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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Permanent Imperial Presidency

Mr. Sunshine, former Vice President Dick Cheney, appeared on the May 10 edition of Face the Nation to advance his lobbying campaign for releasing memos which supposedly confirm the amount of crucial intelligence gleaned from torturing Al Quaeda suspects. A full transcript of his appearance is available on the CBS News website (#1). A quick review of the actual reality of our "War on Terror" (TM) and the claims advocated by Cheney make it clear he is really just continuing to advocate for his real goal -- the permanent imperial Presidency.

In the interview, Cheney cited the following points:

* the Obama campaign promoted the idea of halting "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the terrorist surveillance program and now as the Obama Administration is fulfilling those promises

* the Bush Administration had all the proper paperwork authorizing their "enhanced interrogation" and terrorist surveillance programs

* these programs were responsible for filling in many of the blanks not known about Al Qaeda and were instrumental in preventing attacks on America and battling Al Qaeda for eight years

* Cheney has filed requests to de-classify CIA reports which summarize all of the valuable information obtained from these practices

* by rolling back these programs, the Obama Administration has made America less safe

The reality is that:

* the Obama Administration made no claim during the campaign of ending domestic surveillance (a continuing point of frustration for many Obama supporters), only ending domestic surveillance without warrants under existing FISA law

* the Obama Administration now is attempting to do exactly what the Obama campaign promised to do after winning an election won in large part due to those pledges

* the Bush Administration implemented policy changes which classified vast categories of documents about Executive Branch actions and EXTENDED classification periods of documents dating back to the Bush I Administration

* yet the Bush Administration and Cheney himself played a principle role in divulging personal information about a CIA agent responsible for researching firms providing money conduits between clean oil dollars and potential terrorist groups, all in an attempt to discredit an opponent who questioned the integrity of yellowcake claims included in the State of the Union address which were instrumental in scaring the American public and Congress into authorizing the Iraq war

* the Bush administration claimed new rules were required because there was a gap in policy for detainees and had new guidelines drafted by appointees which omitted any reference to longstanding guidelines within the UCMJ and US code

* even proving suspect X provided piece of information Z after being tortured does not prove Z was not already known or could have been learned more effectively via other means and sources

There are several comments Cheney made that are worth explicitly recapping and refuting. In response to Bob Schieffer's question about the documents which "prove" the torture and domestic surveillance prevented attacks, Cheney said this:

I say they did. Four former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency say they did, bipartisan basis. Release the memos. And we can look and see for yourself what was produced. The memos do exist. I have seen them. I had them in my files at one time. Now everything is part of the National Archives. I'm sure the agency has copies of those materials, and there's a formal way you go through, once you're a former official, a formal way you go through requesting declassification of something, and I started that process, as I say, six weeks ago. I haven't heard anything from it yet. I assume...

Wow. FOUR former directors of the CIA have seen these classified documents? I presume he is referring to Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who was CIA Director during the first Bush Administration. Support from four former CIA Directors, three of whom could be indicted for war crimes for their role in implementing and continuing these practices hardly constitutes unbiased, bi-partisan agreement on the legality or worth of these practices.

Or maybe he's counting support from James Woolsey, the man who proudly referred to the Iraq War as the beginning of World War IV. The same man whose law firm acted as a registered agent for the Iraqi National Congress, the ex-patriot consortium of cons who brought us Ahmen Chalabi, who brought us "Curveball", the man who brought us the "proof" we needed to invade Iraq. Woolsey may believe the documents Cheney cites somehow "prove" the torture and domestic surveillance but if Woolsey has actually SEEN the documents, Cheney has a bigger problem because Woolsey had absolutely no right to see those documents since he left the CIA before they existed. (#2)

Or maybe he's counting support from John Deutsch, another CIA director with a strong track record of protecting vital, highly confidential information. Deutsch, as most probably don't recall, was found to be taking home highly sensitive CIA documents on his CIA laptop computer then surfing the Internet from that laptop on his unsecured home Internet connection. He exited the CIA rather unceremoniously and was pardoned by Bill Clinton as he left the White House. As is the case with Woolsey, any support from Deutsch for these documents "proving" these programs prevented attacks against the United States can only be based on faith because Deutsch also had no legal right to see those classified documents created well AFTER he left the CIA. If he HAS seen these documents, again Cheney and the Bush-era CIA directors should face more legal troubles from the disclosure of those documents (if they exist).

Finally, I'm not an expert in document handling procedures for information stamped SUPER-DUPER TOP SECRET but I suspect that authorization to read is not the same as authorization to possess or duplicate. I wonder why copies of such highly secretive documents on the successes of our torture and illegal domestic spying campaigns would have or should have been kept in Dick Cheney's office. Maybe there's a story there worth investigating.

Schieffer then asked Cheney about his unusual campaign to sway public opinion on the issue of these programs and the release of information about memos drafted to provide legal cover for them. Cheney said the following:

Certainly. I've made it very clear that I feel very strongly that what we did here was exactly the right thing to do. And if I don't speak out, then where do we find ourselves, Bob? Then the critics have free run, and there isn't anybody there on the other side to tell the truth. So it's important -- it's important that we...

Schieffer then interrupted and asked if Cheney would be willing to testify under oath. The answer was less than an emphatic "hell yeah":

I'd have to see what the circumstances are and what kind of precedent we were setting. But certainly I wouldn't be out here today if I didn't feel comfortable talking about what we're doing publicly. I think it's very, very important that we have a clear understanding that what happened here was an honorable approach to defending the nation, that there was nothing devious or deceitful or dishonest or illegal about what was done.

I presume Cheney's conditions on Congressional testimony would involve a lead-lined room, blindfolds on all of the committee members, and no pens, pencils or note-taking apparatus of any kind. Cheney would also have twenty-four hours to answer each question and first contact all Bush Administration officials to get their story straight before providing a final answer.

The coup de grace (or coup de no grace perhaps) of Cheney's appearance was his comment on Rush Limbaugh being preferred over Colin Powell as a "loyal Republican". After being fed a mountain of bogus, manufactured intelligence and being asked to put his own reputation as a clear-thinking, cautious military professional on the line to sell the Bush war on Iraq to the United Nations and holding his tongue for the remainder of the first term, Powell's endorsement of a Democrat for President disqualifies him as a member of Cheney's Republic -- I mean Republican Party.

While annoying, Cheney's periodic emergences from his secured, underground bunker of paranoia and fear-mongering do serve a few useful purposes. By resurrecting these bogus rationalizations for the torture and illegal domestic wiretapping conducted by the Bush Administration, he puts the issue back on the front burner at a time when the widened presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in THREE countries jeopardizes ACTUAL nuclear weapons. There's no more effective contrast that could be drawn between the flawed priorities of the Bush Administration and what those priorities should have been. Cheney's comments also help remind Americans of what the Republican brand really stands for…

* ignoring the real sources of terrorist threats and launching a war we didn't need
* keeping EVERYTHING secret, even documents of prior administrations
* EXCEPT when classified information can be used to discredit opponents
* EXCEPT when releasing information might help defuse efforts to investigate your wrongdoing
* sliming fellow party members who were hung out to dry by your conniving

Cheney never accepted the rule of law in his Nixonian era career or Bush era career. He fails to grasp that even if you can abuse the law while you're in power, you can't remain in power forever and once you're out of power, you don't get to pick and choose the laws the next guy enforces. That's the chance you take by abusing the law while in power.

Keep up the good work, Dick. I hope you're around for the next four years to help drive the final wooden stake into the heart of the party you love above all else.


#1) http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/FTN_051009.pdf

#2) http://www.thenation.com/blogs/capitalgames/546