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Cheney Should Go
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Few things here are as controversial as the torture debate, but I want to weigh in on this recent story and address it from a slightly different angle...
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement. ... The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.
Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the merits of the judicious use of torture in rare cases. We can all construct a ticking-bomb reductio ad absurdum to show why zero-tolerance might not be a good torture policy.

But this isn't about that.

This is about a policy of bending the law to the breaking point, and, when they come to that breaking point, intentionally operating outside of the law.

Look, I'm a libertarian precisely because I'm skeptical of government, of the good intentions of politicians, and of aggregations of power in general; I'm a libertarian because I believe that whatever good consequences government action can have, it's almost always outweighed by the unintended negative consequences. Quite apart from the moral issues involved, I see absolutely no reason to view this matter any differently.

Our government is "disappearing" people—perhaps terrorists, perhaps not—imprisoning them without oversight and without process, and....well, we have no idea. Presumably, though, they're not hiding them from external oversight so that we can abide by the law.

Amnesty International recently took a great deal of abuse for comparing Gitmo to a Soviet Gulag. As time goes by, Amnesty International is looking less and less wrong. In response to the AI claim, Donald Rumsfeld said that "[f]ree societies depend on oversight", but that is precisely what this CIA policy sought to avoid.

The Soviet Gulag's "disappeared" millions of people; our secret prisons have only disappeared, what, a few hundred? That's quite a large difference, but it's not a difference I'm inclined to be proud of.

As a libertarian, I don't trust government with too much lawful power, so I like it even less when the government reaches the legal limit, passes it and then takes the whole thing underground so they can rough up suspects without all that bothersome "rule of law" stuff.

That's not something a libertarian should be even remotely comfortable with; the Mafia, perhaps, but not libertarians.


In all of this, one person seems to keep popping up. When Congress tries to pass a law banning torture, Vice President Cheney tries to exempt the CIA:
Last winter, when Sen. John D. Rockefeller ... began pushing to have the full committee briefed on the CIA's interrogation practices, Cheney called him to the White House to urge that he drop the matter, said three U.S. officials.
ust last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the CIA's covert "black sites" in several Eastern European democracies and other countries where key al Qaeda captives are being kept.
When torture policy was first being formulated, Vice President Cheney was there...
US Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for directives which led to US soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former top State Department official charged.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.
From the initial authorization of the torture memos to current CIA secret detention facilities, Vice President Cheney keeps popping up. For the good of our reputation, our rule of law, our separation of powers and our national soul, I believe Vice President Dick Cheney should resign. Or be fired. Or removed from office. (listed in reverse order of preference)

President Bush says "we do not torture", but that's awfully hard to believe when his administration (read: Cheney) is working overtime to keep torture legal—or making sure it happens anyway.

For his intimate involvement with the shameful US policies of abuse and torture; for his office's role in "dictating the rules by which the U.S. military interrogates and detains terrorist suspects"; for the policies that led to secret prisons; for what increasingly appears to be his office's role in "cherry-picking" intelligence data and putting their thumbs on the weights of intelligence presentation...

For those reasons, Dick Cheney needs to go.


Meanwhile, what to do about the torture question?

It may well be that the McCain amendment—which would "establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of Department of Defense detainees"—is too restrictive, though I'm inclined to err on the side of granting too little power to government, rather than too much. But, as John McCain says, the "Army Field Manual authorizes interrogation techniques that have proven effective in extracting life-saving information from the most hardened enemy prisoners. It is consistent with our laws and, most importantly, our values."

If, however, that is too restrictive and the administration wants to retain the opportunity to use torture (despite the President's adament denial), we ought to take another look at Alan Dershowitz's Torture Warrant proposal....


It may not be perfect, but it's the rule of law. What we have now is far worse—it is rule, regardless of law; it is rule outside of the law. If that doesn't bother you, wait till the other Party gets to play by those rules.

[Note: this post has been about government condoned torture and abuse, and the active attempt by our government to break and/or operate outside of the law. If you want to argue about whether the "gulag" was worse, then you're really, really missing the point, and should probably consider re-evaluating your priorities.]
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Previous Comments to this Post 

The whole debate is messed up becaue people define "torture" by many different means.

Nothing will be solved until we can agree what "torture" means. According to leftist reactionaries such as Andy Sulliven, if I smear red ink on you...and you fear what you think is vaginal contact...I have "tortured" you (probably because you are gay and fear women).

But clearly there is a difference between putting ink on someone and breaking their figures (for example). Or playing Ashlee Simpson for hours on end (annoying) versus eletrocuting your testitcals (painful and physically damaging).

So maybe we should just make a list of what is torture and stick to it.
Written By: h8er
URL: http://
The whole debate is messed up becaue people define "torture" by many different means.
I agree. That’s a problem. (though, I would note that the Geneva Convention to which we are a signatory also precludes mental torture, humiliation, etc, but we’ve chosen to ignore that)

But adopting a clear standard—a la the McCain Amendment—would solve that problem.
Written By: Jon Henke
Army Field Manual authorizes interrogation techniques that have proven effective in extracting life-saving information from the most hardened enemy prisoners.

Does that include the current group of nutballs? If doctrine’s already working, then why are they trying something else?

Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://

My primary issue with the McCain ammendment is the underlying principle. We have already signed a document, a tready, the Geneva Convention, that states we WILL not torture. Why then, does a law NEED to be passed?

As always, keep up the good work.

Written By: Abject_Disappointment
The link doesn’t work anymore, so just taking the portion posted .. I am left to ask .. just where is torture mentioned. The existent of prisons in countries that practice torture doesn’t necessarily mean that these prisoners are being tortured. This appears to be your leap of judgement.
I can’t speak to due process, but since the Geneva Convention only applies to signatories, it’s hard from the information presented if that too was violated.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it’s a debate in which it looks like all the good guys are against torture and all the bad guys are in favor.

There are distinctions you have to make here. If you capture a regular soldier, of course you have to treat him humanely, and we do. The second distinction, if you capture a terrorist, he’s entitled to no protections because he goes after innocent civilians and yet we treat him humanely because we are America.

But, there’s a third case. You capture a terrorist who knows stuff, he not only kills innocents, he knows where the next killing is going to happen. The ethics on that one case is the guy who knows there’s a nuke in New York, we kill a million new people will go off in an hour.

Who’s going to say that you shouldn’t hang him by his thumbs if you think it will get you information and save a million people? A moral idiot would say that you cannot do that. That an extreme example. And the Khalid Shaik Mohammed example you brought is the real-life example.

He helped to kill 2,700 people on 9/11. Many of them in a tortured death. And he knows about other stuff happening in the future and we have him, presumably, as we hear in the reports in what are called the black prisons. Squirreled away, hidden away, incommunicado and people are gnashing their teeth and rending their clothing in Washington over that. I haven’t gnashed a single tooth over that.

HUME: Nor rend a single garment?

KRAUTHAMMER: Not a single one. He ought to be kept isolated, disoriented, sleepless if necessary, as a way to get information. If he hasn’t, the McCain amendment is a blanket amendment which makes no exceptions.

I haven’t spoken to Cheney or anyone in his office, but I assume that the reason you want an exception is for a high-level terrorist who knows stuff and you have CIA people who know how to interrogate and are going to do unpleasant stuff and would get high-level authority to do it.
Written By: Bithead
Sorry, but you have reached another dead-end. Terms like "mental torture, humiliation, etc" are also obscure and impossible to define.

What I am thinking is just a catalog of what you can’t do, such as:

Break limbs
Draw blood
Put in freezing (40 degrees F) conditions for X amount of mintues

etc, etc.

Let list them all and then debate it.

Otherwise "torture" is just a tired talking point, just like "human rights" or "justice"—destroyed by the mindless commie reationaries.

PS: How long before wearing an orange jumper and handcuffs becomes "torture." The Geneva Covention is not a suicide pact, if the language in the treaty is flawed, then they should be ignored.
Written By: h8ter
URL: http://
I’m not going to get into the whole tiresome torture argument again, I think we should all avoid that quagmire.

Let it suffice to say that this just doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I’m closer to Republican than libertarian. Maybe it’s because part of me likes the idea of AQ scum suffering. And I’m sure part of it is simply that Bush/Cheney are "my" guys.

That said, I’ll simply disagree...
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I like the idea of a CIA exemption [to imprisonment of suspects and their questioning]. It should be taken a step further. It can only be granted when the person IS NOT an AMERICAN, Americans captured in the act should get the Walker treatment, if it doesn’t compromise security. I personally feel threatened by the actions of terrorists. If the problem is solvable in any other way than by secret sequestration, I’d like to hear them. So far, this solution seems to be working. Cheney fired for this... come on, he’s doing his job.

Written By: Orlando Armaswalker
URL: http://
The problem with using the Geneva Conventions as a standard is that they clearly EXCLUDE terrorists from "protected person status" which is only granted to lawful combatants. Terrorists are NOT lawful combatants and the Geneva Conventions do not apply to them. There is a reason that the Conventions were written to exclude them too. The Conventions were written to protect those that follow the laws of warfare and explicitly NOT protect those who don’t. Terrorists (described in the Conventions by terms such as sabotuers or those who commit murder of civillians) are subject to DEATH under the Geneva Conventions and also excluded from all other protections granted to legal combatants and others with protected person status.
Written By: David Forsyth
URL: http://
My primary issue with the McCain ammendment is the underlying principle. We have already signed a document, a tready, the Geneva Convention, that states we WILL not torture. Why then, does a law NEED to be passed?
Sadly, you’re right. My only answer is "reinforcement".
I am left to ask .. just where is torture mentioned. The existent of prisons in countries that practice torture doesn’t necessarily mean that these prisoners are being tortured. This appears to be your leap of judgement.
I think it’s a very reasonable leap. We’re not operating secret prisons so we can treat people lawfully. If there was nothing illegal going on, there would be no need for a secret prison. It follows very logically, and I’m at a complete loss for alternative explanations.
I haven’t spoken to Cheney or anyone in his office, but I assume that the reason you want an exception is for a high-level terrorist who knows stuff and you have CIA people who know how to interrogate and are going to do unpleasant stuff and would get high-level authority to do it.
To date, I’m not terribly impressed with the restraint shown by the government in this matter. The fact that they feel the need to do it secretly in order to evade the law makes me that much less confident. Establishing, as official policy, the right of the Executive to torture his own just about the most anti-libertarian thing I can imagine.

Quite apart from considerations of utility, legality, and’s a hell of a large step down the slippery slope. I think requiring some sort of torture warrant is the very least we could do.
Otherwise "torture" is just a tired talking point, just like "human rights" or "justice"—destroyed by the mindless commie reationaries.
Certainly, stringent definitions and guidelines would be necessary. I’d recommend we simply abide by Geneva Convention requirements of transparency. If we’re willing to do something, let’s be open and aboveboard about it.
Maybe it’s because part of me likes the idea of AQ scum suffering.
I like that idea, too. If I had the chance with bin Laden, I’d make Torquemada look like a piker. But, then, we really don’t know whether we’re torturing/abusing/detaining "AQ scum", affiliated thugs, or innocent suspects. We’re just taking the word of the Executive that, trust him, he’s got the right guys. Call it the Executive Infallibility Doctrine.

What’s more, there are a lot of things that I’d like to see done, but wouldn’t trust the government with unlimited power to do. Due process isn’t there because the Police are a bunch of thugs. Due process exists so they won’t become thugs.
Written By: Jon Henke
Shark, I was absolutely waiting with baited breath to see your comment. While I respect the author’s and other commentor’s opinions; quite frankly they’re all too nuanced for me.

Call it uncivilized or unenlightened, but I think this is very much one of the government’s mandates. Not only should it be done; it should be kept out of the public eye. You’ve got to have the slaughterhouse to get a steak (pun intended).

That said, I’ll also simply disagree...
Written By: Church
URL: http://

I think you’re missing the possibility that secret prisons are secret not because we’re doing something wrong but because we don’t people to know where the detainees are being held. I don’t want Al Qaeda to know where Khalid Sheik Muhammad is. If they did, they’d try to kill him or try to rescue (ha!) him to prevent him from being able to spill operational secrets.

I don’t want people knowing where Saddam Hussein is being held. I don’t him to become a martyr. I don’t want a vigilante Iraqi killing him yet because I want the whole world to watch 1) the fact that Iraq is trying him lawfully as opposed to his into-the-shredder-feet-first technique and 2) as he’s found guilty and executed. It will be a loud, public repudiation of tyranny, megalomania, and despotism. Hopefully, it will be the catalyst for additional democratic reforms.
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
I guess I am a lot less concerned about the fact that there are secret prisons overseas holding members of al Qaeda than I am that a reporter for the Washington Post aided and abetted various officials in releasing classified information of the most sensitive kind. Kudos to Frist and Hastert for calling for an investigation. I am also glad to hear that the CIA has referred the matter to the Justice Department.

Written By: John Laver
URL: http://
“She assumed …[the liberal talking points] … and demands others to prove her conclusively wrong.”

Hmmmm, Kevin, there is a lot that going on around here.

Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Sorry. Wrong thread. Ah well. Hard day.
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Church; Agreed.
Written By: Bithead
Since when is the Vice Pres. in the chain of command? As far as I know, he cannot give orders or authorize any actions on his own. Is this another secret?

Speaking of secret, did these folks actually believe they could keep something extalegal involving thousands of people in various different countries secret? Add incompetence and stupidity to the list of their possible legal problems. Aside from the moral questions, the sheer impracticability of keeping something this large and widespread from becoming public and causing embarassment should have deterred any reasonably intelligent or experienced politician or military or intelligence officer from considering it for more than a few wistful seconds. And there are actually documents revealing this? They really put it in writing? Someone call Sandy Berger, quick!
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I honestly do not understand the "torture debate". I have been around black-out drunks who talked all night but could not remember a single thing the next day. I have witnessed numerous people recovering from anesthesia that were vebalizing very private thoughts.

I hate to jinx us and mention the "mk ultra" project. However, why can’t we develop a team of psychiatrists as professional interrogators? I find it difficult to believe that a combination of sleep deprivation, drugs, gentle persuasion, time, and perhaps sensory deprivation cannot wring information out of any person. You cannot be a fanatic and fight the interrogation if your frontal lobes are not functioning properly.

I personally would not use this technique on POWs from Geneva signatory countries. Likewise, I would not consider it "torture" and would not hesitate to use it on unlawful combatants that might have valuable intelligence.

If my scenario has any semblance at all to reality, then why even debate torture? I would appreciate any "expert" or even "semi-expert" enlightenment on this topic.
Written By: rap
URL: http://
The ironic thing is, while folks in the armed forces are risking their lives for our freedom, we are busy giving it away. The FBI now issues, under the so-called "Patriot Act" more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. Our voting machines have been "privatized" and corrupted. The list goes on. Freedom isn’t free. It’s won by people of courage and vision who stand up to authority. Power always seeks more power and a wise citizenry keeps it in check. Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t care about Osama and the Taliban; they’re after the power to roll back our constitutional protections. They’re constantly cooking up some new fear like smallpox and avian flu. Sure, Rumsfeld’s stock in Gilead Sciences has gone from $7 to $50 dollars a share, thanks to Tamiflu and last month he purchased $18 million more in anticipation of Bush’s $7.1 billion Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan, but it’s more than greed that drives these guys.It’s the high of having absolute power.
Written By: Barrie Higgins
URL: http://
Treat Al Qaeda as POWs and you will be creating a moral hazard.

You give no incentive for any enemy to follow any part of the Conventions.

Why should they when they will get POW treatement anyways?

Also, there is a reason they are not put into Gitmo. These must be the very top guys who have the most intel. We don’t want this getting out.

But I can certainly understand the other side of the coin where many posters and commenters worry about oversight, torture, etc. Why not simply include an ACLU lawyer with each squad to make sure things are done correctly?

(okay, I’m just kidding there)

Yes, I don’t trust the government, but at the same time I think the minute these guys enter the open system we will get less intel and they will get lawyered up.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Just for a hypothetical example, say we get a high value target who is maybe injured from a shoot-out in Pakistan. He’s handed over to us.

Where do we keep him?

How do we keep his network from knowing about his detainment so we can issue false orders or roll them up?

Pakistan is probably not a good idea.

Gitmo is not a good idea.

Bagram is apparently not that secure and possibly infiltrated by Taliban symps.

Let’s send him to Romania for the 2-3 months it will take to do his hard drives, to break him, get his intel, and to roll up his network.

Now, this doesn’t even include torture. Is this really about torture or just secrecy? Are the posters here advocating we announce every detainee within 24 hours of capture? If not, then isn’t that the same as "disappearing" people?

Just some questions.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Question for Barrie:

So who gets to be Lex Luthor; Cheney or Rumsfeld? I mean really? Are those talking points even relevant to this discussion?

One thing I do agree with is that freedom isn’t free. And sometimes we pay in American currency; sometimes we don’t. If black op prisons and torture have a good exchange rate, I’m all for it.

To Jon’s point of whether we have the right thug, or the wrong thug, or even an innocent thug; I’d submit that the acceptable margin for error certainly varies from person to person. Furthermore, the debate itself seems to indicate that overall tolerance is waining as the scars of 9/11 fade, the Iraq war carries on without shock and awe, and the "corrupt" Bush administration meme continues to gain traction.

Someone is going to end up hamstringing national security over the rights of an illegal enemy combatant and that’s gonna suck.
Written By: Church
URL: http://
Barrie Higgins
I would love to see where you got the information on Rumsfeld’s investment portfolio and recent acquisitions. I would also love to know why the democrats aren’t shouting from the rooftops about it.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Excellent post Jon. There is hope for you yet.

Aside from the obvious moral and political reasons for us to be the good guys and not torture people there is are also tactical reasons not to torture people.

My reading of research on the issue of torture is that people being tortured will say whatever it is that they think will cause the torture to stop. Many of those Iraqis and Afganis knew absolutely nothing of future attacks. After being "interviewed" they told all sorts of stories about follow up attacks (like recently in NY). We wasted resources to stop these bogus attacks and showed al Queda what our defenses look like. That is not in our interest. Less information might allow us to concentrate on better information.

Also, back in Gulf War I, we were the good guys. Iraqi’s could not wait to surrender to us. Now that we torture people, there are going to be fewer people giving up without a fight. An Islamic, trying to kill americans has no idea if he is a terrorist or a soldier. Sadams army never made a distinction between killing soldiers or civilians.
Written By: cindy bravo
URL: http://
Do you really think that they are waiting to pass legislation so they can torture? Think again, They are doing it, have done it, and will continue to do it. They are simply proposing this to cover their ass should the practice leak out.
When Junior said "We don’t torture" that cinched it for me because the idiot is incapable of telling the truth.If he says they don’t do something you can be sure that they do.
Written By: WILLY
URL: http://

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