Monday, January 5, 2009

Credit where credit is due: at least in part

President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA is a bad news/good news kind of thing.

Bad news: what does Panetta know about intelligence gathering, going in to lead an agency that has always been tough on outsiders? But--then again--it's not like the CIA has been doing a bang-up job even with torture and special detention camps around the world.

Good news: the fact that Obama got down to Panetta is an indication that he ruled out virtually anyone in the intel community tinged by participation in torture, and Panetta himself is strongly on the record:

We have preached these values to the world. We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." It's what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.

We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

While--even if I was a card-carrying Democrat--I don't think Panetta's name would ever have occurred to me for this job, his nomination is a strong signal about one campaign promise Barack Obama intends to keep.

I'm still waiting for that Executive Order banning torture, but this indication is heartening.

Now let's see how many Libertarians (starting, I suspect, with our own Brian Miller) disagree with me.

1 comment:

a most peculiar nature said...

I think that Panetta was the only one who could be safely vetted (no more Richardson surprises). His record is innocuous and safe enough. I find his verbiage on torture to be so much posturing; he has never been in a position to have an effect one way or the other.

Once he IS in that position....well, we'll just see.