Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Company They Keep

Inskeep and Gjelten host a euphemistic pity party for John Brennan -- CIA supporter of torture, Gestapo tactics, I mean "enhanced interrogation" practices. Listening to Inskeep and CIA apologist (employee?) Gjelten you'd never know that Brennan strongly supported rendition/torture flights, illegal FISA spying, and torture. Instead you'd think that he was some hapless employee of the CIA who has been tarred soley for associating with the torture big boys like George Tenet.

Inskeep opens the feature by lamenting that "liberal bloggers recently mounted a campaign against Brennan" and then closes the story with noting that Brennan withdrew his consideration "after a campaign by liberal bloggers against him...."

In between these bookmarks we get Gjelten complaining that "it's this campaign that's being waged against him...he said he feared that the hubbub that these liberal groups were raising about him would prove to be quote 'a distraction to the work of the intelligence community...'" Gjelten is pretty smooth how he reduces the substantive critiques of Brennan by people like Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and Scott Horton to nothing but "hubbub."

One of the most remarkable things about the piece is that in spite of Inskeep beginning with "let's set aside the distractions for a moment and talk about the facts" the story is notable for having virtually no facts in it. To argue for Brennan's sterling qualifications Gjelten quotes himself ("the truth is that John Brennan is pretty much in the mainstream...He's not by any means a hardliner on intelligence issues") and "one Democrat on Capitol Hill" who "said it's sad that Brennan felt he had to withdraw."

Actually what is sad is Gjelten and Inskeep's little CIA inspired homework assignment that they foist on us. No references to Brennan's statements in favor of torture, rendition and domestic spying. No quotes from experts on human rights or international law who might not feel so "sad." And of course, no one to discuss the CIA's long and sordid record on human rights abuses.


Anonymous said...

Nice to know that we "liberal bloggers" have so much influence. :)

I suspect that Inskeep is just jealous that some blogs (like this one) are a much better (more accurate, more reliable, more truthful) news source than he is.

Qalibur said...

I think I am as glad as anyone that Brennan withdrew given what I've read over the past five days or so but, frankly, I had not heard of the guy before then. I am appalled at our use of torture as an instrument of state, oppose its further use, and want those who sanctioned it brought to justice. Having said that, I linked to your blog from Glenn Greenwald's blog expecting so see some facts to support your position. I don't. Please explain.

Anonymous said...


If you came from Greenwald's blog (as I did), you should be able to find easily the facts on Brennan's positions on torture.

Anonymous said...

Those "liberal bloggers." What an evil cabal they are!

Seriously, I heard this report and threw something at the radio at the sound of "enhanced interrogation techniques." These MSMers cannot, or will not, ever say torture.

Qalibur said...

@TG Chicago:

I did link in from Glenn's blog and read it carefully. However, I don't see references to evidence, i.e. documentation, of Brennan's complicity in formulating policy or of directing its execution. I think it appropriate to look for that level of corroboration. If all we have access to are statements from which we can infer Brennan's position and his advocacy of extraordinary rendition and torture, then at a minimum we should have as complete a record as possible of those statements to understand their context and how consistently they support our inferences. Much of what I have seen are characterizations of what Brennan said, or what they mean, or conclusions about what they reveal of his intent. I don't disagree with the impressions that are on offer but I am reluctant to conclude that they offer a basis for profound insight into his thinking much less his actions. Glenn implied that this blog offered such evidence. I don't see it here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I was furious when I heard their apologetics. Qalibur, he doesn't have to have implemented torture for his opinion in favor of it to disqualify him for government service.

Qalibur said...

Anonymous, I agree that he doesn't have to have personally imp;emented torture to disqualify him from public service. In fact, if he was in a position to influence the policy and failed to act to prevent it, that would be sufficient to disqualify him. I am merely saying that I haven't yet read a sufficiently comprehensive account of what he actually said or did to draw a conclusion. I have read many diatribes condemning him which I may agree with if I saw the source material. I simply haven't seen it and I thought Glenn's post implied that the facts could be found here.

Anonymous said...

QALIBUR: I am merely saying that I haven't yet read a sufficiently comprehensive account of what he actually said or did to draw a conclusion. I have read many diatribes condemning him which I may agree with if I saw the source material. I simply haven't seen it and I thought Glenn's post implied that the facts could be found here.

Anonymous said...

Qaliber, I agree with your desire to see actual evidence of Brennan's positions, and decided to do a little research... it turns out Greenwald had an earlier post in which he quotes extensively from Brennan's actual statements supporting rendition and torture:

Anonymous said...

Steve Inskeep is intellectually incapable of doing a good job in his current capacity. Add to that the typical MSM desire to avoid any taint of pro-leftist reporting, and you get a show that is unlistenable at times.

The only time I've ever heard him do a serious interview was with Suskind in an interview about his newest book. But, of course he had to do that, because if he treated Suskind the way he treats most people he interviews (in a vapid and superficial manner), the right-wingers would be screaming "liberal!"

And that's the greatest fear of NPR-types.

Anonymous said...

"As a senior adviser to Mr. Tenet in 2002, Mr. Brennan was present at the creation of the C.I.A.’s controversial detention and interrogation program, which Mr. Obama has strongly criticized." -- NY Times

So, he was present at the "conception" and apparently did not object, at least not to the degree which he should have.

If he really objected to torture, he would have resigned in protest.

Anything less disqualifies him for further service in our government.

People like Brennan seem to think they can have their cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

Qalibur I haven't yet read a sufficiently comprehensive account of what he actually said or did to draw a conclusion. I have read many diatribes condemning him which I may agree with if I saw the source material. I simply haven't seen it and I thought Glenn's post implied that the facts could be found here."

Even if he did support torture (he claims he did not), you don't believe that Brennan would actually admit it, do you?

The problem with demanding specific evidence for what people like Brennan said and did is that most of their conversations, emails, actions etc are classified.

As a result, they are essentially free to claim whatever they want when it comes to their own past actions and statements (whether true or not) with virtually no chance of ever being contradicted.

What this means, of course, is that we the public have no choice but to judge them based on circumstantial evidence (eg, presence at a meeting where "enhanced interrogation methods" were planned.)

Kimo C said...

Audio interview by Glenn Greenwald of this NPR reporter Tom Gjelten challenging the reasons reported that liberal bloggers were upset with Brennan - it is thas that he was an advocate for rendition and they believe he advocated torture for information after leaving office. This was not a guilt by association complaint just because he was in the CIA at the time.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the many many people who wrote to NPR after this. And I also wrote to the NYT:

A news article of 12/0308 by Mark Mazetti and Scott Shane, After Sharp Words on CIA, Obama Faces a Delicate Task, asserts that Mr. John Brennan had an “alleged role” as defender of harsh interrogation tactics, and the “left flank” of the Democrats objected to this, causing his nomination to be withdrawn. There is nothing “alleged” about Brennan's support for harsh tactics (short of waterboarding, which he admits is wrong). He repeatedly stated on TV and radio programs that “enhanced interrogation” was very valuable, as was rendition. It is not “left wing” to object to these practices, which violate international law and put the US in the company of regimes that torture. Many libertarians (cf. Bob Barr) spoke out strongly against these policies that are absolutely contrary to our constitution and our international obligations. It is not service in the CIA per se, but support of these repugnant practices that merits Mr. Brennan's withdrawal.

Why does the New York Times continue to report without comment characterizations of critics of torture as somehow outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party or of the public as a whole?

Neither the Times nor NPR will publish this comment, needless to say.

My local station does not seem to understand that "Car Talk"" alone does not justify supporting NPR anymore.

Qalibur, I'm puzzled by your comment - Glenn has more than enough facts for you. Are you not reading the right segment?

Anonymous said...

Returning to this fray, the Brennan critics do not say that he formulated policy on torture tactics within the CIA but rather that he vociferously supported it on many TV and radio programs, helping to confuse the public as to what the true situation was. That is amply demonstrated on Greenwald's blog. The charge on the NPR story was that merely his service in the CIA was enough to disqualify him for liberal bloggers, which is NOT what has been said.

Qalibur said...

Anonymous and Helen Marshall,

I linked to the earlier Greenwald post provided by Anonymous (many thanks). Glenn provided a more than adequate record of Brennan's statements for me to conclude that Brennan supports torture as an instrument of state policy. Into the pillory he goes.