The newspaper that brought us Judy Miller and the Iraqi aluminum tubes of mass destruction now wants us to believe that no one involved in the decision to authorize torture after 9/11 had any real idea what they were doing. They are, no doubt, shocked, shocked, to discover the true nature of the procedures they approved.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved – not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees – investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.
They could have learned about the water-board at the Tuol Sleng torture prison just by reading BMG (admittedly, in 2007).
Does anyone expect informed observers to believe this thinly-veiled apologia for the torturers? It reads more like an episode of Really? on S.N.L. than a serious news article. Maybe it’s a shot across the bow of possible European indictments of the torturers. Pull yourself together N.Y.T. This is embarrassing.