George of the Jungle

The New York Times ran a story that makes it pretty clear that 24 is the most popular show with both the Bush Administration and the Justice Department.

It’s a long piece, but one that worth reading because it give us a tiny peek inside the world where law and lawlessness intersect, and how men and women in our government twist and contort the law so they can inflict pain and suffering on others.

It’s all in the name of “protecting American lives,” and those in the CIA who have to carry out the dirty work of torturing people to extract information are rightly worried that what they are doing in so-called “black sites” will get them hauled in front a grand jury.

What are these CIA folks doing? Well, here are the highlights:

  • Simulated drowning, head slapping, frigid temperatures.
  • Withholding food, days and nights without sleep, shackled in a “stress” position.
  • Waterboarding — which, when the Khmer Rouge did it, it looked a little something like this:

When I said that these torture techniques intersect at the corner of law and lawlessness I mean that CIA grunts who are doing these things to others are calling lawyers in the Justice Department to ask questions like “Well, can I do x and y? Or can I only do x?” That’s right, it’s the combination of legal and illegal torture techniques that could get CIA agents in trouble — not the application of a single technique.

The story put the White House in defensive mode on Friday, and Bush was in front of the press pushing the line that “This government does not torture people,” as these tactics are still being carried out by the CIA.

Speaker of the House Pelosi is saying that our government appears to be guilty of torture, and this political position is being used as a kind of prelude to the confirmation hearings for the new Attorney General that begin this week. In other words, this has become another round in a game of political football. Let’s hope that during the hearings the Dems make it clear that torturing people is not an effective means of gather intelligence.

And thankfully, I can safely say that I’m no expert on the effectiveness of torture in extracting intelligence information. But from what I’ve read, torture doesn’t work in getting useful information. Usually, the person being tortured will tell the person inflicting the pain whatever he or she wants to hear just so the pain will stop — even if that information is a false. If that’s the case (i.e., that the information extracted from torturing people is often unreliable), then why do it? Now there’s the lead question for the possible Attorney General and for our current president.

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