Thursday, May 30, 2013

Danger UXB: The FBI Director Episode -- Update

Mr. Pierce thinks that while Mr. James Comey's resume makes him a credible choice for FBI Director, what his selection up into extra happy funtime business-class is the thought of a live, Bush-era UXB lobbed smack into the middle the the GOP's "Oh God Please Let This All Turn Out To Be Worse Than Watergate!" 200-point, boldface Railroad Font fake-scandal-driven Summer of Rove:
... First of all, Comey is a legitimate choice to head the FBI. The man has the resume and the chops. But the real art in this choice, of course, comes in the fact that Comey was the central player in the single most bizarre episode in the Bush Administration's increasingly bizarre attempts to invent new laws to cover the various extra-constitutional shenanigans in which they were engaged. You want to see a renegade executive branch, this choice asks. We'll show you a renegade executive branch...
Of course, opinions differ.

Here, for example, we find Mr. Greenwald (with emphasis added) once again showing off his almost superhuman ability to infallibly discern the secret motives and future actions of others, this time issuing a trademarked Greenwald Grim Warning approximately nine seconds after the White House announced it would nominate Mr. Comey to run the FBI regarding  (A) James Comey's unfitness to serve as head of the FBI and, (B) how all progressives would certainly react:
"James Comey is far from the worst choice to lead the FBI. I doubt it will change much of anything one way or the other, and there are undoubtedly worse people within the senior ranks of the Democratic Party who would be the likely alternatives. But it's still a potent symbol of how little has changed in the right direction and how much it has changed in the wrong direction. If you had told progressives in 2008 that the Bush lawyer who approved the NSA program would be named by Obama as the FBI Director, they would scoff in disbelief. Now they'll cheer.
Impressive command of pre-crime techniques, Glenn!

Mr. Greenwald continues...

In other words, there was something the NSA was doing for years - that we still don't know - even more extreme than the illegal NSA program revealed by the NYT in 2005. It was Comey, along with Ashcroft, Mueller, and Goldsmith, who threatened to resign if it did not stop, and they deserve credit for that. But the reason they didn't end up resigning was because Bush officials "modified" that NSA program into something those lawyers could and did endorse: the still-illegal, still-radical NSA eavesdropping program that spied on the communications of Americans without warrants and in violation of the law. And this was accomplished by inventing a new legal theory to accompany the old one: that Congress, when it enacted the 2001 AUMF, silently and "implicitly" authorized Bush to eavesdrop in exactly the ways the law expressly forbade. 
Thus, it was Comey who gave his legal approval to enable that NSA eavesdropping program to spy on Americans without warrants: the same program that produced so much outrage and scandal when revealed by the NYT. How can any progressive who spent the Bush years vehemently denouncing that domestic spying program as the symbol of Bush radicalism and lawlessness now cheer when the lawyer who approved it is about to be put in charge of the FBI?
Which sounds pretty bad.  

Possibly unmitigatable.

Then again, I suppose it is also possible that at the time Mr. Comey just "wanted the president to succeed"?  Maybe he let his "loyalty to [his] country" -- and that fact that Dubya was "the leader of [his] country" -- overwhelm his otherwise good judgement?  I don't know, of course, because I am not gifted with Mr. Greenwald's  superhuman ability to infallibly discern the secret motives and future actions of others, but I supposed it is remotely possible that Mr. Comey simply felt the administration deserved "the benefit of the doubt".   Or "believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to".

I was not there and I cannot say, but it I have it on excellent authority that this sort of misjudgement happens even in the best of families.

But let us move on to Mr. Comey's April 27, 2005 email which Mr. Greenwald uses as an opening to discuss:

... Comey's mixed and quite murky role in authorizing Bush's torture program. Internal DOJ emails released to the New York Times in 2009 show Comey expressing serious reservations, and even objections, to the willingness of Albert Gonzales to legally authorize any interrogation techniques the White House wanted, and he warned those officials that their involvement would be condemned by history. But even as he did so, Comey, as the New York Times explained, eventually, albeit reluctantly, gave his legal approval to those techniques:
"Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.
"That opinion, giving the green light for the CIA to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation,'was ready to go out and I concurred,' Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times."
As I wrote at the time, the NYT article significantly overstated Comey's role in approving these torture programs. But it is true that he ultimately acquiesced to their legalization.
Of course, back before Barack Obama nominated Mr. Comey to head the FBI, Mr. Greenwald's  own 2009 takeaway from this incident was not what a "mixed and murky" dick Mr. Comey was for ultimately "acquiescing" to the Bush White House, but instead what extraordinary lengths the Bush White House went to to "coerce" the compliance of people like Mr. Comey.  

From Mr. Greenwald in 2009:

But the real story here is obvious — these DOJ memos authorizing torture were anything but the by-product of independent, good faith legal analysis.  Instead, those memos — just like the pre-war CIA reports about The Threat of Saddam — were coerced by White House officials eager for bureaucratic cover for what they had already ordered.  This was done precisely so that once this all became public, they could point to those memos and have the political and media establishment excuse what they did (“Oh, they only did what they DOJ told them was legal”‘/”Oh, they were only reacting to CIA warnings about Saddam’s weapons”).  These DOJ memos, like the CIA reports, 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.  That is the critical point proven by the Comey emails...
Still, that's was some bad judgement Mr. Comey showed eight years ago. 

Maybe even disqualifyingly bad, regardless of whatever else Mr. Comey may have said or done since.   

But I'm just a rinky-dink Obama Cultist who cannot help but uncritically "cheer" for everything President Obama does, so you cannot trust my judgment in such matters. So let me take my po', brainwashed Obot self completely out of the picture, and take the matter straight to a best-selling author and acknowledged expert on how much stock we should put in the writing and thinking of actors today who were on stage in 2005 when it comes to judging their credibility today?
GG [Glenn Greenwald] note: This post was written in 2005, one month after I began blogging. It was recently dug up by some Obama cultists trying to discredit my criticisms of the President (to understand what I mean by "Obama cultists," see this 2006 post I wrote about Bush cultists: exactly the same mentality).... 
That's why Obama cultists have to dig back 6 years into my archives to try to find things to discredit me.
One interesting detail of Mr. Comey's resume that Mr. Greenwald neglects to mention is that shortly after succumbing to Bush Administration coercion (and, coincidentally  shortly after Mr. Greenwald wrote his now-famous 2005 post that he now gets Very Very Angry at "Obama Cultists"  for citing as proof of anything), the undeniably competent and experienced Mr. Comey abandoned the senior DOJ career fast-track along which he had been sailing for most of his career for a job  in the private sector.

Since 2005 Mr. Greenwald has made many, important contributions to our public discourse which I have actually, occasionally cited for reasons other than task taking or when he and I were in the running for the same, now-defunct award.

What a loss to the public it would have been if, based solely on his public mistakes eight years ago and on nothing he has done since since, Mr. Greenwald had let himself be permanently run out of his vocation by an very angry, obsessive individual wielding a very large megaphone and a very large grudge.

UPDATE:  Wonkette weighs in


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

driftglass, I must commend you on your recent spate of frequent postings. Dunno if you switched your coffee brand or just have a burr up your shorts, but kudos.

Also, if you had not heard, Jack Vance passed this mortal coil this past week. Perhaps consider a bit of time on the podcast for that old school space-opera war horse?

Anonymous said...

Oh lordy,

Greenwald is a fucking hack.

The key is Greenwald fundamentally objects to the concept of a government and all it's functions. There's nothing anyone could do that he wouldn't rail against. There's no one that could be appointed or elected that he would be happy with. When you object to the existence of an institution it's actions and members are meaningless.

For someone who rails against these things constantly I'd hope at some point he joins the military or some federal agency. I was in the Navy under Clinton and Bush. I didn't agree with everything and I objected to my superiors over things both serious and mundane, and then I did my fucking job.

Greenwald should go back on Real Time so Bill Maher can call him an idiot some more.

Anonymous said...

I see this appointment as a crystal clear message to what remains of the left in the democratic party and to Occupy. Dissent will be smashed with an iron fist as the uniparty unfurls austerity over the next few years

Unknown said...

Fellow Anonymous: Who is YOUR candidate to run the FBI? What crystal-clear alternative is being overlooked?

Unknown said...

Fellow Anonymous: who is YOUR candidate for FBI Director? what crystal-clear alternative is being overlooked?

mahakal said...

Glen says: "If you had told progressives in 2008 that the Bush lawyer who approved the NSA program would be named by Obama as the FBI Director, they would scoff in disbelief. Now they'll cheer."

Here's what I posted in 2007.

Yeah, so I'm only disappointed that it's Mueller rather than Holder that he's nominated to replace.

Anonymous said...

You're using "judgment" to cover a lot of conceptual territory. At one end of a spectrum, it refers to professional legal skill and intellect. Greenwald is, foremost, a lawyer. He writes, talks, and argues like one. His gripe with Comey is fundamentally legal, because Comey's responsibility at DOJ was fundamentally legal. That he acquiesced to politics isn't belied by his perhaps having felt compelled to do so. As a federal lawyer he was involved in the crafting of bad legal arguments designed to justify an end. This may be, cynically, par for the course in the practice of law, but that doesn't make it acceptable, certainly not professionally so. So Comey didn't simply show "bad judgment." He failed as a lawyer, even if only by acquiescing to legal arguments he considered weak or worse. The cost to him? An opportunity to lead the FBI. The point here: Greenwald doesn't have a superhuman power to read hearts and minds, but he is superb as lawyers go, and it is true that some good lawyers might end up hurting the feelings of their opponents.

At the other end, if here only rhetorically, we "cannot trust [your own] judgment in such matters" because you are inclined less than Greenwald--or with less zeal than him--to criticize Obama relative to other worse administrations of recent memory. Two problems: first, that's another species of judgment, having nothing to do with Comey's lapses. Greenwald's general observation that there is frequent mainstream and so-called progressive media toleration of Obama misdeeds identical to the prior administration's is mere descriptive fact. I don't read Greenwald for his "judgment" in this respect so much as for his ability to craft a narrative and cite to sources. Hence, your self-inflicted, ironic stab at your own judgment isn't relevant. Second, I don't recall ever having read a piece by Greenwald linking to one of your posts, neither positively nor negatively. So why, except when these occasional gripes about Greenwald himself emerge, do you assume the "Obama cultist" epithet is aimed at you?

Frank Shannon said...

Hi, I haven't commented in years but I've been reading you for a long time. I really enjoy reading your take on Greenwald. I've been reading him for just about as long as he's been around, and I'm not sure how seriously I take him. I value your perspective.

David said...

I'm behind on my everything, but...

THAT'S how you criticize Greenwald. Thank God, was getting tired of the mostly-empty snark lobbed at him. For all his flaws, Greenwald does craft together an argument (trained lawyer) and cites his sources with endless links (also the lawyer thing). To be honest, this is the first time I've read one of your Greenwald posts and said, Goddamn yeah that's a good critique.

And this coming from a guy who still values GG's contributions. Not everyone who admires someone's arguments blindly agrees with everything they say. Something about not doing hero worship.