Homeland Security

Torture and the Rule of Law: Think Nelson Mandela

Attorney General Eric Holder should complete a full report about the conduct that would legally be called torture, about the facts of the cases — from the legality of the acts committed to whether major terrorist plots were foiled by this — and make recommendations regarding prosecution. Until then the president and his entire administration should declare a complete moratorium on all public opining about this subject.

Whatever is right, the president has lost control over the issue. He has now reversed his views, in a matter of days, first on whether prosecution of higher-ups should be pursued and second on the merits of a Truth Commission. The torture proponents on the right — and while they deny it they are torture proponents under commonly accepted law — are in full-throated anger mode. And the issue has become hyper-politicized while most people on all sides lack many key facts of the matter.

Torture: To Discuss Freedom is to be Free

After the abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed, The New York Times and other major newspapers and the networks opened their op-ed pages to a congenial and brotherly discussion of torture. Torture then had binary parts: those sort-of-for and those sort-of-against — this is a sort of Hegelian dialectic ensuring the establishment of torture in one realm or another and to a degree to which it has never existed in our republic before. It is a complete compromise of character by the weakling, cowardly and appeasing voice of the horde, today's mainstream journalists who stood on the front of M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, hair in the wind, leading the invasion of Iraq.

Tortured Torture Policy

I can see why our intelligence officials were so opposed to the release of those memos. Without a doubt, they were embarrassed.

Not by the admissions that U.S. interrogators tortured the prisoners; we knew that. If I were them, I'd be mortified that the public knew how pathetic the torture was. 

No wonder there were so few redactions. What's to redact? I mean, putting a major terrorist in a small box with insects? In most American cities that would be called renting an apartment. Maybe he thought the CIA agent was his landlord.


Lost Our Moral Bearings

CARY, N.C. — A quick review of The Associated Press a few moments ago had rendered me momentarily speechless. One item notes that the president is "Open to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority for gruesome terror-suspect interrogations, saying the United States lost 'our moral bearings' with the use of the tactics."

This just two days after White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told reporters that the administration had no interest in prosecuting CIA officials and one day after the president himself traveled to the CIA to stage a photo opportunity for himself where he assured the CIA employees he "had their back." The audacity of the president is seemingly endless.


I am against torture. Torture is what the Gestapo did in World War II. Torture is what the Japanese did in the movie “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.” Torture is what they did in the Middle Ages. Remember the rack?

President Bush said repeatedly that America doesn't do torture. Well, in my book, putting somebody in a little box and filling it up with insects is torture. Waterboarding is torture. You can’t parse your way out of that one. Sorry.

We lose the moral high ground when we condone torture. And I believe that the moral high ground is a useful space to occupy.

'Man-Caused Disasters'

I have refrained until now from being overly critical of the Obama administration as it completes its early days in office. Back in 2001, I remember, it took us a few months to get the kinks out and streamline our operations in the Bush administration, so I've afforded Obama's team a certain level of professional courtesy.

Now, however, I'm wondering if they have any idea what steps must be taken to secure the country from those who seek to harm us. Lost in the discussion of the stimulus bill, the pork-laden omnibus bill and President Obama's new budget is the lack of focus on national security issues. Why is the president seeking to cut funding to the military when every other domestic pork project seems to prosper under his watch?

Immigration Without Representation

The twin specters of terrorism and tough economic times have brought the immigration debate to the forefront of American politics in a big way. The average citizen sees the flood of immigrants entering the country as a symbol of the lack of border security in the midst of a particularly dangerous time for America. In addition, the growth in illegal immigration is seen as diluting the value of citizenship, cheapening the labor pool and leading to a lower standard of living for actual citizens.

Some of the rhetoric surrounding the debate has unfortunately resorted to ethnic bigotry, but the fundamentals come down to jobs and security. Thus, the reaction to the current wave of immigration has been similar to those of prior waves of migration: The new lumps in our stew froth and steam, and sometime bubble over, in the melting process that is American society.

A Picture on My Wall

There’s a picture on my wall of me with my former boss, Denny Hastert, surrounded by a group of reporters. I am on his left shoulder, listening in. As it turns out, the reporters were listening in, too. Hastert was talking to three ladies who weren’t registered lobbyists, who weren’t elected representatives, and weren’t reporters. They were three concerned citizens who had petitioned Congress to enact legislation that they thought would make America safer.

One of those ladies was Beverly Eckert. She was one of the ringleaders of the so-called “9/11 widows.” She badgered the Speaker and the Congress to allow a full investigation of what actually happened on one of the worst days in the nation’s history. Without Beverly, there probably wouldn’t have been a 9/11 Commission.

More Than a Symbol

With the stroke of a pen, President Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge this week, closing within the year the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison facility and the apparent abuses carried out under the Bush administration.

The symbolism of this gesture is powerful, for it stands as a reminder that Americans value the sanctity of the rule of law and judicial review. But now the cold reality sets in — what are we going to do with the remaining 250 detainees?

It’s not a question that’s easily answered. We sure can’t bring them to our nation’s shores. As much as we want to give them their legal rights, it doesn’t mean we should bring dangerous suspected terrorists to, say, Kansas.

Safety vs. Freedom

As George Bush departs the presidential stage, he leaves behind many detractors and one rather large accomplishment that they either ignore or undervalue.

Since the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, not one terrorist has been successful in attacking America. Not one Islamic terrorist, not one domestic terrorist. In the days following 9/11, nobody would have believed that more than seven years later, the terrorists would have struck out.

There are a lot of reasons for that. First, Bush created a whole separate battlefield for the Islamic extremists to fight. That battlefield was in their backyard, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.