It looks like the debate over so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” will be reinvigorated by the death of Osama Bin Laden. Brian Williams of NBC News interviewed the Director of the CIA yesterday, and “Leon Panetta confirms that the intelligence needed to find Osama bin Laden was gained, in part, by interrogation techniques that included water-boarding.” Here’s a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview.
Brian Williams: I’d like to ask you about the sourcing on the intel that ultimately led to this successful attack. Can you confirm that it was as a result of waterboarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after bin Laden?
Leon Panetta: You know, Brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information and that was true here. We had a multiple source — a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly, some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees. But we also had information from other sources as well. So it’s a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got.
Brian Williams: Turned around the other way, are you denying that waterboarding was in part among the tactics used to extract the intelligence that led to this successful mission?
Leon Panetta: No, I think some of the detainees clearly were — you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I’m also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.
Brian Williams: So final point, one final time, enhanced interrogation techniques, which has always been kind of a handy euphemism in these post-9/11 years, that includes waterboarding?
Leon Panetta: That’s correct.
As a political matter, this information is potentially explosive. It suggests that the Bush-era interrogation techniques worked. Some are already arguing that this vindicates the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other coercive tactics to extract intelligence from enemy combatants.
I would caution Christians against this kind of thinking. We do not make ethical judgments based on whether or not an action benefits this or that politician or party. Nor do we evaluate the morality of an action by whether or not it “works”â€”meaning that it achieves some highly desirable end. That would amount to a crass form of pragmatism that would lead to an end-justifies-the-means way of solving ethical problems. That would, of course, lead to moral anarchy.
I agree with Albert Mohler, Richard John Neuhaus, and others that torture is wrong. There are, however, times when this general rule has exceptionsâ€”the so-called “ticking time-bomb” scenario. As Mohler writes:
“Moral cowards duck these questions even as the morally unserious dismiss them. This is not an option for Christians who would think seriously about this urgent question. I would argue that we cannot condone torture by codifying a list of exceptional situations in which techniques of torture might be legitimately used. At the same time, I would also argue that we cannot deny that there could exist circumstances in which such uses of torture might be made necessary” (Culture Shift, p. 59)
For an informed discussion of these issues, I recommend the following:
- Albert Mohler, Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah, 2008). [Chapter 8]
Darrell Cole :: John Jefferson Davis :: Daniel Heimbach :: Mark Liederbach :: Kenneth Magnuson :: Albert Mohler :: Richard John Neuhaus :: Robert Vischer
UPDATE: Representative Peter King also confirms that the initial information about the courier came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after interrogation that included waterboarding. See below.
I think the Mohler quote is very good; and I can only imagine rare circumstances when torturing someone for information would be justified.
However, I’m not sure that waterboarding really qualifies as torture. To me, there’s a very real difference between something that causes great physical injury to someone (think pouring boiling water down someone’s throat as an example – now THAT is torture) and something that makes you feel like you’re being injured, when you’re really not.
I also think its unhelpful to continually raise the bar publicly for what we will and will not allow. As a small example, when teachers have no authority in school to discipline, students run all the more wild. If you tell police officers they’re not allowed to physically retaliate when physically assaulted, then criminals no longer have any deterrent to hold back from physically assaulting officers.
Likewise, if we take waterboarding off the table form the onset, I’d say we’re much less likely to get information. If prisoners know we’ll treat them with kid gloves, we don’t earn their respect, only their contempt and non-cooperation.
Like you said above, not an easy issue to work out in practice.
Hitler liked to torture people before he killed them. In Vietnam John Macain was tortured.
In the USA we torture men who would like to sever your head, and who are guilty of murder in some cases. Instead of waterboarding then, we could just killed them.
I see the torture thing as a means by the good guys to help us fight the bad guys. And the bad guys torture because it makes them feel good to make others suffer.
A Kingdom principle is to preserve life and act so as to preserve it.
BTW, there is a famous video of Christopher Hitchens, the atheist, being voluntarily waterboarded. They had a lot of precautions, he lasted about a second once it started. He claims it IS drowning and IS torture.
My biggest problem with this issue is that the use of torture presupposes guilt. The judgement has already been made that this person is guilty of something. Torture 20 people, and you will no doubt find something useful from one or two of them. But what of the other 18 or 19?
After 9/11, it quickly became clear that on a national level, safety and security became the primary good, and liberty became a secondary good. I’m always leery of tying Christian morality to national morality.
“Iâ€™m always leery of tying Christian morality to national morality.”
Bill, you would have made a poor Nazi. (This is a compliment, I assure you.)
The ‘ethic’ that guided our country for generations was that we, as Americans, did not torture our prisoners. When that was abandoned during the last administration, some religious leaders applauded the change.
Today, our country has restored ‘torture’ to its former illegal status. We are America again, we haven’t permitted the enemy who attacked our homeland to destroy our honor.
Framing here is the problem once more as there is no definitive proof that waterboarding is torture. For that matter there is not a consensus definition of what torture is.
So those who are against waterboarding have already won the argument before it even starts by using the torture lingo and smuggling it into the debate.
Besides that, many think of torture as something being done by evil, heartless, malicious people to good people who are ill-deserving of it.
Once again this does not fit the situation here as we are talking about individuals who have initiated the violence and are still ideologically-driven to continue in violence, and murdering others.
Just some thoughts about how this debate usually gets framed.
Can you clarify something, please.
As a Christian, is it acceptable to treat those who you consider ‘the enemy’ with waterboarding?
BTW, it has been suggested that waterboarding is not ‘torture’.
In that case, those who teach this might first want to undergo a few sessions of this procedure. Just a few times, in order to understand the ‘effect’.
It might be especially appropriate for Christian leaders who advocated the water boarding procedure, to undergo the experience. But, in the context of their biblical faith, these Christians would have to experience hundreds of times, as it was done to some detainees.
If, after going through waterboarding a few hundred times, a Christian leader’s opinion about it would certainly have the gravitas to get my respectful attention. But not before.
For all the discussion about moral vs immoral, good / evil and right / wrong … we’re starting with the supposition that “the other guys” are evil or bad and we, inherently, are good. This is a very narrow, one-sided point of view. Seen from a different perspective, WE are the bad guys on the side of evil. Who among us is qualified to make that judgment? All major religions abhor killing and demand adherents live by the Golden Rule. Isn’t it possible for humans to respect different opinions, lifestyles and ways of honoring a higher power; especially since that higher power is likely the same for all peoples of all faiths, just seen through the lens of the particular culture in which an individual was born and raised?
If you are not willing to be waterboarded, it’s torture.
So, who here is really to line up?
And don’t start in with any of this nonsense of “well I didn’t do anything wrong!” Well, if it’s not torture, then what is there to worry about?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I’m against torture, but I can’t stop it from being done by those in power. However, if the right is now claiming that it’s not even torture, then we have all moved to Animal Farm.
I’m not willing to be put into a prison cell and given bread and water. Would this be torture?
Don . . . a lot of people on this earth would be grateful for bread and water. Check the stats on starvation deaths.
You speak from a place of privilege, as most of us in this country do. We forget too soon to be thankful, even for clean water and some bread.
If waterboarding is effective, as it is purported to be, and if waterboarding is not torture, why don’t we use it all the time? Why don’t our police use it during interrogations?
A few thoughts.
1. I believe torture is wrong, and I would agree that water-boarding is a form of torture. Anything with the potential to kill someone, as it has, should be taken seriously.
2. It is definitely not the most horrible kind of torture anyone could imagine, and to hear some people talk about how “Americans cruelly torture terrorists,” you’d think it was something truly horrendous like pulling their thumbs out of joint or flaying them with bits of bone, or worse. My favorite story about American “torture” is that once we put a caterpillar in somebody’s cell and told him it was poisonous. He was so scared that he talked. Anyone who doesn’t think that’s funny needs to get a sense of humor.
And finally, we only got *some* of our info about Bin Laden from waterboarding. Far from all.
The whole, “if you wouldn’t go through with it it is torture” is a very poor definition of torture. I wouldn’t want to go through a public flogging, yet in many cultures flogging is an accepted form of punishment. (Note that God didn’t not order his people not to flog, he only limited the amount of flogging a person was to receive. Was God condoning or encouraging torture?) Likewise with many other forms of punishment. I wouldn’t go through sensory chaos, sleep deprivation, etc. Does this make any or all of these punishments torture?
But, I think Dr. Mohler’s point is still valid here. Even if waterboarding is torture (and I think there are good arguments that it is) the idea that we should never use techniques like waterboarding ignores the difficult choices that have to be made in reality. While we, as individual Christians, would not use these techniques, or would not respond to our enemies in this way, that does not mean that the government cannot or should not. We are told to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and do good to those who do evil, but Scripture says the government has the sword to execute justice. We have to recognize that there is a difference between what individuals are commanded to do, and the responsibilities placed upon governments by God.
The issue here is not primarily about the terrorists we are waterboarding. The issue is primarily about us. If we see little Billy pulling the wings off of flies, we stop him. We stop him not because we have an especially high concern for flies, but because of what this act does to Billy. In a similar fashion, we eschew torture first and foremost because of what it does to us as a society.
“a lot of people on this earth would be grateful for bread and water.”
I agree. My point is that I wouldn’t want to be put in prison, and locked away. How about being put in solitary confinement? I wouldn’t want that.
I’m just trying to share my heart that’s all.
I see it different. But I shall ponder these things.
Saint and Sinner
Reductio ad absurdum:
If you are not willing to [receive a life sentence for murder], itâ€™s [excessive].
So, who here is really to line up [to be thrown into prison]?
And donâ€™t start in with any of this nonsense of â€œwell [didn’t murder anyone]!â€ Well, if itâ€™s not [excessive], then what is there to worry about?
Yeah, thatâ€™s what I thought.
Iâ€™m against [receiving a life sentence for murder], but I canâ€™t stop it from being done by those in power. However, if [anyone] is now claiming that itâ€™s not even [excessive], then we have all moved to Animal Farm.
All who find “torture” (let’s skip what defines torture at the moment for a larger issue) acceptable if it provides life-saving information need to study the facts.
Military interrogators, psychology experts, law enforcement and academics studying this topic agree on only one thing:
Torture does NOT produce reliable intel. It doesn’t breakdown psychological barriers or weaken the captive; it makes them stronger in their resolve to die as a martyr. More important, while it doesn’t elicit the truth, torture DOES make captives speak. But they lie. They’ll say anything to stop the immediate pain and suffering — knowing it will be worse the next time around. However, no serious student of human behavior or interrogation techniques believes torture is the most effective nor efficient way to get the truth out of someone.
As another point of interest, as Christians, we’re told not to kill, turn the other cheek, have faith in God’s will, what are we even doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? How do we justify our actions in the name of the Prince of Peace? We know for a fact our wars have nothing to do with 9-11. If that were true, we’d have invaded Saudia Arabia. And we CERTAINLY would not have let bin Laden’s parents fly out of the US and back home on 9-12-2001 when ALL flights were grounded, except one … and that was the bin Laden family jet that took off from Washington since the bin Ladens were in the US to visit the Bush family.
Some would AND DO consider solitary confinement to be torture. So, there you go. You wouldn’t want to be tortured. Then just be man enough to call it such.
Paul are you suggesting that punishment in our justice system is torture?
If so how should we treat criminals?
And btw you might want to check your tone and attitude if you want to be taken seriously. Right now you come off as immature.
Americans do not torture people. Torture has always been against our ethical and moral codes as a people because our ethical and moral codes are based on Judeo-Christian principles.
We must not abandon our moral principles as a nation. If we do this, we won’t be ‘America’ anymore.
Our ‘strength’ as a people isn’t found in our military, or our money, or our hubris;
it is found on our spirit as a nation, and I thank God that we have come out against torture as something ‘acceptable’ in this country. We ARE ‘better than that’. No enemy can take away our honor away from us, only we can abandon our honor, and our honor as a people is our greatest strength. We must preserve who we are as a people if we are to survive.
What it appears that the majority of you are saying is that each individual should be allowed to define the term “torture” before being punished. This simply can’t be done if punishment is to occur.
When I was in grade school the principal paddled students who broke certain rules. That is considered torturous in today’s world. Hmmm… wonder if the state of public schools today versus the 1950s/1960s bears any correlation for the lack of torture (oops, I mean discipline).
Torture has to be defined in order to have a discussion. At what point (pulling the wings off flies) or (waterboarding) or (solitary) does punishment traverse into torture. It is clear that this thread will never accomplish anything because there is no baseline agreement on where discipline evolves into torture.
Some parents use corporal punishment, others think that is barbaric… and on and on and on…
I think something with the potential to kill you would be a good basic starting point. So corporal punishment wouldn’t fall under that. 🙂
Amen. You accurately (and concisely) captured the real issue. How far will America sink? How much are we willing to parse words and stretch the ethical and moral fiber upon which this nation was founded? Seems to me if the POTUS needs mountains of legal opinions to support an action being contemplated, that alone should indicate the action isn’t in keeping with our national beliefs and character. When there’s a need to justify our actions to ourselves and the world … when we need to court martial (or detain) raw recruits like Bradley Manning of Lynndie England … something is seriously amiss.
What if a murderer was captured, and he knew where there was a nuclear bomb that was going to be detonated and kill a million people: And if we would torture him he would talk?
Would that be okay to torture him?
Of course we could just execute him, or kill him, like they did Osama.
Just a few crazy thoughts up in my head, I guess from watching Jack Bauer.
Donsands … The issue of torture is well worth discussing. But in this instance, more relevant is the fact that professional interrogators from various military and law enforcement agencies agree that information gleaned thru torture is not reliable. Seems 99% of the time, the “bad guy” is more committed to the attack than to his own life. As such, in the scenario you presented, it’s far more likely the captive will lie about where the bomb is to 1) buy time for it to explode by sending the “good guys” on a wild goose chase; and 2) to stop the pain of torture for a short time.
All the data available about the reliability / veracity of intel gotten from enemies indicates that torture provides bad or misleading info. The best info is gained through long-term efforts in which the interrogator and enemy form a relationship in which the bad guy eventually realizes his best option is to work with, not against, his interrogators.
“The best info is gained through long-term efforts in which the interrogator and enemy form a relationship in which the bad guy eventually realizes his best option is to work with, not against, his interrogators.”
But the bad guy wants to blow up people, and he would love to sever your head from its body. How can you relate to a liar who wants to slit your throat?
BTW, where do you get your info? I saw last night in a discussion that one of the reasons they found Laden was because they water-boarded that terrorist in Guantanamo.
As for “forming a relationship” — it’s not a relationship of equals; it’s one in which the captor is dominant and exerts complete control over every aspect of the enemy’s life. Once the roles are defined, the enemy has two choices: 1) No chance of exerting any control over his destiny, or; 2) using the desired intel as currency to “buy” some small measure of control over his life. Prisoners will say anything under torture because it’s a zero-sum game. Given the power to bargain for token “benefits,” there’s an upside to cooperating for the prisoner, but only if he provides useful info. Then the game CAN become a win-win situation. Keep in mind that evil is in the eye of the beholder. Our enemies believe they are doing God’s work and fighting evil themselves… Finding common ground is more productive that strengthening an enemy’s resolve to cause death and destruction.
Next, we’ll never really know what happened at GITMO. Leon Panetta and Donald Rumsfeld initially claimed the information was gleaned thru waterboarding in 2004. When pressed, they both backed off their stories because the Bush administration declared it had ceased waterboarding in 2003. So who do we believe? Further, IF the intel was gathered in 2003 or 2004, it seems odd no one acted on it until 8 years later in 2011. It’s difficult to imagine that bin Laden stayed put in one place all that time. Even more curious is the comment made by G.W. Bush during a press conference in 2002 when he was trying to deflect attention away from bin Laden, the acknowledged 9-11 mastermind and drum up support for a war in Iraq since Saddam Huessein and Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. Just six months after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush said:
“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. I don’t think about him much. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” – George W. Bush, March 13, 2002
“Keep in mind that evil is in the eye of the beholder.”
That’s true. A doctor can kill a baby and suck the brains out, or cut a baby up so that it’s legs and head are severed, and feel nothing. He thinks this not evil, killing babies.
Or, is there something in every human that knows?
I appreciate your thoughts, and there so much we will never know. Yet, our Lord Jesus Christ sits on His sovereign thrown, and sees all things, and He has all authority. Now, there’s a comforting thought for the child of Christ.
Have a great Lord’s day!
“â€œI donâ€™t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really donâ€™t care. I donâ€™t think about him much. Itâ€™s not that important. Itâ€™s not our priority.â€ â€“ George W. Bush, March 13, 2002
I posted the video of this speech on SBCVoices and it made it through ‘moderation’;
but then many commentators could not handle it. I was accused of being a ‘party hack’, etc. etc.
I never saw that coming. But I should have done, perhaps.
Do we comment walking on tippy-toes here? You got through moderation with your statement.
That says a lot for this blog.
Don Sands . . . if you ever find yourself thinking that it’s ‘okay’ to torture people,
remember who you are: you belong to a nation of honorable people.
If, after 9/11, our country were to have become a nation that permanently approved of torture, then Al Quaeda would have won a great victory indeed.
The only people I know that ever supported water-boarding were some ultra right wing conservatives, some Republican leaders and some Southern Baptist leaders.
The American people are better than that.
Evil is in the eye of the beholder?
So if I bonk you on the head, can I claim that’s evil for you but not for me?
You can CLAIM anything you want, LOL. (Besides which, I might LIKE getting bonked on the noggin!!) What I was saying was you can’t have darkness without light, good without bad, right w/o wrong, up w/o down, etc., etc.
Both good and evil depend on one’s point of view. Sadly, religion seems to magnify the phenomenon. Throughout history, from the Roman occupation of Egypt and Israel to the Crusades to present day, people of one persuasion often considers “outsiders” as evil. To wit:
In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans view Muslims, along with the extremist, fundamentalist groups Al Queda (sp?) and the Taliban as evil; as things that should be eliminated, controlled or changed.
Conversely, those folks view western societies (e.g., the US) as immoral, unholy agents of evil that must be eliminated, controlled or changed.
We think they’re evil; they think we’re evil. Who’s right, who’s wrong and who makes the ultimate judgment? Christians say God does. Muslims say Allah does. Then we get into questions about who is or isn’t a child of God and whether all supreme beings are the same with minor differences based on language, culture, etc., but let’s side-step that for purposes of this discussion.
Generally speaking, in the end I say, “bonk away” but make sure your own front stoop is clean before casting aspersions, harboring hatred, or inciting or participating in violence.
I’ve always like Ryan Dobson’s take on this:
YGG — Thanks. Great clip.
“..in the end I say, â€œbonk awayâ€” Caley
So in the end severing babies heads and limbs is not evil, if we say it’s not evil to me?
Of course the bottom line for me is the Holy Scriptures, which is God’s Word, which is truth. In fact Jesus said He came to bear witness to the truth, and that He in fact was truth personified.
What do you think about Jesus’ truth?
Lord bless. Amen.
“the bottom line for me is the Holy Scriptures, which is Godâ€™s Word, which is truth.”
So what about people who do not believe the Scriptures are God’s word, but words written by fallible, imperfect men who may have had a personal cause or agenda to advance?
What about people who worship and believe as sincerely as you do that the Koran is the word of God?
What about people who believe in Buddha or any other human whom non-Christians believe came to Earth in human form to teach his disciples “the truth?”
Are all these people evil? If so, are we obligated to wipe them off the face of Earth? If they view Christians as infidels and evil, are non-Christians obligated to wipe us off the face of the planet?
Finally, since the majority of people on Earth are not Christian, is there a remote possibility that Christians are wrong?
The truth is confirmed in Jesus Christ Caley.
He died. And he rose from the dead three days later.
He was seen alive by many people, and especially His disciples and friends; and especially John & Peter.
I’d encourage you to read the letters written by Peter about Christ. And also John’s letters. They testify to His resurrection.
So, His Word is the last Word. And God invites all sinners on this planet to repent and trust in His Son for the forgiveness of sin, and so enjoy eternal life in Jesus.
Jesus trumps all religions. He has all authority in the universe.
I pray you would come to Him today.
Donsands, That’s what YOU believe. I’m not questioning your faith. I was asking if you can acknowledge that other peoples in other cultures have a right to believe in another religion — based on essentially the same principles and moral codes.
Your answer appears to be an emphatic “no.” Sadly, this is the same monotheistic mind-set held by religious fanatics who engage in open warfare and covert terrorism in an attempt to convert others to their point of view. Ardent, fundamentalist non-Christians believe their God trumps all others and has all authority in the universe.
More troubling is how all religions suspend their core values and beliefs when it comes to converting others of a different faith. Suddenly, killing, torture, loving your fellow man, being charitable to one in need, lying, deception and all the other bedrock beliefs the Lord set forth get turned on end, ignored and justified.
The original Commandments say “Thou shall not kill.” It doesn’t say, “Thou shall not kill unless you do so in an attempt to convert someone to worshiping me.”
“I was asking if you can acknowledge that other peoples in other cultures have a right to believe in another religion â€” based on essentially the same principles and moral codes.” Caley
“Because the resurrection is a fact of history, it is not a private value but a public truth. The clash here is that most people in the Western society think that religion is a matter of private value, while scientific findings are those of public truth. Modernity says freedom (of speech, of religion, and so forth) is the way to truth. Jesus says the opposite: He is the truth that sets people free. ….When the church tells the story about Christ being raised from the dead, we announce it as a public factual truth while the culture around us subjects it to the realm of private value and belief.”
The Gospel, or good news of Jesus, is for all mankind. Please consider this truth, and good news.
Don — This, obviously, is where we part ways … amicably, I hope. The Resurrection is an article of FAITH, not fact. Indeed, all major religions are based on accepting events for which there is no incontrovertible, empirical proof.
Conversely, science is based on predictable, measurable actions and reactions that can be replicated by others to confirm that opinion and bias had no part in proving a hypothesis as fact.
The two, science and religion are not mutually exclusive. The universe still holds many mysteries humans may never solve. Much is yet to be revealed. However, God gave mankind free will. To dispute that and declare when the Christian Church — of which there many — says the Resurrection is an indisputable fact not subject to debate or interpretation, you dispute that God gave mankind free will and undercut the entire basis of Christianity.
“The Resurrection is an article of FAITH, not fact.”
Au contraire. It is most definitely both. To imply that God has not left Himself without witness is to mock Him.
Sorry: To imply that God HAS left himself without witness is to mock Him. He has not.
“Don â€” This, obviously, is where we part ways â€¦ amicably, I hope.”
One last statement from Shane Lems, who is also the author of the other quotes:
“The story of Jesus standing up in life after being dead in a tomb is a true fact and in fact true.”
Jesus said to His friend and disciple Thomas on that first Easter, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Hubris about ‘faith’ among Christian people towards those who may not have it often causes me to wonder if those Christian people are being honest with themselves.
There are many verses about faith, but there is one, spoken to Our Lord, by someone very humble,
that I think represents where most Christian people are, if they are being honest with themselves;
. . . and if they are at all able to handle the strength of a real Christian humility:
“. . . Lord, I believe;
help Thou my unbelief.”
Made a mistake. Jesus spoke with Thomas 8 days after He rose from the dead. Sorry about that.
happy Mother’s day to all Moms!
Don, I’ve greatly enjoyed our conversation. It reminds me that there are still people willing to exchange ideas about “sensitive” subjects cordially and with respect. These days most people have short fuses, are uninformed and unwilling to do a bit of research or engage in critical thinking. As such, debates rapidly disintegrate into shouting matches and a barrage of insults.
How much better the world would be if we could recapture the art of freely exchanging info and ideas — whether one’s viewpoint ultimately is changed or not.
There is so much to learn and so many wonders we may never understand in this life. Still, as we make our Earhly journey, I find great comfort in knowing there are people walking the same path at the same time — even if each of us experiences the journey in a unique way.