The Politics of Confusion

The Obama administration must be an interesting place to work. The president signs an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques, but leaves open the door for exceptions. Eric Holder declares water-boarding to be torture. Then Leon Panetta comes along:

Under insistent questioning from a Senate panel, Mr. Panetta said that in extreme cases, if interrogators were unable to extract critical information from a terrorism suspect, he would seek White House approval for the C.I.A. to use methods that would go beyond those permitted under the new rules.

But he also agreed that water-boarding is torture.  So what exactly would he ask the president in a ticking-time-bomb situation to do? It really is not clear — aside from all the misdirection and sanctimonious photo-ops — how this in practice would work out any differently than the Bush administration’s rules. This is not exactly the model of transparency. Confusion, maybe. Double talk — definitely.