In response to John Brennan’s nomination, PBS sent out the clip from their 2006 interview in which he endorsed taking the gloves off. I find that clip, plus the complete interview transcript, all the more instructive given what has transpired with the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification in the last two years and, I suspect, in last week’s opinion refusing to release the targeted killing memo. (Here’s a post describing the MON, and here’s the entire series: post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6,post 7, post 8, post 9, plus post 10 and post 11.) The short version of those posts is that the Executive Branch doesn’t consider the OLC memos the authorizing documents for its counterterrorism program–it considers this MON that document. But it is written such that it permits both the Agency and the Executive to avoid all accountability for these law-breaking programs.
Here, when the interviewer asks Brennan about “the Dark Side”–the title of the program–Brennan responds instead by talking about “taking the gloves off.”
Why would the vice president, and even the secretary of defense, want to talk about or have the country or want to warn the country about going to “the dark side”?
I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. … The point is the war or the campaign against terrorism can be a long one, and that the opposition, whether it be Al Qaeda, or whether it be Iraq, doesn’t play by the Marquis de Queensbury rules. Therefore, the U.S. in some areas has to take off the gloves. And I think that’s entirely appropriate. I think we do have to take off the gloves in some areas, but within balance, and at the right time and the right way, and for the right reason and with full understanding of what the consequences of that might be. [emphasis mine]
As I observed, the interviewer asks about “the Dark Side”, but then Brennan offers up the term “gloves come off” instead. He does so, notably, with regards to both al Qaeda–the terrorists–and Iraq (in 2006!)–the nation-state against which we trumped up a war. He not only endorses the notion that the Iraq war was part of the war on terror, but also that the US could “take its gloves off” even in a war with another nation-state purportedly governed by the traditional law of war.
In the phrase, John Brennan is endorsing “taking the gloves off,” in the name of terrorism, with any country we happen to be fighting that might–maybe–play dirty.
Then the interviewer asks Brennan–first and foremost–about the Bybee memo, but also about the AUMF. Brennan responds by talking about Findings.
One of the things that [the administration does] right away is get lots of legal justifications lined up, from the Bybee memo [the so-called "torture memo"] to everything, commander-in-chief power, the War Authorization Act. Would there have been very much difference between what Tenet believed the CIA should do in terms of renditions and all of it and what we can assume the vice president and the president and others would want the CIA to do? Was Tenet especially more careful, more cautious, more anything than they were sounding like they were?
I think George had two concerns. One is to make sure that there was that legal justification, as well as protection for CIA officers who are going to be engaged in some of these things, so that they would not be then prosecuted or held liable for actions that were being directed by the administration. So we want to make sure the findings and other things were done appropriately, with the appropriate Department of Justice review. [brackets original; my emphasis]
At least one and probably two courts have said that no sitting Administration official has admitted that all the law-breaking in pursuit of terrorists was authorized not by an OLC memo, but first and foremost a Finding.
Oh yes one has.
And he did so in a conversation framed precisely in the same way Cofer Black, author of the Gloves Come Off MON, did.