Mitch Perry Report for 12.10.14 – The politics of torture

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The CIA and its supporters are in full pushback mode today, a day after the publication of a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the use of torture (or as the CIA euphemistically refers to it as, “enhanced interrogation tactics”).

Like so many other things that come out of Washington, the political establishment is divided, though not necessarily along party lines. U.S. Sen. John McCain was the most eloquent Republican in praising the report.

“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow,” the Arizona senator and former Vietnam POW said yesterday. “The American people are entitled to it nonetheless. They must be able to make judgments about whether these policies and personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values.”

McCain’s good buddy, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, wasn’t so effusive, though he did say that that report was a “net loser for the country.” He went on to defend the actions of those Americans who performed some of those enhanced interrogation tactics.

In this morning’s USA Today, former Nebraska Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey admits he hasn’t read the report yet, but criticizes it anyway because it was written solely by Democratic staff members of the Intelligence Committee.

“Fairness should dictate that the examination of documents alone do not eliminate the need for interviews conducted by the investigators,” Kerrey writes. “Isolated emails, memos and transcripts can look much different when there is no context or perspective provided by those who sent, received or recorded them.”

California Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein must be given credit for being determined to release the survey, despite enormous pressure on her not to, including from Secretary of State John Kerry. As has been noted by her critics, Feinstein dug in when it was learned earlier this year that CIA workers had infiltrated the computers used by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to write the report. Feinstein then went on the Senate floor and revealed that story, forcing CIA Director John Brennan to apologize.

Feinstein is 81, and was just re-elected in 2012. The former San Francisco mayor is often criticized in her own state for being far too cautious if not conservative on some issues, such as her reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance last year. Republicans say that if any of her agents are killed overseas because of the publication of the report, it will be on her hands. It was a gutsy call, but to those who question the timing of the report, when, seriously, is it a good time to reveal that our agents in the field did really horrible things to terrorists in order to extract information? (which may or may not actually even work, but let’s not even get into that thicket).

Critics say the publication of our torturing people will inflame the terrorists even further. But wasn’t using torture itself alienating to so many overseas?

In other news..

Former Pasco County legislator and now tax collector Mike Fasano had the audience eating out of his hands at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting on Tuesday. Despite his opposition to his fellow Republicans on a host of issues, he says he can’t quit the GOP.

Bill Foster isn’t digging the agreement that his successor, Rick Kriseman, has made with the Rays to allow them to speak to officials in Tampa about a potential ballpark.

And how will the Council vote on the big decision tomorrow? Or will they even vote on it. Some Council members want a one-week delay.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.