Mar 092008
 
Authors: Sean Reed

The struggle to protect human rights keeps taking hits in America.

On Saturday, President George W. Bush vetoed a bill passed by Congress to limit the CIA’s ability to use harsh interrogation tactics against terrorism suspects.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, sponsored by Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, would only have permitted interrogation techniques allowed in the Army field manual, which, according to the New York Times, does not permit the use of physical force in interrogations.

President Bush, in his weekly address to the nation, defended his veto – only the ninth in his entire presidency – as necessary in preserving a vital tool in the War on Terror.

“The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the War on Terror – the CIA program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives,” he said, and remarked that the use of current harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding has helped save lives by gathering information that has prevented terrorist attacks in Djibouti, Karachi, Los Angeles and downtown London.

Many within Washington, however, question the effectiveness of these tactics at preventing terrorist attacks.

At the helm of these charges is the Congressional Democratic majority, but they have found surprising allies in both the leadership of the FBI and Gen. David Petreaus, the general who this past September raised the ire of Democrats in Congress for his report highlighting the success of last summer’s troop surge in Iraq.

While Democrats have taken issue with the interrogation tactics used on enemy combatants on more humanitarian ground, the Feds and Gen. Petreaus have a different issue — lesser tactics, like those outlined in the field manual, are effective and harsher methods tend to produce unreliable intelligence, which can actually put American lives at risk.

Others, such as Sen. John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have even gone so far as to challenge Bush’s claim that aggressive interrogations produced the intelligence that shut down attacks in Djibouti and elsewhere.

Responding to Bush’s claims that the CIA’s aggressive interrogation tactics have been successful in preventing terrorist attacks, Sen. Rockefeller said in a statement, “I have heard nothing to suggest that information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques has prevented an imminent terrorist attack.”

Regardless of who is right about the success of the techniques — Bush or his detractors — it is time for them to come to an end.

Cruel and unusual punishment is explicitly prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and, contrary to what Bush and Co. many think, there is no clause indicating that this protection only applies to citizens.

Unfortunately, the founding fathers did not outline exactly what constitutes cruel and unusual.

I like to think of it in terms of the Golden Rule. If a given interrogation technique were to leave an average person with the feeling that they have been tortured, then said tactic is likely torture.

Call me crazy, but I get the feeling that if an average person were subject to simulated drowning or extreme sleep deprivation (both of which have been used by the CIA against detainees), they would probably say their rights were being violated — and the courts would probably agree.

Bush has repeated many times that the successes of the CIA’s interrogation techniques justify their use, but it is a flawed argument.

Using his argument, terrorism could be argued as justifiable because it has proven to be an effective tool for getting the U.S. to pay more attention to its policy in the Middle East.

The truth, of course, is that terrorism is a reprehensible tactic, as is torture.

If we, as a nation, want to better protect our citizens, we need to show the Middle East that we value that area of the world beyond its ability to supply enough oil to support our way of life, because it’s clear that torturing a few terrorist flunkies is not doing the job.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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