Another day, another political football.
Senate and House Democrats demanded Thursday to see two secret memos that reportedly authorize painful interrogation tactics against terror suspects — despite the Bush administration’s insistence that it has not violated U.S. anti-torture laws.
White House and Justice Department press officers said legal opinions written in 2005 did not reverse an administration policy issued in 2004 that publicly renounced torture as “abhorrent.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller sent a letter to the acting attorney general saying the administration’s credibility is at risk if the documents are not turned over to Congress.
The memos are “critical to an appropriate assessment” of interrogation tactics approved by the White House and the Justice Department, Rockefeller wrote to Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler. “Why should the public have confidence that the program is either legal or in the best interests of the United States?” the West Virginia Democrat asked.
What I can’t figure out is why anyone anywhere should have any confidence in anything that Sen. Rockefeller says. He has been operating right along the lines of a Democrat Intelligence Committee memo that surfaced way back in 2003. It outlined a Democrat strategy for using that committee to politicize nearly everything about the war. Sen. Rockefeller was the ranking member at the time, so he was certainly in the distro loop on it, if it didn’t come from his own office.
“We have carefully reviewed our options under the rules and believe we have identified the best approach. Our plan is as follows:
“1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard.
“For example, in addition to the President’s State of the Union speech, the chairman [Sen. Pat Roberts] has agreed to look at the activities of the office of the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, as well as Secretary Bolton’s office at the State Department.
“The fact that the chairman supports our investigations into these offices and cosigns our requests for information is helpful and potentially crucial. We don’t know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. [We can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.]
“2) Assiduously prepare Democratic ‘additional views’ to attach to any interim or final reports the committee may release. Committee rules provide this opportunity and we intend to take full advantage of it.
“In that regard we may have already compiled all the public statements on Iraq made by senior administration officials. We will identify the most exaggerated claims. We will contrast them with the intelligence estimates that have since been declassified. Our additional views will also, among other things, castigate the majority for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry.
“The Democrats will then be in a strong position to reopen the question of establishing an Independent Commission [i.e., the Corzine Amendment.]
“3) Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration’s use of intelligence at any time. But we can only do so once.
“The best time to do so will probably be next year, either:
“A) After we have already released our additional views on an interim report, thereby providing as many as three opportunities to make our case to the public. Additional views on the interim report (1). The announcement of our independent investigation (2). And (3) additional views on the final investigation. Or:
“B) Once we identify solid leads the majority does not want to pursue, we would attract more coverage and have greater credibility in that context than one in which we simply launch an independent investigation based on principled but vague notions regarding the use of intelligence.
“In the meantime, even without a specifically authorized independent investigation, we continue to act independently when we encounter footdragging on the part of the majority. For example, the FBI Niger investigation was done solely at the request of the vice chairman. We have independently submitted written requests to the DOD and we are preparing further independent requests for information.
“SUMMARY: Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public’s concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.
“The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration’s dubious motives.”
Keep in mind, this was 2003. Joseph Wilson and his wife weren’t household names yet. The Iraq war itself was only a few months old, and had been based primarily on intelligence gathered during the Clinton years, and upon which the Clinton administration had based two medium-sized actions against Iraq, one in 1998 and one in 2000. And the Democrats had investigated nothing by November of 2003, but this memo outlines the conclusions that they had already reached and the strategy that they were going to employ to discredit the war, using their seats on the Intelligence Committee to do it.
I did some extensive blogging on this memo at the time, but it went down the memory hole before too long. The MSM never really pursued the memo’s implications, which are that the Democrats have for nearly four years been operating a disinformation campaign according to this script and dragging the American people through a grueling game of political gotcha just to lead us to defeat.
So with this latest memo, the old script appears to be alive and well. Just like the 2003 script says, Democrats are trying to
1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard.
They don’t know what’s in the memos that they’re seeking, but they’re raising suspicions anyway, just like the script says.
We don’t know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. [We can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.]