Homeland Security

Blues Brothers

“We are on a mission from God.” That was the first thing that crossed my mind when I got an early call this morning from a friend who works in the national security arena.

The friend tipped me off that the president is going to announce in the next couple of days that those terrorists who are now housed at Guantánamo Bay will be shipped off to an abandoned prison in Illinois.

I wonder if they are going to the old Joliet Prison, the home of Jake and Elwood Blues, from the movie “Blue Brothers.” Like the terrorists, Jake and Elwood were on a mission from God. Their mission was to raise enough money to save their grade school.

Republicans Outfox Democrats on Gitmo

In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama delivered on his campaign promise to shut down our military prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, giving the Pentagon a year, until January 2010, to come up with a plan for closing the facility and transferring the remaining 240 prisoners.

But, suddenly, Senate Democrats have joined Senate Republicans in undermining his decision. Because, they say, they don’t want “terrorists” on American soil. From both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, anguished politicians are pleading: “Please, Mr. President, don’t send those dangerous terrorists to my home state, or my congressional district.”

Torture: The Ticking-Bomb Fallacy

Most defenders of the use of torture use the ticking-bomb argument to rationalize its employment. It is a false premise.

First, as far as we know, there has not been any truly ticking-bomb situation since Sept. 11, 2001, so why rationalize all the torturing that’s gone on to date, or a continuation of the practice with that rationale? Because it might disclose a ticking bomb? In one case, waterboarding went on over a hundred times over a prolonged (many months) period. The ticking bomb would have exploded if it were truly ticking. The idea of the ticking bomb is that we know it is about to go off, and seriously hurt people — not that it might be the case; let’s see.

The Cheney Dare

This article appears originally in The Washington Times of Monday, May 18.

I have written many times in this space that I oppose any criminal prosecution of prior-administration officials on torture or other issues relating to the Iraq War and the war on terrorism, especially those CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on the instructions of policymakers and the legal opinions issued by Justice Department senior officials.

I have agreed with President Obama on the need to look forward, not backward.

Pelosi Can't Tell the Truth

Armstrong Williams says Speaker Pelosi wasn't lied to by the CIA or the Bush administration on the use of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic, but rather she is lying about what she knew.


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.