Monday, April 20, 2009

The 267th waterboarding should do the trick

"We can't turn the page until we first read the page" --Senate Judiciary Commitee chair Patrick Leahy.

The New York Times reports today that two al-Qaeda suspects were waterboarded 266 times between them, obviously more than we have been led to believe in previous reports and testimony before Congress.

One passage in the Times report stands out in my mind:

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mr. Mohammed had been barraged more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning. But the precise number and the exact nature of the interrogation method was not previously known.

If true, this suggests that C.I.A. officers were aware that their actions were or might have been illegal despite the "torture memos" written by John Yoo and other Bush administration lawyers who wrote their legal opinions to order, and to curry favor with their bosses. And it makes President Obama's pre-emptive amnesty for those officers (that is, in effect, the result of his political decision not to prosecute them) an exercise in obstruction of justice.

Perhaps, however, Obama's Justice Department knows that such a move will increase the likelihood that C.I.A. officers will talk to the media and Congressional committees (and perhaps stories such as this in the Times and other news outlets are already the result of those off-the-record conversations with reporters.) Whatever the case, the truth will out, and it will be worse than we ever imagined.

PS--The new story also points out the need for caution in the use of sources, such as former C.I.A. agent John Kiriakou who was widely quoted as saying that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded for only 35 seconds before breaking and telling everything he knew. According to one of the 2005 Justice Department memos, Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 85 times in August 2002. And by the way, this story was broken by bloggers, as the Times acknowledges in its article, who took a close look at the memos and saw what other reporters had not.

Protecting the torture memo authors.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is now also opposing prosecution of the lawyers who provided cover for the Bush administration's illegal acts, quoting Rahm Emanuel to that effect. The blanket amnesty is moving up the chain of command... is the message that justice cannot be bent to the whims of politics not getting through loudly enough?

John Yoo defends himself. Before a skeptical crowd in Orange County, California, reports the Los Angeles Times.

1 comment:

Richard Parker said...

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month; six times a day, every day. His children (aged 9 and 7) were tortured with insects before he was captured.

All of it worked; he confessed to planning to blow up the Plaza Bank in Seattle (or maybe SF) two years before it was founded.

And 92 videotapes of his, and others' treatment, made for late-night viewing at the White House, have been destroyed.

So what if Obama has said these villains won't be prosecuted; the US has treaty obligations to pursue and prosecute them; Obama has no say in the matter.