After five years in which Congress abdicated its Constitutional duties of oversight–with the most disastrous consequences, and nowhere more sorely missed than in the field of intelligence–we witness the first stirrings towards Congressional action now. Scott Shane offers a good report on the first moves in today’s New York Times.
I’m just starting to look through these developments now, but I note an important interim assessment by Marty Lederman here, which should mark a good starting point. What’s going on behind the scenes? The Administration is pressing ahead for continuation of the “program,” including the four criminal techniques of waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, and sleep deprivation over two days. The force behind this move is, as always, the Vice President for Torture, Dick Cheney. The senior-most echelon of intelligence professionals–I am told and believe–are nearly unanimous in opposing these moves on both moral and utilitarian grounds. Their advice and analysis is, as usual, ignored by the White House, with its heartfelt conviction that brutality works. The initial moves coming out of Congress are certainly less than the robust confrontation one would have wished for, but we are, it appears, still in the midst of a battle.