It’s not like the C.I.A. hasn’t done this sort of thing before. Assassination and torture were the agency’s standard operating procedure in the Middle East, Latin America and South America during the Cold War. What absolutely gobsmacks me these days: The NY Times reports that BushAdmin and CIA decisions to use various forms of torture were made out of total historical ignorance.
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.
They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.
The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
That last quote is a priceless nutshell of the entire Bush era. Still…bullshit. Not plausible, for one thing. And “Durrrrrr, we din know” is not an excuse. Holy crap! Just typing this, I realized that those are the same words I tell my daughter whenever she can’t explain her actions.
Me: Why did you do that thing that I have told not to do a millions times before?
Daughter: I dunno.
Me: That is not an excuse!
But will anyone get sent to their rooms for this? Not unless we demand accountability from our government. This is NOT about “retribution,” as the ObamAdmin frame it strawmanwise. It’s about ensuring this crap doesn’t happen again.