A Hot Yet Boring Background
Fortunately, I can usually fill a few inches with background material. For example, when I write about the latest developments in the town’s attempt to convert the land next to Ye Olde Historick Mill Wheele into a park, I include a paragraph explaining how the town bought the properties over the last few years, and ran environmental studies, and found out the land was polluted and applied for clean-up grants and so forth. Each clause of that paragraph was, at one time, an entire news story in its own right, but now it’s just the background information I include in case any readers don’t know it.
So anyway, today the president has finally admitted what many knew already: the CIA has super-secret prisons hidden throughout the world. And some of the things which go on there aren’t strictly orthodox, perhaps, but they’re certainly nothing to worry about:
The CIA operates secret prisons abroad for holding key suspects in the war on terror, President Bush acknowledged Wednesday.Bush doesn’t give any details about what these tough, lawful and non-torturous methods include, or if any of these methods are mentioned in the Pentagon’s new Army manual, which bans the use of torture.
Though Bush said the United States never tortures suspects, "alternative" interrogation methods are used to glean information from them. These procedures "were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary," he said.
The Pentagon also on Wednesday released a new policy directive on detention operations that says the handling of prisoners must -- at a minimum -- abide by the standards of the Geneva Conventions and lays out the responsibilities of senior civilian and military officials who oversee detention operations.The military is expected to abide by the Geneva Conventions but the CIA still doesn’t have to, said the president. And the CIA can still pick up detainees if it wants to. This all might be news to you, but here’s something that isn’t:
The new Army manual specifically forbids intimidating prisoners with military dogs, putting hoods over their heads and simulating the sensation of drowning with a procedure called "water boarding," one defense official said on condition of anonymity because the manual had not yet been released.
Allegations that Americans have tortured prisoners captured in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have dogged the Bush administration since April 2004, when graphic photographs of Army reservists mistreating prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad became public. (Watch Bush explain why Iraq is central to the war on terror -- 1:51)
This is not meant to be shocking or surprising; it’s just a two-and-a-half-year-old back story to something more recent. I don’t expect my mill-wheel readers to be shocked when I write that the proposed parkland needs a clean-up, either. It's old news.
We’re all familiar with the metaphor of the frog in the lukewarm water: he doesn’t notice that the temperature’s getting hotter and he’s slowly cooking to death. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen that image used in regards to Americans’ loss of liberties. And now here’s a news paragraph which mentions very casually, as explanation rather than revelation, that Americans have the reputation of being torturers. But this isn’t meant to scald you; it’s just the background temperature of a news story about how yeah, the CIA keeps secret prisons throughout the world and the treatment within may not live up to the Geneva Conventions but so what? In a few months this will just be background information for some other news story.