Obama DNI Nominee Blair: No Torture Or Warrantless Wiretapping On His Watch

I did not see it, but this AP article makes Admiral Dennis Blair, President Obama's designee for the post of Director of National Intelligence, seem very Shermaneque in his clarity:

The man tapped to oversee U.S. intelligence promised Congress on Thursday there would be no torture and no warrantless wiretapping on his watch. . . . Blair said one of his main responsibilities will be rebuilding the American people's trust in the nation's intelligence agencies. Eight years of a secretive Bush administration authorized harsh interrogations, the secret kidnapping and transferring of suspected terrorists, and a domestic surveillance program that operated without the knowledge of a secret court created 30 years ago to oversee just such activities.

"The intelligence agencies of the United States must respect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people, and they must adhere to the rule of law," Blair said. Blair said he believes strongly that "torture is not moral, legal or effective." . . . "I will work to rebuild a relationship of trust with the American people," he said.

This is, I must say, a terrific start.

Speaking for me only

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    Amen n/t (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:18:06 AM EST

    Great start indeed ... (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:24:17 AM EST
    though I didn't approve of the creation of the DNI, and still wish we didn't have one.

    But if we have to have one, this guy sounds like he "gets it."

    How does this square (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:25:50 AM EST
    with his time in East Timor? Do you think this is contradictory to this latest statement?

    On January 6, 2009, Judy Woodruff did an interview with two former CIA Analysts on the picks of Panetta and Blair, and here are their thoughts:

    Dennis Blair's career history

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both about Dennis Blair, who is reported to be Mr. Obama's choice to head -- to become the new director of national intelligence. Your take on him, Mr. Scheuer?

    MICHAEL SCHEUER: I think, you know, for the first time and since Vietnam, America has a number of two- and three-star generals, who are serving at the moment, who have had combat experience recently, who know how the intelligence community interrelates with the military, both the pluses and the minuses, to bring an admiral who last served in the Pacific out of retirement seems to me to be ignoring a great deal of expertise that's available in the still-serving military.

    So I would think that, with all respect for Admiral Blair, there was a lot of people who would have been a better choice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say he will be the boss of the CIA director.

    What about Dennis Blair?

    RAY MCGOVERN: Nominally. Well, I know very little about him. He has a good reputation as a strategic thinker, but when he was CINCPAC, the chief of the Pacific forces, he actually coddled the Indonesian military when they brutally suppressed people in East Timor, who were striving for their rights.

    There's documentary proof out of the State Department and the NSC that he pretty much winked at the instructions he had to get those generals to ease off the torture and the massacre that they did. And he just went ahead and coddled them and gave them to believe that they could go ahead and keep doing that.

    MICHAEL SCHEUER: The American -- you know, this whole business on rendition and prisons and the rest of it has been a very politicized issue. The fact is, America is much safer today for the people that have been rendered and imprisoned.

    Mr. Obama, Mr. Panetta, Mr. McGovern are all very good at wanting to destroy that function, that operation that has protected America. They have nothing to replace it with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there. Much more to be said on all of this. But we thank you both for being with us, Ray McGovern and Michael Scheuer. Thank you very much.

    Let me add to your post with this article (none / 0) (#11)
    by suzieg on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 04:22:54 AM EST
    from www.counterpunch.com/nairn01222009.html


    January 22, 2009

    Documents Show That Adm. Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting
    US Intel Nominee Lied About Church Murders

    On the eve of his Senate confirmation hearing (due for 10am, Thurs. Jan 22), new information has emerged showing that Adm. Dennis Blair -- President Obama's nominee for US Director of National Intelligence -- lied about his knowledge of a terrorist massacre that occured before a pivotal meeting in which Blair offered support and US aid to the commander of the massacre forces.

    The massacre took place on at the Liquica Catholic church in Indonesian-occupied East Timor two days before Blair met face-to-face with the Indonesian armed forces commander, Gen. Wiranto (the massacre occurred on April 6, 1999; Blair and Wiranto met April 8).

    A classified US cable shows that rather than telling Wiranto to stop the killing, Blair invited Wiranto to be his guest in Hawaii, offered him new US military aid, and told the Indonesian general that he was "working hard" on his behalf, lobbying the US government to restore US military training aid for Indonesia. (That training had been cut off by Congress after the 1991 Dili, Timor massacre; for an account of the US cable and the April 8, '99 Blair-Wiranto meeting see News and Comment posting of Jan. 6, 2009 at http://www.allannairn.com/2009/01/admiral-dennis-blair-prospective-obama.html).

    Blair's support at that crucial April 8 meeting buoyed Wiranto, and his forces increased the Timor killings, which came to include new attacks on churches and clergy, mass arsons, and political rapes. (For a detailed chronology based on a UN report, see News and Comment posting of Jan. 9, 2009 at http://www.allannairn.com/2009/01/blair-church-massacre-continued.html).

    Since I disclosed the contents of that Blair-Wiranto meeting in a report filed in 1999 (see Allan Nairn, "US Complicity in Timor," The Nation [US], Sept. 27, 1999, reprinted in the Jan. 6 '09 News and Comment posting referenced above), Blair has defended himself by claiming that he went into the meeting with Wiranto not yet knowing of the Liquica massacre.

    The Associated Press reported this month, in a January 9 dispatch: "Blair has said he only learned of the massacre a few days after the meeting." (Pamela Hess, "Obama to finalize national security team Friday," Associated Press, Friday Jan. 9, 2009, 4:22 am ET; Blair made the same claim to the Washington Post: Dana Priest, "Standing Up to State and Congress," September 30, 2000).

    But now, contemporaneous records have emerged -- from the US Embassy in Jakarta, and from the Catholic Church -- showing that the massacre was publicly described by Timor's Bishop one day before the Blair-Wiranto meeting, and that while Blair was in Jakarta preparing for the meeting, US officials who were there with him were discussing the massacre in graphic detail.



    I like what he is saying, but (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:33:40 AM EST
    can he put the toothpaste back in the tube?  Is he closing the doors on an empty barn?

    Via Think Progress:

    TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications. [...] But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

    OLBERMANN: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the "New York Times?" Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?

    TICE: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.

    TICE: The agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive for -- whether it be, you know, a congressional committee or someone they really didn't want to know exactly what was going on. So there would be a lot of bells and whistles in a briefing, and quite often, you know, the meat of the briefing was deceptive.

    Whatever pledges are made for policies and actions going forward, I just do not see how we can pretend that the last 8 years didn't happen, and fail to hold those responsible for it accountable.

    good news is good news (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by dmk47 on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 01:24:41 PM EST
    May I point out that a lot (not all) of the hand-wringing from civil libertarians and in the netroots (some of it mine) over whether Obama would make good on his anti-torture etc. commitments was the result of a) pro-torture right wing columnists engaging in wishful thinking b) anonymously sourced reports about insider chatter, c) reports about what people were ringing their hands about, and d) the feedback loop created by a, b, and c. Meanwhile, every public statement by the president and his staff and cabinet have been unequivocal that the new administration would indeed perform as advertised. Lo and behold, we're 2 days in and Obama has exceeded the hopes of the most optimistic civil libertarians.

    It's not just Admiral Blair we have to rely on either -- there's Eric Holder, Dawn Johnsen, Jeh Johnson, Marty Lederman, and others. And the fact that now that Obama has staked his credibility on this, the political and moral incentives (or national interest and self-interest if you like) point in the same direction.

    I know we're all a bit wrong-footed, and understandably so. Assuming good political news can't be just what it appears at face value is the natural thing for people who've actually learned from experience the last eight years. But the lesson of the first 48 hours of the Obama administration is that we shouldn't allow ourselves to misjudge the evidence in response to disreputable professional liars (see, Kristol, William and Krauthammer, Charles) and shoddy journalistic practices that make their jobs easier.

    So, per your previous thread (none / 0) (#1)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:16:27 AM EST
    re the White House counsel's statement with less clarity -- who has more say and sway, the admiral or the lawyer?

    Hopefully the Admiral (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 10:29:05 AM EST
    We need to keep vigilant.

    There needs to be in a component in all polls (none / 0) (#7)
    by Exeter on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 11:31:15 AM EST
    of how much a person really cares about it. I would say most Americans, per se, oppose torture, but don't really feel that strongly about it.

    I agree (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 11:44:11 AM EST
    I also think this is one of those topics where, if asked, people will say they're against torture, because if not, then by default (at least it appears) that you are for and that's politically incorrect.  

    But if you framed the question to those same people to something like, "If the federal government had a suspect in custody whom they suspected of plotting to crash planes into the National Mall during inauguration, and the suspect wasn't talking, would you want the government to use any means necessary to get the information to foil the plot?"  then I think you'd see a whole different set of results.


    I Pray He Can Resist the . . . (none / 0) (#9)
    by Doc Rock on Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 12:26:30 PM EST
    . . . temptations.