"Because the Lawyer Said It Was."

 Hey, if Jay Bybee says it's legal, who am I to judge
Former President George W. Bush was asked during an interview last night why he believes waterboarding is legal.

"Because the lawyer said it was," Bush said. "He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do." 
 Exactly, I mean if the Fuhrer President Nixon Jay Bybee says it's legal, it by definition has the force of law.

Oh oh, I'm getting in a bad mood again.....


  1. I am curious. What should a president do in a situation like this. If we assume that waterboarding, on its face, is not obviously torture (I understand that many people think it is), what should a president who is unsure do?

    What about ordering the assassination of an American citizen fighting as part of a terrorist organization abroad? Again, assuming that it is debatable as to whether such action is legal.

    These are ugly things to be concerned about. but, assume the president, be it Obama or Bush, as the best interest of the country at heart, and honestly doesn't know what is or isn't illegal. Who should he ask? And what should he then do when they give him an answer?

  2. I called my lawyer last night and he said I was entitled to unlimited CIA marijuana and 5 million bucks.

    I'm waiting.

  3. You assume waterboarding is effective. There is no evidence of that.

  4. Speaking of whiffs of the Democratic Party, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates yesterday held a three-hour hearing over the request by the ACLU and CCR for an injunction ordering President Obama not to assassinate Anwar Awlaki without due process. The fact that the Bush-43-appointed Bates spent so much time on this hearing, demonstrates -- along with comments he made during the hearing -- how seriously he takes this case, as well he should. He several times pointed out how extraordinary and unprecedented is the Obama administration's position that it not only has the power to assassinate Americans with no due process, but that courts have no role whatsoever to play in reviewing how those powers are exercised. David Addington and Dick Cheneywould have been very proud.

  5. I don't see that 12:07 assumed that water boarding is effective. In fact, he is 100% correct in asking this question.

    If you remove the ill intent that we like to assign to the Bush Administration, Bush did the right thing. He didn't know whether water boarding was illegal. So he asked his lawyers - who said it was legal.

    What else would you have him do? File a dec action?

  6. How can waterboarding be torture if it's used on our own service personnel to train them to resist interrogation?

    And yes, it was effective. Anyone who doesn't think it was effective ought to read Marc Thiessen's book, "Courting Disaster..."

  7. These are valid points. I do feel the unique dynamics of this war -- no time frame, no objective ending point, stateless enemies, lack of meaningful transparency etc. -- should cause us to be more vigilant with respect to our liberties, rather than more willing to cede them in an effort to prevent all acts of terrorism against us (obviously something that cannot realistically be achieved).

    swlip, Thiessen's account of KSM waterboarding has been credibly questioned -- see Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece -- and the word "torture" has been heavily watered-down (pun intended?) such that it's hard to debate what it means anymore.

  8. swlip -- I'm a vet, and an alumni of our fine submarine school in New London Connecticut. Part of my training involved something called the 'Wet Trainer' which was essentially a mock up of a submarines engine room. The room would fill with water -- freezing water. The lights would go out, and the water would rise above our heads, simulating the final moments in a submarine catastrophe. They wanted to see who would freak out, and who would keep their cool.

    Cold as ice here.

    But really the test was bullshit. I knew that they weren't going to kill me -- not with all the money they spent training me to kill other people.

    The same is true with waterboarding. If you didn't know it was going to stop before you die, then maybe you'd have a point. It is the rational fear of imminent death that helps to define waterboarding as torture.

    But beyond all of that, it doesn't work. To paraphrase "The Body," give me swlip, an hour, and a waterboard, and I'll get him to confess to doing drag, voting Democrat, and marrying Richard Gere's gerbil.

  9. SFL - Thiessen thoroughly destroys Mayer's reporting in his book. And your dodge (sorry, but that's what it is) on how to define torture doesn't serve you well when you bemoan the use of torture.

    GW - If waterboarding didn't work, then why did it result in accurate, actionable, and fully corroborated intel?

    Btw, detainees were never debriefed while undergoing enhanced interrogation. The interrogation phase would only last until the detainee expressed a willingness to cooperate. Then separate debriefers would step in to question the detainee and gather information.

  10. We prosecuted the Japanese for it after WWII, the only existing precedent in US law said it was illegal. See, for example, this. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170.html But Bybee told him what he wanted to hear so he went ahead with it.
    Of all the terrible things these people did to our country, desensitizing us to evil is probably the worst.

  11. "If waterboarding didn't work, then why did it result in accurate, actionable, and fully corroborated intel?"

    Arguing the negative? Really? And I thought you went to law school.

    And you know this because the torturers said so? What a joke. I'll show you my Top Secret military clearance if you show me yours.

    That wouldn't happen to be the same 'actionable intelligence' we used to go into Iraq, would it? That was the good shit!

    So let's go for it. Me, you, a waterboard and I'll get your wife all the 'accurate, actionable, and fully corroborated intel' she needs for a fat divorce settlement from a real loser.

    Mind you, I have no experience waterboarding, so I 'might' kill you. That will just add to the authenticity. Savor the moment dude, savor the moment.

  12. swlip -- it's not a dodge, it's a comment on the denuded nature of our public discourse.

    The Mayer New Yorker piece is here:


    Here's a passage on KSM:

    Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues—details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else—Thiessen doesn’t supply the evidence.

    Finally, I detect cognitive dissonance in many waterboard defenders. At the same time they proclaim it's not "torture," I sense inappropriate self-pride by guys like Rove, Cheney and Bush in telling everyone how they alone possessed the "toughness" necessary to make the "hard" decisions, unlike the weak-kneed liberals who are too scaredy-cat to play rough with the bad guys.

  13. SFL - Is that the best Mayer can do? She's writing about the "Bojinka" plot, which wasn't the same plot as the West Coast 9/11 plot that KSM divulged. KSM divulged much more than that - he gave up sources, names and locations of other operatives, all of which was corroborated and which led to other actionable intel.

    GW - The after-effects of my Indian lunch are offering more cogent arguments, right now.

  14. @5:57 PM,

    And the Emperor had no clothes.

    You sure do have a small wee wee.

  15. Oh hail I'm gonna write about Jill Clayburgh.

  16. Tellingly, Thiessen does not address the many false confessions given by detainees under torturous pressure, some of which have led the U.S. tragically astray. Nowhere in this book, for instance, does the name Ibn Sheikh al-Libi appear. In 2002, the C.I.A., under an expanded policy of extraordinary rendition, turned Libi over to Egypt to be brutalized. Under duress, Libi falsely linked Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s alleged biochemical-weapons program, in Iraq. In February, 2003, former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave an influential speech in which he made the case for going to war against Iraq and prominently cited this evidence.

    Thiessen never questions the wisdom of relying on C.I.A. officials to assess the legality and effectiveness of their own controversial program. Yet many people at the agency aren’t just worried about the judgment of history; they’re worried about facing prosecution. As a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility notes, the agency has a “demonstrated interest in shielding its interrogators from legal jeopardy.”

  17. Godwhacker is more than just a big dick.

    Nicely done, on the comments today.

  18. "If you want to make any progress, the best thing is for us to talk. Don't try any rough stuff, because it won't work." - "If you guys want to do this your way, you have to handcuff me and bind my feet together, so that I can't respond. If you allow me to respond, I'm certainly going to respond. And I'm afraid that you may have to kill me in the process even if it's not your intention."

    *Steve Biko died September 12, 1977. Authorities initially claimed that his death was the result of a hunger strike. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, published March 1999 stated that: "On 7 September Biko sustained a head injury during interrogation, after which he acted strangely and was uncooperative. The doctors who examined him (naked, lying on a mat and manacled to a metal grille) initially disregarded overt signs of neurological injury." By 11 September Biko had slipped into a continual, semi-conscious state and the police physician recommended he be sent to hospital. Instead he was transported 1,200 km to Pretoria - a 12-hour journey which he made lying naked in the back of a Land Rover. A few hours later, on 12 September, lying on the floor of a cell in the Pretoria Central Prison, Biko died from brain damage.

  19. fake Jane Mayer:

    So, al-Libi purportedly gave a false confession while being tortured by Egyptian authorities? And this rebuts Theissen's defense of the CIA program... how? (Never mind that Bill Clinton bombed a Sudanese aspirin factory on the assumption that, yes indeed, Saddam's WMD program was linked to Al Qaida.)

    Your comment about the CIA wanting to protect its people from prosecution undermines your argument.

  20. And the fool doesn't know when he's been refuted and defeated. That's HOW big the fool is.

  21. These are your "tough guys" SFL

    Thiessen’s impulse, however, is to credit C.I.A. interrogators at every turn. He portrays the agency’s coercive handling, in 2002, of Abu Zubaydah—he was subjected to beatings, sexual humiliation, temperature extremes, and waterboarding, among other techniques—as another coup that saved American lives. Information given by Zubaydah, Thiessen writes, led to the arrest, two months later, in Chicago, of Jose Padilla, the American-born Al Qaeda recruit. But Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent, has testified before Congress that he elicited Padilla’s identity from Zubaydah in April, 2002—months before the C.I.A. began using its most controversial methods. Soufan, speaking to Newsweek, said of Zubaydah’s treatment, “We didn’t have to do any of this.” Philip Zelikow, the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, has described Soufan as “one of the most impressive intelligence agents—from any agency.” Thiessen dismisses Soufan’s firsthand account as “simply false,” on the ground that another F.B.I. agent involved in Zubaydah’s interrogation—whom Thiessen doesn’t identify—told the Justice Department’s inspector general that he didn’t recall Soufan’s getting the information.

    Thiessen, citing the classified evidence that he was privileged to see, claims that opponents of brutal interrogations can’t appreciate their efficacy. “The assessment of virtually everyone who examined the classified evidence,” he writes, is that the C.I.A.’s methods were justified. In fact, many independent experts who have top security clearances, and who have had access to the C.I.A.’s records, have denounced the agency’s tactics. Among the critics are Robert Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., and four chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Last year, President Obama asked Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, to give a classified briefing on the program to three intelligence experts: Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska; Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel to the C.I.A.; and David Boren, the retired Democratic senator from Oklahoma. The three men were left unswayed. Boren has said that, after the briefing, he “wanted to take a bath.” In an e-mail to me, he wrote, “I left the briefing by General Hayden completely unconvinced that the use of torture is an effective means of interrogation. . . . Those who are being tortured will say anything.”

  22. Treat the captives well, and care for them.
    All the soldiers taken must be cared for with magnanimitty and sincerity so that they may be used by us.

    This is called 'winning a battle and becoming stronger.'

    Hence what is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations. . .


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