Late Friday afternoon, President Obama held a relatively brief, 50-minute press conference in the briefing room, most of which dealt with foreign policy. But before he left the podium, some reporters shouted some CIA-related questions, which Obama stuck around to answer. Of particular interest was the pending release of a report on the CIA’s Rendition/Detention/Interrogation (RDI) program.
“With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong,” the president said. “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened…. But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects.”
Liz Cheney, playing to type, was outraged – not by the wrongdoing, but the president’s willingness to acknowledge the wrongdoing.
“This president is an utter disgrace. He’s got a situation where, as your last two reports showed, you’ve got crises erupting around the world. And he is expending more time, more energy, more passion, more aggressive activity in targeting and going after patriots, heroes, CIA officers and others who kept is safe after 9/11,” Cheney said on Fox News’ Hannity…. It’s a disgrace. It’s despicable,” Cheney continued.
Don’t hold back, Liz. Tell us how you really feel.
To be sure, the basic dynamic of the debate is regrettably familiar. But imagine if Cheney and her cohorts were as bothered by torture as they were to references to torture. The failed U.S. Senate candidate considers it “disgraceful” and “despicable” for the president to acknowledge U.S. misdeeds, but she has no qualms about endorsing the misdeeds themselves.
For that matter, it’s not at all clear what has Liz Cheney quite so disgusted. She’s convinced that Obama is investing “time,” “energy,” “passion,” and “aggressive activity” in “going after” those who tortured detainees, but as many progressive critics of the president will gladly tell you, Obama appears to be taking the exact opposite path – he’s not “going after” torturers at all.
Taking two minutes towards the end of a press conference to grudgingly acknowledge a painful subject is not exactly “aggressive activity,” which in turn suggests Cheney’s apoplexy isn’t rooted in anything real.
As for the report itself, the tug of war between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee isn’t quite over yet.
Obama said the report had been returned to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday after review and declassification by the administration, putting the panel in position to finally release a report that it has spent the past five years assembling. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman of the intelligence committee, said the report arrived on Capitol Hill with significant redactions. “We need additional time to understand the basis for these redactions and determine their justification,” she said. “Therefore, the report will be held until further notice.”Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said over 85 percent of the committee report has been declassified, and half of the redactions are in footnotes. “We are confident that the declassified document delivered to the Committee will provide the public with a full view of the Committee’s report on the detention and interrogation program, and we look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Committee,” he said in a statement.