Friday :: Aug 15, 2008

Even More On The Politics Of Change


by Erin Alecto

In a follow up to Turkana’s contentious post below concerning the “sudden change of heart” on the FISA bill by Mort Halperin, Charles J. Brown of Undiplomatic picks a fight with Glenn Greenwald over the latter’s post on Wednesday.

I don’t respect him [Glenn Greenwald] anymore. Yesterday, he mounted a major hatchet job against Morton Halperin, suggesting that his supposed shift on FISA was the product of some sort of misplaced ambition. I think it’s a scurrilous attack, and completely unjustified.

Brown then goes on to explain why.

At the core of Greenwald’s argument are two events: a June 9, 2008 letter opposing a version of the FISA bill sponsored by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), which Halperin allegedly signed on behalf of the Open Society Policy Center (OSPC); and Halperin’s July 8 op-ed in The New York Times, in which he came out in favor of a different version of the FISA bill as “our best chance to protect both our national security and our civil liberties.”

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Let me start by picking a couple of nits, not for their own sake, but to demonstrate just how sloppy Greenwald’s argument is. First, Halperin was the executive director of the Open Society Policy Center, not President of the Open Society Policy Institute. Second, Halperin’s service began not with the Nixon Administration, but rather the Johnson Administration, in which he served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Now let’s move on to Greenwald’s most important piece of evidence: the June 22 joint letter that Halperin allegedly “signed. . .on behalf of OSPI” was in fact an institutional sign-on letter. If you go to the PDF, you’ll see that organizations signed, not individuals on behalf of organizations. This is an important distinction because when it is an institutional signature, it signifies that the organization, not its head, supports a position.

I wouldn’t split this hair, except that Greenwald uses it as supposedly devastating proof that Halperin opposed FISA before he supported it. But the fact that OSPC supported a position is not in any way, shape, or form evidence that Halperin supported the position. I have yet to work for an organization with which I agreed all of the time. Sometimes you set aside your personal opinions and act according to what the institution decides is its best course of action.

That means that Greenwald has no real evidence to prove his core allegation: that Halperin changed his opinion between June 9 and July 8.

Brown then goes on to describe the ad hominem attacks Greenwald employs to impugn Halperin’s character including an aside that Halperin had once worked for Nixon. It turns out, Halperin was #8 on Nixon’s Enemies List, and his phone was tapped because he was suspected of leaking the Pentagon Papers.

If nothing else, considering Brown’s creditials, and his up front disclosure that he is “one of 300-odd foreign policy advisors to Obama” as is Halperin, and that he knows Halperin personally, I find Brown’s challenge compelling and worth a look. Read his argument. What do you think?

Via Scott Paul at The Washington Note who adds, "I strongly agree with Charles Brown here. Shame on Glenn Greenwald. I've worked with Morton Halperin for a few years and right or wrong, he's no political mercenary. He's a person with plenty of integrity and passion, and I have no reason to doubt the purity of his motives."

Update: Matt picks a nit with a familiar argument.

Erin Alecto :: 6:32 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!