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May 21, 2009


Brendan criticizes Gingrich for trying to "create an association between Pelosi and negative traits like 'vicious.'" This comes three paragraphs after Brendan accuses Gingrich of "using code words and insinuation to viciously attack Democrats." (emphasis added)

Pot, meet kettle.

That was cheap, Rob. It just goes to show how insidious those words become.

That could well have been the intended point.

Newt, meet Newt.

Brendan doesn't dispute the factual bases of Gingrich's accusations. So, I would assume that it's true that a surprising number of Obama's Justice Dept. appointees have been defending (presumptive) terrorists pro bono. And, I guess there really is a plan to release some Gitmo prisoners into the US and even provide some sort of financial support for these people. These facts are more shocking than Gingrich's use of the word "vicious."

I have long been stuck by the large number of top lawyers who chose to represent presumptive terrorists in Gitmo without fee. Of course, everybody deserves a lawyer I suppose some Gitmo prisoners had nothing at all to do with al Qaeda or terrorism.

Still, 50 years ago, there wasn't similar enthusiasm to provide pro bono defense for accused KKK murderers. For some reason, some lawyers today seem to be more sympathetic to accused murderers in Gitmo than lawyers 50 years ago were to accused KKK murderers. Maybe someone can explain why.

To follow this analogy, I think President Eisenhower would have been severely criticized, and justifiably so, if he had filled his Justice Dept. with lawyers who went out of their way to provide pro bono counsel for accused KKK murderers.

This sympathy for accused al Qaeda terrorists reminds me of Steven Levitt's first blog post for the New York Times, If You Were a Terrorist, How Would You Attack? He solicited suggestions for effective terrorist attacks. He could just as easily have asked for suggestions of how the US could foil attacks. Somehow, it seemed natural to him to identify with the terrorists rather than with the US. That's his prerogative. However, I want the people in the US government who identify fully with the US.

In fairness to Holder, it was not he who was representing Guantanamo detainees, it was his very large Washington law firm. The same is apparently true of some of his fellow appointees at DOJ; it was their firms who were representing detainees. Gingrich himself made this clarification in response to Chris Wallace's question.

I won't bore you with a discussion of the way in which these firms decide to take on pro bono cases. My sense is that if Holder was strongly opposed to Covington & Burling taking on the representation, it wouldn't have done so, but it's a large enough firm that we can't say that for sure.

Full disclosure: I practiced at Covington & Burling for a time and still have several friends who are members of that firm.

"And, I guess there really is a plan to release some Gitmo prisoners into the US and even provide some financial support for these people. These facts..."

If you can only "guess" about such things, then how do you know they are "facts?" You seem to be about as confused as the man you are defending here, who switches from talking about "alleged terrorists" to "terrorists," and then back to "alleged terrorists" again.

"...I think President Eisenhower would have been severely criticized, and justifiably so, if he had filled his Justice Dept. with lawyers who went out of their way to provide pro bono counsel
for accused KKK murders."

Obama hasn't "filled" his Justice Department with lawyers defending alleged Al Qaeda terrorists (even Gingrich can only point to five who fit that description) so you're Eisenhower-era hypothetical falls flat on its face.

Was it wrong to call Pelosi "vicoius"? I think that's a fair description of her attack on the CIA. She accused the agency of lying about having informed her and other Congressional leaders about their use of water boarding. That's a serious charge. Lying to Congress is a felony.

In fact, it's clear that the CIA did inform Congressional leaders as they assert, since they fully documented these meetings and since other attendees back up their version. Nobody AFAIK has supported Pelosi's version.

Worse, she then accused the CIA of routinely lying to Congress. This is a most serious charge. If Pelosi meant what she said, she should have pointed out specific lies and specific liars. She should have called for a Congressional investigation. However, she was just using this accusation to help get her out of a political embarassment.

This is the kind of unsubstantiated smear that one associates with the late Senator Joseph McCarthy.

since they fully documented these meetings

If by "fully documented" you mean, wrote down a summary to the best of their recollection years after the fact, including demonstrably wrong statements about who attended and in what capacity, then I guess it's not surprising that you find their summary of the content of the briefings to be indisputable.

Here's a FOX news summary of the situation:

The CIA cobbled together the chart from notes, memo and recollections because transcripts of the meetings were not kept.

By "documented", I mean that the CIA wrote down that the meetings took place and what the agendas were. Exact transcripts would be nice, but as i understand it the point of the meetings was to inform these political leaders what the CIA was doing. No attendee except Pelosi has asserted that the CIA failed to tell the group about the water boarding they had done and were planning to do.

Without a link, I don't know what errors there were in the documentation. IMHO omitting the names of a few attendees or an error regarding some attendee's particular role would not invalidate the rest of the document.

And, what's the alternative? Should Polosi's undocumented, unsupported, changing recollection be given more credibility than the CIA's documentation, which is supported by other attendees? I don't think so.

The CIA says former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) was briefed as well (in a seperate briefing), but he says that did not occur.

It was reported that they were the only Democrat Senators who were said to have been briefed by the CIA. So it appears there is complete agreement from that faction.

I don't know how Peolsi would document that she wasn't told something. Seems inherently self-contradicting.

You've got a funny standard for documentation, Dave. Why don't you try writing down the details of a meeting you had 7 years ago and consider how accurate you'd be.

And the obvious error wasn't omitting the names of attendees, it was of asserting that specific people were at a meeting when they definitely were not.

Jinchi and Howard Craft, I will acknowledge that the documentation wasn't all we would wish it had been, in retrospect. Nevertheless, Pelosi is the one without credibility on the issue of whether she was informed of the water boarding. FactCheck a sound organization with a somewhat liberal tilt, didn't draw a definite conclusion, but they wrote,

"The facts behind the speaker's changing story about her knowledge of CIA waterboarding....

"Speaker Pelosi said in February that she was 'never' told that the CIA was using waterboarding in interrogations. Then in May she changed her story to say she was told, but still claimed it was not quite as early as the CIA said.

"On that point she's contradicted, however, both by a CIA memo and by a Republican former congressman who got the same briefing she did. The current CIA director, a Democrat, says his agency's story, though not infallible, is 'the most thorough information we have.'"

The liberal Boston Globe editorialized, "It now seems clear that top Democratic leaders like Pelosi knew about the policy, and chose not to challenge it."

I think the Globe is right.

David, I think you've got this whole thing backwards. It's the CIA that leveled the accusation - claiming that Pelosi knew about torture for years and did nothing to stop it. That's a pretty scurrilous claim and Pelosi denies it. It's up to the CIA to provide convincing evidence to back up their accusation. What they've provided instead is a demonstrably flawed document along with the entreaty: If you can't trust the CIA who can you trust?

I don't know why you think it's relevant what the "liberal" paper X or the "conservative" pundit Y thinks, since these people have no evidence to base any opinion on beyond which you or I do.

Here's what we know for a fact:

1.) The CIA tortured people.

2.) The CIA was both given the green light and direct orders to torture people by the Bush Administration.

3.) The Bush administration and the CIA lied about those activities for years (this reduces their credibility significantly, now).

4.) When the original Abu Ghraib photos were released, the administration pretended to be shocked and appalled that torture had taken place, denied that the CIA or the military had ever been authorized to use it and blamed it entirely on "a few bad apples" who they promptly sent to prison.

5.) When the administration was confronted with the legal memos justifying torture, they immediately claimed that they were just thought experiments.

6.) When they later conceded under overwhelming evidence that torture was a central part of their program, they simply redefined torture.

7.) Now they claim that not only was "not-torture" a hallmark of their war effort, they also claim that anybody who thinks torture is a violation of law and morality is anti-American and pro-OBL.

8.) These same people are fighting vigorously not to be indicted or disbarred for violating U.S. law and the Pelosi flap is a central part of that fight.

What we don't know:

1.) Whether anyone in Congress (including Pelosi) was ever told about the very activities that the CIA and Bush administration were vehemently denying for nearly the entire term.

2.) Whether anyone in Congress would have even been aware that the euphemism "waterboarding" was not a summer sport but a torture method perfected by the Soviets and the Chinese communists.

IMHO it's not an accusation to claim that after 9/11 Pelosi did not prevent senior al Qaeda members from being water boarded in order to get information necessary to prevent futher attacks. It's a compliment. At least, it would be one if Pelosi hadn't lied about it.

In the comfort of nine years later, now that no further attack like 9/11 has taken place, it's easy to deplore the methods used. But, evidence is that these ugly methods are part of the reason that there has been no further attack. In any event, in 2001 we knew relatively little about al Qaeda. At that point in time, most of us supported the use of any plausible method to get the information we needed.

"But, evidence is that these ugly methods are part of the reason that there has been no further attack."

Actually, post 9-11, there were indeed "further attacks" (anthrax).

"At that point in time, most of us supported the use of any plausible method to get the information we needed."

Who appointed you spokesman for "most of us?"

The worst terrorist attack in our history happened on Bush's watch. The anthrax attacks happened on his watch. The London, Madrid, and Mumbai attacks, happened on his watch. Terrorist attacks and deaths from terrorist attacks went through the roof on Bush's watch and al Qaeda was able to get a foothold in both Pakistan and Iraq.

So I'm always astounded that people like David consider fighting terrorists to be the thing that Bush and Cheney were exceptionally good at.

Evidently Barack Obama also thinks Bush and Cheney were good at fighting terrorism, because he's maintaining most of their approach, with mostly cosmetic changes.

David: your post hoc ergo propter hoc is showing. Also, comparing Pelosi to McCarthy was a hilarious ad hominem. Keep the fallacies coming.

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