karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,

Ed Morrissey on the "torture memos"

It seems the NY Times has leaked a confidential memo on interrogation techniques. It seems the Left is up in arms over it, and many risk serious injury in the stampede of folks rushing to label Bush a "war criminal".

Ed Morrissey, at Captains Quarters, has a comment:
Anything coming from the New York Times should be taken with a large grain of salt. First we had the big revelation that the Bush administration listened in on communications from suspected terrorists abroad without warrants, a program that created calls for impeachment almost two years ago but which a Democratic Congress endorsed this summer. Then they exposed the Swift banking program, which turned out to be perfectly legal. Now the Times wants to take two memos and claim that the US tortures its detainees.

Color me skeptical. Legal opinions get written all of the time, but they do not necessarily dictate the outer limits of behavior. The White House reiterated today that the administration has met the obligations of the limits placed on them by Congress in 2005. The notion that the memos are unknown also got shot down today, as Kit Bond notes that the administration had already briefed the committee on the contents -- but that the memos themselves contained confidential advice to the White House. Are Justice lawyers no longer permitted to explore the boundaries of law?

Today, the Captain takes a look at an item from the history of interrogation.
The veterans of PO Box 1142, a highly secret operation which interrogated high-value Nazi detainees, have just begun to speak about their experiences after honoring their commitment to silence for six decades.
...Nearly 4,000 prisoners of war, most of them German scientists and submariners, were brought in for questioning for days, even weeks, before their presence was reported to the Red Cross, a process that did not comply with the Geneva Conventions. Many of the interrogators were refugees from the Third Reich.
The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor.

"During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."

It must be said, however, that they faced a different enemy in a different war. The Germans fought to expand territory through traditional warfare, at least as arrayed against the US and the West. While they conducted sabotage missions in the US through espionage, they did not use terrorist infiltrators to attempt to kill thousands of American civilians. They also did not face religious extremists who believed that death brought them to Allah and 72 waiting virgins for taking out women and children. One can make a case that the civilized techniques of PO Box 1142 worked because their detainees also believed themselves civilized and members of the Western culture.

That's not an argument for torture as traditionally understood. Is waterboarding torture? We use it to train our Navy SEALs and other commando units. Do psychological interrogation techniques amount to torture? Congress has set limits on these techniques which the administration and the military are bound by law to follow -- and as I noted yesterday, which the attorneys should review thoroughly to determine the exact boundaries where these techniques cross the line. The existence of those memos do not mean that the administration has broken the law.

One thing is for certain. If today's New York Times had been reporting during the time of PO Box 1142, it would not have stayed a secret for six decades. It would have been on its front pages in six months.

Indeed. Given the calls for habeas corpus hearings and other legal procedings, I can imagine today's NY Times publishing similar calls in the case of the Nazis held by PO Box 1142.

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