The Washington Post carries an interesting, albeit ultimately unsatisfying, article about torture memo author Jay Bybee's apparent private regrets about helping to provide cover for the Bush administration's illegal interrogations of terrorism suspects. The story quotes so many of Bybee's friends and associates to the effect that Bybee regrets either the memo itself or the way it was used (I count a total of six such sources, all but two anonymous) that it would be a reasonable hypothesis to assume Bybee either put them up to it or privately approved their talking to the press.
If so, Bybee's attitude makes a stark contrast to that of John Yoo, who has vociferously defended the memos--so much so that he might find himself under even more fire at UC Berkeley when he tries to return there from his sabbatical at Chapman University's law school.
But pushing your friends out there to make your excuses for you is just another example of the kind of moral cowardice we see so much of lately; it was typified by Colin Powell's becoming an anonymous source for so many journalists in recent years, without having the courage to publicly state that he had hitched his wagon to a disastrous foreign policy (his endorsement of Barack Obama, and his explanations for why he was doing so, was as close as he ever got.)
If Bybee does have regrets, it is particularly important that he express them publicly now (and what is to stop him? Federal judges, including Supreme Court judges, give speeches all the time) at a time when Dick Cheney and the flapping heads at most media outlets are right now discussing whether or not torture was "effective," when the Geneva Conventions say it is always illegal whether it is "effective" or not.
The next thing you know, some people will be advocating overturning the Supreme Court's Miranda decision on the grounds that when police beat up suspects they sometimes get true confessions out of them. What's that you say? Some people are already arguing that?
Jay Bybee, this is your moment. Make us proud of you, speak it loud, and I promise not to sign any more petitions for your impeachment.
Image:Jay Bybee/Think Progress.
Afterthought. When a reporter does this kind of story--and we see them often--it would be a service to the readers to give them some sort of hint about how the article originated. Did the reporter (Karl Vick) approach Bybee's friends and associates, or did some of them approach him? We need to be able to judge how much a journalist might have been manipulated by his sources.
Another thumbsucker on the "effectiveness" issue. Again in the Washington Post, for Sunday. You know, nearly every government that tortures people cites the exact same excuses, national emergency, the fight against terrorism, etc. I guess when a "democracy" tortures that is okay, or at the least we can have a democratic debate over whether torture was "justified" once we find out all the details. Is it old-fashioned to say that when something is both morally and legally wrong you just don't do it no matter what the "justification"? Oh, and that goes for the militants who will torture and behead Americans they capture and kidnap, and who will now feel even more "justification" for the torture that they commit because of the torture we commited. Even a lunkhead like John McCain understood that.
More on torture's effectiveness. Here is a somewhat better and more relevant article from Sunday's Los Angeles Times, by Greg Miller, which points out that CIA officials never seriously evaluated whether torture was "effective" at all compared to other interrogation methods. If not, then the statements today of folks like Cheney on down can be discounted (in other words, they are total bullshit.) So was the Bush administration simply on some sort of revenge kick for 9/11? That's a cool way to make policy, dude!