The Value of the CIA Torture Report, in One Morning Joe Segment


What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday, just before the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s torture funplex enhanced interrogation techniques performed under the Bush administration, embedded MSNBC conservative Joe Scarborough and former Bush communications director Nicolle Wallace led a master class in deflection, not only defending the CIA’s program but resisting the idea that the public had a right to know or debate about it. The two cornered Howard Dean and Senator Angus King (I-ME) and deployed every rhetorical trick, from invoking 9/11 to wondering if simply talking about the report on-air would embolden attacks on Americans. (ISIS apparently watches Morning Joe.)

Then the report was released. The details were even more damning, and far more disgusting, than most had feared. The report argued not only that the practices were abhorrent in themselves, crossed legal lines, and were sloppily implemented, but that they were above all ineffective in procuring intelligence from detainees, ostensibly the whole reason the previous administration had secretly struck this Faustian bargain to begin with.

Wednesday’s Morning Joe was an entirely different program. Gone were Scarborough and the Bush-era officials denouncing a report nobody had read. Instead, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, and others considered the details of the actual program, from its management to its efficacy, rather than questioning the public’s right to know those details at all. MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell pointed out that bad intelligence gained from torture actually diverted resources by tracking down false leads. Engel and Ignatius especially drew out the moral consequences of the torture program, with Engel linking it to the expansion of the NSA surveillance state. In all the show spent forty-five minutes examining the CIA’s program from every angle.

There was debate. Ignatius was less sold on a categorical eradication of harsh interrogation techniques. “What makes this a moral choice for our country is we have to be agnostic about what [torture] contributed to the ability to finding Osama bin Laden,” he said. “I think people who say never again, no more torture — it’s important to accept that you may be giving up some information that may be valuable.”

That’s the argument the country should have had twelve years ago, an argument it was denied. The change in the substance, tone, and sincerity of the discussion from yesterday’s Morning Joe, racked with conjecture, deflection, and sophistry, and today’s, filled with substantive and informed debate, shows exactly what effect transparency has: it took less than twenty-four hours to raise the level of discourse.

Watch the video below, via MSNBC:

[Image via screengrab]

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