Sunday, June 29, 2008

Addington/Yoo hearings

The clip with Addington and Delahunt is now ubiquitous but presented below are vehicles for listening to the full bloviation:

Judiciary Committee hearing on torture 6/26/08

For some reason You Tube isn't much help on this matter. Several clips are horrible, with audio so poorly synched to the video as to be indistinguishable to mankind. The best clip is presented below but only includes the first half before the Addington/Delahunt dustup (testimony begins slightly before halfway through). It does give a sense of the overall inquisitional tone of questioning.

Much was made of context in this hearing. In other words, the events in question occurred directly after 9/11 when the national mood was different, ie, more angry and kickass. Indeed it was. Let's not forget what was attributed to Nancy Pelosi at the time while being briefed on the CIA's efforts:
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
But 9/11 doesn't explain everything. Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, the self-proclaimed unsung hero of 9/11, wrote a book called "Against all Enemies" whereupon he attributed the following quote to Vice-President Al Gore in 1993 as officials were discussing the first terrorist renditions:
"He's a terrorist. Go grab his ass"
So yes, context often helps when discussing historical events, or even current ones. In his opening statement ranking minority member Franks quoted Jack Goldsmith, former attorney in the Justice Department who overhauled the TSP program legal guidance (the Ashcroft hospital drama) recently said that if anything, the Bush administration has been under-hyping the threat we actually face from this enemy, who would surely chop off the heads of each and every member of the committee, including all the people of color and maybe even the women (unless they were taken into slavery).

Matter of fact, it's fair to ask whether this hearing would have even taken place had we been recently attacked.

That said, the above is not meant to 1) devalue the importance of Congressional oversight, or 2) condone breaking laws, 3) condone torture. One of the main functions of Congress is to exercise their oversight duties, and therefore this hearing was a good thing. We want the same to occur with the next president.

That doesn't mean every hearing has to take place in the open. Congress can take sensitive testimony under closed session to prevent giving up sources and methods, which was the crux of the exchange between Congressman Delahunt and David Addington, the latter who correctly stated that our enemies can certainly tune in and turn on to what we're trying to do. There should be absolutely no ambiguity on that fact. Those who don't agree clearly believe there is no threat.

But in looking through the testimony it's certainly apparent that Professor Yoo was nervous, fidgety, and unresponsive. He fumbled constantly with the privileges he tried to cite and didn't respond very well to the badgering, which is a tactic to get nervous witnesses to admit something. That's probably a testament to his honesty. On the contrary, Addington lived up to everything written about him--acerbic, quick-minded, calculating, intellectually intimidating and certainly a classic lawyer in his speak. It's no wonder they hate him.

His opening statement was less than a minute, to which Chairman Nadler professed shock (is that all?). He came without a written submission, preferring to hand the committee numbered 'exhibits' as if he were in a court of law. That seemed intentional, perhaps to make a statement about the accusatory nature of the affair (treating it like a courtroom where he was on trial rather than just an inquiry). When provided with hypotheticals he constantly reminded the questioners he wasn't there to give a legal opinion, that they "had their own legal staff" to do that. He made light of Dana Milbank's "Unitary Theory" article when it was presented to him. In short, he was a pain. It was kind of fun to watch, actually.

Yet despite the entertainment value it appeared both were less than brutally honest in their testimony, apparently trying to keep themselves from being thrown into the frying pan on behalf of the administration.

Bottom line, the question is whether the administration played fast and loose with the international torture treaties and statutes to allow much-needed info to be pried out of KSM and crew after 9/11 right after a presumed WMD attack? Probably. And if that's the case, Bush shouldn't allow his subordinates to twist in the breeze on his behalf.

Ironically none of that will be remembered. The only lingering takeaway will be Delahunt's slip. Talk is swirling over whether he should be censured but the Democrat leadership should run him out on a rail for screwing up their entire charade. Anyone who's read Kos, Huffpo or Firedoglake these past five years easily saw the slip as a channelling of the collective mindset of the radical left. Rather outlandish to consider, but it makes one wonder if perhaps Delahunt had been briefed on his daily routine:
Still, even foes admire Addington's work ethic and frugality; he takes Metro from his home in Alexandria instead of using his White House parking space.
And we're on the verge of handing over our entire government to these people.

MORE 6/29/08

A couple of addendum points.

It was none other than our local Congressman Steve Cohen who made a small national splash by referring to the VP as a 'barnacle'. Thanks for the notieriety, buddy. Actually, let's be clear here--the Commercial Appeal said he called "Cheney" a barnacle when in fact it was really the VP office.

A reader also points out a moment of dark humor when Conyers asked Yoo if the president can "have someone buried alive". Yoo's last second raising of his arms after answering was priceless. Here's the clip, where you can also watch as Addington responds to the hectoring Conyers on what unitary executive theory means to him.

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