Obama: 'We Tortured Some Folks'


These things happen.
Credit: RobinAKirk / Foter / CC BY

Looks like President Barack Obama has wasted no time pulling out those talking points about torture that got leaked to the Associated Press earlier in the week. At a press conference today, which was partly about complaining about Republicans on border matters and other things, the president acknowledged that the CIA tortured people in the wake of Sept. 11. From Reuters:

"We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values," Obama told a White House news conference.

Obama's comment was a reaffirmation of his decision to ban the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009.

The phrasing "contrary to our values" comes directly off the very first "topline message" the State Department provided to the White House to respond to questioning about the Senate's still-unreleased report on CIA torture.

He also, though, said he had "full confidence" in CIA Director John Brennan just a day after the CIA admitted that it had improperly spied on the Senate staff members who were preparing the report critical of the CIA's tactics. So stop holding your breath if you thought anything was going to actually happen as a consequence.


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  1. Obama’s comment was a reaffirmation of his decision to ban the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009.

    Is there some alternate universe where admitting to the use of torture affirms support for human rights against torture?

    1. When compared to Bush’s weird sort of denials?

      1. Murderer #1: “I didn’t do it!”

        Murderer #2: “I didn’t do it!”

        Murderer #2, after damning evidence of his murder is uncovered: “I did it, but you don’t know what I’ve had to go through!”

        Totally different, I’m sure.

        1. Bush both denied torture while defending it, whatever Obama’s faults declaring we did it and it was wrong is improvement.

          1. OK.

            1. Of course that assumes that there’s any sincerity at all to his commentary.

              Which there isn’t.

          2. To be sure, there have been quite a lot of revelations since then, so we all pretty much know that torture happened. Besides, Obama is kinda sorta still pointing his pinky at Bush on this.

            Great to know that we’re screwed either way, isn’t it?

            1. Its very politically difficult to condemn an activity after you’ve pretty much used it already to maximum possible benefit, and now can milk some small political benefit by pretending to ‘take the high road’ and confess to being naughty.

              I’m sure we’ll see a similar statement about the use of the IRS and NSA to attack political groups/individuals the administration opposed… in 20 years or so.

              1. Yep. It’s like apologizing after lying and covering up and getting caught.

                1. 1. Torturing ourselves, denying and defending it and renditioning

                  2. Not torturing ourselves, admitting and condemning it, still renditioning

                  How in the world is two not an improvement?

                  1. 1. Torturing ourselves

                    What does this discussion have to do with our reading your posts?

          3. Bush did it and tried to deny it, yet defended it. Perhaps he defended it because he genuinely thought it was necessary.

            Obumbles admits he we did it and it was wrong, yet he continues to do it to this day.

            I am not sure what your reasoning is here. One evildoer admitting to the identical evil as another, who denies it, is not an improvement.

            1. The subtleties of evil are elusive.

            2. I was wrong there. Obumbles is not admitting that he tortured people. His use of ‘we’ means Bush. He is not admitting to the torture he has done himself. This is just another “Bush!” distraction from his own evils and failings.

              I would say that makes him worse than Bush.

            3. Bush: we don’t torture, what we do is ok

              Obama: we did torture, and it was wrong.

              That’s clearly improvement.

              1. It’s a quibble. We’re still doing it. And, frankly, I bet it’s not all rendition, either, though I don’t really think it matters morally if we do it or our agents do it.

                1. It’s a quibble. We’re still doing it.

                  Agreed. It is a silly waste of time to measure the possible millimetric difference between Obama’s and Bush’s presidential rectitude.

                  They’re both shits, and they both have come up with endless excuses to reduce their cognitive dissonance and pretend they are not wholly complicit in this huge problem.

                  1. Neither reluctance nor guilt nor rationalization justifies torturing a suspect. Presumed innocence is a fundamental, integral, and absolutely necessary principle of our legal system. The people who want to pretend that affairs involving the military (and now, terrorists, DHS, Border Patrol, etc) are any different are true treasonists.

                    That goes for whether they call themselves Obama, Bush, or anything else.

              2. This goes to the very core of ethics. Think of it this way:

                If I want a hamburger, I know that a cow will be slaughtered, that a farmer will be employed, and that my money supports those actions. I’m not responsible for everything that happens whilst someone goes about prepping my hamburger — if the cook burns his hand while doing so, that’s his problem not mine — but it is reasonable to hold me accountable for the likely ramifications of ordering a hamburger. I happen to think that all of these ramifications are perfectly moral. A Hindu will probably disagree with me. In either case, what we both agree on is that I have made myself complicit in the act of killing a cow for food by employing the farmer in that action.

                A US President who orders off-site renditions can justify his actions in a variety of ways, I can imagine. What he cannot deny is the complicity of his administration with torture. In fact, he is just as complicit as a President who orders the CIA to torture directly, since he is not directly involved in the torture and is in both cases just as removed from the event — and in both cases, just as responsible for the means employed for the desired outcome. Can’t have your burger without killing the cow, no matter whether your cow was killed in New Delhi or Des Moines. In the case of an “anti-torture” President, the incongruity between his beliefs and his actions must also factor into the indictment.

              3. It more like:

                Bush: we don’t torture, what we do is ok

                Obama: we did torture, and it was wrong and I *told* them to stop but they just won’t listen to me.

                1. Uhgh, but I uh, let me be clear, have some good ideas to use, uh, on folks, who uhhh, you know, uhhhh, disagree with me.

                  1. This is closer to the truth. President Barry Fife, the stuttering spy is asserting his typical deflection whilst stuttering.

              4. How’s he feel about assassinating U.S. citizens without trial or charge, if his position on civil rights is so improved?

                He seems oddly silent on the human rights abuses that *he’s* committed. But then he can’t really blame those on Bush.

    2. Waterboarding isn’t torture. It’s just unpleasant. Everybody is so goddamned subarban about thus shit.

  2. “Obama’s comment was… a bald attempt to change the public discourse from something about what HIS administration is doing to something The Other Guy did.

    1. Look—- There’s a squirrel

  3. I blame Bush.

    1. We learned earlier today on Reason that we would be blaming Obama for everything until 2050.

      1. I’m thinking the damage this guy has done will go out further than 40 years, considering it’s been 70 years since Roosevelt.

  4. We haven’t stopped.

    We’re just outsourcing now.…..story.html

    1. Now? As opposed to then when we did not?

    2. Why is it bad when a private company does inversion but when the government does it they expect a pass.

      Keep American torturer jobs American!

  5. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

    *** meekly raises hand ***

    With all due respect, Mr. President, would you kindly provide an exhaustive list specifying “our values”?

    1. Our values are marked down from the original price.

      1. “Values” are the off-brand politician version of what most of us would call “convictions”.

        1. Dennis: Yeah . . . I don’t really have any convictions.

      2. I have a whole lot of values apparently not shared by this president and many who support him. Not torturing people is just one of those.

    2. ‘Our’ values? Did Obama gave a turd in his pocket?

    3. First and foremost, equality.

      Consequently, the federal government will commence waterboarding everyone in the nation immediately. Yay egalitarianism.

  6. Look, if the CIA starts torturing Congress is anyone here going to complain?

  7. Refresh my memory – didn’t the torture of a Bin Laden associate ultimately lead to Our Glorious Leader guiding Seal Team Six to his hideout?

    1. Only in the movie.

      1. Panetta: Torture used in hunt for bin Laden ? but we would’ve got him anyway

        Tony, when you lie, do you do it because it feels good to get called out? Or are you so dumb that you believe the things your list of talking points says?

        1. Gilmore defending torture? Yeah, he’s not a neocon, just a realist libertarian

          1. Is that what he’s doing? I think he’s challenging the idea that torture wasn’t used. I don’t see anything approving the use of torture in his comment or the link. After all, Panetta says in the quote that it was used but wasn’t necessary.

            1. It’s just Bo, arguing in good faith as always.

        2. Considering that article confirms what I said, I don’t know what the fuck you think you’re talking about.

          1. Uh no. Torture _was_ used. The fact that it might or might not have been an associate of Bin Laden or the neighborhood Shwarma salesman is irrelevant. And it stands to reason that since you can’t read an article linked that verifies the statement, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Seems simple enough.

            1. I hate to defend Tony, but I think you’re misconstruing his point. He’s not denying the use of torture, just that it was necessary or instrumental in getting Bin Laden.

              1. No, the point was that Panetta said torture was used to get him, but they got him “anyway”… And those tactics eventually led them to Bin Laden (as was said by Gilmore)

                From the article:

                “Yes, some of it came from some of the tactics that were used at that time, interrogation tactics that were used,” Panetta responded.

                Nowhere did it say “we tortured someone and he told us where Bin Laden was”. Not in Gilmore’s post or the article, but the movie suggested a direct link, to which Panetta did not deny.

                He merely insinuated it was a piece of the puzzle (unlike the movie that supposed a direct link). But Gilmore didn’t mention a direct link, he said “eventually” like Panetta did.

                So, no, Tony’s still wrong.

              2. Panetta’s comments referred to the ultimately part… Tony proceeded from the assumption that Gilmore was linking torture to the capture (as in, “got a confession” found Bin Laden) so to speak.

                Tony was so busy refuting a point Gilmore didn’t make.

      2. Tony, stop screwing around here. Are you gonna defend your lord and master before your mommies cuts off your intertoobs again, or not?

  8. but we tortured some folks

    I never want to hear or read the word ‘folks’ ever again.

    1. So, you’re now a Norfolker? 😉

      1. I laughed in spite of myself. damn you.

    2. It sets my teeth on edge, too. Coming from Obama, “folks” is shorthand for “credulous goobers”.

      I have more patience for his ersatz preacher routine than the faux-earnest Ron Howard schtick.

    3. “Whole buncha”

      To think of my little 5-year-old self, using that term to describe ladybugs, dirt, marbles, etc.

      And now I never want to hear that term again.

  9. He also, though, said he had “full confidence” in CIA Director John Brennan just a day after the CIA admitted that it had improperly spied on the Senate staff members

    “Full confidence” in Brennan’s ability to lie when needed, I suppose. 8-(

  10. Is there some mechanism by which Barry’s Nobel Peace Prize can be revoked?

    1. Well, first it has to be impeached.

  11. Proposed legislation: attach a set of electrodes to the president’s testicles that zap him every time he utters the word “folks”. Extra voltage for “torture” and “folks” in the same sentence.

    1. Just don’t include the phrases ‘uhhh’ or ‘ummm’ or he won’t survive for 3 minutes.

  12. “We did some things that were contrary to our values,”

    What the hell are talking about? Our values are a constitutionally limited government and the protection of individual rights, including private property rights–values you could care less about.

    Notice he dropped this nugget while his CIA is embroiled in a controversy over spying on the Senate. Notice what we are not talking about anymore?

    1. Uhm, no. Our values are ‘whatever we can get away with’. That’s how these actions were contrary to our values – they got caught.

      Now they’re maneuvering to bring these actions back in line with our values by trying to minimize the outrage until the public loses interest and the courts decide that ‘hey, whatever you want’ – then they’ll have gotten away with it.

  13. “We”?


    YOU, the fucking GOVERNMENT, tortured people.


    1. +1

      I spoke out against it then, and always will. Some things are simply wrong. Always wrong. And spare me the hypothetical million people about to be vaporized because we couldn’t get the location of the bomb out of the goon that we picked up; it ain’t gonna happen. No torture, not now, not never!

  14. So Mr. President, when will the trials begin for those responsible for these crimes?

    Mr. President?

  15. Torture is always relevant to the need for the information and the time you have to get it.

    At Danang there was talk about guys that serviced radio towers. The towers were fixed with strobes, around which was a bowl fixture that projected the light only upwards. Bulb goes out, you climb up and screw in another one, especially at night. Guys said Marine choppers would sometimes ferk with the repairmen by tossing VC out the door at them climbing up the towers. They’d take 3 or 4 up higher than they’d ever been before and chuck one out the door, resulting in the others babbling like magpies. It was said some great intel came from those flights.

    I can’t be sure it was true, but I felt a bit better on a slog after that.

  16. We tortured some people? No you lying dipshit, you and your cronies tortured some people. WE are not YOU. The people have not been the government or vice vera, for a very long time.

    And so you are also ready to talk about murdering a few thousand people via drones, including children? Because I’m ready to have that conversation.

    1. “We droned some folks.”

      1. And some puppies, because we had to.

  17. you can’t blame him for not being bothered by his employees spying on congress. how else was he to learn that congress wasn’t going to do anything and he’d have to go it alone?

    1. Yeah, it’s tough being a tyrant, it’s much easier in China, I hear.

  18. “Folks”. I am. So. Sick. of the word. Folks.

    1. You can thank BOOOO-

      No, wait, you can thank Clinton for that shit. He started it.

  19. Oh, Boo Fucking Hoo.

  20. times like these I wish I lived in a post apocalyptic wasteland. I think a lot of people agree with given the popularity of the genre.

  21. I’m not opposed to enhanced interrogation tactics (like sleep deprivation) in extraordinary circumstances.

    But if you’re an Obama fan (an intellectually honest one), you’re probably wondering why you bothered to vote for this guy at all.

  22. Off in the distance, one could hear the distinctive sounds of Dick Cheney’s head exploding …

  23. My whole problem with this is defining torture. When I hear the word I think of hot irons, sharp impliments, fingernails pulled, etc. I do not think of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, or bad music. We’ve defined it down to where bad language isn’t allowed. There are bad guys out there who hate us and want to kill us for exactly the freedom from this kind of behavior, the freedoms most libertarians believe in.

    You cannot deal with people who want to kill you and destroy your country the same way you deal with your neighbor.

    1. I do not think of waterboarding

      I’ll take Hitchens’ word for it that waterboarding is torture.


      1. You cannot make up your own mind? You can find people who believe being in jail is torture.

        1. My standing offer to anyone who believes that waterboarding isn’t torture is that we’ll pick an afternoon–their choice–when I’ll waterboard them until I convince them that it is torture or until they convince me that it isn’t.

          Oddly, the brave pro-waterboarding crowd has yet to take me up on the offer even once.

  24. “It was wrong when Bush did it [true statement], as I made clear on the campaign trail, twice.

    “Now, ‘we’ are doing it. I’m not going to say it’s wrong. I’m just saying ‘we’ did it.

    “Next question.”

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