Still Looking Forward, Not Backwards

The National Security State is relentless in the pursuit of enemies:

The Obama administration is seeking to compel a writer to testify about his confidential sources for a 2006 book about the Central Intelligence Agency, a rare step that was authorized by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The author, James Risen, who is a reporter for The New York Times, received a subpoena on Monday requiring him to provide documents and to testify May 4 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., about his sources for a chapter of his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.” The chapter largely focuses on problems with a covert C.I.A. effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research.

Mr. Risen referred questions to his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel L.L.P., who said that Mr. Risen would not comply with the demand and would ask a judge to quash the subpoena.

“He intends to honor his commitment of confidentiality to his source or sources,” Mr. Kurtzberg said. “We intend to fight this subpoena.”

It’s just a damned shame Risen didn’t torture anyone.

I’m serious- can’t Risen just claim he tortured someone to get the information, but destroyed the tapes? Then mumble something about a few bad apples.

Doesn’t that get you a pass under the current rules? I’m sure he had doctors there to supervise his behavior.

47 replies
  1. 1
    Jihad of Dandelion says:

    It’s just a damned shame Risen didn’t torture anyone.

    This. This fucking needs to be pounded into the head of the Obama administration every single fucking day.

    You’re really out there going after those who exposed the torture, illegal spying without warrants, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, kidnapping of people off the streets of our European allies in broad daylight, etc. etc. etc. but NOT THE FUCKING PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY DID ALL OF THOSE THINGS?

    Shame.

  2. 2
    Ugh says:

    I keep forgetting to change back to my usual handle after fighting back against Herr Cole’s unfair dandelion jihad, but in case anyone cares, Jihad of Dandelion is me.

  3. 3
    J.W. Hamner says:

    While I agree that it’s B.S. that torturers aren’t being indicted… isn’t this a pretty clear cut breach of national security? I’m not sure I have a lot of sympathy for the guy who leaked this info, nor the people who published it, since it looks like the pretty cavalierly endangered American lives for the sake of a scoop.

  4. 4

    Time for a reporters shield law. Long overdue.

  5. 5
    tesslibrarian says:

    Maybe Risen should claim he had to torture his sources to get the information.

  6. 6
    david mizner says:

    I understand that the tag “Obama is worse than bush” is snark, but the sad truth is, on some civil liberties “anti-terrorism” issues, Obama really is worse than Bush.

    That is, on some “anti-terrorism” issues he’s a little better, on some he’s a little worse, and he’s basically continuing Bush’s war.

    I don’t feel overall disappointed in Obama because I didn’t have high expectations, but his horrific record in this one (important) area has surprised me.

  7. 7

    @J.W. Hamner: Yes, but going after reporters is not the way to find a leaker, imo.

  8. 8
    numbskull says:

    @J.W. Hamner: Again, Cole’s point is that we’re told we can’t investigate torture because that would be looking backwards (or some other similarly facile reason).

    Well, if we can’t look backwards, WTF are we doing looking backwards?

  9. 9
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @numbskull:
    No, I agree with that… going after a 2006 leaker is clearly hypocritical… and in both instances it’s probably mostly about salvaging the CIA’s pride.

    It just seems like this particular leak was published dangerously close to the actual operation itself, which strikes me as irresponsible of the journalist in question.

  10. 10
    socratic_me says:

    While you are calling in to the White House to yell at Obama about this, be sure to mention that you will of course vote for him without fail because the other guys are nuts and you aren’t an idiot. As we learned in the uber-thread yesterday. there is nothing that says “leverage” like unquestioning support.

  11. 11
    r€nato says:

    Hey Sarah Palin – I got your “drill baby drill” right fucking here.

    Officials said late Wednesday the estimated amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from three underwater leaks after last week’s oil rig explosion has increased to as many as 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day — five times more than what was initially believed.

    The media is so fond of quoting whatever brain fart Palin has on a daily basis. I’m dying for some reporter to ask for her reaction about this huge mess.

    …I just realized I should have posted this down below. My bad.

  12. 12
    Brian J says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    I’m willing to at least consider this idea.

    @General Egali Tarian Stuck:

    I don’t know if they are really “going after” the reporter. Are they charging him with any crimes, or are they simply demanding to know information? If it’s the latter, and by all implications it’s the latter, it’s not necessarily outrageous. This is the proper way to do it, after all.

  13. 13

    @Brian J: Good point. This could just be a pro forma move by Holder, without intent to take it to the mat with contempt charges and imprisonment. We will just have to see how far they take it. It is interesting that the DOJ didn’t include Risen’s chapter on wiretapping and there is actually an ongoing investigation into Bush’s torture regime as a sidenote. But I am just a humble Obot, and not wise in such matters.

  14. 14
    russell says:

    on some civil liberties “anti-terrorism” issues, Obama really is worse than Bush.

    IMO Obama more or less sucks on civil liberties stuff, but also IMO he’s still not a patch on Bush et al.

    Re: the original post, it seems to me that the CIA and the intel community in general has some kind of gun to the head of the rest of the executive. Congress, maybe less so, but they can pass all the laws they want and if the DOJ doesn’t enforce, it’s still a free pass.

    The reach of the Constitution ends when the phrase “national security” is uttered.

  15. 15
    Brian J says:

    @General Egali Tarian Stuck:

    You’re an Obot? Hey, me too! Can’t we just blame this on Rahm and ACORN and move along?

  16. 16
    cleek says:

    i’ll just note that i don’t remember much outrage when Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed reporters while he was investigating the Plame case. demanding records that might contain evidence about a crime that has apparently been committed isn’t exactly a novel legal procedure that Dick Cheney dreamed up one dark and stormy night.

    and now you can hate me.

  17. 17
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @cleek: That was different, because that was different.

  18. 18
    Ugh says:

    @cleek: You Bastard!

  19. 19
    david mizner says:

    @russell:

    “IMO Obama more or less sucks on civil liberties stuff, but also IMO he’s still not a patch on Bush et al.”

    Well, on the specific issue of torture he’s certainly better than Bush circa 2004, but better than Bush circa 2007? He’s still using rendition, by which torture is outsourced, still employing (actually expanding) our secret prison system in Afghanistan, still denying detainees basic rights that provide a check on abuse.

    More generally, he’s basically continuing Bush’s war, which is premised on the dangerous lie that we can bomb, torture, occupy, and kill terrorism away.

    In any case, I don’t believe Obama would be doing some of what’s he’s doing had Bush not done it first. It was probably naive of me to think Obama would be better, because the National Security State just doesn’t voluntarily limit its power, at least not in the absence of an extraordinary leader. We have an ordinary one.

  20. 20
    Chad N Freude says:

    The reach of the Constitution ends when the phrase “national security” is uttered.

    This. A thousand times this.

  21. 21
    someguy says:

    Cleek – the key thing to remember is that this is good for the leading female Republican senator, Lindsey Graham.

  22. 22
    ChicagoTom says:

    @cleek:

    Cleek,

    Maybe the fact that the Plame case was an outing of a CIA agent for political purposes (to discredit someone who disagreed of the administartion’s policies) as opposed to being a whistleblower about problems/mistakes in a covert CIA operation?

    It may seem minor, but there is quite a difference between going after a whistle-blower vs going after someone who is violating the law for mere political advantage, no?

    Now I haven’t read the chapter in question so I can’t say for sure ( which is why I don’t have a strong opinion about this particular case), but it would seem based on descriptions I have read that in this case Obama is essentially going after a whistle blower.

  23. 23
    numbskull says:

    @J.W. Hamner: I agree with the purported timing as a possible concern. But by every once of “reasoning” and “justification” that has been vomited forth by all the very serious people for every aspect this whole mess, the fact that people didn’t die would seem to provide additional reason to not investigate. I’m not saying that post hoc “no harm, no foul” is any way to run an ethical operation, but geeze, if we’re going to be ethical, we’re right back to pondering “look backwards for thee but not for me”.

  24. 24
    some other guy says:

    He’s damned lucky it’s just a subpoena! If this journalist had instead wrote a book about Apple’s next iPhone using sources who broke the law the cops would’ve kicked down his door and confiscated all of his electronics.

    If suspected terrorists want human rights, they should incorporate.

  25. 25
    Comrade Dread says:

    This is why I laugh at Republicans these days. Well, one of many reasons.

    Obama is not their radical DFH revolutionary they painted him as.

    He’s a pretty conventional, pragmatic, establishment left-leaning Democrat.

    (By establishment, I generally mean that he supports the existing structures and laws that comprise our current government.)

    I’m glad, at least, that a larger percentage of Democrats are trying to keep him accountable, than existed in the Republican party during the Bush years.

    That gives me at least some hope that one party still remains sane and wants a good, accountable government.

  26. 26
    Aloysius says:

    Careful, Comrade. Your enthusiasm is slipping. Clap harder!

  27. 27
    Michael says:

    The chapter largely focuses on problems with a covert C.I.A. effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research.

    Dangerously close to current operations – this wasn’t about torture, this was about something which is very likely to get cooperating Iranians killed, and maybe even some who weren’t cooperating, but who will be alleged to have done so.

    Jesselyn Radack’s sneering, self-pimping whines bore me, so I’m going to go with the Administration on this one.

  28. 28
    JGabriel says:

    NY Times:

    James Risen … received a subpoena on Monday requiring him to provide documents and to testify … about his sources for a chapter of his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.” The chapter largely focuses on problems with a covert C.I.A. effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research.

    Interesting. I remember reading that chapter and wondering if the Bushies prosecute. Ultimately, I decided they probably wouldn’t want to confirm the story by prosecuting over it.

    I’m surprised Holder followed up on it. Given that the operation is over, failed, and put dangerous information into the hands of a foreign power*, I would think it falls into the unprotected “embarrassing” category, rather than leaking an active agent’s name.

    *The chapter tells the story of a CIA plan to slow down Iranian development of a nuclear bomb by giving them a trigger blueprint with a subtle error. The physicist tasked to “leak” the blueprint to Iran, in fear of being busted, pointed out the error to the Iranians and corrected it for them. Yes, if true, this means we know that Iran has the blueprint for a working atomic bomb, because we gave it to them.

    .

  29. 29
    JGabriel says:

    @Michael:

    Dangerously close to current operations – this wasn’t about torture, this was about something which is very likely to get cooperating Iranians killed …

    This operation wasn’t about working with cooperating Iranians. It was about leaking incorrect information to Iran.

    Am I the only one here who actually read the book?

    .

  30. 30
    MattR says:

    @JGabriel:

    Yes, if true, this means we know that Iran has the blueprint for a working atomic bomb, because we gave it to them.

    This seems very much like the kind of thing that we should want a whistleblower to expose.

    I am glad somebody here has actually read the book and can fill us in on some details.

  31. 31
    Sour Kraut says:

    …Upward, not Downward, and Always Twirling, Twirling, Twirling!

  32. 32
    burnspbesq says:

    I’m as close to a first amendment absolutist as the next person, but I don’t have a problem with this, because there’s no legitimate first amendment claim here.

    Risen can publish whatever he can get his hands on. No one is suggesting destroying his book. If his sources committed crimes by revealing certain information to him, DOJ can and should investigate. And if Risen receives a valid subpoena, he should show up and answer questions. If he has valid legal grounds for refusing to answer certain question or provide certain documents, he can assert those objections and a judge can rule on them.

    If he chooses to be in contempt of court in order to keep some promise of confidentiality to his sources, well, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

  33. 33
    Steve says:

    Back during the Bush years, one of the things I found most outrageous about the Plame affair was that Cheney casually, in a fit of political pique, blew not just Plame’s cover personally, but the entire cover op that was part of her legend while she was covert. He blew not just her cover, but the cover of every other agent who worked for the front company that nominally employed her. He also blew the cover of every person who had provided intel to her, or to anyone else operating through the same cover op, pontentially endangering their lives. He destroyed the utility of that front and our ability to ever use it again. He destroyed the ability of every agent involved to ever use any of the contacts made while covert to gather intelligence in the future. And all because he was throwing a tantrum a speedbump along the road to the invasion of Iraq and because he could.

    The episiode was not unique. The Cheney Administration blew intel sources with regularity for political purposes. It blew an important operation in Pakistan once only because it needed to show “progress” against Al Qaeda and whip up some fear for a day or two during an election cycle.

    So, yeah, I was pissed about Plame for more reasons than just because her husband impeded the Iraq invation for about ten minutes and therefore qualified as an FDL hero. And, more to the point, at the same time, I was utterly, completely unsympathetic to the Judy Plame’s lonely vigil to save Scooter Libby, and ultimately Cheney, from justice.

    So taking all that into consideration, it would be mighty damn hypocritical if I decided to be outraged now just because, even though the principle and the law is the same, the facts and the players are different. And especially given that one big difference is that if the Iranians ever get their hands on anyone who ever worked with us as a result of the trail from this revelation, they will hang them.

    Hang them. Not a metaphor.

    And it will not be the relatively quick neckbreaking drop method. It will be the slow strangulation method–by using tying the rope to a telescoping crane like the phone company uses for line repairs–that can take nine minutes to render the victim unconscious and up to 50 to kill them.

    Sorry, I’ll pass on the outrage this time.

  34. 34
    Honus says:

    This for the torture apologists:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magaz.....mama_mail1

    Of course, a West Point general doesn’t know about the realities on the ground as much as John Yoo or the 101st Keyboarders.

  35. 35
    WereBear says:

    @JGabriel: Well, we created both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and even the deposed Shah of Iran, didn’t we?

  36. 36
    Paula says:

    OT … is it just me, or has BJ experienced a surge in commenters over the last 3 months?

  37. 37
    rdldot says:

    The thing about the Plame affair is that the crime was in exposing Plame. So the reporters were a part of the real crime. They weren’t trying to protect whistleblowers because the info they were fed wasn’t wrong (ie that Wilson was sent to Africa, or even that Valerie was involved in sending him). It was the fact that they exposed Plame that was the crime, so the reporters were part of the original ‘crime’.

  38. 38
    david mizner says:

    @Paula:

    I just started commenting here for a few reasons:

    You don’t need to register (I’m lazy).

    I’m taking a long break from Daily Kos.

    Cole seems like an Obama admirer who’s retained the capacity for independent thought.

    The posts are generally sharp and to the point and not too wonky.

  39. 39
    JSD says:

    Attorney General should be an independently elected position. Then he (or she) wouldn’t have to be the president’s bitch.

  40. 40
    Your worst nightmare says:

    Too damned bad John. This is what happens when you investigate who leaked to Bob Novak. Karma, VLWC, karma.

  41. 41
    patrick II says:

    I think Obama is sending a message to CIA whistleblowers. There are many secrets being held right now about the illegalities and immoral acts of the Bush administration, and sadly, some of which are doubtless being continued under Obama.
    So, if you are or ever have been privy to knowledge that would embarrass or be cause for litigation, you had better keep it to yourself because someone will come after you even years later.

  42. 42
    burnspbesq says:

    @JSD:

    Take a look at recent events in Virginia and Washington and let us know whether you still think that having an elected AG is a good idea.

  43. 43

    National security leaks, or release of classified information is reported out at several dozen instances a year, most all from a handful of NS agencies and the DoD. If the agencies affected think it’s important enough, they refer such cases to the DoJ and request an investigation. The DoJ routinely opens a preliminary investigation into these, and nearly all end there without a full investigation. Mainly because the folks doing the leaking are smart enough to not leave evidence to identify them. Very rarely, an idiot doesn’t cover his or her tracks and gets caught by blabbing it to someone else other than a reporter, or like the idiot a few days ago, got caught destroying evidence. In those cases, what is the DoJ supposed to do, just look the other way? When this happens like with Sandy Berger, the cases are usually plead down with no jail time and maybe a fine or something.

    This case sounds like it was important enough to be investigated more thoroughly, and that is usually pushed by the agency affected, so the DOJ goes further with it. How far I guess we will see in this case.

    The point being this sort of thing is almost mechanical in it’s process and has been going on the same way for decades. It is largely how the federal government works, though at critical points, human leaders do make decisions to carry it further or not, just like prosecuters do for all crimes everywhere. Picking out individual cases to make political points is kind of silly, it seems to me. And as far as Bush torture goes, gathering info on what happened is happening, and we will also see where that leads. I hope in someway that dirty laundry gets all put out in the sunlight before it’s over. Though seeing Bush or Cheney behind bars is not going to happen. No matter how much that would please me.

  44. 44
    Schmegma says:

    Hey John Cole,

    Got a question for ya; considering all of the fervent hope and urgency the wingnutters have placed on “taking back their country” in November, what do you think will happen if they actually FAIL to take back either the House or the Senate??

    Do they go all McVey on us? Do we see ‘Peak-TeaBagging? Does their collective fat, white head explode ala ‘Scanners?’

  45. 45
    Oscar Leroy says:

    i don’t remember much outrage when Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed reporters while he was investigating the Plame case

    He didn’t subpoena them for the heck of it, but because they were directly involved in the matter he was investigating. Being a reporter doesn’t mean you never have to talk to the law!

  46. 46
    EthylEster says:

    Reisen did an absolutely great Frontline recently on this and other topics.

  47. 47

    […] charge of that prosecution to Risen’s Subpoena.  Many of the key points write themselves.  As John Cole says, this is yet another instance clarifying that Obama’s Look Forward, Not Backward protective […]

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