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The Question of Torture

Thanks to Santa Maria Bill for coming by again tonight. Good discussion. Great phone calls. We touched on a number of topics, including Bill trying to reach out to conservatives and sharing a common fear that “government” is growing too big and too centralized. Check out the podcast if you get a chance.

A large chunk of the discussion, though, centered around the current debate on torture. Bill continues to argue that all those involved with torture, from President Bush on down to your basic CIA field agent, must be investigated and punished. I tend to side with the perceived perception of President Obama — let’s move forward and not dwell on the mistakes of the past.

We had a great exchange tonight between Bill and “Jeff” who called in to defend torture. My concern is that CIA agents should not be punished if they thought what they were doing was legal.

Here’s a little background from the “New York Times”:

Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.

Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.

The president’s decision last week to release secret memorandums detailing the harsh tactics employed by the C.I.A. under his predecessor provoked a furor that continued to grow on Monday as critics on various fronts assailed his position. Among other things, the memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Some Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, accused the administration of endangering the country by disclosing national secrets. Mr. Cheney went on the Fox News Channel to announce that he had asked the C.I.A. to declassify reports documenting the intelligence gained from the interrogations. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director, has also condemned the release of the memorandums and said the harsh questioning had value.

On the other side of the spectrum, human rights activists, Congressional Democrats and international officials pressed for a fuller accounting of what happened. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote Mr. Obama asking him not to rule out prosecutions until her panel completed an investigation over the next six to eight months.”

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