Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Wunnerful thing, subpeenies!"

Start with John Yoo:

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''
And then consider what kind of gravitational shift this story is:

Federal officials are preventing a Pakistani-American father and son from returning to their home in California. Officials want the two U.S. citizens to take a polygraph test before allowing their return home. The case raises constitutional questions.
Constitutional issues like innocent until proven guilty. The good news is, the FBI and DHS are not so sure they want to force this issue, anymore. The bad news is, American xenophobia is not just for foreigners anymore.

And then you can watch this interview between Bush and Matt Lauer. And ask yourself how any one "adjusts" to torture; and if they do, don't we just "adjust" the torture? And what's up with the smiling mask at the end of the interview, as Bush talks about people who want to kill families? The disjunction between his words and his affect is absolutely chilling.

And while you're asking yourself how one "adjusts" to torture, read this, and realize Bush does know all about the techniques he doesn't want to talk about. And he's not worried about terrorists "adjusting." He's worried about something else:

As the dusty rabble of Afghan fighters moved to the newly opened Guantánamo in early 2002 and the first al-Qaeda operative--the pint-size Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi--was picked up, debate raged inside the Administration as to what would produce the highest-quality "yield" from interrogation with the greatest speed. There was fear of a second-wave attack, after all, and U.S. intelligence was panicked. On one side was the FBI, which touted its 1990s experience interrogating al-Qaeda operatives--interrogation that led to numerous prosecutions for the first World Trade Center attack and other bombings. Yes, it took a while to break, or co-opt, informants, but the wait was worth it, and everything was admissible in court. The thing the FBI learned: al-Qaeda members assumed their jailers would dismember them. When instead the interrogators presented a tough but very human face, the detainees were confused.
"Adjustment" is a two-way street; and it can work to our advantage. Except when you have the attitude of this Administration:

On the other side was the CIA, bursting with urgency and a taste for "whatever's necessary" improvisation--a view encouraged by White House lawyers and a series of anything-goes legal opinions. Bush, heavily directed by Vice President Dick Cheney, went with the CIA. Top-level captives would go to the agency. No one thought much about the summation of the FBI's pitch--successful prosecution in U.S. courts. That was for later, or never.
"Never," of course, is a long time. But this is why the Administration was surprised by the Hamdan decision: "never" wasn't as long as they expected. Which lead to the release of some (all?) prisoners from the "black prisons" the CIA has been running around the world. But it also leads to "[a]n authentic legal process...which ... the Administration is dead set against it." Why?

The problem is not really with classified information. Most of what these captives told us is already common knowledge or dated; the U.S. hasn't caught any truly significant players in two years. However, discovery in such a case would show that the President and Vice President were involved in overseeing their interrogations, according to senior intelligence officials. Subpoenas on how evidence was obtained and who authorized what practices would go right into the West Wing.
As Wilford Brimley said to Paul Newman and Sally Field: "Wonderful thing, a subpoena."

And there's that "other reason" again. Civil process might discover what has been happening. Criminal process would prosecute it. The President has extraordinary power to grant pardons; but Bush has no Gerald Ford who could pardon him.

"Wonderful thing, a subpoena." Especially in light of John Yoo's argument about constitutional prerogatives. Despite the best efforts of Bush & Cheney, the system works. It grinds slowly; but it grinds exceeding small.

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