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John Kiriakou
April 6, 2012 10:49 AM   Subscribe

An ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou has been indicted under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists.

John Kiriakou was the first U.S. government official to publicly confirm that the Bush administration's used torture while interrogating al-Qaeda suspects.
posted by jeffburdges (122 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha. I love it when HTML fails in ways that are a propos. From the "confirm" link to Washington Post:

“A former CIA officer who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded said yesterday that the harsh technique provided an intelligence breakthrough that ‘probably saved lives,’ but that he now regards the tactic as torture. [an error occurred while processing this directive]”
posted by koeselitz at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


Pentagon Papers, Schmentagon Papers!
posted by leotrotsky at 10:57 AM on April 6, 2012


It's outrageous that John Kiriakou, a whistleblower, is the ONLY INDIVIDUAL TO BE PROSECUTED IN RELATION TO THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S TORTURE PROGRAM.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2012 [129 favorites]


This is a terrible move from an increasingly disappointing DOJ.

There needs to be a major public outcry over this, and if the administration doesn't step in to it to see that justice is served, there should be major political consequences.

But God help us if those consequences include electing a Republican who won't even publicly disavow torture as acceptable US policy in the first place.

No more campaign contributions from my family to any Democrats until this miscarriage of justice is remedied.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:00 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


outrageous

Oh man, pretty bad typo there. I'm sure you meant to say "not surprising at all."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


so, people who out undercover agents to journalists for political purposes are a-ok, but whistleblowers are traitors?
posted by nadawi at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


He may have held the wrong position on torture himself, but he didn't authorize it, and he shouldn't be penalized for going public with what he knew.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a site defendjohnk.com and a DefendJohnKiriakou facebook group, which the main link messed up.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There needs to be a major public outcry over this

There's a reason this comes as a cowardly Easter weekend Friday news dump.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:05 AM on April 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


This eleven dimensional chess strategy ... I am starting to think it only involves the backwards dimension.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Obama Administration has totally out-Bushed the Bush Administration when it comes to the GWOT.

I can already hear the chants at the convention "FOUR MORE YEARS! (of 12 years of Bush policy.)"
posted by three blind mice at 11:12 AM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


so, people who out undercover agents to journalists for political purposes are a-ok, but whistleblowers are traitors?

IOKIYAR
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: " and if the administration doesn't step in to it to see that justice is served, there should be major political consequences. "

All indications point to the administration driving the move to greater secrecy, crackdowns on whistle-blowers, and increased executive power.
posted by stratastar at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


what's the alternative? hand the presidency over to mittens? do you think that won't give you more GWOT? at least with president obama we have a chance of progressive social policies. those bush era powers given to the government will never move backwards. i said it as soon as that ball started rolling, liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, it doesn't matter, power isn't willingly given up.
posted by nadawi at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Still the Lesser of Two Evils, but the space between is less than arms-length.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2012


Interestingly, it was Patrick Fitzgerald of Valerie Plame investigation fame (and if the media portraits are to be believed "unimpeachable integrity") that apparently issued the indictment. If we want to look at this through a partisan lens, it is interesting to note that he's effectively a Republican appointee.

The indictment was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who was appointed Special Attorney in 2010 to supervise the investigation. He announced the charges with James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI. Together, they thanked the CIA for its very substantial assistance in the investigation, as well as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for its significant assistance.

That actually sort of makes the situation a little less clear-cut than I'd originally thought. Can anyone explain to me why I should think that Fitzgerald is acting as a lackey for the administration in this case? He does have the authority to do this independently, rather than on word from the top-down. Why shouldn't I see this as more whistle-blower retribution from Republican appointees who are potentially partisan within the DOJ?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:19 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


All indications point to the administration driving the move to greater secrecy, crackdowns on whistle-blowers, and increased executive power.

See, that's what I was starting to think too, but now that I look a little closer, I'm wondering if that's really what's going on here. Or is the administration just respecting the independence of the DOJ's attorney's like it always said it would during the campaign (in contrast to the Bush administration, which as we all know, got in a lot of trouble for interfering with the independent functioning of the DOJ and for firing attorneys for political reasons).

The fact that it's Fitzgerald renews my skepticism of the real underlying political dynamics at play here.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on April 6, 2012


(My skepticism of Fitzgerald originating from the fact that I always thought he played a crucial role in the whitewashing of the Valerie Plame affair.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:25 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


what's the alternative? hand the presidency over to mittens?

Can we all please stop saying things like this? Please? [Sigh]
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:27 AM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


At this point I'd settle for handing the presidency over to a literal set of mittens. Or maybe a cat.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


Can we all please stop saying things like this? Please? [Sigh]

um, no? i was responding to a comment about the election. when it comes to the election, we'll have two choices. those choices are looking to be obama and mitt romney. looking at those specific options as it relates to the war on terror and secrecy and arresting whistleblowers, i don't think for a moment that the republicans/mittens will be more progressive and more concerned with our individual rights. i repeat, at least with obama there's the chance of progressive social policies.

and i'll keep calling him mittens because every time i do, i think of this adorable cat and i despair about the world just a little bit less.
posted by nadawi at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


when it comes to the election, we'll have two choices.

This is false. And it is exactly what I was objecting to. You may be tempted to say that only two choices are "viable" or some such, but that is just a kind of fear-mongering that serves to keep the status quo. I find it immensely frustrating and discouraging when abuses of power are papered over with the refrain, "The alternative is worse."
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just as a fun little thought-experiment, try reading the AP story (which is surely one that will be more widely read by average Joes) and see if you get a different take on the story. No mention of whistleblowing until paragraph eight (and they don't even use that word - they call it a great cupcake phrase: "received public attention"!). Reading the links above, this seems like clear retaliation, but the AP story doesn't tie these events together at all.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by antonymous at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


(My skepticism of Fitzgerald originating from the fact that I always thought he played a crucial role in the whitewashing of the Valerie Plame affair.)

From what I remember at the time, most Republicans hated Fitzgerald for prosecuting anybody at all because they didn't think that Plame was "covert". Later on that morphed into believing Fitzgerald went after Scooter Libby instead of Richard Armitage because Armitage was less of a warhawk than Libby.

Pretty much every article I'm looking at hating on Fitzgerald for the Plame investigation seems to be from the Republican side, but I might not be looking hard enough.
posted by kmz at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2012


what's the alternative?

You've asked the question - I think that's a very good first step.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:43 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe so, but plenty of people on the left felt that he helped set Scooter Libby up to play the fall guy for Rove and Cheney, and Christopher Hitchens even claimed that Fitzgerald knew when the investigation began that Richard Armitage (and by association, Rove) had been the primary sources of the leak.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll shed light on furiousxgeorge's quote by observing the Bush Six need to be prosecuted.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


“And part of my job,” he continued, “is to make sure that, for example, at the C.I.A., you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”

Mission accomplished, then.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:48 AM on April 6, 2012


i'm not papering over anything - i was responding to a comment specifically about this year's convention/election. tell me, from those declared who do you think with be a legitimate contender for this presidential election?

i'm not fear mongering. i don't have an extra dog in this fight. i'm just discussing the actual political realities for this election cycle. if you want to talk about fanciful future election cycles, then you'll have to talk to someone else about it.
posted by nadawi at 11:54 AM on April 6, 2012


No more campaign contributions from my family to any Democrats until this miscarriage of justice is remedied.

That'll change things!
posted by cjorgensen at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


cjorgensen: Well, it would if lots of other people joined in. Despite your cynicism, that's kind of how the whole democracy thing works in practice.

But I'm reconsidering this issue now, in light of learning about Fitzgerald's role in issuing the indictment. I don't trust him. That casts this entire thing in a different light for me.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:04 PM on April 6, 2012


so, people who out undercover agents to journalists for political purposes are a-ok, but whistleblowers are traitors?

Both are wrong. Scooter Libby was convicted by a jury. Same statute.

Either the law says you can do this or you can't. You can't be up in arms about Scooter Libby and say, "gee John Kiriakou broke the law, but I like what he said so we shouldn't prosecute." Laws don't work that way. Both were accused of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why did he stop at Libby, when it's clear that Libby didn't have the authority to be solely responsible for the leak? I still don't trust him.

You can't be up in arms about Scooter Libby and say, "gee John Kiriakou broke the law, but I like what he said so we shouldn't prosecute." Laws don't work that way. Both were accused of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

But in Kiriakou's case, none of the disclosures were ever revealed to the public and the covert operatives identities remain covert to this day. The only thing he's being punished for here, it seems, is providing information to the press about an illegal program. Why shouldn't he be protected by whistleblower laws?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:21 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Either the law says you can do this or you can't.

What does the law say about torture?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scooter Libby was convicted by a jury. Same statute.

Wasn't Libby convicted for obstruction of justice?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


when it comes to the election, we'll have two choices.

When will this stop? Because the inevitable conclusion of this line of thinking is a perpetual downward spiral of ever-worsening, ever-more-corrupt, ever-more-indistinguishable-from-Republican Democratic candidates.

And if I were to refuse to say to Democrats, through my actions as a voter, that it's okay to persecute whistleblowers, that it's okay to wage unnecessary wars, that it's okay to aggravate health care access disparities by propping up the profits of insurers, that it's okay to turn a blind eye to the exponentially accumulating power of the finance sector, that it's okay to simply watch over the decline of the power of the worker without significant intervention, and so on, then I would hope that you would not insinuate that my choice is somehow the less ethical or less compassionate option, when in fact you advocate the support of an admittedly bad, or "less evil," choice - that is to say, you advocate the active support of policies that you acknowledge will do harm.
posted by univac at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2012 [7 favorites]



This is false. And it is exactly what I was objecting to. You may be tempted to say that only two choices are "viable" or some such, but that is just a kind of fear-mongering that serves to keep the status quo.


Do you believe this on a practical level, Jonathan Livengood? I'd be willing to wager some cash that either the Republican or the Democrat will win.

That doesn't mean I like it. But our outlook needs to be "We have only two bad choices, and we need to figure out to to change that, if not in the short term, at least in the long," not to deny the present reality.
posted by tyllwin at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


i never insinuated it's a less ethical choice. literally all i'm saying is that this november there will be two hats in the ring that have a chance to be president. it's too late in this particular cycle to get a third party candidate competitive. i don't think it's an impossibility forever, but i do this it's impossible this time. i don't think i should be raked over the coals for pointing that out.

don't vote for obama. don't vote at all. that is your choice and i'd never tell someone they were wrong for voting or not voting their heart and ethics. that doesn't do anything to change the reality of this election cycle.
posted by nadawi at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Democrat or Republican is not going to win because they are the only choices, they are going to win because the people are going to chose one of them. There is nothing preventing the electorate from choosing Gary Johnson instead if they want to.

AMERICA CAN ACHIEVE OUR FOREIGN POLICY GOALS without sacrificing American values.

No criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S. should be subject to physical or psychological torture.

Individuals incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts.

Individuals detained by the U.S., whether it be at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, must be given due process via the courts or military tribunals, and must not be held indefinitely without regard to those fundamental processes.

ACLU: Just in time for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, we’re releasing a report card today, with the ACLU’s Constitution and civil liberties experts providing a critical assessment of the major candidates of all parties, grading them with four to zero constitutional “torches” on seven key issues, including national security, immigration, marriage equality and reproductive choice. More issues will be added.
-
Republican-turned-Libertarian Gary Johnson scored even better than Paul, Huntsman and Obama, earning four and three torches on most major issues.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2012


There is nothing preventing the electorate from choosing Gary Johnson instead if they want to.

The problem is that they don't want to.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2012


Thus me saying a Democrat or Republican is going to win!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 PM on April 6, 2012


Another offensive in the ongoing Obama War on Whistleblowers.

Recall candidate Obama blasting Bush adminstration secrecy.

The Most Transparent Administration Ever™.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


what's the alternative? hand the presidency over to mittens?

Can we all please stop saying things like this? Please? [Sigh]


When somebody comes up with a workable alternative that has a shot of working, then we will stop. Otherwise what's the point? People act like there isn't a GOP candidate whose getting well north of 40% and has a chance of winning. When that is no longer the case, hey, have at it. But there is no other alternative. And that is the way a democratic system of 325,000,000 people has to work. We don't get a candidate that shares all of our views or does everything we like. So it makes a lot of sense to vote for the best alternative.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what's tiresome? Coming into a Metafilter thread about a whistleblower leaking information about CIA torturing people, and having it derailed incessantly by a handful of the same people telling us that we have to vote for Obama or else. Can you guys go somewhere else? Please?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


Individuals detained by the U.S., whether it be at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, must be given due process via the courts or military tribunals, and must not be held indefinitely without regard to those fundamental processes.

So, if Barack Obama can't get that passed by Congress and they overwhelmingly defeat his proposals by a veto-proof majority, how's Gary Johnson, with no base at all in Congress, going to get it done? The President can't spend any funds even to study moving prisoners from Gitmo. And Gary Johnson is going to do this?

The problem is that the American people overwhelmingly want Gitmo open. Wrong as they are, they have the votes.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, Romney will be able to pass all the bad stuff he wants to pass instantly! Booga booga booga!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what's tiresome? Coming into a Metafilter thread about a whistleblower leaking information about CIA torturing people, and having it derailed incessantly by a handful of the same people telling us that we have to vote for Obama or else. Can you guys go somewhere else? Please?

Third comment out was "no more campaign contributions to democrats to my family." If you light a fire, don't complain about the fact that it burns.

My first comment was on the fact that you can't indict Libby and not indict this guy. They did the exact same thing. The fact that it was on the side of people we agree with is irrelevant.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2012


a handful of the same people telling us that we have to vote for Obama or else

it's not what i said and i'm near positive it's the first time this election cycle i've even spoken about the default two party system. if you want to talk about something else in this thread you should probably just do that instead of insulting people with a broad inaccurate brush.
posted by nadawi at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


But in Kiriakou's case, none of the disclosures were ever revealed to the public and the covert operatives identities remain covert to this day. The only thing he's being punished for here, it seems, is providing information to the press about an illegal program. Why shouldn't he be protected by whistleblower laws?

Not to be snarky, but because terror, that's why. There is a vocal contingent of people who don't think whistleblower protections should be extended to those in the intelligence community - I'd call it a reactionary backlash against those who dare to second-guess the chain-of-command (and by extension, put our country at risk). And to append to my previous comment, look at the way online news outlets frame this - every headline starts with "Ex-CIA" or "Former CIA", and (for mainstream press) includes the words "leaking" and/or "false statements". Only those pinko rags use the word "whistleblower" when describing him, so naturally only pinkos think whistleblower laws apply to him.

Also, I'm seconding Blazecock in the motion to STFU regarding the election derail - not every issue or interesting discussion revolves around horserace politics.
posted by antonymous at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Libby was not indicted for the leak. Nor were the other people in the administration who are known to have leaked the same info.

Special Counsel Fitzgerald indicted Libby on five counts: one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements when interviewed by agents of the FBI, and two counts of perjury in his testimony before the grand jury.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, it would if lots of other people joined in. Despite your cynicism, that's kind of how the whole democracy thing works in practice.

I wasn't being cynical. Lot of other people do join in. Most people do not donate to campaigns. I've given $50 or so on occasion. Taking that money off the table isn't going to cause a hurt that a politician will feel.

Yes, if tons of people band together, you can make a point. If you have money you can make an either bigger point.

This is an indictment. Not a conviction. This is how the system is supposed to work. The facts will come out, his pees will have their say and either he's guilty of he isn't, then a judge gets to hand down a sentence or a if the verdict say he should.

Cynicism would be to assume that he's already been convicted and that a mere indictment is justice gone awry. Withholding support from a candidate based on a pretrial event is my definition of cynicism, but if enough people disagree with me that's kind of how the whole mob thing works in practice.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:49 PM on April 6, 2012


Kiriakou committed an act of civil disobedience for which he will be prosecuted. That's the way the system works.

The two most recent U.S. administrations have committed violations of human rights, for which no one in a position of power has been prosecuted. That too, apparently, is the way the system works.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is an indictment. Not a conviction. This is how the system is supposed to work. The facts will come out, his pees will have their say and either he's guilty of he isn't, then a judge gets to hand down a sentence or a if the verdict say he should.

The problem with focusing on how well the system is working here is it ignores the greater context in which it has not worked at all for the actual torturers and those who authorized it.

If that doesn't make you cynical...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2012


Now that I know Fitzgerald's behind this, I'm almost more inclined to view this as further reason not to support the Republicans if anything, since he was a Republican appointee. I can also see how it might be fair to hold the president's feet to the fire on this, too.

But now that I've had a chance to let my passions cool a bit, I've got to admit you make some fair points, cjorgensen. It's just an indictment--not a kangaroo court conviction, yet. There's still opportunity for this to be handled in a far more open and fair way than it would have been under Bush. So I'll rescind my earlier, more knee-jerk response in its entirety for now, subject to how this plays out.

I do wish someone in the administration would revisit the question of why we're never going to prosecute the folks who architected those illegal policies in the first place. Washington political culture seems to be almost reflexively oriented toward helping whitewash truly serious criminality and abuses of authority on one hand, even while it obsessively elevates and exaggerates trivia to the level of scandal in playing political games on the other.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:07 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


They did the exact same thing.

Well, yes, in the sense that Charles Whitman and a foot soldier both shoot other people, but the purpose and the legal context are quite different. Scooter Libby was out to smear a political opponent of the Bush administration and did not accuse Valerie Plame or the CIA of any wrong-doing. If Kiriakou was trying to reveal wrong-doing on the part of the organization, and should be legally protected if his accusations are true and he acted in good faith.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2012


Oh, and to comment on the derail: No, Obama isn't any liberal's ideal dream date for President, but casting your vote for someone who is taller, more handsome, and wittier, but ain't gonna marry you could likely leave you with a frog that no amount of kissing is going to make into an acceptable Presidential marriage partner. Obama is smart, practical, isn't crazy or a right-wing ideologue, and has the respect of the rest of the world. If you recall how bad life in these United States was with the previous POTUS, you might consider the decision on how to vote in that light.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Sorry about feeding the election derail... This is on topic.)

I'm curious about reports that Kiriakou originally supported the use of torture but then turned whistleblower. I didn't see any explanation of why he might have changed his position--anybody have any insight/links to offer on that?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:22 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Kiriakou was trying to reveal wrong-doing on the part of the organization, and should be legally protected if his accusations are true and he acted in good faith.

Really? where is the legal right to only go after people you disagree with? Is that how the law is supposed to work? The risk for the identified agents is still there.

Plus, how are you to later enforce the law against others? You set up a precedent--any right wing idiot who thinks he's "reporting wrong-doing" against the Obama administration will claim the same right.

Put another way, do soldiers and spies have the right to sabotage the policies they disagree with? Can a right-wing spy deliberately fowl up an Obama-ordered operation in order to politically embarrass the President?

Not to mention that these persons have other remedies available. They can resign and report illegal acts to the CIA Inspector General or to a US Attorney. Going to the press violates agreements they already signed.

There is no way organizations who do this can operate if they cannot rely on those who are doing there job to not deliberately foul up their own operations for political gain of others. The remedy was to go to the US Attorney or the CIA Inspector General.

None of this works if every one sets themselves up as their own general or CIA director.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:25 PM on April 6, 2012


The problem is that then, you're blowing the whistle on criminal activity by the federal government by reporting it to someone who very likely signed off on that activity.

Good luck there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:29 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Kiriakou was trying to reveal wrong-doing on the part of the organization, and should be legally protected if his accusations are true and he acted in good faith.

Also, persons in the military and the intelligence community are expressly not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is that then, you're blowing the whistle on criminal activity by the federal government by reporting it to someone who very likely signed off on that activity.

Good luck there.


No. The Inspector General does not sign off on anything. In law school I took National Security Law taught by the former Chief Counsel to the Inspector General of the CIA. Having worked with probably 8 or 9 federal inspectors general, they do not sign off on anything. They review work previously done for illegality and irregularity.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about reports that Kiriakou originally supported the use of torture but then turned whistleblower. I didn't see any explanation of why he might have changed his position--anybody have any insight/links to offer on that?

I think what happened is he did not understand the nature of the torture that was going on.

“What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts,” he writes. “I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence.”


Of course, later: The more detailed account that emerged with the declassification of Justice Department memoranda showed that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times, with doubtful results.

“In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


thanks furiousxgeorge.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:50 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


A couple of points that don't seem to be well understood in this thread:

Mr. Kiriakou is not being indicted for what he said in his December 2007 interview. In other words, if you consider what he said in that interview to be "whistleblowing" then he is not being penalized for that.

He is being indicted for naming a fellow covert agent to a journalist and for deliberately misleading the CIA as to the intended contents of his memoir.

Finally, as to the "whistleblowing" nature of his original interview: that the US was engaging in waterboarding was well known prior to Mr. Kiriakou's interview. It was being widely discussed in the media and in Congress. The only significant part of Mr Kiriakou's testimony (which, in fact, severely underplayed the severity of what was occuring) was that he was willing to offer the judgment that waterboarding was, in fact, a form of torture. I don't really think that this qualifies as "whistleblowing."

Personally, I find it pretty hard to imagine that that would be a sufficient transgression to cause the leadership of the CIA to swear eternal vengeance against you. Plenty of people were (rightly) offering the opinion that waterboarding is torture before Kiriakou gave his interview. I think we should at least entertain the possibility that Kiriakou is actually being indicted for the reasons stated in the indictment and not as "revenge" for what was a very minor role in the media's uncovering of the Bush administration's torture program.
posted by yoink at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe all those details were covered quite well in the whistleblower.org link, yoink, thus far the prosecution looks like revenge.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe all those details were covered quite well in the whistleblower.org link, yoink, thus far the prosecution looks like revenge.

What makes you say that? He gave the name of 2 agents to two separate journalists, and then lied to the CIA's Publication Review Board in saying that the technique he described for the capture of Zubadyaih was a fictitious one when in fact it was real.

What evidence do you have that this is "revenge"?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:29 PM on April 6, 2012


Ironmouth: “What evidence do you have that this is ‘revenge’?”

That this is revenge is highly suggested by the fact that, of the two dozen CIA officers who were all 'guilty' of communicating with a New York Times reporter almost four years ago, Kiriakou is the only one who has been charged at all. Some of them were rather important, such as the former executive director. Many are still CIA officers. Apparently there are some things one can do which buy one immunity from prosecution.
posted by koeselitz at 2:52 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


He is being indicted for naming a fellow covert agent to a journalist and for deliberately misleading the CIA as to the intended contents of his memoir.

Right:
In other words, instead of an investigation into the government's withholding of exculpatory information from GITMO detainees' lawyers, the government investigated how the lawyers obtained the information. And instead of investigating the 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees alleged torturers, the government investigated how the prisoners found out.
Looks like American law and order to me
posted by crayz at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


That this is revenge is highly suggested by the fact that, of the two dozen CIA officers who were all 'guilty' of communicating with a New York Times reporter almost four years ago, Kiriakou is the only one who has been charged at all. Some of them were rather important, such as the former executive director. Many are still CIA officers. Apparently there are some things one can do which buy one immunity from prosecution.

He isn't being prosecuted for talking to an NYT reporter, he is being prosecuted for giving a specific piece of classified information to that reporter (the identity of a covert agent--something we all thought was a terribly wrong thing to do back when it was Valerie Plame being named). The fact that the reporter spoke to other sources is utterly irrelevant unless there is evidence that those sources also gave that reporter the name of the agent in question. Is there?

I believe all those details were covered quite well in the whistleblower.org link, yoink, thus far the prosecution looks like revenge.

No, they're not, actually. They purposely blur the fact that nothing of what he is being indicted for has anything at all to do with any "whistleblowing" he might or might not have done (I am yet to see good evidence that anything he did constitutes "whistleblowing" as we usually use the term).

Mostly, the burden if the whistleblower.org piece is outrage that other people whom they consider more culpable have not been prosecuted. They may be right that other people should be prosecuted, but that is actually completely irrelevant to the question of whether this particular prosecution is justified. They offer no argument of any kind to suggest that the charges against Kiriakou are false. If they are not false, I don't see how his dubious status as whistleblower is supposed to shield him from prosecution for them and nor do I see why he should go free until such time as every single more serious crime in the world remains unpunished.
posted by yoink at 3:07 PM on April 6, 2012


Ironmouth: “What evidence do you have that this is ‘revenge’?”

That this is revenge is highly suggested by the fact that, of the two dozen CIA officers who were all 'guilty' of communicating with a New York Times reporter almost four years ago, Kiriakou is the only one who has been charged at all. Some of them were rather important, such as the former executive director. Many are still CIA officers. Apparently there are some things one can do which buy one immunity from prosecution.


So, wait, the fact that several CIA officers communicated with a NYT reporter makes this revenge? why? Is there any evidence that any of them communicated the names of two CIA operatives or lied to the CIA Publication Board? Because the mere fact that several CIA agents talked to reporters doesn't mean that they broke the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

In other words, instead of an investigation into the government's withholding of exculpatory information from GITMO detainees' lawyers, the government investigated how the lawyers obtained the information. And instead of investigating the 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees alleged torturers, the government investigated how the prisoners found out.

This is an ignorant statement. If there was potentially exculpatory evidence withheld, the DOJ would not investigate it. Its the duty of the parties to work out these discovery disputes. The Defendant has to move in court to have additional information provided to it. This is how discovery, criminal and civil works. The DOJ is the government. It is one of the parties to the suit and cannot investigate itself--it is a natural conflict of interest.

on preview, Yoink says the same thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:08 PM on April 6, 2012


There is nothing preventing the electorate from choosing Gary Johnson instead if they want to.

People tend to vote for folks they've heard of. So the "nothing" you refer to consists of:
* a poor education system
* laziness
* a media that acts as a mouthpiece for the powerful
* a billion dollars in spending by the 2 major parties to make sure one of them gets elected

Let's not pretend that we have more than 2 parties. Yes, you might. And I might. But WE as a country certainly don't. Pretending we do means this will never change.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2012


Nah, Ron Paul went from somebody only known by some fringe libertarians into a household name. Gary Johnson was a successful Republican governor and is overall a much better candidate than Paul for a long list of reasons, with the right strategy he can get his name out there.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:17 PM on April 6, 2012


In other words, instead of an investigation into the government's withholding of exculpatory information from GITMO detainees' lawyers, the government investigated how the lawyers obtained the information. And instead of investigating the 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees alleged torturers, the government investigated how the prisoners found out.

Does anyone honestly believe that providing the identity of a covert CIA agent--even one who has committed what you believe to be a war crime--to an accused terrorist is just peachy keen, and that the DOJ should turn a blind eye if it discovers that this has happened? Remember, not all the people the US tortured were random innocents. Some of them actually were members of terrorist organizations actively planning attacks on US citizens. That in no way justifies the use of torture against them, but it certainly means that it would be extremely unwise to place them or their agents in possession of the names and images of covert US agents.

Again, the issue of whether or not the tortureres themselves should have been indicted has no logical connection to the question of whether Kiriakou should be convicted. If you can show me that the charges against him are false, then I'll join the outrage parade--but so far no one seems to have any information suggesting that they are.
posted by yoink at 3:18 PM on April 6, 2012


He isn't being prosecuted for talking to an NYT reporter, he is being prosecuted for giving a specific piece of classified information to that reporter (the identity of a covert agent--something we all thought was a terribly wrong thing to do back when it was Valerie Plame being named).

Or:
Mr. Martinez declined to be interviewed; his role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety. The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request.
This was not some Valerie Plame figure. He was some random dude given the job of torturing people, so he tortured them. Whatever the letter of the law is on what Kiriakou did, this is not about law. This is about those with power using the law as a bludgeon against those who threaten their power

I seriously can't understand how someone can think of themselves as a progressive and then defend the idea that the government should be able to torture people to death with impunity, with the torturers' identities and actions kept secret from the rest of us. That someone who tries to enable the public to scrutinize the secret torture program is the true criminal, because he broke a law
posted by crayz at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: “Also, persons in the military and the intelligence community are expressly not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.”

This is not precisely true. The Whistleblower Protection Act itself does not contain any express exemption, and members of the intelligence community or the military who are not government employees are not exempted from it. That exemption would have been included in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which never passed. However, the Supreme Court appeared to rule seven years ago that government employees are exempted.

Let it be noted that there are those among us who believe that that Supreme Court decision was one of the worst the Court has ever rendered, and one that fundamentally damages the core of functional government in a democratic republic.

Like crayz, I have a very hard time seeing why people can't see how incredibly essential John Kiriakou's actions and other actions like them are for democracy to continue as it does. When the defense team in a trial is denied access to evidence, the trial system is broken. Attempting to fix that brokenness is not a criminal act. The criminal act lies in denying the defense team access to evidence in the first place.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mr. Martinez declined to be interviewed; his role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety. The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request.
This was not some Valerie Plame figure. He was some random dude given the job of torturing people, so he tortured them. Whatever the letter of the law is on what Kiriakou did, this is not about law. This is about those with power using the law as a bludgeon against those who threaten their power

I seriously can't understand how someone can think of themselves as a progressive and then defend the idea that the government should be able to torture people to death with impunity, with the torturers' identities and actions kept secret from the rest of us. That someone who tries to enable the public to scrutinize the secret torture program is the true criminal, because he broke a law


I don't see your point re: Martinez. Are you saying that the government actually knows the names of other persons who leaked the names of covert agents and is refusing to prosecute them for some reason? What are the names of the people who talked to the NYT and leaked the names? Because if the government doesn't have actual evidence they did, they can't go forward. What they have here is a guy they caught.

It is illegal to leak the names of persons who are covert agents. If you think the "progressive" thing to do is to legalize those things then we simply disagree. But it was wrong for Scooter Libby to leak Plame, and it was wrong for this guy to do it too.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:27 PM on April 6, 2012


They may be right that other people should be prosecuted, but that is actually completely irrelevant to the question of whether this particular prosecution is justified.

Just like how if every black man who is arrested, charged or imprisoned was actually guilty of a crime, then the gross racial disparity within the criminal justice system relative to the actual levels of crime being committed in society is an irrelevant detail in the prosecution of any particular black man

Those who see and decry system injustice and the effect in has on our society should just shut their face
posted by crayz at 3:27 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, the issue of whether or not the tortureres themselves should have been indicted has no logical connection to the question of whether Kiriakou should be convicted. If you can show me that the charges against him are false, then I'll join the outrage parade--but so far no one seems to have any information suggesting that they are.

Oh, it all connects when the logic in defense of the prosecution is, "Whelp, he broke the law! It's as simple as that you break the law you get prosecuted!" when everyone knows people break the law and don't get charged for it all the time.

This kind of thing goes on from the top of our society to the bottom, where we excuse the massively racist way African Americans are treated by the legal system as compared to white criminals.

I see no particular reason to grant the CIA any benefit of the doubt here in analyzing the motivations involved. They are an organization shrouded in secrecy with a long history of bending or breaking the rules. How can we judge their motivations when we know nothing of what is going on behind the scenes there and anyone who sheds any light on it is prosecuted for it?

But it was wrong for Scooter Libby to leak Plame, and it was wrong for this guy to do it too.


And yet, zero indictments.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not precisely true. The Whistleblower Protection Act itself does not contain any express exemption, and members of the intelligence community or the military who are not government employees are not exempted from it.

I have personally been lead counsel in over a dozen litigated WPA cases in my career. How many have you litigated? You are 100% wrong:

5 U.S.C. section 1213 says, in pertinent part:


(a) This section applies with respect to—
(1) any disclosure of information by an employee, former employee, or applicant for employment which the employee, former employee, or applicant reasonably believes evidences—
(A) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or
(B) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;

if such disclosure is not specifically prohibited by law and if such information is not specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs; (emphasis added).

Further along in section 1213 it reads:
(i) Except as specifically authorized under this section, the provisions of this section shall not be considered to authorize disclosure of any information by any agency or any person which is—
(1) specifically prohibited from disclosure by any other provision of law; or
(2) specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.

Next time, check the statute. I happen to know this one like the back of my own hand.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:35 PM on April 6, 2012


That emphatically does not exempt members of the military and intelligence community who are not government employees, Ironmouth.
posted by koeselitz at 3:36 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I suspect you only misspoke above, or else we have different ideas of what "the military and intelligence communities" means.")
posted by koeselitz at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2012


Oh, it all connects when the logic in defense of the prosecution is, "Whelp, he broke the law! It's as simple as that you break the law you get prosecuted!" when everyone knows people break the law and don't get charged for it all the time.

But why does this guy get off when they launched a full on investigation of Libby and he was indicted as a result? The only answer is that you politically like what Kiriakou said and you politically dislike what Libby said.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2012


Ironmouth: “... they launched a full on investigation of Libby and he was indicted as a result”

'That mobster didn't get away scot-free after killing all his enemies in cold blood! They launched an investigation and as a result they gave him a ticket for being double-parked!'
posted by koeselitz at 3:40 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


That emphatically does not exempt members of the military and intelligence community who are not government employees, Ironmouth.

Only government employees aren't covered by the WPA. As a former employee he has no defense under the Act. The WPA provides an affirmative defense in personnel actions against current employees. The parts I pasted refers to OSC's ability to receive forwarded information.

the WPA provides NO DEFENSE to a criminal action. You do not know what you are talking about.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:43 PM on April 6, 2012


Ironmouth: “I have personally been lead counsel in over a dozen litigated WPA cases in my career. How many have you litigated?”

As an aside, let me just say that appeals to one's own authority like this are more than a little distasteful, and only serve to deepen the public's disdain for lawyers in general.
posted by koeselitz at 3:44 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


sorry,


non-government employees are not covered by the WPA. It only provides an affirmative defense to personnel actions against government employees. got tangled up in an edit.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:44 PM on April 6, 2012


Ironmouth: “I have personally been lead counsel in over a dozen litigated WPA cases in my career. How many have you litigated?”

As an aside, let me just say that appeals to one's own authority like this are more than a little distasteful, and only serve to deepen the public's disdain for lawyers in general



Rather than attack the messenger, please provide a single cite saying that Kiriakou is protected by the WPA. He is not.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2012


Well, I'm learning things about the Whistleblower Protection Act here, so for that I thank you.
posted by koeselitz at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2012


But why does this guy get off when they launched a full on investigation of Libby and he was indicted as a result? The only answer is that you politically like what Kiriakou said and you politically dislike what Libby said.

Libby, and the rest of the administration officials known to have leaked Plame's name were never indicted for it. Scumbag lawyers can come up with a legal excuse for anything, power is what matters. Libby was on the right side of the power, Kiriakou on the wrong side.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: “Rather than attack the messenger, please provide a single cite saying that Kiriakou is protected by the WPA. He is not.”

You'll note that I never said he was, nor have I been under the impression that he was. I think it's criminal that he isn't, but that doesn't change the facts.
posted by koeselitz at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2012


Libby, and the rest of the administration officials known to have leaked Plame's name were never indicted for it. Scumbag lawyers can come up with a legal excuse for anything, power is what matters. Libby was on the right side of the power, Kiriakou on the wrong side.

Libby was not indicted because they didn't have enough for a case. He was indicted for what they could get him for.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:49 PM on April 6, 2012


I don't see your point re: Martinez

My point re: Martinez is this. His actions were unethical and impermissible within any valid moral framework. Like rape, or murdering innocent people or children. If one is ever told to rape someone or murder someone or torture someone, for any reason under any circumstances, in any possible world anyone could ever imagine, the correct answer is "no". This maxim overrides any other internal or external rule one may have - social or corporate or military or legal structures - anything. "Just following orders" is not a defense

There is then I think an almost assumed corollary to this, under almost any moral framework - that one must not just passively refuse to help, but actively attempt to resist and stop horrific crimes from occurring, if you know them to be occurring. And again, existing legal and other systems and sets of rules have a significantly reduced importance, at best, relative to stopping an ongoing system of rape or murder or torture

All torturers and all governments who commit acts of torture wish to maintain the anonymity of the torturers and the secrets of the torture they commit, and put in place laws and other structures of government power to do so. I see no difference between the United States of America's torturers and torture program vs. that of Syria or Egypt or Argentina or Iraq or North Korea

If a ex-Syrian intelligence agency employee was being prosecuted for blowing the whistle on the Syria's torture program, I have a feeling few here would be commenting in support of the Syrian government's enforcement of justice

It is illegal to leak the names of persons who are covert agents. If you think the "progressive" thing to do is to legalize those things then we simply disagree

I think the the progressive thing to do is what is right. The law may affect what is right, but it does not decide it
posted by crayz at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: “It is illegal to leak the names of persons who are covert agents. If you think the ‘progressive’ thing to do is to legalize those things then we simply disagree.”

Indeed. I suspect this is probably where the conversation will end: with disagreement on this point.
posted by koeselitz at 3:51 PM on April 6, 2012


Libby was not indicted because they didn't have enough for a case.

Do you have any doubts that he leaked her name to the press, along with multiple other Bush Administration officials? Why do you believe Judith Miller lied about his involvement in her notes?

How about Armitage? He admitted he talked to Novak. What about Rove, who Matthew Cooper says leaked to him along with Libby?

Look, as I said, I'm sure the scumbag lawyers did their job really well to make their excuses, but that isn't what decides these things.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:59 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I suspect you know jack shit about the Libby case since you thought Libby was convicted by a jury under the same espionage statute as Kiriakou is charged with at the start of the thread, it's funny how your authoritarian bias still makes you just know deep down the case wasn't there now)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:03 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Either the law says you can do this or you can't. You can't be up in arms about Scooter Libby and say, "gee John Kiriakou broke the law, but I like what he said so we shouldn't prosecute.

My first comment was on the fact that you can't indict Libby and not indict this guy. They did the exact same thing. The fact that it was on the side of people we agree with is irrelevant.

I'm not going to argue the details of when/whether the statute applies, but let's clear up this bullshit right now.
  1. They didn't do the same thing. Kiriakou shared the name of an agent who never worked undercover.
  2. They didn't have anything CLOSE to the same motives. Kiriakou released the name of an agent breaking the law (malum prohibitum) to torture prisoners (malum in se) because the government concealed it from the attorneys who needed it to make their case (both?). Libby released Plame's identity to disrupt the life of her husband, who was tasked by the Vice President to investigate the yellowcake uranium myth, found it to be untrue, and publicly reported that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Plame did nothing wrong and there was no noble goal in leaking her name.
  3. Libby wasn't indicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
So no, they didn't "do the exact same thing," and they weren't both indicted under th e same statute, and yes you can disagree with the prosecution of someone who broke a law to prevent an injustice while agreeing with the prosecution of someone else who broke the same law to CAUSE an injustice and was never even charged for breaking that law anyway.

I know you feel the need to defend every awful little immoral thing this Administration does, but please at least try to be truthful in doing so.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:35 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


That last sentence crossed the line and I apologize. I shouldn't bring past conflicts into this thread. I stand by everything I said before that.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:43 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about the US Government prosecute the TORTURERS first, and then once they're all done, they can prosecute this guy?
posted by mikelieman at 4:57 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


furiousxgeorge How about Armitage? He admitted he talked to Novak. What about Rove, who Matthew Cooper says leaked to him along with Libby?

Look, as I said, I'm sure the scumbag lawyers did their job really well to make their excuses, but that isn't what decides these things.


I don't think Patrick Fitzgerald has given any interviews about the Plame investigation. He did speak with James Stewart for his book Tangled Webs and I think he has spoken at a few law schools and professional lawyer associations, with no press allowed.

I find that impressive. Fitzgerald is not concerned at all with publicity or self-promotion.

I heard an interview with Stewart in which he paraphrased Fitzgerald as saying that a prosecutor has a responsibility to bring charges that can be proven at trial, not to bring charges because it will look good in the headlines.

That is very different than making "excuses" as you state.

And although Fitzgerald decided not to indict Rove, he did feel that Rove should have been fired, so he sent a letter to President Bush outlining what Rove had admitted to doing during FBI interviews and grand jury testimony. Bush, of course, did nothing.
posted by mlis at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The lawyers for the administration are the scumbags in question. Anyway, it is without doubt that Rove and others leaked and there were zero indictments. The idea that there was some imperative to indict this guy is simply BS.

Can anyone tell me why the case against him is stronger than against Rove?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


For anyone not familiar with the Espionage Act of 1917, one of the first uses of the act by the Woodrow Wilson administration that established it was to have a former presidential candidate who had run against Wilson sentenced to ten years in jail for speaking in opposition to World War I. And it has basically been all down hill from there.
posted by XMLicious at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jonathan Livengood: "This is false. And it is exactly what I was objecting to. You may be tempted to say that only two choices are "viable" or some such, but that is just a kind of fear-mongering that serves to keep the status quo. I find it immensely frustrating and discouraging when abuses of power are papered over with the refrain, "The alternative is worse.""

If you want to argue against the math inherent in first past the post, be my guest. Rather than bitching at those of us who recognize the inherent impossibility of a third party in our present system, you might work towards a more rational way of districting and voting.
posted by wierdo at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2012


An individual well funded independent that manages to connect with people has a better chance of winning than you do of convincing the parties to sign away power with electoral reform.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:37 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "An individual well funded independent that manages to connect with people has a better chance of winning than you do of convincing the parties to sign away power with electoral reform."

I think they'd be quite convinced if liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike were agitating for it. It will take time, but people can be convinced on this point even if the politicans can't. They bank on the electorate refusing to cooperate on the things we all agree upon. Unfortunately, the media and political parties are both very good at keeping us all too POed about whatever outrage is coming from whichever camp to set that stuff aside long enough to get anything done.
posted by wierdo at 6:36 PM on April 6, 2012


Mutual agreement doesn't really help, look at near 80% national support for medical pot for an example.

There is an easier path to an independent candidate winning national office, and that can be a springboard to more change.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:27 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


An individual well funded independent that manages to connect with people has a better chance of winning than you do of convincing the parties to sign away power with electoral reform.

The problem is, to really change anything--let alone everything--it will take more than just one candidate. Put an independent reformer in the white house, but don't put in a congress that will support his agenda, and I guarantee you, before four years have elapsed, we'll all be calling him a failure and a traitor to his cause, and looking forward to putting someone else in his place in the next election.

The presidency of the US isn't necessarily an empty, figurehead position, but if the tide in Washington is against the agenda of its current occupant, it might as well be. The presidency is most powerful when its riding on a tide of political support in the congress. Even the most committed, independent reformer we could conjure up will never be able to accomplish anything in Washington without a congress that supports him.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:41 PM on April 6, 2012


Does anyone honestly believe that providing the identity of a covert CIA agent--even one who has committed what you believe to be a war crime--to an accused terrorist is just peachy keen, and that the DOJ should turn a blind eye if it discovers that this has happened?

Yes. I wouldn't use the words "peachy keen" but there is a place for discretion in the DOJ and this is an apt occasion for its exercise.

-----

when it comes to the election, we'll have two choices.

and

i'm not fear mongering. i don't have an extra dog in this fight. i'm just discussing the actual political realities for this election cycle.

and

But our outlook needs to be "We have only two bad choices, and we need to figure out to to change that, if not in the short term, at least in the long," not to deny the present reality.

Good, sound thinking.

-----

When somebody comes up with a workable alternative that has a shot of working, then we will stop.

Jeepers. I wonder how that could come to pass? With arguments like the above there will never be anything but two choices, the same two choices. The way to change that is to recognize there are alternatives this election. Gary Johnson has the rather lofty goal of getting 15% of the vote. For a few of us, that's a far better use of our vote than the other alternatives.
posted by BigSky at 10:52 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


An individual well funded independent that manages to connect with people has a better chance of winning than you do of convincing the parties to sign away power with electoral reform.

The problem is, to really change anything--let alone everything--it will take more than just one candidate.


Of course, but you have a better chance of doing the bigger change if you can hit the easier goal first, and that goal has to be proving to people they aren't doomed to the two party chokehold on power.

Any independent who managed to be elected President would most likely be a moderate, and would not have much more trouble working with congress than a moderate Democrat or Republican, who have at times gotten their asses kicked even by their own parties.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:03 PM on April 6, 2012


three blind mice: "The Obama Administration has totally out-Bushed the Bush Administration when it comes to the GWOT.

I can already hear the chants at the convention "FOUR MORE YEARS! (of 12 years of Bush policy.)"
"

This is why, even though I'm voting for Obama, part of me hopes for a Romney win. I see it like this: Romney's a pretty moderate guy. When elected he's not exactly going to have a mandate, he's going to have to compromise. He's probably closer to Obama in his policies than he is to much of the Republican party; just look at his pre-campaign attitudes towards health care, abortion, etc. Perhaps he's had a change of heart but I can't help thinking it's because he wants to appear more conservative than he really is.

So crossing our fingers that no judge bows out over the next 4-5 years, we have four years of a moderate President who during the midterm probably ends up facing at best (for him) a divided Congress or even possibly a Democratic one. Hopefully Democrats won't be such milksops and will be willing to compromise on good legislation and fight on bad legislation.

If things go great, great. The economy gets better and more jobs means a stronger middle class, which means a slightly more active electorate. People get more politically involved, more change happens. Yes, a Republican, Mormon president means there is more threat of repressive social/cultural legislation but honestly all of that is taking place right now, as we speak, on the local level and seems like it's doing just fine (again, in the sense of it going well for religious conservatives) under a Democratic president.

Fast forward four years, there's no way a cookie-cutter moderate will have a chance against Romney. The whole political environment will probably shift Democratic discourse to the left in the same way that Bush's far-right policies pulled everyone to the right.

The only real thing to be concerned about, in my opinion, is war. If whoever gets elected even starts hinting at the possibility of war, it's time for Americans to ge on our feet and really protest.

Other than war and Judicial appointments, I really don't see how a Republican president can make things that much worse so long as it's the catalyst for an actually progressive candidate in 2016.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:23 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other than war and Judicial appointments, I really don't see how a Republican president can make things that much worse so long as it's the catalyst for an actually progressive candidate in 2016.

Yeah, those things are pretty minor.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:31 AM on April 10, 2012


With arguments like the above there will never be anything but two choices, the same two choices.

Indeed. If your point of view is that every election is always the most important election ever that will tip our country into theocracy and war if the Democrats don't win, then there will never, ever be a place for the long-term strategy, because it will always mean short-term sacrifices.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:36 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As wierdo mentioned, it's Duverger's Law and the game theory mathematical consequences of the first-past-the-post election system - the fact that 51% or less of the vote garners 100% of the political power - that guarantee two-party rule, not any qualitative property or popular perception. Long-term strategy or other events might change which two parties are in power but won't change the properties that force everything towards a two-party system.
posted by XMLicious at 7:35 PM on April 10, 2012


It doesn't guarantee two party rule, it creates a condition in which two party rule is the most likely outcome.

In our particular American condition, in which money has been granted unprecedented power, that doesn't mean much. A moderate, rich independent could win an election and there isn't much to stop her if she can raise money and connect with the people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:54 PM on April 10, 2012


I guess it depends on what one means by "rule" - one independent candidate winning one election would not disrupt what I would consider two-party rule. And like I said, which two parties are in power might change; but you're saying that you see the mathematical analysis as not meaning much and envision a stable three or four party system resulting from enough long-term strategy on someone's part?

I suppose it's theoretically possible, but it seems theoretically possible to me in the same way that you could flip a coin and it could land on an edge instead of heads or tails.
posted by XMLicious at 8:21 PM on April 10, 2012


You are never disrupting two party rule by electing two party members.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2012


The point is that you're never disrupting two-party rule by electing two non-party members either, or by investing all your effort and resources and hopes and long-term strategy on the possibility of a non-party member eventually winning some day, if you're working within a system that has two-party rule as its stable state - which is a more significant restraint than two-party rule just being a more likely outcome.

Look what the coalition of Red Republicans and abolitionist Black Republicans and other political radicals turned into. About the same as what the counterculture progressive Democrats of the mid-to-late twentieth century are turning into. Nothing created within it changes the trajectory of the system; anything unusual that rises to the top just morphs into the existent bipolar power structure. If your first step is to accept first-past-the-post, 51%-takes-all, you've lost the game before it has begun. If changing the essential status quo is part of your long-term strategy that you postpone dealing with until you're part of the status quo...
posted by XMLicious at 10:21 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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