Obama reserving the right to torture? Non-denial denial from White House (UPDATED)

I don't have any desire to write an "Obama=Bush" diary and that's not what this is. But I think it's important to point out that the White House has failed to deny one of the most outrageous accusations leveled by Dick Cheney in his speech Thursday morning. And I find it more than a little disturbing.

Dick Cheney's indictment of Obama:

President Obama has reserved unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate. What value remains to that authority is debatable, given that the enemy now knows exactly what interrogation methods to train against, and which ones not to worry about. Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor authorized after 9/11. It's almost gone unnoticed that the president has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances. When they talk about interrogations, he and his administration speak as if they have resolved some great moral dilemma in how to extract critical information from terrorists. Instead they have put the decision off, while assigning a presumption of moral superiority to any decision they make in the future.

What's Cheney talking about? Zachary Roth at TPM spent the day trying to figure it out, and concluded that perhaps Cheney was referring to this passage from Obama's executive order on interrogation:

(i) to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2 22.3, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies...

If so, Cheney's not the first to make this argument. But perhaps because I've been struggling desperately lately not to jump to the worst conclusions about where Obama is headed on interrogation and detention policies, I agreed with Roth that:

...[S]tudying whether there's a need for other means is a different thing from "reserv[ing] unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate," as Cheney put it. But the former veep isn't known to let those kind of nuances get in the way of a good political hit.

As difficult as it's becoming, I really want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. But that's hard to do when the White House can't even manage to deny that our new President is reserving the right to torture detainees.

Today on Hardball, Chris Matthews directly asked David Axelrod about Cheney's allegation:

VIDEO

CHENEY: It's almost gone unnoticed that the President has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances.

MATTHEWS: Is that true, David?

AXELROD: Look, the president issued an executive order banning torture. As he said in his presentation he doesn't believe this is the most effective way to get the intelligence we need. He thinks its inconsistent with our values and our interests. And ultimately makes us less safe. And that is his position. And again this what almost the sole focus of the vice president's speech and it was a little bit bewildering. But that's his business. I thought the president laid out a very reasoned speech to the American people about why he took the decisions he's taken. And about where we have to go to clean up the mess that we have in Guantanamo and to preserve our values and our security.

MATTHEWS: Well is it your understanding that President Obama reserves the right to use enhanced interrogation methods if we're in an emergency situation. Is that your understanding? According to the former vice president, that is what the president has said on the record.

AXELROD: I think that President has made clear his feeling about those tactics with his executive order. The President's going to do everything that he needs to do to keep this country safe. And I think he's been clear about that. The American people should be clear about that. This, to me, is a side issue.

I think I'm going to be sick. I don't want to be writing this diary, but it's pretty damned evident that Cheney is right -- President Obama is reserving the right to torture. Because if it wasn't true, Axelrod wouldn't have hesitated to deny it.

I'm just sad and disgusted.


UPDATE:

In a post today on Talking Points Memo, "Could Cheney Be (Gulp) Right?", David Kurtz agrees that Axelrod danced around the question. Kurtz also notes that "We asked the White House yesterday to comment on Cheney's claim and got no response."

Tags: Barack Obama, David axelrod, Dick Cheney, enhanced interrogation, torture (all tags)

Comments

64 Comments

Well...


I can stand here today, as President of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law.

President Barack Obama - Text: Obama's Speech on National Security NYT 21 May 09

Not good enough?  You have to actually read the speeches, not just listen to the commentary.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-21 11:54PM | 0 recs
actually

I watched Obama's speech. And I agree with your characterization.

That's why I was shocked that Axelrod wouldn't just deny it. He evaded the question twice and said that the proposition that Obama is reserving the right to tortue is a side issue.

Did you watch the video? Why not just say "Of course it's not true" and move on.

by ryeland 2009-05-22 12:10AM | 0 recs
Re: actually

I wondered at that myself.  But that hardly seems worthy of 'Obama reserving the right to torture? '  Perhaps 'Axelrod is a Lummox' would have made more sense.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 01:11AM | 0 recs
Not that reassuring

a certain previous president assured us that no torture was going on, using similar words.  This doesn't necessarily mean anything more than that Obama has decided X technique is not torture.

by JJE 2009-05-22 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Not that reassuring

That's beyond cynical, you are basically assuming he is lying.  See below.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 02:25PM | 0 recs
Nope

it's simply noting that the debate is such that "We don't torture" has come to mean different things to different people.

When it comes to this issue, a little cynicism (really clear-eyed skepticism) is much better than blind trust.

by JJE 2009-05-24 04:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Nope

A 'little' skepticism apparently goes a long way.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 12:15PM | 0 recs
If I was unclear

I apologize, but it's not inconceivable that Obama is permitting some techniques that, while not as harsh as those we've heard about, might nonetheless be considered torture by some.  Do you think the statement above completely excludes that possibility?  I don't.

by JJE 2009-05-25 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: If I was unclear

Well the long version below does, at least for me.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-25 11:55AM | 0 recs
"we do not torture"

does not equal to "we will not, ever, torture", even when you say that we do not torture without exception or equivocation.

I should say, specially when you say "without exception or equivocation", because everyone knows that we do torture when it tickles our fancy.

Thus, when Dick Cheney says that Pres. Obama is reserving unto himself, the right to torture, the denial has to be a wee bit stronger than "we do not torture"

I am sad to say, but this sickens me!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-22 10:23AM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

OK, then, how about the long version?:


First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.

I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. (Applause.) What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts -- they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.

President Barack Obama - Text: Obama's Speech on National Security NYT 21 May 09

Is that not unequivocal, 'banned,' 'once and for all?'  Short of calling him a liar that seems a pretty clear answer to the diarist's question.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

That is much stronger.  And yes, those words are strong enough!

And absent Axelrod's equivocation, it would have been the end of the story!  All Axelrod has to do, is release a statement saying he did not know...

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-22 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Yes, Alexrod was clumsy, but whether that is grounds to doubt the integrity of the President on this point, in the face of his unequivocal statement to the contrary, is questionable.  Attacking a public figure on the basis of a likely misstatement by a member of his staff seems in this case a tactic to advance a polemic narrative, not a sincere attempt to ascertain the truth.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 03:12PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

It's unfortunate that you find it necessary to impugn my motives, Shaun. Apparently, Talking Points Memo is also in on my disingenuous "tactic" when they note the obvious -- that Axelrod "danced around" the question and wonder if Cheney is right about this.

When Axelrod appears on television, he does so as a spokesman for President Obama. Which is appropriate, since he's one of the few people actually in the room with Obama for these kinds of decisions. If Axelrod's evasion was a "misstatement" as you claim, it would be easy for the White House to correct the record. But they're apparently not interested in doing that, even when queried directly by TPM.

by ryeland 2009-05-22 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

If the shoe fits, wear it.  You may have noticed that I refrained from addressing this diary specifically in that remark.  On the other hand the transcript of Obama's speech is readily available, why not call the diary 'Axelrod Mumbles on Torture' or something like that?  'Obama Reserving the Right to Torture?' rather draws a long bow under the circumstances, don't you think?

And as for correcting the record I'm assuming the White House is reluctant to fan the flames of such a petty inference in the wake of Obama's unequivocal remarks.  Is that such a problem?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Oh, wait...  I did address this diary specifically.  Aw, shucks.  As the outrage du jour this strikes me as pretty thin gruel.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Is that such a problem? Not if you have blind faith in President Obama.

When Obama says "we do not torture" I give it profoundly more credence than when George Bush made the same claim. But I will not shut off my faculty of reason and ignore a suspicious response from one of Obama's closest advisers.

Do you also believe that Talking Points Memo has an ulterior motive to advance some kind of anti-Obama polemic?

I have been and continue to be an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. I have tremendous respect for David Axelrod. But they are both fallible human beings, and I would like some reassurance that Axelrod's answer wasn't what it obviously appeared to be -- a classic non-denial denial.

by ryeland 2009-05-22 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Taking Obama's statements, unequivocal as they are, at face value doesn't strike me as 'blind faith.'  Sure, you have the right to question anything you like but a diary with the thesis 'it's important to point out that the White House has failed to deny one of the most outrageous accusations leveled by Dick Cheney in his speech Thursday morning' seems to do nothing but advance Cheney's argument on pretty thin substance.  And I'm not sure I would issue a denial under the circumstances if I was running the White House, either.  It seems to just be lending more credence to Cheney's accusations, which are, as you say, 'outrageous.'

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Personally, I don't think anything Cheney says should be taken seriously. But when a journalist repeats a specific accusation and questions a White House adviser about it, an evasive answer is just plain strange. Axelrod is the one who advanced this story by dodging the question.

I'll ask you again -- do you believe that Talking Points Memo has an ulterior motive in pursuing this story (as you seem to think I do)? Do you question their integrity because they felt that Axelrod's evasive answer warranted a follow-up query to the White House?

I don't question your integrity and motives. Only your judgment. Unless you have some sound reason to believe that I have an anti-Obama agenda, you really should stick to debating the merits of my argument and not impugning my motives.

by ryeland 2009-05-22 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

TPM's motivation is probably informed by their intention to be perceived as investigative journalists and not just another blog, which is commendable, but doesn't necessarily mean they aren't likely to stir up the occasional controversy where none exists.  If this story gets picked up elsewhere you probably will see a denial statement from the White House, otherwise not so much, which probably says more about where TPM stands in the media pecking order than it condemns the Obama administration.

As for impugning your motives, if you had chosen a different title for your diary, one that didn't essentially suggest that Obama was lying the day after the man made unequivocal statements to the contrary on exactly the subject you questioned, perhaps your indignation would be more palatable.  As it is I still wonder at your motives for advancing an argument from Dick Cheney's meritless speech which you yourself characterised as 'outrageous.'  But it's your right and if you feel I have slighted you in that respect I do apologise.  Certainly progressive issues require constant vigilance of a system which is inclined to the elite and established power.  Personally I think Obama is on our side and I trust his judgement, for now, to set our collective course.  You may disagree, but it seems to me if he did everything progressives expect of him we would soon be on the rocks and he to blame.

I am a bit concerned that progressives, come to think of it, aren't used to having a sympathetic government in power and are still practicing habitual outrage instead of considering the opportunites this administration offers for advancing lasting change on issues fundamental to their ideology like health care, sane foreign policy, equitable civil liberties under the rule of law and the commonwealth of our citizenry.  We can make it easier or harder, as we choose.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 09:50PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

I may be trigger happy, but I have no hesitation in questioning the integrity of any President.

After all, one can cite several examples of lawyerly answers provided by Pres. Obama himself... when he was a candidate.

And going back, I recall during the early days of Bush II, when it was widely accepted that Bush II was a decent man with a much better character than the previous President.. it was considered unfashionable to question his integrity as well.

I admit that Pres. Obama's words, in this instance, are strong enough.  But the diarist is also justified in demanding an explanation!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-22 03:39PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Sigh.  Fair enough.  But is the diarist satisfied now?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

I recall during the early days of Bush II, when it was widely accepted that Bush II was a decent man with a much better character than the previous President.. it was considered unfashionable to question his integrity as well.

to who? Republicans?

by DTOzone 2009-05-22 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Do you remember the 91% approval ratings ?

That would include just about everyone with a pulse!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-22 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

People have such short memories!! There was unprecedented support for nearly everything that Bush did in those days, without question.

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 06:34PM | 0 recs
After 9/11, sure

but 9/11 hadn't happen yet at this point in the Bush administration.

by DTOzone 2009-05-22 07:03PM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

Obama's statement here is equivocal, as his later statements that he is "going to do everything that he needs to do to keep this country safe" illustrate. Note that Obama does not say that torture is illegal, unconstitutional or beyond his power to use. He states that "I banned" their use, implying that determining the legality of torture is within the purview of the President.

Obama has not lied, he implies here that he has the authority to use torture and that he will use torture when he decides it is necessary. Similarly Obama has suggested that the use of indefinite preventative detention is within his power despite repeated Supreme Court rulings that it was not in Bush's power.

You appear to have been mislead if you believe otherwise.

by souvarine 2009-05-23 05:59AM | 0 recs
Re: "we do not torture"

I'm reading the 'I've banned' as his overturning of executive orders of the Bush administration, not reserving the executive power to reenact them.  Are you are suggesting that by revoking these orders he is following in Bush's slippery footsteps on torture?

Otherwise you will need to expand on the 'equivocal' part, I just don't see it.  What part of "once and for all" is ambiguous?  And he specifically said "will do everything in our power to keep the American people safe."  For the amount of detailed parsing you are doing it would be worth quoting him correctly, your misquote conveys a significantly different sense.

As far as 'preventative' detention, let's keep that for another diary, Lord knows there will probably be plenty.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-23 02:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Well...

bush said the same thing "we do not torture".  So what exactly is the difference?  We do torture and Obama seems to be doing just what bush did.  You notice neither of them said "we do/will not waterboard".

by Teacher1956 2009-05-22 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Well...

You're apparently wrong, see above.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 02:23PM | 0 recs
You do notice too

that Bush didn't count waterboarding as torture and Obama does.

But this is all funny coming from someone who thinks Sarah Palin should be President.

by DTOzone 2009-05-22 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Well...

Uh, what?

by Jess81 2009-05-22 02:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama reserving the right to torture?

I really hope you're right. But Axelrod is anything but a lummox. Perhaps there's some other reason he didn't want to deny it, but I'm at a loss. The usual reason that one refuses to deny something is that it's true.

The title of my diary is straightforward and factual -- the question was asked and Axelrod offered a classic non-denial denial.

by ryeland 2009-05-22 02:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama reserving the right to torture?

The other reason being that he doesn't know.  Isn't David Axelrod his political advisor?

by Jess81 2009-05-22 10:42AM | 0 recs
Yes.

In a legal sense, which is the only one that matters, I don't know how someone "reserves the right" to do something that Cheney is saying is legal.  All you can do is say that you won't do it.  

The alternative is to declare that it falls under existing laws against torture and begin prosecutions, which Cheney has called "criminalizing policy differences".  It's a tautology, and a catch-22.  Either Obama reserves the right to torture, or he's criminalizing policy differences.

You don't reserve rights.  You either have them or you don't.  If you get arrested you don't say "I reserve the right to speak to my lawyer."  Going back to the primaries for a second, I'm also thinking of when Harold Ickes "reserved the right" to take the delegate dispute to the convention.  That was theater - he already had that right.  No matter what he did, he would have that right all the way up until the convention.

by Jess81 2009-05-22 12:01PM | 0 recs
I still can't understand

why Obama is so dead against a special prosecutor into these allegations of torture?

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

I can't understand it either.  All I know is that first world countries never, ever prosecute previous administrations over foreign policy no matter how obvious or egregious the crime.

by Jess81 2009-05-22 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

You want a taste of hypocrisy, here it is:

The congress is blocking the nuclear deal with UAE over the much publicized torture video, while they are taking no action against similar culprits at home!! amazing!!

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

I wonder what's going to happen if someone waterboards a US soldier.

by Jess81 2009-05-22 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

war crimes tribunals? Anyway the sad fact is that on this site there are some apologists for torture and this lack of prosecution for torture policy authors and its perpetrators. That to me is disgusting!

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Perhaps this might shed some light on the possible reasons:


First, the bottom line: From the perspective of anyone who wants Bush and Cheney and their top aides to be held accountable for their crimes, the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality. It's a move that has so many downsides - and holds so few real benefits - that I would be more inclined to question President Obama's motives if he appointed a special prosecutor than if he did not. There is a reason why former prosecutor Arlen Specter - a Republican senator from Pennsylvania - has voiced support for a special prosecutor, while former prosecutors Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse - Democratic senators from Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively - would prefer a public inquiry.

Elizabeth de la Vega - Of Black Holes and Radio Silence Truthout 20 Apr 09

An interesting opinion piece by a former prosecutor which deserves a read, it is difficult to summarise her argument in just a few words but it makes a case that a special prosecutor and grand jury investigation would hamper our long term objectives and potentially forever conceal evidence.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 03:28PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

While that may well be the case it is still the opinion of one private citizen. It is not so much that Obama is against a special prosecutor, but he is against any type of investigation and that is on record now.

I for one do not like to set our elected officials on a pedestal. LotusBloom has said quite eloquently before that when you set a public official in power on a pedestal, it more than likely that there will be instances when we will all be disappointed. It happened to us not so long ago as you may recall.

But back to the point on hand. Why release the memos if he did not want a truth commission or any sort of prosecution? We all knew that the previous administration tortured. Now we not only know that they did it for certain, but we know that it was done to get false confessions to justify the Iraq war. What is that, if not a war crime? Last I checked US is still a signatory of the Geneva convention. So we acknowledge that a crime has been committed but we will do nothing about that, we will not hold the criminals accountable, thus making us unwilling participants in this crime as a nation because the president so wishes. That is unprincipled. What some here are asking now is for us to implicitly trust this president without asking for accountability. Sorry, I am not one of them. Last I checked we are a nation of laws and when the president gives a lawyerly speech in which he speaks loftily of defending our laws and values while at the same time leaving enough room for subsequent deniability, that somehow does not pass the smell test. No country of laws can detain a person indefinitely without a trial or for that matter torture someone without accountability, the same goes for the United States. To argue to the contrary is against all laws and ethics that we are supposed to champion as a functional democracy.

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 06:32PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

So let the legislative and judiciary investigate and prosecute.  Why is the executive branch the appropriate place to start?  Obama's done his part, why doesn't Congress get on with it?  The start of the evidenciary trail, as you have noted, is now a matter of public record.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 10:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Because for the judiciary branch to investigate they need a special independent prosecutor, that will not happen without the AG's approval and AG will do the president's bidding, at least that is what we can glean in this case.

As far as legislative investigation goes that is called for better words a commission and the president is against that as well. Alternately investigation has to be done by the congress and senate committees.

Finally if the author of the opinion piece is under the impression that an independent counsel or a commission is partisan I am sure a legislative committee under its present make-up will appear even more partisan with the Republicans screaming a witch hunt, which incidentally they are doing right now for the hearings initiated by the senatorial committee under Shelden Whitehouse.

So what are we left with?

by tarheel74 2009-05-23 06:06AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

In our system the Judicial branch cannot investigate or prosecute, that is the responsibility of the Executive branch. Congress can investigate policy issues but has no power to try or punish those who break the law, it is the responsibility of the Executive to investigate and prosecute criminal matters.

On the broader issue both Congress and the President are avoiding their responsibility here, neither branch wants to take on the political risks of their obligations. Congress has the obligation to investigate what happened, determine how the system broke down and why we violated our Constitution, the President has the obligation to enforce the laws and prosecute and punish those who broke them.

by souvarine 2009-05-23 06:13AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Thank you. That is what I have been trying to say all this time.

by tarheel74 2009-05-23 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

That's certainly correct but I think you are underestimating the precedent for broad Congressional inquiry.  My position is that an executive branch prosecution by independent counsel, for cogent reasons Elizabeth de la Vega mentions, would be a clumsy tactic right now, both for the Obama administration and probably for the long term expectations of civil libertarians and progressives.  The release of the memos is puzzling, isn't it, in light of the decision not to prosecute?:


Notwithstanding the public statements that the president and attorney general made in connection with the release of the memos, I find cause for optimism in their actions. No smart lawyer who secretly wanted this entire issue to disappear would have released those torture memos. From a prosecutor's point of view, the release of those memos with their authors' names in full view was pretty much the same as releasing their photographs with bloody knives in hand. The president and the attorney general may not have said much, but what they did was quietly flip the switch on a searing bright light.

Yes, Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, has now said flatly that there will be no prosecutions of Bush officials, but the reality is that this story is far from over. As former CIA head Michael Hayden said on April 19, more by way of complaint than promise: "There will be more revelations. There will be more commissions. There will be more investigations," he said.

This statement may be one of the few Hayden has ever made that I can agree with.

Elizabeth de la Vega - Of Black Holes and Radio Silence Truthout 20 Apr 09

In the meantime a congressional inquiry would make sense, exposing voluminous evidence without prejudice to a subsequent prosecution, if our Congress can find the will to do it.  I realise this interpretation requires a certain willingness to have faith in Obama's intentions which is thin on the ground among progressives right now, but there it is.  Why did he release the damning memos in the first place?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-23 01:48PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

I agree with you, and I have noticed the steady drip of revelations from the administration, one might call it a campaign. Obama cannot hope to have successful prosecutions until he has prepared the public.

But this is another situation where it only helps for those of us outside to stick to our principles keep up the pressure on Obama to do the same.

by souvarine 2009-05-24 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Agreed.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Also reading the entire piece the author makes two extremely flawed assumption:

1) that the department of justice cannot appoint an independent prosecutor when in fact the Republican appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald and the subsequent incarceration of Scooter Libby speaks to the contrary

2)the other assumption is that a 200 year old democracy is incapable of handling a politically charged torture investigation in open courts.

Finally for all the words she does not say who is the proper person to conduct such an investigation if not a special prosecutor. A truth commission? Obama is against that as well. So who? Because by her arguments no administration can appoint an independent counsel because supposedly under existing law it does not exist...whatever that might mean. Then who? No one. Wait for a hundred years to issue a mea culpa maybe?

by tarheel74 2009-05-22 06:48PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

I think the gist of her argument was that a public inquiry by COngress would make more sense and place all the evidence on the public record without prejudice to subsequent criminal prosecutions.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-22 09:53PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Besides, whether or not Obama is against a truth commission is irrelevent, since he can't convene one, and once convened, can't stop one.  

by Jess81 2009-05-23 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

She makes a really, REALLY good case.  I think I just switched my opinion to wanting a congressional inquiry.

by Jess81 2009-05-23 01:20AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

By her logic, if an independent counsel is political and partisan, the same criteria is applicable to an independent commission (which incidentally the president opposes); and if those two are partisan I do not see how a senate or congressional committee, that is presided by the majority party can appear any less partial or any less partisan, if not more so. So unfortunately her logic makes no sense to me.

Right now the preliminary hearings initiated by Sen. Whitehouse are being called a witch-hunt and an exercise in political retribution by the Republicans, who do not want any meaningful investigation into these allegations. I am just surprised that the president is going along with that same logic.

by tarheel74 2009-05-23 06:14AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

The salient point is that a congressional investigation is open to the public.  If you call a special counsel to investigate it, they'll begin by convening a grand jury.  From that moment on everything disappears into a black hole.  Nobody will say anything on the record because "there's an ongoing investigation".  It allows everyone to dodge any part of the issue they like.

If you want full disclosure and an acknowledgment that wrongs were done, a congressional inquiry is the way to go.

btw, I didn't glean any concern on her part of what would or wouldn't appear partisan.  She was just pointing out that there's no such thing as an independent counsel - they have to follow DOJ guidelines and their authority or scope can be revoked at any time.

by Jess81 2009-05-23 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Under existing federal law, in other words, the notion of a special prosecutor who would be entirely free from political and institutional influence is illusory. Given that fact - and that it is ordinarily an extremely dumb, not to mention unethical, idea to announce investigations - when an administration does announce that it is naming a "special counsel" of any sort, it is largely a public-relations maneuver.

Then by an extension of the same logic a congressional hearing is after all a "public relation maneuver" and definitely not free from political and institutional influences. Moreover while the congress can subpoena someone to appear on court he or she is not obliged to testify, i.e. he can take the 5th or for that matter, like Karl Rove, defy the congress with impunity, because contempt of congress is largely seen a political theater while contempt of court can be punished by imprisonment. Moreover there are no punishments for lying to congress. Finally even if someone does testify he can ensure that his testimony will be given immunity against subsequent criminal prosecution. So there you are.

by tarheel74 2009-05-23 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

She's saying that invoking a special prosecute, as opposed to just having the Justice Department investigate, is a public relations stunts since there's no functional difference between the two.  

Moreover while the congress can subpoena someone to appear on court he or she is not obliged to testify, i.e. he can take the 5th or for that matter, like Karl Rove, defy the congress with impunity, because contempt of congress is largely seen a political theater while contempt of court can be punished by imprisonment.

They can defy Congress?  Under what authority?  Subpoenaing a private citizen is not the same thing as subpoenaing a member of the executive branch.  As for taking the fifth, well they can do that in any criminal court as well.

by Jess81 2009-05-23 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

Because the congress has zero authority to hand out punitive measures:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/30 /karl-rove-held-in-contemp_n_115836.html

If you read that you will find that Karl Rove defied the congress, and guess what he is still free and wagging his middle finger to the congress. A congressional investigation is as powerless as they come and none of the perpetrators will say anything if they are not facing the threat of punitive measures.

by tarheel74 2009-05-23 05:31PM | 0 recs
Re: I still can't understand

He didn't just say "eff you, I'm not going - so there" - he invoked executive privilege.  The White House put out an endless series of delaying tactics that wouldn't be available to a private citizen: they weren't just being simple scofflaws.

If you're not persuaded, look at it from a practical point of view. For historical reasons I have just zero faith that the executive will EVER investigate a prior administration.  They don't do that.   They never have.   Lincoln and Johnson even went out of their way to go easy on former members of the Confederacy - who had been engaged in open rebellion and illegal slavery - over the objections of Congress.  I feel pretty strongly that expecting a President - any President - to do anything to prosecute a former administration is a pipe dream.

But Congress might.  Congress is also closer to the people, and more responsive to pressure.

by Jess81 2009-05-23 08:15PM | 0 recs
yup

...[S]tudying whether there's a need for other means is a different thing from "reserv[ing] unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate," as Cheney put it. But the former veep isn't known to let those kind of nuances get in the way of a good political hit.

There is no difference.  What is the purpose of studying whether this method is needed if not to reserve the right to use it.
Axelrove is telling us so...anyone who doubts it should read Axelrove again and again until it sinks in.

by Teacher1956 2009-05-22 01:54PM | 0 recs
Batten down the hatches. Teacher is making a run..

She will be through pretty quickly, only a handful of diaries she can bash Obama in, then she will disappear again.

Kind of like walking my black lab, he does a lot of sniffing, but he only has a few favorite spots to drop his business in. So, you only have to tread lightly in a few places to avoid stepping in Teach's posts...

by WashStateBlue 2009-05-22 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Teacher is making a run..

Yeah, saw her yelling at some Clinton supporters for being insufficiently pure in Miles' diary.

It's amazing how quickly they found each other.

by Jess81 2009-05-22 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Teacher is making a run..

http://www.popsci.com/files/2zcg.gif

by QTG 2009-05-22 04:54PM | 0 recs
A diary parroting Dick Cheney's talking points.

Well done.

by Geekesque 2009-05-23 07:30AM | 0 recs

Diaries

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