A Frightening Divide in Cultural Reference Points

If Karl Rove, left, were forced to step down as White House deputy chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson has the right look to replace him. Sampson is the attorney general's chief of staff.
If Karl Rove, left, were forced to step down as White House deputy chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson has the right look to replace him. Sampson is the attorney general's chief of staff. ((Photo Illustration by The Washington Post))
By Al Kamen
Monday, October 31, 2005

In the spirit of Halloween, we recall a story of a Halloween past. On Nov. 4, 1979, just a few days after Halloween, militant Islamic students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Various parts of the embassy were still decorated with ghosts and goblins and other scary stuff.

So when the hostages were taken to a room with decorations, the Iranians asked what this was all about. One hostage explained, apparently closing the culture gap.

"You do this to your children?" a militant asked.

Karen Hughes, take note. This is what you're up against.

If It's CIA, It Must Not Be 'T'

Of all the challenges CIA Director Porter J. Goss is forced to confront, what really got him worked up last week were the editorial pages of The Washington Post and the New York Times.

Both papers criticized Goss and Vice President Cheney for trying to exempt the CIA from a bill, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), barring cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody. In other words: no torture.

Goss was apparently miffed that "cruel, degrading or inhumane treatment" could somehow be confused with the "T" word.

The editorials "are plain wrong," Goss wrote in an e-mail to the CIA staff, meant to assure them that anything they were up to certainly was not torture. "We have not, we are not" carrying out torture and "we are not seeking such authorities." Because they already have them?

Goss may have missed some stories in the news pages of the papers.

For instance, military police at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq photographed detainee Manadel Jamadi after his death, packed in ice. He allegedly died in a shower room during interrogation by CIA officers after being brought there by Navy SEAL team members. A high-level CIA operative allegedly helped conceal Jamadi's death after Army officers found his body.

So far, no CIA operatives have been charged in connection with abuse, although one CIA contract employee is on trial for involvement in the death of an Afghanistan detainee, and a grand jury may be looking at other allegations involving the CIA.

A report by the CIA inspector general's office on the agency's role in the handling of detainees is classified. "All approved interrogation techniques are lawful and do not constitute torture," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck said.

The Small World of GOP Flacks

Speaking of the CIA's Millerwise Dyck, there's scarcely one degree of separation between folks in Washington. She recently married Paul B. Dyck , who was "associate political director" under White House counselor Karl -- "Official A" or just "A-man" -- Rove, and is now working for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice . Millerwise Dyck worked in Vice President Cheney's office and has been questioned by Patrick J. Fitzgerald 's prosecutors in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame .

Her sister, Molly Millerwise , works in the public affairs shop at the Treasury Department. Both sisters worked in the Bush 2000 campaign as young staffers and landed jobs with the aid of former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer , now in the private sector and back in the news last week for having been briefed about Plame by then-Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Waiting in the Wings

Speaking of Karl Rove , there had been much concern last week that he also might have to resign as a result of Fitzgerald's probe. The loss of Karl's familiar presence -- he's the last of the original "Iron Triangle" of Bush's Texas advisers still in the White House -- would have unsettled many younger aides.

Fortunately, there's a ready replacement: D. Kyle Sampson , chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and formerly in the White House counsel's office. Maybe not exactly the same as Karl but . . .

Whodunit at State

Since Fitzgerald's report did not name the unindicted, reporters scrambled Friday to identify the "undersecretary of state" who reported to Libby that CIA operative Valerie Plame was involved in sending her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV , to Niger to check out Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.

An adroit aide to U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton took the initiative to inform reporters it was not Bolton. A good idea, since most reporters had speculated it was likely Bolton. The aide circulated an Associated Press story suggesting, correctly, that it was probably Marc Grossman, undersecretary for political affairs until early this year.

Merit raise in order?

© 2005 The Washington Post Company