Rachel Maddow on what we know now about Bush’s torture program.

We’ve had bits and pieces of information what the Bush Administration was up to back when they were in office, but only now that they’re gone and Obama is releasing some of the classified documents on it is the scale of it all becoming clear. I used to entertain the idea that the torture program Bush and friends set up was an paranoid outgrowth of the events of 9/11, but it appears that they set it up in advance of even that:

Hearing stuff like that makes Obama’s repeated statements that he won’t prosecute the people involved in these programs all the more maddening. At the very least Rumsfeld, Cheney, and probably Bush himself should be tried for war crimes along with any of the lawyers who came up with the bullshit arguments in defense of these programs. If they’re allowed to get away with this then the next time they get into power they’ll feel like they can do it again and they probably will.

I love my country, but I’ve never been more ashamed of it than I am today with the revelation of just how far we’ve gone in breaking the principles we once stood for. These people need to be brought to justice and made to answer for what they’ve done.

The Bush Administration has ended. The Obama Administration about to begin.

You’d think that with all the ranting I did about the Bush Administration over the past eight years that I’d be ecstatic that the nightmare is over and a historic new Presidency is about to begin. Rather than jumping for joy I am actually feeling rather apprehensive. I felt the same way during Bush’s first inauguration. It’s not that I don’t think Obama is a move in the right direction or that he won’t be any better than Bush was, but when it comes to politicians of any kind my cynical side tends to kick in more so than my optimistic side.

Bush’s failure as a leader is as much the fault of the people he surrounded himself with as it is his own. On that score I think Obama has put together a better team than Bush did, but it’s not perfect. The challenges facing this new administration are huge, much more so than what Bush faced when he took office, and there’s only so many hours in the day.  On top of all of that there’s the simple fact that Obama is still a human being and not some idealized white knight on a shining horse who can do no wrong.

I have developed over the years a tendency to avoid pinning my hopes on something turning out to be a great thing until I have sufficient evidence to declare it is, in fact, a great thing. I apply this tendency to everything from summer blockbuster movies to meals at new restaurants to Presidents. If you ask me how great the Obama years will be I’ll tell you that I don’t know, but I’m hoping they’ll be at least somewhat decent which shouldn’t be too difficult considering how low the previous President has set the bar. Ask me again in a year and I’ll have the start of an answer. Ask me again in four and I’ll have something more solid to say.

Attorney General Mukasey has a new definition of the word “crime.”

For almost 41 years now I’ve been operating under the apparently mistaken assumption that if you break a law you’ve committed a crime, but according to the U.S. Attorney General, speaking recently on the abuses in the Department of Justice in hiring and firing decisions, I am apparently wrong in my assumption:

In a speech Tuesday morning to the American Bar Association in Manhattan, Mr. Mukasey condemned the political abuses in his most forceful language to date, saying “the system failed.” He also acknowledged that some critics and commentators had called on the Justice Department to take what he called “more drastic steps,” including prosecuting those at fault and firing those hired through flawed procedures. But he rejected both those approaches.

“Where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute,” he said. “But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.”

This is going to make things a lot more confusing. If it’s true that not every violation of the law is a crime, something I thought was more or less inherent in the definition of the word crime, then how are we to know when breaking any particular law is in fact criminal? Is there a list I can get hold of that will tell me which violations of the law aren’t a crime? Wouldn’t it make more sense to remove any laws that aren’t crimes from the books so as to avoid confusion? What’s the point in having laws that aren’t crimes to violate?

As last month’s report from the inspector general acknowledged, the hiring abuses by former Justice Department officials represented a violation of federal Civil Service law, but not of criminal law, he said.

You mean it isn’t a crime to violate Federal Civil Service laws? Then why have them at all?

Don’t worry, though, Mukasey assures us the folks who broke the law, but didn’t commit any crimes in doing so, aren’t getting off easy:

“That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences,” Mr. Mukasey said. “Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity.”

“Their misconduct has now been laid bare by the Justice Department for all to see,” he said, adding that “I doubt that anyone in this room would want to trade places with any of those people.”

Oh yeah, I’m sure they all had trouble finding replacement jobs for a whole day or two after they stepped down what with all that negative publicity. They’re probably laying in a gutter somewhere with a half-full bottle of Mad Dog wine covered in their own vomit as a result of their disgraceful fall from power. Good thing we’ve got such an upstanding Attorney General making sure people are held accountable for their actions!

Report confirms politicization of the Justice Department.

The Bush administration has taken the concept of cronyism to new heights and has largely gotten away with it. Political appointees at NASA and the EPA have interfered in the publication of scientific reports that the Administration wasn’t happy with (largely on climate change issues) and are accused of politicizing the Department of Justice. Things finally came to a head after nine lawyers who had received excellent job reviews were let go for apparently political reasons. The subsequent investigation has revealed the political concerns drove a number of career hiring decisions made by former White House liaison Monica Goodling:

“Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions,” the report concluded.

In one instance, Justice investigators found, Goodling objected to hiring an assistant prosecutor in Washington because “judging from his resume, he appeared to be a liberal Democrat.”

In another, she rejected an experienced terror prosecutor to work on counterterror issues at a Justice Department headquarters office “because of his wife’s political affiliations,” the report found. It also found she rejected at least one job applicant who was rumored to be a lesbian.

The folks at Think Progress have more details on the prosecutor and his Democrat wife:

He was an experienced terrorism prosecutor and had successfully prosecuted a high-profile terrorism case for which he received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service. … The candidate’s wife was a prominent local Democrat elected official and vice-chairman of a local Democratic Party. […]

[Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) Michael] Battle, [EOUSA Deputy Director and Cheif of Staff] Kelly, and EOUSA Deputy Director Nowacki all told us that Goodling refused to allow the candidate to be detailed to EOUSA solely on the basis of his wife’s political party affiliation. Battle said he was very upset that Goodling opposed the detail because of political reasons.

And on the rumored lesbian:

Goodling brought up the issue of the attorney’s “relationship in progress” with her U.S. Attorney “and made it clear just that she thought that was inappropriate.”

[…] Voris said that Goodling then told her that the [assistant U.S. attorney] had a homosexual relationship with the U.S. Attorney in the AUSA’s USAO and that the two took trips together at government expense. Voris told us she believes that the AUSA’s alleged sexual orientation was a factor in Goodling’s decision not to extend the detail.

The report is also critical of former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson:

[A] majority of immigration judge candidates considered by former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson were recommended by the White House’s political affairs office — including one name forwarded by then-top adviser Karl Rove. Sampson told investigators that he did not consider those jobs to be protected from political considerations.

His lawyer, Brad Berenson, described those hiring decisions as an honest mistake and said that Sampson “immediately agreed with the recommendation to put a stop to this process” when he first learned he may have been wrong. White House spokesman Tony Fratto downplayed the report, saying, “There really is not a lot new here.”

Alas Fratto is quite right. There really isn’t anything new here as this kind of thing has been ongoing since Bush took office. Anyone who has been paying attention for any amount of time can’t possibly have missed this fact. This administration has always placed political loyalty over all other considerations on every thing it touches. How willing you are to tow the party line has taken precedence over how qualified you are to do the job as the whole FEMA non-response to hurricane Katrina showed.

Bush’s Legacy: Record debt of $490 billion for the next President to fix.

I remember a couple of years back, I think it was shortly after Bush won re-election, an old friend of mine challenged me to consider the possibility that President Bush just might be a good thing for this country and, more specifically, for me. Some of you may recall that as it occurred here in an SEB thread. I was, shall we say, dubious of the suggestion and time has only borne that skepticism out.

Now comes word that the Bush Administration is updating a previous forecast of next year’s deficit to an all new record:

WASHINGTON — The White House has increased its estimate for next year’s deficit to nearly $490 billion, a record figure that will saddle the next president with deepening budget problems in his first year in office, a report due out Monday shows.

The projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is being driven higher by the continuing economic slowdown and larger-than-anticipated costs of the two-year, $168 billion fiscal stimulus package passed by Congress, said two senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the report. In February, President Bush predicted the 2009 deficit would be $407 billion.

The budget update shows this year’s deficit headed under $400 billion, at least $10 billion less than projected, according to the two officials. That’s partly because tax revenue held up reasonably well despite the weaker economy.

Keep in mind that the above is just the current estimate, the actual deficit could end up much higher – and it probably will – as this doesn’t reflect the full funding of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and if the economy gets any worse, well, that’ll just add to the red ink.

I’ve said before that I’d take Bill Clinton back in a heartbeat if it were possible and the following USA Infographic pretty much shows why:


Click to embiggen!

Oh my but that’s fascinating, eh? It shows the “deficit or surplus as a percentage of the economy” which is probably why W’s chart isn’t just a long downward slide as the economy was doing pretty good for awhile in spite of Bush’s antics. We have a Republican, Republican, Tax-and-Spend Democrat, and a Republican. I don’t know about you, but that tax-and-spend democrat is looking pretty damn good in comparison.

I suppose we should try to look on the bright side, though. The current projected deficit for 2009 as a share of the economy is only 3% to 4% which is still below the post-World War II record of 6% set in 1983 during the time of one of the most beloved Presidents of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan.

It’s funny cause it’s soooo true.

Gotta love The Onion.

Sent in by Mistermook.

If America doesn’t torture then why did we hide it from the Red Cross?

Here’s a news item that’ll boil your blood. Newly released documents reveal that our government, which claims it doesn’t torture, went to some length to hide detainees from the International Red Cross to avoid being called out for torture:

“We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,” Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who’s since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to “break” detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. “True, but officially it is not happening,” she is quoted as having said.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.

“In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of the ICRC,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

[…] It’s unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility.

Fredman of the CIA also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by military field guides “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong,” the minutes report Fredman saying at one point.

Am I reading that right? Are they suggesting that if someone doesn’t die from it then it’s not torture?

Not everyone involved was blind to the possible repercussions of what they were doing:

The administration overrode or ignored objections from all four military services and from criminal investigators, who warned that the practices would imperil their ability to prosecute the suspects. In one prophetic e-mail on Oct. 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, then the deputy commander of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote a colleague: “This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of. … Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.” The objections from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines prompted Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, legal adviser to the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to begin a review of the proposed techniques.

But Dalton, who’s now retired, told the hearing Tuesday that the review was aborted quickly. Myers, she said, took her aside and told her that then-Defense Department general counsel William Haynes “does not want this … to proceed.” Haynes testified that he didn’t recall the objections of the four uniformed services.

Of course he doesn’t recall the objections. No one in this administration ever remembers being told what they were doing was probably illegal. Not that it matters, he should have known they were illegal and not needed objections from anyone.

Here’s the interesting part: We train our soldiers on how to resist being tortured. Guess what they did in order to develop their own “harsh interrogation techniques” for use in Guantanamo. That’s right, they checked in with the folks who train our boys to resist torture:

Officials in Rumsfeld’s office and at Guantanamo developed the techniques they sought by reverse-engineering a long-standing military program designed to train U.S. soldiers and aviators to resist interrogation if they’re captured.

The program, known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, was never meant to guide U.S. interrogation of foreign detainees.

An official in Haynes’ office sought information about SERE as early as July 2002, the documents show. Two months later, a delegation from Guantanamo attended SERE training at Fort Bragg, N.C. Levin said, “The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees.” The documents confirm that a delegation of senior administration lawyers visited Guantanamo in September 2002 for briefings on intelligence-gathering there. The delegation included David Addington, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; Haynes; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and now the homeland security secretary. Few of the Republicans at Tuesday’s hearing defended the Bush administration’s detainee programs. Guidance provided by administration lawyers “will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military intelligence communities,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C..

Of course this all makes America look like a nation of hypocrites when the Bush Administration has the gall to chastise countries like China on their civil rights abuses. How can we claim the moral high ground when we’re acting no better than the countries we’re berating?

How the hell any of these people in the Bush administration will walk away without being tried and convicted for war crimes is beyond me.

Scott McClellan’s new book has White House in an uproar.

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s new tell-all book What Happened, about his time working in the Bush Administration, has created quite the shit storm over the past few days. The news media have been lapping up revelations such as this one on Bush’s real motivation for starting a war with Iraq:

In Iraq, McClellan added, Bush saw “his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness,” something McClellan said Bush has said he believes is only available to wartime presidents.

The president’s real motivation for the war, he said, was to transform the Middle East to ensure an enduring peace in the region. But the White House effort to sell the war as necessary due to the stated threat posed by Saddam Hussein was needed because “Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would almost certainly not support a war launched primarily for the ambitions purpose of transforming the Middle East,” McClellan wrote.

“Rather than open this Pandora’s Box, the administration chose a different path — not employing out-and-out deception, but shading the truth,” he wrote of the effort to convince the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, an effort he said used “innuendo and implication” and “intentional ignoring of intelligence to the contrary.”

“President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option,” McClellan concluded, noting, “The lack of candor underlying the campaign for war would severely undermine the president’s entire second term in office.”

Stuff like that has led for some pundits to raise the possibility of impeachment. Meanwhile the Bush Administration and its supporters are attempting to discredit McClellan as best as they can:

Dana Perino, who graces McClellan’s old podium, issued a statement calling him “disgruntled” and wondering what happened to “the Scott we knew.”

Privately, the whispers from other outraged Bush partisans are even more dismissive: he was never up to the job so we had to get rid of him; he wasn’t in the room when key decisions were made; he became press secretary only because the President he’s betrayed was more loyal than his ungrateful Judas.

But McClellan’s inside-the-bunker revelations are even more withering precisely because of his pedigree. Of all the Bush true believers, Scotty was the least likely to write a kiss-and-tell memoir.

The thing is that none of this should be news to anyone who’s been paying attention over the past 6 years. McClellan is just confirming a lot of what has already been known or suspected for years. When the WMoDS were no where to be found the Administration trotted out a lot of different bullshit excuses and justifications for the war including the idea that Iraq would be a shining beacon of Democracy in the Middle East that would lead to its spread throughout the region. The idea that Bush bought into his own deceptions should be no surprise to anyone who has watched him answer questions from the press. It’s clear he believes what he’s saying in spite of reality and his method of constantly repeating the same falsehoods over and over again is as much to convince himself as any of us. We knew, or should have known, all of this before the 2004 election and yet the majority of people in this country opted to elect him again. The situation we find ourselves in today is a direct result of our own collective stupidity.

As much as I would personally love to see Bush and his crew impeached and brought up on war crime charges, the damage has already been done and there’d be little to gain from it other than perhaps heading off a possible attack on Iran by this administration. Considering how long impeachment proceedings take chances are he’d be out of office before they were resolved anyway. It’s also doubtful that, in an election year, the Republicans would allow such proceedings to take place simply because of the negative publicity it would bring to the party. We’ll just have to ride out the last few months and hope that Bush doesn’t do anything else particularly stupid in the time remaining.

But none of this should be a surprise to anyone. At least not to anyone who’s been paying attention.

Defense Department can’t account for $15 billion in tax payer money.

We’re spending trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so you’d think the least the government could do is tell us how that many is being spent. Alas it appears they largely haven’t a clue:

The lack of accountability of the funds, intended for purchases of weapons, vehicles, construction equipment and security services, amounted to a 95 percent failure rate in basic accounting standards, according to the report.

“We estimated that the army made 1.4 billion dollars in commercial payments that lacked the minimum documentation for a valid payment, such as properly prepared receiving reports, invoices, and certified vouchers,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Ugone told a Congressional committee Thursday.

“We also estimated that the army made an additional 6.3 billion dollars of commercial payments that met the 27 criteria for payments but did not comply with other statutory and regulatory requirements.”

The Pentagon also was found to have given away another 1.8 billion in Iraqi assets “with absolutely no accountability,” said Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“Investigators examined 53 payment vouchers and couldn’t find even one that adequately explained where the money went.”

Another five billion dollars spent on supporting the Iraqi security forces could not be properly traced, according to a November 2007 inspector general report.

“Taken together, the inspector general found that the Defense Department did not properly account for almost 15 billion dollars,” Waxman said.

Someone is making a lot of money off those wars and it ain’t you and me. Our children’s children will probably be paying this fiasco off.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: “Bush Shut The Hell Up.”

I loves me some Keith Olbermann:

I’m beginning to think I may have to write in Olbermann’s name in the upcoming election for President.