The flap over a New York Times report on Justice Department memos from 2005 discussing CIA interrogation techniques is yet another example of the press’ efforts to distort the Bush administration’s actions.
The story, which led the paper, implied that the administration secretly approved harsh interrogation techniques that could be interpreted as torture.
In fact, while the memos said head-slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures could be legally justified, they never condoned outright torture, which the CIA believes can produce bogus information. Whether all of the tactics cited in the memos have been used is unclear. But that is irrelevant because the memos have nothing to do with current interrogation practices.
Last year, Congress approved the techniques presently used by the CIA. As spelled out in an executive order, those coercive interrogation techniques involve extreme discomfort as opposed to torture. Using coercive techniques, the CIA induced Abu Zubaydah, Osama bin Laden’s field commander or chief of operations, to talk.
His information eventually led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks. Calling such indiscriminate killing “the language of any war” that was justified by his religious design, Mohammed admitted he was planning still more attacks.
Outdated though the memos are, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seized on the issue. He suggested that the memos leaked to the Times mean the administration engaged in torture and has been lying about it.
After the Times story appeared, CIA Director Michael Hayden sent employees an e-mail underscoring how irrelevant the press report was. He said that the legal opinions in question did not open the door to more harsh interrogation tactics. Moreover, he pointed out that Congress has been kept fully informed on the interrogation program.
“Our oversight committees have been fully and repeatedly briefed on CIA’s handling of detainees,” Hayden wrote. “They know the exceptional value that comes from the careful, lawful, and thorough questioning of key terrorists. They know what we do, and what we do not do — and we do not torture. They also know the lengths to which CIA, and our government as a whole, has gone to place and keep this source of intelligence collection, our most valuable in terms of al-Qaida, on a sound and solid legal footing.”
Sen. Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, D-Mo., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, confirmed that his committee has been fully briefed on the CIA’s interrogation program.
“The New York Times article did not surprise me with any new information about the interrogation program,” Bond said in a written statement.
Explaining why the administration does not talk publicly about specific methods, Bond added, “Continued discussion in the media of particular interrogation techniques enables al-Qaida to train its operatives in appropriate resistance techniques.”
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post all ran a comment from Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, claiming that in his view, the administration has not “fully” briefed the committee because it now refuses to turn over the 2005 opinions about a program that no longer exists as it did then.
Maintaining a blackout on anything that might make President Bush look good, these and other newspapers ignored Sen. Bond’s statement confirming that his committee has been kept fully informed on interrogation practices.
Rather than point out that the memos have nothing to do with current practice, the original New York Times story disingenuously said the memos “show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.”
In fact, The New York Times story was a non-story that no honest newspaper would have run, much less played on Page One.
The Real Purpose of No Child Left Behind
Most people do not realize that the purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act is to restore phonics, or sounding out letters, to reading instruction. Under the law, local school systems receive federal money for reading programs if they adopt teaching methods that have been scientifically proven to work.
Based on research on more than 44,000 students, that method is phonics.
In addition, because of regular testing required by the law, schools can be penalized if they don’t do a good job of teaching. The idea is that if they are held accountable, they will adopt the reading instruction method that works. Since the law was enacted, reading scores have improved significantly.
Clueless about the law’s purpose, presidential candidate Fred Thompson has been saying that the federal government should simply give money to the states and let them distribute it regardless of how well kids are reading. Moreover, Thompson complains that schools are teaching to the test. But if the test measures reading ability, what is wrong with teaching it?
“If you're teaching to the test, you’re teaching what you want children to know, what’s part of the curriculum,” Laura Bush, a former teacher, has pointed out.
Without being able to read, kids cannot learn anything else in school and are set up for failure in life. What could be truer to conservative principles than enabling kids to help themselves?
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of NewsMax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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