At the risk of belabouring the point, I’m going to say a few more words about Case Brennan.
A few days ago, commenting on blog posts that contributed to John Brennan withdrawing his candidacy for CIA director, I suggested that we bloggers “don’t dig up stuff, we just rip off other people’s work; and when that work is substandard or nonexistent, as in the case of Brennan, all we come up with is recycled quotes from a couple of interviews we wouldn’t even know existed were it not for Wikipedia”:
I find this kind of vetting-by-Google problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, it gives you no real insight into a person’s character. Unlike investigative journalism, it only tells you what someone has said, not what he has done. Secondly, since this lazy man’s method mostly turns up useless blabber, even bright guys like Greenwald are reduced to cherry-picking that borders on the absurd.
Here’s a fresh example:
In yesterday’s New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane wrote that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who has championed the case for making the CIA follow military interrogation rules, might be backpedalling on torture:
[…] In an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. ‘I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,’ she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.
Afterward, however, Mrs. Feinstein issued a statement saying: ‘The law must reflect a single clear standard across the government, and right now, the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them.’
Right — except that’s not all she said.
According to The Washington Independent’s ever-vigilant Spencer Ackerman, Feinstein had actually been unequivocal about banning torture, but Mazzetti and Shane chose not to include the last sentence of her statement:
‘However, my intent is to pass a law that effectively bans torture, complies with all laws and treaties, and provides a single standard across the government.’
We can spend the rest of our lives debating the journalistic merits of this kind of editing, but my point is simply this: Should Feinstein ever be a candidate for any office whose brief includes intelligence gathering, human rights, national security, or foreign policy, the first quote would most likely turn up in a Google search, and the second one wouldn’t.
Bloggers eager to scrutinise her record would latch on to a truncated version of what she said. They would miss the point, and once again they would end up assassinating a character without really knowing what the hell they’re talking about.
[UPDATE: And so it begins.]
[UPDATE II: Here’s Feinstein’s second statement, clarifying her stand further:
‘I strongly believe there should be a single, clear standard for interrogation across the federal government, and that this standard should comply with the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and U.S. law. I plan to introduce legislation in January that would close Guantanamo, make the Army Field Manual the single standard for interrogations, prohibit contractors from being used to carry out interrogations and provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with access to detainees. If the incoming administration decides to propose an alternative to this legislation, I am willing to hear its views. But I believe we must put an end to coercive interrogations by the CIA.’
Sounds pretty unequivocal to me. But I’m willing to bet that in the liberal Blogosphere’s echo chamber of likeminded self-righteousness, she will henceforth be a ‘waiverer’, if not an outright torture advocate.]