Torture, Part V

A witness at a Senate hearing on “enhanced interrogation” yesterday made a remark worth pondering. He was an FBI interrogator for our government in the post-Sept. 11 terrorist investigations. He left, opposing torture. Asked why our government continued torture when it did not work, he replied, “It is easier to hit someone than to outsmart them.”

These “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a classic euphemism, were amateurish, the now-retired witness told the Senate Committee; they were “Hollywood-style interrogation methods.” From a bad movie, he should have added. Worse, they are “ineffective and unreliable,” he testified. And the Justice Department legal memos that authorized the practices were “an ethical train wreck,” Georgetown law Professor David Luben added.

Whether the witness was right or wrong about the torture question, his testimony is further proof of the need for an airing of all the memos, photos, and command decisions surrounding our government’s torture policies and practices. President Obama went against his policy of openness, covering Bush policies with his own credibility, by changing his mind about the photos (he flipped and flopped about the administration’s state secrets policy weeks earlier). As president, he must do what he can do to protect our troops, if that was his reason for keeping the photos classified. But the courts that will decide about the confidentiality of the photos and documents, while heeding his views, need not be bound by his political decision.

We shouldn’t worry about what terrorists will think. They hated us without good reason before the photos, and will continue to do so whether or not they are made public. We should not become them — by our action or our absence of candor. The American public needs to know what was done, and the world needs to be assured it won’t be done again. You don’t begin that process by hiding the evidence.


This is the fifth in a series of articles on torture.

For Part I, click here.

For Part II, click here.

For Part III, click here.

For Part IV, click here.




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