Here's William Safire defending Donald Rumsfeld last week as the Cabinet member soooo concerned with civil rights:
Shortly after 9/11, with the nation gripped by fear and fury, the Bush White House issued a sweeping and popular order to crack down on suspected terrorists. The liberal establishment largely fell cravenly mute. A few lonely civil libertarians spoke out. When I used the word “dictatorial,” conservatives, both neo- and paleo-, derided my condemnation as “hysterical.”
One Bush cabinet member paid attention. Rumsfeld appointed a bipartisan panel of attorneys to re-examine that draconian edict. As a result, basic protections for the accused Qaeda combatants were included in the proposed military tribunals.
Perhaps because of those protections, the tribunals never got off the ground. (The Supreme Court will soon, I hope, provide similar legal rights to suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens.) But in the panic of the winter of 2001, Rumsfeld was one of the few in power concerned about prisoners' rights.
It smelled like fiction back then, since I recalled that the Pentagon had written rules for Gitmo trials that were so harsh that even administration lawyers rebelled against the first draft. Now here's Seymore Hersch in the New Yorker, with a different set of facts about how Rumsfeld is soooo sensitive to prisoner rights:
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
Rumsfeld, during appearances last week before Congress to testify about Abu Ghraib, was precluded by law from explicitly mentioning highly secret matters in an unclassified session. But he conveyed the message that he was telling the public all that he knew about the story. He said, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened, and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.”
1. Who you gonna believe?
2. Looks like that search for the persons responsible that Rumsfeld promised us may not take too long.
3. When did Bush first learn of this order?
3A. If Bush knew in advance, is that why he said Rumsfeld is the best Secretary of Defense ever? (Version (i) Bush knew in advance and supported Rumsfeld in order to ensure Rumsfeld's silence; version (ii) Bush knew in advance, agreed with the policy and still does, and that's why he thinks Rumsfeld is so great.)
3B. If Bush didn't know of this order at all when he ranked Rumsfeld above George Marshall, would he like a mulligan?
4. Was Safire lying on purpose, tactically, the way he usually does, or did his friend play him for a patsy?