Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pundit Robert Novak, outer of Valerie Plame, dies

Robert D. Novak, 1931-2009
Combative Writer Broke High-Stakes Scoops
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

...David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobbying organization, said Mr. Novak helped transform supply-side economics from a fringe idea into a tenet of President Ronald Reagan's economic policy. Keene called Mr. Novak "a giant of the profession" who "gave respectability and visibility to conservative ideas and positions in the 1970s, when they were mostly dismissed." ...

CIA Used Gun, Drill in Interrogation

CIA Used Gun, Drill in Interrogation
IG Report Describes Tactics Against Alleged Cole Mastermind
By Joby Warrick and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 22, 2009

CIA interrogators used a handgun and an electric drill to try to frighten a captured al-Qaeda commander into giving up information, according to a long-concealed agency report due to be made public next week, former and current U.S. officials who have read the document said Friday.

The tactics -- which one official described Friday as a threatened execution -- were used on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, according to the CIA's inspector general's report on the agency's interrogation program. Nashiri, who was captured in November 2002 and held for four years in one of the CIA's "black site" prisons, ultimately became one of three al-Qaeda chieftains subjected to a form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

The report also says that a mock execution was staged in a room next to one terrorism suspect, according to Newsweek magazine, citing two sources for its information. The magazine was the first to publish details from the report, which it did on its Web site late Friday.

A federal judge in New York has ordered a redacted version of the classified IG report to be publicly released Monday, in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Since June, lawyers for the Justice Department and the CIA have been scrutinizing the document to determine how much of it can be made public. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been weighing the report's findings as part of a broader probe into the CIA's use of harsh interrogation methods...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Free speech: journalists in Viet Nam arrested for criticising China

Vietnam to Its Journalists: Don't Tread on China
By Martha Ann Overland
Sep. 05, 2009

Hanoi is stepping up pressure on its critics, detaining one Vietnamese journalist and two Vietnamese bloggers this past week after they wrote provocative reports...

The latest arrest took place early morning on Sept. 3 when police detained blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 30, at her home in the coastal city of Nha Trang. Quynh's mother said that plainclothes police had been watching the house for several months, ever since her daughter had started criticizing Vietnam for giving China the green light to mine its vast stores of bauxite...

"The warrant said my daughter was arrested under Article 258 of the Criminal Code for abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the state's interests," said an emotional Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, Quynh's mother.

"They searched her house until 3:30 that morning and then put her in a van that disappeared into the quiet of the night." The family has not heard from her since...


Vietnam: Blogger Dieu Cay arrested

by John Kennedy
Apr 24, 2008
Global Voices Advocacy--Defending Free Speech Online

...Nguyen Van Hai, a prominent citizen reporter there who blogs under the name Dieu Cay, was arrested this past week as he led efforts to organize local bloggers to follow the torch's passing.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Who are the people who don't want Cheney investigated? The same ones who impeached Bill Clinton?

David Broder and media culpability for Bush crimes
April 26, 2009
by Glenn Greenwald

I read David Broder's truly wretched screed yesterday -- in which he demands immunity for Bush officials from investigation and prosecution and attacks those who advocate accountability -- and decided that I wouldn't write about it until today because I didn't want it to infect my Saturday. For purposes of catharsis, I did immediately note on Twitter that Broder's article was "a tour de force of Beltway sickness - even for him" and that "the Washington press corps has exactly the 'dean' it deserves." Fortunately, Hilzoy, Scott Lemieux and Roger Ailes -- among others -- have now made most of the points quite conclusively that need to be made about the morally depraved joke that David Broder is, leaving just a couple of observations worth noting.

To justify the absolute immunity he wants for government lawbreakers, Broder describes the Bush era as "one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States." But that's easy to say now that the Bush presidency is over and the evidence of its criminality so undeniable. But Broder never said any such thing while it was all taking place, when it mattered. In fact, he did the opposite: he mocked those who tried to sound the alarm about how radical and "dark" the Bush presidency was and repeatedly defended what Bush officials were doing as perfectly normal, unalarming and well within the bounds of mainstream and legitimate policy.

As but one example, Broder -- in a September 15, 2006 Washington Post chat -- was asked by a reader about an Editorial in The New York Times which appeared that morning that warned of the grave dangers of abolishing habeas corpus and the protections of the Geneva Conventions, as the soon-to-be-enacted Military Commissions Act sought to do. In other words, back then, the Times Editorial Page was warning of exactly the policies -- "certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion" -- which Broder today, with Bush safely gone, cites as examples of our "darkest chapter." Yet here is what Broder was saying about these things when it mattered:

Kingston, Ontario: I'm rather surprised by your and your correspondents' calm tone of voice this morning. Unless the New York Times editorial page is wildly off-track, the U.S. is in the grip of a major constitutional crisis, with the government trying to set aside long established guarantees of legal behavior, both internally and in relation to international law. Where's the sense of urgency?

David S. Broder: Far be it from me to question the New York Times, but I'd like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here. Editorial writers sometimes get carried away by their own rhetoric.

On other occasions, Broder mocked those who suggested there was anything extremist or radical about Bush's "counter-terrorism" policies; hailed "Bush's conviction that the quest for freedom is a universal truth"; proclaimed his confidence in Donald Rumsfeld's pre-war Iraq plans; and compared 2002 war opponents to "Jane Fonda in Hanoi or antiwar protesters marching under Viet Cong flags."

Just compare what Broder wrote about the Bush presidency on November 14, 2004, to what he wrote today:


Some of my colleagues in the pundit business have become unhinged by the election results. The always diverting Maureen Dowd of The New York Times wrote the other day that "the forces of darkness" are taking over the country . . . Bush won, but he will have to work within the system for whatever he gets. Checks and balances are still there. The nation does not face "another dark age," unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.


Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

What Broder states today as fact (that the Bush presidency is "one of the darkest chapters of American history") is almost verbatim that which, when it mattered, when it was happening, he vehemently and repeatedly denied -- and, of course, given that he works in the most accountability-free profession of all (establishment punditry), he does not even have the minimal honesty to acknowledge that. Like so many of his colleagues, Broder played a critical role in defending these crimes and insisting that they were not taking place.

This is a crucial and oft-overlooked fact in the debate over whether we should investigate and prosecute Bush crimes. The very same pundits and establishment journalists who today are demanding that we forget all about it, not look back, not hold anyone accountable, are the very same people who -- like Broder -- played key roles in hiding, enabling and defending these crimes. In light of that, what is less surprising than the fact that, almost unanimously, these very same people oppose any efforts to examine what happened and impose accountability? Back in January, I wrote the following about the virtual unanimity among establishment media figures against investigations and prosecutions:

Bush officials didn't commit these crimes by themselves. Virtually the entire Washington establishment supported or at least enabled most of it. . . . As confirmed accounts emerged years ago of chronic presidential lawbreaking, warrantless eavesdropping, systematic torture, rendition, "black site" prisons, corruption in every realm, and all sorts of other dark crimes, where were journalists and other opinion-making elites? Very few of them with any significant platform can point to anything they did or said to oppose or stop any of it -- and they know that.

Many of them, even when much of this became conclusively proven, were still explicitly praising Bush officials. Most of them supported the underlying enabling policies (Guantanamo and the permanent state of war in Iraq and "on terror"), and then cheered on laws -- the Military Commissions Act and the FISA Amendments Act -- designed to legalize these activities and retroactively immunize the lawbreakers and war criminals from prosecution.

So when these media and political elites are defending Bush officials, mitigating their crimes, and arguing that they shouldn't be held accountable, they're actually defending themselves. . . . They can't indict Bush officials for what they did because to do so would be to indict themselves. Bush officials need to be exonerated, or at least have their crimes forgotten (look to the future and ignore the past, they all chime in unison), so that their own involvement in it will also be cleansed and then forgotten.

Earlier this week, Paul Krugman made a similar point:

One addendum to today’s column: the truth, which I think everyone in the political/media establishments knows in their hearts, is that the nine months or so between the summer of 2002 and the beginning of the Iraq insurgency were a great national moral test — a test that most people in influential positions failed. . . . But for those who stayed “sensible” through the test, it’s a moment they’d like to see forgotten. That, I believe, is the real reason so many want to let torture and everything else go down the memory hole.

Imagine if a police officer were stationed in front of the hospital room of a key witness in a criminal trial, in order to protect the witness from attack, but instead, the officer fell asleep or wondered off to watch TV and, as a result, the defendant's associates were able to enter the room and murder the witness. Asking establishment journalists if they favor investigations and prosecutions of Bush crimes is like asking that police officer whether he favors an investigation and consequences for what happened or whether he instead prefers that the whole thing just be forgotten and everyone look instead to the future. People who bear culpability in the commission of destructive and criminal acts always oppose investigations and accountability -- i.e., what they'll call "looking backwards" or "retribution." They're the last people whose opinions we ought to be seeking on that question.

* * * * *

Directly contrary to the way the establishment media is describing these facts, polling data has consistently shown that large majorities of Americans favor investigations into Bush crimes and large percentages favor criminal prosecutions. Even with virtually the entire pundit class united in opposition, yet another poll on that question -- from The Washington Post/ABC News today -- finds that a majority (51-47%) answered "yes" when asked: "Do you think the Obama administration should or should not investigate whether any laws were broken in the way terrorism suspects were treated under the Bush administration?" It's amazing how much The Hard Left has grown.

* * * * *

More than anything else, Broder's column illustrates the Central Creed of Beltway Culture, which should be memorialized on plaques throughout that city:

When poor and ordinary Americans who commit crimes are prosecuted and imprisoned, that is Justice.

When the same thing is done to Washington elites, that is Ugly Retribution.

* * * * *

See also: this post from earlier today on Time Magazine's coverage of drug decriminalization in Portugal and this post on one of the most brazen acknowledgments yet that most establishment journalists operate with no standards.

UPDATE: For a perfect example of how etablishment journalists and pundits -- including our ostensibly "liberal" ones -- cheered on many of these crimes, see Digby.

Who are Broderian anti-investigation journalists really protecting?
Glenn Greenwald
Sept. 3, 2009

In one of the most drearily predictable media developments ever, David Broder today -- yet again -- joins in with an endless string of establishment pundits to demand that there be no investigations by the DOJ of war crimes and other felonies committed by the Bush administration. The one silver lining from all of this is that it has clarified a crucial political fact: most establishment "journalists" don't believe in the rule of law for political elites -- period. They believe high political officials should be able to break the law -- commit felonies -- and be immunized from legal consequences. To any reasonable observer, that is simply no longer in doubt. Opposition to investigations -- especially for the real culprits as opposed to low-level interrogators -- is as close to a unanimous media view as something can be (though the NYT Editorial Board today, standing virtually alone, calls for full criminal investigations, including of high-level Bush officials).

Broder claims he "agree[s] on the importance of accountability for illegal acts and for serious breaches of trust by government officials -- even at the highest levels." As examples of this "agreement," he cites this: "I had no problem with the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, and I called for Bill Clinton to resign when he lied to his Cabinet colleagues and to the country during the Monica Lewinsky scandal." But he then goes on to boast that he supported Ford's pardon of Nixon. He thought the prosecution of Lewis Libby was "silliness." He simply believes

that "the rule of law" is only for ordinary Americans, not for powerful political officials who commit felonies -- and in that, he's completely typical of the Beltway mindset. It's not an accident that he's the Dean of Washington Journalism; he is a perfect embodiment of that culture.

That media elites -- ostensibly devoted to accountability for the powerful -- fulfill the exact opposite role by demanding immunity for their lawbreaking is why elite lawlessness is so rampant. But that's well-established by now, so I want to focus on another point raised by this Broderian opposition: a completely self-serving falsehood that lies at the core of the debate over investigations. The standard claim made by investigation opponents in the media is that we all know that torture is abhorrent and that what was done is terribly wrong, but that prosecutions would just be too disruptive. Broder asks: "Ultimately, do we want to see Cheney, who backed these actions and still does, standing in the dock? . . . The cost to the country would simply be too great."

But it's simply not true that these journalists vehemently objected to torture as abhorrent but now merely believe prosecutions are an over-reaction. The reality is that they did not object to the torture regime as it was implemented. They did the opposite: they mocked those who objected to it and who tried to stop it as overheated, hysterical, fringe leftists -- as Broder did in a November, 2004 Op-Ed, deriding as "unhinged" those who were arguing "that 'the forces of darkness' are taking over the country." Identically, here's what Broder said in an October, 2006 chat when a reader asked him about a New York Times Editorial sounding the alarm about the radicalism of the Bush administration:

Kingston, Ontario: I'm rather surprised by your and your correspondents' calm tone of voice this morning. Unless the New York Times editorial page is wildly off-track, the U.S. is in the grip of a major constitutional crisis, with the government trying to set aside long established guarantees of legal behavior, both internally and in relation to international law. Where's the sense of urgency?

David S. Broder: Far be it from me to question the New York Times, but I'd like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here. Editorial writers sometimes get carried away by their own rhetoric.

That was typical of Beltway media behavior even as revelations of war crimes and high-level lawlesness proliferated: oh, calm down with your extremist, unhinged rhetoric. Broder boasts that he called for Clinton's resignation over a sex scandal and "had no problem with" Nixon's impeachment over what was, by comparsion to Bush scandals, a relatively minor infraction. As revelations of torture mounted, did he call for Bush's impeachment or even resignation? No. Like most of his colleagues in the media, he did the opposite: he dismissed objections to what was happening as hysterical and fringe and insisted that Serious and Good People were in charge.

This is a vital reason -- I'd say the central reason -- why people like David Broder and his media colleagues don't want investigations and prosecutions: because they were complicit in most of it, and such proceedings would implicate them as much as the criminals themselves. Think about it: what would happen if Dick Cheney were "in the dock," if high-level American officials were adjudicated in formal proceedings as war criminals and felons? The question would naturally arise: how was that allowed to happen? What did the American media do about it while it happened? What was the Dean of the Washington Press Corps saying and doing to stop it and to alert the citizenry as to what was going on? And the answer, of course, is: nothing. They supported the war criminals and mocked and demonized those who objected.

That's why so many media figures want to Look Forward and Not Backwards -- not only because they want to protect high-level political officials who committed felonies and thus preserve America's two-tiered justice system, but more so, because they know that "looking backwards" would reveal who and what they really are. People who engage in heinous acts always want everyone to look forward and not backwards, for reasons that are as obvious as they are ignoble. Tom Tomorrow captured this mentality perfectly in a cartoon this week (click to enlarge):

Yesterday, Physicians for Human Rights issued a new report which finds that CIA doctors "came close to, and may even have committed, unlawful human experimentation" on detainees in U.S. custody, as "doctors actively monitored the CIA's interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent." Human experimentation on helpless detainees. Is it any wonder that the people who are responsible for that and helped to enable it -- critically including media stars who waved it all away -- don't want any light shined on what was done? If you were them, would you?

While all this was occurring, David Broder and most of his media colleagues not only failed to object, but were insisting that nothing extremist, radical or lawless was taking place. They demonized those who raised the alarm bells and tried to stop it. Their opposition to investigations is absolutely grounded in their rejection of the rule of law for political elites, but at least as much, it's a desperate effort to protect themselves and shield themselves from the accountability and shame they so intensely deserve.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong makes a very, very strong case that David Broder is -- how shall we say? -- not telling the truth in today's column when he claims he "had no problem" with the impeachment of Richard Nixon.