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How Cheney Bent DOJ to His Will

Three newly-disclosed Justice Department e-mails thoroughly vindicate the most cynical suspicions about how former vice president Dick Cheney bent ostensibly independent Justice Department lawyers to his will and forced them to manufacture legal cover for his torture policies.

The e-mails, which date back to a 2005 re-evaluation of interrogation policies, were written by then-deputy attorney general James Comey. They reveal Cheney's extraordinary influence over then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales and key lieutenants -- including top officials in the department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Comey describes how he and some of his colleagues had "grave reservations" about the legal analyses being concocted for Cheney. And he accurately predicts that Cheney and other White House officials would later point the finger at the Justice Department during the investigations that would inevitably ensue once the administration's actions were made public.

Indeed, in one e-mail, Comey describes an exchange with Ted Ullyot, then Gonzales's chief of staff: "I told him that the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the s--- hit the fan. Rather, they would simply say they had only asked for an opinion."

Gonzales and Ullyot both came to Justice from the White House counsel's office. And Comey writes that "everyone seemed to be thinking as if they still work at the White House and not the United States Department of Justice."

Noting that he had already announced his resignation at the time, Comey expresses sadness that some top officials who were "too weak to stand up for the principles" that undergird DOJ.

This is exactly what many of us have been alleging for a long time.

In one e-mail, Comey describes a dramatic meeting with Gonzales, in which he warned that approval of the interrogation techniques would likely lead to criminal prosecution.

"In stark terms I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would mean for the president and the government," Comey writes. "I sketched out the 'summation' that could be made to demonstrate that some of this stuff was simply awful. I told him it would all come out some day and be presented in the ways I was presenting it."

The e-mails date back to DOJ's second round of finding legal rationalizations for torture. By 2005, the department had renounced the original August 1, 2002, "torture memo" from the OLC, the CIA's office of inspector general had questioned the legality and effectiveness of the techniques being used at the CIA's secret prisons, and the CIA had abandoned waterboarding -- but not many other extreme measures.

Cheney's quest to restore the necessary legal cover resulted in three new memos, which were among those declassified and released in April by the Obama administration.

The first memo concluded that brutal interrogation techniques including waterboarding did not individually violate the federal criminal prohibition against torture.

The second memo concluded that even the combined use of those techniques didn't violate that particular statute. Those two memos were issued on May 10, 2005.

The third memo, dated May 25, managed to conclude that the techniques didn't even violate the United Nations Convention Against Torture's prohibition of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

The previously undisclosed e-mails from Comey were Web-published on Saturday by the New York Times. But Scott Shane and David Johnston chose to focus on a minor point -- that Comey and other lawyers, even while expressing their grave concerns about the interrogation methods in question, had approved the first memo.

"When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal," Shane and Johnston wrote.

Yes, Comey approved the first memo. And that certainly tarnishes his reputation. Comey, almost alone among senior Justice Department officials, had somehow managed to emerge with his reputation intact -- so much so that Politico even reported in May that "some White House officials" (and I'm assuming they meant this White House, not the last one) were suggesting he was Supreme Court material.

But Comey was ever the pragmatist. The most famous Comey story, as related by Comey himself in 2007, involved a dramatic rebellion in March 2004 -- complete with a mad dash to the hospital bedside of then-attorney general John Ashcroft -- in which Comey, backed up by Ashcroft, refused to reauthorize a secret NSA warrantless surveillance program as it was then constituted. But most legal scholars believe the whole program, not just the still-mysterious part Comey objected to, was operating in clear violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Blogger Marcy Wheeler argues that Comey's acquiescence to the argument that the interrogation tactics individually didn't violate one particular law does not mean he necessarily considered them legal. He may have felt -- and apparently did feel -- that they violated other laws, including the Convention Against Torture. He certainly felt that their use in combination -- which is how the CIA used them -- was clearly illegal.

Wheeler also argues -- with some justification, it seems to me -- that the e-mails were probably leaked to the Times in a "pre-emptive strike" on an upcoming report from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility. That report is said to harshly criticize former OLC lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury for their role in approving torture.

The message their defenders clearly wanted to send -- and which the Times conveyed -- was that even those DOJ officials who had thus far "escaped criticism because they raised questions about interrogation and the law" agreed with at least some of the rationales put forth by Yoo et. al.

But the actual e-mails, in which Comey documents his various conversations on the matter, don't really support that message. Rather, they paint a portrait of a hopeless rear-guard action by Comey and others against Cheney and his willing lackeys.

As Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "[T]he real story here is obvious -- these DOJ memos authorizing torture were anything but the by-product of independent, good faith legal analysis....

"These DOJ memos, like the CIA reports [in the run-up to war in Iraq], were all engineered by the White House to give cover to what they wanted to do; they were not the precipitating events that led to and justified those decisions."

In his April 27 e-mail, Comey describes telling Gonzales directly about his "grave reservations" about the second memo. Gonzales's response? "The AG explained that he was under great pressure from the Vice President to complete both memos, and that the President had even raised it last week, apparently at the VP's request and the AG had promised they would be ready early this week."

Comey also notes that OLC lawyer Patrick Philbin had previously reported that then-acting OLC director Steve Bradbury "was getting constant similar pressure from [White House counsel] Harriet Miers and [Cheney counsel] David Addington to produce the opinions." Comey adds: "Parenthetically, I have previously expressed my worry that having Steve as 'Acting' -- and wanting the job -- would make his susceptible to just this kind of pressure."

By the end of the April 27 e-mail it appears that Gonzales has agreed to give Comey a chance to alter the second memo. But in the April 28 e-mail, Comey recounts a conversation with Ullyot, Gonzales's chief of staff, in which it becomes clear that Comey has been outflanked by Cheney and that the memo will go out as written.

Comey concludes: "People may think it strange to hear me say I miss John Ashcroft, but as intimidated as he could be by the WH, when it came to crunch-time, he stood up, even from an intensive care hospital bed. That backbone is gone."

And by his May 31 e-mail, his wistful regrets have turned into barely contained fury.

The previous day, the department had issued the third memo, essentially giving a go-ahead (and perhaps even more importantly, retroactive approval) to torture. There was to be a high-level meeting on the subject at the White House later than day. And in a morning meeting with Gonzales, Comey's entreaties evidently fell on deaf ears.

"The AG began by saying that [then-national security adviser Condoleezza] Rice was not interested in discussing details and that her attitude was that if DOJ said it was legal and CIA said it was effective, then that ended it, without a need for detailed policy discussion," Comey writes. "Pat and I urged the AG in the strongest possible terms to drive a full policy discussion of all techniques."

Comey then writes about delivering to Gonzales that imagined "summation" in the case against the administration for torture. And, he adds: "I mentioned that there was a video of an early session, which would come out eventually."

Comey writes that later that day, upon returning from the White House, Gonzales "said the meeting had gone very well, and that there had been a full factual and policy discussion. He said the issues were fully presented and and he had drawn my 'worst-case scenario' for them. At the end, all the Principles approved the full list."

Comey's prediction that "simply awful" things would be eventually made public was proven correct. But the video he mentioned was one of many that the CIA conveniently destroyed less than six months later. And of course his vision of a criminal prosecution remains unfulfilled. Oh, to hear that summation -- either from Comey, or from a federal prosecutor.

By Dan Froomkin  |  June 8, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
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Next: Quick Takes


Cheney is going to end up in prison. I just KNOW IT!

Posted by: Tomcat3 | June 8, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General is one of the great failures of Senate oversight. It was clear from the beginning that he would act to further the White House's goals rather than serving the needs of the American people.

Posted by: fletc3her | June 8, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

So this guy has some emails which basically just have "he said, she said" or hearsay evidence but we're prepared to believe him because . . . ? Well, because it comports with your worldview, that's why.

Same thing about Gonzales. he's a boob and either a liar or doesn't know anything but as soon as he allegedly says anything that that helps your case agaist Bush/Cheney, well you're just going to believe him then aren't you?

Posted by: ronjaboy | June 8, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Noting that he had already announced his resignation at the time, Comey expresses sadness that some top officials who were "too weak to stand up for the principles" that undergird DOJ.


Same is true for those who aided Cheney while working for the CIA or the military. They're not only too weak to stand up to Cheney (and this is how it can happen here, btw), they're too weak to stand up to, much less defeat, a smarter enemy.

And this is why Gates must prosecute them all -- their allegiance was to Cheney, not the American people.

If they're not prepared to defend when the rubber meets the road, if they're stupid cowards underneath it all, this country doesn't stand a chance.

A bunch of weak yes men can't even defend against KIM, and that's just sad.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 8, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse


no we are going to believe it because this comes from Dan Froomkin, an acolyte to the cult of Left Extremists. Which is pretty much all this column amounts to being. Propping up the Obama administration, but spending most of the time trying to ridicule Bush's 8 years.

I guess that is all Froomie knows to do. He just doesn't have enough journalistic moxy to focus on the current administration, what its policies are going forward, and how they might adversely affect the country.

You know there was a lot more happening in the news this weekend than just a couple of e-mails coming out? How about the "last hurrah for Ted Kennedy" by trying to ram through a health care bill that puts us in debt to the Chinese for all eternity?

Posted by: alutz08 | June 8, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Gonzales was a weak leader? Really? What a surprise.

The nutjob right put these people in power. Great choice, you idiots.

Posted by: hacksaw | June 8, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Tried-and-true strategy of every creationist, flat-earther and UFO believer, ronjaboy: deny what you can't contradict.

I suspect the millions of missing e-mails would cast additional light on this topic, as would have the destroyed CIA tapes. Even the CIA memos might more fully establish the chain of command from Cheney and Bush to the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

I can't help but hope that the net is slowly tightening around Dick-Dick, the man who disingenuously betrayed every concept of human decency this country was founded on.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 8, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Here is a little insight for anyone interested:

The government, your government, can, has, will and does whatever it wants when and how it wants. The law means nothing. For the government that is. However, you will obey. Or die. Or be put in prison. That is, if you have a voice and use it you will be silenced or co-opted.

If you are a silent little sheep, you'll live a healthy little government scripted existence.

I am appreciative of any trail of evidence that brings the criminal and authoritarian BushCo out of the shadows. I can't think of a more corrupt group in US history. But, lets not forget, that only the Congress and the courts can investigate and bring charges. What are the chances of that? ZERO!!!!

You could provide Congress with HD Video of Dick Cheney beating a prisoner and Nancy Pelosi would claim ignorance. Or National Security.

The Democrats will do nothing.

But you, yes you, WILL obey every idiotic law passed from an HOA, city, county, state all the way through to the US Congress. And the government will bring every resource to ensure that you do. Unless you're a banker. Or a congressman.

Posted by: mdsinc | June 8, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

And actually, alutz08, the story on the health care reform bill is still coming. There isn't even a fully-formed bill yet. Once Obama gets personally involved--which is likely to happen this week, given his remarks over the weekend--I suspect you'll see a bit more in this column and elsewhere about it.

Meanwhile, carry on with your comically wrong characterization of Froomkin's column. And if you think Obama's support comes only from the far left--bear in mind that some of the farthest lefties are starting to call on O to resign, because he's not liberal enough. Look more to the center, especially to those who were once Republicans (the shrinking party, remember it?).

You talk about stunted and inadmissive political views. You speak with great knowledge of what it is to have one.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 8, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Excellent reportage on the preliminary administrative minutiae that occurs just prior the commision of a horrific set of WAR CRIMES.

Great post doctoral info provided here on how to be the dominant bastard in any management situation: Basically hire inferior managers, who owe their existence to you, and have them insulate you from the operational brains of the organization you lead. Keep this useful service up. The evil ones among us want to know more.

Posted by: bkmur | June 8, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Excellent reportage on the preliminary administrative minutiae that occurs just prior the commision of a horrific set of WAR CRIMES.

Great post doctoral info provided here on how to be the dominant bastard in any management situation: Basically hire inferior managers, who owe their existence to you, and have them insulate you from the operational brains of the organization you lead. Keep this useful service up. The evil ones among us want to know more.

Posted by: bkmur | June 8, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Dan Froomkin.

I'm afraid you are the only honest voice at the Washington Post (sure don't see anyone else covering this crucial story).

This story was covered by the NYT, but the reporters spun it in the most misleading way possible, using it to suggest that Comrey and others agreed that torture techniques were legal while ignoring the surrounding context of objections and continuous coercion.

This makes you the only honest voice in the MSM.

Posted by: dougd1 | June 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Slowly but surely we are now seeing how the Vice President undermined and corrupted the DOJ and the CIA and did untold damage to the country, its armed forces and its image abroad. Guess old Dead Eye figures he's now got to be on the offensive to counter the unseemly portrait of his tenure that is now becoming clear. Gonzales is simply a despicable character who's ethical record as AG is a disgrace to the country and the legal profession.

Posted by: rcairo | June 8, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

It's amusing to note that Cheney, in response to a question at the National Press Club 6/1 on the legality of torture, stated it was OK because Justice Department lawyers said it was. So he pressured them to authorize it, they gave in, and now it's their fault. Beautiful. I don't know if this guy will ever be punished for what he's done to this country, but someone damn sure should be.

Posted by: jonawebb | June 8, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Now who in the establishment press will do follow up on this and find out whether Gonzales actually did present a full accounting of the interrogation techniques in the principles meeting or whether he was lying to Comey when he said that he did?

Posted by: pmorlan1 | June 8, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

There's one thing that I can't get clear on regarding these memos and that may be due to some lack of understanding about the DOJ's relationship to the rest of the federal government. The defense the White House has been giving for torturing these prisoners has essentially been "It's not torture" and "the DOJ said it was legal". If I retain a lawyer and he tells me that it's legal for me to rob a bank, that doesn't mean I'm not going to jail when I finally commit the crime. It just means that I got bad advice. If the DOJ says that some program is legal, why does that make it OK for the CIA or whoever to go out and do it? It's the judiciary's who gets the final say in whether or not some activity is against the law. For the rest of us, a lawyer simply provides advice saying "Yes, what you're planning is or isn't probably legal based on these criteria." How does it work (or should it work) with the lawyers at the DOJ?

Posted by: christopherberg | June 8, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I wonder when Froomkin will become a journalist again...

Posted by: diehardlib | June 8, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I believe all this is SOP at DOJ and the WH now. The WH tells DOJ what it needs and DOJ writes opinions that back up the WH. Congress ceded it's oversight authority to the WH and does not want it back. I really do not see why we are paying congressional salaries. They have no role in government any longer. The entire process is now run by the WH. We could really save some money by getting rid of congress.

Posted by: davidbn27 | June 8, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Adding my thanks for a column exposing the NYTimes article for the hackneyed garbage that it was. The Times writers should be sacked. Cheney and Bush must be prosecuted along with everyone else in their administration who participated in this fraud. "We do not torture" Bush should be whipped screaming down Pennsylvania Avenue, dragging a tarred and feathered Cheney behind, before they are both forced into a cage and hoisted into the deepest hold of a slow tramp freighter on its way to the Hague.

Posted by: Chagasman | June 8, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Comey's memo of 5/31/05 mentions "a video of an early session." Is he referring to the CIA interrogation (sic) video or a meeting of the NSC?

Posted by: boscobobb | June 8, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

rcairo--no, you have it wrong! Alberto Gonzales is a casualty of the War On Terror. Just ask him.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 8, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

One really has to wonder why torture of all things was so prominent in Cheney's efforts and so vital to achieve. Of all the things going on, of all the priorities before them, this was paramount. Months of work, memo after memo, while troops died in unnecessary wars. And with military advisors and intelligence officials pointing out again and again that torture produces little of value.

Hard to escape the conclusion that torture's extreme anathema was a big part of the reason; that which is most abhorrent to decent people simply had to be the highest priority.

That, or simple sadism. Easy to believe with these horrid people.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 8, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

You've never conducted discovery, have you?

Assume that all parties are self-serving. Start to line up common references, timelines and recollections. See what is in harmony and what is in conflict. Notice anything unusual? Notice why one party's self-serving statements are completely out of character with those of others?

One never believes a single party, but after a while the picture is pretty compelling. Can you document your hypothesis with facts? Of course, just because one has the evidence doesn't mean it can be presented in court.

Comey's memos are specifically designed to leave a trail for future prosecutors to follow. And yes, he wants to burnish his image. How few others in the Bush/Cheney administration felt sufficient aversion to their actions to provide a written record the public could discover?

Posted by: boscobobb | June 8, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Once in a while I have an inappropriate wish that Cheney would go hunting again soon, with someone who is a worse shot than he is...but along with many others here, I would far rather seem him brought to justice - for undermining American ideals thereof, by a Department thereof which still puts it first. The Comey emails are painful to read. Froomkin has every reason to keep on writing about the previous administration because we are still paying the price for its lies and its crimes. And We The People did vote for that lot twice, to all appearances...We The People were shamefully asleep at the wheel.

Posted by: Philosophe | June 8, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

We couldn't stop the imperial President and Vice President, but we can make sure the Republican Party never gets to run America again.

Posted by: vigor | June 8, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Before 9-11, obstruction of justice was considered a crime.

Posted by: motorfriend | June 8, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Our resident adherents to the American Taliban are throwing out weaker and weaker arguments with each passing week. Attacks on Froomkin get more personal as the GOP's once-formidable messaging machine fails to get traction with their tired demagoguery.

The word "schadenfreude" best describes my feelings about the present situation. May the GOP slowly bleed to death for what they've done.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | June 8, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"One really has to wonder why torture of all things was so prominent in Cheney's efforts and so vital to achieve."

chrisfox8 I would say it's because he was intent on getting a false confession linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and WMD.

Posted by: troyd2009 | June 8, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Look what Vice President Cheney has done to undermine constitutionally restrained government - while Republicans smeared Democrats and Liberals as sympathetic to terrorists, our own US Vice President was undermining the very foundation of our constitutional republic, conceding through his actions that muslim terrorists could get our own political leader to turn America into a totolitarian Amerika.

Posted by: Mill_in_Mn | June 8, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Why would any one person, be surprised with this revelation. Think Monica Goodling and her law degree from Regent Univ.of Pat Robertson. God must have told Pat that he would find funds to support his religous and rightious fight against liberals. We know God hates liberals. Monica followed the will of George Will, or was it George Bush. Oh well Same o Same o

Posted by: scac1 | June 8, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Froonkin bashing Cheney.

What year is it?

Posted by: bobmoses | June 8, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

My sister emailed me the file of Comey's emails and I read them without having any idea that the NY Times had written a story on them. I said they made Comey look really good and Gonzales look really bad.

I had no idea the Times would try to play them as showing that DoJ signed off on torture. Instead they show internal dissent and an effort to stop the torture memos. Comey and Philbin obviously believed that the cumulative effect was torture and illegal. Gonzales is a spineless toad and Cheney subverted the process, and with it the Constitution. Those two and others should be in jail.

Posted by: steveh46 | June 8, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Actually, whizbang9a

my characterization of Froomie's columns is pretty much right on. He devotes far more space of his columns to the past Bush administration, and less time devoted to the present news. Remember when private accounts for Social Security was brought up in 2005? Froomkin was on it like white on rice.... yet when the big news of the weekend comes out about health care proposals and plans to pay for it... Froomie completely ignores it on the opening day, instead trying to focus on his continuing personal vendetta against Dick Cheney.

The above is fact and I dare froomie to come here and say otherwise.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 8, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Far left it's not, lutz. And Obama's dealing very much with the aftermath of the last administration. The single biggest policy initiative yet of Obama's administration--the stimulus--is just barely becoming active now, the funds just barely starting to be spent.

The torture revelations, Obama's new foreign policy initiatives (pretty much by definition drawing a distinction between himself and his predecessor, the way Bush and Cheney did between themselves and Clinton), the bailouts and stimiulus--all of these things have immediate and major relevance to reassessing the previous administration.

Soon enough the actions of Obama's administration will have more self-reference: the effects of the stimulus bill, the GM takeover, the bailouts, the Afghanistan surge, the new Mideast direction, the approach to North Korea. We're still barely over four months into this new administration. There's a lot of carry-over. Considering the gravity of the crises, domestic and international, facing us now, there's an extraordinary amount of carry-over.

Besides, if you think it should be forgotten that the last administration practiced torture in order to start a war--testimony corroborated by many sources--then your judgement is, to say the least, clouded.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 8, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, whizbang9a

my characterization of Froomie's columns is pretty much right on. He devotes far more space of his columns to the past Bush administration, and less time devoted to the present news. Remember when private accounts for Social Security was brought up in 2005? Froomkin was on it like white on rice.... yet when the big news of the weekend comes out about health care proposals and plans to pay for it... Froomie completely ignores it on the opening day, instead trying to focus on his continuing personal vendetta against Dick Cheney.

The above is fact and I dare froomie to come here and say otherwise.

Posted by: alutz08 | June 8, 2009 2:58 PM"

Well, you guys have your hack Krauthammer, and we have ours in Froomkin.

Your characterizations are really off-base. Froomkin is only discussing Cheney because Cheney refuses to fade away into obscurity, and continues to criticize Obama. Cheney has spent a lot of time trying to talk about how the Bush administration did so wonderful and kept everyone safe, and how Obama is going to make us all weak.

Cheney has every right to do so, but he better be ready to take some hits along the way. If Cheney is going to dig up the past, then journalists and bloggers alike will talk about it.

Posted by: ClandestineBlaze | June 8, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: coloradodog | June 8, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

More excellent coverage on what is turning out to be one of the most important aspects of the corrupt Bush administration (important, that is, for historians).

What happens when the DOJ has no spine? Things like torture happen. What happens when the AG is a stooge? Things like torture happen. What happens when there is no real congressional oversight and the administration is amoral and ignorant/indifferent to the constitution? Things like torture happen.

As always, of course, the most appalling part is the reaction of the right-wingers, here on this page, with their whining and bleating about how Dan Froomkin is a commie and we would all torture etc etc. You people are living proof of how an entire society can go down the tubes without the RULE OF LAW.

Posted by: gposner | June 8, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is the most evil man ever to run this country, blame the power hungry Bush's and their idiot son for making this happen. Indict him now!

Posted by: calif-joe | June 8, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

The few wingnuts who still long for the Bush/Cheney corruption of power use the only argument that their small minds can achieve: Froomkin is still writing about the crimes of Bush/Cheney. I, and apparently many others, applaud Froomkin's attention to the Bush/Cheney crimes. And anxiously await the day they are both hanged.

Posted by: frazeysburger | June 8, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I finally have come to the realization that nothing matters. No manner of disclosure or confession will result in any of the U.S. traitors in the previous administration getting worse than a congressional hand slap.

Posted by: jfern03 | June 8, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

And yet, were it not for the economic crisis, the GOP would likely still be in control of the White House, and perhaps Congress as well. The sad truth is, Americans haven't changed. Far from being outraged, most Americans really don't care whether or not the previous administration engaged in torture. Nor do they care how many laws were broken. There were any number of objective reasons that George W. Bush should never have been elected to a second term by an informed and conscientious populace. And yet he was re-elected. Why? Because far too many American voters are neither informed nor conscientious. They couldn't care less whether some A-rab got picked up on the streets of a foreign city, thrown in a secret prison, and tortured. As long as it doesn't affect them personally, and as long as the government propoganda machine is able to easily opiate them through the use of fear and crude caricatures of it's dissenters, this country, and the ideals that led to its creation, will always be at risk.

Posted by: sonny2 | June 8, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

this is not just a cheney issue. we need to know which of our elected representatives coalesced in this insanity and then target them in the next round of elections. we should start with the likes of nancy pelosi on the democratic side and move on down the list ferreting out those who lacked the political and moral courage to uphold our democratic principles and the constitutional right of the people to know what their govt. is doing at all times. our govt. can no longer be trusted and therefore it is imperative that a decent level of transparency be applied. after eight long and disastrous years of the evangelical right which led to the privatization of security(nut jobs such as erik prince and blackwater/XE) and undo influence in the halls of congress in an attempt to recreate the crusades, the separation of church and state must be restored. it is highly unlikely that cheney will be prosecuted because of the actions of those who willingly became co-conspirators immediately following 9/11. however we must travel the long and hard road to eventually "purge" our govt. of the toxins infecting our govt. and our way of life. if we do not: we will be its next victims.

Posted by: wa_idaho_lonewolf | June 8, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

alutz08 is correct in his assertion that Dan should not be reporting on Dick Cheney's strong arming of the OLC. However, that is the only assertion in his post today that I agree with.

My agreement is based on a journalistic technicality - that Dan's "White House Watch", by virtue of it's title (and hence it's purpose) should be focussed on actions of the current administration.

Unfortunately, it reflects badly on Media reporting when not enough journalists and media organizations are giving this story the full attention it demands. As a result, Dan must feel that he has an obligation to revisit the unsavory and possibly illegal actions of the prior administration.

As long as the DOJ remains part of the Executive Branch, abuses such as Cheny's political manipulation of legal opinions will repeat themselsves. I invite the posters to read up on Nixon's Watergate fiasco, and the pressure he applied to the Justice Department ("The Saturday Night Massacre").

A radical approach to removing self serving influence of the White House upon the DOJ would require removing the DOJ from the Executive Branch and making it an adjunct to the Judiciary Branch. The President would have the right to appoint the attorney general, just as he would appoint a Supreme Court justice, and the AG would have a term that is not tied to the four year presidential election cycle. But I have doubts that such an initiative would ever gain traction.

Posted by: MillPond2 | June 8, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Congress just subpoena Rove not too long ago?

Maybe this was Dick's counterattack.

Boy, they pull that string, and look out.

Cheney must be reeling from the paranoia; that is, Dick and all his secret shadows.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 8, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I'll never forget in 1956, when the Hungarian Revolutionaries surrounded the dreaded Secret Police Headquarters in Budapest. Finally, the thugs came out. And, to everyone's shock, the Chief of Torture and Fear, came out. He was a short bowlegged man in jackboots and uniform to go with his torturing mission. He was teembling and crying in fear. When people realized that for a decade they had been terorized by this midget devil, a sort of hateful Wizzard of Oz, they become so enraged that they beat him to death right then and there. Cheney was one of those hides-in-the-shadows types who speaks from his office to intimidate officers of the Gov, all sworn to uphold the Constitution. As VP he assumed he is so anonymous that his nowhere-but-everywhere presence would scare anyone without his saying a thing into violating the Constitution and serving his evil mediocrity. For a while he brow beat our cheerleader turned captain of the team, Bush the president, with Cheney as the ventriloquist and Bush as the dummy. Everyone assumed that Cheney spoke for the Commander-in-Chief. But now we know that he was a small man with a small wired heart. I hope people don't do to him what they did to the Secret Police Chief of Budapest whom they so feared and hated. But the best treatment for this anaerobe is exposure to light and oxygen. Such termites only function in the dark. Now that he is desperately trying to get the lime light, we should thank him for forcing ourselves to see the real history behind the little man his boss Bush nicknamed "Vice."

Posted by: danieleteodoru | June 8, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

A great nation would not overlook, ignore, or condone the Bush/Cheney crimes.

Posted by: patriot76 | June 8, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I fear that the political will to investigate and prosecute is just not there - no matter how much evidence keeps piling up that we tortured and that Cheney, Bush, and other directly called the shots. The "Let's look forward" stance of Obama and the Dems in congress would not be hte stance the the Reps would take if they were in this situation. The REps pulled out all of hte stops to prosecute Clinton for lies about his sexual relations because they are rule of law types. The rule of law about torture is pretty clear.

Posted by: jswallow | June 8, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

The memos hardly amount to "he said, she said" as some of the more mindless bloggers here assume. READ THE MEMOS. They detail how a couple of courageous DOJ lawyers sought to prevent the US from violating federal and International law. They detail how techniques, especially used in combination, could not rationally pass the torture smell test. They detail how the VP's office and Addingtion and Harriet Myers tried to force feed this down their collective (DOJ's) throats, and lament how Gonzalez had absolutely no backbone when confronting the VP. They detail how Bush knew and asked Gonzalez about when the approvals would be forthcoming. And they detail how Condoleeza Rice sought to keep these proceeding and the conclusions reached as secret as possible. They are a sickening portrait of political pressure cynically used after the fact to provide deniability and political cover. The Times reporters , and the article they generated, were beyond misleading--it smelled EXACTLY like last week's Bumiller story on Gitmo "jihadists" that relied entirely on sources close to the Administration rather than on analysis and serious investigative reporting.

Posted by: bklyndan22 | June 8, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes the sequence of events leading up to the torture memos, at least as I understand it, seems to get obscured in all the emotion.

As I understand it, the interrogation methods were ordered. Then people at the CIA objected, because of doubts about both their efficacy and their legality.

In reponse, and basically to provide cover to the interrogators, the "Principals" already firm in their belief that they would never be held accountable for their conduct, ordered up the torture memos.

And, they were delivered, dutifully, in the private corporate culture that dominated that administration. They weren't impartial, intellectually honest analysis. They were exercisees in advocacy, to justify the actions that the Bush Adminstration wanted to undertake.

All that being said, and being as opposed to torture as anyone, I have difficulty focusing on this issue with the intense moralism with which it is being discussed.

Torture exists. It is used, whether out of desperation, frustration, or just mere sadism. It's well known that in administrations prior to Dubya's terrorism suspects were delivered to other countries, frequently Arab countries like Syria and Egypt, to be subjected to the interrogation methods that are now being condemned. Well, whether we did it or it was done by a third party on our behalf, we're just as responsible, just as guilty. So, to some degree, this sounds too much like the scene in the movie "Casablanca" where the police captain, while accepting his cut of the winnings, orders Rick's night club closed because he is "shocked, shocked that gambling is going on this presmisis."

Legalities aside, if Arab and Muslim nations condone torture, and inflict torture, why do we fear that if we do the same we will lose standing in the Arab and Muslim world? And if Arabs and Muslims are most offended by the non-physical insults to their religion, by defacing copies of the Koran or perhaps forcing detainees to violate Muslim dietary laws, who are we going to send to prison for doing that?

The recent movie "Slumdog Millionaire", which drew such raves here, showed "enhanced interrogation techniques" including cigarette burns, electrical shocks to the genetalia, inflicted on a quiz show contestant accused of cheating. This torture was inflicted by police in India. India, the land of Ghandi, whose pronunciation of English and cadence of speaking have conditioned us to regard all Indians as peace loving and non-violent, certainly not sadistic or bullying.

We should not torture. I don't think it works. I'm glad that there are laws against it. It should never be resorted to except in cases of the proverbial ticking time bomb, where WE KNOW that the bomb is ticking.

But, if we want to start prosecuting the upper echelons of the Bush Administration for war crimes, I suggest we cut to the chase and place them in the dock for having conceived and conducted a war of blatant, illegal aggression, based on lies and deceit.

Posted by: bfieldk | June 8, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

"At the end, all the Principles approved the full list."

He means Principals.

No principles were involved.

Posted by: jpk1 | June 8, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Dan,
These all too grim stories about what Dick Cheney did to our country is beyond belief. These war crimes and the criminals that committed these crimes have got to be dealt with.
You can see why so many people are so upset and outraged at MSNBC for giving time to Liz C, and her dad to justify themselves . They are trying so hard to make what is so wrong, right.
It just won't work.
Here is to justice,

Posted by: donnajorobinson | June 8, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, VP Cheney!

Boooo Cheney-hating moonbats!

Posted by: zjr78xva | June 8, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Chicken Dick aparently has nightmares about going to jail.

I wonder why?

Posted by: walker1 | June 8, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

***Breaking News***

Cheney is under investigation!

Subpeonas on way

Posted by: walker1 | June 8, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I've posted this quotation before in discussions of the Bush regime, but the words attributed to J. P. Morgan bear repeating:

“I don’t want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do; I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do”.

Posted by: generaljinjur | June 8, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is guilty of treason, indict him now!

Posted by: calif-joe | June 8, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, all of the illegal spying is keeping The Bush Crime Family out of prison. Nothing else explains why they have not been arrested with the mountains of evidence against them.

Posted by: gsross | June 8, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Is it any wonder that the Republicans want any kind of investigation into these allegations stopped?

Cheney is the tip of the iceberg...

Posted by: buzzsaw1 | June 8, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: zjr78xva | June 8, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

zjr78xva: Please enlighten us all and provide a coherent definition of "moonbat". Thanks

Posted by: MillPond2 | June 8, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree with coloradodog "What happens when the DOJ has no spine? Things like torture happen. What happens when the AG is a stooge? Things like torture happen. What happens when there is no real congressional oversight and the administration is amoral and ignorant/indifferent to the constitution? Things like torture happen." ............ The Only Way We Voters Can Stop The Torture Is To Push Obama To Prosecute Our Torturers.... SIGN THE PETITION To Prosecute at ANGRYVOTERS.ORG ....

Posted by: johnhkennedy | June 9, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Cheney's attacks on Obama are ludicrous, and Cheney's destruction of America's reputation are of great importance. Froomkin's analysis is warranted and accurate.

Posted by: seesdifferent | June 9, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I do believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity and the constitution were committed with the torture,but I can't help to believe that we are all being taken as stupid and our attention is being diverted to the torture of terrorist. The real crime is the war against Iraq, which was said by Bush to be a mistake. We have thousands of dead and wounded American soldiers, We admit to half a million dead Iraqis, when its probably well over twice that. We invaded and occupy their country and have given ourselves the name "Liberators". We now call Iraqi patriots AlQadi. Innocent people and American soldiers keep dying daily. We are now permanently stranded, no matter what we do we lose. The war was proven to be an agenda by W. It was definitely a mistake. At least hundreds of thousands of woman and children have been killed by a war started with lies and manipulations. This is a Holocaust where the Iraqi could easily claim 6 million merciless deaths as did the Jews in the second World War. The strong arm tactics of the Bush administration were unconstitutional and barbaric. Far worse in the lost of innocent lives than Saddam. This is a direct result of a mentally deranged president of questionable aptitude. The wrath of God shall be upon us if we don't make some serious choice's, like, right now? The king of the death warrant in Texas, and now the second worst war criminal in the history of the modern world.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | June 10, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Outstanding journalism, Mr. Froomkin. I see how it all happened now.

Posted by: karin2 | June 10, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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