When I wrote this open letter, I really wasn't excusing the sort of lapses I was afraid you might be capable of. What I was doing was trying to get you to do the right thing. I think maybe you didn't get that message:
It's just a fact that there are all sorts of people close to Obama who have enabled those Bush policies and who are mobilizing now and attempting to ensure that nothing meaningful occurs in these areas. It simply is noteworthy of comment and cause for concern -- though far from conclusive about what Obama will do -- that Obama's transition chief for intelligence policy, John Brennan, was an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity. It would be foolish in the extreme to ignore that and to just adopt the attitude that we should all wait quietly with our hands politely folded for the new President to unveil his decisions before deciding that we should speak up or do anything.
The Democrats of 2002 and 2007 Haven't Gone Anywhere
As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in a later article, John Brennan has spent much of the last four years justifying the rendition policies of the Bush Administration. You might say he's one of the reasons we no longer call it extraordinary rendition. It's a normal way to do business now. He has also cooked the books for them, as Larry Johnson pointed out in this 2005 article from the Counterterrorism Blog:
Brennan asks the media and the American people to believe that the rise in attacks is simply the result of better counting by more people. Not true. An independent data source from RAND-MIPT shows a similar dramatic rise in attacks and deaths. This is not an artifice of methodology. Something bad is going on out there.
Two countries account for a major portion of the increased terrorist activity—the Kashmir region of India and Iraq. With respect to Kashmir it is important to note that since 1998 this area has consistently appeared in the appendix in Patterns of Global Terrorism that described significant incidents. I have used this data in briefing for foreign governments during that period to point out that not only was India being repeatedly attacked by Islamic jihadists (who were funded and trained by Pakistan), but that the people of Kashmir repeatedly suffered one of the highest death tolls of any country in the world from terrorist attacks. The sad fact is that media, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Government, tended to ignore these attacks.
Terrorism: Why The Numbers Matter
The article sounds technical and somewhat opinionated (this is probably the least opinionated excerpt of this size I could have drawn from it), but the basic point is that Brennan tried to make it seem as though the rising terrorism in the world was some sort of statistical glitch, not the trend it actually was.
Brennan has been one of your advisers for some time. He's mentioned in this article as being part of the Obama foreign policy team back in May.
There are several people on that list whose past work I could take issue with, like Anthony "Rwanda, where's that?" Lake and Susan "I hear they have nice hotels" Rice. But few of them would countenance an illegal practice that spirited other countries' citizens away to be tortured, nor would they lie to defend the record of an administration that was actually not doing a good job of fighting the thing it was saying it was fighting.
Yet, you not only hired this guy, you have now put him in charge of transitioning that intelligence community to a new administration. What on earth are you thinking?
I'll tell you what I'd be thinking if I were a foreigner observing our country's behavior over the last eight years, and then watching as you name an apologist for that behavior to fill a key position on your team. I'd be wondering what happened to the country that practically invented the idea that murder and torture weren't OK even in a war. If I were a citizen of Japan or Germany, I'd be wondering what happened to the country that held the Tokyo and Nuremberg trials, and in so doing removed many of the criminals and sadists from my governments. Mostly, though, I'd be wondering this:
Are you crazy?
We've just seen one of the ugliest periods in our history. It's a time when we said it was OK to kidnap an innocent citizen of our closest neighbor and turn him over to be tortured by another government for ten months:
Mr. Arar’s case attracted considerable attention in Canada, where critics viewed it as an example of the excesses of the campaign against terror that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The practice of rendition has caused an outcry from human rights organizations as “outsourcing torture,” because suspects often have been taken to countries where brutal treatment of prisoners is routine.
Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case
Right now, I think most Canadians assume this was just the action of an out-of-control President, not the sort of thing that they can expect from us as a matter of routine. Do you really think that will still be true if you hire the apologist for that decision as part of your administration?
It's also been a time when the government did this to its own citizens and neither you nor the rest of the Democratic Party raised so much as a whimper. How long do you think it's going to be before we're so afraid of our own government that we decide "why should I support these assholes? At least the Republicans are honest about wanting to screw up the country."
So, are we clear now? I sure hope so, because as crusty as it is, this is the better side of my personality. The other side? We don't want to go there.