Some Cover-Ups Are More Equal Than Other Cover-Ups

Over at TNR, I’ve got a piece that mocks how former top spooks and officials pretend the partisanship of HPSCI is anything new.

On Monday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released what it claimed to be a summary of its investigation into Russia’s role in the election. Among its conclusions, it disagreed with the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government “developed a clear preference” for candidate Trump.

The summary, presumably drafted by aides of Trump transition official and committee Chairman Devin Nunes, disputed that assessment even in the face of the recent indictment of Russian internet trolls, which laid out how they set up anti-Hillary and pro-Trump campaign rallies. The indictment also showed how their social media activity pursued the same anti-Hillary, pro-Trump line, launching hashtags like #TrumpTrain and #Hillary4Prison, the Twitter account March for Trump, and the Facebook accounts Clinton FRAUDation and Trumpsters United.

Even some Republicans on the committee have delicately distanced themselves from the report. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina affirmed that Russia was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm [Hillary Clinton’s] candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.” Florida’s Tom Rooney, like Gowdy retiring after this term, said, “I absolutely think there was evidence they were trying to help Trump at some points.”

The report also garnered criticism from former spooks and top officials. John McLaughlin, CIA’s deputy director during the first years of the George W. Bush administration, complained on Twitter about the partisan nature of the stunt.

As a subject or observer of Cong oversight of intell for 40 years, I’ve never seen a party drive a stake thru the process as House Reps just did. It depends on a bi-partisan approach that at least gives the minority a voice. Take that away and the thing dies. It just did.

So did Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder:

Republican House Intell Comm shut down Russia probe before doing a complete job This is a coverup and a lasting stain on the reputation of what used to be a bipartisan Committee when it was run by Republican Rogers and Democrat Ruppersberger. Politics beat a desire for the truth

Only, McLaughlin has seen such partisanship in congressional oversight before—when he benefited from it. In 2003, after Republicans regained the majority in the Senate, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Pat Roberts agreed with the CIA to shut down initial efforts by his Democratic predecessor, Bob Graham, to oversee Bush’s torture program. The CIA memorandum of his briefing recorded, “[T]he Senator interjected that he saw no reason for the Committee to pursue such a request and could think of ‘ten reasons right off why it is a terrible idea’ for the Committee to do any such thing,” like observing interrogation as practiced in person. In the same period, Jane Harmon, then the ranking member of House Intelligence Committee, asked the CIA general counsel, “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the president?” In response, he gave her an evasive answer.

If partisanship drives a stake through effective oversight of the intelligence community, then the efforts to bypass Democratic concerns about torture killed that vampire long ago.

Furthermore, for much of the period that Holder is describing, between 2011 and 2015, Republicans were obsessed with turning the tragedy of the Benghazi assault into a circus. The House Intelligence Committee did its own report on the incident, replete with “additional views” from Rogers offering a sharper attack on the Obama administration, especially Susan Rice. Democrats were left offering “minority views” from Ruppersberger reminding lawmakers that blame for the attack should lie with the attackers.

I realize, of course, I left something out: that Holder was part of the cover-up himself.

In any case, I otherwise thought it a useful piece.

21 replies
  1. Trip says:

    Someone who is against torture quits when forced to “follow orders”. But let’s say it was beyond their own ability to dissent: they don’t then destroy evidence after the fact. I’d add that as an advocate FOR torture, Trump wouldn’t be nominating her for the position without her past Bona fides in this regard. If she only “Followed orders” then, what makes anyone believe she’d have the ability to withstand them now?

    Even though there is a psychological phenomenon associated with “Following orders”, we certainly have distinguished who is entitled to this defense.

    “In particular, acting under orders caused participants to perceive a distance from outcomes that they themselves caused,” said study co-author Patrick Haggard, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, in an email.

    In other words, people actually feel disconnected from their actions when they comply with orders, even though they’re the ones committing the act.

    See Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann who wrote that he and other low-level officers were “forced to serve as mere instruments”….

    The fact that everyone is now offering excuses, rather than strongly OPPOSING Torture, regardless of appointee, is really telling about both parties. Shame on both for not punishing anyone for war crimes. Shame on both for turning a blind eye to the real potential of doing it AGAIN.

  2. Bay State Librul says:

    It’s the Ides of March.

    “Yond Don the Con has a lean and hungry look. He lies too much. Such men are dangerous”

    Robert Mueller: Act 1, Scene 8


    • orionATL says:


      Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
      I come to bury trump, not to praise him. 
      The evil some men do lives after them; 
      What little good is buried with their bones; 
      So let it be with Trump.

      Robert Mueller: act the final.

  3. Willis Warren says:

    McLaughlin’s comments, despite having the benefit of partisan bias in the past, reflect a new hyperpartisan/Koch congress that is willing to bury their heads for crimes that benefit OTHER COUNTRIES.  No one is talking about what the Koch suckers have done to Congress.  Obama once mentioned they treat everything as a zero sum game (just like Putin)

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Benefits to other countries may be the appearance, but Money is really behind the actions.

      Always think Money before arriving at other conclusions.

    • matt says:

      Yes, the Koch’s are our home grown oligarchs.  It’s going to be a a lot easier getting Putin to stop meddling in elections and policy than it is the Koch’s.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    UK “Doctors stunned to find huge air pocket where part of man’s brain should be.”

    I hadn’t heard that Trump or Nunes had traveled to the UK.

    • Trip says:

      I suspect the physicians would have found a rectum where the air pocket was had the subjects been those that you mentioned.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As it turns out, a deformity in the form, essentially, of a one-way valve allowed air from a nasal passage to enter but not leave the brain case, compressing a portion of what looks like the frontal lobe.  The consultant had apparently never seen anything like it. Gives new meaning to the phrase, Mind the Gap.

        Sorry about the waste of good coffee. :-)

  5. matt says:

    “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

    Love your allusion to the Orwell quote from Animal Farm in your post title.

  6. GKJames says:

    Gowdy sounds uncharacteristically sane in that quote. Of course, “had she prevailed,” he’d have very much stuck around to “undermine her Presidency”.

  7. Trip says:

    Important, must read op-ed:

    I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up.

    From the article, for the evil mini-me Cheney, who is reviving the lie that ‘torture works’ (putting aside the abhorrent lack of morality and/or ethics and what the US is supposed to stand for):

    Rodriguez would later tell reporters that the torture worked and that Abu Zubaida provided actionable intelligence that disrupted attacks and saved American lives. We know, thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture and the personal testimony of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan , that this was false.

    • Trip says:

      Oct 20, 03
      Okay, I don’t like that anymore. At first it was funny but these people are going too far. I ended your letter last night because it was time to wake the MI prisoners and “mess with them” but it went too far even I can’t handle whats going on. I cant get it out of my head. I walk down stairs after blowing the whistle and beating on the cells with an asp to find “the taxicab driver” handcuffed backwards to his window naked with his underwear over his head and face. He looked like Jesus Christ. At first I had to laugh so I went on and grabbed the camera and took a picture. One of the guys took my asp and started “poking” at his dick. Again I thought, okay that’s funny then it hit me, that’s a form of molestation. You can’t do that. I took more pictures now to “record” what is going on. They started talking to this man and at first he was talking “I’m just a taxicab driver, I did nothing.” He claims he’d never try to hurt US soldiers that he picked up the wrong people. Then he stopped talking. They turned the lights out and slammed the door and left him there while they went down to cell #4. This man had been so fucked that when they grabbed his foot through the cell bars he began screaming and crying. After praying to Allah he moans a constant short Ah, Ah every few seconds for the rest of the night. I don’t know what they did to this guy. The first one remained handcuffed for maybe 1 ½-2 hours until he started yelling for Allah. So they went back in and handcuffed him to the top bunk on either side of the bed while he stood on the side. He was there for a little over an hour when he started yelling again for Allah. Not many people know this shit goes on. The only reason I want to be there is to get the pictures and prove that the US is not what they think. But I don’t know if I can take it mentally. What if that was me in their shoes. These people will be our future terrorist. Kelly, its awful and you know how fucked I am in the head. Both sides of me think its wrong. I thought I could handle anything. I was wrong.

      • Trip says:

        Sorry I forgot the link for the letter:
        The woman behind the camera at Abu Ghraib.
        The low-ranking reservist soldiers who took and appeared in the infamous images were singled out for opprobrium and punishment; they were represented, in government reports, in the press, and before courts-martial, as rogues who acted out of depravity. Yet the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was de facto United States policy. The authorization of torture and the decriminalization of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of captives in wartime have been among the defining legacies of the current Administration; and the rules of interrogation that produced the abuses documented on the M.I. block in the fall of 2003 were the direct expression of the hostility toward international law and military doctrine that was found in the White House, the Vice-President’s office, and at the highest levels of the Justice and Defense Departments…The Abu Ghraib rules, promulgated by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, elaborated on the interrogation rules for Guantánamo Bay, which had been issued by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; they were designed to create far more license than restriction for interrogators who sought to break prisoners.

    • Trip says:

      In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates’ Deaths
      Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
      The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

    • orionATL says:

      thanks for all the cites, trip.

      it is really important to publish, and cite, and talk, in a very “grusome details” way, about american torture by cia and by soldiers in iraq, afghanistan, thailand, poland, and guantanamo.

      it is equally important to name the american political, cia, military leaders and media figures, like vice-president dick cheney, cia director george tenet, haspel, rodriguez, fox news soldato, and others who were involved in authorizing, tolerating, excusing, rationalizing, and/or covering up torture by american cia or military employees.

      it’s vital to do these two things because it cuts thru bloodless, screamless political rhetoric discussions on abstract, bodyless topics like “torture works”, “torture gives us information” preferred by those american leaders and executioners who are guilty of torturing.

      • lefty665 says:

        Thanks to both of you. It is also important to publish, and cite, and talk, in a very “grusome details” way, about Obama, Holder, et al who decided to “Look forward, not look back”, to suppress many of the “gruesome details”, and to give the prior administration and perps a free pass. Obama/Holder also jailed John Kiriakou, the first official to disclose waterboarding, for disclosing the name of a perp. Obama/Holder left many of the perps unpunished and in place to have the opportunity to torture again.  Change=Same.  You are right to be outraged by Haspel’s promotion. We also need to be mindful of how it came to be she was in a position to be promoted. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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