Thursday, February 5, 2009

A matter of emphasis...

I love the Mainstream Media because you can always go there to get such straight answers.

Can you detect the sarcasm in my voice? It's a blog, it's hard to tell.

For example, in Reuters today, you see the following headline: Obama CIA pick may back "limited" abuse prosecution.

President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA said on Thursday he would support "limited" prosecution of any agents who deliberately violated the law in interrogating terrorism suspects.

Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, in Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination, broke with outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden to support a congressional inquiry into the agency's detention and interrogation program launched after the September 11 attacks.

He said the Senate Intelligence Committee would be an appropriate place for an inquiry "to learn lessons from what happened" in the program, and said he would do everything he could to cooperate.

Ahhh, wonderful to hear.

But wait a minute Reuters is European. (Damn you, old Europe!!) Time Magazine, a fine American publication, on the other hand, has a different take entirely called: Panetta: Don't Punish Waterboarding.

CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta says the CIA interrogators who used waterboarding or other harsh techniques against prisoners on the authority of the White House should not be prosecuted.

Panetta told a Senate panel on Thursday that those individuals should not be prosecuted or investigated if they acted pursuant to the law as presented by the attorney general.

See, America the trick gotta keep reading, because Time Magazine eventually says the same thing, despite its headline; which as you know is written by someone else.

However, Panetta says that if interrogators went beyond the methods that they were told were legal, they should be investigated and prosecuted.

The Bush White House approved CIA waterboarding of three prisoners in 2002 and 2003. The CIA banned the practice internally in 2006.

President Barack Obama has prohibited harsh interrogation techniques.

For the record, that's whole Time article.

But before we go cheering Reuters, they loop back as well:

Panetta said he considered "waterboarding" to be torture, but did not support prosecuting agents who relied on high-level legal guidance allowing such techniques.

But at the same time...

However, "if there were those who deliberately violated the law, and deliberately took actions which were above and beyond the standards presented to them, then obviously in those limited cases there should be prosecution," he said.

This is all good, but the truth of what's going to happen probably lies somewhere in between Reuters and Time. I bet Panetta wouldn't mind prosecuting some of his guys, if for no other reason than to get them to squeal on the big fish: Rummy, Cheney and the unemployable Gonzalez. But remember, he's not a prosecutor. He also doesn't want to start a rebellion on his first day at Langley.

The best strategy is to punt the thing to Congress, and let them do the dirty (and constitutionally mandated) work.

But if there's one thing to bear in mind, that did put me in a bit of a cold sweat, it's this paragraph from the Reuters article:

Panetta said he would if necessary ask Obama to allow harsher interrogations than those covered by the Army Field Manual, which the president last month set as the government standard. The manual bans techniques such as waterboarding.

"I would not hesitate," to seek broader interrogation authority, Panetta said, adding "I think that this president would do nothing that would violate the laws that are in place."

He promised to tell Congress if Obama were to authorize a departure from standards the president imposed last month.

So...the President might go back to torture, but he'll warn us first?

I don't see how that stands with "this president would do nothing that would violate the laws that are in place." Methinks (mehopes) this is a way to placate the Republicans on the panel.

Originally posted on Fort McHenry.


Jeffinseatown said...

Good blog. It is always interesting to see how different national outlets spin the news.

As far as what Obama will hope is there is a gap between the Army Field Manual and the law and that the Obama administration will pursue interrogations beyond the Manual but stop short of toe-ing the line with the law. I would see this as a great disappointment if they do indeed extend beyond what the law allows. This WILL undercut whatever momentum the Obama administration has created abroad in bringing our nations credibility back up to par.

(S)wine said...

The "mainstream media" is owned by corporations. And you know how I feel about corporations. Already, not more than 2 weeks into his presidency, "the mainstream media" is basically cutting him down, raising eyebrows and, in a way, undermining what he's trying to do...on all fronts.

Good post.