The Moral Rectitude Torture Cover-Up Promotion Czar

Oh hi! Are you folks still here? Missed you!

First off, thanks to bmaz and Jim and Rayne for holding down the fort while Mr EW, McCaffrey the MilleniaLab, and I explored Kentucky. There are many wonderful aspects of the state: the sandstone arches, the ham, and I think we’re even finally beginning to get this Bourbon thing!

I’ll be catching up for a few days, probably commenting on things that broke while I’m away. Such as this news, that John Brennan is showing his leadership at CIA by having three former CIA people weigh in on whether he should retain the woman who destroyed the torture tapes as the head of the clandestine service (she’s the acting head now, Brennan is considering making her appointment permanent; Mark Mazzetti has more details on her career here).

To help navigate the sensitive decision on the clandestine service chief, Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said.


“Given the importance of the position of the director of the National Clandestine Service, Director Brennan has asked a few highly respected former senior agency officers to review the candidates he’s considering for the job,” said Preston Golson, a CIA spokesman.

The group’s members were identified as former senior officials John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes and Mary Margaret Graham.

Note that at least two of these three were deeply implicated in the torture program, with McLaughlin involved in decisions and briefing of the program itself (and also vouching for Brennan’s claimed opposition to torture back when it mattered, solely because he’s “honest”), and Kappes involved in covering up the Salt Pit killing of Gul Rahman, among other things. So they’re not exactly neutral on the contributions of people who cover up the CIA’s torture program. While the selection of these three is being spun as expertise (I suspect they were also selected because Dianne Feinstein respects them, though that’s a guess), it should be clear that they are not neutral on torture.

But I’m just as amused at how this process — Brennan’s fairly transparent attempt to outsource the morally repugnant decision to promote someone involved in torture and its cover-up — undermines all the carefully cultivated claims about Brennan’s role as the priest serving as a moral compass for others, at least on the drone program.

Among other descriptions offered of the guy in charge of drone assassinations, Harold Koh described him as a priest.

“If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I’m comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude,” Mr. Koh said. “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”

That same formulation–moral rectitude–shows up in Karen DeYoung’s profile of John Brennan today.

Some White House aides describe him as a nearly priest-like presence in their midst, with a moral depth leavened by a dry, Irish wit.

One CIA colleague, former general counsel John Rizzo, recalled his rectitude surfacing in unexpected ways. Brennan once questioned Rizzo’s use of the “BCC” function in the agency’s e-mail system to send a blind copy of a message to a third party without the primary recipient’s knowledge.

“He wasn’t joking,” Rizzo said. “He regarded that as underhanded.”

Back when Brennan’s boosters were promising he’d be a controlling figure at CIA, they suggested he’d make these decisions based on a priest-like moral compass.

Yet, just weeks into the job, he has instead asked those who benefitted from this woman’s cover-up to bless her promotion, thereby dodging the responsibility himself.

I warned that this moral rectitude thing was just a myth when Brennan was nominated. It sure didn’t take long to be proven right.


30 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Welcome back, happy birthday, thanks for starting back up with this outrage.

    What exactly is the thought process here? “Well, she’s not in prison,so might as well make her title open and permanent?”

    The moral retch-titude of Brennan’s contemplation of such an appointment does indeed make me want to vomit.

  2. allan says:

    As much as we should be concerned abut morals and ethics, what about simple competency? If one believes what one reads on the intertoobz, this person was intimately involved in some of the worst screw ups of the last 15 years, including the case of two 9/11 hijackers known to be in the US and the lack of security in the Khost attack. The focus on the decision to destroy the tapes is natural, but there seem to be a whole lot of other reasons why this promotion shouldn’t happen.

  3. The Opium Wars says:


    Update on Julian Asange / Wikileaks

    The top Swedish prosecutor pursuing sexual assault charges against Julian Assange has abruptly left the case and one of Mr Assange’s accusers has sacked her lawyer.


    News of changes in the Swedish prosecution of Mr Assange comes shortly before Swedish Supreme Court judge Stefan Lindskog delivers a keynote lecture on “the Assange affair, and freedom of speech, from the Swedish perspective” at the University of Adelaide next Wednesday.

    Greg Barns, a barrister spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said it was a fundamental legal principle that judges do not speak publicly on matters that are likely to come before the courts or are yet to be decided.

    “That a Swedish supreme court judge thinks this is acceptable tends to confirm the fears people have about the impartiality and robustness of the Swedish judicial system. It gives great currency to the belief that Mr Assange’s case in Sweden has been heavily politicised.

  4. Lake Effect Snow says:

    Is Steven A. Cohen Buying Off the USA Government?

    Most scandals involving the cozy relationship between Wall Street and its regulators play out behind closed doors. Others happen in plain view, and this is one of the latter. In a Manhattan courtroom Thursday, a federal judge held a hearing on whether to approve a legal settlement in which Steven A. Cohen, one of the richest and most publicity-shy men in the country, appears to be buying off the US government, which for years has been investigating wrongdoing in and around his hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisers.

    Unless the judge, Victor Marrero, rejects the settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and SAC, which was announced a couple of weeks ago, Cohen will be free to go about his business, which has long been clouded by suspicions of insider trading, once he writes a check of six hundred and sixteen million dollars to the Securities and Exchange Commission. There will be no further sanctions and no admission of wrongdoing. And in fact, Cohen already appears to be celebrating. According to a report in the Times, he has just purchased a Picasso painting, “Le Rêve,” for a hundred and fifty-five million dollars, and an ocean-front mansion in East Hampton, for sixty million dollars.

  5. Gimme Shelter says:

    US Army Veteran Worked In Syria For CIA, Not Al-Qaeda, Says His Dad

    US Army Veteran Accused of Joining Terrorist Group in Syria Left Trail of Videos

    When an RPG Became a WMD

    Let us appreciate the irony. A US citizen fights for an opposition group against a government that is no longer recognised as legitimate, credible and legal in the eyes of the international community. (International here is loose, variegated and questionable.) The group he so happens to fight for was the Syrian al-Nusra front. The dolts in the US State Department have decided that the group is a “terror group”, as distinct from other groups, who presumably do not dabble in “terror” so much as watering the tree of patriotism with a good deal of blood.

    Let’s All Stop Saying ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ Forever

  6. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    EW: I’m not sure you have read the Jesuit Oath of Induction.

    The priestly behaviour John Brennan is exhibiting is not far from what one would expect of a Jesuit.

    It is, however, useful to have a Jesuit leading the holy war against Muslims, though I accept we disagree that it is a holy war.

  7. karenjj2 says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean): wow, Greg, guess the “oath” explains brennan’s refusal to use a bible for his oath to Constitution as well as approval of assassination and torture. plus explains the new pope’s “neutrality” during brutal years in Argentina. the church they serve would rather rule hell than serve in heaven.

  8. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @P J Evans: I see lots of denials, inclduing yours, but no alternatives are offered. Please provide, thanks. I look forward to being corrected.

  9. P J Evans says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean):
    You can google jesuit oath. But here’s one place with names and dates for you, and another one is here.

    Let’s just say that I looked at your link and thought it sounded a great deal like one of the 18th or 19th century anti-Catholic novels: a bit over the top, especially when it comes to writing one’s name on a Communion wafer with a dagger dipped in your own blood. (Whoever wrote that had clearly never tried it.)

  10. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @P J Evans: Sorry, not convinced. I am inclined to doubt Catholic sources denying their crimes or perversions and do not doubt anything is possible including child abuse, pedophilia, the Inquisition and such a huge range of other atrocities that the mind boggles.

    However, putting that aside, my argument is that the Oath describes Brennan much better than anything one would normally deem ‘Priestly’. I simple was indicating that we should not be surprised the shoe fits, as I perceived EW was.

    In short, Brennan is Priestly, Jesuit Priestly to be exact.

  11. P J Evans says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean):
    You can believe what you want; just be aware that it may not be true. (I tend to disbelieve anything that involves vast century-spanning conspiracies. As for the Inquisition – the Protestants were not noticeably better in their treatment of ‘heretics’, including other Protestants.)

  12. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @P J Evans: Not picking on Catholics, just that the Jesuits are, and therefore I used Catholic examples. Yup Protestants no better, and Muslims equally bad, and Jews ditto, etc.

    Again, my point, to consider someone ‘Priestly’ is not necessarily a positive recommendation. “Brennan’s role as a priest serving as a moral compass for others” is a indictment when one considers what Jesuit Priets are expected to do, as per their oath.

    Some moral compass, NOT!

  13. Ethan says:

    I never use BCC and now I know why .. because The Most Rev John Brennan knows it to be less moral than torture, and I have no desire to waterboard my colleagues.

  14. TarheelDem says:

    There are numerous historical instances in which priests were involved in leading wars. In almost every case, it is unlikely that “moral compass” is a term that would come to mind.

    See how easy it is to lie with the truth. Just by ignoring the details of history.

  15. P J Evans says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean):
    And I was pointing out that your ‘Jesuit oath’ is a fig newton of someone else’s imagination. If you insist on using a lie to prove your point, then you’re in the wrong place.

    (If Brennan is a Catholic – which I don’t know and don’t really care about – he’s more likely to be in Opus Dei, like at least one of the justices.)

  16. Rae York says:

    Interesting that the description of “priest-like” is used. I think we all know now that this simply means an individual who displays publicly a moral superiority while privately engaging in some of the foulest abuses of human dignity

  17. What Constitution? says:

    @Rae York: Yeah. Forgive me (I’m thinking it’s a good day to ask), but I’m still perplexed over why only men get to have their feet washed, and what it portends when a woman gets to partake of such a godlike luxury.

  18. P J Evans says:

    @Rae York:
    Some do, some don’t. (I’m wary of generalizing the actions of individuals as being the norm for a much larger group.)

  19. P J Evans says:

    The Dominicans started with the inquisition, IIRC. (I don’t think it was quite as bad as we’re conditioned to think, but it was bad enough to leave a permanent mark on history. Some of the stuff they did was really unnecessary.)

  20. ess emm says:

    Stupid question.

    Did the White House ever follow through on its promise to provide the Intelligence Committees with the targeted killing memos?

Comments are closed.