Former VP, author talk torture at U

Jane Mayer was joined by Walter Mondale and Larry Jacobs.

Jane Mayer , the author of the book âÄúThe Dark Side,âÄù described what she called the âÄúpanic on the insideâÄù of the Bush administration despite the âÄúcalm façadeâÄù presented following Sept. 11 in a talk at the Humphrey Institute on Tuesday. Mayer, a reporter for the New Yorker magazine and the author of a variety of books about American public policy, was joined by Larry Jacobs , director of the UniversityâÄôs Center for the Study of Politics and Governance , and former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale in her talk, focused around the allegations of torture against the Bush administration, and the recent release of several CIA legal memos offering justifications for the techniques. White House officials presented that calm façade following the Sept. 11 attacks, despite, âÄúa tremendous sense that they had dropped the ball,âÄù Mayer said. This led the administration to give the CIA a bigger role in national security, Mayer said, and accept more intelligence reports detailing threats against the United States than it had in the past âÄî and the new ones included much more information than the older ones ever did. âÄúYou couldnâÄôt read them without getting paranoid,âÄù Mayer said. Pre-Sept. 11, the FBI conducted national security interrogations and were more âÄúexperienced,âÄù âÄúcleverâÄù and âÄúknowledgeableâÄù about the process, Mayer said. Over the course of five or six years, Mayer said the administration changed the rules of interrogation, allowing the CIA to use tactics such as the simulated drowning technique waterboarding that some have classified as illegal torture. âÄúIâÄôd be surprised if they didnâÄôt get some information out of it,âÄù she said, mentioning that there are still photos, transcripts and legal documents about the interrogations that could come out. âÄúThereâÄôs more unpleasantness to come.âÄù All three speakers said they hoped the government would release more information like the CIA legal memos, with Mondale calling for a commission similar to the one convened to investigate the Sept. 11 attack to scrutinize the torture allegations. âÄúWe need to know more about what happened,âÄù Mondale said. âÄúThere are a lot of very deep questions that are only going to be handled in ways the public is going to accept.âÄù At the same time, the panelists generally avoided the question of possible consequences for any perceived torture. âÄúItâÄôs a very tough question and IâÄôm not sure itâÄôs completely answerable at this point,âÄù Mondale said. âÄúI think itâÄôs more of a political question than a legal question,âÄù Mayer said. âÄúIf the U.S. looks into this, the rest of the world will back off âĦ if the U.S. drops the ball, I fear the rest of the world may pick it up.âÄù There is precedent for international prosecution for those accused of torture âÄî though international courts have not traditionally targeted Americans, Jacobs said after the event. âÄúAmerica is much better at taking care of its own laws than deferring to the international organizations to take this on for us,âÄù he said. The release of the interrogation memos last week was a âÄúbombshell,âÄù and the beginning of an âÄúavalancheâÄù of information on the subject, Jacobs said. âÄúWeâÄôre at the beginning of this period of investigation and scrutiny of this policy of torture,âÄù he said. Mayer said her goal as a journalist covering the torture allegations is simple: âÄúLetâÄôs just find out what happened and who did what.âÄù -Devin Henry is a senior staff reporter.