Monday, December 10, 2007


The C.I.A. destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting interrogations of suspected Al Qaeda members. In fact, a secret branch of the C.I.A. gave advance approval for the destruction, according to the New York Times. With so many government officials condoning "harsh interrogation techniques," to use their euphemism, might we conclude that these tapes contained evidence of torture?

Then again, maybe the C.I.A. is innocent. Let's not presume a crime has been committed, even if circumstantial evidence seems to suggest this might be the case. The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of our legal system, and even C.I.A. operatives are innocent until proven guilty -- even if they don't seem to recognize that right for others. A long drawn-out legal investigation may be difficult (after all, the evidence may have been deliberately destroyed), but proceeding with caution is worth the trouble because it protects us all. We might be willing to surrender the rights of others, but would we want to lose our own right to a fair trial? Probably not. Those so eager to employ gestapo tactics should remember this, especially when hiring thugs with thumbscrews to do their dirty work.

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