Bush Doesn’t Want to Be Forbidden to Torture, Even If You Don’t Tell the Terrorists

In yesterday’s chat about detainee treatment, I asked Carl Levin if he had suggestions for ways to improve intelligence oversight.

Which raises another good point.

Senator Levin, what can we do to improve intelligence oversight? Just before this chat started, Trent Franks proposed calling Speaker Pelosi and Jane Harman before HJC to testify about how they reacted in briefings on interrogation methods. There’s also the example of FISA.

What can we do to enable Administrations to present information to Congress in classified fashion–but make it possible for those Members of Congress on oversight positions to do something if they find the Administration policies are illegal?

Senator Levin responded:

Congress has three powers that can be used: they can pass a law, even in classified form as a classified annex to an unclassified bill (such as the intelligence authorization bill), second, the power of the purse which can be carried out in a classified or unclassified manner, and third there is of course our oversight power and responsibility. [my emphasis]

To which Jim White astutely asked this question:

What did you think of his mentioning of the ability of Congress to pass classified annex to the public versions of bills. Should we be hoping that there has been a little more oversight through this route? I haven’t heard much discussion on this front. He seems to be pointing us to the Intelligence Authorization Bill in this regard.

As it happens, Bush issued a veto threat of the House Intelligence Authorization Bill today. And look at one of Bush’s objections to the bill (h/t Steven Aftergood):

Secret Law. Section 317 would incorporate by reference all reporting requirements in the classified annex into the act, thereby making them a requirement in law. The Administration strongly opposes the imposition of reporting requirements in this opaque manner. Further, such a provision would remove the flexibility that Congress and the Executive branch would otherwise have to modify and adapt provisions in the classified annex to meet changing conditions and requirements without seeking a statutory change.

Now, I have no clue what it is in the annex that Bush is objecting to. In Laura Rozen’s discussion of Tim Starks’ coverage of the veto threat, she included this observation from him:

Since interrogation stuff is still in the Senate bill, and that’ll make it hard for that bill even to get to the floor, it may not ever get to a veto, because the bill may never get to the president at all,

As Starks points out, the anti-torture provision is still in the Senate bill–the one Levin has worked on in SSCI and SASC. As I said, I have no idea what might be in the Senate bill–and neither do the terrorists. But there sure seem to be some interesting goodies in that classified annex.

  1. SaltinWound says:

    It doesn’t matter. They’ll take out whatever Bush wants them to take out. Or if they don’t, he’ll ignore it.

    • PraedorAtrebates says:

      All Bush has to do to make his Democrapic lapdogs get in line is pull out his mystical-magical veto pen. He flashes it around all dramatic-like and the Dem’s eyes get all big and round and then they do whatever her Fuhrer tells them to do.

      I knew the fix was in as soon as the news indicated Bush was threatening a veto (ooooooooh, scaaaaaaary!).

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Secret laws are antithetical to the rule of law and good government. No citizen can comply with laws of which she is unaware, nor hold their government to account for violating the same.

    Secret law that is inaccessible to the public is inherently antithetical to democracy and foreign to the tradition of open publication that has characterized most of American legal history.…..#038;gl=uk

    • bell says:

      there is only one reason they are using ’secret’ laws and that is to negate the rule of law.. these folks have shown a history of circumventing the law, while coming up with ingenious ways to do so.. this is one more of them.. impeach or else…

    • bobschacht says:

      “Secret laws are antithetical to the rule of law and good government.”

      Thank you for this comment. How can “consent of the governed” have meaning under such conditions?

      Bob in HI

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why would we suppose that a Congress that passed the FISA/Fourth Amendment legislation would hold itself or this administration accountable under secret laws when they haven’t bothered to hold themselves or Mr. Bush accountable for violating the public ones?

  4. SparklestheIguana says:

    The secret law thing really is fascinating. You would think it could only happen in Kafka, if you hadn’t “seen it” (but not with your own eyes) in this administration. Is this the first time we’ve had secret laws in the U.S.?

    • emptywheel says:

      If in fact it pertains to torture, I suspect it’s a strategy to call Bush’s bluff. Bush has been arguing the reason you can’t say what’s legal and not is because you’d tip off OBL what to expect when we catch him, Dead or Alive.

      Well, we’re not tipping OBL off, are we? BUt they may still be objecting. Most interesting, I see they’re objecting with the form bc it doesn’t allow the President (and that archaic thing called Congress) to change the law quickly.

      Um. Yeah. That’s the point.

  5. bell says:

    well the other side of it is laws are made to override other laws or to allow for new circumstances.. laws are a form of power.. this admin has shown a propensity for power grabs while insulating themselves from the public.. it’s just another form of power grab with a new twist..

    • bobschacht says:

      “laws are a form of power.”

      This is certainly true. And while I stoutly defend the Rule of Law here and elsewhere, it must be noted that in many places, laws are used by those in power to control those who ain’t. For example, laws about things like deeds are used by people in power to take land from people who have been living on it for generations without proof of ownership. Similarly, laws are used by people in power to deprive other folks of their right to vote because they don’t have a birth certificate or whatever.

      Laws are indeed a form of power, and that is why there must be protections against the abuse of law.

      Bob in HI

  6. SaltinWound says:

    As always, wheel, your close reading is fantastic, but here I think it might be preventing you from seeing the big picture. Why does this matter? I’d be somewhat relieved if you think this Administration respects the law, secret or otherwise, or that Congress would hold the President accountible. It seems inconceivable to me that he won’t just assert his inherent powers while running out the clock. Do you see any reason for optimism?

  7. MadDog says:

    Well EW, after consuming your voluminous and typically superb posts today, I have to say you are firing on all cylinders!

    As to the topic of this particular post, I agree that this Administration is not surrendering the theory of the Unitary Executive anytime soon. And who would ever have reason to expect something different?

    Odds on Congress backing down vis a vis the “classified annex”? Does one even have to ask? Pfui!

    I’m quite confident that Jello Jay can be “persuaded” to again sacrifice his dignity (Hah!) for the better good of Repugs.

  8. nomolos says:

    Surely a signing statement can take care of any inconvenient provisions secrete or not. Look we all know the guys broke the bloody law and committed heinous crimes wussy secret statements written in invisible ink and hieroglyphics are just smoke and bloody mirrors designed to cover the asses of complicit politicians. There is only one way to the truth.

  9. JimWhite says:

    Wow, I just checked in at NN08 and didn’t expect to find myself in a post. After Marcy called me astute, though, I should probably move my reservation to a Holiday Inn Express so I can try to live up to it.

    It certainly is a big coincidence that Levin would mention secret annexes as a form of oversight on the very bill Bush threatens to veto the next day…

    This of course could lead to so many layers of secrecy: the bill, the secret annex, the secret pixie dust to negate the annex, and so forth. I can see the point that secret laws are antithetical to good government, but in a warped sense, I almost wonder if a secret law is something Bush could live with since he and Cheney love secrecy so much.

    Off in search of food…

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, you’re there? I’ll look out for you–but I don’t get in until late Friday.

      Frankly, I hope this secret appendix thing serves to do one thing: call Bush’s bluff about being opposed to laws on torture bc he doesn’t want the terrorists to know. And then, when you’ve called hte bluff and gotten the moderates on board, then you pass it explicitly.

    • strider7 says:

      “This of course could lead to so many layers of secrecy: the bill, the secret annex, the secret pixie dust to negate the annex, and so forth”
      Sounds like an episode of the little rascals and the he man woman haters club

  10. skdadl says:

    The whole statement from the WH seems dyspeptic to me, although I guess that enumerating their “No”s was the point. But there is a pattern to those “No”s. Repeatedly the WH is saying that problems are better solved through administrative and regulatory changes and negotiations (”secret” if we have to admit that occasionally, but mainly let’s just say “flexible”) than by legislative change and oversight.

    Again, perhaps they were just taking things in order, but the opening concern for the private contractors is striking. And I don’t know whether another IG for the whole intel community would be a good idea, but this sentence at the end of that section leapt out at me:

    Further, the requirement that this position be Senate confirmed is contrary to the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which noted that intelligence officials need to assume their duties and responsibilities as quickly as possible, without the long delays recent nominees have experienced in the confirmation process.

  11. PetePierce says:

    The oversight ability Levin refers to is a complete joke. It doesn’t exist, and it hasn’t in years. And Johnathan Turley has agreed with me–inherent contempt should be invoked against Mukasey, Rove, Miers and Bolton.

    A big shout out to the 29 Republican morons who tried to support Bush’s veto to make Medicare 10.2% cuts happen and failed. The next time they need medical treatment they should be forced to get it from a 7-11.

    NAYs —26
    Allard (R-CO)
    Barrasso (R-WY)
    Bennett (R-UT)
    Brownback (R-KS)
    Bunning (R-KY)
    Burr (R-NC)
    Coburn (R-OK)
    Craig (R-ID)
    Crapo (R-ID)
    DeMint (R-SC)
    Domenici (R-NM)
    Ensign (R-NV)
    Enzi (R-WY)
    Graham (R-SC)
    Grassley (R-IA)
    Gregg (R-NH)
    Hagel (R-NE)
    Hatch (R-UT)
    Inhofe (R-OK)
    Kyl (R-AZ)
    McConnell (R-KY)
    Sessions (R-AL)
    Shelby (R-AL)
    Sununu (R-NH)
    Thune (R-SD)
    Vitter (R-LA)

    • PJEvans says:

      I see Bush and Cheney still have control of the ‘Nazgul’.

      You’d thinnk they’d have started to see the light, but clearly they think they’re seeing the end of the tunnel while the rest of us are looking at that really long freight train going by.

  12. JThomason says:

    All other things being said and done I have been thinking a lot about last Friday’s reference by Mary to Andrew Jackson’s and Jackson’s challenge to Justice Marshall to just, in so many words, come on over to the White House and enforce his grand writ.

    In a strange way there are some apt comparison’s between Jackson and Bush. And then of course there are areas where no comparison will stand. Jackson was a populist and I think that Bush’s strategy around the evangelicals could be say to echo this. Jackson was a speculator. Reportedly Jackson and his partners Winchester and Overton purchased west Tennessee from the Indians that lived there with twenty thousand dollars and a bottle of whiskey. The whiskey apparently did not survive the deal. Clearly some Abramoff overtones here.

    There is a stately marble bust of Jackon in the halls of the Memphis and Shelby County courthouse. The civil and chancery courts are housed there. Its a stately affair. You might have seen it in The People v. Larry Flynt or The Silence of the Lambs. There is a campaign afoot to label Jackson a mass murderer for his part in the treatment of the Cherokees.

    But what really got me to thinking were the land deals. I was wondering whether Jacksonian speculative principles were being taught in business schools in the 1970’s and 80’s as part of the theories for practicing arbitrage capitalism and the strategy of the rolling catastrophe where the failure of one challenged deal undermines the prospect of success for subsequent speculative deals as a way of keeping those you do business with from challenging failed promises. The only cash exchange, contract or no, is what can be had at closing or eventually but at a cost exacted through litigation. Its really a system of ever maintaining the threat of a scorched earth. May not be the kind of business Jackson in fact practiced but it got me to wondering. Have Justice Marshall come on over to enforce that writ indeed.

  13. SaltinWound says:

    I’m sorry, I somehow missed that comment of Mary’s about Jackson, I’d love to see it. Do you remember which thread?

  14. WilliamOckham says:

    This is why our side always loses on the big issues. Secret laws are inherently evil and can not ever be used to further democracy and freedom. You don’t fight tyranny by using the tools of tyranny. We have to push back against secrecy in government in all its forms. No secret laws, no state secrets, no secret executive orders, no secrecy PERIOD FULL STOP.

  15. rosalind says:

    to the growing body of works shedding light on what has been done in our name add “kafka comes to america” by steven wax, the federal defender who represented brandon mayfield, the american arrested in the madrid train bombings based on a bogus fingerprint ID, and adel hamad, a sudenese hospital worker swept up in pakistan and desposited in gitmo.

    i just saw mr. wax speak at a book signing, and his outraged accounts of life down the rabbit hole, well i just sat there in tears.

    i salute the work he and his team, and all the other lawyers across the country, are doing to help find a path out of that hell for all those wrongly detained.

  16. bmaz says:

    Walt Pincus in the WaPo gives the lowdown on the Intel bill described by EW in this post:

    The House yesterday passed by voice vote the fiscal 2009 intelligence authorization bill, which limits the funds available for covert actions next year until all members of the House intelligence panel are briefed on the most sensitive ones already underway.

    As included in the bill, 75 percent of money sought for covert actions would be held up until the briefings are held.

    So the Gang of Eight would be expanded to the Whole Intel Committees. And they passed it on a voice vote, must have fairly substantial support.

    The bill would also prohibit the hiring of private contractors to carry out interrogations for the intelligence agencies, a provision the White House also opposes. Other portions of the House-passed bill make it easier for first- and second-generation Americans with key language skills to obtain clearances to work in the intelligence agencies, a proposal long sought by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

    And Boosh already doesn’t like the Senate version. Don’t know if this thing will ever be homologized into a final bill, and maybe ther would be a veto. Who knows, interesting dynamics here though.

    • MarieRoget says:

      Other portions of the House-passed bill make it easier for first- and second-generation Americans with key language skills to obtain clearances to work in the intelligence agencies, a proposal long sought by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

      Excellent. This is incredibly important to intel gathering- can’t believe McConnell, BushCo enabler & dissembler extraordinaire, is actually backing it. Maybe he’ll retract that support when the chips are down/when he’s “advised” to…

  17. perris says:

    and the president doesn’t understand, so long as it appears america is a nation of torturers we will be the enemy of the entire planet

  18. pdaly says:

    Speaking of secrecy, here’s an interesting ABC news article about a SanFrancisco network administrator (referred to as a ‘hacker’) who is being prosecuted for creating a secret password that gives himself access to areas of the network he reportedly is not allowed to have, and more importantly, he created roadblocks to keep others out. Talk about secrecy. The city will have none of this.

    That he is being prosecuted makes me think he is not operating in concert with Team Bush. The guy was involved in designing the routing systems for the city’s network. Wonder if he has knowledge of splitter rings and Narus software…

  19. pmorlan says:

    Former Atty. Gen. Ashcroft Testifies Today

    Former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft answers questions about his role in the drafting of detainee interrogation rules. In a hearing last week before the House Judiciary Cmte., witnesses said that Mr. Ashcroft’s staff reviewed drafts of the “torture” memo written by then-Asst. Atty. Gen. John Yoo.

    Cspan 10 a.m.


  20. rteolis says:

    Law = power
    Secret Law = unconstitutional law
    secret unconstitutional law = zero accountability

    This secret annex stuff makes me nervous. Seems akin to the executive privilege recently asserted – to simply obtain official sanction for something otherwise embarrassing or outright illegal.

    • pdaly says:

      I agree.

      The rationale for secret law may be to constrain the President out of view of the terrorists, but the eventual effect is to erode the separation of powers. When the president breaks the secret law, who can break the silence and call him or her out on the lawbreaking?

      Balance of powers works best when the balancing act is done publicly

      • rteolis says:

        That’s where I think the problem is: Our elected representatives have clearly decided to seek balance the power in the dark. Which translates to back-room dealings to cover everyone’s ass. It’s all the ass-covering that took impeachment off the table. Can’t hold anybody accountable if everybody is guilty at some level. Secret law = unaccountable powers. If you approve secret law granting unaccountable powers, your hands are dirty too.

        I kinda like the idea of having Pelosi, Harmon, Rockefeller, others testify to their reaction to briefings on “The Program”. Maybe that will clear the air enough to prompt meaningful action from our representatives.

        • Leen says:

          I thought Addington verified that it was only Pelosi that had had the full brief on the program?

          • rteolis says:

            Should have my facts handy first.

            Never linked before. Hope this works:

            from Wapo:

            With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

  21. pdaly says:

    This excerpt of the article caught my attention, especially the last quote (yup, nothing to worry about…):

    The network on which he worked reportedly stored 60 percent of all municipal data, including the city’s 311 system, employee e-mail and law enforcement records.

    San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told reporters Tuesday that Childs was a “rogue employee that got a bit maniacal and full of himself.

    “There’s nothing to be alarmed about, save the inability to get into the system and tweak the system,” Newsom said. “Nothing dramatic has changed in terms of our ability to govern the city.”

    • WilliamOckham says:

      I usually hesitate to comment on stories like this because the reporters always get bamboozled by the company execs (in this case the City administration), but unless there is a whole lot more to the story, this is just ridiculous.

      It sounds like the guy is just refusing to give his boss the ‘root’ password to the WAN routers. That’s stupid, irritating, and inconvenient, but it’s barely criminal.

      • bmaz says:

        It sounds like the guy is just refusing to give his boss the ‘root’ password to the WAN routers. That’s stupid, irritating, and inconvenient, but it’s barely criminal.

        Truer words rarely spoken; yet they are treating him like he is Timothy McVeigh and have bail at $5 million. Law enforcement and prosecution in this country are so far off the scale rabid in this country that it is shocking to the conscience. It had been getting incrementally worse for a long time, but the quantum shift precipitated by 9/11, and the Bush Administration’s criminally psychotic overreaction thereto, has sent us into a whole different world. The same thing behind all the spying, torture, secret law, everything. All emanating out of a criminally and pathologically corrupt and demented mindset.

        • pdaly says:

          That comparison is both funny and a sad comment on our times.

          Ironic that the government does like secrets (in this case, passwords) kept from it, but the goverment increasingly wants its secrets kept from the public even though it is the public from whom government ostensibly derives its power.

          WO, so without the root password, the guy’s boss cannot change the security settings, I guess? Anything else the root password would provide?

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Unless there’s more to the story, the only thing they can’t do is manage their routers. Not really a big deal until they need to reconfigure their network (e.g. add a new site). This sort of crap happens sometimes in the IT world. Geeks are often oppositional types. There’s no need to literally make a federal case out of it.

  22. BayStateLibrul says:

    The Prez commutated Libby’s sentence
    Yesterday, the Prez invoked “executive privilege”

    If this isn’t a cover-up, I’ll eat Richard Nixon’s Watergate Tapes, and wash it down with a Corona

  23. pmorlan says:

    Lamar Smith started out his comments by talking about Pelosi and others being briefed on waterboarding and not objecting.

  24. Leen says:

    So is Lamar Smith saying that it would be acceptable for other countries to use those “additional techniques” if they think that the U.S. or Israel is about to pre-emptively attack them? Sure sounds like it. From what he is saying I guess it would be o.k. for Iran to use those same methods on U.S. special forces if captured in Iran to get any information that they might have about such a pre-emptive strike

  25. Leen says:

    Ashcroft “slightest mistake” like Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley ignoring Richard Clarke’s warnings before 9/11.

  26. pmorlan says:

    Ashcroft: OLC won in appeals court who had to follow precedent but lost in Supreme ct. where they could overrule precedent.

  27. BayStateLibrul says:

    The AG is justifying “their overreaction”
    Wants a free ride based on the “times”

  28. skdadl says:

    The only “altered perception” I’ve ever had about Ashcroft came while I listened to Comey’s Senate testimony. I still can’t put that all together, but if I were Ashcroft, I’d tweak people’s memories a bit in that direction, best optics he’s ever had imho.

    • pmorlan says:

      Ashcroft is just another Bush apologist. I think the only reason he did the hospital thing is because he was angry about the fact that they reached in and had Yoo doing things without first consulting Ashcroft. It was nothing but a turf war for Ashcroft.

      • skdadl says:

        Well, except — he just refused to disown Yoo. He just smoothed everything over, much more even than has already been published (Goldsmith). (That metaphor about the speed limits was not such a good metaphor, eh?)

        • pmorlan says:

          Exactly. I don’t think he disagrees with anything Yoo said he was just mad that he wasn’t consulted first.

  29. BillE says:

    I like how just after the FISA cave in the Rethugs are dumping all over the Democratic leadership that was obviously was just covering up for themselves. Really pathetic of the Dems to set themselves up for this crap. I understand they are all patting themselves on the back for their great “strategy” the morons. No one is voting FOR them, just against the R’s. I guess its impossible for the ruling D elites to get a clue on this.

    Honorable people would resign if they were so compormised. But Pelosi, Hoyer, Harman, Reyes, etc. are still there.

  30. Leen says:


    John Ashcroft: I’m Willing To Be Waterboarded»

    ashLast night, former Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered an address on national security at the University of Colorado. The event was marked by heated protests. About 20 student protesters wearing “shirts with ’shame’ written on the backs and wearing American flags over their faces, welcomed Ashcroft to the stage by standing up and turning their backs to him.”

    During the speech, Ashcroft caused an uproar when he declared Guantanamo Bay was a “good place” for detainees. In addition, he defended the torture tactic of waterboarding:

    Ashcroft also responded to questions from the audience. The first question came from a woman who asked if Ashcroft would be willing to be subjected to waterboarding.

    “The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do,” he said.

  31. BayStateLibrul says:

    It was a “normal” review procedure in the OLC.
    How could it be normal when he just inferred that it
    was 9-11 time, and nothing was normal?

  32. skdadl says:

    I think that Wittes is just wrong when he says that, after good guidelines are drawn up (including no torture), only the president should be held responsible for what is done in the field. Nuremberg rules: everybody is always responsible, always.

  33. JTMinIA says:

    Please don’t call me a troll, but I’m not as upset as many of you WRT “secret Law.” As long as said laws, which require a security clearance to read, only apply to people with a security clearance, it doesn’t seem as bad as you are making it out to be.

    • skdadl says:

      Yes, Dellinger’s closing point was so strong: he is opposed to “engrafting,” I think he said, extraordinary reactions to something like a ticking time-bomb — if a situation like that arose, it should be considered a case for civil disobedience: the president should give the order and then turn himself in. Well said.

      (I’m having FDL/EW connectivity problems — anyone else?)

  34. pmorlan says:

    Well I just got booted off this site and it took awhile before being able to access again?

  35. pmorlan says:

    Wittes agnostic on whether “enhanced interrogation” works. I don’t like Wittes…he seems weasily.

      • pmorlan says:

        He’s like those weasily self described “centrists” who think there are two legitimate sides to every issue.

    • Leen says:

      Wittes “Agnostic on enhanced interrogation techniques”

      “unless you know that it does not work, enormous pressure to ratchet up”

      The message from Ashcroft and Wittes sounds like “different strokes” when we deem appropriate. Confusing message to the rest of the folks who signed the Geneva

  36. pmorlan says:

    Ashcroft has “no recollection” if he gave legal advice about interrogating Abu Zubaydah prior to the Bybee memo.

  37. skdadl says:

    Nadler is snapping along. FBI agent sent up alarm before Yoo/Bybee memo. Important point. Was Ashcroft aware of any legal authorization before Yoo/Bybee memo? Ashcroft says no.

    • MarieRoget says:

      Perhaps someone will eventually consult former high level intel professionals on the subject of how knowledgeable/experienced George Tenet is in that area. Or in the rest of his former job, for that matter.

      All hat, no cattle ranch, that one.

  38. skdadl says:

    Ashcroft just ran out the clock on Nadler. Man, that man can talk. In circles.

    Mr Coble thinks that waterboarding is controversial. Wow. The atmosphere today is a great come-down from earlier hearings.

    Oh, listen. Wittes thinks that waterboarding is “at least extremely close” to being torture.

  39. Leen says:

    whoa Ashcroft “waterboarding was valuable” to protect American lives. Frightening message to all. We can use these techniques but you can not use these techniques if the U.S. or anyone else is about to attack your country.

  40. pmorlan says:

    Dellinger great on FISA & torture…those laws not unconstitutional and president shouldn’t have overriden those laws.

    • skdadl says:

      Yes, Dellinger has an interesting strategy — he wants to affirm the president’s rightful authority, but that authority gets called into question when the president overrides the law.

  41. pmorlan says:

    Ashcroft: The ultimate definition of torture will be rendered in the courts. Let’s hope so.

  42. Leen says:

    Did Ashcroft just completely blow off the Geneva Convention? So the Geneva convention calls waterboarding torture…Ashcroft calls waterboarding “enhanced interrogation techniques”

  43. Leen says:

    So let’s hope the International community takes this group of people in the Bush administration who seems to have a great deal of confusion about whether waterboarding is torture to task.

  44. skdadl says:

    Sorry, Mr Ashcroft, but on this turf, it’s not just “what the statute says,” which is likely to be more ephemeral than the opinion of all the people in the rest of the world. Principle, y’know? Lawyers can try to rewrite it, and obviously have, but that doesn’t make it right.

  45. pmorlan says:

    Dellinger…if OLC gave memo saying torture legal the people who relied on it couldn’t be held legally accountable? Is that what he said?

    • JTMinIA says:

      He said the US gov’t couldn’t prosecute. The follow-up on who would be responsible was huge … but Ashcroft has used up too much time earlier.

  46. Leen says:

    Strong strong message coming out of Ashcroft, Wittes and many in the Bush administration to the rest of the world “do as we say not as we do”

  47. BayStateLibrul says:

    I like Bobby, and will those Repugs quit calling Ashcroft a General, he’s not a fucking General… (rant)

  48. skdadl says:

    They didn’t just stay within the limits of the law. They assumed that if they rewrote “the law,” they could change the limits. Ashcroft doesn’t seem to get the problem with thinking that way.

  49. Leen says:

    Ashcroft pushing hard that the Bush administration was always trying hard to stay “within the law” while they spun the law.

    so what was it “within the law” that had Comey, Mueller and others so willing to resign after the hospital encounter?

  50. pmorlan says:

    I hate when the Dems waste so much time making speeches instead of asking questions. – Lofgren…ask a question.

  51. skdadl says:

    Lofgren asking Ashcroft to describe his support for Goldsmith’s withdrawal of Yoo’s memo — Ashcroft starts off with tribute to Yoo. Gah. But not a hard decision for Ashcroft to agree in a changed context, blah blah blah.

  52. JTMinIA says:

    It’s not like Lofgren was going to ask any decent questions … such as, “Mr. Dellinger, could you please answer the earlier question about who is legally responsible for torture that occurs under an OLC letter?”

  53. skdadl says:

    Lufgren on DoJ OIG’s report: very fuzzy question on what should be an important topic. Ashcroft: different cultures in different bureaucracies … joking about how people disagree. Argh.

    Ashcroft doing a defence of search for intel vs criminal investigation — ie, he just threw the good FBI guys under the bus. No wonder the DoJ ended up in trouble.

  54. JTMinIA says:

    Ashcroft should keep his eye on the little lights. You don’t need to filibuster when the Democrat has run out of time.

  55. Leen says:

    Ashcroft “prevent damage to our country”

    By breaking International standards on water boarding. That just does not make any sense at all

  56. pmorlan says:

    Torture is illegal but we didn’t torture because it doesn’t shock our conscience when we torture these evildoers.

  57. skdadl says:

    Wow — Ashcroft is very close to saying that Mukasey and Bradbury have reinscribed Yoo.

    Then wth were Goldsmith and Levin doing? The rest of us read that period as different — Ashcroft is insisting on smoothing it all over.

    • JTMinIA says:

      Yeah, the neat trick is to say that the conclusions were correct but the reasoning was off. That way, as long as he’s not required to give the new reasoning, he can have it both ways: Yoo is wrong, but the torture was OK.

  58. Leen says:

    wish someone would ask Dellinger if he thinks these “preventive” measures mentioned by Ashcroft to interrogate detainees has damaged the U.S. or the U.S. military?

  59. skdadl says:

    What is Ashcroft doing relying on the standards of the CIA? He is supposed to be DoJ/FBI. Boy, if I had come through DoJ culture, I would be offended by this.

    • pmorlan says:

      Because our Congress is never organized to actually get answers that they can use. They bounce all over the place and are never coordinated to really get good facts on the record.

  60. JTMinIA says:

    Wow, using your own child as a shield. That’s kind of low.

    (Now I need to go take one of my deductions to the dentist … cheers.)

  61. pmorlan says:

    Chabot…do you know in advance what the Supreme Court is likely to say on these definitions….what kind of a silly question is that?

  62. Leen says:

    Ashcroft “water boarding being conducted as the C.I.A. applied it water boarding did not constitute torture” I thought the C.I.A had serious questions about the “enhanced interrogation techniques” being used.

    Was there a special group created under the C.I.A umbrella just to use these “enhanced techniques”?

  63. pmorlan says:

    Here we go…We had it right with all the other courts (packed with right wing judges) and those darn “liberal activists” on the Supreme Court threw us a curveball saying we were wrong…now how can you blame us for that.

  64. skdadl says:

    I don’t think that Ashcroft actually likes “the law” (in the sense I understand it) very much. He keeps making jokes about the way that lawyers argue; he mocks constitutional structure; and then there’s the CIA romance. He’s a politician; he should never have been an AG.

  65. pmorlan says:

    Wexler – was the interrogation of Zubaydah before Aug 2002 done with or without the DOJ legal approval….Ashcroft…I don’t know…

    Principals meeting: Ashcroft: I attended lots of meetings. Won’t say he attended “those” meetings. Won’t talk about meetings. Did you make statement about history not judging us kindly – won’t say…classified.

  66. skdadl says:

    Wexler is actually inching towards the White House (Principals’ meetings) — Ashcroft is ducking — classified.

    Aha! Wexler is asking about Principals’ meetings. Ashcroft: I attended a lot of meetings there … they were all classified … I will not comment.

    The Newsweek quote, Jane Mayer’s quote: Ashcroft: any statement I would make in a classified setting I would not comment on. Appalled by leaks, etc.

    Wexler: who was in those meetings beyond the lists we already have. Ashcroft refuses to comment.

    Wexler: you were specifically uncomfortable, to you credit. Ashcroft: do you think I would want to break the law if it were to my credit? *laughter*

  67. Leen says:

    Hell yes he should have been held accountable for dropping the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Disproportionate response

  68. skdadl says:

    Lungren making some perverse point about times in history when the U.S. has done things like drop the bomb, killing innocents; incident in Eisenhower’s tenure (mustard gas); WWII …

    Oh. His point is to question Dellinger’s earlier interesting point about president committing civil disobedience and fessing up.

    Dellinger repeats his earlier position: we don’t engraft the exceptions into the law. Pres should violate law and then fess up.

  69. MarieRoget says:

    Shorter Ashcroft- “BushCo should do, & needs to dictate how to win our self-proclaimed WOT. John Yoo is a great man, he’s the shit. This hearing is really amusing, y’all, cheers. Me ‘n all my buds in the 2nd row find it chuckle-worthy. BushCo holds all the cards, unless you Congressional boys ‘n girls grow some huevos, which, doubtful. BushCo makes the rules on interrogation, you dumbells follow ‘em. Get it?”

    Dan Lungren up now.

    I’m needing to get out of here to work. This is nauseating.

  70. skdadl says:

    Delahunt (I wish I could vote for this man. He knows more about Arar than most Canadians do.): Praising Dellinger’s answer to Lungren, constitutional defence. Retells what we know of the experience with KSM — rapport building worked early on, torture later didn’t.

  71. pmorlan says:

    Dellinger. OLC opinion shields administration unless the legal opinon was a sham not issued in good faith and the action officer knew it was a sham and not offered in good faith.

  72. pmorlan says:

    So how can we prove that the OLC memo was a sham not offered in good faith and that Yoo and Bybee knew it?

    • pmorlan says:

      I guess Yoo and Bybee would not be the action officer….the other people who acted upon their memo would be the action officers.

  73. skdadl says:

    Keller’s questions: Dellinger has a chance to clarify earlier mess over difference between assassination and torture. Shame that Dellinger has to rely on the xenophobic argument.

    Keller is just being thick. Me, I’m not a fan of assassinations, but even I can see the clear difference between what you do in a fight and what you do when interrogating someone who is under your control.

  74. skdadl says:

    Sanchez is putting her questions wrong — it’s too easy for Ashcroft to duck questions about the president — although he is giving a suspect answer — he’s answering as though he were the president’s lawyer, which he isn’t supposed to be.

  75. pmorlan says:

    Can anyone tell me why Ms. Sanchez would ask a string of questions that she knows Ashcroft won’t answer because it concerns conversations with the president?

  76. skdadl says:

    Sanchez entions Comey’s and Iglesias’s statements, asks whether Ashcroft’s departure was voluntary. He says yes, but ducks questions.

    Aware of people hired into honours program for political reasons: Ashcroft, no awareness.

  77. pmorlan says:

    I can hardly wait to hear from the lawyers here at Firedoglake about today’s testimony. As a non-lawyer it’s hard for me to know what might be truly important in this hearing and what is just fluff.

  78. pmorlan says:

    AShcroft…it is not a sacrifice of liberty to protect it.

    Uh, that would depend upon how you go about protecting it.

  79. skdadl says:

    He just said that the admin has never tortured because there was always a memo there to cover whatever was done at the time.

  80. skdadl says:

    Cohen has really speeded up his questioning style. He’s done well.

    OMG: He’s even ducking Comey’s account of the hospital visit. Different people, different opinions. Sheesh. Where is Comey? Is he capable of losing his temper?

  81. skdadl says:

    I was going to ask earlier whether Ashcroft would favour us with a song. Well, he just said he feels like doing that — ready to stand up and sing the national anthem …

  82. skdadl says:

    Steve King: Everything is political, heh heh heh. Well, he sure is.

    Do these guys never reflect that there is a rest of the world?

  83. bmaz says:

    From Carrie Johnson at the WaPo. (Via Laura at War& Piece):

    Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft offered the White House a list of five candidates to lead the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel in early 2003, but top administration officials summarily rejected them in favor of installing a loyalist who would provide the legal footing needed to continue coercive interrogation techniques and broadly interpret executive power, according to two former administration officials.

    In an angry phone call hours after Ashcroft’s list reached the White House, President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., quickly dismissed the candidates, all Republican lawyers with impeccable credentials, the sources said. He and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that Ashcroft promote John Yoo, a onetime OLC deputy who had worked closely with Gonzales and vice presidential adviser David S. Addington to draft memos supporting a controversial warrantless wiretapping plan and detainee questioning techniques.

    Ashcroft’s refusal created a tense standoff and was the only time in the attorney general’s tenure that Bush was called upon to resolve a personnel dispute, the sources said.

    The process led the White House team to introduce a compromise choice — Jack L. Goldsmith, a Defense Department lawyer then on leave from a teaching post at the University of Chicago Law School.

    But Goldsmith’s tenure did not proceed as White House aides had expected.

    Yeah, I dunno about that last sentence. Seems like it worked out pretty well for the torture and spymongering jerks if you ask me.