Reuters is reporting that a three-year investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is set to find that there is little evidence that torture produced any “counter-terrorism breakthroughs.” This contradicts the arguments made by many Bush defenders, who have insisted, among other things, that the killing of Bin Laden vindicates Bush’s torture program.
According to one official who spoke to Reuters, investigators found “no evidence” that “enhanced interrogations” played “any significant role” in the operations that culminated in Bin Laden’s killing.
Steve Benen notes that this could now become newly relevant, in light of the approaching one-year anniversary of Bin Laden. Indeed, it would be a good thing if the first anniversary reignited a discussion of substantive debates such as that over torture, rather than the political back and forth we’re seeing today over what does or doesn’t constitute the “politicization” of his killing.
This also brings up an interesting subplot to Campaign 2012: Has anyone else noticed that torture has completely vanished from the political conversation as a hot-button issue?
Consider: With Romney launching a new critique of Obama as weak on national security, no one has even asked Romney this simple question: As president, would you follow the executive order Obama signed on his first day in office requiring interrogators to use only the non-coercive methods in the Army Field Manual?
Or would you overturn that executive order, and/or reserve the right to revive “enhanced interrogation” techniques?
The answer, I bet, would make news.
In one sense it’s understandable that torture has receded as a hot button issue. Despite Obama’s torture ban, Repubicans have already won some key battles over counterterrorism policy, such as when Obama failed to close Guantanamo. Obama has also followed Bush’s approach in other areas. And Bin Laden’s death — along with the fact that the Obama administration is more focused on killing via drone strike than on interrogating suspects — has reduced the potency of the torture issue.
But it’s nonetheless remarkable that a political and moral question that fired up intense passions on both sides for literally years has effectively disappeared from the conversation, even as the debate over national security has flared again.
Even if torture has receded, the question about the executive order banning torture is a good one for the Romney campaign.