The American Scene
Stupidest Woman Alive Nomination: Kathryn Jean Lopez

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

Robert Waldmann watches Barton Gellman and Jo Becker not name Bush administration names:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: The second article of the very excellent Gellman and Becker series on Cheney includes a minor but extreme example of generous granting of anonymity....

The Justice Department delivered a classified opinion on Aug. 1, 2002, stating that the U.S. law against torture "prohibits only the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and therefore permits many others.... Distributed under the signature of Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the opinion also narrowed the definition of "torture" to mean only suffering "equivalent in intensity" to the pain of "organ failure... or even death."

When news accounts unearthed that opinion nearly two years later, the White House repudiated its contents. Some officials described it as hypothetical, without disclosing that the opinion was written in response to specific questions from the CIA.

Hmm[. W]ho might [those "some officials"] have been (and might one of them have been under oath at the time)?...

Text Ashcroft Comments on Anti-Terror Policy: Tuesday, June 8, 2004....

[SENATOR] KENNEDY: In the front page of the Times, it has this quote, "A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2000 legal memorandum, President Bush was not bound either by international treaty prohibiting torture or by federal anti-torture law because he has the authority as commander in chief to approve any techniques needed to protect the nation's security." Do you agree with that conclusion?

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: Senator Kennedy, I'm not going to try and issue hypothetical...

[SENATOR] KENNEDY: I'm not asking hypothetical. This is a memoranda that, again, was referred to today in the Post. "August 2002, Justice Department advised the White House that torturing Al Qaida terrorists in captivity abroad may be justified and that international laws against torture may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations." Do you agree with that?

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: I am not -- first of all, this administration rejects torture.

[SENATOR] KENNEDY: I'm asking you whether this is -- these are -- there are three memoranda, January 9, 2002, signed by John Yo (ph), the August 2002 Justice Department, the (inaudible) amendment memo and the March 2000 -- the interagency working group. Those are three memoranda. Will you provide those to the committee?


[SENATOR] KENNEDY: KENNEDY: On what basis? Under what basis?

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: On the basis that the long-standing established reasons for providing opinions provided to the executive branch...

[SENATOR] KENNEDY: General, the executive privilege is not a legitimate basis of withholding memoranda from this committee. This Congress is investigating the prisoners' abuse that have occurred. Immense importance -- we have specific need of the documents that have allowed these abuses to occur. The memoranda issued did not involve confidential communications between the Justice Department and the president, but instead legal advice that was widely distributed throughout the executive branch. There are many examples of executive privilege that have been waived or over-written.... President Reagan, on November 4, 1982, issued guidelines on executive privilege. Ronald Reagan issued executive privilege memoranda to heads of the executive to "comply with congressional requests for information to the fullest extent consistent with the constitutional statutory obligations of the executive branch," and added that "executive privilege would be used only in the most compelling circumstances, and only after careful review demonstrated that assertions of the privilege was necessary." Now, are you invoking executive privilege here and denying us those memoranda? You've had 72 hours to think about this, General. This has been in the newspapers, you had information about it. You've had 72 hours to think about that you were going to be asked about this. I'm a member of the Armed Services Committee. We've been investigating and looking into this. The courageous act of the chairman, John Warner. And we're entitled to know whether that information is going to be available to the committees.

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: Well, the confidential memoranda provided -- any confidential memoranda provided to members of the executive branch...

[SENATOR] KENNEDY: This was generally circulated.

[SENATOR] HATCH: Let him answer the question.

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: considered by the department to be important that we maintain it, that we not provide it outside the executive branch. And let me just say that we're at war, and to talk about the powers of the president....

[SENATOR] HATCH: Senator, your time is up. But if you'd care to answer.

[ATTORNEY GENERAL] ASHCROFT: Well, I do care to answer because the senator raises very serious issues. And I think they deserve an answer....


I'm not doing anything other than to say that there is a long-established policy reason grounded in national security that indicates that the development and the debate of hypotheses and practice of what can and can't be done by a president in time of war is not good government....

[I]t seems to me that Ashcroft is definitely saying the memoranda were hypothetical and, thus, is lying [under oath] and a felon.

Gellman and Becker have done a great job, but shouldn't they have named the people who lied in public?

It's a minor form of corruption that Gellman and Becker are engaged in--telling their Washington Post readers that they promised not to reveal the names of the administration officials who falsely described the memo as "hypothetical" instead of writing "Attorney General Ashcroft and other officials." But it is a form of corruption nevertheless.