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Former Vice-President Cheney’s recent appearances attempting to defend and justify the Bush administration’s use of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” has seemed a bit puzzling to me. What is he trying to do?

He has admitted that techniques for which others have been prosecuted as war criminals were used, said that the president authorized them, and that he has “no regrets” because “it was absolutely the right thing to do. I am convinced, absolutely convinced, that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Cheney said there are memos which prove that the EIT’s were effective in obtaining information from suspected terrorists. Then yesterday came the news of a soon-to-be declassified memo which will provide conclusive evidence refuting Cheney’s claim that torture worked.

Government officials familiar with the CIA’s early interrogations say the most powerful evidence of apparent excesses is contained in the “top secret” May 7, 2004, inspector general report, based on more than 100 interviews, a review of the videotapes and 38,000 pages of documents. The full report remains closely held, although White House officials have told political allies that they intend to declassify it for public release when the debate quiets over last month’s release of the Justice Department’s interrogation memos…

Although some useful information was produced, the report concluded that “it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,” according to the Justice Department’s declassified summary of it.”

I’m not saying this memo shouldn’t be released, but what it does, and what the former VP is trying to do, is change the focus of the debate. Whether or not torture works is irrelevant, it’s illegal, and that’s all that matters.

If torture led to actionable information is it now somehow acceptable? Do the ends now justify the means in a post 9/11 America? If Bernie Madoff took his ill-gotten gain and used it for noble purposes, would it make his actions any less of a crime?

My answer to all 3 questions is not no, but hell no.

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