PI Original Adam Doster Tuesday April 28th, 2009, 2:52pm

Manzullo On Waterboarding: "Apparently Doesn't Work," "More Torture Than Not"

Rep. Don Manzullo apparently disagrees with his GOP colleague John Shimkus
on the issue of "enhanced interrogations," according to the comments he made an interview with WGN
Radio's John Williams this morning. Listen to this particular exchange, in which the ...

Rep. Don Manzullo apparently disagrees with his GOP colleague John Shimkus on the issue of "enhanced interrogations," according to the comments he made an interview with WGN Radio's John Williams this morning. Listen to this particular exchange, in which the Rockford Republican acknowledges -- after Williams recounted the case of Abu Zubaydah -- that "apparently waterboarding doesn't work" (WGN has posted full audio of part one and part two of the interview):

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Later in the interview, when asked by Williams whether waterboarding consitutes torture, Manzullo responded, "It's more torture than not":

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But Manzullo and Shimkus still agree on one crucial and disturbing point: Those in the Bush administration who authorized torture should not face any legal repercussions for their actions. Manzullo justifies his position using a variety of rationales, none of which hold up to much scrutiny.

For example, after admitting that waterboarding is torture, Manzullo tells Williams that he doesn't think any laws were broken:

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WILLIAMS: So you don’t think there were any U.S. laws or any international laws that we should look into. Nothing went wrong here? No laws were broken?

MANZULLO: Probably at this point, not.

WILLIAMS: You’re kidding?

MANZULLO: Probably.

WILLIAMS: You’ve read, I’m sure, the torture memos. You don’t think any laws were broken?

MANZULLO: It depends upon whether or not you think that the enemy combatants come under the Geneva Accords. .... That in itself there is a split of legal opinion.

That's not true. The Supreme Court, in 2006’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, ruled that Common Article 3 protections of the Genvea Accords applied to enemy combatants in U.S. custody. In response, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act that year, which reserved the right for the president to define the applicability of Common Article 3 protections for detainees in the war on terrorism. Bush then issued Executive Order 13440, determining that the CIA’s interrogation program fit within Common Article 3 if it met certain criteria, such as the exclusion of practices like “murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming.” By Manzullo's logic, waterboarding would fall into that category, putting it in violation of the Accords. (As an aside, Spencer Ackerman has reported that a 2007 opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel on what a new interpretation of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article 3 meant for the agency’s “enhanced interrogation program" remains undisclosed.)

Strangely, Manzullo is also hesitant to begin torture investigations even if there is just cause. Why? Because, as he says in the second clip posted above, the process is just too messy:

MANZULLO: Because then you are going to have to go back and you’re going to have to go through every single interrogation and every single memo and the whole purpose of this is to relive again the fact that somebody made the decision to allow this.

For starters, a thorough investigation of suspected wrongdoing is standard practice for the Justice Department. Just ask U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. It's not like this process would block lawmakers from attending to other crucial priorities, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky has said. Furthermore, determining exactly how our nation's leaders manipulated the law to justify their ends -- meanwhile, ensuring the same behavior is not repeated -- is exactly what the nation needs. As Paul Kurgman wrote last week, it's "the only way we can regain our moral compass."

Yet while Manzullo acknowledges that waterboarding "doesn't work," he doesn't seem convinced that we should stop torturing. As you can hear in the first clip posted above, he erects an elaborate hypothetical in which a school locked and filled with 500 students is set to be bombed in 30 minutes and a person with knowledge of the school's keys is in custody. "That," he tells Williams, "would be a very unusual situation where anything goes in order to exact the codes and stop that slaughter."

But Williams offers the correct rejoinder. As Ali Soufan's experience proves, enhanced interrogation techniques are not reliable. In that situation, there is no reason to believe that a tortured prisoner would provide actionable intelligence that could save the children. 

Considering the tight message control coming out of D.C., it's pretty surprising to hear a Republican member of Congress admit the obvious -- that waterboarding is torture. But when you couple Manzullo's admission with his argument that those who authorized the practice should avoid any accountability -- not to mention his suggestion that such practices should continue in certain situations -- it's frankly more disturbing.

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