Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Today's The New York Times carries an article by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane on president-elect Obama's future reorganization of the CIA.

When I first read Mazzetti and Shane's take on Obama shutting down the CIA's harsh interrogation methods (aka "torture"), I had misgivings about some Democrats like Diane Feinstein who refuse to give up the possibility of using these methods on high value prisoners.

Writes Mazzetti and Shane:

"In a speech last year, Mr. Obama cast the matter as a practical issue, as well as a moral one. “We cannot win a war unless we maintain the high ground and keep the people on our side,” he said. “But because the administration decided to take the low road, our troops have more enemies.”

"On Wednesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals are to meet with senior Obama advisers to urge him to stand firm against any deviation from the military’s noncoercive interrogation rules.

"But even some senior Democratic lawmakers who are vehement critics of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases.

"Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, led the fight this year to force the C.I.A. to follow military interrogation rules. Her bill was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Bush.

"But in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures."

What is Ms. Feinstein talking about, "Extreme cases might call for flexibility." This is Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld speak for "torture is okay if we get the information we want." This type of thinking allowed Bush to initiate water-boarding and other methods subjecting prisoners to severe mental and physical punishment.

Of course Obama will do away with allowing the CIA to get away with these un-American forms of torture. If the U.S. is to regain a position of moral leadership, this change must be first and foremost as soon as Obama takes office on January 20th.

Dan Froomkin blogs extensively today on the web site of The Washington Post on the meeting of retired military officers with Obama in which they will call for a definitive end to the Bush/Cheney acceptance of methods taken right from the Inquisition.

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