About Democratic Complicity: the Early Briefings on Torture

Leen links to two articles suggesting the Democrats are reluctant to have a truth commission because of their own complicity in torture.

Now, I don’t mean to be an apologist for Democrats on torture–because I do believe the Constitutional Speech and Debate clause must take precedence over national security guidelines that limit briefings to the Gang of Four or Eight. But before we start attacking Democrats, let’s establish what we know about briefings that happened before the waterboarding of detainees. Between the public spat between Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman’s letter to Scott Muller, and the SSCI Narrative, we can establish that the only Democrat who was briefed in time to prevent waterboarding and told it had been and was going to be used–Jane Harman–wrote a letter raising concerns about the techniques.

Fall 2002: The CIA first briefed the Gang of Four (then comprising Richard Shelby, Porter Goss, Bob Graham, and Nancy Pelosi) after the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah had already ended–and possibly after the waterboarding of al-Nashiri had, too. Furthermore, even Porter Goss appears to confirm Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA spoke of enhanced techniques (whether or not they mentioned waterboarding specifically) as a prospective activity. That is, in fall 2002, CIA did not reveal that it had already waterboarded Abu Zubaydah (and possibly al-Nashiri).

January/February 2003: Three of four leaders in the intelligence committees changed in 2003. Jello Jay replaced Graham (who was running for President), Pat Roberts replaced Shelby (who had been ousted for leaking classified information), and Jane Harman replaced Pelosi (who had become Minority Leader). The SSCI Narrative notes that Roberts–but not Jello Jay–got a briefing in "early 2003" (though Jello Jay’s staffer did attend).

After the change in leadership of the Committee in January of 2003, CIA records indicate that the new Chairman of the Committee was briefed on the CIA’s program in early 2003. Although the new Vice-Chairman did not attend that briefing, it was attended by both the staff director and minority staff director of the Committee.

In addition, Scott Muller refers to briefing Goss and Harman on February 5, 2003.

Thank you for your letter of 10 February following up on the briefing we gave you and Congressman Goss on 5 February concerning the Central Intelligence Agency’s limited use of the handful of specially approved interrogation techniques we described.

Muller’s reference to Goss and Harman–but not Roberts–suggests it’s possible that Roberts received a separate briefing, potentially with different content. We know from the briefing record on the illegal wiretap program that the Administration did do this, and some of those partial briefings appear to be strategically chosen (note, for example, that after the wiretap program was revealed, Jello Jay was briefed with all the Republicans, but the other Democrats received a briefing of their own–with Pat Roberts present to baby-sit). In other words, we can’t be sure that the Goss-Harman briefing was the same as the Roberts briefing, which Jello Jay did not attend. 

So by February 2003, only one Democrat had been informed directly that enhanced techniques had already been used–Jane Harman. And she wrote a letter even before KSM was captured, questioning the policy wisdom of the techniques and warning CIA to keep the records of the interrogations.

After March 2003: Finally, the SSCI Narrative reveals that Jello Jay and Pat Roberts (and potentially their House counterparts) were briefed after KSM’s waterboarding was complete.

According to CIA records, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee were also briefed on aspects of the program later in 2003, after the use of interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.

To be clear, this schedule doesn’t absolve Pelosi and (especially) Jello Jay from not having objected. And it’s worth noting that Jello Jay was the one who pushed to have this narrative constructed; since he is the only Democrat who was briefed before 2006 that torture had occurred but apparently didn’t object, the narrative may be CYA for him. And Jello Jay’s more significant complicity may explain why the Senate (Jello Jay is still on SSCI) has more strongly objected to an inquiry than the House, where Pelosi is pushing for one.

Now, Jello Jay was an early backer of Obama, so it’s possible Obama’s opposed to a truth commission to protect a close ally. But we should be careful not to suggest that all Democrats would need such protection.

105 replies
  1. SaltinWound says:

    When Pelosi acts as if she had no options, I really have no idea what she’s talking about. What is the worst she thinks would have happened? She could have been put in jail like Judy Miller? I don’t believe it would have happened, but that’s about the worst I can imagine. So Pelosi doesn’t even have the resolve that Judy Miller had. She didn’t have the courage to protect something much more important than what Miller was protecting. She could have spoken up at any time, she just wasn’t willing to deal with the consequences (E.W.: please substitute comprising for comprised of)

  2. MadDog says:

    EW, you need a correction here:

    In addition, Scott Muller refers to briefing Goss and Harman on February 5, 2002.

    And here:

    So by February 2002, only one Democrat had been informed directly that enhanced techniques had already been used–Jane Harman.

    2002 should be 2003.

    Otherwise, that briefing would make it before the waterboarding happened, and contradicting one of your strongest points. *g*

  3. phred says:

    Just a quick question EW… You note that staffers attended the meeting Jello Jay missed. Haven’t we been told that members of Congress were briefed on things so super-duper secret that they couldn’t be discussed with anyone, not even staffers? If that’s true, how come staffers were able to attend one of these briefings? I’m puzzled.

  4. JTMinIA says:

    Assuming that I have (in my head) swapped the correct 2002s for 2003s, then I see your point RE Senate vs House. And it sure as heck makes me wonder if Harman was being reverse targeted in various wiretaps to get something to keep her quiet. As the wonderful experiments by Asch showed quite clearly – see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6LH10-3H8k – it only takes one person going against the “standard story” to get everything to think and act for themselves. Therefore, Harman could have been a real problem if they couldn’t keep her quiet.

    I still have a gut feeling that we’re all missing something critical about Pelosi. I still think that they had something on her, too.

  5. phred says:

    Oh and one other question… do we know whether the Gang of 4 was briefed together or separately in the Fall of 2002?

    • emptywheel says:

      From Goss’ and Pelosi’s comments, it appears they were briefed together.

      I’ve got a hunch that Goss gave his own private signoff before the torture happened–which would be one reason he’s so touchy on this front. But that’s just a hunch.

      • phred says:

        So Goss and Pelosi get one briefing and Graham and Shelby another?

        I’m still trying to figure out if there is any way that Graham was not lying when he denied being briefed on enhanced interrogation at all. Seems a foolish statement to make if it wasn’t true, surely he can parse as well as Pelosi and Goss.

        • JohnJ says:

          I should point out that Graham quit soon after this all started. I liked Graham and would have supported him as prez or vice. I just think he saw this fight as way more than he was willing to take on.

          • phred says:

            His denial the other day on NPR was very clear. I have no opinion on Graham one way or the other, but if he is not lying then it throws Goss right under the bus.

  6. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Marcy, please follow up on the following threads: Roberts received a separate briefing,; and Rockefeller’s staffer attended the briefing in his place

    • emptywheel says:

      What do you mean–why I think it happened? Dunno. The Jello Jay absence might have been that he just didn’t show–though for all I’m willing to criticize Jello Jay, he does seem like a guy who shows up. Though maybe they scheduled it during a semiannual caucus meeting or something to make sure he couldn’t show up?

      As to splitting the HPSCI and SSCI, I think they used splits in 2006 to separate those they knew they could count on to protect the program–Republicans and Jello Jay–from those they suspected they couldn’t. And I imagine they did so so that the protectors could brainstorm how to get congressional support and whatnot. Given the history of the FISA debate after the fact it seems like they picked the right people in the right place. And you have Roberts in the Dem briefing to make sure you’ve got a witness to what was said.

      So why did they do waht they did? Dunno, but keep in mind the torture briefing for Harman came after her first wiretap briefing (which was January 29). So maybe they jsut figured she was gonna be a pain in the ass. On the torture front they turned out to be right.

  7. Loo Hoo. says:

    So by February 2002, only one Democrat had been informed directly that enhanced techniques had already been used

    Did you mean 2003?

  8. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, EW, for another piece of great research. I’m interested in this:

    January/February 2003:… The SSCI Narrative notes that Roberts–but not Jello Jay–got a briefing in “early 2003″ (though Jello Jay’s staffer did attend).

    How is it that such an important early briefing was attended by a staffer and not by the senator himself? Who was it, and what kind of clearances did s/he have? And what did s/he report back to Rockefeller? I’ve got the same questions as Phred.

    Bob in HI

    • cinnamonape says:

      I think that the Senior member of Rockefeller’s Staff on the Intelligence Committee was a fellow named Christopher Mellon. The Republicans started a campaign to destroy him later in the year. Hannity and others implied he was a traitor and trying to sabotage National Security.

      Judging from this the July 2003 meeting with the WH staff and NSA didn’t cover the CIA torture issue. That’s when Rockefeller wrote his http://rockefeller.senate.gov/…..1034& ">letter to Cheney.

      • rkilowatt says:

        Ah yes. [Senior member Rockefeller’s Staff]ChristopherMellon. Rockefellers and Mellons. Familiar bedfellows of the oligharchy standing guard duty.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Good parsing of what’s publicly available. I should think the GOP and its house-trained media want to tar the Dems as much to share the blame as to suggest there’s nothing special about torture. Why politicize “routine” politics by suggesting it’s criminal behavior?

    The Dems do seem to want to shut down an investigation. That it might “distract” from Obama’s agenda seems a weak and cowardly excuse. The government can walk and chew gum together.

    The threat the Dems may be hiding is a GOP threat essentially to “shut down the government” altogether, obstruct any and all business from being conducted.

    If so, it is passing odd that the Dems should do the GOP the favor of hiding such a grossly irresponsible, so subversive a threat. It’s bad for Dems only if they’ve already caved into it. If so, the Dems are hiding that complicity, not the underlying harm they refuse to investigate.

    • MadDog says:

      …I should think the GOP and its house-trained media want to tar the Dems as much to share the blame as to suggest there’s nothing special about torture. Why politicize “routine” politics by suggesting it’s criminal behavior?

      As I said over at Glenn’s place in commentary on the latest Broderisms:

      The Villagers, as lead by the dean of the ignoranti himself David Broder, earnestly decrie “criminalizing policy”.

      And thus per their illogic, they make Down into Up, Out into In, and Wrong into Right.

      No Villagers, you, as is usually the case, have it all backwards.

      This is not about “criminalizing policy”.

      This is instead about “politicizing criminality”!

      You, The Villagers, aid, abet and give cover to criminals. Criminals whose very deeds you applaud. Criminals, very much like you!

      Substitute Repugs for Broder, and you get the Repug party line.

      Criminals are never against their own prosecution! /snark

      Shorter Repug Party: “We are an ongoing criminal enterprise!”

    • prostratedragon says:

      The threat the Dems may be hiding is a GOP threat essentially to “shut down the government” altogether, obstruct any and all business from being conducted.

      I’ve always felt that a threat of the “or I’ll shoot this dog” variety was more credible than hiding the sum of a lot of individual but isolated sins for explaining this particular bit of strange silence on prisoner treatment; ditto the larger matter of high executive impeachments. After all, actually seeking out and running the thing over a period of months or years are quite a bit worse than having signed off on it in a moment of perhaps hermetically fostered ignorance. There’s third or even fourth degree damage, and then there’s cremation.

      And by “shoot” and “dog” I mean some very substantial euphemisms. Consider the actual large-scale deeds that we know from this crowd, like the dismissive treatment of the New Orleans metro area or, I’m sure it will be clear in time if it isn’t already, the disregard of known risks to the public in using us and all our savings to pump up a dangerous housing bubble. One just doesn’t know what a cohort that sees itself as disconnected from normal contigencies will do in the name of its immediate needs.

      • bmaz says:

        Well said, and I think not only is there merit to that, it is still that way. Still the whiny threat made by the Republicans protecting their, and Bush’s, legacy.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The whistle blown by the GOP I expect. What’s embarrassing is how smartly the Democrats stop wagging their tails and come to attention when they hear it. What will three or four more Democratic votes in the Senate accomplish, I wonder.

          • bmaz says:

            With no more resolve nor dedication to the Constitution, the people’s best interest and good governance, it is hard to believe that 3 or 4 more votes brings us that much joy. Makes what they will do easier, but it is hard to envision the paradigm shift that is really necessary.

  10. Mary says:

    I know you aren’t trying to be an apologist EW, but not only does it not make any sense for Pelosi to say that everyone took the time for this uber secret meeting to discuss something that the CIA wasn’t doing or going to be doing, but you can tell from how she spins so fast to the “but what could I have done” that she knows how silly it sounds to say that briefing was just to kill time, not bc anyone was going to be doing any of it.

    In any event, she, Goss, Rockefeller et al could bolster or punch their cases with a couple of simple to answer questions. Under the National Security Act, when there is a briefing on PResidentially authorizedrcovert activity to the Intel Chair and ranking member, the Intel committee members are supposed to be given a finding, either in writing or shortly thereafter reduced to writing. Did they get any finding on the interrogation techniques they were being briefed on?

    In addition, if the chair and ranking member get briefed on something that is not being briefed to the full committee, they are also supposed to get a statement from the President setting forth WHY the briefing is being limed. Since supposedly the full committees have now been briefed, maybe Pelosi, Harman et al can share whether they received the statutorily required statement or not, and what reason was given.

    Those would flesh out the crediblity, but I have to say, it beggers belief that Pelosi is going to parse that she was being told we “could torture” but she thought the purpose of the secret briefing that the President thought he “could’ torture had nothing to do with the President actually torturing. And she sat silent through all of Rumsfeld’s “bad apples” crap while soldiers went to jail. She sat silent after Abu Ghraib, she sat silent through so much and not only silent, but supportive that she WOULD NOT allow any impeachment investigaions to move forward (by 2006 wasn’t she even curious as to what was being done vis a vis all those things she we told the President thought were “legal”?) She closed down efforts to enforce all kinds of evidentiary compulsions in the House – she appointed Goss to the ethics reveiw panel, etc. You can parse whether she was TOLD that they were torturing or not, but I don’t think that you can parse that any normal human would have believed that they were getting the briefing to test the waters and see if there was going to be any objection and that if not it was likely to be done if it hadn’t already been done, or that a normal person receiving her briefing would have reacted to Abu Ghraib with the knowledged of what they had been told “might” happen.

  11. Mary says:

    BTW, so we do know that by the Jan/Feb briefing, if Rockefeller’s staffer attended, then Rockefeller had at least one staffer cleared and briefed in?

  12. Mary says:

    18 – *g* I dropped the NSA info into EPU land on last night on that post.

    BTW/nonsequitor – I also sent an email to Sifton re: his “decoder” that he had his 7-13 meeting list wrong, but that you had it up correctly with Levin, not Wainstein, as the FBI COS in the meeting.

    I’m horribly behind here, taking Sat off from farm and barnwork, so I may not check in again until late night or tomorrow, but I really would like to see if Goss (or any of them for that matter) gets nailed with questions about the finding and statement they should have received if this was an actual in process covert program they were briefed on.

    • fatster says:

      Glad to see you back. Hope your stable clean-up was not Augean, and that the lemon squares were good.

  13. JohnJ says:

    I don’t think you’ll get anywhere, but Bob Graham is the person who knew what was going on. I think he was smart enough to know that either he risked his career, freedom, and even life to bring what he knew to light or he just quit. Looking at what our Government was turned into at that time; an Authoritarian Oligarchy in which he was NOT of the ruling party, he most likely made the only decision he could.

    I remember when he quit the Senate I thought, “he’s seen something he that scared the hell out of him and can’t talk about it”.

  14. behindthefall says:

    Just watching a German film called “The Counterfeiters” about a group of concentration camp inmates creating perfect pounds and dollars. Comparing the treatment of the prisoners then with the treatment of prisoners now, under the Bush Administration. Have we ever shot a prisoner on the spot? No? Thank God for small favors. Otherwise, you could think that the two regimes were quite similar.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Have we ever shot a prisoner on the spot? No?

      I recall several cases. Late in WW2 the Germans attempted to infiltrate allied lines in US uniformas and assassinate Patton. The plotters were captured, and interrogated – showing an utter lack of basic knowledge of American culture and several only spoke German. They were, without superior orders, beaten, and then shot.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Difference between prisoners of war and spies. They were in US uniforms, they’re spies. And spies may be shot without further adieu in war time.

        That said, in a book called “Company Commander”, the author describes a german POW being shot by two US soldiers during the battle of the bulge. The soldiers were supposed to be escorting the prisoner back to Division HQ, didn’t want their buddies to be without backup for that long during the height of the battle.

        Boxturtle (Doesn’t make it right, however)

        • cinnamonape says:

          BTW Correction…the rumor was that they were trying to assassinate Ike (not Patton). After the war it turns out that the “Ike story” may have been a counter-story to their actual goal, which was to capture two critical bridges behind enemy lines. By drawing off forces from the area and shifting security focus to where Ike was staying it was possibly thought to make the other plan more successful. But the whole plan was beset with training and strategic errors.

          And I agree, there are a whole different set of provisions for spies or saboteurs caught out of uniform, behind enemy lines (even under the Geneva Conventions) …but apparently even the European Command wanted these guys officially interrogated. The quick execution prevented any useable info about what they were up to.

    • freepatriot says:

      Have we ever shot a prisoner on the spot?

      after Malmedy, some American units no longer “captured” SS prisoners

      it is possible forfeit the option of being taken prisoner

  15. R.H. Green says:

    Echoing the remarks of several others, I note that the reason for a briefing limited to committee leaders is to minimize exposure of classified info, and includes the practice of preventing discussion with others not briefed, and I think, even discussion outside the briefing among those so briefed. This would preclude a staffer (even if cleared to attend) reporting to his principal what was said there. What’s up with this?

  16. Leen says:

    So when they are briefed about classified intelligence can they talk about what they have heard in these meetings after the meetings? ? Has to be a great deal that they are still unable to talk about due to it still being classified.

    Just love this clip of George Will and Donna Brazille.

    George Will “He (Obama) is tiptoeing into deep and very dangerous waters here”

    “what do you do about those who commissioned the lawyering and on whose behalf the lawyering was done. Condeleeza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush. Once you start up that pyramid and it’s not a slippery slope it’s a pyramid they are climbing,it’s very hard to stop.”

    Donnna Brazille “go up the pyramid, find out if there are Republican’s Democrat’s, no one is above the law George”


    But we do know that this endless mantra “no one is above the law” is complete hogwash..but yet we still want to believe!

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      Whenever I hear “pyramid” now I can’t help thinking of the naked pyramids at Abu Ghraib…

      Speaking of the Sunday gasbags, on Fox Bill Kristol was all, “Publish all the memos. Let’s get it all out there. BRING IT ON!!”

  17. Mary says:

    OT driveby, but I guess Obama’s DOJ decided to pursue cert and argument to try to get rid of the precedent of Michigan v. Jackson.

    M v. J

    “established a prophylactic rule that automatically invalidates a criminal defendant’s waiver of the right to counsel in police-initiated questioning that occurs after his Sixth Amendment right to counsel has attached and he has asserted that right at an arraignment or similar proceeding.”

    In the midst of our torture debates, Obama’s DOJ is arguing that the Sup Ct should ditch the precedent because there are SOOOOO MANYYYY protections against coerced testimony that there’s no real need for it.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with trying to set precedent to launder torture confessions of people represented by counsel, like al-Marri for example have been.

    • bmaz says:

      And people wonder why I yelp about the Obama crew not being Constitutional scholars. The right to counsel, whether viewed under the auspices of a 5th Amendment right to silence entry point as Miranda or a 6th Amendment paradigm such as Edwards v. Arizona (the father of Michigan v. Jackson by the way) either means something or it doesn’t. The Obama crew, via their Kagan led Solicitor General’s office, clearly just don’t think all that much of the right to counsel. The Federalist Society must be pleased; me, not so much.

  18. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Another nail in the BushCo coffin, this from Greg Miller at the Los Angeles Times:

    The CIA used an arsenal of severe interrogation techniques on imprisoned Al Qaeda suspects for nearly seven years without seeking a rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

    The failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003. That year, the agency’s inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, and recommended a study by outside experts on whether they worked.

    • bmaz says:

      They couldn’t do a “rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary”; that would have produced a negative answer. This is damning, but certainly not surprising.

    • MadDog says:

      And this is more of what EW has been after:

      A CIA spokesman declined to comment on what Soufan may have been shown, but wrote in an e-mail to NEWSWEEK: “The Aug. 1, 2002, memo from the Department of Justice wasn’t the first piece of legal guidance for the [interrogation] program.”

      • MadDog says:

        And this shows that EW has been pursuing the right dot connections:

        …But the tenor of the Abu Zubaydah interrogations changed a few days later, when a CIA contractor showed up. Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah

        (My Bold)

  19. rkilowatt says:

    What do Ken Lewis[B of A] and Jane Harmon share?
    Ans.: A 1-way verbal briefing, alone and under duress, without credible witnesses [in Feb 2003, “briefee” Goss not credible; he is CIA, who were the briefers].

  20. freepatriot says:

    any discussion of Pelosi’s cupability has to consider that part of bush’s criminal conspiracy to commit torture involved lying to Congress about the scope of the crime

    Pelosi wasn’t “following orders”, she was following lies
    her cupability has to be measured against the plausability of those lies, and the date of the investigation

    in 2007, Nancy Pelosi might have been exonerated by the lies

    now ???

    not likely

  21. behindthefall says:

    I was thinking of prisoners in a camp (or whatever you call it). Shooting individuals is a powerful theme in the movie I was watching. Hoping we hadn’t picked up that particular habit …

    • Leen says:

      Had never heard about Alyssa. This young woman clearly had a conscience. So sad that she took her own life as a direct consequence of orders from up ladder.

      So many suicides as a direct result of this war based on a “pack of lies”

      Over at Oxdown Aquarius has a great link to a video with David rivkin and Matthew Alexander (Army interrogator in Iraq) discussing torture

      Are there any individual legal actions against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld for ordering these young people to commit torture?

      • fatster says:

        Oh, Freep, a best friend was there and not only got to speak briefly to, but shake the hand of, Dr. Dean! (She’ll tell me more a little later this pm.) Altogether, a good day for us Left Coasters.

  22. fatster says:

    Frank RIch of the NYT lets loose:

    “President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. . . . We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.”

    It does seem to be building.



    • Leen says:

      And building

      Torture: Obama Equivocates, Conyers Investigates

      “President Barack Obama has equivocated once again about the possibilities of torture prosecutions. “For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be prosecuted,” Obama told the press on April 21, according to the Washington Post. “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.

      That statement is all but a flat-out contradiction of his statement just five days earlier, when he essentially ruled out any prosecutions against the torturers, the officials who ordered the torture, and those who provided the pseudo-legal cover for the torturers. “It is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” Obama said, adding that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

      Obama’s new position is essentially the same as the defense of German concentration camp guards at the Nuremburg war crimes trials after the Second World War: “I was only following orders, so I’m not liable for any crimes I’ve committed.” The liability for government officials for their crimes, despite any veneer of legality or orders from above, was perhaps the only positive principle that emerged from the otherwise notorious Nuremburg trials. Obama now says that a principle of his government is that government officials can commit any crime with impunity, so long as they can get a memo from the Justice Department saying it’s “legal.””

      • emptywheel says:

        Crappy reporting. Obama’s stance has been consistent: those within 4 corners will not be prosecuted, those who set up the torture or who violated the 4 corners, may be. Same stance Holder has had and maintained in his confirmation. They may not want to do this but they haven’t ruled against it.

  23. timtimes says:

    Buzzer sounds on George Will.

    Let’s not start from the bottom up, let’s start from the top down.

    We’ve already got the enlisted people WHO FOLLOWED THE ORDERS in jail.


  24. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Joan Walsh on CNN’s Reliable Sources tries to get this point through David Frum and Chris Cillizza’s thick skulls. I’m really happy to see this being said out loud and insistently on any network beyond the Olbermann/Maddow network, ummm… watzitzname?

    Torture is Illegal Whether it Works or Not

    • skdadl says:

      I’m going to try not to overgeneralize here. On behalf of almost all the Canadians I know personally and have spoken to within recent memory, I wish to apologize to y’all for sending you David Frum.

      All the same, would you mind keeping him?

      • Leen says:

        I knew someone was writing about Frum recently
        In any case, Rep. Harman is not alone in her shamelessness, not as long as there are people like David Frum around. Frum, you ‘ll recall, is the author of the “axis of evil” trope, fired from his White House speechwriting job for grandstanding — or, rather, for his wife’s grandstanding — and now embarked on a crusade to save the GOP from “extremism” — this from a man who wrote a book calling for the invasion of nearly every country in the Middle East, and advocating total surveillance of the American people by government authorities. He also wrote a deranged piece for National Review that attacked antiwar conservatives as “traitors.” This last is a bit much to take given his latest: a piece portraying Harman — and Rosen and Weissman — as “heroes,” and smearing US prosecutors as anti-Semites and worse.

        According to Frum, the thievery of vital US intelligence engaged in by Rosen and Weissman — stealing highly classified secrets related to Al Qaeda, providing documents revealing internal US government discussions, and various other sensitive items — never happened. These acts are described in the indictment, but Frum isn’t interested in the indictment, or in even knowing the details of the government’s case. All that he tells us is that “the story is almost insanely complicated” — when it actually isn’t at all complicated, unless one is trying willfully to misunderstand the charges and their basis in fact.


  25. fatster says:

    EW, Leen, All.

    And building:

    Nadler’s just raised Podesta’s bid:

    “I don’t think it is controllable. I don’t think it was ever controllable. The law is what the law is,” he said. “You’ve got to follow where the facts lead. They may very well wind up with Dick Cheney. They may wind up with Rumsfeld.”



  26. Leen says:

    EW/all have you read this one? (this is Stein’s second installment on just what was caught on the wiretapping

    Source: Wiretap Caught Harman Discussing Pelosi Fundraising Flap

    By Jeff Stein | April 22, 2009

    “Harman and the target of the NSA intercept mutually rued the tactics of Saban, a major Democratic donor, to influence Pelosi, said the former national security official.

    The former official, who has provided accurate information on Harman’s intercepted conversations, did so only on the condition of anonymity because the material remains highly classified.

    In the wiretapped conversation, the target was heard telling Harman that “Pelosi went ballistic” when Saban allegedly warned her that if Harman were not made chairman of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections “‘you’ll get no more contributions from me,’” according to the former official’s paraphrase of the conversation.

    At the time, with Democrats already optimistic about retaking Congress in the 2006 elections, Harman was eager to trade in her status as the committee’s ranking Democrat for the chairman’s gavel.

    Pro-Israel operatives, meanwhile, were equally eager to get one of their own, the committee’s lone Jewish member, appointed chairman, a former intelligence official involved in the case said.”

    #### I did not realize that Harman was taped in a conversation with the “agent” later saying that the effort to persuade/threaten Pelosi had not worked. Is this the “completed crime” confirmation?

    Will this investigation of Harman be re-opened?

  27. JohnLopresti says:

    It would be interesting to look at the ranks of the professionals who supported the neotocha paradigm in agencies in which party membership might not be apparent readily, i.e., to look more at the party of associates of Garzon’s named six defendants, and less at the gamed Democrats among the G8+n.

  28. Leen says:

    And building

    ‘We Could Have Done This the Right Way’
    By Michael Isikoff | NEWSWEEK
    Published Apr 25, 2009

    “According to a later Justice Department inspector general’s report, D’Amuro warned FBI Director Bob Mueller that such activities would eventually be investigated. “Someday, people are going to be sitting in front of green felt tables having to testify about all of this,” D’Amuro said, according to one of the sources.”


    How Ali Soufan, an FBI agent, got Abu Zubaydah to talk without torture.
    “Now it was Soufan who was stunned. The FBI had been trying to determine the identity of a mysterious “Mukhtar,” whom bin Laden kept referring to on a tape he made after 9/11. Now Soufan knew: Mukhtar was the man in the photo, terror fugitive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, as Abu Zubaydah blurted out, ” the one behind 9/11.”

    As the sessions continued, Soufan engaged Abu Zubaydah in long discussions about his world view, which included a tinge of socialism. After Abu Zubaydah railed one day about the influence of American imperialist corporations, he asked Soufan to get him a Coca-Cola—a request that prompted the two of them to laugh. Soon enough, Abu Zubaydah offered up more information—about the bizarre plans of a jihadist from Puerto Rico to set off a “dirty bomb” inside the country. This information led to Padilla’s arrest in Chicago by the FBI in early May.

    But the tenor of the Abu Zubaydah interrogations changed a few days later, when a CIA contractor showed up. Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah. He directed that Abu Zubaydah be ordered to answer questions or face a gradual increase in aggressive techniques. One day Soufan entered Abu Zubadyah’s room and saw that he had been stripped naked; he covered him with a towel.

    The confrontations began. “I asked [the contractor] if he’d ever interrogated anyone, and he said no,” Soufan says. But that didn’t matter, the contractor shot back: “Science is science. This is a behavioral issue.” The contractor suggested Soufan was the inexperienced one. “He told me he’s a psychologist and he knows how the human mind works.” Mitchell told NEWSWEEK, “I would love to tell my story.” But then he added, “I have signed a nondisclosure agreement that will not even allow me to correct false allegations.”

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      So the Padilla arrest was a result of regular FBI interrogation. Did we know that? I thought people were upset because it had come out of enhanced interrogation.

  29. Loo Hoo. says:

    OT via Huffpo:

    This afternoon, New Yorker contributor Keith Gessen was detained by OMON (Russian special forces unit) while he was covering the mayoral election in Sochi, the city which will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. According to Gazeta.ru, Russian online…

  30. rkilowatt says:

    50..re Alyssa ’s suicide– more than a handful have experience in deliberate refusal, in good conscience, to follow orders in military. Hers potentially was precedent-setting. Had she told her story, she might well have found a huge audience The result was she became a target. Good bet much happened between her refusal and death that in not known. Recall JEHoover’s memo to MLK suggesting that fast-rising speaker take his own life. His audiences were blossoming.Globally.

    BTW, is there only faint legalese between slavery and the military draft?

    57..torture is illegal whether it works or not– The criteria of “it works” has not been carefully laid out. E.g.-long-term and pervasive effects not enumerated.

    37.. shooting prisoners–many times prisoners arenot taken. They are deliberately disposed on contact. As regards “after taken”, that offense is so blatant that super efforts are made to suppress incidents…which include the modern segue of tossing out of a helo while other prisoners observe so as to encoourage cooperation; and then another until cooperation is had.[SE Asia, et al]
    Contracting-out terror–does that include giving hot-prospect prisoner to SKorean unit to extract info[SE Asia]?

    • bobschacht says:

      50..re Alyssa ’s suicide– more than a handful have experience in deliberate refusal, in good conscience, to follow orders in military. Hers potentially was precedent-setting. Had she told her story, she might well have found a huge audience The result was she became a target. Good bet much happened between her refusal and death that in not known. Recall JEHoover’s memo to MLK suggesting that fast-rising speaker take his own life. His audiences were blossoming.Globally.

      I used to live in Flagstaff, and in fact was living there at the time of Alyssa’s death. After mailing to them about the Alyssa memorials that have proliferated in recent days, I got some feedback that the family’s view of the “suicide” does not match the media portrayal. Could we have another Pat Tillman situation on our hands here? I’m trying to follow up to get more info.

      Bob in HI

      • rkilowatt says:

        re Alyssa–Learned of it only this week. I and surely many others appreciate your efforts..

  31. pmorlan says:

    Did everyone see the Mark Danner op-ed in WaPo? I guess they had to have someone like Danner to contrast Scheuer’s piece that is god awful. Scheuer actually uses Osama bin Laden as the boogie man in his torture is good piece. I told him if his torture techniques are so good why didn’t they help us catch bin Laden?

  32. SmileySam says:

    Maybe a little more proof of how the Dems felt gagged could be when Jello Jay was supposedly when told about the Warrantless Wiretaps, hand wrote a letter to complain about it and stuck a copy in his safe if I remember the story right. Why is no one pointing to this when the Right attacks Pelosi for not coming forward ??

    Just wondering…

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      Hayden learned of the Harman wiretap from a memo left by his predecessor when he became CIA director in May 2006. He took no action to notify congressional leaders, as required by a separation of powers protocol in place since the mid-1980s, Pelosi and Hastert have indicated.

      Instead, Hayden gave Harman an award.

      On June 18, 2007, the new CIA chief presented Harman with the Agency Seal Medal, “in appreciation for her thoughtful and thorough oversight of CIA as ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”

      In most scandals they tell you to follow the money – I guess for the Bush administration we should be following the awards.

  33. radiofreewill says:

    Imvho, we’re blundering through this All Wrong.

    Somehow, in the Obama-Era, we’ve jumped into the Bush-Slime of Secondary Issues – Torture, Warrantless Domestic Wire-tapping, Wall Street Control Fraud, the Collapse of the Auto Industry, and others – and as EW has said – there are no good guys in these stories.

    Why? Because they are all in the Bush-Slime – the realm of Duping and CYA and Implicit Guilt and Contrived ‘Appearances.’

    And they are All Secondary Issues.

    What could make Torture, Domestic Spying, Stealing our Home Values and Retirement Savings, and Cutting-Off the UAW Nose to Spite Detroit’s Face become Secondary Issues?

    What if the Primary Issue for All of the Goopers, and Some of Our Key Dems, is that they Cowered to Bush’s Claim to be the Unitary Executive – and they Pledged Loyalty to him.

    If so, then They Sold Out US – they Sold Out the Constitution – and they Sold Out the Rule of Law – right in the Very Beginning, when They Bowed Down to Bush.

    If so, then Everything after that was Kabuki – really Slimy Fucking Kabuki.

    The Secondary Messes We are trying to Clean-Up are Simply the Disasters of Bush’s Un-Checked and Un-Balanced, Heartless, Hateful Ideology having had the run of the Country – US, Our Global Good Name and Our Treasury – for 8 Nightmare Years – with the Support of All of the Goopers, and some of Our Key Dems.

    Rather than going on Expeditions through the Secondary Issues – where Everyone is Dirty – the right move would be to Cut-off the Head of the Snake, and Then look at its scales – the Secondary Issues – all in the light of the Actions of the Primary Bad Actor – the one who Slimed them All – on Issue after Issue – right after They kissed his boots.

    Release the UE Empowerment-Logic Legal Memo – the one that Put Bush Above the Law – [or, as a suitable substitute, the March 11, 2004 Document Re-Certifying the ‘legality’ of the President’s Program will do] and Let’s Get Right To the Origin of All the Disasters: Let’s go Right To when Bush Hijacked the Rule of Law – with the help of All of the Goopers, and some of Our Key Dems.

    There’s No Slime on that March 11, 2004 Re-Certification: The President’s Lawyer – Gonzo “the Judge” – ‘witnessed’ Bush’s Claim to be Above the Law.

    Chop on that Travesty of Tyranny – and the Rest of the Snake will Un-Coil right out of the Slime and into Clear View.

    • rkilowatt says:

      Building a case from the bottom up is not always optimum. It is sometimes doomed from the start, as when the legal queue is so long and heavy that fuel, engines and crew are spent and the case never leaves the runway. Twisted legal deadweight like “gum it to oblivion”, Colemanizing the process, other-intentioned judges, omitted data, mis-handled evidence, botched discovery, etc give the lie to fairness. I recall in the 1950s when $25,000 bought a judgeship in upstate New York. The instant matter may well be attacked from the top down. That is for the legal experts to decide.

    • worldwidehappiness says:

      Further to your excellent post…

      Bush used the tragedy of 9/11 as propaganda to start a war that killed, maimed, or displaced hundreds of thousands of people and lead to the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers. Many more were maimed and other Americans were converted into torturers.

      Pelosi: “Impeachment is off the table.”

      I’m astonished Bush is not in jail already. I mean what do you have to do to get jail time these days?

  34. Mary says:

    43 – me not so much either. I’d really like to expand my circle of people I feel are trustworthy in gov beyond Feingold, Leahy and Nadler.

    It’s like they have no vision or long game or wisdom.

    75/78 – the lemon squares were the best in the world. They were actually 2 minutes closed when I got there but I went through the back door and pleaded and three very nice young guys hung around another couple of minutes to sell me some lemon squares. 78 – Hastert the white Knight? Wow, the stories get stranger and stranger. So did Pelosi get a classified briefing as she seemed to indicate early on (which is why she couldn’t talk about it) or filled in by Hastert’s staffers who had been filled in by a whistleblower? Hastert doing battle with Gonzales – it’s like the battle between Lex Luther and the Joker.

    80 – I wish I could wonder, anymore I’m pretty certain what it gets you. A few social policy things, but not much in the end and definitely a complete sell out of the rule of law and Constitution and subjugation of Gov to The People.

  35. SparklestheIguana says:

    This is interesting.

    Repetitive Interrogations Reveal CIA’s Lack of Spies, Agency Veterans Say

    by Jeff Stein

    In the continuing cacophony over what torture is and whether it “works,” an important point has gone missing, say current and former counterterrorism operatives.

    The CIA’s reliance on repeated, and brutal, “enhanced” interrogation techniques shows how few spies the spy agency had before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

    That made the agency’s reliance on squeezing new information out of captured terrorist suspects all the more desperate, many say.

    When interrogation subjects coughed up some seemingly vital new information about new plots or al Qaeda personalities, the CIA had few means to check it against reports supplied by spies under its control, either in the terrorist group or elsewhere.

    Everything they were hearing was new. By many accounts interrogators slapping suspects like hamburger patties didn’t have a clue whether they were telling the truth. They didn’t have independent sources of information to know what was up.


    “It would be a nice feeling if we were able to listen to all this stuff coming out of one of these [prisoner’s] mouths and be able to say, ‘We know all that. Tell us something we don’t know,’” Faddis told me during a brief chat Thursday.

    As for CIA headquarters officials reportedly ordering interrogators to go back and hammer subjects again and again, even after they’d been milked dry, Faddis asked, “Why were they hanging desperately on every word they could wring out of the detainees?”


    “As a former CIA case officer, I believe the biggest drawback behind the use of harsh interrogation tactics is that it blackens the international reputation of the USA in general, and the CIA in particular, making potential walk-ins less willing to spy for the U.S,” he wrote.


    • Mary says:

      And if that is correct, it makes the incredible story of Abdurahmen Khadr seem a bit more plausible.

      … in November 2001, Mr. Khadr was taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance. He was then turned over to American forces, who investigated him and eventually hired him as an undercover CIA informer. As such he was planted, in the early months of 2003, as an “enemy combatant” in Guantánamo, where Mr. Khadr’s brother Omar was being held.

      Although the CIA has declined to comment on Mr. Khadr, the self-described CIA asset did submit to a polygraph examination in which he was asked about his work for U.S. intelligence, being paid for it and being flown on a small jet to Bosnia for his mission there. On all major aspects of his story, Abdurahman passed the polygraph (see Frontline’s editor’s note here). Further confirmation of Mr. Khadr’s story comes from The New York Times, which has reported that the broad outlines of Mr. Khadr’s story has been confirmed by an unnamed American official (see here).

      Very strange story, but one thing he says is that only about 10% of those at GITMO were al-Qaeda or likely to work with al-Qaeda and supposedly he passed that info on, up channel. Another weird aspect is that someone bought movie rights to his story and supposedly a script is being written.

  36. SparklestheIguana says:

    I still want to know why Hastert retired early. I feel like there’s something we don’t know. He’d lost a ton of weight so a lot of people thought he was dying or something, but he’s still of this world.

  37. emptywheel says:

    Nut uh. Not buying the Hastert angle. That “whistleblower” was a leaker trying to make political points and probably the person behind the rumors that started in 2006.

    Look what are the odds taht Michael Ledeen wasn’t on those wiretaps saying–AND FOLLOWING UP ON helping out Franklin and with it minimizing the chance that the rest of the network gets rolled up? Zero. But at the time he was arguably an executive branch consultant. So why is that not out there in the news?

    Nut uh. Not buying.

    • lukery says:

      I have a new post up arguing, in part, that the CIA person/people went to Hastert, in part, under the guise that it was policy/decorum/protocol to go to the Majority/Minority heads of the House. (That is, it provides cover that they could then go to Pelosi, and the media)

      As I say in my post, I think that the factual stuff in Stein’s report is all probably true – but the spin needs to be unspun.

      I also use scare-quotes around ‘whistleblower’ in my post I know a real one when I see one

      The 2006 ‘rumors’ were ‘facts,’ of course (unless I’m missing something?)

  38. CalGeorge says:

    If torture techniques were described to me in a super-secret session, I hopefully would not be so naive as to believe they would not be used. You’d have to be a yokel with no knowledge of the CIA to think that they wouldn’t go forward with whatever they were describing (or else why would the techniques be mentioned?).

    The Gang of Four (or Eight) rolled over and played patriotic. That’s what Congress always does.

  39. Dalybean says:

    I am sort of wondering where Andrew Sullivan is coming from in his near daily calls for the “exposure” of Nancy Pelosi. Anyone know?

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      I have no idea, but sometimes Sullivan is like a dog who won’t let go of a bone. Like the way he flogged his suspicions of Sarah Palin not actually being the mother of Tripp, or Trapp, or whatever the poor baby’s name is, to the point of ridiculousness.

  40. Mary says:

    98 – Hastert and Turkey have come up in connection with Edmonds.

    Makes you wonder how many members of Congress were being picked up.

    Also makes you revisit Cheney’s reaction to the Jefferson raid.

    • Cheryl says:

      I’ve often wondered how many congress critters are being picked up. Jello Jay was so insistent about releasing the Phase II part of the Inquiry into the Iraq war when the dems were in the minority and Roberts was dragging his feet on releasing it. When the Dems got the majority all of a sudden the release wasn’t so important. I still think they have something on Jay.

      I don’t recall Cheney’s the reaction to the Jefferson raid. Did he protect Jefferson’s office from being raided by the FBI? That sure wouldn’t surprise me.

      Is Edmonds still on a gag order by Congress?

      • Mary says:

        He didn’t protect them from the raid, which he might not have known about, but he and Addington were johnnies on the spot immediately thereafter saying that the FBI should not have been allowed to raid Congressional offices.

    • Leen says:

      What about Feith/Perle and defense contracts in Turkey. Thought I remember reading somewhere that Plame had been doing some work (spying) in this nect of the woods.

  41. Cheryl says:

    Interesting — wouldn’t we all like to know what Cheney had in his office before the unfortunate fire — or in his file marked “Detainees”.

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