Right From Wrong
A number of former intelligence professionals have written to Senators Leahy and Specter asking that the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey be held until Mukasey declares "himself on whether he believes the practice of waterboarding is legal." Not all the names on the list are familiar to the public, but some are. They include:
- Larry Johnson
Intelligence analysis and operations officer, CIA; Deputy Director, Office of Counter Terrorism, Department of State
- Mary McCarthy
National Intelligence Officer for Warning; Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council
- Ray McGovern
Intelligence Analyst, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA; morning briefer, The President’s Daily Brief; chair of National Intelligence Estimates; Co-founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
- Sam Provance
U.S. Army Intelligence Analyst, Germany and Iraq (Abu Ghraib); Whistleblower
- Joseph Wilson
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Ambassador and Director of Africa, National Security Council.
- Valerie Plame Wilson
Operations Officer, Directorate of Operations
When Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein suddenly changed their tune on the subject of Mukasey's confirmation, not a few suspected that more than a change of heart was involved. Politics, as usual, was suspected of playing a part. And although many of the intelligence professionals opposing Mukasey may have deep moral misgivings about waterboarding I wonder to what extent politics figured as a factor. Two of the most popular games in Washington appear to be Cover Your Ass and Gotcha!. The DNR Online wry notes how these games segue one into the other.
This is a multiple choice question. Who was it that said these words about torture?
“I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake. . . . It is easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used, but when you are in the foxhole it is a very different deal. And I respect, I think we all respect, the fact that the president is in the foxhole every day.”
Those very true words were spoken by New York Sen. Charles Schumer back in 2004. Yes, the president is in that foxhole every day. In the debate about attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey and waterboarding, the foxhole analogy is something that a few Democrats seem to have forgotten.
Yet in the Sept. 26th Democratic debate, NBC’s Tim Russert asked if torture should be used if we had captured the No. 3 leader of al-Qaida and he had knowledge of a bomb going off in three days.
Sen. Barack Obama replied he was against torture as a matter of policy but “there are going to be all sorts of hypotheticals, an emergency situation, and I will make that judgment at that time.”
Which is exactly what President George Bush wants to do.
During the same debate Sen. Hillary Clinton also emphasized she was against torture “as a matter of policy.” (Yes, aren’t we all?) But in earlier statement she wisely left an opening saying severe interrogation methods might be necessary in cases involving an “imminent threat to Americans.”
A cynic might argue that the debate over waterboarding revolves as much around perceived political advantage on either side of the aisle as it does anything else. But I hope I'm wrong.