I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Administration accusations are not the same as guilt

If one circumstance could be identified as the most destructive for our country right now, it might be that so many people have purposely ignored this most basic and fundamental principle: just because the Bush administration accuses someone of being guilty of something does not mean that they are actually guilty.

After witnessing a weekend in which countless Bush followers fitted Mary McCarthy for her noose, it turns out, according to Newsweek, that she vehemently denies the charges, and not even the administration claims that she was the principal source for Dana Priest's story about the administration's secret Eastern European torture gulags:

A former CIA officer who was sacked last week after allegedly confessing to leaking secrets has denied she was the source of a controversial Washington Post story about alleged CIA secret detention operations in Eastern Europe, a friend of the operative told NEWSWEEK.

The fired official, Mary O. McCarthy, “categorically denies being the source of the leak,” one of McCarthy’s friends and former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy. . . .

A counter-terrorism official acknowledged to NEWSWEEK today that in firing McCarthy, the CIA was not necessarily accusing her of being the principal, original, or sole leaker of any particular story. Intelligence officials privately acknowledge that key news stories about secret agency prison and “rendition” operations have been based, at least in part, upon information available from unclassified sources.

While acknowledging that information about the CIA operations was indeed available from unclassified sources, intelligence officials maintain that revelations like those made in the Post story about Eastern Europe could not have been put together without input from people who had access to classified information. These informants could confirm the stories and add detail to them.

But the fact that McCarthy evidently is denying leaking the CIA prison story to the Post—and that other key information for stories revealing CIA detention and rendition operations originated with unclassified sources—does raise questions about how far the Bush administration will be able to press its crackdown on suspected leakers.

Priest's original story itself made clear said that her reporting was based upon "current and former U.S. intelligence officials and foreign sources."

In response to several posts over the weekend I wrote regarding the administration's complete denial of due process, its use of torture, its detention of individuals in secret gulags, etc., virtually every Bush defender here said -- as they always do -- that none of this matters because it's only being done to enemy combatants and guilty terrorists, who have no rights. What they actually mean is that it's being done only to people who the Bush administration claims are enemy combatants and terrorists, but to them, that's the same thing. Once George Bush decrees someone's guilt, it is final, and they are stripped of any and every right -- whether a U.S. citizen or foreign national, whether on U.S. soil or abroad. That is the country we have become.

If you say to a Bush follower - "we shouldn't be imprisoning people without trials and charges" or "we shouldn't be torturing people in secret gulags" or "the government shouldn't be eavesdropping on people without warrants" -- their answer will always be the same: these are very bad people to whom these things are being done -- they are "enemy combatants" -- and so none of it matters. In their mind, an accusation from the administration is tantamount to proof of guilt, a claim from George Bush of someone's status as a Terrorist equal to a conviction in a court of law. We place blind faith in our government and need no safeguards because what the Leader says is true and what he does is right. The minute he labels someone an "enemy combatant" -- without any review of any kind -- that person relinquishes all legal rights and anything is fair game.

Not only was Mary McCarthy branded a traitor all weekend -- complete with angry protests that she was not yet imprisoned -- but anyone associated with her was all but branded a traitor as well. They don't need to wait for evidence or know any facts. The administration has branded her An Enemy, so now it's time for the punishment. That is just a microcosm of the same distorted, indescribably undemocratic and plainly un-American dynamic that hss guided most of the radical policies of this administration for the last five years.

UPDATE: C&L has more on this story, including the way in which McCarthy's guilt and those of her associates was casually tossed about on television this wekeend.

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