The State of the Union is…’ According to Michelle Rhee – http://abcn.ws/VJISQ6 (Arlette Saenz)
Obama Previews #SOTU at Democratic Retreat – http://abcn.ws/XaUFop
Amid Christie Weight Flap, Booker Starts Newark on Weight Watchers – http://abcn.ws/TQMbD5
Adventure’s in ‘Herping’ – Read this by Yahoo!’s Chris Moody, who joined the Python Hunt with people who don’t use guns – yhoo.it/VJYfb9
The Truth, The Whole Truth, “I Don’t Know What the Truth Is” - At one point in today’s confirmation hearing, John Brennan told Dianne Feinstein “We have a commitment to transparency’ but then he added that the intelligence community has a ‘tremendous commitment to keeping this country safe.’
And that was the tension at this weird hearing where Brennan and lawmakers rhetorically danced in front of the cameras making veiled references to the oversight they’ve done on a program that Brennan couldn’t fully discuss. He gave an impassioned defense of the pre-emptive strikes and a strong defense of the U.S. war with al Qaeda. He was an able witness and faced little outright opposition as he argued capably with Ron Wyden about the constitutionality of pre-emptive drone strikes and with Dianne Feinstein about transparency.
“I will give this committee the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” Brennan swore at the outset of the hearing.
But a little bit later he unearthed the real tension of intelligence gathering: uncertainty. Asked about killing suspected terrorists with drones versus subjecting them to “EITs” – those enhanced interrogation techniques that some critics call torture, but others suggest saved lives, Brennan admitted, “I don’t know what the truth is.”
Drones vs. Waterboarding – Brennan now eschews his 2007 comments that those enhanced interrogation techniques saved lives. He pointed to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that questioned him today with changing his mind.
But Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss if it wouldn’t be better to capture suspected terrorists and make them endure “EITs” rather than kill them with drone strikes.
“Your view seems to be that even if we could 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 argument?”
“I respectfully disagree, Senator. I do not — I never believed 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 that 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.”
But did the “EITs” save lives?
“Now I have to determine what — based on that (committee report) as well as what CIA says, what the truth is. And at this point, Senator, I do not know what the truth is.”
Brennan dismissed a suggestion by Sen. Angus King for a sort of FISA court to oversee targeted killings.
Courts are for past actions, he said. Lethal drones strikes don’t need judicial review because they prevent future actions in a war.
Here’s the full wrap, protesters and all, from Chris Good – http://abcn.ws/XTh9IB
Diane Feinstein said she has wanted to publicly say the annual casualty rates for the drone program are in the single digits, but she has been told not to. Lee Feran points out that Feinstein’s assertion appears to challenge data compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism from media, human rights and purported eye-witness reports, which says that American drones have killed hundreds of civilians since 2008 from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia. http://abcn.ws/VHcyb3
Ferran also looks at Brennan’s description today of waterboarding as “reprehensible and his promise that if he gets the job as top spymaster, it will “never” come back.
“It is something that should’ve been banned long ago,” Brennan said at his Senate confirmation hearing. “If I were to go to the CIA, it would never be brought back.”
But Brennan declined to describe waterboarding as “torture,” however, citing the legal and political implications of the term. http://abcn.ws/WExYI9
California Senators Pay Off Super Bowl Bet With Maryland Senators – It was time to pay up on Capitol Hill. After the Baltimore Ravens squeezed out a win against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl Sunday, California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein made good on their Super Bowl bet with Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski (all Dems). http://abcn.ws/YdFyHO (Arlette Saenz)
The New GOP Civil War – “There is now an out in the open civil war within the Republican Party,” conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace wrote in a Politico op-ed this week. http://abcn.ws/WT19Ft (Chris Good)
Chris Christie’s Struggle and the Politics of Weight – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight is back in the spotlight this week. On Monday he joined in on the fat jokes with David Letterman, even munching on a doughnut; on Tuesday he seriously addressed his struggles at a press conference. http://abcn.ws/11OOlXx (Shushannah Walshe)
Obama Compromise on Contraception: Catholic Bishops Dissatisfied
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says it is not satisfied with the Obama administration’s proposed compromise to ease requirements for religiously-affiliated institutions to provide insurance that covers birth control. http://abcn.ws/WTObrd (Mary Bruce)
Virginia Lawmakers Want Their Own Currency But Don’t Bet On It - Will Virginia start minting its own currency? http://abcn.ws/V1JAp8 (Chris Good)
First Lady To Attend Funeral For Slain Chicago Teen – First Lady Michelle Obama will attend the funeral service for slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down just days after performing at inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C. http://abcn.ws/14VvLg8 (Mary Bruce)
Hindsight on Benghazi – ”Time, distance the lack of an adequate warning” are all factors that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Senate panel today prevented the U.S. military from being prepared to reach the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi before the September 11 attack concluded that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Steven. http://abcn.ws/WDmqov (Luis Martinez and Sarah Parnass)
Obama to Hit Money Trail for Democrats – Three months after concluding a record-smashing political fundraising operation, President Obama is making plans to return to the money trail to drum up dollars for Democrats. http://abcn.ws/12wrtfz (Devin Dwyer)
Menendez Denies Wrongdoing – Jordan Fabian reports that Sen. Robert Menendez denies he exerted undue influence on behalf of Dr. Salomon Melgen in Medicare dispute: http://uninews.us/XSzINk
How Marco Rubio’s Mom Influenced Him on Immigration Reform – Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida may be a rising star in the Republican Party, but he still takes his mother’s advice to heart. http://abcn.ws/XXvXEg (Arlette Saenz)
Obama: Lessons Of Prayer Breakfast Should Have Longer ‘Shelf Life’ – In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the annual National Prayer Breakfast brings leaders from both sides of the aisle together in prayer. This morning, President Obama said he hoped lawmakers could maintain the spirit of the event a bit longer. http://abcn.ws/WwHrmA (Mary Bruce)