Policy & Law Politics

American torture

Here’s the sad fucking truth:

Our democracy, our republic, is very much weaker than we imagine if this report can only see the light of day after our government first issued preemptory promises not to prosecute the persons that did these things to other human beings in our names, or ordered that these things be done to other human beings in our names.

That there are elements of the American government still arguing against this cold blast of truth, offering up the craven fear that the rest of the world might see us as we actually are, or that our enemies will perhaps use the evidence of our sadism to justify violent retribution or political maneuver — this further cowardice only adds to the national humiliation.

This is not one of the world’s great powers behaving as such, and it is certainly no force for good in the world.  This might as well be the Spanish national amnesia following the death of Franco, or a post-war West Germany without the stomach for the necessary self-reflection. Shit, even the fragile, post-apartheid democracy of South Africa managed to openly conduct hearings and attempt some measure of apology and reconciliation in the wake of the previous regime’s brutalities.  Not us. Not the United States. We’re too weak to endure any such moral reflection without the attempt itself descending into moronic partisan banter. That’s right. Here, in America, we are — today — actually torturing other human beings with exacting cruelty in secret and then arguing about whether we can dare discuss it in public.

Fuck writing reports. Fuck arguing about reports. For the very soul of the country, some people must go to prison for these crimes against humanity, and for ordering crimes against humanity in my name, in your name, in our names. They were working not to save our country, as claimed. They were working to destroy this republic.

Who has the courage to begin?  Is there a single American political leader? No. Not a one.


    • Historical precedence: Project MKUltra:

      Church Committee confirms CIA using mind control on American citizens in 1975:

      That was 40 years ago. Interesting line up of characters for this technology to suddenly re-appear:

      “On May 9, 1975, the Church Committee decided to call acting CIA director William Colby. That same day Ford’s top advisers (Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Philip W. Buchen, and John Marsh) drafted a recommendation that Colby be authorized to brief only rather than testify, and that he would be told to discuss only the general subject, with details of specific covert actions to be avoided except for realistic hypotheticals. But the Church Committee had full authority to call a hearing and require Colby’s testimony.

      The Ford administration, particularly Rumsfeld, was concerned about the effort by members of the Church Committee in the Senate and the Pike Committee in the House to curtail the power of U.S. intelligence agencies.”

      “The Select Committee on Intelligence was preceded by the Church Committee (1975).”


      And how efficient has this system proven to be?

      “The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate intelligence committee computers. This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers,” said Mr. Udall, a member of the committee. “These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences.”


      Hey, if that doesn’t give you faith in the system, nothing will. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee was set up as a direct result of the use of trauma-based mind control AND they had evidence that the CIA was violating constitutional law, the committee came out with their Torture Report that made NO MENTION of neuroweaponry OR American citizens. The report was summarized by John McCain to be a political tool prior to the congressional elections.

      “His longtime amigo Senator Lindsey Graham was one of many politicians and intelligence officials to say that the report—which contained graphic accounts of physical and psychological abuse—could damage American interests abroad and that the timing of its publication was “politically motivated.””


      The following is a de-classified report that was given to me by former Space Station Director Dr. Simmons.



      In the report it discusses how the effects of electromagnetic frequencies on the human brain & how it has been studies for what now is approximately 100 years.

      Among the 150 different applications outlined by Nikola Tesla, were the worldwide transmission of speech; the transmission of electrical power over great distances; the generation of death rays, the generation of a curtain of charged particles; the ability to modify weather patterns; the generation of isolated electrical plasmas (i.e. Fireballs) and man-made lightning.
      Surprising as these may seem in their wide range, even more amazing is the claim by Tesla that any number of these phenomena could be achieved simultaneously and independently with one single equipment installation. If true, it represents something close to the ultimate in economic cost effectiveness.
      In addition to all the forgoing, for more than 40 years reports have been written, experiments have been conducted and observations recorded, on the effects of electrical fields upon mental faculties of human beings.

      It is well known that strong pulsating electrical fields pulsing within the frequency range of the alpha and/or beta rhythms of the human brain can interfere with the physiological functioning of the mind and produce devastating psychological effects in most people.

      Based on these observations there has been considerable serious investigation of the use of powerful radio transmissions as a mass psychological weapon in the arsenals of modern warfare.”

      I was the first to publish this report to the web although the report did get honorable mention here:

      “Not until Jack Anderson broke the “Moscow Signal” story ill 1972 did the public learn the truth. Several months after Anderson’s microwave column, the Soviets accused the U.S. of irradiating chess wizard Boris Spassky with electronic devices, causing him to lose a championship match to Bobby Fischer. On February 7, 1976, the Los Angeles Times quoted U.S. Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., as telling his staff that the microwaves could cause leukemia, skin cancer, cataracts, and emotional illness. Stoessel himself was reportedly suffering from a mysterious illness resembling leukemia which caused bleeding in the eyes and nausea. Two of his predecessors at the embassy died of cancer. According to National Security Advisor Zbignew Brezhinski, U.S. embassy personnel in Moscow suffer the highest cancer rate in the world.

      Today, despite a brief respite, the bombardment of the embassy continues while much of the evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies remains classified.”

      “Lafferty, Harwood, and Partners, Montreal, Ltd. “The.Application of Tesla Technology in Today’s World” Vol. I-III (Confidential)”


  • Hi David,

    For a time during and after WWII, Americans were sold the idea of ‘collective guilt’ in Germany; that the people of Germany were as much to blame for their complicity in Nazi crimes as those who perpetrated them.

    I don’t wish to conflate the U.S. over the last 15 years with Nazi Germany, but if we were to eat our own dog food and assume a certain collective guilt for the crimes that have been committed in our names, what can we do differently? And by ‘we’ I mean the average schmoe like me with little to no power besides my vote, shrinking wallet, and the stories I choose to believe in and share with others.

    I don’t want us to torture people, to perpetrate crimes against humanity, but how am I not powerless to stop it and to enact meaningful reform?

    I don’t ask this in hopes of gleaning crib notes on moral complexity and civic engagement from David Simon, but–no, no, actually I am. Because underneath, I kind of believe in nothing.

    From by Matthew Gault

    • As a victim of organized crime by 1%’rs that is assisted via willful blindness, duplicity and worse by our federal courts. Also as one who fought the notion of war, the bogus reports to substantiate such (including the miracle finding of Atta’s passport from fires that purportedly destroyed all the black boxes)…..I most certainly can understand where you’re coming from Matthew Gault.

      Truth is, we are all pawns (even his lordship here), in the games weaved.

      Sad state of affairs that it is okay to all Republican’s, anything that GWB/Cheney did; because the greater evil is them dare’ing liberals. Same goes for Obama’s clan (that I’m one of). As a Progressive, I’m forbidden to assist the dark side GOP’rs, by even daring to question, much less the pointing out the issues of bad management by POTUS Obama.

      Pawns in many games, as lords of our media are bought, paid for and very lame!

        • Proof is in the putting! As you make my point (as expected).

          Having a closed mind to the obvious, is the greatest evil.

          For you can’t mean that my stating victimization is CT. Nor can you possibly be inferring that those other victims (hundreds) who reach out to me, in hopes to have a hope – are not real.

          Hence, you must be attacking this messenger, for daring to question the very questions that beg.

          Does Goldman Sachs own NYT DealB%K?

          Has Romney’s Bain Capital owned Clear Channel? (Obfuscations aplomb with renaming as iHeart).

          Are you aware whence Clear Channel came from? (Founded by Red McCombs who owns Blackwater {renamed “Xe” and now the obfuscate “Academi”)? Is it CT, disdainfully, to look at the possibility that HAAS v ROMNEY for Racketeering, is a danger of messing with a guy who has access to rejected mercenaries looking for any kind of works?

          Is Paul Craig Roberts full of CT when he (a former editor/columnist for Wall Street Journal) stating that the CIA has influence over major news sources?

          Perhaps you need to look at some of the vast cases who come to me (a nobody who gets beat up, over and over again, by power and corruption); because they are the same as Matthew – feeling hopelessness!

          Try taking a look at Jeffry Baron’s case. A man made a slave to fed judges, trustees and worse, because he’s always knocking on heavens door. Where the judge threatened to call out the Armed forces, veiled death possibilities – of a guy never charged with any crimes (only crime was paying off all debts 100% – giving the evil doers the belief they had found the golden goose sucker).

          We are pawns, running singularly amok, on big game plateaus!

          Until we consider the possibility and unite – pawns we shall remain!

          Or do you believe that Atta’s passport survived the meltdown; and dare then to infer that I’m the one prone to moronic credulity?

          • Life is short, fella.

            I will not go ad hominem and call anyone a moron, unless more aggressively provoked. But having been a bystander at both arson and crash investigations — both vehicular and aeronautic — during my years as a police reporter, I am entirely aware that the heavier material consigned to the close debris field of a crash site is indeed more subject to destruction and/or immolation than lighter material blown further out from the debris field. That’s why the belongings and small articles from passengers on the planes were found throughout Lower Manhattan, along with paper material from the WTC that rained over a thirty-block radius, while essential but heavier components might be consigned to the intense heat surrounding the point of impact.

            That’s disappointing, I know, when its much more exciting to believe that the U.S. government has more incentive to attack the national financial center and kill more people than at Pearl Harbor. The problem is that such a grevious act has no actual precedent or purpose that is intelligently discernible. While an attack by Islamic fundamentalists on the WTC is actually entirely consistent with AN ENTIRE PATTERN OF POLITICAL BEHAVIOR THAT IS DEMONSTRABLE OVER THE COURSE OF DECADES, FROM THE USS COLE TO THE AFRICAN EMBASSIES, TO BALI, TO MADRID, TO LONDON, TO PARIS, TO COPENHAGEN, AND TO THE EARLIER, FAILED ATTEMPT TO BRING DOWN THE WTC USING A TRUCK BOMB — or are you going to explain in some coherent manner how the U.S. government conspired and continues to conspire to manufacture this growing and substantial history of political and religious violence?

            Occam’s razor, kiddo. This is dumb. And a waste of my time.

            • You should take your “kiddo” and “fella”….

              This is my problem. Those of you who are esteemed among U.S., taking the low road – poking fun at pangs.

              It seems to me that you either don’t understand and/ or care – that you have a greater responsibility to be objective instead of subjective.

              “Ockham’s” razor is akin to Leonard Nimoy’s character Spock’s logic.

              Your apple to orange compare completely ignores the FACT that they are claiming – NOT ONLY did Atta’s passport failed to be burned up – ; but that the unfathomable possibility (against most probability) that they FOUND IT 1st!

              At the same time, your disdain for those who dare to question 9/11 (such as AE911Truth thousands of “actual” brilliant, experienced Architects and Engineers {not those who witnessed police shows as a “bystander” unable to pose questions}) – totally ignores the facts that neither Ockham nor Spock would arbitrarily & capriciously expunge!

              Bush family has direct ties to Bin Laden family and was also in charge of security (at times) of WTC’s. With a looming question of so much more.

              But that is NOT the points!

              You seek to quash our quest for the truth, with your haughty tones from on high. For it is NOT the “entire” U.S. Government that we seek to question; but those who could pull stunts.

              As Matthew originally queried and you so artfully quashed with your “ad hominem” CT bark, is that there’s a feeling of despair – among those who care!

              If you bothered to take time to read the Paul Craig Roberts link you were provided, then you could also see that a German media party is doing a (sort of) death bed confession that the CIA provided bogus stories for him to put his name on.


              You should stop being so closed minded and high handed, especially to those who have (some) respect for you.

              I’m here, as one fighting tyranny, cronyism and corruption – willing to take your chit – for the sake of the greater good.

              In the hopes that your goal – IS – the greater good!

              Stop being against seeking nobility and honor, when you post such threads as this – about the lack thereof.

              We respect you and seek your leadership.

              LEAD DAMMIT!

              • I can’t go where you wish to go. I look at the totality of what you are proposing and find it ridiculous. All the media control in the world can’t continue to make people die in a consistent fashion from Islamic extremism over the course of the last three decades and somehow parse 9-11 seperately as a U.S. government plot. It doesn’t make sense to me at all. It is ridiculous wish-think; I might as well suspend belief and go with the anti-Semites who claim the Israelis did it. It was not an incident in isolation; it comes amid a consistent historical pattern of targeting civilian infrastructure world wide, and further, the fact that participants in that campaign indeed claimed the credit for the act openly only compounds my certainty.

                Fella and kiddo are scarcely odious terms; apologies if they somehow offend. But arguing with you is exactly as a great philosophy professor said it would be to attempt to prove a desired negative and disengage a committed conspiratorist. The man claims that he has tiny elves that make the hands of his watch move and tell time. You explain that this is not so, and that the watch like others like it works on the following mechanical principles. He says no, it’s the elves. You actually waste your time explaining that elves don’t exist. He demands that you prove it as he has met the elves. You say okay and you suffer the time and expense of taking the watch to a jeweler and having him open the face up and demonstrating the gears and mechanisms and even explaining the operation. And the man, certain, looks at you and tells you that maybe you can’t see the elves, but that’s because you and the jeweler are not as englightened as he. If you were, you would know that the elves that make his watch run are invisible.

                This is a waste of my time. Sorry.

                • If you have to keep digging up analogies from afar, in an apple and orange way, to make your points – then I’m not the problem.

                  We started here, with Matthew pose of the question “what can one do”!

                  When I responded, as a victim engaged in the surreal, you lashed out with the disqualifying CT remark (solely due to your disdain of “any” remarks about 9/11).

                  You are NOT objective!

                  It is a sad state of affairs that your wonderful writing skills are solely afloat for your suggestive mindsets.

                  A waste of talent (for now);

                  but not a waste of time – of mine – to try to engage in discourse, to see, if you would look beyond the fray of your directed mind twine.

                  You do good works Mr. Simon.

                  I simply seek for you to do great!

                  • In reply to Matthew, one can start by not losing oneself in improbablities and focus on the fundamental problems of the actual world. I am interested in the problems of the world. I require that the problems be actually evident so that I can address them.

        • Mr Simon, I hope my criticisms of your POV (on some issues) do not sound like these guys. My lord, what gibberish.

          As Christopher Hitchens would have said, “you (LaserLiquidator, et.al.) should be on some street corner selling pencils from a cup!”

          It is worth seconding David’s point about the overwhelming fucking evidence that Islamic wackos committed then TOOK FUCKING CREDIT FOR 9/11. Derp.

          And I’ve read Michael Ruppert’s conspiracy tome, Crossing the Rubicon and found it utterly unconvincing. So, LaserLiquidity, I’m not ignorant of your argument, I’m just immune to it. It’s a total non sequitur…

          • I have to clarify a few things:

            1. I am not Matthew Gault–I was posting a link to an article by Matthew Gault and failed at html.

            2. I am not a 9/11 truther or a conspiracy theorist. Conspiracy theories are good fodder for stories, and that’s about it from my perspective.

            3. The crimes against humanity I am referring to in first post are referring to those detailed in the senate torture report–not some esoteric vagaries.

            4. The complicity or collective guilt I am referring to are the public opinion polls (for what they’re worth) that have consistently shown a majority of the American public to support torture post 9/11.

            • I understood your query entirely. And I understood that Mr. LaserD had rather hijacked the moment to introduce conspiracy theories about 9-11. I was dismissive of those theories and not the original query. I thought the original query stood very well as a statement of how problematic it is for individuals to stand in the light of a government’s wrongful actions.

              It is indeed hard, and to an extent I do believe in collective guilt. We are all responsible, at least to a modest degree, for the actions of our communities, our societies, our governments. That doesn’t mean we are all directly complicit for, say, American torture. But it means we bear some of the collective responsibility for it. And on a personal level, maintaining a vocal opposition to such things, accepting no sophistry about “enhanced interrogation,” supporting civil liberties organizations and voting against those in government who defend such practices is the only practical absolutions that an individual can achieve. We are indeed subject to a majority opinion in a democracy, as you note. Changing bad opinions is a hard, prolonged process but nations and societies are often wrong, discover that they are wrong, and reform. Unless good people do nothing and change becomes impossible.

              • You are so full of bull (and – apparently – thyself). I made one (sub) comment out of 10 points; and you leap over all others and go to the Atta item and call it CT.

                You lack of objectiveness is readily apparent and you would (NEVER) succeed in a head on argument of facts against those who are not bias – and simply seek independent investigation.

                Calling torture “enhanced interrogation techniques” – WAS a conspiracy.

                WHO EVER flew the planes –
                WERE/ARE – Conspirators.

                There IS/ ARE on-going conspiracies to keep the war machines active (and profitable) in the pursuits of oil – in the middle east.

                Our country will NOT reform, until parties who take the time to care – even from diverse ideologies – take the time to UNITE against the Empire (U.S. of A).

                As you stated previously and I hardheartedly concur – I’m ashamed of what this country is doing in OUR name.

                Stop wasting your talent, beating up on a victim, with your minions.

                Those who suppress questions

                ARE the OPPRESSORS!

                • A simple rule in which I abide. When a fellow begins with ad hominem, I read no further.

                  On this site, control yourself. That’s not me full of myself, but me attending to a standard that is accorded everyone here. You, too.

                  • Hey guy, your “ad hominem” banter is simply another ruse to dodge the points. Granted, you have no use for moi – KUDOs. My B’Day is 10/31 and I’m the nightmare. FRom the wrong side of the tracks I came and shall remain. Again – KUDOs to you.

                    If you don’t want me barking back, then don’t make mini’nems – talking about/ mentioning me.

                    Much less putz’n around with my name as a haughty.

                    Unlike you and your gang, I AM living the surreal. In a theory beyond the norm. Doing the best to assist others suffering from same/ LAS (Legal Abuse Syndrome – LOOK it up).

                    My motto is that it is better to build up, than to attempt take downs; because I don’t need to seek to validate my elevation, by making everyone appear to be a lessor.

                    We can mutually agree to stop talking about 9/11 – because we obviously part ways on ethical solutions.

                    My original response wasn’t an attack of Matthew/ ADaniel – it was a concur.

                    You’re the one who started the ad hom with the CT remark; because of your bias/disdain for a particular side of an issue – VERY important to all.

                    Evidently, we are not equal, when it comes to the issues of ethics and/or quality of debate.

                    I’ve been a student of ad hominem, arbitrariness and Color of Law – for more than a decade now.

                    Paul Graham and others are experts on the issues of cognitive dissonance, ad hominem and quality debate.

                    I challenge you to take a look at Mr. Graham’s pyramid and make an honest assessment of where you are – in the pyramid of disagreement hierarchy.


                    Difference between you and I, is that I seek open debate and change. I’m doing more than words in the effort (having already lost it all – putting on the line against tyranny, cronyism and corruption).

                    I’m willing to admit when a POV is errant and changed from being a RWNJ to Progressive, because Meteor Blades asked me to think for myself.

                    When do you ever admit you err’d?

                    • No dodge. Life is too short for me to waste time with those who descend to personal insult here.

                      You clearly don’t understand the parameters of argument as hominem. Expressing dismay or disgust or anything in between with regards to your argument — which I did — is within the bounds of legitimate rhetoric. Rushing to characterize your opponent — which you did — is horsehit as rhetoric.

                      Go back and read what I wrote and then own your own words. If you can’t see the distinction, I can’t help you further.

        • Getting reinforcements – eh!

          It’s okay. Obviously moi was barking up on a dead horse.

          The truth is the truth – immortal and inflexible;
          no matter how many endeavor to brow beat it away!

          • The thing about ‘the truth’ is that it’s collectively determined, and society has decided to go with the more plausible narrative–it’s the one that’s probably closest to the truth.

            If Oswald was a patsy and 2Pac is still alive and 9/11 was an inside job, it doesn’t matter because we’ll never actually know. That’s (in part) why these theories persist in the collective imagination of our culture at large.

            What’s far worse in our society than these phantom boogeyman in our imaginations are the things we see every day that we don’t talk about because they’re commonplace and accepted.

        • FACT – (as you wish to continue to refuse to admit clear error)

          You stated (above)

          Conspiracy theory is as crippling an ideology as any other.

          You are fully aware (or should be) that labeling, in a subjective fashion, a comment party as one engaging in conspiracy theory (a licit/ scientific/ ethical of “objective” investigation) ..

          is condescending, discussion killing…..

          I’m both a conspiracy theorist (as my lawsuit against the oligarch lords was RICO – a conspiracy theory LAW) – and also a proud “vexatious” litigator (because a victim of organized crime has the right to vex the criminals – regardless of corrupt courts rubber stamp/ misfeasance/ Color of Law – on the maleficent’s!).

          In kind (being that you slapped out the term) – moi stated….

          Or do you believe that Atta’s passport survived the meltdown; and dare then to infer that I’m the one prone to moronic credulity?

          You threw down the banter; but claim you didn’t infer.

          Then you claim that my remark upon myself (“that I’m the one–“) is an “ad hominem” upon you.

          Ambiguous at best and certainly not dispositive. For (as I just pointed out hereto) – my remark to the original poster – was a concur.

          You still keep ignoring the original issue, other points and keep riding the high horse condescendingly on a hone in (ad hominem) about an issue that Ockham’s Razor and Spock’s logic would not be so cavalier – as to ignore.

          Facts ARE facts, no matter how many persons, how many times, how many bombardiers of verbal slinging may assault.

          Truth is immortal and inflexible.

          I did not call you a moron, you chose to take it that way.

          Waste of talent and time; and for that – I’m truly at a loss. We have purported defenders of the common man (such as Taibbi, Jonathan Hurley and Moyers); but they have “issues”. And are most certainly beholdened and/or restrained by Editors/ GC’s.

          You – David Simon – are a GREAT writer, with NO such restraints of Editor and/or General Counsel.

          You – COULD – make a difference!

          That is why I’m not using my time right this moment, to work with other victims; because I can’t (won’t ever be able) to do pen/ prose and aim as you can.

          Sure, you don’t care to lead and seek not that I or others follow. That is why one such as ye, must be our contemporary Thomas Paine.

          Can’t never could – until it tries!

          • I will stand on the fact that assembling random factoids in an attempt to demonstrate U.S. government involvement in 9-11 — while ignoring dump trucks of other elemental facts that do not coincide with this ridiculous theory — is conspiratorist. Believing in such things amid the preponderance of evidence to the contrary is ideologically desperate and unsound. I will stand on that second sentence, too.

            But mostly, I will stand on this: Calling your argument horseshit is not ad hominem. Your argument is horseshit. There, I did it again.

            Calling your opponent in an argument full of himself, or puritan or whatever, is ad hominem.

            Own your own shit. Stop equivocating about what you said and what I clearly refrained from saying.

            • Obviously a very sensitive nerve has been struck.

              I own what I’ve said, in the context I’ve meant it to be (and have reiterated).

              Granted, I’m an un-educated, lacking in prose, simple victim, who sought to discuss items with a great writer – asking him to do more.

              Things are – as things do.

              Moi won’t be on bend knee to oppressive judges, oligarchs who are so full of impunity, that they break the law openly.

              Nor I’m I going to be brow beaten by thee.

              Mens rea – oh Lord upon nigh.

              I’m actually doing!

              THE REAL ISSUE AT HAND.

              • I think you would be taken more seriously if your statements made more sense.
                Detached exclamations and archaic pronouns are never likely to strengthen your argument in a forum (but maybe that’s just me.)

                • Yeah, you and his lordship come from the realm that has that unwritten Bible of Rules that only victims who have a PHD in Literature, can tell stories like his lordship and are summa cum laude in Law….

                  may speak by your by or leave

                  To that I make this easy to understand retort ..I..

                  If that paradigm be valid, then I shouldn’t be a victim; – But I AM! — Only those full of themselves dare to tell the victimized how they should act. For the rules of our land (and – apparently – this realm) is that “Money, Power and Might Makes Right”.

                  My original response was to the party that stated this

                  <blockquote cite="And by ‘we’ I mean the average schmoe like me with little to no power besides my vote, shrinking wallet, and the stories I choose to believe in and share with others.

                  I don’t want us to torture people, to perpetrate crimes against humanity, but how am I not powerless to stop it and to enact meaningful reform?

                  I don’t ask this in hopes of gleaning crib notes on moral complexity and civic engagement from David Simon, but–no, no, actually I am. Because underneath, I kind of believe in nothing.

                  From by Matthew Gault

                  My response was in the concur and made a reflection point that struck a nerve of the Lord. — And DAM me for doing so! — Where, instead, there should be an underlined, in bold/CAPS note that – DON”T DARE GO THERE – forewarning.

                  Be that as it may, he, you and those of the kind, are all proving the point I was making.

                  Back THEN, when GWB and his kind were pushing for war gore – In the same manner as here, did mention that which everyone said was verboten. You can’t DARE challenge the lords upon high about something they say is forbidden to be discussed.

                  When you do you are scum of the earth…. the modern day Sumerian, during Sumeria times.

                  Well, guess what…. as I stated above… I was born on the wrong side of the tracks and shall remain. Do not know why G-d/Ha Shem chose moi to be in the case of the surreal — FAR beyond real.

                  But here I am.

                  Never graduated high school. Was labeled retard; because I couldn’t stay awake in class (my mom would come home at 2 to 3 a.m after bars closed and, after putting her to sleep, had to get up at 6 to get my sisters to school).

                  Failed English (if you think my prose is rotten – take away MS/Google redline’s and see what be).

                  My point is not well written. Nor syntax correct. But the facts stated, premise alleged, all prevail. My mom married men 1/2 her age. A 17 year old when I was 12, who beat on her and when I beat on him – I’m the one who went to reform school. Then she married a 19 year old (whom I took in off the streets and worked a job to pay to get him his car on the road) – and this was when I was 17.

                  Told him IF he touched my sisters He was Dead (made mistake there too – didn’t include mom’s)!

                  So, there you have it. Unlike you frggr’s – I’m NOT PERFECT!

                  All I am, is a guy who is legitimately fighting organized crime and corruption, seeking to get attention of others who care (as purportedly does the Lord and the misnamed Gault).

                  We need unity and WRITERs, Lawyers and others to be doing what I’m doing all by myself. And – THAT IS – speaking out on issues that everyone else is brow beaten and/or quashed about.

                  Exactly what you all are doing here!

                  Fine…. I’m done with you and will change my notifications so that you don’t have to be bothered by me anymore. As one involved in a great thing, who is spending my time away from Jeffry Baron, Jill Schottenstein, Saulte St. Marie, Meryl Lanson and Mr. III’s of the world – who come to ME – looking for help.

                  I give up on you!

                  (post script – They voted me most likely to be a gangster, in jail for the rest of my life……. Instead, I changed that written ending…. turned down a bribe to be Mitt’s partner

                  and woke up to this CHIT!)

                  • I’m going to give Mr. Liquidator the last words here.

                    I think this thread has exhausted its possibilities and we should all of us move on.

        • “Conspiracy theory” is a politically correct psycholinguistic axiom that indoctrinated individuals coin in response to anyone who questions the official narrative. It is pavlovian conditioning to reject investigation as being socially unacceptable. It’s communist group think. In effect, it tells the subconscious to “switch brain off” before logic or critical thought can be applied. If anything is crippling, it’s applying the term to anything.

          • “Indoctrinated” and “official narrative” as well as “pavlovian” and “communist group think” are the very definition of psycholinguistic horseshit. Simply put, you seem to smell everyone else’s opinions — however sound they might be on an evidentiary basis — but your own stink is nothing worse than lilacs.

            This is weak stuff. I think 9-11 was not a government conspiracy because I have read widely and contemplated it sufficiently on my own that the theory lacks both plausibility and political purpose. It is contradicted by evidence and information not in the control of the U.S. government. It y, reis the most ridiculous, convoluted and tortured misapplication of evidentiary material and political motive ever piled together. I say that as me, thinking not as a group, not as Pavlovian response and without indoctrination. I am capable of considerable dissent against institutional argument at many other points. This is not one of them.

            The conspiracy arguments arrayed against 9-11 are just dumb. Really, really dumb. Yes, they are iconoclastic. Congrats on that. But so is a loud, purposeful fart in a crowded elevator. The bravado of the claimant in no way enhances his message.

            • I see your bet and raise you. Your full of psycholinguistic horseshit. I got your email in conjunction with the Whitehouse, Mr. Investigative Reporter. Aldous Huxley spilt the beans on the “War On Terror” in 1962:


              It’s a means of control, as if anyone with half a brain couldn’t figure that out. How do they build a new branch of the government labeled Homeland Security, that costs ..


              Based solely 9/11, listing the #1 threat as “domestic terrorism” and yet no one has been able to figure out that open borders in a “War On Terror” is an unacceptable security breach? Horseshit.

              • And yet those buildings did fall. And Islamic jihadists did indeed take open credit for it. And they were bombed by fundamentlist Islamists in a plot prior to their destruction. And the names and histories of the perpetrators in both efforts were evident to all. There was a trial in open court on the first conspiracy, and the hijackers and their activities in the months prior to 9-11 were, in fact, chronicled right down to their use of U.S. flight schools and their prideful post-mortem videotapes. And the disco in Bali really was blown up. And the trains in Madrid were bombed. And the embassies in East Africa. And the USS Cole. And the Boston Marathon. And the London subways. And the museum in Tunis. And now, horribly, the University in Kenya.

                The atrocities, wide-ranging and involving not merely the U.S. government but nations across the globe, are evident and continuing, and responsible governments are obliged to reply with counter-measure because it is a function of all responsible governance to do what is possible to make safe the citizenry from a continuing threat.

                Nothing of the above is psycholinguisitc, Mr. Devain. That is your term, heaved by you. I offered it back because only one of us is employing rhetoric that is an angry and poorly controlled rush to ad hominem. I’m interested in empiricism and realpolitik here. I don’t care who you are or your motivations for saying stuff, whether its enlightened or ridiculous. I’m only interested in what it is you say. Would that you had the intellectual discipline to limit yourself to an argumental construct based on fact and careful rhetoric rather than weak-ass, junior-high school namecalling and psychobabble.

                I am arguing that all substantive evidence and context argues that the fundamentalist strain of Islam launched the attacks on 9-11 — and all of the other myriad attacks listed above — as an actual political agenda that has manifested itself from the late years of the last century to the present day. I am denying, without hestitation, the unsubstantiated and illogical theory that the U.S. government killed all those people and destroyed all that property as a manufactured outrage to further its fascistic designs The government may indeed overreach at points, and at points that overreach may even suggest totalitarian impulses; these are certainly to be argued against and countered when they are evidenced. But I see exactly zero evidence to support such a ridiculous supposition as U.S. complicity in the 9-11 attacks in your ability to cite Huxley or reference Stalin, or in your own fearfulness or anger at the governmental reaction. Merely because you can conjure fascistic fears and dystopian scenarios from the the government’s use of power in opposition to fundamentalist Islam, you are in no way conjuring any actual evidence that government has conspired to manufacture the fundamental Islamist threat. I understand that you wish this to be so because it would make the government’s motivations that much more vile and mendacious, but alas, you have the problem of the continuing pattern of violent death that follows jihadism whenever and wherever counter-measures and security efforts fail. Your conspiratorist fears and righteous anger work best in a vacuum, I understand, yet the bloody facts on the ground remain, awkwardly enough.

                Anyone who believes that 9-11 is a U.S. government plot is, to my assessment of the entirety of the global dynamic and the last quarter century of world history, just plain ridiculous. That conclusion cannot be unmoored by putting me on your ideological analyst’s couch and claiming insight into my motivations when you actually have none, or by calling names, or by easy labels. You will need actual evidence that argues not against who you believe I am or am not, but against the mass of reality evident in this world. Thus far, you and others have provided nothing that I find substantial or credible. Sorry.

                • Don’t be sorry – Rejoice! I bring you enlightenment! Oh look, I’m bringing up Nazis again – what do we have here?

                  Well, isn’t that special. The CIA no less.

                  • Your link omitted.

                    Again, it has zero — zero — relevance to the claim that 9-11 is a U.S. plot. It’s linkages of the CIA with any number of regrettable enterprises and endeavors is a complete non sequitur to the issue at hand. I can readily stipulate to the loathsome record of the CIA from 1947 forward when it comes to anti-democratic endeavor and covert activity. But 9-11? Zero relevance in your link.

                    And this website will focus on issues that interest its author and curator, and handily ignore arguments, theories and nonsense that do not. You might take it to another forum that welcomes an exploration of conspiracy theories regarding 9-11. Absent an actual evidentiary link — and not mere speculation and lip foam — this forum is interested in more substantive discussion. Again, sorry. This thread is just….over.

          • Mr. Simon…. MR> SIMON!

            Puhhhllleeaasssee enlighten U.S. with your expert evidence that gives you unequivocal staunch to conclude that ALL evidence that dares to question the “official” version of the GWB goverment – is “just dumb”?


            Building 7 going down and NEVER being reported by main stream (nor mentioned in the Kean Commission) – FREE fell (even John Kerry faux pas’d stating “we brought it down as a safety precaution).

            GWB’s family was security for WTC’s. As Common Sense/ sound (reasonable) ethics – he was NOT permitted to be involved in the investigation (much less “pick” the person).

            Too many bizarre events; and this purported stance of yours make’s me question the recent interview (launching you – originally – in our eyes). It is as if, like the Greed & Debt story burying more than 1/2 the subject matter gaining RS interviews with VP & POTUS…you are being rewarded for touting such utter nonsense.

            I challenge you to have a debate with Richard Gage (who points NO fingers – other than the NIST report on Bldg. 7 is complete hogwash). And then post the debate issues here.

            It simply can’t be that an investigator claims those who had people die in this event – are “just dumb” for asking obvious


            • I am utterly, utterly uninterested in the collection of half-baked non sequitur that you wish to use as fuel for this nonsense. There is no quarter for this stuff on this website. You may cry that this is close-mindedness, or censorship or any number of things.

              Audacity of Despair is my weblog. I use it for what interests me and what I find compelling. I encourage debate on those things that I personally find compelling. I do try to keep that debate on point and credible intellectually.

              I have nothing on this bullshit. Nothing. It grieves me to see someone hunched over the moss on a handful trees, shouting wildly that the moss is evidence of a second shooter on a grassy knoll, on the Trilateral Commission’s subjugation of free markets, or of the U.S. government’s desire to kill more of its own citizens on its own soil than even Pearl Harbor, or whatever pieces you fellows need to arrange in your heads. But there’s nothing I can do if that moss is more convincing to you that a forest full of fucking trees.

              Me, I’m done along these lines. There is no way to disprove a negative to someone determined to live in their own imagination. You are free to do so. But not here. I have zero interest in this. Less than zero, actually. The thread is done. Please take it to some venue that cares.

              • May I remind you that you emailed me. You opened the topic for discussion. Now you don’t want to discuss it anymore? What kind of investigative journalism is that?

                “Most people prefer to believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which they live is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it.

                To take action in the face of a corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one’s self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give the observer an excuse not to think at all.” – Michaell Rivero?

                That is what I meant by the word “indoctrinated.” If you are afraid to examine your own beliefs, how can you trust your own opinion?

                • I emailed you? WTF?

                  I’ve never sent you an email in my life. I replied to your posted comment on my weblog with my own, indicating that our discussion originates with your initial post here, which again, joins a discussion that I personally find useless, ridiculous and without evidentiary or empirical substance. That is my opinion. But good news! This is my personal blog, so I am entitled to use it for that which I value, and that which I find credible or useful, and that which simply interests me.

                  You are free to pursue other matters to your heart’s content in other forums. You can even conclude here with an obnoxious lecture about civil dissent when, in fact, I have spent most of my working adult life engaged in dissent from established governmental policies that were of real concern to me. Your self-righteousness and willingness to characterize as “indoctrinated” those who will not follow you down the rabbit-holes of your own choosing is, again, noted.

                  This is now done.

              • Suit yourself – as I’m not the one who opened (and/or continued) the subject matter.

                Perhaps my earlier suggestion on what is required of thee – was misguided.

                End of matter!

                • Actually, I can assure you that if you follow the comment links you will see that I am never the individual who addresses himself to conspiracy theories regarding the 9-11 attacks. There are some readers here, who, while otherwise welcome, are quick to raise the matter. When I reply that the issue has no traction with me, it results in additional commentary.

                  You will not find a thread in which this topic is joined that originates with me. No way.

              • WTF exactly. I got an email from the Whitehouse with you name on it – ring a bell? The subject here is “American Torture.” In order to understand the point, it’s necessary to lay the groundwork, but seeing as how you lack the investigative energies to get a full understanding of the subject, I’ll get right to the point:


                Investigate your guts out. I’ve been investigating it for 12 years.

                • Wait. Let me get this straight: You got a mass mailing from the White House — not an email from me directly — in which I express support for a reconsideration of our drug war and our policy of mass incarceration — an argument I’ve been making in print and on film for eighteen years — and then you come to my website and find an entry in which I express opposition to torture.

                  Ignoring the opposition to mass incarceration by the government, and reading past the original entry in opposition to torture by the government, you scroll down to the comments section where I’m fending off the unrelated, non sequiturs of 9-11 conspiratorists, and you critique me for being indoctrinated by a nascent totalitarian state because I see no merit at all in the belief that the U.S. government is responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

                  You really went the long way around to find me guilty of being a stooge for authoritarian ideals didn’t you? Down on the drug war. So what. Offended by torture. Who cares. If you aren’t willing to accept that the CIA flew those planes into those buildings and killed all those people, you need to be told you are a lemming-like dupe of The State. That’s a long journey for you to such disappointment, fella.

                  Two things:

                  1) I never claimed to be an “investigative reporter” even when I was a professional journalist. I find the term pompous and presumptuous. I was a newspaperman. That’s all. I did my best to get stuff right and see things in their actual context. Now, I am not even that. I am a filmmaker who makes long-form television, some of it continuing series and some of it non-fiction miniseries. In the present context, I am a citizen and essayist who has his own blog and at times chooses to comment on what matters to him. That’s it. No more. No less. Watching you hurl epithets at me for pretending to an investigative prowess is just perverse. You’ve constructed a fantastical straw man in your mind.

                  2) For you to follow that rather benign letter that seeks to convince Americans to redress an actual wrong that is actually being discussed in the present moment, then to follow it to an essay that expresses shame and disappointment at torture by U.S. authorities, and then go down into the comments to complain about these things as provocations that brought you unwillingly to the conclusion that you were dealing with a statist stooge because I hold the theory of a 9-11 conspiracy in such low regard — my dear fellow, you aren’t merely the most obtuse indiviudual I’ve ever met, you’re kind of being a jerk.

  • The universe is expanding Alfie . I just wonder what your take on Nihilism is? I’m getting a strong sense you’re wracked with middle-class religious guilt regarding the way the way the world ought to be. But we both know, it aint that way at all.

  • Yawn. Another sad, tired, predictable cliche from the master of pessimism, Davey Simon. America is alot stronger than you realize.

    “The Chicken Littles who predicted a double-dip recession, runaway interest rates, Zimbabwe-style inflation, a Greece-style debt crisis, skyrocketing energy prices, health insurance “death spirals” and other horrors have been reliably wrong.


    Keep being wrong about this great country of ours. It’s amusing to watch. Like a dancing bear.

    • Actually, I don’t recall predicting any such things. And with regard to strength, I was referring to moral strength, not our ability to thug it out with the rest of the world, militarily or economically. There, we are weak and craven — and if we were not, we would be open and honest about our national complicity in the torture of other human beings.

      See if you can make your points without the juvenilia. You need to do better to hang here.

    • Once you use any form of the word ‘libtard’, you’ve pretty much revealed yourself to be, as the late Tom Magliozzi used to say, “unencumbered by the thought process”.

    • I agree with your main point. America is infinitely better in all categories than in the past, yet people seem to think we are getting worse.

      Even in ethical terms we are more liberal (that’s a good thing), humane and decent than ever before. While the post 9/11 torturing is wrong, it is smaller in scope and brutality than the crimes perpetrated by the US in Central America in the 80s and Vietnam in the 60s. And the outrage by both the public and media/govt is more pronounced now than vis-á-vis the criminality in past epochs.

      This is the point David seems to refuse to accept.

      I suggest reading, Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky to get a feel for just how much worse the behavior of the US was and how muted and immoral the response by the media and public was to this reality.

      • Lieutenant,

        Again, going back to my original reply: We are better than the distant past in many, many ways. We are better then the more recent past in some ways. We are, in fact, worse than the recent past in some ways, as I delineated specifically in my very measured reply. We are worse than the distant past in a few ways. A nuanced answer is not avoidance, it is an answer predicated on precision and not on political hyperbole. You’re the one having a hard time accepting such.

        Moreover, I have to remark on the whole tenor of your argument here. I post something specifically about torture and American complicity in this depravity. You rush to assuage us that by and large, we’re doing right fine as a nation. WTF? And why? Is it not legitimate to speak against torture simply and directly? Or must one say the pledge of allegiance and speak to the beauty of the American way of life or the majesty of the Grand Canyon or the glories of cheap widescreen televisions before one is allowed to do so? What the hell is that as a dialectic?

        Isn’t that the same demonstrable rhetoric that had Italians remarking at how well the trains ran, or the traffic improvements in Rome, or the economic conditions throughout Italy at the same time that Mussolini was rounding up political opponents and killing Ethiopians overseas? Isn’t that the same off-point, I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-what’s-he’s-talking-about misdirection that has people answering the legitimate complaints of ordinary people of color to unarmed deaths and racial profiling by noting that, hey, we have an American president who isn’t white? Is it possible for disparate results on separate issues to be equally true, or must we first rush in to affirm for all that is swell in America before we address a problem?

        • Ok. Fair point.

          I just think as a psychological phenomenon, we need to acknowledge that as things improve people tend to demand further improvement by using rhetoric that implies the current state of things as abject and in fact worse than some hagiographic American past that did not exist.

          The US behavior toward Vietnam and Central America was not just genocidal but was rarely even discussed in moral terms by the media or the public (see: Manufacturing Consent) Now, despite the very real moral hazard we face with the torture program, we have the President of the United States, and many members of congress calling it immoral (not merely impractical, as was the complaint during Vietnam: that the saturation bombing wasn’t working). Additionally, the media is discussing torture in moral terms. And finally, the public also debates the issue along this vector.

          This is a huge moral victory. That is my point. Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, expatiates on this phenomenon.

          It’s not that lamenting torture is wrong or unpatriotic. I lament our codified torture program. I merely object to saying this country has “lost its way” as if the past was better when we used to be much worse and much less ambivalent about it. However, yes, we should always be demanding more… better… from ourselves. But we shouldn’t romanticize the past because it’s inaccurate to do so.

          I hope that is clear. Sorry for any confusion. And sorry for being a dick about it. I’m just kind of a dick. My bad.

          • How old are you? I have to ask, because Vietnam was an all-encompassing subject for discussion for about a decade of my lifetime, and then for a decade following as Americans struggled to come to terms with what the war there did and did not mean, and especially the morality of American behavior there. I lived through daily coverage of My Lai and daily arguments in the press and in every facet of American life about the morality of the carpet bombing of North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I agree fully that our behavior in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras in the 1980s was appalling and did not receive the fundamental attention it should have.

            I’m willing to speak well of American behavior in both World Wars and Korea. We were about where we were supposed to be on a moral scale in those conflicts. Spanish-American War was bogus, as was the Mexican excursion. War of 1812 was downright shameless. Civil War was half right. As for lesser interventions, we were bastards in Phillipines at the turn of the century, better behaved in the after 1945. We kicked ass on the Barbary Pirates and bin Ladin. We had to address Afghanistan after 9-11; a forced move, that. Iraq, a mistake. Domestically, we should apologize for the Trail of Tears, Ethel Rosenberg and the internment of the Nisei. On the other hand, Julius Rosenberg was a traitor, and we did okay letting Marian Anderson sing at the monument and putting the peckerwood who shot Medgar Evars in prison, however late.

            Point being: I keep landing in the middle. Not by plan, but by following the arguments.

            It’s okay to debate things on a moral basis. Morality is a legit human value. Torture is wrong, morally.

            • If you read Chomsky on press coverage on Vietnam it will show that the antiwar discussion in the press and by politicians was pragmatic in its objections.

              We were not winning, the strategy wasn’t working. At best it wasnt worth losing so many Americans over.

              Very little voice was given to how immoral the invasion was nor much about the costs to the Vietnamese.

              But, maybe Chomsky is wrong.

              • Chomsky is earnest, but selective. Having absorbed it all attentively when it was happening, and growing up in a household that was engaged in anti-war activities, I can tell you there was a spectrum. And while the effect on the U.S. and its military and home front was much attended to, the morality of the bombing of North Vietnam was also discussed and argued, as was My Lai, as was the brutalities visited upon the Laotians and Cambodians when Nixon expanded the war. And imagery of that young girl running with napalm burns became as iconic as those of Marines at Khe Sahn. It was all in there. No different from the anti-war discussions that accompanied the misadventure in Iraq.

                We haven’t learned much in this regard.

                • So I have no way of knowing verifying your memories of the spectrum of debate vis-a-vis Vietnam.

                  I believe you are earnest.

                  However, Manufacturing Consent is a well documented piece of research. I’ve read it (twice). and unless you can provide press clippings and quotes from politicians that contradict his main thesis, I’m forced to trust his view over yours.

                  That book is very heavily researched and he says he went over every press clipping he could find in even the most liberal papers (e.g., Boston Globe) and came to the conclusion that the immorality of invading Vietnam was not part of the range of debate. The official (i.e., govt/media) dove postion was the war was a “mistake”, and “not working”.

                  Of course, individual people at the margins were more radical (ethical). But the offcial debate was narrowly constrained between pragmatic conceits of the war’s efficacy or wisdom, not its ethical basis. As you said in another post, “America is always the good guys”.

                  My contention is this is changing. The govt/media are debating ethical components of our military campaigns; not merely their efficacy or wisdom.

                  But I am willing to be wrong if you can show press clippings or tv clips that refute Chomsky’s research.

                  • I certainly understand that American attention to the war was supremely focused on the risk to and expenditure of American lives. In fact, I’ve argued — vis a vis the drug war and marijuana legalization — that the American middle class attends to its own interest with an intensity that it reserves for little else. Frankly, I think humans are tribal in their outlook, and that all nation-states first evaluate their own self-interest before that of others.

                    Quoting Charles De Gaulle, to Ben Gurion, as he abandoned any alliances with the Israeli state for Arab oil and French interests in Northern Africa: “Nations do not have friends, they have interests.”

                    I’ve read Manufacturing Consent. It is fine work at points. Dr. Chomsky proves the obvious if he counts clippings and comes to the conclusion that Americans were first and foremost asking what was in it for them in continuing the Vietnam War. No shit. But if he — and you — is suggesting that the increasing brutality of the war on the Vietnamese people was not considered at all, or was not utilized as argument by the anti-war establishment, that is simply hyperbolic. It was a continuum and those arguments were heard, increasingly so as the effects of American military tactics became more and more evident. Again, the same as with Iraq. Is it working is a practical and rational question given that the war was premised on transitioning Iraq from a military dictatorship to a democractic regime, as Vietnam was premised on resisting a communist insurgency. But again, there were other arguments undertaken, and other reasons for which Americans became alienated from the original claimed purposes of the war in Vietnam. The all-or-none tenor of your argument is problematic for me: …”was not part of the range of debate…”

                    It was. And further, if Dr. Chomsky is relying on press clippings from the mainstream press for the duration of the war, his mode of measurement is already skewed. That particular anti-war dialectic was more powerful in other places and other media.

                    There is no change that I can perceive from Vietnam to Iraq — none whatsoever. Most Americans are concerned first and foremost about the expenditure of American lives and treasure in Iraq, or for that matter Afghanistan. But there is also discussion about the cost-benefit for Iraqis, which is of less concern. If you counted mainstream newspaper clips you would now, as then, find more discussion about whether Iraq is working or not, and much less discussion about the human cost to Iraqis. Much less.

                    So much for progress.

                    • I think that was the original subtitle for Chomsky’s greatest effort:

                      Manufacturing Consent: No shit.

                      David, you are a funny guy,

                      Anyway, Themainstream press does indeed talk about the immorality of torture by our govt. MsNBC certainly does (see: Morning Joe, et.al.).

                      This is an improvement over their normal lack of ethical concern with “others”.

                      But, much work still to be done. But I think Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, shows just how much more ethical people are getting writ large. Have a look at it. I think it buttresses my main point.

                      Progress is being made (not between you and I, but between humans in general).

                      Btw: I think they are showing The Wire in HD on HBO this week. I’ve been watching it (again) and noticing the resolution looks pretty goddamn high.

    • When Clinton gravitated back to the center, he made a deal with the capitalists and opened Pandora’s box by repealing Glass-Steagall. That coupled with Greenspan foolishly lowering rates to save the banks (with the Long Term Credit hedge fund debacle) created an incentive for the banks to gamble with their depositor’s money. It was all about the Benjamins at that time, and corporations and participants were gaming the system to increase their own utility.

      Today, we have central banks flushing the system with money, and the global economy is on a house of cards. If I had to bet, Japan will be the first shoe to drop, and if you think Lehman was a disaster, you haven’t seen anything yet.

  • I see America falling apart, piece by piece every single day. One may welcome the death of one single simple thrust, rather than the death of the thousands of daily pin pricks…yet the outcome is the same. One is quick and clean, the other is slow, simpering, torturous. It is America being slowly tortured to death by the daily decisions of the powerful and elite who serve not the American people – but their own shallow self-interests.

    I try to think of another way out of this – what would we do, could we do to turn ourselves around? I cannot imagine or envision anything that we would willingly choose to do. I can only envision a steady descent to the bottom. I don’t know how much farther down we have to fall to the bottom, I don’t know what will happen once we hit bottom, I don’t know what the impact our fall will be of on the other innocent peoples of the world, and I don’t know what will then transpire – will we learn from our actions and turn ourselves around – or will we simply disappear into obscurity, a people and country who others will vaguely remember as having the potential to ascribe to something good, but instead only causing chaos?

    • The problem with all great societies is always revealed in retrospect. It is is much harder to predict the future, and act accordingly. No doubt American leaders think today they’re on course to realise their imaginings of an American dream, but as any grand-master chess pro will tell you, you don’t take the easy pawns whilst developing your opening,and exalt in minor skirmishes, which the USA’s strategists have done. Those seemingly easy point wins often come back to bite you on the ass.There has been no vision, other than rampant capitalism, in the USA since well before WWII, but the middle game afterwards is revealing deep flaws in the USA’s dogmatic insistence on the purity of the capitalistic enterprise. The king is surrounded and going down slow.

  • Sadly it seems that the conspiracy theory wackos of yesterday are simply the rational Americans of today. If you were to go back 20-25 years and reveal everything that has been revealed now in a single day, the outrage would be astounding. But the common metaphor of the frog in water slowly turned up to boiling appears to be true today (psychologically speaking). Almost everyone I know says, “well, we kinda knew this was happening, right?” like that somehow makes it alright, or worse, makes one a fool for being outraged. It’s not just Republicans, too, this is much bigger than D vs. R. Compounded with the new spending bill which lets banks make risky investments backed up by taxpayer-insured deposits (again), and it’s a sad day for civil liberties.

    What’s really depressing to me is I feel like we’ve learned nothing as a country. We’d gladly invade another Iraq or endure another recession or give up more freedoms because we have not learned from our mistakes. Freedom is just a word, easily used to manipulate people against themselves. A healthy system of checks and balances, and protected civil liberties – and infrastructure! – is what really makes a country ‘first world’. Those things are being eroded by specific and new laws that have been passed. Very depressing.

  • David, I really love your work. Your critical eye to systems of class and oppression in our society is peerless in the popular entertainment industry, and I really appreciate the thoughtfulness you bring to your deconstruction. That’s why I think one statement you made needs accountability.

    The report is sickening, emotionally and ideologically. The fresh indignation about losing the “soul of our country” is a little overwrought with US exceptionalism, (Abu Ghraib or 1776, take your pick) but I do still feel where you are coming from. However, with your keen awareness of systems of oppression in the US Justice/Legal system, I take major issue with the idea that “some people in prison” does anything but continue this cycle of kneejerk retributive attitudes that harm our community, culture, and country. The story continues when they are in prison, and it doesn’t involve healing or remediation for them or for those they harmed – it just pleases my vindictive inner monkey in the same way that they pleased theirs. Prisons are for-profit, retributive torture farms that warehouse the remainder from our zero-sum economic system. On any other day, you would be happily(?) deconstructing systems like this for your viewers.

    For the sake of the Very Concrete Issue of “the soul of our country,” you’d like to torture someone in my name for torturing someone in my name. You’d like to invoke more state violence in response to state violence. You throw our “political leaders” under the bus for clinging to a retributive ideal that you instantly espouse in miniature.

    What part of The Wire or Homicide led you to think that the Justice System was just? What part of researching Treme led you to believe that prison was not an integral tool in the systemic damage being done to oppressed communities? All those works had the opposite effect on me – you personally taught me to put aside the emotional and political theatre in order to “follow the money,” in situations like this one, so I feel some responsibility to you for helping to wake me up. Stay awake with me! Teach yourself by teaching us – why not make a great show that deconstructs the systemic corruption and blight of prison? Your remark was a very easy, very human reaction, but we must be better – most of all, thank you for your great work, and keep it up!

    • Entirely confused as to the comment about people in prison to which you refer. Context, please. I can’t locate such.

      • I apologize for the lack of clarity – you mentioned specifically that “for the very soul of the country, some people must go to prison for these crimes against humanity.” I believe this comment is a natural, but lazy one that most people in the US would make, but it does not acknowledge what a crime against humanity sending someone to prison is, or that our systems of state imprisonment, violence, and torture are intertwined constructs, from San Quentin to Gitmo. I’m interested in sustained, engineered solutions that will address the problem in concrete terms, not feeding the cycle of retributive violence by scratching an itch I have for vengeance – even in egregious situations like this that seem to demand a uniquely extreme response. Perhaps I just took an offhand part of your comment too seriously, but it was worth mentioning to me because US prison is a sore subject of mine and not an offhand factor that I would want anyone to suffer “in my name.” Thank you for your response!

        • Honestly, I am from Baltimore.

          I have been among the stronger critics of the U.S. race to incarcerate, the reliance
          on prison for non-violent offenders and the growth of the prison-industrial complex.

          That said, there are people who need to be incarcerated, many of them for a long time. The crime scene photos alone speak to this. It is no leap to suggest that war crimes such as torture evidence sufficient sociopathy to require imprisonment.

          Or was Nuremberg out of line, too?

      • He seems to be implying that all prisons are tantamount to torture. So, since you’re calling for the torturers to be imprisoned… you’re advocating torture.

        Isn’t that clever? Doh!

        Let me explain something to Colin, from a POV maybe nobody on this blog can speak from. I’ve actually been in a felony lock up and aside from the over reliance on poor quality carbohydrates resulting in a low protein diet, prisons in the US are not torture camps.

        The kind of breathless hyperbole on display by the left on this site makes me squirm.

        • Do you really expect a lot of right-wing orientated people on this site?
          I’ve worked in prisons in England, but even if I didn’t, you’d be able to find alarming statistics for re-offending on-line(1 in 3 of a certain age go back into crime after offending).

          But hey, even if neither of us have been in a prison, I still think most people would see that there is a problem with the system. I think most people are entitled to a view on the justice system, especially when it consistently underwhelms society’s expectations. All we have is lawyers getting rich and cons getting off. That’s the consensus view. Right?

    • “Your remark was a very easy, very human reaction, but we must be better”

      On the contrary, I think being human is exactly what’s missing.

  • […] These arguments are partially correct. A majority of Americans (especially Republicans) do support torture in the abstract. And Beinart is particularly correct to note that America’s historical legacy is violent in the extreme — torture and a dozen other brands of systematic violence are central to American history. The fact that nobody in power is going to enforce the law, for the obvious reason that it would be politically inconvenient, is a great stain on American democracy, as David Simon, the creator of The Wire, argues. […]

  • It’s pathetic to me that this issue is being framed as liberal (anti-torture) versus conservative (pro-torture). Seems like there is nothing too big or too small for us to reduce into an us vs. them mentality.

  • […] These arguments are partially correct. A majority of Americans (especially Republicans) do support torture in the abstract. And Beinart is particularly correct to note that America’s historical legacy is violent in the extreme — torture and a dozen other brands of systematic violence are central to American history. The fact that nobody in power is going to enforce the law, for the obvious reason that it would be politically inconvenient, is a great stain on American democracy, as David Simon, the creator of The Wire, argues. […]

  • For whatever it’s worth, the belief expressed in the past tense use of the word torture may be misplaced. We are still force feeding prisoners (who’ve been denied due process) on hunger strikes at Gitmo. At least one American nurse has refused to participate in what he calls torture. And perhaps the Iraqi mothers who’ve given birth to deformed babies due to the United States use of depleted uranium ammunition would consider that not only a WMD, but a form of torture. Since water is a requirement of life, perhaps the citizens of Detroit who’ve had their water turned off would consider that a form of torture. Too, the people who have been poisoned by chemicals from fracking might consider capitalism itself a form of torture.

    Just depends on where you sit.

    I don’t see these “revelations” as anything of the sort. There will be no high level prosecutions. And, if I’m wrong about that, I’m confident that if someone high level were prosecuted and found guilty, they would be pardoned. Lots of precedent for that.

    In a country where casual cruelty is the norm, I thank you for the outrage. Sincerely, I’m glad there are still pockets of feeling and compassion. Precious little of that, these days.

    • Sense shining bright. When you buy an iPhone, are you torturing somebody by proxy?Are we looking at the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, perhaps?

  • Michael Scheuer let me down in his response to the declassified leaks. Mr. Simon you definitely did not. While at times you can be quite eloquent, I very much appreciated the brevity and honesty in this blog post.

    Who would have imagined fifteen years ago citizens like Snowden would flee to Russia to escape potential torture from our own government?

    While the Fox News coverage of this makes me very sad indeed, Elizabeth Warren’s speech at Netroots Nation was a welcomed pick-me-up in contrast.

    • I am about to disappoint you. I do not think Mr. Snowden risked torture — though he did risk arrest, criminal trial and jail. Nonetheless, I am opposed to his flight, and to his revelations of our overseas intelligence gathering. I accept that he acted to reveal NSA domestic activity in the belief that he was blowing the whistle on what he believed was a constitutional affront and therefore illegal activity. I do not necessarily agree that this was so, but I certainly believe that Mr. Snowden so believed. Moreover, I agree that Mr. Snowden’s domestic revelations provoked a discussion that needs to happen with regard to safeguards against domestic violations of the Fourth Amendment.

      • That isn’t disappointing, I agree with you. Although from the right’s rhetoric on this issue one could easily imagine these inhumane practices progress further into the domestic realm. I said potentially, I concede I had been hyperbolic but only in the present tense.

        I know you had a headache on the NSA leaks before, I try to keep up with the blog (not-so-much the comment section as people tend to get prolix). I look forward to any discussions you have on the topic of torture no matter the outlet, as I can see much of media being quite averse to rationale these days.

      • I’ll never figure out why you think Snowden was anything but heroic. He did a huge service to mankind…but I guess privacy is no big deal in you eye?

        For the record, I’m very much in favour of him leaving the US. And he would probably end up in supermax if he stayed.

        That’s how the US treats its heroes, like Manning. And you have the temerity to say you don’t like torture of terrorists?


        • Mr. Snowden is a complicated figure, and a problematic one. His heroism is best exemplified by his willingness to risk his freedom and all that he might enjoy in life in order to highlight what he believes is a constitutional affront of sufficient importance to the survival of the republic. I have other concerns with regard to Mr. Snowden’s revelations about U.S. intelligence gathering overseas and sincerely wish he had confined himself to what he believed was the domestic intrusions by NSA into the privacy of Americans. I think that was a strategic error.

          Had he confined himself to the argument that he was acting in service of the constitution, he might well have stood before an American jury and made a convincing argument for acquittal or leniency. That becomes less possible revealing what he did about our overseas intelligence initiatives.

          Again, spying is not torture. In fact, in order to acquire intelligence without resorting to such brutalities as torture, it is incumbent upon a government to conduct effective intelligence-gathering by other means. By conflating the two, you don’t denigrate spying, you lose sight of the moral degradation that is torture.

          • Had he confined himself to the argument that he was acting in service of the constitution, he might well have stood before an American jury and made a convincing argument for acquittal or leniency.

            Unfortunately, I think you are confused on this point. He would not have been allowed to argue the value of disclosing the information under the Espionage Act because it would be inadmissible, as it has been ruled in the past. If he were guaranteed the right to argue that the leaks benefited the public interest, then I would support a trial which I think would vindicate him (at least on the domestic points), given that he was granted bail and not treated like Chelsea Manning.


            • But I’m not contending that Mr. Snowden should or could argue in court the strategic value of the programming that he revealed. I’m aware that the Espionage Act takes away a defendant’s right to make that argument in court.

              I’m saying that had he limited himself to revealing the domestic data capture programming, he might make the case that he believes the mass capture of such information in general is in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I would have been interested in hearing an argument in which the substance of the oath given to every sworn member of the armed forces — to uphold the U.S. Constitution — is invoked by Mr. Snowden as an argument, before a jury — that he was revealing a wholesale violation of the constitution. Even without an examination of the classification of the material itself, I am curious as to whether a federal judge would allow an argument as to whether Mr. Snowden was disobeying an unlawful, unconstitutional command.

              The Espionage Act does not allow defendants to argue the classification or secrecy of material that they leak, as it is regarded as untenable for individual members of the defense establishment or the government in general to make personal decisions about what secrets they wish to reveal. But does the Espionage Act prevent a defendant from arguing that he acted against governmental activity that he believes is unconstitutional?

              If not, then you are correct that Mr. Snowden can’t stand fast in court. But if so, the argument is very different than offering evidence against the strategic value of the secrets revealed. Mr. Snowden would not be arguing that the secrets were not secret, or had no tactical or strategic value — he would be arguing that the secrets were themselves illegal and unconstitutional, and that he had an obligation to say something. If such a defense were inadmissible, would not a federal court be abrogating a legal standard that is inherent in the Geneva Convention and international law? It has long been legal precedent that an order can be disobeyed even within the construct of military law, never mind civilian jurisprudence, if the order can be proven to be unlawful or unconstitutional. By such a standard, military officers are presumed to be able to disobey any action that would compromise, say, civilian control of our military, or lead to the massacre of civilians. Could Mr. Snowden not have invoked such a defense at what he saw as the wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of all Americans? I wonder.

              We will never know for several reasons. One, Mr. Snowden didn’t stay and attempt that defense. Two, and more problematic for Mr. Snowden, his revelations go far beyond domestic collection of metadata to leaks about overseas intelligence gathering that is decidedly not a constitutional violation. And lastly, I think that on the merits, the defense is problematic for another reason: The phone metadata capture is actually constitutional and has been for more than three decades.

              Still, personally, if I were a juror and Mr. Snowden had limited himself to domestic data capture programs and argued on constitutional grounds, I would be tempted to acquit, crediting his intent and belief. Not so for telling the rest of the world what America is doing overseas to gather intelligence. In that sense, I suppose the idea of such a defense is no more than academic; Mr. Snowden crossed an altogether different rubicon when revealing the overseas efforts of the U.S. intelligence community.

              • I doubt Snowden would be willing to return to the US to face the non-domestic charges. The only plausible case where we will see a trial that disputes his legitimate points is if he is tried only on the domestic charges and allowed to explain why they served the public interest, why they were required under the oath that every federal employee takes (why they were unconstitutional), and why they were required by treaties that we have ratified.

                I have shuddered every time his leaks have revealed foreign intelligence (and I assume you have done so as well). For a person sworn to the US Constitution it is hard to digest. But it is necessary to compromise on this issue in order to have the potential of a fair trial.

                I think this case is even more important given the fact that our country has acknowledged torture. Obviously, one person who revealed the torture was prosecuted and imprisoned (whose motivations weren’t entirely for the revealing the truth), but the real issue is whether we have a system that protects those who view that their orders were unconstitutional. We have tons of whistleblower laws in effect, yet somehow the facts that excessive spying on American citizens and torturing of our prisoners are not protected. What do we do?

                We need to set a precedent. Let Snowden face charges on the domestic issues. Or pardon him. If he is convicted, then we will realize that a person’s conscience does not matter. If not, then we will set a precedent that immoral actions by the government will not be protected under the law. In either case, at least we will know. It may take decades to get sorted, but we do need to know.

                • I take offense that the whistleblower to the CIA torture is in jail. But that is not the whistle that Mr. Snowden blew. And allowing Mr. Snowden a free pass on the revelations about foreign intelligence-gathering is problematic for the U.S. government in the extreme. How can the intelligence community set a precedent of allowing such a seeming act of espionage to stand and maintain a coherent deterrent to such behavior. The problem here is simply that Mr. Snowden set no constitutional boundary with which his whistleblowing might be justified legally.

                  The more that folks marry this issue of CIA torture to the wholly separate — and, in fact, contrary issue of NSA data mining — the more I become certain that the crime that is torture that is being minimized rather than an elevation of data mining to anything resembling a crime or even an affront on the same continuum.

                  I am not against data-mining for certain national security purposes, if safeguards against its misuse are invoked and maintained, and if violations of those safeguards are addressed when they occur. I am against torture regardless of any mitigation. Simple as that.

  • So America tortures people….*YAAAAWWN*……seems some of us have been tardy to this party that commenced in 1776. When everything is based around money, power, and who has the largest mob juxtaposed against having no shared sacrifices amongst us all, torture is just another mmeans towards the end of accumulating wealth and power.

    Anyone with wealth over 500k should be asked “what’s your hustle?”. Who did you fool? What law did you get a master level of understanding about so you can use for your benefit at others’ expense? Its all torture, some just die more slowly.

    I once worked in a governmental office in a big red state, the kind of state that has leaders who play into cultural stereotypes to get elected and enact policies to ensure those stereotypes become reality–see refusal to enact Obamacare as an example. So in this red state which runs a significant deficit exist an office, where I once worked, that uses taxpayer money to fund special projects (capital outlay expenditures, nothing new).

    Politticians and their puppeteers know dumbass Joe schmoe wont read the budget and they know the people who are paid to read it wont tell the public the truth. Not only did I read it, I helped the countless real life Andy Krawczyks file paperwork that would let them bill the state government, for example, $80M to renovate the rec center on a posh college campus. Upper echelon government mooching.

    But lets keep it real. Enough people benefit from that bullshit so where that form of torture continues. What form? Taking taxpayer money, funneling it through developers who dont just renovate some posh gym, they build strip malls and neighborhoods and pump that money back as political contributions. Paging Lester Freeman. How many lives could have been changed with that $80M? Instead theyre demonized as welfare whores sucking on the tit of taxpayers.

    So whats your hustle? If I cant use you then we have no reason to talk. And if you fuck up my hustle–in this case our ability to kill people under the auspices of us vs them but really an exercise to justify no bid contracts in the hundreds of billions–then im gonna torture you. Demonized you. Imprison you. Choke you to death. Shoot you 12 times after you run away scared after bullets one and two but ill convince everyone you in a hulk Hogan fashion wasnt scared of bullets 7 thru 12. Feed you through your ass. Waterboarding you. Send you to a fucked up babysitter masquerading as a school. So on and so forth. Welcome to America. Its all tortueous, some just die more slowly. Others just accumulate more power and money quicker, extremely so.

    • The thing that engenders a yawn is that cheap (and puerile) cynicism. Cobbling together all manner of incoherent charges against the republic herself as if no good can come to anyone nor has come to anyone in or because of the state apparatus is the new conformity. 4 out of 5 people in the US think this way (the way Kevin just gave voice to; I can’t really say ‘articulated’ now can I?) and so those of us who believe in the country still, well, we are the iconoclasts.

      I’ve always been an outlaw so I’m fine with it. But I’m getting a chuckle out of these hipsters being the boring and rote voices of doom and gloom while the reality of the US gets better and better. Every metric possible shows how much more humane, wealthy, healthy, and civilized we are compared to our recent and distant past. But as we achieve a more and more liberal (that’s a good thing) and more humane society we are more outraged by every flaw. It’s humane nature, but it cracks me up.

      allons travailer…

      • This is untrue at points. Household income and buying power has stagnated or declined for all but the top brackets. Income inequality has increased dramatically. I take your point that there have been many enhancements in our society, and many more humane constructs than in the past, but there are some key criteria in which we are now moving backward.

        • Have you noticed how much cheaper TVs are? You can buy a 46in plasma 1080p for 600 bucks. 10 years ago that TV was 2 grand. That’s buying power too even if income remains flat.
          And watch how cheap goods are about to become with 3D printers turning each household into a factory. And to be honest, my main point was this: as things get better the more inclined humans are to demand even more. We live in a ethical Valhalla compared to the war crimes of Vietnam and Central America (see: Chomsky’s, Culture of Terrorism and Deterring Democracy), and compared to the calloused mind set of Americans of the 60s where nobody gave a shit about 3rd world peoples. Now people care and the policy reflects this. The new policy paradigm fails in many ways (torture is that failure), but if you don’t think we tortured suspected Sandanistas or other leftists in Central America you are wrong (we murdered 100s of thousands and the media and public yawned). The difference now is that
          we are outraged (which is good. Because it’s outrageous). David your essay was well wrought. It was Kevin’s hyperbolic nonsense that I was objecting to…

          • are we really discussing the price of mass produced consumer goods?

            Upward mobility in America is the worst it’s been since the age of the robber barons and the industrial age. Income disparity is growing. And the buying power of the average family is going down for the first time since the Depression.

            You want to remark on cheap TVs? How about the price of providing health care to you and your family.

            • Ah, I made no salient points i see. Well, I guess you’ll always know it all. But if you ever feel like being objective you’ll notice we have universal health care now. My insurance bill has dramatically dropped thanks to the ACA. Many people are being helped this way. And just what the fuck do you think people spend their money on if not consumer goods? Jeusus, you’re just committed to being saturnine on this huh? Smh.

              Anyway my main point was ignored by you so I’ll take that as a consession. 😉

              • Ignoring the main points of others does not seem to be a sin for which you ought to be hurling even pebbles.

                In a period of sustained economic growth and profit, the economic condition of the American family is in decline. For the first time since the rise of organized labor, a consumer-based economy and a middle-class. For the first time since the Great Depression, in fact. There. I’ve said it again.

                As to health care costs, yes, we now have a marginal enhancement to our bifurcated efforts to do what other advanced democracies have long since achieved — national health care and a diminution in the millions of uninsured. Care to discuss the costs involved in a routine medical procedure or the efforts required to get certain insurers to actually front for such, or how much health care now consumes in terms of national wealth? Or does a cheap television set provide evidence enough of our economic viability in the long term? The circuses stayed affordable in Rome, too. The bread was a giveaway.

                • Ok, if I ignored any of your points I apologize. I attempted to address them all.

                  And as I’ve said many times over the years on this blog, you are so much wrong as you are incomplete.

                  David, I think you suffer from something we all suffer from: myopia. The difference between you and myself is that I know that I don’t know it all. You seem to think you know everything that can be known about the present economy and the furture economy.

                  Let me offer this advice: read some books on nanotech or Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity for a primer.

                  The wealth created by the ever more productive worker is being used to fund projects that manifest at the periphery as high-tech TVs with exponentially falling price points.

                  The main technology is being used to build the infrastructure to the future economy which will include very cheap DYI foundries (3D printers), radical medical advancments (resulting in radical life expectancy growth); and AI interfacing with the human CNS (which will fundamentally change the way we aquire knowledge).

                  All of this will have the effect of making consumer goods, health care, and education very very cheap and much miuch better.

                  2040 will be as different from 2014 as 2013 was from 1800. Exponential growth is being funded right now by venture capitalists and govt (tax) funds which is capable becasue of productivity gains. So even if the worker doesn’t see higher take home pay to buy VIP tickets to the Circus Maximus, his/her labor is transmuted into capital used to fund the future s/he is stepping into.

                  This is the radical transformative power of capitalism that Marx was so enamored with. The first industrial revolution provided the wealth necessary to fund the modern infrastructre of public schooling, healthcare, and transportation. Even if the workers received very little renumeration, they benefitted from all the public works generated from their labor, through capitalists and then into govt (via taxes) or private projects (think Carneigie partnering with Edison to bring electricity). These tech gains were not mere distractions; thus roads, schools, electricity, health care all improved life quality and quanitity.

                  Yes, wages are flat. But that money that could go directly to workers is being used to build shit that will help the proles in 2040 live to 150 instead of 78, have Phd level educations for relatively cheap, and look back on 2014 like we look at the19th century in terms of wealth/quality of life.

                  I know you’re the smartest guy in the room all the time, but maybe just maybe you can read some books on The Vingian Singularity and at least understand the future before you shit all over it. I know you’re old… and angry… I get it. But, try to think of what Thomas Jefferson, one of the smartest guys in any room of the 18 and 19th century would have thought if you told him how long the average person lived in our time (near double the rate of his day), how educated the average person was (the NYT contains more info in 2 weeks now that an average person in the 18th century would have come across in a lifetime), and how wealthy the average person was (the average person of 2014 can buy shit no king could have 200 years ago). Imagine his derision of your optimism.

                  And I’m agaisnt torture btw. But I’m critiquing a much larger malaise in this blog, in our culture and in the minds of the slouching hipster with his ersatz wisdom that everything is going to shit, man. Your cynism and stygian mocking of our radical gains in the tech sphere are an affectation in my opinion. They are as corny and boring as the lock-step patriotism of the 50s.

                  Shit is good and gonna get better in such radical ways over the next 30 to 40 years as to make your warnings as risible as Malthusian scarcity cries and Hubberts’ peak oil wailings.

                  Oh, and, yes, torture is bad and ought to be prosecuted. I look forward to you calling me an idiot (again).

                  • Actually, Mr. Diablo, or rather Lt. Diablo, I will venture to say without even looking back that I haven’t described you as an idiot. I don’t think I described you personally in any negative way. I can’t imagine doing that to you or to anyone in this venue and for these purposes. Frankly, I don’t think I even characterized your thought processes as being myopic, or even resorting to a condescension as to your reading habits or biases.

                    I managed to get all the way through a couple replies that said simply while I agree with you at points, your blanket declarations that things were getting better and not worse across the board were contradicted in some places. I cited the places. I didn’t call you myopic, or ill-read, or biased.

                    On the basis of my behavior and yours, I’m not going to take this much further. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t more to discuss. I am suggesting that my cynism (sic), stygian mocking, and ersatz wisdom while clearly a burden to your panoramic understanding of the human condition and its future, somehow managed to be expressed with some requisite self-control. I am sure that technology offers many bright, transformational opportunities for humankind. Let me know when the culture of capital and the exalting of profit stands ready to be mitigated by the inclusion of more — and not less — of humanity. At this point, the economic numbers in our own country, as developed and technologically forward as it is, are not trending toward that outcome. That’s all I said, and never characterized you or your overall thinking in saying so.

                    • It’s amazing how some people can imply or advocate false statements when WE CAN READ EVERYTHING STATED RIGHT BACK AGAIN.

                      Well said, David. In the spirit of being positive today (oftentimes I can be a right miserable twat), I recommend rum and ginger beer: to quench the thirsts of the wronged, the outraged or the disenfranchised.
                      I hear it was put together in Jamaica, and boy, those people know how to dance.

                      I am wronged, outraged and disenfranchised;
                      ergo, rum and ginger beer and Pixies in the background.

                    • I type on my phone and it is hard to proofread so I do, at times, misspell words. “Cynicism” being one of them. But you sure told me by showing everyone that I mispelled it. Masterly!

                      Further, you have every right to assume I cannot read the contempt that lies between every word. Why? Because there is no subtext, no smirking, no “fuck you” lurking in your prose. Shit, if you don’t come right and say it… it isn’t in there. I think I read that in one of the scripts of The Wire.

                      I hope to tiny baby Jesus you can suss out the hints I’m dropping since I didnt’ come right and call you full of shit.

                      The master of TV subtlety tells me he didn’t come right and call me an idiot so he never thought or meant any such thing! That’s fucking hilarious.

                      At any rate, tech advance over the next 30 years will quite possibly radically change everything the way moveable type and gunpowder did.

                      As for letting you know when more of humanity is included in the bounty of the current capital paradigm… I’ll let you know now. It’s happening now; right now.

                      World poverty is at an all time low. Boom.

                      But I wonder if we can get rid of these Islamic regimes and failed states
                      which subjugate women as a rule, we can end more poverty than any modifications to our capital markets? Is the biggest obstacle to wealth creation in the 3rd world fundamentalist religion keeping women tied to chattle-like breeding protocols? Would giving them liberation from this (and a hand full of seeds through a micro-loan) benefit the whole society materially? I wonder if there are any studies that address this?

                      But saying Islam (in its 7th century manifestation) is a bigger threat to income equality than 21st century capitalism isn’t exactly cool right now. So I will not come right and say it. So, I clearly don’t think it, right?

                      xo! (sic)

                    • Lieutenant,

                      There was no contempt at all in either my tone or intent. The content, if you review it, was to acknowledge that I agreed with some of what you originally wrote, but not with the blanket assertion. I argued such.

                      If this space isn’t for discussion and argument, then what is its use? Your suppositions about my unspoken thoughts continues to mislead you, I think. You’d do better to read the actual lines and not what you presume to see between them.

          • Yeah, you can have a 48 inch Chinese TV for fifty bucks. There are more and better goods available to you now than ever in the history of humankind– unless you want to have a house. Unless you want to go to school. Unless you want to get treated if you get cancer. Unless you want to leave town on anything besides a homemade hang glider or the back of a donkey. Inflation has stopped for everything except fuel, housing, education, health care, and food– uh, what the fuck else is there? You think I’m buying a new TV every week? We are in an age where it’s easier to get anything except anything you might ever want. Porn and TV’s are easy to come by but knowledge and shelter and health are all impossible.

        • A major drawback in continuing to use household income as a measurement of inequality is the very nature of household formation itself during the last few decades. Divorce remains high, and, more recently, young people are waiting longer to marry thus creating more households with single incomes compared to the past. Further, the rate of married couples, and dual-income married couples, is highest the further up the income scale one moves. Lastly, highest earning households are comprised of older households filled with people in their peak earning years. All of those things contribute to distort our ability to ferret out the inequality issue, and those trends are apparent in most countries in the west. This isn’t to say that we’re not in the middle of some structural stagnation as economists like Tyler Cowen believe, but it seems to me to be a bit overblown. The people I see harping most on this inequality issue are those that live in areas with massive wealth concentration where envy is easiest piqued. Outside of those areas (North-eastern beltway, a few cities in California and Chicago) I don’t see the same discontent and constant concern over someone else earning more than another.

          • Actually, the disadvantage in using household income as a measurement of economic health goes the other way. At the beginning of the last century, American households were virtually all single-earner. Meaning that as many households are now dual-earner to achieve the same level of economic viability, the buying power of the average American worker has actually been more dramatically impaired. I wouldn’t try to imply that household income is biased against a defense of the economic status quo; in fact, my use of the measure already concedes the fact that most American households could be sustained by a single earner fifty years ago.

            • Part of the difficulty in revealing where we stand economically is that we no longer measure the same economic viability, even when controlled for inflation. We’ve convinced ourselves that we need quite a lot compared to even 40 years ago. When comparisons are made between the average sized home, the number of cars, extravagance of yearly vacations, the count and cost of possessions that we have today with those that were “normal” even then it’s amazing just how much crap we have by comparison. If more people were still content with 1400 sq ft in an average neighborhood, a 6-year-old 4-door Chevy, purchasing all our clothes from K-Mart, 1 living room console TV w/o cable, one land line, and a single-speaker transistor radio on the kitchen table (all things normal in ’73) we’d likely have a lot more single-earner families than we do today, and all of those things would be easier to attain today than they were in ’73 even adjusting for inflation.

      • An inarticulate hipster…ill agree, as I tend to ramble on when I post periodically. Mr. Diablo let me boil down the point I failed to make. Yes torture of enemy combatants is deplorable. But we have a legal and economic structure that allows deplorable shit to happen every second in this country. We are all in a race to get what’s ours. There is no shared sacrifice. Are today’s deplorable acts not as fucked up as one’s of the past….we can agree on that, as you say we are more wealthy healthy and humane…six to you, half a dozen to me i guess

        • As one suffering from economic torture and massive federal corruption reprehensible, I agree with much of what you state. That being said, this is a more fundamental issue. We can’t resolve the income disparity, cronyism and corruption – unless we first stand tall against the tyrannical.

          Justice Scalia came out with a mouthful yesterday, deserving of impeachment/ Forced retirement – on many levels. NOT Torture! Guilty until proven innocent. Senility! If we, you and I, don’t cry out more, on what’s being done in our name, more 12 year olds, crime lord single sig holders and demon looking giants that can fend off a dozen bullets – clarify that we don’t torture here;

          we just kill em!

        • Look at you being all self effacing and honest about your flaws. If only Mr Simon had such capacity for self critique.

          You make a good point about lack of common cause. I won’t object to that. But since that is kinda nebulous, I can’t feel confident about whether or not this has increased over time. I feel you’re right but can’t know for certain.

          What I do know is that war crimes that were much much worse in Vietnam and our wars in Central America were not getting people as upset as the (admittedly illegal and immoral) torture of a few people now. Why? Because the public is more humane and sees any deviation from our ideals as an outrage. This is good but it needs to be juxtaposed with the far far worse crimes of our recent past which were mostly ignored and accepted as ok by the public. Our use of torture, rape, murder was ubiquitous in Vietnam and Central America. And the discussion about it was much less couched in moral terms than today’s debate. People didn’t give 2 fucks about the Vietnamese or those murdered in Central America. The media only critiqued Vietnam to the extent that we weren’t WINNING, not that it was a crime. And Central America was even less covered in these terms. Our public debate is much more robust along moral terms and even the media is discussing it this way. That’s progress. But, more is needed… I admit.

          But to say things are worse today just isn’t borne out by the facts. Ask Chomsky himself, he says over and over that the public is more humane, and this pushes leaders toward that position. Any US president dropping a nuclear weapon on a civilian center would be unthinkable now, but 60 years ago it was seen as perfectly acceptable by most people. This is progress. I could give 1000 more examples… but I gotta go to work. Because I’m self employed, I work 7 days a week; which reminds me, there was a time when workers didn’t get a 40 hour week. If you’re enjoying a weekend break, maybe you can take the time to see that as progress too. 😉

      • Part 2 for Mr Diablo….one of many examples to choose from. Sub-Prime lending. Is it humane to at the click of a button jack up someone’s mortgage payments just cause? Then have your media henchmen go out and demonized those people for getting loans they couldn’t afford? How would you characterize the arduous pain one would endure in trying to maintain that home? Should one change their lifestyle to meet the new payments thus rendering them living paycheck to paycheck? Do they get more debt to go back to school to maybe make more? Do they get a second job that’ll maybe take them away from their family more, probably creating more problems? I characterize that as a form of torture, bit by bit slowly day by day all because someone had a selfish financial interest. And we all are guilty to some degree. We dont ask these questions when we get our 401k update. We dont ask who was laid off. Or who lost their house. As I stated, this is us, concerned about our own interest. Factor that with no share sacrifice, various forms of torturous behavior will occur. I hope my point was coherent this time lol 🙂

  • What are the alternatives? Were all of the methods used torture? How extensive was it? More importantly, had we not used these methods what would be the outcome? I know a thing or two about interrogation, and the methods used are unique to the subject. I guarantee that there were abuses and mistakes made. But, I can as easily guarantee that most of the time, the people involved acted professionally and focused on the best method to get the best results. I have been to Afghanistan and Iraq. I worked with the local population. They are fine people that have lived in a manner that isn’t too far removed from when Alexander passed through. They see the world from the village or tribe outward. They are not Afghans and more than you consider yourself North American. Iraqis, want to be modern, and more like the UAE or Dubai. But those are the people. I have dealt with various groups of criminal and terrorists. You can not simply say please and get the information that you need. They hate us. Not because we bombed them. Not because we meddle in their country. They hate us because we are, to them; infidels. Because we are vacant of the presence of God. So how do you deal with a minority of very bad people to protect a majority of very good people?

    • You don’t torture them. It is not a matter of alternatives. It is a matter of what is permissible if one is to claim a share of humanity. There is nothing ambiguous here. Nothing whatsoever. The moral question is not a relative one.

      • Whose humanity? I don’t see our ideal of humanity being shared by those that carried out the 9/11 attacks (and others like them that share their view). If people such as those totally disagreed with our notion of humanity, and wanted no part in sharing it does that change anything about your position?
        If it doesn’t, and if you maintain the position that the entire human race
        must strive for participating in your version of the ideal humanity then at what point does that stop being true? If we lose another 50,000 citizens to a dirty bomb or some such other attack does your position change? If not, then what about 2,000,000 lost? Still no?

        • Harry Truman once said, with regard to civil rights, that if you are going to hold a man down in the gutter, you’re going to have to get down in the gutter yourelf to hold keep him there. We are in the gutter.

    • “You can not simply say please and get the information that you need…”

      Apart from the very simple truth that Mr. Simon’s already pointed out in his reply to your comment (that you can’t torture people, under ANY circumstances, without losing your soul), what we’ve learnt – again – in the least weak is how ineffective these ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques are. Torture? Too high a price for so little payback.

      • Why would we abstain from torture just to protect the torturer’s soul? In a world where humans have ALWAYS tortured other humans what is special about us that leads you to believe we would rise above it now? To supposedly know that torture was ineffective would be to somehow know the counter-factual…which we can’t. I bet there is some amount or form of torture that would cause all of us commenting on this blog to divulge all. You disagree?

    • Just so I understand, in your opinion, abuses and mistakes are justified if the torturer acts “professionally”?
      You would have to be some heartless fuck of a human being to not be affected by the pain inflicted on an another. To my mind, only two types of people could be a professional torturer by your definition: psychopath or a sadist. Maybe a bit of both.
      Fuck it if I’ll have some short-haired, flag-waving Nazi banshee get his dollar and hard-on by being “focused” on the cause.
      What do you do with with a minority of very bad people? You prosecute them according to the facts at hand. And if those facts are unobtainable or do not exist, you can’t prosecute them. That goes for a rapist or a thief, or any other potential criminal. The Summum Bonum argument does not hold water. If you allow for abuse in any context, you’re opening up the validation for torture to be used to any other ‘suspect’. And where does that leave us?

      • How does a torturer being a psychopathic, sadistic heartless soul of a fuck somehow impact your decision about torture generally? This morning I got coffee from a truly soul-less bastard, and it doesn’t appear to have damaged my devout desire for coffee tomorrow morning. And “prosecute the according to the facts at hand…”, what does that even mean?
        These people aren’t US citizens subject to our laws and bound by our ethos, and, yes, that matters a hell of a lot. We “prosecute” the guy that steals a car, not the guy who smiles into the GoPro while holding your next door neighbor’s recently decapitated son’s head while shouting “allahu akbar”. That latter bastard needs to be tortured before he’s sent off to his 14 virgins.

        • Strange, but I believe I was born a human being before I was born an American. The equivocation of barbarism practiced against me as a non-Muslim infidel as being more justifiable than violence against other Muslims carries no weight in my mind; similarly, I find your equivocation of barbarism practiced against non-Americans as being somehow more tolerable than barbarism toward citizens to be equally loathsome.

          Not to mention that a full quarter of the suspects we tortured were entirely innocent.

          • And avoiding the distinction between someone that commits larceny or generic crime in our country with a jihadi who slaughters innocent westerners is just as loathsome to me. We can all desire to be “humans first”, but it’s our reaction to the first person(s) that don’t share that desire that really matters to my/our well-being.

            • Read me carefully. My comparison was not a distinction between our treatment of generic criminals and jihadis. My comparison was between jihadis who regard the lives of non-Muslims to be inferior and of less value than coreligionists, and Americans who suggest that our moral standards can be adjusted for non-citizens. That was the precise and equal hypocrisy in my eyes.

              Both impulses toward barbarism and inhumanity are equally contemptible.

              • I understand your position. You’ve made it clear that you believe there is no violent action another could take against us that would ever justify our using torture, in some capacity, as part of our response to their violence no matter how egregious their act. One of your concerns is that doing so would make us no better than them. We’ll agree to disagree. I prefer to think about this in terms of how human nature actually is as opposed to how we’d like for it to be, and everyone in this world does not want to subscribe to the “we are humans first club”. When some group attacks us in the way we were attacked on 9/11 I become quite tolerant of using an assortment of hideous actions against them in return if there was a possibility that it prevented further attacks, and I would support those politicians that feel the same way. Doing so, in your eyes and in the eyes of others here, makes me loathsome, contemptible and worse. That isn’t a heavy burden to bear, at least not as heavy a burden as knowing that future attacks were eminent, and occurred, and I did not support everything at our disposal to avoid it.

                • The heavy burden is not associated with what others might think of you. At least I assume otherwise.

                  The heavy burden is that your stance guarantees that eventually innocent people — people who have nothing to do with any imminent attack or any executed act of terrorism — will eventually be tortured because you regard your stance as justifiable. Remember, these are not even individuals who have had benefit of counsel or legal hearing. Read the report. We tortured — and in one case tortured to death — human beings, some of whom had zero to do with terrorism. By standards of what other Americans feel about the people capable of rationalizing that, I imagine you can rest easy. After all, that’s just an argument on the internet with people who don’t feel as you do politically.

                  By standards of say, the wives or children of innocent men tortured and murdered in an imprecise, extrajudicial exercise in targeted sadism, it gets harder. And if it doesn’t get harder for you, well, yes, there is a core of socioapathy that we have to call by its true name. At the point that the United States stands for such things, we stand for nothing that actually matters other than self-interest. And the only people willing to fight passionately for self-interest and degrade other human beings in the process are, well, sociopaths.

                  • And the other extreme is that your stance guarantees that terrorists, knowing that they would have full access to some form of legal council advising them against speaking, and having certainty that nothing truly terrible will occur to them in their decision to keep their secrets, would simply idle the time away while plans of mass-violence that they either took part in planning, or somehow knew about, were carried out.
                    Caricature? Maybe, but
                    if I described the events of 9/11 to you on 9/10/2001 I’d have said it was a far-fetched right-wing conspiracy too.

                    Prior to Sept 11, 2001 I shared your view, and spoke about it with the same conviction. The group of people that attacked that day were represented by no government that we could come to terms with or gain assistance from in preventing future attacks. Perhaps that has changed now. I don’t take any pride in supporting the idea that I leave the possibility of using any means necessary in the protection of US citizens. I don’t harbor any belief that we’re somehow better than others and thus more worthy of protection than others. I’ve just come to the sobering conclusion that, if I were told on Sept. 8, 2001 that our own intelligence services, along with those from other countries, had an extradinarily high degree of certainty that we were about to sustain a heavy attack sometime during the next 3 days that would assuredly kill many thousands of innocent US citizens, and that we had 119 people under
                    surveillance that could provide answers to stop it — I would end up agreeing to find out what they knew by any means necessary
                    in an attempt to try to prevent the attack. Even if I knew there was a slight chance some small percentage of people
                    knew nothing at all. Heavy burden? Absolutely.

                    • Why give anyone rights? Why have any trials?

                      If the evil are capable of evil, why not do all we can to stop them, regardless? Why play games? With foreign enemies or domestic? If preventing evil at all costs is the equation then the Bill of Right is expendable. Habeus corpus? Fuck that. Reasonable bails? Civil forfeiture without prosecution? Elimination of parole. Mandatory minimum sentences…

                      The same logic that does away with due process in wartime detention has little patience on the domestic front either. Pretty soon, you’re the jailingest society in the history of mankind and your prison population is the least violent in your history. Pretty soon, you have militarized police units shooting unarmed men dead in the street and grand juries believing it justified.

                      When you devalue human rights in one place, you devalue it everywhere. When one human being is stripped of his dignity, we all are vulnerable. When one enemy is dehumanized, we all become less human.

                      I’m sorry you can’t see that, or believe it. But it’s true.

                  • (In response to your 8:41pm reply)
                    It’s not a matter of seeing or believing, it’s about my preference in where I want to exist along the continuum between being a pragmatist or being an absolutist in some of these things and how it contrasts with yours. In our country a current is underway that recognizes some of the changes that need to be made in the “war on drugs” and its impact on prison populations. There’re rumbling on both the right and left that municipal police departments do not need military surplus equipment to do their jobs. Organizations like The Institute for Justice are doing great work in shining a light into corrupt and daft policies like civil forfeiture
                    and other abuses of civil rights. All of these are very positive, in my mind, and are proof that it’s not as bleak a picture as you paint. I’m an absolutist on somethings while more pragmatic on others as I’m sure you are.

                    With respect to foreign terrorists that exist in countries with no institutions that value human life equally, that have no desire to
                    apprehend their own citizens that plan to do harm to those in other countries, and have no intention of working with the governments in other countries to create a safe world for us all – what we redress to we have with them, and what recourse
                    do we have when attacked? None. As General Musharaff said himself after the events of 9/11. He knew about the madras’s that were teaching anti-western hatred, and he knew that his border with Afghanistan was infiltrated with terrorists, and he didn’t do much about it until the US Federal Govt told him that he would be bombed into the stone-age if he didn’t
                    cooperate in helping us find those that were responsible. Under your moral purity stance how far would we have gotten
                    with a country like Pakistan…who even the Obama Administration continues to drone-bomb with surprising frequency?

                    Per your urging I’m on page 60 of the SIC’s report on CIA torture…thanks for that, by the way, the damned thing is 500 pages long. To your credit, I probably wouldn’t have bothered reading it otherwise.

                    • This sophistry is getting longer and more rationalization is required with each posting.

                      I’ll become brief: Torture is moral failure. It is a crime against humanity. Once we give in to the desire and rationalize the necessity, we are totalitarian sadists. And if we are that, then there is nothing about America that is worth defending, or fighting for, and no reason other than self-interest to hope for our endurance as a society.

                  • And in my final reply to this particular post, I’ll be brief as well, by letting David Simon show David Simon how easy it is to rationalize away the slaughter of hundreds of innocent children in the name of a “dirty” war. Shocking you’re absolute moralist position is less than vehement when it involves the truly innocent instead of just the potentially innocent.


                    “The drone strikes are terrifying as a harbinger of the human future, and I am unconvinced that they are precise and pristine as our
                    government wants you to believe. We miss. We kill innocents. No doubt. But all forms of warfare are imprecise — some, such as saturation
                    bombing, are ridiculously so. And yet, targeted assassination has thinned the ranks and unbalanced the leadership of an actual extra-legal
                    entity that is engaged in active warfare not merely against American military targets but against American civilians.

                    The legal argument that we are targeting not recognized combatants of a nation-state — in which case a certain residue of due process
                    under the rules of war would apply — is compelling. We cannot demand any corresponding due process from AL Qaeda or others of that cohort.
                    if they bring down an airliner, if they target an ambassador, there is no remedy in due process. Dirty war means what it means. And the Israelis,
                    as an existential necessity, have been surviving in the roughest of neighborhoods and relying on targeted assassination as a survival technique for
                    forty years. You can register your distaste, and you can acknowledge that there are debilitating moral costs to asymmetrical warfare and targeted
                    assassination. You cannot effectively argue in the wake of a Munich or a Maalot or a 911 or a Bali or a Benghazi that responsible governments
                    should refrain from targeting suspected members of the organizations responsible because there ought to be due process involved. Due process with whom?
                    With what government entity are you going to file a legal brief? In what failed state are you going to appeal for justice.”

        • Okay, David Winfield. Just to debate with you, I’ll play along. I know we’re not going to agree but you’ve asked, so I’ll answer. You quote me as saying “prosecute the according to the facts at hand…”
          If you’re going to quote me, at least be accurate; I said: “You prosecute them according to the facts at hand.”
          Right, you missed the m.

          It never fails to surprise me that the ones advocating torture lack ATTENTION TO DETAIL.
          Just so you understand my position (and, I think, most rational people will); if I suspect someone of committing a crime, I have to have evidence of that, and the opportunity to present that in court.
          To torture and imprison somebody else, without them ever getting a chance to tell their side of the story is retrograde to civilised protocol.
          You think everyone in Guantanamo is a terrorist? Really? Fuck.
          With people like you, they’ll come out that way if they weren’t in the first place.

          • Graham Eaglesham, Right, that “m” was a distinction that changed everything about the point you were trying to make. My accidentally dropping it from my quote of you changed the entire thrust of your point…. Actually, I have no real disagreement with your rational. In fact, I now realize that I may be guilty of projecting a specific point into your comment that you likely weren’t making. It seems the CIA was rounding up various people that weren’t armed combatants, but, instead, just “suspects” in the general sense of the word. And in some of these cases yanking these people from their lives and detaining them months without charging them etc. If the reports from the Senate are to be believed. I understand the outrage in those cases.

        • Wow, so you openly support torture not even as a means of gathering intelligence, but simply as a form of retribution and punishment towards someone you want to be simply executed after the torture is finished anyway?

          Wow. Yeah. I don’t even know what to say to that. Sounds real civilized?

          • I was describing these monsters that are hacking people’s heads off and celebrating with the sphere afterwards. So, yes, for them I have no qualms with making them suffer before sending them under. Perhaps that’s a bit too much residual anger talking after recently watching one of those scenarios carry itself out online, but maybe not. The general angle of this conversation, though, has dealt more with those whose guilt isn’t fully known. I really wrestle with that. I’d love to be able to hold the absolute morally righteous position, but don’t think I can.

    • “You can not simply say please and get the information that you need.”

      Right. Because saying please and brutal torture are the only two alternatives.

      I think it’s been made clear here – this isn’t about what certain people feel about us here or there. It’s about us and what we stand for.

      If you really think that this has nothing to do with America and has everything to do with religion, then why is there so much vitriol focused on us rather than on the multitude of other non-Muslim nations?

  • For folks saying that The Geneva Conventions need updating, they were. In 1984, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    The Convention was endorsed and signed on behalf of the United States in 1988 by . . . wait for it . . . President Reagan, who made special mention in his signing statement that “Each State Party [i.e., including us] is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.


    Call me cynical, but I expect this will be the one case where Fox et al. will sharply distance themselves from President Reagan, though there is no ambiguity whatsoever in either the Convention or in Reagan’s signing statement as to the legality of the actions alleged in the Senate report.

  • Dear Mr. Simon,

    Long-time reader and viewer of your work, first-time interloper here.

    Do you see any significant correlation between the exceptional yet sanctioned brutality abroad confirmed by the recent Senate’s report on the CIA, and the increasingly visible yet, again, troublingly sanctioned cases of brutality against unarmed men of color in our country?

    I don’t mean to derail the current discussion of wrongful torture of detainees by our government, nor to suggest that injustices against foreigners ride backseat to domestic ones. Rather, I’m asking if by comparing the broken anatomies of the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, we might consider some mutual pathogens of injustice, as well as what the limits of such comparative anatomy might be.

    I wonder if you are familiar with Mark Danner’s recent writing on torture and the profound problems with American exceptionalism. After reading your post, I revisited a prescient 2011 essay of his in which he argues:

    Call it, then, the state of exception: these years during which, in the name of security, some of our accustomed rights and freedoms are circumscribed or set aside, the years during which we live in a different time. This different time of ours has now extended ten years—the longest by far in American history—with little sense of an ending. Indeed, the very endlessness of this state of exception—a quality emphasized even as it was imposed—and the broad acceptance of that endlessness, the state of exception’s increasing normalization, are among its distinguishing marks. (Full article here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/oct/13/after-september-11-our-state-exception/)

    Both the thesis and its implications are simultaneously compelling and disturbing: short-term “emergency” has become long-term “exception,” and with regard to the war on terror, we occupy a legal-political state of exception whose very “exceptionality” tends towards forty-degree-day-normalization behind spurious if not specious justifications and pitiful lack of transparent oversight. (I see you similarly cite the problem of “normalization… of brutality” in your reply to Mr. Seymour’s comments above.) Reform in such a state becomes not only increasingly unlikely but also difficult to conceive, regardless of who or what political party happens to possess the means, let alone the will. When Danner writes forebodingly in the concluding paragraph, “No one, Republican or Democrat, wants to be accused of ‘coddling terrorists'”, I can’t help but think of your analogous skepticism about drug law reform and your frequent argument that no viable candidate for political office can ever appear to be “soft on crime.”

    My specific question then is: (how) do you see our national war on drugs–or, as you have often suggested, our war on the underclass–as evidence of a “state of exception”? Or (how) not? If I’m reading your post right, part of your jeremiad–that’s a compliment, btw–is a critique of the prideful myth of American exceptionalism precisely at a moment of “national humiliation”, of the truly dangerous fiction that sustains the abhorrent practice of torture at its ideological roots, diminishes civic discourse thereof into sound and fury, and ultimately neuters meaningful political action. But I also imagine that you would be reluctant to describe the broken aspects of American (drug) law enforcement as “exceptional” or indicative of a “state of exception.” That is, at least according to a definition of the state of exception (via Agamben) as that which “transcends the borders of the strictly legal” or “a position at the limit between politics and law”, it would seem that your arguments decry not exceptional injustice, but rather systemic legal and political injustices that are quite un-exceptional. (Or is it perhaps that we unjustly apply a state of exception to our underclass?) What is remarkable about all the recent killings from Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner is the seemingly inevitable “legality” if not legitimacy of the criminal actions committed whenever justice against the killers is sought. Ironically, those least willing to discuss longstanding cultural, racial, and institutional tissues of such injustice seem most often to ascribe “exceptional” status to these cases and almost farcically refuse to see the proverbial forest.

    Put another away, much of your work, especially The Wire, seems to argue that post-industrial America has produced entire forests of the underclass to whom the American dream–one might say, the “good” kind of exceptionalism that is often said to spur social mobility, personal agency, and self-determination–is systematically and routinely denied. To paraphrase McNulty, what to your mind is problematically exceptional–or unexceptional–about the “love in our hearts” for our ongoing two wars? What does your/our experience with the drug war and its moral brutalization of both victims and enforcers have to teach us about the war on terror? At what point do you see such comparisons flawed, misguided, or otherwise ineffective?

    Sincere thanks for reading this lengthy post, and apologies in advance for any lack of clarity or focus on my part (I need an editor, I know). Your response to any of the above questions would be much appreciated.

    Brooklyn, NY

  • This episode has done more to depress my view of my fellow Americans than just about any other. That they are so scared they are reduced to a puddle of warm piss of the threat of terrorism – when other threats to our nation have been far more dire and difficult – is a sign that present-day Americans are a pale shadow of our forebears.

    Let’s get one thing clear: Torture is not about gaining intelligence. It is not about stopping the next attack. Torture is not about finding the truth. Torture is about covering the asses of the politicians and their yes-men toadies in constructing a security theater narrative that they’re doing everything they possibly can, up to and including violating America’s laws, treaty obligations, and fundamental values. It is what FDR explicitly warned us about: fear itself.

    We now know that the CIA tortured more than two dozen individuals who were not terrorists and were not guilty of any crime against Americans. The CIA simply did not know who they really were – thinking they were someone else, they tortured them repeatedly. What intelligence could they provide? What plots could they reveal? They knew nothing, and yet they were tortured. This is what the “War on Terror” has brought us, and it has made us less secure, not more.

    Prosecutions *must* ensue from this evidence. If we fail, the terrorist will have truly won because they will have caused us to change ourselves into a more brutal, a more immoral, and a more lawless country than we were on September 10, 2001.

  • Between this and the Rolling Stone hoax I find myself slipping into the idea that libertarianism is the way to go, and it is a terrible feeling. What a horrible week.

    • I realize that this comment section is not the place to tackle all problems, but I think it’s much too early to call the UVa/Rolling Stone situation a “hoax.” The journalist may have been unethical or misled, the editorial decisions may have been poor. We don’t know about Jackie. Obviously the details don’t add up but there could be other things at play here.

      Unfortunately words matter in this case because of the wider implications – already people of a certain mindset argue that this casts aspersions on women in general.

      And I have no idea how libertarianism would change anything.

      • I remember why I drifted left after growing up around a family of republicans. It started after the 2004 election when all the white lies started to catch up with the conservative movement. Both the politicians and the conservative media (fox news) could never admit a story or angle was wrong. Because at the end of the day it was the message that mattered, not the actual facts. Remember if you spoke out against the war in Iraq, it meant you hated the troops. It didn’t matter what the facts said, it was dangerous to be against what the commander and chief says during war. If you were against the 100-1 crack sentencing laws, it meant you wanted little Rob to die from drugs, not that you saw the unintended consciences of such an unjust law.

        Now obvious this continues to this day. See Benghazi, debt, what caused the crisis and on and on. The lies continue and no one in their media dares call them out because that would make them a troop hating, liberal, who wants everyone in the country on the dole.

        This same strategy is now being used by the liberal media. Hey the facts don’t matter, it’s the message that counts. So it doesn’t matter if fake dates, fake photos, fake names, fake phone numbers, combined with a scene that would require 50 year prison sentences and sounds like something out of the hackiest horror writer of all time. If you dare question the story, it means you hate women and love assault. It’s the far left’s WMD’s. And they will hold onto it for ever because the message is more important than the facts. I remember when the left was the stay out of my personal life government. Now they want to police the clothes scientists wear. They have become zealots, and zealots always destroy a party.

        Why libertarian? Well that may be a little bluster, because I almost guarantee I end up voting for Hillary, but at times they seem to be the only ones who give a crap what we did in the name of national security. Because if you think anything will happen to the people who ordered those deeds, then you are clueless.

        PS. All the new get the assaulters stuff on campus won’t get the intended people (the evil rich white males). Those kids have daddies money and the lawyers and connections that come with that. The poor and especially minorities will be the ones who deal with the fallout of panic passed laws. Like always.

        • Gotta echo Katie’s sentiments above — I’m not getting the connections you’re making here. The UVA/ROLLING STONE story is still developing and it has zero to do with torture, national security or politics. Can we stay roughly on topic here?

          • It’s in the same vein. If you criticize the torture report a certain type of person and the conservative media will accuse you of loving terrorists and hating the troops. No sane person is, but its a great way to get the moral high ground and soon became the general wisdom. (see Iraq)

            Now we have the liberal version of it. Sad to see our media use the same tricks to save face.

            • I still think it is a huge leap, but I’ll respond anyway. The problem with that analogy is that the Senate report is factual and undisputed either by the CIA or any other entities involved. The ROLLING STONE story, while certainly questionable and *possibly* containing a breach of a number of journalistic ethics, is still being investigated internally and externally, and the facts are simply not known yet. Some of them will probably never be known, but the questions of why the journalist did not contact sources she claimed to have contacted have not been answered, and it is inaccurate to declare that you know “the truth” about it until all of those matters are settled.

              Criticizing the factuality of the Senate Report would be silly, because it is not in question. The government voluntarily released this information and is vouching for its truthfulness.

              Criticizing the factuality of the ROLLING STONE story is fine, but being firmly convinced that it is a “hoax” while the story is still being investigated and nothing has been proven or disproven does imply bias on your part.

  • Sadly the report did not surprise me. Since 9/11 my assumption was, is and has always been that torture is used under the premise that we could obtain information that will keep us safe.

    I will admit to being cynical and disheartened by our government.

    The action of ordering torture or carrying out torture is a function of fear, reactivity and helplessness. It is something that serves a need to feel power and do something while feeling powerless and it has nothing to do with an end result. There are those who roundly support torture and “any means necessary” in response to global terrorism and to hear them speak is akin to listening to a child indulging in revenge fantasies.

    When I think of the USA and the people who live here fear, reactivity and helplessness are not the words that have typically come to mind, but more and more they do seem to be words our government and lawmakers/decision makers have come to personify.

    The Geneva Conventions protect only those who are in agreement about the definitions and who share moral context. The North Vietnamese tortured the majority of American POWs as they considered them guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Once they had those “trials” there was no protection under the conventions.

    John McCain speaks against torture as someone who experienced it and his point that to resort to tactics such as torture undermine our values and beliefs is a powerful one.

    When you choose to become exactly like those you are fighting against even when you “win” you lose.

  • You said : My government should never torture people. Not even those involved in the mass murder of thousands.

    Why? Bear in mind your enemies have no qualms lopping the heads of off innocent health-workers.

    Please justify your position using ethics.

          • So torturing one person to prevent the death of a hundred(or even two) innocent lives, you’re not comfortable with that?

            That’s what we’re dealing with, right? Neither you or I know what the CIA know, so this whole debate is an abstraction, it’s an armchair warrior debate where we get to feel morally superior without access to relevant intelligence, which may make the decision easier.

            • The Senate report offers not a single instance in which torture resulted in an intelligence gain. And professional interrogators will tell you that physical threats or actions are the least effective way to glean accurate information in an interrogation. So you are not merely being abstract in constructing such a scenario, you are arguing against the known opposites.

              But let’s pretend torture was actually more than an exercise in useless sadism. No, I would not torture one person to save lives because ultimately the normalization of higher levels of brutality by one combatant leads to the widespread use of that barbarism on every side of the conflict. Witness the radicalization of ISIS and its tactics after more than a decade of rendition, torture and operations by the U.S. outside the norms of international law. Why do you think all of those beheaded in those videos are dressed in the orange jumpsuits of Guantanamo? As justification for the escalation itself. Barbarism begets more barbarism. And achieves nothing in the end save for a radicalization beyond all previous limit.

            • This is always how this argument ends: the ’24’ scenario where the only way to save millions is to torture the terrorist with the nuclear bomb. This isn’t reality.

              In reality, you have a detainee and limited evidence of what they know. In reality, you don’t know if plots are occurring. In reality, the information you get may just be lies (as it was) that provokes you to detain and torture innocents. And in reality, when you torture someone, it eventually leaks out and destroys any moral argument you are trying to make that helps differentiate between you being the “good guys” and them being the “bad guys”. You lose public support, you lose the support of your allies, and you lose the support of decent people in the areas you are trying to pacify or occupy.

              As the Senate report indicated, innocent people were tortured. Likely guilty people were also tortured, but far worse than anybody would have imagined. And the result of this torture was nothing. We learned nothing. The CIA wasn’t the hero at the end of a ’24’ episode. All that they did was dishonor the country and probably recruit more terrorists which probably cost more American lives. I had a former shipmate of mine die in Afghanistan a couple years ago. I wonder if his death was in any way due to the continued recruitment that this type of torture has created. I also have to wonder how many Americans died due to this recruitment and disillusionment. Is it more than your theoretical ‘hundreds’ that could be saved if torture only worked? I would guess so.

              • 24? Nah, I was thinking more in terms of trolley ethics, Utilitarianism, and deontology. . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

                I recently did an ethics course .This dilemma is perfect for working through ethical theory.Sometimes you could argue that you are compelled to do morally repugnant things for the greater good. If the ends justify the means.

                • Unfortunately academic theories, as usual, do not capture how the world works. Your example of utlititarianism is limited to one decision in one moment of time. But in the real world that one decision to torture has ripple effects, it becomes a “policy” that plays out over and over. It seeps in the culture and the barbarism deepens and grows. So now, you need to measure the utilitarianism of how a policy choice plays out over years and years. Torture is disasterous over the long term. Its similar to why the US refuses to negotiate with hostage takers. You pay the ransom once and get that hostage back, but you end up encouraging hostage taking and more deaths. Torture doesn’t work for the same reason.

                • What did your ethics course tell you about the situation when pushing the fat man onto the tracks doesn’t actually save the lives of anyone? The man you pushed dies, and so do the others?

                  That is essentially the dilemma the CIA had when it turned out they tortured completely innocent men. About 1 in 4 of the people the CIA tortured were *not terrorists*. They had no intelligence to offer, there was no value in torturing them for information.

                  The problem with the trolley problem is that it presumes you have 100% certainty that your actions will give you the result you want. Reality provides us no such certainty that what we think we know is actually true.

                  • There are no rules in ethics.If you can argue logically that, for example, torture is ok in certain circumstances because in balance the good outweighs the bad, then even though torture is repugnant wouldn’t make it unethical. often group consensus makes a difference.

                    • Logic = without emotion, btw.

                      Often times the right or wrong decision can only be assessed with hind sight. It’s not scientific. It’s about action which bridges the gap between science and philosophy.

                      When, for example, the allies dropped nukes on Japan, no doubt before that happened it would be easy to recoil with horror, and say that was a torturous proposition in history. Don’t hear many liberals condemning it though.

                    • If there are no rules in ethics, then you cannot use logic to argue about the balance between good and bad. Because logic is a series of very strict rules and arguing about the balance between good and bad is–say it with me kids–ethics.

                      It’s like you turned a freshman logic book into refrigerator magnets and are randomly arranging them into sentences.

                    • We are emotional beings. I don’t understand why you would think an argument bereft of emotion is superior. Or necessary.

                    • How can you say there are no rules in ethics? There is an entire field of ethics called rule utilitarianism for the explicit purpose of creating rules so that you don’t get into these silly ends-justify-the-means arguments or evaluate things in a piecemeal fashion instead of understanding the overriding principles. Other fields of ethics, like Kantian ethics are based on evaluating rules that you might formulate and seeing if they could be universally applied (and where human beings themselves wouldn’t be used as a means to an end).

                      What I and others have repeatedly pointed out is that unless you can predict the future, then you can’t use an ends-justify-the-means argument. The only realistic method in those cases is to formulate general rules that could guide your conduct. This is where things like the rule of law, conventions against torture, and the bill of rights spring from. These rules and principles are what maximize the utility in your pseudo-utilitarian argument, not the piecemeal evaluation that torturing a terrorist this “one time” is worth it.

        • For me, the use of torture by any democracy-loving government can NEVER be justified or condoned. Period. This is one of the very, very few issues that are “black and white” for me, no grey areas, whatsoever.

          Having said that, I would defer to seasoned and competent interrogators who may deem it necessary, in rare circumstances, to resort to the use of torture. However, that need and action should, in no way, diminish from the fact that torture is the equivalent of pure evil and should be punished in a court of law.

          Depending on the circumstances under which the decision to resort to the use of torture was taken (by seasoned and competent interrogators, I hasten to reiterate), the penalty for this crime may be appropriately mitigated.

          • Until it affects you? Suppose your spouse is held captive by Isis in a secret location, and they are threatening to behead him. The CIA have picked up someone, with regard to reliable intelligence which strongly suggests he knows your spouses whereabouts – was probably even involved – but refuses to talk under traditional interrogation. Lets up the ante, if released most likely he’ll kidnap more innocents.

            Still feel so sure?.

            • And maybe if the guy has an a nuclear bomb perched over Manhattan and there’s only five minutes left before…

              Are you undertaking a serious examination of a moral stance, or writing hackneyed screenplays? Torture would not save my spouse. But it would debase my cause, my moral argument in the conflict, and of course, myself. And as I will have demonstrated my willingness to advance sadism to my enemies, ever more people will be taken hostage and dressed in orange and murdered, ever more brutally.

              But even as an interrogation tactic, torture doesn’t work. Read that fucking report. That you are so invested in believing in it as a method, absent any actual evidence, is beginning to be ugly and disturbing. You want it to be a meaningful response. Why? Because you want to torture your enemies? Examine that. Honestly.

            • Well, in a word, yes …

              I mean, as I said, I would defer to the expertise of the interrogators but would still want them held accountable for their resort to the use of torture; if the circumstances were such that innocent lives were saved as a result of their actions, then I would expect that the penalty for their actions would be largely mitigated.

              I guess what I’m saying is that the use of torture should never be considered as anything but the evil that it is.

      • No one is talking about becoming the enemy. But let’s start with the politicians who authorize torture.

        Let’s start with the politicians who first authorized “Rendition,” the outsourcing of prisoners to allied countries that routinely use more horrific tortures than waterboarding or sleep deprivation or enemas or feeding Ensure instead of real food. Let’s then go after the politicians who authorize casual drone strikes which kill civilians, even if those civilians are in the same apartment block as a mid-level terrorist.

      • I think so, too.

        And never mind the moral imperatives against torturing human beings. As an interrogation tactic to acquire accurate intelligence information, or honest testimony, it is wholly ineffective.

        It’s not only morally repugnant, it’s tactically unsound.

        • I completely agree.

          However, there are some people for whom I have a great deal of respect – okay, one in particular – who persists in arguing that torture continues to be used because it works.

          I say, the efficacy of torture is beside the point. Which is that torture should never be condoned or justified by any nation that aspires to greatness or exceptionalism.

          Nations that presume to be global leaders must accept that they may forfeit the capture of valuable and actionable intel by remaining true to the values that give them the right and moral authority to lead the world.

          • I agree. however, we’re dealing with enemies who don’t play by idealised theoretical rules of warfare.
            Hey, if the USA was so morally superior, why don’t they abolish the military completely? War is wrong. By your logic you should become a tax avoider, since your few cents help build the military industrial complex. no?.

            • Please, we’re not talking about war, here. We’re talking about how to interrogate a detainee. Try not to confuse the two.

              And, for the record, I’m not a pacifist.

              • I think see what Derek’s getting at and I don’t think it’s as easy to draw the line as other people do.

                From what I’ve seen it definitely seems like torture doesn’t work. But, I don’t think (could definitely be wrong) the people who did it did it because they enjoyed it. I think they probably figured it was a way to get people to talk.

                I think whether they “enjoyed” it or not plays a factor in whether it was torture or whether they were just doing something they thought might work.

                It’s easy for all of us here to type on our keyboards and say “blah this” and “blah that”. It’s a completely different when it’s your real responsibility.

                I think it’s pretty interesting that Dianne Fienstein was all up in arms about this when she didn’t care when the NSA was (is) spying on us but got all in a huff when it was was revealed they spied on congress too. So, I don’t really trust anything she says.

                I trust what McCain says because he was actually tortured, so yeah they probably shouldn’t have done it but I can see why they did.

                  • Yeah, I think it can be, but I could definitely be wrong. I mean our goal was to “exterminate” al qaeda, right? I’d bet (one more time, might be wrong) that there are some people within al qaeda who are so hardcore and so committed that no amount of regular interrogation would work. Now, I’m not an interrogator, not a soldier, and have only seen the middle east on a map. But, we’re dealing with people who GLADLY die for their cause and gladly behead others on camera. If there’s a guy among them who would only respond to the fear of pain when he’s (or she’s) being interrogated, I say do it.

                    I’m definitely arguing from a “position of ignorance” becuase I don’t have any personal experience in any side of this, but I was just kind of weirded out on here when I saw so many people who seemed to see it as a real “clear cut” issue.

                • I wouldn’t be so quick to say that they did it because they think it could have worked. As the case of Abu Zubaydah pointed out, he was interrogated normally then left in isolation for the summer of 2002 while the government tried to figure out how to justify torture. This indicates that they weren’t concerned about the super time-sensitive information he would give if we only tortured him now.


                  I think a lot of this is about having contempt for the civil rights of our enemies. The government tortured because it figured it could get away with it. It reminds me how gleeful people were when the prosecutor for the Boston Marathon bombing said she wasn’t going to mirandize the living suspect prior to initial questioning. Why would they be so happy to state that publicly? Why were they patting themselves on the backs for denying a major civil right?

                  My opinion is that the government tortured and denied others their civil rights because they felt they weren’t worthy of them. It allows them to pretend that they are tough on terror and attack their political opponents for caring about a detainee’s civil rights. I think they tortured because they imagined that this is what was required to be strong against terrorism–to cross those barriers that nobody else would dare. And I imagine that they felt that if there was another terrorist attack and it came out that they supported their detainee’s civil rights, that Americans would turn on them. So whether or not torture worked, it provided political cover.

                  • On one hand, you kind of make sense to me because the politicians will try to exploit “being tough on terror” and use it to their advantage…no doubt about that.

                    On the other, things like “detainee’s civil rights”…Just not sure about that. I don’t know that detainees have “civil rights”. Maybe I’m reading that wrong. I mean there seems to be a lot of murkiness around the Zubaydah guy, but from what I can tell, he’s not completely innocent. I mean it’s not like we’re dealing with people who just knocked off a liquor store. We’re dealing with the kind of people who gladly beheaded other people on camera. To me, they don’t really deserve much at all from us.

                    …BUT…If I was an afgan farmer and saw my sons blown up by an errant bomb (by us or the soviets or pakastainis or whovever), I’d be pretty ticked too and I’d want some payback. So, given that a lot of these people have been in one war or another for like 40 or 50 years, I can kind of get how they’d like to kill us.

                • Arm chair warriors bro. I guess it feels righteous to look down on the terrible decisions the CIA were faced with, and claim ” I’m better, I’d never do that”. Meanwhile sipping a latte. In safety..

                  • What you don’t seem to know or choose to ignore is that there are many professional interrogators in the CIA and FBI who did their jobs admirably with the use of non-coercive methods and obtained useful and actionable intelligence from the detainees they interrogated.

                    Even the current CIA director believes that “effective non-coercive methods are available to elicit [the kind of information obtained through interrogations that involve EITs]”.

                    Why is it that you are so intent on arguing in favour of the use of torture?

                    • Why is it that you are so intent on arguing in favour of the use of torture?

                      I’m not…really. I enjoy sometimes taking an oppositional stance (especially with liberals) to see how they hold up..

                      That doesn’t mean I agree or disagree with your opinion. I would be more inclined, at this stage to agree with the majority opinion. But is has been poorly argued.

                      I pop in here from time to time to read what the the intellectual heavyweights think. But “just because” is no way to conduct an argument. As Simon is fond of saying, do better…

                      *typed with a mouse, so excuse any mistakes.

                    • Do better?

                      Torture runs counter to everything this country stands for – unalienable rights, city on the hill, the guys in the white hats and all that jazz. Or are you willing to argue that only Americans are endowed by their creator with such rights?

                      The bottom line is that if the argument that torture is wrong doesn’t satisfy you because it doesn’t tick of adequate intellectual boxes on your checklist of valid arguments, your framework should be reexamined, not Ms. Miller’s words.

                • ” …I was just kind of weirded out on here when I saw so many people who seemed to see it as a real “clear cut” issue.”

                  I don’t understand why you would feel that way.

                  The question of whether or not torture should ever be condoned or justified, or referred to as anything other than the evil it is (EITs!? … give me a freakin’ break! I mean, seriously!?), is as clear cut as it can possibly get.

                  Now, in some extremely rare circumstances an experienced and competent interrogator may feel the need to resort to the use of torture to save innocent lives from imminent death or harm, in which case I would, of course, defer to the interrogator.

                  However, that interrogator should still be prosecuted for his crime and, if circumstances warrant, the punishment may be mitigated.

                  There are no grey areas there, Jonathon. Not in my book, anyway. Nor should there be, in my view, for any nation that presumes to be exceptional and a global leader.

                  • I pretty much agree on the fact that when you break the rules, even if you’re doing it because you think you need to, you have to face the music.

                    I watched charlie rose last night and he had a pretty good interview with one of the CIA suits involved with torture:


                    The whole interview is probably out there somewhere. Anyway, to me, he makes a pretty good argument. It’s a little “orwellian” using “EIT”s for torture, but, I kind of believe him even if maybe I shouldn’t.

                    A few points he makes are:
                    Only people who didn’t respond to other techniques and were thought to have a lot of info were tortured (he might be BS’ing on this, I’m not sure).
                    They analyzed what people said before and after torture and they seemed to get more valuable information after torture (once again, maybe BS).

                    The one thing that’s definitely not BS is that I think we’re dealing with a special breed of ahole when we’re dealing with terrorists. And I could definitely see some of them being sooo dedicated to their cause that no amount of “psychological” massaging would get them to talk.

                    But, it’s really probably likely that I’m wrong and that, in the long run, it’s better to not torture because, for sure, we’ll outlast the terrorists and when we come out on the other side, it’ll be a lot better if we hadn’t tortured. But, I can still see why we did it.

                    • The report indicates that the “better information” obtained by torturing people was in fact unreliable.

                • Jonathon,

                  I’ll take a look at that Charlie Rose interview but, the preponderance of evidence and testimony from seasoned FBI interrogators who have a great deal of experience questioning detainees who are violent extremists does not support the use of torture or its efficacy. At best, the intelligence gathered from the use of torture has been described as erratic.

                  But, again, for me, the question of efficacy is not relevant. I see this issue as undoubtedly black and white in that the use of torture should never be justified or condoned, in any circumstances.

                  Ali Soufan, one of those seasoned and extremely competent interrogators makes a very good point when he asks how far down the path of torture would an interrogator go to obtain intelligence … do any of us even want to explore where that course of action would lead?

                  I mean, I heard today an interview with the SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden – he essentially said that anything short of the death of a detainee would NOT constitute torture but, rather would only render the detainee into varying degrees of discomfort. Scary, scary stuff …

            • Derek, the whole point of fighting fascism in the 30s & ’40s was that we weren’t barbaric fascists. It’s not just some superhero platitude. What’s the point of fighting Nazis if you become Nazis fighting Nazis? You fight fascism to defeat fascism. Not to become fascists. Simple, really.

              Don’t get me wrong, I’m for fighting fascism here, there and everywhere, but the main reason I’m for it is because in our culture and our laws and sometimes even in our politics we generally don’t believe (or didn’t used to believe) in torture. Or genocide or sex-slavery or beheading or non-conversion slaughters or crucifixions either. All are equally against the law and morally repugnant to just about everybody. So whenever anyone from “our” side crosses that line or breaks those laws they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law so that it’s shown to all that these principles are something worth fighting for. Otherwise let’s all just join ISIS and be done with it.
              Sorry for the late jump in.

        • “moral imperatives against torturing human beings”

          Exactly. There’s a lot I’ve forgotten from undergrad philosophy courses, but this one sticks. There are certain things you don’t do ever, for any reason, and to live otherwise is to condone them.

          • Kant said we should never lie. His categorical imperative (a kind of categorical imperative) is an abstraction from the reality of how people are compelled to behave. His entire philosophy (deontology) should be ignored, since we are people, not gods.What’s left? Utilitarianism. Which can argue torture under the right circumstances is morally acceptable. Depends on the situation.

        • The question as to whether waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc. were ineffective is not really answered by the report as the staffers rushed it and did not interview any of the CIA personnel involved. There are really two points in this thread. The first question really is, MUST a democratic republic resort to these measures to gain the necessary intelligence it needs to survive? The second question is, if the answer to the first question is no, then who should be held responsible and how?

    • I knew someone would bring up the beheadings. Two things:

      1) This torture program has been in the works since 2001, the beheadings did not begin until years later. They are retaliation for the torture, not the the other way around. And before you say “these are terrorists and those are innocent journalists and aid workers”, well, our government won’t give anyone at Guantanamo due process or a trial so how would we know? The report indicates some were innocent. Whoops.

      2) Beheadings are gruesome and horrible. So is rectal force-feeding. We have no room to talk, and we have the CIA to thank for that.

      • Actually, the beheadings started many hundreds of years ago. That is the traditional method of dealing with infidels. I have been to these places, I have worked along side them. They do not think like an American. A very good friend of mine, that worked on our FOB was beheaded for talking to the daughter of a local war lord with out male members of the family present. We lost a translator because he simply worked for us. Both of them were placed along a road we frequent with their heads on their stomachs. We helped these people in the 80s defeat the Russians. You have the CIA to thank for that.

        • Oh, I didn’t know we were taking our blood feud back to the Crusades. All right.

          “They do not think like an American.”

          Does that mean they don’t think rectal force-feeding is a-ok? Because that’s probably a good thing

          “We helped these people in the 80s defeat the Russians.”

          Okay, first of all, I don’t know who you mean by “these people”. Not all beheadings have been committed in Afghanistan, but you are referring specifically to Afghanistan here, which itself contains a number of factions and ethnic groups, but okay, if you want to keep it that simplistic:

          Sure, and then we abandoned the country with no infrastructure (but some fun high-grade weapons for their arsenal!), no schools, no plumbing, no electricity, no police, etc. — basically a pile of rubble — and left a nice ripe void for the fundamentalist Taliban to sweep in and provide a government. I’m aware.

          I’m sorry about your friends, though.

        • Humans have been lopping off each other’s heads long before the founding of Islam, or any of the major religions. And beheadings and other less humane forms of ending life have continued, from the Caliphate to Christendom throughout the centuries.

          I wonder of some of the folks we burned alive with faulty electric chairs in the 20th century might have preferred a blade to the neck, or some killed with bad combinations of lethal drugs in modern day executions. At least done properly it’s quick.

          In any case, if you remove the method, the United States is way ahead of ISIS and Al-Qaeda on the killing scoreboard. I’ll sleep soundly knowing we are far more efficient killers than they until they reach the million mark. Then let’s talk.

  • Without this enterprise being a coordinated effort by military an CIA, doubt there would have been such an investigation and report. To my everlasting shame that is what I understand as the abyss of our “system”.

    My daily mantra, “not in my name”, rang hollow all through those years after revelations of Abu Graib because we had to know that it represented a fraction of the actions. In our souls we knew.

    I kept remembering pieces of the movie State of Siege from 1972. How the US was teaching everyone how to torture so that dictatorships we supported could maintain their strangleholds. The revolutionaries in that movie, set in Uruguay, focused on US as the enemy because we were the devils they knew.

    And public discourse on any sane level is rare in these United States of America during these times. When there seems to be some litmus test for American Exceptionalism and We Can Do No Wrong and 9/11 Pass the Ammunition. Heaven forbid anyone follow the money to learn who profits from war mongering. We don’t need investigative journalism as long as we have side boobs and sports. And I love me some basketball and baseball.

    Not sure if any of that is coherent. Thank you for your post, David. Very much appreciated.

  • David,

    You wrote,

    “Here, in America, we are — today — actually torturing other human beings with exacting cruelty in secret and then arguing about whether we can dare discussed it in public.”

    Are you saying that the US government is currently sanctioning the use of torture to extract information from detainees, within or outside of the US, despite President Obama’s assertion to the contrary?

    If that’s what you are saying, then could you tell me where I could find more details about this. If that’s not what you’re saying then I think I know what you meant.

    Great piece, as per usual. And, like most people here, I find precious little agreement with anything Senator McCain has to say, these days, but his address in the US Senate yesterday was admirable. His voice on this issue , along with yours and others, will hopefully ensure that this particular national debate will lead to a good place.

    • I have been too inexact in my language. I meant today in the sense of our society, in our present time, meaning the post-911 years. As compared to the prior examples of Francoist Spain, or South Africa at the end of apartheid, or Germany in the aftermath of WWII. I didn’t mean to suggest that I am aware that the CIA has continued to torture people subsequent to the president’s order.

      • Whew. Thanks, that’s what I thought you were saying but, I have heard others say it’s still happening and I’d like to be able to refute them with facts. 🙂

        • It is such a murky world. I have no clue what is happening now, other than that it is said to have been stopped by the present administration.

          • Yes, even those of us who take some care to be aware of these sorts of things can only hope to see the tip of the iceberg.

            As far as the use of torture is concerned, I think we can learn quite a lot from the Israeli experience. As I understand it, the Israeli judicial system has held accountable those who have felt the need to resort to the use of torture.

            In other words, torture is not condoned or justified but, rather is a punishable offence, the penalty for which may be mitigated to some lesser or greater extent by the circumstances involved.

      • I find most of your piece on this compelling with the exception of the comparison to Francoist Spain, apartheid and Nazi Germany? In the case of Franco and South Africa, you see a system in place that was designed to maintain a regime’s control over its people through any means necessary. The Nazis were involved in the systematic extermination of a people. These were not acts of war. At worst, the US involvement in torture was the misguided attempt to protect its people that got high jacked by a few over zealous people. At best it was just the first part of that. Do you believe that the US has degraded to the state of Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler?

        • You have, I think, misconstrued completely the reason that those historical cites are there. References to those historical traumas are not in any way being used as a comparison of scale for the arocities. I understand that the crimes of all of those regimes — particularly Nazi Germany — dwarf completely what has happened here in this century with our CIA. The comparison is not to the scale of the crimes at all.

          The comparison is to the manner in which these societies did or did not self-reflect in the aftermath of much larger collective shame and guilt. Here, we Americans, confronted with a much more contained campaign against humanity, cannot manage the same measure of self-reflection as Germans and Afrikaans guilty of far greater affronts to human dignity. We are instead as silent as the Spanish in the wake of their national holocaust. That is the point of the three historical references and the only point.

  • I am sorry to say that I think most Americans support torture and see nothing wrong with it, for emotional reasons. We are a nation fond of retribution.

    What I hope even the most die-hard “love it or leave it” types will take away from this report is that none of this torture was in any way necessary or effective. Torture is ALWAYS ineffective as an intelligence gathering technique. Just ask the Inquisitors who extracted countless confessions of witchcraft.

    Even if one does not believe torture is evil and immoral in all circumstances (and ideally, you should remove yourself from the earth if you do not, but even if you don’t), certainly one has to concede that there is no point wasting billions of tax payer dollars on something that not only further weakens our national security, but quite simply, does not work.

    • KT, I am one of the few Americans against torture, because as you said, it is never effective and gives enemies, manufactured or otherwise, reason to do to the same to us.

      David, I am surprised you haven’t posted on the recent grand jury decisions.

  • John Gray once said that human beings do not progress morally. I can’t think of a better example than torture. If I had a crystal ball 14 years ago and predicted that the Vice President of the US, a leader of the Free World, will come out in support of torture, I think I would’ve been accused of the most self-indulgent kind of pessimism.

    Barack Obama sets a terrible political and legal precedent with #LookForwardNotBack. The report itself doesn’t even use term “torture” and doesn’t go near the subject of whether any of it was legal. From now on, this kind of systemic torture regime is going to be a viable policy option for future administrations. I think this is true for the entire “war on terror,” which, in addition to wreaking havoc across the world, has also vastly diminished American democracy. The police are more militarized (see Radley Balko), there’s at least a couple of pieces of legislation (eg. NDAA) to compete with habeas corpus in an unprecedented way, and let’s not even get started on the spying.

    Just as there’s really no way to vote against the will and preferences of Goldman Sachs within the American electoral system, there’s little room in American democracy these days for deep criticism of security measures that have proved to be largely ineffective. Barack Obama shut down the black sites, but has extended several key aspects of the “war on terror” that ensures its permanency (not just my conclusion, but James Risen’s [among many others], in his latest book).

    The CIA isn’t the only organization within the US bureaucracies that tortures. There’re reports from journalists in Afghanistan (re: Matt Aiken) that point to abuse by the military as well. I don’t see an end to this type of behaviour in the current climate.

    • Don’t equate the far more nuanced debate over spying with this in any way.

      I believe in cohesive intelligence gathering because the world is a dangerous place, and nations do have enemies. And in a democracy, I believe that the hard work of self-governance is the means of ensuring national security interests through spying without the misuse of resources or civil liberty affronts. Until such time as competing nation-states and competing national interests cease to be the global construct on Earth, my government should and must spy.

      My government should never torture people. Not even those involved in the mass murder of thousands.

      When you try to place something like this on a moral continuum with the debates about the role of the NSA or the CIA’s intel function, you don’t actually tar spying and intelligence gathering. The opposite occurs: You trivialize the astonishing moral failure that this is, and lump torture in with far less inhumane and entirely rational national-security programming. This occupies its own, unique space.

      • A government that tortures and a government that records every person’s movements, financial transactions, emails and phone calls aren’t really much different in a moral sense. Our “laws” prohibit such things, but we are no longer a nation that follows the rule of law.

        • Did you read back that hyperbole before you posted it? A government that gathers information on its citizens isn’t different in a moral sense from a government that tortures its citizens? Really? If I believed you, I would be less astonished and debilitated by these crimes than I am.

          I don’t believe that our government is recording every person’s movements, financial transactions, emails as a means of controlling them or impairing their liberty — not necessarily. Nor has all of the hype offered by Mr. Snowden, Mr. Greenwald and other conspiratorists over the last year and a half amounted to such in my estimation. Not even close. And, of course, any act of legitimate criminal investigation requires competent investigators to do many or all of those things you cited to achieve moral goals entirely consistent with a democracy.

          The fact is, you have the right to civil liberties in this republic, including the protections of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But you don’t have a Fourth Amendment right that precludes some of your activities resulting in data, or in that data being accessible to government investigators. And there is certainly zero constitutional right that protects any of us from being probed to the extent that an investigator is able to convince a member of the judiciary from issuing a writ or subpoena, offering far less required legal cause than for a search warrant or Title III.

          And even if everything I just wrote above isn’t consistent with the actual reach of the Fourth Amendment — and it is — it still remains for you to justify equating a government’s retention of mass amounts of data for uncertain purposes with a government’s physically brutalizing human beings for the certain purpose of producing relentless pain. In the first instance, you worry about the potential for the abuse of civil liberties, offering no actual evidence of such ill purposes. In the second, I specifically cite the actual abuse of civil liberties. The Constitution does say something specific about cruel and unusual punishment, after all.

          Again, you’ve made no actual points against spying here. You have, however, by a careless comparison of disparate government activities, undertaken to reduce torture to something less than what it is, in absolute moral terms. I know that can’t be your intention.

          • I tend to agree with you that torture and mass surveillance are not things that one equate. Where I think the OP was on to something is in a disregard for the rule of law and a believe that the ends justify the means, especially if you can find a lawyer willing to say your means are legal. Almost all of what Snowden et al have exposed would not have passed constitutional muster prior to 1980. The FISA courts are a broken rubber stamp. I don’t think the mass surveillance stuff is on par with torture at any level, but I think you are too cavalier in tossing it aside as not in some way a symptom of the sickness in our republic.

            • Actually, what Mr. Snowden thus far exposed would have existed under presidential fiat, without any judicial oversight, prior to the Church Committee. Meaning, it happened as a matter of executive power, without Constitutional regard. The FISA court is too opaque and lacks the adversarial function of other courts, meaning there is no representative arguing on behalf of civil liberties. But actually, the documents revealed in the last year in the half show FISA judges actually chastizing investigators at points and asserting on behalf of legal minimization of electronic intercepts.

              I want to see real reform of the FISA court. I think this is the window for that laudable goal.

              But I am aware that the existence of the FISA court at all is an advancement over what came before when the Executive Branch undertook surveillance efforts under the banner of national security. Moreover, I don’t think the retention of all phone metadata, just as the retention, say, of all tax data for citizens, is by itself any affront to the Fourth Amendment. What is done with that data? That’s the issue for me.

              The blanket assertion that spying is necessarily a bad thing, as torture is necessarily a bad thing, loses me completely. Let me be clear: I want my government to spy on its enemies exceedingly well. In fact, I want all other legitimate governments to do a good job of spying on their enemies exceedingly well. I want the Chinese and the Russians, for example, to have sufficient intelligence to know our intentions in any possible geopolitical scenario, and vice versa. And I want this to be true for as long as a dangerous world is divided among competing national entities with competing interests. I want no more August 1914s.

              The NSA has a job to do. So does the CIA.

              But torturing other human beings is the function of no legitimate government, ever.

              • I don’t understand how you distinguish between killing an enemy on the battlefield (often in brutal fashion) and torturing the enemy after they’ve been captured alive (assuming the torture ceases if the enemy subject is cooperative).

                • Begin with the rules of warfare established under the Geneva Conventions and other international law. The torture of any prisoner of war is strictly prohibited; it happened here because of a lugubrious argument by the Bush administration that because the so-called War on Terror was undeclared and because it involved combatants from no recognized national state, the established rules of warfare did not apply. So Americans torturing people like it’s cool began to happen.

                  • You wouldn’t agree that principles of the Geneva Convention are outdated? Much like the principal arguement behind the right to bear arms and the laws of the Old Testament?

                    • I would argue that they are more required by humanity than ever before. Mr. Cheney has affirmed this dramatically, in fact.

              • I count Jacabo Timerman’s “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without A Number” among my top five books that I’ve ever read. I’ve read the testimony of those tortured in Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, etc. I’m with you on the data stuff not being on par with torture. I do data mining for a living. It’s certainly not evil in and of itself. I did it for corporations via consulting firms for several years. I do it for a non-profit now. I firmly believe most people, even well informed, technically competent people don’t realize what a powerful set of tools data miners have. I’m in my 40s and I’ve been in data tech my entire career since dropping out of my doctoral program. Until I started working with the kind of data and tools that retailers use to track their customers, even I didn’t understand how perfectly detailed a picture of you they have.

                • I’ve had a lot of people explaining to me the potential that data mining has to violate civil liberties on a mass scale. I don’t dispute the power of the technology, or its potential for playing havoc with civil liberties on a grand scale. What I dispute is that there is any technology so powerful that self-governance by a democratic people cannot be trusted to employ that technology in a legal and moral fashion.

                  We are evermore cursed with a far more terrifying technology than mass digital data capture: Nuclear weaponry. It ain’t going away, and competing international interests have maintained nuclear arsenals for some generations now. It would be wonderful if human beings could effect a universal disarmament not only by all governments, but by whichever band of nationalist or religious zealots might presently have ambitions of wielding a nuclear weapon. That would be swell.

                  But in the real world in which we must endure, life doesn’t get safer for anyone if the U.S. disarms unilaterally, and perhaps, it doesn’t even get safer if the Russians or Chinese do. Nuclear weaponry is debilitating to think about, but wishing the dynamic away or singing the lyrics to Mr. Lennon’s “Imagine” are, as of yet, an ineffective reply to a geopolitical reality. We are obliged, therefore, as a democracy to do our damnedest to enact and embrace standards and protections against the first-use or tactical use of nuclear weaponry, and to ensure that our national arsenal of warheads exists only as deterrence.

                  We live every day, obliged to trust our democracy to negotiate the existential nightmare of nuclear technology, yet others are now offering an argument that digital data capture is somehow unmanageable when it comes to erecting perameters for its legitimate intelligence use and against its misuse in violation of civil liberties? If so, then democracy itself has no credible future.

                  • If you wish to believe there are huge differences between having a Constitution and many laws forbidding spying on Americans without a warrant and a government that engages in mass electronic surveillance of everyone in violation of those laws, and having a Constitution forbidding cruel and unusual punishment along with laws forbidding torture while having a government that tortures people, then so be it. Me, in each instance I see a government that allows lawbreaking to continue so long as the lawbreakers work for the government and claim to be breaking those laws in furtherance of government goals. With you, a line has now been crossed. With me, that line was crossed a while ago.

                    I also don’t wish to turn the discussion of torture into a discussion on our surveillance state, but you don’t seem to realize that digital data is just a series of zeros and ones traveling through fiber optic cables at the speed of light. There is no way to separate “meta data” as you call it from all of the other zeros and ones containing the actual voice, email and internet communications in real time. Simply put, the government records it all, and claims that it only needs a warrent when searching through what they have already collected.

                    Concerning location data, your cell phone continually sends out a signal saying in effect “here I am” to the nearest cell tower so the network knows which tower to send your calls to. The government also collects this as part of metadata.

                    • Certainly, Tim, I think the victim of a constitutional breach on cruel and unusual punishment, does indeed see a substantial difference. In the present case, he’s been held without charge, perhaps through rendition to a secret location, and has been sadistically tortured to the very edge of his sanity. Whereas, if there is a victim of a constitutional breach — and I don’t agree that there is — which has created a class of victims who have had records of their phone data dumped without their approval in a storage pile with 300 million other callers, they still remained unmolested, undetained and entirely free of unrelenting physical torture aimed at breaking their spirit entirely. Yes, i see a difference there. Decidedly. Surely, the victims do as well.

                      But to be more specific, I think I see our problem. You seem to think that the maintenance of massed metadata is in itself “spying on Americans without a warrant” and “mass electronic surveillance of everyone in violation of those laws.” But using such terminology doesn’t necessarily make it so. It could potentially be used for those things. Or not. But either way, certain categories of data — under our laws and our Constitution as interpreted since 1979 — do not have Fourth Amendment protection.

                      The governmental interest in maintaining certain databases and using that data to monitor activity while only targeting or investigating select individuals is scarcely unprecedented either.

                      The government has long had all of our tax records on file. Is that a constitutional violation unto itself? At least with our tax histories, you could argue that in that instance, through the requirements of citizenship, we are actually forced to submit intimate data on our financial lives without the government obtaining any warrant whatsoever. How is this so, other than because there is a public interest in attempting to ensure that all citizens properly pay their required tax, and because this public interest trumps any Fourth Amendment affront to individual privacy? Is equitable tax collection a sufficient public purpose to compel all of us to reveal all of our financial history to the government, year after year? And be forced to do so by law?

                      By contrast, no one makes you carry a cellphone. Or use the internet.

                      Let me go further. For years now, DWI checkpoints have been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. As long as the checkpoints stop every vehicle and do not discriminate in any fashion, law officers are allowed to pull over drivers who have demonstrated absolutely no probable cause that they are engaged in criminal activity. They can question the drivers and test their blood-alcohol levels. Why? Because as society as a whole has a communal interest in reducing drunk driving, and as random checkpoints are a means of addressing that communal interests, courts have determined that the Fourth Amendment violation of being stopped along with all other vehicles without specific cause is not enough of an affront to derail a public campaign against drunk driving.

                      With regard to the phone metadata collected by the government, or the internet traffic hoovered by the government, let me wonder aloud: Is creating a database of every possible captured call not the legal equivalent of investigators standing beside a vast communications highway and simply recording without prejudice the presence of every car and every license plate that passes in a public domain, and then storing that data in the event of a subsequent criminal investigation? Metaphorically, the intrusion isn’t even as significant as that of the DWI checkpoints. In gathering phone data, they’re not even doing the equivalent of stopping the cars, looking inside, questioning drivers or administering tests — in other words, listening to the calls on a Title III. No, they’re standing by the side of the road, letting the cars pass and recording the telephonic metadata equivalent of each motorist by time, place, vehicle. If deterring drunk driving is a sufficient public good to allow for DWI checkpoints, then how is national security not a sufficient public good to allow for the collection and storage of telephonic or internet metadata? Because I certainly think being among several hundred Americans randomly stopped in your car, being visually examined and questioned by a law officer and then forced to blow into a breathalyzer is a far greater Fourth Amendment intrusion than having the time, date and duration of your cellphone calls hoovered into a big pile with 350 million other Americans and stored there in the event that the datapile as a whole might be a resource to track a future criminal conspiracy.

                      I don’t believe that Americans are being spied on en masse or without the supervision and authorization of at least the FISA court, or that the programs you cite are at this writing being engineered for such a purpose. It might happen one day. Certainly, there will be civil liberties abuses in any program; there always are. Is the remedy to punish the inevitable abuses and regulate the program? Or is to deny law enforcement the legitimate advantage of a technology that could be used to prevent or target criminal conspiracies. We’ve always had to do the former as a matter of self-governance. We’ve never, as a society, attempted to do the former.

                      So, where do you stand on this continuum?

                      Are you saying that you can reconcile the affront to personal privacy that is required for the IRS to properly monitor Americans for the payment of taxes, or what is required for police to discourage drunk driving, but you don’t regard counter-terrorism as a sufficient public interest to gather or maintain data? Pretty subjective, I think.

                      Or perhaps you don’t think a popularly elected government has any right to pass legislation of common interest if it requires any imposition on personal liberty whatsoever. In which case, you’re trying to build and maintain a society by valuing personal liberty and ignoring communal responsibility. I would argue that both are required to build any first-rate society, and further, that our courts have long balanced the two competing values in democratic governance.

                  • Knowing where to stop on spying is a slippery slope too. In 20 years, who knows what technology we’ll have or what it’ll do. But, by that time, the people in charge won’t have had the same experience of NOT being spyed on as the current leaders have so they might know where to draw the line.

                    For example, today, the people who decided to spy on us figured the ends justified the means and they were probably right. BUT the people who come along in 10-20 years probably won’t have that same “feel” for why the ends justify the means. They’ll just be used to spying and take it as normal, not something we only do because we have to. That seems like a dangerous thing to have happen to me.

          • “I don’t believe that our government is recording every person’s movements, financial transactions, emails as a means of controlling them or impairing their liberty — not necessarily.”

            What do you think you are doing it for then?

        • Torture is against the law. Sometimes you gotta break the law. But when you do… have the balls to face a jury.

          I break the law all the goddamn time, i run red lights at 0300 for example. But when I get caught I don’t pretend running red lights at 0300 is legal… I just eat the charge. These guys were doing what they thought needed done. Fair enough; but don’t argue it’s legal cuz it aint. Let a jury decide if they wanna convict you or not; let them decide if mitigation matters.

          But the law is clear: torture is illegal.

        • This sort of argument I most often see from Libertarian types. Collecting phone numbers is the same as brutal torture. Paying taxes is the same as slavery.

          I like to understand why people do what they do, but this one leaves me stumped. I don’t know if it’s ridiculousness to try to get a point across, if it’s a way to avoid admitting heinous crimes have been committed in our name, an attempt to distract, or a way to try to portray one’s self as a victim.

          I do know that it’s insulting to the people who have actually been victims to real, actual, scarring, and life-altering abuse.

          Someone whose phone number might be in a data dump somewhere or someone who has payroll deductions is absolutely NOT suffering in comparable ways.

      • The only thing I see about spying in Steven’s post is ‘don’t get me started’… and I think you ignored his larger point. While you are correct that this should occupy its own space, it certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum either. It can be in its own shameful (understatement) space and still be viewed as a heavy data point in a broader view of increased abuse of power government-wide that seems to be happening in my lifetime. While separate, the parallels of government agencies deceiving their civilian oversight (or that oversight deceiving us) are too serious to ignore. It’s not whether we should or shouldn’t spy, that’s hogwash. It’s not a binary choice in the real world and neither is whether or not to interrogate. It was the scope, targeting of Americans, and lack of transparent and effective oversight that people were so rightly upset about.

        “The court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding N.S.A.’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” Judge Bates wrote.”


        The pattern of behaviors suggest to me that to a growing degree, the 3 letter agencies don’t feel accountable to the public in any way and it’s very hard to describe the completely brazen and to put it bluntly, out of control image the CIA in particular has presented over the past few years. As Joe public, I want a dog catcher. I want someone to put that leash back on and make it a choke collar this time.

        But there is no excuse for torture in particular, no rationale I will accept. I will not accept not prosecuting those involved because of some ridiculous “it happened in the past” rhetoric, all crimes happened in the past. If we fail to punish those involved…we send the message to the world that torture is alright with us if we feel it’s appropriate to do to anyone we label “terrorists.” The UN has called for prosecution as well and I don’t think we have a right to point fingers any more if we don’t abide the calls to clean our own back yard.

        It does deserve its own space, I agree. Like every casualty in the fight to maintain our values, the fact that we have willfully tortured and lied about it deserves its own very substantial grave, but it’s the same cause of death and the same graveyard.

        • I agree with everything in Mr. Zhou’s post except his inclusion of spying as a negative to be lumped in with torture and denials of habeus corpus and the militarization of police. Torture is torture. And Guantanamo and the affront to habeus corpus is part of the same continuum. The militarization of domestic police work is, too.

          Intelligence gathering that protects national security interests and serves the necessary counter-terror deterrent is, to my argument, very much the opposite of torturing people or denying them their freedom without charge when it is claimed that such activities are a means of obtaining intelligence. Spying is what the intelligence community is supposed to provide our nation-state, and all other nation-states until such time as this sad, tired world is arrayed by some other means than nationality. Torturing people and rendition and black-site incarceration is not what anyone should be doing.

          Mr. Zhou’s inclusion of spying — which I regard to be a value-neutral activity (spying on competing international interests and dangers, good; spying as a means of addressing domestic dissent or targeting political opponents, bad) — was the point at which I digressed from his otherwise convincing essay. One of these things is not like the other, as they used to say on educational television. I noticed and said so.

          • I agree with everything you said here, I was one of the relatively small percentage of people at the time who did not think it was ok to hold these “enemy combatants” indefinitely and without trial. I very much agree that intelligence gathering absolutely needs to happen, those that argue otherwise are asking our government to navigate its space within this world, while flying blind and that is just insane. Spying and interrogations need to happen, torture and the black site incarcerations you mentioned, do not.

            We don’t give up our humanity to spy though, and we don’t turn to barbarism in our desperation.. Or at least we didn’t before, and now should never again. I really just don’t understand the people arguing that it’s ok, or who are even still on the fence..this is just such a clear “NO!” My stomach turned when I found out what we had done. I don’t think the ambivalent people even slightly grasp what any of these detainees went through, or if so can certainly not accurately imagine it themselves. That is all assuming that everything we did to them made it into the report, which I also very much doubt.
            I understand the rationale for trying to communicate why it’s so wrong when we say: firstly, it’s not even a reliable means of intelligence gathering, torture someone long enough and they will say anything they can think of to make it stop. Secondly, that as you mentioned 1/4 of these detainees turned out to be innocent. That does make it all significantly more repugnant to be sure, but it’s sad that we have to make these “+1” arguments to convince people that what we did was wrong. Torture on its face is wrong, it needs no corroboration. I’m preaching to the choir, I know, but it bears repeating. While overly simplistic, I can’t help but think the best thing for these people is to tell them to have a friend torture them for a bit…break out the waterboards and shackle them to the ceiling for a while, get some tubing from a hardware store..you know, for perspective. Then realize, that when you told your friend to stop when you couldn’t take it any more, he hopefully did….but our interrogators didn’t stop for days and months after that first breaking point. I’m not seriously suggesting it of course, but I really do think that’s the only way it would sink in for certain people.

            I put the blame for that squarely on the media/propaganda machine that changed this word ‘terror’ to something you can have a war on, to something that a group of people can belong to. It dehumanizes to the point of enabling us to throw our own values out the window and treat them worse than animals; because we’re fighting terror, not poor people who would probably fight us conventionally if they actually had the means. It’s our blind spot, and our coping mechanism in a strange way. It both enables what we’ve done, and heads off that self reflection as a nation that absolutely needs to happen. What’s there to reflect on if we’re fighting terror itself? Instead in reality, we are fighting people who have probably all had a loved one die at our hands or at the very least know someone who has. Now we will be fighting loved ones of the ones we’ve tortured as well, and it will most certainly justify any torture inflicted upon our soldiers and citizens in the minds of their captives. Smooth move CIA.

            As you touched on with “becoming our enemy” If we allow ourselves to do anything they do, because “they did it first” than how are we not terrorists as well by our own definitions? Personally, I’d bet drone strikes and cruise missiles, Apaches and AC-130 attacks are much more terrifying than suicide bombings to begin with. The level of terror that our military is capable of absolutely dwarfs beheadings, bombings, IEDs and box cutters. It’s unrivaled. Their world is one where missiles could come from the freaking sky at any moment, targeting the “terrorist” in the car/home next to them and we call what they’ve done to us, “terror?”

            Opinion is an interesting thing, we’re taught that each has value and is valid. I disagree. I feel like some people have an opinion that it’s ok to torture these ‘enemy combatants/detainees/terrorists/any descriptor except human beings.’ if it will conceivably save American lives. Some people *think* it’s ok then for us to torture, and I’m glad I *know* better. No end will ever justify those means.

            Many sincere thanks for engaging, and take care.

  • It’s hard not to conflate the immoral torture excesses of our government with the wholesale rights violations visited on us by our own members of law enforcement. Both are the products of a government run amok, aided (in part) by a fearful public.

    And in both cases, the people who were supposed to protect us from these excesses (I’m looking hard at the courts) couldn’t run fast enough in the wrong direction.

    Now we’re the proud owners of both a 500-page, heavily redacted torture report and a militarized law enforcement culture that no longer seems concerned with the first ten amendments to the constitution. The old saw about “recognizing a problem is the first step to fixing it” would seem to apply here, but in what will probably be known as the Do-Nothing years — where legislators will propose an idea and then disavow if once it’s adopted by the “other” guys — I don’t see a lot of forward momentum.

    In my 20s — when I knew practically everything — I was able to point contemptuously to things like the blacklist and WWII Japanese internment camps as the sort of abomination that would never happen on “our” watch. You know, because smarter.

    Now, is to my generation’s collective shame that we’ve allowed this blot.

  • I agree with these sentiments, David.

    What can we tell ourselves; what can we learn if our governments, our media, and our intelligence agencies are complicit with a programme for systematic abuse, inveterate policies of deceit, and wholesale fucking disdain for human rights?

    I’m not sure how the CIA differs from the mob. I’m not sure anyone can.

    “It cannot, nor it will not, come to good.”

  • “That there are members of the American government still arguing against this cold blast of moral truth, offering up the craven fear […] that our enemies will perhaps use a moral truth to justify violent retribution or political maneuver — this further cowardice only adds to the national humiliation.”

    “Craven” is the only way an honest person could describe it.. The “man” who baked up this pretense about the reports possibly inciting violence is a coward of the stripe I thought only existed in bad movies.

  • http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/30/ex_cia_agent_whistleblower_john_kiriakou

    …In a statement urging President Obama to commute Kiriakou’s sentence, a group of signatories including attorneys and former CIA officers said, quote, ” is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. … Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.”

    AMY GOODMAN: John Kiriakou joins us now from Washington, D.C. He spent 14 years at the CIA as an analyst and a case officer. In 2002, he led the team that found Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. He’s father of five. In 2010, he published a memoir entitled The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.

    And we’re joined by one of John Kirakou’s attorneys, Jesselyn Radack. She’s the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, a former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice.

  • Ironically (sardonically) – the only person to be incarcerated about the torture program, is the man (John Kiriakou) who tried to “out” the program.

    Here’s the link to the American Psychology Association condemning the 2 “professionals”


    WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association welcomed the release today of the Executive Summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. The document’s release recognizes American citizens’ right to know about the prior action of their government and is the best way to ensure that, going forward, the United States engages in national security programs that safeguard human rights and comply with international law.

  • I remember reading somewhere, it might have been on this site, that you were researching for a piece on the CIA and Central America, do you think these events might change your focus?

    • HBO passed, sadly. And the scripts were very strong, too.

      So, no. The focus remains the same, exactly so, at present.

      • Sadly unsurprising, Mr. Simon. The only two movies that ever dealt with our crimes in Central America with any honesty – Ron Shelton’s “Under Fire” and Oliver Stone’s “Salvador” – got buried. When I wrote “Permanent Interests,” something honest (though fiction) about the CIA 25 years ago, it went nowhere past being optioned. Doors closed rapidly when they went out to shop it. Hollywood’s got a backbone like overcooked Angel Hair pasta.

          • My heart sank at reading that.. That succinctly states the entire problem, and I don’t know what the cure is for that level of blind flag waving. This nation needs therapy to help retread some of these ingrained thoughts.

            Even when we take that long hard look in the mirror, we still look nothing like how the rest of the world sees us.

      • That is a shame. Our crimes, real and merely moral, in Latin America are what drove me to get a masters and nearly a doctorate studying the region. An HBO series with your team behind it might be one of the few effective ways for the average person to learn about it. God knows, our high schools, colleges, and universities largely aren’t teaching them.

  • Well said.

    Suggest a look at the FlowersForSocrates dot com Word Press blog; who are some great people that departed (maybe even booted) from Law Professor Jonathan Turley’s Blog.

    There’s some good banter and links… Including one from the American Psychological Association condemnation of the 2 purported professionals who – oddly enough – aren’t current members.

  • These last few weeks have provided my kids with more than enough examples of how our system works in direct opposition to the values we work to instill in them – kindness; equality; consequences; and justice. This morning I was listening the Morning Edition as my 14 year old daughter was eating breakfast. Renee Montagne interviewed former CIA lawyer John Rizzo. As some of the details of torture from the report were read by Montagne, my daughter looked at me in disbelief and said, “We did that??”

    I wish I could have told her those were dark days, that we know we were wrong, and that the people responsible will be held accountable.

    Instead, all I could say was, “Yes. It’s horrifying.”

  • Every society, being made of humans, commits savage and horrible acts. What make a society noble is to admit to those errors, punish those responsible, and try to do better in the future.

    We’re about 40% through step one.

  • If on the morning of Sept 12, 2001 our government issued a statement to its citizens saying that they intend to use torture as a means to acquire information against this new enemy (eg, terrorists)…would you have had a problem with it?

    • Unequivocally. Not even close, Brendan. In fact, even on that morning, I would have been astonished to see the issue even raised. Torture? We’re talking about torturing human beings? Americans? What. The. Fuck.

    • Yes (though that is easy to say in retrospect). We aspire to be better than those that attack us. Also, even if I wanted to torture them for the sheer sake of revenge, I know that it doesn’t produce useful information.

      • I seldom find reason to agree with John McCain, a man who has yet to meet a foreign policy circumstance that doesn’t cry for American boots on the ground. But last night, his statement was that of a decent man floating on a sea of political dishonor.

      • The way we end up absolving ourselves of the evil we do and differentiating ourselves from those that attack us is by making sure we feel really bad and conflicted about all of it. We’re then allowed to delude ourselves by saying, “See, we’re not bad. We’re not like our enemies. They’re pure evil and feel no conflict whatsoever about what they do.”

    • Possibly not, but what of it? Are we surprised to learn that the gut reactions of recently traumatized people are a poor basis for a foreign policy?

      We support, in this country, a class of professional politicians on the theory (which has been kicking around in one form or another since at least classical times if not earlier) that by making governing their full-time job, they might therefore have the resources, the education and the institutional memory to do a better job of it than the angry drunk guy at your neighborhood’s corner bar.

      Based on most of the evidence that’s come in over the last 14 and change years, we appear to have elected the angry drunk guy, over and over again.

  • I keep wondering what kind of twilight zone we’re living in, where the fact that we’re releasing this report is viewed as a greater problem than the fact that we’re torturing people in the first place.

        • #1 You’re ruining a perfectly good joke.
          #2 The America I live in is nowhere near 1971.
          #3 It’s easy for you to call him a coward from where you sit, but if you had seen what he had and risked the ire of the most powerful government in the world, and knew firsthand just how powerful the agency you were messing with is, and just how much information is at their fingertips, I can certainly understand being quite scared of reprisal. However, having already made his decision to flee his entire life in advance and going through with it anyway..does not smack of cowardice in the slightest to me. You could argue for paranoia but cowardice is simply not the right word as a matter of fact.
          #4 Did you notice the reactions we took? We used our muscle to ground the President of Bolivia’s plane suspected of carrying Snowden, a major diplomatic faux pas; and demanded that Russia turn him over later, not actions that would make me feel at all safe. I’m pretty sure the global manhunt justifies his flight from the country.
          #5 (and this is a big one) The very article you are posting on is about America being willing to use torture to protect its interests.

          • With regard to #3, I agree. Mr. Snowden is no coward. That said, I think he blundered in revealing not just the domestic programming that he believes, rightly or wrongly, to have been a constitutional affront. By dumping information about U.S. intelligence-gathering overseas, he impaired the argument in defense of his actions.

            With regard to #2, the America you live in is certainly no worse than in 1971 when there was no FISA court and anyone could be wiretapped — not culled for metadata, but wiretapped — by executive fiat, without a warrant; when the president maintained an enemies list; when the FBI was conducting mass surveillance of all dissent. And men such as Daniel Ellsberg risked a great deal leaking classified information during a shooting war in Vietnam. Your suggestion that American government was in any way less given to totalitarian impulses in 1971 is certainly a debatable point.

            With regard to #4, Mr. Snowden is at that point a fugitive from criminal charges and, to the government’s knowledge, in possession of an undetermined amount of classified material. All of the efforts you cite to capture him in flight are, to my thinking, entirely understandable for the U.S. government. In short, game on.

            And with regard to #5, are you implying that Mr. Snowden would have been tortured rather than arrested and tried? That is a remarkable assumption. Even in cases of outright treason involving espionage — the Walker case, the Amos affair, the Pollard case, not to mention present cases such as Manning and Kiriakou — the U.S. government has not tortured its citizens subsequent to arrest. The torture at hand involves suspected — sometimes wrongfully, to our increased shame — enemy combatants and non-citizens, argued to be outside the Geneva conventions because they are believed to fight for no legitimate government. I don’t accept that argument, and I am offended at the torture, but nothing in the government’s behavior backs your claim that Mr. Snowden, as a citizen, would be subjected to torture, other than your imagination. Again, conflating torture with spying leads to some logical jumps and absurdities, in my opinion.

            • You raise some excellent points about the state of America in 1971, I wasn’t alive yet so it’s all history books for me. When I think of us being nowhere near 1971, I guess I meant a lot of vague things, greatly increased capacity for surveillance technology wise, and post 9/11 where anything that can be construed as tied to terrorism seems to dissolve a lot of rights. Like enemy combatants vs. prisoners of war, and how we feel that we may kill high value targets via drone strike virtually anywhere while not engaged in combat. I will just concede that you know way more than I do about Ellsberg and the climate of that era and apologize for falling into grass is greener/golden age thinking.

              With #5, apologies again, I was not implying that he faced a high probability of torture; but that given the current subject matter, it’s a lot harder to second guess the choice to flee. Once this went public, I think his safety was somewhat assured, but we are making this call without the burden of the enormous paranoia and fear that Mr. Snowden must have went through at the time, and without our own hide as stake in the game.

              I see problems though in watching the US cross a line we thought we wouldn’t cross, and then drawing a new line in the sand of ‘well, they wouldn’t torture citizens though’. Part of the problem with a breach of trust, and being disappointed heavily like this is that you don’t know how much trust to give them afterwards. It’s not conspiracy theory to simply say ‘I don’t know what we’re capable of any more’ but it sure is scary.

              I think I agree with your points on the scope of Snowden’s revelations. How we manage to spy on foreign entities is of far less concern to me, as I think that by nature it is a dark and secretive game, where advantages are sought constantly, and every nation is playing it. Showing our hand to our adversaries then was wrong and could have put lives at risk as entire methods of intelligence gathering were outed at worst, threatened at best. I am not against however, the revelations of our cooperation with the GCHQ in spying on our own respective citizens. I’m thankful the conversation was started. If you listen to what Snowden actually said, that was his stated goal, starting a national conversation because these decisions were made for us, and in his estimation crossed the boundaries of the decisions our representatives may make on our behalves. I’m actually pretty fine with the metadata gathering as well, as long as it’s just that, but that sure feels like a ‘just the tip’ scenario. (See GCHQ and Yahoo webcams) The real wrongs to me about the domestic Snowden revelations were the resulting discoveries that the NSA was repeatedly misleading the FISA court about the scope of its operations. There is no excuse for misleading a court with the reputation of a rubber stamp with the intent of getting more access to our information than the court would have allowed had they been told the truth. THAT is the crime.

              To a large degree though, those revelations were like “You mean to tell me that in a digital and electronic age, our spy agencies spy….digitally and electronically?”
              That does bring back another parallel to the torture thing though, did we have no idea what was going on, or were we just turning a blind eye? We need to ask ourselves as citizens these tough questions: What did we really think was happening at detention center at a Marine base outside of US legal jurisdiction that houses detainees of this war on terror indefinitely and without trial that we’ve argued don’t qualify for the Geneva convention? What do we think giant intelligence gathering agencies actually do all day?

              Last point: What is missing in both situations is accountability and oversight. I’m appalled that we have no plans to hold accountable those that tortured. I’m appalled that once the NSA was found to be misleading the FISC, that those programs were allowed to continue anyway. I will not accept a “too big to fail” line of reasoning when it comes to either one. Don’t mislead your civilian oversight, ever. They are there precisely because of how easy it is to get caught up in ‘the ends justify these means’ thinking when the stakes are high. I know you’re not fond of linking the two together in any way, and I’m still fully with you that torture is in a completely separate space; but if we are serious about never letting it happen again, we can not afford to ignore the pattern of oversight failures that it fits into.

              • Agree that the FISA apparatus needs to be less opaque and contain an adversarial element in the form of a federal public defender who advocates on behalf of the public’s constitutional interests. The present system is untenable and insufficiently democratic.

          • At a minimum, he is afraid to face the consequences of his actions, which I would argue is a form of cowardice.

            The SuperMax argument doesn’t wash. John Kirakou exposed the information that led to this report and while he has been jailed he hasn’t been subject to any of Glenn Greenwald’s fever dreams of drone strikes, torture, and SuperMax imprisonment.

            • I understand, but I don’t think it’s fair to argue that he was a coward for not trusting our government to be fair to him after what he’d discovered. If you put yourself in his shoes, and really take the time to do it well.. I imagine that at that moment he must have been the most paranoid person in the history of paranoia.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend