If Condi Says “Nixon” Directly Rather than Through Anonymous Sources, Does the NYT Hear?

Okay, I was going to make this a fuller rant tomorrow, but the last thread got to be a drag, so here’s my half rant.

Best as I can tell, this was the NYT’s complete coverage of Condi channeling Nixon. An "Opinionator" piece on it–that sterilizes it so much that it feels like a sorority tea.

If the words “college dorm” and “video” uttered in the same sentence make you queasy, or you’ve recently written a tuition check, you might want to watch the wholesome, yet compelling footage of students in a Stanford dormitory engaged in an unenhanced interrogation of the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Refreshingly, there is not a beer bong in sight.

And this reference in the Mazetti/Shane article, with neither a link to the YouTube nor a hint of her shocking statements.

Just last week, bloggers seized upon a new video clip of Condoleezza Rice, a former secretary of state, sharply defending the program to a Stanford undergraduate and saying nothing about the bitter internal arguments that accompanied the demise of the program. 

And yet, the NYT devotes 1,400 words to a story that does not use one single on the record source. Here’s how they justify doing so:

This is the story of its unraveling, based on interviews with more than a dozen former Bush administration officials. They insisted on anonymity because they feared being enmeshed in future investigations or public controversy, but they shed new light on the battle about the C.I.A. methods that grew passionate in Mr. Bush’s second term.

Now, as I said, this story does offer some useful data points, once you wade beneath the thick ooze of spin. But that doesn’t forgive the NYT’s absurd news judgment here.

It’s bad enough that they say, "well, there wasn’t enough internal conflict in Condi’s directly stated YouTube comments," so rather than covering that, we’ll let a bunch of Condi’s allies anonymously fluff up the story into a heroic fight against Cheney.

But then look at why their 12 anonymous sources won’t go on the record: "they feared being enmeshed in future investigations or public controversy." Since they’re already enmeshed in public controversy (albeit taking their potshots at Cheney while hiding behind the Gray Lady’s skirts), I suspect the issue is more the second part, a fear of "being enmeshed in future investigations." These people fear legal consequences for saying, in their own names, the things they’ve told the NYT are true. They won’t say any of this stuff on the record for fear they’ll have to do so under oath. 

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Rice and Goss Turn on Cheney

Keep in mind that this article seems to be at least partly the product of two entities–the Bellinger/Condi- and the Goss-reputation protection entities–that have been working overtime lately. (h/t Loo Hoo) In fact, the article references the YouTube of Condi proclaiming, "By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations in the Convention Against Torture," without explicitly telling NYT’s readers what Condi said. I guess that part–the part where Condi continues to defend the program by channeling Nixon–isn’t important.

Nevertheless, the article provides a few more data points on the torture plan.

June 2003 Statement of Support Was a Response to Shrub’s Speech

First, the article explains why CIA chose June 2003–of all times–to insist the White House write up a policy statement supporting torture with Bush’s name on it. 

The proclamation that President George W. Bush issued on June 26, 2003, to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture seemed innocuous, one of dozens of high-minded statements published and duly ignored each year.

The United States is “committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example,” Mr. Bush declared, vowing to prosecute torture and to prevent “other cruel and unusual punishment.”

Uh, yeah, I can see why that would make the CIA squirmy about doing Bush’s cruel and unusual punishment for him.

If this were a just world, the statement CIA forced Bush to write after he proclaimed we will prosecute torture and prevent cruel and unusual punishment, the statement basically endorsing torture as our country’s policy, will be the piece of evidence that leads to his prosecution. Alas, this is not usually a just world. 

Porter Goss CYAed Himself in December 2005

And then there’s the bit where Porter Goss protects himself by saying White House was pushing for torture at the end of 2005, but Goss was refusing without further cover from DOJ.

Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005.


Provoked by the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and pushed by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had been tortured by the North Vietnamese, the 2005 bill banned cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Top C.I.A. officials then feared that the agency’s methods could actually be illegal. Read more

Condi: If It Smells Like Nixon, It’s Criminal

Cenk Uygur got an absolutely damning video of Condi Rice channeling Richard Nixon. After denying she "authorized" torture–she just conveyed policy authorization to the agency, but I’m sure that authorization had a virgin birth before that–she explained that if the President authorized it, then it couldn’t violate the Convention Against Torture.

By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations in the Convention Against Torture.

By definition, I think Condi’s future just dimmed considerably.

Did Condi Really Not Know Defense Was Sleeping with the Spooks on Torture?

There’s a weird detail in John Yoo’s prepared testimony for last year’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on Assholes Who Torture. He claims the National Security Council (so, presumably John Bellinger or Condi or her boss) ordered OLC not to let on what it was doing to either State or Defense.

In particular, the offices of the CIA general counsel and of the NSC legal advisor asked OLC for an opinion on the meaning of the anti-torture statute. They set the classification level of the work and dictated which agencies and personnel could know about it. In this case, the NSC ordered that we not discuss our work on this matter with either the State or Defense Departments. 

To be fair, Yoo is referring to the production of just the Bybee One memo–the one requiring torture to rival organ failure or death–and not the recently-released Bybee Two memo–the one detailing the techniques in question.  And from reviewing the hearing now that Bybee Two has been released (trust me, I mean it when I call it the hearing on Assholes Who Torture), it’s clear that Addington and Yoo both maintained a clear distinction between the two memos (in Addington’s case, for example, he did so to avoid admitting he had discussed torture techniques with the folks in Gitmo.)

So it’s possible that Yoo was only ordered to keep this memo secret from DOD; it’s possible Condi knew the techniques memo was basically a group project for the torture kids over at Defense and CIA. 

But with this weird detail in mind, I find another weird detail from the Senate Armed Services Report even weirder.  Both DOD’s Jim Haynes and CIA’s John Rizzo kind of sort of take credit for passing the material from JPRA to Yoo and friends at OLC. Here’s Haynes:

Mr. Haynes also recalled that he may have been "asked that information be given to the Justice Department for something they were working on," which he said related to a program he was not free to discuss with the Committee, even in a classified setting.

And here’s Rizzo:

According to Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, the techniques that the OLC analyzed in the Second Bybee memo were provided by his office. In his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Rizzo stated that his office was "the vehicle" for getting the interrogation practices analyzed in the Second Bybee memo to the Department of Justice.

These aren’t necessarily contradictory. Read more

Condi’s Whole Life, in Three Volumes, Worth Slightly More than David Plouffe’s Two-Year Campaign

As Lisa is reporting, Condi just signed herself a $2.5 million deal for three books on her life and her tenure as Bush’s foreign policy flunky. She will write one book on her time in the Bush Administration, a memoir of her life, and a kids version of the memoir.

That’s great news for Condi, as others in the Bush Administration are having less success getting book deals. Consider Alberto Gonzales, who doesn’t yet have a publisher for his book, which purportedly sets the record straight on his role in the crimes of the Bush Administration. Laura Bush got a book deal–at a quarter of the price that Hillary got for her First Lady story. Karl Rove, who smartly got an early start on the bidding, had to settle for $1.5 million for his book deal; experts had thought he’d get $3 million. And Bush himself has been advised to wait, as the market for anything he has to say looks like the rest of the economy: non-existent and getting worse.

But the market for books is not all bad. Just by way of perspective, consider David Plouffe’s book deal for the story of managing Obama’s historic campaign. Plouffe got $1.5 to $2 million for his advance.

So in case you were wondering, the market now values Plouffe’s role in Obama’s two-year campaign to have the same value as Karl Rove’s entire life work, Laura Bush’s tenure as First Lady, (for the moment at least) George Bush’s two term Administration, and two out of Condi’s three-volume life.

I think the market’s invisible hand just slapped the Bush Administration upside their head.

“And while you’re indicting Alberto Gonzales for lying to Congress…”

"…why not add another charge too?"

That seems to be the immediate message of Henry Waxman’s 11-page memo exposing Administration lies about the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger. As he describes, when Congress approached her with questions about the Administration’s use of the uranium in Niger claim, Condi Rice had Alberto Gonzales answer on her behalf.

On January 6,2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sent a letter on behalf of Condoleezza Rice, who was then the National Security Advisor, to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, writing that "Dr. Rice has asked me to respond" to questions raised by the Committee about the uranium claim.

But the testimony the Oversight Committee has collected seriously challenges the veracity of Gonzales’ memo.

The information the Oversight Committee has received casts serious doubt on the veracity of the representations that Mr. Gonzales made on behalf of Dr. Rice.

Basically, George Tenet, former Deputy Director of Intelligence Jami Miscik, and former NSC speechwriter John Gibson testified that Condi and other NSC staffers had received multiple warnings not to use the Niger uranium claim, in addition to the insistent warnings before the Cincinnati speech that we already knew about.

As I suggested, DOJ may well already be considering charges against Alberto Gonzales for lying to Congress about the US Attorney firings (and, for that matter, about the illegal wiretap program). Waxman lays out one more instance where Bush’s Fredo appears to have lied about Administration activities.

Not that it’ll do much good: there’s a five year statute of limitation on lying to Congress, and the memo in question was written four years and eleven months ago. (The Administration didn’t turn over the memo in question until November 12 of this year.)

I’ll have more to say about the substantive details in Waxman’s memo after I do some Christmas shopping. But for now, if you needed any more proof that the SSCI report on prewar intelligence on Iraq was a whitewash based on Administration lies, now you’ve got it. 

No One Could Have Predicted, Republic of Georgia, the Follow-Up

Yesterday, I said,

Since Condi’s gone somewhere (probably buying shoes in NYC), let me anticipate what she’ll say when she ever gets back to work: "No one could have predicted that the Georgians would incite the Russians to pursue regime change in Georgia."

Today, the NYT’s diplomatic correspondant writes,

One month ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a high-profile visit that was planned to accomplish two very different goals.

During a private dinner on July 9, Ms. Rice’s aides say, she warned President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia not to get into a military conflict with Russia that Georgia could not win. “She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table,” according to a senior administration official who accompanied Ms. Rice to the Georgian capital.

But publicly, Ms. Rice struck a different tone, one of defiant support for Georgia in the face of Russian pressure. “I’m going to visit a friend and I don’t expect much comment about the United States going to visit a friend,” she told reporters just before arriving in Tbilisi, even as Russian jets were conducting intimidating maneuvers over South Ossetia.


Ms. Rice went to Tbilisi just as tensions between Russia and Georgia were escalating. Standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a press conference, she said that Russia “needs to be a part of resolving the problem and solving the problems and not contributing to it.” Mr. Saakashvili, for his part, was clearly thrilled to host Ms. Rice.


Ms. Rice did not get on the phone with her Georgian counterpart on Thursday, but left it to Mr. Fried to deliver the “don’t go in” message, a senior administration official said. “I don’t think it would have made any difference if she had,” the official said. “They knew the message was coming from the top.”

A few hours later, in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 8, Georgia launched its offensive in South Ossetia, and Russia responded with a tenfold show of force. Ms. Rice, the administration official said, “called Saakashvili on Friday morning, after their folks were in.”

Now, I’m not even remotely surprised that State is now claiming they had nothing to do with this, Condi’s visit and on-the-record confrontation of Russian not-withstanding.

I am wondering, though. At what point do people start calling Condi on her refrain, "No one could have predicted"?

“No One Could Have Predicted,” Republic of Georgia Edition

Since Condi’s gone somewhere (probably buying shoes in NYC), let me anticipate what she’ll say when she ever gets back to work: "No one could have predicted that the Georgians would incite the Russians to pursue regime change in Georgia."

At least that’s the story the Administration has been feeding Jonathan Landay.

Bush administration officials, worried by what they saw as a series of provocative Russian actions, repeatedly warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to intervene in his country militarily, U.S. officials said Monday.

But in the end, the warnings failed to stop the Georgian president — a Bush favorite — from launching an attack last week that on Monday seemed likely to end not only in his country’s military humiliation but complete occupation by Russian forces.


Pentagon officials said that despite having 130 trainers assigned to Georgia, they had no advance notice of Georgia’s sudden move last Thursday to send thousands of Georgian troops into South Ossetia to capture that province’s capital, Tskhinvali.

Me, I agree with Jeff Stein, this is spin, presumably designed to excuse American impotence in the face of Russia’s aggression.

A "surprise." My, oh, my.Except I don’t believe it. As easy as it is to believe that the CIA, etc., blew another huge event, I find it impossible to accept that not one of the 127 Pentagon advisors in Georgia, including Special Forces and intelligence contractors, were clueless about Tblisi’s intent — and preparations — to move into South Ossetia.That just doesn’t pass the laugh test.On July 15, for starters, amid rising tension between Moscow and Tblisi over South Ossetia, some 1,200 U.S. troops launched a three-week long joint military exercise with Georgian troops. Three weeks later, on the night of Aug. 7, "coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgian President Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia."It is simply inconceivable that the Pentagon wasn’t wired to the helmets of Georgian troops, despite the denials of U.S. military officials.

See also this quote one of those military trainers gave Danger Room:

One of the U.S. military trainers put it to me a bit more bluntly. “We’re giving them the knife,” he said. “Will they use it?”

As I said, I think the presumed spin is designed to excuse US inaction in the face of an utter lack of means to respond to Russia. Read more

Does Ray Hunt Do This Kind of Fund-Raising, Too?

Via TP, the Sunday Times (of London) has an explosive video, showing Bush crony Stephen Payne effectively selling State Department endorsements for former Central Asian Presidents in exchange for six figure donations to the Bush Library.

A lobbyist with close ties to the White House is offering access to key figures in George W Bush’s administration in return for six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.

Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.


Asked by an undercover reporter who the politician would be able to meet for that price, Payne said: “Cheney’s possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr Rice or . . . I think a meeting with Dr Rice or the deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible . . .

“The main thing is that he [the Asian politician] comes, and he’s well received, that he meets with high-level people . . . and we send positive statements made back from the administration about ‘This guy wasn’t such a bad guy, many people have done worse’.”

As Kagro X notes, there’s a name for this: it’s called B-R-I-B-E-R-Y.

Now perhaps this is not common practice for those raising funds for Bush’s Library. And perhaps it’s not common practice for those appointed to national security advisory committees like the Homeland Security Advisory Committee (on which Payne serves) or the Presidential Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. But I can’t help but note the similar profile between Payne–who is apparently selling influence–and Ray Hunt. Of course, Hunt isn’t dealing lobbying contracts with dubious foreign figures. Rather, he’s making oil deals. And for some reason, the State Department not only overlooked the fact that Hunt’s premature deal with Kurdistan might destabilize Iraq, but they pointed Hunt Oil to new business elsewhere in Iraq.

Gosh. The State Department sure does like Bush’s cronies who come up with big chunks of cash for Bush’s library, doesn’t it?

Scottie and Condi and the Niger Intelligence

My posts on Scottie McC’s book have, thus far, treated issues closely connected to the CIA Leak investigation (well, except for the post in which he calls cracking down on deadbeat dads "trivial").

In this post, I want to look at how he deals with the underlying issue–the Niger intelligence and the White House’s response to it. I find his treatment particularly curious. As many of you have pointed out, Scottie McC is fairly critical of Condi Rice.

Over time, I was struck by how deft she is at protecting her reputation. No matter what went wrong, she was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview, including the WMD rationale for war in Iraq, the decision to invade Iraq, the sixteen words in the State of the Union address, and postwar planning and implementation of the strategy of Iraq.

But his book, in some key ways, helps her protect her reputation. Now, most of this is–I think–ignorance on the part of Scottie McC, not any attempt to put Condi in a good light. Nevertheless, it is rather telling that he seems to be unaware of some of the key roles that Condi played in precisely these intelligence issues. Which is another way of saying he really misses some of the tensions between NSC and CIA the week of the leak–and therefore some of the underlying skirmishes that contributed to Plame’s outing.

For this post, I’m going to do a timeline–both of the events he covers, and the events he misses.

June 8, 2003: Condi gets beat up by George Stephanopoulos

Scottie McC does not mention this appearance at all, gliding directly from Kristof’s column to Pincus’, and ignoring Condi’s appearance as the decisive factor in leading Joe Wilson to publish his op-ed and, apparently, in getting Bush to tell Libby he was interested in the Kristof allegations:

In early June, while making inquiries about what Kristof wrote, Pincus had contacted Cathie Martin, who oversaw the vice president’s communications office. Martin went to Scooter Libby to discuss what Pincus was sniffing around about. The vice president and Libby were quietly stepping up their efforts to counter the allegations of the anonymous envoy to Niger, and Pincus’s story was one opportunity for them to do just that.


In this atmosphere of growing controversy–and with no WMD in sight anywhere in Iraq–Kristof’s anonymous source, Joe Wilson, decided to go public.

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