I miss Mike Wallace and Morley Safer on 60 Minutes. I just cannot imagine them doing a two-part interview like the one CBS aired on Sunday where Lesley Stahl did a nice soft, gentle friendly interview with former CIA torture architect Jose Rodriguez. If you didn't watch it and want to, Part One is at the top of this post. Part Two will be at the end. I warn you to hide sharp or heavy objects before you watch it.
It is 40 minutes of justification, intellectual dishonesty, authoritarian bluster, and will make you remember exactly what things were like when George W. Bush was in office.
If you don't want to watch it, then let me summarize it for you. Anyone who dares to disagree with Rodriguez and his decision to torture detainees and destroy the evidence that they were tortured is a traitor. Also, the torture was necessary to cover the CIA's behind, not for the previously-claimed purpose of eliciting information. Here it is, in Rodriguez' own words:
Jose Rodriguez: If there was going to be another attack against the U.S., we would have blood on our hands because we would not have been able to extract that information from him. So we started to talk about an alternative set of interrogation procedures.
Lesley Stahl: So you're the one who went looking for something to break this guy.
Jose Rodriguez: Yes. And let me tell you something, you know, because years later the 9/11 Commission accused, or said that 9/11 was a failure of imagination. Well, there was no lack of imagination on the part of the CIA in June 2002. We were looking for different ways of doing this.
In their imaginations, they imagined themselves to be the equivalent of our former Cold War enemies, and hired a psychologist trained up in those ways:
His search led him to a former military psychologist who had helped train American soldiers in how to resist torture if they were captured. The psychologist adapted the brutal tactics of our Cold War adversaries into what the CIA called "enhanced interrogation techniques." A team of interrogators -- about six of them -- was given a two-week training course and while Jose Rodriguez himself never engaged in any of the sessions with detainees, he supervised the program.
Because somehow, it's justifiable to become what we hate(d).
However, Mr. Rodriguez would like for all Americans to know it wasn't really as bad as all that:
Lesley Stahl: But I mean, these were enhanced interrogation techniques. Other people call it torture.This was-- this wasn't benign in any-- any sense of the word.
Jose Rodriguez: I'm not trying to say that they were benign. But the problem is here is that people don't understand that this program was not about hurting anybody. This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist, on the detainee, so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us.
Oh, well that's a relief. I was so worried that it was all about hurting other human beings, and really it was simply coercion. I wonder, is instilling hopelessness and despair with the goal of convincing the detainee to act in his best interests something like self-deportation?
Coming toward the middle of the second half of the interview, Rodriguez justifies the whole thing with strange and wonderful (not) logic. Essentially, the argument is that because we don't know whether there would have been attacks without detaining and torturing these operatives, they succeeded. Also? We don't know whether Martians would have landed, or an earthquake would have dropped half of California in the ocean. So many unknowns, so few detainees. Rodriguez does a terrific job of trying to pull a fast one though, saying that the mythical anthrax and nuclear programs hatched by al Qaeda were stopped in their tracks. Just like that.
It's easy to stop something that didn't exist in the first place.