Maddow Guest Ron Suskind Claims 'Very Little Evidence' - Against Convicted Terrorists

It's shabby but in character when liberals won't extend the presumption of innocence to those whose politics they disdain, as when calling for that undisputed war criminal George W. Bush to be hauled in shackles before a tribunal at The Hague.

That much shabbier and still in character when liberals extend the presumption of innocence to terrorists after they've been convicted.

On July 24 the New York Times ran a story claiming that then-Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to send federal troops to the Buffalo, N.Y., suburb of Lackawanna in the summer of 2002 to arrest suspected terrorists who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six.

The story was one of several to recently appear in mainstream media alleging friction between Bush and Cheney over their actions in fighting al Qaeda and radical Islamists. Here's Ron Suskind's take on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on July 27 --

MADDOW: Joining us now to sort this out is Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Ron Suskind. He's author of the book most recently, "The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism." Ron, it's great to see you. Thanks for being here.

SUSKIND: It's great to be here.

MADDOW: Do you think this is the George W. Bush legacy project at work?

SUSKIND: Well, it's two projects at head to head in battle, the Cheney legacy project versus the Bush legacy project. You know, it's really two presidents in competition, it's an extraordinary thing to watch. I mean, it's like the Ali-Frazier fight, two champions fighting it out and it's going to go on for as long as Cheney keeps it going frankly.

Yes, you heard right -- Suskind compared Bush and Cheney to Ali and Frazier. Not just champions, incidentally, but undefeated champs, at least when they fought the first of three epic bouts. And, as I recall, two of the greatest boxers who ever lived. But I digress.

Later in the same segment, Suskind spoke of Cheney's alleged rationale for wanting to send federal troops to Lackawanna --

SUSKIND:  Cheney is a big believer in demonstration models, so called, to shape behavior, to shape expectations and to shape essentially other people's actions. This was part of that thinking. Now it's interesting because up in Lackawanna, I talked to the folks on that case, the FBI guys were so conspicuous, everyone knew the FBI was watching, the guys knew they were being watched, everyone was sitting doing nothing and even at the end of the day there was very little evidence on the Lackawanna group. But Cheney still said, this is an opportunity to show our newfound resolve as to the powers of a president.

MADDOW: Thank God we had that great civil libertarian holding down the West Wing. Incredible spin here, unbelievable. Ron Suskind, thank you so much, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, the latest book is "The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism," which I read and I loved ...

"Very little evidence on the Lackawanna group," Suskind claims -- while neglecting to mention that all six men in the group were convicted on terrorism charges and received sentences from seven to 10 years in prison. Expect more such rhetoric if Obama succeeds in shutting down the Guantanamo prison and prosecuting unrepentant jihadists in American courts.

Come to think of it, how much evidence would have been obtained on the 9/11 plot if it were thwarted? Granted, that depends on when and how this might have occurred. But it's not implausible to suggest the attack might have been prevented while uncovering little in the way of concrete evidence. If only a few of the hijackers were prevented from boarding their flights, to cite one possibility, the remaining conspirators might have called off the attack.

Consider this alternative scenario to our horrific history of that month -- in response to his national security briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, and an ominous increase in terrorist chatter early the following month, President Bush orders the indefinite detainment of scores of suspected terrorists arrested at airports across the country.

The reaction is swift and vociferous -- widespread denunciation of Bush for alleged ethnic profiling, suspension of civil liberties and abuse of executive power. Aided by pro bono legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, the accused terrorists file a class-action lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The controversy proves irrestible to Ron Suskind, who writes a best-selling book about it and makes frequent media appearances.

Here's Suskind on "The Rachel Maddow Show" in the summer of 2002 --

MADDOW: Joining us now is Ron Suskind, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Blackbirds Singing in the Dead of Night: A Tale of Power and Paranoia at the Twilight of the American Century." Thanks for being here, Ron.

SUSKIND: My pleasure, Rachel, no place I'd rather be.

MADDOW: I have to say, I stayed up all night reading your book and I'm still just flabbergasted by all of this. Take us through what you've uncovered.

SUSKIND: What's most amazing, Rachel, is that Bush was motivated on such a flimsy pretext -- that Aug. 6, 2001 intelligence briefing. I've been all over this, talked to the guys involved, and there was nothing new here, just dusty recycled intelligence vaguely alleging an al Qaeda plot to hijack planes -- which hadn't occurred in this country in a decade. The intel was cobbled together for no apparent reason other than, as they like to say down at Langley, CYA.

With all of this in mind, Bush is warned in September that intercepted al Qaeda messages hint at a far-fetched conspiracy involving up to two dozen men armed with nothing more than boxcutters who would -- get this -- commandeer commercial jets and crash them into skyscrapers. Can you believe this malarkey? In a country that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined? I mean, these guys have sat through too many Bruce Willis movies.

What did Bush and Cheney do with this shaky intelligence? Use it as a pretext to assume unprecedented executive powers, like we're at war or something. It boggles the mind they would do something like this based on such a fantasy of a plot. If you recall, this was what the two student gunmen at Columbine planned to do, hijack a jet and crash it into the World Trade Center. That's how warped this is, that anyone would believe such a thing possible.

It came as no surprise to me when the ACLU rushed to the defense of the accused, many of whom are foreign students who absent-mindedly let their visas expire. For this they are put in jail indefinitely? As if taking flight training is a crime. Or seeking solace in mosques after being treated as pariahs. Or attending extreme adventure training camps in Afghanistan ...

Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Rachel Maddow Ron Suskind