Why the Pressure Tactics — Something More to Hide?
According to the WaPo, VP Cheney is still using pressure tactics against Senators and members of the Administration to continue to push his position regarding torture policies and the CIA.
Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials….
In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department’s rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. On a trip to Canada last month, Rice interrupted a packed itinerary to hold a secure video-teleconference with Cheney on detainee policy to make sure no decisions were made without her input.
But why the push? Because Cheney has decided to make a principled stand for the rights of CIA agents — members of the same CIA that he has waged a long-term battle against since his time as Secretary of Defense? Or because the policies under which they have been operating since 9/11 have not even begun to come to light, and were implemented as a direct result of Cheney and his staff pushing them past the point that the American public could support? What is Dick Cheney still trying to hide?
Just last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the CIA’s covert “black sites” in several Eastern European democracies and other countries where key al Qaeda captives are being kept.
At this point, though, the question becomes how long can Cheney sustain the support to keep this hidden. He is losing support within the Administration by the day, as his influence over the President wanes in the wake of scandal after scandal emerging from the VPs office. And as other members of the Administration gain their footing and turn around the stab him in the back to advance their own agendas, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Increasingly, however, Cheney’s positions are being opposed by other administration officials, including Cabinet members, political appointees and Republican lawmakers who once stood firmly behind the administration on all matters concerning terrorism.
Personnel changes in President Bush’s second term have added to the isolation of Cheney, who previously had been able to prevail in part because other key parties to the debate — including Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and White House counsel Harriet Miers — continued to sit on the fence.
But in a reflection of how many within the administration now favor changing the rules, Elliot Abrams, traditionally one of the most hawkish voices in internal debates, is among the most persistent advocates of changing detainee policy in his role as the deputy national security adviser for democracy, according to officials familiar with his role.
At the same time Rice has emerged as an advocate for changing the rules to “get out of the detainee mess,” said one senior U.S. official familiar with discussions. Her top advisers, along with their Pentagon counterparts, are working on a package of proposals designed to address all controversial detainee issues at once, instead of dealing with them on a piecemeal basis.
Who will ultimately win on this issue? Not sure yet. But it would be unwise to bet against John McCain and Condi Rice — especially when both of them may have their sights set on a run for the White House in 2008. Never bet against personal ambition in D.C., I always say.
UPDATE: And the Preznit says, “Nuh uh. We aren’t doing anything wrong.” You buying it? Erm…didn’t think so.