I buy into the concept that torture doesn't work and it's counterproductive, at least in the vast majority of cases. I'm with Sen. John McCain on this.
First of all, he was tortured. So if anybody should know if it works or not, it's him.
Secondly, I think McCain correctly articulates the ideals of this country, which are important, and which would include a rejection of an institutional policy of torture of prisoners or captives.
However, I don't think Vice President Cheney is out of line asking for an exemption from the CIA for a law that makes torture by U.S. government agents illegal.
For one thing, as you have seen in the news lately, it has been revealed that the U.S. maintains a string of secret prisons in eastern Europe where we have stashed captured Al Qaeda guys. And I am not in favor of telling these guys what we won't do.
I am not in favor of Al Qaeda knowing there is a U.S. law which prevents CIA agents from making life miserable for captured Al Qaedas.
To my way of thinking, the benefit gained from telling the world we have a law that forbids torture is outweighed by the bad guys knowing we have a law that forbids torture.
Sure it's U.S. policy to not torture, but it shouldn't be so crystal clear that even a kid educated in a madrassa and trained as a bomb builder is certain that there is law that prevents torture. We would like him to be in doubt on that point.
Plus, I would just like to remind those who want to argue with me that we have been chagrined to realize that the reforms of the CIA that came from the Church Committee 20 some years ago led to some less than desirable results in the new century.
I thought we had learned that legislating rules and procedures for the CIA is not such a good thing — at least not in all cases — and we ought to be careful about putting stops in the way of spooks who are only trying to protect us.
For the record, I'm against torture.
I'm also against outlawing it. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. It may take a nimble mind to manage both ideas, but it's worth the effort.
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