Thursday, April 23, 2009

Burying The Lede

Today the New York Times has an article by Scott Shane which tries to change the framing of the torture issue from its legality to its efficacy. This is of course an absurd, albeit predictable, premise for a major newspaper to put forth in an article on the subject. If I am broke robbing a bank might work to get me money but I will still be arrested for it because its illegal. It matters not whether torture works, most assuredly it probably does at least on a superficial level, what matters is that the United States does not torture. Period. Full stop. And less we forget it was that Commie, Pinko, Liberal, Pacifist, Ronald Reagan, who signed us onto the Conventions Against Tortue and referred to the practice as abhorrent. It would be nice if some MSM folks would ask the pro torturists in the GOP if they disagree with Reagan.

However buried deep inside this ridiculous article is a footnote that should have been the focus from the beginning. Take a look at this:

On Mr. Mohammed, the record is murkier. The memorandum says that “before the C.I.A. used enhanced techniques,” Mr. Mohammed “resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, ‘Simply noting, ‘Soon, you will know.’ ”

But the same memorandum reveals in a footnote that Mr. Mohammed, captured on March 1, 2003, was waterboarded 183 times that month. That striking number, which would average out to six waterboardings a day, suggests that interrogators did not try a traditional, rapport-building approach for long before escalating to their most extreme tool.

This is a major deal that I haven't seen really explored in the MSM nor in the blogosphere. Just how soon did the CIA give up on traditional interrogation techniques and turn to torture to extract information from Khalid Sheik Muhammed? Its a very very important question for a variety of reasons. For one these methods were supposed to be employed AFTER the detainee was found to be resistant to traditional interrogation methods. For two there was supposed to be a progression from less harsh "enhanced interrogation techniques" to the obvious torture of waterboarding. Since the record on this seems to be very clear from the memos, only a couple of options are plausible. Either the CIA never even tried to build rapport and get information from KSM at the beginning and bypassed every other less harsh technique and went straight to torture, OR they were waterboarding KSM at least double or more times a day than was initially thought. Either way its a very damning statement to the treatment he received after being picked up.

It might be time for people a lot more powerful than I to try to get to the bottom of this mystery. I don't think in either scenario one could argue that his torturers were "working in good conscious" and should therefore be subject to investigation and or prosecution. I have no love at all for KSM but we deserve clarity on what was done in the name of all of our safety.

(h/t Greg Sargent)

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