In his first public statements regarding the CIA’s destruction of the torture tapes, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said today he “refused to be rushed into deciding whether he considers waterboarding a form of torture. … Mukasey said he has not yet concluded a review of Justice Department memos to determine whether waterboarding amounts to torture — which would deem it illegal.” During his confirmation hearing, Mukasey refused to call waterboarding torture.
In August, the ACLU asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to release “documents regarding the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. “In a rare public opinion” today, the Court ruled that “the public has no right to view the documents because they deal with the clandestine workings of national security agencies.” The AP reports:
Writing for the court, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates refused. Releasing the documents would reveal closely guarded secrets that enemies could used to evade detection or disrupt intelligence activities, he said. [...]
Bates acknowledged that the public would benefit from seeing the documents. The decision-making process would be understood, he said, and public oversight could help safeguard against government abuse. But the dangers of releasing such sensitive materials far outweigh that public benefit, Bates said.
Petey pointed out that the latest CNN poll (PDF) shows some very clear patterns in the head-to-head presidential matchups. In particular, John Edwards polls as the strongest Democratic candidates whereas John McCain polls as the strongest Republican.
Of course, it’s hard to know what to make of this sort of polling (except that as a white man, I’m patting myself on the back) since the events of the campaign really do change things. How much does Edwards’ relative cash shortfall matter as an electability issue? And I bet most of the respondents to this poll don’t know (yet) about Rudy Giuliani’s criminal associates — a series of charges that’s probably more damaging than any muck that’ll ever get dredged up on Romney. But despite the uncertainty, I think you do need to count this as a serious point in Edwards’ favor when you combine it with the considerable merits of the policy positions he’s staked out. Meanwhile, for the GOP I think nominating McCain is clearly the right across a whole variety of considerations, but I guess if you really, really, really hate immigrants it doesn’t look that way.
In June 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a “statement on the family” that asserted, “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” Two months later, then-governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full-page ad in USA Today specifically endorsing the Convention’s view on marriage:
You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership.
As Andrew Sullivan notes, “The group did not back away from the ad after a media firestorm. It seems to me that Huckabee should be asked if he still stands by that. And if he thinks it applies to Senator Clinton.”
UPDATE: C&L has more.
Dahlia Lithwick on the broader implications of Jamie Leigh Jones: “If Jones’ allegations are true, the lesson is that this government’s convenient little ‘law free zones’ at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and black sites around the world don’t discriminate between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ If an innocent American finds herself in such a law-free zone, she’s as unlikely as any alleged terrorist to find her day in court.”
And how could it not? Over time, the mechanisms of imperial governance abroad are bound to erode democracy at home. You see it from the top down in the ways in which prominent military commanders have been inserted into partisan politics, and you see it from the bottom-up in the erosion of the rule of law.
I couldn’t say I want to see the Patriots go 16-0, but I’d certainly like to see them try their best to do it — no resting of starters, no saving it for the playoffs, etc. In short, what Henley said:
Idiot sports radio personalities – and I apologize for the redundancy – constantly ring variations on The Patriots realize that the real prize isn’t going undefeated, it’s winning the Super Bowl. Nonsense. Somebody wins the Super Bowl every year. The NFL has had 41 of the things and they don’t look like they’re going to stop staging them any time soon. There are plenty of Super Bowl champions. There’s only one post-merger, undefeated champion. Why pass up a chance to make history?
Quite so, quite so. Besides which, everyone knows the Super Bowl become a bit of a joke, a meta-event above and beyond everything and everyone that, at this point, feels only vaguely football-related. A 15-0 team playing its last game, by contrast, is something every football fan in the country will want to see.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Legal Rights of Guantanamo Detainees” this morning, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refused to call the hypothetical waterboarding of an American pilot by the Iranian military torture. “I’m not equipped to answer that question,” said Hartmann.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who asked the hypothetical, pushed Hartmann on his answer, asking him directly if it would be a “violation of the Geneva Convention”:
GRAHAM: You mean you’re not equipped to give a legal opinion as to whether or not Iranian military waterboarding, secret security agents waterboarding downed airmen is a violation of the Geneva Convention?
HARTMANN: I am not prepared to answer that question, Senator.
After Hartmann twice refused to answer, Graham dismissed him in disgust, saying he had “no further questions.” Watch it:
Hartmann’s non-answer is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal in October to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.”
But not every lawyer who’s worked for the Bush administration has been so hesitant to call waterboarding torture.
In 2004, after then-acting assistant attorney general Daniel Levin had himself waterboarded, he concluded that the interrogation technique “could be illegal torture.” For his efforts, “Levin was forced out of the Justice Department when Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General.”
Sen. Graham, a former military judge advocate, has said before that someone doesn’t “have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates Geneva Convention Common Article Three.”
Tyler Cowen points to Melinda Miller‘s interesting research into whether following through on plans to give freed slaves some land would have made a difference in long-term racial gaps. In this paper (PDF) she looks at a unique population of former slaves held by the Cherokee Nation, which “was forced during post-war negotiations to allow its former slaves to claim and improve any unused land in the Nation’s public domain,” and finds some substantial effects.
Most science advisers have taken as their job to inform the President and his Administration, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the thinking of the scientific community on key science issues of the day. Bush’s advisor, John H. Marburger, III takes the opposite view. He believes his job is to inform (misinform? disinform?) the scientific community, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the “thinking” of the Bush Administration on key science issues. In 2006, he summed up the “technology, technology, blah, blah” strategy of Luntz/Bush:
Don’t get distracted by actions to save the climate from destruction. The real payoff is in never doing anything.
UPDATE: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has just released a report documenting “Political Interference With Climate Change Science Under The Bush Administration.” Just pathetic!
Realclimate has a good report on Marburger’s lecture at the huge American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, titled, “Reflections on the Science and Policy of Energy and Climate Change”:
Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that Air Force Col. Morris Davis resigned his position as the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay after he was placed under the command of torture advocate William Haynes. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed that the Pentagon had blocked Davis from testifying before the committee. “The Defense Department has ordered him not to appear,” said Feinstein. Watch it:
Calling it a shame, Feinstein said that she had “to conclude” that the administration is trying to stop a fair and open discussion about the legal rights of detainees at Guantananmo.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that Davis “planned to say that he considered information obtained through” waterboarding to be “unreliable and that he had ordered his staff to exclude such evidence from their cases.”
UPDATE II: In November, the Pentagon blocked another former Guantanamo prosecutor, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, from testifying about “enhanced” interrogation techniques.