Mea Culpa

From reader Chris Taylor comes word that Alan Dershowitz has spoken out — on Crossfire, of all places.

(Click “MORE” below for the transcript.)

Not that I’m going to watch the show again. Since Mike Kinsley left (no pun intended), the show hasn’t been worth watching.

From Crossfire 05.04.04:

JAMES CARVILLE: Professor Dershowitz, you have in the past said that we should legalize torture in certain instances. Am I correct about that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: No. What I said was we should never authorize any extraordinary methods of interrogation without getting some advanced authorization, and this proves my point. I predicted this was going to happen a long time ago.

When you say publicly that we’ll never use any kind of extraordinary methods and then you suddenly send a message down to the troops on the ground, the police intelligence officers and the military police, look, do what you have to do, just don’t tell us. Just give us plausible deniability — this is inevitably going to happen.

People say you have to have some method of using extraordinary techniques in extreme situations. Well, if you do then you should have to go up to somebody at the very top — the president, the secretary of defense, the chief justice of the United States — get a warrant that specifies what you have to do, why you have to do it and what limitations there are, and that will help reduce this kind of ad hoc on the ground doing it and then blaming it on the soldiers when clearly it is the responsibility of the higher ups.

CARVILLE: Well, counselor, you’re starting to convince me. Give us an idea of some of the instances where you could obtain a warrant or permission or something like that to do this. Give us a circumstance that you think would be justified.

DERSHOWITZ: If you have a leading general in interrogation and we have information that there is about to be a bomb to explode and kill many American troops and somebody thinks that the only way of doing this and getting the information from him is by using extraordinary methods — and I’m not supporting those methods. I’m saying if somebody thinks you have to do it, you have to do it openly, directly and from the top.

You can’t say what our military now says: do what you have to do, just don’t tell us. Give us deniability, but don’t take pictures. That was the big problem. The big complaint is that pictures were being taken.

This — the way we’re doing it now encourages this kind of blame the lower ranking officers, let them do it, let them take the flack. We at the top will always have deniability.