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Marco Rubio on Waterboarding

"We need to find out how this information was gathered," said Marco Rubio to the Tampa Tribune, referring to the intelligence on Osama Bin Laden's courier that led to last Sunday's raid. "Again, this is not for the purposes of saying we were right and you were wrong. It's for understanding what works and what doesn't."

Didja catch that? That was Marco Rubio, a popular Republican statesman, admitting that he doesn't know whether waterboarding was essential to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Why can't more Republicans talk this way?

Rubio is absolutely right, of course. We don't know whether waterboarding yielded the necessary intel. Those who do know aren't talking specifics, and they should. Not because the revelation that torture worked in this particular instance would constitute proof that torture is always, or even ever, a good idea -- the costs to America's credibility and moral authority may (may!) outweigh the benefits to our national security incurred by Sunday's operation. We need to know simply because it's impossible to have an intelligent debate on the subject without possessing the relevant data.

Contrast Rubio's mellow inquisitiveness to the horrible presumption of House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, who insisted earlier this week on The O'Reilly Factor that:

...we obtained information several years ago, vital information about the courier for [Osama]. We obtained that information through waterboarding... It came from an overseas prison where Khaled Sheik Mohammed was being interrogated. Waterboarding was used, and it was during the interrogation of Khaled Sheik Mohammed, through waterboarding, that this information was learned.

Two possibilities present themselves: Either King was sharing top-secret info that the administration was trying to hush up or else he was babbling. (Everything I've read suggests that the info from Khaled Sheik Mohammed came from "standard interrogations" performed months after he was waterboarded, though what info may have been revealed by other waterboardees remains a mystery, at least to me. Too many stories have been published this week for me to stay completely up-to-date, so if anybody's got some clarifying info, please don't hesitate to post in the comments.)

King's comments typified the reaction of the gung-ho torture crowd whose collective dissembling has gotten a little disheartening. Many thanks to Rubio for not claiming to know what he can't know. Humility is the essence of wisdom.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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