President Obama Claims CIA Torture Was Okay Because People Were Scared And The CIA Is A 'Tough Job'

from the oh-really? dept

On Friday, we wrote briefly about President Obama’s “admission” that “we tortured some folks.” At the time I was going off of the press reports of the conference, but now that I’ve read the full transcript of his statement, it’s much worse than just that brief comment. Here’s the relevant portion:

With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

It was the “we tortured some folks” that reasonably made headlines, but the following paragraph, in which he tries to brush it off, is what’s really troubling. Imagine any other crime, and think about whether or not you’d have someone say it was okay because there was “enormous pressure” on the people committing the crime. Imagine any other crime, and being told “not to feel too sanctimonious” because of what a “tough job” any other criminal had. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how much pressure anyone was under, plenty of people who are actually “real patriots” know that you don’t torture people. Not only does it not work, it’s morally reprehensible. “You don’t torture” is a pretty straightforward concept — and one that was pretty clearly known and articulated prior to all of this. Nothing that happened on 9/11 or in the aftermath magically made war crimes like torture okay.

Those aren’t “patriots,” and defending them because of the “pressure” they were under is an incredibly cowardly and disgusting move.

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Comments on “President Obama Claims CIA Torture Was Okay Because People Were Scared And The CIA Is A 'Tough Job'”

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128 Comments
Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hey, you know who else is generally under a great amount of stress, pressure, and experiencing heavy fear?

Terrorists are probably under a great amount of stress, pressure, and experiencing heavy fear. They could be caught and imprisoned or killed at any moment. They have security forces, military, and law enforcement after them. Many of them live in places that are under direct threat of attack and even their families could be injured or killed.

Apparently, Obama thinks we need to give them a break if they do something morally reprehensible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The two are not mutually exclusive, but not in your relativistic sense. The former is a tactic, the latter is a goal. It’s possible to use just about any tactic to try to achieve just about any goal.

Most people only seem to care about the goal and not the methods used to achieve it. This is why someone who doesn’t target civilians will be called a terrorist: because the speaker doesn’t agree with their goals. This is why someone whose actions targets civilians will be called a freedom fighter: because the speaker happens to agree with their goals. That one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is really just proof of how prevalent hypocrisy is.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

@ kero
under the present regime of Empire IT WOULD NOT MATTER if there was a ‘war krimes’ tribunal, because it would be run by the war kriminals…
no, IF they had one, it would be to legally lynch the mannings, snowdens, assanges, etc of the world; the true puppetmasters behind this horror show would not be in the docket…
sorry, the ONLY WAY that is actually going to happen, is Empire must fall, first… otherwise, it is an exercise in futility trying to convict the kriminal uberklass by laws, courts, and processes THEY CONTROL…

the sooner the fall, the gentler for all…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So what you are saying is that the American military is in the Middle East on a murder spree?

When do the trials for mass murder start?

When the trials start, here is hoping that they use the same standards that were used in the Nuremburg trials, and no American can use the excuse that they were just following orders.

Then they can all be lined up against the wall.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Wartime

I believe we are in wartime in that the Afghanistan theater is a declared war, unlike for example, Vietnam which was a police action to the very end, even when we instigated Operation Arc Light and started carpet-bombing North Vietnam. At that point the only way we could get more hostile would have been to go nuclear.

Whether or not the US armed forces are on a murder spree in Afghanistan is debatable given questionable status of combatants lately. Before the George W. Bush administration, there were lawful combatants and civilians (and rarely, spies) but we decided there were also unlawful combatants. I think those are guys with guns but no clear uniform, but I’m not sure. We like to keep things vague since that way we can designate anyone we want an unlawful combatant and then torture them and treat them with cruelty because lulz.

Regarding the “Just following orders” defense, the US educates every soldier down to the greenhorns on KP duty about the Geneva conventions and the rules of engagement for any theater to which they are assigned… and then, punish them harshly for failing to execute an illegal order. In most cases, military brass know not to issue illegal orders because of the SNAFU that makes for their troops, but when our representatives start getting involved we end up dirtying our troopers and then blaming them for the dirty situation. So yeah, the guys at the bottom get shot at the wall so that the politicians have plausible deniability.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Wartime

We like to keep things vague since that way we can designate anyone we want an unlawful combatant and then torture them and treat them with cruelty because lulz.

This may give a defense against breeches of the Geneva Convention, which regulates acts related to war, where the lawful vs unlawful combatant (itself a highly dubious distinction) definition might be telling.

However it is not just the Geneva Convention that outlaws torture, there are other treaties where war, therefore status of lawful vs unlawful combatant, is irrelevant, that outlaw torture. So it might not be a ‘war’ crime, but it is still a crime under other, non-war related, treaties.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Wartime

We may have to rely on the Nuremberg precedent (that tribunals from one nation or international body can try people of other nations or bodies) if ever we may see justice in this case. George W. Bush and some in his administration have had to confine themselves to the contiguous states for fear of extradition to Germany to face charges already against them.

But I think those in our agencies and armies who are implementing torture are relying on their actions being clandestine and unknown, and when that fails the notion that no-one is powerful enough to come get them or demand their rendition to trial.

I feel like a lowly hand on a ballistic missile submarine during a mutiny. This is going to get a lot uglier before we can clean it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You think the torture is restricted to Afghanistan and Iraq? The Abu Ghraib abuses and such were a separate thing from the officially-sanctioned CIA torture program.

Torturing Iraqi and Afghani prisoners is a war crime, but many of the people tortured by the CIA had nothing to do with Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is a war in Iraq; there is a war in Afghanistan. But there is no “War on Terror”. That’s not a war, it’s a piece of spin-doctor PR bullshit used to justify criminal acts.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I’m most upset about is how long and how little the government is trying to admit to. This should have been out quickly and with little to no redactions.

We tortured people. We screwed up. The world needs to know what happens when you react in fear. You give up the very morals you’re founded on. You mess up.

Let the future generations know that you just can’t give in to fear. I mean it’s for the children right?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The world needs to know what happens when you react in fear. You give up the very morals you’re founded on. You mess up.”

Fear does not do this. Fear does however bring out a persons true nature. Obama said it was okay because people were afraid. Obama’s true nature is okay with torture. Plain and simple.

There is a good reason why some people like to introduce a stressful situation into an interview for a job… it helps to get the true nature of the interviewee out into the open for scrutiny.

Humanity’s true nature is self serving. It is only through constant vigilance and resistance to evil that we maintain our righteousness. Obama and those whom voted for him the 2nd time around have forsaken any of theirs!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Humanity’s true nature is self serving.

This isn’t…strictly true. Not even in young children. Human being certainly can be self-serving, and if you take a VERY cynical view all altruistic actions could be seen as such, but for the most part humans are cooperative by nature.

The trick is that humans are altruistic within their own group. Those we consider outside of our group, be it family, company, team, country, etc., are competitors. Humans can be very ruthless against competitors.

This wasn’t a fear reaction, it wasn’t a selfish reaction, it was the reaction of the “in” group abusing the “out” group. In warfare, it’s a natural reaction to “dehumanize” your enemies. Killing humans, for the vast majority of people, is nearly impossible to do on purpose. The military and law enforcement require a strict training process to be able to “switch off” that resistance to killing, and even with years of training most service members and law enforcement officers find it extremely difficult (one of the primary reasons why cops can fire numerous shots at a suspect from close range and still miss).

By treating the enemy as less than human, and creating a culture that does so among your group, it becomes much easier to kill your enemies. The down side is that dehumanizing allows for some pretty horrific actions beyond just killing; torture, rape, humiliation, etc. are all common responses to dehumanizing an enemy.

The CIA was probably victim to this. Without oversight and enough discipline (the only ways to prevent war crimes) it spiraled out of control. It probably started with standard interrogation techniques and got worse the more people justified “saving lives” and dehumanized those they captured. Group dynamics prevailed, and we had some pretty bad actions, probably by people who would have never considered those actions in different circumstances. Authority is a dangerous tool (see: Milgram experiment) and can be easily abused.

None of that is to justify their actions. Members of the military and law enforcement are trained specifically to resist those temptations and it’s a shameful lack of discipline and honor to betray the trust of the American people. I don’t agree with what they did; I just understand how they got there.

And I hope we ALL learn how they got there, so we can learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them over and over again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Except there was a deliberate attempt from the outset by those in charge, removed from the actual action, to formulate a plan which included formulating a legal justification for these actions that attempted to separate them from what they actually were. That is not group dynamics spiraling out of control. They knew beforehand what they were planning to do was wrong and deliberately set out to do it anyway. There is a BIG difference.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Bleh, forgot to log in, I’m AC above.

Except there was a deliberate attempt from the outset by those in charge, removed from the actual action, to formulate a plan which included formulating a legal justification for these actions that attempted to separate them from what they actually were.

How is this different from what I said? I never stated that the justification only existed at the level of those doing the torturing. I specifically discussed that authority is a dangerous tool.

The upper echelons used the justification of “fight terrorism” and “defeat the enemy” as enablers that created an environment where torture and other war crimes were likely to exist. The more removed you are from the effects of a crime, the more likely it is that someone will be able to justify those actions.

The CIA torture program was caused by the group…in this case, the U.S. government (primarily) and the U.S. people (indirectly). Nobody likes talking about the second part, of course, because few people like taking responsibility for uncomfortable things. If the American people hadn’t been willing to give up the oversight and freedom we did as a fear reaction to 9/11 it would have been a different story. You, as an individual, may not have given up those rights, but we, as a nation, did. It doesn’t excuse the U.S. government’s actions, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum, either.

It’s not the first time the U.S. has committed civil rights atrocities at a national level. Our history is filled with them. But if we ignore the actual causes, if we just say “well, it was the government’s fault!” to avoid taking any responsibility ourselves, then it’s just going to keep on happening.

The government is the child of the U.S. population. Sometimes it acts in ways we don’t like, and sometimes it gets in trouble without our help. But closing our eyes and pretending we had no influence on its behavior is not only a lie, but will never fix the behavior. Maybe we need to stop avoiding our kid and start influencing it’s actions so it’ll make better decisions.

Just a thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

By treating the enemy as less than human, and creating a culture that does so among your group, it becomes much easier to kill your enemies.

This is what is going on in modern politics today, especially from the Democrats. They do all they can to dehumanize conservatives and Republicans so that one day, liberals will have no problem rounding them up. The sad thing is, most liberals fall for it. They preach peace, love and happiness but will moan like a rabid dog at the mere mention of the GOP or Fox News. Hypocrisy at its worst.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I voted for Obama the second time around because I saw something worse in Romney. I have no doubts that Romney not only is “okay with torture” but would endorse it against all enemies of the US, including dissenters within. And I base this largely on the fact that he was able to fuck over the economies of entire cities in the name of personal gain at Bain Capital: Romney is perfectly capable of dehumanizing everyone out side is circle of a hundred-or-so people and then letting them get butchered like so much cattle, or starved like ambiguous forest fauna.

To be fair, Obama sold me on the notion that he still cared about the good of the people of the United States. At this point I expect that no-one can get into office and retain compassion or sympathy for us little people. I am certain that the campaign and electoral system either filters such people out, or kills that part of a person in the process. Certainly when you juxtapose Obama the 2008 candidate with Obama the 2014 president, the contrast is horrific and drastic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The world already knows. Pretty much every developed country on the planet was loudly critical of US abuses as soon as they began.

Immediately post 9/11, the Western world was united in sympathy for the US people. In the week afterwards, every boat in Sydney harbour was flying a US flag (this is a bigger deal than it sounds; Australians generally don’t care about those sorts of symbols, and find US-style flag fetishism to be ridiculous).

Shrub flushed that down the toilet faster than anyone could have believed possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Excuse me for Godwining but...

In the aftermath of the treaty of Versailles the German people were suffering tremendously and there was an enormous amount of pressure on the government to do something. They did some things that were wrong. They also did a lot of things that were right. But it’s important not to get too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Excuse me for Godwining but...

This particular issue is not one where you need to apologize for Godwining. We (the United States and our allies) charged, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and executed people for torture and other war crimes, not all that long ago.

I see no daylight between those at Nuremberg and those in the CIA. The only differences are trivial: the number of victims, the methods of torture, the excuses advanced for their behavior, the propaganda used to justify torture, the names and places.

This is one of the most damaging things we’ve ever done to ourselves. I wonder if those who actually carried out these crimes stopped, for even a moment, to remember their oath of service and to ask themselves what their actions might mean in the context of history.

Or what their actions might mean to every current and future member of the US Armed Forces who serves abroad. For centuries, we’ve demanded, even of our worst adversaries, that they treat prisoners-of-war humanely. And we’ve made that demand valid by doing so ourselves, even when we were sorely tempted not to. But that’s all gone now, and with it whatever hope (however nebulous) we might have had that our personnel would benefit from our diligence, should they be captured.

Until and unless the US comes clean on this, and until and unless those responsible are put on trial (and not by the US), the damage will only get worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Excuse me for Godwining but...

They thought that their crimes wasn’t going to be known.
They think that their government is going to hide them and justify their crimes.
They know that have total impunity no matter what.

They are crimimals. Why do you think they care about what their crimes might mean in the context of history?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Excuse me for Godwining but...

You know, this is not the only point of similarity between Post 9/11 USA and Post WWI Germany. Law Enforcement as a privileged social class (who also implements disturbing interrogation techniques) was a big deal as well.

We’re practically searching for a bright new star to be our charismatic leader, and some easily-identifiable undesirables to be our new scapegoat.

Don’t be dumb, be a smarty!

Anonymous Coward says:

‘a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots’

so those people who made us and others aware of what the USA government and security forces were really up to, are not ‘patriots’? i beg to differ there! and in actual fact, i think they are more worthy of that title because they didn’t need to torture anyone or be tortured themselves, and were under even greater pressure, that of just telling the truth!!

Jeff Green (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since when has been a patriot mattered in such matters? Would a mass murderer be let off with a “don’t do it again” if he carried a flag on veterans day? Can I rob a bank with impunity if I scream “gimme the money and God Bless America and gimme the cash!” (I’m not actually American but I hope no British head of state or government would try to excuse torture on these grounds, “hope” but not expect)

Torture is a vile crime. Those who tortured were and are vile criminals. Leaders who support vile criminals are in themselves almost as bad.

Torture is never effective and never justified. It makes victims say what they think the torturers want to hear and it makes the difference between us and them meaningless.

Oh and I totally agree about who are the real patriots!

Rocco Maglio (profile) says:

Re: Re: Torture never works

To claim torture never works is juvenile. Torture gets you more information. This information may or may not be accurate, but pretty much all information gathering can lead to false information. Accepting that torture works makes it a real discussion you can then decide if the loss of the high ground is worth the extra information.

We intuitively know that closely held secrets would not be given up without some sort of distress. In Chinatown the director and actors decided to change the script to have Jack Nicholson slap the actress to have her confess my daughter, my sister repeatedly. They felt that it was unbelievable to just have her just come out and say it.

If you believe that torture never works there is no moral dilemma. Someone who smacked someone to get information is just a sadistic person doing it for their own enjoyment. People who allowed torture are all also sadistic people who would just smack people around for fun and cover it up.

I prefer to live in a grown up world where things have a cost and a benefit and there are tough decisions to make.

The other thing about torture is to remember that there are worse things than torture. The guy who’s information led to the capture of Saddam Hussian was not tortured. His innocent family members were jailed and some may have been raped and/or killed.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Torture never works

Torture gets you more information

The evidence of this is sketchy at best.

pretty much all information gathering can lead to false information

The evidence available about torture suggests that it is more likely than not to be unreliable:
http://www.sagepub.com/press/2012/march/SAGE_InterrogationalTorture.sp

Even the US Army field manual suggests that it is not likely to yield good results:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effectiveness_of_torture_for_interrogation

I prefer to live in a grown up world where things have a cost and a benefit and there are tough decisions to make.

I prefer to live in a grown up world where we don’t do things that the vast majority of people find morally abhorrent without some pretty good evidence that it is actually going to be useful. No, forget that, I prefer to live in a grown up world in which our leaders FOLLOW THE LAW and do not do things we have SPECIFICALLY TOLD THEM NOT TO DO.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Torture never works

Rocco Maglio wrote:

We intuitively know that closely held secrets would not be given up without some sort of distress. In Chinatown the director and actors decided to change the script to have Jack Nicholson slap the actress to have her confess my daughter, my sister repeatedly.

Are you able to cite something other than a work of fiction in support of your claim?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Torture never works

“Torture gets you more information. This information may or may not be accurate”

If it’s not accurate, then it’s not information. Further, if you can’t tell whether or not it’s accurate, then it’s not information. Torture is highly unreliable because people will say anything they think the torturer want to hear in order to make it stop, regardless of how true or false it is.

“We intuitively know that closely held secrets would not be given up without some sort of distress.”

Distress and torture are two different things.

“If you believe that torture never works there is no moral dilemma”

I don’t follow this at all, since there’s no moral dilemma either way.. If torture never works, it’s unequivocally wrong. If torture does work, it’s unequivocally wrong.

“I prefer to live in a grown up world where things have a cost and a benefit and there are tough decisions to make”

What I hear in your statement is that you prefer to live in a sociopathic world where morals and ethics are outweighed by a cost/benefit analysis.

“there are worse things than torture”

That couldn’t be more irrelevant.

“His innocent family members were jailed and some may have been raped and/or killed.”

Being raped is being tortured, so torture is involved in this after all.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Torture never works

“His innocent family members were jailed and some may have been raped and/or killed.”

Being raped is being tortured, so torture is involved in this after all.

And any sane person would say that having your innocent family members killed is also a form of torture against the 1st person. So we have double torture.

Rocco Maglio (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Torture never works

I used the example because the guy who got this information out of the guy (He was a deputy of Saddam) was on TV for a while talking about how he did it without torture. Saddam deputy’s relatives were arrested and placed in Iraqi prisons where some of them were raped and killed. The guy talked to have the rest of his relatives released.

We did not torture the guy or his relatives. We just set up circumstances where this would happen.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Torture never works

We did not torture the guy or his relatives. We just set up circumstances where this would happen.

And somehow getting somehow else to TORTURE his INNOCENT family members makes this OK in your “grown up” world?!?! Not to mention this was done to get info on the guy (Saddam) that the US FABRICATED reasons for going after in the first place?

Your moral compass is severely broken.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Torture never works

To claim torture never works is juvenile.

Technically true. Torture can work. It’s less accurate than flipping a coin, but hey, sometimes you get the right answer.

Others have hit some of the research…I’d recommend doing some of your own. For years I believed torture was effective-but-distasteful, then I actually looked it up, and I found out that it was less effective than random chance.

From a purely accurate standpoint, the statement should have been “torture is rarely effective and never justified.” The key is the second part.

Seriously, though, look it up. It’ll only hurt for a minute.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Torture never works

Torture gets you more information. This information may or may not be accurate,

The fact that the inquisition kept the property of those it burnt for witchcraft or heresy may have had something to do with effectiveness of their use of torture in extracting confessions.
Similarly, it may be effective in getting captured individuals to admit to being terrorists, and justify them being held prisoner, when that is what the torturer wants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A government that can not control fear and madness in crowd.

The US government deliverately did want people terrorized because terrorized people allow them to do anything in the name of saving those people.

Many foreing news media after the 9/11 were criticizing that was unconceivable that instead of calming the population they were straight terrorizing them.

Now you know why.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is supposed to be a democracy. When president Obama ran for office he didn’t mention he was going to do any of this in his campaign. If anything he took the opposite position. He did so because he knew the American public is mostly against these types of programs. Yet when he gets elected he does the opposite of what he claims.

So for all of you who claim that our current laws and policies are in place because this is what the American people want explain this to me. Why is it when politicians run for office they often take one position and when in office they often switch positions and do something contrary to what they claimed when running for office often even doing the exact opposite? and often when it’s time for re-election they’ll flip back again only to flip again if they get re-elected. Or they’ll do stuff that they never mentioned or avoided discussing in their campaign for office. IP protections kept getting retroactively extended and last way too long, politicians and regulators often have secretive meetings with little public transparency over these subjects with only industry interests invited, politicians are always pushing to expand these laws, yet I don’t recall seeing a politician running for office claiming they will expand IP protections and provide the public with even less transparency (but they may run for office claiming the opposite). If this is really what the people want then why not tell us this is what you are going to do when running for office? Why say one thing when campaigning and do something contrary to your promises when in office? Is it because you are very aware that our current laws are not what the public wants and the policies that you want to push run against what the public wants and so you would lose your election quickly if you campaigned your true intents when running for office? That would be the most obvious and logical reason. I have yet to see the shills reasonably address this. Yet this is supposed to be a democracy yet clearly our current set of laws are not what the people want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” Yet when he gets elected he does the opposite of what he claims.”

And then gets re-elected, demonstrating what really is and really isn’t important to the electorate.

Same in Britain, many people who voted for Blair’s Labour in 97 said they didn’t vote for them to go to gratuitous, immoral and illegal wars, but they re-elected them twice afterwards.

The electorate do get to decide but they too often are not interested in the matters of great importance and are fixated only on matters that directly affect them and therefore unwilling to punish elected representatives for actual international crimes because their policy on whatever is slightly better than the other major parties etc.

Ultimately, the electorate is responsible for their governments, until people accept that and behave accordingly they will keep complaining about their politicians and yet keep electing the same people over and over again and then whine that they didn’t want them to do the things that they did even though they kept rewarding them for doing those things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, yeah, that’s one clue.
A long history however of training the police and secret police and armies of other countries in how to torture people.
Its support of terrorism, its overthrowing of elected governments etc. are even more reasons why no one is surprised at the deeply inhumane and criminal acts that those representing the US commit.
It’s not a one off, it’s not new and as you say, its no surprise. What’s shocking is how few people in the US seem to realise what their actual reputation in the world is.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

A long history however of training the police and secret police and armies of other countries in how to torture people.

Well, that’s the point. How could they competently train dictatorships in torture without practice?

It’s like German cars: there is no speed limit on German highways, and if you want a fast car, looking at German products is not the worst idea.

There is no limit to the depravity of the CIA, and if you want to have a junta effective at terrorizing the citizens and torturing and killing political opponents, the U.S.A. is the first place you’ll be looking for help.

“real patriots”. Your grandparents did not let the “real patriot” bullshit count in Nuremberg. But in Washington, everybody laps it up.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Consider the bigger picture

“Who’d have thought that it was Soviet communism that kept the USA somewhat in the light”

Didn’t everyone know this for a long time? I remember when the Soviet Union fell apart and lots of people (including myself) expressed a great deal of concern over how the US would behave without some credible check to its power.

Those concerns get increasingly validated as time goes by.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Justification?

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
– Article 2.2, United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified by the U.S. in 1988)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: New definitions

Uh uh. I agree that the buck stops at the top, but that in no way excuses everyone else going up the line.

Torture is not freaking ok. There are no circumstances that can justify it. You will not get good information from tortured people, simply because people being tortured will say anything to stop the torture.

If your boss tells you, “Torture that guy over there,” you simply say “No”. If that gets you fired, so be it. Take your story to the paper, or just move on with your life knowing you did the right thing. “My boss told me to do it” excuses exactly NOTHING.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.”

Oh so we have carted out that old chestnut, if you don’t support us you are unpatriotic.

Violating everything we claim to stand for, have rules and laws against betrays that patriotism.

The things these people did, made more people hate us enough to want to do harm to us, instead of helping it made the whole damn thing worse. If not for their own personal agendas and not sharing information the bad things would have been stopped, but we reward them just when they win… not when they work together and stop the bad thing.

It is unbelievable that even today we are still trying to hide the truth of the awful things done in our names, that made us less safe, and painted a target on more Americans… but that was the goal. The less safe we are, the more money we have to pour into their coffers to keep us safe… it is a great endless cycle and we keep it going by not coming clean and putting things into place to stop it from happening again, no matter how scared we are.

Patriots aren’t supposed to betray everything they stand for because they got scared.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tip of the Iceberg

He is just trying to prevent an even bigger outcry when it is revealed that this has been done on ordinary US Citizens as well. It continues to be used on anyone labeled terrorist or apparently now anyone associated with someone called a terrorist. Being held in solitary confinement is considered a war crime, yet thousands of people a day are sitting there right this minute. Some of them have been there for years. Because of the rigged “justice” system they are faced with, a number of these people are completely innocent of the crime they were accused of, but had a public defender who has multiple times the caseload as the prosecuttion and has been convinced that pleading guilty to one crime will be better for them in the end. We have thousands of times the prosecutions of our citizenry per capita as any other country in the world, and we don’t even make the prosecution go through with a full trial. If we demanded our right to a trail in front of a jury of our peers, even if the percent of convictions remained the same, the sheer volume of cases would prevent 95% of all “crimes” from being adjudicated. The whole thing is based on the illegal collusion of the prosecution and the defense counsel. A plea is not the best option for anyone. It is a way of short circuiting actual justice.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

An excellent point. Also, as a Japanese friend of mine once explained, the propaganda offensive against the US was extreme. Americans were portrayed as monsters who would engage in the most heinous acts (including such things as baby-raping). This was widely and deeply believed — and to a certain extent still is. My friend was in Kobe when the earthquake flattened it, and she said that when the destruction began, many people initially thought the US had attacked.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

The excuse

I guess he changed his mind since being re-elected. I love that phrase, though: “Tortured some folks.”

That’s what happened to all those people who were caught up in the extraordinary renditions. Most of them were tortured, and then found to be innocent of any charges. A couple sued the US, but got nowhere, because “We don’t do that here.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_rendition_by_the_United_States

Direct quote:

December 2005 Condoleezza Rice (then the United States Secretary of State) stated that:

“the United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.”

Then we found out about Abu Graihb.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse
True, not the same context, but it’s still torture to most people.

But we don’t do that, do we-and even if we do, it was all right because these were the bad guys, right?

In this case, the ends do not justify the means. We didn’t have the legal authority or the moral authority then or now.

What was it that Lady MacBeth said?

Lady Macbeth:

“Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
’tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow’r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

Anonymous Coward says:

As much as anything, this partially explains why the administration and the security branches are so concerned with whistle blowers. Because they can expose the very crimes that are being hidden that would put those in office and at the heads of those agencies up for war crimes. It’s a disgusting action to bury their own crimes and keep them hidden.

We have broken every international law and treaty dealing with how governments treat people. We have destroyed the image of the US being a country that would stand up for freedom and human rights by doing the very things this country is supposed to be against. That is corruption to the deepest core of the nation. It can not be forgotten and will not be forgotten by the rest of the world, nor the citizens of this nation. If you don’t recognize how deep this goes to the core the people, look at Germany who went though this with the Nazis.

Hide it you may try but sooner or later this is going to come out and someone will be held responsible. Our leaders both past and present have the hope they will die of natural causes before they can be put on trial.

Take very close notice that Bush, Cheney, and when Obama and Biden get out of office, that none of them are particularly eager to leave the US where they could be served a warrant for Crimes Against Humanity or War Crimes.

Coises (profile) says:

Any other crime?

Imagine any other crime, and think about whether or not you’d have someone say it was okay because there was “enormous pressure” on the people committing the crime. Imagine any other crime, and being told “not to feel too sanctimonious” because of what a “tough job” any other criminal had.

Homicide in the course of protecting one’s home and family, where there is doubt as to whether the action was excessive, or justifiable homicide by reason of self-defense.

America went batshit after 9/11; thirteen years later, the “normal” to which we have returned isn’t really normal at all. I’m much more concerned with ending the permanent state of emergency and devising better structures so we don’t lose our shit again the next time something unprecedented happens than I am with identifying scapegoats for a hysteria in which most of the nation was complicit.

If our President were doing anything to put an end to the permanent state of emergency and to use the lessons of the Bush administration to develop ways to make sure we won’t lose our shit again, I’d happily accept leaving it at that.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Any other crime?

“I’m much more concerned with ending the permanent state of emergency and devising better structures so we don’t lose our shit again the next time something unprecedented happens than I am with identifying scapegoats for a hysteria in which most of the nation was complicit.”

I agree that making sure that this can never happen again is the first priority.

However, I disagree with your characterization of punishing criminals as “finding scapegoats” and your implication that this isn’t a very important thing to do. These criminals need to be brought to justice. That’s part of what’s needed to help ensure that this will never happen again.

How hysterical the average citizen may or may not have been doesn’t enter into it. That people were whipped up into a hyperbolic frenzy in no way excuses the people who knew of, ordered, or performed the torture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Any other crime?

Use of deadly force to protect yourself is not a crime the reason has nothing to do with it being a “tough job”. It has to do with the negative effects of not taking such action outweighing the negative effects of taking them. Your qualifier of “doubt” has no bearing on it. Either you acted in self-defense or you didn’t.

scotts13 (profile) says:

Godwining indeed.

Why, of course, the people don’t want war. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

— Herman Goering

Note the bit about “lack of patriotism.”

Anonymous Coward says:

And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.

Sanctimonious: Making a show of being morally better than others, especially hypocritically.

Yeah… if Obama started criticizing it now, after all of the other things he criticized and then continued or expanded, it WOULD be rather sanctimonious.

But I think that torturers being brought to justice is slightly more important than who feels morally superior to whom. If this goes all the way up to Bush, so be it. There are some things we cannot tolerate.

Personanongrata says:

Toilet Paper!

real patriots don’t torture their fellow human beings while shitting on the very document they have sworn to uphold.

I truly hope folks responsible for authoring the Torture Memos, Yoo and Bybee, and the folks that carried out the torturing for the CIA and the folks that have turned a blind congressional/executive/judicial eye to the torture find the deepest darkest level of Dante’s hell as their final resting place.

They’re worthless fractions of human beings one and all.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Trust not in providence.

Mengele escaped justice and died a free old man. There will be no justice for any of these people except that which we implement.

Of course, this is not unusual in human history; the whole point of the democracy of the US was as a refuge from those monarchies in which those who had swords could get away with murder, and did so with frequency.

And there are many quotes from our framers about how feudalism by force will seed and flourish and ultimately choke out all other forms of rule like weeds in the garden.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

The point of no return.

We may well have to serve up a Reign of Terror french style with a side of frites from a Pont Neuf vendor. Part of the justification for the mass culling was to actively make a mark in history. Robespierre wittingly intended the Terror to serve as a cautionary tale of what to expect when circumstances required violent revolution in France. And with a sense of irony, Robespierre faced the blade himself. Literally, as he was positioned facing up without blindfold, so that he could watch the steel fall.

Much like the NSA rumors becoming horrific reality in the Snowden revolutions, Obama’s emotional dismissal of torture as an issue and Clapper’s admission that we still have methods of torture and collaborating parties to protect (all but confirming that we’re still actively rendering victims to outsourced black-sites), this shows that not only did we not stop torture when the Bush administration went rogue, but can no longer trust this or any future administration to cease torture.

At this moment we’ve stepped beyond the point of peaceful reform. Sure, if the current system last long enough we may see promises or even movements of reform, but this will only prolong the inevitable. My country, right or wrong, is beyond repair. We will have to break it, break our government and break the constitution before we can set it right. Reform is no longer a long road back. Reform is no longer an option.

Nicholas (profile) says:

Out of context

It seems disingenuous to quote two whole paragraphs of a speech and then cut the quote directly before this:

“But we did some things that were wrong. When we engaged in torture, we crossed a line. That needs to be understood and accepted. As a country, we have to take responsibility for that so that we don’t do it again in the future.”

So, he said pretty much exactly the opposite of what you complained about, and said pretty much exactly what you said you wanted him to say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Out of context

Try reading the actual text of the official transcript:

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be — that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don’t do it again in the future.

I’m glad he banned some of the torture techniques.

But I need a little more than “hopefully, we won’t do it again in the future.”

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Out of context

“But it was wrong” seems to be a mild reaction in the right direction.

We need nothing short of total contrition from all three branches of government to get past this. E.g. a commission, tribunal and a fuckton of collaborating agents brought to justice (not just censure, but penalties and jail-time). We need to here from the government that What we did what horrendiously wrong and we recognize that the reputation of the US and its people will suffer for a century or more over this. This is a black mark in the history of the American Repubic, and we have enduring shame over this, and that could have happened at all.

And then we need a whole batch of new laws and social attitude shift that will make torture so much of a crime that mere rumors of being a torturer costs someone community respect (much like alleged cannibalism in the 20th century and pedophilia today). When you can’t get a loan, a home, a job or a partner because someone thinks that you might have tortured once, then our nation has achieved the right about of contrition.

In contrast, our President has made it clear that he not only condones torture but even feels it is in some cases justified.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Out of context

So, he said pretty much exactly the opposite of what you complained about, and said pretty much exactly what you said you wanted him to say.

Sort of. He effectively said that we crossed a line and shouldn’t do that again, but let’s not worry about holding anyone accountable for it. And as others have pointed out “hopefully we don’t do it again” is pretty weak.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Out of context

As a country, we have to take responsibility for that so that we don’t do it again in the future.

So we all, as a country, have to share equal responsibility. Every individual citizen is equally guilty. OK, fine. If that’s true, then we all get to see what we’re confessing to: show us the full, unredacted Torture Report. Every last damn word on every single one of the 6000+ pages.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: An unredacted 6000+ page report

I’m certainly game. I might even pour through the entire report.

So far all redactions in the name of national security (that have been later leaked or declassified) have been either a) arbitrary and meaningless regarding the security of our nation, or b) covering up for yet another crime (e.g. violation of human rights or constitutional rights).

At this point had I my druthers, I would declassify everything, implement a time limit on FOIA responses with a penalty on delays, and get as much as possible available on the web, and only LATER worry about concerns regarding sensitive date in active operations.

The US’s own history has demonstrated that our government will corrupt and turn to heinous practices whenever it can conceal itself from public oversight. Transparency is essential for any free nation if it is to remain free.

And I bet we have the means to keep our nation safe and secure even with absolute transparency of its actions.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: An unredacted 6000+ page report

get as much as possible available on the web, and only LATER worry about concerns regarding sensitive date in active operations.

Once you publish, there’s no point in redacting later. How about publish everything after x years? Two? Ten? That way you avoid compromising active operations and people, but get the information to the public. Of course that is a pipe dream but it’s an interesting thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

“You think the torture is restricted to Afghanistan and Iraq? The Abu Ghraib abuses and such were a separate thing from the officially-sanctioned CIA torture program.
Torturing Iraqi and Afghani prisoners is a war crime, but many of the people tortured by the CIA had nothing to do with Iraq and Afghanistan.”

They were directly related-for in seeking those behind 9/11, we just about dropped every single fishing line we could throw into the water.

Torture was legally allowed in all cases once that day ended, because we had declared war.

Not that that little reason is legal, but put it all together in context before you say “X is separate from Y, thus neither is linked to the other.”

In other words, we broke the law multiple times using legal justifications that just came out of thin air. John Yoo was the mastermind behind most of it..and he’ll defend his work to this day.

I’d say he’d be #2 on the ‘war crimes’ list if one existed.

Renegade (profile) says:

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.

Which voices are we supposed to reject again?

…but we tortured some folks

Seeming to me like that voice is one we should be rejecting…

GEMont (user link) says:

Maybe not the worst president ever, but....

Accordingly, (P)Resident Obama supports the use of Torture on civilian and military members of any nation – even though it accomplishes nothing concrete beyond allowing angry employees to let off steam – and I would assume by his own definition, he will also support the US perpetrating any other war-crimes, as listed by international agreement, as long as some US people are frightened and some US officials are under pressure.

I would also assume that (P)Resident Obama thus supports the right of other nations to use torture on the citizens and soldiers of any nation, including American citizens and soldiers, as long as some members of that nation’s public are frightened and some of that nation’s political office holders are under pressure.

In conclusion, (P)Resident Obama would be considered as unfit to hold public office – let alone the office of POTUS – in the old USA, where human rights were respected, but is absolutely the man for the job in the New USA, where the only thing worthy of respect, is wealth.

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