Last night, in an interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly praised the Bush administration “for doing a good job protecting Americans after 9/11″ and attributed its success to its “aggressive manner” of protection, including “Guantanamo, water boarding three times, and other things.” (Recall, in 2005, O’Reilly declared he would “order the execution” of everyone at Guantanamo if he could.)
O’Reilly then questioned Clinton’s opposition to torture, insisting that if the U.S. had “an al Qaeda big shot” in custody, he would “dunk him into water” — i.e., waterboard him. When told that torture does not produce “high quality” information, O’Reilly cried, “That’s bull!”:
O’REILLY: I believe the Bush administration has done a good job in protecting Americans after 9/11. … And they’ve done so in a very aggressive manner, Guantanamo, water boarding three times, and other things, OK? If we get an Al Qaida big shot who won’t talk, I’ll dunk him into water if there is, we believe — our intelligence agency believes there is an imminent attack. You won’t dunk him in the water, you won’t, I will. [...]
CLINTON: But if you actually talked to the people who were in the rooms with these guys, what they will tell me is that you do not get the high quality…
O’REILLY: That’s bull. It’s just bull. Michael Scheuer, who was the head of the bin Laden unit, sat there and said we broke these guys by waterboarding. It’s bull.
O’Reilly has long championed torture. He said that waterboarding isn’t “fatal” and “doesn’t leave a lasting injury,” and that people who oppose torture are “putting us all in danger.” Last October, he claimed that the Abu Ghraib scandal “was blown out of proportion.”
Of course, many experts — O’Reilly’s own opinion notwithstanding — agree that torture is ineffective. In Feburary, FBI Director Robert Mueller said his agency rejected using waterboarding, and Lt. Gen. Michael Maples of the Defense Intelligence Agency said torture was unnecessary. Another former FBI agent said the entire idea of a “ticking time bomb scenario” like the one O’Reilly cites is “a red herring” his agency had never encountered.
Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone ‘talk;’ however, what the individual says may be of questionable value.
After all, as O’Reilly himself said, “Petraeus is beyond reproach in my eyes.”