Thursday, February 5, 2009

Update - Sorry, That's Not Exactly Anti-Torture: Panetta on the Ticking Time Bomb

We are in the "ticking time bomb" section of Panetta's confirmation. I will provide exact quotes when the transcript appears on the Senate Intelligence Committee site later. But he basically said, in a ticking time bomb situation, if he felt the techniques were not working, he would go to the President to seek additional authority. But he didn't think the President would go beyond the law.

So that's just greeeaaat. This is a perfect argument for passing a law in Congress that codifies the use of a standard - something like the Army Field Manual without Appendix M and other loopholes - that governs all interrogations in every agency. Maybe this will light the fire under Senator Feinstein's feet and she'll get her much talked about law passed. From the Media Matters link:

FEINSTEIN: I've met with Greg Craig about the executive order on two
occasions now. The Intelligence Committee will be providing oversight over it.
And, as you know, I have a bill to close Guantánamo, to end contractors doing
interrogations, to have one standard across -- which is the Army Field Manual --
the executive order coalesces with this bill. And we need time to really address
the fine points of the executive order and see if it's sufficient or if we need
to codify some of this.

Of course it's not sufficient. If the President can reverse it overnight (and he can), an executive order against torture is not sufficient.

Update: I did hear correctly. A quote from The Guardian:

"Pressed by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon about a 'human ticking time-bomb'
scenario, in which a terrorist knows of an imminent attack on the US, Panetta
said he believed torture would not be necessary to extract information.
'I'm of the view that when you look at the FBI and the US military, that they have
been able to show that it is possible to get the information that's needed to
protect our nation's security," he said.
However, he added: 'If we had the ticking bomb situation and I felt that whatever we were using wasn't sufficient, I would not hesitate to go to the president and request any additional authority that we would need.'" [emphasis supplied]

As someone from the "no torture, no exceptions" school, I find this appalling. It's an opening for those in our country who like torture. Under the current structure, the CIA would have to request that kind of authority from the President and also the AG. And that power nexus is a little scary. That's one of the reasons I posted a few days ago on Mukasey's letter to Sen. Leahy. The power to torture is in the hands of three US government officials.

But note that to approve a torture technique the "Attorney General would have to determine that the use of the technique is lawful under the particular conditions and circumstances proposed." In this era where Bush, Yoo, Cheney and Gonzales look like they might get away with all of it, that is a particularly awe-inspiring power. After all, the law is anything you want it to be. We need to prosecute Bushco so that we can limit that sort of fantasy interpretation of the law. Our laws are weakened by a refusal to investigate and prosecute our big name criminals.

1 comment:

Valtin said...

Good for you for calling out Panetta and the Democratic Administration for their troubled position on torture. And double good for calling out the Army Field Manual for its offensive Appendix M, which allows at a minimum illegal use of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.

Sooner or later, critics will have to form an opinion or theory as to why things are happening the way they are. I believe they will return to Eisenhower's conclusion that the military-industrial complex (and I would add in the intelligence agencies here) have undue influence in the government.

Even the President of the U.S. is in many senses hostage to these forces.