Torture in Syria: Also America's Fault

Intelligence reporter Scott Shane's Tuesday "News Analysis," "On Torture, 2 Messages And a High Political Cost," lamented the price the U.S. has paid in its international reputation - but focused mostly on a case of torture that happened in Syria, based on faulty intelligence received from Canada.

"Six years after the Bush administration embraced harsh physical tactics for interrogating terrorism suspects, and two years after it reportedly dropped the most extreme of those techniques, the taint of torture clings to American counterterrorism efforts.

"The administration has a standard answer to queries about its interrogation practices: 1) We do not torture, and 2) we will not say what we do, for fear of tipping off future prisoners. In effect, officials want Al Qaeda to believe that the United States does torture, while convincing the rest of the world that it does not.

"But that contradictory catechism is not holding up well under the battering that American interrogation policies have received from human rights organizations, European allies and increasingly skeptical members of Congress.

"The administration does not acknowledge scaling back the Central Intelligence Agency's secret detention program, perhaps to avoid implying that earlier methods were immoral or illegal. President Bush has repeatedly defended what the administration calls 'enhanced' interrogation methods, saying they have produced invaluable information on Al Qaeda. But the administration's strategy has exacted an extraordinary political cost.

"The nomination of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general, once expected to sail through the Senate, has run into trouble as a result of his equivocation about waterboarding, or simulated drowning. Mr. Mukasey has refused to characterize the technique as torture, which would put him at odds with secret Justice Department legal opinions and could put intelligence officers in legal jeopardy.

"At a House hearing last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that the United States had mishandled the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was seized in New York in 2002 on suspicion of terrorism and shipped to Syria, where he was imprisoned and severely beaten.

"But Ms. Rice refused to acknowledge the torture or to apologize to Mr. Arar, perhaps to avoid exposing to attack the policy of extraordinary rendition, in which the United States delivers suspects to other countries, including some that routinely use torture."

"C.I.A. officers have been criminally charged in Italy and Germany in connection with rendition cases. The torture issue has complicated Americans' standing in criticizing other countries."

The story featured a large photo of Arar testifying via videoconference earlier this month at a House hearing on rendition.

Odd how the Times doesn't have the heart to criticize Syria, where Arar was actually tortured, or Canada security, which gave the U.S. the faulty information in the first place and which paid Arar a $10.5 million settlement.

Shane wrote a similar story on Guantanamo Bay prison back in June 2006 and how it also darkened America's reputation. Shane ranted:

"If an enemy devised a diabolical plot to darken America's image, it is hard to imagine anything operating more efficiently toward that end than the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."