It looks like “the Bush folks needed a shredder,” said Craig Crawford in CQ Politics. President Obama Thursday released four memos that Bush’s Office of Legal Council wrote to justify controversial CIA interrogation methods. The techniques included “walling (hitting a detainee against a flexible wall),” sleep deprivation, “cramped confinement with insects,” and waterboarding.
Releasing the memos was an “unsound” decision, said ex-CIA director Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in The Wall Street Journal. The “coercive” methods were only used on a small number of “hard-core” terrorists, and only when necessary -- plus, they elicited useful intelligence. Broadcasting these techniques to our enemies makes them useless.
When the kind of “war crimes” described in the memos were used by the Gestapo and Khmer Rouge, said Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic, the U.S. rightly called them torture. And reading the “exquisitely disingenuous” legal contortions used to justify them is “what Hannah Arendt wrote of when she talked of the banality of evil.”
Obama “struck exactly the right balance” by "repudiating” those abhorrent techniques, said The Washington Post in an editorial, but also “essentially forgiving” the CIA agents who used them. Declining to pursue criminal charges, however, should not preclude an investigation into the “circumstances that gave rise to torture” by the Bush administration.
The Bush-bashing pundits, said Hugh Hewitt in Townhall, are ignoring the fact that Congress never cast a "single vote" to define waterboarding as torture, even though it "was fully aware of the practice." The Bush administration lawyers did their best "in the aftermath of a massive attack on the United States," and it's unfair, and hypocritical, for congressional critics to second guess them now.