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October 30, 2009

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Glenn Greenwald

Acclaimed blogger Glenn Greenwald, recipient of the Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award, spoke with Bill Moyers this week for the special web-exclusive conversation below.
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May 29, 2009

Two Administrations, Torture, and National Security

This week, the JOURNAL presented portions of TORTURING DEMOCRACY, a documentary film tracing the decisions of the Bush Administration leading to the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques that many have called torture.

Last week, President Obama and former Vice President Cheney delivered speeches about ‘enhanced interrogation’ and national security that were widely seen as an indirect debate between the two men.

Obama said that he ended ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods because they undermine America’s national security objectives and standing in the world:

“Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset – in war and peace, in times of ease and in eras of upheaval... Where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and our institutions are more resilient than a hateful ideology... I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America. I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts – they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.”

Cheney said that the events of 9/11 necessitated extreme actions to keep America safe and that interrogation methods were legal and effective:

“In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations... The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do... Personnel were carefully chosen from within the CIA and were especially prepared to apply techniques within the boundaries of their training and the limits of the law. Torture was never permitted. And the methods were given careful legal review before they were approved. Interrogators had authoritative guidance on the line between toughness and torture... To call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness and would make the American people less safe.”

What do you think?

  • Is torture -- what some prefer to call ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques -- ever morally justified? Explain.

  • Do you think torture has helped keep America safe? Why or why not?

  • In the event of another terrorist attack, do you think Obama would suffer politically for his decision to end ‘enhanced interrogation?’


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