ThinkFast: April 22, 2009


The Bush administration did not hear a “single dissent” in seeking approval of its torture program, in part, because Cabinet members and senior lawmakers did not know waterboarding had been prosecuted as a war crime after World War II. The officials also did not know that the military training program on which the techniques were based was designed to counter “torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War.”

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the White House that harsh interrogations of detainees produced “valuable” information but it is impossible to tell if the same information could have been gleaned “through other means.” “The bottom line,” he said, is “the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

In 2005, former State Department counselor Phillip Zelikow wrote a legal memo holding an “opposing view” from the infamous OLC torture memos. But “[t]he White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives,” he writes. Zelikow discussed the matter on the Rachel Maddow Show last night.

Roll Call reports, “As hearings over climate change legislation commence this week in the House, Republicans have made known their distaste for the Democratic solution to the problem. Their own solutions, though, remain unclear.” A former GOP aide said, “Republicans need to rally around a strong messaging alternative, and that has to be the free market.”

As of 8 am this morning, more than 9,500 of you have taken action to urge Congress to begin impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee. Please help us spread the word. Thanks for your support.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 73-23 to approve veteran diplomat Christopher Hill as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Hill’s nomination had been stalled by several Republican senators, including John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) (who both voted against him yesterday).

The Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, “probably clearing the way for her confirmation.” Eight of the 10 Republicans on the panel voted against Sebelius, “underscoring the increasingly partisan nature of the emerging healthcare debate on Capitol Hill.”

Yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) suggested that “the lack of Republican support for Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary is an early indication that the GOP may not be willing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform.” “Maybe the Republicans are telling us they want us to pass healthcare reform through the budget reconciliation process,” said Schumer.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading opponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, is “not ready to declare victory just yet.” “It is a little bit of a jump ball at this point. … There is still a lot of potential for this to get destabilized, and we might have so-called compromises offered,” a Chamber official said told The Hill.

Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday that the military situation in Afghanistan will probably deteriorate in the near term. “We do believe we can achieve progress, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Petraeus said. “When you go into the enemy’s sanctuaries, they will fight you for it. There will be tough months ahead, without question,” he said.

And finally: Fallen Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich won’t be fulfilling his dream of becoming a reality tv star. Yesterday, a judge denied him permission to travel to Costa Rica for the show, “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here.” U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel “called modifying the terms of Blagojevich’s bail on political corruption charges ‘a bad idea.'”

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