Sunday, November 04, 2007

Misleading Lede On Waterboarding (Updated)

By Cernig

The other day, ABC's The Blotter led an "exclusive' with this bit of stenography:
For all the debate over waterboarding, it has been used on only three al Qaeda figures, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

As ABC News first reported in September, waterboarding has not been used since 2003 and has been specifically prohibited since Gen. Michael Hayden took over as CIA director.
The meme that waterboarding was "was only used three times" has now entered the conservative group-mind unchallenged.

Am I the only one that noticed a couple of important tacit prevarications in ABC's use of language?

Firstly, that they're only talking about the CIA - and don't speak for the military or the private contractors used by both the CIA and the military to conduct interrogations, let alone the actions of foreign nations to which the CIA has secretly rendered suspects for torture.

Secondly, that the article clearly says "used on only three al Qaeda figures". But most of the detainees at Gitmo and eslewhere have never been charged, let alone proven to be "Al Qaeda figures". I know the rightwing takes it on faith that their government has detained no innocent men whatsoever but did they really not notice that only a handful of detainees even fit the description of being provenly connected to Al Qaeda figures. If three of that handful were waterboarded, what conclusion do we draw about waterboarding of the un-charged and unproven remaining majority, who still didn't confess to being AQ members?

Update However, in light of this "confession" of waterboarding at least three people and today's letter to Sen. Leahy signed by four former JAGs:
We write because this issue above all demands clarity: Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.

...Major General Scott Black, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, Major General Jack Rives, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral Bruce MacDonald, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General, and Brigadier Gen. Kevin Sandkuhler, Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, unanimously and unambiguously agreed that such conduct is inhumane and illegal and would constitute a violation of international law, to include Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

We agree with our active duty colleagues. This is a critically important issue - but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a terrible disservice to this nation. All U.S. Government agencies and personnel, and not just America’s military forces, must abide by both the spirit and letter of the controlling provisions of international law. Cruelty and torture - no less than wanton killing - is neither justified nor legal in any circumstance. It is essential to be clear, specific and unambiguous about this fact - as in fact we have been throughout America’s history, at least until the last few years. Abu Ghraib and other notorious examples of detainee abuse have been the product, at least in part, of a self-serving and destructive disregard for the well- established legal principles applicable to this issue. This must end.

The Rule of Law is fundamental to our existence as a civilized nation. The Rule of Law is not a goal which we merely aspire to achieve; it is the floor below which we must not sink. For the Rule of Law to function effectively, however, it must provide actual rules that can be followed. In this instance, the relevant rule - the law - has long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise - or even to give credence to such a suggestion - represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.

We respectfully urge you to consider these principles in connection with the nomination of Judge Mukasey.


Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 2000-02

Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1997-2000

Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Army, 1991-93

Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant, 1985-88
Can we now arrange to have the trials of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield and every Republican hack who wrote opinions for the White House dressing their crimes up as acceptable? I'm not much fussed whether they run before, after or concurrently with that of those who confessed under illegal and criminal torture - although that they confessed in such circumstances should taint any evidence against the latter.

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