Bush Pulls Plug on Cheney’s “Cloak & Dagger” Dungeons

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bellinger.jpg
(State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger III outflanks Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington)
George Bush has just taken a first step, a big step in my view, in bringing America a notch back towards democracy by bringing all of America’s “off the books” prisoners into the daylight and towards a more transparent legal process.
Much of the political left has missed the importance of what happened when President Bush interrupted soap operas on the networks on Wednesday and announced that America’s secret prisons around the world would be emptied and fourteen highly significant prisoners tried for their crimes.
What much of the left has not realized is that the Cheney wing in national security circles — including personalities like David Addington, John Bolton, Scooter Libby, and others — is seething at some of the better souls in the administration. Real right wingers who would love to see a return of arbitrary justice, vigilanteism, and secret executions for those accused of terrorism are quite angry with the President and with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the enlightened steps they are now taking.
John Bellinger III, the legal adviser to the Secretary of State, and a person Cheney chief-of-staff David Addington has on a regular attack hit list, has scored a huge and important victory over those in the administration who were the primary torture advocates and believers in non-transparent and arbitrary justice. Bellinger as well as State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow and Policy Planning Staff Principal Deputy Director and detainee legal issues expert Matthew Waxman and others have been working on a nine month campaign to bring America out of the secret gulag business — and get the United States back on the path of legal process and legal norms.


Condoleezza Rice also deserves major credit because this was “finally” a hand she played well — beating Cheney not in the interagency process where the Vice President’s gang has the upper hand — but rather turning her own intimate relationship into a campaign that mattered and which rolled back much of the extra-legal activity that Cheney and Attorney General Gonzalez had engineered.
George Bush’s speech was oddly performed. It was the kind of speech that should have been given with Bush sitting at his desk and offered in a “deliberative tone” rather than with the rah-rah zest Bush gave it. The speech is better read than heard and is one of the most important presidential statements on law, and international law, that Bush has ever given.
Bush’s acknowledgement of the importance of legal norms and of at least working to create a body of “international law” that covers new forms of combat and enemies America confronts is new and should be applauded. America’s abandonment of transparent legal process in the past, when it came to fighting those engaged in terrorism, undermined America’s moral credibility in the world.
The change in Bush’s tone is clearly evident in these nearly last paragraphs of the speech:

As we work with Congress to pass a good bill, we will also consult with congressional leaders on how to ensure that the CIA program goes forward in a way that follows the law, that meets the national security needs of our country, and protects the brave men and women we ask to obtain information that will save innocent lives. For the sake of our security, Congress needs to act, and update our laws to meet the threats of this new era. And I know they will.
We’re engaged in a global struggle — and the entire civilized world has a stake in its outcome. America is a nation of law. And as I work with Congress to strengthen and clarify our laws here at home, I will continue to work with members of the international community who have been our partners in this struggle. I’ve spoken with leaders of foreign governments, and worked with them to address their concerns about Guantanamo and our detention policies. I’ll continue to work with the international community to construct a common foundation to defend our nations and protect our freedoms.

As Dafna Linzer and Glenn Kessler report this morning in the Washington Post, an interagency consensus never fully developed behind this package of decisions that essentially brings the entire “black site” operation into the daylight. The State Department and CIA developed an unofficial alliance as CIA Director Michael Hayden and his team realized that they really wanted out of the secret detention business. Their operations were suffering in foreign countries and were always at risk because of host nation discomfort with the practice.
But the Linzer/Kessler article really does not document the level of animosity that existed between Addington, Cheney, and Attorney General Gonzalez — all of whom have been major architects of America’s darkest experiment with torture and legal inaccountability in managing America’s 21st century terrorist foes. Cheney, in one of his regular private meetings with President Bush, did push the President to reject this step.
One insider has reported to TWN that Cheney and Addington really think that Bellinger and those pushing these reforms are going to be “partly responsible for a future terrorist attack.”
American civil society and the legal profession should not be completely comfortable with the President’s decision on detainees and the legal process they will now be subjected to. The transparency of the process could be more robust and the rights of these prisoners could be better rooted in past prisoner-of-war precedent. The “evidence through coercion” provisions make many uncomfortable.
However, the fundamental thing to acknowledge about this speech is that Bush is pulling the plug on much of Cheney’s “war paradigm” operation that was subject to no accountability, where rules were made up on the fly, and from which there was no ultimate exit.
Even on the subject of military commissions — another controversial subject — the fact that the administration has offered a proposal to help shape debate and to give the Congress something on which to deliberate is better than the black and white debate that was occurring on these Commisions. Over the next couple of weeks, this subject was going to be taken up by the Congress in light of the Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision.
Many critics will lobby against the kind of justice dispensed by military commissions and debate the President’s plan — but this kind of debate is healthy and was what Cheney was trying to preempt.
I had an email last night from one of the leading Muslim authorities on American detainee and rendition abuses. This person has done some of the best investigative work on America’s secret prisons and on the direct and third party torture tactics that American authorities have deployed or requested from collaborating nations.
He got the importance of the Bush speech and wrote that Bush’s decision was a huge step in the right direction, and maybe now America’s “own ‘darnkess at noon’ nightmare would end.”
— Steve Clemons

Comments

56 comments on “Bush Pulls Plug on Cheney’s “Cloak & Dagger” Dungeons

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  2. Chesire11 says:

    Personally, I think Bush did it so that he could force the issue of military tribunals. It’s a lot harder to persuade the public of the importance of preserving principles like due process and rules of evidence when guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are the ones whose rights are about to be violated.

    Reply

  3. Nell says:

    This puts the icing on it. Even the freaking Washington Post thinks Bush was doing this “for reasons crafted by Rove or for direct political gain before the election”:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/06/AR2006090602098_pf.html
    Conspiracy-mindedness right there on the front page of Thursday’s paper. Shocking.

    Reply

  4. elementary teacher says:

    I teach little kids, so let me put this as gently as I humanly can.
    They are not protecting us. Those harpies can utter the term ‘terror’ until their tongues fall off, they have not protected us. Our nuclear capabilities did not protect us on 9-11. Nor did the Americans “in charge.” They never served in the military. What could they possibly know about protecting us? ZIP. So what do they do? Attack states in the name protecting us against terror — when the terrorists responsible are stateless. Why didn’t they round up AQ? That would have been a smart thing to do. The US Administration can tap our phones, track our charge cards, and look up our butts with computer probes, but they can’t round up a couple dozen miscreants who video out to the entire world from a cave? Round them up? No! They bully, intimidate and massacre entire states, utterly destroying any goodwill which the world may have had toward us after the attack.
    We are the bullies. Our beautiful country is a bullying hypocritical thug. We have nothing more creative to now offer this world than a nuclear attack?
    Stop. NO. A thousand times NO. Democrats, Americans, cast off submissiveness. Pull the rip chord. Rattle those Congressional phones until their bowels fall out. The course they’re following is madness. And no, you don’t have to have a better idea to reject BLATANTLY IMMORAL IMBECILITY

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  5. Pissed Off American says:

    I forgot to add….
    In demonstration of my point, one needs to ask Steve exactly HOW he has reached the conclusion that these fourteen individuals, (for example), are in fact “terrorists”. Has a court of law designated them as such? Have they legally been afforded the opportunity to challenge their designation?
    No.
    Steve is willing to call them terrorists simply because the Bush Administration has labeled them as terrorists.
    Well, they may be. Or not. But certainly their inability to challenge their designation flies in the face of every tenet the rule of law represents.
    Remember, we now know that some of the named so-called “hi-jackers” have been found to be alive and uninvolved in 9/11. Yet the list of “hi-jackers” has never been revised, nor apparently have we identified those who were incorrectly identified. There is something definitely creepy about that fact, no? It demonstrates that we DO get it wrong, and just because this lying treasonous sack of shit in the Oval Office tells us something doesn’t mean it is so.

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  6. Pissed Off American says:

    [This last string of posts is the result, I’ll admit, of real anger on my part both at the substance of Steve’s post, at his dismissive language, and of having had a comment held for moderation (on the bogus grounds of my being a ‘first-time poster’) because I made the mistake of previewing it.]
    Posted by Nell
    In the blogs defense, (and in Steve’s), I must offer that I too have experienced posts being blocked in the manner you describe, and had much the same reaction. But after shooting an angry email off to Steve, and reviewing his response, it became apparent to me that he had no idea what I was talking about, and was unaware of my posts being blocked. After experimenting with the content of the “offending” posts, and attempting to post them, I found that it wasn’t me being the source that was causing the problem, nor was it the ideological content. I was simply attempting to post too many active links in one posting, and the anti-spam software was blocking my post. Three seemed to be the magic number, where my posts would get blocked. If I inserted two active links, instead of three, my post would appear on the blog.
    Anyway, I 100% share your chagrin at Steve’s position in regards to this matter. A point you didn’t make, at least not bluntly, is that Bush is a liar to boot, and there is no reason to believe ANYTHING the lying sack of shit says. He openly admitted what we already knew. Big fuckin’ deal. But he also DENIED what we already know, such as the horseshit he fed us about “America doesn’t torture”. And he has simply removed the military from the torture equation, while keeping the CIA in the business of frying gonads.
    And the part of this that keeps getting lost in the shuffle is that he keeps telling us that these are terrorists, and that these policies are only targeting terrorists. But they have removed these people’s rights and processes by which they can legally challenge such a designation. In simple terms, these bastards can simply point their fingers at you, designate you as a “terrorist”, and remove all your rights to due process, legal representation, and judicial oversight.
    Cute.
    How soon before people like myself call the fascist bastard a “monkey boy” once to often, and the finger gets pointed at ME, accompanied with the designation of “terrorist”? Poof, its off to the Gulag I go.
    Can’t happen here right? Well, maybe not, if I accept the last five years as one long and powerful hallucination. Or should I say nightmare?

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  7. Nell says:

    Steve’s phrasing in the post title: ‘Bush Pulls Plug on Cheney’s “Cloak & Dagger” Dungeons’ is appalling on several levels:
    – The implication that Bush had no role in establishing the secret prisons is simply wrong.
    – Worse, the effort to attribute every vile policy of this administration to Cheney and deflect blame from the president is unpleasantly evocative of the kind of thing that used to be said by people under totalitarian regimes when discussing unpleasant but undeniable realities: “If only the Fuehrer knew…” “If only Stalin knew…”.
    – Finally, as noted in my previous post, there has been no pulling of the plug. Some prisoners previously held in secret sites have been moved to an acknowledged (though virtually inaccessible and illegal) dentention center. There is no evidence on which to base the claim that persons are not longer being held in secret sites.
    The stripping of habeas rights by the administration, which is not being dealt with in Congressional alternatives/resistance to the Bush legislation, means that we will have no way of knowing whether there are ‘off-the-books’ detainees even in known prisons, or of assuring that acknowledged detainees are not being abused or tortured.
    See this post by a lawyer who understands the issues involved far more deeply than this blog’s owner:
    http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/09/military_commis.html
    [This last string of posts is the result, I’ll admit, of real anger on my part both at the substance of Steve’s post, at his dismissive language, and of having had a comment held for moderation (on the bogus grounds of my being a ‘first-time poster’) because I made the mistake of previewing it.]

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  8. Nell says:

    Steve: “George Bush has … [brought] all of America’s “off the books” prisoners into the daylight and towards a more transparent legal process.”
    ALL? What evidence is there for this assertion?
    The Red Cross and UN human rights inspectors have been denied access to detention facilities in Afghanistan and at many black sites (whose location have not been acknowledged by our government, but have been determined through flight tracking and circumstantial evidence).

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  9. Nell says:

    Steve: Please drop the “more conspiracy-oriented buffs” sneers. Reasonable people can disagree about what the political goal or effect of a Bush speech was. You think such a charge “makes no sense.” Here’s the sense it makes:
    Bush quite explicitly defended secret prisons and the torture of detainees as having revealed and stopped terror plots. (In so doing, he lied about the actual results of the interrogation of Al Zubaydah, and neglected to mention Al-Libi’s total recantation of “information” he had supplied under torture.)
    The acknowledgment that secret prisons exist creates an aura of “coming clean” while all the abuses of lawless kidnaping and detention continue. It does not mean the end to rendition, to disappearances, to CIA black sites themselves, to “host-country facilities” like Bagram and the Salt Pit in Afghanistan, where the interrogators are foreign nationals but the prisons are effectively controlled by the CIA.
    Bringing high-level detainees from the black sites, and moving them to Guantanamo, finally provides some basis for the long-standing administration mantra that the camp holds “the worst of the worst.” By this move, in combination with proposing legislation to allow evidence acquired by torture in trials of suspected terrorists, Bush is daring Congress to restore the fundamental rights, due process, and rule of law: If they make evidence obtained by torture inadmissible, then they make it unlikely that KSM and the other new residents of Guantanamo can be convicted in trials.
    Bush’s speech was an effort to normalize torture and totalitarian methods, as vital steps in combating terrorist threats. This is the electoral theme of the 2006 GOP campaign: Only Republicans are tough enough to protect the American people from the threats we face.
    Readers who think that the recent moves by the administration and even the apparent resistance to the Bush legislation mean that this government will in law and in practice respect the Geneva Convention should read recent posts by Jack Balkin and Marty Lederman at Balkinization (balkin.blogspot.com).

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  10. Nell says:

    Steve, what bothers me among other things about your willingness to seize on very small, cosmetic steps as signs of actual progress toward a complete reversal of the slide into president-as-dictator is this:
    You clearly care much more about how this country is perceived than about what it is actually doing, and the effects on the human beings at the receiving end of the policies.
    I encourage everyone who thinks that there is real progress this week towards reining in torture and re-establishing the rule of law to read this excellent post by Katherine at Obsidian Wings about the serious, fundamental lawlessness at the base of all other detention, torture, and due process issues: the stripping of habeas rights from persons held by the U.S.
    http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/09/military_commis.html
    Katherine is a lawyer who was among the first to post about Maher Arar and the phenomenon of “extraordinary rendition” — kidnaping people and outsourcing their torture to other governments. She did her Harvard Law School thesis on the subject, and was a contributing author to Joseph Margulies’ outstanding book ‘Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power.’

    Reply

  11. Pissed Off American says:

    “Now, they are winning; I think it’s important — and frankly, the key legal minds, prosecutors and journalists in much of the Muslim Arab world see this as progress”
    Actually, from what I have read, the key legal minds in the OUR military see it as no such thing. Check out yesterday’s L.A.Times.

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  12. Steve Clemons says:

    The Bellinger-Zelikow package is an important step to getting accountability in to the so-called “war on terror”. I have problems with many aspects of the administration’s national security and foreign policy, but it’s important to remember that there are people in this administration who fought for the application of the Geneva Convention, who were opposed to anything that approached torture standards, and they LOST those rounds. Now, they are winning; I think it’s important — and frankly, the key legal minds, prosecutors and journalists in much of the Muslim Arab world see this as progress.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  13. Pissed Off American says:

    By the way, where are Bush’s comments about what parameters have been set down in regards to how it’s private contractors, such as Blackwell, treats its prisoners? Does anyone here believe this administration would balk at privatizing torture?

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  14. Pissed Off American says:

    Actually, Steve, the real problem for this administration when it comes to torture, and holding captives illegally, was that it did so within an institution that contained far too many witnesses, the military. Hence one snitch at Abu Ghraib was able to expose this monster for what it is. And the “monster” in this case is a policy that defies all human dignity and international law, AND the creators of this monster, who were never held accountable, and apparently never will be.
    But all Bush has really done here is remove the future witnesses that may have exposed future abuses. The parameters of treatment that have been set down only apply to the military. The CIA has had no such parrameters defined,. And, as you know, it was suspected that it was really the CIA that ramrodded the Abu Ghraib abuses anyway. Why now do you feel we can trust that Bush is being truthful here?? Seems to me the only lesson these monsters may have learned here is to make sure there are no military witnesses to your “gathering of intelligence”,(keep it in “the company”), and if you attach electrodes to Ahmed’s nuts, make sure you kill the poor bastard afterwards.

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  15. OleHippieChick says:

    “How long, O lord, how long? This blizzard of shame is getting a little old, isn’t it? Just how low do we have to fall before the voters catch on?
    Indeed. How many times can a man be robbed—on the same street, by the same people—before they call him a Rube? Bob Dylan said that, in a tattered old song called ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ Read it and weep, you poor bastards—because Dylan was yesterday, and George Bush is now.”
    Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    Reply

  16. Steve Clemons says:

    All I can say to you folks is think this stuff through seriously. If some of the more conspiracy-oriented buffs here thought that Bush was doing this for some reason crafted by Rove or for direct political gain before the election, that just doesn’t make sense. First, I know that simply is not true — and second, you can craft an alternative argument that for political expediencey and keeping the swagger going in the GWOT, they should have kept these captured terrorists off the books for a while — or brought them in one by one, or many other scenarios.
    I think it’s fine for people to hold tenaciously to their skepticism of this administration. They deserve such doubt — but when I see a tilt in the right direction, I need to note the reality of what is going on.
    This speech was useful and has begun the process of bringing to an end from questionable and abhorrent practices. That’s a step in the right direction.
    Steve Clemons
    The Washington Note

    Reply

  17. romdinstler says:

    Oh, come off it, Steve. You make it sound like Bush has a decent bone in his body. You kind of remind me of Thomas Friedbrain. When oh when will you learn that Bush is not, never has been and never will even be a member of the Establishment. Bush is aestablishment just like all the other top members in the Cheney administration.

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  18. Pissed Off American says:

    The Los Angeles Times has an article today about the “new terrorists”, the homegrown variety that are incited to acts of terrorism over the internet. Only an idiot, or someone locked in hopeless denial, can fail to see that this Administration is working feverishly to install the aparatuses by which they intend to counter the massive dissent that they know will inevitably result from their actions.
    Furthermore, Bush is now asking Congress to pass a bill that allows a person to be tried for a crime without having access to the evidence that a crime has even been committed. It amounts to……
    “We accuse you of plotting acts of terrorism against the United States, but we aren’t going to show you the evidence that supports these charges. You are a terrorist simply because we SAY you are a terrorist, and because of that fact we are not recquired to prove you are a terrorist”.
    What civillized and democratic society would accept or allow such a basis for circumventing due process??? Well, thats exactly what Bush is proposing.
    So if he doesn’t like what someone like me is saying, all he need do is round me up, tell ya I’m a terrorist that has plotted acts of terrorism, and as such I have no right to examine the evidence that may support such an accusation. How do I defend myself against evidence that I cannot examine? I can’t, and poof, a dissenting voice is sent off to the gulag.
    It amazes me that more Americans cannot see the grave danger these people in this Administration pose to our democracy.

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  19. TS says:

    first off i’m not quite sure here but it appears that someone is trying to pardon mr bush and ms rice for their crimes. how sweet they’ve come clean on one of their many illegal programs, and so [we] are supposed to give them leeway for this. i think NOT. there isn’t one thing about their coming clean that would support a pardon for their crimes. the prisons were, and continue to be ILLEGAL in every sense of the word. much of what [he] and his followers have done since the coup d e tat of 2000 has been illegal, and yet suddenly we should pardon them for obeying the laws of our land? i think NOT. when these people are caught red handed with something they then throw us a tidbit and hope that that quells the masses, and sadly it often does. so they’re bringing 14 prisoners out into public view. in all these so-called secret prisons there were only 14 prisoners. i think NOT. this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as i am concerned. these people are criminals pure and simple. more-so than perhaps the 14 prisoners they are bringing to light. so forgive me if i don’t have a forgiving bone in my body for these crooks or for that matter anyone else who supports their reign of terror.

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  20. marky says:

    galactatus, that’s an excellent question.
    I believe that answer is secret, and it would endanger national security to disclose this information.

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  21. galactatcus says:

    Did he actually say these were all the prisoners in the secret prisons and that he was actually closing down the secret prisons?

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  22. Pissed Off American says:

    Look Steve! Its the Easter Bunny!!!

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  23. Pissed Off American says:

    Defense Dept disobeys court order, won’t release …Defense Dept disobeys court order, won’t release torture photos … secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. …
    http://www.unknownnews.org/0507260723abovethelaw.html

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  24. Tracy Lightcap says:

    Steve:
    How many times have you bought a dishwasher? I ask because you can’t seem to catch a bait-and-switch when people throw it at you. Did you notice the testimony of the JAGs yesterday and the confluence with the Prez’s speech? What’s going on here is essentially this: ok, we’ll give up the secret prisons and, if you twist our arms, the restrictions on the use of classified evidence in the commissions. BUT … if we do that, you have to a) change FISA to get rid of that pesky judicial review stuff, b) revise the War Crimes Act to insure that the CIA guys can’t be prosecuted for torturing people either now or for past acts, c) give us the commissions with all the other restrictions, and d) revise our understanding of the Torture Convention so that the CIA can still torture – sorry, use “alternative procedures” to question – detainees.
    I mean, how obvious do they have to get here? I sadly fear that you have a completely unjustified streak of trust for our government slowly worming its way through your gut. Go ahead and flush that out. You can’t trust these people at all – any of them – on these issues.

    Reply

  25. Pissed Off American says:

    I hate what has become of my country and I am deeply saddened and yes, outraged.
    Posted by ‘sconset
    Well, don’t worry, its nothing a well placed chemical light stick can’t cure.

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  26. Marky says:

    “I have just learned from my double super secret sources that Hitler is planning a new policy towards the Jews. There was a secret conference in Wannsee in which Hitler repudiated the policy of publicly humiliating the Jews. It’s said that he spoke some very harsh words towards Eichmann, and even kicked Goering’s poodle! Herr Hitler was adamant that the current policy is damaging Germany’s reputation as a humane, modern European country. He insists that Aryans must behave better.
    While I’m not sure of the details worked out at Wannsee, my sources assure me that there will be a definite change in behavior towards the Jews.
    Now is not the moment to listen to the clueless Communists. Let’s give Herr Hitler a chance.”

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  27. 'sconset says:

    Steve: I would love to have some of whatever you are either smoking or drinking. This is a game that these clowns are playing–it is all about fear and covering their traitorous asses. The nation is waking up to the fraud and criminality of this Administration. To say that Rove has nothing to do with this is simply breathtaking. This all to do with the elections. All they have to sell is fear, fear and more fear.
    I agree with POA and with Nell–Poppy Bush won’t be able to save his bufoon kid this time. As far as Cheney–he is supposed to be on MTP on Sunday with Russert. Let’s see if Timmeh will try to nail him to the wall or if he gives him a pass.
    I hate what has become of my country and I am deeply saddened and yes, outraged.

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  28. steve duncan says:

    Now Marky, don’t be so harsh. Everyone knows if you soothingly pet a rabid, snarling dog it’ll calm down and fetch your slippers. Let Steve extend his hand and pat the right on the head, he won’t get bit…………….

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  29. marky says:

    So, Steve, when it becomes obvious that exposing the Al Qaeda prisoners and proposing military trials for them is prelude to Bush proposing a law that would allow US citizens to be detained and tried secretly by military tribunals, will you continue to excoriate the clueless left?
    You do know that American citizens no longer have the right to exit and leave the country at will. There are two US citizens who are being denied entry back into this country on no legal basis at all, with no hearing and no way of appeal.
    Another reason your post rings totally false is that numerous reports put Bush at the center of the torture policy. Don’t lecture the left about being clueless while you lick the boots of the most anti-democratic leader this country has ever had.

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  30. Pissed Off American says:

    This is especially relevant given the increasing odds that Democrats will retake one branch of congress and perhaps even commence real investigations.
    Posted by peter thom
    This admistration cannot allow that to happen. The will stop at nothing to prevent such an eventuality. Does anyone here seriously believe that these maniacs, Cheney and Bush, will allow themselves to be exposed, prosecuted, and pillaried as traitors, and as the framers of the most disastrous and criminal policies in the history of the United States?
    Ain’t gonna happen without a fight. 9/11 doesn’t even come close to what these two monsters and their gargoyles are capable of.

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  31. peter thom says:

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that “…the political left has missed the importance of what happened when President Bush interrupted soap operas on the networks on Wednesday and announced that America’s secret prisons around the world would be emptied…” Let’s not forget that this administration has declared on several occassions, at the highest level, that these prisons did not even exist. The assumption that these prisoners represent the majority of the extraordinarily rendered rather than the tip of the iceberg, cannot be grounded on observations of this administration’s past actions. I would caution against drawing hard and fast conclusions from what may well be the first trickle of a deluge of the rendered and tortured. This turnabout is probably intended to not only walk the program back into the light, but to attempt to mitigate future legal ramifications. This is especially relevant given the increasing odds that Democrats will retake one branch of congress and perhaps even commence real investigations.

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  32. Pissed Off American says:

    The Torturer’s Apprentice
    by Ray McGovern
    Addressing the use of torture Wednesday, President George W. Bush played to the baser instincts of Americans as he strained to turn his violation of national and international law into Exhibit A on how “tough” he is on terrorists. His tour de force brought to mind the charge the Athenians leveled at Socrates – making the worse case appear the better. Bush’s remarks made it abundantly clear, though, that he is not about to take the hemlock.
    As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and with the midterm elections just two months away, the president’s speechwriters succeeded in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of torture. The artful offensive will succeed if – but only if – the mainstream media is as cowed, and the American people as dumb, as the president thinks they are. Arguably a war criminal under international law and a capital-crime felon under U.S. criminal law, Bush’s legal jeopardy is even clearer than when he went AWOL during the Vietnam War. And this time, his father will not be able to fix it.
    continues at……
    http://www.antiwar.com/mcgovern/?articleid=9665

    Reply

  33. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, anyway, there ARE some truly positive reversals happening today…
    “Scholastic pulls Path to 9/11 “Discussion Guide,” saying, “[T]he materials did not meet our high standards””
    http://mediamatters.org/items/200609070009
    Now, if ABC will just pull that piece of shit propaganda piece, “Path to 9/11″ from bing aired, it will save a few more brain dead Americans from having the space between their ears filled with the LIES that are the campaign of this Adsministration and its Republican suplicants.
    I am amazed at the full-on assault to the truth that is now being waged by these lying sacks of shit in the White House with this current despicable media blitz.
    The Osama tape….they fail to point out to you that Osama is 6’4” tall, and in this tape he is no taller than the rest of the men he is meeting with. They also fail to point out to you that one of the so called terrorists in the tape is now known to be alive, and completely uninvolved in the attacks.
    And this crock of shit Bush is feeding us about these terror attacks being thwarted by the existence and use of secret torture gulags.Why the hell should we believe anything this lying asshole tells us? Is there really anyone here that doubts this guy lied America into Iraq? Or lied about his criminal shirking of his TANG obligations? Or lied about his relationship with Ken Lay? The list goes on and on. The guy is a fuckin’ liar. Period. He has irrefutably lied to this nation about a myriad of issues. Now the little pissant gets in front of a podium and jacks his jaws about this issue and we are supposed to see it as truth, and a positive move? Who can tell whether he’s lying now or not? The guy belongs in a federal prison. He is not credible. We can’t believe a word he is saying anymore, even if it ends up being the truth. I mean, how many times does a person have to be caught red handed at lying before he becomes unbelievable? Do we just hand this asshole a free pass because he is President?
    I’ll agree with Steve that this nation has reversed and is headed in a positive direction when Cheney and Bush are under federal indictment. Until that day, we don’t even vaquely resemble that that we claim to be, a nation governed by the people, under the rule of law.

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  34. The Heretik says:

    I quite agree with you on the better angels drift winning something in this. But what Ahem says about the lesser evil still an evil does apply. Plenty of lost souls to go around.

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  35. Trip says:

    Day late and a dollar short.

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  36. ahem says:

    No, Steve, we saw it just fine: the attempt to legitimise both torture and the legal anomaly based upon a geographical anomaly that is Guantanamo Bay.
    It’s not a clear legal space. It’s based upon jurisdictional wheedling, and a legislative abrogation of treaty obligations. The rest of the world regards Guantanamo — the public face of the Bush Gulag — as beyond the pale. It’s just that Americans have become accustomed to civil liberties and human rights outrages, and now treat that America-which-isn’t-America as an acceptable location for kangaroo courts.
    To see this as a victory is indicative of just how rotten things have become. If Bush is going to compare terrorists to Nazis, then why not replicate the Nuremberg tribunals? Or, better still, embrace the American criminal justice system as it stands?
    The lesser evil is still an evil.

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  37. Pissed Off American says:

    “And Steve Clemons thinks this is a big step forward for the rule of law, rather than a cold political stunt and a call to embrace and normalize totalitarian methods.”
    Posted by Nell
    Yeah, isn’t it cute?
    Damn, its really gonna break my heart when someone finally tells him there ain’t no Easter Bunny.

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  38. Nell says:

    The president of the United States stands before the American people, simultaneously celebrates and lies about the supposed results of torture, proposes to legalize it and give legal cover to all those who ordered and perpetrated it, and then finishes up by denying that we torture.
    And Steve Clemons thinks this is a big step forward for the rule of law, rather than a cold political stunt and a call to embrace and normalize totalitarian methods.
    My standards are a bit higher than that for this country.

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  39. Pissed Off American says:

    Gee, didn’t you all listen to His Majesty’s speech??? These gulags, and the “forceful interogation techniques” saved American lives by thwarting terrorist attacks!!! Trust him, he knows, and Bush would NEVER lie to us, right? And hey, after all those in captivity are terrorists, and we don’t need no stinkin’ quaint ‘ol due process to prove it, either, because, by God, Bush SAYS they are terrorists! And torture???? Not us! Didn’t you listen, we don’t torture. Bush says so. He just doesn’t want to release the second batch of photos from Abu Ghraib because they show Muslims willingly subjecting themselves to sodomization and masochistic handling by their caring and loving captors, and lord knows Bush has the greatest respect for privacy.
    Yep Steve, this is a real step into the light for our fearless leader and his competent and moral staff. Hallelujeh, God Bless George Bush, poodle puppies, and……uh….vaseline.

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  40. virginia cynic says:

    PLease forgive me for not congratulating the people that insist that the prisoners be brought from the lowest dungeon to the upper floors.
    They are still held illegally and against the Constitution. An argument among or between the factions advising the King (” I fear M’Lord Cheney IS ill, Sire”) is not reason to cheer or dismiss the arguments of those on the left who oppose this brutish anti democratic regime who ignore and revile the constituion.
    I fear that Steve Clemons mistakes an argumernt over which specific trail to take to the tenth century and the unbridled power of the King for an argument over which path leads to the return of the Constituion.
    A momentary brightening of the path in the forest does not guarantee yhat one will reach the the clear light of the mountain top.

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  41. John B. says:

    It seems to me that Bush wants to parade the 911 attackers and al queada prisoners around a little bit before the mid-term elections. I think they want to give the appearance of doing the right thing while also raising the bloody shirt on the Democrats and rally their base right before the election. Part of the role it out after labor day strategery…
    smells like Rove to me…in spite of what our kind and gracious host maintains. I hope he’s right, but as we can all tell from the posts above, nobody trusts these guys at all.

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  42. Maude says:

    I am not at all convinced that Bush is heading in the right direction toward democracy.
    There’s something going on that he announced that the black sites exist.
    It is possible that they just moved the sites and closed down the old ones.
    The bright sign is that the chickens are indeed coming home to roost.
    Congress seems to be balking at the Kangaroo court bit.
    The War Crimes Act is the one to watch.
    If congress modifies it, it means that those nasty torturers go free, I mean US civilians.
    Maude

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  43. phil from new york says:

    Steve,
    Like the other commenters, I’m skeptical. I don’t believe this administration does anything for the right reason. However, you’re closer to this than I am, so I hope you’re right. But maybe you can address the latest news that has come out: several Republicans and the military have come out opposing this plan to have Congress give them the legal footing. So as of this writing, the whole thing appears to be dead, right? If so, what does that mean?
    Also, thanks for your comments about Bolton. As far as I can tell, you’re the first one to say “put a fork in him.”

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  44. jonst says:

    I’m with Steve Duncan. You got it right Steve D. Steve C, has gone through the pile of horseshit, ripped up the floorboards, smashed the foundation,and dug half way to China, looking for the pony he’s knows is there. I admire your optimism Steve C.

    Reply

  45. majkia says:

    While this SEEMS like sanity is returning, at the same time they are trying to pass a law that would in effect legalize everything and bring it all back. Many of us see this as the usual shell game.
    I really do hope this indicates a change but my hopes for sanity and decency from the gangsters running our country have been dashed too many times

    Reply

  46. majkia says:

    While this SEEMS like sanity is returning, at the same time they are trying to pass a law that would in effect legalize everything and bring it all back. Many of us see this as the usual shell game.
    I really do hope this indicates a change but my hopes for sanity and decency from the gangsters running our country have been dashed too many times

    Reply

  47. steve duncan says:

    Steve, as I reread your post I wonder if you’re channeling David Broder? After what we’ve seen the last 5 years optimism on this or any other matter vis-a-vis Bush is very peculiar. I know you’re inside the process but us outsiders wouldn’t trust Bush to walk our dog. What gives?

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  48. Sneezy says:

    I hope you’re right, but the Cheney-Bush Maladministration has been consistent in its secretiveness, bellicosity, and refusal to back down. If it closes clandestine prisons, others will open up. If one agency stops a repugnant practice, another will continue it. And no one will tell the truth.
    People below the top consipracty of idiots may find ways to do less of their bidding, and they should if they have any ethics or morals, but the “mission” (evidentlly a state secret) hasn’t changed. “Adapt to win” is not a change in strategy; it simply restates the tactical approach.
    Misgivings and repeated snakebites aside, I hope you’re right.

    Reply

  49. jhm says:

    While this might not be a Rove opperation (nor a Cheney one), I think that the only way that team Cheney would allow themselves to be overridden is if they felt that the rhetoric were hollow and the politics were compelling enough to make any concession whatever palatable. Enter the Roe factor.
    I don’t deny that these forces might have been played against each other by those with purer motives, but even so, the results are far from certain.

    Reply

  50. clio says:

    I agree that the Presidenat and the administration needed an exit from the self-created morass in which they found themselves.
    I do not share your optimism that Cheney & Co have been vanquished, or even greatly weakened. What do you think will happen if the Congress cannot pass the legislation to retroactively change US law so that those who ordered these programs might be at legal risk?

    Reply

  51. steve duncan says:

    The very nature of these black holes, their deniability and secret locatons, assures we can’t be sure of just how much the system has been “emptied” as you put it, Steve. Our government is ruled by a clique of violent, conniving, paranoid fascists. Nothing is as it appears, or at least all should be viewed with that mindset. Also, if there are advances in human rights they’re incidental to the gains sought in purely political considerations by Cheney, Rove and Bush. No one will be treated better or in accordance with domestic or international law because it’s the right thing to do. It’ll happen because their calculations indicate an electoral or otherwise strategic advantage will benefit them through altering policy. Some may say so what, at least detainees are being treated better. Somehow being accorded proper judical protocols loses its lustre when it’s a mere side effect of a larger domestic power play.

    Reply

  52. Steve Clemons says:

    Hal — I can’t emphasize enough how much this was NOT a Karl Rove operation. The battle over this effort has been hard fought for a while, and critics of the President and Cheney might have asked why would they ever have brought these prisoners in from the black sites and exposed them… In the long run, the President needed an exit strategy from the legal morass these black sites and off the books prisoners were creating. The important thing is that the President realize this and bucked his VP back. . .for the most part.
    Steve Clemons
    The Washington Note

    Reply

  53. Hal says:

    I hope you are right, but it still looks more like a political squeeze play to me. Bush is saying to congressional Democrats that they should enact a form of trial that lacks due process, and is very much like what the Supreme Court rejected in Hamdan.
    Bush’s proposal also bars US courts from ruling on whether our interrogation techniques comply with the Geneva Convention. So, no repeat of Hamdan if Congress goes along.
    After years of detention without trial, Bush now says that the 14 prisoners must be tried, his way, quickly. Why? Well, the midterm elections are right around the corner.
    And, if the Democrats oppose his plan, Bush is poised to argue that they don’t see how grave the terrorist threat is. It’s quite similar to his maneuvering over creating the Dept. of Homeland Security.
    This gambit looks like a Karl Rove creation to me. Where is the victory of human rights here?

    Reply

  54. Steve Clemons says:

    Arun: Your skepticism is healthy. I have spent a lot of time tracking these efforts by Bellinger and others to get America back into a clear legal space on these complex combatant issues. At this point, I believe that anything that rolls back Cheney and Addington (and Bolton on other fronts) is healthy for the nation.
    Many people will not be satisfied with the President’s proposals and steps on this. They still see too much with which they are uncomfortable in the way that the military commissions are laid out and issues related to evidence — and they know that the black sites are not yet going to be closed.
    But I think it’s important to acknowledge that the tilt of these steps is finally in a positive direction.
    Thanks for your post,
    Steve Clemons
    The Washington Note

    Reply

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