Democrats Should Call Republicans Bluff on Torture Investigations

One has to wonder exactly what Michigan Congresscritter Pete Hoekstra(R) thinks he is accomplishing by pushing the idea that Speaker Pelosi knew about waterboarding prisoners thus is some how implicated in said torture.

Let’s take a moment to revisit the circle of torture meme. Bush said “we” do not torture. Bush and Cheney admit to EITs(enhanced interrogation techniques) – a cute euphemism, just like the kind they used to put in the window of downtown shops to attract customers. Cheney, Limbaugh and every other Republican starts to claim, darn right we tortured – torture is good, wholesome, all American, the best thing since those little slices of cheese wrapped in plastic. Torture was so good, that we’d all be dead if they had not used it. Ol Pete, among others, apparently thinks if he can some how get a few Democrats in the loop, oops bad news, Democrats dare not have any investigations that might involve prosecutions in particular, because the awful truth will hurt a few Democrats. Pete’s cycle of lunacy does not work for the obvious reasons – whatever Democrats knew or when they knew it, Congress does not have the authority to order torture and did not do so. Those orders came from an executive branch described by former Bush administration Office of Legal Counsel, in particular John Yoo, that Bush had nearly unlimited powers to do what ever he wanted in the infamous ill defined and never ending war on terror

These two disowned claims lie at the heart of the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory of presidential power– namely, that when the president acts as commander in chief Congress may not restrict in any way his military decisionmaking, including decisions about detention, interrogation, and surveillance. The President, because he is President, may do whatever he thinks is necessary, even in the domestic context, if he acts for military and national security reasons in his capacity as Commander in Chief. This theory of presidential power argues, in essence, that when the President acts in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, he may make his own rules and cannot be bound by Congressional laws to the contrary. This is a theory of presidential dictatorship.

These views are outrageous and inconsistent with basic principles of the Constitution as well as with two centuries of legal precedents. Yet they were the basic assumptions of key players in the Bush Administration in the days following 9/11.

The truth matters and if Speaker Pelosi is not telling the truth, contrary to the Right’s bizarre attempt to use Pelosi and other Democrats as a shield, the Democrats in question should have to pay a political price, but the principles involed remain the same, the Bush administration was hardly at the mercy of an iron fisted Congress,

Pelosi has since offered a relatively detailed and, to the view of many observers, compelling defense of her participation in the CIA briefings. To wit:

Of the forty CIA briefings to Congress reported recently in the press, I was only briefed once, on September 4, 2002, as I have previously stated. As I said in my statement of December 9, 2007: ‘I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.’ I had no further briefings on the techniques.

My understanding of the briefing I received is consistent with the description that CIA General Counsel Scott Muller provided to Congresswoman Jane Harman in a letter dated February 28, 2003, which states: ‘As we informed both you and the leadership of the Intelligence Committees last September, a number of Executive Branch lawyers including lawyers from the Department of Justice participated in the determination that, in the appropriate circumstances, the use of these techniques is fully consistent with U.S. law.’ As reported in the press, the accompanying memo from CIA Director Panetta concedes that the descriptions provided by the CIA may not be accurate.

Reasonable people may differ on whether the speaker is being as forthcoming as need be — although former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Bob Graham has stepped forward to corroborate her statements –– and on the extent to which she is complicit with the former administration. I remain disappointed about Pelosi’s decision to block the necessary accountability moment in 2007, and I remain genuinely concerned that her caution with regard to impeachment was influenced by personal and political considerations rather than by the best interests of the republic.

TPM talked with former Senator Graham and he is sticking to his guns thus far,

Graham denied being told about EITs, and argued that the presence of two staff members at the meeting (as indicated in the records) would have made it “highly unusual” for the briefers to divulge such sensitive info. “I don’t recall having had one of those kinds of briefings with staff present,” he said. “That would defeat the purpose of keeping a tight hold” on the info.

And remember the recently released CIA memo the CIA could not vouche for its accuracy. Graham has more credibility then your average pol, he was one of a hand full of Senators who questioned the Bush administration’s story on WMD and the need to rush into a military operation when Afghanistan was still or should have been the major priority. People will inevitably cite the lack of Congressional oversight. There has actually been several reports on EITs, the OLC and Bush’s manipulating intelligence. What Congress seemed to lack, especially in the first six years of Bush’s terms, is the will to exert its power to curtail Bush’s agenda. Even Bush acknowledged that Congress had the power of the purse. Republicans marched in lock step to every Bush wish.  Democrats signed every check and wrote sternly worded letters. As Democrats grumbled and were relatively powerless during those first six years, the Right claimed daily in obnoxious chorus that Democrats were soft on terror.Torture Protest Improper in ’03

Steve Elmendorf, who served as chief of staff to former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), said that in 2003, coming so soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it would have been difficult politically for Pelosi to do more to protest interrogation techniques the Bush administration was using.

[  ]..Harman(Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) was so alarmed by what she had heard, she drafted a short letter to the CIA’s general counsel to express “profound” concerns with the tactic – going so far as to ask if waterboarding had been personally “approved by the president.”

[  ]..Hoekstra has asked the CIA for documents on its congressional briefings, and he told POLITICO Monday that he has made a request for e-mails from agency staffers detailing their interactions with Pelosi and other House and Senate members. Steve Elmendorf, who served as chief of staff to former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), said that coming so soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it would have been difficult politically for Pelosi to do more to protest interrogation techniques the Bush administration was using.

“You have to remember, in the 2002 period, the whole atmospherics, it was all about scaring people every day,” said Elmendorf. “People were legitimately concerned that we were going to be attacked again, and there was a constant drumbeat coming from the Bush administration of, ‘Bad things could happen, bad things could happen.’ Nobody wants it to happen on their watch.”

Pete might get his way using blackmail to get Democrats into backing off, but everyday he opens his pie hole he just gives America another reason to demand a full scale Congressional investigation, with everyone, including Pete, testifying under oath.

The Right having declared victory in the dreaded Spicy Mustard Affair has moved on to some deeply hypocritical faux outrage over Wanda Sykes,What’s Good for the Goose…

I find it truly bizarre that far right Republican freaks who smile, wink, and nod approvingly (or at least sympathetically) when media pundits, sportscasters, political figures, and former government officials launch vicious ad hominem attacks on anyone who deviates by a hair from their narrow, hateful view of the world are now getting their dander up about Cheney, Limbaugh, and Hannity being skewered…

Prospect has a good satire up about the the Right’s attacks on Sykes, but its one of those where you have to read the set up and the pay off at the end, thus excerpts would ruin it,WANDA SYKES’ OFFENSIVE ROUTINE.