Today's Blogs

Tale of the Tapes

Tale of the tapes: Attorney General Michael Mukasey has announced a criminal investigation into the destruction of CIA tapes that depicted harsh and controversial interrogation techniques used on two al-Qaida suspects. Congress has already announced its own inquiries.

At Captain’s Quarters, conservative Ed Morrissey argues  that the fact that the CIA failed to provide any information about the tapes to the 9/11 commission, even by way of denying the commission’s request for information, amounts to obstruction of justice: “Quite frankly, this is so fundamental to the rule of law that it shouldn’t even be open for debate. Federal agencies of all kinds have to comply with Congress, the executive, and the judiciary; the destruction of these tapes (and the previous lies about their existence) defied all three.”The post also draws on an e-mail that 9/11 commission executive director Philip Zelikow sent to Power Line, in which Zelikow states that “it is important to understand that, under the applicable federal law, this is not a parlor game of “twenty questions.”

At Talking Points Memo, Paul Kiel is confident in John Durham, the federal prosecutor that Mukasey has appointed to oversee the investigation, but David Kurtz is less optimistic about what the investigation will turn up: “[T]he investigation may be circumscribed from the beginning, not because Durham himself is somehow compromised personally, but because his brief is limited to investigating the destruction of the CIA torture tapes—not what’s actually contained on the tapes themselves, which reportedly depict the use of the most extreme ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ ordered by the White House.”

For some on both sides of the spectrum, the investigation is stirring memories of the Plame investigation. The Moderate Voice’s Shaun Mullen is unimpressed: “There have been many investigations, criminal and otherwise, of administration officials that have gone nowhere because they were tinged with politics, and the only Bush era precedent for the Mukasey appointment is naming Patrick Fitzgerald to be an independent prosecutor in the Wilsom-Plame leak investigation.” Daily Kos’ Mcjoan gives Mukasey credit for “making the right noises,” but notes this parallel to the Plame scandal: “And speaking of the Plame case, guess who’s representing Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who ordered the tapes destroyed? Yup, Bob Bennett, of Judy Miller fame. Yech.” North Dakota blogger Rob at Say Anything also conjures the Plame specter: “I suspect that, much like the Plame fiasco, the process of investigating this matter will matter much more to the blowhards pushing it than the actual results do. I still don’t understand what was criminal about this. The CIA was afraid of the tape being leaked for political purposes (remember that the CIA has been a sieve since Bush took office) and didn’t want the intelligence on the tape or the interrogators identified by it to be compromised.”

Picket lines: The late-night shows returned Wednesday night after a two-month hiatus because of the Writers Guild of America strike. The hosts all paid homage to the writers, with Conan O’Brien and David Letterman both sporting shaggy beards in a show of solidarity.

Entertainment blog Stereogum has a roundup of the shows and notes a precedent here: “Finally, why are the hosts coming back now? Well for one, lots of non-writer jobs depend on it. But also back in ‘88 during the last WGA strike, Johnny Carson set late night precedent by returning to work without his writers after two months off in honor of and respect for his crew.”

Hollywood Reporter columnist Ray Richmond, on his blog Past Deadline, notes that Conan’s self-deprecating jokes about losing his writers can only go so far: “We also got the feeling from watching him that O’Brien was expending a tremendous amount of nervous energy that will be difficult to sustain as the days stretch into weeks. It’s tough to imagine his being able to endlessly riff on how funny his show isn’t due to the walkout without it becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.” Liberal D-Day writes that “Watching Letterman last night was at times like watching a revue at a union hall. There were frequent references to the writer’s strike, including a direct appeal to the networks, ON THEIR OWN MEDIA, to negotiate in good faith. It was somewhat subversive and dangerous.”

Bloggers were generally more charitable to the hosts than to their beards. Opines Mary at Freedom Eden: “Letterman was sporting a really gross beard. What was the point? To show the audience what happens to him after a two month absence from his hair and makeup people? Conan O’Brien also had a beard. It wasn’t as bad as Letterman’s, but it wasn’t good.”

Sobering finale: For all the tearful goodbyes as the Cincinnati Post shuttered its print operation, the biggest splash in the blogosphere came from editor Mike Phillips’ decision not to allow alcohol in the newsroom for the final roll. As Slate’s Jack Shafer writes, alcohol (and nicotine) are essential parts of the journalist’s “occupational mythology,” even if it’s a highly antiquated one.

Bloggers were generally sympathetic with the (presumably sober) Post staffers. Gawker proclaims that “The Crappiest New Year Ever Happened in A Cincinnati Newsroom,” but dryly notes this silver lining: “But it wasn’t all bad news for staffers. They each got six copies of the final edition!” The Daily Bellweather, which has the full memo from Phillips, sums up the newspaper’s obituary with this sunny synopsis: “So that is the script for the day a newspaper dies. No booze. Turn in the cell phones. Your e-mail accounts at the office are turned off. And you can take six copies of the paper with you before the doors are locked forever.”