Sean Hannity spent two segments on his Fox News show last night with Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA officer with a new book defending the use of “enhanced interrogations.” Predictably, Hannity was not only downright enthusiastic about the techniques, he suggested those who differ (think President Obama, who banned them) are not pro-American enough.
In a terrific article on NewYorker.com, Amy Davidson wrote about Rodriguez' appearance on 60 Minutes the night before,
Rodriguez did not forthrightly argue that torture—the contained drowning of waterboarding, slapping and stress positions, keeping detainees in a “cramped confinement box with an insect,” keeping them naked and awake for days on end by any means necessary, holding electric drills to their heads and telling them that their female family members would be raped in Middle Eastern prisons—was an awful necessity when there was no other option. Instead, he underplayed what he and his operatives had done (making suspects “uncomfortable”) and bragged about its use in proving the manhood of the torturer (“We needed to get everybody in government to put their big boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed”; “The objective is to let him know there’s a new sheriff in town.”) He talked as if torture were an expression of strength, rather than momentary domination masking the most abject moral and practical weakness.
Hannity may have weaseled out of his promise to undergo waterboarding for charity – to prove it's not torture – but he, too, acted as though torturing shows strength, not weakness. He was not only ready to defend it now, he made Rodriguez' case for torture for him. “You felt another attack on this country was imminent and you needed as quickly as possible the intelligence to save American lives."
Hannity even said he “took a little issue” with Rodriguez having said on 60 Minutes, “We are the dark side.” “You were on the front lines of extracting information under the circumstances, post 9/11, to save lives,” Hannity said supportively. There wasn't a note of regret or remorse for the procedures to be found in his voice, his expression or his demeanor.
Rodriguez said his techniques were actually “pretty wimpy” and that Americans would wonder what the big deal was if they knew what was really being done.
Wimpy? You tell me. Rodriguez went on to detail grabbing somebody, looking him straight in the eye and “letting him know there's a new sheriff in town.”
“And slap him,” Hannity interrupted. Again without a note of remorse or regret. In fact, he sounded downright intrigued.
“The insult slap,” Rodriguez agreed. “It's a slap... It's not torture... It's with an open hand so as not to hurt him.”
“They're naked,” Hannity said, seemingly fascinated now.
“In most cases, yes,” Rodriguez agreed. He at least sounded wary, but maybe he was just wary of what too much openness might do to his image.
“Sleep deprivation,” Hannity continued. “Food deprivation... What else?”
Rodriguez told about the “facial hold” and said chillingly, “Those are the conditioning ones.”
“Then there are a couple of stress techniques,” Rodriguez continued. Such as where you sit on the floor, you put your hands above your head and it causes muscle fatigue.” Clearly, when he said, “you,” he was referring to the detainees.
Hannity was openly enthusiastic now as he added, “to make them as uncomfortable and miserable as possible so you can get information!”
Davidson also wrote:
There is much evidence to suggest that Rodriguez and others are simply lying when they claim that the torture produced reliable intelligence. Ali Soufan, who, as an interrogator with the F.B.I., did learn something from K.S.M. and other suspects, has written extensively about how they stopped, rather than started, coming up with anything really valuable once the C.I.A. started going on about big-boy pants. On Monday, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, respectively the chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, who are involved in a three-year Senate investigation of the C.I.A.’s use of harsh interrogation techniques, issued a joint press release that said,
Statements made by Mr. Rodriguez and other former senior government officials about the role of the CIA interrogation program in locating Usama bin Laden (UBL) are inconsistent with CIA records.
But none of that was presented to the viewers of the “we report, you decide” network. Instead, Hannity went on to attack President Obama for banning waterboarding. “President Obama has called this torture,” Hannity said, suggesting that was worse than anything Rodriguez could have done to a prisoner. “The president's now taking credit for getting Bin Laden. If he had his way, of closing Gitmo, ending enhanced interrogations which, calling people like yourself 'torturers,' would we have gotten Bin Laden?”
Rodriguez didn't want to come right out and say no, but Hannity pulled it out of him. “Without these techniques, the things he opposed, wouldn't have allowed him to make that decision. Is that a fair statement?” Rodriguez agreed that it was.
Of course, if Hannity really wanted to know, he'd ask someone without a vested interest in the answer. Someone like, say, Senator John McCain, no fan of Obama, but he said on the Senate floor that the trail to Bin Laden began with another detainee interrogated in another country, not the U.S. waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Or F.B.I. Interrogator Ali Soufan who said waterboarding delayed finding Bin Laden. You can see Ed Schultz's excellent segment on this here. At the very least, Hannity should have raised those points. Or a producer on the "fair and balanced" network should have made him.
As if all that isn't disturbing enough, one gets the impression Hannity actually thinks torture is a good thing, especially when he can use it to attack his political foes. “Let me ask you this, what do you say when you're called a torturer? What does that mean to you, considering you're trying to save American lives?” Hannity asked again. Even worse, he was suggesting anyone who doesn't support torture is somehow immoral.
“Our president basically called us torturers,” Rodriguez said, getting with Hannity's program. Rodriguez also complained, “We don't capture anybody any more so we don't get the intelligence any more.” But even if we did, he said, “we no longer have the discretion and the leeway we used to. Now we are bound by the Army Field Manual.” Meaning, of course, torture can't be used.
Hannity closed by saying, “Thank you for all you did for the country's safety. And I know you will have your critics forever but I agree with you. I believe it kept the country safe.”