In a long article from NEWSWEEK's Daniel Klaidman today, it's reported that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is weighing the appointment a special prosecutor to investigate Bush/Cheney-era torture policies, and may now be "on the verge" of finally doing so...
Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
The detailed story explores the tensions between the White House and an independent AG --- a tension that is ever present in any WH/DoJ relationship --- and how Holder seems to be fighting to maintain that independence, while remaining in good stead with the White House where, it seems, Rahm Emmanuel may be the one calling the shots in Obama's ill-considered (or, at least, politically-considered) "look forward not back" policy...
"The thing I have to watch out for is the desire to be a team player," [Holder] says, well aware that he's on the verge of becoming something else entirely.
The report goes on to note that Holder began reviewing the former administration's torture policies "in April," and "became increasingly troubled" as he did.
To connect a dot or two here, that would be around the same time --- April 24th of this year --- when Holder told anti-torture protesters, off mic, after a Congressional hearing at which he testified, that they would "be proud of [their] country" in response to their demands for investigation and prosecution of those policies.
Though we noted what protester David Swanson had reported as a "promise" at the time, few others took any notice of what we'd regarded as a very positive, if quiet, sign that he had intended to do the right thing here...
Imagine --- just imagine --- the outrage we'd be hearing from every side of the Rightwing blogo-mediasphere if the report [PDF], just out today from the Inspectors General of five different U.S. intelligence agencies, found that President Obama was carrying out a clandestine "Presidential Surveillance Program" that only he, a handful in the White House, and just two or three officials at the DoJ were aware of.
They would, of course, be appropriately outraged (for a change), and even justified in calling for Obama's impeachment over an apparently unprecedented, illegal intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, justified only by a single "legal finding" of one low-level attorney at the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel.
But will the wingnuts say a word about the report out today showing that Bush/Cheney's criminal outfit did exactly that? Will those who have found our site of late, having come here to justify crazy Sarah Palin's decision to abort in her first term, condemn Bush for any of this, as they surely would had it been found that Obama had been doing the exact same thing? We'll see.
Finally, we're beginning to receive some details on what former Deputy AG James Comey's incredibly dramatic Congressional testimony (video here, transcript here)-- describing his late-night sprint to Ashcroft's hospital bedside to intercept White House officials (Gonzalez and Card) coming over to strongarm him into signing an extension for the still not-fully-disclosed spying program --- was all about.
On the road for the moment, so you're on your own here for a bit. Dig in...
The once-great ABC News' Nightline decided on Monday night's show that they would take a look at the possible reasons for Sarah Palin's decision to cut and run from her first term as Alaska Governor. They promised to take a look at the leading theories, so as to help "separate fact from fiction."
How did they do it? First, they asked two of Palin's friends who both generally agreed she decided to abort the job largely because she was tired of it. Then, they presented five possible theories that have been floated.
"Those explanations from people who know Palin haven't been enough for Internet bloggers and conspiracy theorists," Nightline's Vicky Mabrey reads over screenshots of The BRAD BLOG, The Daily Beast, and others sites that reported on the possibility of a criminal investigation. "They've had a field day over the holiday weekend, speculating on a host of other theories why Palin would leave office"...
By late January/early February, 2003, I and other Americans were witnessing the Bush Administration's final and intense push to launch their pre-emptive war on Iraq, based largely on (what are now well known as) two completely false pretexts: Iraq's possession of WMD and its connections to Al Qaeda terrorists. My knowledge that Iraq's WMD was being exaggerated was merely what anyone could gain from close reading of public sources: the McClatchy news articles by Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel (who later won Pulitzers for their reporting) as well as a few buried articles in the Washington Post and Newsweek debunking the "evidence" being educed by Bush-Cheney-Powell-Rice-Rumsfeld et al.
Due to the Minneapolis FBI's pre-9/11 investigation of an Al Qaeda operative, however, I was in a better position to know more than J.Q. Average Citizen in regard to the non-existence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
I felt it my responsibility to speak out, and so I did --- or tried to --- to my bosses at the FBI, and to the media, including CBS' 60 Minutes...
As noted in its announcement, 'Project Expose MSM' invites all members of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), other active (covert or overt) government whistleblowers, and reporters, to publish their experiences in regard to their own first-hand dealings with the media, where their legit disclosures were either intentionally censored/blacked out, tainted, or otherwise met with a betrayal of trust.
The first report, exposing Michael Isikoff and Newsweek was posted here.
This second project report is based on the first-hand documented experience of Mr. Sandalio Gonzalez, retired Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent in Charge. Time Magazine reporters Tim Burger and Tim Padgett had an opportunity to speak at length with Mr. Gonzalez and several other veteran DEA agents with direct knowledge of a major corruption case involving several DEA agents on drug traffickers' payrolls in Colombia. The involved corrupt US officers were also directly involved in helping Colombia's paramilitary death squads launder drug proceeds. Further presented at the meeting with Time's reporter was the documented cover up of this major scandal by the DEA and Dept. of Justice Inspector General (OIG) offices. Despite direct corroboration by a number of other sources, including several veteran DEA agents and other government officials with first-hand knowledge of the case; documented evidence disclosed and provided; and despite being given an 'exclusive' to the story as insisted on by the magazine, Time never published the story, and no reasons were ever provided...
Last week, 123 Real Change, announced the experimental 'Project Expose MSM' in hopes of providing readers with specific, documented cases of blackout and/or misinformation in the mainstream media, based on the first-hand experiences of legitimate and credible sources and whistleblowers.
As noted in the announcement, 123 Real Change invites all members of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, other active (covert or overt) government whistleblowers, and reporters, to publish their experiences in regard to their own first-hand dealings with the media, where their legit disclosures were either intentionally censored/blacked out, tainted, or otherwise met with a betrayal of trust.
Here is the first project report, this one based on my own first-hand documented experience. In 2003 Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff interviewed me for, and then published a story on the FBI translation program. His report knowingly omitted crucial facts, directly relevant cases, witness statements and confirmed official reports, while advancing the FBI's already-discredited point of view...
[Update: Be sure to read Lori Minnite's explanation in comments of what seems to have happened here. Details at bottom of article.]
Unless I'm missing something here (please let me know if I am!) it doesn't appear that the DoJ "dropped" charges against the RNC's alleged 2002 NH election "phone-jammer," James Tobin, as is currently being described in news accounts, and via several emails I've received alerting me to the story.
From my read of AP's coverage, and several others, it looks like the DoJ lost their original New Hampshire case, and then recently saw the appeal of a refiled case, with a different focus (lying to federal investigators) in Maine, "dismissed" by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one." --- Plato
During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama's past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.
I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?
On the State Secrets Privilege
Yes, I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone Administration;
Today, VelvetRevolution.us announced our new campaign calling for the disbarment of 12 of the Bush-era torture lawyers in four states and the District of Columbia. The campaign, whose VR homepage is at DisbarTortureLawyers.com (where you can sign on yourself, read the complaints, etc.), calls for action to be taken by the state bar associations to revoke the law licenses of attorneys John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey, Michael Chertoff, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury, Douglas Feith, David Addington, William Hayens, and Timothy Flanigan in NY, CA, TX, PA and D.C., following their exceedingly irresponsible and inappropriately liberal interpretation of U.S. law.
My colleague Kevin Zeese, an attorney himself, as well as executive director of VotersForPeace.us and a board member at VR, signed the complaints delivered to the appropriate boards for all 12 Bush attorneys. He announced the launch of the initiative at a press conference in D.C. this morning. His published statement, released today with the press conference, is posted in full here.
So far, the coverage in the corporate mainstream media today has been surprisingly decent and fairly widespread. We've seen reports from NY Times, CNN, LA Times, WaPo, Bloomberg, AP and others.
AP's coverage has been interesting, and instructive, to watch. When they first reported on the initiative early today, the lede on their story was [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two outside groups want Bush administration lawyers linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees to lose their licenses to practice law.
Their updated version, which included a few more details, but the same headline, "Complaint seeks disbarment of Bush lawyers," had this as its lede [emphasis mine]:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A coalition of liberal groups filed petitions Monday seeking disbarment of Bush administration attorneys linked to memos on harsh interrogation techniques of detainees.
Not sure what makes calling for a strict, conservative interpretation of the Rule of Law, versus the wildly liberal interpretations of the Bush Administration (and that's putting it mildly), a "liberal" cause, but that's what I guess we must come to accept from the news organization --- sorry, let me update that --- rightwing house organ that AP has become.
UPDATE: As I've been asked by a number of media folks for a comment on today's initiative, as co-founder of VR, I've been happy to offer them this statement:
"The wildly liberal interpretations of the rule of law by the Bush administration attorneys, in order to justify their torture schemes, should be offensive to the core, to anyone who believes in a strict, conservative interpretation of decades of established U.S. law on the matter, including treaties signed, on behalf of the U.S., by such conservatives as Ronald Reagan."
UPDATE 5/19/09, 8:44pm PT: AP's short video coverage of Kevin Zeese at the presser yesterday is here. But a more complete version of his statement follows below. Also, a big congrats to our Kevin for being honored with the prestigious BuzzFlash "Wings of Justice" award today for his tremendous effort on this campaign!
For those who have wondered (particularly when looking at the incredible miscarriages of prosecutorial injustices and improprieties in cases like Gov. Siegelman's), no, Obama has yet to replace Bush's partisan U.S. Attorneys, incredibly enough. But he will, says AG Holder, according to Politico...
President Barack Obama plans to replace a "batch" of U.S. Attorneys in the next few weeks and more prosecutors thereafter, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
"I expect that we'll have an announcement in the next couple of weeks with regard to our first batch of U.S attorneys," Holder said Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing which stretched out over most of the day due to breaks for members' votes. "One of the things that we didn't want to do was to disrupt the continuity of the offices and pull people out of positions where we thought there might be a danger that that might have on the continuity--the effectiveness of the offices. But...elections matter--it is our intention to have the U.S. Attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as they can."
Holder's comments Thursday came in response to a question from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) "Many jurisdictions are waiting desperately to see what is going to be done. As we understand it, the protocol has been that U.S. Attorneys would hand in their resignations and would give the new administration an opportunity to make new appointments, we don't see that happening quite fast enough," she said, pointing to complaints about prosecutors in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Gosh. Take your time, kids. Although, in fairness (where any may be due here), the following bears keeping in mind...
If the first U.S. Attorney selections from Obama do come in the next few weeks, he will still be ahead of Bush's timetable. He proposed his first U.S. Attorneys on August 1, 2001.
U.S. Attorneys require confirmation by the Senate and are usually proposed with the concurrence of the senators from that state.
Former top White House official Karl Rove will be interviewed tomorrow as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the firing of U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration, according to two sources familiar with the appointment.
He will be questioned tomorrow by Connecticut prosecutor Nora R. Dannehy, who was named last year to examine whether any former senior Justice Department and White House officials lied or obstructed justice in connection with the dismissal of federal prosecutors in 2006.
The firings were the subject of a lengthy report released last fall by the Justice Department's inspector general and the department's Office of Professional Responsibility. Investigators there uncovered improper political motivations in the firings of several of the nine dismissed federal prosecutors.
But the department's own probe was thwarted in part because the inspector general's agents did not have the authority to compel testimony from Bush White House advisers and lawmakers.
They also add, for those keeping track...
Rove and [former Bush WH Counsel Harriet] Miers are tentatively scheduled to provide closed-door testimony to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and other members of the panel sometime next month.
UPDATE 5/15/09: RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna has a number of questions she'd like to see asked of Rove, in regard to the Siegelman case.
At right is the video from Rove's appearance at his attorney's office this morning to meet federal prosecutors for his questioning (via RAW).
Incredibly, the Bush-appointed prosecutors in the Siegelman case (who are, inexplicably, still on the job!) have now requested an even longer sentence for the former Democratic Gov. of Alabama who was railroaded as part of a Rove-led political prosecution.
RAW STORY offers the amazing details on the twenty-year sentence now being sought by the federal prosecutors to replace the seven years he was originally screwed with. The entire prosecution needs to be entirely thrown out, just as the case against Republican Sen. Ted Stevens was.
And where is AG Eric Holder in all of this? I'd sure as hell love to know, as I asked in my April 13th letter to him on behalf of VR's Restore Justice at Justice campaign requesting an investigation of all illegal, Bush-era political prosecutions. (If you haven't yet, please sign on to that letter, to add your voice!)
My brief interview with Siegelman at last Summer's Democratic National Convention in Denver (originally posted here), is re-posted at left, wherein he warned, if action wasn't taken "Karl Rove is simply going to get in his get-away car and thumb his nose at the Constitution, the Congress and the American People."
The former FBI translator and whistleblower suggests blackmail may be at the heart of Congressional refusal to bring accountability and oversight to its own members - such as both Hastert and Harman - in matters of espionage and national security
I have been known to quote long-dead men in my past writings. Whether eloquently expressed thoughts by our founding fathers, or those artfully expressed by ancient Greek thinkers, these quotes have always done a better job starting or ending my thoughts - that tend to be expressed in long winding sentences. For this piece I am going to break with tradition and start with an appropriate quote from a living current senator, John Kerry: "It's a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken."
The people do indeed look at Washington and know that this city is 'badly' broken, Senator Kerry. The public confidence in our Congress has been declining drastically. Recent poll results highlight how the American people's trust in their Congress has hit rock bottom. A survey of progressive blogs easily confirms the rage rightfully directed at our Congress for abdicating its role of oversight and accountability. Activists scream about promised hearings that never took place - without explanation. They express outrage when investigations are dropped without any justification. And they genuinely wonder out loud why, especially after they helped secure a major victory for the Democrats. The same Democrats who had for years pointed fingers at their big bad Republican majority colleagues as the main impediment preventing them from fulfilling what was expected of them.
The recent stunning but not unexpected revelations regarding Jane Harman (D-CA) by the Congressional Quarterly provide us with a little glimpse into one of the main reasons behind the steady decline in the integrity of Congress. But the story is almost dead - ready to bite the dust, thanks to our mainstream media's insistence on burying 'real' issues or stories that delve deep into the causes of our nation's continuous downward slide. In this particular case, the 'thank you' should also be extended to certain blogosphere propagandists who, blinded by their partisanship, myopic in their assessments, and ignorant in their knowledge of the inner workings of our late Congress and intelligence agencies, helped in the post-burial cremation of this case.
Ironically but understandably, the Harman case has become one of rare unequivocal bipartisanship, when no one from either side of the partisan aisle utters a word. How many House or Senate Republicans have you heard screaming, or even better, calling for an investigation? The right wing remains silent. Some may have their hand, directly or indirectly, in the same AIPAC cookie jar. Others may still feel the heavy baggage of their own party's tainted colleagues; after all, they have had their share of Abramoffs, Hasterts and the like, silently lurking in the background, albeit dimmer every day. Some on the left, after an initial silence that easily could have been mistaken for shock, are jumping from one foot to the other, like a cat on a hot tin roof, making one excuse after another; playing the 'victims of Executive Branch eavesdropping' card, the same very 'evil doing' they happened to support vehemently. Some have been dialing their trusted guardian angels within the mainstream media and certain fairly visible alternative outlets. They need no longer worry, since these guardian angels seem to have blacked out the story, and have done so without the apparent need for much arm twisting...
UPDATE 7/11/09: NEWSWEEK reports that Holder "may be on the verge of" and "leaning toward appointing" a prosecutor to investigate Bush/Cheney-era torture. Their story notes that his initial deliberations on this matter seem to have coincided with his comments as noted above. Details on all now here...