Mr. Ashcroft and the Memos on Torture
Friday, June 11, 2004; Page A24
The June 9 editorial "Legalizing Torture" posed several rhetorical questions. Here are more:
• What if by using torture against an al Qaeda operative, U.S. forces were able to save one American life. Should torture be authorized?
• What if by using torture against an al Qaeda operative, U.S. forces were able to prevent a significant terrorist attack and save hundreds or thousands of American lives. Should torture be authorized?
• What if by using torture against an al Qaeda operative, U.S. forces were able to prevent a terrorist attack against Great Britain. Should torture be authorized?
Editorials viewed in an intellectual vacuum can be neat exercises in criticism. When viewed against the realities of a war against terror, they can appear foolish.
Put yourself in the position of president. He has been advised that in extraordinary circumstances, he has extraordinary powers. Then ask the three questions posed above.
I listened to Attorney General John D. Ashcroft speak, instead of testifying, before the Senate Judiciary Committee [front page, June 9], and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) was onto something when he warned Mr. Ashcroft that his refusal to turn over memos on interrogation techniques might place him in contempt of Congress. Mr. Ashcroft should be cited for contempt because of his unresponsive answers, evasions and refusal to answer some of the questions.
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked if he would provide information to the Senate in a classified hearing, Mr. Ashcroft went off on a tangent that covered the definition of torture, but he did not say whether he would provide the information. He did the same when Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked when requested information would be forthcoming from the Justice Department.
Mr. Ashcroft's mind-set seems more suited for running an inquisition than running the Department of Justice.
ARTHUR ROBERT THOMAS
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