Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Season Of Miracles

I found myself actually agreeing with a Washington Post editorial this morning, a situation that almost never happens. The editorial wasn't perfect, but it came satisfyingly close in urging the Obama administration to follow through on its promise to return this nation to compliance with international and domestic laws forbidding torture.

The editorial opens by reminding Mr. Obama and the reader that he had promised to return the nation to "the notion that all U.S. personnel -- including CIA agents -- must use only those interrogation techniques outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, which hews to the Geneva Conventions and domestic prohibitions against torture."

Still, some national security experts within the Bush administration haven't given up the fight and are pushing for the CIA and other intelligence branches to be given greater leeway in interrogating subjects. Mr. Obama's national security advisers are said to be studying the matter. Those with knowledge of the discussions say that no decisions have been made and that any changes to the manual would abide by international and national laws.

Presidents need flexibility in handling national security matters and other emergencies. But the country and the world have become all too familiar with the use of such flexibility to evade long-established principles and law. President Bush, for example, long argued that the CIA needed more latitude than was available under the field manual to deal with the most heinous terrorists. For years, Mr. Bush insisted that all the methods used by U.S. agents were legal and necessary; he said he ordered these methods kept secret to avoid tipping off terrorists to U.S. strategies. Yet this year, administration officials confirmed that three al-Qaeda suspects had been subjected to waterboarding -- a simulated drowning technique considered torture since at least the Spanish Inquisition. Detainees at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were subjected to a broad range of abusive and degrading techniques by military and government personnel. This must never happen again.

Indeed, it must not. There should be no "wiggle room" on the issue, nor on the issues of kidnapping or black prison detentions. The days of operating on "the dark side" are blessedly coming to an end, at least I hope so. To ensure that, we need to remind Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-CA), the incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, of her promise to introduce legislation which requires the CIA and other intelligence gatherers to operate within the limits set forth in the US Army Field Manual.

Write, email, phone, or fax her and your two senators. Let them know that you want the US to return to the world of civilized and rational countries, that you want all agencies to operate under the law, both international and domestic.

If even the Washington Post has come around, it's clearly time.

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Blogger that one guy said...

A few months back, a co-worker described himself as "pro-torture" WTF?

What has happened to us? We need to de-normalize the idea that torture is OK.

5:09 AM  

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