Where Do We Go Next This is TALK OF THE NATION.
I'm Neal Conan in Washington. By now, we know a great deal about what happened to detainees subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. Many others dispute every one of those points. policy on torture be? Are there any circumstances where it should be permitted, and what happens when that policy is violated? Senior news analyst Ted Koppel addresses and answers those questions in a commentary; we're going to ask him to explain in just a pandora gpo minute. After you've heard his points, we'll invite you to join the conversation, and in a bit, we'll also hear from former CIA case officer Robert Baer. Later on the Opinion Page, unanswered questions from Elizabeth Edwards' book and interviews but first, one of our periodic conversations with Koppel. Ted join us today from his home in Potomac, Maryland. Welcome back to the program. TED KOPPEL: Well thank you, it's always nice to be with you. CONAN: And don't we need to begin by defining torture, and whether or not that definition includes those harsh techniques? KOPPEL: I think we get into trouble when we try to define it, but I don't think it's all that difficult if you really want to do it. I would define it as being any technique or practice which, when applied to an American prisoner in some other country or captured by some other entity, that we would object to. If we object to pandora cost bracelet it being done to an American, then I think it's torture. CONAN: Okay, then if we define it as torture, the United States is signatory to a treaty that says torture is always illegal. KOPPEL: And I think it should always be illegal. I think the important point is one that Bob Baer mentioned in one of the promotional prologues to this program. We have to make our decisions now, while there is still some relative quiet in this country, now that it has been eight years since the attack of 9/11 almost nine years now. I think we have a moment in which a genuine debate can take place in this country. If we wait until something else happens here in the United States, it'll be too late. CONAN: And yet you argue that even after we pandora us conclude this debate, we should insist that torture remain always illegal, but you also point out to those who would maintain that position that it is also going to continue. KOPPEL: Look, I think the same thing is going to happen, Neal, on the international level as happens here domestically. As we all know, torture is absolutely illegal here in the United States. It doesn't matter what someone has been arrested for, what someone is suspected of having done, whether he is a child molester or a kidnapper or a murderer or a torturer himself, the fact of the matter is torture is against the law here in the United States. And if it can be shown in a court of law that a suspect was tortured to make a confession, by its very nature, that case is thrown out. CONAN: Yet then you come down to the ticking time bomb scenario that's always mentioned in these things. A kidnapper has a child somewhere where the kid is in danger of running out of air, let's make an example. Or you have an intelligence agent who you think has information about an attack that's about to happen. What do you do then? KOPPEL: Precisely. What you do then is entirely up to the person who is holding the suspect, but I want that person who is holding the suspect to know pandora official website that no matter what the conditions after the fact, he or she will be subjected to prosecution and faces jail time. Now we both know, Neal, that there is such a thing as jury nullification, in which a jury looks at the law, says yes, I know what the law says but frankly, under the same circumstances, I would probably have done the same thing. We're going to let this guy go. Or let us say, for the sake of argument, that someone had been there, that someone had been captured before 9/11, and that it could have been shown that thousands of lives were saved because this person was tortured. It's entirely possible the president may, after the fact and I stress, after the fact may then decide that even though the law says this person is going to go to prison, that the president can then offer a presidential pardon. What I'm really saying, Neal, is you have to make it more difficult to engage in torture, not easier. And my great fear is if we lose that leverage, if we stop saying it's against the law, that's a long and slippery slope in which all kinds of things, then, will be used as justification for torture. CONAN: Well, let's bring other voices into the conversation. You've heard Ted Koppel lay out his point of view. If you agree, or if you disagree, give us a call, 800 989 8255. And we'd also like to hear it from this point, from Robert Baer, who was a former case officer and the director of operations in the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1997 served in the Middle East, in Iraq and Lebanon, among other places and Bob Baer, nice to have you back on the program. Mr. ROBERT BAER (Former Director of Operations, Central Intelligence Agency): It's great to be here. CONAN: And I know in your last appearance on the program, you said we have to be clear that torture is always illegal. Mr. BAER: It should always be illegal for just on the basis of the rule of law, and this is a country that stands for the rule of law, and we hold other world leaders accountable, Milosevic and on and on. And you know, if we can excuse ourselves, shouldn't we excuse them as well? And then where do we stand, especially, you know, in terms of the Nuremburg Trials? You just go on and on, and Ted is right. It is a slippery slope. We shouldn't go down there. But my argument is first and foremost, we should look at the facts. What did we get out of the torture? And I am willing to bet, listening to the public statements, including statements made by the vice president, that we got nothing out of it. And this is what I'm hearing from inside, so that we can just CONAN: I'm sure you're referring to the former vice president. Mr. BAER: The former vice president, yes. You know, I think once we undercut the argument that it's useful, we will never have well, I can't say never. We won't have to face this recurring temptation to torture. CONAN: So in resolving the debate, which both you and Ted said, we need a moment of calm to figure out this policy for the future, it's going to be extremely difficult if there's another 9/11. In the midst of this debate, you say, we have to go back and figure out what we got out of the last instance, too? Mr. BAER: Oh, absolutely.
We need to look at the transcripts from the interrogation sessions. We need to consult with the FBI to see what they got out of it. Did it lead to any arrests? Did it lead to stopping attacks.
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