Reports the NYT.
Jesus, there's just too much here to even deal with.
First, let me remind you that I am not one of those misguided lefties who think that torture is never justified. It is clearly justified in ticking-timebomb cases. The absolute anti-torture folks usually try to change the subject when those cases are discussed. Or they argue that they never actually happen, or that by acknowledging that torture would be permitted in such cases, we encourage it in other cases in which it isn't permissible. As we've discussd here in the past, none of those responses work. So far as we know now, torture is morally permissible--in fact, probably even morally required--in some cases.
However...it simply isn't clear that we actually face such a case. I'm skeptical, but willing to be persuaded.
And: classic ticking-timebomb cases usually stipulate that you have good reason to believe that torture will be effective. Without fairly good reason to believe that it's efficacious, it's just recreational torture.
One of the real problems with the right's approach to torture is that they're just too eager to do it. It's justifiable under certain carefully circumscribed conditions, but it simply isn't clear that many--or any--of those conditions are met. But the right seemed to be engaged in what amounted to a rush to torture.
If we (1) have good reason to believe that a person is a participant in some plan to do something wrong (e.g. kill innocent people) and (2) have good reason to think that torturing him is likely to allow us to disrupt the plan, and (3) have good reason to think that torturing is the only thing (within reason) that will allow us to do so, then we probably have an obligation to engage in torture.
(1) will vary from person to person, but it's farily clear that it's going to be met in the case of, say, KSM.
(2) may or may not be true, but this new report suggests that (3) isn't true.
If the administration had honestly tried to find non-torture-related methods of interrogation, but failed, then that would be one thing. But it seemed fairly clear that they basically couldn't wait for the chance. That's one of the most dispicable things about their actions.
And this, of course, is not even to touch yet on the mind-bogglingly preposterous idea that it's permissible to outsource our torture...and that it somehow leaves our hands clean.
Jesus. Some of these guys would have had stellar careers in the Gestapo.