'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, February 7th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
February 7, 2013
Guest: Ron Wyden, Norm Ornstein
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I knew all day that you and al were going to
have that conversation, and I have been looking forward to that interview
all day. That was so cool.
SCHULTZ: Don`t direct it towards me, though.
MADDOW: Oh, no, no. No, no. That`s not what I meant. I just wanted
to hear what he had to say. I`ve never asked. I`m so glad you did.
SCHULTZ: Well, it takes a lot of discipline. And you know, I admire
Reverend Sharpton for what he`s done. It`s amazing.
MADDOW: I admire him for a lot of things, and that is one of them.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for this hour on
what we thought was going to probably be a very big news day and which in
fact turned out to be a very big news day. This is the kind of news day
that`s eventually going to have its own Wikipedia page.
What you`re looking at right here, this footage, this is a Cobra
helicopter. It`s an attack helicopter. It`s made by Bell. It`s been
around since the 1960s.
It has two blades on the rotor. It has a single engine. Again, this
is the Cobra attack helicopter.
Now, this is another attack helicopter, a different kind. This is the
Apache. Instead of two blades and a single engine, the Apache has four
blades on the rotor. And it has two engines.
This one`s made by Boeing. It`s been around since the 1970s.
Here`s another one. Keeping with the inexplicable American practice
of naming all our attack helicopters after Native American tribes. This
one`s called the Comanche.
I don`t think they make this one anymore. But at one point, it was
going to be the next generation attack helicopter. The Cobra has two
blades on the rotor. The Apache has four blades. This one has five
You can also see from its sort of angular straight lines that it was
supposed to be a stealth attack helicopter, using stealth technology to
evade detection. Boeing started making the Comanche in the 1990s, but I
think they done make them anymore.
I also don`t know if it is all of our attack helicopters. But lots of
the different kinds of attack helicopters that we have or that we have had
as a country -- the Cobra, the Apache, the Comanche, also the Viper, the
Kiowa, the Blackhawk -- all the helicopters that we use in military
operations and even some of them that we don`t use anymore, they are all
capable of firing this, this specific thing.
This is about five feet long. Its diameter is about seven inches. It
weighs about 100 pounds. This has actually gone through a bunch of
different variations since it was first launched in 1978.
But it always stays roughly the same size and shape so it can be
fitted as a missile onto tons of different aircraft over time.
Boeing`s history page on this particular exploding projectile explains
how it got its name. It turns out it`s an acronym. It`s an acronym for
"Helicopter Launched, Fire and Forget Missile". So the acronym is
"Helicopter launched" because it was designed initially to be fired
from helicopters, and "fire and forget" because it is a guided missile for
which you do all the targeting before you pull the trigger. So it takes,
you know, careful targeting and aiming I guess for you to program where
it`s going to go, but then once you have done that work ahead of time, you
pull the trigger. You fire. And then you forget it. It goes to where you
programmed it to go. Helicopter launched, fire and forget -- Hellfire.
If you are going to be killed by a Hellfire missile, does it matter to
you if that missile is fired from one of these or from one of these
What is novel about drones is not that U.S. forces can kill people
from the air using targeted so-called precision-guided missiles. U.S.
forces have been killing people from the air for as long as we have had the
capacity to put armed things in the air. What is novel about what our
government is doing now in our day is not necessarily the technology. Yes,
we are using remote piloted aircraft versus traditionally piloted aircraft
to launch these same missiles.
But the type of aircraft, that is, the delivery system for the
Hellfire missile is not the new moral strategic legal thing that we are
finding ourselves newly responsible for grappling with as citizens. It is
not the technology by which U.S. forces are killing people which is knew in
an important way. It`s not the technology that`s new. It is the
circumstances. It is the circumstances of killing people away from where a
war is being fought.
If the U.S. was using a mix of helicopters and drones to fire Hellfire
missiles at insurgents who were fighting with U.S. troops in Afghanistan
right now, nobody would have a different ethical concern or a different
strategic concern about the missiles that were fired from the drones versus
the missiles fired from the helicopters, right? Or even from a pilot fixed
wing aircraft. It doesn`t matter where it comes from. The missile`s the
The reason drones are a policy concern, an ethical concern, a
strategic concern is because of how we use them. And we use them to kill
people in countries where we are not at war.
The reason, we were able to have the riveting hearings that we had
today in Washington is because this concern has come up in another era as
well -- this concern of killing people away from where we are at war. It`s
not just a drone thing.
Today`s confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Obama`s
nominee to heat CIA, it was held in the Intelligence Committee in the
Senate, right? Well, specifically, it`s called the U.S. Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence. This committee was not created until 1976. It
was created specifically in response to the recommendations of the Church
The Church Committee was a special Senate investigation led by Idaho
Senator Frank Church. It was formed in 1975. Their work took nine months
and 150 staffers. They produced a two-foot-thick report in May 1976 that
said, among other things, that we need Congress to oversee intelligence in
The way we are overseeing it now is not working. And you know why we
can tell that oversight is not working? Because the CIA keeps killing
people, or trying to kill people in other countries that we are not at war
with. The CIA at the time had taken it upon itself, it wasn`t clear if
they were acting alone or at various presidents` direction, but they had
taken on the job of assassinations in foreign countries, assassinations and
And the Senate said that was not cool.
This from the Church report: "The evidence establishes that the United
States was implicated in several assassination plots. The committee
believes that short of war, assassination is incompatible with American
principles, international order, and morality. It should be rejected as a
tool of foreign policy."
The Church Committee report came out, said that. Gerald Ford issued
an executive order banning assassinations. The select committees on
intelligence were formed in the House and the Senate to exert oversight
over the CIA. Since the Armed Services Committees who had been supposedly
overseeing them had fallen down on the job -- actually, they`d never seen
all that interested in that part of the job in the first place.
And that is how we got to a place where these senators today could
question this CIA director nominee under the expectation that he has to
answer to them. And they need to be apprised of what the CIA is doing
every step of the way. And targeted killing by the CIA is not just
something they`re allowed to do quietly on their own or in private with the
White House without at least having to explain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Every American has the right to know when
their government believes it`s allowed to kill them. And ensuring that the
Congress has the documents and information it needs to conduct robust
oversight is central to our democracy. In fact, the committee was actually
created in large part in response to lax oversight of programs that
involved targeted killings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some of the most contentious back-and-forth today was about
whether the CIA is killing people now outside of places that we are at war,
because it is U.S. policy just to shoot on sight all over the world, or
whether the CIA really is trying to capture people and it`s just not
working out that they can ever successfully do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Your view seems to be that even if
we can save American lives by detaining more terrorists using only
traditional techniques, it would be better to kill them with a drone or let
them go free rather than detain them. Can you explain the logic in that
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I respectfully disagree, Senator.
I never believe it`s better to kill a terrorist than to detain him. We
want to detain as many terrorists as possible so we can elicit the
intelligence from them in the appropriate manner so we can disrupt follow-
on terrorist attacks. So I`m a strong proponent of doing everything
possible short of killing terrorists, bringing them to justice, and getting
that intelligence from them.
CHAMBLISS: How many high value targets have been captured during your
service with the administration?
BRENNAN: There have been a number of individuals who have been
captured, arrested, detained, interrogated, debriefed, and put away by our
partners overseas. Which is we have given them the capacity now, we have
provided them the intelligence, and unlike in the immediate aftermath of
9/11, when a lot of these countries were unwilling and unable to do it, we
have given them that opportunity. And so, that`s where we`re working with
CHAMBLISS: How many high-value targets have been arrested and
detained, interrogated by the United States during your four years with the
BRENNAN: I`ll be happy to get that information to you, senator, in
terms of those high-value targets that have been captured with U.S.
CHAMBLISS: I submit to you the answer to that is one. And it`s
Wasami (ph), who was put on a ship for 60 days and interrogated. Thank
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One high-value target captured and of course lots killed.
If the CIA does make public that there have been more than just that
one guy captured that Senator Saxby Chambliss mentioned there, we will let
But in the meantime, that`s kind of a hell of a ratio, right? In
terms of killed versus captured, 4,700 to 1. So the idea is that first
you`re trying to capture people but the rate at which you do that is
1/4,700 of a time? In recent days, though, there`s been intense focus on
whether secret targeted killing by our militarized CIA is also a program
that is allowed to target people who have U.S. citizenship.
On Monday, NBC News`s Michael Isikoff broke the news on this show that
he had unearthed a 16-page white paper spelling out some of the legal
reasoning behind why our government thinks it is OK to target Americans
specifically for killing. That was Monday night.
Then, last night, the administration announced that the Justice
Department classified memo that was the basis of that white paper, the
actual legal advice to the president from his lawyers, that would be
released to the intelligence committee. They`d been asking for it forever.
They were finally going to release it.
It seemed like the pressure and the attention ahead of this
confirmation hearing today had finally brought about some real momentum
toward transparency, that we would at least let the Senate committee in
charge of overseeing this part of our government finally oversee this part
of our government. That`s what it seemed like. And then this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WYDEN: So it was encouraging last night when the president called and
indicated that effective immediately, he would release the documents
necessary for senators to understand the full legal analysis of the
president`s authority to conduct the targeted killing of an American. What
the president said is a good first step toward ensuring the openness and
accountability that`s important.
Since last night, however, I have become concerned that the Department
of Justice is not following through with the president`s commitment just
yet. Eleven United States senators asked to see any and all legal
opinions. But when I went to read the opinions this morning, it is not
clear that that is what was provided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They didn`t get it? The Justice Department didn`t hand over
what the committee asked for, that we all reported last night the committee
was going to get this morning because the president had OK`d it? They`re
still holding out?
Joining us now is Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who has
repeatedly asked the Obama administration about our drone policy.
Senator Wyden, it`s good to see you. Thank you for being with us.
WYDEN: Thank you for having me again.
MADDOW: Did you not in fact get what you had asked the president to
give you and that you thought you would be getting this morning based on
your conversation with the president last night?
WYDEN: Rachel, it`s not clear. The fact is, and I went in first
thing this morning, I was able to read some information that was helpful.
I`m just not convinced yet that it is the full legal analysis that we need
to do to do vigorous oversight.
What today was really about is, of course, it was a nomination hearing
for John Brennan. But it ultimately was a question of upholding our system
of checks and balances in government. And I think that system is out of
whack these days and we`ve got to do some more for transparency and
accountability in getting those checks and balances back.
MADDOW: In terms of this specific program that you`ve been asking
about the legal advice for, specifically targeting Americans, at least
specifically targeting one American we know who was killed, Anwar al-
Awlaki, who was a prominent member of al Qaeda who was killed in Yemen in
2011, are you asking about it specifically because you believe that action
might have been illegal or the program that does this might be an illegal
program? Or are you withholding judgment about its legality, you just
believe that they should have to disclose more of their legal reasoning?
WYDEN: I believe to keep that system of checks and balances the
Congress has got to do vigorous oversight. That`s what the charge, Rachel,
is to the intelligence committee. It calls for vigilant oversight. And we
can`t do that if we`re being kept in the dark on fundamental matters like
the legal analysis for these targeted killings.
And I think as you indicated on the clip I heard, this is something
that Americans have a right to know. They have a right to know when their
government believes it`s allowed to kill them. And I think it`s time, and
one of the things that was encouraging about the president`s call last
night, is to have a national discussion about how we can shore up our
system of checks and balances and bring the public into it.
MADDOW: In terms of -- I guess in terms of your overall effort to try
to pry more information out of the administration on this, in order to do
oversight, as you`re saying, when you have seen information that they have
released even though they initially didn`t want to release it, when you
finally get that information do you feel like, oh, I see why they didn`t
want to release it, I see how a leak of this information might be
operationally dangerous or might compromise something that we legitimately
should keep secret? Or when you see that information, do you think you
know what, they shouldn`t be keeping as much secret as they are?
WYDEN: What I said by way of summarizing is I think what I`ve seen is
a step in the right direction. But I`m not convinced that I`ve seen
everything. And in fact, if there is legal analysis out there that is
central to how the law is being officially interpreted, we need to see
You and I have talked in the past about something I call secret law.
You know, the law is supposed to be public today. It`s different than
protecting sources and methods.
The law is the official interpretation of the government. It ought to
be public. And too often the interpretation has been kept secret, and
that`s what`s wrong.
MADDOW: Do you think, though, in terms of what the president has been
reluctant to release to you on the Intelligence Committee -- do you think
that he has a case to make? Do you see his side of the argument that it
might be dangerous to release the information, even just to the Senate? Is
there an argument to be made on that side?
WYDEN: The president, of course, is the commander-in-chief. And the
Constitution vests in the president these enormous powers. But they are
not unchecked. There are limits.
And that`s what the president and I talked about on the phone. He has
some ideas that I think are worth talking about in terms of this national
conversation about how to strike a strong balance, a strong set of checks
and balances in a very different era.
This is a time when the lines are blurring between the military and
intelligence. Technology has, of course, changed so dramatically. I think
it`s time to walk through how to come up with a modern system of checks and
balances. That`s what I call upholding the Constitution.
MADDOW: Senator Wyden, you asked a question in writing to John
Brennan ahead of this hearing that quite literally has kept me awake at
night. It has caused me insomnia thinking about it because of the blunt
terms in which you put in it and because I hadn`t thought of it before.
You asked, should an American who is targeted for killing by our
government have the opportunity to surrender?
And you asked John Brennan that today. He responded that any American
who is a member of al Qaeda should know that we are with al Qaeda and
anybody who`s in al Qaeda can surrender at any time and thereby eliminate
their risk of being killed by the United States.
Were you satisfied with that answer?
WYDEN: I wasn`t.
And here`s what`s at stake -- there are certainly instances where an
American takes up arms against the United States, where I think it`s
important in order to protect the country to use lethal force.
But I can tell you, the government makes mistakes and sometimes the
intelligence is flawed and sometimes they get the wrong person. And the
reason I asked that question is I think those kinds of issues ought to be
part of this debate and ought to be part of a system of checks and
MADDOW: Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, I know it`s been a very,
very long and taxing day for you. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
WYDEN: Thank you for having me.
All right. It took longer than scheduled for this riveting hearing on
Capitol Hill today to get started. It took longer to get started than they
expected for a very notable reason. That and other manmade delays in
Washington, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I`m going to be blunt, and which
would be no surprise to you, sir. But I`ve been on this committee for more
than 10 years. And with the exception of Mr. Panetta, I feel I`ve been
jerked around by every CIA director. I`ve either been misled,
misrepresented, had to pull information out, often at the most minimal kind
of way, from Tenet with his little aluminum rods to tell us that we had
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to Porter Goss not forthcoming.
Can I have your word that you`re going to be very forthcoming with
this committee to speak truth to power, to speak truth about power, and
even when it`s uncomfortable where we`re going to have to probe in a way
that is not an easy way to go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Admit it. There is no U.S. senator you would rather have a
beer with than Barbara Mikulski. Admit it.
I don`t even know if she drinks beer. But if I had to pick one
senator based on today, I would pick her. Senator, if this offends you and
you don`t drink, or if you find that offensive in any way, I`m sorry. You
saw Senator Mikulski gesturing with her hands there saying, George Tenet
brought in little aluminum tubes to make the case about Saddam Hussein`s
supposed centrifuge tubes during the lead-up to the Iraq war, that was part
of the whole WMD case, right?
Well, as far as we can tell, that never happened at any public
hearing. George Tenet never actually brought prop aluminum tubes in to
show senators. But if George Tenet actually brought in little model
aluminum tubes to convince the senators of that thing that was not true
about Saddam Hussein, if he did that in a classified session and that`s
what Barbara Mikulski was physically referring to when she made that kind
of knitting hand gesture today, that would be an amazing piece of history
that was uncovered in today`s hearing, would it not?
We check with Senator Mikulski`s hearing today -- office today on that
to find out if that`s what she meant. We have not yet heard back. But
you`ll be the first to know if she tells us.
What Barbara Mikulski was expressing, though, there overall was her
frustration, her blunt frustration about how she feels jerked around by the
agency she`s supposed to be overseeing. She feels jerked around by how
forthcoming or not forthcoming the CIA has been with members of Congress
and with the American public.
The Beltway line of course is that there`s no real partisan divide
anymore on matters of intelligence and national security, right? That
there`s broad bipartisan agreement on those issues.
But on that issue of how forthcoming the intelligence community ought
to be to Congress and how much information we the American people should be
allowed to get from the intelligence community, today, there was a real
partisan divide on that issue.
I mean, today, three of seven Republican senators, given the chance to
talk to John Brennan about anything in intelligence, three of the seven of
them chose to use basically all of their time to press John Brennan on
whether he has been too free, too forthcoming with information about
counterterrorism issues in the past -- whether he has talked too openly to
the press and to former counterterrorism officials who talked to the press
about things going on in the counterterrorism world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Do you think there`s any
situation where it`s legal to disclose to the media or the public these
tales of covert action programs?
BRENNAN: I do not think it is ever appropriate to improperly disclose
classified information to anybody who does not have legitimate access to it
and has the clearances for it.
BURR: Would you provide for the committee any times that you were
given the authority to release classified information?
BRENNAN: I was -- I never provided classified information to
BURR: Did you provide any classified or otherwise sensitive
information to reporters or media consultants regarding the details of the
BRENNAN: No, I did not, Senator.
SEN. DAN COATES (R), INDIANA: I`d like to follow up a little bit more
on the leaks question because I have a few more questions.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: I have in front of me the "Reuters"
article that`s dated May 18th, 2012, describing your engagement with the
media regarding Mr. Asiri and the plot. And the -- are you familiar with
that article, I would assume?
BRENNAN: I`ve read many articles. So I presume I read that one.
RISCH: Who are the people who were involved in that conversation?
BRENNAN: Aside from the reporters? There was somebody from the White
House press office and someone from the counterterrorism directorate.
RISCH: It seems to me that the leak that the Justice Department is
looking for is right here in front of us. And you disagree with that?
BRENNAN: I disagree with you vehemently, Senator.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Round and round and round it went. Nearly half of the
Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee decided that really the
only point they wanted to make today, the only thing they wanted to ask
about today was that John Brennan talks too much, that he is too
forthcoming with information, that he gives out too much information, he
does not keep enough secrets.
Given a chance to talk to him about anything, they decided to talk to
him about the problem of too much information being exposed to the American
public. That`s the Republican side.
On the other side of the partisan divide, every single Democratic
senator today went out of their way to demand more information from the
intelligence community, to demand more open access to what the CIA does.
The CIA right now behaves more like a branch of the military than it
has ever before. And that creates all these things that we want to know
about, know how they operate -- just like we want to know those things
about the military. But we don`t really have the mechanisms in place to
oversee the CIA in the same way that we have mechanisms in place to oversee
the military. That`s where the cramp is in the system. They`re behaving
like the military, but they`re not controlled by accountable civilians in
the way the military is.
Knowing what we are doing, how we are doing it, what the rules are,
who is in charge, who is accountable, who is able to know about it -- those
are things that we have built a system around knowing about the military.
Now that the CIA`s acting like the military, we don`t have those systems in
place to know about what they do. That`s why there is a moral, legal, and
political -- increasingly -- political cramp in our system over this issue.
Over and over and over today, Democratic senators expressed their
frustrations to John Brennan about oversight, about the intelligence
community limiting their access to information, limiting their access even
still this morning after President Obama personally gave Congress
permission to view the justice department memos about CIA operations that
have until now been kept secret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: When the opinion came over,
our staff were banned from seeing it this morning. We have lawyers that we
have very good staff.
Do you happen to know the reason why our staff are not permitted when
we are permitted to see an OLC?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: You`re surrounded by people
who work with you and fill you in, people who are experts. We are, too.
But they`ve got to be part of this. They`ve got to be part of when the OLC
is -- comes it should come to them also.
What I want to say and if a second round comes I will, I`m going to
pour out my frustration on dealing with the Central Intelligence Agency and
dealing with various administrations, about trying to get information. Why
was it that they felt that we were so unworthy of being trusted? Why is it
they were willing to talk to Pat Roberts and, me, or Saxby Chambliss and
Dianne Feinstein but not anybody else? Until we literally bludgeoned them
into agreeing to include everybody. Like Carl Levin`s not trustworthy?
You know, I mean, it`s amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t think he meant literally bludgeoned. But still.
This was the really unexpected clear partisan divide of the day.
Democrats demanding more ability to oversee what the intelligence
community does, more access to more information by more people including
their staffers, and Republicans chastising John Brennan for what they view
as him providing too much information to the public, not keeping enough
You always hear that there is broad bipartisan agreement on matters of
intelligence and national security in Washington now. That was not the
case today, at least on this issue. And that`s not necessarily a bad
thing. But it tells you that we really do still have two very different
parties in this country when it comes to national security. Common wisdom
MADDOW: As in most parts of life, so too in politics. It is the
unscheduled stuff that is always the most interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTER: Assassination is --
FEINSTEIN: All signs out.
PROTESTER: You are betraying democracy when you assassinate suspects!
You are a traitor to democracy --
FEINSTEIN: If the Capitol police will clear the room, please?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Protesters with the group Code Pink began interrupting
today`s CIA director confirmation hearings before they even started. After
Mr. Brennan began his testimony, five code pink protesters did their thing
one after another, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, in a single several-minute
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: Thank you. A heartfelt thank you also goes to my family in
New Jersey, especially my 91-year-old mother Dorothy, my 92-year-old father
Owen, who emigrated from Ireland nearly 65 years ago.
PROTESTER: And Mr. Brennan, if you don`t know who they are, I have a
list. I have a list of all the names and the --
FEINSTEIN: All right. I`m going to -- we`re going to halt the
hearing. I`m going to ask that the room be cleared and that the Code Pink
associates not be permitted to come back in. We`ve done this five times
now and five times are enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Five times will be plenty for you Code Pink associates.
Associates? I wonder if that is the hierarchy.
Senator Feinstein today clearly wanted to get on with it, right?
Regardless of how you feel about the CIA or killing people outside war
zones or John Brennan or the Senate or for that matter Dianne Feinstein,
you kind of have to tip your hat to the Code Pink folks just on operational
grounds, right? I mean, they can get it done.
Since they started showing up in Washington almost a decade ago, even
though everybody knows they`re coming now, Code Pink still gets in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CODE PINK: Fire Rumsfeld!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hearing is adjourned.
CODE PINK: Thou shall not kill! How about that? Thou shall not
kill! Thou shall not kill!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear the room.
PROTESTER: We can`t afford this war. The American people don`t want
it. I don`t know when we get a chance to speak.
PROTESTER: Reckless behavior. The NRA has blood on its hands. The
NRA has blood on its hands. Shame on the NRA.
FEINSTEIN: I`m going to ask that the room be cleared and that the
code pink associates not be permitted to come back in. We`ve done this
five times now and five times are enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Somebody today christened this the Code Pink filibuster.
And you know, I know, what Code Pink was doing was not a real
filibuster, but they did cause a very real delay, as they always do -- and
God bless them.
John Brennan, of course, is not the only nominee trudging around
Capitol Hill right now. President Obama`s pick for defense secretary might
actually prefer an old Code Pink filibuster over the surprising delay he is
stuck in now.
The Chuck Hagel nomination seemed like it was done. I mean, enough
Republicans had said they would support Mr. Hagel`s nomination. Enough
Republicans had agreed that they should not filibuster him. But he looked
ready to be confirmed by the Senate.
But now it is not clear when that vote might happen, even though if
the -- even though the outcome of that vote is a foregone conclusion. The
Senate Armed Services Committee has now put off its vote on Mr. Hagel.
And that`s because 23 Senate Republicans are demanding that Chuck
Hagel provide specific financial information about private corporations
where he has served on the board. Not information about the money he made
but information about the corporations themselves.
Those senators are also demanding that Chuck Hagel give them copies of
every speech he has made in the past five years, including notes you
utilized for preparation or in giving the remarks, to which former Senator
Hagel has responded, quote, "Your request for financial information
regarding certain private corporate and non-profit entities is not mine to
give. As I board member I have a fiduciary duty that includes the
obligation to maintain the confidentiality of non-public corporate
And regarding at least some of those speeches, Mr. Hagel explained,
quote, "The contract for these stipulates that they are off the record,
private and not recorded."
Quoting from BuzzFeed`s scoop on this today, quote, "According to a
senior Republican aide close to the confirmation process, senators are not
reacting well to this response."
With all respect to the austere tradition of the U.S. Senate, U.S.
senators do not usually act this way at all. Senators do not usually
demand that nominees for the president`s cabinet, even the nominee for
defense secretary like Chuck Hagel is now, they do not usually demand that
those nominees reveal private details about the companies they work for or
the speeches that they give, let alone withhold support from the nominee
until they get that information. This is not the way the Senate has
treated nominees before.
The outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the last guy confirmed
for the job, he had also made oodles of money giving speeches and serving
on corporate boards. He was actually confirmed for two different jobs, for
CIA director in 2009. The committee then forwarded his nomination with
zero objections. He was confirmed by the full Senate on a voice vote. He
was nominated again, this time for defense secretary in 2011. The vote on
that one was 100-1. It was unanimous.
The nominee for secretary of defense before him, Robert Gates in 2006,
Bob Gates had also made buckets of money in the private sector, including
serving on the board of a major contractor with the Pentagon. Mr. Gates
gave speeches, lots of them, for which he was paid plenty. But when Bob
Gates testified before the Senate, the subject of his private sector
earnings never came up. After five hours of non-confrontational questions,
the committee voted for him unanimously. And then when it went to the full
Senate they confirmed him 95-2.
The nominee before, that remember this guy? Donald Rumsfeld, 2001.
Donald Rumsfeld, of course, had made zillions in the private sector. He
sat on the board of a company that was believed to have won a giant
contract to help North Korea build nuclear reactors. But when Donald
Rumsfeld testified before the Senate, they didn`t ask about the stock that
he held or his roles in international business. They didn`t even ask about
the North Korean reactors. They recommended his nomination to the full
Senate where he was confirmed in another vote of 95-2.
So if history has anything to say about it, then what`s happening to
Chuck Hagel right now is not at all normal. It is not the regular order of
business in the United States Senate. They never asked other defense
nominees about this.
The campaign to make Chuck Hagel reveal these reams of confidential
information about private companies or else seems to have originated with
the new guy, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, the guy from Texas.
Long-time political scholar Norman Ornstein calls this demand by
Senator Cruz, quote, "unprecedented." Mr. Ornstein continued, quote, "That
a freshman senator would ask for that level of information says more about
Ted Cruz than about anything else. I`ve never heard of anything like that
before. But you could say that Ted Cruz in the Senate is unprecedented,
Strange times in the U.S. Senate right now. Strange times. More
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I had one fundamental
question that I asked myself on every vote I took, every decision I made.
Was the policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle
and surely to their deaths? I did question a surge. It wasn`t an
aberration to me ever. I always asked the question, is this going to be
worth the sacrifice? Because there will be sacrifice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last week, the Senate questioned Chuck Hagel, former Senator
Chuck Hagel as part of their due diligence over his nomination to be
secretary of defense. Republican senators on the committee that questioned
him were clearly mostly against him. But since some Republicans in the
Senate and all the Democrats in the Senate apparently support the Chuck
Hagel nomination, the Republicans who don`t like him do not seem to have
the votes to stop his nomination.
Since then, though, the nomination has gotten a little weird. With a
group of Republican senators asking for and getting a delay in the
committee vote on his nomination because they demand that Chuck Hagel hand
over sensitive information about private companies that Chuck Hagel says is
not his to give out. People who watch this kind of thing say that demand
is not just unusual, it is unprecedented.
Joining us now for some perspective is Norm Ornstein. He`s resident
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He`s co-author of "It`s Even
Worse than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with
the New Politics of Extremism."
Norm Ornstein, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: A pleasure to be with
MADDOW: You have so closely followed Washington politics for so long.
Is this in fact unprecedented? Have you ever seen anything like this
particular demand that`s hanging up the Hagel nomination right now?
ORNSTEIN: No, I have I haven`t seen anything close to it, Rachel. I
mean, we`ve seen dirty tricks before. Raw files from the FBI, rumors and
things released by senators that they shouldn`t have.
But this kind of information has not been asked before. And as you
suggest, it`s not just for defense secretaries. It`s for other cabinet
members. When you go through the initial vetting process to make it to a
position of this sort, you go through a meat grinder. You have to fill out
forms where you`re required to provide all kinds of financial information.
Every foreign trip you`ve taken in decades. Every speech you`ve given.
Then, you have a full FBI field investigation that includes 40 face-
to-face interviews with people who may or may not know you, those close to
you, those who are neighbors. All that information is provided to the
And when you look at what they`re asking for, the idea that you would
have to provide transcripts of speeches where you didn`t even have a
written speech and financial information, not just from private commercial
firms but from button-down organizations like the Atlantic Council, all
with the implication that you might have improper ties to foreign
governments or foreign countries, it`s pretty low.
MADDOW: Well, it would be one thing if there was one senator who was
doing this, threatening, say, a hold on a nomination if he or she did not
get this information even though it`s not within the history of the Senate
to demand this sort of thing. But it`s a large number of Republican
senators who have signed on to this.
What do you make of that dynamic?
ORNSTEIN: You know, I think you have a lot of Republicans who just
don`t like what Chuck Hagel has become. He has been an iconoclast. He`s
criticized his own party for moving to the radical right. He endorsed
Barack Obama. And he has positioned on foreign policy that many of them
don`t like either.
But much of this for spite and let`s face it some of it is the kind of
reflexive move to try and punish Barack Obama where they can. And I`m
afraid what concerns me most is that this set of unreasonable demands, and
Hagel`s quite reasonable response to them is an excuse to do a full-fledged
filibuster. And if you turn it into a partisan filibuster of a cabinet
nominee at this level, then you move to another kind of unprecedented
action and a dangerous one. And what we`re seeing now is a sort of faux
filibuster, as Jonathan Bernstein pointed out in the "Washington Post"
MADDOW: If they do decide to stick with this delay that they have
insisted on thus far, if they continue to pursue it, or if they do in fact
filibuster -- do you think that the Democrats would reasonably take that as
a reason to finally reform the filibuster? I realize it would be an
extreme step for them to do that. But wouldn`t it be sort of an equal and
ORNSTEIN: You know, I read a column in "Roll Call." And my column
today flowed not from this but from the outrageous court decision on recess
appointments. The deal that we struck on the filibuster, we saw that Harry
Reid and Mitch McConnell struck, is based in part, it expedites some
nominations if they come from rogue individual senators or a handful, but
it`s based in part on a kind of gentleman`s agreement that you`re not going
to misuse the filibuster in nominations in the same way.
And if you see a filibuster of Hagel in this case where there is a
clear majority and more for his confirmation, and you know, think about
this, we`ve got a sequester coming up, which could cause enormous potential
damage to national security, you`re going to keep the defense secretary
from being in place to help to administer that. We`ve got a war going on.
I think you`d have to, if you were in Harry Reid`s shoes, begin to
rethink what you`re going to do with the rules.
MADDOW: As an institutional scholar such as yourself, hearing that
come from you carries a lot of weight.
Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute,
co-author of "It`s Even Worse Than It Looks" -- thank you for being with us
tonight. It`s great to have your perspective.
ORNSTEIN: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Just one more thing. This was 2007, an interview with CBS
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: The CIA has acknowledged that it detained about 1,000
terrorists since 9/11 and about a third have been subjected to enhanced
interrogation tactics and only a small proportion of those have, in fact,
been subjected to the most serious type of enhanced procedures.
REPORTER: And you say some of this has born fruit?
BRENNAN: There have been a lot of information that has come out from
these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the
real hardcore terrorists. It has saved lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Torture worked. Torture saved lives. That`s what John
Brennan said in 2007 after leaving the CIA and the National
Counterterrorism Center. 2007 interview with CBS.
That statement is in part what derailed his first chance of running
the CIA the first time back at the start of Obama`s first term.
Since then, the Senate Intelligence Committee has produced a
comprehensive three years in the making a 6,000 page of torture during the
Bush administration. The report is classified. They finished it.
Before today`s hearing, they gave it to John Brennan, they said, in
effect, here, read this, do you still believe that torture saves lives?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: When I was quoted in 2007 that there was valuable
intelligence came out of those interrogation sessions, that`s why I said it
saved lives. I must tell you, Senator, that reading this report from the
committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given
at the time and the impression I had at that time. Now, I have to
determine what, based on that information as well as what CIA says, what
the truth is.
And at this point, Senator, I do not know what the truth is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If he is confirmed as director of the CIA, John Brennan will
have to decide, along with the intelligence committee and the White House,
whether or not to declassify that report or sections of that report that
changed his mind about whether torture works, whether torture saved lives.
If he`s head of the CIA, John Brennan is going to have a major say in
whether or not you and I get to see this comprehensive report that changed
his mind about the efficacy of torture. I would like to see what changed
the mind of the guy who actually worked at the CIA and in counterterrorism
while this stuff was going on.
What did the Senate Intelligence Committee find and put in that report
that not even John Brennan knew about when he was inside that agency. I
would like to know that. Wouldn`t you?
MADDOW: In his public comments on gun violence since the mass
shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama has always gone out of
his way to mention his home town.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a country, we have
been through this too many times, whether it`s an elementary school in
Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie
theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are
our neighborhoods and these children are our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The entire country grappling with what happened at Sandy
Hook, the president has rhetorically erased the line between mass shootings
like that and run of the mill shootings that ravage cities every day. Gun
violence is gun violence.
Hadiya Pendleton was a 15-year-old high school student in Chicago.
She had outstanding grades. She played volleyball. She was a majorette.
She appeared on a video discouraging kids from joining gangs.
She performed with her school`s marching band in D.C. at President
Obama`s second inauguration last month. That was January 21st.
On January 29th, she and friends caught cover because of rain storm
under a canopy in a park in Chicago South Side. It was only a mile from
Barack and Michelle`s home in Chicago. A person with a gun approached the
group and started shooting. Hadiya Pendleton was not the shooter`s
intended victim apparently, but she was killed. Her death drew national
attention. Her story was included on the course of the Senate Judiciary
hearing on gun violence.
On Saturday in Chicago, there will be a funeral service for Hadiya
Pendleton. The White House let it be known to be that First Lady Michelle
Obama will be at the funeral, which will make this even more of a national
scale tragedy than it already is.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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