A Man with a Flashlight


“Come on, George.”

George Tenet is asked about “enhanced interrogation.” Nod to Andrew Sullivan.

“The image that’s been portrayed is, we sat around the campfire and said, ‘Oh, boy, now we go get to torture people.’ Well, we don’t torture people. Let me say that again to you. We don’t torture people. Okay?” Tenet says.

“Come on, George,” Pelley says.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet maintains.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?” Pelley asks.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet says.

“Water boarding?” Pelley asks.

“We do not – I don’t talk about techniques,” Tenet replies.

“It’s torture,” Pelley says.

“And we don’t torture people. Now, listen to me. Now, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” Tenet says. “The context is it’s post-9/11. I’ve got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don’t know – I don’t know what’s going on inside the United States. And I’m struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through. The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know.”

“I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” Tenet says.

“But what you’re essentially saying is some people need to be tortured,” Pelley remarks.

“No, I did not say that. I did not say that,” Tenet says.

“You’re telling me that… the enhanced interrogation…” Pelley says.

“I did not say that. I did not say that. We do not tor…. Listen to me. You’re, you’re making…,” Tenet says.

“You call it in the book, ‘enhanced interrogation,'” Pelley remarks.

“…an assumption. Well, that’s what we call it,” Tenet says.

“And that’s a euphemism,” Pelley says.

“I’m not having a semantic debate with you. I’m telling you what I believe,” Tenet says.

Asked if anyone ever died in the interrogation program, Tenet says, “No.”

Asked if he’s sure of that, the former director tells Pelley, “Yeah. In this program that you and I are talking about? No.”

“Have you ever seen any of these interrogations done?” Pelley asks.

“No,” Tenet replies.

“Didn’t you feel like it was your responsibility to know what’s going on?” Pelley asks.

“I understood. I’m not a voyeur. I understand what I was signing off on,” Tenet says.

Asked if he lost any sleep over it, Tenet tells Pelley, “Yeah, of course you do! Of course you lose sleep over it. You’re on new territory. But that’s not the point! What’s this tension? The tension is, ‘I’ve just lived through 3,000 people dying. This is not a clinical exercise.’ Maybe for you guys it’s a clinical exercise. Not for me! 3,000 people died. Friends died. Now I’m gonna sit back, and then everybody says, ‘You idiots don’t know how to connect the dots. You don’t have imagination. You were unwilling to take risk to protect this country,'” Tenet says.

America is torturing people, as Tenet knows. If he thinks that’s right, why not come out and say it?

Tenet, the President, and the Vice-president know, and they are lying. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that their lies are well-prepared, not an ad hoc response. They know the question will be asked. They clearly have a rationalization of why they are allowed to speak falsely, and it is probably the same one: My lie serves the country.

And of course, being intelligent people, they have another voice inside, telling them: If I speak the truth, I may be held accountable for what I have done.

Notice the similarity between the President’s language and Tenet’s: “We do not torture,” and “We don’t torture people.” Unequivocal, bold, and obviously intended to decieve. It is as though they hope the very boldness of the lie will sow confusion.

Isn’t the point of America that no lie can serve it? Aren’t we the followers of a way of life which speaks for itself, which needs no deceit to defend it? No, in the opinion of our President, and our Vice-President, we are not. We are a regime just like any other, which must torture, lie, and go to any length to perpetuate its own control.

Precedents exist for prosecuting former heads of state for crimes committed during tenure. And a law without enforcement is no law at all.

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