Browsing the archives for the Bush v. Constitution tag.


Good Advice From the Right

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Bush Administration, Dick Cheney, Obama Administration

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Righties are leaping on the word of several people quoted in the article that the program was never “fully operational.” As far as they’re concerned, that means the whole thing is a non-issue. But of course, they lack the moral courage to face the issue.

The issue is that in the days after 9/11, the unidentified program was devised, and Cheney made the decision to conceal it from Congress, in violation of the law. Planning and training for the program began in 2001 and continued until this year, presumably when Panetta found out about it and shut it down. All we know about the program is that it did not involve domestic surveillance or interrogations. Even if the program was never fully operational, it was an ongoing activity that should have been reported at least to the “Gang of Eight” per the National Security Act of 1947, says Jonathan Turley.

Scott Shane continues,

In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration’s most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.

Etc.

Then, of course, there was the role played by that other guy in the Cheney Administration:

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Reports are that President Obama doesn’t want to “look back” at the crimes of the Bush Administration, because this would distract from the enormous domestic agenda he is trying to push through. There are reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a prosecutor to investigate torture ordered by the Bush Administration. I hope so, but I’m not going to hold my breath until he does.

So what is the “good advice from the Right,” per the title? I give you Reliapundit from THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, a “global group blog” for people with damaged keyboards stuck in caps lock. Anyway, Mr. R says,

THIS ATTACK ON BUSH-CHENEY IS AN ATTEMPT BY THE LEFT TO DISTRACT THE PUBLIC – ESPECIALLY THE INDEPENDENTS – AND KEEP THEM FROM MOVING RIGHT AND TOWARD THE GOP ON FISCAL, SPENDING, REGULATORY AND TAX ISSUES.

THE LEFT DOESN’T WANT THE PUBLIC TO HONE IN ON THE ULTRA-LEFT CAP & TRADE AND OBAMACARE PROPOSALS.

What we’re really dealing with is a steady drip of disinformation from the far-right “think tanks,” astroturf organizations and the various wingnut mouthpieces, scattering scare stories and lies about “socialized medicine” to frighten Congress and the American people from doing what needs to be done. I want the American people to know the truth about President Obama’s health care and energy proposals, but since it’s just about impossible to get the truth out over the screams and lies of the Right, maybe we should go the other way — pull a Karl Rove, as it were — and use investigations of the crimes of the Bush Administration to keep the Right busy so that actual work can get done. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

Related: In an absoluely stunning display of cognitive dissonance, one rightie proclaims “Dems Leak Secrets To Cover Pelosi’s Lies.” You can’t make this up.

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Disconnections

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Health Care

During my recent adventures in physical therapy, I overheard an elderly woman, also in physical therapy, talking about a relative who had received bad medical care while traveling in Italy. Then she shook her head and made a disparaging remark about “socialized medicine.” I wanted to ask her if Medicare paid for her physical therapy, although I didn’t. I suspect that if I had told her Medicare was “socialized medicine,” she wouldn’t have believed it.

I thought of this woman as I read Joe Conason’s article in Salon called “Stop ‘Hillary-care’ now!” He calls the Right’s attempts to scuttle health care reform pathetic, and on many levels they are. But that doesn’t mean they won’t work.

Conason writes that the Right’s strategy is to stoke fear of government bureaucrats.

But as his memo indicates, that task is becoming more difficult as the actual conditions that Americans confront grow worse. No longer is it sufficient to deny the reality of crisis in the healthcare system — and if Republicans continue to do so, the overwhelming majority of the American public that is demanding reform will dismiss them. What Luntz urges his party to do instead is to redefine the crisis not as an existing problem of millions of uninsured families and unaffordable care, but as a looming threat of government medicine run amok.

Maximizing fear is the true message of the Luntz memo: fear of government-run healthcare, fear that bureaucrats will intercede between doctors and patients, fear that those same faceless bureaucrats in Washington will deny lifesaving procedures to helpless people. He urges the Republicans to promote “horror stories” about care delayed and denied in countries with national health insurance. If they heed his advice, we can expect to see ads warning that “your child could die” because government bureaucrats held up a critical operation until it was just too late.

Of course, bureaucrats at private insurance companies have been doing these terrible things for years, but we’re not supposed to notice.

Conason reports something said by Republican Senator Jon Kyl: “Imagine needing a new hip that will make it easier to get around, but just because you’re over 75, the government denies you that surgery. We can’t allow that to happen in America.” But Medicare pays for hip replacements all the time. So won’t Americans notice how absurd the GOP’s arguments are? I say some will. But some won’t.

The Right has done an amazing job of turning Americans into people with bifurcated brains. There’s a clear cognitive disconnection between “big expensive government programs” and “programs I like (that are run by the government).”

Remember this Bushism from the 2000 presidential campaign?

We trust individual workers, and so our plan says we’re going to keep the promise to our seniors. But we’ll allow younger workers at their choice to invest some of their own money in the private markets to get a better rate of return so that the Social Security promise will be kept.

And this frightens some in Washington. Because they want the federal government controlling the Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program. We understand differently though. You see, it’s your money not the government’s money.

Of course, Al Gore pounced on that remark, and in a sane world candidate Bush would have been hooted out of the campaign. But Bush was not hooted out of the campaign, and I think that’s partly because many of the people who heard the “like its come kind of federal program” remark didn’t catch the problem with it.

And I know in my bones that you could find people who have been denied care by insurance companies, or who have no insurance at all, who are opposed to “socialized medicine” because they don’t want “government bureaucrats” making decisions about health care.

Conason writes,

In a typical Luntz language memo such as this one, he commands Republicans to repeat certain words and phrases over and over again, on the humiliating assumption that both they and their constituents will behave like mindless stooges. His underlying aim is to strip words of their meaning to evoke automatic responses — and to shut down rational thought.

Yes. And y’know what? They are really good at stripping words of their meaning to evoke an automatic response. Think of what the Right has done to “liberty” and “freedom” for example. They play “freedom” like a trump card. It doesn’t matter what they’re defending, including torture and warrantless wiretapping; once “freedom” is thrown on the table, the trump card is supposed to win the hand. But within the context of the ideas they are defending the word “freedom” has no meaning.

On the other hand, I can think of times in which a majority of the American people saw through the sham. I’m thinking of the privatized social security scheme Bush tried to sell, and the Terri Schiavo debacle. I’ve thought for years that eventually the percentage of Americans with really bad experiences with the health care system would grow into a critical mass. And when that happened, I thought, maybe we could get reform.

But then there are lobbyists. Someone should work out a citizen-to-lobbyist influence ratio, as in how many irate citizens does it take to cancel out the influence of one lobbyist? It would be a really big number.

Then again, citizen opinion must count for something, or the Right wouldn’t even bother to scam us, nor would the insurance industry have paid for those “Harry and Louise” ads of yore. Perhaps all is not lost.

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Torture

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torture

By now you’ve heard the Obama Administration released the memos used by the Bush Administration to justify torture. As Digby says,

This is the very definition of the banality of evil — a dry, legalistic series of justifications for acts of barbaric cruelty.

Many are angry that the President has promised not to prosecute CIA officials involved in torture. About the only justification for this I’ve seen is from the Anonymous Liberal, who writes,

I know many of you disagree with me on this, but I think Obama did the right thing by promising not to prosecute CIA officers who acted in accordance with the OLC’s prior advice. Given the kind of things these folks are asked to do and the important missions entrusted to them, they have to be able to rely on the legal advice they’re given by the government. If we start prosecuting people for conduct they were specifically advised was legal by the OLC, it will severely hamper our ability to conduct future intelligence work. No one will trust the advice they are given, they’ll worry that the rug will be pulled out from under them at some point down the road. That’s an untenable situation.

But also,

The people who should be punished are the people who gave the advice. The lawyers. The Jay Bybees, John Yoos, and David Addingtons of the world. Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos today. It is now up to us to make sure they generate the degree of outrage that they should.

I am uncomfortable with not prosecuting the CIA officials, since “just following orders” hasn’t been a defense since the Nuremberg Trials. However, releasing the memos themselves was the most important thing, and prosecuting the people who gave the advice is the next most important thing. However, I don’t think that what the White House says about the CIA officials necessarily ties Congress’s hands, does it?

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More News That’s Not News

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torture, War on Terror

You can file this under the heading of “stuff we already knew.” Peter Finn and Joby Warrick write for the Washington Post that

…not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

I already wrote a post about this same subject. It’s dated September 9, 2006. According to news stories then, what useful information came from Abu Zubaida was obtained through standard (e.g., Gevena convention-sanctioned) interrogation techniques. Once the “harsh interrogators” took over, no more useful information came from Zubaida.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” and other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

In other words, the Bush Administration detained and tortured Abu Zubaida for the propaganda value.

This is not to say Abu Zubaida was not a player in the world of Islamic terrorism. He was, and there are good arguments for not releasing him, assuming he’s still sane.

But Abu Zubaida had strained and limited relations with bin Laden and only vague knowledge before the Sept. 11 attacks that something was brewing, the officials said.

Oh, I so miss the days when Ari Fleischer would tell us those cute stories about plots to take apart the Brooklyn Bridge with a chainsaw.

Anyway, Scott Horton, publius, and Marcy Wheeler all have insightful things to say about this mess.

There’s not much reaction from the Right yet, and I doubt there will be. There’s a story flying around that Joe Biden’s daughter was caught snorting coke, so you know the righties will be all over that for the next several days. It’s proof that liberals are bad parents, you know. The one rightie reaction I have seen dismisses the WaPo article as hearsay, and adds,

Once again we have a string of wild assertions made by the Washington Post via some “anonymous officials” and unrevealed “documents.”

Of course we are supposed to believe these anonymous sources over Mr. Zubaida’s own claims. (The Post helpfully notes that he has memory problems, due to a head wound.)

I’m assuming the writer has unique knowledge of what “Mr. Zubaida’s own claims” are that contradict the WaPo story.

But obviously this is just the Post once again beating the drum for show trials about the (entirely legal and ethical) interrogation of terrorists.

And we know the interrogation is legal and ethical, because we say it is!

It really is too bad that the terrorists Flight 77 hit the Pentagon instead of, say, 15th Street.

See, the problem is that the Washington Post wasn’t happy enough during the Bush Administration. Indeed, many of us were insufficiently happy and should have received political re-education and maybe some harsh interrogation until we were happy.

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Spanish Inquiry on Torture

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Bush Administration, torture

Marlise Simons, New York Times:

A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

Yep, it took a Spanish court to do what our government ought to have done by now. No excuses.

The six are (list taken from dday at Washington Monthly):

  • former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
  • John Yoo, the Justice Department attorney who authored the infamous “torture memo”
  • Jay Bybee, Yoo’s superior at the Office of Legal Counsel, also involved in the creation of torture memos
  • David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and legal adviser
  • Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy
  • William Haynes, the legal counsel at the DoD

Dday also says,

I would call this a big deal. As the report notes, Garzon indicted Augusto Pinochet, which led to his arrest and extradition. This would not immediately lead to arrest and trial, but it would certainly confine the six officials to the United States and increase the pressure for stateside investigations. Spanish courts have “universal jurisdiction” over human rights abuses, under a 1985 law, particularly if they can be linked to Spain.

Scott Horton at Harper’s explains,

The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

The Spanish criminal court now may seek the arrest of any of the targets if they travel to Spain or any of the 24 nations that participate in the European extraditions convention (it would have to follow a more formal extradition process in other countries beyond the 24). The Bush lawyers will therefore run a serious risk of being apprehended if they travel outside of the United States.

Again, this should have been done by our government already.

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Testimony Comin’ Up

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Bush Administration, Congress, Karl Rove, U.S. Attorneys

Rove and Miers will testify to Congress under oath. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the depositions will be closed.

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What Bill of Rights?

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Bush Administration, Civil Rights, The Constitution

Be sure to read “Extraordinary Measures: A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror” by Michael Isikoff. See also “George W. Bush’s Disposable Constitution” by Scott Horton and “The newly released secret laws of the Bush administration” by Glenn Greenwald.

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