Petraeus Absolves Rice on Benghazi; Republicans Still Obsessively Nitpicking

Disgraced General and former CIA Chief David Petraeus testified on the Benghazi attacks in a closed Congressional hearing early this morning. Unsurprisingly, Republicans remain unsatisfied, and Rep. Peter King (D-NY) is running around suggesting that for some bizarre, unknown reason, the White House conspired to hide any terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attacks.

From The Washington Post:

After avoiding a swarm of awaiting reporters and photographers, former CIA director David Petraeus testified behind closed doors Friday that he believes the Sept. 11 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya was an act of terrorism that did not arise out of a spontaneous demonstration, according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony.

“He now clearly believes that it [the Sept. 11 attacks] did not arise out of a demonstration, that it was not spontaneous and it was clear terrorist involvement,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said.

Of course that is what everyone now believes, but Republicans seem determined to find some way to impeach President Obama over Benghazi regardless of what actually happened.

Petraeus gave a 20-minute opening statement to the House panel and took about 70 minutes of questions, according to King, who said that Petraeus testified Friday that the CIA gave the White House and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice information on the Benghazi attack that differed from Rice’s public comments on the incident….

Apparently the talking points were vetted by a number of agencies and at some point a line referring to a group associated with al Qaeda was removed. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have spent the past couple of days attacking U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for comments she made on Sunday shows soon after the attacks. Her comments were based on the final talking points she, the White House, and Congress received from intelligence community.

Feinstein also rose to Rice’s defense, saying that the ambassador was using talking points based on the best available intelligence just days after the attack.

“They were unclassified talking points at a very early stage,” Feinstein said. “I don’t think she should be pilloried for this. She did what I would have done, or anyone else would have done that was going on a weekend show. We would have said, ‘What talking points can I use?’ and you’d get an unclassified version.”

The WaPo story quotes several Republican Congressmen, including John McCain, who

…called the former general’s testimony “comprehensive, I think it was important, it added to our ability to make judgments about what is clearly a failure of intelligence. He described his actions and that of his agency, their interaction with other agencies and I appreciate his service and his candor.”

The AP managed to find some Democrats to talk to.

After the hearings, lawmakers said Petraeus testified that the CIA’s draft talking points written in response to the assault on the diplomat post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus told the lawmakers that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn’t sure which federal agency deleted it.

Democrats said Petraeus made it clear the change was not made for political reasons during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “He completely debunked that idea.”

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

In addition, Petraeus made it clear that he and others at the CIA approved the final draft of the talking points that were given to Susan Rice.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Petraeus explained that the CIA’s draft points were sent to other intelligence agencies and to some federal agencies for review. Udall said Petraeus told them the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it.

“The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing,” Udall said. “The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved.”

….

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.”

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said it’s clear that Rice “used the unclassified talking points that the entire intelligence community signed off on, so she did completely the appropriate thing.” He said the changes made to the draft accounts for the discrepancies with some of the reports that were made public showing that the intelligence community knew it was a terrorist attack all along.

And, as we all know, the day after the attacks President Obama referred to them as terrorist acts.

So that’s where it stands for now–until the next press conference by John McCain and his sidekicks Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve noticed that we seem to be seeing a lot of change recently along with a lot of people that would prefer to stick their heads in the sand and try to legislate the world back 100 years.  It really seems like science, voter sentiment, and the world are at odds with the vision of our leaders these days.  Here are some examples.

A study done by the U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was just published in Geophysical Research Letters here provides some pretty clear evidence that the  polar ice sheet mass loss is accelerating at a rate that is increasing exponentially.

It’s been clear for a while that the  polar ice sheet mass loss is accelerating (see Large Antarctic glacier thinning 4 times faster than it was 10 years ago: “Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier”).

But the new study is a bombshell because of its credibility and thoroughness — and because it provides perhaps the most credible estimate to date of the sea level rise we face in 2050 on our current emissions path, 1 foot.

The JPL news release runs through the calculation that leads to the 1-foot estimate:

The authors conclude that, if current ice sheet melting rates continue for the next four decades, their cumulative loss could raise sea level by 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) by 2050. When this is added to the predicted sea level contribution of 8 centimeters (3.1 inches) from glacial ice caps and 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) from ocean thermal expansion, total sea level rise could reach 32 centimeters (12.6 inches). While this provides one indication of the potential contribution ice sheets could make to sea level in the coming century, the authors caution that considerable uncertainties remain in estimating future ice loss acceleration.

It is always worthwhile to make clear that the projections are uncertain.  On the other hand, one would have to say that the uncertainty is greater on the high side — since the rate of human-caused warming is itself projected to accelerate, and the poles are the place where the planet is heating up the most, much faster than expected (see “Deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice:  Oceanographer at AGU: Western Antarctic Peninsula is seeing “the highest increase in temperatures of anywhere on Earth”).

Senator Lindsey Graham wants Director of National Intelligence General Clapper to resign because he answered a question truthfully. It’s even unclear if Graham was even in the hearing for the entire committee interview.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in an exclusive interview with Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, called for Gen. James Clapper to resign or be fired as Director of National Intelligence, citing his comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, on which Graham sits.

Clapper had stated his belief that the Qaddafi regime, in the long term would “prevail” in Libya, and also assessed China and Russia to be primary threats to the United States.

Graham told Cameron that he lacks confidence in Clapper’s understanding of his job, that President Obama should “repudiate” Clapper’s remarks, and that this is the third time Clapper has faltered in this way.

It’s rather evident from the news reports that the evil empire is winning against the ewoks right now.  What’s Graham’s problem? He’d prefer the varnished untruth instead?  Clapper was also asked a very specific question in terms of threats to the US from just numbers of weapons and troops. The answer?  China and the USSR, of course.  I guess they wanted to hear Iraq and North Korea.  Clapper directly answered pertinent the question.  He just didn’t spin it the way the warhawks wanted.  I guess every one decided that he should’ve discounted the huge number of weapons, troops, and WMDS held by the other two super powers and gone straight to the little guys that can’t reach us from their neck of the globe.
Clapper clarified that North Korea and Iran are “of great concern,” but questioned whether they pose a “direct mortal threat” to the United States. The intelligence chief seemed to be focused on which countries have the capability, not necessarily the intent, to threaten the United States.

WonktheVote posted a thread earlier this week showing that the threat of terrorism in the US comes more from white, right wing military groups than from radicalized American Muslims. This evidence contrasts Peter King’s McCarthyism style hearing yesterday which relied on only personal stories.  There were no people invited to testify from law enforcement, the FBI, or Homeland Security.  Understandly, so there’s more evidence on who we should fear at C&L. Dave Niewert must’ve read her!!!  Niewert document 22 cases in these kind of violence in the last tw0 years and shows a map.  They’ve occurred all over the place.

In their eagerness to promote Peter King’s dubious and nakedly Islamophobic hearings on homegrown Islamic-radical terrorism, O’Reilly and his Fox colleagues have openly sneered at suggestions that we ought to do the same for right-wing extremists and their mounting acts of violence. This case definitively underscores that need, embodied in the 22 cases we’ve documented over the past two and a half years:

Simultaneously, it’s also not very clear that the Islamic radicals pose a serious threat in terms of domestic terrorist activity. Certainly, there’s plenty of reasons to believe that the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is wildly overstated — not least of which is the fact that, as Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress reported, terrorism incidents in the USA have been coming from non-Muslim sources at nearly twice the rate as that of Muslims.

Lexington at The Economist had this to say about the hearings.

It is indeed hard to find much to like in Mr King. The representative for Long Island has approached this most sensitive of subjects with the delicacy of a steamroller, plus an overactive imagination and a generous dollop of prejudice. To be clear: he may not be prejudiced against America’s Muslims (the “overwhelming majority” are “outstanding Americans”, he says) but he long ago prejudged the question his own hearings are supposed to answer, being already firmly of the view that the country’s Muslims are doing too little to counter radicalisation within their ranks. He is the author of a novel, “Vale of Tears”, in which a heroic version of his thinly disguised self busts a home-grown al-Qaeda cell at a Long Island Islamic centre. His own attitude to terrorism, though, is conveniently elastic. In the 1980s this Irish-American Catholic sympathised strongly with the Irish Republican Army, going so far as to compare Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the terrorist group’s political wing, to George Washington.

Beyond these objections to his person, prejudices and past, most of the available evidence suggests that Mr King’s central thesis is overblown, if not flat wrong. Muslim co-operation with the authorities is not perfect, but by most accounts—including those of Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, and Eric Holder, the attorney-general—the community has in general worked hard to expose terrorist plots in its midst. In one prominent case last year, for instance, five men from northern Virginia who had travelled to Pakistan in search of jihad were convicted after their families tipped off the FBI. The Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a research group affiliated with Duke University and the University of North Carolina, reported recently that 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting terror attacks in America since the felling of the twin towers in 2001 were turned in by fellow Muslims.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the “mobilizer of the year”.

While blasting Walker and Wisconsin’s Republican legislators for their “absolute corruption of democracy” in passing an anti-labor bill, the leader of the nation’s largest union group thanked the governor for getting activists fired up. “We probbably should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year Award,” Trumka said Thursday morning while speaking to the National Press Club in Washington D.C. “Wisconsin is the beginning — it’s pushing the start button” for pro-labor activism.

ED Kain at Forbe’s American Times says that the GOP’s war on collective bargainning will turn out to be its Waterloo.

And not just Wisconsin, but also Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, and the rest of the over-reaching state Republicans. Governors like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Jan Brewer are riding on the coattails of the Tea Party, but they’ve become blind to the dangers of their radical policies.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are already promising to step-up recall efforts. But the recalls are only a small part of what is likely going to be a huge anti-Republican backlash across the nation, as working Americans finally realize what that party actually stands for: an playing field heavily tilted toward the rich and powerful, toward corporate power, and against worker rights.

Wow, what a week!  What’s been on your mind and your reading and blog list?


“Chertoff’s naked-screening and the sinister drumbeat of fear”

So, I’m in the compare and contrast type of mood today.  Two New Yorkers have weighed in on the ongoing TSA Gate Rape.  Over at the NYT, it’s Roger Cohen from London–New Yorker by job–on ‘The Real Threat to America’.  The quote in the title is the end line from his op-ed.    Over at the NYP, it’s the proverbial nitwit, Republican (NY) Representative Peter King and his title tells all.  That would be ‘Qaeda the enemy – not TSA screeners’.

Guess which man loves our country and our Constitution?  The Britwit or the Nitwit?

Cohen has a remarkable sense of humor.  He suggests that if we ever do get Osama bin Laden that we should “Rotate him in perpetuity through this security hell, “groin checks” and all”.  If ever there was an indication that terrorists have won,  it’s that we’ve now lasted longer than the USSR in the bedouin country of Afghanistan and we’re all considered terrorist wannabes now.  Yup my 87 year old, WW2 decorated Dad and your 2 year old grandchild are threats as we now know it.

What’s next?  Pat downs at every holiday event because some Somalian teenager fell for an FBI sting operation?  Will holiday tree lighting ceremonies see the next set of installations of  “Chertoff’s naked-screening” machines?  If so, let me go buy the stock.  I want a piece of THAT action so I can go buy my own plane and dust off the old pilot’s license.  ( I used to fly in corporate jets a lot in the 80s.  It bothered me that the pilot was the only one who knew how to land the plane.)

So, let’s visit the hysterical and paranoid King’s hyperbole.  You know, the kind that gets you reelected in a solid Republican District.

As a conservative, I find it disappointing that so many on the right taking issue with the TSA sound like left-wing liberals.

It reminds me of when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani stepped up police activity in New York City. Liberals were against it and argued that stop-and-frisks violated people’s civil rights.

But conservatives knew that it was necessary to bring law and order to New York. We were right, and it saved lives.

I have enough faith in TSA chief John Pistole — as nonpartisan a person you can find in government — that he wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t think it right.

For all we know we could find out six months from now these machines aren’t as good as we think they are and there’s another way to do it without the pat-downs.

But for now let’s at least assume that John Pistole and the TSA are well-intentioned and they are doing the right thing based on the information available to them right now.

Excuse me while I Godwin and think that maybe this is akin to the Germans thinking they should just give the S.S. a chance to do their jobs because the government knows best about ‘perceived threats’.  That very well could include your 60 year old butcher!  Yes?

Oh, and let me put this in perspective for you.   “Peter King is a Long Island GOP congressman and soon-to- be chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.”   Doesn’t that make you feel better about the future of this country?  That would be up to and including the viability of commercial airlines in the next few years. I just hope every stock plan I’ve been forced to invest in by the State of Louisiana doesn’t hold any airline stocks.  Next time, I’m going Greyhound or Mustang.

Cohen’s op-ed–in contrast to the abrasive King–talks about the undie bomber and the shoe bomber and demonstrates how one failed plot after another has led to “another blanket layer of T.S.A checks, including dubious gropes, to the daily humiliations of travelers”.  He’s right.  None of these things were functional and that doesn’t even appear to matter.  Which brings me back to the idea of buying stock in the new KBR and Halliburton government-fund-leaching corporations hawking security measures.  Exactly how much of this involves our safety instead of their profit motives and the political donations they can offer well-positioned pols like King?  Check this Cohen tidbit out.

There are now about 400 full-body scanners, set to grow to 1,000 next year. One of the people pushing them most energetically is Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security.

He’s the co-founder and managing principal of the Chertoff Group, which provides security advice. One of its clients is California-based Rapiscan Systems, part of the OSI Systems corporation, that makes many of the “whole body” scanners being installed.

Chertoff has recently been busy rubbishing Martin Broughton, the wise British Airways chairman who said many security checks were redundant — calling him “ill-informed.” Early this year Chertoff called on Congress to “fund a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems.”

Rapiscan and its adviser the Chertoff Group will certainly profit from the deployment underway (some of the machines were bought with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). Americans as a whole will not.

Rapiscan: Say the name slowly. It conjures up a sinister science fiction. When a government has a right to invade the bodies of its citizens, security has trumped freedom.

RapE-a-Scan or Pillage-The-Treasury?  Or both?  Your call.

Just for good measure, Cohen adds the 4th amendment to the conversation.  Good place to start this discussion.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Lest we forget what a bunch of people thought their soldiers have died fighting for–I might add–let it not be the profits of any more of these blood sucking government sponsored corporations.  Chertoff should be run out of the country; tar and feathered, on the nearest rail.  I’d like to extend that courtesy to Pete King too.  But first, let’s make sure that both of them spend plenty of time in a crotch groping session with the TSA.  Then, let’s put their nudie scans on the internet where we all can see the demi-emperors with  no clothes.