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Dick Cheney’s Everyone-Said-We-Could-Do-It Dodge

So Dick Cheney takes to Fox News and reiterates the administration’s longstanding claim that the leaders of Congress knew all about the illegal surveillance and torture programs.

We brought in the chairman and the ranking member, House and Senate, and briefed them [on the warrantless surveillance program] a number of times up until — this was — be from late ’01 up until ’04 when there was additional controversy concerning the program.

I presided over the meeting. We briefed them on the program, and what we’d achieved, and how it worked, and asked them, “Should we continue the program?” They were unanimous, Republican and Democrat alike. All agreed — absolutely essential to continue the program.

First, Democratic leaders have repeatedly denied that they knew all there was to know about the surveillance program. In July 2003, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, then the Democratic vice-chairman on the intelligence committee, wrote a letter to Cheney explaining that he didn’t feel like he had sufficient information to conduct appropriate oversight. And it’s hardly surprising that Cheney would misrepresent this stuff, given his cavalier attitude toward the truth.

But still. Glenn Greenwald puts the pressure on Democratic leaders to further explain themselves, and rightly so. If there’s ever a solid argument for an independent commission into the illegal surveillance and torture programs, here it is: the public is owed a thorough accounting of what the administration did; what it told Congress; and what Congress approved.

But still still. Cheney might not be acting in good faith, but he’s nevertheless pointing to something barometrically significant. In Washington, the phrase “bipartisan” is supposed to cash out to something like “legal” or “wise” or “no longer controversial” or “kosher.” The Germans probably have a word that’s a more acceptable translation. In any event, that’s self-evidently foolish: lots of people can make mistakes and lots of people can make venal decisions, and it’s not a function of belonging to one political party or the other. Cheney doesn’t get off the hook if Nancy Pelosi is on it with him. Naturally, what I imagine Cheney’s doing is warning the Democrats off creating an independent commission into the abuses of the administration, lest it go after them too, but that’s all the more reason one should be created.

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