Torture Report — Deja Vu All Over Again

Return of the CIA’s ‘Rogue Elephants’

The Senate’s report on torture shows U.S. intelligence agencies need to be reined in again.

The Associated Press

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who released the report.

By Dec. 10, 2014 | 2:30 p.m. EST+ More—–WSNEWS & World Report Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture makes for painful reading for those of us who thought that our intelligence agencies had been brought under control decades ago. We should have been so hopeful!

It has been nearly 40 years since I was a young staff member on the Senate Select Committee chaired by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, that was charged with investigating our intelligence agencies. We uncovered secret spying on Americans, we investigated coups against foreign governments, we looked into assassination plots against foreign leaders, and we blew the whistle on the FBI’s bugs of Martin Luther King and its efforts to get him to commit suicide. The scary and sickening period in our history needed to be examined so that it would never be repeated.

[VIEWS YOU CAN USE: The CIA Torture Report Goes Public]

Well, sadly, as Yogi Berra put it, here we are, deja vu all over again.

There are a number of reasons I am not surprised by what was revealed in the report. As my old boss Church pointed out so many years ago, the CIA often acts as a “rogue elephant.” Presidents often give consent to broad policy guidelines, then stay out of the details. This provides some sense of “plausible deniability” for the chief executive. It is clear that President George W. Bush (or Secretary of State Colin Powell or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) did not get the details of what was occurring. When Bush found out about prisoners hanging from the ceiling in diapers, he was clearly not pleased, according to the report.

Another reason I am not surprised goes back 40 years to when I went to the White House with members of the Church Committee and other staff to meet with then-President Gerald Ford and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller on the issue of assassinations. (I think I probably went because I was driving the car!) Several of us were naturally kept in the waiting room, but there was one individual who I can’t forget going in and out: future Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney was chief of staff to Ford from 1975 to 1977 and held the Church Committee and the role of Congress in investigating the intelligence agencies in total contempt. From those early days and meetings, it was clear to many of us that Cheney would not condone “interference” and held the view that we were out to destroy the CIA, not to save it. His views only hardened and his contempt for Congress only deepened in his years as vice president.

[READ: In 2016, GOP Must Move Past Bush and Obama’s National Security Failures]

And one more thing hasn’t changed: We were lied to when we first investigated the intelligence agencies back in the 1970s, and once again the Cheneys and the Michael Haydens lied before Congress and to the American people.

This period of black sites and torture and out-of-control operatives has not enhanced our nation’s security, it has undermined it, much as the activities of our intelligence agencies did over four decades ago. We investigated them then, and the light of day has been shown on them now.

Courageous senators such as Colorado Democrat Mark Udall and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein would not give up or give in. Nor would the hardworking staff of the current Senate Intelligence Committee when confronted with CIA intimidation. Without strong congressional oversight, the “rogue elephants” will return again and again. The question, of course, is when will we ever learn?

We paid two armchair psychologists $81 million to devise torture techniques that, if they read any studies over the past 100 years, they would know don’t work. Not only is torture immoral, but it is ineffective. This was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight – it had no background in terrorism, no knowledge of al-Qaida, and was clearly making it up as it went along. This is all a bad made-for-TV movie.

[READ: FBI and NSA Tactics Threaten to Make Us Less Safe]

The problem, of course, is it undermines who we are as Americans, or who we think we are. As Church, put it, “beware of adopting the methods of your enemies, you will become more like them.”

If we as Americans truly believe that it is imperative for us to hold up the moral high ground, our actions must befit our words. To deny torture and simply use phrases like “enhanced interrogation techniques” is not only duplicitous but undermines that moral authority.

Now, as 40 years ago, it is time to correct our mistakes and acknowledge our own wrongdoing. That makes America stronger, not weaker.

The Republican’s Gridlock

Gridlock Only Gets You So Far

Voters will catch on to the fact that the GOP is using obstruction to win elections.

House Speaker John Boehner responds to President Barack Obama's intention to spare millions of illegal immigrants from being deported on Nov. 21, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Voters will see what’s happening.

By Nov. 26, 2014 | 4:30 p.m. EST+ More–USNews Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

There are three reasons that the Republicans pursue gridlock: ideological purity, hatred of President Barack Obama and because it helps them win elections. The first two they may be able to get over, but not the third.

Republicans discovered in 2010 that by opposing anything and everything of any consequence that Obama proposed, gridlock would ensue and the public’s anger and cynicism toward Washington would grow. Rallying around the tea party’s themes and the deep economic frustrations from the near depression, they swept out incumbent Democrats by the score.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell made it known that his number one goal was the defeat of Obama in 2012. That did not work out so well, but the Republicans quickly pivoted to 2014, where there was clearly fertile ground to elect more of their party. Part and parcel of this strategy was to not pass any meaningful legislation on immigration reform, job creation, education, tax reform or to improve America’s infrastructure and, finally, doing their very best to rally the base against anything having to do with government. The growing anger towards Washington and the party in control of the presidency – the Democrats – provided another windfall.

The difference now is that the anger which pollsters determined in 2010 created a majority for “standing up for principle” has now shifted to “it’s time to compromise, to get things done.” In short, voters want government to work and are sick and tired of the obstruction and gridlock.

Despite their efforts to shift blame, the Republicans now are boxed in, because it is pretty clear that they are the problem, not the party proposing solutions. Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, respected political analysts, have laid this out very clearly in their writings, including the book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” So even if Republicans decide that the “shut the government” caucus led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz should be hidden away in the basement of the Capitol, they are still confronted with many political players who believe they were elected by being obstructionists.

The goal of the Democrats, then, should be to revise and reinvigorate the plans to legislate and solve America’s problems and convince the voters that the Congress, controlled by Republicans, is once again blocking progress. When the Republican leadership is convinced that gridlock is now a losing game politically, they may actually change their behavior. Their rigid ideology and their hatred for Obama will give way to a new political reality – the public is on to them and, much like President Harry Truman in 1948, the “do-nothing Congress” label will be laid at their feet.

The Republicans have to confront these past six years and change their behavior. They will only do so only if it becomes crystal clear that the public understands and is sick and tired of their embracing of Washington gridlock.

Fennocenzi on Fox 5 — 11/12/2014 — The Lame Duck Session and Confirmation of A.G. and Judges

The Seinfeld Election — USNews & World Report — 11/3/2014

The ‘Seinfeld’ Election

Voters are talking about the economy, Republicans about Obama and Democrats have failed to talk to the middle class.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld performs at the Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, in New York.

An election about nothing.

By Nov. 4, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. EST+ More

Despite the conclusion tonight of this year’s expensive and long campaign, to many Americans this is the “Seinfeld” election – the campaign about nothing. There has been no overriding theme or message, no Contract with America from the Republicans and no battle plan for the middle class from Democrats.

The Republicans have had very little to say except “Obama bad,” as some have noted.

The Democrats, despite a steadily improving economy, growth rates hitting 3.5 percent and unemployment falling to 5.9 percent, aren’t making the argument that they are the party to help middle class families raise their wages, send their kids to college and ensure a stable financial future.

In a sense, this is not just a campaign about nothing, it is also a campaign about everything – lurching from one so-called crisis to another: from endless investigations about Benghazi or the IRS or the Secret Service to the Ukraine to Syria to the Islamic State group to Ebola.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that Americans are seriously concerned about two things, jobs and the economy and breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington to get things done – both lead with 23 percent as the top problem.

It is almost as if Washington and the people are living on distant planets.

If this year’s $4 billion election should tell the Congress – especially the Republicans – one thing, it is enough with useless investigations, enough with wasting time on repealing Obamacare, enough with the politics of “no.” The public wants action, they want both parties to work together, to cross the aisle and to solve their problems.

In 2010, the tea party anger about the economy created a desire for intransigence for many: Stand your ground, don’t compromise. In 2014, the public is crying out for compromise and an end to the partisan gridlock in Washington.

That is why it is so sad that this campaign has been the Seinfeld election. Just when voters want answers, or at least proposals, they get negative attacks and all anti-Obama, all the time.

Fennocenzi on Fox 5—-The Election Aftermath WTTG 11/5/2014

Where Are The Roosevelts?

Where Are the Roosevelts?

Americans are in need of political leaders with the Roosevelts’ vision.

This is an undated photo of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Campobello Island, off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada. (AP Photo)

We need more can-do spirit.


Like many others, our household has been enthralled by Ken Burns’ latest tour de force, “The Roosevelts.” Having read several biographies on Theodore and Franklin, I found that the film brought even more of their experiences to life. It also highlights a clear contrast between their times and ours in American politics.

The Roosevelts faced extraordinary challenges – two world wars and other foreign interventions, the most serious economic depression our nation had ever experienced, the advent of women’s right to vote and direct election of senators, the rise and fall of bosses in politics and robber barons in business as well as doubts about our system of government.

Despite coming from different parties, their overriding ethos was activist, high energy, can-do government. Not big government, not intrusive government, but smart, effective government to make the changes, right the wrongs and pursue policies that were populist and pragmatic. Both Roosevelts took on the establishment, even though they came from the establishment. Both Roosevelts recognized the use of power for good, whether it was breaking up monopolies, passing child labor laws, protecting America’s most beautiful open spaces, putting in place Social Security for the elderly or insuring Americans’ bank deposits.

Respect for our institutions, particularly government, is close to an all-time low. Every crisis drives approval ratings down even further. Support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has gone from 60 percent in May 2013 to 37 percent in the wake of the Ebola crisis. Congress has seen its approval ratings go to single digits. President Barack Obama’s numbers are approaching an all-time low, beginning to enter George W. Bush territory when he left office.

In my view, these numbers represent a strong belief that our leaders don’t lead. Rather, we seem to have a group of politicians who spend too little time doing what the Roosevelts did and too much time holding their fingers up to the political winds.

We are faced today with a reluctance to act, a refusal to recognize that an aggressive response to our problems is required – whether it is current issues like Ebola, the Islamic State group, Secret Service transgressions, reform of our intelligence agencies and the IRS, or large issues like engaging wholeheartedly in rebuilding our infrastructure and reforming our schools. The list goes on and on.

[READ: Why Obama Should Watch ‘The Roosevelts’]

The public does not just sense the gridlock, particularly in Washington, but they are losing faith in political leadership. Americans are looking for leaders like TR and FDR who call them to action and raise their faith and their optimism again. They are looking for leaders who follow through and take on the big battles of the day. They are looking for leaders who stop bickering about big government or small government and embrace a sense of activism that tackles the tough problems.

The problems aren’t any tougher or harder to solve now than they were during the first half of the 20th century. The difference is many of our leaders won’t take them on and use the power of government for good. We need more Roosevelts.

Fennocenzi–Mid-Term Elections, 6 Days to Go — Fox 5 DC

Fennocenzi Discuss the Politics of Ebola and Upcoming Elections—-WTTG Fox5 10/22/14

Cory Gardner: The Trojan Horse Candidate

Colorado’s Trojan Horse Candidate

Cory Gardner’s Senate campaign has tried to mask his extreme views.

Rep. Cory Gardner, who is running for the U.S. Senate, waits for his turn to speak during a meeting and a press conference with state Republican Hispanics, at a Mexican restaurant in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.

He’s sneaky.

By Oct. 15, 2014 | 8:00 a.m. EDT+ More

I have a confession. As much as I disagree with, and am appalled by, most of the views of the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., or Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, I respect them.

They stand up for what they believe in; they are honest about their beliefs, and they don’t pretend to be something that they are not. For nearly a decade, I sparred weekly with Pat Buchanan on television – we had different political perspectives but I respected Buchanan’s intelligence, his perspective and his humor. He, like Cruz, Paul and King, told it as he saw it.

[SEE: Cartoons about the Republican Party]

What we are witnessing in this year’s campaign in a number of states is a collection of candidates who don’t want voters to know their real views. It is silly for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not to admit she voted for Barack Obama. She is clear about why she is running and her views, why get called out on this?

But there are a lot more insidious campaigns being run by several Republicans. Joni Ernst in Iowa is doing her very best to convince voters she has a moderate bone in her body.

Still, the ultimate fraud this year is GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat. This guy makes a chameleon look consistent in color. Gardner smiles as he lies to your face. He is trying his very best to bob and weave through the final weeks of this campaign to convince voters that he is not extreme and does not hold extreme views or cast extreme votes.

[MORE: Cartoons about Congress]

Folks, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, and based on his 2012 voting record, National Journal rated Gardner the 10th most right-wing member of the House. With all the Tea Party Republicans in that body, being named more extreme than 425 of your colleagues is not easy.

It is not easy to run from that record, and yet Gardner is doing his very best. Gardner is waging the ultimate “Trojan Horse” campaign – he is desperately trying to get through the gates into the U.S. Senate by dressing up as something he is not. He is doing his best to pull the wool over the eyes of Colorado voters.

And Colorado women should be extremely concerned. This isn’t some run-of-the-mill conservative on women’s issues. Gardner is a radical. He wants to outlaw all abortions.

Let’s look at his record. For the past eight years, he has consistently supported federal and state “personhood legislation” that would make abortion a crime and even outlaw various birth control measures. Last year, he co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act.” Back in 2007, Gardner signed on to a Colorado Senate bill that would make abortion a Class 3 felony, outlawing it even in the cases of rape and incest. In 2010, he supported Colorado’s Amendment 62 and reportedly said at a candidate forum: “I have signed the personhood petition. I have taken the petitions to my church and circulat[ed] it in my church.” Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated that Gardner has “built his entire political career on support of personhood.”

[SEE: Cartoons on the Democratic Party]

Now, in 2014, comes the Trojan Horse campaign. He puts up ads saying he supports over-the-counter contraceptives and says he isn’t supporting Colorado’s personhood referendum this year, though he still supports the federal legislation. Never mind the cost of the contraceptives or the issue of insurance coverage. If you believe Gardner, I have a mountain in Colorado to sell you.

The radical Colorado Right to Life group had called Gardner a “standout legislator” but even they are dismayed by his political opportunism, calling it “a cynical choice to give up on principles so he would be more attractive to moderate voters.”

Gardner has consistently opposed equal pay for equal work for women. He stands in the way of efforts to prevent violence against women. He was an original cosponsor of legislation to redefine rape. Gardner even opposed a bill in 2007 that required hospitals to inform sexual assault survivors of the availability of emergency contraception.

But his radical views and votes do not stop there.

[GALLERY: Cartoons on the 2014 Congressional Elections]

Gardner has opposed gay rights consistently, even benefits and health coverage for gay couples. He has voted to cut Pell Grants by $6 billion. He voted five times in September/October 2013 to produce the government shutdown. He voted 16 times against opening the government, and this cost the taxpayers $24 billion.

Gardner is a supporter of transferring Colorado’s public lands, which would lead to their sell-off. The “No Trespassing” signs would go up. The “No Hunting” and “No Fishing” signs would prevent Coloradoans from enjoying their unique way of life. But during this campaign, Gardner has tried his best to convince the voters that his stands, his beliefs and his votes are not his – the ultimate Trojan Horse campaign.

Jason Meath and I Discuss Ebola and the Nov. Elections–WTTG Fox 5


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