Obama Calls Waterboarding Torture, But Refers to Bush Policies as “Mistakes” and Bad “Techniques”

220px-barack_obamatorture -abu ghraibCivil libertarians were a bit disappointed again in President Barack Obama’s press conference on Wednesday. While he reaffirmed that he views waterboarding to be torture (a well-established legal fact), he repeatedly referred to what the Bush Administration did as a “technique” of interrogation and a “mistake.” I discussed the Obama press conference and the torture issues on this segment of Rachel Maddow. I will be discussing these issues again on tonight’s Hardball.

Obama reaffirmed that “waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe that it is torture. . . . “I believe that waterboarding was torture. And I think that … whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.” The use of terms like mistake cause international law and civil liberties advocates to object. Obama routinely avoids calling torture a crime. This is like a president who routinely avoids calling torture a crime. Both are demonstrably and undeniably crimes. To call torture “a technique” would be like a president saying that terrorism is a poor “technique of political expression.” These are crimes.

Clearly, this matter is in the hands of Holder. However, the reluctance of Obama to call torture a crime is an obviously intentional pattern of speech. Calling torture a crime does not prejudice the investigation of Bush officials — any more than calling terrorism a crime generally prejudices a case against those facing terrorism charges.

He then referred to torture as a “short cut”: “But I am absolutely convinced that the best way I can do that is to make sure that we are not taking short cuts that undermine who we are.”

What was also strange is that Obama was asked why he has filed extreme claims under state secrets doctrine in court. He insisted that only about a week after taking office, he was forced to make a decision and was not ready to modify that doctrine. The excuse simply does not track. Obviously, the Justice Department could have asked for more time before filing. What civil liberties attorney would deny the Administration a chance to review a doctrine in order to possibly withdraw claims? Certainly any court would give the Administration that chance. Instead, Obama is seeking to extinguish a variety of lawsuits as his lawyers debate whether they will make a change. That is a very convenient line of argument: you kill the cases that would expose the illegality of past programs and then reject or modify the claims used to terminate those cases.

For the transcript of the press conference, click here.

For the full story, click here.

30 thoughts on “Obama Calls Waterboarding Torture, But Refers to Bush Policies as “Mistakes” and Bad “Techniques””

  1. Hi
    My name is Emma and I am new here, its been a hard first few weeks of college and I don’t know anybody here.
    I found this forum and wanted to see if I could find anybody to show me around on campus and getting me ready for the social life.

    A little bit about me I am 22 years old and like the usual stuff hangout,parties, friends but since I come from another state
    I don;t really have any friends here yet.


    Picture of me

    I guess my picture thing does not work or I am doing something wrong when I try and put it in sorry if anybody can help me get it right please tell me.

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  2. Well Messpo0727272, FF LEO, Buddha et al,

    I left my secret decoder ring back at the space station, or the dark side invaded, yet again, last night and relieved me of my duties to the planet that I inhabit in this form.

  3. Bron,

    The following is from another poster. I believe it addresses your concerns:

    “lthuedk 1, April 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

    It doesn’t matter if one or 250 million Americans disagree with prosecuting the Bushist Neo Cons. Our nation of laws was not designed for convenience.

    Sometimes the timing of the Law is inconvenient or uncomfortable politically for Constitutionalists like Obama, but that should never be the decider for fair and just law evenly applied.

    The feared right wing response to indictments for it’s heroes would be silenced quickly by the education provided from such prosecutions. There should be no excuse whatsoever for foot-dragging and negligent behavior.

    We either have an administration that fully respects it’s station and the People that put it there, or it shall be replaced in four years.

    I think we’ve waited long enough for Justice.”

  4. sapphire98:

    “All in all, Our president seems to be somewhat confused. He’s an idividual who dosen’t believe in torture, yet can agree to killing a unborn human being?”


    Sorry Sapphire, but a 100 cell blastocyst is, in no meaningful way,a “human being.” We’re in the fact business around here –emotional appeals need not apply.

  5. Jill:

    when people are desperate and hungry they do take to the streets, see French Revolution. Although I dont think conservatives would necessarily take to the streets in a literal sense. I could see them taking to the streets in a figurative sense in 2010 for the mid-term election.

    Personally I think one of the reason that Pres. Obama is “dragging” his feet is that he knows there is not a consesus at this point for a trial.
    He has got to convince the average American that it is necessary. It took me reading all the arguments on this blog for over 3 months and really thinking about them to reach the conclusion that it is probably the right thing to do and I still have some doubt because I worry about the politics, it should not be preceived as left wing payback. If it ends up being politicized it isnt going to do anything of value.

    Anyway just some thoughts, you all here have had much more time to think about these things.

  6. All in all, Our president seems to be somewhat confused. He’s an idividual who dosen’t believe in torture, yet can agree to killing a unborn human being? Remeber “It’s just words, just speeches.” He has lied to all the people in America

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