Somewhere in the distant recesses of my mind is a passage from Reef Points, a.k.a. the Plebe's Bible, that we were required to memorize during our first year at the U.S. Naval Academy. "When principle is involved," the saying went, "be deaf to expediency." The latest firestorm over interrogation and torture of enemy combatants captured in the wrongly named global war on terror brings this tension between principle and expediency front and center.
In December 2007, after CIA Director General Michael Hayden announced the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking member of al Qaeda to be captured after the attacks of 11 September 2001, former agency employee John Kiriakou came forward to reveal his own role in the capture and questioning of that detainee. Kiriakou claimed that waterboarding had broken Zubaida in under a minute. While the intelligence breakthrough "probably saved lives," said Kiriakou, he now regards the technique as torture.