Standing up to the NRA after Roanoke, horrifying U.S. gun death toll; PLUS: Denying global warming on Katrina's 10th anniversary; Trump's ugly nativism; Good news for Dems; Marriage dead-enders in KY...
During testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1999, after the mass shooting at Columbine, the National Rifle Association's CEO Wayne LaPierre stated plainly:
LAPIERRE: We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.
The NRA even went as far as to take out an ad [PDF] that included LaPierre's full testimony from his U.S. House Judiciary Committee appearance that day.
But that was then.
Today, testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in the wake of the mass shooting at Newtown, LaPierre has completely reversed his position on background checks, as highlighted during this exchange with the Committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)...
In short, despite tens of thousands of criminals prevented from buying guns at licensed dealers and pawn shops, thanks to instant background checks --- LaPierre pegged the number at 76,000 people who "have been denied under the present law" --- the NRA mouthpiece is now against closing the loophole that allows unlimited gun sales at trade shows with no background checks whatsoever, even though 40% of weapons in the country are purchased at such shows.
Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times appears to be the type of reporter comedian Stephen Colbert had in mind during his blistering act at the 2006 White House Correspondence dinner:
"Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!"
As revealed by her front-page Los Angeles Times article, "Swinging at the left, hit or miss," Abcarian, apparently armed with nothing more than the baseline, mainstream media accounts of the Shirley Sherrod scandal, paid a visit to the West Los Angeles office of the man whom Brad Friedman aptly described as a "pathological liar" and "race baiter;" jotted down Andrew Breitbart's latest spin about himself and the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, and then dutifully spit out a fawning account which accepted at face value Breitbart's latest claim that he simply failed to "wait for full video" of the Sherrod speech, and which described Breitbart as a "new-media phenom;" a "transformed...liberal" who became "a star of the 'tea party' movement" after experiencing an epiphany during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarency Thomas, whom Breitbart describes as "an American hero" who was unfairly targeted by "a cavalcade of Caucasians asking...about his very private video rentals!"
In Abcarian and the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Breitbart, the consummate con-artist, had found yet another vehicle for rewriting history...
[UPDATE 10/5/09: Cole has now greatly expanded on his confirmation of Edmonds' credibility and is calling for a 'Special Counsel' investigation, prosecution. Full story here...]
George W. Bush's third-highest ranking State Department official, Marc Grossman, who became the Under Secretary of State after previously serving as Ambassador to Turkey, was targeted as part of a "decade-long investigation" by the FBI, according to an 18-year veteran manager of the bureau's Counterintelligence and Counterespionage departments.
For still-unknown reasons, the investigation, which also involved a multitude of cases involving Israeli espionage, was ultimately "buried and covered up," according to the official.
The comment from the former FBI official John M. Cole, in response to recent, stunning disclosures made by former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, helps to shore up a key aspect of her allegations. Cole is now calling for an investigation to help "bring about accountability" in the matter.
Edmonds' allegations of bribery, blackmail, and infiltration by foreign agents at the highest levels of the U.S. government were recently detailed in a remarkable cover story interview, as published last week by the American Conservative magazine.
"I read the recent cover story by The American Conservative magazine. I applaud their courage in publishing this significant interview," Cole says in his public response, as posted today at the AmCon website by interviewer and former CIA agent Philip Giraldi.
Cole then went on to verify his knowledge of the espionage investigation which, he says, included Grossman. Edmonds has long alleged he had been a key target in the agency's counterintelligence probe of the Turkish lobby and their relationship to current and former members of Congress and high-ranking officials in the Bush State and Defense Departments.
Cole also charges, in his brief comment, that the investigation was ultimately quashed by still-unnamed officials.
"I am fully aware of the FBI's decade-long investigation of the High-level State Department Official named in this article, Marc Grossman, which ultimately was buried and covered up," Cole notes, adding his call to re-open the matter. "It is long past time to investigate this case and bring about accountability."...
Federal agencies were involved in the decision to raid the office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Nevada last October, just weeks before Election Day, the offices of Nevada’s Secretary of State and Attorney General say.
The allegations raise questions of whether politics played a part in the raid and calls into question assertions by the US Attorney’s office that they were uninvolved. Federal guidelines instruct agencies investigating election fraud to avoid action that might impact the elective process.
Bob Walsh, a spokesman for Nevada’s Secretary of State, and Edie Cartwright, a spokeswoman for Nevada’s Attorney General, said that not only were the Nevada US Attorney’s Office and the FBI involved in investigating Nevada ACORN on allegations of voter registration fraud but that all four agencies jointly made the decision to conduct the raid. Both the investigation and the raid were conducted as part of the joint federal-state Election Integrity Task Force announced last July, the spokespersons said.
[Updated at end of article, with details on hearing announced for next week.]
The Senate is quietly preparing plans to investigate allegations of torture under President George W. Bush, according to comments published Wednesday by Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The Senate Judiciary Committee could announce a hearing to consider various plans to probe allegations of torture as early as today, according to Salon's Mark Benjamin, citing Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and members of his staff.
Leahy's office told Raw Story Wednesday morning that a press release would be sent out shortly.
Sen. Whitehouse said he's "convinced" the investigation will move forward.
"Stay on this," he told Benjamin. "This is going to be big."
Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island, is "spearheading" the efforts, and as a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, "is privy to information about interrogations he can't yet share," the magazine noted.
Neither Salon's nor RAW STORY's coverage made it completely clear whether the Senators are discussing an idea that is different from Leahy's previously-floated "Truth Commission" --- where immunity would be granted to many who testify, in questionable exchange for making "the truth" known --- though this investigation does seem to be distinct from that one. We'll try to keep our eye out for Leahy's press release today, in case it offers some clarity. [Update: See details of Leahy's announcement added at bottom of article.]
One point from Salon, also worth highlighting, is that the tenacious Sen. Whitehouse seems keen on using this investigation to help disprove the often asserted notion that the Bush, um, "enhanced interrogation" policies saved lives, despite the lack of evidence supporting that wishful thinking, and the growing body of evidence and testimony --- from those who actually know --- which plainly disputes it.
Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who led the investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, is quoted from a recent interview as disputing those who have claimed --- from the comfort of their keyboards --- that torture saved lives: "Some of those activities were actually not effective and those who thought so were in the academic or pristine settings of their offices," Taguba told Salon. "What would they know?"
Whitehouse adds: "It is important to prove the point, because they keep saying, 'We saved lives. We interrupted plans. We did this, that and the other.'...Well, when you drill down, there is never a fact there. It turns into fog and evasion."
Again, with Whitehouse on both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with access to much more information than has been made public to date, he oughta know. At least slightly more so than the Wingnuts who rule the public airwaves and, with it, the public "debate" on these issues to date.
UPDATE 1:34pm PT: On the Senate floor today, Leahy announced his plans for a hearing next Wednesday, March 4th at 10am ET (including a live webcast), called "Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry."
In today's Tim Dickinson interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Rolling Stone, it sure seems like she's leaning towards accountability for the criminals in the Bush Administration. Many of her words sound like the correct ones, even if she's a bit too enamored of Leahy's "Truth and Reconciliation Committee" proposal, which, among other "shameful" things, would likely results in a whole bunch of immunity, to a whole bunch of folks who deserve no such thing.
But she says she supports what Conyers is doing in the Judiciary Committee, in continuing to pursue Rove, Bolten and Miers. She says she can foresee a scenario in which senior members of the Administration are actually prosecuted. She says "The American people do not want wrongdoing to go unaddressed." She even said similar words to Fox "News" two days before the Inauguration.
So why does it always feel like she's still sitting on a fence? And, if she really believes these words she says, as House Speaker, can't she do more to make them happen?
Here's the snippets of note from Dickinson's interview. You tell us what the inscrutable Speaker really means. Or does she even know herself?...
I've had this picture in my mind lately, an editorial cartoon-like drawing, of a dam about to break and someone (Obama?) leaning hard up against it in futile hopes of keeping it from bursting forth. The dam and its contents, in my mind's eye, are labeled "Bush Administration Crimes and Failures." I've been pondering, over the last several days, how we're soon likely to learn that everything we think we already know about the historically-unparalleled failures, crimes and cover-ups of the Bush administration, will likely prove to be barely the tip of the iceberg as the Bushies lose their power, and "the files" are finally opened for all to see.
It's likely to take years, after President Obama is sworn in next week, to unearth the entire breadth of the degradation, filth, corruption and dismantling of federal law and U.S. Constitution under the current administration, and to piece together all of the unshredded and likely-shredded evidence both, and to take in the information likely to pour forth from officials and former officials who finally find the courage to tell the world just how bad it all really was and is (even if many of them would now be doing so only to salvage their own hide.)
One hint of what will be found beyond the tip of that iceberg, or inside that near-to-bursting dam (take your metaphorical pick) comes in today's remarkable report [PDF] from the DoJ Inspector General on the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the DoJ's Civil Rights Division and "other improper personnel actions" in the division.
It's remarkable on several fronts. Not only because it describes the politicization of the department under the Bushies, their strictly illegal hiring practices; their determined dismantling of a core of career attorneys devoted to years of legal-processes in the fight for civil rights; as well as perjury and out-and-out lying to Congress, but also because the report itself --- in one last classic stroke of corrupt Bush Administration gaming of the system --- was completed last July, prior to the election, but held for release until today, just 7 days before the criminals (or at least those who won't be still-embedded like cancer cells within the federal buearocracy for years to come) take their leave.
And, as if all of that isn't bad enough, with the out-and-out finding of criminal wrongdoing in the report (such as illegal hiring practices and lying about them to Congress), the Bush Administration's own DoJ has decided that no prosecutions should be brought against the Bush Administration's own DoJ for the Bush Administration's own DoJ's now-well-documented actions in breaking federal law.
The bastardization of the DoJ Civil Rights division is a topic which we've covered closely over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, and even played a part in helping to expose, for example, when the head of the Voting Section in that division, John Tanner, was forced to resign from his post, not long after we'd video-taped and published controversial (and inaccurate) comments he made at a 2007 conference in Los Angeles declaring that disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at the polling place were more of a concern for the elderly than for African-Americans because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
(See our now-infamous video, shot by our own Alan Breslauer, at right.)
As today's (actually July's) report reveals, that wouldn't be the only unfortunate --- and one might say, "ironic", given his position --- derogatory remark made about African-Americans by Tanner. But the bulk of the report, it seems, is devoted to one Bradley Schlozman, who insidiously twisted the mission of the Civil Rights division, brought political prosecutions in order to try and affect the outcome of elections, in violation of written DoJ policy, and attempted (and arguably succeeded) in helping to engineer an outright illegal, and ideological purge --- an ethical cleansing, if you will --- at the department, in an attempt to stack it with far rightwing brethren from the Federalist Society, or "right thinking Americans" (RTAs), as he referred to them among friends...
In an Exclusive BRAD BLOG Op-Ed, the Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' Whistleblower Calls on the Media to Perform Their First Amendment Obligations, on Congressional Leaders to Perform Their Oversight Duty, and for Insider Sources to Come Forward to the American Public...
For the second time in two weeks, the entire U.S. press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt U.S. officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts.
For the last two weeks --- one could say, for years --- the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.
Just as important, there must be pressure by the public on Congressional committee chairpersons, in particular Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Patrick Leahy. Both have been sitting for years on classified, sworn testimony by Edmonds --- as she revealed in the Times' new story on Sunday --- along with documentation, in their possession, confirming parts of her account. Pressure must be brought for them to hold public hearings to investigate her accusations of widespread criminal activities, over several administrations, that endanger national security. They should call for open testimony under oath by Edmonds --- as she has urged for five years --- and by other FBI officials she has named to them, as cited anonymously in the first Times' story.
And this is the time for those who have so far creditably leaked to the Times of London to come forward, accepting personal risks, to offer their testimony --- and new documents --- both to the Congress and to the American press. I would say to them: Don't do what I did and waste months of precious time trying to get Congressional committees to act as they should in the absence of journalistic pressure. Do your best to inform the American public directly, first, through the major American media.
But perhaps today the alternative media and the international press are a necessary precursor even to that. It shouldn't be true, but if it is, it's a measure of how far the New York Times and Washington Post have fallen from their responsibilities to the public, to their profession and to American democracy, since I gave them the Pentagon Papers in 1971. They printed them then. Would they today?
RUSSERT: Are you prepared to hold the Bush White House, the vice president, the attorney general and his office under contempt of Congress?
LEAHY: That is something that the whole Congress has to vote on. In our case, in the Senate, we'd have to vote on it; in the House, they would have to vote on it. I can't...
RUSSERT: Would you go that far?
LEAHY: If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far. I mean, this is very important to the American people.
Leahy's comments synch up with what Conyer's telegraphed a week during a House Judiciary hearing when he asked outgoing Dep. AG Paul McNulty if the DoJ would work with Congress should the White House ignore their subpoenas and it became necessary to issue criminal contempt charges. (For the record, McNulty punted in response, stating he's recused himself from the issue, will likely be gone by then, since he's already resigned, and otherwise, couldn't speak for the DoJ on the matter.)
Washington Post noticed Leahy's comments as well, and offers this road map to what comes next in their Monday edition...
The next step is for the congressional committee chairman to rule on the validity of the privilege claims. If the claims are deemed invalid, the committee can repeat the directive to comply. If the president continues to refuse, the committee can find the president in criminal contempt, and the issue would go to the full Senate or House. If a majority in either chamber approves the criminal citation, the matter is referred to a U.S. attorney with a recommendation to issue an indictment.
"Referred to a U.S. attorney." See what a frickin' mess we're looking at here? The USA in question would be Jeffrey A. Taylor of the District of Columbia. Unless he gets fired any time soon. Don't know much about Taylor, with no time to dig for now. So feel free to fill us in with any thoughts on him in comments.
Those separate email accounts – email accounts held by people working in the White House and the Office of the Vice President, often with security clearances, but not “.gov” accounts – now threaten to become bigger news. Those alternate accounts, as we know now from work done by the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the new report from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, both potentially and actually allowed WH and DOJ and OVP personnel to communicate ‘off the books’ up to a point. While theoretically still bound by the rules for preserving presidential records (see below) the 88 government officials with email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee could move with electronic fluidity from their official to their partisan political duties, and back again, with remarkably little scrutiny for the entire four years of Bush’s first term.
So any correspondence about --- for example --- Chandra Levy and Gary Condit, 9/11 and Iraq, anthrax mailings and Judith Miller, will remain lost from public view until the advanced technology of un-deleting can sweep it up from the bottom of whatever files it has been submerged in to date.
Tabling for now such topics as political motivation in the firing and hiring of US Attorneys, the immediate question is, exactly how EARLY did administration personnel start using these alternate email accounts?...
Today I sat in on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Department of Justice Oversight,” part of which Brad posted about, earlier. The solo witness was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, covering some by-now familiar ground in the matter of those questionable firings of US Attorneys in seven of 93 districts. In spite of some repetitive questioning, primarily by Charles Schumer (D-NY), the day was actually enlightening.
First, the hearing further indicated the direct White House connection suggested earlier by Brad. Gonzales is still in a position where he cannot speak freely about Bush, even if he wanted to do so. But even Gonzales’ measured and cautious answers to questions were revealing. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of Judiciary, led off by asking whether Gonzales had had any conversations about the US Attorneys with White House senior advisor Karl Rove. Answer: yes, in fall 2006 Gonzales had a conversation with Rove about USAs, regarding “voter fraud” in three districts – New Mexico, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia....
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had ‘not distinguished themselves’ on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation...
The item was sourced to unnamed “administration officials” who gave it to two WaPo reporters “yesterday.”
This juicy lede graf was followed up:
The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. attorneys..." but above "weak U.S. attorneys who...chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.
The major problem with this story? It’s not true. The Department of Justice never 'ranked' U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald negatively or as 'undistinguished.' According to sworn testimony by D. Kyle Sampson, today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Fitzgerald was rated 'very strong' internally in the DOJ.
So who fed the Post that story? And why did they run it without pinning it down first?...
"We don't have a law that would make war profiteering specifically a federal crime," Sen. Leahy (D-VT) said in this morning's efficient hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, so he is introducing one.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is busy these days --- what with the scandal over White House manipulations of the prosecutorial function of the Department of Justice, the continuing scandals of war profiteering in the "war on terror," and other oversight matters, the Committee is in jeopardy of being overstretched. In fact, it already is overstretched.
The room was full for this morning's hearing, which I attended, on "Combating War Profiteering," but, as with last week's House Oversight Comittee hearings with Valerie Plameet al, this one was also scantly attended by GOP'ers. Of Republicans, only the co-chair of the committee Arlen Specter (R-PA) and --- to do him justice --- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) graced the hearing with their presence. The co-chair could do no less, and indeed did little, though I noticed that both he and Leahy alluded to their past jobs as prosecutors, from which it can safely be inferred that they too think the current manipulations of US Attorneys --- prosecutors --- by the DOJ look very bad...