Homeland Security

You Can’t Blame Pelosi for Torture

In a classic “change the subject” ploy, Republicans are trying to blame the whole torture scandal on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But I think people are smart enough to recognize this for what it is: a giant, deliberate, cynical distraction.

True, Pelosi was once the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. And, as such, she was one of four congressional leaders briefed by the CIA on the interrogation of prisoners.

How About a National Student Council on the Origins of War and Torture?

The question today should not be whether torture “doesn’t work,” as several major essayists have said this past week, or whether it does, as Charles Krauthammer claims today in The Washington Post. There is never an ethical or moral basis for that discussion. It’s like asking under what situations would rape most effectively advance the opportunity for gaining good progeny. The question should now be: What have we become?

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.

Nancy Pelosi and Waterboarding: You Make the Call

An extraordinary news conference in the Capitol today, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and what she did or did not know about waterboarding.

Immediately below I have included her comments on the matter. For the sake of continuity I have excised a question on healthcare. If you need some immediate context, you can click here and read my Tuesday column on the matter. Really interested in seeing the comments on this one.

Attributes Versus Issues

Issues come and go, so it is the attributes of a politician that ultimately win or lose campaigns.

That is what makes Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) troubles with torture so compelling.

Republicans are charging the Speaker with two deadly political vices: dishonesty and hypocrisy.

They charge that she has been dishonest in what she knew and when she knew it when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques. She first said she knew nothing, then she said she knew something, and then she said she knew everything but didn’t think they would really do it.

On Torture: Jane Harman Should Be Applauded, The Speaker Should Have Objected, Republicans Should Be Ashamed

Every president since George Washington opposed torture until George Bush. Every commander, in every branch of military service, through every year of American history, as far as I know, has opposed torture. Every leader of every religious denomination of every faith has opposed torture, except the spiritual advisers to terrorists and dictators.

First: a standing ovation for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who should make all Americans proud of the clear, unequivocal and aggressive written objections she lodged when briefed about torture. What she did was exactly right. The way she did it was exemplary and a model for how senior members of Congress should conduct effective oversight.

Cheney and Torture

We live in a dangerous world. Our enemies, and even some of our so-called friends, will stop at nothing to inflict even minor damage to our people, property and sense of security. When it comes to the psychological warfare we wage every day with terrorists, they continue to post gains.

Now more than ever, the American intelligence community needs every tool at its disposal. That’s why former Vice President Dick Cheney is right to come out and vigorously defend the techniques used to prevent another 9/11 attack.

Pelosi's Drip, Drip, Drip on Waterboarding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a rather literal person. When she says that she was not briefed in September 2002 about the CIA's use of waterboarding, she means just that; she was not briefed. Not that she did not learn about it or was informed about it, only that she wasn't briefed.

After several days and news stories, we now are told that Pelosi was aware of the CIA's waterboarding in early 2003. That's six years ago.

Judge Bybee’s Torture Memo

I’ve read the now-notorious Aug. 1, 2002, memo by federal judge and then-Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee to CIA acting General Counsel John Rizzo. The Top Secret Memo includes 18 single-spaced pages (mildly redacted), but it suggests more than it states. It purports to be a legal opinion about the applicability of 18 USC 2340A (the prohibition against torture) to proposed investigative techniques, waterboarding being the most notorious. Relying on “oral advice” provided by investigators who wished to move into the “increased pressure phase” of their interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al Qaeda operative, the memo provides the CIA with the legal OK to proceed with the proposed “techniques.”


There has been much discussion about the implications of the Bush administration’s torture policy: What is it, who is responsible for it, was it appropriate and legal, is it effective, what should be the consequences?

The word torture means different things to different people. Here are descriptions of examples of real-life torture, described by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its opinion last week in the most recent extreme rendition case.