A Partisan Divide in the Face of Our National Shame

Serge Schmemann in The New York Times:

SergeThere is no way that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the C.I.A. could have been anything less than devastating, but at least it could have been a demonstration of how a great democracy confronts terrible acts it committed at a time of high stress and confusion, how it acknowledges the wrong and seeks ways to prevent it from ever happening again. Yet even before the report was released, it had been relegated to fodder in the tedious and agonizingly petty partisan squabbling that has become the norm in Washington. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the committee, deserves great credit for her perseverance in having at least the executive summary of the report released despite the resistance of Republicans and the timidity of the White House.

…The head of the C.I.A., John O. Brennan, and other apologists for the agency are now arguing that the interrogators were “patriots,” and that the problem consisted of some officers who went “outside the bounds” of the rules. But if the people who ordered, justified and inflicted the waterboarding, “rectal hydration” and the like were patriots, why did the White House keep it secret even from members of its own administration? The report cites a striking internal C.I.A. memo relaying instructions from the White House to hide the program from then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, because he would “blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s going on.” That the White House felt compelled to withhold the C.I.A.’s clandestine activities from a distinguished soldier who was serving as its own secretary of state is a clear indication that those who ordered these abuses knew perfectly well what they amounted to.

More here.