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President-elect Barack Obama has an intelligence-transition team...
The intelligence-transition team is led by former National Counterterrorism Center chief John Brennan.... Mr. Brennan is viewed as a potential candidate for a top intelligence post. Link
Although Obama stated he was against telco immunity, he voted for the FISA re-write bill which included immunity for telcos. Brennan said that Bush-Cheney co-conspirator telco companies did absolutely nothing wrong when they agreed to violate FISA laws, not to mention the 4th amendment, while suctioning up American e-mails wholesale and eavesdropping on American phone calls without warrants or judicial approval....
Brennan: There is this great debate over whether or not the telecom companies should in fact be given immunity for their agreement to provide support and cooperate with the government after 9/11. I do believe strongly that they should be granted that immunity, because they were told to do so by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context, and so I think that's important. . . . [Director of National Intelligence] Mike McConnell, I think, did a very good job trying to articulate the distinctions between the old FISA law, the FISA understanding under the Protect America Act, and then the House and Senate. Link
On torture, Brennan, Obama's intelligence-transition team leader, is for it...and....against it....
Against waterboarding (I think)....
"I think it is, certainly, subjecting an individual to severe pain and suffer, which is the classic
definition of torture. And I believe, quite frankly, it's inconsistent with American values and it's something that should be prohibited."
But proclaiming that torture "saved lives" here...
There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hardcore terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of 3,000 innocents. Link
What, then, would John Brennan directed intelligence officials rely on to know what to do?.....
Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.”
Of course I don't want to push the panic button just quite yet. Obama has not picked an intelligence director yet. What Obama HAS done has been to pick John Brennan to lead his intelligence-transition team. That choice, in itself, is wrongheaded.....if indeed, "change has come to America."
Brennan's statement in defense of telco co-conspirators, "they were told to do so by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context", is completely wrong. In Brennan's thinking, if the president tells a big corporation to begin killing American citizens and the corporation obeys, because "appropriate authorities" did the telling....it would be legal. That is not change we can believe in.....that's more of the same.
Brennan uses the worn out assertion, without any evidence, that torturing detainees "saved lives", justifying cruel and inhumane tactics with the excuse that these people are "hardened terrorists" who have "shown no remorse". A response which cannot be differentiated from Dick Cheney's lawless mindset.
Finally, John Brennan's "individual moral barometer" benchmark is no benchmark at all when it comes to torture. That's why we have detailed and unambiguous laws, or at least used to. If intelligence officials can simply determine, on their own, whether torture should be used or not, then our intelligence bodies are nothing but rogue institutions.
I spoke out against Obama's decision to approve the terribly irresponsible FISA re-write bill which included immunity for telcos, among other bad things. I still believe that bill was awful and Obama made a mistake. Today, there's no question in my mind that Obama has made another, perhaps even bigger, mistake....in choosing John Brennan to lead his intelligence-transition team. I may be worrying about nothing here, especially if Brennan is not given any authoritative role in an Obama administration. However, if Obama quibbles in the slightest about America's position on torture, if he doesn't openly and thoroughly reject the Bush-Cheney criminality involved in ordering torture, if he doesn't make this rejection a top priority....he will have rightfully earned all criticism stating that he is not a change agent at all.
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