Monday, August 31, 2009

The evidence under our noses: there was no ticking time bomb

It's been the rational for using torture, a la Kiefer Sutherland's character on the television series "24" -- tick-tock-torture, to keep the time bomb at bay. But there never was a ticking time bomb, and they knew it. Their actions prove it.

The flight logs and the timeline of the rendition flights skipped helterskelter across the world to different locations and venues; some of the flight plans took days, especially when teams of personnel from other entities and countries were involved. They didn't land at the closest place, nor did they land someplace where they would be out in the open, clearly questioning their rendered prey about the tick-tock-time-bomb because the immediacy of a potential attack warranted immediate action.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

They even took their time to set up multiple black sites across the globe; imagine the hours-days-weeks-months of negotiations required to trade a missile defense system for a moldy old prison site, or HIV/AIDS money for a regional command post and another black site. Imagine the numbers of people involved in these negotiations.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Nor was any of the legal groundwork done rapidly, collaboratively, cooperatively where information could be shared quickly in a commons, because the safety of the nation's citizens and infrastructure demanded all of the brightest and best work on this with great urgency to prevent the next "mass casualty attack" surely pending at any moment.

No, the work was done by one guy here, another guy there, on their own, without any clear trail that somebody at the uppermost echelons of governmental authority had asked for their work out of urgency. The sneaking around to acquire nebulous and shaky authority took time which a ticking time bomb scenario wouldn't offer. The legal pussy-footing and finessing the fuzzy legal authority for multiple intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies took years.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

And finally, there is the body of commentary and testimony from those involved, none of which takes our breath away because of the urgency under which they worked after 9/11. The word of detainees clearly indicates they gave up very little real intelligence and far more false information to stop the immediacy of torture alone. Could they be lying even now? Certainly, but why would they? What do they have to gain by lying at this point in time?

This guy, on the other hand, has far more too lose by telling the unvarnished truth. His words here again sound chill, calculating, without the impetus of any driving need to save the country from an immediate attack as much as he needs to cover his backside after the fact from what became a systemic administrative policy:

WALLACE: Let me ask you -- you say you're proud of what we did. The inspector general's report which was just released from 2004 details some specific interrogations -- mock executions, one of the detainees threatened with a handgun and with an electric drill, waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times.

First of all, did you know that was going on?

CHENEY: I knew about the waterboarding. Not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved.

The fact of the matter is, the Justice Department reviewed all of those allegations several years ago. They looked at this question of whether or not somebody had an electric drill in an interrogation session. It was never used on the individual, or that they had brought in a weapon, never used on the individual. The judgment was made then that there wasn't anything there that was improper or illegal with respect to conduct in question...


WALLACE: Do you think what they did, now that you've heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?

CHENEY: Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed. Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all the Al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States.

It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.

WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?


Yeah, he's okay with the view that slow, plodding, methodical torture was necessary, that it was okay to send out plane after plane after plane, rendition after rendition after rendition, to gather up persons alleged to be al Qaeda and torture then detain them and for years on end, whether they were truly al Qaeda or not.

As a general policy, he says it was good and that he was okay with it.

Without one bit of hair-on-fire urgency conveyed in this testimony before the court of public opinion.


Because there never was a ticking time bomb threatening Americans, and we're just realizing it now, years and years later.

[Excerpt above from interview of former VP Dick Cheney by Chris Wallace at Fox News (and no, I'm not linking to them). Photo: It's ticking, by Michael Tienzo via Cross-posted at Firedoglake's The Seminal.]

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