I can't get past the word "sanctimonious" -- in President Obama's comment that "we tortured some folks." That's what he labelled those of us who think leaders who have ordered and condoned torture and other crimes should be unmasked and prosecuted. A dictionary definition of the word is
He is claiming that expecting our leaders and their agents to obey laws is a kind of priggish self-righteousness. Strange conclusion -- I had thought we were supposed to believe that our national "exceptionalism" is rooted in our having established "a government of laws, not of men" as propounded by founder John Adams (and actually incorporated in the Massachusetts state constitution.)
But no. Apparently meaning well is all that should matter. After the 9/11 attacks, we the people were afraid. Leaders and institutions charged with preventing further attacks were not only afraid, but mortally threatened by the danger they might be blamed if further attacks ensued. So ordinary criminal law and solemn international treaties such as the United Nations Convention outlawing torture were treated as dispensable toilet paper by our spooks. We shouldn't blame the spooks: they meant well.
Isn't "I didn't mean it; I had to ..." always the cry of a child who bashes her little brother? President Obama wouldn't accept such an excuse from his children; why should we the people accept such excuses from spooks and even more from cabinet officials and presidents who instigated violations of settled law? We shouldn't.
Full disclosure may not imply that anyone goes to jail, but the perpetrators should no longer be allowed to decide what we know of what they did and perhaps do. C.I.A. leaders in particular should have no role in deciding what we are told. If the President enables concealment of the magnitude of our degradation, he makes himself an accessory to the crime. One suspects he knows and even feels this, which makes his groveling before the spooks that much more humiliating.
Probably Martin Longman is right: