Watch Robert Mueller Duck and Weave


One of my personal agendas in blogging here is to help people defeat the assumption that someone whose interests appear to be aligned with theirs on one thing, is aligned with theirs on most things.

This is what I call the “ally theory” – once we decide someone’s OK, then we stop looking at them critically and begin shoring up our model of them as “on our side.” It’s a form of confirmation bias that I believe results from the way we understand other people: our brains build a sort of speculative/predictive model of how we think they’ll behave, and – once that model is built – we evaluate that person’s past and present actions in accordance with that model. I believe that accounts for why we’re particularly confused (and aroused) by professional actors, and are attracted to media figures that know how to manipulate our tendency to mistake the message for the medium, as it were. If we see someone doing a few things we consider “good” we leap to the conclusion that they are an “ally” and then are more likely to assess their future actions as “good” until they show us otherwise.

In the press, especially among younger journalists who maybe weren’t journalisting in 2008, I’ve seen a sort of “Robert Mueller is Trump’s Worst Nightmare” reporting – which may or may not be true, but which utterly ignores the fact that historically Robert Mueller has been a professional suck-up to authority.

In 2008, Mueller was questioned by congressman Robert Wexler regarding the US Government’s torture program:  (text below the video)

RW: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved” end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy” end quote.

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I’m not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.

RM: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice….
(talking over each other)

RW: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that’s it.

RM: I’ve told you what our protocol was, and I’ve indicated that we’ve adhered to our protocol throughout.

RW: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director. [quoted in source]

This is not a person that will dig to find what happened. This is an ideologue and a liar who will do whatever serves hi interest.

Robert Mueller is not a friend of justice. Just watch what happens.

------ divider ------

My bit about “ally theory” (related to the “Franklin Effect” [wikipedia]) and mental modelling is based on nothing at all. So, do not take it as a claim that I have some broad theory of psychology – it’s how I think about things but it’s probably not “valid” (as in testable, repeatable) at all. What I did there, however, is what the entire field of psychology (minus neuropsychology) did and does since its inception: I made up a plausible-sounding thing and stated it assertively. My “theory” above ought to carry as much weight as Freud, Maslow, and Jung’s because it’s based on the same amount of research and observation as theirs. It’s also exactly as testable as theirs. I could come up with bogus experiments, pay undergrads $20 to take them, and wind up with publishable results. Or, I could have until a few years ago, when rational people began to finally burn psychology down to the waterline by trying to replicate its results and discovering that a tremendous amount of it is BS.

I also use my “ally theory” (as a tool for my own mind) to understand personality marketing: if we observe the actions of, say, a favorite musician, we eventually come to associate them with good music and begin to observe good personality traits in them. Then, when they start telling us they wear a particular brand of sneakers, we are more likely to assume that their taste in music being good, their taste in sneakers is good. Marketers manipulate this ruthlessly in order to fool us.

Mueller’s claim about the FBI finding Al Queda ‘affiliates’ is also (as far as we know) a lie. The FBI has done a good job of luring people into compromising themselves, through confidential informants, and then arresting them. The other possible arrest is, of course, Jose Padilla. Who remains in prison on a 21-year sentence, and whose claims that he was tortured have been dismissed out of hand. [wikipedia]

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Can the FBI initiate criminal investigations without clearance and support from the DoJ?

  2. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#1:
    Can the FBI initiate criminal investigations without clearance and support from the DoJ?

    The FBI is part of the DOJ. So, yes. In fact, it’s a crime in the US to ignore a federal crime, which is what Mueller’s FBI did.

    How it would usually work is that the Attorney General has the authority to direct how the law is enforced. So, if the AG told the FBI “ignore torture” then it’d be the AG’s problem. What Mueller did was create a circular situation in which their process is to follow their process and if they’re not sure what their process is, their process is to just continue following their process. But their process? It’s classified.

  3. komarov says

    Well, that was an interesting transcript. He must have been wearing his +5 Ring of Dodging the Question at the time, or maybe he’s just a natural.

    RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

    RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

    Wow. “Are you Rober Mueller?” – “I have an ID in my pocket” – “And does it say you are Robert Mueller?” – “It has my name on it.”

    He’s oddly reminiscent of Blackadder’s, ‘Deny everything, Baldrick!‘, and about as subtle.

    Your mental model theory seems sensible enough. (Consider yourself past peer review) It might also explain how trust works, at least at a basic level. The model tells us how a person would act under certain circumstances and biases us towards taking a positive view. So when they do things slightly differently than we’d like we’re still inclined to take a favourable view, or at least wait and see.
    It saves us the effort of having to constantly re-assess someone and whether we trust or rely on them, which, as far as the minor details of life are concerned, would be pretty draining. It’s a mental shortcut that helps us working and getting along with people. (At this point I may have to demand co-authorship, sorry)

    P.S.: I appreciate you posting transcripts rather than making me watch US political folk use lots of words while saying nothing. Well, nothing except protocol.

  4. snuffcurry says

    One of my personal agendas in blogging here is to help people defeat the assumption that someone whose interests appear to be aligned with theirs on one thing, is aligned with theirs on most things.

    I’m assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that beyond Mueller* himself you are also referring, in a more general way, to the people whom we support for office and civil service, with the expectation** that in their values and ambitions they are closely aligned with us in all things. How does an outsider, examining how a person votes and to which policies they devote time and donate money, distinguish between the pragmatic / strategic and what is just profoundly naive (like the assumption you describe above)? Obviously, both are at play for the vast majority of voters because perfect-on-paper candidates exist but rarely maintain their purity and are almost never elected and voters themselves have, like anyone else, huge blindspots and pet causes both. In Mueller’s case, of course, this is academic because voters have no say in who is commissioned to head such investigations.

    The flipside to your “ally theory” is the observable phenomenon of being warmly attracted to and being disposed to more readily forgive public figures (whom we’re initially barely aware of) when they loudly voice opinions that reinforce our own pre-existing values and prejudices.

    Likewise, if we believe a task needs performing, we’re apt to support those assigned to complete it, assuming we and they desire the same outcome.

    *or, to take another recent example, the right-wing meme about Comey being fired (“libs and lefties wanted him gone — for very specific reasons we won’t get into — and now they’re mad!!”)

    **I’d call it hope, in most instances

  5. johnson catman says

    That exchange is beyond maddening. I would not be able to watch a video of it because I would have to scream “Answer the fucking question! YES OR NO?” Wexler should have done that.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @2: His boss (the AG) at the time would have been either John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, who were both pro-torture. I suppose Mueller could have threatened resignation. Then Bush could have appointed someone more supportive of torture. So maybe Mueller was caught between a rock and a hard place. Maybe he realized the best he could do was try and protect his own people.

    if the AG told the FBI “ignore torture” then it’d be the AG’s problem.

    How on Earth would it be the AG’s problem if the AG has the support of the President? Did Bush, Ashcroft, Gonzalez or John Yoo serve jail time? Last I heard they were all doing just fine.

  7. says

    komarov@#3:
    “Are you Rober Mueller?” – “I have an ID in my pocket” – “And does it say you are Robert Mueller?” – “It has my name on it.”

    HA! You’re less slippery than he is. “It has my name on it” is giving too much away. Mueller would have said
    Mueller: “it has that name on it”
    Wexler: “Is that your name?”
    Mueller: “Nice weather we’re having. Are you out of time yet?”

  8. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#6:
    Marcus @2: His boss (the AG) at the time would have been either John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, who were both pro-torture. I suppose Mueller could have threatened resignation. Then Bush could have appointed someone more supportive of torture. So maybe Mueller was caught between a rock and a hard place. Maybe he realized the best he could do was try and protect his own people.

    Sure. Or he could have upheld the law and ordered his men to arrest the torturers. Then the AG might have fired him, or might not have fired him, but either way the AG would have had an interesting problem and Mueller would have been living up to his duty as the chief law enforcement officer of the US.

    I don’t buy the “rock and a hard place” argument. And I don’t buy that it protected his people: he left the FBI open to people like me accusing the entire organization of being covered in shame and corruption. If he had left, it would have been leadership. Leading a law enforcement agency is his job.

    How on Earth would it be the AG’s problem if the AG has the support of the President? Did Bush, Ashcroft, Gonzalez or John Yoo serve jail time? Last I heard they were all doing just fine.

    That’s a classical argument in favor of the status quo, you know? Because they were able to get away with it, I guess they were able to get away with it and … yawn, whatever. Sure, they got away with it. Because Mueller was part of a criminal conspiracy. He helped them (and himself) get away with it.
    It’s reality but it doesn’t make it right – and that doesn’t say a whole lot about Mueller’s qualifications as an investigator and upholder of the law, which is the whole point of this posting.

    So you’re saying that if Trump tells Mueller, “all that Russia stuff, stop investigating it.” Mueller is supposed to say “yup” and go play golf. Just like he did before?

  9. says

    johnson catman@#5:
    Wexler should have done that.

    Yup. Mueller wasn’t as glib as Shkreli, but he was certainly playing the delaying and dodging game. I think it was a foregone conclusion. The only way Wexler would have gotten an answer out of Mueller would have been to waterboard him.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @8:

    Or he could have upheld the law and ordered his men to arrest the torturers.

    Which law? The one against actions that had been specifically authorized by the DOJ? Really, I’d love to know how you think this could have been done and would have played out.

    he left the FBI open to people like me accusing the entire organization of being covered in shame and corruption.

    Yeah, that’s gonna cause major loss of sleep.

    So you’re saying that if Trump tells Mueller, “all that Russia stuff, stop investigating it.” Mueller is supposed to say “yup” and go play golf.

    Please don’t tell me what I’m saying. And no, I’m not saying that. A special prosecutor is a very different animal from an FBI director. What I am saying is that things can be a lot more complicated than the simple black-and-white picture you paint. The colours of a true ideologue.

  11. John Morales says

    PS

    he left the FBI open to people like me accusing the entire organization of being covered in shame and corruption.

    Yeah, that’s gonna cause major loss of sleep.

    Perhaps it’s of no significance.

    Nonetheless, you don’t repudiate the very point being made: the evidence at hand indicates one would be foolish to imagine that USA law and FBI protocols are congruent, though they clearly are compatible.

  12. Brian English says

    My “theory” above ought to carry as much weight as Freud, Maslow, and Jung’s because it’s based on the same amount of research and observation as theirs. It’s also exactly as testable as theirs….when rational people began to finally burn psychology down to the waterline by trying to replicate its results and discovering that a tremendous amount of it is BS.

    I agree with the first part and the second part is funny. It’s the same as when a creationist dragoons the work of modern evolution to disproove evolution circa Darwin.
    Show me the people burning down psychology, and I’ll show you psychologists. And they are not burning down bbut demarcating. Your (apparently ignorant) hatred sadly undermines your rationality. It’s even funnier when you use grounded terms in psychology to show psychology is wrong. Oh well. I look forward to you showing that all psychology, cog-sci, cbt, etc is like psychoanalysis.
    No, not really, sadly you show the same bias we all do, confirmation bias. You quote Freud, Maslow et al, and say ‘See!’, and that is all you see.

  13. Brian English says

    And the ironic thing is Confirmation Bias is a term of art from psychology, which you use to say psychology is tout court wrong. Interesting….
    Sorry if this seems combative, but it seems to me you’ve looked as far as your youth and left it there.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @11: Let’s imagine a scenario:

    FBI to CIA: I’m arresting you for waterboarding that bloke. That’s torture, which is illegal.
    CIA: Here is authorization from your boss’ boss (the Attorney General) saying waterboarding is not torture. Go away.

    @12: The point being made was that Mueller couldn’t be trusted to do his job as special prosecutor because he hadn’t arrested CIA agents years ago when he was FBI director.

  15. says

    Or he could have upheld the law and ordered his men to arrest the torturers.

    Which law? The one against actions that had been specifically authorized by the DOJ? Really, I’d love to know how you think this could have been done and would have played out.

    Off the top of my head: Arrest the torturers and put them on trial. Leave the defendants to use any DOJ directives as part of their defense. Have the whole thing out in court and let the judge assign any blame, if applicable.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    LykeX @16: If arrests are made, who decides whether they go to trial? Isn’t it the DOJ?

  17. John Morales says

    Rob @ 15:

    John @11: Let’s imagine a scenario:
    FBI to CIA: I’m arresting you for waterboarding that bloke. That’s torture, which is illegal.
    CIA: Here is authorization from your boss’ boss (the Attorney General) saying waterboarding is not torture. Go away.

    Why imagine a scenario, when there’s one already at hand?

    RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

    (Besides, you’re appealing to the Nuremberg Defense in your imagined scenario)

    @12: The point being made was that Mueller couldn’t be trusted to do his job as special prosecutor because he hadn’t arrested CIA agents years ago when he was FBI director.

    “Or he could have upheld the law and ordered his men to arrest the torturers. Then the AG might have fired him, or might not have fired him, but either way the AG would have had an interesting problem and Mueller would have been living up to his duty as the chief law enforcement officer of the US.”

    Not that he didn’t, but that he didn’t even try.

    So… evidently, though there are laws regarding torture, FBI protocol indicates no criminal investigation of CIA agents’ activities is appropriate. And this is acceptable under USA law.

    One of the most pernicious civic corruptions is selective application of the law without accountability, and this is a prime example.
    (But hey, why lose sleep over it?)

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @18:

    FBI protocol indicates no criminal investigation of CIA agents’ activities is appropriate.

    No, FBI protocol includes getting the legal grounds for investigation from the DOJ, which also decides on who gets prosecuted. Since you seem to be deliberately ignoring what I actually wrote, I’ll just leave you with some more reading material.

    And sod your gratuitous little closing parenthesis.

  19. John Morales says

    Rob,

    No, FBI protocol includes getting the legal grounds for investigation from the DOJ, which also decides on who gets prosecuted.

    No?

    Since the FBI clearly knew about the activities in question, and since no investigation was initiated, and since the FBI followed its protocol, the protocol empirically (this is an observation, not an inference) indicates no criminal investigation of CIA agents’ activities was appropriate in at least that case.

    (In passing, your retort would have worked as well had you written “Yes” rather than “No” as your opening word — which says something about your purported justification for it)

    Since you seem to be deliberately ignoring what I actually wrote, […]

    I’m quoting you and responding to your claims, and yet it seems to you I’m ignoring what you actually write.

    Interesting.

    [meta]

    In passing, I find others’ reaction to my stylistic flourishes informative.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @20: Your dishonesty and deflection are almost charming.

    “Evidently, FBI protocol indicates…” is an inference, not an observation. Sticking an “in at least that case” at the end of your response to the point was amusing.

    Your apparent confusion on the meaning of “no” and “yes” has been noted.

    I’m quoting you and responding to your claims

    You quoted me and then ignored the content of the quote, apparently imagining that the subsequent quoted question from the committee hearing somehow answered. It didn’t.

    Not at all interesting, John.

  21. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#10:
    Which law? The one against actions that had been specifically authorized by the DOJ? Really, I’d love to know how you think this could have been done and would have played out.

    US and international law. Oddly, you asked this question just after I queued up a posting quoting “which law.” [stderr]

    There’s an interesting problem, which you are alluding to, namely, what if the DOJ decides not to follow the law? Since the US code is enacted by Congress, and international law is enacted by (in this case, the U.N.) I suppose you can question whether Congress superceeds the DOJ, which is a practical question that might lead to a constitutional crisis, but since Congress writes the laws and the DOJ (supposedly) enforces them, then DOJ’s on thin ice if they decide they are going to re-interpret the laws – if they were playing by the rules they’d appeal a test case or ask that the law be struck down on constitutional grounds. Yes, AGs have issued guidance on how U.S. law is to be interpreted and enforced, and at various times that guidance has amounted to ignoring the law – but, again, we have seen that Congress (in principle) has the power to override the AG because they a) approve the executive’s nomination and b) have impeachment power.

    In the case of an AG who chooses to “interpret” a violation of international and US law that is a capital crime in the US, I’d say that’s probably grounds for impeachment.

    What happened, of course, was that the AG acted under cover of secrecy to violate US and international law. Which ought to fit the definition of “conspiracy” unless you want to stretch it very far indeed.

    Yeah, that’s gonna cause major loss of sleep.

    Are you arguing “might makes right?” I am confused, because I’ve been approaching this topic from the perspective of established law. It is a fact that the DOJ can break laws – they do it all the time – that doesn’t make it legal, that just shows how corrupt and dishonest the DOJ are. If you’re attempting to argue that the DOJ is corrupt and dishonest, we are in agreement. If you are attempting to argue otherwise, I think you’ll need to actually put forth some sort of reasoned argument, rather than attempting to snark.

    Please don’t tell me what I’m saying. And no, I’m not saying that.

    Then what are you saying?

    A special prosecutor is a very different animal from an FBI director.

    Did you read my posting at all? I am not saying a special prosecutor is the same as an FBI director. I am saying Robert Mueller is the same Robert Mueller as was the FBI director. And that Robert Mueller accepted a situation that allowed him (as head of the FBI) to watch a serious federal crime being permitted, and interpreted that situation in such a way as to keep his agency from getting involved in spite of complaints from the agents who were in the field involved in the situation. Of course he’s not in the same role, but he’s still the same person.

    What I am saying is that things can be a lot more complicated than the simple black-and-white picture you paint.

    Of course things are a “lot more complicated.” In this situation, they were rather deliberately made complicated, and Mueller’s response to the congressman was a good example of how Mueller is happy to make these things more complicated.

    Do you accept Mueller’s complicating arguments, or not?

    I don’t.

    The colours of a true ideologue.

    That’s bizzare; here I am presenting facts and information, and drawing conclusions from them. I’m also being quite clear about how I drew those conclusions. An “ideologue,” as I understand the term, would simply be asserting their conclusions – you know, like “it’s complicated” – with no supporting argument. An “ideologue” starts backwards from the conclusion and fits the facts to their ideology. Is that what you are accusing me of doing? If so, I’d like you to tell me what my ideology is and how it’s not a position derived from observation and analysis.

  22. says

    Brian English@#13 & #14:
    I agree with the first part and the second part is funny. It’s the same as when a creationist dragoons the work of modern evolution to disproove evolution circa Darwin.

    What? No. Freudianism actually is a bunch of theories that have no empirical support. Maslow’s theory is vacuous (it depends on a definitional word-game to obscure that it’s a tautology). Jung pulled all of his stuff about “archetypes” out of thin air and is implying that there is a strong inherited tendency toward behavior, which is also mostly nonsense (except to evolutionary psychologists). Darwinian evolution continues to be unfalsified, where as – at the very least – Freud, Maslow, and Jung remain unsupported.

    If you don’t understand those differences and you still think it’s “the same as…”, you can leave your Science Card in the round bin by the door.

    The rest of psychology is, of course, huge and there are many theories and many of them have supporting evidence and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The field (again, unlike Darwin) has taken cannonballs below the waterline for over a century, again and again and again, big parts of it – I don’t just mean a few experiments but rather foundational principles have been shown to be false.

    Rather than likening me to a creationist trying to ding Darwin, I feel like psychology’s proponents are like a bunch of chiropractors or acupuncturists who point gleefully toward the placebo effect and yell “see, it WORKS!” Yes, there are some parts of psychology that are on a scientifically sound footing, (as I have said before) that being neuroscience and neuropharmacology.

    Show me the people burning down psychology, and I’ll show you psychologists. And they are not burning down bbut demarcating.

    You show me chiropractors working to demarcate the subluxations and woo out of chiropractic, and I’ll show you nascent sports medicine. As I’ve said before, the field’s foundational theories (like chiropractic’s for example) are wrong, or not even wrong. I am baffled that psychologists insist on trying to turn that pile of manure into a science, by cutting away all the pseudoscience until there’s – something – left.

    Your (apparently ignorant) hatred sadly undermines your rationality

    Move 1: “apparently ignorant” – note: I have a BA in psychology from an ivy league university. I’m sure my professors would be unhappy to know they’d graduated someone (dean’s list, even!) who was ignorant. I’m not saying that as an appeal to authority, but it’s a shorthand for saying “I have a lot of hours of studying psychology.”
    Move 2: “hatred” … “undermines your rationality” – That’s perilously close to saying I’m mentally unhealthy because of this supposed hatred. It’s also wrong because (if you notice) I can make fairly rational arguments fairly easily. Maybe I’m not a hater, did you ever consider that? I’d characterize my attitude more as ‘contempt’ than hate; sort of like how I feel about chiropractors and homeopaths. Does one have to hate them to critique them?
    Move 3: “sadly” – Sun Tzu never made any trenchant comments on passive/aggression because, if he had, he’d have said it doesn’t work. Bad strategy.

    And the ironic thing is Confirmation Bias is a term of art from psychology, which you use to say psychology is tout court wrong. Interesting….

    As I’ve mentioned before, I have issues with vocabulary. [stderr] – labels are necessary in order to communicate. It doesn’t mean there’s an underlying reality to them, or not. However, confirmation bias does appear to be a real thing (though I am not sure if the replication crisis has eaten that theory yet, or not) – interestingly, one of the drivers behind the replication crisis appears to be confirmation bias.

    We’re all allowed to use words, even ones that are vague or in doubt. After all, how else can we talk about things that are in doubt? (see “subluxations”)

  23. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#15:
    FBI to CIA: I’m arresting you for waterboarding that bloke. That’s torture, which is illegal.
    CIA: Here is authorization from your boss’ boss (the Attorney General) saying waterboarding is not torture. Go away.

    Actually, it was more like:
    FBI agents at the scene to CIA: “This is a problem, we need to tell our boss.”
    CIA at the scene: “whatever.”
    FBI agents to the chain of command, all the way up to Mueller: “This is a problem, isn’t it?”
    Mueller: “…” (Well, you saw his testimony)

    @12: The point being made was that Mueller couldn’t be trusted to do his job as special prosecutor because he hadn’t arrested CIA agents years ago when he was FBI director.

    The point being made is that Mueller was comfortable allowing a very serious crime to be committed when he was FBI director. The concern/implication is that Mueller may be equally comfortable allowing much less important crimes to escape his notice in the future. Why is that not a reasonable concern?

  24. says

    LykeX@#16:
    Off the top of my head: Arrest the torturers and put them on trial. Leave the defendants to use any DOJ directives as part of their defense. Have the whole thing out in court and let the judge assign any blame, if applicable.

    Yup. I like that.

    By the way, that’s also the best defense against the “ticking time bomb plot” theory. If someone actually did commit torture (which is a crime) and it saved lives and prevented disasters, they could admit to it in court and take the medicine for doing so. That is what judges and juries are for. Honestly, if I was in a ticking time bomb scenario that was grievous enough, I’d do whatever I thought was the right thing at the time, and let the chips fall as they lay. The fact that the conspirators maneuvered to get around the law is evidence they knew they were committing a crime. If they were so sure that what they were doing was important, why didn’t they just step forward proudly and say “we saved lives, and here’s how.”
    Because, they didn’t.

  25. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#17:
    If arrests are made, who decides whether they go to trial? Isn’t it the DOJ?

    The DOJ (as is obvious from this case) does not act like a unit. The AG would find it extremely difficult to simply order some judge or DA or even an FBI field office to just release someone they had arrested. The wheels of bureaucracy would grind that process extremely fine. The AG is not a dictator (as you can tell clearly from the inter-agency kerfuffle regarding Trump’s executive orders on immigration).

    I can’t tell if you’re merely pretending to be ignorant, or if you genuinely are, so let me refresh your memory: AG Alberto Gonzales did not sign off on torture, nor did George Tenet – they each pointed their fingers at the other, and Gonzales let Assistant Attorney General Bybee sign off on the torture memo from John Yoo. Gonzales maneuvered most nimbly, as did Tenet, to keep their hands off the issue – because they knew it could blow up in their faces. Any scenarios involving Gonzales suddenly ordering the FBI to release CIA agents that had been arrested in the course of committing a crime have to presuppose that Gonzales was made of much sterner stuff than he had already shown himself to be.

    What would have happened is the whole thing would have publicly and excruciatingly dragged itself through the court-system and lots of finger-pointing and throwing-of-disposables-under-buses. That sort of thing has happened before (consider the My Lai massacre, for example) and it is valuable and instructive experience for society. For one thing, it would have resulted in the DOJ achieving clarity as to whether or not torture was OK. One thing that’s glaringly missing, of course, is that the conspirators never asked a federal judge. Why not? Because they knew they’d get their ears pinned back. Basically what happened is like a 6-year-old who asks mommy “can I have a cookie?” and when mommy says no, they ask grandpa.

  26. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#21:
    John @20: Your dishonesty and deflection are almost charming.

    You’re not being scrupulously honest, yourself. I notice that you chose to skip past John Morales’ excellent point at #18:
    (Besides, you’re appealing to the Nuremberg Defense in your imagined scenario)
    So I don’t think you should be accusing anyone of carefully selecting what they respond to.

    Further, you are begging the question, namely:
    No, FBI protocol includes getting the legal grounds for investigation from the DOJ, which also decides on who gets prosecuted.

    That’s what the FBI conveniently said, in this situation.
    “FBI protocol” is a term that Mueller introduced during the questioning, in order to create a convenient new standard for how the FBI is supposed to behave. There is no published “FBI protocol” or “DOJ protocol”; it’s just a term for “how we do things.” It’s a circular argument, as I pointed out in my comment @#2, replying to you.

    The way to break the circle of finger-pointing is remarkably simple: the DOJ’s charter is to enforce the law as drafted by Congress and enacted by The President. That’s the DOJ’s protocol. The term “FBI protocol” was something Mueller made up in his testimony, to deflect Waxman’s questions. And, as John Morales pointed out, it’s “I was just following orders.”

    When I was in the army, we had a whole unit on war crimes and how to respond if we were given an illegal order. “I’m sorry, Sir, That appears to be an illegal order. I cannot comply.” I wonder if the FBI has a ‘protocol’ for illegal orders. That would certainly complicate things.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @27:

    I notice that you chose to skip past John Morales’ excellent point at #18:
    (Besides, you’re appealing to the Nuremberg Defense in your imagined scenario)

    I’ve deliberately stayed away from this thread since my last comment because the apparent obtuseness from you and John was nearing toxic levels. That you consider this an “excellent point” is a fucking joke, but also a sort of confirmation. I’m done here.

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