Can Language Corrupt Thought?

Added on by PS Cat02.

A mini-report by Daisy.

This is an excerpt from yesterday morning's House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill. Here Congressman Robert Wexler questions FBI Director Robert Mueller about FBI inaction following reports that the CIA was torturing prisoners.

[ start transcript ]

Congressman Robert Wexler: Alright, Mr. Director. An L.A. Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote "the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved" end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote "pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy" end quote. My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn't you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

FBI Director Robert Mueller: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

Congressman Wexler: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

Director Mueller: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

Congressman Wexler: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

Director Mueller: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

Congressman Wexler: So you can't tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don't you get involved; you can't tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

Director Mueller: I'll tell you we followed our own protocols.

Congressman Wexler: And what was the result?

Director Mueller: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

Congressman Wexler: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

Director Mueller: I can't comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

Congressman Wexler: Why can't you comment on the actions of another agency?

Director Mueller: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

Congressman Wexler: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

Director Mueller: I am the Director of the FBI.

Congressman Wexler: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you're saying?

Director Mueller: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

Congressman Wexler: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

Director Mueller: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

Congressman Wexler: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

Director Mueller: I'm not certain what you mean.

Congressman Wexler: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.

Director Mueller: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice... [talking over each other]

Congressman Wexler: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that's it.

Director Mueller: I've told you what our protocol was, and I've indicated that we've adhered to our protocol throughout.

Congressman Wexler: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director.

[ end transcript ]

"Protocol." Apparently it is illegal or immoral to answer with a "yes" or "no" in Washington D.C. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw that once said something like, "All professions are conspiracies against the public."

A systematic study of how bureaucrats learn to speak like this would be very useful.


Thursday, April 24, 2008