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Does the Council on Foreign Relations Think Torture Is OK If It ‘Works’?

Bob Fertik of Democrats.com has put that question to Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who made that Cheneyesque argument to Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday.

Talking about Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that he plans to investigate interrogations where abuse went far beyond what was allowed, Haas told Scarborough:

I really think putting this in legal channels as opposed to just the policy channels is something, just like the politics, we as a society, will regret. We need to look at all of our tools. We may reject some of these things. Let’s say on balance they’re not worth it. But other things we may say to do it given who we’re up against.

Host Joe Scarborough sums up his point as “What Works?”

Here’s the video clip, posted on Crooks and Liars.

So Fertik now wants Haas to explain that position, in light of the relevant anti-torture laws. He emailed these questions to Haas and a number of reporters:

  • Are you aware that at least 30 identified U.S. prisoners tortured to death? http://www.democrats.com/torture-deaths
  • Is it your position that U.S. and international laws against torture should not be enforced?
  • Do you agree with Joe Scarborough’s summary that the only question to be asked is “what works” – not “what is legal”?
  • Finally, were you speaking for yourself or for CFR?

Kudos to Fertik for pointing out how disturbing it is that the president of the nation’s leading think tank on foreign relations would be taking that position.

What struck me about this segment was that, like most of the TV coverage of this issue, it focuses almost exclusively on the political consequences of the Obama administration’s embarking on an investigation, and its potential to affect the CIA’s morale.

The fact that President Obama made the decision to de-politicize the controversial CIA interrogation issue by allowing his Attorney General to do his job and focus exclusively on whether anyone broke the law is seen as an unwise political move, rather than a sign of integrity and respect for the independence of the Department of Justice, which was so heavily compromised during the Bush years.

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