Third Party & Independents Archives

Enhanced Interrogation Blathering Covers Enhanced Information Gathering

We’ve just elected a liberal president right after a conservative one reacted to an unprecedented terrorist attack on US soil by compromising some of our founding values. After these founding values were challenged by George W. Bush, we all expected the pendulum to swing back the other way when Obama was elected, but this hasn’t happened. Why?

When it comes to protecting gay rights or protecting government rights Obama’s ability to surprise remains unsurpassed. The new administration has now blocked access to information about secret “programs” during the last eight years including enhanced interrogation while quietly continuing some of them today. Obama is operating in a gray area here that both the liberal and conservative sides of America obviously find value in, but this is a value American’s don’t acknowledge so much in broad daylight.

Trying to imagine a special category separate from torture that we call enhanced interrogation just doesn’t work for me, but let’s humor those for whom it does. First of all, we have a perfect example of a conservative administration utilizing a previously liberal tactic by disarming a concept through renaming it, however, coming up with a euphemism like “enhanced interrogation” takes the kind of turdblossomesque genius that brought us compassionate conservatism in the first place. Just like it sounds, compassionate conservatism turned out to be a hybrid of the worst qualities of modern American politics, but back to torture.

What the last administration tried to pass off as nicer than torture has been around a while (we’re not going back to the inquisition, don’t worry) and in these other incarnations the main selling point of waterboarding had nothing to do with how harmless it was. More recently, waterboarding was used by authoritarian regimes in South America because the procedure was every bit as effective as any coercion technique, but had the primary benefit of leaving no visible marks (… and if things went badly they just dumped the drowned prisoner in the ocean or a lake). Today, thousands of middle aged South Americans that once fancied themselves revolutionaries happen to have a horrible fear of drowning supported by a constant lifetime barrage of waterboarding nightmares.

The Communist Chinese pioneered the institutionalization of waterboarding against American and UN soldiers during the Korean conflict as one of the most successful coercion techniques available. We dusted off an old manual about this coercion technique and utilized it on a limited basis to scare the hell out of survival school trainees and prepare them for the strongest sense of helplessness and desperation they would ever encounter (… it's still a big difference to know the trainers are on your side, though). Somewhere after this point, the leadership of our country lost track of the fact that waterboarding was a proven technique to coerce an individual. Spend just a moment on that.

Torture is not forcing someone to be honest, torture is coercing someone to say what you want. If you want them to tell you the answer to a question they don’t want you to know, you must coerce them into saying what you want to hear. This is how the Chinese coerced American soldiers into reading confessions of a ridiculous nature and how the Argentineans coerced young revolutionaries into believing they had chosen the wrong profession. The only interesting part is how much less effective something like waterboarding is when applied with good intentions.

Trying to use such a thing for “good” (however disconnected from good we are at this point …) turns out to be the most ineffective application. You have a subject that finds it in their immediate interests to say whatever stops the pain. If you just set up the game so that they know what you want to hear (i.e. written confession to read from or just the word “uncle, I’ll go home quietly”) then the game is over faster. Otherwise, if things aren’t clear it can take something like 83 sessions and the subject becomes hopeless over their failure to make the pain stop while they grasp at any straw the interrogators will pluck up (BTW, Abu Zabaydah gave up his most valuable information before he was ever tortured (good links here; http://dreadnaught.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/waterboarding-of-abu-zubaydah-and-khalid-shaikh-mohammed/ ).

Eventually, the lab rat figures out the experiment, even if the observing scientists haven’t. The prisoner finally produces what his enhanced interrogators wants to hear, but then the leadership of our country sends down an order to turn him upside down and drown him one more time to see what else comes out … then stop. At this point, after the “drown him one more time” gesture, Cheney was uncorking champagne in a bunker somewhere over a bundle of lies made up feverishly by a wet Al Qaeda bodyguard. That’s about the size of it.

If this makes you feel like torturing someone for information is a crap shoot at best, then maybe you can agree that torture doesn’t advance our national security all that well. That’s why you can believe Obama will truly not continue this program, but the current administration claims that exposing what wrongs we’ve committed in the past can be dangerous. This is hard to argue with, but the fact remains that we aren’t living up to the standards of our forefathers when we try to censor any such information. Still, we must admit that times have changed since the founding fathers conceived this country and if they knew that information could be even more dangerous when wielded as quickly as it is today, they might have had a harder time hashing out the bill of rights when it came to national security.

I think that’s what we’re seeing from the new administration here, a respect for information, especially when it comes to us respecting the government’s right to gather it. A revealing Electronic Frontier Foundation article explains how, “Essentially, the Obama administration has claimed that the government cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes (read this link to learn more http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/04/obama-doj-worse-than-bush). Obama has already done a better job of justifying illegal information gathering and government immunity from prosecution for doing so than the previous administration did in eight years. That’s what you get for electing a previous president of Harvard Law Review as President of the United States, America.

We know that exposing anymore imagery of the sanctified actions of US government enhanced interrogators would be incredibly harmful, but we must keep in mind that if we justify whitewashing the whole thing, as I’m doing now, we’ll slide even further down this slippery slope. At this point, we find ourselves operating under a unique mindset, but let’s see where it leads. Now it seems that if we don’t utilize these much more effective “enhanced information gathering” techniques (eat your heart out, turdblossom), we would be unnecessarily allowing red blooded Americans to die. You see, this worries me because in a majority dominated society, all it takes is a temporarily mistaken consensus to do major damage (remember the patriot act, oh and that warning from Jefferson too). Many of us have worried that liberals would seek the nicest way to win the war on terror and get us all killed, but I think the Obama team, in its dash for the center, has selected the most practical way to win. Practical for the government that is.

Enhanced information gathering (HUMINT, SIGINT, COMINT, ELINT, MASINT, etc) is much more effective and less noticeable than enhanced interrogation. Interestingly, the gathering of information is a rapidly evolving phenomenon while torture is an exercise in devolution. I fear the attraction such a quietly successful tactic must have on any president; especially one as practical as Obama who, like previous presidents, is just doing his best to protect the American people. It isn’t too hard for me to imagine Obama stretching out such national security based information gathering programs for a while, getting the most out of them and making progress in the war on terror if possible before it becomes necessary to shut it all down and then harvest any available political capital by taking credit for a momentous change in how we gather intelligence.

That’s the kind of politician I think we’ve elected, he’s not much different than the others, just really good. It seems to me that the ugly duckling of torture is happily being sacrificed in order to divert attention from this administration’s efforts to hold onto a more powerful tool and make quick progress in the war on terror by infringing on American’s right to privacy on national security grounds. This duckling is being beheaded in a very complicated and bloody manner now that Panetta, Pelosi and a host of other letter signing liberals have become involved and they walk a fine line as Obama watches with annoyance from the White House. Obama wants them to hash out the torture thing and get it through the news cycle, but at the same time, he needs warrantless wiretapping kept away from the news cycle. Is this just a suspicious guess? The July 15th hearing of the federal government’s motion to dismiss a case challenging federal dragnet surveillance by AT & T in San Francisco isn’t very big news right now, is it? (http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2009/07/13)

What do you think? Is Obama opting to infringe on the privacy of millions instead of torturing hundreds? FYI for all, http://www.youarebeingwatched.us/.

Posted by Frederick S. Friedman at July 14, 2009 2:21 PM
Comments
Comment #284474

Frederick,
Why I will remain silent about what has been going on in America and around the World for hundreds of years. The fact that listening devices and shared information has been part of the Status Quo for as long as I remember. I do not think Americans can rest assured they are safe from our government swiping up off the street just for voicing their opinion.

For if Rush can say he wishes the President of the United States of America fails and some of the other outrageous things. The fact that he is still on the aiirwaves and has not been called to the Halls of Congress should give you an example of how far one can go with their loyal opposition to the Establishment.

And why it is sad to think that every street corner has to be monitored for public safety, I do believe that it is the Extreme Left and Right that need to revise their teachings considering to many people in the Center are sick of the fact that the Criminals are winning under the Argument of Being Ignorant.

For why the Republicans can cry that America has not been attacked over the last 8 years. The fact that every sector of security has been compromised by our own experts tells me that it is not what the Leadership has done, but the unwillingness of Our Enemy to anger “We the People” that has kept us safe.

Since I can only wonder what the public out cry would be if another 9/11 happened knowing that even the most Civilized Human can be totally ruthless when provoked beyond their limits.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 14, 2009 6:57 PM
Comment #284475

People who justify torture for any means, even the most extreme, are fools. If you can’t comprehend that the vast majority of human beings will say anything to stop torture you are pretty much just plain stupid. It doesn’t matter if the situation is dire, you’re still dealing with a human and their genetically ingrained desire for self preservation.

And the idea that we should ignore the inquisition always amuses me. In 2009 we’re debating whether or not water boarding is ever necessary and acceptable, meanwhile we have piles of history books explicitly detailing people confessing to marrying the devil and practicing witchcraft. Come on. Torture is torture. People are People. Idiots are idiots. We were/are doing the very same sort of thing we condemn “evil” regimes for doing, but it’s alright because we’re America?

Posted by: Mike Falino at July 14, 2009 6:57 PM
Comment #284477

Mike,

I decided to leave out the inquisition for shortness sake, which wasn’t successful, but I hoped my brief mention of it was enough. If not, I appreciate your filling things in there.

My guess is that you will soon see people commenting on this very blog site in defense of torture itself. People’s capacity for ignorance and apathy about the suffering of others is phenomenal.

Posted by: Fred at July 14, 2009 7:16 PM
Comment #284479

It mostly stems from the fact that unless you dehumanize your enemies it is harder to treat them less than human. I just read a good article in the latest Humanist magazine—which ironically deals with torture this issue—about how in the end, all people are still human.

To justify torture in any regard is to declare that your enemy is subhuman. It all stems from our innate “they’re not like us” tendency. We can easily justify torturing people who are a little more brown then us, have slightly more almond shaped eyes, or speak a funny sounding language. How come Americans don’t overwhelmingly support the torture of suspected kidnappers? Perhaps its because, deep down, we really know torture is wrong, that is unless the person doesn’t look like us, sound like us, or pray to the same god.

One of my favorite pastimes is debating torture with people because, in the end, they just come off as sadists, fools, “more American than me”, or just plain idiotic. You actually can’t justify torture and sound intelligent in the same breath.

Posted by: Mike Falino at July 14, 2009 7:39 PM
Comment #284498

Torture has always been illegal under the common law, but could be ordered by a monarch who was considered to be above the law, as here with K J and Guy Fawkes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0qc2xOfykU

This should have ended in 1689, but now some people want to use “enhanced interrogation”, see:

http://blackstoneweekly.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/the-king-never-dies/

Posted by: ohrealy at July 15, 2009 10:01 AM
Comment #284502

Monarchs outside a democracy, are not above the law, their edicts ARE the law. We fought a revolutionary war to rid ourselves of such authoritarian rule.

Then we created political parties, which reinstated authoritarian rule of a different kind, rule by the authority of an elite few, supported and maintained in power by the funding of the corporate elite.

Real democracy, one person, one vote, cannot exist until all of a society’s voters are well educated and capable of independent choice and deliberation in regards to elections and government policy. Till that evolution reaches its pinnacle, we shall have to suffer the ignominies of the weakness and foibles of our so called “representative form” of government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 10:58 AM
Comment #284503

Isn’t self preservation the underlying reason for torturing an individual?
Tell me Mike, what kind of fool am I for butt-stroking and threatening the enemy in a time of war in order to save the lives of the fireteam? What kind of fool am I for not walking into an ambush? What kind of sadistic pleasure did I get from doing it? What kind of idiot am I for wanting to live? Am I not also a human with a “genetically ingrained desire for self preservation?” Why is torture worse than a bullet in the head?

The fool is alive while the self-righteous “humanist” is dead. Books and feelings can dictate how things should be, but reality dictates how things really are.
When one ignores the reality of a situation, they become nothing more than a statistic for those books being read by those who falsely believe in a perfect world of peace and love.

To unconditionally condemn all aspects of torture, is to declare your enemy is more human and deserves to live while you perish.

Posted by: kctim at July 15, 2009 11:23 AM
Comment #284505

kctim asked: “Isn’t self preservation the underlying reason for torturing an individual?”

It can be. Often, however, torture is a form of retribution against people without due process, people who may well be innocent. We see this in many other countries. Often, torture is a form of intimidation toward those who may be considering actions the torture wishes to discourage. Often, torture is a form of recreation and fun, as we witnessed and was established in the Abu-Ghraib prosecutions.

To become tolerant of torture is to open the door to all these motives and reasons for torturing. And that, kctim, is the bottom line on torture. There can be no logical justification for torture, because the consequential costs of its usage, regardless of original intentions, quickly grow well beyond any benefit produced by the action.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 11:59 AM
Comment #284510

David, one does not need to be tolerant of torture in order to see the justification for using it when it is needed.
Mike said anybody who justifies torture for any means are fools, and that just is not the reality of the issue. Its is very possible for people to call the events at Abu G. BS, but still favor using whatever means necessary to get info to save lives. Granted, it is a fine line to walk and the people must be vigilant to ensure it does not become the “often” things you mention, but only a fool would not take whatever actions needed in order to survive.
‘Him or me’ or ‘us or them,’ is the logical justification of torture, and those who refuse to see such a reality, must live, or not, with the outcome.

Posted by: kctim at July 15, 2009 12:51 PM
Comment #284515

kctim said: “David, one does not need to be tolerant of torture in order to see the justification for using it when it is needed.”

What an abject example of illogical thought. If one sees the justification for a thing, one is tacitly tolerant of the thing. To be intolerant is to find no justification for a thing.

You, personally may find justification for torture, but, if you do, you CANNOT claim at the same time to be intolerant of torture. That is illogical.

Which is why, in our society, we leave punishment of crime to the dispassionate courts, and not to the victims of crime. The victims of crime are prone to passion and therefore, absence of logic and empirical judgment, which can, and often does, lead to retribution against innocent victims.

I understand your argument’s empathy with terrorist’s reasoning, which can justify torture for personal ends, but, in America, we strive to be better than terrorists by adhering to a rule of law, not passion, in the conduct of our affairs. In America, most of us, most of the time, are BETTER than the terrorists, not allowing ourselves to be governed by our passions as a people, but, the rule of law instead.

One day, your arguments and apologies for terrorist’s reasoning, may yield to the American majority view, as well. We will certainly do our best here, to assure that end. :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 2:58 PM
Comment #284524

Your use of such a broad brush is what is illogical, David? Do you honestly believe a person cannot be intolerant of something but be willing to compromise those principles in order to save their life, or the lives of others? The very animal nature of self preservation says you are wrong.

“Which is why, in our society, we leave punishment of crime to the dispassionate courts”

I agree, but tell me, what good are the courts when one has just minutes to prevent the creation of more victims?
Of course torture for retribution is wrong, but self preservation is about survival.

“I understand your argument’s empathy with terrorist’s reasoning”

The ‘holier than thou’ routine David? Seriously? Or maybe you are just saying I agree with the terrorists simply because I disagree with you?

You do not even understand my argument because you refuse to even consider that self preservation plays a huge part in the issue.
Torture is horrible, but sometimes it is the only option. To deny that is dishonest and completely devoid of reality.

Posted by: kctim at July 15, 2009 6:02 PM
Comment #284529

kctim,

It’s not too hard to understand the point that torture can be carried out in the name of self-preservation, but the point that you’re missing is that just because you think you need to hurt someone to survive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
I’m sure we can imagine some scenario where this type of behavior could save your life, but 99.9999% of the time this would turn into a script submission for a “SAW” sequel or some other bad storyline targeting a young violent male audience who are law abiding, but still chomping at the bit for some justified violence.
This is the type of mindset that makes you believe you’ll react the best in a disaster, but in reality you’d be the first to jump in and torture somebody or even eat somebody, just to survive. I’d rather be the last to jump in, right?
Yes, out of every group, there are some that first react selfishly for them and their own spanning over to those that are selfless and try to keep the reptilian brain at bay with reason and true bravery. Death is unstoppable and random, if you haven’t figured that out yet then wise up. The important part turns out to be how you behave until your last moment.
Your forgetting about the ‘better angels of our nature’ that stand up when heroes lay down their lives for each other. If somebody then lowers themselves to perform horrific acts on another for love of their own life or even love of another, yes, they may do so, but they will be wrong. They will know this when they hear the first scream and realize that being evil sucks.
Even if someone lives out this far fetched scenario you speak of, which I’m sure some have in this world, it’s something heavy on their minds in their last moments, I’m sure.
It’s just wrong … self defense against an armed person is different, but even those who kill in self defense feel cursed the rest of their lives in many cases.

P.S. No more “24” for you; Jack Bauer is a fictional character!

Posted by: Fred at July 15, 2009 7:15 PM
Comment #284531

kctim

i’ve many times said here on this site that our principles of human decency, and a belief in the rule of law are not a suicide pact. the fact that many here cannot understand that is beyond me. i would do anything i repeat ANYTHING nessesary to save the lives of my family, friends or fellow americans. to deny human nature is ignore who we truely are.

Posted by: dbs at July 15, 2009 7:41 PM
Comment #284532

fred

“It’s not too hard to understand the point that torture can be carried out in the name of self-preservation, but the point that you’re missing is that just because you think you need to hurt someone to survive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.”

when the time comes to make that decision there is often not enough time to think into the ground.

Posted by: dbs at July 15, 2009 7:43 PM
Comment #284534

dbs, we have never had a situation in America where we didn’t have enough time to think things through requiring torture, INSTEAD. NEVER! Another bogus argument without any empirical evidence whatsoever.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:01 PM
Comment #284535

Thank you for that candid admission dbs. You just stated that you would stoop to the very same level as criminals, terrorists, and sadists in the heat of passion to defend those you THINK might be threatened.

Self-defense is logical, rational, and legal. Torture is illogical, irrational, and illegal, and moreover, it reduces those who carry it out to subhuman, even sub-mamalian levels of depravity. But, I do appreciate your candor in the matter. I respect honesty, even in a debate nemesis.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:05 PM
Comment #284536

david

how long is long enough? until we decide not to use it? your argument that if there is sufficient time the only logical conclusion is to decide against the use of torture, is the truely illogical argument.

Posted by: dbs at July 15, 2009 8:11 PM
Comment #284537

kctim, torture has not ever saved anyone’s life in America. Torture is not an effective self-defense strategy. Torture takes time. Personal self-defense does not often lend one time. And torture by governments only results in the people turning against their government. You think torture didn’t play a role in Republicans losing entirely their hold on our government? I assure you, it did. Though the polls show the economy was a far more major impetus for voters.

Americans in a majority did not believe for a heart beat that the torture that went on in Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident of a few rogue soldiers acting without advice or orders. And as we now know, they were absolutely right in their suspicions. Americans will never, as a majority, declare proudly that they are torturers of others. NEVER! That is one of the positive results of our being a predominantly religious people. Torture is against the religions most Americans subscribe to.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:14 PM
Comment #284538

dbs, deciding not to use it, BY LAW, is a decision this country already made decades ago. How long, to deliberate before torturing, you ask? As long as it takes for the American people to lower themselves and stoop to the level of depravity of those who do embrace torture for personal ends. That’s how long.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:19 PM
Comment #284539

david

“You just stated that you would stoop to the very same level as criminals, terrorists, and sadists in the heat of passion to defend those you THINK might be threatened.”

when it comes to my family, and fellow americans, yes. sometimes survival is all that matters. if you don’t understand that i’m sorry.


“I respect honesty, even in a debate nemesis.”

i’ll take that as a compliment david ;-)

Posted by: dbs at July 15, 2009 8:19 PM
Comment #284540

kctim said: “The ‘holier than thou’ routine David? Seriously? Or maybe you are just saying I agree with the terrorists simply because I disagree with you?”

No, I very plainly pointed out that you agree with terrorists because terrorists defend torture as a tactic and strategy, as well. Has nothing to do with whether you agree with me, or not. They torture. You defend torture as a legitimate use of power. Ergo, you agree with the terrorists, and not your nation which has for decades subscribed to laws and treaties banning torture as a use of power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:26 PM
Comment #284541

david

IMO it is better to be judged by 12, then carried by 8. that is my take on the law.

“How long, to deliberate before torturing, you ask? As long as it takes for the American people to lower themselves and stoop to the level of depravity of those who do embrace torture for personal ends. That’s how long.”

if the end involves the preservation of my own, then i’m willing to live with that judgement, and i’ll wear that moniker proudly knowing those for whom i truely care will live to see another day. i don’t give a damn about my enemies. they are after all my enemies, and would do me, and those for whom i care harm without a second thought, and i will show them the same mercy. you may consider it barbarian, i consider it survival. after all that is IMO the strongest of all human instincts.

Posted by: dbs at July 15, 2009 8:33 PM
Comment #284542

dbs, if you think torturing another human being is the best option of protecting your family, then you have my sympathies. Are you religious at all? If so, how do you reconcile the hypocrisy of your position? Torture is not self-defense. To torture, you have to first apprehend the person who is a threat. Once they are apprehended and subdued, there no longer is any basis for torture under the umbrella of self-defense.

Your logic is truly perverted, to preserve an obvious willfulness toward deliberately inflicting pain on other human beings, while claiming it justified in the name of self-defense.

A person breaks into your home. You tie them to a chair. Where is the need now to torture them, as opposed to calling the police? There is no self-defense in torture. Only retribution. And our founding fathers wisely decided that retribution is best left to an impartial jury, not the victims of a crime.

Your perseverance in the matter however, reveals what drives your position is not logic nor reason. As I have pointed out, torture is neither logical nor reasonable. It is in fact, inhuman and heinous.

Do you defend Mengele’s experiments in torture on the Jews in the name of medical science, laudable? It was for a good cause, according to Mengele and Hitler. But, their logic was just as perverse as that which you are now employing in your argument. And thus, dictators and torturous authoritarians still exist in our world on the back of sophistry support from folks making the same arguments as you make.

Rationalization is not the same as logical and reasoned.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:40 PM
Comment #284544

Torture is not the means to protecting your own. In fact, if you torture, you will have to live with the fear of yourself or family becoming victims of your torture through retribution. Think about it. Many a great thinker have, and from Adam Smith to Jesus to Einstein, they have all come to the same conclusion. An eye for eye as a rule of law only results in the whole world becoming blind to their own potential for humanity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:44 PM
Comment #284545

dbs, fighting one’s enemies to rid oneself of their threat is logical, reasonable, and legal. Torturing fellow human beings is another thing entirely, and has never in American history, saved any one or their family from harm.

There is the fantasy world where one can nurture one’s hate and fantasies of retribution, but, that world lies in the realm of the insane. Then there is the real world, where heinous despicable creatures masquerading as human beings kill, maim, and torture more humane people for personal gain or satisfaction. To become them, is not defeating them. It is only replacing them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 15, 2009 8:49 PM
Comment #284548


It amazes me just how much testosterone bubbles to the surface when torture is the topic.

I would ask those “survivalists” if they were prepared to kill someone with their bare hands, as the chance of having any weapon handy, or even having the presence of mind to use that weapon to “protect their loved ones” in that split second available is infantesimal.
This “him or me” scenario that continues to be brought up seems a ridiculous notion fueled by too much 24 and/or Rambo movies.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at July 15, 2009 9:00 PM
Comment #284553

Let’s define torture. Waterboarding evidently qualifies as torture, which is why it was stopped more than five years ago after being applied to a handful of terror suspects. How uncomfortable does a person need to be before we call it torture?

If you chain somebody up and break his bones, it is torture. If you make him sit for a long time while asking hard questions, it is not. Where is the line between these two things that it is immoral to cross?

Is it torture to put an old guy like Bernie Madoff in a small cell and control his every move? If you filmed his drab and hard day, watching the 70 year old guy shuffle around, it would be very harsh looking.

Of course, Al Qaeda are trained to claim torture. If you listen to them, they were very poorly treated. If you look for physical evidence, it is harder to find. The Spanish inquisition etc generally left actual injuries.

We have to assume that the people gathering information know at least as much as we less-informed ordinary people. If we know that torture doesn’t work, maybe they have also figured it out. Which makes you ask why they do it. Are large numbers of our professional civil servants and military just wasting money and time on something they know produces no results? Why?

Posted by: Christine at July 15, 2009 10:09 PM
Comment #284555
I would ask those “survivalists” if they were prepared to kill someone with their bare hands, as the chance of having any weapon handy, or even having the presence of mind to use that weapon to “protect their loved ones” in that split second available is infantesimal. This “him or me” scenario that continues to be brought up seems a ridiculous notion fueled by too much 24 and/or Rambo movies.

Um, are you saying you aren’t willing to defend your family with your bare hands? How would you do so exactly?

Posted by: rhinehold at July 15, 2009 10:18 PM
Comment #284561

I think anyone looking for an excuse to torture somebody, same people that imagine scenarios where they could use their guns justifiably, or anyone else with with an unfulfilled bloodlust should just walk down to your local armed forces recruiter office and sign up for the army or the marines and demand the infantry ride. This will get that thirst for violence out of your system.

Yes, we all would defend our families to the death.
Yes, we all would get down and dirty if pushed past our individual breaking points, but meditating on these scenarios is just bad karma.

Besides the ugly mojo, brooding over torture is playing into the Obama administration’s hands and it’s working better than I thought.

Torture being such a hot button, I can see that the more we talk about it the less we even care about wiretapping. It’s so invisible and harmless, we can sit at home and argue over torture through our computers and easily forget about a swelling databank containing everything everyone is saying and writing across the United States.

Strangely, this makes some people sleep better and others sleep less.

Posted by: Fred at July 16, 2009 2:02 AM
Comment #284565

Christine, the vast majority of professionals did come out and said it doesn’t work. Also if you read the geneva conventions not only are we not allowed to torture, we are not allowed to purposely cause them discomfort. That is of course for PoWs. Which all combatents are considered unless if they are found by a compentant trail/tribunel not to be a lawful combatent. Also the only questions that PoWs have to awnser is their name, nationality, and rank. Nothing else that is forced out is a war crime.

Even unlawful combantents have to be humanly treated in the Geneva Conventions.

I have talked about torture before on this site several times and every time nobody can bring up proof that torture works in getting reliable information. Has David R says follow the logic. Logically torture does not work, and it is not the torturee’s fault, it is the torturer. When the the torturer know the truth? The awnser is they never do. If it truely is a person holding information it is total luck if you guess on what is true or not. So that means you just tortured the guy and you might not of even gotten anything useful out of them. Then again if it is that time sensative scienaor that people love to use, then you already wasted so much time your family is dead.

The real question though is. How do you know you need to protect your family against the guy by keeping him a live and torturing him? If he is a threat to you, you either disable them or kill them. If they truely are your enemy why in the world are you going to believe everything that comes out of their mouth? You can falsely believe that torture will help you, but the facts are against you. Those that believe torture can be used to extract useful information lack the ablity to think logically, or lack knowledge of basic life experiences.

I would love for someone to think of a real situation in which they think torture would be justified for extracting information. Any example can be logically, and factually concluded that it would work against you.

Posted by: kudos at July 16, 2009 4:15 AM
Comment #284566

It might be interesting to note that the Islamist movement began in Egypt with the Islamic Brotherhood, a radicalized group, radicalized by torture.

Posted by: gergle at July 16, 2009 4:34 AM
Comment #284571

I think you put it all in a nutshell when you said (paraphrasing) he’s just another politician.

I had certainly hoped for far better from him, but it appears he’s doing the political calculus and deciding to average out in the center. Too bad.

Posted by: Greg House at July 16, 2009 8:05 AM
Comment #284573

david

“Do you defend Mengele’s experiments in torture on the Jews in the name of medical science, laudable? It was for a good cause, according to Mengele and Hitler.”

you’re kidding right? if you can’t see the difference between that, and trying to obtain information to prevent an enemy from mass murdering your fellow countrymen, i really don’t know what to say.

Posted by: dbs at July 16, 2009 8:35 AM
Comment #284575

Fred
“but the point that you’re missing is that just because you think you need to hurt someone to survive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true”

My feelings on torture were not the topic. Mike F. clearly stated that “People who justify torture for any means, even the most extreme, are fools,” and I disagree with that statement. There are times when torture is the best or only option available in order to guarantee survival and I hardly think anyone doing what is needed to survive, can be considered a fool.

“This is the type of mindset that makes you believe you’ll react the best in a disaster,”

I know how I would react and it had nothing to do with retribution or chomping at the bit for violence. It was about survival and only about survival.

“but in reality you’d be the first to jump in and torture somebody or even eat somebody, just to survive”

As would most people. So tell me, are they all fools for wanting to survive?

“Death is unstoppable and random, if you haven’t figured that out yet then wise up.”

Only when the body has given out, until then, it is human nature to prevent death and calling somebody a fool for doing so is ridiculous.

And with all due respect, please don’t try to lecture me on death. I am more wise on that subject than I ever wanted to be.

“The important part turns out to be how you behave until your last moment”

Depends on what is more important: what other people think you should or should not have done? or doing what you think it took to survive?

“If somebody then lowers themselves to perform horrific acts on another for love of their own life or even love of another, yes, they may do so, but they will be wrong.”

But are they fools?

“They will know this when they hear the first scream and realize that being evil sucks”

But the fact that human nature tells them that being dead sucks even more, will make them continue.

Self preservation does not make one a fool.

BTW, I don’t watch soap operas and have never seen one episode of 24.

Posted by: kctim at July 16, 2009 9:38 AM
Comment #284576

David
“torture has not ever saved anyone’s life in America.”

Even though I disagree, I did not say that it had. I simply stated that people will torture in the name self preservation and that they are not “fools” for doing so.

“Americans will never, as a majority, declare proudly that they are torturers of others.”

I agree! But the vast majority of them would still torture in order to survive and they would not be fools for doing so.

Posted by: kctim at July 16, 2009 9:49 AM
Comment #284578

dbs,
the whole argument hinges on the question (Does torturing someone give you good information?) If it did there would be good rational to use it. Most professional interrogators say it doesn’t.
David R.
I have to disagree with you when it comes to religious reasons not to torture. Maybe if you’re a Taoist, but most the people in the world are some kind of Judo-Christian. Which are exclusionary. Those “other people” worship a false deity, or even worse some kind of demon, maybe even the devil himself. We’d be better off to rid the world of these devil worshipers burn them at the stake. If we can torture a confession out of them first it would ease our consciences. An incredible number of people have been tortured in the name of religion.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at July 16, 2009 10:11 AM
Comment #284579

“No, I very plainly pointed out that you agree with terrorists because terrorists defend torture as a tactic and strategy, as well”

No David, you “very plainly,” and convienently, leave out what started this discussion and that is the very human nature of self preservation.

You see, people can ‘claim’ to be intolerant of torture in order to fool themselves or to push a political agenda, but deep down they know they would do anything it took to survive. Self preservation is the justification so how can they say they are intolerant?
Some say it is illogical, I call it hypocritical.

Posted by: kctim at July 16, 2009 10:12 AM
Comment #284580

It would be a great world if Christians followed the teachings of Christ and Moslems followed the teachings of Mohamed. But it don’t seem to be that way.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at July 16, 2009 10:16 AM
Comment #284581

kudos
“I would love for someone to think of a real situation in which they think torture would be justified for extracting information. Any example can be logically, and factually concluded that it would work against you”

I am here at my desk typing a response to you instead of lying 6ft under while my family mourns.
How does that logically and factually work against me?

Posted by: kctim at July 16, 2009 10:20 AM
Comment #284582

mike

“the whole argument hinges on the question (Does torturing someone give you good information?) If it did there would be good rational to use it. Most professional interrogators say it doesn’t.”

nothing is 100%, but if 15% is my only option, and time is of the essence then i’ll go with the 15% as opposed to doing nothing. i’m realistic, and understand that given right circumstances i would do whatever is nessesary to ensure my, or my fellow americans survival. even if the chance is small, it still beats nothing, and being able to say i’m a good person. i’de rather live and live with my choice.

Posted by: dbs at July 16, 2009 10:57 AM
Comment #284583

mike

BTW didn’t waterboarding extract information from kalik shiek mohamed that saved american lives? i wouldn’t say it never produces useful information. like i said i’ll take the 15%.

Posted by: dbs at July 16, 2009 11:00 AM
Comment #284585

dbs,
In my uneducated opinion it’s probably closer to 1%. If this guy hates your guts to start with, then you put the thumb screws to him till he really hurts, he’s going to do anything not to help you. If a lie will get you to stop just as well as the truth. He will lie to you, maybe in such a way as to get you blindsided.
On the other hand the 85% or 99% (depending on your point of view) will turn your allies off and fire up your enemies. It could even make them mad enough, they carry out a plan that was just talk before you tortured one of them.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at July 16, 2009 11:14 AM
Comment #284586

dbs said “BTW didn’t waterboarding extract information from kalik shiek mohamed that saved american lives? i wouldn’t say it never produces useful information. like i said i’ll take the 15%.”

Supposedly kalik shiek mohamed gave up his information before he was tortured. That all depends on who you listen to. I for one don’t trust Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at July 16, 2009 11:19 AM
Comment #284588

mike

my uneducated guess would be that your attention would be focused soley on the pain and how to stop it. i doubt someone in that circumstance would be of the mindset that they would be able to conjur up a plan to get even with thier captors. also remember those doing the interogation are not stupid, and are good at evaluating the information they are given. my guess is that the instinct for self preservation would kick in. the only scenario where i could see one lying to stop the pain would be if they truely knew nothing.

Posted by: dbs at July 16, 2009 12:03 PM
Comment #284606

This discussion is absurd. Torture is prohibited by US law. Inhumane treatment of prisoners, not rising to the level of torture, is prohibited by US law embodied in numerous treaties, e.g., Geneva Conventions. Does anyone defending torture or “enhanced interrogation” techniques believe in the rule of law?

Apologists for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques like to characterize them as simply making detainees unconfortable while asking tough questions. Well, the devil is in the details. In the 2005 OLC memo authored by Bradbury, the sleep deprivation method of the CIA was described in detail. A detainee was stripped naked with the exception of a diaper. His ankles were shackled to the floor. His wrists were shackled to a chain suspended from the ceiling. He was forced to stand in that position deprived of sleep for over a week at a time. If he fell asleep, the strain on his wrist shackles would wake him up. Torture or simply an uncomfortable interrogation?

Posted by: Rich at July 16, 2009 8:45 PM
Comment #284608

Kudos
If we applied the rules some people propose now during WWII, the Nazis would surely have won. We have behaved very well vis-à-vis the terrorists in custody. We have addressed most of the abuses and it remains very interesting that the only thing worse than being in custody in Guantanamo seems to be returning the suspects to the usual prison system they will experience in their countries of origin.

My question is about how we define torture. Some people on this blog seem to define it as any unpleasantness. By those definitions, we have all suffered torture on ordinary city buses or airplanes. We also need not believe all the allegations made by terror suspects. Crooks always claim that they are innocent and mistreated. Terrorists are a step worse than ordinary crooks. They are trained to lie about this very subject.

Many people have been to Guantanamo. Journalist who have actually been there report that conditions are generally good. Inmates have access to books, tapes, better medical care than they would get in their home counties and appropriate food.

So I think we all dislike torture. Tell me where that line is, please.

Mike
Check out some of those teachings. Maybe read up on the teachings about apostasy in Islam before you advocate its widespread acceptance.

All

There come a time for any ethical or legal system, no matter how comprehensive and exquisite it might be, that you have an ethical obligation to break the law. I would make the ostensibly contradictory statement that torture should never be acceptable, but there are situations where I think it justified. The same goes for an even greater crime like murder. Can any of you think of conditions where you would kill another human being? If you can, it is interesting if you cannot think of any conditions where you would inflict pain short of death.

I don’t know why I participate in these posts, since they are so mendacious. I have never seen the opponents of torture actually define what they mean by the term. They just are against it, they say. For them, there is nothing worth dying for.

Talking is easy. I think it is also very interesting that Obama has promised to close Guantanamo, but taken no steps to do so.

Posted by: Christine at July 16, 2009 10:59 PM
Comment #284610

Christine,

Mendacious?

So are we all liars, or just some of us?

The idea of this blog is that we back up our opinions with facts.

“I think it is also very interesting that Obama has promised to close Guantanamo, but taken no steps to do so.”

What exactly have you accomplished in the last 6 months?
What have you had in your life that distracted you from accomplishing more?
Considering what Obama has faced, IMHO, he has done a better than average job. Yes, there are things that I wish he would have addressed sooner, but I do see where there are more important issues on his plate, and I am willing to cut him some slack.

“My question is about how we define torture. Some people on this blog seem to define it as any unpleasantness. By those definitions, we have all suffered torture on ordinary city buses or airplanes.”

You have repeatedly brought up the long airline flight or the bus ride and asked if it was torture.
I would submit that while I have taken plane flights of up to 17 hours I knew before I even got on the plane how long the flight was, and I knew when the flight would end. I don’t call that torture.
I doubt seriously that any of the “guests” of the CIA have any idea when their “flight” will end.

“The Spanish inquisition etc generally left actual injuries.”

It has been estimated that 150,000 people were “guests” of the Spanish inquisition. It has also been estimated that upwards of 5,000 of those same “guests” died while being tortured for the simple crime of being a heretic.
Gee, I wonder how many out of those that didn’t die during the inquisition admitted to things that weren’t true to save themselves or their families?

“If we applied the rules some people propose now during WWII, the Nazis would surely have won.”

Baloney. We won WW2 because we were lucky enough to break the German codes (for example, the “Enigma Machine” fell into our laps), and we had a bigger stick, not because we tortured people.

My definition of torture is the inhumane treatment of another human being.

There are far better ways of gathering information than becoming who we fight.

So, now who is being mendacious?

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at July 17, 2009 12:33 AM
Comment #284613

Christine,
in these long flights you take do you cry, defecate on yourself, and beg the lord to make it stop?

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at July 17, 2009 8:05 AM
Comment #284615

Christine,

It is not just a few “mendacious” bloggers that have objected to the tactics used at Quantanamo as illegal and counter-productive. A report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General in 2008 detailed the FBI’s concerns about the tactics and its refusal to participate in the “interrogations.” In fact, the FBI agents were so concerned, they maintained a “war crimes” file in their office at Quantanamo. www.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/washington/21detain.html


Posted by: Rich at July 17, 2009 8:45 AM
Comment #284634

I used to argue with Jack about that 1492 wasn’t a great day for many in Spain and many families were treated a little better by the Ottomans just a fact.”” March 31 –”” Ferdinand and Isabella sign the Alhambra decree, expelling all Jews from Spain unless they convert to Roman Catholicism.”“
April 17 – The Capitulations of Santa Fe were signed.
July 31 – The Jews are expelled from Spain; 150,000 flee.
August 3 – Christopher Columbus “sails the ocean blue” on his first journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.
August 11 – Pope Alexander VI succeeds Pope Innocent VIII as the 214th pope, after the 1492 papal conclave.
“”“Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire, learning about the expulsion of Jews from Spain, dispatches the Ottoman Navy to bring the Jews safely to Ottoman lands, mainly to the cities of Thessaloniki (currently in Greece) and İzmir (currently in Turkey).[1]”“”
October 12 – Christopher Columbus’ expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean and lands on Guanahani, but believes he has reached the East Indies. .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at July 17, 2009 4:45 PM
Comment #284636

Didn’t know that about Sultan Bayezid II; I’ll file that one away, thanks.

People will continue to think they’re missing out on some valuable tactic if we don’t torture or at least think we are more in danger if we aren’t willing to sink down to the level of our enemies, but the horse is out of the barn on this one.
This is a tactic of desperation which strongly contradicts sound strategy in modern warfare. Yes, information is important, but information goes both ways. If the world witnesses us torturing people, they are taking that information and forming opinions that are a detriment to our society and this negative greatly outweighs any 15% or 1% or whatever amount of reliable information extracted. People are calling this the long war for a reason.
Al Qaeda only has to carry out one successful attack during each presidency to keep the war going forever. The only way Al Qaeda can lose is if they have no more people that want to die with them.
Torture is a recruitment tool with much more value for Al Qaeda than us, that’s why it’s being abandoned. BTW, Al Qaeda has probably been training their boys to withstand waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc.

From these comments, however, I think it’s clear that torture and the blathering that currently surrounds the issue does have some value to the country, or at least this administration. Torture talk is blinding the nation to the fact that virtually no one is opposing the US government on warrantless wiretapping.

Christine,

Who cares what torture is, it doesn’t work. How would you evaluate enhanced interrogation vs wiretapping as a tactic in the long war?
I’d much rather hear what these guys say on their cell phones to each other than listen to what they scream when I have a car battery hooked up to their genitals.
I’m not calling you out, just genuinely curious where you stand on information privacy?

Posted by: Fred at July 17, 2009 6:55 PM
Comment #284641

Rocky

I didn’t mean to imply that we won WWII on the basis of torture. My point is actually the contrary. We did not torture, but had we applied the kind of lawfare we do today, we would not have been able to win at all. My father was at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. While I don’t want to rely 100% on the stories of the old men, what they say about the treatment of the Germans – treatment they seemed to be proud of – would raise the ire of most of the left today.

War is a nasty and brutal business. Terrorism and irregular warfare is even a step below that. Let me be very clear about what I consider mendacity. First the background. Most of us probably agree that there are causes we would fight for. What does fighting entail? Fighting means that you are prepared to inflict horrible pain on your enemies and that you are willing to consign them to horribly painful deaths. A man trapped in a burning tank, as my uncle who was with Patton’s army described, suffers a horrible death. We were more than willing to inflict that kind of death and risk suffering it. All of us are willing to inflict terrible pain and tortuous death under the right circumstance. So it all becomes a matter of how we define torture.

Your definition of treating a person humanely is great in around 99% of the situations. But it is not good for 100%. The U.S. has behaved admirably. Even truly bad men such as KLM are still alive and healthy. The roughly 200 (yes, that small a number) of guys at Guantanamo are also looking good. This is not the inquisition.

The mendacity comes when we all express our shock-shock that some people may have tolerated harsh techniques. We have to put them in the context of the times and places. And we have to put it into the context of what we are talking about. I indeed do use the long airplane ride as an example. I don’t think that constitutes torture. I don’t think we should ever make anyone uncomfortable w/o cause, but there are reasons why I will subject myself to this kind of discomfort and why I will tolerate it being done to others.

Some people think they would behave differently. I have seen enough of human nature to know that people opinions in a safe situation are one thing but they change when they are under threat or passion. I recognize these daemons and passions in myself, which gives me some possibility to control them. In my experience the worst people are often those who don’t know their own limitations.

About Obama and Guantanamo, I believe he will close the place more or less along the same timetable we would have seen under Bush.Obama is not a bad man and he does not favor torture. He just will react similarly to similar pressure of real circumstances. As I wrote above, it is easy to have one opinion when you are not actually in a situation and quite another when you are involved. Both are valid in context.

Fred

We care what torture is because people are saying we have tortured terror suspects. You have to have a definition. Otherwise, you could accuse somebody of murder when nobody died and claim that it was just like murder.

There is no indication that the thing you mentioned with the car battery ever happened to anyone in American custody, BTW. This is why we need to have a good definition of torture and limit ourselves to the facts clearly in evidence.

Posted by: Christine at July 17, 2009 8:51 PM
Comment #284643

Christine,

The US acted admirably? FBI agents present during Quantanamo interrogations questioned not only the legality and efficacy of the techniques but kept a “war crimes” file on abuses they witnessed. They were eventually told to close the file on the grounds that it was not their mission to investigate such abuses.

The FBI is not some left leaning, criminal coddling agency. If their agents thought that there was something terribly wrong, perhaps we all should take notice.


Posted by: Rich at July 17, 2009 9:26 PM
Comment #284646

Christine,

“Your definition of treating a person humanely is great in around 99% of the situations. But it is not good for 100%.”

It is against the rules in the “Uniform Code of Military Justice” to treat a prisoner inhumanely.

That means 100% of the time.

I have never been to war, so I cannot speak of it’s horrors from experience.
I do know however, that war is, by it’s very nature, brutal (and it should be), but there is a vast difference between what happens on the battlefield, in the “heat of passion”, and what happens to someone under confinement, where the “interrogator” can be cool and calculating.

IMHO, treating people inhumanely is wrong. It will always be wrong. It is something that is never done by a “civilized” people.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at July 17, 2009 10:05 PM
Comment #284671

A distantly related conversation I had a couple of days ago with a Palestinian.

We were talking about world events and the craziness in Palestine, when he commented that “you in America are so lucky. People treat you with respect and are nice to you. Of course there are occasional racists, but less so than everywhere else. The rest of the world isn’t like that.” He was planning a trip to see his aging parents in the West Bank, and dreading the border crossings. He planned to closely watch the news and stop if things seemed ready to explode.

America has been a beacon to the world. If for no other reason, that is why we cannot be torturers.

Posted by: gergle at July 18, 2009 5:03 PM
Comment #284677

Gergle,

That anecdote lends a good perspective on the issue. One could take the same information and say, look how great we are, we’re the good guys and we torture like good guys, but you’re extrapolating correctly by explaining how the world looks up to us.

If we don’t take the high ground, then this isn’t possible. We’ve always gained more as a nation from “the power of our example, rather than the example of our power”(slick Willie is still good for something). In this case, we definitely don’t gain much by dragging the image we portray down to the level of our enemies. The gains from torture are so minimal compared to the lose of good will and respect we reap otherwise.

Once again, good point gergle!

Posted by: Fred at July 18, 2009 11:02 PM
Comment #284681

Strip away the self-righteousness,even stipulating everything people on this blog have said, this is the basic story.

Some people in the administration/civil service/military engaged in harsh techniques with several dozen terror suspects in the mistaken belief (stipulating that torture never works, as you all say) that this would yield information that would save lives of people in America and other places.

We could add that these events occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and that there may have been an overreaction and the CIA and the adminstration began to make plans to kill or capture terrorists w/o respecting the fine points of the law.

You all may think this is unacceptable, but do any of you have a problem with the basic accuracy?

Posted by: Christine at July 19, 2009 12:06 AM
Comment #284685

Christine,

I think that is somewhat accurate, with this caveat.

If Cheney and or Bush were at the head of this, which it appears plausible they were, then this is more serious than “some people”. This is tantamount to facism. If true, this was a truly scary administration.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 1:31 AM
Comment #284687

Thanks Fred,

In answering your final question in your blog, spying on Americans is not new. Benjamin Franklin was known for reading the mail.

Information has always been something the empowered seek. It’s a natural human reaction. I don’t see it ever being stopped. No president will (or should) limit his ability to gather information on real enemies of the state.

The difference, in America, is how it is used. Intelligence used to stop terrorism is a legitimate use of spying. Intelligence used to harass pop figures like John Lennon, or prosecute peace movements/churchs opposed to Honduran and Nicaraguan death squads and provide refugees with aid (actions of the Nixon and Reagan administrations) isn’t.

If you want privacy, you have to be secretive. If you associate yourself with fringe or controversial groups expect to be spied on, and possibly targeted. Even in America. Talking on the phone or the internet is not private. It’s a fact of human nature and reality.

Is it right? No, but neither do I expect someone tasked with protecting US interests to be stupid simply because someone feels their right is trampled. Privacy is not really a right. The right refered to in Roe v. Wade is not about the US being unaware of the abortion, it’s about interfering in the abortion. That’s a different standard of privacy. The limit applies to the actions taken, not the intelligence gathering.

Privacy is something I can demand and insist upon, but a government still has an obligation to know what is happening under it’s nose. It’s a conflict. As long as they don’t restrict my speech or harass me, I know it will go on.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 2:01 AM
Comment #284691

Thanks for your opinion on that Gergle.
After that many comments, we finally got somebody’s view on wiretapping. Looks like any future administration wouldn’t have much trouble advancing the steady offensive against privacy currently being carried forth by Obama.

The real danger here is the pendulum of two party politics swinging back and forth. As individual privacy shrinks and certain fringe groups are open game, we’ll find the left investigating far right groups one term and once the pendulum swings back we’ll see the right investigating far left groups the next term. This will devolve into a nasty game that couldn’t go anywhere good.

Even worse is the scenario we truly find ourselves living. A period of intense conflict that causes the collapse of all privacy protections, but when this period ends the protections will not return. The haunting threat of subversion will always remain.

What we lose today will not be regained easily tomorrow.

Posted by: Fred at July 19, 2009 5:28 AM
Comment #284693

Gergle said: “No president will (or should) limit his ability to gather information on real enemies of the state.”

Even if it subverts the Constitution and all citizen’s rights under therein? That kind of rationalization underwrites the rise of Stalins, Hitlers, and Mao Tse Tungs. Education is such a wasted commodity in this Information Age. And the forces aligned against the American ideal and framework are just as easily found amongst our own, as on foreign shores. Sen. McCarthy of the 1950’s remains an idol for Americans even today as evidenced by your comment.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 19, 2009 9:48 AM
Comment #284701

Gergle

Okay – I added the culpability of Bush & Cheney, as you say, who may indeed have been overzealous in their attempt to protect Americans from overseas enemies in a way that you consider “tantamount to fascism”. This is the new formulation.

Some people in the administration (led by the president and vice president) /civil service/military engaged in harsh techniques with several dozen terror suspects in the mistaken belief (stipulating that torture never works, as you all say) that this would yield information that would save lives of people in America and other places.

We could add that these events occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and that there may have been an overreaction Cheney and Bush may have directed the CIA and to make to make plans to kill or capture terrorists w/o respecting the fine points of the law.

Posted by: Christine at July 19, 2009 12:08 PM
Comment #284704

David,

I am arguing two points here.

First irregardless of “laws” or “rights” spying has and will always go on. It’s human nature and part and parcel of retaining power. There has never been a time in America where spying on it’s own citizens didn’t occur.

The “right” we have is to not be prosecuted, harassed or otherwise punished for “illegally” obtained information. This is civil(meaning non military) law, but has little to do with the function of the state in protecting the nation from real enemies.

Are you arguing there is a right to collude in private, as an enemy of the state?

Second, the president, as commander in chief was designed to perform the function of director of war time activities. Of course, it has become a never ending job. Congress was a deliberative body, not a decisive commander.

He does have powers to “suspend” rights of the Constitution when necessary, but his term is limited. Washington hung participants in the Whiskey Rebellion, and then stopped when a hue and cry from the populace rose up. He had re-established his authority and quelled the rebellion. These were military tribunals, not court ordered executions. Others captured were eventually released. He never captured the actual leaders. It should be noted the elected officials in Philadelphia who caused the rebellion were tossed out of office in the next election.

However, the president is accountable for his actions, but this is political in nature, rather than about strict rule of law.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 2:02 PM
Comment #284705

Christine,

Yes, I’ll agree with that.

But, as I noted in my response to David above, that does not release them from accountability.

It is our tradition not to prosecute past administrations. I suspect that will continue, but that doesn’t mean that their misdeeds shouldn’t be exposed.

I was pro Nixon in 1968, my opinion of him has changed dramatically.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 2:09 PM
Comment #284706

Fred,

I think it is a myth that we have “privacy”. We are protected from unnecessary intrusion into our lives, but not permitted to plot revolt, or criminal activities in private. That privacy doesn’t and never has existed.

If you want privacy move somewhere remote and interact with as few people as possible. People are social beings. They talk about each other. That’s what we do. Hermits may have a greater degree of privacy, but true privacy just doesn’t really exist.

What prevents subversion is openness in government. Removing THEIR privacy, so to speak.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 2:19 PM
Comment #284713

Gergle,

Your missing my sway, I think. I’m definitely, weary of any further intrusions on privacy through technology that didn’t exist previously, but I was basically rationalizing the need to use such an effective tool in light of current threats.

In that light, how easy is it now for us to remove the privacy of our leaders, when what they are up to must be kept secret because its essential to national security. Obama is against investigation of the previous administration and definitely doesn’t want it for his own. There’s no argument from me that privacy as we know it is on it’s way out as a matter of the future development of human society and I think this is the actual opening of the can we are witnessing today. The genie will never go back in, but once global violence recedes we still won’t see the end of this and my question at this point would be this. What are they going to use this information gathering technology for once security is established?

My guess is that either it will have something to do with making money for the government and anybody else with access to enhanced information gathering or security will just never be established.

Posted by: Fred at July 19, 2009 4:52 PM
Comment #284714

gergle said: “First irregardless of “laws” or “rights” spying has and will always go on. It’s human nature…”

Yeah, yeah, and slavery was human nature too. Existed in all civilizations in one form or another, UNTIL ours.

To argue human nature is to argue against change, evolution, and the advancement of civilization. Comments such as yours are the backbone of the retardation process of advancement, just as the KKK was the retardation of the advancement of civil rights.

Sorry, your argument based on ‘your take’ of human nature is both illogical, and irrational. And just plain false when compared to the history of human societal evolution.

The future is what we choose to make it. There is nothing pre-ordained about it, as your comment posits.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 19, 2009 5:41 PM
Comment #284717

Gergle

Take it through the courts. If it turns out laws were broken, punish the lawbreakers, including the President and Vice President, if they are guilty.

But recognize that Bush and Cheney did what they did to try to protect our country from terror attacks. They may have been overzealous and they may have been seriously mistaken, but that doesn’t justify the degree of hatred we sometimes hear.

BTW - there is a very good article in the Washington Post on this subject that addresses some of the nuances involved = http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/18/AR2009071802065.html

Posted by: Christine at July 19, 2009 6:22 PM
Comment #284725

Christine,

I do think they probably had good motives, just poor judgment. Of course, any prosecution would have to go through the courts. It won’t.

David,

To argue human nature is to argue against change, evolution, and the advancement of civilization.

Yes, David, that IS what I’m arguing. We are no more civilized than the Greeks and Romans. We tell ourselves we are, but human nature does not change. I was struck by Alan Greenspan’s acknowledgment of the inability of man to avoid irrational exuberance, even sophisticated investors such as himself. Having knowledge and behavior are not always related. I once had an English teacher in High School point out, as we studied tragedies, that the same Human condition exists now as then. It stuck with me.

If you don’t believe slavery still exists, then you must never buy sugar from the Dominican Republic, Electronics from various Asian nations, or clothes from Central America. We’ve renamed it and changed a few paradigms, but the situations are very much the same. Even slavers mostly treated their property well enough so that they could produce the wealth that the colonies were built upon. Don’t get me wrong the abolition of slavery was a good thing, but it is wrong to assume that the economics doesn’t linger, or that the bigotry and racism are gone.

Technology has advanced, and to some minor degree the social sciences, but no, I don’t believe we are any more “civilized”. I was the belief that Europeans were more civilized that led to the slaughter of native peoples all over the world.

I once had an argument with my sister over a history that described the Scots as much less civilized than the English during the time of William Wallace. I argued it was simply historian bias.

I am not opposed to greater honesty and truth telling. I think that is the way of science and real advancement of knowledge. The egocentric idealism of advancing civilization worries me.

I noticed you did not address your seeming belief in the right to criminal and anti-state privacy.

Posted by: gergle at July 19, 2009 10:18 PM
Comment #284776

Fred,

I do think we shall always have privacy, in our own thoughts, and there will always be ways to subvert government spying. Technology as pervasive as it might seem, eventually reveals it’s weaknesses. As terrifying as drones and Apache helicopters are, they can be foiled.

Al Qaeda has effectively been able to use the internet to get out it’s message, without being routed out of Pakistan thus far, and will likely continue.

There is always a balance between stability and freedom that exists. Greater stability usually means less freedom. The genuis of Jefferson, et al, was to allow the electorate to continually reshape government and limit the ability of government to use it’s power. If a facist comes to power in the US it won’t be because of spying, it will be because some populist movement has allowed him to exceed his power through political and military means. There would likely be an underground attempt of the electorate and those in government and the military to resist him, because of the traditions of America. Openness is what exposes the excesses of these movements. Bush’s torture program likely failed because it was exposed by those in government and the military who thought it was wrong and brought it to light. China and Iran are finding that you really can’t kill the internet. Information will leak out.

Posted by: gergle at July 21, 2009 9:41 AM
Comment #284808

gergle said: “Yes, David, that IS what I’m arguing. We are no more civilized than the Greeks and Romans.”

gergle, your comment is absolute nonsense. The Greeks and Romans considered slavery normal human behavior. Just one example. We no longer seek territorial expansion of our own domain through war. That is another. Our medical practices are vastly more civilized and empirically based. Yet another. Our treatment of domestic criminals is vastly more civilized. Yet, one more.

In many areas, we have not advanced very much. But, in others we have significantly, as has just been made obvious.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2009 9:17 PM
Comment #284811

Gergle,
I do see a building battle between those trying to govern, those trying to sell things(ideas included), and the rest of us. That battle will be over our privacy and we have no idea where it will lead in the future, but I don’t think we should assume everything will be okay and the sun will come out tomorrow.

Between RFID and everything else out there, the level of observation and control that our great grandchildren will live with would sicken us if we could witness it. It won’t matter nearly as much to them, though, as what is necessary to exist in modern society slowly changes beyond all recognition to us.
Humans already need to be educated/brainwashed for over a quarter of their lives in order to even function in modern society. The brainwashing part comes in when people make statements like “we will always have privacy in our own thoughts” because that shouldn’t be enough, we shouldn’t be settling for boundaries like that.
And to add another point, I can’t really say that we will always have our thoughts to ourselves. You seem to be estimating limits to what technology can do and that’s not a safe estimation to make. Having your mind read during a government interview (lie detectors have been in use for a long time, but that’s just the beginning)to having your mind read for a job interview in the private sector to having your private thoughts intruded upon when charged with a crime and then finally to harmless devices to check your brain for which advertisement would speak to you at that moment (ever see “The Minority Report”?)
American society is open, but it’s also very ignorant and easily fooled. Don’t believe me? Look into the controversy surrounding Obama’s citizenship. People at that congressman’s town hall meeting demanded an investigation into Obama’s Kenyan citizenship! The American people are morons and can be fooled and controlled easier than you may think.

Posted by: Fred at July 21, 2009 10:09 PM
Comment #284937

David,

We no longer seek territorial expansion of our own domain through war.

Poppycock! Whose we? The US? Iraq? China? Israel?
Sorry, but war and land acquisition isn’t over. It may be taking a breather, but it ain’t dead.

I stated there has been technological advancement, that isn’t civilization. People are still people, as you concur in your last comment.

Posted by: gergle at July 24, 2009 12:16 PM
Comment #284941

gergle, but, civilization is more than just the sum of the individual people within it. Civilization adds organization to those individuals, and that, civilization, has advanced dramatically. Individual people or collections of them, and civilization are not synonymous. Though they are inextricably linked by definition.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 24, 2009 12:57 PM
Comment #285022

David, I don’t deny there has been advances.

But again the most obvious changes have simply been in technology and science. We are much more able to tend to sick, grow food, and shelter ourselves.

There isn’t higher willpower, higher morals, or less sociopathy.

There is some mild better understanding of psychology, though this is a soft science that is still in it’s infancy.

There isn’t a basic change in culture. We still have religious conflict, belief in mythology, territorial skirmishes and not being particularly prescient, I think we’ll still have major wars. Territories will change.

Slavery whether economic or codified into law still exists. I do believe that raising all boats is largely what has happened over the last 200 years, but again that’s mostly due to technology.

Posted by: gergle at July 25, 2009 4:28 PM
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