Countdown: Bush Memos Contain Inaccurate Information

Keith and John Dean discuss some of the recent revelations from the torture memos now that they've been declassified and no surprise it shows Dick C

Keith and John Dean discuss some of the recent revelations from the torture memos now that they've been declassified and no surprise it shows Dick Cheney was lying. We're all shocked, right?

OLBERMANN: A classified CIA memo that Dick Cheney has insisted would prove he and President Bush were right to torture turns out to instead prove that the arrest of a terror suspect Cheney said was given up during torture actually took place before the torture and not after the torture. As the newly released Justice Department white wash of the Bush torture attorneys notes, Mr. Cheney‘s argument hangs on, quote, “plainly inaccurate information.”

Michael Isikoff of “Newsweek” reports the previously classified memo, quote, “significantly misstated the timing of the capture of one al Qaeda suspect in order to make a claim that seems to be patently false.”

The memo, cited by Dick Cheney, stated that the water-boarding of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah led to the arrest of suspected dirty bomb plotter Jose Padilla in May, 2003. But, as Isikoff also reports, the review points out that the memo was wrong. Padilla was arrested not in May, 2003, but May, 2002. The administration did not authorize enhanced interrogation techniques until August, 2002. Zubaydah was not interrogated until August of 2002. Therefore, he could not have led them to the capture of a man who had been arrested three months earlier.

The report goes further, stating that the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury, relied upon this plainly inaccurate information in two department memos, citing the CIA memo on Zubaydah‘s interrogation.

Meanwhile, “Newsweek” also reporting that the primary author of the torture memos, John Yoo, told Justice Department investigators, quote, “the president‘s war making authority was so broad that he had the Constitutional power to order a village to be massacred.”

According to the OPR report, Yoo was examined on presidential war time powers and an investigator questioning, “what about ordering a village of resistance to be massacred, is that a power the president could legally?” And Yoo answered, “yeah, although let me say this—so certainly that would fall within the commander-in-chief‘s power over tactical decisions.” “To order a village of citizens to be exterminated,” the investigator asked? Yoo replied, “sure.”

Joining me now is columnist for FindLaw.com, the author of “Blind Ambition, the End of the Story” and former White House counsel, John Dean. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This is an extraordinary development. How could Cheney have thought that memo would prove the case, when it would have required the information to travel backwards in time?

DEAN: Very difficult. Under the circumstances, I don‘t want to say when I‘ve heard he‘s not in good shape right now, that he‘s dead wrong, but that is clearly what happened. And I hope him well so he can come out and explain this. It‘s not likely. He is not the kind of man who recognizes shame, mistake, humility. So I‘d be very curious to hear what he does have to say, because they‘ve caught him just relying on something that is totally bogus. A lie has been put to him.

OLBERMANN: Former Secretary of State Powell dismissed Mr. Cheney‘s claims that the country was less safe under the current president. He said Cheney‘s attacks—the quote was “are not borne out by the facts.” What happens to the former vice president‘s credibility in this topic now? I mean, the memo literally proves that he put the cart before the horse. I mean, it‘s as easy a—either mistake or lie to fix and adjust accordingly as you could imagine.

DEAN: That that cart had no wheels on it, even when we got it in front. So I think his credibility is in deep trouble, with Powell undercutting him, with General Petraeus doing the same thing, as for these tactics. And I‘m not sure how broad his credibility really has been. He lost it in the last administration, in the second term. He wasn‘t selling these kinds of ideas then. And beyond the reach of his family, I‘m not sure how many followers he really has at this point, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I‘ll get back to Mr. Cheney‘s health in a moment. But let me broaden this out. Senator Leahy said he‘s going to have a hearing this week on this OPR report, which basically let the lawyers who were involved in this, Yoo Bybee and Bradbury, off with not even a slap on the wrist, sort of like a pretend slap on the wrist. If the Justice Department is not going to do anything to these guys, will legally—legally, can the Congress do anything? And do you suspect politically it will?

DEAN: They really have no sanction they can impose. What they can do is what they can do often very effectively, is put that pitiless spotlight of publicity on these issues, and that in turn can provoke actions. You know, the fact that they have ruled that this isn‘t something they‘re going to refer to a state bar for disciplinary proceedings actually doesn‘t mean that these guys still couldn‘t be prosecuted. And if more evidence is brought out by these hearings by Leahy or others on the Congress, they‘re not home free by a long shot.

So that could change the attitudes of a lot of people about if they were educated, understood the implications, what this has done to the country, how negatively it affected us. These guys are just not—as I say, they‘re not at home base yet, by any stretch of the imagination.

OLBERMANN: And going even further, the finding about what John Yoo said about ordering the massacre of a village—I guess this goes to the War Powers Act. It goes to declarations of war, what the Senate‘s role was supposed to be in that, how we haven‘t really observed that for nearly half a century now. How does that fit into that whole horizon of who is in charge, and what a president can order happening in what might be a declared or undeclared war?

DEAN: Well, he seems to find no real boundaries on the president‘s war powers, under the Office of Commander in Chief, a very vague term that has been increasingly filled in. But this statement is very consistent with his pattern. In 2005, for example, I remember when he had that debate in Chicago with a Notre Dame law professor, and he literally refused to reject the fact that you could actually have a child—a male child have his testicles crushed as a tactic to force somebody to speak. It was outrageous.

Then he went before the House Judiciary Committee in 2008, and when Chairman Conyers started pressing him, could the president have the power to bury somebody alive to force them? Well, again, he refused to reject that. So this is—you know, his bad judgment that was called out in the Office of Professional Responsibility report has been rather consistent, in that he will push things to their outer limit consistently.

OLBERMANN: And now he‘s a columnist and a visiting professor somewhere. John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, author of “Blind Ambition, the End of the Story,” the new version of his great book now. As always, great thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

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