Friday, January 16, 2009

"(I)n three words, the world changed as far as I’m concerned"

I didn't really pay attention to the confirmation hearings of Eric Holder. But on Think Progress, I caught this notable exchange between Holder and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), in which Holder is asked about a "hypothetical" about the "ticking-time bomb" scenario with only waterboarding as a means of interrogation.

Now, the proper response here, is I've learned anything from the past five years, is to quake in one's boots and agree that waterboarding is totally not torture (but only when Americans do it) and necessary to protect America (despite all the evidence otherwise). After all, YOU DON'T WANT INNOCENT AMERICAN BABIES TO BE BLOWN UP BY FOREIGN TERRORISTS, do you?

Refreshingly, Holder is having none of it:

HOLDER: I think your hypothetical assumes a premise that I'm not willing to concede.

CORNYN: I know you don't like my hypothetical.

HOLDER: No, the hypothetical's fine; the premise that underlies it I'm not willing to accept, and that is that waterboarding is the only way that I could get that information from those people.

CORNYN: Assume that it was.

HOLDER: [Laughs] Given the knowledge that I have about other techniques and what I've heard from retired admirals and generals and FBI agents, there are other ways in a timely fashion that you can get information out of people that is accurate and will produce useable intelligence And so it's hard for me to accept or to answer your hypothetical without accepting your premise. And in fact, I don't think I can do that.

But it's Dick Dubin (D-IL) for the win:

DURBIN: I listened to your opening statement and in three words, in three words, the world changed as far as I'm concerned, because you stated without hesitation that waterboarding is torture. I can't tell you how many times Senator Whitehouse and I asked that of the current Attorney General and we could never, ever get a straight declarative sentence. I think it's important — important for our country, important for our position in the world. And I understand Senator Cornyn's questions. They are questions that anyone who watches Jack Bauer on "24″ would ask.

This gives me hope. It's going to take a long time to erase the ugliness that the Bush Administration painted over America with their human rights violations. But this is a step in the right direction. In the long run, I think it's very important that we never let this happen again, and I don't see how we can achieve that if we don't hold those responsible accountable. But I can take comfort that at the very least, these shameful acts appear to be coming to an end. For now.

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