Today's Blogs

Breaking Zubaydah

A former CIA officer says water-boarding is torture, but necessary; a KBR employee says she was raped in the Green Zone; and Harvard lowers its undergraduate price tag. Bloggers respond.

Breaking Zubaydah: In the wake of the controversy over the destruction of two tapes depicting the interrogation of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, a retired CIA officer who questioned Zubaydah has come forward. John Kiriakou told ABC News that water-boarding is torture, but that it was necessary to break Zubaydah. (Watch the complete interview.)

At the liberal Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen breaks down Kiriakou’s disclosure: “As a matter of crass politics, Kiriakou’s assessment seems to offer a little something for everyone. For the right, Kiriakou is saying that torture produced intelligence that saved lives and thwarted possible attacks. For the left, Kiriakou is conceding that the Bush administration authorized and utilized torture (i.e., committed a felony), and he now believes the U.S. should stop using these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”

“Kiriakou is now the first official to acknowledge the use of waterboarding on any detainee in CIA custody,” says Spencer Ackerman of TPM Muckraker. “But his account of Abu Zubaydah’s intelligence value contradicts Ron Suskind’s 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine, which reported that Abu Zubaydah was borderline retarded and didn’t have more than minor, tactical information about al-Qaeda.” Washington Monthly’s Political Animal Kevin Drum also points out the Suskind/Kiriakou discrepancy.

Conservative Andrew Sullivan says the salient fact is that Kiriakou wasn’t “freelancing,” and he suggests that torturing Zubaydah reflects poorly on the chain of command. “Whatever moral decision we come to with respect to the torture of Abu Zubaydah, it is essential to understand that no authorized act of torture stands alone. By sending a clear signal that the United States has crossed the Rubicon of torture, the commander-in-chief told the entire military and intelligence world that the gloves are off.”

At Firedoglake, Blue Texan thinks “authoritarian cultists” will use Kiriakou’s statements to sanction torture: “The guy said it was necessary – so we’re all good! … I think the ‘08 RNC just found their slogan: ‘By any means necessary.’ ” Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters counters: “If this Congress outlaws waterboarding, they will have the responsibility for the potential intel loss that it creates, and the damage that loss eventually does.”

Read more about John Kiriakou’s statements.

Rape in the Green Zone: Jamie Leigh Jones, a 22-year-old woman from Texas, says that she was gang-raped by her co-workers from KBR, then a Halliburton subsidiary, two years ago in Baghdad’s Green Zone. After the attack, she was held in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water. Alas, legal experts say her alleged assailants may never face a jury because of a loophole that has effectively left contractors beyond the reach of U.S. law. She’s pursuing a lawsuit against Halliburton and KBR instead.

“It’s insane,” says Moe from Jezebel. “It’s the most insane thing that could have happened. And you know how Jessica Lynch was, like, too good to be true? I feel like this woman’s story is too bad to be true. It’s so insane, and grotesque and mind-blowing.”

MissLaura from Daily Kos is outraged: “An American woman employed by an American company was raped by her coworkers. In order, apparently, to keep her from reporting the rape, her employer held her captive in conditions worse than criminals in prison face. The rapists are not being prosecuted - maybe cannot be prosecuted - because the US has left contractors in Iraq unanswerable to the law. … This is what the government of our country has bought and paid for.”

At Red State, Ben Domenech is dismayed, but not surprised: “I personally know three young women who have worked in this environment - not even including my sister, who has experienced it as well. The stories they have told me of conditions for females in the green zone are disturbing at best. There are universal similarities in what they describe: a dominant boy’s club atmosphere; a fraternity but with guns and more men desperate for an outlet; so few women and many of them young, attractive, and unattached; flimsy locks on their quarters; and in many circumstances local nationals walking unescorted.”

“Over time, the mechanisms of imperial governance abroad are bound to erode democracy at home,” writesMatthew Yglesias, with reference to Jones’ fight to have her day in court. “You see it from the top down in the ways in which prominent military commanders have been inserted into partisan politics, and you see it from the bottom-up in the erosion of the rule of law.”

Consercatives Ace and Rusty Shackleford from the Jawa Report express doubts about Jones’ claims. “I can’t say this is nonsense, but it does all seem a bit hard to believe,” says Ace.

Read more about Jamie Leigh Jones.

Harvard on the cheap: Harvard is lowering its undergraduate price tag for middle- and upper-middle-class families. Starting next fall, students whose families earn up to $180,000 a year will pay 10 percent or less of their incomes annually instead of full-price tuition, which is now $45,620.

“It’s really nice to see Harvard putting its $35 billion endowment to good use. This is a huge move,” says Jonathan Stein at Mojo Blog. “If other schools who are traditionally one step behind Harvard in admissions and financial aid policies, like Yale, follow suit, we could have a higher education revolution on our hands. Bravo.”

Kevin Carey from The Quick and the Ed thinks the Ivy League university gets too much credit: “Harvard has been getting a ton of great publicity over the last five years by cannily staying one step ahead of the curve in announcing new programs to cut tuition for it’s small number of low- and middle-income students. But it until it actually does something to admit more of those students–not just help them once they arrive–it won’t deserve headlines like these.”

Read more about Harvard’s tuition cut.