“If You’re Trying to Commit a Crime,” You Wouldn’t Brief Democrats

I’ve been meticulously tracking the erroneous claims made about whether or not Democrats got briefed on torture because:

  • The known briefing schedule makes it clear that CIA broke the law requiring them to inform Congress of their actions
  • Some of the arguments rely on either illiteracy or willful ignorance of the public record in their claims

But in today’s hearing Lindsey Graham makes clear why the Republicans are arguing this point so aggressively.

Now. I don’t know what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it. And I really don’t think she’s a criminal if she was told about waterboarding and did nothing. But I think it is important to understand that members of Congress, allegedly, were briefed by … about these interrogation techniques. And again, it goes back to the idea of what was the Administration trying to do. If you’re trying to commit a crime, it seems to me that’d be the last thing you’d want to do. If you had in your mind and your heart that you’re going to disregard the law, and you’re going to come up with interrogation techniques that you know to be illegal, you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it. 



That’s the point now, isn’t it?

Because no one in Congress was told that the CIA was going to start torturing in 2002, until it was too late. Pelosi and Goss were told, after CIA had waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times, that CIA might waterboard in the future. Bob Graham was not told of waterboarding at all, according to him. Jello Jay was not at the briefing at which CIA told Pat Roberts "in considerable detail" about waterboarding. The CIA doesn’t even say Jane Harman was told about waterboarding specifically in February 2003 (though I assume she was). 

The first time CIA can say for certain that any Democratic members of Congress at all were briefed on waterboarding was in July 2004, after CIA had waterboarded for what ended up being the last time, and after their own Inspector General determined they were breaking the law.

And then, in 2005, when CIA was trying to sustain their ability to torture against Congressional wishes, CIA had briefings for Ted Stevens and Thad Cochran with no Democrats in attendance. They had a briefing for John McCain with no Democrats in attendance. They had two briefings for Bill Frist with no Democrats in attendance. They had a briefing for Duncan Hunter with no Democrats in attendance. They had a briefing for Crazy Pete Hoekstra with no Democrats in attendance. 

Lindsey Graham says that, "if you were trying to commit a crime … you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it." And that, as it turns out, is exactly what the public record shows: that the Bush Administration did not tell Democrats about what they were doing. For six months to two years after they started this program, and again when they were under pressure to end it, the Bush Administration did not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it.

Lindsey Graham says that’s evidence of criminal intent. And I think he may well be right.  

51 replies
  1. bobschacht says:

    Lindsay Graham is going to have to eat some crow. He got himself into a nice fix, now. “If,” Lindsay??? Shall we refer for prosecution now?

    Thanks, EW, and congrats on the award!

    Bob in HI

  2. TheraP says:

    Too funny! Guess Graham did not do his homework. I can see Condi now, scolding him and telling him: “Do your homework!” (meaning, read EW!)

    • foothillsmike says:

      It appears to me that Graham lost it and was operating on emotion and not brains. Maybe he was sleep deprived. *g*

  3. JimWhite says:

    Great job, Marcy. You nailed him on this one. You should fax a signed copy of this post to his office. It would be like signing the death warrant for the Republican Party.

    I love it when Lindsey and his friends say something that, as he says, “Comes back to bite” them.

    Bite. This. Lindsey.

  4. skdadl says:

    Very neat piece of writing, EW. I can see your grin from here.

    Graham is a master of passive aggression. Each time he mentioned Pelosi, I gave him an eyeroll and a who-do-you-think-you’re-foolin’, but I have a feeling he actually does fool a lot of people with his scattershot game.

      • skdadl says:

        Well, passive aggression is very aggressive. It’s an especially mean form of aggression. Remember Marc Antony on Brutus? “But Brutus is an honourable man” … over and over again, until he’s shredded Brutus.

        That’s what Graham was trying on Pelosi at least twice today. “Now, I really don’t think that Nancy Pelosi is a criminal …” Uh huh.

  5. Leen says:

    even Zellikow got into the blame the Democrats too game when he said that it had been a “collective failure”

    What was with Graham repeating they “did not rob a liquor store”

    His rant will “come back to bite him” in the ass.

  6. prostratedragon says:

    Marvelous. Lindsey Graham, The Great Deducer.

    Your award’s marvelous too, or differently —again, congratulations!

  7. Redshift says:

    Great catch! And Graham’s petard aside, doesn’t he realize what a laughably weak defense it is to say “if they were guilty, surely they wouldn’t have done this!” It’s just one step removed from “I didn’t do it, I wasn’t even there, and even if I was, you can’t prove nuthin’!”

  8. Hmmm says:

    “Senator Graham, there’s a Dr. Freud calling on line 4, did you want to take that?”

    • GregB says:

      I’m surprised he didn’t go back to the Bible for a time frame. Crucifying was quite effective from what I hear. That’s a technique the base will be clamoring for before this whole disgusting boil bursts open.


  9. lysias says:

    Speaking of passive aggression, what about the way Graham kept calling Soufan a “great American” to his face?

  10. LabDancer says:

    Ms E: Bingo. For this, and all else like it that you do, you deserve an award or something.

  11. lysias says:

    Sure it’s worked for 500 years. It’s succeeded in getting the tortured to confess what the torturers wanted, true or not.

  12. phred says:

    Given enough rope, Graham will hang a scarlet T right around PapaDick’s neck.

    Great post EW, thanks! It’s so helpful when Graham makes the same argument we have been making…

    And thanks for highlighting the Republicans Only in the Briefing Clubhouse. I really really appreciate it. Funny how the information on the briefers were “not available” for those chummy little get togethers, eh? Or not…

  13. klynn says:

    Thank you for transcribing that remark. I thought I must have misunderstood what he said earlier when I was watching live. You confirm that my ears did not deceive me.

    If you’re trying to commit a crime, it seems to me that’d be the last thing you’d want to do. If you had in your mind and your heart that you’re going to disregard the law, and you’re going to come up with interrogation techniques that you know to be illegal, you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it.

    EW writes:

    And that, as it turns out, is exactly what the public record shows: that the Bush Administration did not tell Democrats about what they were doing. For six months to two years after they started this program, and again when they were under pressure to end it, the Bush Administration did not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it.

    Lindsey Graham says that’s evidence of criminal intent. And I think he may well be right.

    (my emphasis)

    What is important about this is that it goes back to Mary’s point of criminal intent:

    This is going to be buried but I think that is very important, especially in light of the approach that Turner is taking.

    The Executive branch acted with deliberation over a period of YEARS to prevent the legislative branch from knowing that it was re-writing law via secret Presidential directives and secret OLC opininions; the Executive branch acted with deliberation over a period of YEARS to assert Presidential authority to override legislation and judicial precedent; and then – imo the worst of it – the Executive branch acted with deliberation over a period of YEARS to prevent any of their actions from ever receiving judicial review.

    That’s not a matter of someone in a panic making the wrong decision, bc someone in that position then has an “OMG, what have I done” response. What we have seen instead is a total lack of remorse and allocution.

    And while it is nice to see Congress start to look at a few things and start to think about its coverup legislation that evades the bigger and “wronger” point of what was done – the deliberate evasion of judicial review of actions by the Executive branch.

    8 years of deliberative effort to cover up your actions from judicial review is NOT evidence of acting in good faith.

    (my emphasis)

    Mary’s comment here:

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      I thought the interesting part was the admission that republicans get together and discuss their criminal activity. And that they’re careful to keep it from the democrats. Just standard procedure.

  14. marksb says:

    Marcy, congrats from an EW addict, an addiction that benefits me every day. Well done and well deserved!
    It’s clear that Cheney and the other GOPers showing up on the “news” shows are trying really hard to lie so much that the press and pundits will change their so-called reality. They want to control the conversation: we didn’t torture, the dem’s were briefed and didn’t say anything, the Geneva conventions didn’t count, anything the President does is legal, and whatever techniques we used/didn’t use got results that saved our collective asses over the last six years. So there!

    It’s an effort to enter into Weird World, where every mirror shows us a new and strange reflection, altering reality into something so insane that we can’t handle it and turn the TeeVee off and stop thinking about it all. But NPR is leading everything this afternoon with reports and quotes and clips from the hearing, discussing the issue, using the word “torture”. They just called the testimony “compelling”.

    Graham is working this as hard as he can. The result of the kind of narrative that Sen. Whitehouse stated in the opening of the hearing will be deadly for the leaders of the last eight years. Feinstein’s statement that the SIC will undertake a lengthy investigation ensures the issue and documents stay in the public eye. It all adds another round of nails in the coffin of the GOP. I think the torture issue is catching fire and likely to accelerate.

    Graham is a desperate person doing everything he can to try to put out a rapidly spreading fire that threatens to destroy his world. (It’s rare that a person from Santa Barbara roots for the fire, but in this case, I’ll make an exception…)

  15. klynn says:

    So, Graham just negated any points he tried to make regarding “good faith” decisions.

    And we need a party! Organic just past the half-way point!!! Yea!

  16. behindthefall says:

    Graham’s probably only aiming for the 3-5 second Faux sound bite. These guys just flail from one news cycle to the next, depending on the absence of anyone with a memory or reasoning ability. Ooops.

  17. klynn says:


    You have a comment at the end of your first live blog thread that would be interesting to read.

    It gave some background I did not know and I found it quite substantial.

  18. JohnLopresti says:

    I viewed a minute of the livefeed from SJC in RealVideo, much improved compared to the prior congress technology. Sound quality was standard internet clean; video was blurred but adequate. I saw Zekilow being interrupted and shouted over by Graham. This is the same Graham that caused Mrs. Alito to exit posthaste from a hearing.

    re an OT, I was surprised to learn Phred got the hubcap. Caveat about the current award, though: there is a Chrysler technology aspect of Hillman, the version Rootes mfg of the UK developed 1930-1960, scroll down from the image of its similar sedan the Sunbeam.

  19. oldtree says:

    Goober hath spoken. The Admin has all of it’s top toadies go out and tell everyone it was a crime, it was torture, we knew it, and we authorized it. I did, the pres did, the vp did and everyone important was told. That’s why we didn’t tell any democrat peoples. They just aren’t important enough to tell if we are breaking the law. They might interfere, don’t you know?
    I hope that finally the party in power will now interfere. It seems we have numerous NoNo senators that are complicit in conspiracy to torture. Fascinating.

  20. lduvall says:

    “The first time CIA can say for certain that any Democratic members of Congress at all were briefed on waterboarding was in July 2004,”

    As a flaming liberal, who despises bushit inc., my reaction to this detail is WHY weren’t the Dems raising holy hell when someone finally figured out something was up? Why are they STILL the chicken* (fill in the blanks as you wish) that they continue to be??????????????? The american sheeple got the corrupt leaders they deserve.

    • KayInMaine says:

      Because as Lindsey explained today (Marcy got the goods above in the video!)….the Democrats weren’t being told the truth and were not told of the magnitude of the crimes being committed.

  21. cinnamonape says:

    Another point is how Graham attacked Soufan for being repulsed by the torture he observed. The Brits did it to the Irish (which also blew up in their face when it was disclosed that they got false confessions from innocent people), the Israelis did it, and by golly gosh the Federales, Carbinieri…(and he forgot…North Koreans, North Vietnamese, Nazis, and Argentine junta) all did it!

    And then sly old fox, Linseed says…and “Justice Stevens would say that your interrogation in the hospital constituted torture, too!”

    Except that Justice Stevens never said that hospital interrogations were torture…what Stevens said was that they were “TORTUOUS”…which doesn’t mean TORTUROUS.

    “Tortuous” means either “twisting” (as in an argument, as in ‘Lindsey Grahams’ logic was tortuous as well as being specious.’) or it can mean ’subject to the civil liability or tort laws’.

    In the case Chavez vs. Martinez Kennedy, Ginsburg and Stevens were in the minority in arguing that a protracted interrogation of an individual in a hospital while they were in pain and during active treatment constituted a violation of that individuals 5th Amendment Rights. There was no claim that this violated the defendants 8th Amendment rights. The majority stated that since the confession was not used in a trial or to obtain evidence it did not violate the 5th Amendment.

    Stevens was in the minority. What Soufan did was far less egregious that what Martinez did to Chavez..he didn’t disrupt medical treatment. And only interrogated Abu Zubaydah when he wasn’t being operated on. That falls well within the actual Supreme Court decision.

    Graham was making a false threat and comparing what Soufan did to what the contract interrogators did is simply a case of ignoring the relative degree of what might cause physical or mental distress. Graham argues that anything short of killing or maiming the individual isn’t torture, it seems. For him death and disfigurement…not “cruel and unusual” is the standard. But one can kill or dismember someone without pain…without cruelty. Cruelty is in the infliction of pain and mental anguish. Those are, by their very nature, pyschological states. Torture is psychological.

    • TheraP says:

      Graham, in my view, had nothing except obfuscation. But in the process he aided the prosecution, not the defense!

      Bushco committed too many crimes. It’s hard to defend them all simultaneously. And the repub defense is fragmenting every time they open their mouths.


    • KayInMaine says:

      Wasn’t Abu in the hospital because he had bullet wounds to the head? I mean, really, wouldn’t it be considered torture when you’ve got wounds like this and you’re also being tortured by other means, you know, someone asking a bazillion questions which makes your brain hurt? I’m not being funny either. I had surgery in the hospital once and if I had someone interrogating me while I laid there in pain, I would have thought it torturous!

      And you’re right about Stevens’ summation….Lindsey “My Nylons Are Too Tight Around My Testicles Today” Graham was spinning what he meant. Gawd I hate republicans. I really do. They’ll spend years investigating a blowjob, but put some war crimes in front of them and they run like a bunch of America-hating-girls (no offense to REAL girls who are big and strong!)!!!!

    • oldoilfieldhand says:

      Thank you my favorite spice primate! I hope this is picked up by the press. Huckleberry should know better than to parse such dangerous words.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Ooops…it was Addicott (not Graham) that piped in with that comment about Justice Stevens in the hospital case during the Luban testimony…after Soufar’s testimony had ended. He was directing it to Grahams questioning of witnesses, though.

      I mean it’s one thing for a politician to misstate the law, it’s quite another for a witness whose supposedly an expert on Constitutional law. Bad news fopr Soufan? Why? Because one Justice might say something in a solo minority opinion? And even that was mischaracterized?

  22. DennisofVeniceBeach says:

    Congratulations Marcy on the Hillman Award.

    I think JimWhite @ 6’s suggestion is excellent — would you please sign a copy of this post and fax it to Senator Graham’s office?

    Please please please…

  23. KayInMaine says:

    LOL eCAHN. He sounded the same at the hearing today too. It’s very possible Cheney ordered his torture and after being strangled for days it effected his voice.

  24. eCAHNomics says:

    Ooops. Zelilow lies. Sez U.S. has never used torture, whereas it’s as apple pie as mother. (Or whatever.) See Nosenko, who was treated just like an “unlawful combatant.”

    Interrogators from the Soviet Russia division suspected that that Nosenko was a KGB plant and thus Nosenko was seized by CIA officers in Washington and from 1964 to 1967 was held in solitary confinement in a CIA safe house in Clinton, Maryland. Nosenko was also subjected to sensory deprivation and was administered drugs because his CIA handlers believed he was still working in secret for the KGB. Agents also strapped wires to his head, telling him falsely that the device was an electroencephalograph which would allow them to read his mind, while the device was really one that read brainwave patterns. This was a form of psychological intimidation in order to help persuade him to “tell the truth”. He was interrogated for 1,277 days.

  25. cinnamonape says:

    My understanding was that the wounds were to his legs and stomach.

    After the beating I was then placed in the small box. They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds. The stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in the leg and stomach became very painful. I think this occurred about 3 months after my last operation. It was always cold in the room, but when the cover was placed over the box it made it hot and sweaty inside. The wound on my leg began to open and started to bleed. I don’t know how long I remained in the small box, I think I may have slept or maybe fainted.

  26. rschop says:

    But beyond torture, Soufan is important because of his detailed knowledge of what went on at the FBI and CIA prior to 9/11 that had allowed these attacks to take place.

    His information is so explosive that all mention of Soufan or even any alias for him was virtually stripped out of the 9/11 Commission report and even the DOJ IG report, when in fact he was lead investigator on the Cole bombing and knew more than anyone outside of FBI Agent Steve Bongardt, his assistant on this investigation, on what occurred that had prevented the FBI from stopping these attacks.

    He is noted just once in the DOJ IG report as the NY FBI Agent that spoke fluent Arabic who flew out to talk to the FBI/CIA joint source in February 2001, to show the source the passport photo he had been given by the Yemen authorities of Walid Bin Attash, Khallad, the master mind of the Cole bombing. All of the CIA people involved including the CIA Bin Laden unit, the Yemen CIA station, and even the CIA handler for the joint source kept secret the fact that on January 4, 2001, just one month before, Khallad had been positively identified by this same FBI/CIA source from a photo taken of him at the Kuala Lumpur meeting in January 2000, planning the Cole bombing with Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.

    It was at this point in time when the criminal actions at the CIA started in earnest to keep all of the information on this Kuala Lumpur meeting secret from the FBI Cole criminal investigators and to keep secret the names of the people who had attended this meeting. This information that all three known al Qaeda terrorists Khallad, Mihdhar and Hazmi were at this meeting planning the Cole bombing was kept secret from the FBI Cole investigators until after the attacks on 9/11. Since the planning for the Cole bombing and the attacks on 9/11 took place at this same meeting, keeping this information secret from the FBI in a wide ranging criminal conspiracy led directly to the al Qaeda terrorists carrying out the successful attacks on 9/11.

    But what is so horrific is that the CIA kept this information secret even when the CIA knew both Mihdhar and Hazmi were inside of the US on August 22-23, 2001, and knew these two al Qaeda terrorists were just about to take part in a massive attack that would kill thousands of Americans. The email from Tom Wilshire deputy chief of the CIA Bin Laden unit to his managers at the CIA CTC on July 23, 2001 proves that not only did he know this but all of his CTC managers were aware of this also. His email also confirms that when they forbid him from giving the information on the Kuala Lumpur meeting to the FBI, and allowed him to continue to hide the photograph of Khallad taken at the Kuala Lumpur meeting, a photo that directly connected Mihdhar and Hazmi to the planning of the Cole bombing, the CIA had to be fully aware that their actions would result in allowing Wilshire and FBI HQ IOS agents he had been working with to shut down FBI Agent Steve Bongardt’s investigation of Mihdhar and Hazmi.

    The CIA must have known that by shutting down the only effective FBI investigation that could have found Mihdhar and Hazmi in time to prevent this huge attack, that thousands of Americans would perish in the attacks that these terrorists were about to take part in. The web site http://www.eventson911.com has the US government’s own source documents that back up all of this information. GO FIGURE!

  27. Hmmm says:

    OT — I wonder whether the “new arguments” against releasing the pictures that Obama ordered the lawyers to raise to the court will be made public, vs. in secret / in camera.

  28. reader says:

    Graham seems to think that his innuendo against Pelosi will scare all the dems off. He hasn’t got a clue. I have no fear of democrats being ”caught up” in the fallout as Cheney’s corner of the country gets ripped apart and put right again. Whatever it takes.

    Having said that, I have never not for one minute believed that the briefings were correct, complete, or compliant. They must have been under some fierce pressure to be forced to give briefings to the gop members. After the 2000 election, Cheney went up to Capitol Hill and told everyone: you will do what we tell you to do when we tell you and in the way that we tell you. That’s not what the senators and representatives were expecting. But that was the plan.

    They kept everything secret all the time and not just on this. And more than once over the years they have ”pinky” promised that all briefings were duly conducted. Liars. Lies.

    Thanks for proving this ew. That CIA timeline was such a crock of shit I don’t understand why any responsible agency would inject something like that into this debate.

    So, I don’t think the dems are in much actual jeopardy here. But if they are: so be it. It’s a bipartisan issue. Equal jeopardy for both sides of the aisle. That’s as it should be. And perhaps Pelosi will learn that impeachment would have been a better course. But it’s too late now.

    I’m really beginning to wonder how much Obama really understands about all of this. Not enough, perhaps.

  29. Nell says:

    Having read a little more about the admin’s actual chances to block release of the images, it seems that this really will be just a delay. So… enough to get through McChrystal’s confirmation? That depends on the Tillmans, and the ability of the rest of us to get the assassination and torture reporting highlighted.

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