Back in November we opposed former CIA official John Brennan for CIA Director. Our Open Letter was credited with playing a role in Brennan’s withdrawal. [See also Rachel Maddow.] Despite what some believed, we never claimed that Brennan played a key role in the Bush administration torture program. Rather, we were concerned that he had, when it mattered, never taken any position critical of that program. We needed someone who did not have such an equivocal history, we argued.
Afterward there was considerable criticism of those of us who opposed Brennan. We didn’t realize that Brennan was really opposed to the policies he could never get himself to publicly criticize, we were told.
Today the New York Times reports that the Obama administration is still debating whether to follow through with their committment to release all the Bush administration’s torture memos. In the article is the news that Brennan is among those opposing [technically, "urging caution" in Times-speak] the release of the memos. It seems that some of those in the CIA who carried out the torture program might have their feelings hurt if those in whose name they tortured know what they actually did.
Some administration and Congressional officials said John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who now serves as President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, has urged caution in disclosing interrogation documents.
Sadly, after Brennan withdrew his name for CIA director, he was kept on as a top Obama counterterrorism adviser. This helped signal the intelligence community that Obama understood their concerns about having the past unearthed. Obama has also signalled this message with his refusal to endorse any investigation of Bush-era abuses and his rhetoricabout “looking forward.”
One thing is becoming perfectly clear. The Obama administration is defintely not rushing to put the Bush administation’s abuses behind them. Rather, they intend to let information dribble out, perhaps hoping that most people will never put all the pieces together and realize what was done in our name. Unfortunately, it still remains to be seen to what degree the Obama counterterrorism policies will really deviate from those off Bush.
In response to tosya’s news of administration hesitation, we must all shout with one voice the message that was stated by the ACLU today:
Using national security as a pretext, the Bush administration managed to suppress these memos for more than three years, denying the public crucial information about government policy and shielding government officials from accountability. The Obama administration should end this cover-up and release the memos. The memos supplied the foundation for an interrogation program that permitted the most barbaric forms of abuse, violated domestic and international law, alienated America’s allies, and yielded information that was both unreliable and unusable in court. The public should be permitted to see the documents that purported to justify this lawless program. If the Obama administration is truly committed to restoring transparency to government, it should disclose these documents immediately.
April 1st, 2009
The British newspaper Guardian announced today that they will become the first newspaper to publish only on Twitter:
Consolidating its position at the cutting edge of new media technology, the Guardian today announces that it will become the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter, the sensationally popular social networking service that has transformed online communication.
The move, described as “epochal” by media commentators, will see all Guardian content tailored to fit the format of Twitter’s brief text messages, known as “tweets”, which are limited to 140 characters each. Boosted by the involvement of celebrity “twitterers”, such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Stephen Fry, Twitter’s profile has surged in recent months, attracting more than 5m users who send, read and reply to tweets via the web or their mobile phones.
As a Twitter-only publication, the Guardian will be able to harness the unprecedented newsgathering power of the service, demonstrated recently when a passenger on a plane that crashed outside Denver was able to send real-time updates on the story as it developed, as did those witnessing an emergency landing on New York’s Hudson River. It has also radically democratised news publishing, enabling anyone with an internet connection to tell the world when they are feeling sad, or thinking about having a cup of tea.
“[Celebrated Guardian editor] CP Scott would have warmly endorsed this – his well-known observation ‘Comment is free but facts are sacred’ is only 36 characters long,” a spokesman said in a tweet that was itself only 135 characters long.
A mammoth project is also under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper’s archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include “1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!”; “OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more”; and “JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?”
Sceptics have expressed concerns that 140 characters may be insufficient to capture the full breadth of meaningful human activity, but social media experts say the spread of Twitter encourages brevity, and that it ought to be possible to convey the gist of any message in a tweet.
For example, Martin Luther King’s legendary 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial appears in the Guardian’s Twitterised archive as “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by”, eliminating the waffle and bluster of the original.
The future is Tweets!
April 1st, 2009
UPDATE: I had a link to the wrong Froomkin article. This has been corrected.
In the wake of last Sunday’s blockbuster Washington Post piece on the futility of torturing Abu Zubaida [or Zubaydah], about which I wrote here, and Mark Danner’s piece on the IRC description of his torture [see my commments here], there have been several good follow-up pieces providing additional background. Among the best are those by Dan Froomkin and Andy Worthington. Read these for important background on the poster-child for the Bush-Cheney torture program.
April 1st, 2009