The Washington Post

Bring it on

The debate over whether torture led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden — a case that many conservatives and Bush apologists have made in recent days — may go far beyond op ed pages and blogs and may very well receive a public airing in Congress.

That’s because Republicans are likely to raise it at the upcoming confirmation hearings for David Petraeus, Obama’s choice to head the CIA, and Leon Panetta, the current CIA chief who is now the President’s pick for Defense Secretary.

Post blogger Jennifer Rubin makes the case that Republicans should push Petraeus and Panetta on whether “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, helped lead to the death of Bin Laden:

Confirmation hearings for the current CIA chief (named to replace Robert Gates as defense secretary) and the future CIA chief (Gen. David Petraeus) are coming up. I can’t think of a more fruitful line of inquiry than EITs: Did they work, are we putting ourselves at risk by eliminating them and why are we persecuting CIA operatives who played a role in extracting information that the current CIA director says helped us kill bin Laden?

Since this is likely to become a rallying cry for the right, let’s state as clearly as possible that this is a great idea. Petraeus’s opposition to torture is well known. If Republicans want to provide the popular Petraeus a high-profile forum to restate the reasons he opposes torture — right after the Obama administration notched the killing of America’s number one terrorist foe — then by all means, go for it!

It’s also going to get interesting if and when Republicans grill incoming Defense Secretary Panetta on torture. Conservatives have been citing a CBS News interview with Panetta in which he claimed that “there was some valuable information that was derived through those kinds of interrogations.” Panetta will be asked to explain this quote. But in that interview, Panetta also said other approached might have elicited the same info. By all means — give him a chance to spell this out clearly.

Panetta opposed torture before becoming CIA chief, and since his appointment, Republicans have all but demanded that he renounce his opposition to it. Yet despite this, Panetta went on to preside over the CIA at a time when this country accomplished one of its leading counter-terrorism goals — one that didn’t happen during a pro-torture president’s tenure. If Republicans want to give Panetta a chance to explain to the country why the successful tracking and killing of America’s most wanted terrorist does not support claims that torture “works” and should be reinstated, then let’s have at it.

Come on, then — let’s have this debate.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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