But Brennan Didn’t Fuck His Biographer!

Brennan with TorturePresident Obama made a bunch of news today with the following.

On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.

I have full confidence in John Brennan.  I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff.  And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled.  Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong.  We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.  We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened.  I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.  And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.  And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong.  And that’s what that report reflects.

Amidst calls for Brennan’s firing, Obama basically responded, “Sure, we tortured some folks, but I still have confidence in the guy who found the waterboard and black sites at which to torture.”

But I’m not sure why folks are so surprised by Obama’s reluctance to criticize Brennan for lying about hacking the SSCI. Aside from the mutual complicity — Brennan was personal witness to each and every drone strike Obama approved that violated international law, after all — CIA Directors don’t get fired for lying.

They get fired for fucking their biographer.

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.

39 replies
  1. Ben Franklin says:

    It’s beginning to penetrate even the most intransigent Obots.

    “While he’s doing his best to uphold the taboo against torturing people, he’s doing it in a way that makes him just look terrified of his own intelligence apparatus, and that is not comforting to watch. It may be eminently sensible, but this bending over backwards not to be “sanctimonious” about people who torture folks in their custody and at their mercy is very hard to stomach. And then there’s that taboo against lying that the president is not trying to uphold.

    Overall, one of the worst performances of his presidency. But, at least he said “we tortured some folks,” which is unvarnished truth-telling.”

    http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2014/8/1/192458/1857#comments

  2. JTMinIA says:

    Does not admitting that “we tortured some folks” trigger some (new) obligations under the CAT?

  3. ess emm says:

    CIA Directors don’t get fired for lying. They get fired for fucking their biographer.

    Another last line Zing! from Ms. Wheeler. Unmatchable clarity.

    I’m outraged at both Brennan’s assault on America’s democratic institutions and Obama’s disregard for justice. Our political leaders authorize torture and extra-judicial killings and now approve and support genocide. We have to organize a political alternative to our criminal elites before it’s too late—because they will kill everybody.

  4. eh says:

    The best part of the presser was how long he left the whole birthday thing hanging out there before starting in about Brennan. No bites.

  5. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    ” And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect [looking backward] about the tough job that those folks had.”

    Obama: If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a dozen times, look forward, cause if you look backward you’re going to learn from history and then how are we ever going to continue raping and pillaging.

    • emptywheel says:

      Though as someone on Twitter noted, he said that as the same time as he looked backward to justify the torture in 9/11.

  6. Pedinska says:

    “I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff.” — Obama

    The phrasing of this statement is interesting. He seems to be suggesting that he agrees with the assessment that the senate staffers should not have had free access to everything they were charged with investigating. And, in any case, apologies have been tendered, so civilized people should just get over it.

    He has clearly taken a side and it’s not that of transparency. But you all know that here.

    I don’t think we’ll see any more referrals to DOJ. That gambit was cancelled out the second the CIA filed counter-charges. Doesn’t matter that they were spurious as hell.

  7. TarheelDem says:

    Shorter Obama. “John Brennan has a gun to my head. Keeps reminding me of how much my Presidency looks like that of JFK. Worries about my safety”

    It’s past time for the Senate Intelligence Committee to leak the full report. And sixty years past time for Congress to undo what Truman did.

    I don’t see how that happens politically. My optimistic assessment is that the cul-de-sac in American governance is rapidly approaching. Pick your feudal lords and protectors carefully. My pessimistic assessment uses the word “whimper”.

    • wallace says:

      quote”It’s past time for the Senate Intelligence Committee to leak the full report. And sixty years past time for Congress to undo what Truman did.”unquote

      I concur. Absolutely.

      Attention!..Senator Church..please pick up the Select Committee on Intelligence service phone..

      quote”They get fired for fucking their biographer.”unquote

      Holy mother of 60d nails. dayum emptywheel!

  8. orionATL says:

    obama has walked the tiny circle that circumscribes his political courage – from lewis henry gates mugging by cambridge police to john brennan’s mugging of the senate intelligence committee that oversees his agency.

    rejoice! this is a teachable moment – isn’t it?

    • TarheelDem says:

      Might be more than political courage at stake. At least in this neck of the woods, the GOP has stoked a murderous personal rage against him even as the NRA pushes for open carry. A FOIA of Secret Service records might tell you more about this, but the White House would likely fight disclosure vigorously as amounting to whacking the hornets nest. For too many people in the United States, the most important “fact” about Barack Obama is that he’s a foreign, black, socialist Muslim. Standing up for Sherrod or Gates likely was seen also as whacking the hornets nest. And there’s concern in some circles not to spin off a situation into the civil war that some RWNJs are looking for.

      Political courage is required by lots more than one person if we are going to get away from the self-destructive path this country is on. Sadly, I’m not seeing it. Too many legitimately job scared. Too many legitimately tired and burned out after years of struggle. Too many depressed by how many can be co-opted by money. Too much effort going into arranging the physical forces of formal and informal oppression by those who gain from a sick status quo. Too much giving right-wing politicians a pass with regard to political courage just because it’s clear that they are not going to change and are able to gain more money and power through driving toward crazy ideas like slavery and genocide and torture and making them mainstream again. Voting against the tide on a losing vote is a cheap action and likely cleared with the leadership. Voting with the tide on a winning but questionable vote is a cheap action and likely cleared with the leadership. But bloggers make absolute judgements about political courage based on just such theatrics.

      If there is a Member of Congress who wants to show political courage, leak the Senate Intelligence Committee report of CIA torture in full. Name names. Cite the facts about war crimes. Stop sweeping stuff under the carpet politely. Or tell us about the gun that the intelligence community is holding to your head in the form of the 1917 Espionage Act. That might just widen the circle of the President’s political courage. Is there any hope that this will happen. No. Very little.

      • orionATL says:

        “…If there is a Member of Congress who wants to show political courage, leak the Senate Intelligence Committee report of CIA torture in full. Name names. Cite the facts about war crimes. Stop sweeping stuff under the carpet politely…”

        i’ve wondered about doing this. why would not a moc with access to the report just go to the senate floor and read the entire report into the record.

        on this and any other serious challenges to the secret agencies, the lack of congressional criticism is astonishing.

        in fact, the silence throughout our entire nation is as if a spell has been cast by the secret government. we live in a . most amazing time.

        • TarheelDem says:

          Why would a member of Congress not do this? Because after Mike Gravel leaked the Pentagon Papers by publishing them in the Congressional Record, effectively immunizing Daniel Ellsberg, Congress in its “wisdom” closed that door legislatively for individual members of Congress. (Think of the petty political uses that this power could be put to.) And the DOJ has been quick on the trigger with charges of espionage for people to disclose what the previous and current administration has been doing in national security and human rights violations. It’s gonna take one Congressman willing to go to jail or enough Members to immunize everyone in order to get this report out, in my estimation. Those are personal decisions not lightly taken.

          • orionATL says:

            thanks for this info.

            “.. Congress in its “wisdom” closed that door legislatively for individual members of Congress. (Think of the petty political uses that this power could be put to.)…”

            was this a congressional rule the congress passed, or was it a bill passed by congress for prrsidential signature? what was it named?

  9. Pete says:

    John Brennan, James Clapper, and Barack Obama walk into a courtroom. Which one gets convicted and goes to jail first?

    Answer: I lied – they didn’t walk into a courtroom just their offices as usual. No political “elite” gets investigated or indicted or has to be held accountable.

  10. ess emm says:

    President Obama: We have to as a country take responsibility for [the torture].

    No, Mr. President, the first step is to make individual people, and not “the country,” accountable for these crimes. The people who authorized the use of torture, up to and including President Bush with the 9/17/01 MON, and the lawyers who said these crimes were “legal,” and the individuals who carried it out physically or wrote the manual on how to do it, and the doctors that monitored the crime, should all be tried in a court of law. Demanding Justice is not being “sanctimonious.”

    There’s no excuse for these people, even under “stress,” to not know the difference between Right and ugly, brutal crime. And the fact that John Kiriakou is in prison, while Cofer Black, David Addington, John Yoo, John Brennan and Jose Rodriquez roam free shows that the political elite’s ethics are upside-down.

    • David Walters says:

      1) Holding individuals, particularly direct actors (torturers) and policy wonks who engineered the torture program, accountable to the law is not the same as destroying the effectiveness of the overall CIA. Only those who violated the law should be prosecuted. But those who did violate the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

      Those patriotic and hard-working CIA personnel who didn’t break the law aren’t targets and shouldn’t feel that they are.

      2) In response to the related question that often arises when I make this observation…

      “What? Do you want the CIA to be looking over its shoulder or consulting a lawyer every time it needs to get something done?…

      …I say, Hell yes, I do. I expect nothing less than that from every elected official from the President down to the local cop and the dog catcher and especially I expect that on the part of those who have the statutory authority to harm others.

      David

  11. lefty665 says:

    Boy, talk about “too sanctimonious”, firing Betrayus for screwing his biographer, but swallowing Brennan’s lies, subversion of the Constitution, and attempts to intimidate Congress without even a grimace.

    Some of us, and I expect a lot of “folks” here, have been screaming about torture since the first inklings became public in late 2002 or 2003. We have made more than a decade of public objection to crimes, committed as a matter of policy, starting with the president, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, that arguably constitute crimes against humanity. To be admonished now by O to not “be too sanctimonious” is beyond the pale. How about a little “These are felonies that must be prosecuted”?
    .
    John Kiriakou is sitting in jail for revealing the torturers. Is that his punishment for being “too sanctimonious”?
    .
    O seems to have no concerns about Brennan’s public lies about not invading on Senate computers, or his making counter accusations to DOJ. Heads need to roll.
    .
    Dan Froomkin posts: “So if you’re the president, you fire everyone who lies. Starting with John Brennan.” https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/31/lying/

    • David Walters says:

      There is delicious irony in the facts that G.W. Bush regularly admonished those who visited with him after he was elected President to “Never lie to me” but that he and his administration turned out to be the greatest unaccountable liars and criminals in American history.

      David

  12. What Constitution? says:

    “Folks”? They are “folks” now? The Terraists our government tortured are now referred to by the President as “folks”? As in, “shucks, folks, our bad — we didn’t mean nuthin’ by it”? Sounds so much more, well, “folksy”. Good choice of words, huh?

    So let’s see, we got: Washington: “I cannot tell a lie; I cut down the cherry tree;” Lincoln: “…that government of the people , by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth;” Roosevelt: “”We have nothing to fear but fear itself;” Nixon: “I am not a crook”; Reagan: “Mommy?”; Bush 1: “Read my lips”; Clinton: “That depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is;” Bush #2: “You’re either with us or against us;” and now, Obama: “We tortured some folks.” Hey, but at least Obama has that cool Nobel Peace Prize.

  13. Teddy says:

    So now we live in a country where the President serves at the pleasure of the head of intelligence? That’s what our teachers told us was a hallmark of the Soviet Union when I was growing up. Well, that and everyone being spied on all the time at home, work, and play.

  14. Peterr says:

    Does that last line mean you’ve given up on being asked to appear again as a guest on MSNBC, Marcy?

    • emptywheel says:

      At this point I’m pretty sure my criticism of Obama would be more disqualifying than my pottymouth.

    • CTuttle says:

      Does that last line mean you’ve given up on being asked to appear again as a guest on MSNBC, Marcy?

      *heh* The first thought I had when I read the title was ‘Blowjob’, Peterr…! ;-)

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “So what? Get over it.”

    Mr. Obama, after admitting this government tortured and lied repeatedly about it, is adamant that he continue to employ and rely on those who did so. That’s a mixed message the most junior bureaucrat could read loud and clear.

    The president is anxious, not about rewarding torturers and those who promote them, but that we “not get too sanctimonious”. That is, he is anxious that he not face public or electoral consequences for his own actions and the actions of those he holds most dear. It is Mr. Obama who is sanctimonious and arrogant. Perhaps he hopes to retire to Argentina.

  16. sanctimonious says:

    Article 4
    1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
    2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

    Article 5
    1. Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the offences referred to in article 4 in the following cases:
    1. When the offences are committed in any territory under its jurisdiction or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;
    2. When the alleged offender is a national of that State;
    3. When the victim was a national of that State if that State considers it appropriate.
    2. Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article.
    3. This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with internal law.

    Article 6
    1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present, shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted.
    2. Such State shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
    3. Any person in custody pursuant to paragraph 1 of this article shall be assisted in communicating immediately with the nearest appropriate representative of the State of which he is a national, or, if he is a stateless person, to the representative of the State where he usually resides.
    4. When a State, pursuant to this article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify the States referred to in article 5, paragraph 1, of the fact that such person is in custody and of the circumstances which warrant his detention. The State which makes the preliminary inquiry contemplated in paragraph 2 of this article shall promptly report its findings to the said State and shall indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction.

    Article 7
    1. The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
    2. These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.
    3. Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.

  17. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    Gradually but relentlessly America is being drawn into a existential crisis with Islam, and the outcome may not be to our liking. Sparked by the terrorist attacks of extremist Muslims and the hatred on display by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Americans increasingly view Islam as a hostile religion that needs to be corralled and managed by the Americans working with Israelis and Europeans. As a result of this attitude and the actions Americans and our allies are taking in support of that view, there is a growing chasm between the West and Islam, which will only grow more violent as time goes on. Right now, America has leaders who believe it is acceptable to spy on young girls at a Muslim school, drone wedding parties in Pakistan and Yemen, and monitor the communications of Islamic leadership in the United States. If that isn’t enough, we are supplying weapons to Israel at a time that they are bombing Palestinian schools and hospitals in Gaza. There will be blowback. What do you think will be the reaction of America’s political leaders when that happens? My guess would be even more repression at home and more violence against the Arab world. We are going down the same authoritarian path that Israel’s leaders have taken their country. And, unfortunately, this path leads to a dead end. I had hoped that President Obama would understand the folly of this path, but his actions over his presidency have not been encouraging. His comments about CIA Director Brennan yesterday only reinforce that somber view.

    • David Walters says:

      Yep, the more we imitate the policy, methods and actions of Israel (as we have increasingly done after 9/11) the more certain we are to share what is sure to be their ultimately very sad fate.

      David

  18. TawasTeacher says:

    When I read that terrific last zinger, I couldn’t help but think of the late great Molly Ivins Marcy. Maybe they won’t invite you back on MSNBC but there is always HBO and at least they won’t have to $@#! you!

  19. Simplify says:

    And Bill Clinton didn’t face impeachment over any official abuse of power, it was over a blowj… Wait, yes, I can say that here. Over a blowjob.

  20. GKJames says:

    Hard to imagine that what, at that first inauguration, sounded like poetry — granted, after the previous eight years, anything would have — now is mockery. And it’s not about unfulfilled expectations of more hopeful things; his achievement has been to make law and language meaningless.

  21. greengiant says:

    I kind of remember Petraeus being dumped because of Bhengazi, with the rest just titillation smoke and mirrors. Broadwell’s Oct 26, 2012 speech and question and answer session in Denver seemed to be the tipping point.

  22. RUKidding says:

    I guess O was speaking to the f*cking r*tards who need to be drug tested if we dare Q his received “wisdom.”

    I’m not so sure Petraeus got the sack because of his sexytime, albeit one could Q an alleged Big Dog CIA SpookMeister perhaps spilling some important “beans” during pillow talk. I think Petraeus got the boot bc he was some sort of threat to O.

    Brennan clearly now his boot-heel firmly placed on O’s neck… not surprising, that, given the fate of Brennan’s predecessor. Who runs who in the District of Criminals? Well Deep State’s still a tad murky, but it’s been clear for a while now that the Pres is merely a figurehead or talking head, if you will. In this case, O was channeling Rahmbo or Gibbs or maybe a bit of both.

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