is a reasonable conclusion. But it is not the only reasonable conclusion. What you are essentially doing, is saying “I’ve drawn a reasonable conclusion and those who disagree with me are unreasonable.” That is not justified IMO.

            The cases to which you are referring about the prosecution of waterboarding – you are referring to the case of the Texas sheriff & his deputies, from 1983? There, the defendants were not charged with the crime of torture, they were charged with the crime of violating the prisoners’ civil rights. (Which I agree with, BTW.) Nobody in the US has been convicted in a civilian trial for breaking the law on torture due to waterboarding. There was a military court-martial from the Vietnam War era, and there was a post-WW2 war crime tribunal conviction of one Japanese officer, which is probably due almost as much to “victor’s revenge” as due to repulsion over the horrors of waterboarding. But that’s it. It’s not like there’s a lot of case law on this subject.

        • bluewombat says:

          MadDog, your argument is a non-sequitur.

          It’s nothing of the sort. He made the perfectly valid point that members of the Bush Gang who tortured or enabled torture complain, when criticized, that their critics are “criminalizing policy differences.” But they weren’t implementing a legal policy about whose merits reasonable people can disagree; they were engaged in a criminal conspiracy. They try to throw monkey dust in our eyes by saying we’re trying to criminalize their legitimate policies, when, as Mad Dog properly points out, they are attempting to make a political issue out of what’s really a criminal issue. It’s an eloquent and succinct summary of the problem on Mad Dog’s part, and I’m sorry that you can’t or won’t see that.

          And because someone may not agree with you on what precisely constitutes torture, that makes the person a “torture apologist”?

          Don’t pick nits with us. If someone defends the use of what is commonly understood to be torture — we prosecuted and, I believe, executed a Japanse officer who engaged in waterboarding during World War II — then they are a torture apologist.

          How can you complain about the lack of civility emanating from the right when you have no problem making such an accusation about them?

          But Mad Dog was being civil — he didn’t hurl any of the witless epithets at you which are part of the standard right-wing toolbag. He simply pointed out that you are apologizing for torture. Whether he does this using nouns, adjectives or verbs is all one to me.

          Since you oppose waterboarding, would it be fair for them to accuse you of “coddling terrorists”?

          Not only would it be unfair, it would be stupid. And now that I think of it, those of us who insist the United States adhere to the Constitution and Bill of Rights frequently are accused of coddling terrorists and things of that nature. It’s a pity your sense of citizenship is so degraded that your willing to defend the people on what you perceive as your team, rather than defending Constitutional government. But, regrettably, you’re not alone in that regard.

          • GeneralPudding says:

            So here appears to be the crux of the matter:

            If someone defends the use of what is commonly understood to be torture

            It is not commonly understood. There is no objective, clear-cut, black-and-white definition of torture under which waterboarding is unambiguously classified.

            But Mad Dog was being civil — he didn’t hurl any of the witless epithets at you which are part of the standard right-wing toolbag.

            Calling someone a “torture apologist” is needlessly inflammatory.

            • bluewombat says:

              It is not commonly understood. There is no objective, clear-cut, black-and-white definition of torture under which waterboarding is unambiguously classified.

              A Judge Advocate General in the U.S. military wishes to disagree with you:

              http://wapo.st/iB3jYo

              Calling someone a “torture apologist” is needlessly inflammatory.

              No, it’s simply descriptive.

            • rugger9 says:

              GP, too much attention to the trees as opposed to the forest. You need better research methods.

              The Convention on Torture in its various articles [dealing with combatant status] is intended to be read expansively, not enumeratively. In every article, there are prohibitions on embarrassment and denigration, so more physical methods would also be out. Note also that the “just following orders” excuse is out as well, and even if Country A doesn’t follow through on prosecution, all other signatories must [see: Pinochet]. That’s why our interference in Spanish investigations will bite us in the arse. That’s why we had a couple of high-profile Bushies cancel road trip plans to Switzerland because warrants were waiting for them. There’s only so much slime that can be stuffed under rocks.

              Also note that the USA has prosecuted waterboarding as war crimes, by the Japanese and by the VC and NVA, so WE have set out the precedent that waterboarding IS torture, and was punished as a capital crime. We also prosecuted several other methods as well, and why the Field Manual covers this in Appendix M.

              Torture doesn’t work, never has, and only puts our military at risk when they are captured.

              It makes me wonder if you ever served in the military, GP. I did.

              • GeneralPudding says:

                rugger9, so is slapping a prisoner considered ‘torture’? That is certainly more physical than mere ’embarrassment and denigration’. But few would consider a slap to be ‘torture’. That is the point I’m trying to get across. I’m not really arguing if waterboarding is torture or not. Personally I think it probably crosses the line. But it is a close call, and I can see where others might reasonably come to a different point of view. You and others do not even seem to recognize the moral complexity surrounding the issue of torture, and that recognition is all I’m asking for.

                And it is quite unfair to call me a troll – I have been nothing but polite.

                • tjbs says:

                  Slapping a prisoner isn’t allowed, torture or not, follow or repeal the law

                  Where’s your humanity anyway?

                  What about the 108 murders, why are you talking about slapping instead of talking about murders like I asked about?

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  I’m not persuaded that there is any moral complexity about torture. It is a crime, sometimes a capital offense, and the world recognizes it as such, which is one reason a government-responsive press and bureaucrats go to such great lengths to call it something else.

                  • GeneralPudding says:

                    I’m not persuaded that there is any moral complexity about torture

                    Only when we all agree that a specific act constitutes torture. But what if we can’t agree? Can reasonable people disagree on borderline cases?

                    • bobschacht says:

                      The problem is that the Bushies hired people like Yoo & Bybee to define exactly what torture was, and wasn’t. They then tied themselves into pretzels coming up with definitions of interrogation techniques which, maybe, if adhered to exactly, might not constitute torture. But their precise definitions were often abandoned or ignored in the field. This voids your argument, because there’s plenty of cases that did not comply with the Yoo/Bybee standards.

                      Unfortunately, the Obama administration won’t even prosecute torture that exceeds even the Yoo & Bybee standards.

                      Bob in AZ

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      Yes. Not only did Yoo and Bybee define “torture” after the fact in order to shield their political sponsors, their definitions did not meet minimum standards of legal analysis.

                      Not only were those definitions poorly drawn and improperly supported, neither Cheney’s nor Obama’s administration was willing to investigate or prosecute cases where the terms of those definitions were exceeded. That mocks the limits on executive action inherent in those definitions of legal – and illegal – behavior, and mocks the rule of law itself.

                • rugger9 says:

                  No, not really polite, and you refuse to address any of the questions raised by the people on the board. Instead you split hairs like some sea lawyer trying to avoid mast. As I noted before, it’s a forest GP, not just the trees you choose to see.

                  Answer my question: exactly how is waterboarding not torture when we have prosecuted others for doing exactly that?

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                I believe there was also a WWII case involving German actions in Norway, which resulted in a conviction.

                I admit, there are few cases involving torture, though that is demonstrably not because of its rarity or illegality. (There aren’t many cases of bribery, either, though there are more than involve torture.) It is because torture is most frequently practiced by governments or those acting in their stead. While they hold power, they generally refuse to investigate or prosecute themselves.

                Their successors often fail to investigate or prosecute it, too. They do so for various reasons. Out of fears about their own legitimacy, out of fear of personal reprisals by those who have lost power, out of fear of exacerbating already tense domestic circumstances, out of fear of being distracted from their agenda.

  16. bluewombat says:

    Even this statement is full of equivocations

    If I read it correctly, it says that waterboarding was only used three times under Bush. Did anyone else’s head explode at that, or was it just me?

  17. alabama says:

    If questions concerning “Bush” and “torture” are posed directly and clearly, they can be answered directly and clearly. If the day ever comes when they are, they can only lead to questions of Bush’s “agency”–what acts he took in his own name and when he did so.

    There’s nothing wrong with Gonzo’s command of English, and he knows the law very well. He was close to Bush when torture was taking place, and so he also knows the answers to the kinds of questions mentioned above. He could, if he chose, furnish a direct and clear reply that would count as an informative response. And if Gonzo could do it, twenty or thirty others could surely do the same.

    What I mean is this: no one, not even Gonzo, takes enough pride in Bush’s actions to speak to the matter at all. It’s a dirty secret that they all have to live with. They have to keep it secret, which means that they can’t talk about it or write about it, even amongst themselves. This is a whole other area of torture, of self-torture–living with an endless command from Bush that other shall lie on his behalf about the actions he took (dthey being weak enough to comply, and maybe to find it thrilling at the time). They are doomed, everyone, to an apparently endless regime of paralytic shame, their very own (high-end) Guantanamo Bay.

    Someone will break. But who will break, and when (or can they, perhaps, protect themselves by emulating those of their victims who didn’t break)? I look on, from time to time, with curiosity tempered by patience. Or humor. My inner torturer leers.

  18. MadDog says:

    …but I know this, working in the White House as the Attorney General of the United States…

    This was the Fredo quote that got me.

    Ummm Fredo, the AG was/is supposed to work at DOJ, but truth be told, you were indeed the AG working at the White House.

  19. Chickenbone says:

    I don’t know what happened,however you’ll have to type in both the site’s address’s.

  20. Jason Leopold says:

    wrt that January 2002 memo Gonzales wrote for Bush, he admitted in a very lengthy interview with the Texas Monthly last year “I had little experience with the Geneva Conventions” and admitted to Mimi Swartz “Addington was a contributor” to the January 25, 2002 memo. Not news, but the interview underscores, in Gonzales’ own words, that there really wasn’t a “painstaking analysis.”

  21. Jason Leopold says:

    also, FWIW, Marc Thiessen said last week in a twitter exchange I had with him re: KSM:

    CIA did not ask for intel during EITs. Asked Qs to which they knew answers to determine when he was cooperating

    Of course Thiessen still insists that the 183 times KSM was waterboarded is a “myth” and it was the number of “pours.” But the point is that he says torture (my word) was not about gaining intel but rather getting detainees to be “compliant,” which I do believe as that is what SERE is all about. And that was the case for AZ too. So the whole ticking time bomb scenario was just a lie.

  22. rugger9 says:

    Hopefully GP gets medical benefits with his trolling salary.

    He really needs to show how waterboarding isn’t torture when we executed people for doing it in the past, several times. If his excuse is that it’s OK if Americans do it, because we’re “special”, then he’s hopeless.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It is the context and combination that make a specific technique torture or not. Being “slapped” in jest by a Dennis Kucinich is not the same as being slapped in anger by an irate Steven Seagal, bent on finding out whatever you know about his kidnapped 13-year old Polish pen pal.

    Losing sleep owing to too much work or partying is traditionally a right of passage in American colleges. Being kept awake for 5-7 days by large, unfriendly, fit, armed men who hold you naked, alone and in prison, deprived of normal stimulation and food, while subjecting you to intensive interrogation is not a rite of spring or passage. It is brutal and inhumane; carried sufficiently far enough it is torture.

    There is nothing “crossing the line” about waterboarding. Untrained people succumb to it in moments. Trained specialists can experience post-traumatic stress syndrome even after “practice” sessions, as documented by special warfare candidate training and even film crews, as happened recently in the UK to a former SAS member, and he knew he was making a film.

    When administered by people who hold you in abject, seemingly endless detention; who demonstrate a real or feigned hatred for you, your religion and your culture; who evince not the slightest care whether you survive the experience or not, waterboarding is a convincing threat of death. Water is, in fact – not seemingly – inducing the gag reflex and preventing you from breathing properly. A panic reaction is automatic and uncontrollable. It is unquestionably torture. Malcolm Nance would agree.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We would have to first agree on what’s “borderline”. If that process replicates the press’ abandonment of critical thinking and acceptance of a perpetrating administration’s defining away of its culpability, I would say the odds are nil.