The scary Cheney news keeps coming

He went too far for John Yoo and Ted Olson? More from the chilling Washington Post series on the vice president.


Joan Walsh
June 26, 2007 2:44AM (UTC)

If you haven't already read the Washington Post series on Vice President Dick Cheney, do it now. The first two parts are here and here. If you're busy, War Room's Tim Grieve broke down "10 Things About Dick" this morning, and it's a good start. Even shorter version: Cheney is behind all the most extreme and extralegal Bush administration policies since 9/11, from torture to NSA spying.

A few more things about Dick I didn't know, from today's installment (more to come on Tuesday and Wednesday):

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Justice Department interrogation expert John Yoo actually had limits to what he thought the military could do to prisoners -- and the rules as written by Cheney's men exceeded them. What was too far for Yoo? Threatening to bury prisoners alive. Yoo says he also thought only the CIA, not the military, should be able to use the harshest techniques authorized by the August 2002 memo Yoo reportedly drafted and Jay Bybee signed. "I always thought that only the CIA should do this, but people at the White House and at DOD felt differently," Yoo said. Now he tells us.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice were comrades in outrage when they learned about the secret torture-authorization memo in the Washington Post two years later. Rice told Alberto Gonzales "very angrily" that "there would be no more secret opinions on international and national security law." Powell reportedly admired Rice's getting all "Nurse Ratched" on Gonzales, the Post says. That's a sad way to pay Condi a compliment, since Nurse Ratched was the hated enforcer of psych ward protocol in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," but it has a certain perverse logic to it.

Good old Ted Olson, who came to Salon readers' attention through the anti-Clinton Arkansas Project, and later became solicitor general under Bush, was a big old softie compared with the guys around Cheney. It's not that Olson particularly wanted U.S. citizens declared enemy combatants, like Jose Padilla or Yaser Esam Hamdi, to have lawyers, either; he just felt certain that U.S. law required them to, and that the rules Cheney aide David Addington was proposing would not get by the courts. Gonzales overruled Olson and other Justice Department staffers to side with Cheney, but Olson was right, and the rules as written have suffered numerous setbacks, all the way to the Supreme Court. Less than two weeks after the high court declared in June 2004 that Hamdi and others must have lawyers and Guantánamo was not beyond the reach of U.S. laws, Olson resigned.

Waiting impatiently for Part 3 ...


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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