The Washington Post reports that in September 2002 four key members of Congress were fully briefed about the CIA’s aggressive detention techniques, including waterboarding. None raised objections.
Of course they didn’t. At that time, most rational people would have favored waterboarding (and more) as a means of obtaining information from high value terrorists. The four members in question — Nancy Pelosi, Porter Goss, Bob Graham, and Pat Roberts — represent a cross-section of the political spectrum. Pelosi is a leftist; Graham is a moderate-liberal; Roberts and Goss are conservatives. But they shared a desire to protect the country from further attack. That desire trumped partisanship, and was sufficient for Pelosi and the others effectively to sign off on what the CIA was doing.
Today, of course, things are different. We haven’t been attacked in more than six years, quite possibly because of the information we obtained through waterboarding and other aggressive techniques. Thus, the partisan instinct, coupled with the joy of posturing, prevails.
But the heat the CIA is taking now pales in comparison to the heat it would have taken had it not used aggressive techniques, and the U.S. had been attacked by al Qaeda again. And, with the range of available interrogation methods now scaled back, the final chapter in the dance of the congressional Democrats may not yet have been written.
JOHN adds: As I’ve said before, I think waterboarding is the ideal interrogation technique for known terrorists. It is nearly always effective, works in just a few minutes, and does no physical harm. It works by frightening the subject, which seems highly appropriate for a terrorist.
What I can never understand is how, exactly, the people who object to waterboarding want us to interrogate terrorists. Presumably they don’t want us to beat them; unlike waterboarding, that would not only scare the terrorists but do them physical harm. Do they seriously think that we can get timely information from hard-core terrorists through clever cross-examination? Or do they think that captured terrorists, like criminal defendants in the American judicial system, have a right to remain silent?
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