Suspicion mounts about 'burrowing' Bush appointees
Some liberals are beginning to suspect Bush loyalists in career government positions are doing their best to try to deflate and hinder President Obama's agenda.
When the New York Times published a story on a former Guantanamo detainee who allegedly joined Al Qaeda in Yemen after his release, the timing struck Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein as "suspicious." The paper published its report just one day after President Obama ordered the prison closed.
Stein wonders whether President Bush's political appointees at the Pentagon -- some of whom, the Associated Press reports, have become embedded in career jobs -- leaked information to the Times "as a way of sending a signal to the new president."
Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, asking him to "immediately review the circumstances behind the conversion of these positions and the hiring of any former Bush administration appointees as career or temporary officials within the Office of Detainee Affairs."
"Allegations of improper 'burrowing' of political appointees to career positions are very troubling to me," wrote Sen. Feinstein. "This is especially disconcerting within the Office of Detainee Affairs due to the nature of the policy recommendations that office provides regarding Guantanamo."
According to a spokesman, "defense officials concluded that none 'burrowed' into the system — or improperly transferred from political to career jobs," the AP reported.
"This is obviously going to be a problem, which was basically brought on by deciding to keep Gates," Larry Korb, a former Reagan official, told Stein. "I don't blame Gates. He asked him to stay and wants his own people ... I think it is going to make it more difficult and I think it was no accident that the day after [Obama] put out this executive order, the front page story on the New York Times was about this released detainee."
The Times article focused on Said Ali al Shihri (read his military docket here). He is "suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September," reporter Robert Worth wrote. "He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen."
"The lesson here is: Whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them," a defense official told the International Herald Tribune.
Yet, when exploring possible reasons for his release, "documents say he claimed that he traveled to Iran 'to purchase carpets for his store' in Saudi Arabia," reported the Times. "They also say that he denied knowledge of any terrorists or terrorist activities, and that he 'related that if released, he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would reunite with his family.'"
On Jan. 13, the Defense Intelligence Agency -- part of the Department of Defense -- released a report on terrorism recidivism which states 61 former Gitmo prisoners have "returned to the fight." The claim was later blasted as "propaganda" by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.
"... All of which are seriously undercut by the DoD statement that 'they do not track' former detainees," said Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux on the Jan. 22 episode of Countdown.
Stein is not the only media figure openly wondering whether Bush loyalists still in government would attempt to "send a signal," "undermine" or even "sabotage" President Obama.
When the Los Angeles Times reported that President Obama had preserved the use of renditions -- the secret capture, transportation and detention of suspected terrorists to foreign prisons in countries that cooperate with the U.S. -- for the CIA's anti-terror toolbox, many liberals were outraged.
However, some charged that the paper was "punked" by former CIA officials. MSNBC's Rachael Maddow wondered aloud if "Bush loyalists" who remain in government are trying to "undermine" President Obama.
Maddow's guest, Scott Horton, a contributing editor with Harpers magazine, agreed with her line of questioning, and even went so far as to say, "I think we may see sabotage as well."
"These stories are regularly sourced to unnamed current or former CIA officials and have largely run in right-wing media outlets," Horton opined in Harpers. "However, now we see that even the Los Angeles Times can be taken for a ride."