Whitehouse: We Have to Look Back

This speech from Senator Whitehouse is a nice follow-on to this conversation. This is just a highlight–the whole thing is worth reading.

President Obama looks to that future. Given the depth and severity of those predicaments, we need all his energy to look forward to lead us to that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those "broad and sunlit uplands."

But, as we steer toward this broad and sunlit future, what about the past? As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.


In short, when you have pervasive infiltration into all the halls of government – judicial, legislative, and executive – of the most ignoble forms of influence; when you see systematic dismantling of historic processes and traditions of government that are the safeguards of our democracy; and when you have a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people…

Well, something very serious in the history of our republic has gone wrong, something that dims the light of progress for all humanity.


If we blind ourselves to this history, if we pull an invisibility cloak over it, we will deny ourselves its lessons. Those lessons came at too painful a cost to ignore. Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion. Indeed, disclosure and discussion is the difference between a valuable lesson for the bright upward forces of our democracy, and a blueprint for darker forces to return and do it all over again.

A little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, so that an educated population knows what was done and how, can show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, "Never, never, never, again;" so we can keep that light – that light that is at once America’s greatest gift and greatest strength – brightly shining. To do this, I submit, we must look back.

I’ll have a second YouTube from my conversation with Whitehouse up–though probably not until tomorrow–in which he addresses how we should look back with respect to torture.

  1. Nola Sue says:

    Dear Mr. President,

    What Whitehouse said.

    Nola Sue

    PS. And whatever Marcy tells you? Listen to that, too. Thanks.

  2. WilliamOckham says:

    We officially live in a pre 9/11 world:

    By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to improve the effectiveness of human intelligence gathering, to promote the safe, lawful, and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody and of United States personnel who are detained in armed conflicts, to ensure compliance with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions, and to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed, I hereby order as follows:

    Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, is revoked. All executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including but not limited to those issued to or by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals, are revoked to the extent of their inconsistency with this order. Heads of departments and agencies shall take all necessary steps to ensure that all directives, orders, and regulations of their respective departments or agencies are consistent with this order. Upon request, the Attorney General shall provide guidance about which directives, orders, and regulations are inconsistent with this order.

    [My bold, but Mr. Obama’s bold stroke]

  3. Redshift says:

    Nicely said. And I like the Harry Potter reference, too.

    I missed the last thread, but I have to wonder about how the FISA legislation was drafted. If you have a crime that can only be committed by an administration official, who would think that a statute of limitations of less than eight years would be a good idea?

    I’m guessing that this is another case of failure to imagine that we would ever have an administration as corrupt as the Bushies (the Justice Department, specifically), but still, it seems like a pretty obvious situation.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    While you’re chatting up folks in D.C., can you check in with Conyers and ask him about impeaching Jay Bybee?

    • LabDancer says:

      I agree; every case Bybee hears is a taint on the judicial system.

      I don’t mean to suggest this is inconsistent with what you urge, but IMO the preferred approach would be first at least to make sure we have as many of the OLC memos from his tenure there [& a bit longer], stick his butt in Congressional subcommittee hearing, get Arthur Davis & a few others tear into him so we have his testimony recorded. That would place his impeachment within the proper context, including the testimony already received from Addington, Yoo, Goldsmith & the independent experts, plus that stinky heap of grovelling contempt left behind by Gonzales. Otherwise, there’s a risk it will not just be spun as “impeachment by association” – of course it will – but that such spin won’t be responsibly answered in the official record. I don’t think this is a particularly big undertaking in the scheme of things, but the “teaching moment” value is great – as much if not more for the Bushie Federalist Cro-magnons on the federal bench as for the public – & should not be put at risk unreasonably.

      • NMvoiceofreason says:

        I agree completely. Two of my heroes from the past few sad years are Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Henry Waxman. Document what they did, pin their feet to the ground so they can’t dance, send them to prison.

        Hey anybody hear about the prosecutions for the two million violations of FISA (50 USC 1809)? No? Me neither.

  5. Leen says:

    Sheldon ” Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion” Let’s not forget accountability.

    Whitehouse gives me hope for the thousands of Americans and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s who have lost their lives unnecessarily based on a “pack of lies”

    Keep thinking about my conversation with Steven a young man that I had the privilige of standing next to during the inauguration. His job in Iraq was putting the dead bodies of American soldiers into body bags before they were brought back to the states.

    That false WMD intelligence and all of those who created, cherry picked and dessiminated and used these lies to convince the American people to support an unnecessary and immoral war and convince young men and women to join the military based on their belief that Iraq and 9/11 were connected need to be held accountable.

    This is the very least our Reps can do for those who have unnecessarily lost their lives

    • Nola Sue says:

      Thanks for telling us about Steven. A powerful demonstration of why This All Matters.

      Only sorta OT. I’ve been watching the end of President Obama’s speech at State on MSNBC, and now Jane Harman is on my teevee. A powerful reminder that our work is not done, and we can’t simply bask in this sunshine.

  6. pseudonymousinnc says:

    Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, is revoked.

    There’s something about the lack of decoration or qualification in that statement that feels like Obama has been picking up Bush EOs from a pile on the Oval Office desk, tearing them up and chucking them in the bin.

  7. Palli says:

    I’ll look forward to the next installment But in the text only respect and torture should not be in the same sentence no matter matter word stands between

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    I would expect Dawn Johnsen to appreciate whatever Senator Whitehouse might find possible to do to free the logjam at DoJ.

    OT: Bush midnight authorization to open some treasured coast to oil leases last week. Then Reuters says Obama has prevented the Bush directive’s promulgation to the Federal Register. Next, PeakOil assures readers Obama has continued to permit Department of Interior to write the prepublication text for the Federal Register. No word yet whether Obama can or wants to stop the environmental degradation juggernaut Bush launched at lameduck vespers last week. Our neighborhood is stenciled onto the draft regs for 2010, Atlantic coast some then some in ensuing year.

  9. 4jkb4ia says:

    “When government ceases to even try to understand the complex topography of the difficult problems it is our very purpose and duty to solve, and instead cares only for these points where it intersects with the party ideology, so that the purpose of government becomes no longer to solve problems, but only to work them for political advantage;”


  10. NMvoiceofreason says:

    We need to extend the system of checks and balances.

    Part of the problem was the politicization of the US Attorney system. This defect happened a long time ago, when parties were established, and the President was given the power to appoint them (by congress). Sooner or later, the two became welded into a system of preference for only members of one party, not the best people available. Is it too surprising that system de-evolved into a refusal to punish members of one’s own party or the current administration?

    The only solution is to have some (if not half) of the USAS appointed for terms of six years. The DC or VA USA should be appointed by the court, so that indictments (such as contempt of Congress) of the current administration can be processed. Either that or try the ones who refuse for treason. Hang a few, and the rest will see the light.

  11. pdaly says:

    I just realized I mistakenly posted this in the prior Whitehouse thread. Reposting here.

    Like those above, I add my praise and thanks for the heads up you provided Sen. Whitehouse re: likely motivation of the Republicans stalling on the Holder nomination. Whitehouse’s speech you linked to is great. Long live the light.

    Two ideas: now that Napolitano has sailed through Senate confirmation, is there anything left for the Senate to discuss if Obama switches players around and decides to move Napolitano to DOJ instead of Holder? If the Senate has nothing derogatory on Napolitano, this gets the DOJ up and running right away.

    Pres. Obama could insta-declassify the classified March 2004 document about the wiretapping of al-Haramain.
    If Bush is unmasked, well then oops. Obama could say, “My bad.”

    • NMvoiceofreason says:

      Politely need to disagree. The al-Haramain document needs to remain classified, but Obama should comply with the order, to let the Judge view it “in camera” and make findings of fact from it. Especially the part about keeping “the program” going even when the AG and acting AG refused to certify it.

      Napolitano doesn’t have the public corruption case background that Holder does. Does this give you a clue as to what area of practice Holder will need to use, and why the Republicans are so eager to block him for as long as they can? Maybe find a way to gain seven more weeks?

      Napolitano would have to be re-confirmed for a different slot, giving them time to play the same games. No win there.

  12. bmaz says:

    The al-Haramain document needs to remain classified

    Why do you say that? It is a freaking phone log. there are no sources and methods contained within its four corners. The reason, and the only reason, the thing is classified is because it contains a list of people who were illegally spied on. It is harmless, except that it is a list of victims. It is literally pretty much just a list of numbers and dates; a phone log. That’s it. And yes, I am sure of that. The attorneys who saw it said so.

    • NMvoiceofreason says:

      The reason I say that is that sources and methods are revealed by the list. Let’s say that in addition to Mr. al-Haramain (Mr.A), there are calls for Mr. Boobadou (Mr.B) a for real foreign operative, and Mr. CellofAQ (Mr.C), a for real cell of alQaeda operatives. Releasing the list lets all three know they were monitored on that day. The list also tells them how they were monitored (phone or email, etc.) and allows them to modify procedures so that they are no longer detected.

      One should NEVER let lawyers make intelligence policy. Especially defense lawyers. That is why we ended up with the abomination of the FISC on the side of the Constitution. Secret courts with secret trials and secret opinions – the founding Fathers would have had them all hanged for treason.

      • NMvoiceofreason says:

        I would like to correct the too harsh judgement of all lawyers as a bane and pox upon the house of intelligence – well, at least one Constitutional Law Professor seems to be quite capable (and is getting good advice – except for keeping Gates). I would also nominate my friend BMAZ, when advised by a paralegal with a background in these matters. Or likewise, my friends from TalkLeft (many of whom are defense lawyers I truly respect) – when advised by a paralegal with a background in these matters. I apologize for the offense.

  13. Dismayed says:

    Damn, our humble little blogger is all growd up! That’s journalism (reffering to questions prior to speech), and ain’t no air-headed little network NILF worthy of shining EW’s crocs.


  14. Dismayed says:

    PS – I wonder how long it will be before the MSM reporters realize just how bad they SUCK now that some REAL journalist, (you know, bloggers who really give a shit and have like a brain and like the balls to ask real questions) are getting creditials and access.

    It’s a brave new world – bout time.

  15. bmaz says:

    First off it is my understanding that the document is not at detailed as you hypothesize; secondly, the information contained on the document is five years old and the government has repeatedly asserted that the program is now completely different; third, the contents of the document are already known by the lawyers, they have already seen it; fourth, the government is only interested in keeping their criminality secret, not the contents of the document, because there are copies of the document overseas that the government didn’t even attempt to recover.

    You are biting off on a total load of crap.