What Pelosi, Rockefeller & Harman Could Have Done

There has been an ongoing discussion for the last two weeks or so about the briefings that congressional leaders were allegedly given regarding the Bush/Cheney torture program (See for instance here, here, here, here and here) and what Congressmembers like Pelosi, Rockefeller, Harman and Graham could have done to fight the malfeasance of Bush and Cheney. This post will explain what they could have done.

I promised a discussion on the speech and debate clause and what was possible, at least theoretically, for Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Jay Rockefeller, Bob Graham, or any Congressmember that had knowledge, to have done about the wrongs of the Bush Cheney Administration, even in relation to national security level topics.

The speech and debate clause is found in Article I, section 6 of the Constitution and reads as follows:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

The key wording is the last part "…and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." The down and dirty is that congressmembers (and in certain cases key staff) cannot be questioned or held to answer in any forum, civil, criminal or otherwise, for speech and/or discussion regarding legitimate interests and business of Congress; such conduct occurring on the floor or in committee is absolutely privileged.

Let’s have a look at the history of the Speech and Debate Clause. In United States v. Gillock, 445 U.S. 360 (1980), the Supreme Court stated, "The Framers viewed the speech or debate privilege as fundamental to the system of checks and balances." Indeed, it was framed by the founders as one of the seminal checks and balances against the power and greed of the Executive Branch. You know, exactly what Congress was staring at, and cowering from, with the Bush/Cheney crew. The Congressional privilege has been discussed and upheld in a long and storied line of cases.

Interpretation of this clause has centered on a definition of “legitimate legislative activity.” Such activity had been commonly held to extend beyond debate on the floor of the respective chambers to include views expressed in committee deliberations and reports and to encompass the act of voting as well. In Kilbourn v. Thompson (1881), the Supreme Court gave this clause its broadest interpretation, defining protected actions as “things generally done in a session of [Congress] by one of its members in relation to the business before it” (p. 204).

During the 1970s the Supreme Court considered several cases aimed at narrowing this reading. In Doe v. McMillan (1973), the Court limited protection for the views expressed within congressional reports only to those documents disseminated within Congress. Allowing a suit against the Government Printing Office for publishing a committee report that allegedly contained defamatory material, the Court ruled somewhat ambiguously that dissemination in normal channels outside Congress was not protected. Under a related subsequent decision, Hutchinson v. Proxmire (1979), members became liable for their views as expressed through press releases and newsletters. The Court found that although these means of communication are valuable and desirable, neither forms an integral part of Congress’s deliberative process. Here the Court distinguished between the indispensable “informing function,” under which Congress informs itself in an effort to produce better legislation, and the less vital “informing function” of reporting its activities to the public.

In United States v. Brewster (1972), the Court significantly reduced the Speech or Debate Clause’s protection. Former U.S. senator Daniel Brewster had been indicted for allegedly taking a bribe to influence the performance of his official legislative duties. Brewster sought protection under the clause to declare the indictment invalid. In upholding the indictment, the Court ruled that “Taking a bribe is, obviously, no part of the legislative process or function” (p. 526). The clause was read as prohibiting an inquiry into the motivation for performing specific legislative acts, but it provides no restraint against an inquiry into taking a bribe for specific legislative actions. The subject of the inquiry against Senator Brewster was the bribe, rather than the legislative objective the bribe was intended to promote.

Clearly the most notorious case involving the Speech and Debate Clause, and the most pertinent to our discussion, is United States v. Gravel, 406 US 606 (1972). Gravel is Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska and this is the infamous "Pentagon Papers Case". Gravel arose out of the investigation by a federal grand jury into possible criminal conduct with respect to the release and publication of a classified Defense Department study entitled History of the United States Decision-Making Process on Viet Nam Policy. This document, popularly known as the Pentagon Papers, bore a Defense security classification of Top Secret-Sensitive. The crimes being investigated included the retention of public property or records with intent to convert (18 U.S.C. § 641), the gathering and transmitting of national defense information (18 U.S.C. § 793), the concealment or removal of public records or documents (18 U.S.C. § 2071), and conspiracy to commit such offenses and to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371).

…the last portion of § 6 affords Members of Congress another vital privilege—they may not be questioned in any other place for any speech or debate in either House. The claim is not that while one part of § 6 generally permits prosecutions for treason, felony, and breach of the peace, another part nevertheless broadly forbids them. Rather, his insistence is that the Speech or Debate Clause at the very least protects him from criminal or civil liability and from questioning elsewhere than in the Senate, with respect to the events occurring at the subcommittee hearing at which the Pentagon Papers were introduced into the public record. To us this claim is incontrovertible. The Speech or Debate Clause was designed to assure a co-equal branch of the government wide freedom of speech, debate, and deliberation without intimidation or threats from the Executive Branch. It thus protects Members against prosecutions that directly impinge upon or threaten the legislative process. We have no doubt that Senator Gravel may not be made to answer—either in terms of questions or in terms of defending himself from prosecution—for the events that occurred at the subcommittee meeting.

Prior cases have read the Speech or Debate Clause ‘broadly to effectuate its purposes,’ United States v. Johnson, 383 U.S., at 180, 86 S.Ct. at 755, and have included within its reach anything ‘generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it.’ Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S., at 204; United States v. Johnson, 383 U.S., at 179, 86 S.Ct. at 755. Thus, voting by Members and committee reports are protected; and we recognize today—as the Court has recognized before, Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S., at 204; Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 377—378, 71 S.Ct. 783, 788—789, 95 L.Ed. 1019 (1951)—that a Member’s conduct at legislative committee hearings, although subject to judicial review in various circumstances, as is legislation itself, may not be made the basis for a civil or criminal judgment against a Member because that conduct is within the ‘sphere of legitimate legislative activity.’ Id., at 376, 71 S.Ct., at 788.

What this means is that there existed a defined path for Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller, Graham et. al to address their concerns and whistleblow the wrongs they were witnessing without any threat of prosecution, fines or other retribution. Jello Jay Rockefeller did not have to constrain his outrage to his hoky handwritten letter to Dick Cheney (yeah, like that was going to work). Jane Harman did not have to restrict her claimed outrage to her weak letter. Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham didn’t have to sit on their hands and effectively do nothing.

The next question you will ask is what about secrecy oaths taken in relation to their Intel Committee positions. In fact, Jane Harman has tried to explain away her lack of action thusly:

When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath — one of secrecy,” she said. “I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.

Indeed such secrecy oaths are administered, for solemn reasons – national security is of prime importance and there truly are a plethora of things that should not be publicly discussed. That said, any such "secrecy oath" for the Intel responsibilities is absolutely subordinate to the primacy of the prophylactic Speech and Debate clause protection in Article 1, Section 6. The decision in US v. Gravel is in accord. So, despite the bleating protestations of Harman and the others, they do not get off the hook via "secrecy oaths". They took an oath to defend the Constitution from all perils, that is primary, and they failed it.

As Stan Brand, a former General Counsel to the US House of Representatives and noted Congressional procedure and privilege expert, has said:

Under Gravel, Senator Rockefeller (nor any other member of Congress) need not have been either so secretive or reticent to use official channels to question the surveillance program, or for that matter any other subject of national security. Indeed, he could have officially communicated with relevant Executive officials, shared that correspondence with his colleagues on the Committee, or even taken to the Senate floor to speak about the issue. (Whether such conduct would have been consistent with Senate and Committee rules governing classified information would be a matter only for the Senate and could play no part in any Executive branch examination of his conduct). The "Speech or Debate" clause protection is based on its English antecedent, the product of several centuries struggle by Parliament to attain independence from the Crown. In this country it was adopted without debate at the constitutional convention to provide the same independence to legislators to be free from intimidation by the executive, or accountability before the judiciary.

The Rockefeller episode illustrates how too often legislators are cowed into acquiescence or timid supplications with respect to issues involving classified documents or matters by an aggressive or threatening Executive branch. Of course, over 30 year ago in a case eerily reminiscent of the current controversies, the Supreme Court laid to rest the notion that legislators could be questioned by the Executive branch for doing their job. Every member of Congress needs to read the Gravel decision to appreciate the broad constitutional protection they have been afforded by the Framers to inquire into the Executive’s administration of our national security apparatus.

Cowed into timid supplicants pretty much sums up what George Bush and Dick Cheney did to to the Congress. In this instance, there were only a handful of Representatives and Senators that could have addressed the ills at hand, and they failed their duty, failed their oath and failed their country. Yes it would have taken a huge "Profile In Courage" for them to have availed themselves of the Speech and Debate privilege and stood in the wells of Congress to right the matter. If they didn’t have the cojones to explain the entire scene, at a minimum they should have made a record that they were being intentionally denied proper Intel Committee briefings, Gang of Eight briefings and Presidential findings; they couldn’t even bring themselves to do that.

Courage is what this country was founded on and propagated by, we can ill afford to be in such short supply of it in the most critical moments when the Constitution is being undermined.

198 replies
  1. SaltinWound says:

    Thanks, bmaz. I’d go a step further and say that, even if they were legally constrained, they should have said something and risked prosecution if they thought it was the right thing to do.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Cowered and cowering are the correct terms. They chose political expedience and survivability over doing their jobs. A routine, workaday choice made by millions of employees worried about when that pink slip will come. But the latter aren’t elected public officials, among the most senior and powerful in the federal government.

    These CongressCritters acted like petty bureaucrats worried about their status and perks, afraid that the high and mighty (what are they?) would think ill of them. How many of the concentric Russian dolls would have to be broken open to get down to their small size?

    In a Lord Jim moment, do they ask themselves what they will do now to make up for it? And what’s their answer?

  3. bmaz says:

    Hi folks. Have been scarce lately, and have to report I will be scarce tonight for this post too. I will try to check in later or tomorrow morning. For now, i am off to see Marcy receive her Hillman Prize (and tilt a few cocktails I might add).

    • Leen says:

      Have fun and another congrats to our favorite Marcy. Catching up as much as I can.

      Ot. Chris Matthews ripping Roland Burris up for what he says on the Blago tapes. Wondering were the F.B.I tapes of Harman’s “waddling” deal never released? If you release one set of a Representatives indescristions why not another? If you are applying standards why not across the board.

      Congrats Again Mary and the big team (WO, Bmaz, Mary etc)here at EW’s

    • phred says:

      You’re in NYC??? Dang bmaz, that would have almost been worth the trip to the city ; ) Drink a toast to our gifted hostess on our behalf!

    • freepatriot says:

      i am off to see Marcy receive her Hillman Prize (and tilt a few cocktails I might add).

      so you’re gonna go watch other people drink ???

      an I thought people who watched golf were weird …

      /intentional obtuseness

      (smiles fer miles)

  4. Mary says:

    Good stuff bmaz – I’m going to come back and re-read later too.

    On this:

    That said, any such “secrecy oath” for the Intel responsibilities is absolutely subordinate to the primacy of the prophylactic Speech and Debate clause protection in Article 1, Section 6. The decision in US v. Gravel is in accord.

    not only are you right on that, but it is also the case that you can’t validly contract (which is what the oath is, basically) to violate the law and if Harman et al were being “briefed” in violation of the NSA, then even without the speech and debate clause I think it’s probably true that that they could speak about the illegality of the briefings.

    That’s something there’s not time for right now, but not only did the speech and debate clause give them beaucoup oodles of protection, they also had a huge range and gamut of what they could say – it’s not like they had to show up and parrot out every word that was said in the secret briefings. From just complaining about there being briefings that were not complying with the NSA to saying that they had asked for legal memoranda supposedly supporting actions being taken pursuant to secret briefings and had been shocked to discover that the DOJ and OLC were taking the position that they could generate private, secret law etc. etc. etc. – they had so many avenues they could have taken, no one could ever begin to list them all.

    • tryggth says:

      Mary, remember Cheney threatening to not brief after Shelby leaked? How realistic is it for the executive branch to actually withhold on ‘national security’ related info?

  5. mooreagal says:

    Is it possible they didn’t know that they could have spoken up w/o fear of reprisal? After all, many of them don’t even read the Patriot Act.

      • Larue says:

        To what extent are said congress crits likely CULPABLE in aiding and abetting BushCo on FISA, torture, etc.?

        THAT would certainly muzzle them then, and now . . . . regardless of what they knew or not . . . that premise has loomed large in my mind since the approval for the Iraqi War, Patriot Act, etc. They’re all equally guilty of misleading and lying to the public, and to the world at large, in some manner.

        It’s a premise that pretty much ’splains ALL their horrendous capitulation and behavior even as a majority party.

        • plunger says:

          Precisely correct.

          They all knew everything, and not only on the topic of torture, but what led us into war in the first place, all the way back to the pretext. They are all culpable.

        • lllphd says:

          see leen’s comment at 39; and perhaps mine at various points.

          culpable, maybe; “equally” culpable? please. that’s like saying the ministry of magic was equally culpable as valdemor!

        • wavpeac says:

          Totally agree with this. This is also part of the dynamic in domestic violence. As I said, the most common response to perp behavior is to sink to their level. Almost always there is some kind of acquiescence that produces shame. That shame that continues the dynamic and then eventually defends it. The mom can’t put him in jail and prosecute because she feels guilty she let him beat her daughter, or because it’s the fifth time the kids have seen him beat her and she fears they will take the kids away. Or because she did drugs with him and he plans to use that in court against her. There is always something that keeps them stuck. Somewhere we have to see this dynamic if we want accountability. Pelosi is not bush. She should be held accountable but she is NOT the torturer. We have to keep the behaviors straight.

          Congress IS guilty of violating their oath. They did not protect the nation or the constitution. Many of them caved in a way that creates major cognitive dissonance. Now they might be held accountable and this puts them in the position of continuing to minimize, deny and blame right along with the perp. It happens in d.v all the time. We hand her all the tools to leave, to prosecute and to win. However, she fears the retaliation that will come. The fight. In that fight she knows she wasn’t perfect and she knows that anything she did that was not exemplary behavior…or “perfect victim”, means she could be held accountable. Why?? Because the perp will always try to shift the focus to everyone else…you made me do it, it was your fault…hey look what YOU did.

          These dynamics are part of the nature of being human. Also, victimization like this…causes a self centeredness and self righteousness. What likely starts to happen is that the dems see themselves as “the good ones” and “the right ones”. They start to take on the mentality that says that anything they do is okay because they are “defending” themselves. This creates a tunnel vision about survival that does nothing for the universe or society.

          The dynamics of victim and perpetrator invade many interaction in life…and my humble opinion is that understanding this dynamic, creating effective and validating interventions that seek effectiveness over the perpetuation of either role is the only way we will ever find peace. Look at Israel and Palestine. A great study in victim, perp dynamics and how invalidation perpetuates violence.

          The line between perp and victim is not black and white and is often blurred.

      • wildethyme says:

        Is it possible several were confronted with “results” of wire taps thru the surveillance mess? In other words, a little light blackmail?

    • lllphd says:

      not to pick nits on this point, but in fact, the WH subbed their version of the bill for the one congress actually worked out (such as that was) just hours before the vote was scheduled, so in fact, not one single representative actually read what they were voting on.


      not so much incompetence (tho that does go on; sheez, what passes for knowledge of the constitution in those halls…), as devious trickery on the part of the WH.

      this in itself should have garnered huge media coverage, but we all know where their heads were at around that time….

  6. JimWhite says:

    They took an oath to defend the Constitution from all perils, that is primary, and they failed it.

    Thanks, bmaz, I just wanted to repeat that bit. Have a good time celebrating this evening. Give our best to Marcy.

    • Mauimom says:

      Thanks, bmaz, I just wanted to repeat that bit. Have a good time celebrating this evening. Give our best to Marcy.

      I hope you are somehow able to rustle up some more contributions to the “Marcy Fund.”

      I think it’s criminal how slowly the amount is growing. Surely there will be some at the awards dinner who can contribute. Hell, if each of the 1500+ current donors had been able to give $100, we’d be there. [I know, not each of us can afford $100. But let’s get some more supporters!!]

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      Many thanks for the reference on The Pentagon Papers.
      Riveting story that I had forgotten about.
      Excellent post … with many what/if’s…
      If Pelosi had evoked the Speech and Debate” clause would it have caused a “Constitutional Crisis”?
      During the past eight years, I thought we would have had that crisis, but
      it never happened…
      Someone should ask the players if this alternative was considered…

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    Excellent summary of the legal, Constitutional issues, bmaz. Of course, the underlying moral and political question is why or how these “leaders” allowed themselves to take a dive on such an important issue as torture.

    Rather than any arm-twisting or scare tactics by Bush/Cheney (which may have occurred), I think the primary cause of their silence stems from adaptation to a political system that has allowed other forms of unacceptable behavior over the years, and has grown used to having in its midst a secret agency (or agencies) that involves itself in questionable behavior, if not outright crimes, at the behest of the executive. This has gone on for years, and to question it is to question the system and jeopardize one’s career and promotional track.

    It is extremely rare that any member of Congress ever speaks out on the lawlessness that operates behind this country’s covert operations and wars. One such example, which I wrote about not too long ago, was Rep. Torricelli’s 1995 outing of a Guatemalan contract CIA agent who was central in the execution of a number of people, including a U.S. innkeeper and the husband of Jennifer Harbury, as part of the dirty war of the Guatemalan military and its death squads.

    I’ve seen precious little such courage since in the halls of Congress ever since.

    Your article also begs a very important question. If this is the courage of “our” leaders, then given this important period in U.S. history, when Obama is proposing Bush-lite programs around military commissions, indefinite detention, coercive interrogation, escalating the war in Afghanistan, and more, are these the types of leaders that can be counted on when it comes to curtailing the power of the U.S. military and national security apparatus? I don’t think so.

    The crisis of humankind, the Marxists used to say, always comes down to the crisis of leadership. Too often, that was used as a recipe for slavish adherence to some leader or group of leaders, who happened to be in power. Taken to its extreme, one ends up with totalitarian dictatorship, which is all about protecting infallible leaders. But there is still truth to the old formula, and maybe humanity’s crisis is that we have not yet solved the leadership question.

  8. phred says:

    Great post bmaz, thanks.

    I think the following caveat is an important one though:

    Whether such conduct would have been consistent with Senate and Committee rules governing classified information would be a matter only for the Senate and could play no part in any Executive branch examination of his conduct

    So here’s the thing, you have a majority party in control of Congress that is in lockstep with the President, even if it means a dimunition of their own co-equal powers. If you are a member of the minority party and you know the President is breaking the law and you know the majority party in Congress supports that law breaking, then it seems to me the Speech and Debate clause won’t necessarily save you from the majority. What options would the majority in the Senate have to exact punishment from a member of the minority who spilled the beans?

  9. clbrune says:

    There’s legal reasoning and there’s political reality, though.

    Besides, in Bush’s America (and maybe Obama’s, but I hope not) you–anyone–can be jailed without charges indefinitely.

    • lllphd says:

      bmaz, this is just stunning work, and i thank and commend you for every letter of it.

      and let it be said that the route you propose is most definitely what i would have at least attempted. i have, sadly, a long track record of speaking truth to power, and i also have the requisite poverty and loss of status that one would expect from such brazen chutzpah. not that i’d have it any other way, but there it is.

      all that said, i do have to raise points raised before here in response to the zealous insistence that our congressfolk really had only one route to take.

      and this speaks to the key word in your essay: “theoretically”

      which itself speaks to clbrune’s distinction between legal reasoning and political reality, as well as mooreagal’s assertion of ignorance on their parts. those were complex and very dangerous times, and even though i just thumped my chest about what i would have done, i’ve thought about this extensively as you know, and i honestly don’t know how i would have responded.

      so try this hypothetical: instead of jello jay you’re jumpin’ jack flash and you take a bold and aggressive stand against what is being done in precisely the manner you suggest here, by reading your complaints on the senate floor and submitting them to the record. now what happens?

      it’s late 02, early 03, and as i recall, the atmosphere at that time was frighteningly orwellian. the media was hosting a nonstop party to celebrate the very bathwater bush and his cronies flicked from their flanks, and to keep up the militant spirit of the moment, they regularly sacrificed any and all evil libruhl voices in the fires of derision and dismissal.

      enter the sacrifical lamb, the willing martyr. remembering all too vividly the viciousness of the time, i cannot imagine the hero would survive. not one of the committee dems would have been reelected, not even jumpin’ jack flash. kraven karl and the big dick would have seen to that. had they banded together to stand up to the evil, they would have all gone down in flames. such was the insanity of the times.

      and what would that have meant? it would have meant that our ability to fight back in the senate in the 06 and 08 elections would have been compromised. their positions on the intel committee would have been replaced with someone less knowledgeable and worse, someone who had not been (non)briefed. had i been in their shoes, i’d have lost many nights of sleep trying to calculate the various possible outcomes from speaking out vs not. in fact, i have spent many a night pondering just such questions, and i cannot for the life of me see how they could have ever seen the up side of going public at that time in that climate without jeopardizing what little foothold they held at the time. i’m willing to accept that a fear of losing an election might have motivated them, but it would be equally fair to then also acknowledge that their fear of losing might also have itself been motivated by at least some modicum of more honorable concerns. i mean, after all, pelosi started dropping very heavy hints right after the 06 elections, if not before. had she spoken out and then lost an election, who would have listened to that voice? and who would have taken her place? is there no courage in laying low and sticking it out till the time is truly ripe for actual action on the situation, action that might have a prayer of fruition?

      in short, while i have long been a huge fan of mike gravel’s for what he did, and have felt betrayed by my congressional and party leadership for what has happened over the past 8 years, and sense i’d have done just what you are suggesting, bmaz, i also know that it may not have been the most politically savvy or foresighted action under those circumstances. i just cannot claim to have all the cards on this, though i will concede to you that there was most definitely a clearly principled path to take. it’s just that, well hell, paul wellstone and his family were killed, leahy and daschle received antrhax letters, the majority party and the press were fire-breathing dragons that left nothing standing in their paths. i don’t know how i would have weighed all those pressures, and i’ll be damned if i’ll now demand they show courage i’m not sure any of us could have mustered, or would have necessarily even felt ultimately wise at that time.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        I believe you paint too dark a picture of the time. While the first months after 9/11 were quite dismal and frightening, by later 2002 and certainly 2003, there had already been somewhat of a turnaround. Many thousands demonstrated against the drive for the war in Iraq, although by the time the war started, the demonstrations kind of caved in (thanks in part to a “mission accomplished” narrative pushed within days). Only when the Iraqi insurgency picked up steam, and the WMD failed to materialize, and the level of U.S. dead started to rise, did the opposition begin to find itself again.

        But 2001-03 was no new McCarthy period. In fact, the degree to which the Bush administration found it necessary to lie and hide its own misdeeds, to manufacture a cause for war, and then to continue to lie and spread false propaganda about the war, hide the body bags, lie about torture, etc., is due to the fact that they were vulnerable to the truth.

        A “profile in courage” means that a person does swim against the stream, and by doing so help redirect the course of history. I’m not talking about profiles in suicide, e.g., standing at a street corner in Berlin in 1936 and screaming “down with Hitler.”

        I suggest reading about serious periods of repression, such as Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia. My nom de plume (at times) on the Internet — “Valtin” — was taken from the author Jan Valtin, who in 1941, having escaped both the Gestapo and the GPU (though not before spending years in Nazi prisons and having been tortured), came to the U.S. and published his autobiography, Out of the Night. Contemporaneously written, it’s a magnificent tale of heroism and cowardice, of dreamers and idealists, and bureaucrats and torturers, of strikes and demonstrations and assassinations and elections and underground work and full-scale societal repression. Out of print, it’s easy to find, and will place some context upon what constitutes “courage”, “repression,” and “political work.”

        • lllphd says:

          thanks for the book tip; will give it a look.

          and no, it wasn’t mccarthy or 1930 berlin, but we teetered closer to the latter than we ever have before, even more than mccarthy (the usapatriot act has done – and will continue to do – more damage to our constitution and our rights than mccarthy ever dreamed). and though there was anti-war sentiment aplenty, it was ignored by the media, the largest problem, in my opinion. and though mccarthy did a lot of damage to a lot of careers and lives, the real threats of anthrax and wellstone’s mysterious death, along with the 9/11 attacks and the threat of more and more dangerous ones, real or hyped…. it was pretty dark from where i sat.

          i will grant you that the darkness began to lift with the push to invade iraq, but only slightly because resistance to that was used against any and everyone. i certainly don’t want to try to trump the darkness suffered by those in europe 70 years ago; i know (unlike some republicans i know) 9/11 did not compare to the london bombings. but i also lived through our modern assassination period from 63 to 68 (in memphis when king was shot), and kent state and the riots and nam tension and watergate and so on, and i have to say that none of that came even close to scaring me the way the bush years did.

          it was so bad, it will be with us for many years to come, not just as a memory, but in terms of how deeply they trampled our way of life on every possible dimension. these years of recovery could be every bit as difficult and destructive as the reconstruction was.

          and i guess i sensed that 8 years ago; these people were playing for keeps and they did not hesitate to use mafia tactics to take the power they wanted. that would give me pause in terms of how and when exactly to stand up to them.

          • Jeff Kaye says:

            Agreed that the Bush years have been quite dark. I remember the 60s well, too (though I was but a young teen in 1968). I probably shouldn’t have tried to compare the two periods, as each historical period is unique. It may be that the politicians now are worse than those of a generation or two ago. And certainly the press is even more servile, if that is possible.

            The 1960s were certainly more active: large scale leftist movements, a government domestic campaign of disruption and even assassination (e.g., Bobby Hampton) greater than anything we’ve seen (or know about) now, etc.

            I have no doubt that if social struggle had heated up in the Bush years, we would have seen greater governmental repression than we already did. They were certainly planning for that (Patriot Act, etc.).

            • lllphd says:

              you’re right; comparing is tricky. one tricky comparison is the movements; seems to me the far right movements were quite active in the 80s and 90s, but instead of confronting the govt like the lefties did in the 60s with both johnson and nixon, they supported it with reagan and bush.

              and it’s certainly the case that the bush admin had intentions to suppress/oppress dissent in all manner of nefarious ways; instead they used 9/11 and the corporate media to keep everyone in line. that’s why i say the extent and depth of destruction they wreaked upon us will be in place for some time to come. plus, they infected so many dimensions with their minions, giving them instructions to dig in for the long haul.

              they’re like a damn virus.

            • TheraP says:

              Difference with the 60’s was the Draft! That meant any young person your own age might be drafted. I was in college in DC from 63-67. There was a very active anti-war movement, a very active civil rights movement. Most of us took part to some degree or another in both movements. Thus, by the time Nixon’s shenanigans began, lots of people were already “radicalized” you might say. And the revelations of the criminal behavior leading up to the White House caught fire on top of those two already existing movements. I would honestly say that the civil rights movement was the catalyst to everything because of its strong basis in Gandhi’s non-violent resistance teachings. So anyone who went to a Viet Nam Teach-In, for example, got a dose of civil rights and nonviolence teaching as well. All of that played together.

              Now, we’re lacking that huge civil rights movement that included both races. We’re lacking that sense of mission from Gandhi. We’re lacking the overall fact that any young man would face the draft. A war that was hugely unpopular and had resulted in SO many more deaths – with no 9/11 to make into a a “sacred cause” – so Nixon “fell” on top of that huge pile of accumulated resistance and organizing.

              Just my take. Having living through it. It was frustrating then. But not as much as this time.

              • lllphd says:

                good points, therap. i would only add that the reason the civil rights movement helped to radicalize the antiwar movement was that so many of the drafted and fallen were black.

                which leads to my second addition: the draft did do a lot more than the volunteer army has done these days in terms of bringing the war home to more folks (that and the numbers; so far less than 6000 total in the wars, not counting contractor deaths), but…
                our charmning W is a prime example of the fact that not even the draft forced EVERY american to serve.
                W, and that entire list of other chickenhawks we know and love.

                • TheraP says:

                  As I recall, it would have been the cross-over of clergy – who played a large role in both movements. I don’t recall the race of the fallen playing a role – just their sheer numbers. Tactics, more than anything came from the civil rights movement. People who volunteered to be arrested.

                  All of this goes to show that you need organization, that the churches can play a positive or negative role, so can college students, and that tactics, a willingness to pay a price, a willingness to be arrested in large numbers, is maybe the crucial factor. They often arrested so many anti-war protesters they had to initially house them in stadiums!

                  And maybe the leaders in Congress only sign on when they see a huge grassroots groundswell, which is sad, and goes back to bmaz’s thesis. We do need some leaders willing to pay a high price. Leaders of conscience, I would call them.

                  @ 110: I have always assumed they somehow blackmailed Dem leaders – or maybe it was a kind of extortion (”we have ways of knowing everything, so stay in line or we can take you down”).

                  • klynn says:

                    so stay in line or we can take you down”

                    My comment at 109 would agree with this question/comment but add or change the “you” to: take “the country” down.

                    • klynn says:

                      I have a comment at the end of the previous post you might be interested due to your well written post on torture. Curious what you think about it…

                    • TheraP says:

                      Thanks for that klynn. I’ll look into this. And if I write on it in future, I will surely credit you. Kudos for staying on this!

                      Incidentally, what concerns me, on Marcy’s behalf, about awards, is that fame (and the distractions that come with it) can take you away from that “mental space” a writer needs in order to be productive.

                      Marcy, please guard your inner mental space
                      . Doris Lessing felt the Nobel Prize had so disrupted her life that she was unable to keep writing for some time.

                      From Doris Lessing’s Nobel lecture:

                      Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.

                      If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn.

                      When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. “Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?”

                      Marcy, please hold fast to that inner space!

                      We can all benefit from that advice.

                  • lllphd says:

                    living in memphis during that time, the large numbers of blacks – without student deferments or the wherewithall to get a medical deferment from a sympathetic doctor – was everywhere evident.

                    but i do agree that the churches were utterly key in the success of the movement. and that getting a public groundswell is necessary for the congress to pay attention. but as i said somewhere else in this thread, this time around the repugs really have the media wrapped up. it became an active propaganda campaign, not journalism, as we know. the public can’t swell the ground if they don’t have all the information.

                    and that leads us to the economy as the other specter looming in this difference between then and now. you know, people just can’t afford the time off to protest like they could back then. unemployment is so high, any absence is an open door to the line waiting for your job. not even students have as much of that freedom as they used to, as so many work during their college years. not to mention the increase in pressure to achieve, the competitiveness, etc. i noticed this between my post-doc and internship years, and the transition took only about three years total. my first year, folks were eager to head to the top floor of wm james hall and make good his admonition to lubricate the mind and conversation every friday evening; within three years, hardly anyone would show up, most of the students still hanging in the labs.

                    so while there are a lot of similarities, there are also quite important differences; important to recognize both.

              • fatster says:

                Merger of the powerful Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement met a major set-back on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, among many other set-backs that proceeded from that fateful day. And Martin was becoming very vocal against the Vietnam War at that time.

                • lllphd says:

                  you’re so right, fatster; i was there.

                  not only was king speaking out against the war, he was speaking out against poverty, too, and making the point that the war machine was chewing up the poor, mostly blacks, for that reason.

                  but i’m not sure i agree that april 4 marked the split with the churches; in my experience, it served to galvanize the bond between those movements and churches.

        • JMorgan says:

          I think the climate around the country has always been out of sync with Washington and NY, particularly after 9/11/01. I don’t think it was any coincidence that the center of our national government (Washington) and the center of our national media (NY) both became “the story” on 9/11/01, and any objectivity they might have had was gone. We’re talking about narcissistically inclined people to begin with, so there was never going to be steady, objective governing or reporting in response to 9/11.

          So while your (and my) experience of late 2002-2003 was that it wasn’t so “dark”, I don’t think that was so in Washington and NY. Remember Phil Donahue’s show on MSNBC? He went on the air in July, 2002, and was fired three weeks before Bush started the bombing of Iraq.

          I recall the air waves were filled with neocons bullying anyone who dared to criticize the Bush-Cheney approach and neocon foreign policy. I recall Lynn Cheney all over the cable channels throughout 2002 promoting her anti-liberalism book, a primer for children. She was recommending blacklisting of liberals on campuses across the nation if any professors dared to question neocon policies.

          In the weeks and months leading up to the attack on Iraq, the NSA was spying on members of Congress. Don’t you remember that John Bolton had access to taps on Colin Powell, Bill Richardson and others? I can’t imagine that members of Congress wouldn’t have been blackmailed by Bush and Cheney. Isn’t that how Karl Rove got his start in politics, having contacts in the FBI tap opposition phones for him?

          Whatever happened in these last eight years, I think is still going on. Bush and Cheney left embeds, that’s been reported. But even beyond that, just two weeks ago, the Pentagon released a report about released Gitmo detainees returning to war against the US when Cheney is all over the media defending torture? How is that not coordinated?

          Whatever the story, we’re not going to be able to repair the country until everything is exposed and people go to prison. I don’t see that happening when Congress appears afraid of its own shadow. Every day that goes by without investigations, hearings and a special counsel is a day Obama, Bush and Cheney do a collective, “Whew! Safe!”

          Obama is now owning Bush’s and Cheney’s crimes. They’re his now, too.

          • lllphd says:

            agreed, right up to your concluding statements.

            i don’t think obama ‘owns’ bush’s crimes at this point. it makes sense to me that he must adhere to the bush position, however crazy anti-constitution it might be, in order to see those cases through the judicial system; if he withdraws, the courts never have a chance to weigh in on the disputes and obama looks like a tyrant. he’s smart enough to see this.

            if obama uses the powers bush left him to continue to commit crimes, then and only then does he own them. until then, i see him as very carefully and cautiously pursuing a limited executive with limited powers; he will not exercise them to reverse what bush has done. he’s leaving that up to the courts and congress.

          • Jeff Kaye says:

            Yeah, thanks! I see that. Well, it had been out of print for decades. Good to see it’s back. A very heavy-duty book to read. I’ll be curious to see if it finds an ongoing audience.

    • phred says:

      Sadly, I think you hit the nail on the head, the overarching concern was one of job protection.

      Pelosi made the point, that she felt they needed majorities in Congress to change course and we needed a different administration. If that was really the case though, you would think Pelosi would have been first in line to introduce legislation to crack down on the abusive policies of BushCo and she would have immediately set to work on establishing a Congressional investigation of alleged criminal conduct by the administration. Since neither of those things has happened, her excuse rings hollow.

      • lllphd says:

        you know, i have this same impulse. however, how would this have played out publicly? as a vindictive witch hunt, which would have immediately tanked all their efforts. forever.

        and as for legislation diminishing executive power, that bill will have far more clout once the truth comes out. the repugs would only water down whatever was before them – with impunity – as long as they think they’re getting away with the past 8 years of corruption and constitution shredding. when the truth is out, they’ll be forced into being, well, reasonable. at least.

        i know obama has lost considerable cred here, but i’m still watching him; i think he knows all this stuff about political savvy. he’s just uncanny that way. and i also trust that ultimately he’ll get us where we need to be. but for the same reason we can’t have a witch hunt, he can’t be throwing around all that executive weight to reverse every damn thing bush did. he has said, and rightly so i think, that most of these issues need to be played out in the courts and the congress. any such changes as we crave here in the safety and sanctity of this blog will have to come thru the courts and congress, and that will take time. if he just makes it so, we’re all doomed, and he knows it.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes, they were so justified in cowering in political fear. How could they have possibly deigned to actually live up to their office?

          That is heinous.

          • lllphd says:

            bmaz, you never cease to misread me.

            i repeatedly support your principles, even admitting i’d likely find myself insisting on the principled stance.

            all i’m saying here is that i don’t think it’s heinous to respect that we are not all heroic, and we all have our levels of heroic threshold. and, given the times, i’m willing to cut these people a little slack because — again, despite my bravado — i honestly do not know how i would have acted under those circumstances.

            somewhere someone out there is right now penning the decisive screenplay about the dilemmas everyone faced in this historic period. an honest composition will not paint these people as heroes and villains. well, maybe wellstone and cheney will fill those roles. but for the most part, it’s more realistic to see the rest of them in relatively sympathetic tones.

            basically, though, i agree; they failed to fulfill their oaths. it’s sad and shameful and deeply flawed. so human. are you casting that first stone?

        • MarkH says:

          It’s terribly frustrating to have to wait for the courts, but there are advantages in that too. Obama often speaks of policy for the long run. I think he means it and has the patience. Keeping the Libs calm isn’t that easy. That’s why I want to see results in something…just about anything, so people will begin to feel better about this whole adventure.

          • lllphd says:

            i certainly agree. but i count the positive stuff to keep me going. it’s simply not trivial that he signed the order banning torture immediately, and his cabinet choices have been very good, sotomayor is excellent. he’s just so skilled at all this, and i can see that he is attempting to steer an aircraft carrier – not known for turning on a dime – through these treacherous waters. this is precisely why i think it is wise for him to be tacking to the center; that’s where the center of gravity is for the country. once he has more weight built up behind him in numbers and support, he can be more nimble.

            i remain impressed that he’s come so far so quickly. and i still say he is wise to maintain the adversarial/bush stance on many legal issues at this point. if he wants things to play out in the courts, they can’t if the govt position is the same as the other side’s. he has to take the ‘wrong’ position in order for there to actually be a debate on those positions bush took, in order for the courts to have anything of substance to say. otherwise it’s just his own echo chamber. and that is precisely what he is working to repudiate.

            the indefinite detention thing, tho; not sure quite what to do with that one. tho i do understand that we’ve created a boatload of monsters who would themselves be as endangered upon release as the country might be. that’s a tough one to solve.

            in any case, at least i feel he is being candid with us. who was it recently made the distinction between him and bush, both saying ‘trust me,’ but with bush you trusted his gut, and with obama you trust his intelligence and temperament and his capacity to see the big picture. huge difference.

            • ChuckinDenton says:

              I see your points and I have to agree to a large extent. I’m pretty sure right now the majority of the country doesn’t want idealogy on either side of aisle so, Obama tacking to the center pleases the majority and completely mystifies the hard right.

              As a purty leftist-minded individual, I’m not happy with some of what he seems to be doing but I’m certainly willing, at this early stage, to see what happens.

  10. Loo Hoo. says:

    Well now I’m doubly pissed at the whole lot of them. Chickenshittery.

    Have fun tonight bmaz, Marcy and group! Let’s see a pic of Marcy all dolled up, huh?

  11. TheraP says:

    Thank you for this, bmaz. You’ve long promised it. It does not disappoint.

    If I “get” this clause, it is, in effect, the foremost example of freedom of speech together with an exemplar of the freedom of speech. Giving to legislators the privilege, and one might say the duty, to speak truth to the other branches as well as to We the People. It seems to me that we must demand a revival of eloquence, a revival of exhortation and speechifying. It also seems to me that this clause could act in a way like the Prime Minister’s Question Time does in Britian. For not only could our legislators give speeches in declaratory fashion but they could pose questions as well. Over and over and over, if necessary.

    We must demand that this clause become a feature of both bodies in Congress.

    • chetnolian says:

      Not does, could. PM’s Questions acts now only as a pointless name-calling shouting match. In fact is it as embarrassing as nearly all of the rest of the British Governmental system, which is currently broken, in a way that the one in the US, for all its faults, isn’t.

    • lllphd says:

      i think bmaz was saying it IS a feature of both houses. but i hear ya; it should be the driving force of their every word and action.

      oh, but then – as the big dick so ‘eloquently’ pointed out – there is that five minute rule in the house.

  12. chetnolian says:

    Thanks Bmaz for setting out what I have been wondering about, which is the relationship in the USA between the security classification and what we call “parliamentary privilege” in the UK. Turns out it is about the same. I fear however that the real reasons for the failure of the Congresspeople to speak up are those cited by Jeff kaye @ 10. I doubt any US administraion during my lifetime has entirely clean hands regarding CIA activities on its watch. The same could surely be said of UK governments and MI5. What really distinguished the Bushies was the level of direct involvement of the upper levels of the administration in the abuses. But then Darth seemed to actually like getting his hands dirty.

  13. plunger says:

    When Congress is owned and controlled by AIPAC, this is the result.

    The reason they did nothing is that they all understood that the agenda was driven by AIPAC through Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Harman, Lieberman and countless others. AIPAC got exactly what AIPAC wanted. Torture of Muslims and acquisition of territory and resources for its client/state.

    From Maryo2 in the prior thread:

    “Dunlavey was Rumsfeld’s personal choice to head the interrogations at Guantanamo; he liked the fact that Dunlavey was a “tyrant,” in the words of a former Judge Advocate General official, and had no problem with the decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld had Dunlavey ignore the chain of command and report directly to him, though Dunlavey reported most often to Feith.”

    Feith is AIPAC, personified. The elephant in the torture room (wrapping Muslim detainees in Israeli flags during their torture), is AIPAC. Feith is absolutely in the chain of command where torture is concerned. His fingerprints are all over the Niger yellowcake forgery, and countless other crimes.

    The controlled-media is desperate to change the subject to the new shiny object, an Hispanic judge whom “Nobody-Newt” calls a “racist.”

    Don’t take the bait, and don’t let go of this bone.

  14. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, bmaz!
    This is an important piece. I’d like you to post it on a Constitutional Law blog, or maybe submit it for publication to a law journal. Meanwhile, what we can do is SPOTLIGHT this diary! Let’s get the MSM to take note!

    Bob in HI

  15. plunger says:

    Apparently Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller and the rest put their own careers and well being above their oath to defend the Constitution, not wishing to be “Graveled” into obscurity – or worse, put themselves in the crosshairs of War Criminal Cheney’s hit-team.

  16. hackworth1 says:

    Is this the issue (Pelosi getting briefed on the torture they claimed to be planning to implement which was already implemented)Pelosi was referring to when she proclaimed something to the effect of, “You don’t know the half of it!”?

    • lllphd says:

      i think so. i so remember her saying that and got all excited because it was clear she had at least been paying attention and was keeping ‘notes’ of a sort and had had an idea something was up. again, i just cannot imagine how i would have handled such incredible pressures.

  17. fatster says:

    O/T, or the Sotomayor nomination. Wonderful endorsement.

    The New Republic: Why Sotomayor Is Such A Good Pick

    by Erwin Chemerinsky

    “President Obama’s choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is brilliant politically, but even more importantly, terrific for the Supreme Court and the future of constitutional law. Everything that is known about her indicates that she will be an easy confirmation and an outstanding justice.”


  18. bmaz says:

    Marcy is giving her speech now. She is reminding all the stuffed shirts here, and trust me they are here.

    Here is the clincher folks, she just thanked each and every one of you. And that is right, because it doesn’t work the same without all of the wonderful people. Thank you.

    • lllphd says:

      you guys are marvelous, bmaz! and so deserving!! tremendously happy you are there with her to celebrate. big hugs to you both from all of us.

    • Leen says:

      EW Seems to never miss a chance to hit a home run. Three cheers for Marcy, Bmaz, Mary, WO and the rest of the truth and justice seekers!

    • TheraP says:

      Thank gives me tears in my eyes. It truly does. Thanks for that, bmaz. Thanks to Marcy!

    • phred says:

      Woot! Are your liveblogging? Seriously though, is there any chance we will get to see a YouTube of this someday? Dr. EW in all her glory? I would love that : )

    • skdadl says:

      Congratulations to Marcy, and bmaz, thanks so much for writing to us tonight. As TheraP says, that just made me puddle up right away.

      Sometimes I can hardly believe there are so many people here who haven’t been shaken or jangled in their principles, given, y’know, most of the first decade of this century, which has been a rough ride for humanity in general. And yet here y’all are. Amazing. (Somebody stop me from bursting into song.)

    • Mauimom says:

      Marcy is giving her speech now. She is reminding all the stuffed shirts here, and trust me they are here.

      I trust we’ll get a YouTube, or at least a transcript?

  19. THATanonymous says:

    Just a thought.
    Suppose that the penalty for speaking up wasn’t among the things already mentioned. Suppose instead that it was serious jail time (ensured by hard evidence) for the corrupting acts that many if not all members have engaged in. Certainly, there are lots of people/causes/companies etc., that work real hard to get the goods on people in power. And if those target members of the elite haven’t voluntarily engaged in such activities, the ‘players’ will do their damndest to try and include them, NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES OR HOW MUCH IT COSTS. When the monetary stakes are as high as they are where is the bright line that no one will cross? Surely it’s not simply lack of a pair that’s at the root of this failure. The lip trembling in fear, shared by 535 people, can’t all be due to personal lack of the will to speak up. Their (congress’) venality is banal and long storied. Thus the well worn truism that the shocking thing about evil is not the acts themselves but the banality of those acts.

    Just thinking out loud.

    TA (and that’s a good part of why the law is not the law)

    • lllphd says:

      agreed; the threats — real or perceived — were not trivial. again, wellstone’s crash, the anthrax letters to leahy and daschle, etc. just not trivial.

      • THATanonymous says:

        I feel a little misunderstood. And I need to elaborate a bit as well.

        There weren’t just a few timid congress critters and there weren’t just one or two things to blow the whistle on. And, actually, it didn’t all start on January 20th, 2001. This is pervasive corruption that goes way back and it infects the whole system.

        That being said, where were the American people when each in their own way came to understand that the whole thing was a thoroughly rigged game? Where are they now, now that the government is giving away your money and your children’s money and your grandchildren’s money and… to the guys who collapsed the financial system? That’s what it means to be systemically corrupt. Both the people and the government are complicit.

        What do the American people want, assuming there are any more choices left to be made? (The U.S. financial system will be completely destroyed by September unless Obama can get another war going somewhere.)

        As Dwight D. Eisenhower (no hero of mine) said

        “If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.”

        I suppose the question can be reworded: What are the American people willing to pay for what they want? Does that put it in better perspective?

        TA (the law is still not the law)

        • lllphd says:

          could not agree more. the role of the citizenry has been given little attention in this discussion, but i would submit that the fall of the press must take most of the blame there. ben franklin was right to note that an informed citizenry would, on average, make reasoned decisions. well, the ‘free’ press — like everything else — is not free, but bought. or at least on the take.

          it’s all about profit, which when i was a youth was actually still kind of a dirty word that no one admitted to. now it’s a driving force that everyone accepts as a matter of course.

          the one thing that we could do as a people is recognize that corporate power is at the bottom of all our woes — environment, financial, political — and the one thing we can do about this is to… stop consuming. if we were to collectively reduce our consumption to the barest of necessities, it would all come to a grinding halt. it is only from this naked place that we can even hope to start over clean again. i fear the fixes currently in place for the financial pickle will not hold very long at all, and besides they’re holding together all the supports for greed and corruption, so why would we want them to? if the financial sector goes, then all the power in DC shifts; could get interesting.

          but i fear it won’t. these habits are in so deep i suspect for most of us only death will break them.

        • lllphd says:

          hm. sure didn’t mean to ignore that great ike quote. and it does lay it out so neatly, does it not?

  20. Petrocelli says:

    wOOt !!!

    We love you, Marcy !!!

    … and you, bmaz, WO, mary, Jeff, MODS and the rest of you incredible commenters !

  21. Leen says:

    Bmaz just read your post. From the outside looking in it sure seems to this peasant and from what I have read from the legal folks here that they did fail their duty, oath and country by not taking the avenues open for them to share their concerns about what the Bush administration was doing. Thanks for this post.

    But as Andrew Sullivan has so articulately pointed out the “Lion’s share” of the responsibility was in the Republicans and the Bush administration’s court. The Bush administration re-wrote the torture laws and implemented them “lions share” of the responsibility to say the least.

    Have fun

    • lllphd says:

      could not agree more. the majority party takes on an additional, unspoken responsibility to preserve and protect the rights of the minority; otherwise, we have instant tyranny. voila. the fact that the minority party did not stand up in front of that steamroller is not, i agree, cause for celebration, but neither is it cause for condemnation. why become a cannibal when there is so much readily available ‘red’ meat out there?

  22. plunger says:

    Congratulations, Marcy. It’s nice to see hard work and passionate patriotism recognized.

  23. freepatriot says:

    so I been outta touch

    has my Muse become a “Made” blogger yet ???

    I check my Pesci encyclopedia, an it ain’t official till they kiss ya on da cheeks


    • Petrocelli says:

      I can’t believe you went there … not that I was ever tempted to post the same comment*g*

      *fingers crossed behind back*

  24. radiofreewill says:

    Congrats Marcy, bmaz, Jane, Christy, all the Front Pagers, and all of the Commenters and Lurkers in this Great Community!

    Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

    • Petrocelli says:

      Thanks for the reminder … in my glee, I forgot to thank Jane Hamsher, Christy and the other bloggers. Hopefully Kobe won’t nip my ankles for the neglect.

      • radiofreewill says:

        Petro – We’re good for each other! I forgot to Congratulate the Mods, whom I consider to be an integral part of the firedoglake Magic!


  25. plunger says:

    Kudos to Fatster for these reminders about the Cheney Rumsfeld reign of Treason in the Ford Administration:

    Cheney and Rumsfeld pressured CIA to mislead Congress in the 1970s, too


    And this

    Google: Operation Artichoke

    These bastards have “usurping authority and oversight” in their blood. They have no respect whatsoever for the institutions of the government or for the American people. Likewise, they deserve none from you and me. The Anthrax attacks against the American people were Rummy’s doing. By every definition, that was terrorism.

    • fatster says:

      More in the same vein:

      Family of Secrets
      By Russ Baker – May 26, 2009, 2:22PM

      “In trying to comprehend how the improbable world leader George W. Bush rose to the top and executed an array of radical policies, I began digging into the Bush family’s history for clues.

      . . .

      “A turning point came when I discovered that the elder Bush, long before he was CIA Director, led a double life–behind his public roles as an oilman, politician and diplomat–working on highly sensitive covert projects with the intelligence community. This research into George H.W. Bush’s clandestine activities led me to a profoundly new understanding of several seminal events in this country’s history, including the JFK assassination, Watergate, and the destabilization of the Carter and Clinton administrations.

      . . .

      “There is a virtual taboo on exploring the true domestic reach of the wealthy, banking interests, the spy services, military and military contractors. “


  26. Larue says:

    Heck of a post BMAZ, and congrats to Mz. Wheeler, and all of FDL Realm, for a superb job of informing us.

    May you all stay the course and never waver.

    Slainte Mhath!

  27. robspierre says:

    An excellent post. Thank you.

    But I have to wonder–you are not a member of Congress, a member’s staff person, or a member’s lawyer, right? So why has it been left to you to read the Constitution and draw conclusions that lay out Congress’ privileges? Why haven’t Congressmen, their staffs, and/or their lawyers done at least as much as an amateur (in the best sense) journalist such as yourself?

    I rather think that checking the law would be one of the first things that most people would do if faced with something scary like membership on an intelligence committee and a secrecy oath. I’d view it as minimum due diligence.

    So I can’t conclude that ignorance or fear or practical politics had anything substantive to do with the behavior of Harman, Pelosi, et al. They colluded because, for various reasons, they wanted to. They were used to years of secretive criminality in Washington, as has been pointed out above. They were attracted by the perceived privileges and powers of the secret world. They liked being in an exclusive Washington club that can take advantage of such privileges and powers. They expected to use the benefits themselves at some point, if they hadn’t already.

    So the only way to control these types is to revoke their membership in the club. Throw the bums out. If we won’t, well, that just shows that the problem is not lack of backbone in Congress.

    • lllphd says:

      um, with all due respect, you kinda contradict your point.

      if their ‘real’ motive was more of the same corruption, then what of all those staffers and lawyers? that fails to add up, frankly. we haven’t seen defections in the dems’ ranks (save ol’ zell miller!) anything like from the republicans, and at all levels.

      i’ll agree there is a real culture of self-serving corruption in DC, but to throw the dems in the same boat with the repugs is just ridiculous. are you not paying attention? that party is disintegrating before our very eyes. granted there are some blue dog dems who make me just as angry (and as bemused), but over all, there is a distinction to be made between the parties, and it is not subtle.

    • Peterr says:

      But I have to wonder–you are not a member of Congress, a member’s staff person, or a member’s lawyer, right? So why has it been left to you to read the Constitution and draw conclusions that lay out Congress’ privileges? Why haven’t Congressmen, their staffs, and/or their lawyers done at least as much as an amateur (in the best sense) journalist such as yourself? . . . So the only way to control these types is to revoke their membership in the club. Throw the bums out.

      You know, John McCain’s Senate seat in Arizona is up for election in 2010.

      Hey, bmaz . . .

  28. fatster says:

    O/T, or back to the torture photos:

    Unreleased abuse photos depict rape, sexual abuse: report


Published: May 27, 2009 
Updated 1 hour ago

    “Unreleased photographs of alleged abuse by U.S. military personnel of prisoners at Iraqi prisons – which President Obama refused to release earlier this month – include images of rape and sexual abuse, according to a new report.”


    • Mary says:

      Obama has the same problem on that front. He’s just not big on telling the truth.

      Obama: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”

      Taguba’s descriptions: American soldier raping female prisoner; male translator raping “male detainee” (described as a juvenile by witness); forcibly ripping clothes from female prisoner to reveal her breasts; sexual assaults on prisoners with wire, phosphorescent light & truncheon.

      If Taguba is acknowldging that these pictures exist, they would go hand in hand with what witness statements from Abu Ghraib have referenced. One detainee, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, describes an American female soldier clicking away with pictures while the boy is being raped by the translator.

      Think about that – and about successive administrations who refuse to admit the existence of even the tip of the iceberg that is reflected by pictures. And it tracks so closely with the women in the CIA program, clicking away with pictures of the detainees being stripped and abused in front of them – then they go home and call themselves patriots? Binyam Mohammed’s mutliated genitals – zoom on in for the close up Sistah. It’s all been so relentlessly remorseless. This hasn’t been crazed reactions after 9/11 followed by tremendous remorse. That you can understand and even sympathize with. It’s been depravity followed by a demand for the nation to pony up and “support” depravity and equate patriotism with condoning rape and mutilation and murder. Not just a lack of remorse for individual acts, but an eagerness to remake the whole country into a torture regime and all without a thought for what that meant over the last 7+ years and means for the future. All the future deaths and depravities that walk back to their individual doors and no one gives a rats ass.

      And the women and kids who aren’t in the pictures – what about the fact that the US military had an actual program of hostage taking and leaving threats that they were going to be raping and abusing family members to get suspected insurgents to “turn themselves in” The Iraqi general who was tortured to death in a sleeping bag turned himself in bc we had his sons. And what do you think happened to the women who were raped and stripped – not just at Abu Ghraib but elsewhere?

      Mohanded Juma Juma, detainee No. 152307, said he was stripped and kept naked for six days when he arrived at Abu Ghraib. One day, he said, American soldiers brought a father and his son into the cellblock. He said the soldiers put hoods over their heads and removed their clothes.

      Then, they removed the hoods.

      “When the son saw his father naked he was crying,” Juma told the investigators. “He was crying because of seeing his father.”

      Anyway – not to worry. Mr Obama said the individuals involved had been “identified, and appropriate actions” taken.

      I know that has to be the case, bc after all, Obama has found his inner Ellen Tauscher It’s easy to see why she got an Undersecretary of State appointment under his administration. After all, she’s in complete agreement with Obama that pictures of women and children being raped isn’t all that big a deal – just a yawn and an itch.

      Wyden’s view of the unreleased photos:

      the new pictures were “significantly worse than anything that I had anticipated […] Take the worst case and multiply it several times over.”

      Tauscher’s view of the unreleased photos:

      the pictures were “not dramatically different”.

      Good to know what it takes to be a moderate Democrat like Obama and Tauscher. Change is a great thing.

      BTW – the Telegraph story indicates that the translator who raped the kid while a female American soldier clicked away was an American Egyptian and we know Obama is right about all those “appropriate actions” After all, it’s not like he has mischaracterized the pictures, so we know we can trust him. Turns out there is a “civil court case in the US” filed against the translator. Yeah – that’s the “appropriate action”

      • bmaz says:

        Hi folks. I am in Central Park at Tavern on the Green having lunch and a fancy ass margarita. Marcy at airport with delayed flight. So knock yourselves out here, make it an open thread. Oh, and WHAT MARY SAID! This shit is just tiring from Obama.

      • fatster says:

        You just blow me away, Mary, with the precision of your work and the deep humanity that underlies it. And the wryness of your comments (@ 121) has me shaking my head sadly and chuckling simultaneously.

      • Nell says:

        the translator who raped the kid while a female American soldier clicked away was an American Egyptian

        I’m thinking the translators are another overlooked sub-story worth pursuing throughout this whole sorry, ongoing crime spree. Near the end of the recent Wash Post story on Boumediene in France after his release:

        During one 16-day period in February 2003, he said, the interrogations went on day and night, sometimes with tactics such as lifting him roughly from the chair where he was strapped, so the shackles dug into his flesh. The interrogators, some dressed in military uniforms and others in civilian clothes, were assisted by Arabic interpreters who seemed mostly to be from Egypt and Lebanon, he recalled, and later included a few Moroccans and Iraqis.

        “They were dogs,” Boumediene said of the foreign interpreters, in his only show of anger. “They were dogs. They often started doing the interrogations themselves. They would tell the interrogators they could get more information.”

        • lllphd says:

          yeah, i saw this and realized why this was his one show of anger. he expected us to be monsters, but the depth of betrayal he felt from fellow muslims must have been pretty intense.

      • Aeon says:

        Pentagon Denies Report Iraq Prison Photos Show Rape

        WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, whose release U.S. President Barack Obama wants to block, include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse.

        Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Daily Telegraph newspaper had shown “an inability to get the facts right”.

        “That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images,” Whitman told reporters. “None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article.”

        Thursday’s Telegraph quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted a 2004 investigation into abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, as saying the pictures showed “torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”

        The Pentagon spokesman is clearly speaking only about the 44 pictures related to the ACLU 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case. “[T]he photos in question”.

        Taguba was talking about some of the 2000 other pics.

        Is there any question which way the media will frame the Pentagon denial?

        • Mary says:

          I don’t know what the description was for the ACLU complaint, but it does sound like some nifty parsing is going on there, doesn’t it?

          Taguba is talking about unreleased photos and that there are definitely ones that show x,y and Z.

          The Pentagon & Obama are parsing to say – hey, of the 44 remaining photos that we have told the court are responsive to the ACLU request, THOSE PHOTOS don’t show that kind of thing.

          And then there’s Taguba’s longstanding call for an MI investigation, that Obama has endorsed as needed for transparancey and accountability ignored.

          • Aeon says:

            Exactly right.

            And just this afternoon DOJ has withdrawn its decision not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

            The Obama administration asked a federal court Thursday to cancel its decision ordering the release of disturbing images of detainee abuse.

            The motion was filed with a federal appeals court in New York. The court papers cite two partially secret statements from top U.S. generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.

            But it looks like my WAG @161 about the nature of the parsing may be off — the Pentagon spokesman may simply be lying.

            The government has not revealed the precise number of photos in question. It said in an April court filing that in addition to 44 photographs previously identified as showing prisoner abuse, there were “a substantial number of other images” in Army criminal investigative files.

            A.C.L.U. officials have speculated that as many as 2,000 photographs may be at stake. A government official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity said Thursday that the total was probably more than 1,000.

            The ACLU case [ACLU v. DOD] was filed back on October 7, 2003.

            • Nell says:

              The ACLU case [ACLU v. DOD] was filed back on October 7, 2003.

              But hey, don’t strain yourselves rushing to comply, Insect Overlords. Five and a half freaking years.

            • Mary says:

              From your first link, I like how they are now expanding out from the “it may hurt US troops” to “hey, looky, Pakistan!!”

              saying the photos could incite violence in Pakistan as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

              Wait wait – didn’t they forget Morocco? Thailand? Indonesia?

              In the new filings, Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said the images could also lead to more violence in Pakistan because it deals with Taliban attacks.

              So let’s see how that works – the Taliban might be mad at their Pakistan government if pictures of the US abusing prisoner in Iraq are released? WOn’t even try to go all the places that takes you. But the really “fun fact” here is that Obama is trying to say that releasing Bush era abuse pictures will cause problems in Pakistan, but bombing babies – that’s all good. It, ya know, makes Pakistan stronger to bomb Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

              I’m so glad we have a nice, wise “thinker” like Obama in office now, running things with great “thinkers” like Petraeus and Odierno. And they’ve thought things through and figured out that the best way to make Pakistan free and safe is to cover up US military abuse of civilians on the left hand while continuing to bomb civilians on the right hand.

              Some days you have to just be glad that we didn’t elect a three handed President.

              • Aeon says:

                Yep, its absurd.

                Not to mention that Judge Hellerstein in his ruling said that govt cant use FOIA exemption 7(F) [This exemption provides broad protection to “any individual” when disclosure of information about him “could reasonably be expected to endanger his life or physical safety.”] to withhold release of the pictures.

                I’m so glad we have a nice, wise “thinker” like Obama in office now, running things with great “thinkers” like Petraeus and Odierno. And they’ve thought things through and figured out that the best way to make Pakistan free and safe is to cover up US military abuse of civilians on the left hand while continuing to bomb civilians on the right hand.

                I think that they know we are already creating terrorists by the thousands with our “kinetic” operations, and just don’t want to stir up the hornet’s nest any more than necessary.

                • Aeon says:

                  Not to mention that Judge Hellerstein in his ruling said that govt cant use FOIA exemption 7(F).

                  Also the appeals court thus ruled.

            • Mary says:

              And btw – notice what that other option, of “classifying” the pictures, does to the civilian plaintiffs who might bring suit, like ths suit against the Egyptian/American translator. Pretty much shots them out of the water.

              But as long as “appropriate” actions were taken, I guess there’s nothing to worry about.

        • Leen says:

          What is up? Did you miss the news this was just a case of a “few bad apples” .

          All those at the top who changed the law, ordered the “few bad apples” to “soften” up prisoners are rotting from the inside. Still want to witness them testify under oath.

          Obama, Holder, Leahy, Whitehouse, Pelosi, etc etc “no one is above the law” “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW”

          We want to believe!

  29. oldtree says:

    You know, we get to go back to oil again don’t we? Why else would they be so timid with the power to expose a war criminal? Guess congress, and thus all of us, realize, that no one is going to build anything fuel efficient, or get away from oil as a fuel and commodity. Permanent bases in all the countries we need resources. Funny how stealing those resources is a war crime?

  30. fatster says:

    Do CIA cables show doctors monitoring torture?

    Documents obtained by the ACLU seem to show that medical personnel monitored the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah

    Editor’s note: Sheri Fink is a reporter for ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
    By Sheri Fink

    May 28, 2009 |” Evidence is emerging that medical personnel monitored the medical effects of the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, the al-Qaida operative who was, according to government reports, subjected to the near-drowning at least 83 times in August 2002.”
    . . .

    “The descriptions of the cables (here and here) reveal that a daily “medical update” and “behavioral comments” along with status and threat updates were sent to CIA headquarters throughout that period. On five occasions between Aug. 4 and Aug. 9, an additional cable was sent containing “medical information” along with such information as the strategies for interrogation sessions, raw intelligence, the use of interrogation techniques to elicit information, and the reactions to those techniques. The fact that medical information was included in these cables hints that Abu Zubaydah was medically monitored during or after being subjected to those techniques. Both professional organizations and human rights groups have rejected as unethical any monitoring role for medical personnel.”


  31. MarkH says:

    re Dems in Cong during Bush years:

    Think of it as a pregnant woman who has the knowledge and the choice of whether to abort. Once she decides I have to admit I accept that without reservation. It was her choice, he intimate knowledge of the situation and hers to live with thereafter. Who am I as an observer, however interested, to pass judgment on that decision?

    I support Nancy and I trust Jay and I believe Graham’s diary!

    The possibility they were scared witless or blackmaled and so on doesn’t interest me wrt their decision. I accept what they did and move on.

    However, in retrospect it IS important to look at all of that to improve our system so it can’t happen again and to choose where to prosecute. Right now we’re studying, gathering information and possibly taking depositions. As much as it frustrates the public the process is what it is…slow.

    • lllphd says:

      again, could not agree more. it is in the context you describe here that the scenario bmaz defines so eloquently becomes utterly crucial, toward the ultimate learning experience of all that we’ve been through. but i stop short of making them ‘equally’ culpable with the republicans. to my mind, believing that to any real degree is like saying there’s no real difference in life before 1/20/09 and after, or that neither gore nor kerry would have been any different than bush, or that the legislation we see at least attempted from the dems is any different than what the republicans shoved down our throats for 7 years. losing those shades of gray in painting it all black and white is dangerous no matter what party you view it from.

  32. pdaly says:

    Glad to hear you attended emptywheel’s award ceremony, bmaz. Congrats, Marcy.

    Thanks for this speech and debate clause post. It makes it that much more infuriating to know our Congressmen and Congresswomen couldn’t be bothered to wield the tools our Founders had expressly furnished to protect Congress from wayward judges and presidents.

    Your quote says it all.

    In this instance, there were only a handful of Representatives and Senators that could have addressed the ills at hand, and they failed their duty, failed their oath and failed their country.

    I also think our Congressmen have acted like many Americans trying to wiggle out of jury duty–understandable for the average citizen eager to return to his/her job or home, but not so becoming in a Congressman whose JOB is oversight of the other branches of governement:

    Here’s Senator Carl Levin at FDL in July 2008

    I don’t support impeachment proceedings against President Bush.

    And nomolos’ reply to Levin was succinct:

    Then you should vote that way if and when the issue comes to the Senate floor. Now you are required by the constitution to take action

    And it goes without saying Bush/Cheney failed their oaths, too.

    A perfect storm.

  33. ChuckinDenton says:

    Its too easy and transparent for the Republican members of Congress to hypocritically suggest that “had Pelosi, et al. been true patriots, they would have spoken out”.

  34. Robt says:

    Sounds like someone is asking for Pelosi and others to be heroes. Those who serve in the military understand heroes aren’t of the living. In other words, these Dems in fact failed at doing what little they could.

    Think of the flag pins, the invocation of 9/11, “For Us or Against Us”, who was in charge of the White House, Senate, House of Reps as well as a lock step group of 5 (of 9) ruled Supreme Court. Remember many of the whistle blowers that revealed some horrible stuff but ended up disgraced, unemployed and in front of charges under Bush’s whistle blowers law. That law in which punishes whistle blowing.

    It was a time of secrecy and Godly folks as Monica Goodling who thought she took an oath to the President and not defending the Constitution. They had the media controlled.

    There was absolutley no way Pelosi, Rockefeller or others to do anything without the Republican controlled majority. They republicans would have had liars dice games at Pelosi’s espense, day in day out on CSPAN until crazy assassination calls came from Pat Robertson on his 700 club in the name of GOD of course.

    With that said, when the ‘06 thumping ocurred. Pelosi could have done so very much more than stand up and say, ” impeachment is off the table “. That is for damn sure. Look at all this now, Obama wants to move on but the Bush torture game and other policies haunt his presidency. My God the republicans forced Clinton to lie under oath about consensual sex between two adults because he didn’t want to admit his poor personal behavior that didn’t effect his presidency until the GOP made it so. Yet, ” a wire tap requires a court order”, We do not torture”, “Saddam wants to kill my daddy, Iraq has WMD and has Al Qaida connections”, “Iraq’s oil will pay for the war”. (just some of the lies from Bush that could be impeachable but Pelosi took it off the table?

    The real question is, what do we do with it all now?
    I say investigate and let the chips fall where they may.

    I do know, more than someone needs to go to prison over it al that in the future. Mini-Me-Cheney cannot get in and do anything like this again.

    They say the death penalty acts as a deterrent to muder. Maybe the death penalty can be a deterrent of torture and presidential ( VP and Adm appointees)abuses of this nation.

    • lllphd says:

      well, not so sure the death penalty actually does have any lasting effect in deterring crime, but it would seem the death penalty that stands for treason would work here. we don’t hear anyone on the left making that accusation, which the right tossed around like confetti any time the slightest question was raised about bush’s actions.

      personally, i’m flat against the death penalty, but do agree these guys need to be soundly punished when their crimes are exposed.

  35. cinnamonape says:

    I see your point that they hve immunity for what they reveal on the floor of the Senate. But what about any incidental crimes. For example, the House staffer who told Pelosi that the torture commenced long before she was initially briefed would have been subject to prosecution. And Harman could potentially have been charged with leaking to that staffer. Neither of these falls within the Speech and Debate clause, and surely any speech on the floor would have revealed this “indiscretions”. Of course, a whistleblower might have immunity- since there was a criminal act likely involved. Still neither Harman, the staffer or Pelosi were “law enforcement.”

    • bmaz says:

      Read the Gravel decision and it’s precursors that are contained within it. There is a link to Gravel in the post. Those things you just referenced ARE indeed protected by the Speech and Debate clause in the situations you describe.

    • lllphd says:

      if i’m reading you correctly, a response to you would be that bmaz addressed that by saying the speech and debate clause trumps any oath or contract they have in committee secrecy. their primary allegiance is to the constitution, period. to have done what bmaz suggests, expose the crimes on the senate floor, would have been protected by that clause; they could not have been successfully prosecuted for sharing those secrets.

      if i’m reading you – and bmaz – correctly.

  36. bluejeansntshirt says:

    Hi Marcy,

    Thanks again for the invitation to the Sidney Hillman Awards and for allowing me to be a part of your very special evening. It was so nice to meet you and your friends and family, and to rub elbows with all the other honorees.

    I took a few pictures. I hope you like them. Will post more next week but must run now. Enjoy, bluejeansntshirt

  37. wavpeac says:

    This is a great article. And it’s important because it lays out a path for standing up against this kind of power and control. We as a nation need to recognize that we must remove obstacles to this most important endeavor to protect our constitution and democracy.

    That said, and you can tell me to stfu if you have the need, but I still think the analogy to domestic violence applies. I believe we have opportunity to learn something about ourselves and about power and control. I think we need to validate the difficulty (not let them off the hook, but create a valid map of reality here). I watch intelligent women and men struggle with this dynamic and find them utterly amazed that they could end up feeling “trapped” by the dynamic of power and control. I have looked into that star struck face too many times to be able to dismiss a lack of reaction as anything but a very valid response to power and control. I think we know deep down that more often than not the human being responds to these types of threats in lack luster ways as opposed to heroic ways. That’s why heroes, are heroes.

    The underlying dynamic is really about creating a constant string of retribution, pain, humiliation, financial consequences for anyone who would stand up and confront those in use these techniques. When these behaviors are applied forward press, and by a large group who have power, it is a formidable opponent. I have spent my life educating about this dynamic to the faces of many who, having never found themselves trapped by this kind of fear of retribution, envision themselves perfectly capable of finding the solution. These folks are certain that they would know exactly what to do in the face of this emotional bondage. And my personal experience has been that even powerful people have found themselves “under the spell” of this power and control dynamic.

    In the end it’s all about fear, but it is also about solutions. Many times people are unable to think as clearly as they normally would when they are under great stress. When they feel victimized, angry, mortified, and scared they make BIG mistakes.

    Yes, there are heroes, just like there exist self made millionaires who were raised in poverty and made it to the top. My argument here is that this is not the norm. This is not what I have witness in my life. On either the self made millionaire example or the person who flawlessly fights against a power and control dynamic like what we have been under.

    The mob was hard to fight for years, because of this dynamic. Drug lords use the same dynamic and are difficult to conquer using our current solutions. The most common reaction is to “sink” to their level, thereby losing self integrity and deepening the crises. I think this is exactly what happened in congress.

    Let me make it clear, that my position should not be seen as counter to Bmaz here. I believe the only solutions lie in accountability and natural consequences. However, just as the coordinated community response has created a more powerful response to the violent domestic home terrorist…we have an opportunity to look more closely at this dynamic and make the valid paths more obvious.

    At the same time we have to accept that the bushco administration had blood on it’s hands and that this would have created a true fear for life. I don’t think that it was all about losing their jobs, their power, and their fame. (I think those were all obstacles that the violent offender played upon). The bottom line is that there is and was real danger in confronting these violent people. It must be done, they must be held accountable and it works best if we do not “sink” to their level. However, the system itself needs to be strong enough to counter this behavior.

    Bottom line…if we as American’s truly were intolerant about the use of torture, the bush folks would not have had the upper hand. Bottom line, if this country had not feared being attacked more than it feared perpetrating on another country needlessly, the Iraq war could not have been started.

    I think that the only way out of this mess is awareness and accountability for ALL. I have no problem with holding Congress accountable and believe that any exercise to bring awareness to valid ways of confronting this kind of evil would be good for our country. I am not defending Pelosi here. However, I am saying that perhaps it’s not so black and white, and that the complexity of this situation is best served by awareness and validation of all the dynamics in play.

    Greed, yes. Fear…yes. Fear of valid danger to life and limb…Yes. Pride…yes. And there should and are consequences for all of us…as a nation, as congress critters, as voters. The more we know and understand about what happened to our country the better. There are ways out of domestic violence but the truth is that the spouse who leaves a violent offender is in the most danger as she leaves…she is most likely to die in the first two months of her freedom than at any other time.

    I think we are not speaking out loudly enough about the true danger of the bush administration. I think we have some denial about the level of danger in regard to confronting them. I think it hard…because just like the spouse at home and alone confronting it. I guess the dialectic here is to hold Pelosi et al accountable, while validating the truth about the danger.

    This administration lied, it killed people, it let people die, and it tortured. We are still as a nation, minimizing, denying and blaming. We are not fully confronting the reality of the perpetrator in front of us. For heaven’s sake he was our President. (our dad). He’s bad, but “not that bad”. Nope. he’s that dangerous and until we as a nation start acting like the bush administration IS dangerous…our map is not valid.

    • TheraP says:

      Excellent comment! Reality is never just black and white, though we wish it would be. I’d add just this to your analogy of domestic violence. It’s more like domestic violence occurring within a crime family. I actually once worked with a lady who’d been a victim of abuse, where even the hospital was, in effect, controlled by the mob. Well, if you have the crime family controlling many institutions within a society, it makes it that much harder for the victim. Blaming the victim is never a good solution. Yes, it’s true, the victims need support. But there was never enough support. We need to be sure that we stand up ourselves. That we demand accountability and provide a safety net. For leaders. For whistle-blowers.

      I too am not disagreeing with the responsibility Dem leaders bear here. I’d say there’s a difference between “responsibility” and “blame” – and I’d lay the “blame” on bushco – the criminals who designed such a web of deceit that they could also spy on any dissenters, including leaders of the opposition.

      I can’t say it better than you did. But I cosign for sure! We need a nuanced understanding of what occurred. But I’m not prepared to be very nuanced for those who designed and perpetrated the subversion of the Constitution, and made use of a national tragedy to do that.

    • lllphd says:

      wavpeac, this is brilliant; wish i could have made the case as well as this.

      to use the metaphor further, in a domestic violence dynamic where children are also victims, especially of incest, the mother is often blamed by the kids for not protecting them. because the fear of the father is so great, and because the need for connecting with him also so great, they dare not alienate him by blaming him. mother is safer because she of course will always be there for the kids while the father won’t, and when he is there he abuses. there is of course the additional dynamic of piling on the mom because this is the modeled behavior; dad shows no respect for her, mom no self-respect, so she is the easy target.

      so the dem leadership is like the mom in this scenario, as much the victims as we the ‘kids’, but the mom doubly so because of the attacks from the kids, as well. this is why i object so strongly to all this venomous lashing out at the dem leadership when we really need to be directing all our energies at the real criminals.

      when all is said and done, we can confront the dems for not doing a more courageous job of protecting us or the constitution, but their ‘crime’ is a matter of degree. nothing we know so far makes me feel they were complicit, not by any stretch; they were deliberately kept in the dark. not courageous enough? well, i challenge anyone to walk a mile in their shoes.

      thanks again; excellent points.

      • TheraP says:

        Yes, you’ve put your finger on the dynamic for why so many would be so angry at those “who failed to protect” – even if they did not abuse. Good catch!

      • rincewind says:

        Exactly! Even we, even now, find it easier to attack the “mom”/Dems who failed to “protect us from harm”/uphold the law, than to confront the “dad”/Repugs who actually “harmed us”/violated the law.

        Yes, the mom and the Dems had a duty and failed it. They failed (and are still failing) to be heroic when fulfilling that duty required heroism. What happened to people who DID speak out against any part of the Cheney cabal?

        Paul Wellstone: dead
        Joe Wilson: ’nuff said
        David Kelly: dead
        Scott Ritter: career destroyed, weird trumped-up arrest, charges never pursued
        Jesselyn Raddack: career destroyed, trumped-up charges, “investigations”
        Sibel Edmonds: career destroyed, gag order, retaliation/harassment
        Antonio Taguba: career destroyed, forced retirement
        Janis Karpinski: career destroyed, demoted, trumped-up charges
        Jim Comey?: DOJ “investigation” of him WRT Lockheed Martin, immediately after he testified to the House and Senate?

        I know I’m forgetting a lot of people, these are just the ones that came to mind. What we can’t afford to forget is that we haven’t found any bottom to what the Cheney cabal is willing and able to do. I’m not saying that should stop us, or should stop our elected representatives — but we better acknowledge what kind of lethal hornet’s nest we’re stirring up.

        • Mary says:

          It’s not that I don’t understand those arguments, but I don’t think they cover the bases in 2006 and on. “Mom” (bc of the efforts of the kids) was handed a prime opportunity to swear out a complaint and put the abuser away. Mom even got to be judge and jury – but instead “mom” decided to “take it off the table” as even an item for discussion and just let the abuser keep on. Bc it made her “look better” to the kids.


          • lllphd says:

            mary, you may have missed the points made earlier in the thread about just how intense the dynamic is that creates such fear in the abused.

            forgive me, but your cynicism – though understandable on some level – is also not terribly constructive or productive. how certain are you that you would do differently in their shoes? and don’t forget how easy it is to assert as much in hindsight.

            i just think some of us here are trying to say that going after the dems the way you and bmaz tend to do is an odd focus of energy at this juncture. odd, and potentially very counter-productive.

            • bmaz says:

              Funny how people who study and spend their lives in the law are so silly as to actually want it followed. Go figure. Frankly, I simply do not understand what type of American thinks political expediency trumps protecting the very essence of the Constitution and the rule of law. What exactly is it that you think that American soldiers have fought and died for since the founding? The right for craven politicians to fatten their asses on the public dole without discomfort?

              • lllphd says:

                well, bmaz, last i checked there are puhlenty of lawyers out there who study the law precisely in order to NOT follow it. the fact that these folks exist, in law and in the legislature, is a fact of humanity. while i do believe the founders crafted the constitution in hopes most would follow it, i also feel fairly certain they were painfully aware that, human frailty being what it is, most would fail. the very structure of the document essentially explodes with this painful awareness, in fact.

                not an argument in favor of breaking the law, but it is an argument in favor of mercy. just as punishments for crimes fall along a gradient from minor to heinous offenses, taking into account all manner of mitigating circumstances such as intent and insanity and self-defense, i should think we could muster some such similar gradient in our rhetoric regarding the dems’ behavior throughout the bush administration. for chrissake, they weren’t even driving the getaway car and you seem to want to see them fry along with the dick and the W. what’s that about?

                i’ve repeatedly stated that i tend to lean toward the bold stand myself, and find it hard to imagine that i would have chosen otherwise. in that respect, i am right there with you. but in requiring, demanding these heroics of every single person out there is not just folly, it’s brutal. there is rule of law, and there is wisdom. i’m only encouraging perspective.

                oh, and my sense of our soldiers’ charge is that, by and large, they’ve been sent out to fight and die not for the constitution but for corporate power. so ass-fattening enjoys a long tradition here, as it has the world over. this is nothing new; it’s human. i decry it just as you do, but the trend will certainly not reverse simply because you insist on it.

            • fatster says:

              I cannot imagine that Mary, who has researched the torture nightmare inside and out, doesn’t understand “just how intense the dynamic is that creates such fear in the abused.” Just sayin’.

              • lllphd says:

                point well-taken, fatster. though her presentation – as it is for bmaz – seems far more focused on the law than on the humanity – or inhumanity – of that abuse.

                i know it may seem absurd to suggest we find some mercy for the dem leadership in their dilemmas when the bushies were planning torture, for chrissake. but i also wonder where we stop showing mercy; my line is at the top, bush and cheney and rummy and condi and the lawyers. they did it; they committed these crimes. the dems did not do enough to stop it, perhaps, but then we’ll never know how things might have gone had they tried harder, will we? i’m just trying to point out this should not be our focus; address it, sure, but focus on the crimes and criminals. god knows there are plenty of those.

            • Mary says:

              Didn’t see this earlier, but here’s what I have to say on it.

              I live in Western Kentucky and work in Southern Indiana and you won’t find two much “redder” areas. I didn’t start talking about torture and abuse and lawbreaking this year, or last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that.

              I not only don’t see torture as a partisan issue, I will say that I cannot find any common ground with you on that point. I don’t pick a party affiliation, then decide how I feel about the actions. If you do, that’s your gig but its not how law works and it shouldn’t be how credible decisions are made.

              I didn’t miss the conversations on the poor abused “mom victim” Dems, but the analogy isn’t apt IMO. Especially not after the 2005/2006 work done to empower the Dems by the grassroots. What you ended up with in 2006 was “poor mom” surrounded by police, social services, etc. – all asking Mom to press charges and they were ready to go. Instead, “poor mom” carefully calculated the benefits to her on making the kids stay with abusive dad and working out a power deal with him, and she took charges off the table, knowing what that meant.

              A “mom” who conspires to contravene law to keep the kids with the abusive father because it will have a payoff, in this case political and power pay off, instead an object of sympathy.

              Oddly, I heard the exact same things about my comments not being helpful and not being “support the troops” beneficial from all the Bush supporters I live and work with. I’m actually not all that interested in being helpful at covering up crime, or being helpful at keeping the country commited to 10 more years in Iraq, or being helpful at leaving the Summers/Sachs cartel free to run amok, etc. I also think that pressure is helpful.

              I guess under your analogy, I’d be the one pushing to get the kids to a safe place; you’d be the one fighting to let mommy and daddy keep them so that daddy would have them to abuse too and mommy would have company.

              Let’s get real for a minute. We are talking about running the nation. I have lots of sympathy for abuse victims, I’ve been a guardian ad litem. Would I vote to put an abuse victim in the White House or make them Speaker of the HOuse? No. Sorry if that’s tougher than what you want to hear, but sympathies aside, the nation doesn’t need to be run by timid victims so wrapped up in their fears that they will eat their children to pacify their abusers. If that’s what you really feel about them, that would be my response. I don’t think that’s the situation, though. I think that they are very willing to use their kids out of their own power plays, not their fear of victimization. OTOH, I don’t want that leading the country either.

              What would I have done? Who knows – I only know what I did do. The public fights I had with friends and family and strangers – and pastors.

              I also know that every lawyer, some very young and very wet behind the ears, gets asked to do very bad things at some point. You either say yes or no, and there are always consequences for no while there are only sometimes consequences for the yes. You pick where you stand.

              • lllphd says:

                mary, appreciate your thoughtful reply, though it seems to exhibit the ways in which we can manage to talk past each other.

                for the record, i now live in MA, thankfully (what a luxury to be comforted and enthusiastic with ALL three of my congressional peeps), but spent most of my life in the deep south. because i have family there still, i continue to spend a great deal of time in crazy red country, and can tell you, it’s a real eye-opener to encounter so much of what passes for opinions. so much fear, so much hatred.

                so i feel for you in that bastion of such red sentiments. i know that’s hard (my brother lives in probably the reddest county in GA; how he managed running the county dems i’ll never know).

                but i have no idea where you got the notion that i feel torture is a partisan issue. except as we see that it was the republican administration that insisted on installing it as policy. moreover, they did this with pretty clear intent to keep their actions from congress and the people and the press, especially from the democrats. to the extent that they did show something to congress, it was not forthright, and there was objection from democrats. not from republicans.

                to this extent, there does seem to be a difference in how the two parties handled the circumstances. sure, the dems could have inquired more directly, pitched a hissy fit, made it public, etc. but even mora threatened to make it all public (and he knew more about what was going on than congress did), and he was just told it had been undone; he was lied to. somehow i believe that is precisely what would have happened had anyone in congress had made similar threats; it may well that is just what happened, who knows?

                the abuse metaphor may not work for you, but there are others here who see the parallels (it wasn’t even mine to begin with). you may see the 06 elections as fully empowering the ‘mom’ dems, surrounding them with police and social services, but i didn’t see it as quite that clean a break from the nightmare and into the light. though the kids’ electorate had come round to actually seeing just how abusive daddy dick&W really are, those supports necessary for actually implementing the will of the people/kids had been – and still are – so weakened and debilitated as to be completely ineffective. correction; those supports – the media, the regulators, the watchdogs – they’d all been cleverly infiltrated. this is where comparison to the mafia comes in; they cover all the bases and take no prisoners. it’s the ultimate in the abuse dynamic; it doesn’t matter so much if the kids get it, or even if the mom gets it; getting it only means you’re at even greater risk.

                and when you’re a mom at risk, you’re no use to the kids. especially when they’re at risk, too. serious dilemma.

                you seem to see some sinister ‘deal’ between the dems and bush, a ‘carefully calculated…power deal’ mom made with daddy to shaft the kids. where is your evidence for this?

                you may think that taking impeachment off the table (trust me; i was an early and very loud proponent) and hesitating on prosecution now constitutes dereliction of duty. now, you’re a lawyer (i’m not, i admit), but one thing i learned from watching the fitz was that you simply cannot move forward with a case until you have as much evidence as possible. i agree, it seems so clear, so unequivocal, to me, to us. but look at the way all this is playing in the media, how frantically the spin is thrown around to cloud the issues, how the testimonies in congressional hearings are dodged, how far the damn conversation is getting and we’re talking about TORTURE, and on and on. the dems may have exhibited a certain cowardice, i’m open to that possibility. all i am saying is that i think it is beyond unrealistic to expect every single one of our elected officials to be a hero; cowardice is not honorable, but it is not a heinous crime (nor is it listed as a requirement for office), especially when compared to what the dick and the W have done.

                moreover, i do find it unhelpful to presume that, not only were the dems cowardly, but they ‘conspired to contravene law’ in a huge ‘political and power pay off.’ you have no evidence of this, and certainly as a hypothesis, there are alternative explanations that could account for the behaviors you see as so craven. you can choose to assume they were sinister and totally self-serving, but i’m willing at this point to acknowledge that there may have been other, more complex factors involved. not black/white; loads of gray.

                were i to take this personally, i’d be particularly offended by your assumption that i’d “be the one fighting to let mommy and daddy keep [the kids] so that daddy would have them to abuse too and mommy would have company.” where did this come from? having dealt with similar situations in my profession, i can tell you that, despite your insistence that these things are so black and white, they are virtually never so clear. so many mitigating circumstances intervene it makes the head spin. and it is simply the case that all too often, though the mother may know on a conceptual level that she needs to leave her abuser, and the kids can cognitively recognize the dynamic for what it is, emotions get in the way and they get confused and blame their mother, and she gets taken in yet again by the abuser’s lies, or worse, weakens in the face of threats. you approach this as if an abusive household is just so obvious and we can waltz in and restore the kids to mom and give her a brand new home and a new ego and self-confidence and haul daddy off to jail. but it just never – and i do mean, NEVER – works out like that. never. it inevitably takes a lot of time and patience and understanding because the abusive relationship did not just happen overnight; it has an extended and complex history, as do each of the players.

                as does this country that finds itself where it is now.

                so let’s do get real for maybe more than a minute. things are such a mess – still – that it will take a long long time to recover. so we have to concentrate on that recovery. in an abuse situation, what do you do? you focus very carefully on the perp; get the guy behind bars, best you can. you absolutely do NOT go after the mom! or the kids. she may be behaving weakly, the imperfect mother of course, but she is not the culprit here.

                perhaps you did not follow the analogy closely enough (thereby explaining some of the miscommunication); if you place an abuse victim in the WH; that would be the perp. and of course no one knowingly voted in ‘abuse victims’. but if you look at how all this happened, the fact is we were ALL abuse victims in this. we ALL got knocked around and bashed and battered in this mess, though some of us recognized it faster than others, some of us within weeks after 9/11; i have no doubt you did. but others, most of the others were drawn in from the beginning and it took over 7 years to get it. to realize they were victims of a lying, criminal, shameless, abusive power monster that insisted we were all being abused for our own good, our own ‘protection.’

                and so it goes. sheez, i don’t want any of that pathology running the country any more than you do, but we get pretty much what we are as a nation, and what we got is the clear legacy of manipulation and propaganda and fear-mongering, with a dose of laziness. this is the way of democracies, certainly this one. we end up having to accept what the masses decide, and the masses are not all as careful and discerning as you are. to then turn around and go after the dem leadership sorta misses that point. while i honor what you did during this crisis – glad you spoke out, so did i, even shared a blog, campaigned, wrote letters to congress, the whole 9 yds – you might want to consider getting even more active with your ample intelligence and knowledge and passion. run for office, contribute to the aclu, volunteer your legal expertise, whatever. i have no doubt you’d be a stellar participant in any endeavor you choose (though i’m not sure ‘public fights’ are terribly productive). but i’m simply saying that maintaining a cynical attitude, accusing the dem leadership of being in bed with bush, while that energy could be better focused on the real perps, none of that is going to really further what we need make these first painfully difficult steps of getting out of this nightmare.

                and i’m not saying to let the dem leadership off the hook. when the time comes, when we have the real culprits exposed and prosecuted, hopefully punished, plenty of details will come out implicating those who did not do enough. i’m not sure that in itself is a crime, but it is shameful, and that comes with its own punishment. i respect the fact that you’re a lawyer and take on an adversarial stance over clear, legal right and wrong issues. i’m a psychologist; i deal in human nature. if you want to get ‘real’ you might consider that imposing the law in ‘clear’ black and white terms is not exactly the logical way to go. the law is abstract and ideal, something we all strive to adhere to, but even in the face of our best intentions, real circumstances and our own fears and needs just tend to get in the way sometimes. this does not necessarily make us criminal or even depraved. it just means we’re human. news flash: lawyers aren’t the only ones out there who are faced with ethical decisions on a regular basis.

                still, i pick to stand squarely against the crimes of the bush administration and focus all my energies on that. and if you knew me even in the slightest you might have some bare clue just how seriously i personally take the question of making those daily ethical decisions, both professionally and personally. i just do not choose to require that choice of every human on the planet. my elected officials, sure, that’d be great, that’d be ideal; but my vote only goes so far. that’s the down side of democracy, i suppose. i can live with that.

        • Nell says:

          I would respectfully disagree that anyone here who has criticized (not “venomously lashed out at”) Democrats whose job it was to provide oversight of the intelligence agencies is doing so because they’re afraid to attack scary daddy Bush and Cheney.

          I’m not particularly fond of psychologizing political commentary in general, and very, very put off by metaphors in which we are abused children.

          • lllphd says:

            goodness, nell; it was just a metaphor, after all.

            but i would warn against dismissing the psychology of political relations, especially where abuse and bullying come into play. wavpeac also mentions at 94 the comparison with the mafia, which was a comparison i found myself lurching toward almost daily since 2001.

            please don’t take the comparison to children personally; the metaphor only works when we compare to the large majority of the populace, and where they were after 9/11 for years. hell, bush even made reference to the american people as ‘children.’ that doesn’t mean we ARE children, but it sure puts on bold relief just what THEY thought of the dynamic. this is nontrivial in understanding just what contributed to how we got so far off track.

        • lllphd says:

          wow, thanks for this list. maybe we should start adding to it as we think of more victims.

          i’d like to say again that we do ourselves a grave disservice to focus overmuch on these points, and to continue to slam the dems at every turn. i’m not suggesting we stop holding their feets to the fires, but i am suggesting we adjust our tack toward just encouraging them to do the right thing NOW. going after them now is just nothing less than destructive, and self-destructive.

  38. wavpeac says:

    I could have just said this…it is both because the bush administration WAS dangerous that congress should have acted more strongly AND at the same time this is precisely why NO ONE confronted them. And both ends of this dialectic were valid. The synthesis is where the solutions lie.

  39. radiofreewill says:

    What if…

    Bush was Compromised early (TANG Records, Abramoff, Gannon, etc) by an Entity that Had a Plan to Take Control of US Policy and Actions by Controlling the Executive?

    We’re talking about Bush – a Front Man with No Moral Fiber – who Tortured.

    Wouldn’t Bush and his handlers have ’switched-on’ Full-Spectrum Surveillance of Everyone? Especially Congress, the Courts, the Military, the Media, but also All of US?

    Creating a Secret State within the State?

    Treating All of US like mice under glass – to be ‘managed’ for Behavioral/Ideological conformance?

    Rigging every issue, steering every vote. Duping the Congress and Avoiding the Courts.

    Invading Iraq on Lies, etc, etc…

    Paying Wall Street to save US from Wall Street’s De-Frauding of US…

    Bush may be Hiding his depraved ‘dark side’ inside the many Concentric Circles of Minions he/his handlers Compromised (imvho, almost All of the Republicans, mostly sexually) through Abuse of his Executive Power, but the Really Bad People may be hiding behind Bush…

    In a scenario such as this, focusing attention on Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller and the Dems would mainly serve to keep the Spotlight off Bush and the Republicans – but, in addition, further serve to keep the Extorters and Blackmailers behind them out of sight – on the dark side.

    A Compromised Bush and Republican Party could explain a lot, if not all, of the Kabuki of the last eight years…

    • plunger says:

      Every single US wiretap terminates in Israel. Fully compromised Bush Administration ever since 9/11. The blackmail continues to this day.

  40. wavpeac says:

    Thanks TheraP. It’s very hard once you have walked into that paradigm, to forget the fear and powerlessness and utterly disabling it can be. Its the same reason those who are tortured lie. Survival isn’t always pretty or heroic. Sometimes survival is hiding under a bush. (yea, they did).

  41. jackie says:

    Morning all Have a blast Marcy
    OT, butI don’t know if this had been commented on yet?

    From Sibel Edmonds

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009
    Project Expose MSM

    We all have been tirelessly screaming about issues related to Congressional leaders abdicating their main responsibility of ‘oversight.’ We have been outraged for way too long at seeing ‘no’ accountability whatsoever in many known cases of extreme wrongdoing. I, and many of you, believe that the biggest reason for this was, and still is, the lack of true journalism and media coverage — which acts as the necessary pressure and catalyst for those spineless politicians on the Hill and in the Executive branch. Or, at least it’s supposed to. So, in our book, the MSM has been the main culprit.

    Well, here is a chance to turn the tables.

  42. klynn says:


    Thank you for this post. A sincere congrats to Marcy and thank you for the live-blog comments from the Hillman ceremony, bmaz, regarding her award. When Marcy succeeds, we all do. This “group think” with a gifted “think leader” and “support thinkers” carries great import in a free and democratic society.

    I go back to Marcy’s post Dick Cheney’s Torture Kabuki:

    I wanted to pull three threads together in this post, which suggest how Cheney instituted torture in this country:

    * Alberto Gonzales may have been approving torture even while Condi Rice and others went through the show of getting an OLC opinion to authorize it;
    * CIA claimed to be briefing Congress when it wasn’t;
    * The Bush Administration then claimed Congress had bought off on torture to persuade those objecting to torture within the administration.


    So: Alberto Gonzales approves a program he has no authority to approve. They create records after the fact–the content of which is contested–to claim they had Congressional approval for the authorization. And then use that purported Congressional approval (though apparently, more members of Congress approved of this than have of torture)to try to persuade those at DOJ who objected to the program.

    The fact that there exists a pattern on two fronts regarding intel (FISA & torture), I move from your “could have” and ask, “Why?”

    With the pattern existing on two fronts, I have to conclude that it is more than “a lack of courage” that failed our checks and balances. I think Bob Graham could answer my question as well. Will we have our New Pentagon Papers? I am not sure but these words from Graham give rise to my, “Why?”

    Under questioning, Tenet added that the information in the NIE had not been independently verified by an operative responsible to the United States. In fact, no such person was inside Iraq. Most of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States’ removing Hussein, by force if necessary.

    The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as “If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year,” underscored the White House’s claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.

    From my advantaged position, I had earlier concluded that a war with Iraq would be a distraction from the successful and expeditious completion of our aims in Afghanistan. Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth — or even had an interest in knowing the truth.

    On Oct. 11, I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not.

    There are many aspects of life which would deter courage. Many are selfish, but a very small few are unselfish and fall under the, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” catagory. It’s the “damned if you do,” that we need to seek. Did Graham seek the “lesser evil?”

  43. fatster says:

    Hard-hitting article on how so many of the O-team U-turns are hurting all of us.

    In the shadow of Cheney
    Obama could spring America from the dank culture of fear spread by Cheney and Bush. So what’s holding him back?

    By Gary Kamiya

    May 28, 2009 |” Last week, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama carried on a bizarre, disembodied and deeply dissatisfying debate about national security.

    . . .

    But that was not Obama’s real problem. His real problem was his failure to forthrightly say that while terrorism remains a threat, its danger has been greatly overblown. Obama needed to tell Americans the truth, which is that no open society can ever be absolutely free from terrorist attacks, and that a society that allows its irrational fear of such attacks to cause it to jettison its laws, freedoms and most cherished traditions has already lost to the terrorists.

    . . .

    “Indeed, the cadaverous Cheney, who has now fully embraced his role as the horrifying shadow of our national soul, is essentially accusing Obama of leading America toward death.

    “Once the argument is framed in these terms, Obama cannot win. By tacitly accepting Cheney’s terms — by shamefully proposing that we detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without real trials, or by refusing to release photographs of Americans torturing people in their control — Obama has enabled and encouraged our diffuse national cowardice.”


    • Mary says:

      He seems to have a real problem with truth. It gets in the way of oratory and pictures of serious, thoughtful looks and finger steepling.

      • fatster says:

        I’m hoping, dear skdadl, the concerns we share here are rippling out and joining other ripples that are increasingly appearing until, fingers crossed, we get the momentum going to make bigger and bigger waves.

        • lllphd says:

          my prayer, as well.

          and i have to say it again, i would have never – NEVER – predicted we’d be so far along in the exposures of the ugly truths this quickly. bush is only out four months now; pretty amazing.

        • john in sacramento says:

          It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

          Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation Speech June 6th, 1966

  44. fatster says:

    FBI planning a bigger role in terrorism fight

    Bureau agents will gather evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions of alleged terrorists are an option. The move is a reversal of the Bush administration’s emphasis on covert CIA actions.

    By Josh Meyer
    May 28, 2009

    Reporting from Washington — “The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.

    . . .

    “The approach effectively reverses a mainstay of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism, in which global counter-terrorism was treated primarily as an intelligence and military problem, not a law enforcement one. That policy led to the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; harsh interrogations; and detentions without trials.”


    • Jeff Kaye says:

      So, the FBI wins the bureaucratic struggle? They’ve been around a lot longer than some of their competitors (Special Ops, JPRA, Blackwater, Mitchell-Jessen, etc.), so one should never have counted them out. I expect we will see some fightback on this, as the continent of National Security is undergoing a war for spheres of influence not seen since the European imperialist powers tried to divide up Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

      I’m not speaking here of the relative propriety of any particular kind of interrogation, technique, etc., only to the bureaucratic struggle that has taken place between various government and military entities over who gets the bigger slice of the national security – interrogations pie.

  45. perris says:

    I know everyone’s in transit, had a great time meeting everyone at the hillman awards

    I don’t know if you guys have gotten to this yet;

    Secret cables may show doctors monitored CIA torture

    The non-profit investigative journalism site ProPublica is reporting today that cables sent to CIA headquarters detailing the waterboarding of captured al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in August 2002 may indicate that doctors were involved in monitoring his torture. This would be in violation of medical ethics. The cables themselves remain secret, but summary descriptions released under the Freedom of Information Act show a daily “medical update” on the detainee’s condition.

    • TheraP says:

      I’m going to take a stab at this and wonder if the psychologists, who could be called “doctors” were willing to somehow supervise whatever “medical monitoring” occurred here. If that should turn out to be the case, then these Ph.D. “doctor-players” could be nailed for “practicing medicine without a license”. On top of everything else, of course.

      Ok why do I make this conjecture? Remember how when the psychologist(s) took over the interrogation, they insisted that only 2 individuals have contact with AZ. I assume one would be a translator. And I’m going to guess the translator was not a “doctor”. And that leaves them, I surmise, with the psychologist playing “doctor” – something which is against the law!!!

      The plot thickens.

      • behindthefall says:

        Sounds right. Only 2 things they were interested in: (false) information and data on how much it takes to “break” a “terrorist”.

        Oh. And pictures. Lots of pictures.

      • lllphd says:

        good point. the media may not be as careful about the distinction between PhD/doctor and MD/doctor. and since jessup and mitchell were evidently both psychologists (were they both phd’s?), they may have thereby managed to be both the doctors and the torturers.

        oooh, shades of the nazis and lifton’s work. damn creepy.

        • TheraP says:

          At this point we do not have access to the cables. Only to descriptions of what the cables were about.

          So somebody describes this as “medical monitoring” – which, I’m willing to bet, the psychologist-torturers, who were so intent on proving how well they could ramp up the abuse and extract the info, were willing to provide as a sideline. It’s clear they’d long ago thrown out any ethics concerns. So, why would they respect the line between psychology and medicine? (I can see them just saying… ok, get us the stuff to monitor vitals.)

          Notice that all the stories use “doctors may have” or “did doctors monitor…” So they’re hedging, which does make me wonder…

          • lllphd says:

            i agree, and i’ve noticed that hedging too.

            man, am i grateful that apa resolution passed last fall. sheez, this would be looking just so dreadful were the apa still officially on board with all this.

          • TheraP says:

            But was there a psychiatrist there with AZ? If there were only two who with whom he had contact, one had to be an interpreter. And the other was Mitchell.

          • lllphd says:

            quite so, but i’m particularly intrigued with the fact that jesson and mitchell have phd’s and so could conceivably convince themselves – and their bosses – that they have that angle covered. it not only drops another stink bomb in how shabbily this whole operation was covered, but — as theraP pointed out — it exposes those two monsters to yet another level of crime and unethical/immoral behavior.

      • perris says:

        good stuff there therap

        I am wondering also if you might think about cross posting your leo strauss page here on the oxdown?

  46. bobschacht says:

    As long as we’re waiting for the return of Her Magnificence and Sargeant at Arms, let me remind y’all to Spotlight bmaz’s diary with media persons, so we can give this story some legs. Haven’t done it before? Just click on “Spotlight” at the end of the diary up top.

    Bob in HI

  47. fatster says:

    O/T, but back to some familiar ground. Oh, my.

    Prosecutor in anthrax, Blackwater cases resigns

    WASHINGTON (AP) — “The federal prosecutor who became the public face of the Justice Department’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, the killing of Chandra Levy and the Blackwater Worldwide shooting is resigning.

    “Washington U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, a holdover from the Bush administration, will leave the Justice Department on Friday. He will join the auditing firm Ernst & Young.

    “Taylor inherited the anthrax and Chandra Levy investigations and declared both long-unsolved matters closed.

    . . .

    “Taylor previously served as counselor to Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales. He has also served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a line prosecutor in San Diego.”


    • lllphd says:

      wow. wondering if this is the first of those changes that were mentioned a week or so ago in justice that obama was said to have targeted. thanks for the heads up.

  48. TheraP says:

    I’d be glad to do it. Can’t get it done this afternoon, but I’d be pleased to do so. Truly, for me it has been an eye-opener, which makes it so easy to flag all the things they do!

  49. Mary says:

    I have such a hard time acknowledging this and don’t feel obliged to click through on links that will give hits to The Corner, but I have to do it anyway.

    Emerging from the morass of mindless musings on how oppressed Republicans are, now that they have to pronounce Sotomayor’s name, David Freddoso puts up a post on the Taguba descriptions of the pictures and, unlike Obama, even notes that none of the Abu Ghraib convictions were for rape.

    And Goldberg, who proves by his subdued reaction why releasing pictures does more than put “troops at risk” and instead slaps ideologues in the face with fact, pipes up in response, [I learned my lesson with the last photos and I’m not going to call Taguba a liar yet]

    why on earth hasn’t there been a prosecution?

    Right – that’s Freddosso and Goldberg at The Corner having a lot more concern about the pictures and prosecutions than Obama and Tauscher. Process that.

    I guess Obamaco forgot to tell them that there is a civil suit against the Egyptian-American translator. And apparently the CIA has hired the female soldier with the child sodomy photo specialty – she was bummed that the military didn’t give her nifty post-photo session massages and private fligths like the CIA. “Appropriate action”

    Ye gods when even the freakin Corner can see what is and isn’t appropriate action, but Obama can’t or won’t, it’s pretty sad times.

  50. fatster says:

    NOW what?

    Iraq redux? Obama seeks funds for Pakistan super-embassy
    By Saeed Shah and Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers

    ISLAMABAD — “The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.”


    • Nell says:

      “Super-embassy” in plain English is: base.

      The one in Iraq houses the military headquarters as well as the “diplomatic” (mostly spook) staff, and performs almost none of the functions of a regular embassy (issuing visas, etc.)

    • behindthefall says:

      Oh, that’s interesting. What do you suppose: sucked back into the borg? They’ve got to pop up sometime somewhere, though.

      • lllphd says:

        dunno, but i’m suspicious they got really really nervous with the big dick suddenly shooting off at the mouth they should make themselves scarce.

        which, to my mind, is highly suggestive of guilt, and certainly not innocence, wouldn’t ya say?

  51. Mary says:

    Completely OT and a bit old news

    I missed this April announcement that Chertoff and Hayden had gone into “the biz” together.

    Chertoff Group, staffed with big-name recruits like former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden, will advise government and corporate clients on security matters.

    The risk-management firm also expects to advise traditional defense contractors that are looking to expand into homeland security,

    There’s something reassuring – a direct financial incentive to Chertoff and Hayden to exploit homeland security as a profit sector for the already oversized defense behemoths.

    The article talks about how Chertoff/Hayden will be competing with old pal Ashcroft and his Ashcroft Group (and ex-BushieUSAtty combo firm).

    If you need more reassuring vibes, Chertoff’s take on the state in which he, Ashcroft and Hayden left “homeland” security vis a vis all their new private profit companies?

    “There’s a lot of demand out there.”

    Let the Eagle Soar
    Not enough to keep US safe
    Enter Skeletor

    Not every topic does well in haiku.

  52. Mary says:

    Yeah – and there were a lot of “odd” translation issues too, once lawyers were able to get involved. Not just at GITMO but on translations of phone conversations etc. for the FBI.

    The sad story of the kid at GITMO who was being worked up as a financial lynchpin of al-Qaeda because of a dialect/language different where tomatoes and money were “confused” and he was admitting to being sent out to get tomatoes, not terrorist funding, is just one. The story from Edmonds that the FBI did finally seem to fess up on, as well, where the translator being shipped to GITMO to interview the “worst of the worst” on “ticking time bomb” scenarios replete with national security issues — had flunked both English AND the language he was to translate in at GITMO.

    So the point of sending him was …?

    The whole fascination with Egyptian style interrogation, using sodomy and torture (which at least had the benefit of making sure that none of the 9/11 terrorists were Egyptian /s) seems to have a possible tie in with the nationaliites listed for the translators.

  53. wavpeac says:

    I also think that part of the discomfort of this dynamic is that we are all culpable to some degree…we are americans, this is a democracy and our country violated international law as well as our own laws.

    I had a huge argument with my brother who thinks blogs are stupid and that he can get what he needs from teh news. He also felt that “right” path is to move forward, that cheney will never be prosecuted and that this is just the way it is. It made me very sad.

    I can’t understand that position and yet, I can. I know that those of us who are inclined to accountability probably need to continue strongly in that path. I do believe that the truth will set us free…and believe to some degree that this is a long held pattern of behavior for the usa to perpetrate and then cover it up. From the American Indians, to slavery, to japanese americans in world war II, to war crimes in regard to vietnam, the list is endless.

    Where do we begin if we are to ever be the country we strive to be?

    Accountability is key in any kind of rehabilitation…but it is absolutely the most difficult dynamic to create.

  54. johnhkennedy says:

    The Congressmen and Senators who refused to Impeach Bush and Cheney
    Now Have An Opportunity To Redeem Themselves To Voters
    and To Our Constitution and Rule Of Law.

    Many in the Bush Administration committed numerous violations of our Constitution and Federal Laws, including Obvious Violations Of Our Torture Laws.

    Everyone in Congress and the White House took and Oath to enforce our Federal Laws and protect our Constitution.

    Failure to prosecute the Bush Administration members who conspired to Torture will brand Congressmen and Senators as Soft On Crime,
    and as supporting a dual system of justive in America, one for politicians and another for we voters.

    The Congress and Obama can still redeem themselves but failure to do so will radically change the results of the next two elections.

    Thant may be the “change” the Democrats promised us
    but the Voters will deliver.

    SIGN THE PETITION To Prosecute Them For Torture



    Over 250,000 have signed

    Join them and call yourself a Patriot


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