President Obama Vs DNI Dennis Blair

UPDATE - Blair sounds like a problem to me.

Sandy Levinson noted that President Obama said to the CIA yesterday that:

What makes the United States special and what makes you special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy, even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when its expedient to do so....

However, President Obama's Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said upon the release of the torture memos:

Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that the memos were written at a time when C.I.A. officers were frantically working to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said Mr. Blair in a written statement. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Blair seems to contradict President Obama in my view. This dissonance from the Obama Administration, particularly from people like Blair, Panetta and Brennan, makes it difficult to imagine a true repudiation of torture by the United States.

On how to "uphold our values," Levinson observed:

I dearly hope [Obama] means it, but I must say I'm not optimistic. "Upholding our values" means that people are truly held accountable, and the Administration seems extraordinarily reluctant to do that. As it happens, I am ambivalent about criminal prosecution, as much as I would love to s[ee] a number of high-level Bushies go to prison. But I have come to the conclusion that the better response would be a blanket amnesty followed by the setting up of a high-powered "truth commission," with full-scale subpoena power, that would force everyone to testify, under oath, about the gestation of the policy, its implementation, and, very importantly, the known consequences.

I do not disagree. I am skeptical that the impeachment of Jay Bybee and a few prosecutions will really signal bringing to account the idea of the United States as a torturing state. After all, the prosecution of Lyndie England did nothing in terms of bringing the US to account for Abu Ghraib.

I am strongly of the view that only a Truth Commission that looks at how torture came to be the policy of the United States will be effective in bringing accountability to the United States for its torture policies.

Speaking for me only

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    I think what's happening is that torture (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:24:56 PM EST
    is becoming a political matter, like reproductive choice. For those of us who want to repudiate torture, now and forever, that's really bad news.

    becoming? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:31:08 PM EST
    Uh, what do you mean becoming? It's been political since 2004.

    A different meaning of "political" (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:33:23 PM EST
    in that it will be legitimate to torture when a certain kind of government is elected. That is what the Obama administration is enabling.

    If that's what you mean, I agree (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Demi Moaned on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:41:17 PM EST
    ... and that's why I think criminal penalties are necessary.

    I think what's happening is that (none / 0) (#9)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:44:45 PM EST
    the USA like any other major country is not going to put itself on trial in it's own public venues and admit to torture. Not in court and not in some silly T&R Commission.

    Of course Obama already blew that by releasing the documents he did so now every country out there can say we are torturers. Not a proud day for the citizens of the US. Shame on Obama. Foolish of Obama.

    It's like a family having some bad apples in it. You just don't go around in public admitting that you have rapists and murderer's and thieves among your own. Obama should have listened to Panetta and others in the CIA. The world already knew we tortured. We should have left it at that and spent more time looking forward by setting up laws systems that insured that it would not happen again.

    Calling for prosecution does not change the system, it just provides scapegoats. It is the system that needs to be changed. There are laws that need to be enacted to make sure that any future Presidents can't seize the type of power that Bush did. Of course Obama will never do that. Instead he just brushes us off and hands the responsibility to Holder to have the final say of doing what we all know is coming - no prosecution - no new law or systems.

    It is new laws that should be the topic of conversation here, not prosecution, and not some silly T&R Commission.


    Totally incoherent (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:47:50 PM EST
    mostly because it is without serious question that the torture we committed was always illegal.

    BTW, to management: (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:49:26 PM EST
    how many different iterations of Talex are you going to put up with?

    Except that a sitting president (none / 0) (#15)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:53:47 PM EST
    was able to implement it unabated. An unenforceable  act that is already illegal that can be carried out makes moot that it was illegal.

    Therefore new laws and systems need to be put in place. That is not an incoherent position to take. Sorry you feel it is.


    Moot in what sense? (none / 0) (#17)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:55:48 PM EST
    Not a legal one, unless the SOL has run.

    Moot in the sense (none / 0) (#21)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:10:07 PM EST
    that it was done! A law that is unenforceable is a flawed law. As Nixon said laws don't apply to the President. That needs to be changed because obviously the current laws do not address it strong enough.

    But in retrospect I'm not sure the new laws I would like to see would make a difference anyway. We have always tortured one level or the other. And always will. That America is above that is really a sick joke. That is the sad reality.


    I should have known better (none / 0) (#22)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:12:30 PM EST
    than to attempt a discussion with talex. Oh well.

    You might want to stick (none / 0) (#25)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:19:40 PM EST
    to responding to the post instead of launching into a fight of fantasy. There are rules here about trolling which is what you are doing. I won't report you this time.

    OK pal, whatever (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:21:22 PM EST
    The memos do a pretty good job (none / 0) (#54)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:07:46 AM EST
    of arguing that the techniques, even waterboarding in the way it was administered, didn't violate any laws.

    Note that torture is defined in only general terms, and not as particular things. I don't believe waterboarding is ever mentioned as being torture in the statutes or treaty. The memos analyze the wording of the statutes/treaty.

    One of the main faults of the memos, at least the ones we've seen, is that they don't put the techniques, including waterboarding, in historical context. Had waterboarding been discussed in a historical context, it would have been harder to come to the conclusion that it wasn't a violation of the torture laws.

    Perhaps the historical context was intentionally left out--for that reason.

    I know alot of you concluded long ago that this was torture and wrong, but not everyone sees this as black and white.


    So, are you saying that we should (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:06:50 PM EST
    just keep passing new laws until we finally fashion some that don't get broken?  And ignore the fact that existing laws were broken?

    This makes no sense.  

    Or are you suggesting a "this time we mean it!" approach?

    If we are a nation of laws, it would behoove us to enforce the law, and punish those who are found to have broken it.  That would not make those lawbreakers "scapegoats" unless there was a failure to hold all involved to the same standard and let the process play out.

    Oh, why am I bothering to respond to this - andgarden is right; what you've commented is just incoherent.


    And angarden's (none / 0) (#24)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:16:18 PM EST
    post that writes the whole thing off to politics is coherent?

    He has moved from laws to politics as the reason nothing can be done. And I agree with him. Politics is a big part of this. And if you read my post again you will see that much of what I say is aimed at politics, specifically world politics. Politically Obama did America no favors.


    When we enforce the laws we have (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 05:42:31 PM EST
    we draw a line, don't we?  

    What has happened here is that things were done by people not in their individual capacity, but as representatives of the US government, and by extension, representatives of the American people.  Oaths were involved, after all.  If anything, the standards should be higher, and the consequences greater; we should not be saying, "oh, never mind; let's just move on," because the principles at stake are larger than the people charged with upholding them.

    It may be water over the dam to you, but for many of us, that water is filty and is polluting everything it comes in contact with as it moves forward.

    Andgarden's point is that we are treating torture as if it were only a matter of perspective and interpretation and choice - that it is part of a political ideology, and that there are arguments on both sides for whether it is right or wrong, okay or not okay.  And that if only we could find just that right combination of techniques in the right number and inflicted for the right amount of time, we could all accept torture as a viable national security tool.

    The act of reconciliation implies a consensus, some point of agreement, some give and take.  

    I will take heavy doses of truth, but truth alone will not reconcile me to what has been done; consequences have to be part of the equation for me.

    Not new laws, not just moving past the train wreck lest we see something icky - just get it out there and let's deal with it.


    reconciliation & consequences (5.00 / 0) (#37)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 06:06:45 PM EST
    Well if you are counting on BushCo wanting to reconcile then you are in for a disappointment. I don't see any of them doing so even if they were given full immunity.

    And as for consequences, Obama made his position clear on that the day he released the documents. And in his statement today in all reality he did not change positions. He simply wiped his hands clean of it and handed it off to Holder who will of course drag his feet. Feinstein remember asked for 6-8 months to complete the committee study on the issue. And after that the steam will have tapered off and it will go down the rabbit hole.

    Meanwhile it was reported in the NYT yesterday that "[WH]aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques."

    There are your consequences (maybe). Legal sanctions.


    its not like they didnt know (none / 0) (#14)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:50:18 PM EST
    almost no new information was in those memos.  only the legal arguments for it.

    That's correct (none / 0) (#19)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:02:57 PM EST
    That is exactly one of the reasons Obama released the memos. But he didn't have to release them to grant immunity. He did so in part for political cover for doing so, for granting immunity.

    But there were residual effects. And one of those was airing our dirty laundry to the world. I don't think that was wise. Others here may but I don't. I don't see any upside to it and there is a definite downside.


    I think you should start getting (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:14:58 PM EST
    comfortable with the idea because I think there is probably a lot more dirty laundry to come.

    I think after today's (none / 0) (#28)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:22:48 PM EST
    appearance by Obama it is clear he has swept his error under the carpet and won't be dragging out more dirt on the country.

    well, I think it is not the end (none / 0) (#30)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:40:36 PM EST
    or even the beginning of the end.
    but perhaps the end of the beginning.

    I think it is, I hope it is (none / 0) (#32)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:55:17 PM EST
    but you may be right.

    Unless Obama releases more classified material we got all we are going to get.


    And If We're Afraid (none / 0) (#42)
    by CDN Ctzn on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:44:07 PM EST
    of what the world may think of us because of the "dirty laundry" we've aired, I'm not sure they could think any less of us than they already do!

    what the world thinks (none / 0) (#47)
    by diogenes on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:58:52 PM EST
    Does the world think less of us for waterboarding (not fatally) a handful of prisoners or for ignoring genocide in Darfur and Rwanda?  Get a sense of proportion here as the April 24 commemoration of the Armenian genocide approaches, not that the world thinks less for us for not being willing even to say that that event happened.

    I agree, 22. (none / 0) (#53)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:59:08 AM EST
    It was a mistake for Obama to release this memos, and certainly to release them with so many details in them.

    It has just fueled what had become a quiet fire. As he had already concluded, it was time to move on. The release has hurt the CIA and undercut his credibility at the CIA. He went against his CIA director. I think this will probably result in the CIA being an overly cautious agency--at a very dangerous time in the world.

    I believe the release of the details of how certain of the techniques are done, will likely hurt US intelligence gathering. Sure, some already knew what our techniques were, but not exactly how they were done and at what point they would stop.

    I don't agree at all the FOIA request was going to result in the release of all of this information. I think that was a bogus excuse.

    Obama also undercut some of his senior staff, yet again. That indicates to me that Obama isn't strong enough, and he can be pushed around. It hurts the credibility of the administration, including Obama's, when he undercuts already announced positions.


    Isn't it the nature of a democracy that (none / 0) (#34)
    by Faust on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 05:43:40 PM EST
    everything is political? Can you give an example  of something that is not political in the sense you describe? Like say, "Thou shalt not kill innocent people in cold blood for no reason." We can get consensus about something like that, but about anything that is in any way controversial isn't politics going to enter into it?

    But we do kill innocent people in cold blood (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by nycstray on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 05:52:44 PM EST
    for no reason. Bombs/drones pop to mind. While there "may" be a "reason" to bomb, I can't think of a reason innocent people should be killed . . . .

    Yes, But (none / 0) (#43)
    by CDN Ctzn on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:51:08 PM EST
    we've found a way to at least make it sound prettier; "Collateral Damage". Now that sounds alot better than the nasty thought of us blowing the Hell out of innocent people who happened to assume they should be able to live a somewhat normal life. Silly people!
    Yes, "Collateral Damage" sounds like something two insurance adjusters would discuss over coffee in some quaint corner coffee shop.

    I think there are a lot of disheartened (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:34:50 PM EST
    people out here, realizing that, as andgarden said, torture is morphing into a political animal along the lines of reproductive choice.

    And then there's this, from someone who should have been ridden out of the Senate on a rail:

    In an interview yesterday with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) panned President Obama's recent release of Bush-era OLC memos approving torture. "I thought release of the memos was a bad idea," Lieberman said. "It wasn't necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn't really help us." Lieberman then said waterboarding should always be on the table:

    Q: First of all, is waterboarding torture?

    LIEBERMAN: Well, I take a minority position on this. Most people think it's definitely torture. The truth is, it has mostly a psychological impact on people. It's a terrible thing to do. ... I want the president of the United States in a given circumstance where we believe somebody we've got in our control may have information that could help us stop an attack, an imminent attack on the United States like 9/11 or, god forbid, worse, we ought to be able to use something like waterboarding.

    Lieberman said he does "believe General Hayden" in that waterboarding "really did work" to prevent terrorist attacks.

    Last year, Lieberman downplayed the severity of waterboarding, saying, "It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies." In February, he joked about the torture tactic at Washington's Alfalfa dinner.

    Lieberman thinks waterboarding should always be an option; that just defies comprehension, on so many levels.

    How, In All Honesty (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by CDN Ctzn on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:55:21 PM EST
    can a self-proclaimed Orthodox Jew harmonize that view with his stated religious position?

    Alot of Americans (none / 0) (#55)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:12:51 AM EST
    agree with Lieberman.

    Lyndie England!? (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Demi Moaned on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:39:52 PM EST
    Of course that was worse than no prosecutions at all. That's one reason I didn't object to the President's statement about not prosecuting CIA agents.

    But it ought not to be a true analogy. The prosecution of Lyndie England (and the handful of others like her) was a key part of the Bush Administration's cover up of Abu Ghraib.

    If we're not going after the big fish, prosecutions are worse than nothing.

    I frankly don't see how a Truth Commission constitutes accountability at all, much less acts as a deterrent to future torturers.

    In her novel "A Dangerous Age," (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:49:54 AM EST
    Ellen Gilchrist emphasizes England was a reservist who was not trained to be a prison guard.  

    Well, Blair (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by lilburro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:20:56 PM EST
    was in favor of the memos' release at least.  He is a level above Panetta and Brennan.  I don't think it's necessary to read his statement as all that ominous.

    IMO, the problem is that the President, with the AG's approval, can always authorize whatever interrogation methods he wants.  Unless we somehow change that model, prosecutions IMO are the only way we prevent future abuses of power by the President and AG.  In the future, if someone authorized torture, they would be breaking US and international law (as were Bushco) - but they would be less likely to authorize that torture if they knew that in doing so they would be held to account.  IMO.

    Well (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 06:04:08 PM EST
    The next time one of ours is shot down and the enemy puts torture on the table,

    Will Obama, say, oh, okay, but you can only waterboard them 183 times and then let's let bygones be bygones.

    Not that I ever want to experience such a thing, but it will be an interesting scenario under this new paradigm of forgiving and forgetting torture.

    How Does (5.00 / 2) (#40)
    by CDN Ctzn on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:26:01 PM EST
    "Blanket Amnesty" = "Accountability"?

    Why truth commission? (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by ricosuave on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:55:49 PM EST
    I understand that the Senate won't investigate, and a "truth commission" is all we might get, but can someone please explain to me a reason why the Senate can't or shouldn't investigate this?  Why should they abdicate their responsibilities to someone else?

    i do, vigorously. (5.00 / 2) (#49)
    by cpinva on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 11:20:51 PM EST
    I do not disagree.

    the failure to determine the responsible parties, those who wrote supporting legal memoranda, those who used those memoranda as the basis for committing acts they inherently knew were wrong (why bother asking for legal justification, if you truly believe your actions are morally and ethically correct?), would constitute a complete abrogation of responsibility by the administration and the DoJ.

    these people should be identified, and charged with war crimes, and crimes against humanity. what makes them any different than the nazi lawyers who provided legal cover for the tactics then used by the gestapo? or the japanese who routinely committed viscious acts of torture on both allied POW's and civilians? they too claimed to "just be following orders", and to have received legal guidance and official approval for their barbaric acts. they were prosecuted just the same.

    this is the only way to reclaim our national honor: show the world we not only condemn these acts, but will find and prosecute anyone committing them in our name, legal advice or not.

    as it is, we have no standing to complain, if any our people, captured, are subject to torture.

    Indeed, not just waterboarding, walling, etc. (none / 0) (#4)
    by vicndabx on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:33:40 PM EST
    the known consequences

    If it comes out that some serious event was prevented by way of procedures used under Bush all bets are off.  I doubt Americans will care about torture, NIMBY mentality will kick in.  That is, "it doesn't apply to me or mine, therefore I have no worries here."  

    not just (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:47:26 PM EST
    indeed.  I think any investigation could not stop at the stuff we know about.  it would have to go into the things we dont yet know about.  the people who actually died and all the rest.  IMO considering the stuff we KNOW about, there is probably a lot more we dont.  

    but this:

    "I have come to the conclusion that the better response would be a blanket amnesty"

    would certainly result in soiled dungarees around left blogistan.


    I'm extremely skeptical (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by Demi Moaned on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:31:24 PM EST
    ... that any really convincing evidence exists to the effect that
    some serious event was prevented by way of procedures used under Bush.

    For one thing, they don't seem to have had any fact-based understanding of who they had in custody. They were picking up so many people from so many places for the most trivial reasons.

    Second, the likelihood of getting information that will prevent some 'serious event' falls off rapidly with the time the prisoner is held.

    Third, how do you demonstrate the chain of causality in something that didn't happen.


    Fourth, just about everything (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:40:36 PM EST
    they did publicize turned out to be lame - like the story about the Haitian teenagers who didn't have enough money to buy a gun (in Florida of all places) who they claimed to have stopped from attacking the Sears Tower.  It later turned out that the FBI mole was effectively the mastermind of all the plans they supposedly had and couldn't afford to carry out.

    Does anyone seriously believe that if the Bush Administration had managed to thwart some really awful plan they would have had the self-discipline not to publicize their achievement widely and repeatedly?  I don't.


    Does Anyone Else (none / 0) (#44)
    by CDN Ctzn on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:52:29 PM EST
    see some eerie parallals to the movie "Minority Report" in all this?

    I'd argue that Obama's statement, since (none / 0) (#5)
    by tigercourse on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:33:40 PM EST
    it comes after Blair's, superceedes the DNI's argument.

    Then you take Obama's (none / 0) (#12)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:47:56 PM EST
    statement literally? Go read a few of my posts today for a different view that will probably make you think twice.

    No. I'm just saying that for the sake of (none / 0) (#16)
    by tigercourse on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:54:04 PM EST
    appearences, it doesn't really matter what the DNI said before Obama laid down the law.

    Please explain (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:01:19 PM EST
    ...before Obama laid down the law.

    Where did he lay down the law?  His statement was nebulous, while Blair emphatically said, "But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos."


    Dissonance is putting it nicely (none / 0) (#38)
    by Dadler on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 06:50:06 PM EST
    It's actually more like a joke, when the President, the guy supposedly in charge, is talking in the most eloquent terms about our values, when HE AND WE ALL KNOW it's just a show.  How can it not be at this point, when his underlings are going around contradicting him without the sligtest sense of apprehension?

    And if you think torture's bad... (none / 0) (#39)
    by Dadler on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:04:36 PM EST
    Bright, sunny, safe day? (none / 0) (#41)
    by ricosuave on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 07:38:14 PM EST
    Blair is just plain wrong.  The founding fathers of this nation were able to outline several versions of detailed lists of rights and freedoms while under the impending threat of death from the British, not on a bright and sunny day.  The defendants at Nuremberg were not excused on this defense, and the specific use of waterboarding by the Japanese was not excusable under this defense.

    The Argentine Junta was facing a clear threat of internal violence and terrorism, and felt justified in using torture techniques to stop it.  We do not look back on them and excuse their actions because of the exigencies of the day.

    Even if his actions don't back it up, Obama's statement is right on the money.  We don't hire guys like Blair because we think they will sit in their office cowering with fear when we are threatened.  We hire them with the hopes that they will show a little sack when times are tough and stand up for what is right.  

    If the 20th century showed us anything, it was that any bonehead can run his fiefdom through brutality and depravity.  The leaders from the 20th century that stand out as great are the ones that led us down a different path: Roosevelt talking about fearing fear itself, Kennedy establishing the Peace Corps, Ghandi and Mandela bringing majority rule and democracy without massive reprisals, and even Reagan calling for the wall to be torn down.  Blair is demonstrating an uninspiring mediocrity that we just don't need right now.

    BTD, are you saying (none / 0) (#51)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:32:43 AM EST
    Blair sounds like a problem to me
    because the other parts of the memo got leaked or because you don't agree with his conclusions (that the US did acquire useful information after using torture)?

    See my latest post (none / 0) (#52)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:35:57 AM EST