Oh, Dick

What? Dick Cheney allegedly ordered the CIA to lie to Congress about some stuff it was doing? Who could have imagined? I mean, Dick Cheney always struck me as the open and communicative type, personally.

I have a general theory regarding Cheney, which is that a fundamental psychological trait of his is that he’s a coward, and as a coward he exhibits pathologies towards secrecy, the fetishization of violent power, self-justification in the face of facts and the overestimation of danger. This is not exactly an original theory, nor is it exclusive to me; nevertheless every time I look at Cheney I’m reminded that the politics of war and security should never be decided by men who are such bowel-shaken chickenshits. I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, just don’t have them be the sort of terrified coward Cheney turned out to be. Terrified cowards choose poorly. It’s not too much to ask for better than that.

141 Comments on “Oh, Dick

  1. This sort of analysis is far from my knowledge base, but I would style him less as a terrified coward as other people just don’t exist for him.

    There is a specific term for this, but I don’t recall.

    Bush was far more the terrified coward.

  2. ntsc:

    “There is a specific term for this, but I don’t recall”

    “Monomania,” or perhaps “sociopathy.” Although I personally don’t think either applies.

    And personally I think Bush wasn’t really a terrified coward. I do think he doesn’t have a particularly strong personality, however, and was influenced by the wrong people. I think it’s entirely possible in an alternate universe where one of Cheney’s heart attacks killed him off before he could VP, the Bush administration would have acted differently in the wake of 9/11. It’s obviously just speculation on my part, however.

  3. Further proof, if any is needed, that Dick Cheney is the root of all evil.

  4. If Dick Cheney were 16 today he’d be posting (from an undisclosed basement) to online fora about how he’s thinking of buying a Glock and how you should see his spinning heel kick.

  5. Ah, Cheney-derangement syndrome. Gotta love it. Two notes.

    1. The article says nothing about Cheney ordering the CIA to lie about the program.

    2. It can’t have been that important, or important to our enemies, because otherwise the NY Times would obviously have had front page treasonous articles on it, like they did so many other things.

  6. Skip has apparently never heard of the concept of “lying by omission.”

    Skip’s also missed this: “A version of this article appeared in print on July 12, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition.”

    “Cheney-derangement” isn’t apparently the only derangement, Skip.

  7. It has gotten to the point where every time I see a picture of Cheney, I hear a rousing rendition of the Imperial March.

  8. “front page treasonous articles”? In America, Skip, we have this thing called the First Amendment. It came about in part because when we were a colony, our British masters liked to paint any criticism of the Crown as “treason”. If you miss those good old days, I recommend you move to any one of a number of tyrannical nations where one dare not speak against the Supreme Leader; as long as you choose to stay in America, you’re just going to have to suck it up, I’m afraid.

  9. Shucks, Mythago, what’s the fun if you can’t call anything anyone says that you dislike “treason”?

  10. Remember, they’re only treasonous if the guy in charge is on Our Team.

  11. Yep, put someone from the other team in charge and it’s all “let’s secede” or “he’s destroying our country”…

  12. John,

    Venom aside. What’s your argument? Understand that I feel Cheney is the root of all evil and I am not disagreeing with that part of your opinion. But I don’t see him as a coward. At all. I see him more as a Messiah figure. “I am right because I know I am right, and damnit somebodyhastomaketheharddecisionshere.” Did you see Falling Down? Where the deranged nutball says to the policeman at the end, “Wait, you mean *I* am the bad guy?” That’s how I see Cheney.

    It’s a dangerous disease that gets more pervasive all the time. It’s the disease that affects everybody who thinks it’s okay to shout, swear, use ad hominem attacks, or whatever is necessary, including maybe a few lies of omission because MY SIDE is right and frankly, in the end, isn’t it most important that the right prevail?

    It’s like these people have never, ever, in their entire lives, heard the phrase, “The ends don’t justify the means.”

  13. We do have a first amendment – it is not without restrictions, as many court cases have affirmed. And in fact, following World War II there were a number of such cases on exactly this question.

    The US Constitution defines treason as follows, in Article III Section 3:

    “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

    There’s simply no question that the Times articles, among others fall under the second half of that definition, so I stick by my characterization.

  14. Isn’t it supposed to be “potentially treasonable”?

    Flipness aside, there’s an extremely weird movement on the right towards a secular monarchy – the conserva-PC term for this was “unitary executive”, you may remember. They want a King, and the role of the Congress and the judiciary, in their opinion, is merely to deal with all the lesser issues that can’t occupy the monarch’s full attention (though, of course, in a manner entirely consistent with the throne’s current policy views).

    So of course the use of the term treason makes sense. It’s not actually blasphemy, since this is a secular monarchy; but certainly one doesn’t go beyond the boundaries of criticism that would be appropriate to a Loyal Opposition.

    There’s really no other sensible explanation for people like Skip, who apparently think criticizing Cheney is exactly the same as selling top secret military information to a Communist government.

  15. Wow, talk about a subjective standard that can be stretched so far as to be rendered meaningless.

  16. John, no, I didn’t miss that the Times published the article. As I said, if it had been important, the Times would have had a front page treasonous article on it, with an implied “while it was still running, and it’s disclosure could hurt a Republican administration”. I’ll try to be more clear in the future.

  17. mythago,

    “There’s really no other sensible explanation for people like Skip, who apparently think criticizing Cheney is exactly the same as selling top secret military information to a Communist government”

    Now you’re just making things up, in no sense did I place any equivalence on those two things. The equivalence I made was that revealing top secret government programs, in a time of war, for the purpose of damaging the sitting goverment and aiding the people we’re at war with, is treason.

  18. Oh, yes, the pretense that “aid and comfort” means “saying or doing anything that might possibly make our enemies hum a happy little tune in the shower this morning”.

    That interpretation conflicts with the plain and original intent of the First Amendment: to allow the people to speak out peaceably against the government and to petition for a redress of grievances. It was specifically written to quash the argument Skip is making – that any and all criticism of the government is disloyal and threatens the stability of the nation.

    Some distant intellectual (and I use the term loosely) ancestor of Skip’s probably argued that an American colonist who published a broadsheet criticising the King ought to be hanged for treason, in case the French read the damned thing.

  19. Hey, I think Skip has a point. This was obviously penny-ante stuff, because we all know we can count on the New York Times 100% to Save Democracy. Right? Because they, um, have . . . superpowers, or something? The Constitution does give them superpowers, doesn’t it?

    We don’t need our Congress to have oversight of the CIA. We can rely on the NYT!

  20. If telling the truth is treason, lock me up.

  21. Oh and John, on the ‘lie by omission’ thing, that’s still a pretty poor characterization here. Per wiki, the definition of that is “One lies by omission by omitting an important fact, deliberately leaving another person with a misconception.” Exactly what misconception was left here? Do you honestly think that Congress gets briefed on every single thing the CIA does, all twenty thousand or so employees? Of course not, they’d have no time for anything else if that were the case.

  22. Or rather, lock me up as an accessory. I haven’t done anything particularly treasonous lately, I’m just a supporter.

  23. Given your last tweet, I think you posted this with the specific intent of stirring shit up for sake of entertainment. Well done, sir!

  24. Once again, mythago, you’re putting words in my mouth I didn’t say. What I said:

    “revealing top secret government programs, in a time of war, for the purpose of damaging the sitting goverment and aiding the people we’re at war with”

    What you said I said:

    “saying or doing anything that might possibly make our enemies hum a happy little tune in the shower this morning”.

    There’s a difference between “anti-war” and “on the other side.” And the Times clearly stepped over the line between the two. One is treason, the other isn’t. This isn’t a difficult concept. And as I’ve said, there are many court cases on this already.

  25. Per wiki, the definition of that is

    When you have to run to “wiki” to try to define your way out of what a lie by omission is, you’re struggling. I think everybody is pretty clear on what “lie by omission” means.

    And yes, Skip, you did place equivalence on the two things. The NYT publishing a story about the executive branch acting illegally is just the same as the NYT running a story revealing every detail of a top-secret plan to attack an al-Qaeda stronghold? Right.

  26. I just had a great idea! When Texas secedes, we should offer them Cheney in exchange for Austin. It can come hang out next to Minneapolis with the cool kids. They can even have Michelle “Crazy-Pants” Bachmann to sweeten the deal.

  27. I suppose that to people like Skip there is nothing Bush or Cheney could have ever done that would be deemed illegal or unwarranted. Yet we’re the deranged ones…

  28. First you dodged behind ‘aid and comfort’ – language you assumed was usefully flexible enough to stretch around your indignant at The Lib’rul Media.

    Now you’re pretending that the NYT revealed illegal activity by the executive intending to aid al-Qaeda. Not because it was a hot story; not because they were exposing what they believed to be government wrongdoing; not because they wanted the existing government to stop torturing people, say. But because, in your mind, the NYT actually intended to help overthrow the government of the United States (not merely to get the current officeholder recalled), and to assist al-Qaeda.

    That’s a pretty serious accusation, there. I realize it’s the only logical refuge after ‘aid and comfort’ turns out not to be a weasel-phrase, but seriously?

  29. Skip:

    “Oh and John, on the ‘lie by omission’ thing, that’s still a pretty poor characterization here.”

    Mr. Hoekstra, the intelligence committee’s ranking Republican, said he would not judge the agency harshly in the case of the unidentified program, because it was not fully operational. But he said that in general, the agency had not been as forthcoming as the law required.

    So, no. It’s not really a pretty poor characterization at all, actually.

  30. Megan @29: NO! Not Michelle “Crazy-Pants” Bachmann!! We need her for our daily laughs — who else gives us so much hilarity every time she speaks (especially now that Sarah palin has “resigned”)?

  31. John, I doubt Palin is going away. Leaving her post as the governor of a state with a smaller population than San Diego, sure. But there are plenty of better-paying political gigs.

  32. I just love that after being ALL OVER the effing news with his opinions in the last month, he’s suddenly unreachable for comment. HA!

  33. Brave people can get us in deep shit as well. For example, Khrushchev and Kennedy between them almost started WW III. Both of them were pretty brave, if you go by their war records.

  34. @John H.: I’m sure she’ll keep saying crazy stuff from Texas. We’ll just get to read about it under World News! And as Mythago said, I sincerely doubt She-who-must-not-be-named is going away for very long.

  35. Mythago and Megan: I thought the quotes around “resigned” would show how much I doubt she is leaving anytime soon…

  36. I’m inclined to withhold judgement until they release what this program actually was. I do find the, “Don’t tell Congress about it” rather suggestive, though.

  37. Mark Terry:

    I doubt it was a “Surprise birthday party for every Congressperson” program.

    Mind you, if Congressional oversight was required, then what the program was, is almost an aside to the allegation Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell Congress about it.

  38. I have to go with Bill@37, here. Scalzi framed the argument for Cheney’s cowardice. IF Cheney were found to not be cowardly, that would by definition make the threats he has pointed out to be “real and Present Dangers”, would it not?

    I f we go with the neo-con arguments, we would merrily traipse into Iran, bent upon the eradication of Sharia law, wherever it could be found. I find the creators/promoters of Sharia law to be the real cowards here.

  39. A few things:

    1) Skip – there’s no declared war. Note that. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are in a declared war with the USA. You know, since you value precision and all.

    2) Since we disagree with you are we ‘giving aid and comfort’? Is anyone who disagrees with the government a traitor? Are you so insane that Coulter’s idiocy seems reasonable to you? Or are you willing to admit that dissent is core to what this country is about?

    2) Though I find Cheney repellent, if you felt this program really needed to be secret, he (sigh) was right. Look at what happened – Panetta informed Congress who couldn’t keep their mouths shut and we’re talking about it everywhere.

    I have no idea what the program is and it might be so against what I feel this country stands for that I want Cheney arrested and prosecuted, but this leakiness is a real issue. Sure, some of this current expose is political in nature, but let’s say that there was a program that most reasonable people would agree was necessary and that it *needed* to be kept very secret to be effective. The law says you have to tell Congress… but doing so will almost certainly see it leaked. That’s a problem. The strict view is you have to tell them damn the consequences. The realist might not.

    The VP and CIA were wrong to keep this from even the subset of Congress that can be told the most restricted things…but Congress needs to learn how to keep a secret too.

  40. I should also mention that, given all apparent evidence, the end does seem to somehow justify the means. I’ve read a couple history books, way back in grade school. They seem to cast a delightfully sparkling light on “how the west was won”, for an example. That said, I do actually plan on making an appreciable donation to the Crazy Horse Memorial. How cool is that going to be?!

  41. Jeff, before making blanket statements about Sharia law you could at least read the Wikipedia entry about it. The creators lives 1300-1500 years ago and you might be surprised at the influence it had on just about every other legal system in existence.

  42. And to clarify, I did not get my own knowledge about Sharia from Wikipedia – I took several classes in college on the subject. It’s fascinating. It’s also horribly depressing how little we know about the things we profess to hate.

  43. Oh, Megan, I never claimed any blanket statements about Sharia law. I am not even sure I am opposed to it. I would also find the idea of using wikipedia as a resource for knowledge laughable.

  44. Jeff @42: There are plenty of laws around the world that I don’t understand or agree with, but that doesn’t imply that the people who make those laws are cowards. Israeli law prohibits the consumption of pork products — does that make them cowards, or simply adhering to religious belief? (Some would say the latter infers the former, but I don’t think that’s true.)

    Saying the imposition of Sharia law is cowardice simply exposes your own ignorant bias of the importance of the Quran to muslims.

  45. Let’s be careful not to sidetrack this thread into a discussion of sharia law, especially as folks have been admitting how little they actually know about it. Which is to say: Avoid the derail, please.

  46. @Jeff: Please see my other statement regarding wikipedia and my particular area of knowledge. By your statement, you know almost nothing about the origins of Sharia. Therefore, even reading Wikipedia would be something.

    You said “I find the creators/promoters of Sharia law to be the real cowards here.” How is this anything but a blanket statement? The last couple of hundred years have seen many parts of the Islamic world become dramatically more conservative, but you weren’t talking about that. You were talking about “the creators” of Sharia. The very same people who had some of the first (if not the first) courts, schools, doctoral systems, and an understanding of human and women’s rights that until recently was among the most liberal on the planet.

    Now please, tell me how this information, which clearly you already had, equates to cowardice on the parts of those creators?

  47. John H@48: Agreed. More Neocons should read the Quran before invading Iran. I should also point out that cowardice is not a bad thing, faced with prosecuting an asymmetric war.

  48. Darn, John! Take all the fun out of it, will ya?! I’m gonna go finish white-warshin’ my fence….

  49. Israeli law prohibits the consumption of pork products — does that make them cowards, or simply adhering to religious belief?
    Just for the record: No, Israel does not prohibit the consumption of pork products.

  50. My bad…

    How about: Some southern states ban the sale of alcohol in stores on Sundays…

  51. @ 2

    I think the word I was looking for was sociopathy.

    And as for Bush being terrified, I can only point to the video records of both 9/11 and when we knew what Katrina had done. I see nothing there but confusion and blankly staring fear.

  52. Mind you, if Congressional oversight was required, then what the program was, is almost an aside to the allegation Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell Congress about it.

    Well, that’s the problem with strident assertions of illegality here. The statute requires that Congress (or at least the “Gang of 8″) be kept informed of “significant anticipated intelligence activity” and “covert activity.” As the program/project/proposal/concept apparently never approached being moved up to the the operational activity stage (about the only solid thing about it that one can garner from the NYT story) it would not appear to fall under the notification requirements of NSA 1947 or IOA 1980.

    Much as it pains me to agree with Skip to any extensive degree here, it is indeed silly to expect the CIA to brief Congress on every conceptual brainfart they work up a concept proposal on when same is never proposed to be placed into active status. Disclosing same to Congress when the concept planning itself details the potential use of classified techniques or technology or covert resources does indeed run a very real risk of “unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters,” the explicit judgement-call exemption in NSA 1947.

    Because, frankly, Congress leaks like a sieve, both parties, especially for opposition demonization during electoral runups. And even just through sheer stupidity. (EX: Hoekstra himself blew the cover on a House Intel Committee trip to Iraq last year by Tweeting about it in progress, even including parts of the itinerary. I’m sure his fellow HIC travellers REALLY appreciated that.)

  53. @56: Although I hate to say anything nice about Jr, I don’t know that it’s fair to use anyone’s reaction on 9/11 as an example of cowardice. I mean, if I’d been in New York I probably would have peed myself, but I don’t think that makes me a coward.

    Being a coward-in my book at least-isn’t about showing you’re afraid. Actually, showing you’re afraid can be quite brave. It’s more about inner fear, fear of failure, fear to show weakness, fear of inadequacy. Perhaps most applicable in this case, fear to admit that you were wrong, that you don’t know something, that you acted out of ignorance. This is the cowardice that Cheney shows.

    Unfortunately, it seems to also be a cowardice that we require of our politicians. Admitting you were wrong is flip-flopping. Admitting you don’t know something is being an idiot. American popular culture demands swift action, strong words, and shiny teeth. I believe this leaves us open to people like Cheney, who are more than happy to exploit the system.

  54. Tully, if ” frankly, Congress leaks like a sieve” is the excuse, then whether or not the program is operational is beside the point. In fact, it makes more sense for the CIA to hide an operational program. Which leak is more of a threat to national security: a kinda-sorta-maybe plan, or actual operations going forward?

    Which, again, is orthogonal to Skip’s having painted himself into a corner: he said that if Cheney had in fact ordered the CIA to lie, and the NYT published an article about those orders, it would have been treason for the NYT to do so. (Skip then tries to justify this first, with a laughable definition of ‘aid and comfort’, then by arguing that the NYT has been treasonous before.) It assumes that there is no other reason for criticizing the executive, or revealing something the executive didn’t want known, besides a treasonous intent to sabotage the government and help our enemies.

    If you want a monarchy, move to Canada.

  55. I’m not sure cowardice is the right term here. I think one of the more underrated impacts of 9/11 is the fact that our leaders saw the terrorists attacks coming straight at them personally. This wasn’t a case of losing a citizens, territory, national pride, money, etc. Dick Cheney and others clearly lost their perspective under the pressure of that personal threat. A lot of people turn to “the ends justify the means” when the end is their own personal survival. It’s a very understandable human response, but one that I think our country as a whole has come to regret.

  56. At least 343 ran into two burning buildings on almost no notice.

    Bush sat stunned and then continued with what he had been doing.

    He should have left at once for a command center, that was his duty. I became convinced that the man was an utter coward at that point.

  57. Following Skip’s standard of “aid and comfort”, I hereby declare that FOX news, The RNC, the posters and readers of The Free Republic, and every attendee of the recent “Tea Parties” are obviously guilty of Treason.

    After all, they’re engaged in activities whose purpose is to damage the sitting government, and this is a time of war….

    What? It doesn’t work that way?

  58. Tully, if ” frankly, Congress leaks like a sieve” is the excuse, then whether or not the program is operational is beside the point. In fact, it makes more sense for the CIA to hide an operational program.

    Gee, mythago, I believe I clearly noted that the laws require that operational programs MUST be disclosed to Congress, or at least to the Gang of 8, whether or not Congress leaks like a sieve. That the program in question was NOT operational and does not seem ever to have been slated to go operational is not beside the point, it is the ENTIRE point as far as any statutorily required disclosure to Congress goes.

    What would not be legit would be to use the leaky-Congress argument (as true as it is) to evade statutorily required disclosures to Congress. The NYT story seems to aim at giving the impression that’s what happened here, but the slim facts disclosed seem to argue against that.

    If the disclosure requirements did not apply (and at first glance it would appear they did not) then there’s just not much of a story here other than the executive branch not trusting Congresscritters as a group to not leak classified info — a rather justifiable distrust — and thus not disclosing things to Congress before they were legally required to do so. Which is standard sound intel compartmentalization procedure.

  59. It’s true that “the politics of war and security should never be decided by men who are such bowel-shaken chickenshits,” but there’s an important corollary.

    You never know if someone might have some hidden character defect that will only be revealed in a particular kind of crisis, and that means a supremely important decision like going to war shouldn’t be made by a single person. The framers of our constitution didn’t get everything right, but that’s one thing they did. They were very explicit about it and very carefully put in lots of safeguards to ensure that the elected legislature, and nobody else, got to make that sort of decision. Over the years, unfortunately, that’s gotten lost.

  60. Ain’t no bigger coward than a bully.

    Also, is anyone else beginning to suspect that hysterics about “derangement syndrome” constitute their own derangement syndrome?

  61. Gee, Tully, then I guess I’m not sure why you’re reluctantly agreeing with Skip. The very worst sin the NYT may have committed, apparently, is to err on the side of ‘this is something that should have been disclosed’ instead of assuming ‘this is something that was not required to have been disclosed’. (And on the slim facts available, no, I’m personally not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. Retroactively deciding something is classified or non-operational is a handy STFU label.) Skip is arguing that the NYT has committed treason.

    Which, of course, means that he also think Scalzi has committed treason by making this post, no?

  62. @mythago #17…I was more under the impression that Cheney and his ilk wanted a dictator, not a king. You know, following the very Nixonian idea that anything the president does is, by definition, legal. Again, very much along the lines of the dictator. I mean, since you can have a constitutional monarchy, but I’m pretty sure that a constitutional dictatorship would be an oxymoron.

  63. ntsc @# 61 writes, “At least 343 ran into two burning buildings on almost no notice.

    “Bush sat stunned and then continued with what he had been doing.

    “He should have left at once for a command center, that was his duty.”

    I’m by no means a fan of Bush fils, but I can’t quarrel with his immediate behavior after being notified. He’s in the middle of a scheduled event (with schoolchildren, yet), and there is nothing he can do immediately to influence what’s happening. I see nothing wrong with taking the event up to a natural stopping point, and then leaving for Air Force 1 (which is as effective a “command center” as the President is likely to find at that point).

    Personally, I think that immediately leaping to his feet in the middle of the event and racing from the room to head to the airport would not have necessarily been a Good Thing.

  64. If this is true and he never serves time for it (on top of the mountain of everything else he’s done), than there is no justice in this country.

  65. Unfortunately, it does appear that there is no justice in this country, strugglingwriter.

  66. Elaine @67, but there’s a worshipful quality that goes beyond merely wanting a strongman in charge. Listening to the rhapsodizing about the “unitary executive” you got the impression that many neocons felt touching the lapels of the President’s suit would cure scrofula.

  67. Leaky like a sieve or not, Congress is the legislative power of the United States. The CIA was chartered by Congress, its budget is approved by Congress, and its officers, like every other citizen of this country, are obliged to follow the laws passed by Congress. Duh.

  68. John, Cheney didn’t order the CIA to lie to Congress about a program. He ordered the CIA to refrain from telling Congress about a program, and federal law does actually allow the executive branch to do that.

    Now, the question honest critics of this move such as myself are asking is was the executive branch justified in doing that in this instance. Not to be snarky, but maybe you should engage in something more than a superficial review of the headlines about this issue before you comment. Because your ignorance is pretty clear.

  69. And here enlies why we’re so fucked.

    Slightly less than half of us are standing up for destruction of the Constitution because it stops us from stopping The Terrists (OOoooh, scary!)

    And slightly more than hald of us are standing up for the destruction of the Constitution because it “makes things fair”.

    As a democracy, we’re constantly at war with ourselves. Outside enemies don’t even have to destroy the WTC, they can just throw red meat to see people stitll defending Bush’s insane, mental, totally batshit qualities (a hollow cyper steered by a paranoiac power-freak) whist t’other side of the country is mainly stood around going “Nurrr… wut?”

    We’re so screwed. I Say that for the observe/think/evaluate crowd.

  70. Rob:

    “He ordered the CIA to refrain from telling Congress about a program”

    Never have I seen so many people have a problem with the concept of lying by omission.

    Also, let’s try not to be stupid here — Cheney isn’t going to have to order the CIA not to tell Congress about a program if the program wasn’t something Congress would have oversight on. Unless you’re of the opinion that Cheney ended all his sentences with “and don’t tell Congress about this!”

    “Because your ignorance is pretty clear.”

    Well, inasmuch as that puts me in the same boat as Congress, I feel your point is fairly well blunted, there, Rob. I also seriously doubt you have access to any more information on it than I, so the list of the ignorant includes you as well. As for you being an “honest critic,” I’ve seen your Web site. Try that statement again with someone more credulous.

  71. Please, don’t call Dick Cheney chickenshit. That’s an insult to fowl and an insult to fecal matter.

    There is a lot of truth about Cheney being a coward though. Right wing politics are associated with a heightened startle factor and greater sensitivity to creepy crawlers. I’m not making this up. I read it in Science, the journal. You can actually guess someone’s politics by seeing how high they jump when you scare them or studying their reaction to pictures of spiders, slugs on a dinner plate and stuff like that.

  72. So let’s see if I have this straight.

    Nancy Pelosi flat-out accuses the CIA of lying to Congress.

    Leon Panetta states effectively that the CIA does not lie to Congress. This calls into question Nancy Pelosi’s memory, intelligence, and/or integrity.

    Panetta brings this program to the attention of Congress, a program that they were never made aware of even though it never reached the operational stage. Only planning and some training took place.

    Most recently Cheny is “alleged” to have ordered the CIA not to reveal this program to Congress.

    If I were a cynical man — and I am when it comes to the operation of the federal government regardless of which party is in charge but especially now — I would speculate that this is the latest in the effort to rehabilitate Nancy Pelosi’s reputation. At first I thought that Panetta had been chosen to fall on his sword. But, hey! we can still blame on Cheney and save Panetta as well.

    Can I prove this is what’s happening? Of course not. I do think there’s a good chance that’s what’s going on. And if you think I’m crazy, just imagine that the political parties of all concerned were reversed. Would you not think that it’s a scheme by the Republicans to save the reputation of their current Speaker? Ask yourself and try, please try, to answer honestly.

  73. I would have opened up a can of whoop ass on those dirty mountain wizards in 01′.

  74. Tully et all

    Let’s see if I hear you right.

    Somebody with no legal authority to order *anything* tells the CIA “Keep knowledge of this program under wraps” about 8 years ago and not only do they go through contortions to do so but in eight years of rehersal and staffing up they never went operational?

    I’ve got this bridge, not too expensive, pretty color….

  75. Dick Cheney is a relic from the Cold War. America would have fared better if he hadn’t of survived the heart attacks. Iraq would be nothing more than an idea for some alternative history novel. God had tried everything in his bag of tricks to oust the demon seed from the worlds. Alas, only Dick’s maker can unmake him, undo the evildoer. Devil, I implore you. Take back this abominable half-human . . . this man with a monkey heart, the spleen of a poached white rhinoceros, and the sneer of a diabolical cartoon villain. Put the abomination to work in the magma fields with the other red-skinned Republican cronies.

  76. The facts that look damning to me about the program as reported are that 1) Panetta only learned about it on June 28 of this year 2) he killed it immediately with no internal protest, and 3) he briefed Congress about it within two days. Since Congress and the current head of the CIA both say the intelligence committee should properly have been informed of the program long ago, I think it’s safe to say that the intelligence committee should properly have been informed of the program long ago. As for the treason business, there’s so little detail reported that we have no idea what the hell the program actually was, so the NYT has done absolutely nothing harmful to national security.

    Oh, and on the tangency, pork is legal in Israel, though the market is somewhat small. There are restrictions on raising pigs, but even so there’s a Jewish-run pig farm: http://www.forward.com/articles/13245/. I bring this up solely because I find it an interesting factoid.

  77. If I were a cynical man — and I am when it comes to the operation of the federal government regardless of which party is in charge but especially now — I would speculate that this is the latest in the effort to rehabilitate Nancy Pelosi’s reputation.

    So ‘rehabilitate Nancy Pelosi’s reputation’ is actually a omnious sounding version of ‘Hey, she told the truth!’

  78. From somewhere upthread….

    It really wouldn’t surprise me if Cheney habitually ended conversations with a phrase something along the lines of “And you know that you can’t talk about this to anyone” or “Of course, you can’t tell ANYbody about this.”

    “Assistant A, I need you to go to the grocery store and get me more cigarettes, and of course, don’t tell anybody about it.”
    “Assistant B, I need you to go to the CIA and and tell them that the sky is falling again. And don’t tell anybody about it.” … “Sir?” “Oh, all right, don’t tell anybody ELSE about it.”

  79. Interesting torturous read of conflicting statements for this thread. I would have to that the original premise is off. Cheney is not a coward, Cheney does not have a pathological need to lie, and Cheney’s actions as VP do not reflect his actions outside govt. It seems no one bothers to go back to the 80’s when Cheney was a congressmen from Wyoming. Nor is there any supporting data of cowardice from his social life over the decades(if you think the bird hunting incident counts, I suspect you are a hoplophobe;) ). So not only is Psych a soft science which means questionable results, the data necessary to prove the assertion (cowardice) is incomplete thanks to the premise based only on official actions.

    Heck if we only talk about official acts , then Obama would be a GOP member in good company of the class of 200-2006. But I doubt that many of you would accept that and would start pointing out the stuff he said and done elsewhere as opposing facts.

  80. @86 I agree that Pres. Obama is currently acting very much like a Centrist. If he would have fit in fine with the Republicans of 2000-2006 based on his actions; why are the Republicans currently trying to block his everything. I think this reflects more on where they are then where Pres. Obama is.

  81. John wrote: “And personally I think Bush wasn’t really a terrified coward. I do think he doesn’t have a particularly strong personality, however, and was influenced by the wrong people. I think it’s entirely possible in an alternate universe where one of Cheney’s heart attacks killed him off before he could VP, the Bush administration would have acted differently in the wake of 9/11. It’s obviously just speculation on my part, however.”

    I dunno, it wasn’t Cheney’s presence that led Bush to be such a callous, rubber-stamping slacker about executions when he was governor.

    That could be due to having a weak personality, and thus following some caricature of tough-minded Texan justice, regardless of whether the defense attorneys were awake in court, etc.

    But it could also be due to being morally and ethically bankrupt.

    That said, we would certainly have been better off without Cheney, Addington, and Yoo.

  82. VultureTX wrote: “Nor is there any supporting data of cowardice from his social life over the decades”

    Oh? Where did he serve in Vietnam?

    Oh, that’s right. Although he supported the war, he had “other priorities”.

  83. It seems no one bothers to go back to the 80’s when Cheney was a congressmen from Wyoming

    You’re upset that people aren’t judging Cheney’s actions as vice-president by his actions almost thirty years ago? I’m guessing that if somebody offered evidence that Cheney had said (dumb bigoted thing) back in 1981, you’d be arguing the contrary – hey, that was decades ago, man, you can’t assume he’s just like that today.

    I’m also intrigued by the suggestion that Cheney somehow has a bunch of dipswitches in his brain that are set differently when he’s in office.

    Unless you’re of the opinion that Cheney ended all his sentences with “and don’t tell Congress about this!”

    Okay, that’s plausible.

  84. I fond myself wondering if right wingers like using the word “treason” because they’re violent thugs who enjoy the implicit death threat in the legal definition, or because they’re ignorant of the fact that they’re using an legal term, and just think the word has no meaning other than general dissent against their causes.

    During times of war, declared or undeclared, criticism of national policy always gets called treason by right wing nationalists. It’s my opinion that they do it with the hope of causing fear and intimidating critics into silence.

    Like Cheney, they’re a bunch of cowardly thugs.

  85. There is a lot of questions that Cheney, Bush, Biden and Obama should be answering. None of them, so far as I can tell, can be labeled cowards. Those who do so are either dealing in fantasy, projection or just slinging BS to sling BS.

  86. “Somebody with no legal authority to order *anything* tells the CIA “Keep knowledge of this program under wraps” about 8 years ago and not only do they go through contortions to do so but in eight years of rehersal and staffing up they never went operational?”

    Easy solution to his lack of authority “These orders come directly from the President….”

  87. Americans, why are you still burning people at the stake? The Salem Witch Trials were like a century ago, weren’t they? And, Cheney? It was Double-U Bush that pulled your forces into that bloody quagmire in Iraq, cleaning up after daddy bear. If Cheney had been president, and there is no denying this, Osama would have been blown to smithereens in Tora Bora back in 02′. He wouldn’t have wasted his time in the sandbox like a kid with an unlimited supply of GI Joe dolls. He would have nuked the worlds to get the “dirty wizard.” And blah, blah, blah . . . hundreds of billions of dollars later, Americans are still pissing and whining about this and that . . . while forty-five million Americans struggle in their day-to-day life without medical insurance. I mean, let’s face it! Without your military, you’re South Africa. You’ve been led to the slaughterhouse like sheep, bankrupted by greedy bankers and traders, morally corrupted by politicians, ruptured by your own torpedos. I man, Jesus Christ! The Iraqis are burning down the Christian churches today. They’re dancing around in the streets, praising Allah for pushing back the forces of Burning BUSHes. Just get on with it already! Evolve! The outside world is waiting for you to take off your Pilgrim hats and join the evolutionary throng. PS I doubt you’re even ready for a war with North Korea. They could nuke Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and you’d still be yammering on about some dippy chick from Alaska. “Save the 45 million; save the 6 billion others.”

  88. Sorry John, but I disagree with you. I don’t think Cheney is a chickenshit. Nor to I think that ” the politics of war and security” shouldn’t be handled by men who are a bit more paranoid than the average joe.

    Cheney got the briefings on the war, and on things that you and I remain blissfully ignorant of. I believe his paranoia is well justified.

    I am sorry you feel that way about the former VP, but you and both have the right to agree to disagree.

  89. Nor to I think that ” the politics of war and security” shouldn’t be handled by men who are a bit more paranoid than the average joe.

    Fine. That’s arguable, but fine, let’s take that as reasonable for a moment. Then I’d like my politics of war and security handled by men who are bit more paranoid than the average joe and who show some minor semblance of intelligence and competence. That eliminates just about everyone in the administration from 2001-2009.

  90. Dirty Wizard Hunter, we Americans never burned anyone at the stake. That was a European conceit.

    Josh, I think it’s both, really. Remember how when backed into a corner, Coulter started waffling about how Democrats were maybe just ‘potentially treasonable’? They like the ring of the word. Jackbooted thugs always do.

  91. Coulter has a law degree, and isn’t stupid, so I’m pretty sure she knows what the word means in context. It’s what her readers know that has me wondering. Do they really understand that Coulter is saying that what she’d like s for trials and executions of her political opposition?

    She’s gone into detail about it:

    Responding to radio host Melanie Morgan’s assertion that if New York Times executive editor Bill Keller were convicted of treason she “would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber,” right-wing pundit Ann Coulter wrote in her July 12 nationally syndicated column: “I prefer a firing squad, but I’m open to a debate on the method of execution.” Coulter claimed that the Times should be charged with treason for publishing stories on the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program and the Treasury Department’s program to monitor international bank transactions, and concluded that “[a] conviction for treason would be assured under any sensible legal system.”

    So some people who use the word treason are actually in favor of rounding up reporters and shooting them, and actually have a background in the law. But do her fans, or people like Skip (who might be one and the same) actually understand what they’re proposing?

  92. David @84 wrote: “So ‘rehabilitate Nancy Pelosi’s reputation’ is actually a omnious sounding version of ‘Hey, she told the truth!’”

    That was admittedly not the best phrase to describe the desired outcome.

    Pelosi besmirched the entire CIA. These recent events provide no indication that she was telling the truth when she said that she was never briefed on the use of waterboarding. A Republican Speaker who did the same thing, though it might require speaking against a different agency such as the Department of Education, would be called on to step down from the Speaker’s chair, if not resign altogether.

    What this recent controversy does is cast doubt on the integrity of the CIA, or at least key people in the agency. It’s basically an ad hominem attack as it is attacking the integrity of the agency without in any way attacking the argument that Pelosi was lying or misremembering or the evidence in support of it.

    Bringing Cheney into it is an attempt to save Panetta. He directly challenged Pelosi’s statement, probably because he honestly felt that the honor of the CIA had been smeared. Like I said before, when I first heard of this I thought that Panetta was going to be sacrificed for Pelosi’s sake. Now it appears that the Democrats have decided he’s worth saving so they’re falling back on the over-used bugbear Cheney.

    Like I said, I can’t prove this. It’s a hypothesis that appears to fit the known evidence. Further developments may very well contradict it, and I will adjust the hypothesis accordingly if so. It lets me put my conspiracy cap on and have a little fun with it.

  93. My thought is that the CIA would probably work much better if Bozo The Congress didn’t know every little detail about how the agency works — or try to micromanage its operations.

  94. Josh @98, I don’t think they jump very far ahead, mentally, to their eliminationist fantasies in the real world. It’s one thing to giggle with the fellow residents of your echo chamber about executions for treason, and getting cheered on by the base. But when pushed out into the cold, hard light of the Real World, without the mob waving pitchforks right behind her, Coulter backpedaled and obfuscated. Sure, she’s got a law degree and a few brain cells to rub together. (I remember back in the day, when she was one of a pack of new, young conservative commentators getting media attention with the gimmick of “and they’re hotties!”, a gimmick she doesn’t seem to have noticed has lost its snap.) But many famous people get to that point where they start to believe their own press releases, and it can be quite a shock to step out of the bubble to find out that there are people who don’t kiss your ass and don’t have to.

  95. As if the same CIA that gave us KUBARK, assasinations of foreign heads of state and complicity in the drug trade in Cambodia really needs Nancy Pelosi to “besmirch” it.

    The CIA has one of the most vile histories of any US agency. They’re pre-smirched. And they’re not the President’s secret police force, no matter how much right wingers want them to be.

  96. Skipjim @ 93

    Then you claim that there are records that show Bush confirming the orders? Along with the SPS? And you are ignoring the whole 8 years staffing up and running rehersals and never going operational question. Conveniently.

    What? You deny there are any records? Somehow I just do not see anybody in the CIA dumb enough to authorize a program (that is off the rails so far that the new head shuts it down immediately and runs straight to congress to brief them) without a CYA memo in the files. Note also that when the point comes up the claim always seems to be that the program never went _fully_ operational. So, what parts did go operational, what did they do and what were the results?

    So skipjim, if I buy into your point, I guess the question really is “Just what additional illegal and/or unconstitutional program did Bush authorize and Cheney operate?”

  97. Authorizing assassinations on foreign soils is a slippery slope.

  98. Nah, it’s having slipped, fallen down the slope, and taking up residence at the bottom of the ravine.

  99. That eliminates just about everyone in the administration from 2001-2012.

    Fixed it for you 96. David

  100. Pelosi besmirched the entire CIA. These recent events provide no indication that she was telling the truth when she said that she was never briefed on the use of waterboarding. A

    If the CIA was lying to Congress, then the CIA besmirched itself. And that Panetta is now straightforwardly admitting that the CIA lied to Congress gives more credibility to Pelosi’s story, now doesn’t it?

    Fixed it for you 96. David

    Oh, good. Original and creative snark.

  101. The war-mongering wizards of the twenty-first century:
    Osama bin Laden versus Dick Cheney.
    Two dirty gray wizards spinning half truths the worlds round.
    Cage Match
    “Osama . . . performs the muttering-hermit crab,
    raises his pincers, stabs,
    and yanks out Dick’s monkey heart.
    Dick is still hobbling around . . .
    How is this possible, folks!
    Dick pulls out a shotgun
    and shoots Osama in the face.
    Buckshot . . . everywhere.
    Osama is down, down for the count!
    The war on terrorism is over!”

  102. Apropos of nothing useful, I am irresistibly reminded of this bit from Sneakers:

    Dick Gordon: National Security Agency.

    Martin Bishop: Ah. You’re the guys I hear breathing on the other end of my phone.

    Dick Gordon: No, that’s the FBI. We’re not chartered for domestic surveillance.

    Martin Bishop: Oh, I see. You just overthrow governments. Set up friendly dictators.

    Dick Gordon: No, that’s the CIA. We protect our government’s communications, we try to break the other fella’s codes. We’re the good guys, Marty.

    Martin Bishop: Gee, I can’t tell you what a relief that is… Dick.

  103. I am almost certain that, in a stand-up, toe-to-toe match, Cheney would definitely whoop on Osama Bin Laden. Yes, Cheney is older and in remarkably poor health, but he’s a really dirty, inside fighter, you know? Bin Laden had been rumored to have some liver disease also. Maybe Cheney’s packin’ something, too, like a boot knife. He does a fake impression of Obama, bowing to that Saudi fellow, and then, BAM! Out comes the boot knife. A cowardly act? Hey, if it’s the only way to win, WIN. Besides, we all know Bin Laden is no stranger to assymetric warfare. Heck, Cheney probably showed him a trick or two, back in the day. As far as Old School, Cold Warriors go, Cheney freakin’ rules, man.

  104. What’s with all the macho mano a mano Cheney-bin Laden fantasies all of a sudden? It’s practically slash.

  105. “Cheney reversed the lock the mad Saudi had on his torso, throwing him back against the wall. He rushed forward, a smack of meat on meat as he drove his shoulder into the madman’s torso. Bin Ladin’s breath wooshed out, and his head cracked against the wall. As Bin Ladin slumped to the floor, Cheney grabbed his throat. Their eyes met, and it was as if a spark passed between them. Time seemed to stop…”

  106. mythago @ #66:

    Given your dedication to misrepresenting what others say and dodging their points while gratuitously insulting them whenever they seem to dsiagree with you even in the slightest I know this a futile conversation, but I was agreeing with Skip SOLELY on the point that the CIA does not, can not, and is not by law required to brief Congress on every single jot and tittle of every single non-operational pre-planned action scenario. Indeed, they materially could not do so on sheer volume grounds alone. Barring affirmative evidence that the program DID become active and operational without Congress being informed rather than simply being a pre-prepared contingent action scenario, simple failure to notify Congress of its existence would clearly NOT constitute a violation of either of the relevant security acts and would just be sound intel compartmentalization procedure.

    Do note if capable that I have not addressed Cheney or his personality at all, simply the well-understood real-world ground rules for the CIA and other foreign intel agencies in their scenario planning versus their operational activities, and the related legal requirements for Congressional reporting. Also note that I have not supported any single other thing Skip said.

    Rob @ 74: Now, the question honest critics of this move such as myself are asking is was the executive branch justified in doing that in this instance.

    Honest critics, yes. If the program never became operational then there was no expanded “need to know” and no legal requirement to inform Congress, and yes, they’re legally justified in keeping it as quiet as possible. In which case there ain’t no real scandal there, just partisan pot-stirring and extra habaneros for that ever-bubbling cauldron of wingnut stew. The CIA is supposed to conceal stuff. Even from Congress, unless it falls under the required disclosure rules. There is no actionable “lying by omission” involved there. It’s part of their job to not disclose things any more widely than they must.

    If the program DID become operational (something denied even by Panetta) then the executive branch telling the CIA to not report on it to Congress (or rather, at least to the Gang of 8 in Congress) would indeed be a violation of IOA 1980, which governs timely disclosure to Congress of covert national security activities. At which point the cry of “Get a rope!” would have some real merit. But there’s no indication that happened here, and affirmative evidence from Panetta himself that it did not happen.

    For those actually interested in how the system works, the CIA is continually producing wild-ass WTF just-in-case specific operational action scenarios for a multitude of potential situations and contingencies, the vast bulk of which never materialize and some of which are so downright fantastic fiction writers wouldn’t touch them. While the CIA (or other agencies) may at times brief Congressional Intel Committee reps on some few of these action scenarios, they are not obliged by law to do so until and unless it looks like they WILL be made operational. At which point the Gang of 8 is briefed and consulted BEFORE any real operational field actions are taken.

  107. What’s with all the macho mano a mano Cheney-bin Laden fantasies all of a sudden? It’s practically slash.

    See? There are things we can agree on.

  108. Actually Nargel I was trying to provide a plausabe explaination for Cheney giving orders and people were actually obeying them. Had I really been serious I would have provided links to evidence (although there are all those missing emails…….)

  109. I would like to second Tully’s comments.

    There’s something missing here – the stories have not explained what about the program fell under the congressional briefings requirements, if it was just a what-if or planning exercise. If they never got as far as getting ready to actually implement it, then it’s not briefable, as Tully describes.

    Someone way upthread asked “Well, why would Cheney have to say not to brief it if it was already not required to be briefed?,” to which I add “That’s a good and curious question.” It seems like there’s more missing info here.

    This could be one of two clear things, or somewhere in a messy middle ground:

    1. There was no operational activity, it wasn’t briefable, Cheney said something redundant, not clear why Panetta would brief it now and tell Congress it was a mistake not to brief it earlier other than Panetta covering his ass.

    2. There was some operational activity, it should have been briefed, wasn’t, in which case Cheney ordered people to break the law by not briefing, and Panetta is entirely correct.

    Messy middle ground possibilities:

    A. There was some field activity, but a very tightly held very small program, and some of those are briefable post-facto only. Should have been briefed later, when it was no longer so sensitive.

    B. Variation on A, we got someone inside AQ far enough to possibly pull this off, making it really sensitive – Where US agents are undercover for intelligence is a murky area for briefing requirements that I know of. If we had someone inside for intelligence it might not be briefable. If we intended to use them in an assassination then that probably is.

    Plenty more scenarios.

    Unfortunately, without someone spilling the details, there’s not much to go on right now to try and narrow down the options for what really happened.

  110. M Elliot:

    “Apologies? Anyone?”

    Unnamed source refuting unnamed source = need for apology? Please try again, M. Elliot.

    Aside from that I find it interesting that the current head of the CIA would have an urgent need to brief Congress about a secret program it already knew about. That makes almost as much sense as Cheney ordering the CIA not to tell Congress about a program the CIA wasn’t obliged tell Congress about.

  111. They could have an urgent need to brief congress about some details of stuff they did or had planned to do, under a program which they briefed before or as they started it.

    You both have to brief “we’re planning on doing this” and “We’ve gone this far” with the status of the ongoing activities. If they failed to brief the ongoing stuff, that’s a problem, if the ongoing stuff was active.

    With that said – This is the Rorshach version of intelligency activity reporting and analysis. We have enough information to indicate something happened, but not enough to tell what, why, or what led up to it. Everyone is of course jumping to fill in the blanks with their own prejudices and fears and imagination.

    That’s great in fiction and “modern” investigative reporting, but lousy intelligence, or responsible reporting… we really don’t know what happened for real, other than that the current head of the CIA and some congresspeople disagree with the previous head of the CIA and previous VP.

    If we can’t get real facts on the record, there’s no way of telling if this was Cheney’s evil plot to assassinate Bin Laden with a H-bomb laded Basselope, Cheney’s evil plot to assassinate everyone else in the world by turning us all into zombies, and then sitting on the roof of the Naval Observatory with a nightscope and rifle, covering up a CIA agent who got into a really dangerous position undercover inside Al Qaeda, or a paperwork disagreement over a planning exercise which never led to anything in the field.

  112. George William Herbert:

    “That’s great in fiction and ‘modern’ investigative reporting, but lousy intelligence, or responsible reporting…”

    No. The reporting is fine and it’s perfectly responsible. It simply may not be the entire story. Which is perfectly fine; reporting is a progressive laying out of information. Some folks might prefer it not to be reported, but that’s another issue entirely, and it’s neither here nor there as regards responsible reporting.

  113. Sorry, I was responding to hypothetical reporting in line with the recent posts rather than actual reporting from real media on the story (see for example the nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com front page stories), making a point about what we know and don’t.

    The actual stories are pretty good – they’re being careful to say that sources differ and won’t tell them all of it, and not speculate wildly as some in blogosphere (and here) have done.

  114. We must develope this basselope-based weapons system. Rumors are that the russians have a basselope of their own. Do you know what that means, boy? A BASSELOPE GAP!!!

    Sorry I just couldn’t stop myself..

  115. skipjim

    I wonder what sort of leather jackets with snaps and zippers and weapon belts and all the basselope gap sells?

    With all the hostile posturing and other threats that Cheney was producing on a daily bases at Langley during this time frame in order to try and get the faked up intel. reports to support the war hysteria they were fomenting, the CIA may very well have agreed to almost anything (without thinking too much about it) just to get him to go the hell away.

    Just for the record: I do not believe in the slightest in the AQ targeted assassin squad claim. This is an attempt to red herring the real story as well as the Sy Hersh(?) comments about a different program. There was enough domestic will in that direction at that time that they would not have needed to hide it if that was all it was.

  116. Tully, you’re determined to feel personally slighted for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. If I’m gratuitously insulting you, I promise, it will be blindingly obvious to all. That aside, the point that the CIA isn’t required to tell Congress every time it orders a new shipment of pencils is not only obvious, it wasn’t really Skip’s point at all.

  117. As I see, there are two issues that have been raised here.

    The first was whether CIA should have briefed congress. If the reports of global assassination teams are accurate, my opinion is that they definitely should have erred on the side of disclosure as early as possible in the planning as the political reprecussions could be dire. But hey, that’s me. How bad an oversight it actually is depends on what exactly the program not being ‘operational’ means. If there were just some vague plans, it’s pretty minor. If there was a team sitting around ready to do a hit on a moment’s notice it’s more on the egregious side. There isn’t yet enough public information to tell where things lie on that continuum, but past history with covert actions in general and the last administration in particular does not incline me to extend the benefit of the doubt.

    The second issue is with Cheney ordering CIA not to brief Congress. If true, the big problem there is that he had absolutely no authority to do that, even if the decision was correct on the merits.

  118. Two reasons why it was necessary to report to Congress – The Intelligence Authorization Act and The Intelligence Oversight Act.

    Again, the CIA is not the secret police of the Executive Branch. Congress has legal oversight as well. Not liking that, or not liking how some congressmen fail to keep things classified isn’t something that changes the law. We respect the law, or we don’t. Cheney didn’t, and still doesn’t. And he keeps repeating “keep the country safe” as if that allowed him carte blanche to do whatever he liked in total freedom from the law, answering to no one.

  119. Whatever cheney did, I’ll wager it would have Limbaugh demanding a criminal investigation and impeachment if Bill Clinton had done it.

    The number of people in this country who so clearly see justice defined by whose side your on is mind boggling.

    Clinton got a blowjob? ZOMG! IMPEACHMENT!

    Cheney ordered the CIA to manufacture intelligence of WMDs in Iraq? Ordered american military personell to torture prisoners? Ordered the CIA to start domestic spying? Tsk, Tsk, all these wild and unfounded accusations. Do you work for Al Queda?

  120. heckblazeron @ 128

    As I mentioned earlier, every time the question is formally/officially/on the record asked the answer is always that it was not *fully* operational. What I want to know is a) what was left to do to become fully operational? – write the final (last) after action report? and b) Of the parts that *were* operational, what were they supposed to do, how well did they do it and what after effects did they leave? Based on the current public knowledge of the activities of the last 8+ years, much less the facts and evidence beyond that that are seeping out drop by drop into the public awareness, I’m sure that when we do know it won’t be pleasant reading. One of the many reasons I agree that Cheney is a total coward is his habit of using anybody he can find as scapegoat to cover his (lard) ass. Trust me, when/if they ever find out the real history of this, he will find a laundry list of people to try to blame it on.

  121. Anyone paying attention during the period of 2003 to 2008 realizes that the CIA was at war with the Bush administration. Accordingly, pie-in-the-sky fantasies that Cheney masterminded secret Bourne Identity programs without congressional oversight is fundamental b.s. that might play well at your next MoveOn groupmeet, but actually has no connection with reality as we learn as the day unfolds. Quelle surprise! Congress approved the dastardly program all along!

    Amusingly, as the economy flatlines and the Stimulus is visibly failing, a political hack like Leon Panetta … who should never in a million years been given the reins of the CIA … releases a non-story that attacks “Darth Cheney” and … surprise … it elicits pavlovian drooling from all the usual corners, and all the usual suspects. Actually, that’s not so amusing … that’s life in the Age of Obama. What is truly amusing is how the subjects with drool on their chins believe themselves to be such independent, wise and thoughtful free thinkers, who know in their little hearts that “cowardly” Cheney is just as bad as they’ve been told. Well, I suppose that’s par for the course.

    As intended, Panetta has served this up as a timely distraction from how the President’s domestic agenda (from cap-and-trade to national healthcare) is close to DOA. Anyone ready to call it B.S.? Natch – not here!. It’s the burning topic of the day! (And damn fine reporting, too, dontcha know!) *sigh*

  122. Tryptic wins the award for most overwrought prose. It’s actually kind of poetic:

    Pie-in-the-sky fantasies!
    Masterminded secret Bourne Identity programs,
    Fundamental b.s.,
    Moveon groupmeet
    Quelle surprise! Quelle surprise! Quelle surprise!

    Economy flatlines,
    A political hack like Leon Panetta,
    Darth Cheney!
    Pavlovian drooling from all the usual corners.

    Life in the age of Obama,
    Drool on their chins,
    Drool on their chins,
    Drool on their chins.

    Know in their little hearts,
    Par for the course.
    Timely distraction.

    Natch–not here!

  123. David @133

    I see what you mean.
    Tone poem ala Freeper

  124. I’m pretty sure that a constitutional dictatorship would be an oxymoron.

    Well, the Roman Republic sort-of managed constitutional temporary dictatorships for a while, but it’s definitely rare in practice. On the other hand, “empowered to ignore the law and normal government checks and balances for the duration of his term in office” does sort of describe the modern conservative view of a Republican President. Or even apparently Vice Presidents, who break ties in the Senate, protect the space-time continuum, and give orders to intelligence agencies.

  125. Nargel on #131:

    I suspect that if we have any disagreements, they center on strength of rhetoric.

    One possibility I’ve come across as to why the CIA program wasn’t ever fully operational is that when Delta Force attempted a similar style of hit they screwed up royally. If so, it reinforces my view that the US should avoid covert actions on the grounds that we’re no goddamn good at them:

    “The perpetrators in Kenya also quickly discovered that white boys born in the American south sporting crewcuts and speaking no foreign language had difficulties in blending in as foreign businessmen.”


  126. “There is a specific term for this, but I don’t recall.”
    Word is “sociopath” and Cheney is its quintessence. A cowardly, monomaniacal paranoid sociopath in virtual command of the most powerful deadly force the world has ever known. Bush was simply a weak, shallow, lazy irresponsible incompetent content to do the bidding of his more experienced underling, as long as no responsibility for any action accrued anywhere on or near him. Together, they were an utter disaster who may finally have succeeded in doing to the United States that which they most feared.

  127. heckblazer @136

    That article has at least one obvious flaw. Embassies don’t “smuggle weapons” – Diplomatic security at embassies (everywhere, everyone’s) are armed. Routinely. With serious small arms (automatic rifles, submachineguns, in some cases light machineguns, shotguns, handguns, etc.).

    US Marines on embassy guard duty have their normal M16/M203 combinations, M4 carbines, etc. Diplomatic Security Service officers have M16, M4, M203, M249 and M240 machineguns, etc.

    Rather poorly kept secret in “embassy / consulate” cities is that the other nations diplomatic security units have the equivalent firepower. New York City has everyone from the 200ish UN embassies, plus the UN’s security aparatus, all of which are armed to the teeth.

    Anyone who thinks that an embassy would have to “smuggle in” weapons in a diplomatic bag is confused. There’s no smuggling. It’s done openly, it’s an acknowledged part of the diplomatic security regime.
    It’s highly frowned upon for those to go missing and be used for special forces hits, but the idea that someone would notice weapons on the way in, or that they wouldn’t already have weapons in country, is just ignorance.

    I suspect the blog’s accuracy in general.

  128. George William Herbert on #138

    On the one hand the blogger in question is a former CIA officer, on the other he was Ron Paul’s foreign policy advisor, so yeah, I wouldn’t remotely call it definitive. I find it interesting solely because it’s speculation coming from a decidedly non-liberal direction. FWIW, The Guardian is similarly reporting that a botched hit in Kenya killed the CIA program.

    As for the guns in the diplomatic pouch, I have previously heard of exactly that being done in cases in which a weapon needs to be absolutely 100% untraceable. After all, using an officially issued weapon when assassinating someone might kinda raise questions about American involvement. Given that in the past countries have tried smuggling people inside diplomatic pouches, guns don’t really seem like a stretch.

  129. heckblazer @ 136

    strength of rhetoric: I’m an old fart who has been reading, watching, thinking and sometimes speaking about things of this nature since the early 60s. While sometimes wrong, history and hindsight have born me out much more often than I am happy with. I guess I just don’t have the energy to play games anymore.

    For example: look at Operation Shamrock (1945-1975), the Church Committee and AT&T and contrast the telecoms, illegal warrantless wiretapping and the blatant distain for FISA that started long before 9/11 under Bush.

    Look at Cheney’s various roles (including being the white house mole on the committee) in the Iran-Contra investigation or his actions in the Ford administration.
    And, as they say, there’s (much) more. Hence my reaction to the Cheney enablers and apologists (snip).