Seven Points About Dick Cheney and Torture

First of all, Dick Cheney has all sorts of nerve purporting
to speak in defense of the CIA. His administration outed a senior CIA
operative, Valerie Plame, in retaliation for her husband, Ambassador
Joseph Wilson, exercising his freedom of speech (because he exercised
it to criticize the Bush administration's lie-filled, one-way
propaganda train to the Iraq war).

Second, CIA interrogators themselves have said that they
believed that Cheney's torture policy put individual CIA personnel in
legal jeopardy. As Greg Sargent has pointed out, on page 94 of the recently released Inspector General's report, we learn the following:

"During the course of this Review, a number of Agency officers
expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or
legal action resulting from their participation in the CTC program....One
officer expressed concern that one day, Agency officers will wind up on
some "wanted list" to appear before the World Court for war crimes..."

This is not even to mention, in a broader sense, the risk to any US
personnel that possibly ended up in "enemy" hands where captors of US
prisoners could justify their own acts of torture by pointing to US

Third, Dick Cheney showed utter contempt for the CIA when he
went not once, not twice, but more than a dozen times to Langley to
pressure analysts to fit intelligence to his political agenda. He and
his top aide Scooter Libby were "attempting to pressure analysts on the
subject of weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, according to Vincent Cannistraro, a former counterterrorism chief at the CIA. So when Cheney talks about being "offended as hell,"
let's remember how much faith Cheney had in the CIA in the lead up to
the Iraq invasion. I'm sure the CIA analysts who he tried to manipulate
were "offended as hell" by Cheney's actions. "The visits were, in fact,
unprecedented," wrote
Ray McGovern, who was vice president George HW Bush's national security
briefer. "During my 27-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency,
no vice president ever came to us for a working visit." Those personal
visits were in addition to the ones Cheney received at home. "I enjoyed
having the CIA show up on my doorstep every morning, six days a week,
with the latest intelligence," Cheney said on Fox News Sunday.

Fourth, the tactics Cheney apparently loves were a violation
of US law, international law and conventions that the US has
ratified-including the Convention Against Torture ratified under the
militant leftist regime of Ronald Reagan. That dovish draft-dodger who
wouldn't know torture if he endured it for several years, John McCain,
pointed out the lawless aspects of Cheney's torture program on CBS's
"Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I think the interrogations were in
violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture
that we ratified under President Reagan," said
McCain. "I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda
recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in
Iraq... I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was
harmed. And I believe that information, according to the FBI and
others, could have been gained through other members."

Fifth, there is no evidence-none-to suggest any of this
torture produced any actionable intelligence. "I know specifically of
reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through
the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the
country," Cheney told
Sean Hannity back in April on Fox News. "I've now formally asked the
CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out
there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and
what we learned and how good the intelligence was."

Well, those documents were released
last week. Cheney, clearly knowing that many "journalists" apparently
wouldn't bother reading them, was all over the media claiming the
documents absolve him and that torture worked. The problem is, they
showed nothing of the sort and actually-upon a close read-indicate that
techniques that did not involve torture produced better results. Some
portions "actually suggest the opposite of Cheney's contention: that
non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most
important information the documents cite in defending the value of the
CIA's interrogations," as Spencer Ackerman observed in the Washington Independent.

Let's remember: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a blowhard braggart long
before he was taken prisoner by the US in March 2003, as Jane Mayer has
pointed out. Al Jazeera did not need to waterboard him or put a drill
to his head or threaten to rape his wife before he bragged about being
the mastermind of 9/11 on the network before being captured. "[T]here's
no evidence that I see in [the declassified documents] that these
things were necessary," observed
Mayer. "I spoke to someone at the CIA who was an adviser to them who
conceded to me that 'We could have gotten the same information from tea
and crumpets.'"

Also, Mohammed told
the International Committee of the Red Cross that he gave
misinformation to US interrogators as well. "During the harshest period
of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to
satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to
make the ill-treatment stop," Mohammed told the ICRC. "I later told the
interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I'm
sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make
the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time and led to several
false red-alerts being placed in the US." This raises an unanswerable
question: Who knows how many US lives were put at risk because of bad
intelligence obtained from torture?

One of the few people that had actually seen the documents to which
Cheney was referring before they were released and had the courage to
speak up was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. In May, he said:
"I am a member of the Intelligence Committee, and I can tell you that
nothing I have seen, including the two documents to which [Cheney] has
repeatedly referred, indicates that the torture techniques authorized
by the last administration were necessary or that they were the best
way to get information out of detainees." Now that the public has had
access to these documents, it is clear, as Feingold said months ago,
that Cheney was "misleading the American people." And, with the
cooperation of a lazy and pliant media, Cheney continues to run his own
televised miseducation camp. And let's be honest: It ain't just Fox
News. The Washington Post now appears to be a private little Pravda for Cheney and his tiny group of minions formerly employed by the CIA. "The Post
management, it seems, is determined to return to its past practice of
acting as stenographers for the CIA's PR machine," McGovern, the former
CIA analyst, recently wrote.

The role that the media should actually play in all of this was summed up well
by Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who rightly
points out that the tactics were not limited to waterboarding, but
included "threats of rape, of killing children, of blowing cigar smoke
into detainee's faces until they retch, in addition to the power drills
and mock executions:"

"We've long said that if you televise an execution that will be the
end of public support for the death penalty. In a similar way, one
hopes that the more the reality of torture is put before the American
public, the less support there will be for it. When the issue is
presented - as in the earliest leaked torture memos - as a legal
abstraction, it's easier for the public to rationalize the idea that
nothing wrong is taking place."

Sixth, at the end of the day, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the debate about whether torture actually worked is not the central point here:

The debate over whether torture extracted valuable
information is, in my view, a total sideshow, both because (a) it
inherently begs the question of whether legal interrogation means would
have extracted the same information as efficiently if not more so
(exactly the same way that claims that warrantless eavesdropping
uncovered valuable intelligence begs the question of whether legal
eavesdropping would have done so); and (b) torture is a felony and a
war crime, and we don't actually have a country (at least we're not
supposed to) where political leaders are free to commit serious crimes
and then claim afterwards that it produced good outcomes. If we want
to be a country that uses torture, then we should repeal our laws which
criminalize it, withdraw from treaties which ban it, and announce to
the world (not that they don't already know) that, as a country, we
believe torture is justifiable and just. Let's at least be honest
about what we are. Let's explicitly repudiate Ronald Reagan's
affirmation that "[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever ... may be
invoked as a justification of torture" and that "[e]ach State Party is
required [] to prosecute torturers."

Seventh, one last point about Dick Cheney and his little
toadie Chris Wallace when they talk about how there hasn't been another
attack since 9-11. Remember toadie's sarcastic words:
"I just want to point out to the audience that it is purely
coincidental that this country has not been attacked since 9/11." How
about the more than 4,300 US troops that have been killed in Iraq as a
result of the Bush-Cheney lie factory? That is more American dead than
perished on 9/11. Those young men and women would not have died in Iraq
had it not been for the policies of Bush and Cheney.

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