WaPo Doubles Down on Conflict Over Truth

In spite of the fact that it is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of the media that Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi agree that they were not briefed that the CIA had already been torturing prisoners in September 2002, the WaPo has decided to double down on deliberately misreading events. The excuse the WaPo uses to present a story of Republican-Democratic conflict, again, is to report the impression that members of the intelligence committees express after having viewed the briefing documents.

Members of Congress are largely divided into two camps: One says that the CIA intentionally withheld information about the tactics it was already using against detainees, even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. The other says that Pelosi is covering up her original tacit support of techniques that she now labels as torture.

Before I go any further, look at how utterly crazy this description is. The WaPo notes that the CIA gave this briefing at the same time as it was drumming up the case for war, but rather than describe that case as something like "now recognized as one of the worst examples of CIA deception and incompetence in our history," it instead emphasized that the CIA’s case led to "an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq." WaPo. Don’t you think you owe your readers an admission that the whole point of raising the Iraq War case is to remind them that almost everyone agrees everything else the CIA was doing in September 2002 was either incompetent or deliberately deceptive?

Then there is the flatly deceptive language the WaPo uses to sustain their case that the "conflict" between Goss and Pelosi, Shelby and Graham, is one with equally credible sides. First, with Goss, they choose to ignore his language that is specific to the briefing in question, 

In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned.

That language–as I’ve pointed out over and over and over–makes it crystal clear that there is not a dispute on Pelosi’s main assertion, that they were not told torture was already being used. After all, if Goss has to claim that Pelosi should have "understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed," then he’s ceding the point that they were not informed that the torture had been used. Even Goss speaks of that first briefing in 2002 as describing torture as being used–potentially–in the future. 

But rather than focus on that language, which Goss labels as pertaining to the fall 2002 briefing and which from the context is directed at Pelosi–the WaPo chooses to focus on language that comes later in the piece, language that pertains to the ongoing series of discussions Goss references. Here’s what WaPo says Goss claimed:

Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), the former representative who chaired the intelligence panel in 2002, has suggested that he and Pelosi left their briefing understanding "what the CIA was doing" and offering their support, while Pelosi said waterboarding and other aggressive techniques were mentioned only as legal tactics for future interrogations. 

Um, no, WaPo, that is a profoundly dishonest citation of what Goss said. (It’s all the more dishonest in that the WaPo doesn’t link to Goss’ original op-ed, even though it was published in their own damn newspaper!!!) Here’s the original context of that quote:

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

— The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

— We understood what the CIA was doing.

— We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

— We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

— On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately — to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president’s national security adviser — and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.

From the citation above, it’s clear that Goss intends to discuss more than than just that September 4, 2002 briefing, he intends to discuss an ongoing discussion. Which, since no one disputes that Pelosi only attended one briefing, by definition includes Jane Harman as well (as well as Bob Graham, Richard Shelby, Jay Rockfeller, and Pat Roberts, all of whom were Chairs or Ranking Members while Goss was Chair of HPSCI, though why Goss thinks he can vouch for what Graham, Shelby, Rockfeller, and Roberts knew, when he wasn’t in their briefings until he became Director of the CIA, I don’t know). The following paragraph–the reference to "those who now reveal filed ‘memorandums for the record’"–makes it crystal clear that Jane Harman is among those he’s referring to as "we." And yes, it’s clear that Harman knew what was going on, because she did write a letter to Scott Muller, raising concerns about the policy implications of using torture (note how arduously Goss struggles to find a way to dismiss that letter by listing a bunch of people he thinks she should have written). 

And frankly, while it’s a deceptive claim, it’s not entirely unfair on Goss’ part. By all appearances, both he and Pelosi walked out of the September 4, 2002 briefing understanding that CIA had an opinion finding torture legal to use in the future. Both he and Harman walked out of the February 5, 2003 briefing knowing torture had been used and that the CIA wanted to destroy its torture tapes.  But for the WaPo to cite Goss’ statement out of context, without telling readers that Goss was making a more general comment about the eight briefings Congress got before Goss left Congress–and potentially the large number done while Goss was at the CIA (and while Goss may have been the one doing the briefing, which might make you wonder about his credibility on this matter), is just plain bad journalism. 

Then there’s the embarrassingly incomplete account of the dispute between Shelby and Graham.

Even more deeply divergent are the recollections of Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the former senator who chaired the Senate intelligence committee in 2002, and  Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the panel’s ranking Republican. In interviews this week, Graham said waterboarding was never mentioned by CIA briefers in their meeting. But Shelby said that he and Graham were specifically told that the technique had already yielded valuable information. 

No mention of the CIA’s admission that they had told Graham he had been briefed three other times, even though it wasn’t true. No mention that Graham has meticulous notes surrounding the circumstances of the briefing. No mention that the first time Shelby responded, he used a hedged description of what torture techniques were used– "what was purported to be a full account of the techniques"–and only after specific follow-up did he say, "waterboarding was one the EITs the CIA said it had used." If WaPo admitted those facts, of course, it might also have to judge which account had more credibility, but to sustain its narrative of irreconcilable conflict, it just leaves out those inconvenient details. 

Now, there is news in this story, though you have to wade through to the second page to get it. The story describes the room in the Capitol where the briefing was held (ceding Bob Graham’s point, of course, that it wasn’t held at the White House, as he says the most highly classified briefings were).  And then it describes the lackadaisical approach the CIA took toward giving Congress its legally mandated notice (though the WaPo doesn’t describe it as such):

CIA records show the session was led by officials from its counterterrorism center, which at the time was run by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who later left the CIA amid questions about the destruction of videotapes of detainees being waterboarded. Intelligence officials did not consider the briefing "time sensitive" but simply an effort to bring the lawmakers up to speed on what was labeled a "highly sensitive collection activity," according to former intelligence officials. Shelby and Graham would not be briefed for another 23 days. 

Two officials present during the briefings in 2002 said the talks were overshadowed by fears of more terrorist attacks. "It was wartime crisis mode, and all the chatter at the time was about a ‘second wave,’ " said one congressional official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the briefings were classified. "The next attack was supposed to be even bigger, and everyone was taking it very seriously."

Against that backdrop, lawmakers from both parties pressed the CIA for details about what it was learning from a high-value captive: Abu Zubaida, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein. There was little, if any, questioning about how the information was obtained, according to the two participants.

"No one in either party was questioning interrogation tactics," said the congressional official. "People from [both] parties were saying, ‘Do what it takes.’ Their questions were, ‘Do you have the authorities you need?’ and ‘Are you doing enough?’" [my emphasis]

This entire passage is worth unpacking, particularly since it probably relies on the reporting of Joby Warrick and/or Walter Pincus, and not Paul Kane, who’s the one beating this conflict story. Note the sourcing here: it relies on two people present at the briefing, one who is a "congressional official" (that is, one of the two aides present at each briefing). There are four potential aides this could be: Michael Sheehy (then a Dem House staffer), Tim Sample (then a GOP House staffer), Alfred Cumming (then a Dem Senate Staffer), and Bill Duhnke (the GOP Senate staffer). We know Sheehy recently retired. Sample appears to have left after 2003, as did Cumming. Which leaves Duhnke as the only current congressional official who attended the briefing. No wonder, then, that this description–of a focus on "details [the CIA] was learning from a high-value captive: Abu Zubaida" with "little, if any, questioning about how the information was obtained"–so closely resembles the description Bob Graham gave me the other day.

Graham went on further to explain that he recollects the briefing covered the high value detainees captured by that date, and described what the intelligence community had gleaned from those detainees. His impression, he said, was that they had gathered that information using traditional techniques the military, FBI, and intelligence agencies had used in the past.

Sorry, Richard Shelby, the Republican staffer in your briefing appears to side with Bob Graham, not you.

But back to that passage. It doesn’t describe the other source who attended the meeting, but it does rely on "former intelligence officials" for the larger context of the passage. I find that rather curious given that it makes a connection I’ve been making–that Jose Rodriguez was probably in that briefing.

CIA records show the session was led by officials from its counterterrorism center, which at the time was run by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who later left the CIA amid questions about the destruction of videotapes of detainees being waterboarded.

That’s significant not just because it seems to be suggesting that my speculation is correct (if Rodriguez was present, that detail may still be classified). But because if the second source who attended this briefing is not one of the other three congressional staffers, then the chances are high that it is someone from CTC, either Rodriguez or someone who worked closely with him. That’s because we know the representative from Office of Congressional Affairs, Stan Moskowitz, can’t be a source for this story since he passed away several years ago. (Somewhere, we learned there were four CIA attendees at these briefings.)

Now look at what the former intelligence officials, one of whom may have attended the briefing, have to say about it. 

Intelligence officials did not consider the briefing "time sensitive" but simply an effort to bring the lawmakers up to speed on what was labeled a "highly sensitive collection activity," according to former intelligence officials. Shelby and Graham would not be briefed for another 23 days.  

The WaPo doesn’t remind you of the fact, but this was a briefing required by law, one that should have, but did not, occur before the torture started.  Oh, we just wandered down to Congress on the normal schedule, the former intelligence officials seem to be saying, we didn’t think fulfilling the requirements of the National Security Act are all that "time sensitive." Heck, we didn’t even get around to briefing Shelby and Graham for an extra 23 days. We were busy, you know, trumping up a case for war. 

The description of these briefings as not "time sensitive" is actually yet another admission from the CIA that it broke the law–that it basically disregarded the requirement it brief Congress in timely manner on covert ops. But in this article, it seems to explain away why CIA didn’t brief Congress on all that details it should have.  Eh! We couldn’t be bothered to tell Congress we were torturing.

In that context, this passage (buried in the partisan conflict section of the article) is particularly telling.

But Democrats, as well as some former intelligence officials, warn that the documents are far from definitive and reflect only after-the-fact recollections from CIA briefers who never intended to produce full transcripts of the sessions. [my emphasis]

Chances are pretty good that these former intelligence officials are the same ones who describe a briefing that was not "time sensitive," in which the discussion focused on what intelligence we were getting from Zubaydah, rather than on the torture the CIA was using with him. Chances are also pretty good that one of these former intelligence officials is the second source cited who attended one or both of the briefings. 

So what the WaPo is telling us is that two Democrats, a Republican staffer, and one of the intelligence officials at the briefing (probably) maintain that it wasn’t a briefing about torture. The WaPo doesn’t tell us, of course, that Goss’ description supports the contention that they were not briefed that torture was already used, but that is the case.

Here’s the WaPo’s math, then, if I’m reading the sourcing correctly here: Two Democratic members of Congress, one Republican member of Congress, one Republican staffer, and one of the intelligence briefers (and Graham’s meticulous notebooks, plus another former intelligence official who was familiar with the intent of the briefing), all supporting an argument that they weren’t briefed that torture was already used. Those five or six people, against Richard Shelby’s story, which was at first quite wishy-washy. According to the WaPo, it did that math and decided it would write a story about irresolvable conflict.

71 replies
  1. Aeon says:

    Execrable article indeed.

    One gem however. It includes the first open source reference to the fact that some of the briefings may have been conducted through secure video links, rather than in person.

    The House committee recently moved into more spacious, technologically advanced quarters in the Capitol Visitor Center. Each lawmaker’s space has an individual monitor, and an internal instant messaging system allows committee staffers to alert lawmakers to messages from outside the secure room.

    The importance would be the possibility of the existence of a digital record.

      • Aeon says:

        Possibly. But I interpreted the emphasis upon the “individual” monitors in the new quarters (as opposed to the previous SCIF, which is so small some lawmakers have dubbed it “the padded cell”) as indicating that previously everybody had to share one monitor, not that there was no secure video link capacity at all.

        Also, the small facility would have necessarily limited the number of live briefers, which some of the records said were up to four or five officials.

  2. Phoenix Woman says:

    Hey, if the WaPo has such a tough time admitting that George Will can ever be wrong about climate change, they’re not going to admit that the DFHs are right about this, too.

  3. dotmafia says:

    “It was wartime crisis mode, and all the chatter at the time was about a ’second wave,’ ” said one congressional official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the briefings were classified. “The next attack was supposed to be even bigger, and everyone was taking it very seriously.”

    What the hell does this mean??? Is the implication here that someone in the Bush “administration” or CIA was passing on false information to congressional members about a supposed next attack to heighten fears? Do we know anything more about this?

    • emptywheel says:

      Not specifically, but keep in mind that one of the things Nashiri confessed to under torture and then retracted is that AQ had nukes. Granted that wasn’t until November that he confessed to it, but that’s the direction BushCo were headed, obviously.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Indeed, the fact that they were doing this is inescapable. They were extracting false information from the detainees they were torturing setting the nation on a series of “orange alerts”.

      The fact that Bush sent his wife and daughter into one of these threatened areas was the biggest “tell” of all that they knew the information was utterly unreliable. Remember that Cheney would have been cowering in the basement of the WH, while Bush would be ferried around in AF One if there was any chance it was a real threat.

      Meanwhile massive amounts of public money was spent to play into the fear-propaganda that they Bush-Cheney regime wanted to put out. State budgets lost billions in these charades.

  4. plunger says:

    This would be the same Washington Post that attended the Bilderberg meeting last week in Greece, and promised not to report a word of it, correct?

    On the eve of the 2009 Bilderberg Group conference, which is due to be held May 14-17 at the 5 star Nafsika Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmeni, Greece, investigative reporter Daniel Estulin has uncovered shocking details of what the elitists plan to do with the economy over the course of the next year.

    The Bilderberg Group meeting is an annual confab of around 150 of the world’ s most influential powerbrokers in government, industry, banking, media, academia and the military-industrial complex. The secretive group operates under “Chatham House rules,” meaning that no details of what is discussed can ever be leaked to the media, despite editors of the world’s biggest newspapers, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Financial Times, being present at the meeting.

    According to Estulin’s sources, which have been proven highly accurate in the past, Bilderberg is divided on whether to put into motion, “Either a prolonged, agonizing depression that dooms the world to decades of stagnation, decline and poverty … or an intense-but-shorter depression that paves the way for a new sustainable economic world order, with less sovereignty but more efficiency.”

  5. plunger says:

    “Members of Congress are largely divided into two camps”

    This bit of propaganda is purposeful. Divide and conquer has been, and remains, the strategy of the oligarchs, on whose behalf WaPo spins-out such false realities.

    Are they reporting the news, or giving instructions to Congress on behalf of their overlords?

    • freepatriot says:

      yeah, well it ain’t working

      Congress has always been “divided into two camps”

      in world war one, AND world war two, congress was divided into two camps

      Jeanette Rankin’s camp was a lot smaller, thas all

      in 2011, Congress will be still be divided into two camps

      of course, one of those camps will include 67 plus US Senators and 250 plus members of the House

      and the other camp will have less than 34 US Senators, and an inconsequential number of House members, and be TOTALLY IRELLEVANT

      but they’ll still be divided into two camps

      so let the wapo spin

      ya can’t spin irrelevance (well, you can, but nobody will care

      and btw, it’s the SPIN that’s killing the repuglitards, so let the wapo help them die

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Jeanette Rankin is a true American hero (at least to us pacifists). I’m always surprised to see her name, she’s pretty much been written out of the history books. You made my day.

  6. alabama says:

    I think the article is at once more straightforward and more artful than you allow–and indeed more damning of the CIA’s deceptions–but it would take a long and tedious micrological analysis to satisfy you on the point. So I limit my comments to your take on your first citation:

    WaPo: “…even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.”

    Emptywheel: “WaPo. Don’t you think you owe your readers an admission that the whole point of raising the Iraq War case is to remind them that almost everyone agrees everything else the CIA was doing in September 2002 was either incompetent or deliberately deceptive?”

    How, then, should we read the phrase “led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction”?

    I take it to mean that the CIA’s lies “led to a disastrous vote based on massive misinformation”. Moreover, says the article (as I read it), lots of congresscritters have yet to accept this regrettable fact–and Congress is therefore indeed “still divided into two camps” (i.e. those who can read and think, and those who cannot, and will not, read and think).

    You take it to mean–if I read you correctly–that the WaPo wants to deny that “almost everyone” now “agrees” that “everything else the CIA was doing…was either incompetent or deliberately deceptive”. Here you let “everyone” substitute for “members of Congress”. You may well be right, and even about Congress. The article is not so optimistic.

    More to the point, the article does something I hadn’t seen before: it isolates and targets Shelby as a particularly deceptive, duplicitous and destructive character on the current scene. On this point, importantly, the article is very clear–and clear on the first reading. I take it as a move on Hersh’s part to point us in a direction we haven’t considered.

    • Nell says:

      I take it as a move on Hersh’s part to point us in a direction we haven’t considered.

      Huh? What does Hersh have to do with a Washington Post article?

      This, on the other hand, makes lots of sense:

      the article does something I hadn’t seen before: it isolates and targets Shelby as a particularly deceptive, duplicitous and destructive character on the current scene. On this point, importantly, the article is very clear–and clear on the first reading.

      I am more and more convinced that Shelby’s leak about al-Qaeda was made at the request of Cheney or his emissaries, so that Cheney could then intimidate the intel committees by roaring about leaks, and stop any complaints about the illegally limited briefings.

      I wonder what Shelby got in return.

      • alabama says:

        “Staff writers Perry Bacon Jr. and Walter Pincus and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.”

        (at the end of the article).

        skdadi @ 15:

        “‘even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.’

        They say that as though it were a good thing.”

        The challenge here is the use of the word “intelligence”. Taking it as a neutral term, I would agree with you. But I don’t take it as neutral. I take it as if set off in quotation marks (i.e. “even as it was providing Congress with ‘intelligence’ that led”, etc.).

        • Nell says:

          So by ‘Hersh’ you meant ‘Pincus’?

          Agree with EW that by the article’s own internals we’re meant to see Shelby less isolated. But with facts in hand, it does make it even clearer that Shelby was and is being a complete tool in this.

          As is the Washington Post

    • emptywheel says:

      Uh, we’ll have to disagree, then, because what you’ve just described is your read, not hte WaPo’s plan language.

      THeir description of hte warmongering suggests that the CIA, on the war and on torture, got Congressional approval. But it does not note–for example–the congressional investigations concluding CIA was full of it.

      And I don’t agree that it isolates Shelby. You might ocnlude that if you ignore their flatly deceptive discussion on Goss. But if you read their Goss stuff without realizing how bad it is, then you arrive at Shelby + Goss versus Pelosi + Graham, so with Shelby not isolated at all.

      • alabama says:

        “Isolates” may be the wrong word; “emphasize” might come closer to the idea. In any event, it felt relatively emphatic.

        About Goss: he turns the practice of plausible deniability into a kind of slapstick comedy. He telegraphs his moves even as he makes them. It’s hard to tell how smart he is. It’s rather like Twain on the subject of Wagner (”Wagner’s music is better than it sounds”….).

        As for disagreement: I never supposed for a minute that you’d connect the WaPo with plain language (supposing it’s more like reading Pravda–an art, not a science). Do you?

    • freepatriot says:

      I’m gonna end this debate right now

      you are a moron

      this sentence right here is a lie”

      Even more deeply divergent are the recollections of Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the former senator who chaired the Senate intelligence committee in 2002, and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.),

      see that part I bolded, that’s a lie

      it creates a false equivalency between shelby and Bob Graham

      shelby’s recollection is all he has

      Bob Graham has already proven that the CIA lied to him about this issue

      not stated


      so when the wapoop says that shelby and Graham are at odds, and fails to mention that shelby has no credibility on this issue, and Bob Graham has a pile of notebooks that prove he has gold plated credibility on this issue:


      you gotta be able to figure shit like that out if ya wanna comment here

      I’m the village idiot, an I got an AA in english

      you gotta read all the words, an know all the facts

      even then, Marcy will be three steps ahead of you

      and fair warning, I suspect that Mary, our most honored poster, really DOES know everything. So watch yerself round her. She’ll just tear you a new one while we laugh at you, and then walk away like you never existed

      so be careful, you could wreck yer self confidence around here, real quick

      especially if you want to base your arguments on defending the wapoop

      we already know Pincus’ motives, an we know the wapoops motive

      you need to start using their bias in your filter, and stop assuming they are a nuetral party in this

      if ya wanna survive

      I’m callin that my new “catch an release” program

      • alabama says:

        freepatriot, since I didn’t even know there was a debate going on (in fact I thought, and still think, that we’re trying to fathom a really opaque product published b the WaPo), I will happily concede that I’m a moron, even though I’ve always known that the WaPo is lying to us.

        But there are many different shades to the given lie. An example: you take the phrase “even more deeply divergent are the recollections of….”, then you bold the words “are the recollections of…”, and take the word “recollections” to be an equivocal and neutralizing term (and thus a lie). Fair enough, in isolation: but what about the words “even more deeply divergent,” or even just the word “divergent”: doesn’t this at least imply a conflict, an imbalance, or an inconsistency? Doesn’t it tell us to think twice about the so-called “recollections” to be discussed? I, at least, find it a perplexing way to put things.

        My problem with the WaPo, and indeed the MSM in general, is pretty ordinary: they inform and misinform at one and the same time, unless they sin by omission, which is even more of a problem (because their omissions aren’t always out-and-out omissions: I’m thinking back to those stories buried on A17, the ones by Pincus, who’s not to be confused with Hersh).

        As for the other compliments you send my way: I’ve always been behind the eightball, ever since, at the age of 13 (back in 1952) I was a charter subscriber to “I.F.Stone’s Weekly”. And so the thing you call “survival” is not an ambition of mine. It’s not even a possibility.

        The point about responding, as I understand it, is not that we try to score points, but that we try to process some very, very opaque material (some of it housed inside our own heads).

        • freepatriot says:

          the example was that the wapoop presented shelby an Grahams “recollections” as being equal

          richard shelby can’t tell me want he had for breakfast on any given day in the past 4 decades

          Bob Graham CAN tell me what he had for breakfast on any given day for the past four decades

          Bob Graham isn’t dealing with “recollections”. The man has HARD EVIDENCE

          to present the dispute as a “divergence” between the recollections of Bob Graham and richard shelby is a false equivalency

          it’s a LIE

          one side has hard evidence, the other side has a spotty recollection and a history of talking out of both sides of his face

          this is KNOWN FACT, nobody can honestly dispute it

          but the wapoop didn’t say that

          this is presented as a contest between two equally credible actors

          so it is a lie

          (an Happy birthday)

  7. LabDancer says:

    Ms E Wheel:

    The passage that raises the name of Rodriguez does NOT assert that he was ACTUALLY PRESENT AT “the” briefing session — whether it’s the Goss/Pelosi one or the Graham/Shelby one.

    The name is inserted in the way of innuendo: by stretching the reference to include the controversy with which he’s become associated —

    as if all the stuff we’ve learned or heard about since was somehow discernible on the spot by the Congress critters

    [’Well I’m just Josephine the Citizen reading my WaPo over coffee and a bagel [on this lovely sunny Saturday morning in my kitchen nook in May of 2009] and I know; but Pelosi actually met with this guy [one day in a closed room in a game of guess-my-meaning with a particularly crocodilian member of the political opposition present plus a couple of his henchmen, the overheated days of September], so how stupid does she think I’m prepared to believe SHE didn’t know.].

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, I agree. But like I said, the fact that he attended the briefing is likely classified (and remember that Graham recorded that briefer’s presence with a blank line, and may never have known who it was), not least because Rodriguez himself was still covert in 2002. SO it may be as close as someone respecting classification guidelines can get (FWIW, I’ve tried to find out whether Rodriguez was there and gotten nowhere).

      And the torture tape destruction is totally relevant. I suspect (as I’ll lay out later this weekend) that we will one day discover that the CIA briefed in teh way they did to cover up for the fact that they started torturing even BEFORE the OLC memos–and may not have even told Condi about that.

      If that’s true, then the likelihood is that the torture tapes were destroyed to hide not just the inanity of it, the violence, the proof they exceeded OLC guidelines, but that it was done when it had no legal cover. That would make tihs whole dispute about briefings part of the same larger argument about hiding the illegality of it. So, relevant.

      • freepatriot says:

        And the torture tape destruction is totally relevant.

        I think it’s MORE than relevant

        it DESTROYS cheney’s right to present a defense

        we can not judge these actions under a fair light, because the evidence was destroyed by the accused

        a jury should be told that

        I been askin how that concept works in criminal law

        in civil law, the judge just says “FUCK YOU”. if you destroyed evidence, you can not present related evidence and claim it is difinitive

        the opposition is allowed to refute your surviving evidence with SUPPOSITION about the content of the evidence you destroyed

        if the judge doesn’t just rule against you in pure spite

        I’ve seen it done

        I know in criminal law, a judge can’t just prune your civil rights because of evidence tampering, they got a different process for admitting evidence in these circumstances

        but I don’t know what it is

      • LabDancer says:

        Well, now that you put it that way: I give.

        But taking it a step further [or, putting it realistically, at least a couple of steps behind you], that suggests that, just as the September 2002 round of briefings was designed to create room to argue at some future time that Congress and Dems were briefed “fully” and “signed off” on torture, then the February 2003 round was designed to create room to argue at some future time that Congress and Dems were similarly briefed “fully” and “signed off” on destroying the best evidence of the same torture. And that Harman’s letter created a problem with that plan, which problem was addressed by summoning up a myth that the decision to destroy the best evidence was made much later in time, based on a separate, though related and sell-able idea of the recordings holding the potential for putting CIA types in jeopardy.

        And perhaps even a myth that the EXECUTION ON that decision — i.e. the actual destruction of the tapes — was undertaken far later in time then when it actually happened. But that’s not really necessary to the plan, is it? Because if among the aims of recording the torture sessions all along was to produce a sound-bite-like clip of a credible source, say KSM, “on record” as it were, making an audio-visually compelling admission of a seemingly spin-able bridge linking 9/11 to Saddam Hussein, then that would more than suffice to make it through the next election [and the next, and so on], as well as past any meaningful threat of Congressional oversight.

        So: one could expect a situation where, having determined, in part by the good job done by Soufan and partner, that we’d got all we could reasonably expect out of AZ by reliable methods, then it was on to the next step of seeing whether such a ‘movie admission’ might be obtainable from him — but that through a month — or more — of ‘takes’ [’Oh, that’s not going to sell. Let’s try it again. Places everyone; waterboy ready? Rolling; now …. action! ……. Cut! Jeez Loueez, that was PATHETIC! How in hell are we to be expected to come up with a Nixon moment from this pathetic excuse for a piece of humanity? Are you guys sure you’re doing this right? Okay people, we’re going to do it again from the top — places everyone; Saddam and Bin Laden Sealed The Deal, Take Number 74; waterboy ready? rolling; now … action!] AZ proved to know so little and have such poor cred as an actor that the whole exercise had to be put aside for its academic and learning value … and, as it turned out, to await the acquisition of KSM.

        Which would then explain the more-than-double-the-number of ‘takes’ on KSM — in part because, having already committed to the invasion, now it had gone beyond the desire for a confession to the NEED for one. If the idea was that, given the unfortunate lack of suitable thespianic skills in yer typical Islamo-terrorist type, one could only reasonably expect to obtain a marketable confession from someone with the best possible cred [Bin Laden being out of contention for a number of reasons], then who was going to exceed KSM in the cred department [especially after the p.r. department got through with him, what with the Pearl be-heading and the USS Cole bombing and whatnot].

        This is going to appear perverse, but maybe we owe something like a debt of gratitude to KSM for not going along with it — quite apart from such outcome being at least to some extent predictable.

        • plunger says:

          Sounds about right to me. The power-drunk, ham-handed strategies of the co-conspirators in mid-coup, constructing “discernible reality” on a daily basis, “if you will.”

          Their arrogance left us with many tracks to follow. Will they “suicide” every witness?

          If we can shame journalists into becoming investigative reporters (rather than willing accomplices), we can roll this thing back, arrest the suspects and recover the stolen treasure.

          • LabDancer says:

            “If we can shame journalists into becoming investigative reporters (rather than willing accomplices), we can roll this thing back, arrest the suspects and recover the stolen treasure.”

            I’m not nearly so hopeful, nor would I expect us to get anywhere near that far. My basic point is that the huge numbers of water torture incidents on these two credibly-al-Qaeda-connected captives is irresistible as a sign of Bushco having tried to go into the moving picture biz.

          • freepatriot says:

            Will they “suicide” every witness?

            did ya see Larry Wilkerson yesterday ???

            they’re gonna have to kill more than just the witnesses

            any accomplice with a conscious has to go too

            knowing dick, and his “1% solution” theory, I guess anybody who might potentially grow a conscious has to go

            so dick is gonna have to start shootin his friends in the face at a faster clip, or he’ll never live to cover this all up

            that “1% solution” thingy just might be the repuglitards’ epitaph

            (this is not an endorsement of dick’s methods, just a preview)

  8. Leen says:

    Still appreciate Andrew Sullivan bringing it back to a very important question “where are the conservatives”? Why not focus on the Republicans who were in those more complete briegings and their responsibility to get in the way of torture
    Sullivan on Cheney and the attention on Pelosi
    Andrew Sullivan “he’s afraid he is very afraid. That’s why he’s doing this, there is no other reason for this”

    Matthews: “He’s afraid he’s going to be nailed on torture”

    Andrew Sullivan: “He authorized and we now know this the torture of human beings. We know this from the Red Cross, we know this from Office of Legal Council memos, we know this from the Senate Armed Service Committee report. We know the policies that he enforced and pioneered and insisted on led to the torture of hundreds..thousands of human beings. Now those are WAR CRIMES.
    If the government if the government has the power to torture evidence (mistake I believe). Where are CONSERVATIVES ON THIS? Where are conservatives who believe in restraining executive power and the danger of torturing”

    ANDREW SULLIVAN RIPPED THROUGH THE BULLSHIT..Where are the CONSERVATIVES ON THIS? Sullivan brings up what Soufan has said


  9. skdadl says:

    even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.

    They say that as though it were a good thing.

    The very use of the word “bipartisan” is supposed to transport everyone to happy Disneyland distraction? What a way to spin the truth, which was that the CIA were collaborating in the preparations for a war of aggression.

    alabama @ 10, I don’t see how you can read your own or EW’s intelligent analysis into that twisted sentence, which in total adds up to “Heads, Dems lose; tails, Repubs win.”

    Same with your conclusion about what the article does with Shelby. EW’s work certainly does that, but the WaPo article on its own sure doesn’t. You are being far too generous to the article in projecting your own understanding on to what looks like patent obvious spin to me.

  10. BayStateLibrul says:

    Maybe this article is a real rough, rough, first draft that requires a hugh dose of fact-checking?

    “[News”] is a first rough draft of history that can never be completed in a world we can never really understand.”

    Philip L. Graham,
    Washington Post

  11. LabDancer says:

    Kind of unfortunate for the Rethuggee side of this trumped-up controversy that the one and only Rethuggee they have willing to be named is also the one and only Congress critter the administration was able to track down as being a sieve for intel propaganda.

    Of course, one has to allow for the possibility that the reason they’re unable to track down a single unsullied Congressional Rethuggee on this is, per internet protocols, a feature.

  12. freepatriot says:

    I think it’s all a plot to keep me amused

    they know I spend hours reading the comments attached to their bullshit

    I just love to hear America explain things to the newspaper

    I think the failure to recognize their problem lies right there

    when you publish lies, and the reading public has to write comments to tell you that they KNOW THE TRUTH, and you ain’t printing it, the relationship between the paper and the reader is BASS ACKWARDS

    people,used to turn to the wapo to learn the truth

    now, people log in to the wapo TO TELL THE WAPO THE TRUTH

    given that fucked up relationship, shouldn’t the wapo be paying it’s readers

  13. fatster says:

    Slightly O/T. Will this bring us some answers?

    May 22 2009, 5:23 pm by Marc Ambinder

    Feingold Plans Hearing On Obama’s Detention Policy

    “Sen. Russ Feingold plans a hearing in June about President Obama’s plan to seek “prolonged detention” without trial for some of the Guantanamo detainees. In a letter to Obama, . . . .”


  14. klynn says:


    I am trying to find out more information about Cheney water carrier, Debbie Riechmann of AP. I am coming up with very little.

    She’s doing the “AP Cheney cheerleading“.

    You’ll love this:

    Cheney supporters say the former vice president has received an outpouring of supportive e-mails, calls and comments from the military community, the families of those who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and from people at the CIA, which helped carry out the interrogation program.

  15. orionATL says:

    what i keep wondering as wapoop continues insisting on their version of this chapter of the torture story is:

    what could possibly be driving the paper’s editors to continue along this path?

    are they taking someone they trust’s word for what happened and just being conned?

    is there a political bias at work?

    are they too proud to admit error?

    or would it be something more mundane like money or favors to the mother corporation?

    you’ve got to assume that after all the whohaa involved in this pelosi chapter that there are very senior news editors (at least) involved in the decisions to run these stories.

    • Nell says:

      what could possibly be driving the paper’s editors to continue along this path?

      The same thing that led them to put the administration’s pro-war propaganda on page 1, and Walter Pincus’ and others’ questioning stories on page A18-23.

  16. Leen says:

    EW hitting another home run.

    Does seem Goss has some solid points. should have expressed concerns ”immediately”.

    I get it that Harman did so but why not the rest.

    Ew why do you consider Goss’s point that there were other avenues for those who had ”concerns” about ”methods” (choke) to express those with ”to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president’s national security adviser — and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.”

    I think he has a point. I know I will get slammed but it is a sincere question.

    Still wondering why there are no questions about the lack of ethics demonstrated by the Republicans in those briefings and why they did not use any of those avenues that Goss suggessted to express ”concern”

    Andrew Sullivan “where are the conservatives” on this. Time to turn the spotlight

    • emptywheel says:

      Sincere question, sincere answer.

      First, for all we know Harman DID tell a briefer–since OGC is listed as briefing at that meeting, it suggests either Muller (whom she wrote the letter to) or Rizzo were in the meeting. If she chose to write Muller instead of Rizzo, that just means she wrote to someone MORE senior. Though given the langauge in her letter, it sounds like Muller was the one who briefed, meaning she did just what Goss wanted her to do.

      As to the rest, why didn’t she tell Goss? Maybe she she figured him for a political hack whose wasn’t in charge of this briefing anyway. Why didn’t she tell Rodriguez? Because this is a legally required briefing and he’s not the legal guy? Why didn’t she tell Pelosi? Because she wasn’t at the briefing so Harman was not technically allowed to tell her. Why didn’t she tell Condi or Tenet? Because this was CIA’s briefing.

      Remember, one thing that it appears Harman was trying to do was document that they had not seen a Finding. That is CIA’s responsibility to get. So CIA–CIA’s lawyer–was the proper person to contact. Ditto her warning about not destroying the torture tapes.

      • freepatriot says:

        Sincere question, sincere answer

        more answer (if I may)

        I don’t think this was a “cover your ass” thing in the beginning

        I think it was a game of “chicken”, used for political purposes

        the bushies were using the briefings to locate and target their opposition, or at least the opposition that was willing to fight them on this

        ya tell a bunch of people a bunch of different secrets, see which secrets make the paper, and then you know who leaked what to who

        then you target the leakers

        that would explain why the briefings were never given as a group

        maybe we should see what kind of retaliation followed Harmon’s letter

        I think the whole CYA act we’re seeing now is just an improv

        they never suspected they would have to do this

        if we saw all the briefings laid out together, we would immediately recognize the pattern and purpose of the briefings

        that’s why we’re seeing this “three card monte” defense

        they CAN’T show us the evidence, cuz the evidence proves something much worse

        • prostratedragon says:

          ya tell a bunch of people a bunch of different secrets, see which secrets make the paper, and then you know who leaked what to who

          then you target the leakers

          Might want to check out the Waas article linked by JLopresti to see how well it worked:p

          • prostratedragon says:

            Was this comment meant to be so revealing?

            “The political dynamic back then — not that long after September 11 — was completely different. They took Cheney’s threats very seriously.”

          • Nell says:

            Thanks for that link. I’d read part of that article, and recently, but somehow this paragraph near the bottom never sank in until today:

            [Sen. Bob] Graham says that even if Shelby had leaked information about the intercepts to the press, Graham believes with some degree of certainty that certain executive branch officials did so as well. Although CNN broke the story, the next-day stories in The Post and USA Today contained details that Hayden had not disclosed to the Intelligence committees, Graham said. “That would lead a reasonable person to infer the administration leaked as well, or what they were doing was trying to set us up… to make this an issue which they could come after us with.”

            • prostratedragon says:

              Really stands out now, doesn’t it? I think it’s easier to hear things like that when you can get a breath, which is more true now than even 2 years ago, let alone 7.

              Btw, thanks to JohnLopresti for the link.

              • fatster says:

                May I echo your thanks? I thought I had saved that article, but upon checking realized I hadn’t. It’s saved now, fer sure!

  17. plunger says:

    You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: “the prioritized task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position”.

    “Our position” is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never known official lying to be more pervasive than today. We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair’s “Iraq dossier” and Jack Straw’s inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to “explain”). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channeled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda.


    “Television is altering the meaning of “being informed” by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation… Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.”

    Neil Postman

  18. orionATL says:

    ah, yes.

    the introductory paragraph:

    “Sequestered in rooms buried deep within the Capitol and requiring top-secret clearances to enter, members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have spent the past week leafing through documents at the heart of Washington’s latest who-knew-what-and-when saga. “

    as bob somerby would say, wapoop and its reporters and editors are in love with the novel they’re writing.

    how dramatic!

    how engrossing!

    i can’t wait for the next chapter: “far beneath the teaming streets of washington…”

    a serialized political novel by wapoop – “political fiction, it’s what we do best.”

  19. JohnLopresti says:

    The tenor of the WashingtonPost article’s opening seemed to me to be what in the 1970s would have merited the attribution of chauvanism, though a more direct and insightful lexicon of depictions for that kind of postipsofacto politicised jingoist demijournalism is available in more current times now. Which is to say, I thought the criticism WaPo offered represented its own casuist support for the hawk voices which have a sideline of enjoying terrorizing the now-speaker. To recreate the then atmosphere, it is worth reading again Hersh’s October 2003 NYorker stovepipe article; also reflecting the ambience in those times, Waas’ description of Cheney’s June 2002 telephone call to a Senator BGraham at the lavabo, vp threatening to discontinue briefings to the Hill altogether. I also glimpse a sense of “s+m” imagery in the current pronouncements about the obligatory silence which the nowSpeaker was bound to observe in those times when briefings were part of the administration’s dog and pony show. It was a time when there was an array of strains upon the institutions which kept government working. Some of the stresses originated in the teleology of pseudorighteous obliteration promulgated by the terrist principals, but the respondent administration seemed to enjoy infusing its own actions with similarly deprecatory tactics; Sen LGraham’s performance was redolent of the same disrespect in the recent hearing in which Zelikow appeared. I would expect the now-Speaker to continue in civil discourse mode as specifics evolve and become substance of future WaPo articles on the topic of the 2002-2003ff briefings, but I wonder if Harman would observe as reserved a tone as the Speaker in that regard. The article seems to be typical WaPo courtier journalism; maybe Gerson helped design the storyline as a ghostwriter. As a further way to add vividness to the epoch in which the briefings were occurring, while reading the current WaPo putdown article, it might be helpful to compare chronicities evident in both the briefings list and the Hellerstein documents notProduced list in re erased tortureTapes.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Juggled dates and times, presenting critical new data as if it were routine, jumbling who was at which meeting and whether the same data was presented to each person, ignoring whether all required people were informed and in the time and manner required by law.

    Sounds much like a continuing disinformation campaign, aided and abetted by the WaPoo. Don’t step in it; it’s hell getting it off your shoes.

  21. orionATL says:

    happy birthday alabama; hope you enjoy the day.

    for what it is worth, i see nothing in your comments that merit the enhanced interrogation techniques being used on you.

    • freepatriot says:

      I took offense over this:

      it isolates and targets Shelby as a particularly deceptive, duplicitous and destructive character on the current scene.

      on it’s face, the article does no such thing

      saying that we all know we’re reading “Pravda” isn’t a defense

      most Americans don’t know that we’re reading “Pravda”

      an the point of making comments is to advance the dialog, make corrections, throw in additional information, question the premise, or just to state the obvious (my favorite). It’s a lot like school. You either stand out, or ya stand in the corner. nobody is keepin score, but you will be graded constantly

      an btw, I habitually flunk playground etiquette, but they make exceptions cuz I’m funny while I’m doin it

  22. plunger says:

    The silence of former journalistic heroes is deafening.

    Thank God Marcy’s all over this thing, but I mean really, how humiliating for the former titans of journalism to have to sit this one out…by choice…choosing their pay check over their country.

    As for Wilkerson, he credits his wife for his “come to Jesus,” putting country before career.

    Wilkerson deserves a medal for his heroism in the face of what must surely feel like a very risky undertaking.

    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

  23. garyg says:

    EW, incisive as always. I’ve been lurking, haven’t had a lot of opportunity for commenting as I usually catch up on the subway.

    Congratulations on your recent plaudits – I am looking forward to Wednesday and I hope I get a chance to shake your hand!

    • freepatriot says:

      be sure to wash you hands first

      jes say, is all

      hey, somebody is gonna have to remind me if this ever comes up, so keep that in mind, okay guys …

  24. SparklestheIguana says:

    It’s quite interesting what photo they chose to run with the online article, too. By Melina Mara, it shows Pelosi with her hand up obscuring her face, as if she’s rubbing or scratching the bridge of her nose. Her hand is bony and veiny. Steny Hoyer is leaning in close to her whispering something in her ear, conspiratorially perhaps. The message is clear: People tell Pelosi secret information.

  25. JohnEly says:

    Kane in the WaPo ran an article on the Panetta Memo to the CIA defending them, calling it a ‘rebuttal’ of Pelosi. Even Newt Gingrich the next day on the morning TV talk shows was more precise, emphasizing that it was a memo to Panetta’s own staff.

    One of the most irritating aspects of the Kane/Warrick article on the ‘elusive’ definitive account was the 24 point headlines on the A6 continuation of the article, which attempt somewhat to change the subject:
    ‘Pelosi Refuses to Answer More Questions on CIA Briefings.’

    Background Note

    The Obama administration has dropped officially the discourse of a ‘war on terrorism’; it claims to be fighting ‘two wars’ but neither of them is a war on terrorism. The Post is beating the drum for new wars on nouns in editorial after editorial.

    It might be that the paper as a whole is now following the editorial page editor GWOTer Hiatt because the new senior editor, Marcus Brauchli, taken on in July 2008, had come from the WSJ – where he had overseen the paper’s transition to Murdoch. Shortly after Brauchli’s appointment was announced in 1991 at the WSJ, Murdoch’s News Corp. disclosed a takeover offer for Dow Jones & Co., the Journal’s parent, and Brauchli remained as editor through the acquisition. Four months afterwards, on April 22, 2008, he announced his resignation from the Wall Street Journal, after just more than a year in office. The Post announced on July 8 that it had hired him (cf Wikipedia).

    Hence the drumbeat for GWOT has taken over the whole paper. Torture is just one element of the Washington (Gone) Post (al)’s transition ‘long war’ plan on the model in which Murdoch has taken over the WSJ.

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