State’s Funny View of Our Democracy

In addition to its story about the State Department talking points it “accidentally” got (see my post on that), the AP included the talking points themselves.

The talking points are particularly pathetic for the way they try to turn the torture report — and our treatment of torture more generally — as proof of functional democracy.

The TPs claim the report is evidence of the government’s transparency…

The fundamental facts about this program have been known for some time. The U.S. government is committed to transparency and has released much of this information to the public before. This report adds additional details which confirm the wisdom of our national decision not to use such interrogation methods again.

… of our vibrant democracy…

America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.

[snip]

America can champion democracy and human rights around the world not because we are perfect, but because we can say that our democratic system enables us to confront and resolve our problems through open and honest debate. Our Congress issued this report, and the Obama administration strongly supported its declassification, in that spirit.

… and the separation of powers …

These interrogation methods were debated in our free media, challenged in our independent courts, and, just two years after their introduction, restricted by an act of our Congress sponsored by Senator John McCain and overwhelmingly backed by members of both of our political parties.

The last talking point is particularly neat given that 1) it gets the timing of the Detainee Treatment Act (passed in late 2005, and therefore over 3.5 years after torture started, not 2) wrong — not to mention its efficacy at ending torture, and 2) the Executive, including this President, has prevented any court challenge to torture by claiming state secrets and immunity, and as recently as this month claimed the victims of our torture cannot describe their own torture before the Gitmo Kangaroo Court. John Kiriakou, in particular, will likely find this talking point curious.

I’m just as interested in how aggressively State prepares to answer questions posed on CIA’s behalf in these questions:

4. Is the White House in a position to say that no useful information was obtained?
5. Isn’t the CIA in a better position to assess this?
6. Does the CIA believe useful information was obtained?

[snip]

13. Does the CIA still stand by its response to the SSCI, or did the SSCI address the CIA’s
concerns when it revised its report?

Perhaps that’s just State doing its best to prep the questions that CIA will cue compliant journalists to ask. And admittedly, State is going to have to do some of the damage control with countries like UK and Poland, which will be embarrassed by the report.

Still, I can’t help but remember that Maria Harf was CIA spokesperson before she moved over to State — indeed, actually started on the analytical side of the house.

In any case, it’s nice to know that State thinks impunity for torture is a sign of a vibrant democracy.

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.

14 replies
  1. wallace says:

    holy jeebus.

    quote:”The talking points are particularly pathetic for the way they try to turn the torture report — and our treatment of torture more generally — as proof of functional democracy.”unquote

    In their parallel universe perhaps. Otherwise, they speak for them self. Remember..all talking points have to be reviewed, rewritten and or approved by the OOD prior to release.

    quote:”Still, I can’t help but remember that Maria Harf was CIA spokesperson before she moved over to State — indeed, actually started on the analytical side of the house.”unquote

    ummm, how convenient. I got $1k that says she was the DOOD(Dir. Office of Obfuscation and Doublespeak) before that..rolling eyes notwithstanding.

    quote:”In any case, it’s nice to know that State thinks impunity for torture is a sign of a vibrant democracy.”unquote

    Attention…Peter Van Buren..please come to the nearest whistle blower service phone.

    I haven’t read the entire pdf yet, but just those few quotes are enough to make anyone with one neuron between their ears ROTFIGSL. Sheeezus..you can’t make this stuff up…er..wait.. I repeat myself.

    Thanks Marcy for State related posts. Peter is preoccupied with the Ghosts of Tom Joad matters at the moment.

  2. wallace says:

    quote”And admittedly, State is going to have to do some of the damage control with countries like UK and Poland, which will be embarrassed by the report.”unquote

    I can’t help it. This shit really is beyond belief. Damage control..over “embarrassment”? What the fuck about WAR CRIMES????? I’m certainly no lawyer, but isn’t this pdf “talking points” at least “circumstantial” or “prima facia” evidence they took place???????? Notwithstanding the entire planet already knows the CIA are the poster child for TORTURERS-R-US. sheeesus.

    What’s even more mindboggling is the depth these criminals go to “whitewash” torture.

    Attention! Attention! All Nuremberg experts..please come to the War Criminal Caseload service phone..immediately.

    Meanwhile, Maria Harf breaks every mirror in sight.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    The State was established to protect our inherent rights, not limit them, and then forcing us to take action to “confront and resolve our problems” which happened by unpunished criminal action in the first place.
    .
    In other words there ought not to be a need for ew to be employed in this regard, in “open and honest debate” about government crimes. Why should crimes be debated? Should we also debate murder and burglary? Surely they are more debatable than torture (and assassination) is.
    .
    It is the height of arrogance for the government to treat its citizens this way. Hey, I’ll do whatever I want and then it’s…catch me if you can, and if you do we’ll note how well the system works in this regard. And then we’ll keep doing it anyhow, that’s the best part.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    The talking points are particularly pathetic for the way they try to turn the torture report — and our treatment of torture more generally — as proof of functional democracy.
    .
    U.S. propaganda is defined as “public diplomacy” at State and “strategic communication” at Defense. Neither definition has anything to do with truth, but rather “informing and influencing” and the “advancement of United States Government interests, policies, and objectives.”
    .
    State:
    The mission of American public diplomacy is to support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interests, and enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics and by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.
    .
    So the duty of the State spox is to spout “public diplomacy ” (propaganda), intended for both domestic and foreign audiences, and the MSM especially, whose “journalists” are looking for clues for its US-promoting articles, and it has nothing to do with truth.
    .
    So “State’s Funny View of Our Democracy” is merely propaganda and should be treated as such.

  5. wallace says:

    quote”So the duty of the State spox is to spout “public diplomacy ” (propaganda), intended for both domestic and foreign audiences, and the MSM especially, whose “journalists” are looking for clues for its US-promoting articles, and it has nothing to do with truth.
    .
    So “State’s Funny View of Our Democracy” is merely propaganda and should be treated as such.”unquote

    DING DING DING! We have a winner in the “name that mission”!!

    Don, that was perfect. You nailed DOS’ mission. Propaganda mouthpiece. All else is merely cleaning up the path for citizens travel, visitors, and …well…covering for the US war criminals.

    Ya know, as time goes on, more and more info is coming out how the Deep State really works. Maybe, given enough time, the Dumbest Country on the Planet just might get a clue and start to wonder…what the fuck they are going to do about these fucking criminals.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

  6. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    “Vibrant democracy” is not the term I would use to describe the situation in America today. John Kiriakou is in prison for wanting to expose criminal activity in the Bush Administration while Dick Cheney is free to go elk hunting in Wyoming and appear on Fox News spouting lies. President Obama probably deceived himself into believing that he could make needed changes to the interrogation program and then sweep the war crimes committed under the previous torture program under the rug. Isn’t that what Nelson Mandela did with the criminal misconduct of the apartheid regime in South Africa? But there was a major ingredient missing from Obama’s approach. Mandela’s approach included a truth commission, which took testimony to document those crimes committed during the apartheid regime – something not present in Obama’s approach. In fact, when John Kiriakou tried to do something similar to this, he ended up in prison. And when a Senate committee threatened to issue a report exposing the criminal practices previously employed in the torture program, President Obama sided with the CIA in suppressing these revelations.

  7. Pete says:

    So…our democratic system works/worked as it was designed to work. Hmmm…

    Even if I were to buy that at face value, then I would point out that laws were broken and crimes were committed.

    If I then consider the oft quoted “We are a nation of laws” I will then reserve personal judgement that our democratic system and nation of laws works as it was designed when the criminals are indicted and put in jail.

    Until then the democratic system design and nation of laws has been warped by the criminals to work for them and not as originally designed nor intended.

  8. Don Bacon says:

    We already sort of knew that State talking points are regularly transmitted to the MSM, right? How else would all the various media parrot all the same “news” at the same time.
    .
    recent example:
    “Before the horrific MH-17 the EU wouldn’t agree with increased sanctions on Russia, but now they do.”
    .
    Every major publication echoed the same talking point. There could be no other reason why so many government’s changed their positions! Even without proof of Russian involvement! It was amazing. Unbelievable, even.

  9. ess emm says:

    In any case, it’s nice to know that State thinks impunity for torture is a sign of a vibrant democracy.

    The last line of a Marcy Wheeler story A L W A Y S delivers.

  10. What Constitution? says:

    Nothing about the impending release of the “torture report” than can be rationally or morally referred to as supporting the proposition that “the U.S. government is committed to transparency”, and it is a despicable falsehood for the State Department to try to whitewash the shameless acts of those seeking to hide the true facts by suggesting this.

    More importantly, it is shockingly unconscionable for the State Department to suggest that “America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values” with respect to torture. “America’s democratic system” is — or, rather, was designed to work as — a system of laws. If nothing else is clear to anyone, it must be clear that the conscientious governmental actions in both engaging in a system of torture and then programmatically lying about, hiding, invoking “state secret” arguments and refusing to prosecute flagrantly illegal conduct constitutes the absolute antithesis of our democratic values. And since nobody is being prosecuted and the upshot of all this is (perhaps) about to be an “oops” statement (which the State Department wants to remind us they think is a big mistake to have to acknowledge), it is reprehensible beyond words to see “talking points” crafted, like these, to try to speak for “the US government” and take credit for any fucking thing whatsoever.

  11. par4 says:

    Category error: The U.S. is not and never has been a democracy. Switzerland is a democracy. The only one on the planet.

  12. Cujo359 says:

    John Kiriakou, in particular, will likely find this talking point curious.

    Precisely the thought that enterred my furry head as I read that line of State’s. I don’t know what “vibrant democracy” looks like, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the whistleblowers who would go to jail or end up in court at the defense table in such a place. Yet that’s what’s happened not only to Kirikao, but to people who have blown the whistle on NSA, the banks, and DoD.
    ..
    Maybe we’re a democracy if you define “the people” narrowly enough…

  13. Helen Marshall says:

    love the talking point that “both of our political parties” agreed to forbid torture. So none of those other inconvenient entities such as the Green Party need apply for membership! The point really should have said “both wings of our national corporate welfare party” agreed.

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