This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
Cleaning up someone else's mess is never pretty, but President Obama did a respectable job last week wading through the previous administration’s torturous muck without getting mired in it.
By releasing Bush-era memos approving brutal CIA interrogation techniques, Obama disavowed in no uncertain terms the legal theories that proved the justification for what amounted to, in some cases, torture.
To be sure, the president had already outlawed harsh interrogation techniques. But providing nearly unfettered public access to the documents that helped author what Obama called a "dark and painful chapter in our history" went a step further. It was official acknowledgment of common knowledge – an assurance that when history is written, there will be no doubt of the lengths to which the United States went to wage its war on terror.
Current and former CIA officials lobbied strenuously to withhold details about specific interrogation methods, worried that disclosure would set a dangerous precedent.
But the White House apparently was not convinced. The released memos spare no such details. Among the approved techniques they describe are simulated drowning (aka waterboarding), shackling a suspect in a standing position to prevent him from falling asleep for up to 11 days and "cramped confinement" with insects.
Interrogation of a terrorism suspect is no walk in the park, nor should it be. Methods for extracting information, especially from senior operatives of al-Qaida trained to endure gentler tactics, are necessarily aggressive.
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