Whelan Says Jump, We Say How High

Last week, Andrew Sullivan wrote a post linking to a Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation techniques which claimed that “In July 2003 … NSC Principals met to discuss the interrogation techniques employed in the CIA program” and that, according to CIA records, those in attendance included the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

Sullivan pointed out that “in the spring of 2003, that post was held by M Edward Whelan III, an arch-Catholic. Whelan is the head of – wait for it – the Ethics and Public Policy Center.”

Whelan immediately responded with a post of his own, calling Sullivan’s assertion a “vicious lie” and categorically stating “that I never attended the meeting that Sullivan refers to and that I never had any knowledge of or involvement in any of the matters involving interrogation techniques.”

What does this have to do with us?  Nothing really, other than the fact that I happened to mention it in one of the round-ups I did last week:

Andrew Sullivan says that Ed Whelan was involved, during his time in the Bush Administration, in discussions of torture, but Whelan denies it, calling it a vicious lie.

Whelan has since been on a mission to get Sullivan to retract this “libelous attack” on him, which Sullivan has now done, personally apologizing “for causing Mr. Whelan any distress.”

But apparently that isn’t enough, because we have now been contacted by Schuyler Smith of the Ethics and Public Policy Center demanding that we make prominent note of Sullivan’s retraction here and, if we don’t, face libel charges of our own:

You recently linked to a blog post by Andrew Sullivan that falsely and libelously accused Ed Whelan of support for, and involvement in, torture (http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/right-wing-round-42). Andrew Sullivan has now entirely retracted his libelous charge http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/nros-ed-whelan-ctd.html). 

In order not to be committing libel against Mr. Whelan by perpetuating a charge that has been retracted, I ask on Mr. Whelan’s behalf that you immediately (1) publish a post noting Mr. Sullivan’s retraction, (2) prominently link to that correcting post on your original post, and (3) e-mail me a link to your correcting post.  Thank you.

Does this satisfy EPPC’s requirement?  We sure hope so, because we’d hate to be sued for merely writing one sentence mentioning the issue.  

Sullivan says he has been assured that Whelan “does not support torture” and Whelan himself says that he has “never defended torture.” But since he was Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice until 2004, during which time the administration was debating the use of torture, perhaps this presents a good opportunity for him to explain just what, if any, his role was in this debate.

[Update: Smith has contacted us, insisting that Whelan did answer this question, pointing to this post from September 2007 in which he said he was “not well positioned to comment on the issues in immediate dispute, as my own involvement at OLC in opinions on national-security matters generally ranged from non-existent (especially on the opinions that have been the subject of greatest controversy) to marginal.”]