Clever Gaffes

by digby

Glenn is on to a story about the Attorney General apparently making stuff up out of whole cloth and nearly crying about it. Mukasey said in a speech that FISA prevented the US from listening in on a specific phone call before 9/11:

He then tearfully claimed that FISA therefore caused the deaths of "three thousand people who went to work that day."

As I'm sure you all know, if this is true, it's big news since there's never been any discussion of this before. As Rachel Maddow said on Countdown last night, we'd better hope the explanation is that he's lying, because if it isn't, it means that the 9/11 commission either hid relevant information about this or weren't told.

Greenwald writes:

Critically, the 9/11 Commission Report -- intended to be a comprehensive account of all relevant pre-9/11 activities -- makes no mention whatsoever of the episode Mukasey described. What has been long publicly reported in great detail are multiple calls that were made between a global communications hub in Yemen and the U.S. -- calls which the NSA did intercept without warrants (because, contrary to Mukasey's lie, FISA does not and never did require a warrant for eavesdropping on foreign targets) but which, for some unknown reason, the NSA failed to share with the FBI and other agencies. But the critical pre-9/11 episode Mukasey described last week is nowhere to be found in the 9/11 Report or anywhere else. It just does not exist.

Here's the thing. I keep hearing weird stuff like this lately. First, you have both McCain and Liebermann making similar "gaffes" about Iraq and Iran. Then we have Mukasey out there making a "gaffe" in a speech about FISA causing 9/11. Perhaps I'm being a conspiracy monger myself, but these alleged bloopers are all so self-serving it would be foolish to not at least consider it.

One of the things that the Bush administration proved conclusively (as if we already didn't know) was that you can fool most of the people for quite some time with the clever use of language. They don't technically lie, they just constantly juxtapose certain words and create associations where none previously existed until a whole bunch of people believe something they've never explicitly been told.

The conflating of Saddam and 9/11 was a master touch. Many people believed it for years --- it was the fundamental underpinning for the war. I can't help but wonder if the conclusion among the Straussians is that this is the best method for manufacturing consent. After all, it worked.

It would be hard to believe that Michael Mukasey would go this far into the rabbit hole if he hadn't already demonstrated his total lack of intellectual integrity and principle with his tortured defense of ... torture. But he's obviously a complete company man, capable of anything. McCain and Liebermann are both Iran obsessives who will sell their own mothers to get the public on board for a grand old war with Tehran.

And then there's Michael McConnell, who has always struck me as the kind of personality you expressly do not want with the power of a national intelligence Czar. He's a little bit *touched*:

"We had a bill go into the Senate. It was debated vigorously," said McConnell. "There were some who said we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community. Some have that point of view. Some say the President of the United States violated the process, spied on Americans, should be impeached and should go to jail. I mean, this is democracy, you can say anything you want to say. That was the argument made. The vote was 68 to 29."

Feingold notes, and as a review of the press coverage details, neither of the events McConnell refers to actually happened. The debate over FISA was spirited as Feingold and a minority of senators maneuvered to remove a provision granting telecommunications companies immunity for helping the government with warrentless wiretapping.

But as Feingold wrote in a letter to McConnell: "I am not aware of any Senator saying or suggesting that 'we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community' or that President Bush 'should be impeached and should go to jail.'"

Hyperbole is not a good trait for an intelligence chief, particularly in light of today's revelation about spying on Americans:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

And that brings us back to the FISA fight, which the Attorney General is now characterizing in lurid, emotional terms, saying that the law prevented the government from stopping 9/11.

I don't know whether all of this is planned or even conscious. But I can see a tried and true narrative reanimating itself before our eyes, one which will helpfully reintroduce some old themes about fifth columns and scary sleeper cells that haven't been successful for a couple of years now. This should help:

This week, General Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, said in a television interview that al Qaeda had stepped up its activities along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border over the past 18 months and established new safe havens for training "operatives that...wouldn't attract attention if they were going through the customs line at (Washington) Dulles airport."

Beyond saying that such operatives would "look western," Hayden did not elaborate.

But one of his predecessors, James Woolsey, said after the German arrests that al Qaeda and affiliated groups were making efforts to attract "even blond-haired, blue-eyed" recruits. "We are going to see more and more of this."

I'm surprised he didn't mention "black Muslims." Perhaps he just misspoke.

Is there any doubt that the Republicans are ginning up the Fear Talk Express for President McCain?

Update: Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution quoted IF Stone's perfect description of the technique:

Now, governments lie. But they don't like to lie literally, because a literal, flat, obvious lie tends to be caught.

So what they do is, they become masters of the disingenuous statement, of phrasing something in such a way that the honest, normal, unwary reader gets one impression, what he's supposed to get.

Then three months later he discovers it's not true and goes back to complain. And they say, well, that's not what we said -- look at it carefully. And you look at it carefully and sure enough, it was really doubletalk and didn't say exactly what they said.

plus ça change and all that rot...