Holder v. Rahm: The Torture Fight

rahmemanuel1113.thumbnail.jpgThe headline news in Dennis Klaidman’s long piece on Eric Holder is that Holder may appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate torture.

Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter.

But the whole piece is worth reading for two other reasons: the drama it paints between Holder and Rahm (and the White House political agenda more generally), and the details it gives about the torture policy thus far.

Rahm v. Holder

First, Rahm.  Even to the extent to which the profile of Holder here reads like a puff piece, the entire piece is driven with two, related, narrative conflicts: Holder’s regret over the Marc Rich pardon.

And though Holder has bluntly acknowledged that he "blew it," the Rich decision haunts him. Given his professional roots, he says, "the notion that you would take actions based on political considerations runs counter to everything in my DNA."

And the tension of working for a Rahm-driven White House.

Any White House tests an attorney general’s strength. But one run by Rahm Emanuel requires a particular brand of fortitude. A legendary enforcer of presidential will, Emanuel relentlessly tries to anticipate political threats that could harm his boss. He hates surprises. That makes the Justice Department, with its independent mandate, an inherently nervous-making place for Emanuel. During the first Clinton administration, he was famous for blitzing Justice officials with phone calls, obsessively trying to gather intelligence, plant policy ideas, and generally keep tabs on the department.

One of his main interlocutors back then was Holder.

[snip]

"Rahm’s style is often misunderstood," says Holder. "He brings a rigor and a discipline that is a net plus to this administration." For his part, Emanuel calls Holder a "strong, independent attorney general." But Emanuel’s agitated presence hangs over the building—"the wrath of Rahm," one Justice lawyer calls it—and he is clearly on the minds of Holder and his aides as they weigh whether to launch a probe into the Bush administration’s interrogation policies.

In spite of the reported warmth between the two, Rahm is depicted as opposing a torture investigation. And there’s a remarkable anonymous quote in the article that contextually appears to be Rahm, showing Rahm’s characteristically greater concern about Republicans’ perspectives than about the left flank of the Democratic party.

Emanuel and other administration officials could see that the politics of national security was turning against them. When I interviewed a senior White House official in early April, he remarked that Republicans had figured out that they could attack Obama on these issues essentially free of cost. "The genius of the Obama presidency so far has been an ability to keep social issues off the docket," he said. "But now the Republicans have found their dream…issue and they have nothing to lose."

And the article goes on to repeat this theme–accusing DOJ of being insufficiently attentive to the White House’s political needs which (the same Rahm-like anonymous sources suggest) may be because Holder is overcompensating for the Rich pardon.

White House officials have complained that Holder and his staff are not sufficiently attuned to their political needs. Holder is well liked inside the department.

[snip]

Among some White House officials there is a not-too-subtle undertone suggesting that Holder has "overlearned the lessons of Marc Rich," as one administration official said to me.

The Torture Details

It’s against that drama–and the puffy feel of this story–that three important details about the torture debate appear.

First, a detail that has been reported before, but which takes on added weight given the picture of conflict here: the story portrays Holder’s DOJ as  pushing for the release of the OLC torture memos.

For weeks Holder had participated in a contentious internal debate over whether the Obama administration should release the Bush-era legal opinions that had authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods. He had argued to administration officials that "if you don’t release the memos, you’ll own the policy." CIA Director Leon Panetta, a shrewd political operator, countered that full disclosure would damage the government’s ability to recruit spies and harm national security; he pushed to release only heavily redacted versions.

Holder and his aides thought they’d been losing the internal battle. What they didn’t know was that, at that very moment, Obama was staging a mock debate in Emanuel’s office in order to come to a final decision. In his address to the cadets, Holder cited George Washington’s admonition at the Battle of Trenton, Christmas 1776, that "captive British soldiers were to be treated with humanity, regardless of how Colonial soldiers captured in battle might be treated." As Holder flew back to Washington on the FBI’s Cessna Citation, Obama reached his decision. The memos would be released in full.

Next, the story reveals that the invocation of State Secrets in the Jeppesen suit was done without Obama’s involvement–presumably by dead-enders.

But in the Obama administration the bad blood between the camps has at times been striking. The first detonation occurred in only the third week of the administration, soon after a Justice lawyer walked into a courtroom in California and argued that a lawsuit, brought by a British detainee who was alleging torture, should have been thrown out on national-security grounds. By invoking the "state secrets" privilege, the lawyer was reaffirming a position staked out by the Bush administration. The move provoked an uproar among liberals and human-rights groups. It also infuriated Obama, who learned about it from the front page of The New York Times. "This is not the way I like to make decisions," he icily told aides, according to two administration officials, who declined to be identified discussing the president’s private reactions. White House officials were livid and accused the Justice Department of sandbagging the president. Justice officials countered that they’d notified the White House counsel’s office about the position they had planned to take.

The story is particularly interesting, because it lumps Holder–who had not yet been approved–in with the decision. And it reveals that Greg Craig had been notified of the decision–suggesting (as I’ve suspected) that he’s a big player in these tensions.

Finally, though, there’s a detail that’s told out of context. Earlier in the story, Klaidman told of Holder reading the OLC memos and experiencing revulsion at what was done. He repeats that narrative, telling of Holder reading the CIA IG Report as he ends his report.

But in late June Holder asked an aide for a copy of the CIA inspector general’s thick classified report on interrogation abuses. He cleared his schedule and, over two days, holed up alone in his Justice Depart ment office, immersed himself in what Dick Cheney once referred to as "the dark side." He read the report twice, the first time as a lawyer, looking for evidence and instances of transgressions that might call for prosecution. The second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was "shocked and saddened," he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America’s name. When he was done he stood at his window for a long time, staring at Constitution Avenue.

Now, it makes a nice ending to the multiple dramatic threads Klaidman is telling.

But it’s also an important detail. Klaidman described Holder’s aides worrying about torture being taken off the agenda. But then he ends with this, suggesting that reading the IG Report has convinced Holder to appoint a prosecutor (remember, the IG Report was a key factor in convincing Jack Goldsmith to withdraw some of the torture memos).

But note the date: late June. That’s when the IG Report’s release got delayed, twice.

At a time when the Administration was conducting a review of the IG Report to determine whether it could be released, Holder read the report. 

Release of the report has been delayed. But now–according to four anonymous sources–Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate crimes related to torture.

Like I said–the story is pretty puffy and definitely pro-Holder. But it does reveal important details about the conflicts within the Administration over whether or not to hold anyone accountable for these crimes. 

Related:

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. Aeon says:

    This article is a trial balloon. The point is for the Obama administration to see how fast — and in how many ways and by whom — the idea of prosecutions will be shot down. No question about it.

    And it is simply bizarre how the story is portraying Obama as being out of even the information loop re the adoption of the Bush-era positions on state secrets. Either Greg Craig is the new Cheney, or someone is telling a tall tale.

    • bobschacht says:

      Either Greg Craig is the new Cheney, or someone is telling a tall tale.

      My first reaction was trying to decide whether Rahm was playing the Karl Rove role.

      Bob in HI

    • dcblogger says:

      In that respect Obama is very Reaganesque. He has learned the art of escaping responsibility for the actions of his administration.

  2. bmaz says:

    This Eric Holder dude is like that guy in the Dos Equis commercial “The Most Interesting Man In The World”:

    When Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, glide into a dinner party they change the atmosphere. In a town famous for its drabness, they’re an attractive, poised, and uncommonly elegant pair—not unlike the new first couple.

    Holder doesn’t dispute the idea that his happy upbringing has led to a generally sunny view of the world.

    Wow, that is one smooth James Bond like cat.

    Given his professional roots, he says, “the notion that you would take actions based on political considerations runs counter to everything in my DNA.”

    Uh huh. Has Holder actually read what is being filed in his name? I guess the story implies maybe not. But what does that say?

    (Even the revelation, a few days later, that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another detainee had been waterboarded hundreds of times did not drastically alter the contours of the story.) And the White House certainly did its part to head off further controversy. On the Sunday after the memos were revealed, Emanuel appeared on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and declared that there would be no prosecutions of CIA operatives who had acted in good faith with the guidance they were given. In his statement announcing the release of the memos, Obama said, “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.” (Throughout, however, he has been careful to say that the final decision is the attorney general’s to make.)

    Oh yeah, nothing political here. Move along now.

    What a charming chap this Eric Holder. There he stands, with his hands in his pocket, wistfully looking down Constitution Avenue. While, outside his office, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Constitution itself is in flames.

    • dcblogger says:

      What a charming chap this Eric Holder. There he stands, with his hands in his pocket, wistfully looking down Constitution Avenue. While, outside his office, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Constitution itself is in flames.

      my view precisely. During the Clinton administration Holder impressed me as a slave to conventional wisdom.

    • Leen says:

      Holder “no one is above the law”
      “no one is above the law”

      Does he believe these words? Or do they ring hollow? As in the Marc Rich pardon?

      One peasant is wondering?

  3. dotsright says:

    Whose floating the trial balloon if not Rahm? Might it serve some other purpose than to see who and how fast it will be shot down?

    This could be like a big shiny object meant to distract the left who would be the ones most interested in seeing these torture prosecutions or investigations go forward.

    So what is the big, shiny trial balloon meant to take our eyes off of?

    • Aeon says:

      Whose floating the trial balloon if not Rahm?

      It looks to be a group effort with contributions from Rahm and Holder (among others).

  4. bmaz says:

    Oh, and one other thing. That Big time East Coast lawyer saying all those nice things about Holder, Reid Weingarten, is Rick Renzi’s criminal attorney on the charges currently pending.

    So, what a shock, Renzi’s attorney is on the record saying what a swell guy Eric Holder is. I wonder if he bills extra for that or if it is included in his fee agreement?

    • FormerFed says:

      bmaz, I know you dislike Holder with a passion, but I still have a little bit of hope, even though I have been sorely disappointed with Holder’s DOJ to date.

      By the way, what is happening with good old Renzi? When is he going to jail?

    • Aeon says:

      Most likely it is the prosecutors under Holder trying to force his hand.

      They certainly are among those confirming the bit about Holder considering appointing prosecutors, but the level of granularity exhibited in the story (i.e. Holder’s road to Damascus illumination while reading the CIA IG report) indicates that Holder is on board and that this is a group effort within the highest levels of the administration to try to satisfy the liberals and to test the waters.

      The proof will be in the pudding. I would wager that the idea of prosecutions dies an ignominious death — and this article will have played a big part.

      • emptywheel says:

        True–he obviously worked with Holder directly. Dunno. I think Holder just needs 100,000 people to say, “Don’t let Marc Rich go again, go get his lawyer” (Libby). And then the lawyer’s boss. And so on.

        • Aeon says:

          It is not impossible for this thing to actually get some traction and rally the people who still care for the values the U.S. is supposed to stand for.

          That is what somebody quoted in the Newsweek piece clearly expected would happen after the OLC memos were released. (The article could have given you a shout-out when citing the waterboarding tally, oh well.)

          But if the OLC memo furor didn’t cut the muster as far as the administration’s polling or whatever metric they are using, then the opponents of prosecution probably have the upper hand in the White House.

          • bobschacht says:

            But if the OLC memo furor didn’t cut the muster as far as the administration’s polling or whatever metric they are using, then the opponents of prosecution probably have the upper hand in the White House.

            The Bush-Cheney crime syndicate seems to have had as its M.O. that if you saturate the news with enough info about their alleged crimes, then criminal behavior by the WH will become normative, and will not cause ripples. That is what is so toxic about this situation. In a way, we have a kind of “prosecution fatigue.” Activists like me have been writing our congress-critters about prosecution for so long that it seems pointless to write yet another one. I hope Holder realizes this when evaluating the metrics.

            Also, in considering metrics, releasing photos was to have given them the boost needed to appoint a special prosecutor, and we were all waiting for that– but then they decided not to. This also messed up the metrics.

            Hey, Eric, JUST DO IT!

            Bob in HI

  5. alabama says:

    This is very interesting. It tells me that they’ll end up making the appointment.

    And let me not forget that Rahm himself carries a whole lot of baggage.

    • fatster says:

      alabama, I tried straightening out the two James Bakers for you back on the “Working Thread” IG Report. It’s @66. Hope it helps.

          • MadDog says:

            If you get another chance in the near future, you might also drive the point that I made in comments here and here.

            Simply put, the CIA program canceled by CIA Director Panetta had to have been mucho illegal even to his eyes!

            From my latter comment:

            And to make my point further, there is no way that this program would have been shut down if it was legal!

            Notification be damned!

            And neither lack of effectiveness or ethicality would have prevented this program from continuing.

            Simply put, the program had to have been illegal!

            And the folks in the Bush/Cheney White House and the CIA who gave birth to it damn well knew it!

            Notification of Congress would’ve been the least of their problems. And you can take that to the bank!

            • Loo Hoo. says:

              What could be so illegal that even Darrell Issa, a Republican, would find it so far out of bounds that he would write a letter to the FBI requesting a criminal investigation of the CIA?

              Not the more normal histrionic speech of the floor of the House of Representatives, or even a quick phone call complaining to CIA Director Panetta, but a fookin’ letter to the FBI requesting a criminal investigation of the CIA!

              That all of congress’ communications are being mined? Now that Obama has the capacity instead of Cheney?? I can’t imagine anything else that would upset Issa.

  6. TarheelDem says:

    Maybe we can get some certain Congressmen and Senators to say that that trial balloon is exactly what needs to happen. Leahy, Feingold, Conyers come immediately to mind. Likely private conversations with Obama directly will be more effective than public support.

    Meanwhile, let’s take it at face value, knowing that it’s a trial balloon and start pushing it as the right and overdue thing to do.

    Greg Craig could have not felt that it merited making the boss aware of “such a routine action”. Or his agenda might be different from Obama’s.

    The players have been nicey-nice to each other up until now. Now, with Rahm having gotten pushback from House progressives on healthcare, some other folks might start pushing back.

  7. MadDog says:

    And more info on that unknown CIA program via the Washington Times’ Eli Lake:

    Intel official: Cheney, Tenet kept CIA program secret

    Top Bush administration officials, including former CIA director George Tenet and former Vice President Richard Cheney, opted not to brief Congress on a secret program disclosed last month by CIA director Leon Panetta, according to an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the program…

    …The exact nature of the program is still a mystery in Washington. This official hinted that the secret program involved assassinations overseas, but declined to provide further details…

    • MadDog says:

      …The exact nature of the program is still a mystery in Washington. This official hinted that the secret program involved assassinations overseas, but declined to provide further details…

      (My Bold)

      Could this 2004 death be an example:

      …Arafat was pronounced dead at 3:30 am UTC on 11 November at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown

      (My Bold)

      • Aeon says:

        Could this 2004 death be an example:

        …Arafat was pronounced dead at 3:30 am UTC on 11 November at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown…

        No. Arafat and Fatah were longtime assets of the CIA.

        When Hamas took over Gaza they found documents establishing the relationship.

      • prostratedragon says:

        Nov. 11, eh? I’ll concede that something in the universe is infatuated with certain classes of dates. And come to think of it, it was a bit of a surprise, wasn’t it?

        But the one that’s always got my little dragon a bit seasick was Rafik Hariri.

        • emptywheel says:

          Hariri is the third on my list.

          Thing is, it doesn’t make as much SENSE to me. But Hariri was pretty secretive and may have been more convenient dead and a scapegoat than alive.

          • MadDog says:

            I suspect that Syrian President Bashar Assad also was not too far down the list of Cheney’s targets either.

            Membership in the “Axis of Evil” was not by chance.

          • prostratedragon says:

            Yeah, I found myself having to backtrack to justify it; but I’m not kidding about that little dragon, it’s been very good over the years.

            I’ve rationalized it partly by considering the advantages to a sufficiently ruthless participant of skewering Syria, which hasn’t been on the beat for a while now I think, with a bad situation in Lebanon in which, as usual, they’d also have the burden of disproving a negative in the face of their own acknowledged misdeeds of the past. Et cetera.

            Still, it’d qualify as a major entry in the continuing drama of

            Yang On the March!!

      • esseff44 says:

        The NYT article dampens the targeted assassination program. Panetta is reported to have said that it was never actually put into action. He says that it why it was easy to close down. Hoestra says sort of the same thing about it being off and on and did not get further that planning and training. The reason for not telling Congress and keeping it a total secret from them: Congress would not have approved of the program if they knew about it.

        • MadDog says:

          But do we believe these folks are now telling us the truth, and nothing but the truth, that have lied to us over and over again before?

          I can’t see anyone, even Cheney at the height of his megalomaniacal best, ever standing up and saying, “Yes, I had Arafat killed! So?”

          I can however see Cheney giving a wink and saying “He sleeps with the fishes!”

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            But do we believe these folks are now telling us the truth, and nothing but the truth, that have lied to us over and over again before?

            This may sound weird, but I’m no longer convinced that Cheney can tell the difference between true and false. I don’t see that he even thinks in those terms.

            What dim glimmers are apparent to me seem to follow this train of thought: ‘good for me, what I want = ‘true’; bad for me, make me look bad, undercut my power = ‘false’.

            I’d love to be wrong, but despite trying to fathom how he makes decisions, all I keep coming up with is that his criteria for ‘truth/lies’ are “does it give me power? Or not?” If you see something different, I’m certainly open to revision. But both Cheney and Addington seem to use slippery, bizarre conditions for ‘logic’ that have nothing whatsoever to do with observable, empirically testable reality.

            • MadDog says:

              Cheney is as pure of an example of “lizard brain” as exists in our modern times.

              The “lizard brain” has no thought but that what makes it happy.

              Nixon had an “enemies list”.

              Cheney keeps a different list, and it is small enough to count on his fingers. It is called “not enemy list”. It includes Lynne, Liz, Scoots, Addington, and a couple of others.

              And if you aren’t on his list, watch fookin’ out!

  8. PAR4 says:

    Somebody should remind Rahm about the last chief of staff who thought he was in charge.(Haig)

  9. drfatman says:

    Some have mentioned that this is a ‘trial balloon’ and it very well may be. However, I would like to put forth this frame:

    (1) Holder is convinced that the previous administration did act at least unfaithfully to their sworn duties and more importantly acted illegally.

    (2) Holder has taken the temp of the political environment and understands that the GOP in its current form is not willing to support any of the administrations agenda. Consequently, there is no real damage done to the agenda by pursuing the ‘torture trail’. Moreover, he will have been able to maintain his loyalty to the President and also his sworn obligation as an Independent Agent within the Administration.

    (3) In the end, Holder understands that history will eventually write the truth and he must decide does he protect this administration from being portrayed as an agent of cover-up or a group of principled individuals that fulfilled their sworn obligation.

    I am hopeful that Holder and key members of Congress write the truth in the pages of history in the near future.

    • Mary says:

      It may be that one last strand of naivete left in me, but I can kind of walk that same road with you, more or less.

      • barbara says:

        Holder has taken the temp of the political environment and understands that the GOP in its current form is not willing to support any of the administrations agenda. Consequently, there is no real damage done to the agenda by pursuing the ‘torture trail’. Moreover, he will have been able to maintain his loyalty to the President and also his sworn obligation as an Independent Agent within the Administration.

        It may surprise all y’all to know that this seems like bedrock to me. For Holder, for Obama. The GOP’s pissy, perpetual failure to support any administration agenda is clearly not going to change. And it seems to me the new tagline for All Things Progressive needs to be, “We will do the right things without you.”

        • Mary says:

          Just for some clarification, the quote in your comment is from drfatman at 19, not me. But I do agree the “roil the nation-hurt the President’s domesic agenda” editorializing in the piece is crap. The Republicans and Blue Dogs and inept Dem dodderers are going to roil things and crater legislation just fine, all by themselves, without regard to what Holder does or does not do.

    • Mauimom says:

      (2) Holder has taken the temp of the political environment and understands that the GOP in its current form is not willing to support any of the administrations agenda. Consequently, there is no real damage done to the agenda by pursuing the ‘torture trail’.

      I wish someone would write that in large block letters on some Day-Glo poster board and tack it up around the White House.

  10. emptywheel says:

    Also, one point about the story–

    The delay in the IG REport’s release was real. As I’ve suggested, that means that someone has pushed back against the CIA’s wishes to keep it all secret. Now it’s possible this is a WH managed piece–that they want to proscute but give Holder the credit and the blame. But something is holding up that report and it’s not just the CIA’s intransigence.

    • MadDog says:

      From a purely political perspective (I guess my genes force this on me), it would seem to be a smart political move to delay the Bush/Cheney Inquisition until you’ve gotten some of your major legislative agenda items passed (Health Care is but one example).

      I say “delay” since an astute political analyst would also know full well that given the totality of crimes of the Bush/Cheney Administration, it is only a matter of time before one must act.

      I can envision folks like Rahm and Craig putting their fingers in the Bush/Cheney Inquisition dike temporarily with the knowledge that their efforts were merely postponing the inevitable.

  11. Mary says:

    Misc
    -I’m very glad you highlighted the point about the story evidencing the “friction” between DOJ and Obama taking place before Holder was calling the shots. One thing Obama should have learned from that episode is how to make the dogs heel, but since Holder was still awaiting confirmation it was all pretty non-sequitor as applied to him.

    -bmaz, you are going to be surprised at me on this one, but I do kind of feel a bit for Holder. If he goes there, he goes alone and he doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who by nature goes alone much. I think he would have to overcome a lot to do the right thing here. It is a puff piece, but its puff that could have gone a lot of ways. That Holder pushed it out there as a puff piece centered around whether or not he would appoint a special prosecutor on torture (instead of one with him finger steepling on national security) speaks to me a little, esp when you couple it with the story of how he and his crew thought that they would get public support for torture prosecutions by getting the OLC memos “out.” He sounds like someone who wants to do the right thing, but would really really really like to have some coherent support directed his way to help him go so against his nature, personal friendships, political and career interests, etc. OTOH, sometimes I am just a sucker.

    – Laura Rozen at Warandpiece has a prominent heading/link to EW’s piece on Goss getting his own briefings, with the clever heading, “Gang of One”

    Not to copy, but I really think that heading might be even more appropriate for the program Shane is saying Cheney told the CIA to hide from Congress.

    There’s too much here since yesterday to absorb and after spending most of the day doing horse stuff, I’m now going to spend most of the rest of it watching horse videos but I hope that when I get back, I’m not too far behind to ever catch up.

    • Nell says:

      the “friction” between DOJ and Obama taking place before Holder was calling the shots. One thing Obama should have learned from that episode is how to make the dogs heel, but since Holder was still awaiting confirmation it was all pretty non-sequitor as applied to him.

      It’s not the case that he wasn’t yet confirmed, and even if it had been it’s implausible to me that the administration legal types paid no attention to the Mohamed v. Jeppesen filing until after it happened. The filing had been highlighted by the ACLU and other organizations in the ‘first 100 days’ campaign since mid-November as a significant moment to watch. Holder was confirmed on Feb. 5th and sworn in on Feb. 6th. On February 9th the DoJ lawyer repeated the govt’s position as seeking dismissal of Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan by invoking state secrets privilege. Greg Craig is already established as pond scum for a variety of other, unrelated issues; that he supposedly okayed the state secrets re-invocation puts the cherry on top.

      I’m not buying the ‘caught by surprise’ line. It’s just not consistent with what’s happened since, the pattern of events related to state secretsthat we were just talking about yesterday or the day before:
      – the multiple abusive invocation of state secrets to dismiss cases (Mohamed, Jewel, Haramain)
      – Holder’s interview with Katie Couric in early April, where he said they planned to invoke it in all but one of the pending cases where it might come up.
      – Justice’s repeated delays in releasing Holder’s review, and the clear indications that the only reason they’re even talking about releasing it is because they think it will help stop legislation (the same legislation Obama ran on supporting but now somehow doesn’t).

      • Mary says:

        I have to back up a bit on this, bc I do tend to make the wrong call on t how much context is neeed for some comments. The context I left out is that from the very beginning of all these Obama admin shots that were being called, I have ALWAYS said that Obama had the ability right out of the blocks to make sure the calls went his way and I ALWAYS shot down the “he needs time to get his people in place” argument on the DOJ front.

        But for the argument made in the article, which was that the Jeppeson call that was made “in the third week” of the administration indicated friction between Obama and Holder, WH and DOJ, I don’t buy that it is a good example, with Holder only confirmed the first week in Feb and not installed until March. I also think it’s a poor example in that it tries to make it sound as if Obama was displeased over the invocations in that case (iow, that Holder is the one heading the Jeppesen cover up against Obama’s will) when that same approach has been taken by the Obama admin over and over since – in not just that case but others and on diplomatic fronts as well, with the pressure exerted in the Binyam Mohamed case.

        I do absolutely believe that Obama on inaugeration or Holder (probably after confirmation, although I’m not sure what the technicalities of “installation” that didn’t take place until March v. confirmation, which took place in Feb, involve) could have at a minimum issued valid directives for attorneys to seek stays pending review in torture, states secrets, civil suits for FISA felonies, etc. cases and in the few instances where Obama did think he had a game plan, that’s just what happened (like the GITMO case where he ran into the presiding officer problem that had to be addressed).

        So on the, do I think Holder has made any big effort to do the right thing so far, front – I don’t think there is evidence of much in his favor on that other than the memo releases. And I have a hard time believing the scenario the story paints of Holder and a cadre who actually believed that, despite all the DOJ’s running around for years flashing their pom poms and starting each pep rally with , “gimmee a T, gimmee an O, gimmee a R…” and despite a media that won’t even use the word to describe what our “patriots” did to 7 yo children and barely even mentioned the al-Libi death, that somehow all those guys and maybe a gal or so sat around and really, truly thought that the memos being released to a disinterested, incompetent public by a DOJ that was proactively defending John Yoo would somehow cause a groundswell demand for investigations.

        If Holder’s crew at DOJ are really that combination of naive and unaware, then it won’t much matter if they do appoint a special prosecutor – no one will figure out that Mr. Magoo, Esq. is a cartoon character.

        But in addition to thinking the example given for conflict with the WH doesn’t make sense and doesn’t even necessarily walk back to Holder (although a lot of similar decisions do walk back to him and seem to equally walk back to Obama, not suggetive of all that much *conflict* on those fronts to me), in addition to that, I think that HOlder and his crew could steer his puff piece a lot of different ways, and the fact they they did steer it towards prosecutions is significant.

        As bmaz noted, how worthwhile any of this is when you have already left SOLs expire and let evidence be destroyed and allowed the Dept to already be aligned as “counsel for” some of the same guys the Dept, even under guise of a Spec Pros, would need to be going after on a prosecutorial front (really complicating things out the wazoo) – how worthwhile it is to NOW float that balloon is really questionable.

        But I do give credit for the fact that the puff piece WAS steered towards prosecutions and I think the inclusion of the story on hoping to see some public support for prosecutions after the memos released was purposeful. fwiw, ymmv

        • bmaz says:

          I agree it was purposeful; to what exact purpose I am not sure, and it easily may not be the purpose that ever hopeful people like Horton and others think.

          As to this:

          I do absolutely believe that Obama on inaugeration or Holder (probably after confirmation, although I’m not sure what the technicalities of “installation” that didn’t take place until March v. confirmation, which took place in Feb, involve) could have at a minimum issued valid directives for attorneys to seek stays pending review in torture, states secrets, civil suits for FISA felonies, etc. cases and in the few instances where Obama did think he had a game plan, that’s just what happened (like the GITMO case where he ran into the presiding officer problem that had to be addressed)

          .

          Keep in mid that the 9th Circuit panel literally begged them to take the time to reconsider the Administration’s position on Mohamed v. Jeppesen, and they very tartly and indignantly refused.

          • Mary says:

            Keep in mid that the 9th Circuit panel literally begged them to take the time to reconsider the Administration’s position on Mohamed v. Jeppesen, and they very tartly and indignantly refused.

            Oh yeah, that’s something you don’t have to remind me of and there were Dist Ct judges too that pretty much beggged them to ask for time (are you SURE you don’t need to consult about whether the Dept is going to amend its postion – types of questions from the bench even). It is good to add it for context, but I don’t think anyone who has seen my comments on all this from the beginning would have any doubt as to whether or not I think Obama/Holder could have (and should have) sent a boatload of cases down another path.

            • bmaz says:

              Heh, no, I sure didn’t anyway. But this post is gaining wider distribution this morning and there are those that have not been watching you and I bark at the moon all these years, so I think the last little reaffirmation may be useful.

  12. prostratedragon says:

    I sure hope the optimists are right and that Holder wants to get something done and will succeed in doing so.

    However, administration media ops are good enough to support a helluva lot of seeming and leaning toward, well-enough timed to keep frayed ties from breaking.

    As for the Bushies, they could figure out how to eat ice cream illegally, and would prefer to do it that way.

  13. alinaustex says:

    drfatman@ 19
    I agree with your “frame” -especially 3- Holder and key members of Congress will write the truth & before this is over justice will be done .
    I have full faith and confidence that Attorney General Holder and President Obama will fully execute their oath of office to protect and defend Our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic .
    And drfatman the other driver of the special prosecutor appointment will be the final findings that US Attorney Durham -which should be arriving in the not too distant future –

      • drfatman says:

        I don’t believe the ‘potential crimes’ we are discussing here have any statute of limitations.

        • bmaz says:

          Really? Because the US statute for torture, 18 USC 2340 has a base limitation period of 8 years except in death situations. Furthermore, the federal statute for criminal conspiracy is five years (theoretically possible to argue that the 5 year statute runs from the last overt act). But the expiring limitations periods on initial acts can really bugger up a prosecution (See US v. Carona, SDCA). And taking arrows out of your prosecutorial quiver, by letting statutes on many of the charges you could file before you even even deign fit to start the investigation, is piss poor prosecutorial management and decision making.

          On another, but related area for example, take the warrantless wiretapping crimes. The absolute best case of direct and provable criminal behavior was the period of time after the “Hospital Incident” where there was not even the false patina of legal cover available for the perpetrators, and there is known evidence in the al-Haramain case proving the illegal wiretapping indeed occurred. It is the cut and dried proof and case prosecutors drool over to be the linchpin of a broad investigation and prosecution. Obama and Holder let the statute of limitations on those crimes expire this spring.

          If you think expiring statutes of limitation are not absolutely a critical part of the equation here you are sorely mistaken. And until someone starts addressing that thought, they really are not being honest about giving a tinker’s damn about investigation and prosecution on any of it.

          • MadDog says:

            Most excellent point, and I’m glad you’ve reiterated it.

            And one can wonder whether the politicos like Rahm and Craig have factored the SOL into their political calculations.

            As in, “Yes, we’ll have investigations, later, but because the SOL has expired, there ain’t gonna be no actual prosecutions, so we’ll come out smelling like roses.”

          • FormerFed says:

            Yes bmaz, I think that most of us understand SOL. I think most of us also understand that things come up during an investigation that can cause the SOL to be adjusted to new circumstances. I think Whitewater started somewhere in the 70’s and the investigation wasn’t closed out by Ray until 2000. At a cost just for the Starr/Ray investigation of around $60 Million.

          • Mary says:

            And taking arrows out of your prosecutorial quiver by letting statutes on many of the charges you could file before you even even deign fit to start the investigation is piss poor prosecutorial management and decision making.

            I can’t argue with a word of that – true stuff is true stuff.

            Back to horse videos.

    • MadDog says:

      No. Arafat and Fatah were longtime assets of the CIA.

      When Hamas took over Gaza they found documents establishing the relationship.

      I too, am with EW on this one.

      Cheney, in particular, detested Arafat personally, and with the Likudniks prevalent throughout the power positions in the Administration (Scooter, Wolfowitz, Feith, and many others), the policy positions and actions taken were directly and explicitly to undermine, negate, and counter any and all Palestinian Authority/Fatah positions.

      A Palestinian State was not to be!

      • Aeon says:

        I agree about the personal animosity between the OVP and the PLO. And that we stimied Arafat politically vis a vis Israel during the Bush administration.

        However the clandestine relationship between the CIA and Fatah goes back to the 1970’s.

        There is a reason why over all those years and many provocations that neither Israel nor the U.S. assassinated Arafat. It is that the policymakers in both countries were afraid that someone more militant and less corrupt (thus less pliable) would take over.

        • MadDog says:

          …There is a reason why over all those years and many provocations that neither Israel nor the U.S. assassinated Arafat. It is that the policymakers in both countries were afraid that someone more militant and less corrupt (thus pliable) would take over.

          I don’t disagee with this either.

          I just think that Cheney & Co. finally said why not, and took advantage of their positions of power, and the times we were in.

          Remember, Cheney & Co. were the authors of those “scary memos” in the IG Report, and remember too, that Cheney & Co. were (and are still today) doing everything they could to fan the flames of fear with regard to all things “Muslim”, and certainly all things “terrorist”.

          Cheney & Co. regarded Arafat as a terrorist, and to their mind, terrorists deserve to die!

          I do not suggest that every part of our government held (or holds) this position, but Cheney & Co. certainly did/does.

          • Aeon says:

            Well, I cannot prove that Cheney didn’t concoct an assassination plan using some “Team B” Office of Special Plans-type bucket shop.

            But it wasn’t the CIA. And it wasn’t part of the program that Panetta just discovered.

            How do I know? The program that Panetta briefed the intel committees on was not a covert action. Assassinations are covert actions.

            It was a intelligence-collection activity run by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, officials said. It was not a covert action, which by law would have required a presidential finding and a report to Congress.

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              Does anyone besides me recall Bob Woodward alluding some time ago to some new ‘weapon’ so scary and highly classified that even Woodward seemed very spooked about it and wouldn’t divulge?

              No clue what it was, but it seemed odd behavior for Woodward.
              I figure he must have stumbled onto either this ’secret-supersecret’ stuff, or something related. Whatever it was seemed to give him the creeps.

            • MadDog says:

              My only response (and yes, it’s a weak one *g*), is that one should beware of euphemisms meant to divert one’s attention from reality.

              Calling it “intelligence collection” may itself be part of the deception.

              After all, as you so rightly point out, by calling it “intelligence collection”, one doesn’t have to notify Congress.

              I can’t say that the CIA has ever said one thing, and the truth it turns out is something completely different. /sarcasm, and not directed at you

            • Rayne says:

              Keep in mind that the DOD found ways around Congressional notification by way of Special Access Programs (SAPs) and Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures (ACCMs); we don’t know yet, do we, that DIA was using these tools to “generate intel” for the CIA?

              [EW: Jeepers, take a day off and all hell breaks loose. Looks like the timelines are going to go cattywhompus much earlier than I expected, huh?]

              • Rayne says:

                Damn, just remembered what tool CIA would have used to get around Congressional notification.

                Some pixie dust, sprinkled like so:

                Section 8007 of the Act prohibits use of funds to initiate a special access program until 30 calendar days of congressional session have elapsed after the executive branch has notified the congressional defense committees of initiation of the program.

                The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the President’s authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security flows from the Constitution and does not depend upon a legislative grant of authority.

                Although 30-day advance notice can be provided in most situations as a matter of comity, situations may arise, especially in wartime, in which the President must promptly establish special access controls on classified national security information under his constitutional grants of the executive power and authority as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

                The executive branch shall construe section 8007 in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.

      • emptywheel says:

        It’s not even that. We have LONG relied on having an asset (in all senses of the word) in charge of the PLO.

        But they didn’t want Arafat to tbe that guy anymore. THere are months of evidence that they were planning for his absence. COinkydinks like that just don’t happen.

  14. alinaustex says:

    bmaz @ 32 -Oh silly bmaz the statutes of limitations are nowhere near the time frame that this will take – you and your other bunch of naysayers forget that Team Obama has only been in office for six months

    • bmaz says:

      When Obama et. al entered office is completely irrelevant. It has no bearing whatsoever on statutes of limitation, and it is false to infer that it does.

  15. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Okay, there are some in the US who will be apoplectic over an investigation. But if one had to pick between allowing Al Quaeda to continue using ‘torture’ as a propaganda tool, or take that issue away from those bastards by dealing with it publicly, here’s hoping that Holder makes the tough decision and decides that — as awful as this could be to go through the process of publicly discussing the problems — it beats the hell out of allowing AQ, or any other entity to continue making PR out of it.

    On some levels, it’s not about us.
    It about strategic objectives.

    I can understand how the US military would be apoplectic about this topic becoming public, but I fail to see how allowing AQ to continue using this issue for ‘recruitment’ is going to help things over time.

    Certainly some people will never, ever believe the U.S.
    Even if there’s a public, squeaky clean investigation they still won’t believe it; however, they probably believe that Michael Jackson is now dancing on the moon, so who cares? Some people simply can’t be reasoned with and should be ignored.

    The world is just too small to keep these messes locked away.

    And if I were Leahy, or any of the other Senators who saw Daschle get anthrax threats, and knew that Bush sent Gonzo and Card to make Ashcroft keep his ass legally covered, I’d stick to my committee business and let Holder take the heat, while quietly supporting him with a good budget.

    However, as Mary once pointed out, there’s no point in ANY investigation if the staff isn’t superb, the budget sufficient, and they have all the authority that they need. A limp-wristed, butt-covering result would be a worse mess. I’d also add they need someone who can ‘tell the story’ to the broader — now international and multicultural and multilingual — audience who really needs to understand that without the rule of law, every single person’s life is in greater danger.

    If the focus is on WHY we have laws, WHY we have legal processes, WHY we have professional standards, then it’s a long ‘teaching moment’ that people in all nations seem to be thirsty for now.

    It’s simply no longer practical to tell the world about the virtues of ‘democracy’ and continue to hide dirty laundry. Those days vaporized with the emergence of the cell phone and the RFID tag.

    • bobschacht says:

      It’s simply no longer practical to tell the world about the virtues of ‘democracy’ and continue to hide dirty laundry. Those days vaporized with the emergence of the cell phone and the RFID tag.

      Did you hear Obama’s farewell speech in Ghana today? He departed from his prepared speech to drift back to some of the themes of the campaign about transparency, accountability, the rule of law, etc. I want to find a true transcript of his remarks, because in light of what the DOJ has been doing, those remarks seem hollow and embarrassing.

      Bob in HI

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Yes, I made it a point to catch his speech and some of the coverage (online video reports). As it happens, I know a number of people involved in health care and education projects in parts of Africa, so I was interested to see what it might look like on the US press (I’ve not yet checked BBC or Guardian or other non-US English language sources. No clue whether the French covered it.)

        But I agree with you — there’s momentum far beyond what Holder or the Beltway may desire to unearth the doings of the neo-Feudalist cabal. And IMHO, it’s international.

        (I’m a pessimist, so I don’t believe markets will function well again until issues of transparency are better addressed. And see Rayne’s Sentinel/Oxdown post for a fantastic summary of stats on how cell phones are making a phenomenal impact in Africa. With that kind of global audience and that degree of global communication, how can we allow some dictator to sit back and point a finger and laugh at us? I don’t say this as a partisan; it’s simple pragmatism. We have to regain the moral authority.)

  16. TheraP says:

    I practically felt my heart skip beats to think that Holder could do the right thing. I can’t add much to what’s been said. Just that this is my top, #1, do-or-die issue: The Rule of Law. If they do nothing here, for me it will be as if the Obama administration is dead. But if Holder stands up, then I think we all need to stand up with him. In the meanwhile, my view – long ago expressed in a blog elsewhere – is that Holder should appoint a special prosecutor or resign. Because if he fails to live by the Rule of Law as AG, then he has failed in his duty altogether.

    I’m crossing my fingers. But I’m not gonna hold my breath.

    • Mauimom says:

      Just that this is my top, #1, do-or-die issue: The Rule of Law.

      Thera, I so much agree with you.

      Without our constitution and the law, who are we as a country?

  17. MadDog says:

    And just to keep the oars in the water, here’s more on the canceled CIA program from the Los Angeles Times:

    Cheney linked to secrecy of CIA program:

    …The secret counter-terrorism program was first put in place shortly after those attacks, but it was never fully operational, sources said. Current and former intelligence and congressional officials have offered different viewpoints on the program’s significance.

    A senior congressional aide said the magnitude of the program and the decision to keep it secret should not be downplayed. “Panetta found out about this for the first time and within 24 hours was in the office telling us,” the aide said. “If this wasn’t a big deal, why would the director of the CIA come sprinting up to the Hill like that?”

    …”We do a lot of foreign intelligence collection we don’t run down to the Hill and say, ‘How about this?’ ” said a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    More than a year ago, however, Hayden informed subordinates that the intelligence committees would need to be briefed on the program if it crossed certain thresholds, according to former officials.

    The key issue, the officials said, was whether the agency was taking steps in its implementation of the program that could potentially be discovered by foreign intelligence services, and therefore possibly surface publicly — to the embarrassment of the United States…

    …The official said that the program fell on a continuum between foreign intelligence collection and covert action; the latter involves taking steps to influence events overseas, and generally falls within more stringent congressional notification rules…

    I’d recommend reading the entire article as it’s worth it.

    • MadDog says:

      This is for Aeon on how “intelligence collection” morphs into “covert action”.

      Let’s assume the canceled CIA program was to target folks for assassination.

      Cheney (and Hayden as quoted in the above Los Angeles Times article), gets his weasel-worders (legal beagles as opposed to our fine legal eagles here) to signoff that “merely” collecting information on an assassination target’s habits, is an “intelligence collection” activity.

      For example, let’s say the assassination target is Syrian President Bashar Assad.

      The CIA and it’s Special Operations Group (SOG) (SAD/SOG officers are selected exclusively from the most elite US military units) are tasked with “intelligence collection” of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s daily habits.

      Stuff like which hot-mattress hotel he sees his mistress on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (the long weekend of Friday through Monday is for the wife and kiddies doncha know?).

      They do “intelligence collection” on what cars he drives, and just what level of “protection detail” he’s got around him.

      All of this can be described as “intelligence collection” by those weasel-wording CIA legal beagles. No matter that the endgame is the targeted assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

      Until, and only until the “go order” is actually given to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad, the CIA activities will fall under the rubric of “intelligence collection” (so say the weasel-wording CIA legal beagles) and therefore, need not be briefed to Congress.

      In that light, now read what former CIA Director Hayden is saying in that Los Angeles Times article:

      …More than a year ago, however, Hayden informed subordinates that the intelligence committees would need to be briefed on the program if it crossed certain thresholds, according to former officials.

      The key issue, the officials said, was whether the agency was taking steps in its implementation of the program that could potentially be discovered by foreign intelligence services, and therefore possibly surface publicly — to the embarrassment of the United States…

      …The official said that the program fell on a continuum between foreign intelligence collection and covert action; the latter involves taking steps to influence events overseas, and generally falls within more stringent congressional notification rules…

      And let’s also remember that the prohibition against assassination was an Executive Order put in place as a result of the 1970s Church Commission revelations regarding CIA targeted assassinations of folks like Castro, etc.

      Executive Orders that we know for a fact Bush and Cheney regarded as merely pieces of paper that could be countermanded or even just plain ignored on Presidential and Vice Presidential whim.

      • Rayne says:

        And let’s also remember that the prohibition against assassination was an Executive Order put in place as a result of the 1970s Church Commission revelations regarding CIA targeted assassinations of folks like Castro, etc.

        Executive Orders that we know for a fact Bush and Cheney regarded as merely pieces of paper that could be countermanded or even just plain ignored on Presidential and Vice Presidential whim.

        Or several of the classified executive orders countermanded the previous executive order prohibiting assassination.

        Remember that the executive orders immediately before and following 9/11 look like this:

        NSPD 1 Organization of the National Security Council System — 13 February 01
        NSPD 2 Improving Military Quality of Life — 15 February 01
        NSPD 3 Defense Strategy, Force Structure, and Procurement — 15 February 01
        NSPD 4 Transforming Deterrence — 15 February 01
        NSPD 5 [Review of U.S. intelligence] — 9 May 01
        NSPD 6 — no description — no date
        NSPD 7 — no description — no date

        NSPD 8 National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism — no date
        NSPD 9 Defeating the Terrorist Threat to the United States — 25 October 01

        NSPD 6 and 7 are black holes, about which we know nothing and likely related to activities in response to 9/11. Who can say what those orders authorized?

        edit: Forgot to point out out that the text mission of NSPD 9 is so very broad that it could be seen as authorizing ANYTHING in the name of the War On Terror. (The text is classified, but Rumsfeld has suggested the contents during testimony before the 9/11 Commission.)

          • Rayne says:

            Sorry, distracted with catching up on your posts…by links I’m assuming you mean links to the source of the Bush National Security Directives list, and to the text available for the same?

            Source: FAS.org list; all EOs (including one MO) for national security are on a separate list and don’t look like they fit.

            FAS only has content for the NSPDs with links below, and the content at the link may only be a description where the actual NSPD text is not available.

            NSPD 1 — Organization of the National Security Council System — 13 February 01

            NSPD 2 — Improving Military Quality of Life — 15 February 01

            NSPD 3 — Defense Strategy, Force Structure, and Procurement — 15 February 01

            NSPD 4 — Transforming Deterrence — 15 February 01

            NSPD 5 — [Review of U.S. intelligence] — 9 May 01

            NSPD 6 — no description – no date

            NSPD 7 — no description – no date

            NSPD 8 — National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism – no date

            NSPD 9 — Defeating the Terrorist Threat to the United States — 25 October 01

            Let me know if you need more, will probably be up for another hour until 1 am EDT.

      • bobschacht says:

        Your scenario is not so strange. I’ve seen exactly this kind of duality highlighted, not as a hypothetical, but as actual Bush administration praxis, though unfortunately I’ve forgotten where.

        Bob in HI

      • Mary says:

        And if they take that info and give it to some other person, group, etc. to effectuate instead then they can get the operational result without formally going operational. Or even if they pay someone else. Or maybe even if they give the info to a VP who then uses a non-accountable military group to carry out. Esp if they know that he is going to do that with the info.

        I don’t know if it is something like that, but I think you frame out he “weasel words” issue that are likely to apply, whether it is this scenario or another.

    • bobschacht says:

      …The secret counter-terrorism program was first put in place shortly after those attacks, but it was never fully operational, sources said.

      Given Cheney’s penchant for compartmentalization, how the heck do they know it was never fully operational???

      Bob in HI

  18. JimWhite says:

    The multiple delays on the CIA IG report now start to look like a very interesting game of cat and mouse between Holder and the CIA.

    Would there be any reason to think that withholding the report for a while would give a special prosecutor a running start on specific details of crimes that the perpetrators may not think would be known?

    If so, the CIA may well have really boxed themselves in with their most recent push to delay the report until the very end of the time allotted (September, isn’t it?) Even if the prosecutor is appointed in two weeks, that would give at least a full month working on information that has not been released. That could cause a lot of squirming in Langley. Maybe it’s time to invest in Depends stock…

  19. Loo Hoo. says:

    Listen to Obama discussing the importance of fighting oppression and cruelty. In every corner of the globe.

    How in the world can he speak like this with a straight face unless he wants Holder to prosecute?

    • bobschacht says:

      I agree. Perhaps he’s laying the groundwork in these comments, plus those later in the same day in his farewell speech in Ghana, where he departs from his prepared text in a similar vein.

      Thanks,
      Bob in HI

    • Nell says:

      How was George W. Bush able to deliver such a stirring speech against torture on June 26, 2004 (the international day of recognition for torture survivors)?

      Politicians who reach the top of the heap have to have the ability to say almost anything with apparent conviction.

      What matters is what they do. And damned few of them do anything just because it’s the right thing to do.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Just a thought, but could it be Holder is resisting responding too directly to Rahm-defined White House needs because the DoJ he inherited had been stabbed in the heart by two Attorneys Generals who had made that a fetish, causing grief it will take several administrations to repair. Not that Rahm, any more than Karl Rove, would give a shit about that.

  21. bobschacht says:

    As long as we’re speculating about the targets of Cheney’s wrath, how about Paul Wellstone?

    If there’s even a smidgen of plausibility to that, it sure might explain Democratic spinelessness over the past 8 years.

    Bob in HI

  22. Rayne says:

    BTW, wanted to point out that Klaidman has a pretty low profile…why’d Klaidman do this piece instead of other Newsweek people?

    Is there a source or sources being protected by removing the usual players from the mix and handing this to an editor?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Dunno. That’s possible.
      It’s also possible that its the second week of July and lots of others are on holiday?

      • Rayne says:

        No disagreement with me on the quality; this wouldn’t have been handled by somebody of lesser caliber.

        The beat sweetner aspect is a little funky, although it is both early in the administration and it lubricates some content which might be more challenging to report straight up at this point in time.

        On the other hand, this appears to be Klaidman’s M.O. as demonstrated here.

        So is his less-than-happy attitude towards the Bush/Cheney “palace.” Which is why I’m curious about his role; he’s established his personal position as leaning well away from torture, making him all too obvious a person to do this. He’s also dealt with anonymous sources on sensitive stories, so his sources know he’s not giving them up readily. Seems like an odd confluence, but it could just be the DOJ beat is odd.

  23. bobschacht says:

    There’s a suspicious passage in the Newsweek piece (from dday’s quote at Hullabaloo):

    Holder and his team celebrated quietly, and waited for national outrage to build. But they’d miscalculated. The memos had already received such public notoriety that the new details in them did not shock many people. (Even the revelation, a few days later, that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another detainee had been waterboarded hundreds of times did not drastically alter the contours of the story.)

    Oh? Well, it happened that a certain Ms. Wheeler broke the story on waterboarding “hundreds of times,” and her story was important enough that the NYT picked it up, and Paul Krugman highlighted it in his column, and it was partly because of this story that said Ms. Wheeler subsequently received an award for journalism citing her story.

    What we have to constantly fight back against in the MSM is their pitiful and toxic attempts to denigrate public response, to make tidal waves of concern into insignificant ripples, and thus to minimize their importance. Perhaps the story did not “drastically” alter the contours of the story, but while perhaps literally true, it is a clear attempt to minimize the unwanted implications of an enraged and engaged public.

    The authors of this piece of drivel deserve castigation for this distortion.

    Bob in HI

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      What we have to constantly fight back against in the MSM is their pitiful and toxic attempts to denigrate public response, to make tidal waves of concern into insignificant ripples, and thus to minimize their importance. Perhaps the story did not “drastically” alter the contours of the story, but while perhaps literally true, it is a clear attempt to minimize the unwanted implications of an enraged and engaged public.

      I’ve come to understand that there are members of the press who spend less time, and are therefore less informed, than some of us regular eWheel readers.

      And remember that Liz Cheney was all over the chat shows — without so much as the inclusion in her intros that she’d overseen hundreds of millions of dollars in Dept of State resources, and what were her qualifications for that while her daddy was undoing 60 years of US legal work, plus Uniformed Military Codes? Hmmmm?

      If this was all so innocent and ‘not noteworthy’, why the panic from Dick and Liz Cheney? Hmmmmm?

  24. tjallen says:

    The ex-executive branch Republicans have been talking to their lawyers, trying to assess their risks of prosecution, and planning legal strategies as the climate is turning against them. I estimate there must be at least 1000 players involved to various degrees (teams of torturers, 5+ secret prisons, teams of renditioners, all those lawyers, etc), about 200 important figures, and ten or so at the very top. I would think, over time, their best legal strategies will DIVERGE, and some will come out and admit things, implicating others. So the first released documents, and now the hints of future prosecutions, are designed to start to smoke some people out.

  25. alabama says:

    This may be, among other things, a move to purge the government of Cheney’s stay behinds. They are known, I assume, and their earlier linkage to varioius ugly things may also be known

    • SouthernDragon says:

      He may have directed someone to do it but I seriously doubt Cheney would do it himself. Same thing under the law I would imagine.

    • JohnForde says:

      Is it possible that it was so important Cheney wanted/needed to witness the destruction of the torture tapes? Could it have happened during the fire at his ‘ceremonial’ office?

  26. wavpeac says:

    There are so many things that are out of the ordinary, seem “strange” but cannot be proved to have factual meaning.

    It gets so difficult to know what is meaningful and what isn’t. And yet so many things do not pass the “smell test”.

    I just hope and pray someday that these issues are fully unraveled. It seems paramount to restoring the best and most important improvement created by “the American way of life”.

  27. pmorlan says:

    When I read the Newsweek piece yesterday I thought two things. One was that perhaps Holder will do the right thing and the other more negative thought was that perhaps this was just a planted story to deflect attention away from Holder so that we would stop pressuring him to do the right thing. I guess time will tell.

  28. unionave says:

    This administration has priorities . The economy and health care . This administration feels if it keeps things calm it may get something done in these areas . Taking the last administration out for a neck tie party will create a lot of noise and unfriendly factions and in the end nothing will get done with the economy or health care .

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, absolutely, because whatever screwed up plan the Congress passes on healthcare, just to say they did it, is far more important than the root rule of law underlying the very foundation of our Constitution.

      That is one of the most craven and deplorable views I can possible fathom. If views like that had carried the day back at the time of the American Revolution we would still be under British rule. What a load of crap; you need to rethink your “priorities”.

  29. Valley Girl says:

    A very late comment re: Arafat’s death – I never knew what to make of this, but at the time, there was a concerted story that he died of AIDS. A totally bizarre “cover story”? I got no idea, but it stuck in my memory.

  30. mmanion says:

    I am admittedly not an expert on the workings of the DOJ and its relationship to the WH, but I’m having trouble understanding exactly how holding the previous administration accountable for breaking the law interferes with Obama’s agenda. This would maybe make sense if Obama was jeopardizing broad Republican support, but he does not have that now anyway. This rationale comes across as a “we’re just too busy to uphold the law” argument that is really pretty nauseating. To throw out trite comments like “it’s time to move forward, not look back” directly contradicts other statements the president has made related to learning from history so we don’t repeat mistakes. I just feel like the crimes of the Bush administration are, in John Dean’s words, a cancer on the executive branch. Until they are properly treated, Obama’s agenda will be tainted anyway. I wonder if there isn’t a more compelling political reason to keep a lid on this, like the administration doesn’t want to let the public know just how deep this corruption went–in both parties. Cynical, I know, but I just can’t buy the ‘interfere with the agenda’ argument as the sole reason for their reluctance, especially with some of the really questionable DOJ decisions that have been made since Holder took over that seem to be in direct conflict with Obama’s stated positions.

      • Rayne says:

        This view does not take into consideration that we are dealing with ruthless assassins and their masters who remain a threat, and whose underlings continue to make threats often.

        Or the view is this inclusive, but very opaque.

  31. thrutheseasons says:

    How much you wanna bet Rahm is impeding justice and spreading information to the corporatists he used to work for? Is this just spin, or is Holder going to really do something? Unless Holder was completely in on it, the Rich affair was something that was pulled on him by the Clintons. What is taking Holder so long? Is he trying to separate the Democrats from the crimes of the Republicans?

    After discovering that Starr argued to the Supreme Court and lost his argument to keep incriminating eyewitness evidence that suggests foul play stripped from the official record of his investigation into Vince Foster, I now believe that there should be two independent prosecutors appointed, working separately.

    • bmaz says:

      Holder was completely in on it; it was he who arguably set it in motion after discussing with Marc Rich’s attorney (Mr. I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby by the way).

  32. ezdidit says:

    MURDER is a big problem. That so many were killed by “rogue elements” who violated even the wrongful Bush DoJ / Yoo advice, well, the Obama administration’s DoJ just can’t flagrantly ignore the murders.

    That’s what has stuck in their craws. And Leon Panetta has probably advised that murders must not be ignored. CIA is in the clear on this, so it’s not contradictory to the Obama meme of amnesty for agents.

    Rahm really ought to be replaced. He doesn’t have the bearing or the intelligence to parse the subtleties of investigation and prosecution. He would be much better heading up political affairs. Obama needs a wiser counsel as COS, and Rahm isn’t it.

  33. cjgreene says:

    Rahm is singularly focused on moving the legislative agenda forward. He is exclusively focused on holding the large congressional majorities for
    2010 and gaining reelection in 2012. He needs economic recovery and healthcare to get there. Doing what is right doesn’t factor in heavily for him.
    He is also the master of playing the media to his advantage. However, Holder is beating him at his own game. Everyone knows that ignoring the Cheney/Bush felonies is unacceptable, but Rahm is willing to overlook what is right to avoid political distraction. By going to the media in this way Holder has forced the White House hand into either doing the right thing or becoming complicit in the torture/wiretapping coverup.
    Looks like Obama has no choice but to do appoint a special prosecutor.
    I see a hint of a path to getting Cheney in an orange jumpsuit.

  34. Leen says:

    “the wrath of Rahm”
    Just who is Rahm protecting? His boss in the White House or the torture “contractors”

    Holder should trump Rahm if he actually believes the words that he repeated many times during his nomination hearing “no one is above the law”

    The American public does not believe this. Holder proved that Marc Rich was above the law and “Rich’s” last name and those who lobbied for his pardon prove just why he was pardoned.

    Will Holder roll over again. Will Rahm keep protecting crimes that need to be exposed?

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/c…..index.html
    The real reason Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich

    During Eric Holder’s confirmation hearing, Arlen Specter scolded the attorney general-designate, but no one mentioned Israeli pressure.
    Still, it would have been a refreshing change from the usual confirmation minuet if instead of humbly apologizing, Holder had tartly instructed the buffoonish Specter, his fellow senators, the press, and the public about the actual circumstances of the Rich affair. He might have started with the fact that continuous lobbying on Rich’s behalf from the highest Israeli leaders and their American friends — among whom Specter no doubt counts himself — became even more intense in the days before Clinton left office. He could have noted that such pressures coincided with Clinton’s efforts to conclude a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. And he could have explained to Specter that Rich’s deals in Iran and Iraq were often related to his other role — as an asset of the Mossad who gathered intelligence and helped to rescue endangered Jews from those regimes.

    It is clear that Holder and his colleagues in the Justice Department had ample reason for concern over the proposed pardon, in part because pardoning a fugitive violated precedent. But for the Post to call him “the pardoner” in a front-page headline directing readers to the editorial was grossly unfair. Clinton had sole constitutional discretion to grant the pardon, and he would have done so whether Holder liked it or not.

    But Holder understood that there were deeper reasons why the pardon was likely to be approved, which had nothing to do with the political and charitable contributions of Rich’s ex-wife, the Manhattan socialite Denise Rich. The New York Times offered just a hint in a front-page story that appeared shortly after the Holder nomination was announced. Only at the very end did the Times mention the pressure from “the Israelis” that had persuaded Holder not to oppose the pardon — as he told Beth Nolan, then the White House counsel.