The exchange was helpful in learning about both the senator and the nominee. [Republican Senator] Cornyn wanted Holder to admit that he’d torture a terrorist in a “ticking-time-bomb scenario,” in order to “save perhaps tens of thousands of lives.” Holder responded sensibly, noting that we have interrogation methods that aren’t torture, and that torture wouldn’t produce reliable intelligence anyway.
Cornyn was undeterred, asking again about what Holder would do if “the only thing standing between you and deaths of tens of thousands of Americans” was torture. Holder saw no reason to play along, responding, “Again, I think your hypothetical assumes a premise that I’m not willing to concede.”
Cornyn, unaware of how absurd he appeared, insisted that Holder “assume” that the only way to get necessary information was to torture a suspect. The A.G. nominee replied, “I don’t think I can do that.”
Nor should he. Cornyn’s Jack Bauer fantasy has no place in a confirmation hearing for the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer. As Ali Frick explained, “Intelligence officials have repeatedly rejected the idea of a ticking time bomb scenario. Jack Cloonan, who spent 25 years as an FBI special agent and interrogated members of al Qaeda, said that he has ‘been hard pressed to find a situation where anybody’ can say ‘that they’ve ever encountered the ticking bomb scenario’ when interrogating terrorists. He said it is a ‘red herring’ and ‘[i]n the real world it doesn’t happen.’”
I’ve written about how torture alone can’t reveal useful information, so it’s good to read that Holder is like-minded. Having said that, I’m not optimistic about the possibility of prosecutions for those responsible, although Coyner’s and Pelosi’s recent noises about prosecutions provide a glimmer of hope.
Nonetheless, having an anti-torture Attorney General is a good thing.
That previous sentence should indicate what Little Lord Pontchartrain did to our country.
Related post: Holder wants to take corruption by the previous administration seriously. Good for him.