First, was it reasonable for the CIA to ask how far it could legally go in questioning terrorist detainees to elicit information for the purpose of preventing future attacks and saving innocent lives? Without question. In fact, the critics should be impressed with the agency's obvious determination to operate lawfully.
Next, was it reasonable for the Office of Legal Counsel to furnish legal guidance to the CIA to ensure that it complied with the law? Another no-brainer.
And when government lawyers researching these issues concluded that harsher interrogation techniques were legally permitted and that the normal legal protections didn't apply to enemy combatants not formally attached to any nation state, should they have honestly reported their answers or lied about them?
What about the critics' outrage that the memo reportedly said that inflicting moderate or fleeting pain does not necessarily constitute torture? For heaven's sake, this was a legal memo, not some advocacy paper. If the attorneys' research led them to that conclusion, we must not shoot the messengers for delivering their finding.
There is no evidence I'm aware of that the Bush administration ever approved of or authorized the torture or abuse of prisoners. The fact that the lawyers prepared a lengthy, well-researched memo proves that they and Gonzales were treating this matter seriously and conscientiously. That they candidly reported their legal conclusions, no matter how politically incorrect, should not subject them to ridicule.
There was simply nothing wrong with the CIA's questions or the Justice Department's earnest effort to answer them. Moreover, I honestly don't understand the righteous indignation of critics who are appalled that our CIA would even contemplate tougher interrogation techniques against monsters who kill women, children and babies for sport.
Please don't say that to engage in harsher -- but legal -- techniques reduces us to the moral level of the enemy. What if such techniques against these unrepentant murderers could directly save your loved ones' lives? Don't tell me you wouldn't favor them. But if you do, remind me never to join you in the foxhole.
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