What we have here is a failure to communicate

It has been hard the last few days to listen to the news and not here about a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. The actual report is over 6,700 pages long and is still classified. What was released was an executive summary which itself is over 500 pages long. Here is a clip of the reaction from Slate’s Political Gabfest.

You can hear the whole discussion here. I will say right now that I have not read the full report, just a few bits and a number of stories. Because of that, I do not want to talk directly about the report or what it says the CIA was up to for several years. What I want to talk about is the comparison of what we just hear from the Slate podcast and this:

Our times seem to be defined by political divide. The thing making today’s political divide different from the past is that our disagreement isn’t over how to deal with problems, our disagreement is over what is even happening. Torture, Benghazi, climate change, these are all issues where one side says the sky is falling and the other doesn’t even recognize something is going on.

All of these issues often come down to two people yelling at each other saying the other one is a liar. I honestly haven’t completely figured out a way through the mess but looking at each argument on its logical and philosophical merits seems to be a good place to start.

The first question is the logic of listening to Vice President Cheney or past leaders of the CIA on any of this. If anything was done wrong, he is one of the primary individuals to blame, would he ever admit something bad or illegal happened? Also, he was an inside player, we never let the players ref themselves. You have to have an outside observer who can impartially determine what happened. I will admit Congress may not be a completely impartial observer, but they are certainly more impartial than the former Vice President.

The next argument constantly used is about the importance of the intelligence gathered by enhanced interrogation. Both sides have their talking points and I do not know who is correct because at the end of the day, I don’t care.  If the line in the sand in determining what is appropriate is how effective it is, than we are going to have some problems.  Japanese internment made certain no immigrants attacked the US from within. The shooting at Kent State University was effective at stopping protests on the campus. You should rarely use the ends to justify the means, especially when the means are people and also especially when you are talking about government policy and not “in the heat of the moment.”

The final argument I will address is the protection offered these individuals by the Geneva Convention. Vice President Cheney has stated there is no protection because the detained individuals were unlawful combatants. Politifact did a great job of summing up this issue.

Among other things” prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever” by Common Article 3 are “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” as well as “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

This is a very heated issue with a lot of claims on both sides, the only way to make sense of everything is to do the hard thing and think. Don’t let someone else tell you the report is baseless, ask them what they mean and examine the reasons. Often the people talking loudest are the least qualified to say anything.

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