Panetta At CIA

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Way, way better than Brennan, and, significantly, detached from the torture regime and its apparatus in a way that anyone involved in the CIA in the last eight years would not be. As my colleague Marc Ambinder just said, the man who has had every job in Washington now has the most thankless task in Washington. But this appointment and Johnsen's are extremely encouraging for the restoration of Constitutional order after the Bush-Cheney protectorate. Then this:

How did we transform from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers? One word: fear. Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock? The simple answer is the rule of law. Our Constitution defines the rules that guide our nation.

It was drafted by those who looked around the world of the eighteenth century and saw persecution, torture, and other crimes against humanity and believed that America could be better than that. This new nation would recognize that every individual has an inherent right to personal dignity, to justice, to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

We have preached these values to the world. We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." It's what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.

We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

This is a good day for America's soul.

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