I’d like to take a minute for this “Friday Rewind” to introduce my friend and politically polar opposite, Lil Mike. He has an amazing ability to argue his side of an argument and like me will go on for days on a single subject. At present time, we have logged over 10000 hrs(ok, that may be exaggerated a little) into the “Valerie Plame, Leak case” and I haven’t a single doubt that no two people on the planet,including those involved and the so called ‘experts’, are more well versed than we are when it comes to that subject(that’s not an exaggeration) . We both are abnormally addicted to current issues and researching them in order to prepare for the debate that will follow. There have been many topics that I had no knowledge of until Mike decided to bring them up for debate.. and then I was forced into learning the minutia of said topic in order to keep up with him.. as he has had to do with me…HA!
I can’t say that either of us have ever changed each others mind on any particular issue.. and given our politically polar opposites, that’s not a surprise… what is a surprise are the things we actually agree on. But those are so ‘eclectic’ that they can not be predicted… and that’s what makes it fun.
Mike is the best adversary I’ve ever come across. He can make me laugh,cry,wonder wtf planet he is from.. he can even anger me to the point of having to drown small animals just for the ‘release’.. but through it all, after 10 years we’ve been able to go from such extreme emotions on one topic, to another topic with not a single hard-feeling or ‘carry-over’. Each conversation is a clean-slate no matter how intense the last one, or in most cases, the current one is.
and without further ado.. Your (late) Friday rewind…
Some wag once said that Obama keeps all of his promises; they just have an expiration date. I guess that’s how we got from “President Barack Obama will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees” to it “is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general” within a few days. That was a quick turnaround, even by Obama standards. However events and leftie blogs pushed Obama rather quickly after the release of the “torture memos,” which reveal the legal underpinning for what is euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation.”
The timing strikes me as odd considering just a week ago a Spanish court decided to investigate whether to pursue charges against Bush administration officials who provided the legal underpinning for those interrogations. Then low and behold, the Obama administration declassifies those very documents written by those Justice Department lawyers. That could hardly be a coincidence. The message seems to be that the Obama administration will not attempt to protect and may even assist, in international prosecutions of Bush administration officials, and who knows, maybe even prosecute a few themselves.
I took a look at the torture memos out of curiosity and to confirm that things people were saying were in there actually was. I’ve learned you can’t trust someone else’s interpretation. Full disclosure: I didn’t read the whole thing. I just don’t have the legal background to make a determination if the case the Justice Department attorneys tried to make made sense or not, but I was curious about a few things.
First of all, what was the classification of these damn things? Looking at the pdf of the memo, I could see that the pages were all classified Top Secret (scribble scribble) NOFORN, but what was the caveat or code word that was scribbled out? I magnified and tried to see through the blackened areas, but no such luck. Just curious I guess. I was just wondering if it was a cool sounding codeword, Top Secret Maximum Hammer, or just something dorky, Top Secret Loosie Goosie?
Another thing; what was the deal with all the waterboarding? The original leaks described it as the most successful interrogation technique since “good cop, bad cop.” Abu Zubaida supposedly broke after 35 seconds. However page 37 of the memo details something more complicated:
…where authorized, it may be used for two “sessions” per day of up to two hours. During a session, water may be applied up to six times for ten seconds or longer (but never more than 40 seconds). In a 24-hour period, a detainee may be subjected to up to twelve minutes of water appliaction. See id. at 42. Additionally, the waterboard may be used on as many as five days during a 30-day approval period.
…The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002” in the interrogation of Zubaida…and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM”
So somebody check my math, but that that means either the guidelines for waterboarding are wrong, they ignored their own guidelines, or the number of waterboarding sessions is wrong, since the could not have waterboarded that many times in a month if they followed the guidelines. Or they are counting applications, instead of sessions. It’s too vague to tell.
As far as I know, I’m the first person to discover this, so somebody give a prize or something.
However I’m not the first person to notice the incongruity of it being reported that Zubaida broke after 35 seconds and being waterboarded 83 times in one month. I don’t see how both of those can be true.
But like a 23 minute Arlo Guthrie song, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. OK well maybe a little, but what I am really worried about is the Obama administration deciding to settle scores. Since President Obama is the Attorney General’s boss, going from being not interested in pursuing prosecution of Bush era officials to saying it’s up to the Attorney General is tantamount to giving the green light to prosecute.
Now I am of two minds on this. There is one part of me, the mean, hateful part, that would love to see lawyers have to take responsibility for writing legal opinions, and by taking responsibility I mean forced to pull their orange jumpsuits down in a dark corner of a federal prison and get doo doo raped. I’m not a fan of lawyers as you might notice. Generally, lawyers don’t have to take any responsibility for their poor performance. Their clients do. These lawyers, if prosecuted, certainly would.
Also there is the precedent. Once one administration opens the door to prosecuting the previous administration for policies it disagreed with, every time there is a change in power, the new administration will do the same. In 4 years I could sit back and watch members of the Obama administration be indicted for all manner of crimes. What comes around goes around eh?
But that is only one side. I have a more dominate opinion on this, not one based on score settling, hatred of the bar, or getting revenge on wrongs, real or otherwise, on the current administration at some point in the future, but based on reason, rule of law, and the dangers setting bad precedents.
First of all, I’m not sure there is even a crime here. There may be a crime somehow under Spanish law, but I’m fairly certain there is no Federal Statute against giving a legal opinion that the current administration disagrees with. One can imagine the kangaroo courts if we decide it’s OK to prosecute judges for ruling on a decision that’s been overturned, or a legislator who votes for a law that is later found to be unconstitutional. That would be as criminal as anything those Bush Justice Department attorneys did.
The precedent of one administration getting revenge on the previous one would be a bad one. Senator Leahy’s idea of a truth and reconciliation commission; as if going from the Bush administration to the Obama one is equivalent to eliminating apartheid, or the Nuremberg Trials, is ridiculous. During every election, we always like to repeat the old canard about “the peaceful exchange of power” but how long would that be true if we up the stakes every time political parties switch positions of power? If hundreds of administration officials could expect nothing but indictment if a rival party takes power, are we really not that far from Peron’s Argentina?
It’s one thing to indict and prosecute officials who have actually done criminal wrongdoing, but I’ve noticed from my friends on the left is their tendency to want to criminalize policy differences. They would love to have Bush and Cheney doing the perp walk, weighed down with chains, but ask them what sort of charges its usually something vague, like “war crimes” or just that they were criminals. Their real crimes? Holding different policy positions. Not violating federal statutes. If we try to prosecute attorneys for writing legal opinions, that won’t be justice, it will be punishment. Punishment for losing the election.
Once we cross that particular Rubicon, it’s damage that cannot be undone. Rome could never go back to it’s Republic, and if we allow score settling after every change of power, we won’t be able to go back either.
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- Released Memos Could Lead to More Disclosures (nytimes.com)