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Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Pandora's Box Has a Mind of It's Own

It's taken only a week but but the story surrounding Bush's enhanced interrogation techniques has exploded and now it is totally beyond anyone's control. Now that the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, the only way for this to stop being a story is for all relevant questions to be answered, one way or another. Now, let's review what has happened just in the last 24 hours. First, we found out that then NSA Director, Condi Rice, personally approved the water boarding of Abu Zubaydah.

As national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved the CIA's request to subject high-ranking Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to OK use of the simulated drowning technique.

Rice's role was detailed in a narrative released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA's harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.

Then, we learned that several, yet unnamed, members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, have been briefed on this program since 2002.

Republicans, hoping to turn the tables on Democrats who are open to prosecuting Bush-era lawyers for justifying "enhanced" interrogation techniques, are seeking to reveal the names of those lawmakers who were briefed on the tactics as much as seven years ago. FOX News has learned there were more than 30 meetings and briefings with members of Congress on the subject since 2002.

The first such briefing dealt with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the Al Qaeda operations chief who ran the training camps in Afghanistan where the Sept. 11 hijackers were trained. Sources said California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, now the speaker of the House, attended the meeting with then-Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla. (who later became CIA director), and she did not raise any objections.

In the meantime, far left outfit has added fuel to the fire with this ad.

Meanwhile, just for good measure, this diatrobe from Shep Smith of Foxnews is going viral.

Meanwhile, former Bush speechwriter, Mark Thiessen, has been advancing the story of how we successfully stopped an attack on L.A. after waterboarding KSM.

This story isn't going away. Furthermore, no one person or entity controls it anymore. It will continue to be the lead or at least near it, in my opinion, until all the questions are sufficiently answered, who, what, when, where, how, and why. Of course, the next question is what entity is fit to answer all those questions in a manner that the public feels is unbiased. Only time will tell on that.

If something formal, and most importantly trustworthy to all, isn't created soon, then revelations, which will occur regardless, will ultimately hurt everyone much worse. For instance, the president got hurt when an internal memo sympathetic to the Bush administration by his current chief of intelligence, Dennis Blair, was leaked. If some sort of body isn't formed soon, we will simply find out through a series of leaks.

We are all going to find out the details of most if not all of the briefings that Congress had on these techniques. We are certainly going to find out exactly who attended. It would be much better for the legislators involved to come forward themselves and acknowledge their attendance than have that information leaked to the public. We are going to find out the details of successes of this program, so it would be better for the president to declassify this information. If we continue to find out such details through leaks, he looks as though he is determined to only present one side.

This will all go on until all relevant questions are answered and then this story will stop having teeth. In other words, we are about to air all sorts of dirty national security laundry. If the president really wanted to move forward, that has failed miserably.

The worst part is that in the end it will make little difference. There are two schools of thought on this. The first is that torture rarely works, and even if it did, it wasn't worth it. The second is that bad actors weren't giving up information and we took the steps necessary to save lives. After all of this is aired, it's unlikely that very many people's views will change from where they are on one of these two sides. In fact, since both positions will find plenty of evidence to back them up, it's likely the only thing that will happen is that opinions will harden. As such, we are in for a very bitter partisan battle that will ultimately change very few minds.


Anonymous said...

If that's the case, than what does it matter if and how we find out? As I was reading your post I thought to myself "I feel like we're just going to talk about this for a while and then nothing will happen."

On the other hand, if it does continue to intensify without bound, it could become a litmus test for the 2010 elections. Could it really stay relevant for that long though?

mike volpe said...

It matters how we find because there will be a perception. If it is leaked who attended Congressional briefings, then it looks as though those folks were trying to hide their attendance. If details of how plots were successfully stopped are leaked, then it looks as though the admin was trying to squash that from coming out.

Something will happen. The partisan bitterness will be amped up to levels not yet seen. That's what will happen. The opinions on both sides of this will harden, a lot, and so the debate will come extremely bitter as we go along.

I don't know that this will still be a front burner issue at the end of next year, but it has a ways to go. The damage will be any semblance of the country coming together. The fault for that will lie squarely with the president because his handling will have caused it.

Anonymous said...

"enhanced interrogation techniques"

At least have the honesty to call it what it is.


Then we can start debating it.

Mike I have noticed the tendency for you to claim this story will become a big issue, or this story is just getting started etc...then the issue disappears in the next news cycle.

There is something sensationalist about this blog - particularly when it comes to reports you predict will hurt the Democrats or Obama,

Saying this, this story isnt not going away.

mike volpe said...

You caught me. I often make predictions and I am not always right. Sometimes, I make a prediction and it doesn't turn out.

That said, whether this is torture is a matter of debate. Torture is the imposition of "extreme pain" to get information. Is waterboarding "extreme pain" well that is a matter of debate.

Anonymous said...

Or, a fake pandemic will arise out of nowhere and dominate the news cycles until no one remembers the torture memos anymore.

As to whether waterboarding is torture (and I have no problems with the CIA, under scrutiny from the executive branch, performing waterboarding or damn near anything else to save American lives), I would submit that waterboarding is the simulation of drowning, and thus it is a simulation of death. Simulated executions are specifically proscribed by the Geneva Conventions as unacceptable wartime treatment of POW's.

Where the left's argument breaks down is the fact that terrorists do not get protection from the Geneva Convetions because they don't comply with the rules of war (wear a uniform, exclude civilians from conflicts, not hide in populated civilian areas, etc.). This is why Bush used the term "enemy combatant" to distinguish them from POW's. It was a necessary legal distinction, and one that the left has never really accepted.

I recognize that there is a moral high ground to be had by saying that we don't torture, and that our interrogation needs to use more American-ideal-based means to extract information (whatever that means). I respected John McCain's stance against torture, though I don't agree with him. That said, the only concession I'd be willing to make is that "enhanced interrogation techniques" should only be used against enemy combatants, not POW's (we did sign the Geneva Conventions, after all), and it should only be used in cases where there is some reason to believe that the enemy combatant actually has information that will save American lives. It shouldn't be done to just any random terrorist we capture, but that's very different from saying it shouldn't be done.

I also think the President, working with his AG, should directly approve every single instance of such interrogation techniques against an enemy combatant.

To summarize, I think what the Bush administration did to KSM and other high value terrorists was perfectly justified, and I'm ashamed that the current administration has seen fit to publically demonize them for trying to protect America.

mike volpe said...

this issue wasn't going to dominate the news cycle forever. That doesn't mean it is going away. As soon as there is something to move the story, it is back on the front pages. It still hasn't been resolved. Nothing has been resolved. We're going to learn more, much more, and it will be back on the front pages.