Steven Bradbury’s Revenge

Since I noted in August 2011 that Mitt had named two torture architects to his legal advisory committee (Tim Flanigan and Steve Bradbury), I have had zero doubt that Mitt would embrace torture if he were President. So Charlie Savage’s story–reporting on a September 2011 memo confirming that fact–wasn’t surprising in the least to me. Here’s the key recommendation from the memo:

Governor Romney has consistently supported enhanced interrogation techniques. Governor Romney is also on record as stating that he does not believe it is wise for him, as a presidential candidate, to describe precisely which techniques he would use in interrogating detainees. The combination of these two positions, as well as the information presented above, leads to two principal options in this area for his campaign.

The first option is that Governor Romney could pledge that upon taking office, he will rescind and replace President Obama’ s Executive Order restricting government interrogators to the Army Field Manual. Consistent with the authority reserved for the President under the Military Commissions Act, he could commit his Administration to authorizing (classified) enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal, and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives. But because President Obama’s release of the OLC memos has reduced the number of available techniques that meet these criteria, Governor Romney should not commit in advance to a timetable for implementing this plan; it may well take time to identify potential techniques and analyze their effectiveness and legality.

[snip]

The Subcommittee recommends the first option. Governor Romney has recognized for years that the sounder policy outcome is the revival of the enhanced interrogation program. And a reluctance by the Governor to expressly endorse such an outcome during the campaign could become a self-fulfilling prophecy once he takes office by signaling to the bureaucracy that this is not a deeply-felt priority. [my emphasis]

Mitt is pro-torture. We knew that, and he hasn’t hidden that fact.

But there are a couple of details about this that are curious.

First, note the language here. The advisors worry that if Mitt doesn’t explicitly endorse getting back into the torture business during the election, he might not do so. They want to force his hand before he’s elected to make sure he’ll carry through.

That is not the language of advisors. It’s the language of puppet-masters (though I’m sure the equivalent memos from inside the Obama camp aren’t much different). That is, the legal advice here is designed not so much to provide the best advice (if it were, then the support used in the memo wouldn’t be such discredited propaganda). Rather, it is to force Mitt’s hand in the eventuality he becomes President.

The other interesting aspect of this are the people. Savage provides this list of the advisors, in addition to Steven Bradbury, in the loop on this memo (he notes that it’s unclear whether they have bought off on the advice).

The list also included Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary; Cully Stimson, the Pentagon’s detainee policy chief; and many other Bush-era executive branch veterans: Bradford Berenson, Elliot S. Berke, Todd F. Braunstein, Gus P. Coldebella, Jimmy Gurule, Richard D. Klingler, Ramon Martinez, Brent J. McIntosh, John C. O’Quinn, John J. Sullivan, Michael Sullivan and Alex Wong. Three others — Lee A. Casey, Maureen E. Mahoney and David B. Rivkin Jr. — served in earlier Republican administrations.

First, note where Savage starts this list: Michael Chertoff, who as Criminal Division head in 2002 refused to give Bush’s torturers an advance declination on prosecution. That refusal ultimately led to the contorted form of the original Yoo memos authorizing torture. If Chertoff supports this policy (Savage’s caveat noted), then it’s a pretty clear indication that Chertoff was cautious in 2002 because people like Ali Soufan were running around saying mock burial was torture, and not because he had any qualms about torture himself. That’s not surprising in the least, but still worth noting.

Maureen Mahoney (who defended Jay Bybee in the OPR investigation) and David Rivkin (who defended Rumsfeld in civil suits for torture) have also backed their earlier legal representation with their own reputation (or lack thereof).

Finally, note who’s not on this list: Tim Flanigan, who with Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney, and David Addington, was one of the most central architects of torture and other illegal counterterrorism approaches.

It’s sort of odd that Mitt advisor Tim Flanigan, one of the original architects of torture, wasn’t the one leading this effort last year.

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10 Responses to Steven Bradbury’s Revenge

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JimWhiteGNV RT @WHO: A person who has died of #Ebola is still highly infectious and should not be touched http://t.co/uIarcRWKE4
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JimWhiteGNV RT @attackerman: With the signing of the US-Afghanistan deal, Obama will now pass off (at least) two wars to his successor. http://t.co/6cI
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JimWhiteGNV That's Gross. Wait... RT @pdacosta: Not Even Silver? Morningstar Cuts Pimco Flagship Fund Rating To Bronze From Gold http://t.co/P75EAJjEP9
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bmaz @espinsegall @rickhasen @ProfLisaMcElroy Look forward to it. Did see my+ @Dahlialithwick's convo w/Erwin on his book? http://t.co/ex9qgi44Vz
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bmaz RT @MorlockP: Hey @popehat & @freestatenh : any chance of RT-ing this article about the corrupt / stupid PD in Weare NH? http://t.co/GW1fdj
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bmaz RT @JimWhiteGNV: US Air Strikes in Syria Proceeding as Expected: Civilian Deaths Documented, ISIS Recruitment Up http://t.co/Gs3506plVX
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bmaz @armandodkos @KagroX @mikenizza No, it is all "authorized" because it is "not yet authorized". Or something... http://t.co/wL3rsY2PhT
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JimWhiteGNV 10 injured in Bradford school bus crash - http://t.co/AsbZyOkF9Z “not fully clothed” woman ... injured and lying outside the truck
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JimWhiteGNV RT @JT__Orlando: Oh, Florida, don't ever change. "No word as to why the female passenger in the truck was naked." #FloriDUH http://t.co/8de
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JimWhiteGNV Hardly fair unless @emptywheel online. RT @bmaz: @armandodkos @JimWhiteGNV I wouldn't want that. So let's focus on Kiffen to Michigan then!
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bmaz Cops now fear everything, and nothing and citizens are dying as result RT @ScottGreenfield The Slippery Slope of Risk http://t.co/U4QpR0Dm87
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