Alex Massie

The Torture Team

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Dick Cheney in an interview with ABC News:

CHENEY: On the question of so-called torture, we don't do torture. We never have. It's not something that this administration subscribes to. Again, we proceeded very cautiously. We checked. We had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross.

The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful -- wouldn't do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.

I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the number three man in al Qaeda, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from that one source. So, it's been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves.

And I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don't know what they're talking about. 

KARL: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

CHENEY: I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

KARL: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?

CHENEY: I don't.

KARL: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely reported was waterboarding. And that seems to be a tactic we no longer use. Even that you think was appropriate?


That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. I suspect Cheney would say the US should still be waterboarding prisoners. The fact that - supposedly - it has banned the practice could be considered, y itself, an unfortunate admission that it is, in fact, torture. After all, it it ain't, then why would you ban it?

For an alternative view, there's the US Senate report - published with no dissenting views - that makes it clear that the systematic torture and abuse of prisoners was not the work of a few "rotten apples" but came from the very top of the American government. We know this, of course, but it's useful to have it confirmed by the Senate, even if that body, unsurprisingly, has done its best to bury its own report.

"So-called torture" is an interesting formulation too, isn't it? Does Cheney deny the existence of torture itself, or perhaps he just takes the view that if the US is doing something that cannot, by definition, be torture. 

[Via Andrew Sullivan who continues to lead the pack in covering all this]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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