This has been probably the most chilling aspect of the new civil liberties regime over the last 12 years: it's not just what has been done in our name--that's bad enough--but that what was done has been justified so openly. It's not as if the American government hasn't since its inception done some truly awful things in its past by people who justified to themselves, like Mr. Rodriguez, that they were doing it all for flag and country. But at least in the past such people had enough shame to know they should at least keep it under wraps and classified. J. Edgar Hoover, terrible as he was, at least knew better than to proudly make public his operations.
But when torture becomes a matter of national public policy and men like Mr. Rodriguez proclaim it proudly on national television rather than from behind cell bars, we have a different order of problem entirely. And the onus for that problem lies not just with our elected officials, but with all of us as a society. After all, once it's on 60 Minutes it's not as if we can turn our heads and pretend we didn't know.That's exactly right.
E. L. Doctorow has some related thoughts.