In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey disregarded Ambassador Susan Rice's actual remarks on the attack at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, to suggest she lacks the "moral fitness" to serve as secretary of state.
Mukasey and co-writer Anne Bayefsky said that although former secretaries of state have "said or done foolish things," "moral fitness is also relevant" when selecting a new top diplomat. On this trait, they found Rice lacking, in part because of Rice's description of the attack in Benghazi during appearances on the Sunday news shows on September 16.
Conservative media figures have led a witch hunt against Rice over these appearances, despite the fact that Rice based her statements on talking points provided by the U.S. intelligence community.
Mukasey and Bayefsky claimed that Rice deserves blame in part because she referenced an anti-Islam video that sparked global riots. They suggested Rice was somehow at fault because she "knew that the video story line was questionable, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and administration officials had already suggested publicly that the attack was al Qaeda-related."
But in reality, Rice repeatedly qualified her remarks, saying that an investigation was ongoing and that "we don't want to jump to conclusions" before the investigation was finished. She also said that "we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired." So Rice did, in fact, stress that current intelligence was "questionable," to use Mukasey and Bayefsky's word.
Furthermore, credible reporting says that the video did indeed play a role in the Benghazi attack.
Mukasey and Bayefsky also noted Feinstein and administration officials publicly suggested the attacks may have had Al Qaeda ties, ostensibly in contrast with Rice's statements.
But when CBS' Bob Schieffer asked Rice whether Al Qaeda had played a role, she replied, "I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine."
Also absent from the Journal op-ed? Disclosure of Muskasey's former role as a Romney campaign adviser.
In a February 16 op-ed in The Washington Examiner, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey claimed that Obama is "mishandling the War on Terror" with a number of false or misleading claims. First, he dubiously claimed that the Bush administration's "coercive interrogation techniques" "violated no law" and "yielded troves of life-saving information." In fact, military and FBI interrogators have agreed that terrorists have used the U.S.'s use of harsh techniques as a recruiting device, and officials have disputed Bush's claims that waterboarding yielded useful intelligence that "saved lives." [Media Matters, 4/20/09, 11/9/10]
Mukasey also claims Obama "appointed a Homeland Security secretary and an attorney general who rejected both the language and the legal norms of the war on terror." As Media Matters reported, this echoes a Fox News talking point from Fox's Washington Bureau Chief Bill Sammon, who misleadingly portrayed Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech as not using "the words 'terror,' 'terrorist,' or 'terrorism.'" [Media Matters, 2/8/11]
Mukasey also refers to the fact that the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, "was read his Miranda rights and treated as a criminal defendent." But officials have stated that they obtained valuable intelligence from Abdulmutallab both before and after he was read his Miranda rights. [Media Matters, 5/4/10]
From the op-ed:
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush tried to put the country on a war footing. But this was a war like no other, against an enemy that did not occupy a particular territory, and indeed prided itself on its ability to hide in civilian population centers.
It was a war in which intelligence about the enemy was virtually the only defense, and captured combatants had to be detained indefinitely and made to disclose knowledge of future terrorist plots.
Although the authorization Congress passed following 9/11 permitted the use of all appropriate force, and although intelligence gathering had long been recognized as an adjunct to the use of force, there was vigorous resistance to the notion that the executive branch could conduct electronic surveillance without a court issued warrant.
Although the law of war had long distinguished between lawful and unlawful combatants, denying the latter legal protections, there was vigorous resistance as well to the detention of unlawful combatants at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques, referred to euphemistically by the Bush administration as "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Notwithstanding that there was no realistic alternative to such detention, and that such techniques violated no law and yielded troves of life-saving information, President Obama rejected both as violative of American ideals. On his first day in office he signed proclamations declaring that detention at Guantanamo would end and that the CIA interrogation program would be abolished, limiting interrogation techniques to those set forth in the Army Field Manual, long available to all including terrorists on the Internet.
He appointed a Homeland Security secretary and an attorney general who rejected both the language and the legal norms of the war on terror.
When an army major screamed "Allahu Akhbar" before murdering 13 soldiers and wounding others, he told the country not to jump to conclusions about the man's motivation. The attorney general announced three days later that the scheduled military trial of the planners of 9/11 would be abandoned in favor of civilian prosecution.
When a terrorist with a concealed bomb concealed tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, instead of being treated as a possible intelligence asset he was read his Miranda rights and treated as a criminal defendant.
The administration appears to be abandoning the demands of reality to the attractions of fantasy, and placing the country and its citizens at risk in the process. [The Washington Examiner, 2/16/11]