First, Obama has chosen this week to isolate himself in Martha's Vineyard, telling the press he would kick anyone out of the press pool who got caught using their cell phones to track his family's movements (they should all band together and get caught--they would if it were a Republican). The vacation puts Obama pretty much out of touch with the goings on in DC for a few days while some important things happen..
Probably the most important thing was the release of an IG report on terrorist abuse. You can get involved by helping the WaPo find some really juicy stuff to help Obama blast Bush.
Another of those important things was Attorney General Eric Holder's supposedly independent decision to appoint a prosecutor to look into more cases of alleged CIA abuse of al Qaeda head choppers. Surely just a coincidence, eh? Based on the sound of the prosecutor's charge the investigation could conveniently drag on for a long time, like perhaps into 2010. Just another coincidence, surely.
That came amidst leaked stories of the political operative (with no intelligence experience) in charge of the CIA, Leon Panetta, recently being involved in an alleged shouting match in the White House about the investigations, including a threat to quit. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't, but it certainly comes at a time when he'll need some cred with his hostile crowd known as his employees. It has the feel of a coach deliberately getting himself tossed from a game to garner support from the players for standing up.
It was also announced the Obama bunch have come up with a new way of interrogating prisoners captured in the overseas contingency operation (peace be upon them), an interagency team that will answer directly to the White House through cabinet members. This sort of overshadowed the decision to keep terrorist rendition in play, although Obama's version of rendition will be most excellent compared to Bush's evil version, or Clinton's, with the State Dept making sure the world doesn't object too much. Kudos to the Times for catching this misdirection and headlining it.
There's also news of Dick Cheney (what would a document dump day about torture be without the king?), with reports suggesting the two documents he wanted released about effectiveness would also be released in today's blizzard, right along with family death threats and mock executions.
And lastly, there's a report about 20-somethings who worked to get Obama elected being AWOL on the health care effort. Evidently they need some jazzing up, and what better way than to start the torture war again? But will it be enough? For some anything short of hangings will never be enough. Or will it completely backfire?
Other than that it was a quiet day on the beach for the president unhassled by the press. Michelle probably wore shorts again.
CHENEY DOCS 8/24/09
They are available here. From page 2:
Reporting from KSM greatly advanced our understanding of al-Qa'ida's anthrax program.My feeling is that Cheney was trying to say the waterboarding stopped a WMD attack. It allowed us to understand the role of Yazid Sufaat, the man who studied microbiology in California and whose condo was used for the 2000 terrorist summit in Kuala Lumpur, and what he was in charge of. The document doesn't name the two at large assistants Sufaat later gave up (or they were redacted), which is too bad--they might have rung a bell or two.
In response to questions about al-Qa'ida's efforts to acquire WMD, KSM revealed he had met three individuals involved in al-Qa'ida's program to produce anthrax. He appears to have calculated, incorrectly, that we had this information already, given that one of the three--Yazid Sufaat--had been in foreign custody for several months before KSM's arrest for unrelated terrorist activity.
When confronted with the information provided by KSM, Yazid, who had access to press reports and therefore knew of KSM's capture, expressed anger because he figured it was KSM who betrayed him. Eventually Yazid admitted his principal role in the anthrax program and provided some fragmentary information on his, at the time, still at large assistant. But it was ultimately the information provided by KSM that led to the capture of Yazid's two principal assistants in the anthrax program."
Here's another link to the documents Cheney wanted released. As usual they are heavily redacted, so much so that it appears impossible to determine whether enhanced interrogation played a key role, as Cheney said. There are several instances where KSM and others seemed to unwittingly give up important information, but it's not clear whether it was after waterboarding or not.
At any rate, I found this particular redaction curious:
"..also key to wrapping up such important al-Qa'ida members as ..."? It goes on to list Jose Padilla and Iyman Faris at the end of the sentence. Were other names included in there and if so, why were they redacted if we have them in custody?
Speculating, it could be because they've been released back to the battlefield. Or perhaps they've agreed to turn and work for us. One could also speculate the release of the names may lead people in sensitive directions better left unexplored. Hard to say. Surely it can't be a political reason with the most sunshiny administration in history now holding power.