On Torture

I don’t have anything to add to the discussion, but I really want to talk about the recent news about torture. I think with the fall of the Bush Administration, the issue of torture has generally disappeared from the blogs and the news, with the exception of the civil-libertarian activists who care deeply about it. So, in case you haven’t been following the issue recently, I’ll provide a bunch of links that summarize the recent developments and offer what I think is the appropriate commentary on these developments.

First, a confidential Red Cross report on American torture practices was leaked to the press two weeks ago. This is probably the biggest piece of torture news since the 2006 revelation about America’s network of secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Here’s a quick Rachel Maddow summary of the report (video link) and interview with the journalist who publicized it.

Then, yesterday, the deadline came (thanks to the ACLU) for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to release four classified Bush-era memos discussing in sickening detail the way we tortured prisoners. There was a lot of pressure on Obama to redact most of the incriminating content in these memos before releasing them; here’s a good summary from Marc Ambinder about the context, and here are Andrew Sullivan and Gleen Greenwald (two of the most influential civil libertarians on the Internet) discussing the stakes

Obama did authorize the release of these memos in almost entirely unredacted form (he only left out the names of the CIA officers who committed these acts, which seems reasonable; the people who authorized the torture are the ones who should be punished). If you have the stomach for it, you can find them here; Julian Sanchez (h/t Yglesias) points out that they basically used 1984 as a how-to manual for torture.

Finally, Andrew Sullivan is pretty eloquent in a post yesterday reacting to the content of these memos, and even more so in a post today about the bigger picture and where to go from here. I completely agree with his conclusion: “there is also a feeling of great nausea as well. Look what they did to these suspects. And look what they did to America.”


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