Patterico's Pontifications


Dafydd ab Hugh’s Waterboarding Hypo

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:04 pm

Well, the whole waterboarding thing is coming up again with the recent vote to limit the CIA to interrogation techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual.

And when there is a waterboarding discussion, hypotheticals can’t be far behind.

Dafydd ab Hugh asks:

You are a CIA station chief in an undisclosed, secret CIA prison in Poland (with Warsaw’s consent). A prisoner is brought to your location, picked up by the Germans in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody six days ago. We’ll call him Mahmoud.

Mahmoud was not previously known to any intelligence agency before his capture (he was not the main target of the raid). He doesn’t appear to be a big fish. But when he was grabbed, he had a laptop with him, and he was in the process of trying to erase the hard drive. Most of the information is irretrievably gone, a little bit remains; and within that remaining little bit, your techies manage to extract references to a huge attack planned for somewhere on the American mainland. From the timeframe discussed, it appears to be one to three months away. You don’t know anything more than that.

You do not know for sure whether Mahmoud has more detailed information about the attack, but he evidently knew enough to try to erase the drive, even at risk of his own life. He has already been interrogated by the Marines and by CIA personnel where you are, but it’s clear he has more information that he’s holding back. The timeframe is tight enough that you must make a decision immediately, but not so tight that there would be no time to act on any information.

So what you know is this:

  1. A major attack is planned somewhere in the continental United States;
  2. Mahmoud may or may not be a major player, but he appears to know something significant about it;
  3. However, he might not know enough to allow authorities to thwart the attack. But on the other hand, he might;
  4. He would not talk under ordinary interrogation. You might be able to break him given time, but every week that passes makes it less likely his intelligence can be used to stop the attack.

We add one more point:

  1. You already have solid evidence that he participated in some attacks on American troops that resulted in fatalities. So if we want to try him later at a military tribunal, we don’t need a confession to convict him; we already have ample forensic evidence.

You ask the DCI whether you can waterboard him; word comes from the White House via the DCI that you are authorized to waterboard Mahmoud, but you must use your own discretion whether you actually do it: You are the only one close enough to the scene to make that call. You get the impression that the president will stand behind you, whatever you decide… but of course, that only applies to this particular president. You don’t know who will be president in 2009.

So the question is, do you order Mahmoud to be waterboarded?

This doesn’t seem hard to me. I would do it — if I believed it was the most effective way to get the information.

Dafydd’s question is interesting because it’s not an unthinkable scenario. So far, the voting at his place is going something like:

Pro-waterboarding: everybody
Anti-waterboarding: nobody

Give or take.

I’m putting it up here because I suspect the answers here won’t necessarily be quite so lopsided.

Also, it gives liberals a chance to prove how they’re morally better than I am, and that’s always fun.

So what say you?

Confirmation (as if we needed it) that Arlen Specter is a Horse’s @ss

Filed under: General — WLS @ 6:56 pm

From today’s Sports Section, on the “scandal” involving the destruction of the Patriots’ spy tapes.  From the LAT :

Specter, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, discovered the New England practice of illegal taping had evidently gone on for years and told Goodell there was potential for further Congressional investigation.

“There was confirmation that there has been taping since 2000, when Coach [Bill] Belichick took over,” Specter said of the meeting. “The explanation given as to the destruction of the tapes and the notes is completely invalid. There was an enormous amount of haste.”

In particular, Specter cited notes and tapes the Patriots had on the Pittsburgh Steelers in two games during the 2004 season. The Steelers defeated the Patriots, 34-20, on Oct. 31, sacking Tom Brady four times and intercepting two of his passes. But when the teams met again in the AFC championship on Jan. 27, 2005, the Patriots routed the 16-1 Steelers, 41-27, with Brady sacked twice with no interceptions.


Specter previously threatened the league with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings if he wasn’t satisfied with the commissioner’s answers and, according to Goodell, reiterated Wednesday the threat of Congress canceling the league’s antitrust exemption.

“We have a right to honest football games,” Specter said.

The “right to honest football games”?????? 

Cite me to a statute Arlen.  Which Article of the Constitution covers “football” — maybe its in the privacy clause.  What?  There’s no privacy clause??  

Then it must be there under one of those pnumbras.  Its right next to the “right” to honest WWE matches.


Not Looking Good for Hillary, The NYT Says

Filed under: 2008 Election — Patterico @ 8:18 am

The New York Times asks a question:

The Texas and Ohio presidential primaries, on March 4, have become must-win contests for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, her advisers say. So why is she just opening campaign field offices across those states?

Read it all. It’s the pre-death post mortem.

The media has already decided who should/will win. The question is whether the country will fall in line.

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1064 secs.