Scott Lemieux: Torture Without Accountability:
It is not as though we got anything out of torture. We blackened our reputation for a generation and did substantial damage to our national security. We gave away a piece of our soul. And our torturers and our torture techniques--they are the techniques designed to elicit false confessions.
At least when we sent Maher Arar to the Syrian Mukhabarat, the professionals there figured out pretty quickly that he was innocent and sent him back. Had our CIA kept hold of him, it would have elicited a false confession and still be claiming that he was a mastermind behind 911…
So I write:
I think the good guys have lost this permanently.
Impeaching or trying presidents and cabinet members for policies of torture is a vote loser, or so all the High Politicians think. And going after lower-downs creates very bad precedents for the future--for one thing, it then makes CIA agents slaves of the then-president because they must get their end-of-term plenary pardons before the administration changes. And the Roman Republic's fall teaches it how bad it is for people to fear that losing an election will land them in jail.
POTUS now has plenary power to arrest, detain, torture, or kill anyone on his say-so alone without ever having to explain why--a power William the Conquerer never claimed…
And somebody smarter than I am responds:
I would urge people to think of accountability as a generational project -- this is how it has worked out in Chile, Argentina, South Africa... the thing that can be done now is create opportunities for more participants to tell their stories, put on record what was done and who did it and how, so that the record gets fuller rather than thinner over time.