August 25th, 2009
07:44 AM ET
June 1st, 2009
03:50 PM ET

Andrew Sullivan: Torture And "Specific Intent"

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Andrew Sullivan on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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Andrew Sullivan
The Atlantic

I'm not a lawyer so I will leave the legal parsings to others. But I do want to note something quite odd in Andy McCarthy's latest defense of torture as national policy for the US. He wants to argue that those who waterboarded terror suspects were not torturing per se because they were intending to procure intelligence, and not torturing purely for the hell of it.

I don't believe there's much evidence that the intent of the torture program was sadism, although obviously once you condone torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners in any war, the sadism will emerge. And I see no evidence that those who waterboarded Zubaydah were doing it for the evil joy of it (although we don't know who the torturers were exactly in that case, or most others). But this is all irrelevant. The crime of torture is not about sadism. It is specifically about getting intelligence. The UN Convention's definition couldn't be clearer on this:

Read More of Andrew Sullivan's blog posts...

May 29th, 2009
11:56 AM ET

Can good people become evil?

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What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions posed in a 1971 simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University.

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities, in order to obtain a representative sample. Roles were assigned based on a coin toss.

Take a look at the Stanford Prison Experiment web site, which features an extensive slide show and information about this classic psychology experiment, including parallels with the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Torture
May 22nd, 2009
03:28 PM ET

Administration struggles to find a workable Gitmo plan it can sell


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/08/art.getty.holder.jpg caption="Attorney General Eric Holder is tasked with pioneering a legally feasible plan to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison."]

Attorney General Eric Holder's Guantanamo Review Task Force is struggling to sort the prison detainees into five neatly ordered lists, as government lawyers try to somehow fashion a plan which will clear expected legal challenges while satisfying skeptical lawmakers and a nervous public.

Every turn appears more complicated as the weeks pass.

On the immediate heels of a demand by Congress for a clear and specific plan for emptying Guantanamo, one of President Barack Obama's top aides, David Axelrod, promised Thursday that Congress would receive such a plan, and declared the president's address Thursday represented a "framework for a plan." Administration officials indicate the plan itself is probably months away.

During an address on national security at the National Archives in Washington, Obama defended his decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo, and he outlined categories in which to separate the remaining detainees.

The framework calls for putting the names of the 240 remaining detainees into five piles, then trying to resolve the legal complexities of each.

The first group, which government sources and defense attorneys estimate at several dozen detainees, would be brought to the U.S. and tried for crimes in civilian courts. But those cases would be limited to instances in which prosecutors believe they can win convictions under criminal procedures and rules of evidence. Those would include competent legal representation, defendant's Miranda rights, direct witness testimony absent hearsay, and sharing with the defense "Brady" material — evidence which could help their case.

The government identified only one name on that list Thursday when the Justice Department announced Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, indicted in the East Africa embassy bombings, would be tried in New York. Major terrorist figures have been successfully prosecuted in New York amid tight security.


Filed under: Raw Politics • Torture
May 18th, 2009
08:35 AM ET

Why Obama should release photos

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/14/holder.detainee.photos/art.iraq.gi.jpg caption="Photos were leaked in 2004 showing U.S. troops abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."]

Fawaz A. Gerges
Special to CNN

Justifying his dramatic reversal of the decision to release photos showing abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama argued publication would "further inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger."

In fact, world opinion, particularly that of Muslims, would likely view the release of these horror images as representing a rupture for the better in American politics and foreign policy. America would be seen as reclaiming its high moral compass and affirming its respect for human dignity.

Taking ownership of and responsibility for the Bush administration's actions, horrible and painful as they are, will reinforce Obama's break with his predecessor and his new message to the U.S. public and international community: The United States is a good citizen of the world, a nation of laws that fully complies with the laws of war. In the eyes of friends and foes, the president's new message would gain more traction and credibility.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama • Torture
May 15th, 2009
04:13 PM ET

Gingrich: 'Absolute obligation' to investigate Pelosi

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/15/pelosi.waterboarding/art.gingrich.gi.jpg caption="Newt Gingrich says Nancy Pelosi is a 'trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowest of purposes.' "]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is engaging in a "despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort" to withhold what she knew about the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques, former Speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday.

Gingrich said Pelosi "lied to the House" when she earlier claimed that the CIA had never briefed her about the Bush administration's use of interrogation methods like waterboarding, which is considered torture by the current administration.

"I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal. I don't think the speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters," the Republican leader said in an interview with ABC Radio.

Pelosi has been under fire from critics who say she was fully briefed on the techniques in 2002 and 2003. On Thursday, the California Democrat accused CIA officials of misleading her, reiterating a claim that she was briefed on such techniques only once - in September 2002 - and that she was told at the time that the techniques were not being used.

Read more... or listen to the interview here.

Filed under: Raw Politics • Top Stories • Torture
May 14th, 2009
09:26 PM ET

Video: Boehner blasts Pelosi

Minority Leader John Boehner says the House Speaker needs to get her story straight about interrogation techniques.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Torture
May 14th, 2009
09:22 PM ET

Video: Pelosi denies torture briefing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defends her record, saying the CIA lied to Congress about waterboarding.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Raw Politics • Torture
May 14th, 2009
02:36 PM ET

Abu Ghraib commander: Release abuse photos

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/12/prisoner.photos/art.abu.ghraib.afp.gi.jpg caption="Abu Ghraib reopened this year under control of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice. "]

Janis Karpinski
Special to CNN

About-face! President Obama's reversal of his administration's decision to release more photographs of prisoner abuse is disappointing and infuriating.

It is sad and tragic. The reversal will absolutely stir up more controversy than release of the photographs, causing an outpouring of rampant speculation - What is the government hiding? Who are the people in the photographs? How awful can these new photos be? And worse.

The president is going to Egypt, and discussions surrounding the photographs are inevitable. He is far better off armed with the ability to have open discussions on all topics instead of apologizing for holding back information. Withholding evidence is counterproductive and does not sound like "truth," and it surely does not sound like "change."

The truth is always helpful. If we put all the photographs on the table, clearing the air, then, and only then, we can get on with the discussion of how to make sure this never happens again. The truth will set us free - free to find the roots of the problem, allowing us to do what we did best - making the world a better place to live.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: President Barack Obama • Torture
May 13th, 2009
05:38 PM ET

Obama: Detainee photos would endanger troops

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more about Pres. Obama's decision on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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Ed Hornick

President Obama said Wednesday that he told government lawyers to object to a court-ordered release of additional images showing alleged abuse of detainees because the release could affect the safety of U.S. troops and "inflame anti-American opinion."

The Defense Department was set to release hundreds of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the images we remember from Abu Ghraib," the president said on the South Lawn of the White House. "But they do represent conduct that didn't conform with the Army manual."

Obama said the publication of the photos would not add any additional benefit to investigations being carried out into detainee abuse - and could put future inquires at risk.

"In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would further flame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger. ... I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse," Obama said.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama • Torture
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