Yeah, but

Writing in The Telegraph, Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009, accuses the report’s authors of “cherry picking” their way through the documents to make their case, while failing to interview any witnesses from the period.

The interrogations “added enormously to what we knew about al-Qaeda as an organisation,” he maintained, “and led to the disruption of terrorist plots, saving American and Allied lives.”


Not a good enough reason
.

It revealed:

• graphic details of the CIA’s torture techniques, including how prisoners were waterboarded until they passed out

• how at least one detainee died of suspected hypothermia in Afghanistan after being made to sleep half-naked on a concrete floor in the winter

• how the CIA falsely claimed torture helped find Osama bin Laden

• how the agency’s leaders lied to the US Congress and foreign ambassadors over the scale and brutality of its secret programme.

It’s possible to conceive of reasons that would be good enough. The code for the nuclear bomb that will go off in central Manhattan in 20 minutes sorta stuff. Smash a few fingers for that maybe. Vile, brutal, immoral and illegal though that would be, probably fair enough.

But this? No.

84 thoughts on “Yeah, but”

  1. Not good enough……if you trust the reports authors, which frankly, I don’t. Too much political spin and bias. Feinstein for instance is flat out lying when she claims to not have been informed and to have given approval. So, no, I don’t believe that the “evidence” is impartially examined and reported upon.

  2. The “ticking bomb” argument is nonsense, too. It requires the interrogators to have implausibly specific information about everything (including what the subject knows) but not some simple thing. It requires the subject to know what time it is, and to be a fanatic who will not answer ordinary questioning, but who will under torture give accurate information arbitrarily quickly.

  3. “Feinstein for instance is flat out lying when she claims to not have been informed and to have given approval”

    That just means that she should be prosecuted as well.

    “So, no, I don’t believe that the “evidence” is impartially examined and reported upon.”

    I think it’s pretty clear that the US was engaging in torture. The legalistic details might be in doubt but the general theme is beyond dispute.

  4. @Guy, the ticking bomb is an ancient thought experiment. Of course it rarely if ever has happened (that you have both your bomb and a bloke that knows how to turn it off).

    Anyone using torture, Jack Bauer style, should immediately thereafter surrender themselves to the authorities and demonstrate that in committing assault occasioning GBH, and so on, they successfully prevented a crime of greater magnitude from being completed. Why would any of the torture-defenders have a problem with that?

  5. Anyone using torture, Jack Bauer style, should immediately thereafter surrender themselves to the authorities and demonstrate that in committing assault occasioning GBH, and so on, they successfully prevented a crime of greater magnitude from being completed. Why would any of the torture-defenders have a problem with that?

    Exactly. No jury would ever convict them if they were justified.

  6. I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the best solution is the British pre-Major system, where the security services do not officially exist. You have laws against such things, and you hire people who are willing to break the law on the condition that, if they get caught, they’ll be punished. Stops a society tying itself in these absurd knots trying to justify everything that’s necessary as good and legal. Sometimes what’s necessary is not good and should not be legal.

    The ticking bomb may be highly unlikely, but is actually pretty damn close to the situation in the days leading up to 9/11.

    Tim,

    Hayden’s justifications may not be good enough for what the CIA did, but that in turn is not a good enough reason for the report to be dishonest or incomplete.

  7. Even if torture worked, which it doesn’t, it is wrong. The most sickening element of the business is the amount of evil revealed by those who advocate it. It is an evil we had left behind and a load of scum brought it back again on bogus justification. The lot of them deserve to be tortured themselves. You do not “serve” your country by dragging it through evil shite.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    Guy Herbert – “The “ticking bomb” argument is nonsense, too. It requires the interrogators to have implausibly specific information about everything (including what the subject knows) but not some simple thing. It requires the subject to know what time it is, and to be a fanatic who will not answer ordinary questioning, but who will under torture give accurate information arbitrarily quickly.”

    Guy, please let me introduce you to Magnus Gafgen. Who kidnapped 11 year old Jakob von Metzler. He had been arrested for the kidnapped. Held for three days. Refused to talk. Somewhere there was a boy who was dying of thirst if not a lack of air. A massive police search could not find him.

    Frankfurt’s Deputy Police Chief Wolfgang Daschner ordered the interrogators to tell Gafgen that a “specialist” was being flown in. Who would torture him. The tortures were described at some length. Gafgen cracked and told them where to find the boy, whom he had already killed.

    Ticking bombs are not rare.

    Matthew L – “I think it’s pretty clear that the US was engaging in torture. The legalistic details might be in doubt but the general theme is beyond dispute.”

    Depends on what you mean by torture. The CIA had a legal opinion that what they were doing did not amount to torture.

    Matthew L – “Exactly. No jury would ever convict them if they were justified.”

    Daschner was convicted. He did not even torture anyone. He merely had someone else threaten to do so.

    ukliberty – “Indeed, any jury would acquit in seconds.”

    Except they haven’t. Because people of your general persuasion argued that people like Daschner ought to go to prison.

    We have done this experiment. We know how it turns out.

  9. > Even if torture worked, which it doesn’t …

    There are plenty of cases of it working. Why do you think it happens? Because organisations that have been studying military intelligence and espionage for hundreds of years and have got very good at it are just entirely sadistic morons who know less about it than you?

    The British used torture in the Second World War, though we like not to talk about it. It worked. It helped save our arses.

    > … it is wrong.

    Yes, it is. But, in an imperfect world, is it always more wrong than the alternative?

    I mean, I do find it odd that this discussion so rarely comes up when it comes to, say, blowing an enemy soldier’s legs off with a grenade. That’s pretty bloody wrong too, but we accept that it is sometimes not as bad as, say, failing to win the beachheads on D-Day.

    As recently brought to public attention in the second-rate The Imitation Game, we routinely sent our own forces into ambushes without alerting them, where we knew they would be slaughtered, because that was less wrong than letting the Nazis realise we’d cracked Enigma. Similar examples abound in other wars. And we accept that. So it’s OK — or, at least, not as bad as the alternative — to knowingly send thousands of our own men to their brutal deaths, but it’s completely morally unacceptable to make enemy combatants very very uncomfortable and distressed? I don’t get it.

    The whole point of techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation is that they are an attempt to achieve the effects of torture without actually doing physical harm. They’re worse than not torturing at all, but not as bad as the old-fashioned methods. Frankie Fraser used the old-fashioned methods and became a popular celebrity, paid handsomely for his amusing and proudly unrepentant anecdotes of how he used to rip people’s teeth out with pliers. No CIA agent who used waterboarding would be able to do that, even though waterboarding, unlike Fraser, causes no lasting health effects. That’s odd.

    > It is an evil we had left behind

    When?

    > The lot of them deserve to be tortured themselves.

    As I understand it, they are. Our spies and a lot of our soldiers are put through these techniques as training in case they get captured and interrogated. Which, again, raises an interesting question. It is apparently acceptable — or, again, less bad than the alternative — for us to waterboard our own soldiers, but it is completely unacceptable to do it to enemy combatants. Again, that’s odd.

    I would much rather live in a lovely world with no war or torture or wife-beating or violence of any sort, where we could have the luxury of always choosing to do good. But I acknowledge that we instead live in a shit world full of evil people, and thus a lot of our decisions involve choosing the least worst course of action. We don’t always get to do good, sadly.

  10. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “Anyone using torture, Jack Bauer style, should immediately thereafter surrender themselves to the authorities and demonstrate that in committing assault occasioning GBH, and so on, they successfully prevented a crime of greater magnitude from being completed. Why would any of the torture-defenders have a problem with that?”

    Why wait? Why not go to the Court *first*? This is Alan Dershowitz’s position – the police ought to go to Court and get a torture warrant.

    So I don’t see what your point is.

    Mr Ecks – “Even if torture worked, which it doesn’t, it is wrong.”

    Obviously torture works. That is why people use it. Perhaps we ought to ban it despite the fact that it works, but works it does.

    “The most sickening element of the business is the amount of evil revealed by those who advocate it.”

    The greatest legal and moral authorities in Western history have endorsed, reluctantly or not, torture. I would not leap to assume that they are moral cripples. I would take their views seriously and ask why they endorsed it.

    “You do not “serve” your country by dragging it through evil shite.”

    You do not serve your country by letting people blow up teenagers in pizza restaurants either.

  11. Of course torture works. To believe otherwise would require one to believe that those who carry out the torture are just doing it for kicks.

    I assume some sadists must get through the net, but the recruitment checks in all such agencies are actually quite strict, to your possible surprise.

    Those who say x is always wrong and that’s an end to it apparently have no idea at all of the world out there.

    We are fighting a war, we will be fighting it for a long time, it is not made up, it is not created by Big Brother to scare us, and it’s one that is not amenable to the Geneva Conventions.

    If you fight the Gracie brothers by the Queensbury Rules, you will lose. Every time.

    Currently the losses we have faced have been quite small. That is not for the want of trying.

    But even small losses can be paralyising, because of the terror they unfortunately but actually create, and we should think very hard about what ground we want to give and where, and what the implications might be for our society and our economy.

    Torture is not a recruiting sergeant, the recruiting sergeant already exists.

    I agree with BiG’s remark, though. Bring people before juries, where they overstep the mark, and let them argue the case. Not one in a hundred would be convicted.

    Alex Blackman (‘Marine A’) would not have been convicted by a civilian court in my opinion, and that was as clear cut a case of murder as you’ll see. (I’d have convicted him of murder myself.)

    As for the ticking bomb, it’s a thought experiement. There are plenty of analagous real world examples.

  12. So–being in the shit you think we should bury ourselves deeper. Because life is hard. The other guys do it so why shouldn’t we be as scummy as they. And why shouldn’t any of us do anything we can get away with.

    May all those who advocate torture end up undergoing it.

    SMFS–they threatened the guy with torture. They didn’t torture him. They could just as easily have said.
    “We think you have already killed the boy (because they would be naïve to think otherwise). If you confess and tell us where he is now you will go thro the legal system–be he alive or dead. If we have to find him ourselves -be he dead now or if he dies at some point beyond now–you will be slyly beaten to death–we will have all the excuses as to how it happened.” That would have done the same job on a cowardly child-killer. I’m not against a justified retaliation. Like the torture it could be an empty threat or it could be real.

  13. @Mr Ecks

    ‘So–being in the shit you think we should bury ourselves deeper. Because life is hard. The other guys do it so why shouldn’t we be as scummy as they. And why shouldn’t any of us do anything we can get away with. ‘

    There are a whole series of odd and illogical leaps there.

    You seem to be suggesting that we should only fight at or just below the level of our enemies – why? To make it ‘fair’?

    That is not the aim of the game.

    The aim of the game is to overwhelm your enemy with massive force and kill him.

    War isn’t fair, it’s horrible and dirty and people die.

    What is the moral difference in your mind between shooting a Taliban dicker to prevent him from alerting a bomb team to the presence of a patrol (say), and waterboarding the same guy if it means that he gives up the location of the IEDs or the bomb team before they plant them?

  14. The enemies of our civilization are monsters. They slowly decapitate bound captives & broadcast images of the victims’ agonies to the world. For their pleasure they rape children and enslave women after killing husbands, fathers, sons. They ethnically cleanse by slaughtering entire communities. They execute captured soldiers. They torture routinely.
    If mildly torturing them saves just one innocent from those fates, who gives a flying fuck?

  15. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “So–being in the shit you think we should bury ourselves deeper. Because life is hard. The other guys do it so why shouldn’t we be as scummy as they. And why shouldn’t any of us do anything we can get away with.”

    Depends on what you mean by being in the sh!t. Torture works. It is the only thing that can give us certainty. But we reject it in favour of juries. Which are a bit of a lottery really. They sometimes convict the right people. We all agree that torture is so awful that we prefer to send people to the chair (in the US) or to spend years in prison. There is no non-sh!t option here.

    “they threatened the guy with torture. They didn’t torture him. They could just as easily have said. … you will be slyly beaten to death–we will have all the excuses as to how it happened.” That would have done the same job on a cowardly child-killer. I’m not against a justified retaliation. Like the torture it could be an empty threat or it could be real.”

    How is that different? The Courts held that the threat was torture. How does reframing the threat make it acceptable?

    What is interesting is what we consider acceptable and what we don’t. Suppose he had said “You will go to prison for a long time and serve your sentence with several large gentlemen called Bubba who will forcibly sodomise you six ways to Sunday”. Would that be torture?

  16. SMFS,

    ukliberty – “Indeed, any jury would acquit in seconds.”

    Except they haven’t. Because people of your general persuasion argued that people like Daschner ought to go to prison

    In fact I haven’t argued that people like Daschner should go to prison – I have suggested they should face a jury, which isn’t the same thing. You seem to be confused (again).

    Did Daschner face a jury? Was he sentenced to prison?

    The answer to both questions is no. There was no jury. The judge had no choice but to find him and his colleague guilty under German law (in contrast a jury has the de facto power of nullification). But the judge handed down the lowest possible sentences (fines) and applied section 59 of the Criminal Code, to the effect that Daschner and his colleague were guilty but not to be punished.

  17. SMFS,

    How is that different? The Courts held that the threat was torture.

    Not in the Daschner case – torture wasn’t mentioned by the court. Daschner was charged with instruction to commit coercion and his subordinate charged with coercion.

  18. Of course torture works. To believe otherwise would require one to believe that those who carry out the torture are just doing it for kicks.

    I have a feeling that describes some cops here in the US.

  19. @Ted S
    If you have actual evidence of that, I’d complain to your congressman/A N Other.

    But as I said, sure, in any organisation you get dross. It’s my experience that the more serious the organisation the less dross you get.

  20. So Much for Subtlety

    ukliberty – “In fact I haven’t argued that people like Daschner should go to prison – I have suggested they should face a jury, which isn’t the same thing. You seem to be confused (again).”

    And in fact I have not said you did. The confusion is, as usual, not mine. You have said they should face a jury. Which does suggest you think they have a case to answer. And you can consider the possibility of them going to jail. But it is irrelevant. The State does not have the guts to defend people who defend the State these days. If a jury can convict Lee Clegg, or Stacey Koons for that matter, they can convict anyone.

    “The answer to both questions is no. There was no jury. The judge had no choice but to find him and his colleague guilty under German law (in contrast a jury has the de facto power of nullification).”

    So do judges in effect. The judge of course was not forced to convict anyone. No torture took place. The judge could have ignored it. Judges can do what they like.

    And while the answers to those questions might be no, he was convicted in a Court of law.

    ukliberty – “Not in the Daschner case – torture wasn’t mentioned by the court. Daschner was charged with instruction to commit coercion and his subordinate charged with coercion.”

    It was mentioned by the European Court of Human Rights. So you’re wrong. Although coercion here means what it means.

  21. It’s possible to conceive of reasons that would be good enough.

    Indeed:

    1) Banks that do not respond to emails;
    2) People that do not stand to one side of airport travelators;
    3) People in HR.

    I can think of others.

  22. Ecks,

    > The other guys do it so why shouldn’t we be as scummy as they.

    The other guys don’t waterboard — a procedure carefully designed to be extremely distressful without being harmful. They rip your nails out and stick knives in you and kick you and burn you, and eventually hack your head off, slowly. Waterboarding simulates the sensation of drowning without any actual drowning. The other side wouldn’t see the point in going to the bother of designing such a procedure when they could just hold your head underwater. There is a reason why our side don’t hold our enemies’ heads underwater.

    None of which makes waterboarding good, but to say that it is every bit as bad as what the talibs do is delusional.

    The irony, of course, is that if we’d been waterboarding feminists, you’d be cheering right now.

  23. SMFS, didn’t you originally introduce the Daschner case as an example why the “ticking bomb” scenario is not some hypothetical thought experiment but a real possibility? From what you’ve said, the Daschner case is one where torture would have been pointless, as was the threat of it.

  24. Alex Blackman (‘Marine A’) would not have been convicted by a civilian court in my opinion, and that was as clear cut a case of murder as you’ll see. (I’d have convicted him of murder myself.)

    My best mate served as a Marine Officer in Afghanistan: he thinks he was guilty of murder, hands down. The sentencing should maybe have taken one or two things into account and possibly been lighter, but he was guilty of murder IMO.

  25. SMFS,

    ukliberty – “In fact I haven’t argued that people like Daschner should go to prison – I have suggested they should face a jury, which isn’t the same thing. You seem to be confused (again).”

    And in fact I have not said you did. The confusion is, as usual, not mine.

    You said, and I quote, “people of your general persuasion argued that people like Daschner ought to go to prison.” I am not among those people who have argued that or anything like that.

    You have said they should face a jury. Which does suggest you think they have a case to answer.

    States should not sanction torture. Yes, people who commit torture should be held accountable. But that is not the same thing as saying they should go to prison. They ought to face a jury who will decide whether their act was necessary in the circumstances, even if necessity isn’t a legal defence (which is where the de facto power of nullification comes in). I am quite happy for a person to go free if a jury finds he acted out of necessity or refuses on such grounds to find him guilty. But I don’t want torture to be used as a matter of course. Savvy?

    “The answer to both questions is no. There was no jury. The judge had no choice but to find him and his colleague guilty under German law (in contrast a jury has the de facto power of nullification).”

    So do judges in effect. The judge of course was not forced to convict anyone. No torture took place. The judge could have ignored it. Judges can do what they like.

    No, they may not. They are obliged to uphold the law. They are not free to ignore it. Juries are.

    ukliberty – “Not in the Daschner case – torture wasn’t mentioned by the court. Daschner was charged with instruction to commit coercion and his subordinate charged with coercion.”

    It was mentioned by the European Court of Human Rights. So you’re wrong.

    It wasn’t mentioned by the German court that tried Daschner and his colleague. It was mentioned by the European Court of Human Rights that heard Gaefgen’s case against Germany. But that’s not the Daschner case.

  26. Time was when us plebs wouldn’t have our evidence accepted unless we’d been tortured beforehand. Oh happy days, before dentistry, credit cards and internet chat rooms.

    The plain fact of the matter is that everyone cracks under torture. Indeed, initial resistance is probably only so as to find out what the torturer wants to hear. Once you know what to say, you’ll say anything to make the pain stop. On the law of averages, sometimes what you say might be the truth, more often it would be a load of bollocks.

    So we need to have more highly trained torturers so as to reduce the proportion of bollocks. Given that our own dear plod (whose training costs about £50K each) turn out to be not very good interrogators, missing genuine rapes and following false rape claims for example, our chances of getting skilled and effective torturers from a sub set of the population that likes inflicting pain seems nugatory.

    So don’t do it.

  27. If a jury can convict Lee Clegg…

    Eeeeh….again from a mate who is well placed to comment, Lee Clegg acted seriously out of line. At the time I supported him, but from what I have learned since he was an asshole of the highest order: joyriders often ran through the checkpoints, they knew it was a joyrider, and he had no business firing after the car. I understand why he did it, but he shouldn’t have.

  28. Bloke back in Germany

    SMFS, Dachsner’s case was heard in the Landgericht, which does not use any form of jury.

    Gäfgen did not make a complaint against Dachsner, instead Dachsner was prosecuted because of his own case notes. Gäfgen was merely a witness.

    Refer to para. 2 here: http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/stgb/__240.html for why the court found him guilty. The judge(s) believed there were other means available to achieve the aim of saving the victim. Were there not other means available he would not have been found guilty.

    So, that’s the choice these people have to make – if the choice was wrong (as the court found in Dachsner’s case) they have to face the consequences.

    The consequence for Dachsner were what? See para.4 of the above – and that consequence should have been between 6 months and 5 years imprisonment. What Dachsner actually got was a fine of €10,000, suspended for one year. As he kept his nose clean for a year, the penalty was never imposed, with the result that he has no criminal record. He was not disciplined, kept his job (albeit moved to another city), and eventually retired with full pension.

  29. Interested,

    Of course torture works. To believe otherwise would require one to believe that those who carry out the torture are just doing it for kicks.

    Two points here:

    The first is that an alternative explanation to yours is that they believed torture works or would eventually work. They may have done it regretfully but believing it necessary. For example, according to the report, some person [redacted] exchanging emails with a medical officer, wrote,

    “Truthfully, though, I don’t recall that the WB [waterboard] produced anything actionable in AZ [Abu Zubaydah] any earlier than another technique might have. This may be different with KSM, but that is still as much a statement of faith as anything else – since we don’t seem to study the question as we go… it’s been many more days of constant WB repetitions, with the evidence of progress through most of them not being actionable intel but rather that ‘he looks like he’s weakening.’ The WB may actually be the best; just don’t like to base it on religion.'”

    The second point is that the some of the individuals participating in interrogations may have been nasty pieces of work – not just tough people with hard jobs who had seen and done some horrible things out of necessity, but nasty human beings.

    The Committee identified a number of personnel whose backgrounds include notable derogatory information calling into question their eligibility for employment, their access to classified information, and their participation in CIA interrogation activities. In nearly all cases, the derogatory information was known to the CIA prior to the assignment of the CIA officers to the Detention and Interrogation Program. This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.

  30. @BiF

    ‘So we need to have more highly trained torturers so as to reduce the proportion of bollocks. Given that our own dear plod (whose training costs about £50K each) turn out to be not very good interrogators, missing genuine rapes and following false rape claims for example, our chances of getting skilled and effective torturers from a sub set of the population that likes inflicting pain seems nugatory.’

    I’m with you on the need to have highly trained torturers; but we don’t take CIA (or MI6) staff from the same pool as the police are drawn.

    ‘So don’t do it.’

    Hmm. I’ll ask you the same question I asked Mr Ecks (and which he has so far not answered):

    What is the moral difference in your mind between shooting a Taliban dicker to prevent him from alerting a bomb team to the presence of a patrol (say), and waterboarding the same guy if it means that he gives up the location of the IEDs or the bomb team before they plant them?

    Is it really better, more ‘moral’, to kill a man – the scenario above happened hundreds of times in Afghanistan – than to waterboard him?

  31. @UKL

    ‘Two points here:

    The first is that an alternative explanation to yours is that they believed torture works or would eventually work…

    The second point is that the some of the individuals participating in interrogations may have been nasty pieces of work ‘

    I don’t disagree with either of those points (in fact I made the second myself, when I said sure some bad eggs must get through).

    I just don’t think they are clinching arguments against torture (I don’t believe any such arguments exist, of course).

    As per the above, would you rather waterboard a guy or shoot him dead to achieve basically the same end?

  32. Interested,

    I just don’t think they are clinching arguments against torture

    I didn’t intend to suggest they are arguments against torture, simply that those who claim it works may have other reasons for doing so than it working.

    IIUC the CIA outsourced the program almost in its entirety to a company formed by two psychologists neither of whom “had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise” and paid some $180m for the privilege. What incentive was there for those men to say “actually our methods don’t work / aren’t as efficacious as you might believe”?

    (I don’t believe any such arguments exist, of course).

    No arguments against it in any context or just particular contexts e.g. the ticking bomb?

    As per the above, would you rather waterboard a guy or shoot him dead to achieve basically the same end?

    I’d rather waterboard him than end his life.

    Anyway, I see we agree about accountability if not efficacy: “Bring people before juries, where they overstep the mark, and let them argue the case. Not one in a hundred would be convicted.”

  33. @UKL

    Re the CIA and the outsourcing, I have to say I haven’t followed the ins and outs of this case as I am not so exercised by torture as some (which is not the same as saying I think it’s a good thing).

    I was commenting more generally.

    If it’s as you describe that sounds a bit mad, but then I refer you to Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money. The US government is awash with other people’s money, and so it hoses it around the place like a squaddie on leave.

    Re shooting vs waterboarding, it does sound then that your entire argument is a practical rather than a moral one (which is sensible of you in my view).

    ‘No arguments against it in any context or just particular contexts e.g. the ticking bomb?’

    Well, everything is in context. I don’t believe in context free shootings, either.

    If you could show me conclusive proof that torture didn’t work, and that it was really just nasty men extracting their rage on helpless victims, I’d be dead set agin.

    I’ve just never seen that evidence – I’ve seen lots of people not in the field say it doesn’t work, and some people no longer in the field, who may or may not have books to sell and axes to grind, but I take them as seriously as I take non cancer specialists and retired doctors discussing cancer.

    I don’t believe that evidence actually exists, because in my view it is obvious that torture does work. It has done historically, and I know myself that if I had information I would give it up, eventually, and I’ve had some training in this area.

    How many finger nails would you give up?

    That doesn’t mean every terrorist would submit, or that it should be the first and immediate recourse in all cases.

  34. > IIUC the CIA outsourced the program almost in its entirety to a company formed by two psychologists neither of whom “had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise” and paid some $180m for the privilege.

    Well, I take it as read that the CIA are generally shite at this stuff. All the lefty screaming about “BUSH LIED!” was, let’s remember, because he stopped bothering with the CIA and listened to British and French intelligence instead. Sensible man.

    > Bring people before juries, where they overstep the mark, and let them argue the case.

    It’s a lovely utopian idea, but of course most of the evidence they’d need in order to argue the case would be classified. “Yes, I tortured him, but I had to because of a thing I can’t tell you about. But, honestly, it was really really important. Although, actually, I don’t even work for the government.” I think most juries would convict.

    And who’d submit to the court? The actual interrogators — whose identities MI6 needs to keep secret and who have important work to do — or patsies? If we’re trusting them to turn themselves in, the whole thing’s a farce.

    Deny their existence, disown them if they’re caught. And thank them in secret.

  35. Squander Two,

    Well, I take it as read that the CIA are generally shite at this stuff.

    Do you believe them that their methods (or those used by their contractors) are effective and have prevented attacks?

  36. Interested,

    If you could show me conclusive proof that torture didn’t work,

    I’ve never suggested it doesn’t work at all – I imagine sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I question the claims made by MOPs about its efficacy: “torture works” as if it always works, indeed as if they are qualified or competent to have an opinion either way. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee’s minority report says, “our review of the documentary record did reveal some instances of inaccurate effectiveness claims by the CIA”. It disagrees with the majority’s claim about effectiveness and says it is exaggerated, that the CIA’s claims were “largely accurate”, but that does mean that the minority agrees with the majority to the extent that the CIA’s claims about effectiveness were not wholly accurate.

    Some of the detainees weren’t subjected to ordinary interrogations before ‘enhanced interrogations’, so I question what can be learned about effectiveness in those cases over the ordinary interrogations that didn’t happen beforehand. And there were reportedly a number of CIA officers who contemporaneously questioned the degree of effectiveness (I gave one example above).

    Re shooting vs waterboarding, it does sound then that your entire argument is a practical rather than a moral one (which is sensible of you in my view).

    Well, part of my argument is a moral one. I don’t think states should torture as a matter of course, I think if it is ever done it must be done out of necessity after the alternatives have been exhausted (e.g. do ordinary interrogations first) and the people involved should face a jury trial (already been through that and we agree on that). I don’t think states ostensibly supporting the rule of law should have laws and international agreements against torture that they subsequently try to circumvent, weasel out of or simply ignore. And some methods seem more ‘violating’ and therefore ‘less moral’ than others e.g. having a pipe shoved up your bum and the water turned on (aka “rectal rehydration”) absent medical necessity seems worse than being pushed against a wall fairly hard (aka “walling”).

  37. My father is a decorated (fought in Korea) member of the U.S. armed forces. We got into a discussion about torture once and he said that in Korea his unit never had to torture anyone for intel. He said that when a group of North Koreas or Chinese were captured they were lined up and the first was interrogated by an interpreter while a unit member held a .45 pistol to his head. If he failed to provide the information requested, the unit member then blew the prisoner’s brains out. The interpreter then told the remaining prisoners that the process would be repeated until they provided the intel the unit wanted (which usually centered around the time and location of the next attack).

    That, of course, constituted a war crime.

    When I asked my father how he felt about it then and now, he simply shrugged his shoulders and stated that in war you do whatever you think you have to do to survive. He also stated that when you’re in combat, there are only two things you are thinking about: Doing your job and surviving. Nothing else matters… so you do whatever you think you have to do to do your job and survive. If that means blowing the head off a prisoner of war, you do it. That is the reality of war, and ethics don’t enter into that particular reality.

    It’s important to remember that fact… that sometimes horrible things have to be done in order to make sure you (or your fellow Marines, or your countrymen, or our country itself) can survive. Debating the ethics of those actions are a luxury for those who can take their safety – and the safety of their loved ones – for granted. Those charged with prosecuting a war to a successful conclusion – which includes intelligence personnel of all types – just don’t have that sort of luxury.

  38. Can anyone tell me if a al-Qaeda terrorist actually qualifies for the sort of legal protections provided to combatants under international law (i.e., Geneva Convention)?

    A citation would help.

  39. Liberty,

    > Do you believe them that their methods (or those used by their contractors) are effective and have prevented attacks?

    I think there are a couple of different conversations going on here: what the CIA did, and whether torture can ever be acceptable under any circumstances. I’m addressing the latter; I have no opinion on the former. To be fair, though, “shite” is a bit strong a word. I’m sure the CIA do succeed some of the time, and they did manage to find Osama in the end. If they say they’ve averted attacks, I imagine some of the cases they cite are true.

    All the people talking about jury trials, I’m curious: why not courts martial?

  40. Dennis,

    > Can anyone tell me if a al-Qaeda terrorist actually qualifies for the sort of legal protections provided to combatants under international law (i.e., Geneva Convention)?

    The Geneva Convention applies to its signatories. And ultimately, it’s a reciprocal agreement: you don’t break it because you don’t want your enemy to break it. All that sort of thing — the rules of war — rather relies on the integrity and civilisation of both sides. Seems absurd to me to apply it to Al Qaeda.

    Here’s the relevant bit:

    The Conventions apply to a signatory nation even if the opposing nation is not a signatory, but only if the opposing nation “accepts and applies the provisions” of the Conventions.

    So not Al Qaeda, then.

  41. Dennis,

    Can anyone tell me if a al-Qaeda terrorist actually qualifies for the sort of legal protections provided to combatants under international law (i.e., Geneva Convention)?

    A citation would help.

    It seems to depend on what the USA decides is expedient, not least because of repeated attempts to circumvent domestic and international law to avoid giving detainees the legal protections to which anyone else would be ordinarily entitled.

    Ordinarily, any person falling into enemy hands would be either (A) a prisoner of war and therefore protected by the Third Geneva Convention or (B) a civilian and therefore protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention, their status being determined by a “competent military tribunal”.

    The USA might designate a detainee as a lawful enemy combatant, which would place him in category A. But the USA might designate the detainee an “unprivileged enemy belligerents”, hitherto “unlawful enemy combatants”, neither term being defined by international law.

    Either way, IIUC, SCOTUS has ruled (a few times now) that detainees in US custody are entitled to protection under US law.

    (As an aside, I understand the USA criticised Liberia for detaining some journalists incommunicado and its failure to uphold the rule of law but Liberia said it was fine because they were unlawful enemy combatants.)

  42. ST –

    Thank you.

    Anyone –

    OK, if not the Geneva Convention, is there any other international law that prohibits the interrogation techniques used by the CIA? Citation?

  43. Interested

    I’m sure if you dug up enough witches you’d find some who were bang to rights.

    The difficulty resides in separating the true confessions from the chaff.
    Hence there is abundant evidence that torture doesn’t work, as a practical guide to action this day.

  44. Shifting sands slightly – but do drugs still genuinely not work at all?

    S2

    “I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the best solution is the British pre-Major system, where the security services do not officially exist.”

    “Deny their existence, disown them if they’re caught. And thank them in secret.”

    Me too.. I never, even then, understood any of this transparency nonsense.

    More effectively and highly targeted against real enemies, rather than increasing amounts spent on “mass” surveillance (or “collecting it all”, to quote General Alexander).

    But of course that’s a whole different (political) debate, and in respect of which our political masters now all appear to be as one..:)

  45. Dennis,

    OK, if not the Geneva Convention, is there any other international law that prohibits the interrogation techniques used by the CIA? Citation?

    Are they torture or inhuman and degrading treatment?

    Torture or inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited by the UN Convention Against Torture but the USA signed it with reservations to the effect that an individual alleging a violation can’t make use of it to hold the USA to account domestically or internationally. The USA also signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 7 prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) but with reservations to the effect that someone cannot use it to hold the USA to account domestically or internationally for an alleged violation. Torture is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions but we have discussed those – unlawful enemy belligerents don’t seem to be protected. The Rome Statute prohibits torture but the USA is not a state party to it.

    Torture is prohibited under US law but according to some people waterboarding is an ‘enhanced interrogation technique’, not torture, and in any case those involved didn’t intend “to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering” (a key element of the offence). But that seems moot because the DoJ is not inclined to prosecute any of them. I don’t know if individuals can make use of the Alien Tort Statute to hold the CIA to account.

    IIUC all techniques are prohibited today other than those specifically allowed by the US Army Field Manual on Interrogation – waterboarding is not among those specifically allowed.

  46. “Is it really better, more ‘moral’, to kill a man – the scenario above happened hundreds of times in Afghanistan – than to waterboard him?”

    Yes it is.

    I’ve been busy today. I am back now and I have no intention of single-handedly taking on a point by point refutation of a half-dozen strong torturefan tag team–many of them notorious last worders. I already get headaches from reading blogs half the night.

    So I sign off on the topic and express the wish that all you torture fans out there are tortured good and proper before your days are done. Given that the left seem to be everywhere ascendant and we on here are all contributors to a notorious “right-wing” blog it does seem possible that it could happen. Probably on one of the court-ordered torture warrants that SQ2 seems so fond of.

  47. @UKL

    “I question the claims made by MOPs about its efficacy: “torture works” as if it always works, indeed as if they are qualified or competent to have an opinion either way. ”

    I think you’re reading in, there. Nothing “always works” and I don’t think anyone who says x works means x always works, do they?

    @Ecks

    You’re barmy, but I kind of like you.

  48. So Much for Subtlety

    Luke – “didn’t you originally introduce the Daschner case as an example why the “ticking bomb” scenario is not some hypothetical thought experiment but a real possibility? From what you’ve said, the Daschner case is one where torture would have been pointless, as was the threat of it.”

    As it turned out, the boy was already dead. But they did not know that at the time. They thought they needed actionable information, fast, and they weren’t getting it.

    ukliberty – “You said, and I quote, “people of your general persuasion argued that people like Daschner ought to go to prison.” I am not among those people who have argued that or anything like that.”

    And as anyone who has passed First Form English ought to know, “people of your general persuasion” is not the same as “you”. In fact it might be argued that “people of your general persuasion” cannot include you. I did not say what you have claimed I said. As usual the confusion is yours.

    “States should not sanction torture. Yes, people who commit torture should be held accountable. But that is not the same thing as saying they should go to prison.”

    They should all engage in a farce where policemen do it and then we pretend to put them on trial, but you don’t want them to be punished? Isn’t that, at best, wasting the Courts time?

    “No, they may not. They are obliged to uphold the law. They are not free to ignore it. Juries are.”

    They ignore it all the time. The law is whatever a judge says it is. Every time they refuse to deport a criminal because he owns a Pekingese they are selectively choosing the law they wish to enforce and ignoring the law they do not.

    “It wasn’t mentioned by the German court that tried Daschner and his colleague. It was mentioned by the European Court of Human Rights that heard Gaefgen’s case against Germany. But that’s not the Daschner case.”

    That is some impressive quibbling.

  49. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in france – “The difficulty resides in separating the true confessions from the chaff. Hence there is abundant evidence that torture doesn’t work, as a practical guide to action this day.”

    You have to admit that having too much information is a problem that most interrogators would love to have. However I would also note that this problem does not go away with any other system. Confessions are often false and can be easily coerced. The Innocence Project sent an innocent man to prison for over a decade by tricking him into a confession. Eyewitnesses get it wrong all the time. Forensic teams are sloppy. No matter what we do, we need to separate the useless from the real.

    However none of that is proof torture does not work. You are not guaranteed to be flooded with useless information. Someone who will confess to being the Queen of Sheba’s bat boy will confess whatever is true first.

  50. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Eeeeh….again from a mate who is well placed to comment, Lee Clegg acted seriously out of line. At the time I supported him, but from what I have learned since he was an asshole of the highest order: joyriders often ran through the checkpoints, they knew it was a joyrider, and he had no business firing after the car. I understand why he did it, but he shouldn’t have.”

    I am sorry but this sounds like a post-facto rationalisation of Clegg’s betrayal. Having betrayed a soldier, someone could admit it, or they could construct an elaborate and quite complex justification for why that betrayal was actually right. Did they know it was a joyrider? I don’t know about you, but if I see a car hurdling down at me, in a province where the PIRA has been in the habit of using involuntary suicide car bombs, I am going to shoot. Are you saying that in fact they ought to have stood there and allowed themselves to be run down?

    The soldiers fired 19 bullets. Clegg fired four. The last of which killed one of the joyriders. Legal, legal, legal, murder. How can we expect a 19 year old boy in the heat of battle to pause and think before that last bullet?

    The Army does not agree with you. The House of Lords overturned the murder conviction and Clegg has continued to serve with the Paras. Which suggests, oddly for once, that the Paras have a higher sense of duty, morality and justice than pretty much everyone else.

    The fact is the British government will routinely betray soldiers and policemen defending the public to avoid so much as a mildly embarrassing headline. I would assume soldiers and policemen have noticed and have drawn the appropriate conclusions.

    Bloke back in Germany – “Gäfgen did not make a complaint against Dachsner, instead Dachsner was prosecuted because of his own case notes. Gäfgen was merely a witness.”

    Only because Gafgen did not know who he was.

    “The judge(s) believed there were other means available to achieve the aim of saving the victim. Were there not other means available he would not have been found guilty.”

    That is easy for them to say. And it is meaningless. A threat of torture was used. The person ordered it was convicted in a court of law. Everyone here who is claiming that a torturer in a ticking time bomb case would walk free is making a claim they cannot support. In the only case anyone has mentioned here, even though there was no torture, a conviction resulted.

    I note, again, the legal pretzels the Courts turned themselves into, accepting that the threat of torture was illegal, but insisting that the subsequent conviction was just. Even though it is fruit of a poisoned tree. And they know it is. The entire case should have been tossed. The law specifically says the entire case should have been tossed. But the European Courts made up some new law on the fly and Gafgen went to prison.

    I love the token compensation he got too.

    “He was not disciplined, kept his job (albeit moved to another city), and eventually retired with full pension.”

    Actually he was moved to a desk job.

  51. @Ben S army lawyers, political committees and other REMFs who will never have to look a bad man in the eye grandstand and betray those at the sharp end. Film at 11.

  52. SMFS,

    “States should not sanction torture. Yes, people who commit torture should be held accountable. But that is not the same thing as saying they should go to prison.”

    They should all engage in a farce where policemen do it and then we pretend to put them on trial, but you don’t want them to be punished? Isn’t that, at best, wasting the Courts time?

    Are you hourly? I want the person freed if the jury doesn’t think he’s guilty and punished if the jury thinks he’s guilty, after hearing the evidence. I assumed that was obvious and I didn’t need to spell it out for people here, even you…

  53. SMFS,

    That is easy for them to say. And it is meaningless. A threat of torture was used. The person ordered it was convicted in a court of law. Everyone here who is claiming that a torturer in a ticking time bomb case would walk free is making a claim they cannot support. In the only case anyone has mentioned here, even though there was no torture, a conviction resulted.

    Several of us have said the person should face a *jury*. Daschner’s case was not a trial by jury. Therefore it is irrelevant to our claims.

  54. Ecks,

    > Probably on one of the court-ordered torture warrants that SQ2 seems so fond of.

    I said it should all be illegal. I honestly don’t see how that can be reconciled with doing it through the courts.

  55. BIF,

    > The difficulty resides in separating the true confessions from the chaff.
    > Hence there is abundant evidence that torture doesn’t work, as a practical guide to action this day.

    You’re conflating two things here. There’s torturing to get a confession and there’s torturing to get intel. I don’t think there’s anyone left in the civilised world who thinks confessions extracted under torture mean anything. A confession is just a yes or a no. Intel is another matter. It contains details.

    And, again, military intelligence people have considered these problems, have had centuries of practice, and are good at dealing with them. They don’t just believe everything everyone says.

    The British had a team during WW2 who would design military maneouvres. The assumption was that German analysts would assume our maneouvres were deliberately misleading and so would try to devine our true hidden intentions based on our misleading actions. The British therefore organised our military actions so that not only would the hidden meaning underneath be another layer of misinformation, but that anyone assuming that and analysing a layer further down would still encounter another layer of deliberately placed misinformation. All that while trying to keep the maneouvres actually militarily useful. Amazing stuff.

    They’re the kind of people who analyse intel. They can handle false information rather well.

  56. I don’t know about you, but if I see a car hurdling down at me, in a province where the PIRA has been in the habit of using involuntary suicide car bombs, I am going to shoot. Are you saying that in fact they ought to have stood there and allowed themselves to be run down?

    No, I’m saying that a pal of mine – who has served with the Paras in NI – said that joyriding was a common occurrence and they knew this car was being joyridden. Nobody needs to stand there and allow themselves to be run down: jumping out the way and firing rounds are two options, which were rightly taken. But firing after the car, knowing it was being joyridden? According to my pal, that was out of order, and they knew it.

  57. The Army does not agree with you. The House of Lords overturned the murder conviction and Clegg has continued to serve with the Paras. Which suggests, oddly for once, that the Paras have a higher sense of duty, morality and justice than pretty much everyone else.

    Steady on. I’m not saying he should have been done for murder, but he did not act correctly. Those who knew him and the situation appear to think he was an asshole of the highest order, but that does not imply he should have been jailed for murder.

  58. @TimN

    I know people who knew Clegg from his return to active service (in 2 Para) and they (those people) don’t think he’s an ‘asshole’ at all.

    I’ve just spoken to one to ask him. Says he’s a good bloke who took it all with equanimity.

    Clegg got his Long Service and Good Conduct award which says something.

  59. Interested,

    “I question the claims made by MOPs about its efficacy: “torture works” as if it always works, indeed as if they are qualified or competent to have an opinion either way. ”

    I think you’re reading in, there. Nothing “always works” and I don’t think anyone who says x works means x always works, do they?

    It’s not always clear to me, particularly if their ‘tone’ is strident, but fair point.

  60. Feinstein for instance is flat out lying when she claims to not have been informed

    I don’t think Feinstein has made any such claim – are you confusing her with Pelosi?

    Obviously torture works. That is why people use it. Perhaps we ought to ban it despite the fact that it works, but works it does.

    uh-huh. The CIA’s considered opinion is that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers. Or see the various quotes from the CIA on the page Ben S linked to.

    Torture works very well for extracting confessions, true or false. It may work in the hypothetical ticking-time-bomb case, with the caveat that the subject knows he can stop the pain just as well with false information as with true. It’s the wrong approach for long-term interrogations, because it gives the subject every incentive not to reveal anything which might open up new lines of questioning.

    Why do you think it happens?

    I think the CIA adopted it in response to 9/11 because it was under strong pressure to do something, and torture was something.

  61. I know people who knew Clegg from his return to active service (in 2 Para) and they (those people) don’t think he’s an ‘asshole’ at all.

    Fair enough, we’re just trading opinions here.

  62. How Enhanced Interrogation Techniques work:

    Sleep deprivation:
    1. Deprive the detainee of sleep for so long that he hallucinates.
    2. ???
    3. Get good quality intelligence from detainee.

    Waterboarding:
    1. Waterboard detainee until he becomes completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his full, open mouth.
    2. ???
    3. Get good quality intelligence from detainee.

    Rectal force feeding:
    1. Puree detainee’s lunch of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins and ‘infuse’ into detainee’s rectum.
    2. ???
    3. Get good quality intelligence from detainee.

    1. Allow detainee to die from hypothermia while short chained half naked to a bare concrete floor.
    2. ???
    3. Get good quality intelligence from detainee.

  63. So Much for Subtlety

    Ben S – “Torture is great for getting false confessions, in that sense, maybe it worked the way they wanted…”

    Torture is good for getting false confessions. Also good for getting genuine confessions. Getting a lot of stuff. But so is everything else the police do. A lot of confessions are going to be fake. The problem does not go away because the confession is voluntary. Police still have to tell one from another. The only difference is if you torture you also get the real confession as well as everything else.

    PaulB – “The CIA’s considered opinion is that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.”

    Yeah but they have to say that. When it comes down to it everyone tortures. When it is important enough. Even TW and UKLib would support someone doing so in the right circumstances. Because it works.

    “Torture works very well for extracting confessions, true or false.”

    Sure. As I have said.

    “It’s the wrong approach for long-term interrogations, because it gives the subject every incentive not to reveal anything which might open up new lines of questioning.”

    Actually people usually break at which point they will tell anyone anything to make it stop. The last thing they want is for their interrogator to assume they are holding back. Basically they have to convince him that they have told him everything there is to know.

    ukliberty – “Sleep deprivation:”

    When Menachem Begin became Israeli Prime Minister he banned this. The Soviets had used it against him. And I believe he did, in the end, confess to being a British spy. So it works,

    “Rectal force feeding:”

    Actually that just looks to be a response to hunger strike. Not actually an interrogation technique.

    “1. Allow detainee to die from hypothermia while short chained half naked to a bare concrete floor.”

    That is a problem though. Where is the limit of what you can do before it is torture? John Yoo provided a definition (which this would seem to break). But keeping a suspect in a cold room is apparently successful. How cold does it need to be before it is torture? How about a really uncomfortable chair? Is that torture? A bright light?

  64. “Rectal force feeding:”

    Actually that just looks to be a response to hunger strike. Not actually an interrogation technique.

    “Actually”

    At least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.

    Chief of Interrogations [redacted] also ordered the rectal rehydration of KSM without a determination of medical need, a procedure that the chief of interrogations would later characterize as illustrative of the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.'”

    KSM was also subjected to additional rectal rehydration,” [redacted] OMS [redacted],described as helping to “clear a person’s head” and effective in getting KSM to talk.”

    CIA medical officers discussed rectal rehydration as a means of behavior control.

  65. I think there’s a distinction to be made here between the CIA being willing to torture and the CIA being willing to do something that at the time is officially not torture but is years later declared to have been torture.

    As I said earlier, the whole point of waterboarding is that it does no physical harm; that’s what it was designed for. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s surely nowhere near as bad as what our ancestors did. Including ancestors so recent that we’ve met them.

  66. I think there’s a distinction to be made here between the CIA being willing to torture and the CIA being willing to do something that at the time is officially not torture but is years later declared to have been torture.

    There seems to be a pre-2000 consensus that waterboarding is torture. Apparently the USA court martialed people for doing it in Vietnam and it was used to support war crimes charges against the Japanese after the Second World War. There is a list somewhere of US courts saying that waterboarding is torture. This idea that no-one knew waterboarding is torture really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    That aside, the report says that some CIA personnel found some of these things disturbing. They objected to using these techniques but were ordered to continue. Some said they were thinking about submitting requests to transfer away.

    “Several on the team profoundly affected… some to the point of tears and choking”

    It seems odd to suggest that people there at the time simply didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, and with the benefit of hindsight we can call it torture now, blah blah. They were so “profoundly affected” by what was transpiring that they were close to tears and thinking about leaving. And why wouldn’t they? They were complicit in human beings being driven mad, permanently physically damaged and on at least one occasion being killed.

    I just don’t see how people can say, “well, they didn’t know it was torture.” Really?

  67. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s surely nowhere near as bad as what our ancestors did.

    I keep seeing this argument, or its variant “well, al Qaeda do worse”, and I wonder what exactly is being argued. What are you suggesting here? Literally, that other people at other times and places have done worse? Or that because they’ve done worse then what we’re doing is relatively OK?

  68. And, sorry to spam, but every effort was made to twist, circumvent and narrow the law to get away with this behaviour (and, lest we forget, some high-ups wanted to go even further – some wanted to be able to snatch an American citizen from an American street and subject them to that torture). ISTM, if you’re on the up-and-up, you don’t stick people in blacksites or in Guantanamo Bay, argue for years in the courts that they aren’t protected by US law or international law and invent special designations for them arguing you can do what you like to them, destroy video recordings of interrogations, and mislead ‘policymakers’ about what’s going on.

  69. > What are you suggesting here? Literally, that other people at other times and places have done worse? Or that because they’ve done worse then what we’re doing is relatively OK?

    I’m observing that British men who did far worse in WW2 were not prosecuted or even mildly criticised. And yet there is no suggestion that they should be punished or that the state should be forced into an apology, and there is not an ounce of controversy over it.

    What I’m addressing there is this idea that “All torture is absolutely always completely unacceptable, full stop.” It strikes me that it is often accepted, often by the people who claim it’s unacceptable. It doesn’t need me to defend it, because apparently it is already OK, depending on who does it and when. The controversy is selective.

    Are you going to start campaigning for the British Government to acknowledge and officially apologise for the torturing of German agents that took place in London in the 40s? If not, what’s your problem with the CIA?

    > This idea that no-one knew waterboarding is torture really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    I don’t think I said that no-one knew. The CIA sought a legal opinion on the matter, and were told that it was not torture and was allowed. They acted on the basis of that legal opinion. That there were also other legal opinions (aren’t there always?) doesn’t change that.

    > That aside, the report says that some CIA personnel found some of these things disturbing. They objected to using these techniques but were ordered to continue. Some said they were thinking about submitting requests to transfer away.

    Same thing happens to front-line soldiers who have to blow people up. Does that mean we need to ban soldiers from fighting?

    > They were so “profoundly affected” by what was transpiring that they were close to tears and thinking about leaving. And why wouldn’t they? They were complicit in human beings being driven mad, permanently physically damaged and on at least one occasion being killed.

    Front-line soldiers are complicit in human beings being driven mad, permanently physically damaged, and on many many many occasions being killed. it sometimes brings them to tears. If they leave, we court-martial them for desertion.

    > It seems odd to suggest that people there at the time simply didn’t know what they were doing was wrong

    Wrong? I’ve said repeatedly here that it is wrong and should be completely illegal and that men who do it, if caught, should be punished. I also think that it is sometimes necessary to do wrong and illegal things. Necessary and good are not remotely the same thing.

    > if you’re on the up-and-up, you don’t stick people in blacksites or in Guantanamo Bay, argue for years in the courts that they aren’t protected by US law or international law and invent special designations for them arguing you can do what you like to them

    The Geneva Conventions do not apply to Al Qaeda — and yet the world is full of people insisting that they do. US legal protections do not apply to non-Americans outside the US — and yet the world is full of people insisting that they do. The American military were having to fight not only Al Qaeda but also the legions of lefties and lawyers insisting that captured enemy combatants should be given civilian jury trials for some unfathomable reason. Capture a Talib on the battlefield in Afghanistan, bring him back to the US, and you end up fighting your own people in the courts for years. Of course they needed to put them somewhere extraterritorial.

    In my opinion, if you’re on the up-and-up, you don’t argue that enemy combatants should be given jury trials. It’s an absurd and transparent attempt to cripple a war effort while claiming that you really support the war. But hey, that’s what the US has to deal with, and it means they bend themselves into some quite bizarre shapes. In a sane world, they’d have a POW camp in the US and Guantanamo would be unnecessary. This is not a sane world.

  70. I’m observing that British men who did far worse in WW2 were not prosecuted or even mildly criticised. And yet there is no suggestion that they should be punished or that the state should be forced into an apology, and there is not an ounce of controversy over it. … Are you going to start campaigning for the British Government to acknowledge and officially apologise for the torturing of German agents that took place in London in the 40s? If not, what’s your problem with the CIA?

    Perhaps sufficient numbers of people don’t know about it? I was completely unaware of it until I read your comment.

    The CIA sought a legal opinion on the matter, and were told that it was not torture and was allowed.

    They demanded legal cover – it is not quite the same as being advised by counsel that the behavour is lawful, and apparently they misled counsel.
    Waterboarding was considered torture by the US in the 1800s and 1900s. All of a sudden it wasn’t torture.
    They took the cover that was expedient and ignored the inexpedient objections.

    The Geneva Conventions do not apply to Al Qaeda — and yet the world is full of people insisting that they do.

    The controversy wasn’t so much that the Geneva Conventions definitely apply, it was that the Bush admin argued that no law applied, and every time they were thwarted they’d invent some new thing for people to argue about in court for months/years.

    US legal protections do not apply to non-Americans outside the US — and yet the world is full of people insisting that they do.

    E.g. the US Supreme Court. How odd that it found that people under US control merited US legal protection…

  71. The American military were having to fight not only Al Qaeda but also the legions of lefties and lawyers insisting that captured enemy combatants should be given civilian jury trials for some unfathomable reason.

    In my opinion, if you’re on the up-and-up, you don’t argue that enemy combatants should be given jury trials.

    ISTR people across the political spectrum genuinely (as opposed to ostensibly) in favour of the rule of law.arguing that the detainees should have some kind of legal recourse or protection, not necessarily (A) a military tribunal or (B) civilian jury trial, but something, and the CIA shouldn’t be permitted to do what it wanted to detainees with impunity. The Bush admin did not want to give detainees any kind of effective legal protection.

  72. > Perhaps sufficient numbers of people don’t know about it?

    Here’s an article in the most widely read English-language paper in the world. And most of the tortured Nazis had their day in court, where they got to tell everyone they were tortured. I don’t think it’s that people don’t know. I think they know we were under threat of invasion and that the world was at stake, so they make a calculation about which of the two evils is lesser. Which is really the only point I’ve been making here: yes, torture’s bad, but is it always the most bad option? The British appear to think not, at least not if it’s them doing the torturing. At which point, any British criticism of the CIA turns into “We’re allowed to do that but you’re not.” Fuck that.

    Oppose both or neither. And, speaking as a man descended from London Jews, I cannot bring myself to oppose anything the Allies did that helped keep the Gestapo away from my family. Selfish, but there you go.

  73. Here’s an article in the most widely read English-language paper in the world.

    Yes, what’s the ABC? Some 1-2m? Over 20m households in UK? And how frequently is the story printed?

    Which is really the only point I’ve been making here: yes, torture’s bad, but is it always the most bad option? The British appear to think not, at least not if it’s them doing the torturing. At which point, any British criticism of the CIA turns into “We’re allowed to do that but you’re not.” Fuck that.

    My position is: no-one is allowed to do it (as a matter of course), if you do it you should be held to account. And it seems there is little to fear from UK or US juries if the polls about approval/disapproval of torture are anything to go by. Have at it! Don’t speak to the prisoner for 47 days and then shove hummus up his bum to make him answer your questions. But we should ask a jury if the behaviour is OK in the particular circumstances.

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