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.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A doubly informative op-ed

By Nitpicker

By Nitpicker--In today's New York Times, Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and Hillary Mann, a former Foreign Service officer, write about how the Bush administration has been playing rhetorical chicken with Iran since the beginning of 2002. Glenn (who should be working on his book) discussed the administration's most recent and blatant provocations against Iran earlier today, but Leverett and Mann describe an administration which has been dragging us toward this point all along.

In December 2001, xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx x Tehran to keep Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the brutal pro-Al Qaeda warlord, from returning to Afghanistan to lead jihadist resistance there. xxxxx xxxxxxx so long as the Bush administration did not criticize it for harboring terrorists. But, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush did just that in labeling Iran part of the “axis of evil.” Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hekmatyar managed to leave Iran in short order after the speech. xxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxx the Islamic Republic could not be seen to be harboring terrorists.
If you're curious about all those Xs, they represent the black bars covering portions of the op-ed redacted by the White House. According to Leverett, this op-ed is "based on (a) longer paper...just published with the Century Foundation--which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a single word of the draft." The White House, Leverett says, demanded that he and Mann redact several sections of the piece, including at least one whole paragraph, claiming that they deal with classified information.

Leverett, Mann and the Times, however, have performed a great service to the American public. Not only have they highlighted this administration's failure to act in a diplomatic, intelligent way toward Iran, but, by printing the essay with the black bars and providing a page entitled "What We Wanted To Tell You About Iran," they are also giving us an insight into the administration's continued attempts to politicize intelligence. The page offers links--without specific connections to redacted areas--to sites which already host the information the White House wanted covered up.

I have not yet definitively filled in the redacted portions yet, but the links provided show that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and others said they spoke with Iranian diplomats in December 2001. It is only a matter of time until someone fills these Xs in and posts a repaired version of the op-ed on their blog. (My money's on Juan Cole having the most accurate version.)

Since the information is already in the public domain, however, we get to see a bit more of how the increasingly creaky clockworks of this administration operate. The muckrakers at Josh Marshall's TPMmuckraker's site have been creating a list of information that this administration has "disappeared" since Bush took office. When you look at that list in light of today's piece, it becomes clear that this is part of and informational set piece, designed to keep Americans from understanding the full depths of either their ineptitude or their intent to begin yet another war in the Middle East. Bushies do not want Americans to connect these dots. They know the information exists in scattered bits--as thousands of points of light?--but clearly intended to prevent the synthesis of this information becoming part of the conversation about how the U.S. should deal with Iran.

It is likely the White House believed slicing Leverett and Mann's essay drastically would convince the Times, but, instead, the redacted version is ever more useful.

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