Published on
the Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)

Honor, Dignity and the CIA

Tom Teepen

Far from destroying those tapes of its agents, umm, persuading a suspected terrorist to talk, you'd think the CIA would be hounding the TV networks, CNN, BBC and, especially, al Jazeera to run them, and run them over and over.

After all, the agency and, at various times, the president himself have said the questioning was lawful, necessary and effective. CIA and George W. Bush alike have boasted of preventing attacks somewhere, on something or someone - it has never been clear - as a result of the interrogation and others like it.

So what's there to be shy about? Here, we are told, is a triumph - and thus, you would think, an opportunity dramatically to reinforce the fact that there are forces afoot which mean to hurt us and to let those forces know just what they are in for if they try.

The CIA says that in destroying the tapes it was trying to protect the identity of the interrogators, but surely the agency has technical means for fuzzing or somehow altering the tapes to accomplish that. Deceptions of that sort are presumably the humdrum of its tradecraft.

And the president has often said we have to be coy about what we are up to with prisoners because we don't want to tip the bad guys to our methods. But the bad guys, of course, know. After all, we've famously, or notoriously if you prefer, picked up some of their own means for ourselves.

Then neither story quite explains the destruction of the tapes, does it? Small wonder many in Washington suspect the tapes were really destroyed to protect the CIA and the White House from rebuke and remonstration, if they were lucky, or if they weren't lucky, from their day in the International Criminal Court.

Bush, it turns out, was forward-looking when he kept the United States out of the treaty that created the court in 2002 to prosecute human rights violations and war crimes.

The burr here is waterboarding, which the CIA has used. Waterboarding has been understood from time immemorial as torture. The Inquisition used it often and enthusiastically. U.S. civil and military courts prosecuted it in the past.

The Bush administration has said it does not use torture and inasmuch as it did use waterboarding, therefore waterboarding can't be torture. And to nail the matter down, the White House announced at one point that it would no longer use the waterboarding which it was saying at the time it had never used.

If you had no trouble following all that, the administration has a place for you in the Justice Department.

We've been kidnapping suspects in other countries, hiding them in secret prisons abroad, imprisoning them at Guantanamo indefinitely and without charges, sometimes farming them out to countries which could be counted on to torture them for us.

Do you remember when Bush was first running for the presidency and said he would bring dignity and honor back to a White House befouled by a sexual affair? Well, sure enough, he has not had a single sexual affair. We must thank him for that.

--Tom Teepen

© 2007 Daily Camera and Boulder Publishing, LLC.

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