Patriots: For over 25 years, your generosity has made it possible to offer The Patriot Post without a subscription fee to military personnel, students, and those with limited means. Please support the 2022 Independence Day Campaign today.

Debra Saunders / January 13, 2009

From Jack Bauer to Leon Panetta

Sunday’s New York Times ran two columns that advocated for investigations into America’s use of coercive interrogation techniques – known to editorial writers as “torture” – of enemy combatants, as well as one that opposed a show trial. Also Sunday, television’s “24” uber-agent Jack Bauer stood before a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating intelligence abuses and gave a bombastic Senate inquisitor what-for: “Please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions that I have made, because, sir, the truth is, I don’t.”

Asked if he had tortured a suspect, the Kiefer Sutherland character Bauer answered, “According to the Geneva Convention, yes, I did.” Actually, according to any standard, Bauer tortured people. He shot and killed suspects, choked his brother and shot a suspect’s wife in the leg.

The interrogation methods cited in the New York Times exist in a different universe. Yes, the techniques, which some Bush administration critics want to prosecute, were harsh. But there is strong reason to not call them torture. Grabbing, shaking, open-hand slapping, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold and even the simulated-drowning technique called waterboarding do not scar. They’re not the sort of brutal punishment meted out by Saddam Hussein.

To the contrary, CIA agents have subjected themselves to waterboarding. “It wasn’t viewed as ipso facto torture,” a former CIA official told me, “because we don’t torture our own people.”

The harshest methods were not used routinely. The military never authorized harsh techniques, while the CIA used waterboarding – according to CIA Director Michael Hayden and news reports – not widely, but on three high-profile detainees.

Former CIA operative John Kiriakou told ABC’s Brian Ross that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah “disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.” That’s a lot of lives. Operatives didn’t act on impulse, a la Jack Bauer. Kiriakou explained that agents had to ask the deputy director for operations before using any coercive technique.

Democrats in Congress – and a handful of Republicans – have had a fun time trashing the Bush administration for authorizing waterboarding. Senators tried to strong-arm now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to classify waterboarding as torture during his confirmation hearings, and failed – perhaps because, at the time, despite the rhetoric, Congress itself had failed to ban the practice.

President-elect Barack Obama has said that waterboarding is torture and hence verboten in Obamaland.

But do Democrats really want to ban the potential to use waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques? Already news outlets are reporting on the downside to barring these techniques.

The Washington Post ran a story on the “perilous balancing act to fulfill his pledge to make a clean break with the detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration while still effectively ensuring the nation’s security.” Newsweek reported on a Senate vote last year to require that CIA use only interrogation methods from the Army Field Manual: “These are extremely restrictive: strictly speaking, the interrogator cannot ever threaten bodily harm or even put a prisoner on cold rations until he talks. Bush vetoed this measure, not unwisely. As president, Obama may want to preserve some flexibility. (Suppose, for instance, that after a big attack the CIA captured the leader who planned it; there would be enormous pressure to make the terrorist divulge what attack is coming next.)”

Suppose? No need. The CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Ah, but that was under Bush. With Obama in the White House, the lexicon will change, from “torture” to “flexibility” to interrogate in the interests of national security.



Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.