Hannity misrepresented bipartisan essay collection, suggested Panetta alone wrote against torture

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

In criticizing the appointment of Leon Panetta as CIA director, Sean Hannity asserted that Panetta "wrote a piece back in August for Washington Monthly, 'No Torture. No Exceptions,' said we cannot and must not use torture under any circumstances." Hannity falsely suggested that Panetta's article was a lone commentary when, in fact, it was part of a series of essays written by critics of the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques" from across the political spectrum, including prominent Republicans.

On the January 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity led a discussion criticizing President-elect Barack Obama's appointment of Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta as his CIA director because Panetta does not have intelligence experience "in a post-9-11 world" and has been "a staunch critic of the Bush anti-terror programs." As an example of Panetta's opposition to Bush's anti-terror programs, Hannity asserted that Panetta "wrote a piece back in August for Washington Monthly, 'No Torture. No Exceptions,' said we cannot and must not use torture under any circumstances." Hannity then stated that former CIA director George Tenet claimed that the waterboarding of accused Al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was "the single most effective tool in America's arsenal against Al Qaeda." But in singling out Panetta's column detailing his opposition to torture, Hannity falsely suggested that Panetta's piece was the lone column advocating "No Torture. No Exceptions." In fact, it was part of a series of essays in Washington Monthly, all under the headline "No Torture. No Exceptions," written by critics of the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques" from across the political spectrum. The series' authors included prominent Republicans, including former Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE), former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, and Sen. Richard Lugar (IN).

Indeed, in the introduction to the essay series on the Washington Monthly website, the editors write that "the writers of this collection of essays" include "a former president, the speaker of the House, two former White House chiefs of staff, current and former senators, generals, admirals, intelligence officials, interrogators, and religious leaders. Some are Republicans, others are Democrats, and still others are neither." From the introduction:

It is in the hopes of keeping the attention of the public, and that of our elected officials, on this subject that the writers of this collection of essays have put pen to paper. They include a former president, the speaker of the House, two former White House chiefs of staff, current and former senators, generals, admirals, intelligence officials, interrogators, and religious leaders. Some are Republicans, others are Democrats, and still others are neither. What they all agree on, however, is this: It was a profound moral and strategic mistake for the United States to abandon long-standing policies of humane treatment of enemy captives. We should return to the rule of law and cease all forms of torture, with no exceptions for any agency. And we should expect our presidential nominees to commit to this idea.

In addition to Hagel, Kean, and Lugar, other conservative contributors to the essay series include: Kenneth M. Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan; Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under the Bush administration; Bob Barr, former Republican congressman from Georgia and 2008 Libertarian Party presidential candidate; Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell; and William H. Taft IV, general counsel and deputy secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. Other contributing authors include Paul R. Pillar, who served in the United States intelligence community for 28 years and who was the deputy chief of the Counterterrorist Center at the Central Intelligence Agency, and Carl Ford, who was the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research from 2001 to 2003.

From the January 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: Let's start with Panetta. Let's see, he has managerial and political experience, which is all nice, but does he have any intel experience in a post-9-11 world, Tony?

TONY BLANKLEY (Edelman executive vice president and former Washington Times editorial page editor): Well, no, he doesn't. He has limited experience as chief of staff to Clinton, at which time, by the way, he probably knew about the renditions that Clinton was authorizing, which may make some liberals unhappy if that comes out, if that's in fact the case. There's a strong suspicion he would have. But he doesn't have any intelligence experience. Now we've had experience with John McCone, who was the one former director of the CIA who did a very good job without experience. George Herbert Walker Bush was in for less than a year, did a decent job. Other than that, the best ones, like [Richard] Helms, have always had experience. So it's a dubious selection.

HANNITY: Well, and, Chris, you know, Panetta has been and continues to be a staunch critic of the Bush anti-terror programs. For example, he wrote a piece back in August for Washington Monthly, "No Torture. No Exceptions," said we cannot and must not use torture under any circumstances. But, you know, remember, we had the former CIA director George Tenet, you know, pointing out that the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the single most effective tool in America's arsenal against Al Qaeda.

CHRIS LEHANE (former Al Gore press secretary): Well, first of all, I mean, let's take a step back and talk about his experience. I mean, this is someone who was a chief of staff for the president of the United States --

HANNITY: We went through this, Chris --

LEHANE: -- one of the two or three most powerful positions -- one of the two or three most powerful positions in the federal government.

HANNITY: I got it.

LEHANE: He oversaw the situation in the Balkans. He had intelligence that he had to analyze every single day.

HANNITY: But Chris, wait a minute --

LEHANE: I mean, to suggest that he -- to suggest that he doesn't have the experience would be like saying that you cannot make a general a platoon leader because he hasn't been a platoon leader.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
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