The Right Pre-Spins The Torture Report

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 9 2014 @ 11:15am

According to media reports, the report concludes that we tortured terrorists.

These are the same terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center, bombed the Pentagon, and tried to level the U.S. Capitol. These are the same terrorists that today have beheaded Christians, Westerners and, just this past weekend, another American citizen.

So … we did torture terror suspects, right? But they apparently deserved it. Which is a good summary of the reptilian brain in many neocons. Stephen Hayes tries another route:

Such matters should be subject to tough, dispassionate, fact-based investigation. Actual failings should be condemned by both Republicans and Democrats, by supporters of the program as well as opponents. That’s not what happened here. Instead, the report was produced by the Democratic staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Dianne Feinstein. Republicans declined to participate.

Feinstein required former CIA directors and deputy directors to sign nondisclosure agreements in order even to see the accusations made against them. Despite the fact that virtually all of the 500-plus-page report has been declassified for release, the Feinstein committee also imposed, as a condition of access to the report, severe restrictions on what those officials may say in their own defense. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, told The Weekly Standard: “Based on the nondisclosure agreement I signed, I cannot talk to you about the details of the Feinstein report, the Republican rebuttal, or the agency response—all as a condition of my being able to see it.”

In the clearest evidence that the committee was interested in blame rather than truth, the staffers did not seek to interview those involved in the interrogations.

The committee restricted itself to the CIA’s own documents not because they were trying to rig the results, but because those were the terms of the investigation, and because the millions of pages of documents they had to fight through were more than enough to handle. They did not interview the CIA agents because of an ongoing DOJ investigation into the same material. This was a self-consciously limited investigation. It was not set up to assign blame or responsibility for anything (and doesn’t). It collects the CIA’s own facts and documents with respect to the torture program in the various black sites. It was not tasked with coming up with the definitive account of the much bigger criminal apparatus that the Bush-Cheney administration set up to torture prisoners. It covers nothing in the military or JSOC or GTMO. It does nothing but examine the CIA’s own internal record.

As for the notion that the Republican refusal to participate somehow reveals the bad faith of Feinstein, et al, you just have to laugh. It merely highlights the appalling partisanship of the contemporary GOP, a party whose last nominee, Mitt Romney, was an enthusiast for torture. It demonstrates just how extreme the current GOP is, and how obstructionist they have been to a very basic act of oversight and due diligence. It doesn’t show Feinstein’s corruption; it exposes the GOP’s.

Then there is Nicolle Wallace, who played the 9/11 card this morning:

On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe”, former Bush administration spokesman Nicolle Wallace offered a heated defense of the torture techniques, arguing that she “didn’t care” what officials did because it was in order to protect Americans.

“Months after 9/11, there were three people we thought who knew about imminent attacks and we did whatever we had to do and I pray to god that till the end of time that we do whatever we have to do,” Wallace said. “The notion that this somehow makes America less great is asinine and dangerous.”

No it’s not. It’s a matter of basic human decency and a minimal adherence to American values as they have been espoused from George Washington onwards. Wallace is directly attacking the West by her remarks. And all Western civilization has achieved.