Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rove and O'Reilly: Torture keeps us safe

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly devoted another Talking Points Memo segment last night to his new pet thesis that Barack Obama is going to make the nation vulnerable to terrorist attack by taking torture off the table, and then brought Karl Rove on to back it all up:

You know, when he gets behind that desk, and has the awesome responsibility of protecting our country, anybody who's chief executive of the United States is going to want to have the ability, in a time of a great crisis, to call upon enhanded interrogation techniques.

A little later, he closes with this:

Look, if you've taken techniques that have kept America safe and you discard them, you are putting the country at risk and you're going to have to bear the consequences of that.

OK, let me see if I can keep this all straight.

We're now getting advice on how to prevent a terrorist attack from "the Brain" of an administration that manifestly failed at that because it was asleep at the wheel on 9/11, am I right? And they're telling us the torture regime they installed in the interim is responsible for the lack of subsequent attacks afterward -- rather than making the likelihood of future attacks greater?

Karl Rove was a key player in an administration that, in the first eight months of its tenure, specifically undermined counterterrorism programs in an essentially political dismissal of such work as "a Clinton thing."

There was the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US," which concluded that terrorists planned to attack us using airplanes. It was ignored.

There was that briefing George Tenet gave Condi Rice on the immensity of the threat, which both she and George W. Bush also ignored -- and then lied about doing so afterward. Indeed, Rice and the Bush administration ent to great measures to cover up their own incompetence.

There was the Hart-Rudman Commission report, which warned the White House in May 2001 that it needed to take serious steps to prevent a terrorist attack. The report was ignored.

So was Richard Clarke's memo of January 2001 warning of the terrorist threat.

And finally, there were the Bush White House's pre-9/11 actions on a pure policy level: "Attorney General John Ashcroft not only moved aggressively to reduce DoJ's anti-terrorist budget but also shift DoJ's mission in spirit to emphasize its role as a domestic police force and anti-drug force." The administration also shifted Department of Defense counter-terrorism funding into missile-defense-system programs.

And yet for all that record, everyone in the press -- most especially Bill O'Reilly -- gave the Bush administration a pass for its massive malfeasance on terrorism, and came to believe that the lack of subsequent attacks meant that suddenly this gang knew what it was doing.

Even though what it was doing entailed violating basic international war-crimes laws and stoking the flames of hatred for the United States. As the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate found, Bush's invasion-under-false-pretenses of Iraq has actually made it far more likely we will have to endure future terrorist attacks.

That report noted that "actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement" included "the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal."

In other words, Karl Rove and his Jet Set Junta made it far more likely that we're going to be hit by terrorists in the coming years, the credit going in part to misbegotten torture policies that have been proven ineffective and counterproductive. And calling an end to those policies will make us more vulnerable? Oh really?

And if such an attack happens, it will be Obama's fault, according to Bill O'Reilly. Because only Republicans get to skate when terrorists strike on their watch.

These people are not just crooks and liars. They're also insane.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Breaking News: BC's FLDS Patriarch Arrested for Polygamy

Photo of Winston Blackmore by Ian Smith of the Vancouver Sun

-- by Sara

The Canadian press has erupted in the last hour or so with the news that former Bountiful, BC polygamist Mormon patriarch Winston Blackmore and his second-in-command Fred Oler have been arrested and charged with polygamy.

Blackmore ran the Bountiful compound until being displaced in a power struggle with Warren Jeffs two years ago; these days, he's set up nearby with a new place of his own. He's thought to have 26 wives -- including, as he publicly announced at a 2006 polygamy conference, several "very young ones" and at least one who was under the age of 16 at the time he made that claim. And then he repeated that statement on Larry King. This is a man who knows he's a child rapist, and is rather pleased with himself for his ability to get away with it.

Today, that ended. What's most interesting about this, though, is that the two men were directly charged with polygamy -- a step no jurisdiction dealing with the FLDS has yet dared to take. Through the decades, prosecutors have focused on the fallout crimes that result from these communities: child abuse and abandonment, forced marriage, rape, consipiracy to transport minors for immoral purposes across state lines, that kind of thing. But, so far as I know, no prosecutor has yet dared to stand up and charge any of these men directly for committing polygamy. Which makes today's arrest a historical landmark of sorts.

Polygamy's a tough charge to make. In this day and age, most of us agree that it's nobody's business what consenting adults do, or what domestic arrangements they make. It's in even trickier in Canada, where the very idea of marriage itself is up for legal grabs right now. There are older marriage laws in place, of course -- mostly rather conservative ones derived from English Common Law (in the Anglo provinces) and the Napoleonic Code (in Quebec). But few of these definitions have been revisited since the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed in 1982. And when they have been revisited -- as in the gay marriage discussion four years ago -- the new intrepretations have generally tended to favor the most expansive definition of marriage possible.

In the face of that, the BC government has been very reluctant in the past to slap a polygamy charge on the Bountiful boys. Their biggest fear was that if they did, the case would end up in the Supreme Court, which would then rule that the anti-polygamy laws on the books are now illegal. The upshot is that, for decades, prosecutors have refused to use the legal tools at their disposal for fear that those tools would be taken away entirely. Nice Catch-22 ya got there.

Back in June, Attorney-General Wally Oppal -- an Indo-Canadian who is by all accounts possessed of great big brass ones and very much ready to deal with the FLDS once and for all -- named a special prosector to explore the legal options. That prosecutor's analysis has apparently convinced Oppal that the polygamy law can withstand a Supreme Court challenge. That's why he's decided to take the FLDS head-on in a way that's likely to make history, one way or another.

The other important thing about this story is that it's another example of how the FLDS' intricate strategy of moving people between compounds in various states and countries is continuing to unravel. (For example: Bountiful is literally walking distance from another, smaller compound just over the border in Idaho. Wives and children routinely fled from one to the other to avoid unwanted attention.) Not only are the attorneys general in Utah, Texas, Arizona, and now BC on warpath; they're often sharing information and coordinating strategy. Oppal's bold move creates fresh trouble in a jurisdiction that's never been much trouble before, and that can only be a good thing in the long run.

As always, the Vancouver Sun's Daphne Bramham is the reporter with the edge on this. More as it unfolds.