Guest: Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Bamford, Jameel Jaffer, Robert Redford, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. That was perfect. Thank you.
MADDOW: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
If you are a fan of the Constitution, this was a big day. This was the beginning of the end of Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, enhanced interrogation euphemisms.
Welcome back rule of law. We missed you.
On tonight‘s show, a review of what President Obama did today and the extent to which he might have fallen a little bit short. And as we monitor the cleanup of what was left behind by the Bush administration, we‘ve got a really excellent guest scrubber tonight, Robert Redford, here live to talk about the environmental crises left by Mr. Bush for Mr. Obama.
But first—if day one of the Obama presidency was about changing the way that Washington works, making it more transparent and less run by lobbyists, then day two was about changing the way that Washington works with the world. How we, as a nation, interact with our friends and with our enemies.
I don‘t know if this is going to end up being the age of diplomacy because nobody really knows what‘s going to happen over the course of a president‘s term, but if we were kicking off an age of diplomacy, this is probably what it would look like. It‘s sort of the Foreign Service equivalent of a rock concert. The three biggest names in American politics, three proverbial political rock stars appearing together on the main stage at the State Department today: President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Soft powerfest 2009 -- rock on!
This was President Obama‘s first trip to any of the departments and agencies of the federal government since he was sworn on. Not defense, not treasury, not justice—he went first to the Department of State. The implication here is not subtle. The Department of State is where it‘s at in this new government. Diplomacy is in.
Kids you want to be where the action is? You want to be the where the cool kids are? Join the Foreign Service.
In the ornately-decorated Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, President Obama announced to the assembled diplomats that he had come bearing an early gift in the form of their new leader—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Just before the president‘s remarks, that gift had been very well-received indeed by the rank-and-file of the State Department when she arrived there for her first day at work.
Check this out.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
MADDOW: Those are the people that work at the State Department greeting their new boss. You could call that a rock star entrance. It was almost more of a greeted as liberators entrance. Even before the big presidential visit today, Hillary Clinton‘s stature and influence and her sheer ability to attract attention promises a new level of importance and respect for the State Department almost overnight.
Here‘s some of what she said in her first remarks to her new team at the department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are three legs to the stool of American foreign policy: defense, diplomacy and development; and we are responsible for two of the three legs. And we will make clear, as we go forward, that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, it‘s a very important concept, the three elements of American power abroad. I get it. And, you know, I love metaphors but actually (ph), it has to be a three-legged stool? After all those hours on the air on the inauguration night saying the word “balls” over and over again, I‘m going to call it a three-legged chair just because I‘m easily embarrassed. Anyway.
So, Secretary Clinton‘s words were echoed today by Vice President Biden. He went even further than that three-legged chair metaphor. He proclaimed the new administration will rely more on diplomacy and less on military might.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For too long, we put the bulk of the burden, in my view, on our military. That‘s a view not only shared by me but your secretary of defense as well. And our military is absolutely, to state the obvious, absolutely necessary, but not sufficient to secure the interests of this great nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “The military not sufficient to secure the interest of this great nation.” After Vice President Biden, it was President Obama‘s turn. Part of his purpose at Foggy Bottom—Foggy Bottom, this is not a news cycle for sophomoric people like me who are tired. Yes. Sorry.
The president‘s purpose today at the State Department was to officially introduce his new presidential envoys, the men who will be his eyes and ears on the ground in the world‘s biggest trouble spots. Former Senator George Mitchell will be assigned to the Middle East, and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will be assigned to Afghanistan and Pakistan, both together. Notably, Obama chose not to name an envoy to Iran, a job that had been expected to go to Ambassador Dennis Ross.
The president told NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell that his policy toward Iran will be announced in due course. This setting aside of Iran, the separating out of America‘s new policy toward Iran may or may not indicate that the president sees the issue of Iran as something importantly different from the rest of the Arab world and from Afghanistan and Pakistan region to its east, which, of course, Iran is importantly different.
Imagine having a president who gets that. These things aren‘t all the same. This is going to take some getting used to.
The surprise today at the State Department was that the new president took advance of this visit to deliver his first major foreign policy address as president, including a lot of detail and even some measured words for Israel on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Going forward, the outline for a durable cease-fire is clear. Hamas must end its rocket fire. Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza. The United States and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime so that Hamas cannot rearm.
Just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is
intolerable so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians. As
part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza‘s border should be open to allow the
flow of aid and commerce with an appropriate monitoring regime with the
international and Pa
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the transition period, no matter how many times he was asked, Mr. Obama would not comment on stuff like this, saying there could only be one president at a time. Well, now that he is talking about the thorniest issues on earth, how does the one new president compared to the old one?
Joining us now is Doctor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter.
Doctor Brzezinski, it is an honor to have on the show. Thank you for being here.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FMR. CARTER NATL. SECURITY ADVISOR: It‘s a pleasure to be with you.
MADDOW: After staying silent about Israel and Gaza during the transition, President Obama spoke pretty forcefully about the issue today. What did you make of his remarks?
BRZEZINSKI: Essentially, he was conveying that he is going to provide the leadership, that there is a sense of urgency about this issue, and that we have to move forward first through a fair cease-fire that has some chance of enduring, which means Hamas doesn‘t do awful things, and that also means that the Palestinians in Gaza are not blockaded and suffer unnecessarily. And secondly, there has to be a peace based on the two-state solution and that the United States is going to have an active urgent policy of promoting that peace.
MADDOW: Is there a difference that you can discern today between the pre-Obama American policy toward Israel and the new Obama policy?
BRZEZINSKI: I think there are two differences. One, the United States is going to have now a peace envoy that is trusted both by the Israelis and by the Palestinians, and who has an urgent mandate to move things forward. And secondly, that the president himself and the United States, in general, working through the secretary of state is going to be an active participant in the promotion of the peace process.
I think we are no longer going to be making blanket promises about peace this year, which President Bush and Secretary Rice said so often, without then doing anything about it.
MADDOW: Obama did introduce these presidential envoys today to the Middle East and to Afghanistan and Pakistan in George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke. Is it significant, do you think, that the president did not announce an envoy to Iran today even though we are fairly certain one is come?
BRZEZINSKI: I have no idea what‘s behind it. It could be that there was a deliberate decision to separate these issues. It could be that there are still some discussions regarding who the envoy will be.
MADDOW: On the issue of the State Department broadly having a very high profile in this administration and it seems like this presidential visit today was designed to help in that regard, what do you expect the Clinton State Department will take on that the Condoleezza Rice State Department couldn‘t or just didn‘t?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, we have just discussed one very major, really dramatically important issue, where the State Department in the years past, in the recent past, was essentially issuing generalized statements, so-and-so must do this, someone so must do that, but in the end, the United States was not doing anything about.
Here, we have a sense the president and the secretary of state would be actively involved. When I first met Obama a year and a half ago, we discussed how the system ought to be organized. And I asked him, “It all depends on what kind of role you want to play.” And he made it very clear that he wants to be deeply involved in leading and shaping our strategy.
So, we now have a president at the top, a very national security adviser who will be the coordinator, and a really politically-powerful secretary of state who is committed to being successful. So, I think we have a good team. And the envoys that were chosen today are solid, experienced energetic people.
Mitchell has the advantage of being trusted by both sides, and he‘s not there just to preside over needless and endless dialogues. He wants accomplishment.
Holbrooke is a very energetic guy who has a somewhat different mission. We know what our objective is in the case of the Israelis and the Palestinians: a two-state interceded by a meaningful a cease-fire, a two-state solution.
In the case of Afghanistan, we still have to define what our objective actually is. Is it the democracy? Is it is modern state or is it an independent Afghanistan which is not under the influence of the Taliban that is connected with al Qaeda? So, there is a strategic undertaking here that‘s more complex.
MADDOW: Vice President Biden today said explicitly that the military will be responsible for less of the nation‘s heavy-lifting. In the Obama administration, he described the president and the secretary of state, the defense secretary, even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have all called for that. It seems to me that if there is resistance to shifting some of burden off of our military, putting it back on to civilian agencies instead, if there is going to be resistance, I imagine that it would come from people who profit off of the military, the defense contractors.
Do you think that‘s true?
BRZEZINSKI: I think there is something to do that.
BRZEZINSKI: As far as the military is concerned, as far as the Defense Department is concerned, I think they understand extremely well the need to put more emphasis on political solutions, on development, and Secretary Gates has openly spoken to that effect.
MADDOW: Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, thank you so much for your time tonight, sir. It‘s really nice to have you here.
BRZEZINSKI: It‘s nice to be with you.
MADDOW: We are at hour 57 maybe, 56 of the Obama era. And the clean up of the actions of the previous administration is in full swing. Today, Obama‘s new interior secretary said he is leaning toward scaling back last-minute Bush plans for offshore oil drilling. Will he kill “Drill, baby, drill”? Here to help us Scrub, Rinse, Repeat will be our very special guest, Robert Redford.
And we are learning for the first time the extent of the Bush administration spying on us. Not just on foreign calls, not just on terrorism suspects, but regular Americans—everything, e-mail, phone calls, everything, and yes, they specifically targeted journalists. This is a bombshell. This is brand new information we did not know they were doing this before. NSA expert James Bamford will join us next to assess about whether this means somebody‘s actually going to end up going to prison for this stuff.
But first, one more thing about the State Department. Being secretary of state might just be the first step to stardom, and not the policy wonk, jet-setting diplomat kind. Tuesday was Condoleezza Rice‘s last half day as secretary of state. By Wednesday, the William Morris Talent Agency of New York and Beverly Hills announced they had signed Citizen Rice as a client. The agency spokespeople called her a cultural force.
“Doctor Rice is a woman of many talents in addition to standing alongside former President Bush for eight years,” even that historically low approval ratings years. “She‘s also a trained concert pianist and a huge football fan. The agency will represent her for books and lectures and communications and media and sports.”
Which means the talent agent could combine all of Doctor Rice‘s many gifts into a one woman show. If you think about it, “An evening with Condi,” 20 minutes of rock-manga (ph), 10 minutes of diss on Bush, and then handicapping football games against the spread. They could call it “America‘s cabinet officials got talent.”
MADDOW: It‘s time for another episode on our ongoing tragic comic chronicles of the Republican Party‘s search for meaning in the minority.
MADDOW: The GOP struggles to find its path out of the political wilderness. One apparently tempting option is to hand over control not to the pragmatists and centrists in their midst, but instead to be led by their purists, their true believers, their far ideological reaches. And that‘s where we encounter South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who spoke from exile to the “Wall Street Journal” this week about his plans for being a youthful Republican in the Obama era.
Said Mr. DeMint, quote, “We have to have a remnant of the Republican Party who are recognizable as freedom fighters. What I‘m looking to do is identify those Republicans and even some Democrats and put together a consensus of people who can help stop this slide towards socialism.”
So the plan is to fashion themselves as “freedom fighters” against socialism. As Steve Benen at the “Washington Monthly” noted, Mr. DeMint will be leading the contra-contingent of the 21st century Republican Party. Standing firm against the commies. Good luck with that whole path back to power thing, comrades.
MADDOW: Today was a banner day for that old-fashioned “rule of law” idea. Take for example, President Obama‘s nomination of a noted critic of warrantless wiretapping, a lawyer named David Kris, to head the national security division at the Justice Department. Also, his nominee for director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he does not support surveillance programs that circumvent the rule of law.
Take that, warrantless wiretapping. The land of the free, and all that.
In 2005, you will recall the “New York Times” spilled the beans that President Bush had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. Despite those revelations, the facts of the wiretapping have remained a little vague since then.
President Bush assured the country after “The Times” story that people in the United States would only have been targeted by the program if they were talking with terrorists overseas. If you weren‘t talking to al Qaeda you were all good, nothing to worry about. The big fat automatic “Yes, right” we all felt when we heard that, was probably deserved but it went pretty much unsubstantiated until now.
Last night and tonight on “COUNTDOWN,” here on MSNBC, my colleague, Keith Olbermann, interviewed a man named Russell Tice, a former analyst with the National Security Agency. Mr. Tice was one of a very small number of people whose security clearance was so high that he could take part in Bush‘s wiretapping program. He spoke to Keith on the first day of the Obama administration, because he feared retribution for saying what he knew while George Bush remained in power.
With Bush out of power, Mr. Tice went on “COUNTDOWN” for this exclusive interview and he blew the whistle loudly with new allegations about how big and how bad this program was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “COUNTDOWN” EXCLUSIVE, WEDNESDAY)
RUSSELL TICE, FORMER NSA ANALYST: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans‘ communications—faxes, phone calls and their computer communications. And that doesn‘t—it didn‘t matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country and you never made a communication or a foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All communications from average Americans all across the country—domestic stuff, just regular Americans calling regular Americans. Mr. Tice went on to discuss specific groups of Americans who were targeted by the NSA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “COUNTDOWN” EXCLUSIVE, WEDNESDAY)
TICE: An organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Olbermann continued his interview with Russell Tice tonight, asking whether he knew who authorized and developed the program. Mr. Tice said he thinks it was the Department of Defense, but he said he doesn‘t know for sure.
Joining us is investigative journalist, James Bamford. He has been covering the National Security Agency for 25 years. His book, “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” is out now and it‘s excellent. I can tell because I read it and almost wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.
Mr. Bamford, thank you for coming back on the show tonight.
JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR, “THE SHADOW FACTORY”: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: In the years that you have spent reporting on the National Security Agency, did you ever come across Russell Tice? Is this a guy who knows of what he speaks?
BAMFORD: Well, I met Russell Tice a number of times, had dinner with him and talked to him a number of times over the past few years. He never told me these things because when we talked, it was during the Bush administration and he didn‘t want to talk about these things during that period of time.
And he came under a tremendous amount of pressure from the Bush administration not to say anything. They threatened him with prosecution. I think, at one point, they raided his house. I mean, it was pretty dramatic. They just didn‘t want him to talk. And I was actually very surprised to see him talking now on MSNBC.
MADDOW: Can you explain, in simple terms, how much further down the field what Mr. Tice is alleging—how much further he moves the ball down in the field in terms of what we now know about the NSA?
BAMFORD: Well, I think what Russ Tice opens up in terms of what he talks about is the wide range of NSA‘s eavesdropping domestically, on people within the U.S. and he confirms what I wrote about in my book and what actually what “PBS Now” is doing a program on February 3rd on this whole program, a whole hour on NSA domestic spying.
And what Russ Tice said is that they eavesdropped on tremendous amounts of domestic U.S. communications. And again, that at the time needed a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, otherwise, it was illegal.
MADDOW: Who in the Bush administration, who in the intelligence community was in a position to know the extent of the warrantless wiretapping program? I mean, Mr. Tice says that he knew. We know that very senior officials had to know.
But, what‘s the total number of people we are talking about here?
BAMFORD: Well, there‘s two classes of people. The people who were actually doing the eavesdropping, and there were quite a few people that knew about it who actually wore the earphones and were listening to people do the talking, and then there were the senior officials. There are a very small number of senior officials.
Vice President Cheney and director of NSA, Michael Hayden, the head of the CIA at the time, George Tenet, and a few other very senior intelligence people. But this was the most highly classified, highly secret program in the U.S. government at the time.
MADDOW: Does this new round of allegations, does this new—these new allegations from somebody who is in a position to know about the extent of this program, does this add fuel to the fire, to the efforts to bring a prosecution, bring an investigation, criminal investigation into Bush administration officials for illegal wiretapping?
BAMFORD: It really should because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is not a civil penalty, it‘s a criminal penalty. It‘s a felony. It‘s five years in prison if you violate it.
And this was violated for probably three or four years. Later on, the Congress passed this new law, this new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that, to a large degree, sort of legitimized some of what was going on. But for four years, this was all going on illegally. And, again, there has been no, as far as I can see, no criminal investigation into this activity, which is outrageous, I think.
MADDOW: Mr. Bamford, one last question. If there were to be potential criminal—if there was to be a criminal investigation here, if we were talking about people who might be subject to that five-year prison term if they were guilty of violating the FISA law, would that be actually the NSA intercept operators or would that be the officials who ordered them to do this?
BAMFORD: No. It would certainly be the officials who gave the order. I mean, the people who are sitting in the field don‘t have any control over what they are ordered to do, but it‘s the people who come up with the idea and decide to by pass the law and issue the orders. Those are the people that would be charged, it‘d be the vice president, the head of NSA, the people who were making the decisions to do this.
MADDOW: Which might explain why we started hearing about this on day one of the administration that came after the Bush administration.
James Bamford, investigative journalist, author of “The Shadow Factory,” which is about the NSA—thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.
BAMFORD: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: In two days, Barack Obama has stopped the military tribunals at Guantanamo, ordered that Guantanamo be closed, to summon his defense honchos to plan the withdrawal from Iraq, closed the CIA‘s prison, set rules for not torturing, set rules for lobbyists not running the government, and he totally did a 180 on the Bush administration‘s secrecy and the Freedom of Information Act.
Nice work. Fantastic. But, yes, there‘s a “but.” Sorry. We‘ll have more on that coming up.
MADDOW: A little later on, it will be time for our brand-new new feature, “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” where we make sure the Obama clean-up crew tackles the tough stains that Bush left behind. Tonight‘s installment, the environment. Talk about greasy buildup.
Actor, director, environmental activist, recently enlisted RACHEL MADDOW scrubber, Robert Redford will be joining us.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stores in today‘s news. As our new president gave his first presidential foreign policy address today, he had a little international competition in terms of world leaders presenting big ideas for how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the opinion page of the “New York Times” today was an Israel-Palestine proposal from none over that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Remember him?
In the column, Mr. Qaddafi refers to the so-called Middle East crisis - what would you call it, colonel, the “Middle East Good Times?” The Libyan dismisses the, quote, “tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions” and proposes instead that the nations of Israel and Palestine should live in one single Democratic state.
And, yes, he gives it a name. Wait for it. It would be the state of “Isratine” - I guess it would be “Isratine.” Why not “Palisrael?”
Anyway, if anyone‘s interested in taking advice for a man who called for Israel‘s Jews to be driven into the sea in the ‘70s and ‘80s, here is this Isratine idea. It‘s there for you, going cheap.
I should perhaps also mention here that Colonel Qaddafi also spoke by video conference to an audience at Georgetown University yesterday. He suggested that if the world really wants to preserve the Jews as an ethnic group, he would suggest relocating all of them to a Hawaiian island or Alaska.
Thank you for the input, pal. Don‘t call us. We‘ll call you.
And what may be a final Bush administration Interior Department update - yes, this is the same Interior Department where staffers had sex with and did drugs with employees of oil companies they were supposed to be regulating. The outgoing Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne last appeared on our show for his speech about how well he did at the Interior Department on ethics issues.
He made an ethics DVD required viewing for new employees. Tough. Did I mention he spent $236,000 in taxpayer money renovating his office bathroom?
Well, former Secretary Kempthorne‘s legacy continues to unfold. Al Kamen reports in the “Washington Post” today that Mr. Kempthorne gave a farewell address to Interior Department employees last week which opened with a slideshow of himself, a long, long slideshow of himself. According to Mr. Kamen‘s source, a long-time employee said there were, quote, “about 600 slides, each picturing the distinguished secretary, many of them taken at a National Park, slide after slide after slide,” end quote.
You know, if you had Dirk Kempthorne‘s proud record, you would give a 600-photo slideshow of yourself, too, “Here I am with the ethics DVD. Here I am raiding the fridge in my quarter million office bathroom.”
MADDOW: Three new executive orders signed by the new president today. Three left-handed swipes of the pen and three devastating blows to the Bush administration‘s torture operation, starting with Guantanamo Bay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: By the authority vested in me as president by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America in order to effect the appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo, and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, I hereby order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The men standing behind him are retired military officers who had called for the actions that the new president took today. These three documents, these three executive orders, not only order Guantanamo Bay to close within a year, they order the Department of Justice - the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense - to be in charge of reviewing and handling and prosecuting prisoners, because it is supposed to be about the law, right?
And they order a reexamination of the Bush policy of rendition. And they shut down all CIA so-called black site prisons where people were held abroad by us in secret. And they redefine interrogation techniques so everyone, including the CIA, has to follow the same rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I issue this following executive order that effectively ensures that anybody detained by the United States for now is going to be - any interrogations taking place are going to have to abide by the Army Field Manual. We believe that the Army Field Manual reflects the best judgment of our military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As I said, a big day today for the Constitution. However, there is an asterisk on the rule of law, warm fuzzy here. President Obama has also created a task force to study the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques that are spelled out in the Army Field Manual.
The “New York times” reports that White House counsel Greg Craig briefed lawmakers on that order last night. A congressional official who was at the briefing says Mr. Craig indicated that, quote, “The White House might be open to allowing the use of methods other than the 19 techniques allowed for the military.”
Wait a minute. What does that mean? Does that mean the CIA can still get their naked pyramids? It is also not clear what the Obama administration wants to do with the men held in Guantanamo now as prisoners, if we are bringing their imprisonment into line with, you know, law. The way that usually works is you either get charged, tried and convicted or you get released. Those are the only two options if you‘re following the law.
The question is, do the Obama rules allow for the possibility of a creepy third option, some sort of continued detention without trial?
And surprise, I have another worry - I‘m a worrier. What happens to the other overseas prisons? What happens to Bagram in Afghanistan? That, apparently, is not shutting down even though at Bagram, they‘ve got enemy combatants, just like they do in Guantanamo, in a similar, lawless Kafkaesque netherworld as well.
Joining us now is Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU‘s National Security Project and co-author of “Administration of Torture.” Jameel, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
JAMEEL JAFFER, DIRECTOR OF ACLU‘S NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: Thank you.
MADDOW: Closing the secret CIA prisons is a good thin. Planning to close Guantanamo seems to me like a very good thing. How is Bagram different than Guantanamo and are you concerned that it doesn‘t seem to be shutting down?
JAFFER: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I think that you are right. Today is a great day for civil liberties. In many ways, these executive orders are exactly what we have been waiting for. And I think it is worthwhile to take a moment just to recognize how far these policies are from where we were just a couple of days ago. So I think that is really important.
I think it is also - you are also right to focus on the details in the executive orders. The executive orders do leave some things unsaid. There are some ambiguities that leave some options table that we think should ultimately be taken off the table.
One of those is the military commissions which have been used at
Guantanamo to try people under a system of laws that is completely
inconsistent with American values.
MADDOW: Those are paused for 120 days, but they‘re not abolished.
JAFFER: That‘s right. They are suspended. Bu the executive orders don‘t say for how long. And we don‘t think they should be so much suspended as ended.
And there is another option out there which is American federal courts, which have been used in many cases to try terrorism suspects and are completely capable of trying the people held at Guantanamo who are suspected of having committed crimes.
MADDOW: So on the issue of torture specifically, with the executive order on - advising that the Army Field Manual should be the standard across all U.S. agencies for interrogation, there is this issue of a potential loophole that those techniques that are spelled out in the Army Field Manual will be reviewed.
And there‘s this somewhat troubling report in the “New York Times” that the administration may be looking for a way to provide the CIA, in particular, with options that go beyond that field manual.
What do you think the thinking is there and does it look like a loophole to you?
JAFFER: Well, you know, I think what it does it leaves the possibility on the table of going down the road that the Bush administration went down, which is to give the CIA authority that the Defense Department didn‘t have, give the CIA the authority to use interrogation methods that are different from the ones laid out in the field manual.
And that in itself may not be so bad. The problem is with the specific methods that might be authorized. And there is, in fact, even in the Army Field Manual right now, there is the authority to use solitary confinement as a method of eliciting information from prisoners. And that is something that violates both international and even domestic law as well.
So I don‘t think that extending the field manual solves all the problems. I also think that the possibility of adding new interrogation methods to the field manual or CIA‘s tool kit raises questions.
But, you know, again, I don‘t want to rain on the parade because I do think that the headline is that the Obama administration really does seem to be committed to moving away from the interrogation policies that brought the U.S. into disrepute and that were, in the end, counterproductive.
MADDOW: And our obligation as those of us who lived through the setting up and the implementation of that policy is to keep reading the fine print and hold him to it, I guess.
JAFFER: I think that is exactly right.
MADDOW: Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, co-author of “Administration of Torture,” thank you for your work. Thanks for being here.
JAFFER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Next, it‘s time for another installment for “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat,” our new segment dedicated to overseeing the post-Bush cleanup.
Tonight, we will see how Barack Obama‘s team is tackling Bush‘s environmental legacy with actor and activist Robert Redford. Yes, that Robert Redford. I know. I know.
MADDOW: Next time you are bargaining for a pair of shoes or a contract or something, remember this. It is a time-honored tactic among hagglers, negotiators or even activists to ask for the moon and then settle for something less, when less is pretty much what you were hoping to get from the beginning.
For an activist, it looks like this - take a really, really radical position, thereby making other somewhat less-radical demands appear moderate and more acceptable to the guy on the other side of the table.
Perhaps that was the strategy behind one of the last major environmental proposals from the Bush administration and it was a doozy. It called for massive new oil drilling on parts of the outer continental shelf from New England to Florida and off the length of the California coast, areas that have been off limits to drilling for decades - basically, an oil derrick on every beach. Drill, baby, drill.
Today, the new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated that he is likely to scale back the plan. Only time will tell if scaling back means, “No way, man. This is nuts. Elections have consequences.” Or whether it just means, “OK, an oil derrick on every other beach.”
Is this what it feels like when the center is shifting under your feet? There is work to do to clean up the mess that has been left behind by the Bush administration. And the Obama administration is hard at work with their little civic sweepers trying to clean up. Well, I‘m making sure they don‘t miss a spot.
Tonight, another installment of the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat,” because this is going take a while.
Tonight, the Obama administration is deciding how to proceed on another environmental challenge from the Bush years. Lawyers for the new administration are addressing a ruling last weekend from a federal judge that blocked a Bush administration plan to open up huge swaths of wilderness in Utah to oil and gas extraction, extraction that would take place right next to places like the pristine Arches National Park.
The judge ruled the Bureau of Land Management did not sufficiently consider damage to air quality and ancient rock art before awarding extraction leases for more than 100,000 acres.
Of the ruling, one environmentalist said, quote, “We are on the cusp of something very significant.” Will the Obama administration fight to make this temporary restraining order issued against those leases permanent? Or will the senator start shifting under our feet and ultimately give the former Bush administration a lot of what it was aiming for to begin with?
Joining us now is Robert Redford. He is helping to lead the charge against the Bush-approved Utah oil leases. He is, of course, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, actor and environmentalist. He joins tonight from Park City, Utah where he is presiding over Sundance - the Sundance Film Festival. Mr. Redford, a real pleasure to have you back on the show. Thank you for being here.
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: Hi, Rachel. Thank you.
I thought this would be a great place for a private moment.
MADDOW: Yes, that‘s exactly right.
REDFORD: We can also discuss fuel efficiency standards while I -
MADDOW: Yes, and I can read you the license plates of all of cars that go by, if that‘s helpful for our NSA segment. This effort to stop the sale of these oil and gas leases in Utah - are we on the verge of stopping those leases?
REDFORD: Well, for the moment we are, and it was certainly a victory for those that didn‘t think we had a chance. I mean, the whole idea was to prevent money from exchanging hands while Bush was still in office.
And of course, the judge issued that restraining order because he recognized and agreed that the damage would be irreparable to such incredible sacred areas of public land. So I think temporarily, it‘s a victory.
It‘s kind of sad that in terms of the environmental so-called movement, you have to always be fighting. It seems to me that some of these issues should not have to be fought over. But that‘s my cue - I have to go for round three now.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of the Obama administration - yes.
REDFORD: And I‘m happy about the fact that it‘s been done. And as far as the Obama administration is concerned, obviously, there‘s a lot of hope, mine included. I certainly think one thing is for sure, that Obama, his administration - certainly President Obama understands the connection between the environment, public health and safety much more than the past administration did.
I think he‘s an administration that really lives in the 21st century and not the 20th as they did. I think they were committed to energy development that was yesterday.
I think, when you look at it from my standpoint, it‘s been fairly simple when you are committing all of your energy development to non-renewable sources. And those sources are finite.
You‘ve only got a certain amount of time before your planet is in trouble, and they‘re for future generations. So they‘ve always asked me for the last 30 years, why we weren‘t spending time on alternative energy which was feasible and renewable. So that‘s my view.
MADDOW: As an activist looking at this obviously much more friendly administration, is your thinking that you get in there and start pushing right away and try to get the most aggressive legacy possible?
Or do you expect to sort of wait to see how the Obama administration is going to act and then just react as an activist at that point?
REDFORD: I think because of the damage done to the environment, waiting to react is probably not a good way to go. I think there‘s been too much damage. I think it‘s a time to act and act quickly. I‘m going to be doing whatever I can, playing whatever role I can to support the administration to act as quickly as possible.
Some of the solutions are in front of us right now and are available immediately. And I think they should be acted upon. As far as the offshore is concerned, my feeling about the offshore drilling is that they should do a really, really hard study about the environmental impact.
And if you look at, you know, new technology, which seems to be so attractive and drives everything so quickly, if you look at the history of new technology, you know in a even though it drives certain things, it still can go wrong.
And I think in terms of the environment, we‘ve seen with oil spills in the Puget Sound, we‘ve seen it in the San Francisco Bay, coastal waters all up and down the coast. All of our coasts have seen irreparable damage that‘s affected our health.
Technology can go wrong. And I think before you commit to drilling offshore, I would want to see, before we do that, that we have every good reason to do it and that there‘s been a proper environmental study, which I don‘t think has been done yet.
MADDOW: Robert Redford, environmentalist, Academy Award-winning actor and director, thank you so much for your time tonight, Sir. I know that you have a lot of other things you need to be doing. Thanks.
REDFORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN”, more of Keith‘s exclusive interview with NSA whistleblower Russell Tice And Keith talks to James Risen by of the “New York Times” who says he was one of the journalists who illegally spied on by our government.
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Coming up, a helping of global ed Obama-tude..
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones.
Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Welcome back.
MADDOW: Thank you.
JONES: You know, aftershock from Tuesday‘s amazing inauguration continue to ripple throughout the globe. “The San Francisco Chronicle” reports that some enterprising bay-area citizens took the mandate for change to the street signs, changing the street for the busy thoroughfare Bush Street to Obama Street.
“Hey, let‘s meet on the corner of Obama and Presidio” - how great does that sound? Is it wrong for me to be inspired and moved by vandalism? Probably.
Next, in Japan, a book called “The Speeches of Barack Obama” has sold more than 400,000 copies in two months and is being used to help the Japanese learn English. Said a spokesman for the publishing company, speeches by presidents and presidential candidates are excellent as learning tools to learn English because their content is good and their words are easy to catch.
Now, a few years ago a book called “The Speeches of George W.
Bush” was sold as a puzzle book, kind of like Sudoku, only with words.
Finally, the Obama phenomenon has reached all the way to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum where this barber shop was renamed for Obama. The owner told Agence France-Presse, quote, “I opened the shop just before the U.S. presidential election in November, but I waited for Obama‘s victory before naming it after the president-elect.”
He added, “If the Republican, John McCain, had won the election, I would not have named my shop after him.” So you‘re saying this wouldn‘t sell haircuts in Khartoum? Come on. Love it.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you. Excellent.
And thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now.
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