Have You No Sense of Decency? Will This Charade Ever End?

As those of you who read my blog know, I read the Corner blog at Nationalreview.com regularly, to see what the sometimes intelligent but mostly hysterical political right is saying.  Today, Andy McCarthy (former SDNY terrorist prosecutor) writes about whether Nancy Pelosi is guilty of conspiracy to commit torture.  His argument, unless I am missing something, is that Speaker Pelosi is guilty of conspiracy to commit torture, because she knew either that the Bush Administration was committing torture or was about to commit torture and did nothing about it.  The heart of his argument is:

You just need to show that two or more people agreed to commit the prohibited act.  Here, though, by her own account (or at least one of her own accounts), Pelosi knew the CIA was planning to use waterboarding and later learned it was actually being done.  So, if Pelosi was told — as the CIA says she was — that waterboarding was being used, that’s another nail in the coffin.  But for a prosecutor, it’s just gravy — not at all necessary to the case.  As Pelosi herself tells it, she was aware of a conspiracy to torture — which is just as significant under the law as torture itself — and she did nothing about it.

But Mr. McCarthy fails to allege, let alone present any evidence, that the Speaker agreed with any Bush official to commit torture.  Unless simply having knowledge of an active or planned conspiracy to commit torture makes someone guilty, at most Speaker Pelosi would be guilty of would be the crime of misprision of a felony.  Misprision of a felony is the failure to report the commission of an actual felony.  But misprision under federal law requires:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Therefore, unless Speaker Pelosi somehow concealed the fact that the Bush Administration was engaged in the commission of torture or conspiracy to commit torture, I fail to see how she is guilty of any crime.  Is she guilty of the political crime of failure to speak out against torture?  Probably.  But it is not as though she could have spoken out publicly about this seeing as she was told in classified briefings.  That would be an actual crime. until there is even the allegation that agreed with the Bush Administration that it should commit torture, I fail to see how the Speaker is guilty of anything but poor judgment in not objecting to the torture of prisoners.

But I do have some advice for the Speaker:  “Just keep quiet for a while.  Your explanations are convincing no one.  Dick Cheney is doing enough on his own to show the American people that his administration was nothing more than criminal thugs.”

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3 Responses to “Have You No Sense of Decency? Will This Charade Ever End?”

  1. Doug Says:

    Part of the problem with Ms. Pelosi is that her story keeps changing. “I was never briefed about EITs.” “Okay, I may have been briefed about them, but I was never told about waterboarding.” “Well, what I meant was, maybe waterboarding was mentioned, but I didn’t agree with it.”

    Enter Ms. Pelosi’s fellow Californian Ms. Feinstein: “We shouldn’t blame Ms. Pelosi. Let’s remember that she received the briefings soon after 9/11 when the threats of further attacks were thought imminent.” Exactly! When Jay Bybee et al wrote the memos for which they are now being excoriated by the Democrats, the nation was at a heightened sense of alert. Threats of dirty bomb attacks and additional highjacked planes were frequent. But Democrats are willing to consider Ms. Pelosi’s action (or inaction) in the context of the times, while failing to extend the same benefit to the Bush officials. Typical.

    We–the public–don’t know for sure whether intelligence gained through the use of EITs helped prevent additional terrorist attacks. What we do know is that since 9/11, we have not had another major attack on our soil of a similar magnitude. I thank the Bush administration for that. But, if one had occurred, I’m certain that, rather than singing her amnesia-riddled tune today, Ms. Pelosi would be quoting a question she posed to the CIA when she learned of EITs (and waterboarding): “Are we doing enough?” That’s a concern with the sufficiency of the steps being taken, not a concern with the steps themselves.

    And that leads us to address your concern with Ms. Pelosi’s “misdemeanor” crime of not speaking up. Please. When did a Democrat not seize upon any and every opportunity to take jabs at the Bush administration? If she truly had disagreed, she would’ve spoken up. She could’ve attempted to pass legislation banning the EITs with which she “disagreed” or perhaps moved to cut funding for programs that used them. She didn’t.

    I agree with you, Matt, that the best advice one could give Ms. Pelosi now is: “Keep your mouth shut.” But I’d go on: “Stop wasting time and energy trying to recharacterize the past. Focus on the future and ensuring that additional terrorist attacks do not occur on our soil.”

    The only “Charade” here, Matt, is that being put on by the Democrats. Never in our history has there been such criticism by the current administration and his fellow party members in office of the former administration. (Please, don’t even begin with the hollow response that there never has there been an administration as bad as the Bush administration.) For once I agree with Moveon.org: “Move on, people! Move on.”

  2. Bethany Says:

    Doug, as I’m sure you can imagine, I disagree with a lot of what you say (although only moderately because, shockingly, I’m not an enormous fan of Pelosi — I’ve got to say, I think she opened herself up to this). But, the only thing that I think warrants correction is your statement that Americans will never know whether the torture got us information to prevent another attack on American soil. To me, that’s not the issue and is a logical fallacy: the issue is whether we could have gotten that same information *without* torture. While there’s of course no way to know for sure, most folks that make a living doing this intelligence-gathering stuff seem to think we could have. So, that’s that . . .

    Okay, one other dig: the Republicans aren’t so eager to move on from the Reagan administration. Do I detect a crack in the “Bush Is Great” veneer???

    Take care, and Happy Anniversary!

  3. A Response to Doug « Political Junkie Goes Hollywood Says:

    […] post is in response to the lengthy comment left by my friend and former colleague Doug.  Because of the length of my response, I felt a new […]

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