Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blair's comments to the CIA about torture

For several days various right-wingers have been claiming that Admiral Blair's memo to CIA staff justifies the Bush Administration's use of torture. I think Blair's comments are being overblown. He said this: "High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country"

I don't read that as a claim that attacks were thwarted or that lives were saved. I read that as a claim that the "high value information" was all or mostly background. A "deeper understanding" could justly be described as "high value", but it is decidedly not what those pushing for torture claimed that torture was needed to provide.

Let's not forget, this was a memo to CIA staff, and so we can expect that he would not directly attack the people who work for him. Given that, I read the statement as the most positive spin possible to put on the facts -- and presumably he is in a position to know if somebody gave up information that thwarted an attack as a result of being tortured.

I find another of his statements revealing, too -- the one that "... I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given." Since we know that interrogators frequently exceeded even the wide latitude that the torture memos allowed them, this looks to me like a statement that he would not oppose prosecutions of those who didn't keep to the letter of the memos.


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