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If Cheney's for torture, why not use it on Scooter?

By Linwood Barclay,

Here's an idea, and I can't believe I'm the first to come up with this modest proposal, but why doesn't the U.S. government just go ahead and torture Lewis "Scooter" Libby? And not just for that ridiculous name.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has laid five charges against Libby related to the investigation into how an undercover CIA operative's identity was leaked to the press. One can only imagine how long it's going to take for Fitzgerald to lay out the evidence, to put witnesses on the stand, to build a case against Libby, and find out whether he lied to cover up for his actions or those of others at the White House.

Who knows how many other CIA agents may be outed while this case works its way through the courts?

Now, couldn't the whole process be expedited if Fitzgerald could attach a few electrodes to Libby's chest and then crank up the volts?

Some of you might find this position a bit extreme, but unless I'm reading the situation all wrong, this is exactly the sort of thing that Libby's boss, vice-president Dick Cheney, could get behind.

Just last week, Cheneymet privately with Republican senators to make the case that the CIA should be exempted from any laws that would ban the use of torture on terror suspects.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying ol' Scooter is a terrorist. I don't see him strapping dynamite to his waist and getting on a bus. I mean, look at the nice suits he wears. Who'd want to ruin one of those? But it's not much of a leap to suggest that the leaking of a CIA agent's name is a matter of national security. And if just one U.S. official thinks it's okay to blab the names of undercover operatives, or at the very least, cover up for those who think it's okay to blab the names of undercover operatives, isn't everyone going to start thinking it's okay?

If Dick Cheney is pushing for the authority to torture terror suspects to find out what they know and what threats they pose to national security, why would he be opposed to using the same methods on his former chief of staff? Even if Libby turns out to be completely innocent? It's certainly a great shortcut to the truth.

Of course, there are some Republicans who might be worried that, under torture, Libby might say anything, or implicate anyone, to make the pain go away. Maybe even make stuff up, confess to crimes he didn't commit, just to please the folks putting in the bamboo shoots or flicking the power on or off. But surely Dick Cheney wouldn't be worried about that.

If Cheney were worried that torture can be an unreliable method for extracting the truth, he'd hardly be seeking an exemption from any laws that would ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of criminal suspects. So he'd be hard pressed to argue that torturing Libby might unfairly incriminate other White House officials. In fact, the very suggestion that Libby would offer up lies while under torture borders on un-American. Surely he's made of better stuff than that.

The only real question remains, who should do it?

If Fitzgerald feels uncomfortable performing the torture himself, there are any number of foreign countries where Libby could be sent to have it done. He could check with the White House for a complete list.

Like I say, it's just a thought. Maybe Cheney should issue a statement: "I'm so committed to torture for extracting information, I'm willing, as a gesture of goodwill, to have it used on my former chief of staff first."

He'd make a believer out of me.

Linwood Barclay's column appears on Monday, Friday and Saturday. Email:



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