Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Don't Get to Plead Ignorance

Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti have an astonishing story today at NYT. Apparently these bozos really didn't know what they were doing:

"WASHINGTON — The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations
without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans
during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New
York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A.
officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George
W. Bush
, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees —
investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with
little debate."

Here's a specific example:

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

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

Now, I really don't buy this "oh my god, we had no idea simulated drowning was torture!" idea. And isn't there someone in the CIA whose job it is to like...know stuff? There was no one in Operations who had some understanding of what constitutes torture? I find that really hard to believe. And finally, the course of barraging Zubaydah with whatever they could imagine is in itself suggestive of torture - this is your body, and we do what we want with it.

Reading Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side, you know that post 9/11 the atmosphere was one of brutality - Cofer Black's "we're going to put their heads on sticks" and all of Dick Cheney's dark side rhetoric.

Claiming ignorance is not going to fly here, guys and girls. Especially since it means your argument is falling apart - how do you argue "we didn't know it produced false confessions!" while saying "it worked! it worked!"?

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