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April 26, 2006

Comments

Hilzoy, marry me.

Wait, I'm already married.

But I'm polyamorous.

Hilzoy, marry me.

Seriously, this is blood-chillingly cogent and rational. This is as neatly laid out of all the issues that I've seen or am likely to see.

Congratulations. And thank you. And marry me.

It's not all that solid that McCarthy leaked classified information so much as that she had discussions with the press that weren't approved by the Company, and that were furthermore specifically prohibited. I know there have been various allegations floating around to this effect, but the initial announcement was (IIRC) that McCarthy was fired for discussing "operational intelligence matters" with a journalist without having approval to do so.

I'm wondering, though, how the lie-detector tests were initiated, and by whom.

That aside, my rules are that if I disclose classified information, I can be fined and imprisoned. I'd think that those rules would be applied to everyone, but we've already seen that they don't.

The obligatory Nazi argument -- if the CIA converted these secret prisons to extermination camps where terrorists were gassed in shower stalls and then burned in ovens -- would an agent be justified in leaking the information.

That's a rad extreme example but it's only to establish that there will come a threshhold at which it's undeniably justified.

For many of us, the notion....that we are disappearing people, not accused of anything specific, into secret prisons for possibly forever.......meets that threshhold of illegality and moral repugnance.

"I think that the decision to leak classified information for the public good is an incredibly difficult one that should never, ever be undertaken lightly; and that, as with civil disobedience, the best way to do it is publicly, and with a willingness to accept the consequences."

Definitely one of your most insightful posts, hilzoy. Wait a minute, that was used yesterday.

Anyway, the above sentence is the critical one.

A: Classified information is put in that category for a reason, albeit not always an appropriate one. For an individual to decide that he/she can decide to leak that information, there had better be a very obvious benefit to the country for them to do so. And there should also be negligible, if any, harm to the country in that leaking.

B: The person doing the leaking, even if for a obviously positive reason, such as the totally made up example you mention above, should be ready to accept the consequences of that leak, up to and including imprisonment.

The McCarthy episode is interesting in that there was never a statement, even anonymously, by anyone in the government or CIA that she was fired for leaking the prison story.

Nonetheless, the rapid conclusion drawn was that that is what it was. There is a grwoing tendency in this country to automatically jump to the most negative conclusions based upon limited information. This is not, BTW, confined to only one side of the political spectrum.

It, I think, is one of the downsides of living in the insta-info environment in which we find ourselves.

"I think that the only relevant fact is that it's [Porter Goss' favourite colour] classified, and thus that even though a leak would do no damage, it would be wrong."

A meta-justification: the public might need to know that the classification process was being terribly abused.

"That leak told agents in the CIA that their identities could be revealed for political purposes."

Very good.

"...and that, as with civil disobedience, the best way to do it is publicly, and with a willingness to accept the consequences."

Harriet Tubman would certainly been less effective with public civil disobedience. I do not think Rosa Parks was morally required, having broken an unjust law (if she did; I don't remember the exact details), to plead guilty and do her time. I think you can resist an unjust law at every stage of the process.

Now the classification laws are probably not always unjust. But someone who leaked Porter Goss's favourite colour I believe could challenge a life-sentence as being a disproportionate penalty. And for a real-life example, the librarians who might reveal that the gov't was examining hilzoy's article checkouts are, IMO, allowed to contest their imprisonment without my disapprobation.

That was one of your imsightful comments, john. :p

Darn, I was hoping it would be insightful.

Just for the record, Porter Goss' favorite color being classified would not long withstand the scrutiny of ISOO.

appended to that last should be IMO.

Joe McCarthy: Are you a traitor?

Mary McCarthy: No. I'm a Democrat.

Joe McCarthy: So am I.

Richard Nixon: coughSouthernstrategycough.

Joe McCarthy: Are you a traitor?

Mary McCarthy: No, I'm a Democrat.

Joe McCarthy: That's what I said.

Joe McCarthy: Are you a traitor?

Charlie McCarthy: No, I'm Edgar Bergen.

Joe McCarthy: That's O.K. I'm Moe Lane.

I am afraid I don't understand the "accepting the consequences" stuff yet. I am just dim. Someone caught printing freedom pamphlets in Communist East Germany is morally required to put on his own blindfold for the firing squad rather than trying to get over the Wall?

In my theoretical example, Rosa Parks had not only the moral right to contest her arrest for refusing to give up her seat, but the moral obligation to do so. The point and purpose was to contest the law in court, in other words, to not "accept the consequences."

In most cases when I would be morally justified in leaking classified information, I think it likely that I would be morally justified in trying to evade the consequences by any means possible. I suspect Ellsberg hired lawyers.

Hilzoy says:


and second, the fact that I really didn't think I knew enough about what had happened, and wanted to wait a bit to see what came out.

If only you could consistently apply that logic, then maybe you wouldn't jump on to so many sinking ships...

One Of The Great Policy Mistakes Of All Time by hilzoy

Turns out Sabri says:

Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had "poison gas" left over from the first Gulf War.

The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year." Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that.

Bush was clear. He said we can't wait until the threat is imminent and Sabri's comments only supported him.

Oops, mistake on the blockquote.

Bush was clear. He said we can't wait until the threat is imminent and Sabri's comments only supported him.

Bob, when I say "accept the consequences", I don't mean that in a just automatically plead guilty and go quietly into the night, although this administration sometimes appears to want that to happen. Yes, hire lawyers. Yes, put up the strongest defense possible. Yes, contest, if need be, either the law or the appropriateness of the classification.

The point is that if we believe strongly enough in our moral conviction that what we are doing is the right thing to do, then we should not be hesitant to face consequences we don't like. But that doesn't mean accept them passively.

He said we can't wait until the threat is imminent

This is something I never completely understood, why the hell can't we wait until then?

jayjay didn't include a link, but he's quoting from an MSNBC story entitled Iraqi diplomat gave U.S. prewar WMD details - Saddam’s foreign minister told CIA the truth, so why didn’t agency listen?.

The sources say Sabri’s answers were much more accurate than his proclamations to the United Nations, where he demonized the U.S. and defended Saddam. At the same time, they also were closer to reality than the CIA's estimates, as spelled out in its October 2002 intelligence estimate.

This is odd, because my recollections from October 2002 are that the CIA, far from backing Bush's wish to invade Iraq, was actually arguing that there was no point:

Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, added pointedly: 'It's an overwhelming temptation to manipulate intelligence to serve policy and, to some extent, I think that's what's happening here with Iraq.'

"In most cases, I would take a completely different view, since, as I said, I think that the general rule has to be: you keep classified information secret."

Not too long ago, I was at a street intersection facing a red light. The fire truck coming behind me had no way around except possibly moving into opposing traffic. After checking for cross traffic, I ran the red light opening up a path.

The general rule is not to obey the law simply because it is the law. The general rule is use your own judgement and conscience to determine those times when it is morally correct to break a law. In most cases, the very very great majority, you will have inadequate information or cause to justify law-breaking, and should refrain. But the default tool should be the individual conscience, not blind obedience to authority for its own sake.

Hilzoy is an ethicist?

Jayjay: as I read that story, it says that Sabri said that Saddam had no bio weapons program, that he wanted nuclear weapons but that it would take a long time before he'd get them (doesn't say whether he had a program or not, but it implies that if there was one, it wasn't very advanced), and that he agreed with CIA that Saddam had stockpiled weapons, but disagreed with their claim that he had a chem. weapons program.

How this supports Bush, I have no idea.

Bob: I didn't say you always have to obey the law. Actually, I said that there were times when you don't. I only said that the (defeasible)presumption is in its favor.

Bob, I am confused. Where is what you are saying and what hilzoy is saying at odds?

In the instance above, technically you could have been given a ticket for running a red light. You would not have been able to just refuse it if the officer issued it, nor could you not show up to defend yourself and expect to be let off. However, due to the circumstances involved, if you had been given a ticket, you would probably have had it dimissed.

Hilzoy was also saying that as a general rule, leaking of classified information is bad, but that certain circumstances apply where leaking that info is the morally correct thing to do.

"Where is what you are saying and what hilzoy is saying at odds?"

The "general rule" :) But come to think of it, perhaps that is what ethicists do.

I would not try to create a general rule:"It is okay to run red lights if and if and if..." based upon that experience. I suspect the difference lies in attempting to come up with "general rules" as when it is morally correct to break the law. It is quite possible that those who outed Plame thought they were acting correctly (presuming a law was broken) and that those who outed the outers (there are multiple leaks surrounding the Plame case) thought they were doing the right thing. Going to secrecy and privacy or whatever standards there are in Washington there are daily "leaks", some approved, some not.

I can imagine cases in which each of hilzoy's caveats might be justifiably overridden. I have read the Pentagon Papers, and did not consider them a big deal, and their content is little remembered today. The release did not stop the war, or change an election. Did Ellsberg do the right thing?
Ellsberg thought he did.

I guess I hesitate to create prescriptive rules as to when it is morally correct to leak classified information, not because I give deference to the law, but because I defer to individual judgement and conscience.
In most cases law and judgement will not be in conflict, but those are not the cases we are discussing.

bob,

I think you are reading too strongly into the term "general rule". When one says that the general (defeasible) rule is to obey the law, what is meant is that, all other things being equal, one ought to obey the law. They are thus leaving it an open question as to what should occur in any specific case where all other things aren't equal.

The way you seem to be presenting the case is that the law holds no weight whatsoever and that we ought to act based solely on our own instant and not completely informed calculations of right and wrong without any weight given to the law's proscriptions.

For what it is worth, this is one of the many ways one can parse the liberal/conservative distinction. One of the early fathers of classical conservatism, Edmund Burke, wrote extensively on how we ought not just dispobey laws because we think we have a better idea. Instead, he argued, we should always give deference to the law and precedent and act very cautiously (or conservatively, natch).

This, of course, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that hilzoy is, in fact, conservative in the sense in which it was introduced to politics. Then again, as much as she preaches and practices prudence, this should come as no great surprise.

forgot this in the first post:

I would not try to create a general rule:"It is okay to run red lights if and if and if..." based upon that experience.

This is actually an example of a fairly specific rule and not really a general rule at all, which is, I think, where the confusion lies.

OK, let me try a different line:

"but a "system" in which people got to just decide for themselves what to leak and what not to leak would be worse."

This is actually the system we have, each person who sees a document or has knowledge of a conversation makes a decision. Classification may deter, but it does not prevent leaks. There are a lot of leaks.

"as with civil disobedience, the best way to do it is publicly, and with a willingness to accept the consequences."

Most leaks are anonymous, and that anonymity is protected vigorously by the media. Seldom are there consequences for leaking. Woodward, most of the press make their livings off leaks. Now perhaps Oval Office conversations are in a different legal and ethical category than the prisons, but I am not sure if the WH thinks so, and many WH conversations would be very classified. I would contend there is little provable damage to the nation with past leaks. Certainly there are some examples, but considering the vast quantities of classified, sensitive and dangerous information most individuals have decided to keep secret what should be secret.

But should, for example, Cheney's infamous energy meetings be leaked? Well, I can't advise the person with access using hilzoy's criteria because I don't know what is in those minutes. It has to be up to them. My default guess is that the minutes are classified for political reasons.

So, the question is, is too much material needlessly or abusively classified, and would the nation be better served by a greater or lesser reliance on individual judgement or better served by deference to classification? Going on past experience, I trust the judgement of those with access more than I trust the classifiers. I would, if asked, tell the dude with Cheney's minutes to use his judgement rather than tell him he should obey the law.

Is my conflict any clearer?

In general I tend to think a leak is a leak period. There are no good leaks. And I certainly do not believe it is up to the individual charged with maintaining secrecy to determine when it is OK to leak – whatever their motivation. So my default position is that if it is proven she leaked anything, she needs some serious prison time.

I would modify my position somewhat if it comes out that she followed the appropriate steps to address any concerns she had (Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998): going first to the agency IG and then contacting the intelligence committees directly if she did not find satisfaction there. If both the IG and the intelligence committees blew her off, then I would be more understanding of her actions – but still feel she needs prison time.

My concerns are not so much with the individual any more – but rather the ongoing pattern of these leaks. It seems to be pretty clear that the CIA has been working pretty hard to undermine the administration. Funding studies out of their budget produced by former Dem administration officials or other critics prior to the 04 election; allowing an employee to publish a book containing classified information; and leak after leak after leak.

I don’t think that is a partisan issue. When we have a government agency actively undermining the executive branch that should cause everyone to stop and consider what is going on. The secret airline, the prisons, the NSA gig – those are some pretty serious leaks, damaging both to our national security and to our relations with other countries. But apparently some insiders are willing to accept that damage as long as it undermines the current administration.

Think about that – years ago the CIA was the boogieman of the left, some kind of shadow government. Now elements there actually are actively influencing policy – but now they are whistleblowers.

I was going to go away, I have written too much, but OCSteve has inspired me.

Loose Lips Drum on Boot

"Nice try, Max, but FDR earned the benefit of the doubt. This gang hasn't. They've made it crystal clear that they consider the war on terror little more than a useful campaign topic of unlimited duration." ...Kevin Drum

"When we have a government agency actively undermining the executive branch that should cause everyone to stop and consider what is going on." ...OCSteve, at 6:00

Indeed. And I would trust Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame and Larry Johnson and their friends and allies with my life and the life
of my family. No kidding, I would. Many others have. Extraordinary circumstances call for extreme measures, and I trust the the career CIA to do what is best for the country. What's left of it after Porter Goss completes his purge of non-apparatchiks.

Bush Cheney Rove? Not so much.

It's not a matter of having the benefit of a doubt, it's the matter of this possibility that the CIA is so politicized as to be untrustworthy. Which would pretty much ruin the CIA as a useful organ of the government just as thoroughly as anything hilzoy's envisioned.

I've read here and there that McCarthy works for the office of the IG at CIA. There should be little doubt she's aware of the proper path to disclosure. What it means that she disclosed in the way that she did, I have no idea, but I'm very interested in finding out.

Slart, Boot isn't talking about punishing the leakers in that quote. He's talking about punishing the press for publishing the leaked information.

I'm also curious in just what sense you think the CIA is being politicized. I don't disagree that this is happening, but I'm not sure we are entirely on the same page in regard to the manner in which it is being done.

Extraordinary circumstances call for extreme measures, and I trust the the career CIA to do what is best for the country.

Wouldn’t that be what they believe is best for the country?

Are you really advocating that career civil servants should actively work to undermine the elected government?

The secret airline, the prisons, the NSA gig – those are some pretty serious leaks, damaging both to our national security and to our relations with other countries. But apparently some insiders are willing to accept that damage as long as it undermines the current administration.

I think you are too willing to assume that the insiders are deliberately trying to undermine the administration. We don't know their motives. Even if you disapprove of their actions, surely it's possible they were acting out of a belief that the leaks were in the best interest of the country. After all, the CIA is no hotbed of leftists.

And again, though you obviously disagree, I think the leaks you cite are not particularly damaging to our security but the programs are damaging to the country. So I in fact believe the leaks were beneficial to the extent they call attention to these activities. Is it inconceivable that the leakers think the same?

There are at least three articles of Priest's that specifically mention investigations by the inspector general's office:
1) the article on the detainee killed at the Salt Pit
2) the article on "erroneous renditions" (the one that talks about the teacher who gave an Al Qaeda member a bad great, etc.)
3) an article on the Mowhoush death

If McCarthy did give Priest classified information--which I do not assume; we have a denial from her and no clear statement to the contrary, and Priest has lots of sources--I think it is more likely about those cases than the black sites in Eastern Europe.

As far as the proper path to disclosure: I know of three "proper channels" from the Inspector Generals office:

1) informing selected members of Congres
2) referring cases to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution
3) internal changes and discipline in the CIA

I believe I have read that the "Gang of four" from the intel committees have been briefed about these things. I do not believe it has sparked an investigation and I do not believe there is any information you could disclose to Pat Roberts to get him to agree to an investigation.

Also, if I recall correctly, 20 cases involving civilian detainee abuse--which means the CIA or contractors--have been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. DOJ has brought charges in one of these cases: the contractor David Passaro, who is charged in the death of an Afghan man named Abdul Wali. He is on trial now in North Carolina. After the Passaro case, they all have been referred to a task force in the Eastern District of Virginia, which has not brought any charges at all and has closed a few cases. The U.S. Attorney there, Paul McNulty, was recently promoted to Deputy Attorney General.

I would be very surprised if we saw charges in any of those cases.

As far as changes within the CIA: from everything I've read, these programs continue to this day.

So it is quite possible that the proper channels were tried, and from Priest's source's point of view, had failed. I don't know that, of course, but I don't know why so many people are assuming they weren't tried. Even if you assume that the leakers don't really see leaking classified information as a bad thing in itself, I don't see why you would risk your career or prosecution unnecessarily.

The secret airline, btw, wasn't revealed by leakers at all (as far as I know). Not US leakers, anyway. I believe it became public due to:

1) A Swedish reporter noticing that Gulfstream jet with the same tail # was used to take Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery from Stockholm to Cairo, that a Pakistani paper had reported was used to take Jamil Qasim Said Muhammad from Karachi to Amman.

2) Looking up the company that owned the plane in public FAA records, and finding out that it had landing permits at every US military base in the world, and was run by a company whose office was a PO Box and whose directors had fake names and social security numbers

3) Looking up the other planes this company owned

4) Keeping track in public records over time as these planes were sold and transferred to new companies run by fake people

5) (this is the really wacky one)Finding out when else these planes had flown by contacting amateur hobbyists who watch airports with binoculars and write down tail #s and flight information for fun

6) Getting flight data from air traffic control and other more official sources

"Are you really advocating that career civil servants should actively work to undermine the elected government."

Well, Bush's political appointees, burrowing into the bureaucracy for the long haul to undermine and sabotage future Democratic Administrations, certainly don't seem to have the guts to do it. They would rather undermine the U.S. Government itself, its agencies missions, its courts, and maybe the Constitution itself.

It would have been nice if Colin Powell had stuck around to do the undermining. But career civil servants always get stuck with the job.

Without more than one career civil servant or two doing some serious secret undermining in parking garages during Watergate, Nixon would have ended up having a GS-7 legal clerk running the Department of Justice just to keep him afloat, when he got done firing EVERYONE in the chain of command.

The next Democratic President will need to fire every civil servant down to GS-11 (hundreds of thousands) who votes Republican. Not because they are Republican, but because they may be personally loyal to an ex-President living in Crawford, Texas, if Bush is lucky enough to retire peaceably.

As far as the C.I.A. and the U.S, Armed Forces go, I suspect Dick Cheney has embedded loyal Manchurian candidate snipers for the eventuality of a John Kerry or Hillary Clinton or Al Gore Presidency. They are easy to spot: they're the ones with the punkish young College Republican flop sweats.

Don't worry, I give the country a 50/50 chance of surviving. Its government, though, may be damaged beyond repair. But I think that was the point of the Republican Revolution, though some of them wanted to do it on the cheap.

Ahh, ends, means, what the hell.

I think you are too willing to assume that the insiders are deliberately trying to undermine the administration. We don't know their motives. Even if you disapprove of their actions, surely it's possible they were acting out of a belief that the leaks were in the best interest of the country. After all, the CIA is no hotbed of leftists.

If it is truly a matter of principal, then after exhausting all internal channels, you resign in protest. If you stay inside and leak anonymously, I have to suspect ulterior motives.

CIA has actually usually been a fairly liberal organization.

I say deliberate because:

They funded studies out of the counterterrorism budget that had one common theme: "They criticize the Bush administration and provide ammunition for the Kerry campaign,"

They allowed an active employee, Michael Scheuer, to anonymously publish an anti-administration book which included classified material in the lead up to the election. According to the author himself as quoted in the NYT, “As long as the book was being used to bash the president, they [the C.I.A. honchos] gave me carte blanche to talk to the media.”

So for starters they actively tried to influence the outcome of the election.

Then the leaks. We all remember the big ones, but it goes back over 4 years now. Literally dozens and dozens. They have leaked like a sieve, and all the leaks have one outcome. None of them make the administration look good.

I have no doubt they believe they know what is best for the country. That is fine in the privacy of their home and in the voting booth – it is not their day job. Their job is to implement policy, not to decide it. Their motivation for breaking the law really does not come into it. And even if I don’t agree with the elected government I do not want career civil servants deciding policy.

That is why we have an election every 4 years – we can change our government if we are unhappy with it. These careerists are there through 4-5 administrations. I do think that their longevity tends to foster an outlook that they do know better than the new guy passing through the Oval.

About one of OCSteve's quotes: it's his interpretation of the CIA's publishing permission policy. In context:

"Some White House officials and pundits asserted that the CIA had allowed Scheuer to act as its surrogate critic on the war. Just before George J. Tenet left his post as CIA director, he forbade Scheuer to speak publicly.

Scheuer said he believes that the agency silenced him after CIA officials realized he was blaming the CIA, not the administration, for mishandling terrorism. "As long as the book was being used to bash the president, they gave me carte blanche to talk to the media," he said. "But this is a story about the failure of the bureaucracy to support policymakers.""

"And even if I don’t agree with the elected government I do not want career civil servants deciding policy."

At the limits, in extreme cases I certainly do. Remember Generals are career civil servants.

And if Bush is visited by Jesus Who tells him China can be liberated with 5 nukes and three Seal teams, I want the Joint Chiefs to stop him. Not resign and hope the next guy also resigns, but actually, by whatever means necessary, stop Bush from nuking China.


I do not trust voters to determine policy or sane policy makers. Not anymore. It takes a lifetime of hard work and reputation building to get to the top at the Pentagon. Any worthless schmuck, the worst person in America, apparently can become President.

Legitimacy and authority are not things gained in elections permanently and irrevocably. They are conditional upon performance.

If Bush were to walk down Penn Ave and and put bullets in the heads of Pelosi and Reid recorded on C-Span; and the Republican Congress refused to impeach and the Cabinet refused to invoke the 25th amendment; yet still, tho the law were against me, and even if 35% percent of the electorate approved of his action, I would not recognize his right to govern. Just me, others around here might feel differently.

Bush is a war criminal. There is simply no force adequate or willing to arrest and imprison him. He is not a legitimate President, but a tyrant. I owe him nothing. I owe the country nothing on his behalf.

I think it is likely that McCarthy has been acting in concert with Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame in order to undermine the presidency. The whole secret prisons thing is a bet of red herring. I'll lay dollars to donuts that she was involved in the staged "outting" of Valerie Plame. It's brilliant really -- the CIA leaks the name of an operative who really isn't undecover. Manufactured outrage ensues. Then Matt Coooper lies to Fitzgerald about his source in order to get Rove indicted. And so far they've gotten away with it. My guess is that McCarthy has more or less been caught that maybe this little stunt will come to an end.

wowsers.

"Any worthless schmuck, the worst person in America, can apparently become President."

Bob, my wife won't let me run, so worry not. Unlike the rest of the electorate, she is a fine judge of character.

But it is an odd system. It might be true too that the most accomplished individual in America could run and turn out to be a catastrophic President. There doesn't seem to be an instruction manual, unless you count Shakespeare's tragedies.

It is odd that Bush has been referred to as the CEO President when there had to be ten of thousands of CEOs in America who had actually run something effectively. Warren Buffett, Jack Welch, name your poison. At least they had resumes.

Leonidas isn't running for President either, so we'll have to settle for the third worst worthless schmuck in America since I bowed out too.

But Leo might be on to something. I think the person who is going to be framed for all of these crimes is hiding in Faye Dunaway's apartment in "Three Days of the Condor".

I think it's Elvis.

I think it's Hitler.

There. Collapse the Godwin probability function as soon as possible, is my motto.

Their motivation for breaking the law really does not come into it.

Then why you are making statements about their motivation?

And so far they've gotten away with it.

Wait, when do Mulder and Scully get involved?

"And by 'a violation of US law' I do not mean that we are allowing the CIA to do abroad things that it would not be allowed to do in the US. The law provides for that. I mean that we have signed a variety of treaties that have the force of law, and that prohibit us from doing these things anywhere."

Note: not just treaties. Also criminal statutes. Acts of torture and conspiracy to torture committed by U.S. officials outside the United States* are federal felonies.

Rendition was proposed as an interrogation technique in GTMO--an FBI memo stated that insofar as the intent was to subject prisoners to interrogation techniques illegal in the US (the memo clearly assumes that was the intent), it's a conspiracy to torture and a federal crime.

*There's a complicated argument about whether some of these CIA facilities legally count as "outside the United States" for the purposes of this statute, but:
1) the DOJ seems to assume that they do, or the OLC torture memo wouldn't have been necessary, and
2) if they aren't then you have to deal with a different set of felonies--assault and such.

I am proud to contribute to a thread dissolving into lunatic rants. I did my part.

And even though I might be a theoretical sociopath one should not presume I run stop signs on deserted intersections with no traffic. I come to a full, not rolling stop, and sit arguing with myself about my justification for obeying the law.

But you knew that about me.

So I guess that Ahmed Chalabi is a hero for having passed crypto to the Iranians. After all, by doing so, he has made it more difficult for the War Criminal Bush to confront the Iranians.

Hilzoy, most of the time I think that you are insightful and spot-on with your critiques and full-throated condemnations of the Bush administration. But there's something cloying about words to the effect of, "After much agonizing, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I was going to come to all along."

Rumors and sightings of that plane were circulating back when Billmon still had comments, so pre-June 2003. Tracking that plane and its parent company's planes really was a triumph of the airplane hobbyists. As reports of sightings circulated through the paranoidsphere, I didn't really believe it could be happening and be so easily tracked--not that I sat down and pieced together the data, carefully judging each report for verifiability.

Katherine is absolutely right about this point.

OCSteve: That is why we have an election every 4 years – we can change our government if we are unhappy with it.

Unless the elections aren't being honestly run, in which case, no, you can't, no matter how unhappy you are with it. Al Gore won the 2000 election: Bush got the Presidency. No one knows who actually won the 2004 election - all we know is that in key states, hundreds of "mistakes" were made that just happened to favor the Republicans... and independent electoral observers were not allowed to observe. Would Bush have won anyway? Who knows?

There is something to be said for career civil servants whose job it is to keep elections honest, whose jobs are not tied to any political party, whose work counting votes is overseen at elections by representatives of every party standing for election. Checks and balances: always a good idea.

Sorry, sorry, sorry - I know the above looks like a classic Jesurgislac threadjack. It's based on something I've been thinking for a while, though - see my journal, and post comments there, okay?

Scheuer said he believes that the agency silenced him after CIA officials realized he was blaming the CIA, not the administration, for mishandling terrorism.

I’m not sure how that refutes my interpretation – is would seem to support it. That is, as long as he was Bush bashing he was free to talk to the media.

No one knows who actually won the 2004 election - all we know is that in key states, hundreds of "mistakes" were made that just happened to favor the Republicans

I’m really not going to get into this except to say that I hope the next election is a blowout, no matter who wins. There were plenty of irregularities on both sides. I do think that the Democrats have set some dangerous precedents these last two elections that they are likely to regret.

In the event of a Democratic “squeaker” in 08 I hope that the Republicans concede early and gracefully without all the nonsense of the last two elections – just to restore some integrity and confidence to the process.

What if the CIA was seeking a solution to a very troubling problem. Spiriting suspects, some innocent, to Jordan, Egypt, Syria had to be stopped since torture was clearly taking place. Europe may have been the interim solution.

Did Mrs. McCarthy's confirmation of the CIA's use of Europe as a "waystation" make the CIA's ability to solve the problem of detention far more difficult? (I seem to recall Dana Priest's article mentioning 30 high profile detainees and perhaps 100 additional detainees being processed through detention centers in Europe.)

We are fighting an assymetrical war against a vicious and determined enemy. Human rights activists appear to be working towards bringing about the end of using facilities such as Guantanamo Bay in order to grant detainees full and immediate access to lawyers and trial by juries. Our legislative body seems incapable or inwilling to grapple with the issue of detention at this particular juncture. I suspect our court system would defer rendering judgement until the war is concluded as they had similarly done with the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

Frankly, I'm all for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed being locked away somewhere and deprived of lawyers and a trial for the time being.

We are fighting an assymetrical war

I think this will generate a few giggles.

OCSteve: The secret airline, the prisons, the NSA gig – those are some pretty serious leaks, damaging both to our national security and to our relations with other countries.

Replace 'leaks' with 'violations of international law and the Constitution', and you have the difference between OCSteve's priorities and the rest of us.

Nell,

You forgot our views of what is morally correct.

Nell, are you saying that leaking info about government practices that violate international law and the Constitution will never have any negative consequences, or that you don't think there could be any negative consequences that would ever outweigh the need to make this sort of information public immediately?

@kenB: I'm not saying either of those things, and don't see where you can extract them from what I did say.

If there are government practices that violate laws and the Constitution, and if other efforts at ending/changing them fail (those routes noted by Katherine above), then leaking them to the press is quite justifiable.

Justifiable, not 'entirely free of negative consequences' or 'incapable of being outweighed by negative consequences'.

I think this will generate a few giggles.

My students occasionally refer to "assymptotes" of a graph. Which is bad enough, but worse was the midterm where a hurried student claimed that the graph had a "vertical assy".

Just keep your assymptotes away from my semilatus rectum

Nell: don't see where you can extract them from what I did say.

Um, AFAICT your very next statement demonstrates that your position corresponds to the second of my two options -- if you're saying the leaking of such information is always "justifiable" regardless of the consequences, that's the same thing as saying that you think there are no negative consequences that could ever *outweigh* the importance of revealing this information.

Anarch: one of my students once wrote an essay in which she referred, throughout, to "the porpoise of human life". (Flipper!) I assume spell-check was to blame.

OCSteve: I didn't mean that the context refuted you; just that it made it read differently, to me, so I provided it.

In high school, a friend in a history class referred to the "question of euthanasia".

While doing laps around the track after school for track practice, I spent some time wondering what the youth of China had to do with whatever the subject was at hand.

Oh goody, links from both PJ media AND Protein Wisdom. Jeff G. says this:

"writes Hilzoy, “I think that leaking it is sometimes justified. The existence of a system for the classification and declassification of documents is important, but it’s not the most important thing in the world, and sometimes its importance might be outweighed” [translation: the ends justify the means, and oaths of confidentiality can be superceded when one really really really doesn’t like the duly elected CinC"

The not liking the CinC part has nothing to do with what I say. If Jeff read enough to excerpt what he did, he presumably also read the example that followed. And if he thinks that 'sometimes, in very serious situations, you can do stuff you ordinarily shouldn't' translates to 'the end justifies the means', he needs to get a new dictionary.

('The end justifies the means' normally means: it always does, or at least usually. Not: there are some consequences in which the results of doing something are so appalling that even though you should do it in almost any circumstance, you should not do it then.

If I think, for instance, that when I promise to meet a friend for drinks, I can break that promise if my Mom collapses on the floor just as I'm about to leave, and I need to get her to the hospital, have I thereby come to believe that 'the end justifies the means'? What if I am willing to stand up my friend if I see Osama bin Laden disappearing into the underbrush in a deserted location, and stop to call 911 and then try to apprehend him? What if, in the same location, I see a kid being raped, and there's no one else around to stop it?

If being willing to do something I normally wouldn't do -- break my word -- not in normal situations but situations like these counts as thinking that 'the ends justify the means', then I'm in the good company of most of humanity in thinking so. If, on the other hand, you don't count as thinking that 'the ends justify the means' unless you're willing to break your word, or in some other way violate a prima facie duty, a lot, then Jeff can think that I think this only if he didn't bother to read the rest of the paragraph he excerpted.)

I did put something into comments to the effect that that's not ALL you said, hilzoy, but I haven't seen any responses to it. None that matter, anyway.

[translation of JeffG: I get far more hits when I'm a red meat blogger, so I'm going to misconstrue deliberately an ethics post from an ethicist.]

we are not amused.

Slarti -- thanks for taking on the one that didn't matter.

Once upon a time, someone called me the same thing, only with 'cocky' preceding it, right before he dumped a pitcher of beer onto my head. A complete stranger, too; he came up to me in a bar, where I was writing a paper, asked what it was about, and got mad because it was about ethics and wasn't completely relativistic. And no, I am not making this up.

I thought it was incredibly funny, but then I always did have an odd sense of humor.

my semilatus rectum

My Algebra II teacher told us that the school district (this was L.A., circa 1980) had directed math teachers to use the term "right focal chord" rather than "latus rectum" when discussing parabolas, because they were uncomfortable with the sound of the latter term. He ridiculed them continually throughout the rest of the year.

we are not amused.

At least there were no dogs. We should be happy for even those small miracles. Would JG count as part of the Angry Right?

I do think that the Democrats have set some dangerous precedents these last two elections that they are likely to regret.

Agreed -- if it is close in 2008 and the Dems win (unlikely but you never know what tricks Hillary may have up her sleeve), I expect a full investigation of election fraud. The Dems have a, shall we say, quite colorful history of these things, from Tammany Hall to the Daly machine. Those who can't win fairly, cheat I suppose. I expect Dem cheating to reach an all-time high in 2008. And that's saying something.

It's sad to see Senator Joe McCarthy's name being brought up in all of this. I suppose it was inevitable after George Looney smeared him. Many Americans still remember him as a hero.

"Many Americans still remember him as a hero."

That is such a sad commentary on the state of mind of those Americans.

So, John, you're essentially saying then that you believe there was no communist threat then, just as there is no terrorist threat now? And you wonder why the American people don't trust your party with national security.

Leonidas: mindreading foul. I dislike McCarthy, but it's not because he thought there was a communist threat. Obviously there was, in the form of the USSR, and also obviously I don't like spies in general, and not spies of an odious dictatorship in particular. I dislike McCarthy because he went around smearing people with no evidence, and ruined the lives of people who were not part of any communist threat. In so doing, he also harmed our national interest, by (among other things) going after most of the people in the State dept. who actually knew something about Asia.

That should have been 'east Asia', specifically China and SE asia.

Generally, though, had McCarthy used the same tactics while ostensibly supporting, oh, Girl Scouts selling their cookies, I would have disliked him as much.

Whatever you think of Joseph McCarthy, you certainly can't compare him with Mary McCarthy. Senator McCarthy was many things, but no one would call him a traitor.

Hilzoy, you said my words for me.

And I'm not so sure about the traitor part. First, based on information we have about Mary, it would really be a strech to call her a traitor.

Secondly, by severely hampering our diplomatic efforts by chasing people out of government or casting a cloud over perfecftly patriotic citizens, Joe may have done things that many would consider traitorous.

Oh, and btw, how on earth did you ever come up with the conclusion that I in any way, shape or form believe there is no terrorist threat?

Senator McCarthy was many things, but no one would call him a traitor.

Eisenhower: "I'm not getting into a pissing contest with that skunk."

At least McCarthy was a loyal, patriotic skunk, unlike this Gallic loser/defeatist.

Just keep your assymptotes away from my semilatus rectum

Let's not focus on your... "eccentricity", shall we?

Joe McCarthy: Are you a traitor in sheep's clothing?

Lambchop: (eyeing the mint jelly) I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incinerate myself.

Joe McCarthy: Are you the pony those bolshies promised the world?

Mortimer Snerd: Huh? (looks around) I'm just here with dummy.

Over to you Leo. Now, Shari Winchell has his/her hands full.


Charlie McCarthy: Do you believe there is a terrorist threat?

John Miller: Yeah, of course, but what do you mean?

Joe McCarthy: (leaning in and cutting off Charlie) Ah ha! So you ARE a traitor? Do you have proof of NOT being a traitor?

John Miller: Let me ask my son, who risked his life in Iraq last year. He's a pretty good judge of character.

Charlie McCarthy takes Joe's drink away from him, folds him up, and places him in a steamer trunk.

Roy Cohn starts doing Senor Wences (sp?) impressions with his free hand. Robert Kennedy screams and runs off stage.

Casual observation: I think Jeff G lurks around here because he thinks hilzoy is a good and important writer although he disagrees with her, and I think that the occasional linking between the two blogs is a good thing, even if the opinions of the commenters are quite differnt.

DaveC: are you sure it's not just because of the time I wrote about my dog?

DaveC,
if that is the case, (note the lack of a subjunctive there) it would behoove Jeff G to suggest to acommentor or two that calling hilzoy a c**t is a bit over the top.

Slarti, did you see this at Goldstein's?

Slart, you and Hilzoy are unrepentenant morons that have never held a clearance, obviously.

Hahahahaha!

Slart, you and Hilzoy are unrepentenant morons that have never held a clearance, obviously.

Somebody should tell my company. I've been accessing information at the Secret level for over twenty-five years.

I swear, this has just got to be a parody. No one could be that stupid.

Well, the name Nishizono Shingi translates (I think) to 'West Garden Truth (or Deliberation)', which seems like a silly name for a troll. I have a sinking suspicion he's a live one.

The latest is that Dana Priest "plagiarized" a 2002 story she wrote for her 2005 story, because they both mention such facts as: there's a CIA cite in Bagram; and we hold some prisoners in CIA custody and render others to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Morocco that are accused of torturing prisoners; and we use abusive interrogation techniques in CIA custody. And everyone links to this "scoop".

I cannot take the idiocy. What, reporters should assume that everyone reading a news story memorized every previous news story they have ever written, and you should never repeat facts?

"DaveC asks, in comments, why no one has commented on Mary McCarthy."

Has DaveC answered the many questions he's been previously asked here? I count more than a dozen or two, over many months.

Being intermittent here, I may have entirely missed his answers to queries about his many past accusations, which he was asked about time and time and time again, and in which each time he disappeared without answering, to be sure.

Anyone should feel free to e-mail me with links to his answers, by all means, please.

There are quite a few pending accusations he's made, and questions he's not answered, at this point.

But I may have missed his responses. If it would be helpful, I can run through the whole list of stuff again, including how Mike Totten and Mark Steyn are being suppressed by liberal conspiracy, and how Iraqi bloggers are being ignored, and so on.

Sorry Gary about not responding sufficently to your questions. I hope you are doing well.

Now, when I asked about the Mary McCarthy thing, I was genuinely curious, because I figured that the various spheres of the blogospheres aren'y talking and thinking about the same stories, so I wanted to see what folks thought about this here.

I kind of thought that Charles would pick up on this first, but hilzoy did. Quite frankly, though I disagree with hilzoy a lot, her response had quite a bit in common with neo-neocon, here, and here .

Now, I sincerely regret that people called hilzoy names over at Jeff's place, I never intended for that to happen. And the abuse heaped on hilzoy was quite frankly because she didn't duck the issue.

Now, I am a repeat offender in not agreeing with the consensus at ObWi - I disagreed with the whole premise that the US Govt intended for Maher Arar to be tortured, for instance. And that case was dismissed, which proved I had a point, whether or not I was not definitively proven right. There were a lot of claims that I or people like me were "pro-torture", etc., and I think that my questions are rather mild in comparison.

Gery, you'll have to admit that you are putting a whuoopin on me bcause the is a distinct lack of conservativt tarkets around these parts.

Now, your issue with me goes way back to the memo from Sen Jay Rockefeller's office describing a political strategy to use the Seanate Select Intelligence Committee to try to detect wrongdoing by the Bush administration and how to best use this for political advantage.

The fact of the matter was that memo did exist, and I thought it subverted the purpose of the Intelligence Committee. Now, it is also likely that the memo was written by a staff member, not the Senator.

I also did point out that Republican Senators have stupidly leaked classified information on the Senate floor and this did not only happen by Democrats.

Now quite frankly, I do think that many newspapers, broadcast TV and radio stations do self-censor so as to not present any positive, and I actally do think that that is politically motivated.

But the fact of the matter is I just say what I think. I am not a writer, nor an acedemic. I 'm not as knowledgeable as you are about current events.

"Lambchop: (eyeing the mint jelly) I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incinerate myself."

Hey John, ever read any Roald Dahl?


Hey DaveC, I asked you how many roads must a man walk down, and you never answered! And you keep refusing to say what's yellow and dangerous. Dammit, is it "shark-infested custard" or "a banana with a machine gun"?

And you keep refusing to say what's yellow and dangerous.

Is that a reference to me?

;^)

Rilkefan:

Have not read Dahl. But I like Patricia Neal.
Is there some bad news in your question ;) or are my grotesques in the vicinity of Dahl?

DaveC.: "I am not a writer.."

I took a walk in the rain yesterday to think about someone close to you. I have a cough now. These things don't happen because you're "not a writer".

I not good typist neithre. Thanks for the kind words John. What I meant was I write and edit very slowly if I am serious, so many times I have to decide whether to take a few hours thinking about something, or just go ahead and scribble something incoherent. The urge to scribble wins out at least 50% of the time. In blogs with comments, there is always a struggle between letting things run wild on the one hand, and enforcing rules too much on the other. On an occasional visit to Tacitus, Macallan apparently is trying to impose certain standards, but then goes on to say it is all right to say f) Macallan sucks and continues to ruin the site. Whoa, hold on there, macallan, Charles was the original sucker and ruiner. Don't go trying to steal his thunder.

Example of one of my typical writing mistakes:

"On an occasional visit to Tacitus, Macallan"

should read

"On an occasional visit to Tacitus, I see that Macallan", etc.

Was thinking about "Lamb to the Slaughter".

Off to the library. Thanks.

"I disagreed with the whole premise that the US Govt intended for Maher Arar to be tortured, for instance. And that case was dismissed, which proved I had a point, whether or not I was not definitively proven right."

No it doesn't. That's simply not what the court was deciding. It was deciding whether it had jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit brought on these grounds. It did not decide anything about the merits. For the purposes of this stage of the trial, they have to assume that Arar's entire complaint is true, and the judge did.

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