Obama Holding Off on Declassification Order Bush Made

Steven Aftergood reports that a looming December 31, 2009 declassification deadline–imposed by Bush’s Executive Order on classification–presents a big dilemma for the Obama White House. Obama’s been preaching openness. Yet Bush’s EO says that documents that involve multiple agency classification interests will automatically be declassified at the end of the year. And the agencies that haven’t gotten around to reviewing some documents that fall under the EO are balking. And so Obama’s trying to push through a new EO quickly.

Development of a new executive order on classification of national security information is now proceeding at an accelerated pace in order to preempt a deadline that would require the declassification of millions of pages of historical records next month.

A revised draft executive order was circulated to executive branch agencies by the Office of Management and Budget on November 16, with agency comments due back today, November 23.  A final order is likely to be issued by the end of this year.

There is an incentive to complete the development of the executive order before December 31, 2009 because of a deadline for declassification of historical records that falls on that date.  Under the current Bush executive order, classified records that are at least 25 years old and that have been referred from one agency to another because they involve multiple agency interests are supposed to be automatically declassified at the end of this year.  (See E.O. 13292, section 3.3(e)(3)).

But in order to meet this December deadline, several agencies would have to forgo a review of the affected historical records, which they are unwilling to do.  And so it seems they will simply be excused from compliance.  But in order to modify the deadline in the Bush order, it will be necessary to issue another executive order.  If the comprehensive new Obama order on classification policy (which would assign processing of such records to a National Declassification Center that does not yet exist) is not ready for release by December 31, then another stand-alone order would have to be issued, canceling or extending the looming deadline.  And officials are reluctant to issue such an order since they say it would be awkward for the avowedly pro-openness Obama Administration to relax or annul a declassification requirement that was imposed by the ultra-secret Bush Administration.

The dilemma illustrates the big problem with EOs. Even putting aside the way that some Administrations have just pixie dusted their own EOs (indeed, the Bush EO in question is the one he used to claim, four years after the fact, that Cheney didn’t have to follow the rules on classification and declassification that agencies had to), they’re simply pieces of paper that the next Administration can and will rewrite.

Which is why Congress really needs to push through some laws on classification policy (starting with State Secrets), to prevent the executive branch from just using classification policy to accrue more power and/or evade oversight. And so that we, as citizens, can begin to scrutinize what Ronnie Reagan did in our name.

43 replies
  1. SaltinWound says:

    I keep asking variations of the same question, but what is to stop the administration from ignoring the deadline? If they do not come up with a new executive order by December 31st and do not release the material, what is the consequence?

    • BoxTurtle says:


      The only consequence the president faces for ANYTHING is impeachment. If there aren’t the votes for that, the president can do as he pleases.

      Boxturtle (Just ask Bush the Lesser)

  2. Jeff Kaye says:

    Somewhat OT, but under the title of “getting the story out” (sort of), and sure to set right wing tongues a-wagging, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali , Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi have supposedly decided to plead “not guilty”, in order to “get their story out,” including torture (if I read their statement right).

    The news is at Jake Tapper’s ABC blog, fwiw.

    As for Obama and classification, the President has shown himself, if nothing else, a true guardian of the concept of executive power in the post-WWII age, and that means, as Boxturtle noted, that you do what you want, with impeachment the only real limiting boundary. I’d add that you do what the monstrous Pentagon and intelligence apparatus, and all those national security constituencies that back them (giant corporations down to little thinktanks, academic departments and Silicon Valley start-ups), want you to do. Only insofar as these latter have differences of opinion among them do we even have a “democracy” anymore.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Oh my. If KSM decides to actually fight the charges, he has a reasonable chance of being found not guilty.

      He can insist that he is still under duress as the government still has his children and has threatened their lives. That one bit of government misconduct alone may be enough to get the case dismissed.

      On topic: Here’s the tough spot for me. Unless we have a rule that basically says criminal activity automatically declassifies everything needed for a successful prosecution, the government can always wrap their illegal activity around something protected. You can’t prosecute for wiretapping because that would reveil we’re wiretapping. You can’t prosecute for torture because that would reveal interrogation techniques. You can’ prosecute for a false war because that would require intelligence techniques. And so on.

      Boxturtle (Not enough space to go into why a rule saying that would be bad, I’m NOT Mary!)

        • BoxTurtle says:

          I wish I knew where your confidence was coming from. There’s more government misconduct swirling around this case than anything I can remember.

          If he actually fights this, as opposed to simply using it as a more elaborate guilty plea, there are many avenues he could use. IIR, the only piece of information connecting KSM to the code name of the lead plotter came from someone in US government custody. I can call into question anything from someone in US custody. The government has provably lied in court filings related to these cases and I can question anything they file. And so on.

          I’m not saying his odds are good. But they’re better than zero IMO.

          CIPA would need some attention to handle all my concerns, but I agree it’s doable. But I’d want Feingold and Whitehouse to sign off on everything, not sure I trust anyone else.

          Boxturtle (I wonder who will have the better lawyer, KSM or NY?)

          • emptywheel says:


            You are confusing Republican propaganda about what they knew about KSM when and actual fact about what they knew about KSM when.

            They have evidence that KSM was the mastermind dated August 2001, among other things.

        • johnfalstaff says:

          Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com has an entire column today “spelling out” the Classified Information Procedures Act.

      • emptywheel says:


        Just curious. What is the evidence that the US has KSM’s children in custody?

        I realize there is discussion from 2004 intended to make him think they were in custody. But is there any evidence to support that they are actually in custody?

        Because KSM is no dummy, and if there were any chance they were in custody, I’m wondering why he got so chummy with them in the last several years.

        • BoxTurtle says:

          Well, there’s this.

          And I’m really eager to see their untainted evidence against KSM. It’s gotta be pretty good evidence or Holder wouldn’t have let him be tried in a real court.

          Boxturtle (Freely admits lack of hard data)

          • emptywheel says:

            I’m not saying there haven’t been allegations, which seem to have been backed up by US documents from the early stage of KSM’s capture.

            I’m saying what makes you think–even assuming those earlier accounts are true–that the kids are still in custody, five years after the latest account of them being in custody?

            • BoxTurtle says:

              I think we’ve still got them because:

              1) BushCo wouldn’t release anyone who could rat them out. Even terrorists children get sympathy if they’re abused. So if they’ve been released, it’s happened since 1/20.

              2) If abused children were released from US custody, it would be BIG news throughout the Arab world. Al Jazz would certainly have got an interview even if the kids were in deep hiding. There’s nothing.

              3) This has been somewhat news, yet there’s been no offical denial that we have them in custody. Certainly, if ObamaCo could deny holding children, they would.

              I don’t think they’ll be released until they’re old enough not to garner sympathy. 15 or so, at least.

              Boxturtle (Perhaps we’ll let them get a couple of gang tatoos for the release party)

  3. Mary says:

    Bush is getting the chuckle on this one IMO. A lot of what his order would have done involved sticking a finger in the eye of his dad’s compatriots, except that Obama actually was herded into the fold with them instead of replacing them, so now there’s a different dynamic going on.

    Something like this older piece by Robert Parry
    shows just how vested the Obama administration is going to be in not letting some of the old guard take any hits from declassification.

    With CIA intel in the 70s pointed to a declining Soviet Union, the right wing and military industrial complex was less than pleased – making the boogey man less “awesome” poked holes in public support for welfare to the weapons industry and US involvement in extra-territorial skirmishes for the benefit of large corporate interests.

    So back in the 80s, who was point guard for revamping CIA intelligence to be a pro-policy propaganda wing? Let’s see what name pops up here:

    As Goodman’s book [Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA] explains in impressive detail, the key action officer for carrying out this reversal of the CIA’s analytical role was a young bureaucrat named Robert Gates, who is now George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

    Rather than Kent’s mandate for “bark on” intelligence, Goodman observed, “Bob Gates turned that approach on its head in the 1980s and tried hard to anticipate the views of policymakers in order to pander to their needs.

    “Unlike Kent, Gates consistently told his analysts to make sure never to ‘stick your finger in the eye of the policymaker.’”

    It didn’t take long for the winds of politicization to start blowing through the halls at Langley.

    “Bill Casey and Bob Gates guided the first institutionalized ‘cooking of the books’ at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular emphasis on tailoring intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia,” Goodman wrote

    I think that they are going to want to be very sure they have all those kinds of tracks distractions covered, and they certainly can cover them, even without doing anything to the EO, just by renewing classification as appropriate.

    But there’s the rub. After a quarter decade of promotion and “clearances” that involve political partisans looking for for the cush-spot in political retirement, the ranks and roles of those who have the clearances and the capabilities to connect the dots and do that kind of classification are thinned, at best. And they’ve discovered what happens with document dumps – they aren’t dealing with an easily manipulated or purchased Rupert Murdoch media – they are dealing with the internet and masses of people who spend their Sunday afternoons connecting dots and bring a plethora of different skill sets and backgrounds to bear.

    They know what happened when Hoekstra dumped info on the net – and when you have a personal trail you’d like covered and don’t know how many hints of it appear in how many nooks and crevices of classification, it gets a bit worrisome to think of masses of documents hitting the “series of tubes.”

    And Obama’s made a lot of decisions now that have him more and more inextricably tied to the right wing intelligence interests and military complex interests. IMO, there’s a reason that someone like Comey in his gig at Lockheed gets a green thumb to both send his letters of endorsement on Holder’s AG nomination early on and to pen his op ed recently.

    I’m actually pragmatic enough to understand why this is a crappy time for someone like Bob Gates to get shot in the foot – but I can’t give Mr. Below50% any pragmatic advice. He’s taken away too many of the options he could have had and expanded on over the last year.

    As long as Obama decides this is the equivalent of a national security policy, I’m not sure how you formulate pragmatic advice.

    • bobschacht says:

      OMG, does this make Bob Gates a student of Bill Casey???
      He’s a more slick operator than Casey, which makes him about twice as dangerous.

      I think Obama needs to do some house cleaning.

      Bob in AZ

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yup. Click on an earlier link in the consortiumnews.com story, which goes to this profile of Bob Gates. Gates made his bones at the CIA, starting during Gerry Ford’s caretaker administration. He made caporegime during the Reagan, Bush I administrations, when, as DDI, he hid the data on the Iran-Contra felonies and support for Iraq, the latter of which, it’s claimed, kept coming until shortly before Iraq invaded Kuwait, which precipitated the First Iraq War.

        No surprise, then, that duriung the Second Iraq War, he was called in both to clean up Donald Rumsfeld’s incompetent mangling of the DoD and to hide its Internet Age secrets.

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Re acquittal, you are certainly, probably, right. I say “probably” because stranger things have happened.

    You’d never find a more open and shut case, for instance, than the murder trial of Czarist-era activist Vera Zasulich (later a collaborator of the young Lenin). You’d think there was never a more controlled trial court than one might find in Czarist Russia, but…

    In 1876 Zasulich found work as a typesetter for an illegal printing press. A member of the Land and Liberty group, when Zasulich heard that one of her fellow comrades, Alexei Bogoliubov, had been badly beaten in prison, she decided to seek revenge. Zasulich went to the local prison and shot Dmitry Trepov, the Governor General of St. Petersburg.

    Zasulich was arrested and charged with attempted murder. During the trial the defence produced evidence of such abuses by the police, and Zasulich conducted herself with such dignity, that the jury acquitted her. When the police tried to re-arrest her outside the court, the crowd intervened and allowed her to escape.

    Just sayin’…

    Of course, NO crowd would ever intervene in America to save KSM’s ass. Nor would I put KSM in the same category as Zasulich, nor Al Qaeda in the same category as the Russian social-revolutionaries/narodniki/Narodnaya Volya of the 19th century. The example is only given that once there is a trial on, even in an authoritarian state (or a totalitarian state… consider Hitler’s trial of Dmitrov for conspiracy to burn down the Reichstag… Dmitrov and his fellow communists were acquitted), things can happen. Though, one has to convince the jury that the crimes of the state outweigh the crimes of the accused.

    In the case of KSM, et al. — about whose guilty or ignorance I am at this point agnostic — it seems they intend to conduct that kind of defense (if they can), which to me, btw, means they believe there is plenty of evidence against them, including sans torture.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, we let Cheney roam free; fuck it, so what if KSM gets acquitted? If you have a justice system, you trust it to work, do your best and live with the consequences. That is just the way it works.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        I agree.

        But even if KSM is found innocent, he won’t walk free. He’s one ObamaCo would defy even a supreme court ruling to continue to hold.

        Boxturtle (You’re gonna impeach me for keeping KSM locked up? Good luck with that…)

    • Sara says:

      As to Evidence, how about 13 hours of taped interview material between bin al Sheib and KSM and an Al-Jazeera reporter they brought from London to their Safe House in Karachi in August 2002 for several days. During the interview they detailed every aspect of the 9/11 plot. Al-Jazeera management turned the tapes over to the Sheik who owns the network, and he handed them off to CIA and/or FBI. So they have a full confession in detail before the arrest, and one assumes they have other documentary evidence that can verify many of the details offered on the tapes.

      I doubt if the defendents will have much of a platform in Federal Court to discuss their motivations or American Foreign Policy. I assume the indictment will be narrow, focused on the actions the defendents took that contributed to the plan (or conspiracy), and the rules of proceedure in the court would preclude offering defense evidence unless the topic is opened by the prosecution. The Prosecution just has to avoid opening too widely on motivation. I assume the indictment will begin with 3000 random yet premeditated murder charges, and given who is being tried, deal with financial support in service to the plan. The Prosecution, by the way the indictment is drawn, pretty much totally controls the evidentiary subjects that can be introduced at trial. If the Judge is good at controlling the courtroom, if anything goes off topic you will just hear “Objection, lack of relevancy, and Objection sustained,” over and over again. If it keeps happening, at some point there will be sanctions against the lawyers.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        That would be excellent evidence, hard for the defense to counter. And it would be admissable and untainted. That other documentary evidence is crucial, you can’t convict based solely on a perp’s statements.

        Boxturtle (Likes the thought that KSM is convictable in a real court)

        • Sara says:

          “That other documentary evidence is crucial, you can’t convict based solely on a perp’s statements.”

          Right, but if they say on tape, “we told Atta we would wire money tomorrow” (they used bin al Sheib in Hamburg as their cut-out) and then the prosecutor introduces documentation such as wire money transfers that match up with the message as to date and amount, then you back up the claim made to the reporter. In fact, since NSA has these vast farms of recordings of phone calls and E-mails, one just can, I think, assume that someone from NSA will be put on the stand to validate the details by introducing original evidence such as tapes of phone calls, transcripts, and much else.

          • BoxTurtle says:

            Knowing the jury KSM is likely to get, it would take exactly ONE connection like that for a guilty verdict.

            Boxturtle (Or two near misses)

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        By “agnostic”, I only mean I wait to see evidence produced in court, assessed as reliable under judicial process, etc.

        As for the ability of the KSM et al. to introduce evidence of abuse in custody, or grandstand on ideology, I agree with your analysis, noting, however, I am no adept in the legal system or courtroom procedures.

      • fatster says:

        Thank you so much for this. I’ve been trying to understand how the trial might play out (not a lawyer, so dependent as all get-out on those of you who are or know a lot about such things). Again, many thanks.

      • cinnamonape says:

        Furthermore they have the Bojinka hard-drives and other evidence. KSM was secretly indicted on terrorism charges in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in January 1996 for his alleged involvement in Operation Bojinka. That has already resulted in life-sentences for his nephew, Ramzi Youssef, amongst others. I’ve heard that several of those involved in this have subsequently expressed regret to their acts and they may provide evidence against KSM. Furthermore, Bojinka was structurally a “prototype” to the 9/11 attacks…and he two could be linked together if there is appropriate evidence. My understanding is that there are at least two lap-tops full of information that have been recovered. One for Bojinka and the other regarding 9/11. If there is evidence of commonality in these that links Bojinka to 9/11 by materials, participants or methods then that could very well be sufficient.

        It’s not very likely that KSM is ever going to walk free. They have Bojinka, at the very least, hanging over him.

        • Sara says:

          “They have Bojinka, at the very least, hanging over him.”

          Yes, I assume they will include KSM’s Bojinka indictment in the charges in New York Southern District and use much of the evidence used against Ramzi Yousef who was KSM’s partner in Bojinka at trial. That all predates 9/11 by 3-4 years.

          It is interesting that the British Courts have also used some of this evidence in the cases against the plan to take down a dozen planes over the Atlantic which came to light in 2005, long after KSM was in custody. Bojinka, 9/11, the Shoe Bomber Case and then the Atlantic Dozen cases all are part of a family of plots with some common personnel, and a number of common elements. While not particularly for legal purposes, I suspect studying them all together will become something of a classic in the terrorism/Counterterrorism field for generations.

  5. Sara says:

    OT —

    The FBI in Minneapolis will have a Press Conference this afternoon and unseal eight additional indictments have been brought in the Somali cases — added to the six already indicted, that is fourteen. They are saying the case is the largest FBI investigation since 9/11. This is a nationwide and international investigation that has been going on for over a year, and is centered in Minneapolis. It involves recruitment of young Somali men to fight with Al-Shabass (linked with al-Qaeda) in the Civil War in Somalia, and raising funds for support and military equipment. The concerns include the possibility these Somali men who mostly hold American Citizenship, might return to the US and plan and execute terroristic acts in the US. The apparent leader of recruitment and fund raising was recently arrested in Holland, and is being returned to MPLS. Local News Media, including Minnesota Public Radio has been covering this investigation seriously yet quietly for about a year, and the MPR site has archives of their reporting. Very little has leaked about this — a Grand Jury has been in place for about a year, but MPR has done considerable reporting from sources in the Somali Community. Minneapolis has probably about 25-30 thousand Somali migrants who have arrived since the early 1990’s, mostly through Kenyan Refugee Camps. Suggestion on MPR is that the Press Conference and the Indictment will be quite detailed.

  6. Sara says:

    Boxturtle, I rather doubt if those children have ever been exclusively in US Custody. Yes, early on they may have been questioned as to the likely location of their father, but once he was arrested I would suggest that the Pakistani Authorities probably have done with them what would normally be done with Orphans in Pakistan.

    Their Father is a Balouchi — a Pakistani Citizen. I would imagine some sort of arrangement between the proper Balouchi clans and tribes and the ISI would be the Pakistani “normal”. Pakistan has all sorts of reasons to keep the kids off the front page. KSM’s family both in Pakistan and Kuwait are fairly well off, at least they had the money to finance KSM’s American Engineering Degree. I don’t know that this happened, but by asking the question — What is the Pakistani “normal” in dealing with orphans, you do arrive at a very different possibility.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      And I don’t know that what I theorize is what happened. But then why doesn’t ObamaCo deny holding them? Holder released a doc earlier this year with a key paragraph redacted.

      Boxturtle (DOJ lies. ObamaCo conceals. It’s not difficult to suspect they’re doing it here)

      • Sara says:

        “But then why doesn’t ObamaCo deny holding them?”

        Well, if I were Obama I would remember the Elian Gonzalas flap-doodle, and look at how the media mashed it up for months, and I would decide that the welfare of those kids is Pakistan’s responsibility, and that the topic at bar is KSM’s role in planning and executing 9/11. I would not even show any awareness of Pakistan’s approach to raising orphans. Afterall it was Pakistani Police who executed the arrest of bin al Sheib when the children were found — and it was Pakistani Police who made the actual arrest of KSM about six months later. I assume the Pakistani Police or the ISI would have figured out where to place the children once KSM was in CIA/FBI custody, and would not be coming back to Pakistan.

        • Mary says:

          I’m not that sure about the last part. I think that between the mosaic theories floating around, and recalcitrance by KSM, and “embedded” info with the children and in particular the adult wife and her info possibilities, I don’t see the US giving up the kids just because of KSM’s capture and certainly the references in the IG report and Suskind’s source on threats to the kids (was that Mowatt Larssen?) and the Times piece and the Moonie Times piece that’s scrubbed (but referenced at this Talkleft piece http://www.talkleft.com/story/2009/11/15/144351/37) etc. indicate that we had them for a bit.

          Certainly, when we returned some of our detainees, like Saud Memom, they were the worse for the wear. But even without that, I don’t think we’d give up a leverage point like the children while we were deep in the torture regime’s thrall, just bc KSM was “in custody.”

          I do think that we handed them off in violation of CAT at some point and that, after her time in US hands, his wife would have been known to have not been likely to fare well after that return. I think Obama’s silence goes to the US crimes involved, as it so often has, and to his decision to keep covering them up and to utilize “foreign relations” toeholds for not discuss the kids being handed off to Pakistan.

          all fwiw

      • emptywheel says:

        Again, you’re confusing what was said to KSM in 2004, with what is reality in 2009–and what was said in 2004 may have nothing to do with what was reality in 2004.

        And since that time, KSM has decided, for whatever reason, to cooperate to the extent of giving lectures on terrorism, he has distinguished in his CSRT between the torture period and after, and the Red Cross has established contact at least outwards (remember, the picture now available was released to his family).

        I’m not saying I know. I’m saying we don’t actually know, and there are reasons to think that even if the kids were in custody at some point, they’re not in the same condition now.

      • Mary says:

        I’m somewhere between your posits and Sara’s.

        I think the kids and KSM’s wife (who was taken with them) were handed off to Pakistan at some point before the 2004 elections, about when they were spinning wheels with al-libi and what to do with him. There was the Times report of them being taken to the US, but especially once cases like Rashul and Hamdi came out, I don’t think the US wanted them and they didn’t want to be the ones to make them disappear.

        I also, though, don’t believe that they were benignly handed off to KSM’s family. I think they were handed off to ISI with some directions to make the problem go away. I would excessively doubt that the children (and especially the wife) were returned to the family and are living happily but secretly ever after. Also, the children were one of the many petitions pending in front of Chaudry and where he was ruling that Musharraf had to account for Pakistani disappearances, when the extreme steps re: Chaudhry were taken. Also, remember how the US handed off Aafia Siddiqui’s son to Afghan intel to take care of – even though he was a US citizen and they were returning her to the US. That sounds like they were sure they’d be able to have anything she said here completely discounted and they were counting on Afghan intel to solve the problem for them – too bad about that high profile stuff and Pakistani diplomatic demands to turn him over, etc. Still, it’s not been a secret where he is now, even with the years of secrecy behind him. I don’t think the location of KSM’s children would be a secret by now either, if they were in family hands.

  7. orionATL says:

    kalid sheik mohammed is not going to be held for life in any u.s. prison.

    he will be executed if found guilty. i cannot imagine any circumstance which holder/doj would allow to develop which would free ksm from the death penalty.

    and i have no doubt ksm understands this with certainty and am confident he will do the most for his cause with the time he has remaining.

  8. orionATL says:

    sara @12

    “…It involves recruitment of young Somali men to fight with Al-Shabass (linked with al-Qaeda) in the Civil War in Somalia, and raising funds for support and military equipment. ..”

    recruiting and raising money to fight in another country is illegal in the u.s.?

    [concerned they will return to the u.s and conduct terrorism]

    doesn’t there have to be more than just “concern” for the fbi to pick someone up (or didn’t more used to be required)?

    wwII europe, israel, sri lanka, angola

    • Sara says:

      “doesn’t there have to be more than just “concern” for the fbi to pick someone up (or didn’t more used to be required)?”

      Some did return last late winter-early spring and try to recruit, and they were picked up by FBI at the time, indicted, and have been in custody since. Some reports suggest they will plead guilty, and have been to the Grand Jury. We’ll find out soon. Much of this investigation was designed to figure out who in the Somali Community supported recruitment, so once people were arrested early on, they have been in cold storage as they have attempted to avoid letting some under suspicion know what evidence existed, who might have taken a plea, who might have talked. There have been several murders in the community some say are related to suspicions of who talked. This whole story involves the importation into the MPLS milue of some of the Tribal and Clan conflicts from Somalia — and the emergence of some Somali street gang activity, which may or may not be relevant to this case. It is extremely complex.

    • emptywheel says:

      Recruiting and funding to support a group that has been declared a terrorist organization is material support for terrorism.

      You know–just like Chiquita used to do.

  9. orionATL says:

    ew @37

    ahh, now i understand material support better; it’s a purse seine on which the presecutor pulls the ropes at will.

    apparently, free speech is no longer of greater weight than our national security “needs”.

  10. orionATL says:

    apropos of nothing in particular

    except my personal interest in the epidemic of public lying by political or corporate officials we are living through,

    scott horton has this bit of interesting history (along with, as is his wont, a painting (which alas does not copy)):

    hannah arendt writes

    ” [W]hen we talk about lying, and especially about lying among acting men, let us remember that the lie did not creep into politics by some accident of human sinfulness. Moral outrage, for this reason alone, is not likely to make it disappear. The deliberate falsehood deals with contingent facts; that is, with matters that carry no inherent truth within themselves, no necessity to be as they are. Factual truths are never compellingly true. The historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life; it is always in danger of being perforated by single lies or torn to shreds by the organized lying of groups, nations, or classes, or denied and distorted, often carefully covered up by reams of falsehoods or simply allowed to fall into oblivion. Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy witnesses to be established in order to find a secure dwelling place in the domain of human affairs. From this, it follows that no factual statement can ever be beyond doubt—as secure and shielded against attack as, for instance, the statement that two and two make four.

    It is this fragility that makes deception so very easy up to a point, and so tempting. It never comes into a conflict with reason, because things could indeed have been as the liar maintains they were. Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected, for which we were not prepared.

    –Hannah Arendt, “Lying in Politics” in Crises of the Republic (1972)

    when you read this,

    if you read this,

    think of the deluge of public lying this nation has endured from the rogue republican party of 1980 thru 2009.

    think of the carefully manicured lies of ronald reagan, orin hatch, arlin specter, tom delay, rush limbaugh, george w. bush, tom davis, rikard cheney, alan greenspan, michelle malkin, mitch mcconnell, antonin scalia, et al.,

    “et al.” being a stand-in for the larger host of scoundrels (the devil’s equivalent to a host of angels) who have claimed republican party affiliation.

    think about the lies involving evolution as a falsity,

    the lies intended to deny women birth control and abortion,

    the lies opposing gun control, a very serious public health issue,

    the lies detailing a compelling national security “need” to invade iraq.

    the decades of lies the american tobacco industry and it lawyers fostered on the courts and the american people,

    the lies being spread now by the petroleum and coal industries, and by wapoop’s george will, about global warming,

    and, of course, the contemporary lies about health insurance and health care (reworked from themes of 1993),

    take a moment to think about this epidemic of public lying –

    unchallenged except by sites like firedoglake/emptywheel and their brethren and sistern.


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