Former CIA Director Michael Hayden was on NPR speaking in threatening tones about journalists who use “CIA” and “torture” in the same sentence. I just reblogged a blog that does this, so perhaps that is why we get no search engine traffic (and more people are eating lead and doing prescription drugs than need be). To do so is apparently to accuse the CIA of a felony, which is of course dangerous when one has no power and they control the internet and the economy and just about everything else. We are sure, though that he remembers our president- you know, the boss of the CIA who depends on the agencies for information- saying “It seems we tortured some folks.” He too may be afraid to use torture and CIA in the same sentence.
The truth, though, is that it is George Bush who is responsible for these actions of the CIA, and the question for America is whether we think absolutely anything is just fine for the purpose of national security. While Dianne Feinstein was not convinced, the CIA insists that important information was gained by these things we call torture. argue that while torture- and we will not quibble about dictionary and legal definitions- might even on a rare occasion be effective in the short term, in almost every case, even more information and cooperation can be gained if they just keep the “good cop,” like the Muslim psychologist they started with- and leave the bad cop at home. Perhaps we are naïve. Further, the long term effects and the good of our nation may suggest that we forgo these lesser benefits.
There is an example from a case shown in the movie Mississippi Burning in the Sixties where, in order to get the Klan to reveal who killed the three civil rights workers, the FBI hired the Mob to torture a Klansman. This difficult example is discussed by Salwyn Raab in the book Five Families. This case is difficult in a few ways, but these are the sorts of things we need to think about. The suggestion is that there is almost always a more effective method that is not unjust and yields more benefits, though we admit that this is not always the case. Our example is the case of a kidnapping done by two, where one has one kidnapper who knows where the other kidnapper has a child who is likely being tortured- a rare case that almost never happens. Torture done by our government on Mr. Mochti lacked anything like that standard of certainty, and he sent them on a wild goose chase looking for Black Muslims in Montana. All but Keystone Cops must know that there aren’t any Black Muslims in Montana. But that is apparently what happens when we admit that exceptions are possible at all. We expect more of our government and our executive agencies.
We understand why these people, Hayden and Former Vice President Richard Cheney, are defensive about the issue. Torture is a felony and banned by international law, because if it is not banned, we will become like other nations that use torture for any advantage at all in domestic or foreign policy. After all, any advantage at all could indeed be decisive. But we as a nation must debate under a real First Amendment because that is the way we do things here, and Liberty has not yet been defeated nor given way to tyranny. This is a very difficult question, and we suggest that it is to be decided by the President and not by the unelected military agency of the CIA. How many people do we think it ok to torture for no reason because one just cannot be too sure? Are we willing to see killings that might have been prevented? What of attacks worse than killings? We like to say that even more will be prevented by other, higher and more inventive methods, but what if we are wrong? And how many Americans do we place under a tyranny to secure ourselves against terrorists and traitors? How many of us need to find out, for example, that a particular experience, or perhaps a whole education and a whole love or marriage were orchestrated without warrant or reason, just because one cannot be too sure now-a-days? And by the way, there is no oversight, accountability or meaningful recourse, especially through our intimidated Congress, if one finds themselves one of the nine out of ten that were suspected by paranoid agents who considered them to have no rights an agent is bound to respect? Or perhaps it is one out of one hundred or more. What is the limit to this Machiavellian reasoning?
Again, under our Constitution these questions are not to be decided by unelected agencies. The people and the elected officeholders are responsible, and so the agencies, provided they tell the truth and obey, are partially absolved. It is our responsibility, and these questions are barely even being asked in the debates. But nearly half the nation is prepared to elect a candidate that does not understand the difference between tyranny and Liberty, especially if tyranny seems more profitable.
P. S. We would double check our spellings of some of the names in this article, but are afraid, for genuine reasons, to use a search engine to do so.