Torture Is Not a Christmas Tree and John Brennan Is Not a Jesuit Pope

I would have thought by this point journalists would cease comparing John Brennan with Jesuits, unless it’s a coded reference to the corrupt spookish reputation the sect had in past centuries.

Such a Jesuitical response will do absolutely nothing to satisfy critics of the program or its supporters—some of whom still go work at Langley every day. 

And I find it downright disgusting for a journalist to use an extended Christmas present metaphor to discuss basic transparency in a democracy, as if democracy were just a gleeful romp on Santa’s lap.

There may have been bourbon punch and festive lights at the CIA’s holiday party Friday night, but a frosty gloom hung in the air. As everyone in the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters knew, the long-awaited “torture report” from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democrats was set to drop early the next week, perhaps as soon as Monday morning. It seemed a rather awkward time for a party.


For pro-release activists, the dissemination of the report would be a holiday present, years in the making. 


As of Friday, just how the final publication would play out remained a mystery, like so many Christmas presents under the tree.


So as CIA brass passed the punch and mini-pecan pies Friday evening, they wondered: would next week would bring sugarplum fairies, or lumps of coal?

Since when are journalists not among those who want official reports to be released?

Like it or not we will learn what primary sources from the CIA document they did over a 5 year period.

Which means no credible journalist should parrot this claim …

Chief among the agency’s complaints will be that Senate investigators failed to interview anyone who worked on the program, leaving them to base their findings solely on classified documents that, officials argue, couldn’t be fully understood without some elaboration and context.

… without noting the implication of it: that the primary thing the CIA does, which is generate cables and reports, is so flawed that literally millions of cables are inaccurate or so misleadingly written they don’t present a fair record of what we paid the CIA to do.

Seriously: if you have multiple sources you consider credible repeating this claim, your job should immediately be to chase down how it is that so much of the CIA’s work is fraudulent, which would be a truly epic scandal. But no one is doing that, somehow, which suggests even those who are pitching the story know that their own emails and other documents show that they conspired to (among other things) lie to Congress.

That is what the record — even that which is already public — clearly shows. If the CIA did not, along the way, cover its ass sufficiently to make it clear that David Addington was cheering the torture at every step, welp, I hope they develop better self-preservation skills in the future (though it’s quite clear the CIA only documented those aspects of congressional briefings that helped their case, and suppressed or altered those that did not, so it’s not likely they weren’t involved in any CYA).

Finally, the main jist of the complaint Harris documents here is that Brennan made a deal with the White House: to protect that office (by protecting the aforementioned David Addington) in exchange for protecting the CIA officers who got promoted for being good torturers. Brennan succeeded in delivering some version of that deal, though it’s unclear just how far he went. If that’s the case, the CIA officers have already gotten what they signed up for: continued career advancement for remaining silent about who instigated the torture, even as critics of torture were ousted from the agency and even, in John Kiriakou’s case, prosecuted. That was the deal, and they fared better than the critics did.

If they sold their soul too cheaply, perhaps they won’t sell it so cheaply in the future. That’s the entire point of this report, no?

14 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    “Since when are journalists not among those who want official reports to be released?”
    That would be since “journalists” were interested in access to “exclusive” bureaucratic mutterings to sustain the government-media collusion and also keeping their jobs, particularly now that print “journalism” is in deep financial trouble and even low-paid jobs are precious.
    Who cares what the citizens want, considering all that?

  2. Charles Cameron says:

    I think “Jesuitical” is code for “casuistic” isn’t it? The dictiornaries don’t quite say it, but my sense is that it refers to the use of tortured language / logic. And see, we’re back at torture again.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    i understand the “Torture Report” is expected to not use the word “torture”, is that really going to happen?

    Could we at least get it released with a subtitle, or a title of the Introduction, which quotes The President of the United States, Barack Obama, stating “We tortured some folks?”

  4. ess emm says:

    Bad use of metaphor by Harris.

    But to give Harris some credit he directly names Cheney and Addington in the article as the two who “bear the most responsibility for setting up the program.” But on the other hand Harris is silent about Bush and the Gloves-Come-Off MON.

    I’ve thought that Harris’s NatSec coverage was mostly good but now that he is orbiting around Shachtman’s imperial cheerleading I need to pay closer attention. Like how about this little gem of uncritical stenography in Harris’s article:

    Whether they did right or they did wrong, they were told to do something, they did it, and they feel like they had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

    After Nuremberg only horrible people think this is an adequate excuse.

  5. bloopie2 says:

    Good analysis. And I guess there’s bad reporting everywhere. Here’s an example, a Guardian article about a Premier League owner who made some rash comments (not rash to him, he’s quite old) concerning Chinese people, and about the reaction to those comments. I take issue with the reporting.

    Start with this quote from the article, by a spokesman for the Chinese community in England: “Contrary to what Mr. Whelan may believe, the vast majority of our community deem the terms ‘chink’ and ‘chingaling’ highly offensive. For many in the Chinese community these words hold deep emotional resonance, as they are often used in conjunction with racial violence, harassment and hate crimes”

    My comments: I don’t believe that, Spokesman, unless you provide facts to back up that allegation. Facts should show that you just recently interviewed a large percentage of the Chinese community on this exact point and these exact words, and you found that they were weak enough and insecure enough to be deeply offended and hurt when someone they don’t know, who holds no power over them, and who they will never meet, said something about their nationality. Until you prove that with facts, I will not believe you, and I will find you just as guilty of making a gross generalization as to race and nationality, as your accused. And you, Journalist, who reported that statement, shame on you for accepting a gross generalization as to race and nationality, without demanding proof thereof. Why did you accept that statement, without demanding proof? Or without going out and doing your own interviewing in the Chinese community, to see what’s up. Don’t just find someone who says “Not A” when “A” is in the news. That’s plain old lazy and bad reporting.

  6. orionATL says:

    “… It goes back to the one basic thing: Whether they did right or they did wrong, they were told to do something, they did it, and they feel like they had the rug pulled out from underneath them. They feel sold down the river, and Brennan is part of the sale process…”

    “thrown under the bus”, “sold down the river”, “had the rug pulled out from under them” – what a whining bunch of thugs these cia “officers” are.

    they weren’t slaves; they were highly paid employees and contractors – $100k to $200k per year. they knew what they were getting into. they knew how the cia opperates.

    these officers were having fun, operating in the way that makes cia so much fun to work for – under no obligation to follow american laws or normal rules of human conduct. yahoo!!

    but now – now they will be subject to international law and to retaliation at the hands of relatives and friends of those they tortured. what goes around, …

  7. GKJames says:

    Two enduring mysteries for me: (1) What does Obama–a temporary occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania–get out of protecting the likes of Addington and Cheney? (2) Why is morale at Langley–always in form of emotional extortion as if, in their workplace disenchantment, these guys would do the national security equivalent of spitting into customers’ soup–even a news item?

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