Hostile Witness

"Democracy dies behind closed doors," Judge Damon Keith wrote in an opinion for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding media and public access to terrorism cases.

Our theory of government also dies in hearings like this one, featuring David Addington and John Yoo -- memorably described by Dana Milbank and Emily Bazelon in a pair of columns. Calling Addington and Yoo hostile witnesses doesn't begin to describe the level of their contempt for Congress, the hearing and the democratic processes that brought them to testify by way of a subpoena.

Check out this exchange:

Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? "I'm not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of," Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws? "That's irrelevant," he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee's child? "I'm not here to render legal advice to your committee," he snarled. "You do have attorneys of your own."

He had the grace of Gollum as he quarreled with his questioners. In response to one of the chairman's questions, he neither looked up nor spoke before finishing a note he was writing to himself. When Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) questioned his failure to remember conversations about interrogation techniques, he only looked at her and asked: "Is there a question pending, ma'am?" Finally, at the end of the hearing, Addington was asked whether he would meet privately to discuss classified matters. "You have my number," he said. "If you issue a subpoena, we'll go through this again."

Crikey. No wonder they kept Addington in the shadows; public advocacy is clearly not his gig.

By Phillip Carter |  June 27, 2008; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Law
Previous: Boondoggle in Paradise | Next: Taps for Chief Hammett


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One might conclude that the interrogation of suspects like Addington will require more enhanced interrogation techniques.

Posted by: Singing Senator | June 27, 2008 8:44 AM

Singing Senator:
"One might conclude that the interrogation of suspects like Addington will require more enhanced interrogation techniques."

I don't think even that would work, this particular individual is obviously such a believer of his toxic dead-end philosophy that all we can do is keep him indefinitely in Gitmo. Especially because his country of origin isn't going to want him back after Bush leaves office.

Posted by: pluto | June 27, 2008 8:54 AM

The behavior and contempt of law and the Constitution magnifies the monstrous illegality of the Bush Administration. Everyone lost there breath when Clinton asked the definition of "is", but no one seem horrified by this pair of traitors.

Posted by: muffler | June 27, 2008 9:53 AM

Our theory of government also dies in hearings like this one, featuring David Addington and John Yoo
Well, one of the reasons for this is that neither obviously believes in our theory of government. Unelected themselves, both were put in positions where they were given the opportunity to undermine the separation of powers by secretly, and illegally, giving the executive carte blanche to function outside the law. That both are attorneys only heightens their disgrace. To me they are like the Nazi lawyers who provided the veneer of legality to Hitler's destruction of the Weimar Republic.

Posted by: Redhand2 | June 27, 2008 10:02 AM

Previous hearings related to Iraq, terrorism or both have foundered on legislator's eagerness to waste time making their own statements and on their unwillingness to prepare or coordinate their questions.

I understand the striking nature of the atmospherics generated by these particular witnesses, but wonder if this hearing was any different. Remember, the guy to whom these witnesses report was a Congressman for ten years; they would have been coached on how to wait out a committee. Conyers and his people would have had to be just as prepared to get anything out of them. Were they?

Posted by: Zathras | June 27, 2008 10:54 AM

Reminds me of their boss's frat boy humor. George was laughing his butt off, bet he has the whole thing TVo'ed...

"Heh heh heh... watch this Laura, when ol' Dave rubs his nose he gives them the finger! Hot damn he's doin' a heck of a job!"

Addington and Yoo have no more respect for Congress than they do for the Constitution, or the American people. Which is why they were hired by Bush/Cheney. This is the result of years of Republican contempt for Congress, starting with Gingrich and ending with the fool Hastert. They've done their best to make the institution relevant only to stuffing their own pockets, and inculcating derision in the public's attitude towards Congress.

It will take more than the rest of my life to undo the damage wrought by these evildoers. Men, and women, of conscience no matter what their political stripe need to stand up and speak the truth.

-- if you aren't angry, you haven't been paying attention --

Posted by: DanPatrick | June 27, 2008 1:44 PM

Yes Dan, I agree, but as George Carlin resoundingly pointed out: stupid, venal, corrupt politicians come from stupid, venal, corrupt voters (the feedstock of the local yokelry) that sends mr. whatshisface to Washington. It's not like you have legions of intelligent, selfless, honest would be politicos waiting in the wings. On Mars perhaps? With our luck, on Pluto.

Posted by: Fasteddiez | June 27, 2008 2:06 PM

I miss George already. He was an equal opportunity hater and very funny.

Fast, I'm going to disagree with you. I believe there are LOTS of good politicians, and many of them are in Congress. I believe there are LOTS of good people waiting in the wings. Really. I further believe there are many, many people of conscience in this country who'd like to see things change. But it is in the interest of people like Addington and Yoo to show things will never change in Washington.

The problem is a small percentage -- but a very wealthy and well connected percentage -- have held sway in the Republican Party for years, and have managed to convince slightly more than half (or failing that, a majority of the Supreme Court) to vote for them. Their formula -- give the social conservatives what they want while lining the pockets of the rich -- worked for awhile.

John McCain is still trying the formula. We'll see. But I feel a disturbance in the Force, and the Dark Side can't win forever. After all, this isn't Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: DanPatrick | June 27, 2008 2:34 PM

I fully support the response of both Addington and Yoo. Having to listen to politicians wholly ignorant of the facts bloviate in between ludicrous questions is more than anyone should have to bear. It's way past time someone put them in their place.

Posted by: ginsocal | June 27, 2008 3:50 PM

The notion that anyone is "wholly ignorant of the facts" concerning the torture policies (etc) of the Bush administrations is just silly ginsocal -- and I hope and prey that the voters will be putting you Republicans in your place come Novemeber.

And I have to say, the fact that you and other Republicans don't even get that there is a problem here is pretty sad. I imagine you feel a bit differently if yesterdays hearing had been a meeting with your accountants and they tried to blow you off the way Yoo and Addington did the committee. The sheer corruption and dihonesty involved here is just disgraceful.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2008 4:38 PM

That last one was from me. Forgot to enter my name.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 27, 2008 4:40 PM

And I still can't type. :D

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 27, 2008 4:42 PM

Excellent. Their contempt for Congress is matched by my own. Bravo, Yoo and Addington.

Posted by: altoids | June 27, 2008 11:35 PM

"It's way past time someone put them in their place."

Their place, in case you and your philosophical peers the puling scrivener Yoo and the autocratic lickspittle Addington, is in the People's House, the Congress of the United States. And, regardlss of the knowledge, wisdom or lack of same the arrogant contempt shown by the two Adminstration lackeys is not simply contempt for political rivals but contempt for the People in Congress.

Sadly, this entire moronic kabuki theatre simply drives home the extent to which our "republic" has already fallen. Posturing, capering, bloviating legislators unable to elict the slightest useful information from their supposed executors in the Adminstration but unable to stop pretending that they have a useful function, like the Roman Senate, they exist simply to reap and dispense largesse and applaud Caesar's dictates.

Fatuous. Disgusting. Unamerican.

Or, perhaps, the New America, the America of the 21st Century, a nation of grubby peculiators and single-issue-voters led by small-souled functionaries, liars and rogues. One would, were one not a hardened republican oneself, be tempted to echo Cromwell in saying:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"

Posted by: FDChief | June 27, 2008 11:40 PM

The outrage of the liberal commentors to this post is laughable. Your principled defense of civil liberties and the Constitution is truly heart warming. Where were you when Clinton authorized extraordinary rendition by executive order and proceeded to carry it out by kidnapping people and sending them to foreign countries so they could do the interrogation dirty work? How many Congressional hearings did Henry Waxman or any other Democrat demand on that topic? Where were you all when Clinton failed to get Congressional approval for the war in Kosovo? Where were you when the Clinton Administration stole 900 confidential FBI files and kept them in the White House for the better part of a year to use against Republicans? How about when he overrode that criminal injunction of Loral Space Corporation for providing the Chinese with our ballistic missile technology in consideration for Loral's $800,000 donation to the DNC? Where did you take issue with the Echelon data mining program that Clinton authorized despite the fact we weren't at war?

Phil, I don't understand why you don't understand that Addington might be a little testy when he is forced to go before these congressional buffoons for their pathetic show trial. None of them cared a whit when Clinton was actually violating the law over and over. ABC News reported that three people had been water boarded, Khalid Shekh Muhammad being one of them. Democrat Congressional leaders were fully informed about the interrogations and they were all for it (Jane Harmon, Nancy Pelosi, Bob Graham, etc.http://
AR2007120801664.html). That is, until they perceived domestic political advantage to falsely accuse the Bush Administration of wide spread torture.

The Democratic party is a joke. It's own presidential nominee doesn't subscribe to the nonsensical policies he had to advocate in the primary (e.g. Goolsbee NAFTA and Canada; Kahl, 80,000 Troops in Iraq, etc.). Democrats deserve to treated with contempt. Congressman Delahunt showed the true colors of the modern Democrat party when expressed his glee that al Qaeda could now see Addington. (
2008/06/020850.php) They wish their opponents harm and they are pathetic and disgusting.

Posted by: jt007 | June 28, 2008 2:00 AM

I am sure that these two did not broke any law: they are too good for this. So they have every right to answer in this way.

They respect for the Congressmen in the room matches this of 75% of the nation.
Should we start to imprison everyone who does not respect elected officials, e.g.POTUS? How you personallly would answer to Bush's irrelevant question?

And let's admit it: the questions they received were simply irrelevant. Congressmen wasted time and opportunity to get info. They came unprepared, looked this way and get what deserved. IMHO, 75% are right.

Posted by: Dmitry | June 28, 2008 3:23 AM

Our theory of government dies when we stop giving the benefit of the doubt to our political opponents and begin treating them as enemies.

Posted by: tom beta 2 | June 28, 2008 5:51 AM

jt007 asks some rheotrical questions:

"Where were you when Clinton authorized extraordinary rendition by executive order and proceeded to carry it out by kidnapping people and sending them to foreign countries so they could do the interrogation dirty work? How many Congressional hearings did Henry Waxman or any other Democrat demand on that topic?"

Well I was living in Sacramento California at the time -- where were you and what difference does it make?

The real question is: when did we know that such a program existed?

The first in-depth reporting was in 2005, long after Clinton was out of office. My own political history is that I'm a former conservative Republican, who reached a point in 1987 where I became disgusted with the racism, religious bigotry, and neo-fascism of Republican Party and quit voting at all. I didn't like Bill Clinton one bit, and the only reason that I'm a Democrat now is that there isn't any alternative because the Republican Party
has degenerated into a criminal organization in the same sense that the German Nazis and Russian Soviets were.

My additude towards renditions under Clinton isn't any different than my attitude towards the Bush administration: I think renditions are both illegal as a matter of law and unsound as a matter of policy. The results of the last six and half years speak for themselves: the Bush administration has failed to do anything but make a bad situation worse, and thaey aren't so much fighting terrorism so much as they are practicing it.

The differnce between us is just that simple jt007: you think committing war crimes and practicing terrorism is just a good idea, and I not only think you are wrong, I think you and the Republican Party are a greater danger to the United States than Al Qaeda is -- for the same reasons that letting a three-year-old play with a loaded gun is dangerous. The political issues don't even matter: your reasoning is simply irrational.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2008 11:19 AM

Forgot to enter my name again -- that last one is from me.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 28, 2008 11:20 AM

Addington "growled", That's irrelevant, he "barked", he "snarled". How could anyone not hate someone who acted like this. I congratulate you on your objective reporting.

Posted by: GMaready | June 28, 2008 1:22 PM


I don't know why you waste your time. We have it seems transitioned rather effortlessly into a quasi-monarchy with our radical right-wing neighbors only toooo eager to lick the shinny boots of the "new nobility". Addington and Yoo are the King's men and so acted accordingly before the upstarts who questioned what they did in the King's service.

"How dare they!", the lemmings all yell in unison, pounding ever soooo feverishly their little chests. How cute, how typical, how expected, . . . how like a cheap watch stopping in mid-tick.

It doesn't even rise to the level of a fascist takeover. No, that would have required far more effort, not to mention mobilizing the people, awaking expectations. . . Instead, it's more the nature of bored indifference, of an exhausted and ignorant prejudice as the conditioned reaction of an atomized pulp, that has become soooo ingrained as to become inbred instinct (only a real conservative would pick up on this, not the clueless rabble that stumble about under the "conservative" banner today).

Yes little boys and girls, the message is that your narrow hatreds and resentments are actually strengths, and btw go back to sleep, the big daddy will keep all the evil darkies away and make you feel ever so strong, as you swill cheap beer and feel ever soooo smug about yourselves and your new status as "Bootlickers 1st Class". Don't consider the chaos that has been wrought, but rather the opportunities open to your betters as they have their way with your lot, and what used to be called "the United States of America".

Al in Greece pegged it a while ago when he coined the phrase, "Camelot of Cowards", for that is what our nation has become.

Posted by: seydlitz89 | June 28, 2008 7:17 PM

I see these hearings and read these passionate, sometimes thougthful, occasionally brilliant and always heartfelt comments:

A lump forms in my throat; my heart is heavy and near to break. I feel fear. But I took the oath, more than once and again within the year. I am still in the arena and will not yield, except as that 1/2 American Englishman once said, "except to convictions of honor and good sense." May God grant us all the light to see that by and the courage so to act.

Is it so difficult to see what is right here and do it? We are Americans, the children of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Lincoln. Keep faith, I beg you.

Posted by: AG Kaufman | June 29, 2008 10:49 AM

"Is it so difficult to see what is right here and do it? We are Americans, the children of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Lincoln. Keep faith, I beg you."

As long as "honor" is a function to king and empire, you give us absolutely nothing to hava faith in.

When you and your ilk are ready to get your head cracked by batons on Pennsylvania Ave, give us cowards a call.

Posted by: srv | June 29, 2008 9:08 PM

The case v. this supposed enemy combatant was based on classic circular reporting.This is a violation of sound intel technique and definitely does not meet legal standards either. All that glitters is not gold and all called terrorists by our govt are not necessarily so. jim at rangeragainstwar

Posted by: rangeragainstwar | July 2, 2008 11:46 AM

As a retired Navy Vet who took an oath to defend the Constitution and my country, I am disgusted by this callous, spoiled brat that thinks himself above the law and respect for elected officials. Addington and his ilk of the last 8 years have done severe damage to where we stand and how we are perceived in the world for their own short term goals.
I would love to spend some time alone with him and discuss what service to the United States means; hands on.

Posted by: Doc | July 3, 2008 9:06 PM

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