That Beltway Thing You Do

The DOJ appointment of a special prosecutor has the Beltway press all aflutter. Why?

Because it’s that thing they do:

The art of the hissy fit lies in your ability to bring the entire media over to the fainting couch over even the most absurd allegations of impropriety and insensitivity. Pearl clutching and hankie wringing have become extremely important hardball political tactics, as hard as that is to believe. It’s especially effective if you can do it over some things you yourself have brought into the public square.

So, why the breathless reportage and ominous internal hand-wringing? Because avoiding the real backdrop makes for a more conflict-laden story:

Holder notified the White House that he was reluctantly leaning toward naming a prosecutor to review whether laws had been broken during interrogations — the very thing Obama had said he wanted to avoid. And the word Holder got back, according to people familiar with the conversations, was that the decision was up to him….

The just-announced review by career prosecutor John H. Durham is being closely followed by the intelligence community for clues about whether it will remain fixed on the low-level CIA employees and contractors who may have stepped out of legal bounds. Once Durham starts digging, some analysts said, the veteran prosecutor could uncover evidence that leads him higher up the chain of command in an inquiry that grows broader than the what the Justice Department outlined Monday.

What follows is a quote from Dick Cheney excoriating the probe.  With nary a mention that it was Cheney who instigated, steered and manhandled these policies into place despite their illegality.

Why is Cheney so irate? Because bluster gets him column inches without having any real fear of direct questions of his own involvement. Why? Because that just isn’t how things are done in the Beltway.  No inconvenient truths that might rock your access boat.

Here’s an inconvenient truth that press accounts fail to mention:  Why does DOJ have this investigation? Because internal CIA punted it over to them in a direct referral for investigation of potential criminal wrongdoing.

So why the review from Holder? Because when the allegations referred by CIA IG include murders, you can’t pretend you didn’t see anything worthy of investigation.  Especially with the potential of a heavy Addington thumb on the prior DOJ investigative scales.

The righting of the governmental ship will not be easy, nor will it be free from conflict. The argument is that we cannot afford to probe into illegal actions in the past because it stifles CIA and other intel activity in the present and future. It’s a legitimate fear, but not the only one. The thing that Beltway pundits ignore altogether is the mandate of the DOJ: once an investigation is passed to them for review by another executive agency, if there is evidence of wrongdoing and potential illegality at issue, they have to follow the evidence where it leads.

The CIA passed the investigative buck to the DOJ, who then took a long, hard look at the evidence presented to them and found legitimate questions of illegality just as the CIA IG’s office did in making the referral.  

All the whining in the world cannot obscure that simple truth.

These conflicts? Are not new, as Chris Hayes so ably maps out in his brilliant Church Committee reporting

Walter Pincus reports that CIA will cover the legal costs for CIA agents implicated in the investigation. Well they should, given that line agents were following policies issued from much higher above.

The question we all ought to be asking is not will the lower level folks be held to account, but rather will the higher ups pushing illegal policies? All the growly tap dancing in the world from Dick Cheney does not mask his role in this. Nor does it obscure one singularly important fact: the rule of law applies to everyone, no matter how high their power may reach.

Dick Cheney’s objection isn’t really about national security.  That Cheney bluster is about someone having the audacity to infer the rule of law might apply to him, too.


 
65 Responses to "That Beltway Thing You Do"
Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 05:39 am 1

Morning all — coffee anyone?


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 06:04 am 2

SHorter Cheney – don’t look at these guys it may implicate me.


klynn | Friday August 28, 2009 06:10 am 3

Dick Cheney’s objection isn’t really about national security. That Cheney bluster is about someone having the audacity to infer the rule of law might apply to him, too.

And that scares him.

Rachel had a great interview with Col. Wilkerson about Cheney. He focused on Cheney’s consuming focus on fear.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:13 am 4
In response to foothillsmike @ 2

Look! Over there! Something shiny of my own making!


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:14 am 5
In response to klynn @ 3

And the last thing you ever want? Someone making national security decisions based on fear as their primary motivator.

You make very bad decisions based on fear. Very, very bad.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:17 am 6

btw, I hope everyone enjoys the ear worm YouTube above. It’s one of those songs that sticks with you for hours. hehehehehe

Kind of like Cheney’s BS, but less grating.


dakine01 | Friday August 28, 2009 06:17 am 7

I believe this is the same Dick Cheney who was claiming that the release of the CIA IG report would “exonerate” him?

Anybody wanna buy a bridge?


Peterr | Friday August 28, 2009 06:17 am 8
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 5

See “Oval Office, 2001-2009″


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 06:19 am 9
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 5

Cheney was operating from both fear and delusion.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:21 am 10
In response to dakine01 @ 7

Exactly. Pardon me while I don’t bother holding my breath.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:23 am 11
In response to foothillsmike @ 9

You know, the weird thing is that the assumption is always that cooler heads will eventually prevail. But the cooler heads were deliberately cut out of the process or end-run for a long time because Cheney and his minion squad knew exactly how to pull the levers of government to make that happen.

THAT ought to be the focus of whatever Congressional inquiry may be ongoing. How to prevent that from ever happening again within the halls of government would be a worthwhile project to undertake.


Jo Fish | Friday August 28, 2009 06:23 am 12

As far as I’m concerned, any CIA folks who roll over on the higher-ups get conditional immunity once all the prosecutions are finis and the last appeal is done. Bonus points for anyone smart/anal enough to keep any Addington/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush memos outlining specifics or even general discussions of torture and directing “Make it so”.

Let the pearl clutching begin. Pass the popcorn.


jayt | Friday August 28, 2009 06:26 am 13

hey – no use of the word “pardon” while discussing Cheney, ok? *g*

mornin’ all.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:27 am 14
In response to Jo Fish @ 12

Don’t you think that has to be part of the fear on Cheney’s part? Memos regarding all those meetings he and Scooter and Addington took at CIA in the early years? There have to be some out there — CIA agents aren’t going to do any of this shit without CYA memos out there somewhere in their files.

Would you put your ass out there on the line without some personal political insurance in hand when the person demanding your obedience is someone as baskstabby as Dick? Especially after what happened with Valerie?


Peterr | Friday August 28, 2009 06:28 am 15
In response to Jo Fish @ 12

Absolutely.

Holder’s declaration BEFORE the investigation gets going that he doesn’t intend to prosecute folks who “just followed orders” removes a big tool from the investigator’s toolbox in terms of inducing people to cooperate.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:29 am 16
In response to Peterr @ 8

Sadly, yes. SIGH


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:30 am 17
In response to Peterr @ 15

I think that came from the earlier declaration from Rahm on This Week earlier this year — which had to come from higher up in the WH. I do wonder if there isn’t some piece of evidence or several showing misconduct fairly high in the chain that they are working up toward…


jayt | Friday August 28, 2009 06:32 am 18
In response to Peterr @ 15

unless Holder demands strict proof that someone was indeed following orders…..


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 06:33 am 19
In response to Peterr @ 15

Investigating and making them proove that they were following orders can accomplish the end. If they had the perception that they were going to the big house regardless they might be more inclined to take a bullet.


SouthernDragon | Friday August 28, 2009 06:35 am 20

Would you put your ass out there on the line without some personal political insurance in hand when the person demanding your obedience is someone as backstabby as Dick?

Depends on how far down the food chain one is. CIA has always had its share of cowboys and in an anything goes attitude from the top lotsa shit can happen.


SouthernDragon | Friday August 28, 2009 06:36 am 21
In response to SouthernDragon @ 20

edit: …cowboys and in with an…


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:37 am 22
In response to SouthernDragon @ 20

Very true. And coloring outside the lines has always been a big part of the job description for a lot of these folks — but they also knew that there was potential for criminal accountability. Remove that as a mitigating force? Don’t tell me that Cheney didn’t know exactly what that could mean…or that it wasn’t encouraged.


cinnamonape | Friday August 28, 2009 06:37 am 23

Yeah…legal fees. Sounds familiar.

President Nixon informs chief of staff H. R. Haldeman that the Watergate burglars (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) “are going to need money.” The next day, “White House Plumber” G. Gordon Liddy also tell WH aides Frederick LaRue and Robert Mardian that he and his fellow burglars “will need money for bail, legal expenses, and family support”. Mardian says that the request is blackmail and should not be paid. Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt is later shown to be the center of a plot to blackmail the Nixon for around $1 million in “hush money” and guilty pleas to prevent the investigation going up the chain of command.


Peterr | Friday August 28, 2009 06:37 am 24

The document trail is what gave Jackson all the cards at Nuremberg. Cheney may be blind to that, but I’ll guarantee you that Addington isn’t.


ghostof911 | Friday August 28, 2009 06:39 am 25
In response to foothillsmike @ 9

Cheney was operating from both fear and delusion.

I don’t buy it. All the “terror” was of his own making.

He was operating from one thing only: his boundless lust for power.


Jo Fish | Friday August 28, 2009 06:40 am 26

One of my biggest fears: a rerun of what happened with Poindexter/North during Iran-Contra. Or Ted Stevens. Note to the DoJ: please do not assign any Regent or Liberty “Law School Alums” in the room or anywhere near this investigation. We don’t need one of the major players immunized/compromised because it was the will of Jayzus!! After Monica Goodling et al, is this an unreasonable fear?


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:44 am 27
In response to Jo Fish @ 26

Thing is, all this stuff has been sitting out there at DOJ for quite a while just languishing in Alice Fisher’s criminal division shop. (I know, knock me over with a feather, too.) Why wasn’t it closed out? THAT is a question I’m currently trying to answer.


SouthernDragon | Friday August 28, 2009 06:44 am 28

Yep. William Colby was many things, stupid wasn’t one of them. We had an old fisherman as a primary source for good intel, had an agent who worked him perfectly. New guy comes in wanting to be a cowboy and decides the old man might be a double and wanted him terminated. CO went to Colby and Colby yanked the new guy. Different time, different place, different attitude. Filthy dirty game but they knew what worked and what didn’t. 40 years later Cheney and his minions thought they knew better.


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 06:45 am 29
In response to Jo Fish @ 26

Might want to add Yoo’s students to the list.


tjbs | Friday August 28, 2009 06:45 am 30

One of the memos stated anything short of organ failure goes.
There’s a least one and possibly 108 or more homicides during questioning.
Houston we have a total organ failure problem.
We always are talking about executions of innocents until proved otherwise by a criminal investigation and torture.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:47 am 31
In response to tjbs @ 30

Yeah, I think death does constitute “organ failure.” *g*


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:48 am 32
In response to SouthernDragon @ 28

It’s always the same that the hotshots think they know better, and the veterans have to yank them back. Pretty much in any capacity in which I’ve ever worked, including law enforcement. There’s always a cowboy, but he’s generally not the most effective person on the job, eh?


ghostof911 | Friday August 28, 2009 06:49 am 33
In response to Peterr @ 24

Weren’t trucks for the D.C. shredding companies making routine trips to the VP’s residence? Cheney was surely well aware of the paper trail of the Nazis with which they were hung at Nuremberg.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:49 am 34

Of course, come to think of it, you have to want to do the job effectively for that to matter, don’t you?


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:50 am 35
In response to ghostof911 @ 33

I keep thinking back to Addington trying to retrieve all existing copies of particular memos…and wondering how many he was successful at keeping from the light of day.


barbara | Friday August 28, 2009 06:52 am 36
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 4

In this evolving era where Cheney does not have government honchos and factoti on a choke chain, ditto at least some of the media (emphasis on “some”), it seems possible that Darth is hearing the pitterpat of little feet drawing closer.

Circle the shiny things, boys.


Jo Fish | Friday August 28, 2009 06:53 am 37

A very good question too. I guess there was so much pressure on this “Look forward, not back” stuff that everything languished. The problem is that lies, like facts become inconvenient millstones around the liars neck after a while, and either need to be disposed of (difficult) or rewritten/retold to make them more acceptable. With facts it’s not quite the same, and perhaps that’s why Fisher’s files are so, ummm, static. They’re full of incovenient facts which can’t be rewritten as easily as the shameful fiction of “enhanced interrogation” or Torture in any other country, including ours before Bush.


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 06:55 am 38

Then not only do we have what was in the memo but the attempt to cover up too.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:56 am 39
In response to barbara @ 36

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is Marcy poking holes in whatever Dick’s book claims he did or did not do. Lying weasels rarely change their spots, or their MOs, but you know he’s going to throw out a few whoppers on Scooter’s behalf while taking none of the responsibility for Scooter taking his fall.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 06:58 am 40
In response to foothillsmike @ 38

Yeah, gathering up all the evidence so you can destroy it? Doesn’t exactly say clean conscience, now does it?


ghostof911 | Friday August 28, 2009 06:58 am 41

Inevitably there are unaccounted for copies out there retained by mysterious folks for CYA purposes.

That’s got to be tormenting their sleep.


SunnyNobility | Friday August 28, 2009 06:59 am 42
In response to Peterr @ 24

Do we know whose payroll Addington is on these days?


tjbs | Friday August 28, 2009 07:01 am 43

One thing that will blow this open is freedom of the press.
Rather than the press being inbed with the troops they are supposed to observe from a close distance and report the damage inflicted by our chosen national policies.

That where the torture pictures come into play. Those pictures are truth and the public, weather they want to or not, must be free to look at and use those pictures in arguments about the results of our national policies. We will pay the price of our actions weather or not we see the pictures.

The President has no constitutional right to obstruct freedom of the press as to our past actions by hiding the truth, which he claims we will never do again though we can’t see what we won’t do again.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 07:01 am 44
In response to SunnyNobility @ 42

Last I heard, he still hadn’t found any employment. But that’s been a month or so ago since I last asked…


Jo Fish | Friday August 28, 2009 07:02 am 45

I truly to this day wonder why Scooter hasn’t said anything. Is he waiting for The Sith-Lord Cheney to keel over?Or has he been paid off to keep his mouth shut unto seven generations? It’s one of the incongruities that in a town where everyone talks, he’s said nothing.


alank | Friday August 28, 2009 07:03 am 46

The DOJ are co-conspirators. It’s a conflict of interest for them to be involved in this. They are incompetent, to boot. Keystone cops comes to mind. And the CIA smiles, quietly.


dGkJm | Friday August 28, 2009 07:03 am 47

Since this justice department is already a failure, hopefully future ones will not use this one as an example in how to seek justice.

If this justice department had been responsible for enforcing the civil rights laws of the past. We would have a different President and Attorney General.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 07:05 am 48
In response to Jo Fish @ 45

Having sat there watching him up close and personal, I think he believes that everything he did was the right thing to do in service to his country. Which means service to Cheney who Libby felt was in the nation’s best interest. True believer, that one.

The bigger question for me is why his wife hasn’t said anything. She was the one I thought would say something just based on her body language during any number of the revelations from the stand on Cheney’s machinations and how Scooter was his pawn to do the dirty work and take the fall.

She was a bright woman, and you could see in her eyes that the evidence was ringing true, even as she stood by Scooter because she cared about him. I’ve always wondered if she wouldn’t come forward at some point and spill something about Cheney — but I haven’t heard if she has. There is a very good reason they set Barbara Comstock as a minder on Harriet in the courtroom, I think.


Jo Fish | Friday August 28, 2009 07:05 am 49

Ah, another future employee of the Texas University System? *g


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 07:06 am 50
In response to Jo Fish @ 45

Isn’t he being paid off with a job in one of the rethug stink tanks?


barbara | Friday August 28, 2009 07:08 am 51

Yes, yes, yes. You know (why do people say that?), as I was reading your post, it occurred to me that it’s time for “someone” to clamp their jaws onto the issue of Cheney (and by extension, Bush) and fully document and expose his leading role in torture, Plamegate, et al. Next step, litigation.

Who, who, who?

Seymour Hersh? Maybe.

Marcy Wheeler? FDL’s human beacon into the dark deeds of the past eight years. That Marcy Wheeler? Oh, duh! Of course.

Christy, did FDLers meet the dollar amount to fund Marcy’s work? Took a quick glance at home page, and didn’t see the donation box for this.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 07:09 am 52
In response to barbara @ 51

It’s on Marcy’s home page, I believe, and we came pretty close.


foothillsmike | Friday August 28, 2009 07:11 am 53
In response to barbara @ 51

It is still short of the goal. It is on the emptywheel page.


barbara | Friday August 28, 2009 07:13 am 54
In response to Jo Fish @ 45

Interesting. He’s old enough and washed-up enough to be wanting atonement. Only way for that to happen is to tell the whole story. Not holding my breath, but it’s a delicious possibility. Where is he, btw?


perris | Friday August 28, 2009 07:14 am 55

as wilkerson said, those involved in these programs of torture are less then one percent and there were professionals that refused being part of cheney’s depravity

these are the “team b’s” or the team b wanna b’s


SunnyNobility | Friday August 28, 2009 07:15 am 56

Glad you’re watching. Do you think he is on a bona fide job hunt?


ghostof911 | Friday August 28, 2009 07:19 am 57
In response to barbara @ 51

The allegation has been made by Sibel Edmonds under oath that Palmegate was exposed befor the Novak story broke.

Interestingly, she (Sibel Edmonds) claims that (Marc) Grossman blew the cover of Valerie Plame’s company Brewster Jennings back in 2001, causing CIA to shut it down, so Robert Novak was not guilty of exposing the CIA cover mechanism.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 07:30 am 58
In response to SunnyNobility @ 56

I don’t know. Addington tends to be incredibly secretive about everything he does at all times, so it is always hard to tell anything about him for certain. But I know he did whine about being a “victim of torture hysteria” or some such in and around the Beltway rumor mill earlier in the year.


Christy Hardin Smith | Friday August 28, 2009 07:45 am 59

Muppets are up, for anyone wanting a snicker…


RevBev | Friday August 28, 2009 08:06 am 60

Anything that Cheney blasts forth to excoriate is likely to be pretty good, true, and decent at first impression….and later on, me thinks.


SunnyNobility | Friday August 28, 2009 08:12 am 61

Would think Dick needs him now more than ever. He has the resources to employ him – directly or indirectly.

If they’d had a falling out, we’d never know. Seems unlikely we’ll ever know anything he doesn’t choose to reveal. Intriguing.


skiritae | Friday August 28, 2009 10:42 am 62

The question we all ought to be asking is not will the lower level folks be held to account, but rather will the higher ups pushing illegal policies?

Actually, the question we all ought to be asking is how does this make our country safer?

If there were men willing to inconvenience a murderer by depriving him of sleep, waterboarding, or even scaring him s***less by firing a pistol – and it prevented the murder of my wife or children…. I’m OK with that. I want to thank them for having the courage and committment to do something I could probably not do.

You all are the townsfolk mob with pitchforks, torches and tar, and Dick Cheney is your Frankenstein. You HAVE to have an evil person to hate , and you are going to storm the castle doggone it, regardless of the consequences.


lllphd | Friday August 28, 2009 11:31 am 63
In response to ghostof911 @ 25

fwiw, that boundless lust for power itself emanates from fear. and delusion (which is itself a defense against fear).

all fear. all the time.


lllphd | Friday August 28, 2009 11:45 am 64
In response to Jo Fish @ 37

you know, i’ve never thought this investigation has languished. in fact, i am frankly AMAZED at how far we’ve come; for cryin’ out loud, it’s only SEVEN MONTHS into this administration. and they’re following the stench.

i’ve always thought it exceedingly important and therefore shrewd of obama to keep himself above the fray on all this illegal admin stuff. think about it; how would that be in any way effective?

it also seems to me that it is crucial for him to keep his guns holstered and not go in like gangbusters trying to clean up the whole town in one swashbuckling shootout. that, folks, was W’s way. obama has made it clear he intends to govern according to his role as laid out in article I; execute the laws congress passes and SCOTUS approves. period.

consider what it would mean for him to have directed holder to change the govt stance on all those cases hanging in courts when he came in. what was he supposed to do? oh judge, nevermind (channeling emily latella), we’re the new sheriff in town and want the world to know we don’t agree with the guys who started this whole thing, so we withdraw our position and argument. ??

obama WANTS these cases to have their day in court! he WANTS the arguments to get out there so they can be shot down. in the courts! if he just swaggers in all W like and installs what we know to be the more constitutional way by decree, these arguments and positions will someday once again find their way back into the zeitgeist and we’ll be right back where we are now, fighting these same battles.

yeah, remember iran-contra? and even watergate. both those cases got truncated when it became clear to those close to the evidence that there was a lot more incriminating crap to be found, so we’d better just quit while we’re ahead. hence we get the same iran-contra thugs running the damn country!

nope; i think obama really does have amazing scope on the big picture with this one. he recognizes how important it is to be patient when you want changes to happen appropriately, which includes with stability. if we make corrections that aren’t deep enough, they won’t take. i’m all for giving this the time it’s due.

hell, i assumed it would be at least a couple of years before we got this far on these things. i’m actually impressed.


lllphd | Friday August 28, 2009 12:06 pm 65

christy, have wondered (well, not too hard, as their reputation does precede them) why the MSM has not taken note of the curiosity of cheney’s opining on this at all at any point.

i mean, if he was never involved, why should he have anything to say about any of it? if it was the case that he had nothing to do with any of these decisions, then we would not hear a peep from him, would we?

methinks he doth protest way too much. and it’s so obvious, but nobody points this out. or, heaven forbid, bothers to actually ask him this question.


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