Dealing with a Bombshell on Torture

Well, the so called “Torture Report” from the US Congress has finally come out, right? Wrong. What has come out is just an executive summary of the report. That executive summary is 600 pages long. So it looks like a report. In fact, this thing goes a lot deeper than folks realize.

Why do I say that? The report is not about a few instances of waterboarding. it is about a system of “enhanced interrogation” that was authorized, developed and implemented under the auspices of the US government.

This raises the question about the legality and effectiveness of the system. Defenders of the CIA have argued that it was both legal and effective. But what we are finding out now seems to blow both arguments out of the water. Not just that the arguments are debatable — but that they are fraudulent. That is important for drawing conclusions about the system and about its defenders. and about how the matter is handled now that the executive summary is public information.

For example, consider the “Pancetta Review”.   The current CIA Director, Mr. Brennan and others defend the CIA on the grounds that “enhanced interrogation” methods were needed and worked. Senator Udall, however, said this on the Senate floor

The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques. The Brennan Response, in contrast, continues to insist that the CIA’s interrogations produced unique intelligence that saved lives. Yet the Panetta Review identifies dozens of documents that include inaccurate information used to justify the use of torture – and indicates that the inaccuracies it identifies do not represent an exhaustive list.

See what I mean? It is one thing to argue about facts that are genuinely in dispute. it is quite another thing to allege that there is a cover up via knowing, and public distortion of facts  And the executive summary that we have now argues that some folks are in full cover up mode.

I can appreciate why the president does not want to discuss this. He is engaged in a war in Syria and Iraq and winding down a war in Afghanistan. He also has to deal with a hot crisis in Ukraine. Dealing with these requires intelligence that the CIA and others provide. Moreover, Obama has a political agenda. Getting into a fight with republicans over the CIA may seem like an unwelcome distraction. And if this report was about a factual dispute, his caution might be appropriate. But to stay on the sidelines in the face of a purported fraud on this scale is another thing.

So what will happen? I hate to say it, but there is a good chance that nothing will happen. Let’s see.

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