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Congress Reviews the Taxpayers' Investment

One of the biggest stories at the North American International Auto Show yesterday was not the cars, but the congressional delegation — led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — that came to the show. In addition to Pelosi and Hoyer, much of Michigan’s delegation (the only Republican was Fred Upton, though Candice Miller had intended to attend before bad roads got in the way), Ohio Representatives Tim Ryan and Betty Sutton, and Senators Byron Dorgan and Tom Carper attended the show. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis were there, too; and until last Thursday, Obama was planning to attend (until the Secret Service decided it would be a security nightmare).

In other words, there was a big presence of DC bigwigs at the auto show. As Pelosi, in particular, worked her way from the General Motors’ display (she got a close look at the Volt) to the Chrysler to the Ford one (she checked out the new Focus), the media followed along in a big pack, filming her chatting with the CEOs of America’s (and, in the case of GM and Chrysler, the taxpayers’) auto companies. In the YouTube above, she and Hoywer are talking to Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

The crowds and media attention their presence brought tells you something — that DC has been far too distant from America’s industrial base for far too long.

Indeed, some of the DC-MI folks I spoke to pointed out to me that the US car companies have not done a good job at reaching out to the press in recent years, and nor has DC shown much interest in exchange.  The hope was that yesterday’s visit may begin to change all that. (I know GM plans a series of Volt test drives for politicos at the DC auto show later this month.)

And, at the very least, Pelosi has promised to come back next year. Read more

McCain Owes Pelosi an Apology

Back in May, when Nancy Pelosi was pointing out, correctly, that she had not been briefed that the CIA was already in the torture business, John McCain joined the rest of his party in suggesting that Pelosi could have prevented the torture. He suggested that his efforts–he focuses on 2005, ignoring that he basically capitulated on a Nuremberg Defense in the Detainee Treatment Act–were successful in preventing torture.

"Let me just tell you — I was briefed on it — and I vehemently objected to it. We did the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. So we felt, I certainly felt, I could act on it."

He dismissed her claim she was barred from acting on what she learned in the briefings with a shrug.

"I’m sure she has her argument and we’ll see if the American people agree."

Today it’s McCain’s turn to insist he did all he could to prevent torture. In the Time article I cited earlier, McCain is left to insist, futilely, that he complained specifically about the proposed use of sleep deprivation.

An aide to McCain said that in meetings with Hayden and others, McCain raised the story of Orson Swindle, a friend of McCain’s who suffered forced sleep deprivation through stress positions as a captive of the North Vietnamese.

Of course, we now know that between the CIA and Steven Bradbury, the torture apologists were actually using McCain’s name in support of the use of sleep deprivation. Presumably, then, those two detainees with whom sleep deprivation was used in August 2007 and October 2007 were abused in spite of McCain’s complaints. 

Neither of these politicians were heroes in their opposition to torture. But the public record makes it clear that Pelosi measured the Bushies much better than McCain: even opposition like that McCain voiced was turned into support for abuse. 

And its time both the Democrats and the Republicans opposing torture acknowledged that fact, because it’s a key step to holding those responsible for torture accountable. 

The Errors of Telling of Leon Panetta’s Error

By my count there are 27 paragraphs in the Daily Beast’s breathless attempt to un-ring Leon Panetta’s bell for him–to tell a story in which Panetta’s revelation that the CIA had an assassination program it had not briefed Congress on was all a big misunderstanding. It takes novelist Joseph Finder, who wrote this story, until paragraph 23 to reveal the context of HPSCI’s reaction to Panetta’s briefing on the program that hadn’t previously been briefed.

More seriously, this controversy has given ammunition to congressional efforts to broaden CIA briefings. Instead of allowing the CIA to limit disclosure of the most sensitive, most highly classified stuff to just the “Gang of Eight”—the leaders of those committees and of the House and Senate—they want to require the CIA to brief the full membership of the intelligence committees.

Somehow, Finder neglects to provide his readers that information where it chronologically makes sense–between the time Panetta briefed Congress on June 24 …

On June 23, in the course of a routine briefing by the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Panetta first learned about the assassination squads. Alarmed, he terminated the program at once and called the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). He told Reyes he’d discovered something of grave concern, and requested an urgent briefing for the House and Senate intelligence committees as soon as possible. Less than 24 hours later, he was on the Hill, "with his hair on fire," as a Republican member of the House committee put it. “The whole committee was stunned,” said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA).

And when he describes them leaking the letter and turning this into a big stink.

Afterward, seven Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee sent Panetta an indignant letter: “Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week," the Democratic lawmakers wrote. They demanded he “correct” his statement back in May that the CIA does not mislead Congress.

Ten days later, one of them leaked the letter.

That is, Finder totally neglects to mention the full chronology, which looks something like this:

June 24: Panetta’s briefing on this program

June 26: HPSCI passes a funding authorization report expanding the Gang of Eight briefings

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Questions and Answers about Beginning of Domestic Spying Program

The other day I noted that the Bush Administration seemed to have been using the 15-day exemption included in FISA to conduct domestic surveillance before the formal start date of the program.

There were several things going on at once (see this post for more detail). There was some debate about the AUMF–but that got signed on September 18. There were initial discussions about the PATRIOT Act–including how FISA should be altered in it. There was a briefing of HPSCI on October 1 that–Nancy Pelosi understood–was part of expanded NSA authorities. And–according to Barton Gellman–the warrantless wiretap program was approved on October 4, 2001, and it began on October 6, 2001.

In other words, the program was formally approved on the 16th day after the AUMF. 

But at least according to Nancy Pelosi, Congress was briefed on ongoing underlying activities as early as October 1. 

Meaning, the Bush Administration was already using those expanded authorities–but they were doing so by exploiting the 15-day exemption written into FISA!

Since then, I’ve tried to confirm that assertion, but the picture has only gotten muddier. There are two sets of conflicting data surrounding:

  • Program start date
  • OLC memo dates

James Bamford’s Shadow Factory and Eric Lichtblau’s reporting have some answers, but answers that raise a new set of questions. So here are some answers and more questions about the beginning of the domestic spying program.

Program Start Date

The IG Report explains the beginning of what it calls the Presidential Surveillance Program this way:

In the days immediately after September 11, 2001, the NSA used its existing authorities to gather intelligence information in response to the terrorist attacks. When Director of Central Intelligence Tenet, on behalf of the White House, asked NSA Director Hayden whether the NSA could do more against terrorism, Hayden replied that nothing more could be done within existing authorities. When asked what he might do with more authority, Hayden said he put together information on what was operationally useful and technologically feasible. This information formed the basis of the PSP.

Shortly thereafter, the President authorized the NSA to undertake a number of new, highly classified intelligence activities. All of these activities were authorized in a single Presidential Authorization that was periodically reauthorized.

So, in the days immediately after 9/11, Hayden used "existing authorities" to gather intelligence information. Then Tenet asked Hayden what more he could do, and he said he needed more authorities. "Shortly thereafter,"  Bush granted authorities covering a range of activities. Read more

FISA’s 15-Day Exemption

Update, 7/16: See this post for a modification of this one.

I’m updating my warrantless wiretapping timeline and noticed something important (I think).

The IG Report released today notes that the 15-day exemption in FISA proves that Congress always intended FISA to restrict the Executive Branch’s authority, even in times of war.

Among other concerns, Yoo did not address the section of FISA that creates an explicit exemption from the requirement to obtain a judicial warrant for 15 days following a congressional declaration of war. See 50 USC 1811. Yoo’s successors in OLC criticized this omission in Yoo’s memorandum because they believed that by including this provision in FISA Congress arguably had demonstrated an explicit intention to restrict the government’s authority to conduct electronic surveillance.(12)

But now look at the timeline (this is evolving quickly so it may change by the time you look at it).

September 12, 2001: AUMF authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

September 18, 2001: Bush signs AUMF.

September 25, 2001: OLC provides memo to David Kris on “a purpose” language for FISA.

October 1, 2001: Hayden briefs HPSCI.

October 2, 2001: Predecessor bill to PATRIOT Act introduced into House.

October 3, 2001: 15-day exception in FISA after declaration of war expires.

October 4, 2001, from DAAG OLC to Alberto Gonzales: OLC 132,which consists of two copies, one with handwritten comments and marginalia, of a 36-page memorandum, dated October 4, 2001, from a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in OLC to the Counsel to the President, created in response to a request from the White House for OLC’s views regarding what legal standards might govern the use of certain intelligence methods to monitor communications by potential terrorists. Warrantless wiretapping program authorized. Predecessor bill to PATRIOT Act introduced into Senate.

October 6, 2001: Program begins. [my emphasis]

There were several things going on at once (see this post for more detail). There was some debate about the AUMF–but that got signed on September 18. There were initial discussions about the PATRIOT Act–including how FISA should be altered in it. There was a briefing of HPSCI on October 1 that–Nancy Pelosi understood–was part of expanded NSA authorities. And–according to Barton Gellman–the warrantless wiretap program was approved on October 4, 2001, Read more

WaPo Doubles Down on Conflict Over Truth

In spite of the fact that it is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of the media that Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi agree that they were not briefed that the CIA had already been torturing prisoners in September 2002, the WaPo has decided to double down on deliberately misreading events. The excuse the WaPo uses to present a story of Republican-Democratic conflict, again, is to report the impression that members of the intelligence committees express after having viewed the briefing documents.

Members of Congress are largely divided into two camps: One says that the CIA intentionally withheld information about the tactics it was already using against detainees, even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. The other says that Pelosi is covering up her original tacit support of techniques that she now labels as torture.

Before I go any further, look at how utterly crazy this description is. The WaPo notes that the CIA gave this briefing at the same time as it was drumming up the case for war, but rather than describe that case as something like "now recognized as one of the worst examples of CIA deception and incompetence in our history," it instead emphasized that the CIA’s case led to "an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq." WaPo. Don’t you think you owe your readers an admission that the whole point of raising the Iraq War case is to remind them that almost everyone agrees everything else the CIA was doing in September 2002 was either incompetent or deliberately deceptive?

Then there is the flatly deceptive language the WaPo uses to sustain their case that the "conflict" between Goss and Pelosi, Shelby and Graham, is one with equally credible sides. First, with Goss, they choose to ignore his language that is specific to the briefing in question, 

In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

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Gallup Polls Public Approval on Innocent Bystanders, But Not Torturers

gallup-torture.thumbnail.gif

You guys are all really smart people. So here’s a quiz. What’s wrong with this picture?

I know. Too easy: Gallup apparently decided to poll who was winning the battle of torture public opinion.

And forgot to poll public approval on the actual torturers!

I don’t have the crosstabs or actual questions, but by all appearances, Gallup asked, 

Do you approve or disapprove of how each of the following has handled the matter of interrogation techniques used against terrorism suspects?

  • Barack Obama
  • The CIA
  • Democrats in Congress
  • Republicans in Congress
  • Nancy Pelosi

I’m sorry to be crude, but was it Crazy Pete Hoekstra or Dick Cheney himself who sucked your dick, Gallup, to persuade you to do this poll?  Because there’s really no other legitimate excuse for this poll. You didn’t poll on approval on the "handling of interrogation techniques used against terrorism suspects" for:

  • Dick Cheney, the architect and main apologist of the torture program
  • James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the contractors who had no experience in interrogation, but nevertheless made big money off of torturing prisoners
  • John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, who wrote crazy legal opinions to pre-authorize torture
  • The torturer who said he used more water than legally permitted because that made the whole process "more poignant and convincing"  
  • Alberto Gonzales, who was giving daily, meticulous approvals for torture even before it had been declared "legal"

Instead, Gallup polled on a bunch of people who weren’t involved in the actual torture. Hell, even the CIA’s significantly off the hook, given that contractors did the torture, and people like George Tenet and Jose Rodriguez who oversaw it are retired.

What’s your opinion of the handling of the members of Congress who were illegally not briefed before the torture started? What’s your opinion of those chump Democrats who tried to make the Army Field Manual (for all its faults) the standard for interrogation? What’s your opinion of a bunch of dead-ender Republicans who are clinging to some political scandal to stay relevant?

But not, "What’s your opinion of Dick Cheney, who tried to get an Iraqi tortured so he could claim there were ties between Iraq and al Qaeda that had long since been discredited?"

Victory Is Mine!!!!

Finally, a TradMed source who knows how to read!!!!

But in looking at the substance of the accusations, it increasingly looks like [Nancy Pelosi] was right. Porter Goss was careful to parse his words in the conditional future tense when talking about what, exactly, he and Pelosi were briefed on in September 2002:

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned.

And Senator Richard Shelby also carefully avoided saying he’d been briefed on EITs that had already been used, saying only that he’d been told about the techniques. And “purported” isn’t exactly a strong word – it’s a synonym of suggested or claimed. From his statement: 

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2002, Senator Shelby was briefed by the CIA on the Agency’s interrogation program and the existence of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during questioning.

Bob Graham, who was theoretically in the room with Shelby, says he has no recollection of the meeting at all – this from a man who famously details his every waking minute. Perhaps the most astonishing response has been from the CIA Director Leon Panetta, who basically said: Don’t trust our records. Which begs the question: what other issues have they kept questionable records on?

There are about 8 more sentences, all of them sweet vindication.  I can’t believe it took me one month and a Swampland post to feel like this. And it’s admittedly one damn battle in a too-long war on flaccid media.

But still. It feels good.

Goss Won’t Elaborate on Torture Techniques that “Were To Be Employed”

Almost four weeks ago, I pointed out that Porter Goss’ WaPo op-ed, purportedly attacking Nancy Pelosi, actually supported her primary contention that the CIA did not brief her and Goss that torture techniques had already been employed. It’s a detail that has gone almost unnoticed, as Republicans try to claim Nancy Pelosi should resign because Dick Cheney tortured.

But not entirely unnoticed. Greg Sargent has been patiently pushing for some clarification from Porter Goss. And today he got that clarification. Or rather, lack thereof: Goss has declined to say anything more than appeared in his WaPo op-ed, which (like Pelosi) speaks of torture prospectively. 

I asked a spokesperson for Goss if he would confirm that he and Pelosi had been informed of the use of torture. Goss was out of town, so it took her a while to get back to me, but now she has: She declined to answer the question, saying that Goss would not elaborate beyond what he said in a Washington Post Op ed last month.

In that carefully-worded piece, Goss did not write he had been told that torture had been used. Rather, he merely wrote that members of Congress were told that the CIA was “holding and interrogating” suspects and that EITs had been developed. He said that members should have “understood” that EITs “were to actually be employed” in the future, without saying that they were even told this, let alone told that they’d been used.

This does not contradict Pelosi’s claim that she was only told that such techniques were legal, not that they had been or certainly would be used — the crux of the GOP’s attack.

So I asked Goss’ spokesperson directly: Were he and Pelosi informed that EITs, including waterboarding, had already been used, and were they given a rough sense that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded more than 83 times the previous month?

Her answer: “He believes that his Op-ed makes it very clear and is not engaging beyond it at this time.” She declined repeated requests to elaborate.

Thanks to Greg for getting this (ahem) "clarification" from the old spook.

Can we please start talking about why, in September 2002, the CIA was unwilling to brief Congress (as they were legally obliged to do) that they had been torturing people for over a month? 

Issa: Waaahhhh! Dems All Reminding Us of Lies CIA Told in 2002!

Here’s Darrell Issa, in the process of getting schooled by Tweety, who called him on his grandstanding attempt to get the FBI to investigate Nancy Pelosi’s allegation that the CIA led to her on September 4, 2002. (Somehow, neither Issa nor Tweety seem interested in the fact that Porter Goss’ statements, to date, support Pelosi’s contention that CIA didn’t tell Congress waterboarding had already been used before they were briefed.)

But I’m more interested in the attention that Issa pays to a much more inflammatory accusation that Paul Kanjorski has made. In his effort to suggest all the Democrats are beating up on CIA, Issa notes that Paul Kanjorski says "he was lied to a week later."

It appears that Issa is not saying that Kanjorski was lied to in recent days (a week after Pelosi made the claim), but rather that Kanjorski says he was lied to in the week after September 4, 2002. Which seems to be this accusation.

In a town hall meeting in Bloomsburg, Pa. this week [leading up to September 3, 2007], Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a 12-term congressman, said that shortly before Congress was scheduled to vote on authorizing military force against Iraq, top officials of the CIA showed select members of Congress three photographs it alleged were Iraqi Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones. Kanjorski said he was told that the drones were capable of carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical agents, and could strike 1,000 miles inland of east coast or west coast cities.

Kanjorski said he and four or five other congressmen in the room were told UAVs could be on freighters headed to the U.S. Both secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and President Bush wandered into and out of the briefing room, Kanjorski said.

Kanjorski said it was the second time he was called to the White House for a briefing. He had opposed giving the President the powers to go to war, and said that he hadn’t changed his mind after a first meeting. Until he saw the pictures, Kanjorski said, "I hadn’t thought that Iraq was a threat." That second meeting changed everything. After he left that meeting, said Kanjorski, he was willing to give the President the authorization he wanted since the drones "represented an imminent danger."

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