Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

My Photo
Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

From Behind the Fire Wall: Mr. Rich!

I just can’t help myself, so here it is folks:

Op-Ed Columnist

When Will Fredo Get Whacked?


PRESIDENT BUSH wants to keep everything that happens in his White House secret, but when it comes to his own emotions, he’s as transparent as a teenager on MySpace.

On Monday morning he observed the Iraq war’s fourth anniversary with a sullen stay-the-course peroration so perfunctory he seemed to sleepwalk through its smorgasbord of recycled half-truths (Iraqi leaders are “beginning to meet the benchmarks”) and boilerplate (“There will be good days, and there will be bad days”). But at a press conference the next day to defend his attorney general, the president was back in the saddle, guns blazing, Mr. Bring ’Em On reborn. He vowed to vanquish his Democratic antagonists much as he once, so very long ago, pledged to make short work of insurgents in Iraq.

The Jekyll-and-Hyde contrast between these two performances couldn’t be a more dramatic indicator of Mr. Bush’s priorities in his presidency’s endgame. His passion for protecting his power and his courtiers far exceeds his passion for protecting the troops he’s pouring into Iraq’s civil war. But why go to the mat for Alberto Gonzales? Even Bush loyalists have rarely shown respect for this crony whom the president saddled with the nickname Fredo; they revolted when Mr. Bush flirted with appointing him to the Supreme Court and shun him now. The attorney general’s alleged infraction — misrepresenting a Justice Department purge of eight United States attorneys, all political appointees, for political reasons — seems an easy-to-settle kerfuffle next to his infamous 2002 memo dismissing the Geneva Conventions’ strictures on torture as “quaint” and “obsolete.”

That’s why the president’s wild overreaction is revealing. So far his truculence has been largely attributed to his slavish loyalty to his White House supplicants, his ideological belief in unilateral executive-branch power and, as always, his need to shield the Machiavellian machinations of Karl Rove (who installed a protégé in place of one of the fired attorneys). But the fierceness of Mr. Bush’s response — to the ludicrous extreme of forbidding transcripts of Congressional questioning of White House personnel — indicates there is far more fire to go with all the Beltway smoke.

Mr. Gonzales may be a nonentity, but he’s a nonentity like Zelig. He’s been present at every dubious legal crossroads in Mr. Bush’s career. That conjoined history began in 1996, when Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty in Austin. To popular acclaim, he announced he was glad to lend his “average guy” perspective to a drunken driving trial. But there was one hitch. On the juror questionnaire, he left blank a required section asking, “Have you ever been accused, or a complainant, or a witness in a criminal case?”

A likely explanation for that omission, unknown to the public at the time, was that Mr. Bush had been charged with disorderly conduct in 1968 and drunken driving in 1976. Enter Mr. Gonzales. As the story is told in “The President’s Counselor,” a nonpartisan biography by the Texas journalist Bill Minutaglio, Mr. Gonzales met with the judge presiding over the trial in his chambers (a meeting Mr. Gonzales would years later claim to have “no recollection” of requesting) and saved his client from jury duty. Mr. Minutaglio likens the scene to “The Godfather” — casting Mr. Gonzales not as the feckless Fredo, however, but as the “discreet ‘fixer’ attorney,” Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen.

Mr. Gonzales’s career has been laced with such narrow escapes for both him and Mr. Bush. As a partner at the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, Mr. Gonzales had worked for Enron until 1994. After Enron imploded in 2001, reporters wanted to know whether Ken Lay’s pals in the Bush hierarchy had received a heads up about the company’s pending demise before its unfortunate shareholders were left holding the bag. The White House said that Mr. Gonzales had been out of the Enron loop “to the best of his recollection.” This month Murray Waas of The National Journal uncovered a more recent close shave: Just as Justice Department investigators were about to examine “documents that might have shed light on Gonzales’s role” in the administration’s extralegal domestic wiretapping program last year, Mr. Bush shut down the investigation.

It was Mr. Gonzales as well who threw up roadblocks when the 9/11 Commission sought documents and testimony from the White House about the fateful summer of 2001. Less widely known is Mr. Gonzales’s curious behavior in the C.I.A. leak case while he was still White House counsel. When the Justice Department officially notified him on the evening of Sept. 29, 2003, that it was opening an investigation into the outing of Valerie Wilson, he immediately informed Andrew Card, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff. But Mr. Gonzales waited another 12 hours to officially notify the president and inform White House employees to preserve all materials relevant to the investigation. As Chuck Schumer said after this maneuver became known, “Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence.”

Now that 12-hour delay has been matched by the 18-day gap in the Justice Department e-mails turned over to Congress in the dispute over the attorney purge. And we’re being told by Tony Snow that Mr. Bush has “no recollection” of hearing anything about the firings. But even these literal echoes of Watergate cannot obliterate the contours of the story this White House wants to hide.

Do not be distracted by the apples and oranges among the fired attorneys. Perhaps a couple of their forced resignations were routine. But in other instances, incriminating evidence coalesces around a familiar administration motive: its desperate desire to cover up the corruption that soiled what was supposed to be this White House’s greatest asset, its protection of the nation’s security. This was the motive that drove the White House to vilify Joseph Wilson when he challenged fraudulent prewar intelligence about Saddam’s W.M.D. The e-mails in the attorney flap released so far suggest that this same motive may have driven the Justice Department to try mounting a similar strike at Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney charged with investigating the Wilson leak.

In March 2005, while preparing for the firings, Mr. Gonzales’s now-jettisoned chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, produced a chart rating all 93 United States attorneys nationwide. Mr. Fitzgerald, widely admired as one of the nation’s best prosecutors (most famously of terrorists), was somehow slapped with the designation “not distinguished.” Two others given that same rating were fired. You have to wonder if Mr. Fitzgerald was spared because someone in a high place belatedly calculated the political firestorm that would engulf the White House had this prosecutor been part of a Saturday night massacre in the middle of the Wilson inquiry.

Another canned attorney to track because of her scrutiny of Bush administration national security scandals is Carol Lam. She was fired from her post in San Diego after her successful prosecution of Representative Duke Cunningham, the California Republican who took $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Mr. Rove has publicly suggested that Ms. Lam got the ax because “she would not commit resources to prosecute immigration offenses.” That’s false. Last August an assistant attorney general praised her for doubling her immigration prosecutions; last week USA Today crunched the statistics and found that she ranked seventh among her 93 peers in successful prosecutions for 2006, with immigration violations accounting for the largest single crime category prosecuted during her tenure.

To see what Mr. Rove might be trying to cover up, look instead at what Ms. Lam was up to in May, just as the Justice Department e-mails indicate she was being earmarked for removal. Building on the Cunningham case, she was closing in on Dusty Foggo, the C.I.A.’s No. 3 official and the director of its daily operations. Mr. Foggo had been installed in this high intelligence position by Mr. Bush’s handpicked successor to George Tenet as C.I.A. director, Porter Goss.

Ms. Lam’s pursuit sped Mr. Foggo’s abrupt resignation; Mr. Goss was out too after serving less than two years. Nine months later — just as Ms. Lam stepped down from her job in February — Mr. Foggo and a defense contractor who raised more than $100,000 for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign were indicted by a grand jury on 11 counts of conspiracy and money laundering in what The Washington Post called “one of the first criminal cases to reach into the C.I.A.’s clandestine operations in Europe and the Middle East.” Because the allegations include the compromising of classified information that remains classified, we don’t know the full extent of the damage to an agency and a nation at war.

Not yet anyway. “I’m not going to resign,” Mr. Gonzales asserted last week as he played the minority card, rounding up Hispanic supporters to cheer his protestations of innocence. “I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids.” Actually, he’s going to stay focused on protecting the president. Once he can no longer be useful in that role, it’s a sure thing that like Scooter before him, Fredo will be tossed overboard.

Gonzales has to go but the problem for this administration is who will replace him. There are few realistic choices. Anyone with any gravitas would be less than willing to take the job and those who would be acceptable to GW would lack the gravitas necessary to gain Senate approval. Hmmm! This suggests to me that Abu is going to remain the Attorney General of the U. S. for the foreseeable future. The President has little chance of making any acceptable change at DOJ.

Who would Have Thunk It?

Yes folks, I am agreeing with Zbigniew Brzezinski? I am in a state of shock but here it is and he is right:

Terrorized by 'War on Terror'
How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sunday, March 25, 2007; B01

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd "security checks" that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital -- and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is "to blow up the building"? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such "security" procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to "Report Suspicious Activity" (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror "experts" as "consultants" provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded "terrorists" as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as "terrorist apologists" who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America's reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some -- even U.S. citizens -- incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.

Fear mongering is the Bushies Rovian attempt to manipulate, ala Joseph Goebbels, the American public, and as most Madison Avenue campaigns have shown, it works folks. After September 11, 2001 the machine in the Whitehouse went into full speed ahead mode and got the American public to more or less forget the facts surrounding the administration’s lack of attention to the terrorist threat prior to September 11, 2001. Unfortunately that continues to this day. Americans continue to crouch and ignore the fact that their civil liberties are being disgorged as we speak.

Roosevelt was right: we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Democracy is at stake folks. Are you Americans or Stalinists? That is the question.

Abu to Shut Down Abramoff Case?

Steve Soto over at Left Coaster had a very cogent post Friday on connecting the dots.

I believe the key dot to connect in the latest DOJ scandal is USA Carol Lam and the Cunningham, CIA, and Appropriations Committee investigation. Because it is all connected folks: Guam, the Tobacco Case, the Purge of USA’s and Abramoff. When you see a pattern of actions one is tempted to think conspiracy to obstruct justice and possibly RICO! I have long thought that this administration is in line for a RICO indictment. I am not saying that past administrations haven’t engaged in nefarious behavior, they have, however it has never been, in my experience, so blatant. Why is it that this administration is convinced that it can engage in this behavior with impunity?

Talk about an administration that has so undermined the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law, and the horrific fact that the Fourth Estate has consistently failed to connect the dots. As to the average American and their reaction to what has been unfolding for the past seven years, the Mainstream Press is partly to blame. The Fourth Estate is protected by the First Amendment. And yet they have failed to uphold their part of the deal to hold the government to account for its actions and thus embrace the First Amendment. The facts are out there and the Mainstream Media, be it electronic or print, has an obligation to expose it. And it doesn’t appear they have. The latest on the USA’s purge is just one example. If it hadn’t been for the blogs this story would have been given short shrift. But once again Josh Marshall at TPM pushed it and he was right. And once the MSM started reporting on it the story took off and folks started to pay attention.

Now this doesn’t let the average American off the hook. The average American, a citizen, has a responsibility to be informed, if they vote that is and we know that not enough vote or participate in citizenship. That said, those that do vote have an obligation to be informed. Now I am not talking about just accepting what the administration’s stenographers put out. I am talking about critical thinking. I am appalled that those I know who have access to the internet consistently remain uniformed about what is happening in this country. It smacks of willful ignorance to me and a total lack of understanding as to the obligations inherent in what citizenship and patriotism entails.

And that is one of the things about the internet and the blogosphere’s attention to news which makes it so clear as to its value because there is an understanding as to what citizenship and patriotism entails. There is a plethora of folks who bring various expertise and voices to the discussion and point out various facts and inconsistencies that inform the debate on a subject. It is our obligation as citizens and patriots to know the facts and hold those in power to account.

So, as most of you know I often link to everything that I cite. Other than Steve Soto’s fabulous post at Left Coaster I am not going to give you all you need to know because I think that as a citizen and patriot you should go out there and find the information yourself. You owe it to yourself and America and the U.S. Constitution, if you care that is. All of the information is available to you on the internet which it appears you have access to. At the very least read Mr. Soto’s analysis.

Be informed, you’ll feel better in the morning!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

What, No Lindbergh Kidnapping?

So, it appears that just in time to divert us from Scooter Libby, Walter Reed, and the Abu Gonzales debacles, nee scandals, etc., we have KSM confessing to just about everything except the Kennedy and Lincoln Assassinations. KSM for those not into governmentees is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of Al-Qaeda fame. You know the guy we have had in custody for over four years now. And whose admissions are so relevant today that they are being outed by our ever so terroristically courant government. Well it seems that not everyone is impressed or buying it

Certainly not Time Magazine as they report here:

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2007

Why KSM's Confession Rings False

By Robert Baer

It's hard to tell what the Pentagon's objective really is in releasing the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession. It certainly suggests the Administration is trying to blame KSM for al-Qaeda terrorism, leading us to believe we've caught the master terrorist and that al-Qaeda, and especially the ever-elusive bin Laden, is no longer a threat to the U.S.

But there is a major flaw in that marketing strategy. On the face of it, KSM, as he is known inside the government, comes across as boasting, at times mentally unstable. It's also clear he is making things up. I'm told by people involved in the investigation that KSM was present during Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl's execution but was in fact not the person who killed him. There exists videotape footage of the execution that minimizes KSM's role. And if KSM did indeed exaggerate his role in the Pearl murder, it raises the question of just what else he has exaggerated, or outright fabricated.

Just as importantly, there is an absence of collateral evidence that would support KSM's story. KSM claims he was "responsible for the 9/11 operation from A-Z." Yet he has omitted details that would support his role. For instance, one of the more intriguing mysteries is who recruited and vetted the fifteen Saudi hijackers, the so-called "muscle." The well-founded suspicion is that Qaeda was running a cell inside the Kingdom that spotted these young men and forwarded them to al-Qaeda. KSM and al-Qaeda often appear bumbling, but they would never have accepted recruits they couldn't count on. KSM does not offer us an answer as to how this worked.

KSM has also not offered evidence of state support to al-Qaeda, though there is good evidence there was, even at a low level. KSM himself was harbored by a member of Qatar's royal family after he was indicted in the U.S. for the Bojinka plot — a plan to bomb twelve American airplanes over the Pacific. KSM and al-Qaeda also received aid from supporters in Pakistan, quite possibly from sympathizers in the Pakistani intelligence service. KSM provides no details that would suggest we are getting the full story from him.

Although he claims to have been al-Qaeda's foreign operations chief, he has offered no information about European networks. Today, dozens of investigations are going on in Great Britain surrounding the London tube bombings on July 7, 2005. Yet KSM apparently knew nothing about these networks or has not told his interrogators about them.

The fact is al-Qaeda is too smart to put all of its eggs in one basket. It has not and does not have a field commander, the role KSM has arrogated. It works on the basis of "weak links," mounting terrorist operations by bringing in people on an ad hoc basis, and immediately disbanding the group afterwards.

Until we hear more, the mystery of who KSM is and what he was responsible for is still a mystery.

Now say I wasn’t calling Oliver Stone on this one, I find it interesting that Time is! Not that I am not calling on Mr. Stone, mind you. But, doesn’t it seem just a bit too convenient that his confession is coming out in a week when all hell has broken loose for the Whitehouse what pardon talk being all the rage now that Scooter has been convicted of multiple felonies and what with abusing War Heros at Walter Reed, U.S. Attorneys at the DOJ, and the Constitutional process and all.

Memo to Karl: Smoke and Mirrors just isn’t what it use to be!

Just saying!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bernie Kerik, Again!

Just like Abramoff, Kerik is the gift that keeps on giving. Poor Rudy, bad judgment comes home to roost, again, in his support for Bernie. One has to wonder how Rudy’s judgments on very important things like security and law and order will be judged by his championing of Bernie Kerik for the head of Home Land Security, etc.. Will this effect his Presidential aspirations? One can only hope so. Real “New Yorkers” aren’t bamboozled by his 9/11 mythology! We know better, because we lived it!

Here is the story from the NYT’s:

March 14, 2007

Kerik Is Said to Refuse a Plea That Calls for Prison Time


Federal investigators offered to end their criminal investigation of Bernard B. Kerik, the city’s former police and correction commissioner, in exchange for his pleading guilty to charges that he engaged in federal tax fraud and wiretap conspiracy, but he refused, according to Mr. Kerik’s lawyer and a person briefed on the case.

The plea offer was made during a 90-minute meeting last month between Perry A. Carbone and Elliott B. Jacobson, two assistant United States attorneys in Manhattan, and one of Mr. Kerik’s lawyers, Kenneth M. Breen, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner with the firm of Fulbright & Jaworski.

“Mr. Kerik rejected the plea offer because he paid his taxes and did nothing wrong,” said Mr. Breen, who represents Mr. Kerik along with another lawyer, Joseph Tacopina.

Federal investigators in recent months have explored a range of allegations about Mr. Kerik, a leading official under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, including accusations he conspired to help the former Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine F. Pirro, plant listening devices to catch her husband in an extramarital affair. Mr. Kerik and Ms. Pirro were captured on a state wiretap discussing such a plan.

Investigators have also been reviewing the circumstances under which Mr. Kerik accepted $165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment in 1999 from Interstate Industrial Corporation, a New Jersey contractor, or a subsidiary. Last summer in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, Mr. Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts and admitted accepting the free work.

At the time, Mr. Tacopina said Mr. Kerik did not owe any federal taxes on the construction work.

Mr. Breen declined to discuss the negotiations in detail and it is unclear how the proposed charges relate to Mr. Kerik’s conversations with Ms. Pirro or to the work on his apartment. But the proposed deal would have required Mr. Kerik to serve some time in prison, and is one indication of how seriously federal prosecutors view the allegations.

Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Fordham University School of Law, said that when plea negotiations fail, federal prosecutors nearly always seek an indictment.

Mr. Richman was not referring specifically to Mr. Kerik’s case.

An indictment would be a setback for the presidential campaign of Mr. Giuliani, who supported Mr. Kerik in his failed bid to become the nation’s Homeland Security director in 2004. Mr. Kerik was chosen by President Bush for the post, but withdrew, citing his failure to pay taxes on an illegal immigrant whom he had hired as his nanny.

Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney in Manhattan, Michael J. Garcia, declined to comment on the negotiations, which were first reported last night by WNBC-TV.

Mr. Kerik’s conversations with Ms. Pirro erupted into public view last fall as she was running as the Republican candidate for state attorney general. She said the devices were never planted and she accused the investigators of political motivations. But her campaign never regained its footing and she lost the election to Andrew M. Cuomo.

A lawyer who represented Ms. Pirro at the time, Paul Shechtman, did not return a call seeking comment.

Kyle B. Watters, a lawyer for one of the contractors who performed work on Mr. Kerik’s apartment, Timothy Woods, said that Mr. Woods had received a federal subpoena seeking records and testimony relating to his work on the home.

I can understand that perhaps Mr. Kerik doesn’t want to do time and plead to a felony and is willing to wait it out. Perhaps he may be actually hoping that this pesky Republican U.S. Attorney is replaced by a different Republican who is not pesky, and a non-political appointee by the Whitehouse and the Justice Department, so he can get a better deal.

I’m just saying: hope springs eternal!

More on U.S. Attorney Dismissals!

Another dismissed U.S. Attorney speaks out. Nothing to see here folks, just move along. It’s just Politics as usual in this time when Politics and P.R. trumps Governing.

Just a reminder and more food for thought in the USAPurgegate from a while back:

March 6, 2007

Former Prosecutor Says Departure Was Pressured


WASHINGTON, March 5 — The former federal prosecutor in Maryland said Monday that he was forced out in early 2005 because of political pressure stemming from public corruption investigations involving associates of the state’s governor, a Republican.

“There was direct pressure not to pursue these investigations,” said the former prosecutor, Thomas M. DiBiagio. “The practical impact was to intimidate my office and shut down the investigations.”

Mr. DiBiagio, a controversial figure who clashed with a number of Maryland politicians, had never publicly discussed the reasons behind his departure. But he agreed to an interview with The New York Times because he said he was concerned about what he saw as similarities with the recent firings of eight United States attorneys.

As in those cases, there are conflicting accounts of the circumstances that led to Mr. DiBiagio’s ouster. The Justice Department disputes his version.

His office had been looking into whether associates of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had improperly funneled money from gambling interests to promote legalized slot machines in Maryland. Mr. DiBiagio said that several prominent Maryland Republicans had pressed him to back away from the inquiries and that one conversation had so troubled him that he reported it to an F.B.I. official as a threat.

But he said that the Justice Department had offered little support and that that made it “impossible for me to stay.”

Several current and former officials in the Baltimore office said Mr. DiBiagio voiced concerns in 2004 that the corruption inquiries were jeopardizing his career, a view that they shared.

The Justice Department rejected Mr. DiBiagio’s explanation. An official in the department, David Margolis, said he told Mr. DiBiagio in 2004 that he had to leave because “we had lost confidence in him.”

Mr. Margolis said the prosecutor’s harsh management style had caused resentments in the office that ran “wide and deep” and called “an absolute fairy tale” the idea that Mr. DiBiagio’s departure was tied to the gambling case or any other investigation.

Mr. Ehrlich, who was defeated for re-election in November, denied any involvement in Mr. DiBiagio’s departure and said there was nothing to the gambling investigations.

Like Mr. DiBiagio, several of the newly departing prosecutors were overseeing sensitive political corruption investigations when they left office.

The controversy over the dismissals continued to grow on Monday, as the head of the Justice Department office that oversees prosecutors stepped down, a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint, and House and Senate committees prepared for testimony on Tuesday from some of the ousted prosecutors.

Because Mr. Ehrlich was the sole statewide Republican in Maryland at the time of Mr. DiBiagio’s appointment in 2001, he had a critical role in recommending him to the White House for the position.

Mr. DiBiagio, a former assistant prosecutor, was a political unknown, but he and the governor had become friends as young lawyers in Maryland. The bond disintegrated soon after the prosecutor took office.

Mr. Ehrlich and his advisers acknowledged on Monday that they were unhappy with Mr. DiBiagio’s handling of an earlier corruption investigation that led to the indictment in 2003 of Mr. Ehrlich’s state police superintendent, Edward R. Norris, over his misuse of police money.

The gambling investigation caused less concern in the governor’s office because officials there considered it without merit, Mr. Ehrlich said. But because of lingering suspicions in Maryland political circles that Mr. Ehrlich’s people had a hand in Mr. DiBiagio’s departure in early 2005, a longtime aide to the governor, Jervis Finney, called Mr. DiBiagio a few months ago to deny any involvement, Mr. Finney said.

Mr. Finney said in an interview Monday that he wanted to “clean things up” and to let Mr. DiBiagio know that “neither Gov. Bob Ehrlich or his representatives had asked the Department of Justice to push him out.”

Mr. DiBiagio said he did not accept the explanation.

“I believe it was that investigation that played an integral role in what was done to me,” Mr. DiBiagio, now at a law firm here, said about the gambling inquiries. “I clearly got the message that I had alienated my political sponsor and I would not have any political support to stay another term. Clearly, they wanted me to leave.”

Mr. DiBiagio pointed to tense conversations in 2003 and 2004 with advisers to the governor who, he said, intimated that the corruption investigations could derail his career. He would not name them publicly.

The former prosecutor said he was particularly troubled by one visit in June 2004 in which, he said, a lawyer allied with the governor said the gambling inquiries were disrupting legislative consideration of the slots question and should be shut down.

Mr. DiBiagio said the lawyer inquired about his political future, asked whether he was interested in being a judge and suggested that his life could be closely scrutinized.

Mr. DiBiagio said he described the conversation in a memorandum for his records and reported it to an official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Baltimore as a possible threat.

Soon after the meeting, Mr. DiBiagio told a Justice Department official in Washington about his office’s gambling investigation and said, “Powerful politicians and businessmen are very upset that we are looking into this matter,” according to an e-mail message that The Times reviewed.

In the gambling investigation, prosecutors secured a grand jury subpoena for the records of Mr. Ehrlich’s communications director, Paul E. Schurick.

Investigators were said to be interested in tracing substantial payments made by a gambling company to a political marketing business in Maryland with ties to Maryland Republicans, people involved in the issue said.

Mr. Ehrlich said Monday that he had no knowledge of any improper transactions to support the slots initiative, and he said the investigation was unfounded.

“I’ve been for slots for 20 years,” he said. “It wasn’t any shock that I was for slots. There wasn’t anything to this.”

The investigation appears to have ended after Mr. DiBiagio left office in January 2005.

In Maryland law enforcement circles, Mr. DiBiagio had as many detractors as supporters. The Justice Department publicly rebuked him in mid-2004 over a leaked memorandum that spoke of his desire to bring three “front page” corruption cases before November, a memorandum widely interpreted in Baltimore as an effort to pursue Democrats.

In response, the department said all public corruption cases in Maryland would have to obtain approval by superiors in Washington. Soon, the department initiated an unscheduled performance review of Mr. DiBiagio. Mr. Margolis said the review had shown deep resentment over the prosecutor’s aggressive management.

Several officials in the Baltimore prosecutor’s office said that although Mr. DiBiagio had been an unpopular manager, the timing of the events leading to his departure appeared to be linked, at least partly, to the corruption investigations.

“We had several investigations that were very sensitive publicly, and what did him in was the probes into prominent Republicans,” said a former official involved in the inquiries who insisted on anonymity.

The state’s attorney in Baltimore, Patricia C. Jessamy, who worked often with Mr. DiBiagio, said she believed that he had alienated too many important people to succeed.

“He was a good prosecutor,” she said. “But he did not play politics well, and that was his downfall.”

Political considerations are not part of this scandal according the Administration. I think not. Let us not forget what happened in Guam.

I have always thought that this latest purge has to do with Carol Lam just like the Guam case in the Abramoff scandal. And TPM has the nugget via McClatchy.


Update: Apparently U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was spending too much time on Public Corruption Cases (which showed that Republicans were corrupt) and not enough time on other types of cases. According to Abu Gonzales on CBS that is!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

In the Wake of the Walter Reed Scandal!

Here is to all those who Support the Troops!

I can’t stress this enough. America wake-up! What were you thinking?

No Chance, but a Great Thought!

There is no chance that this Administration is going to remove, ask to resign, or fire, Abu Gonzales. It just ain’t going to happen folks. They just love their loyal enablers. And Abu is one of the best.

So, though it is important to point out his “faults” it is totally a waste of time to suggest that this administration should replace him. Yes he should be replaced, but with whom?

That said, here is the NYT’s editorial on Abu:

March 11, 2007


The Failed Attorney General

During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales said he understood the difference between the job he held — President Bush’s in-house lawyer — and the job he wanted, which was to represent all Americans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of the Constitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have a clue about the difference.

He has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency. If anyone, outside Mr. Bush’s rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still had doubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them.

First, there was Mr. Gonzales’s lame op-ed article in USA Today trying to defend the obviously politically motivated firing of eight United States attorneys, which he dismissed as an “overblown personnel matter.” Then his inspector general exposed the way the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been abusing yet another unnecessary new power that Mr. Gonzales helped wring out of the Republican-dominated Congress in the name of fighting terrorism.

The F.B.I. has been using powers it obtained under the Patriot Act to get financial, business and telephone records of Americans by issuing tens of thousands of “national security letters,” a euphemism for warrants that are issued without any judicial review or avenue of appeal. The administration said that, as with many powers it has arrogated since the 9/11 attacks, this radical change was essential to fast and nimble antiterrorism efforts, and it promised to police the use of the letters carefully.

But like so many of the administration’s promises, this one evaporated before the ink on those letters could dry. The F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller, admitted Friday that his agency had used the new powers improperly.

Mr. Gonzales does not directly run the F.B.I., but it is part of his department and has clearly gotten the message that promises (and civil rights) are meant to be broken.

It was Mr. Gonzales, after all, who repeatedly defended Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize warrantless eavesdropping on Americans’ international calls and e-mail. He was an eager public champion of the absurd notion that as commander in chief during a time of war, Mr. Bush can ignore laws that he thinks get in his way. Mr. Gonzales was disdainful of any attempt by Congress to examine the spying program, let alone control it.

The attorney general helped formulate and later defended the policies that repudiated the Geneva Conventions in the war against terror, and that sanctioned the use of kidnapping, secret detentions, abuse and torture. He has been central to the administration’s assault on the courts, which he recently said had no right to judge national security policies, and on the constitutional separation of powers.

His Justice Department has abandoned its duties as guardian of election integrity and voting rights. It approved a Georgia photo-ID law that a federal judge later likened to a poll tax, a case in which Mr. Gonzales’s political team overrode the objections of the department’s professional staff.

The Justice Department has been shamefully indifferent to complaints of voter suppression aimed at minority voters. But it has managed to find the time to sue a group of black political leaders in Mississippi for discriminating against white voters.

We opposed Mr. Gonzales’s nomination as attorney general. His résumé was weak, centered around producing legal briefs for Mr. Bush that assured him that the law said what he wanted it to say. More than anyone in the administration, except perhaps Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Gonzales symbolizes Mr. Bush’s disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law.

On Thursday, Senator Arlen Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, hinted very obliquely that perhaps Mr. Gonzales’s time was up. We’re not going to be oblique. Mr. Bush should dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution.

When the NYT’s says, “Mr. Bush should dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution” you have to wonder what world they live in. Certainly not the same one we have all been living in for the last seven years! The last thing this President wants is someone who would “use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution.”

As someone I admire would say, “That’s a Wrap.”

Glenn Fine Still Has the Big Job?

Glenn A. Fine, DOJ Inspector General, must have something on someone in this Administration. He has kept his job and continues to put out reports that “report” on the Administration’s malfeasance. How does he continue to get away with this? Not that I am opposed mind you, but I just don’t get how he has lasted in this milieu of retribution for truth telling.

And yet Mr. Fine continues to tell the truth and expose the underbelly of this Department of Justice, such as it where. His latest findings are on the use of “Security Letters.” These are the non-judicial, and non-accountability, subpoenas from the DOJ, under the Patriot Act, that those of us who were paying attention were so worried about. And it does appear that our fears were justified.

Here is the article from the WAPO on Mr. Fine’s latest report:

FBI Audit Prompts Calls for Reform
Some Lawmakers Suggest Limits On Patriot Act

By Dan Eggen and John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 10, 2007; A01

Lawmakers from both parties yesterday called for limits on antiterrorism laws in response to a Justice Department report that the FBI improperly obtained telephone logs, banking records and other personal information on thousands of Americans.

The audit by the department's inspector general detailed widespread abuse of the FBI's authority to seize personal details about tens of thousands of people without court oversight through the use of national security letters.

It also found that the FBI had hatched an agreement with telephone companies allowing the agency to ask for information on more than 3,000 phone numbers -- often without a subpoena, without an emergency or even without an investigative case. In 2006, the FBI then issued blanket letters authorizing many of the requests retroactively, according to agency officials and congressional aides briefed on the effort.

The disclosures prompted a public apology from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and promises of reform from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who was the focus of a new tide of criticism from Democrats and Republicans already angry about his handling of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"I am the person responsible," Mueller said in a hastily scheduled news conference. "I am the person accountable, and I am committed to ensuring that we correct these deficiencies and live up to these responsibilities."

Democrats and Republicans alike said Gonzales, Mueller and the Bush administration did not properly monitor the FBI and guard the privacy rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents. The report came at the end of a difficult political week for the Bush administration, after the conviction of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case and damaging allegations by fired federal prosecutors.

Top lawmakers raised the possibility that Congress would seek to curb the Justice Department's powers, most likely by placing restrictions on the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law.

"This goes above and beyond almost everything they've done already," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a host of Democrats promising investigative hearings. "It shows just how this administration has no respect for checks and balances."

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, told reporters that Congress may "impose statutory requirements and perhaps take away some of the authority which we've already given to the FBI, since they appear not to be able to know how to use it."

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who has been pressing for a review of national security letters since 2005, said the report "confirms the American people's worst fears about the Patriot Act."

A national security letter is a type of administrative subpoena that allows the FBI to demand records from banks, credit-reporting agencies and other companies without the supervision of a judge. The Patriot Act significantly expanded the FBI's ability to use them, and a reauthorization of the law last year required the audit that was issued yesterday.

The findings by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were so at odds with previous assertions by the Bush administration that Capitol Hill was peppered yesterday with retraction letters from the Justice Department attempting to correct statements in earlier testimony and briefings. Gonzales and other officials had repeatedly portrayed national security letters as a well-regulated tool necessary for the prevention of terrorist attacks.

One such retraction letter, sent to Specter by Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Hertling, sought to correct a 2005 letter that attacked a Washington Post story about national security letters. "We have determined that certain statements in our November 23 letter need clarification," Hertling wrote.

Fine's 199-page unclassified report found that the FBI's records showed it issued more than 143,000 requests for information on more than 52,000 people through national security letters from 2003 to 2005. But not only did the agency understate that number in required reports to Congress, the number of requests it issued was much higher.

Nearly half the people targeted were U.S. citizens or legal residents, and the proportion of such "U.S. persons" increased over the three-year period, the report said.

In examining a small sample of security letters issued by four FBI offices, Fine discovered that the letters were improperly issued about 16 percent of the time. In the sample of 293 letters, the FBI had identified 26 potential violations but missed 22 others, the report said.

The report also details how, after obtaining sweeping new anti-terrorism powers under the Patriot Act in late 2001, the FBI did not establish basic training and record-keeping procedures to ensure that civil liberties were protected. That kept the agency from giving Congress accurate numbers on how often it used national security letters, the investigation found.

"During the time period covered by this review, the FBI had no policy or directive requiring the retention of signed copies of the national security letters or any requirement to upload national security letters to the FBI's case management system," the report said.

The findings are reminiscent of those in previous reports, including many by Fine's office, that have detailed the FBI's chronic inability to keep track of items ranging from guns to laptops to documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing case. Fine determined that the latest violations were not deliberate but that they could be widespread.

Gonzales described the problems as unacceptable and left open the possibility of criminal charges. He ordered further investigation.

"Once we get that information, we'll be in a better position to assess what kinds of steps should be taken," Gonzales said after a speech to privacy officials. "There is no excuse for the mistakes that have been made, and we are going to make things right as quickly as possible."

At the same time, Gonzales stressed that he thinks "the kinds of errors we saw here were due to questionable judgment or lack of attention, not intentional wrongdoing." Mueller said that the "the number of abuses is exceptionally small" compared with the broad use of national security letters and that "no one has been damaged" by the errors.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government over its use of national security letters, said the report shows the need for an independent investigation of the Justice Department's antiterrorism tactics.

"It confirms our greatest suspicions about the abuse of Patriot Act powers and, specifically, national security letter powers," Romero said.

Aside from the findings about national security letters, the report details for the first time a separate kind of emergency letter used in "exigent circumstances," modeled on letters used by New York FBI agents after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The 739 emergency letters were issued as part of an agreement with three unidentified telephone companies and requested information with the promise of subpoenas, which rarely materialized, the report said.

Mueller indicated that "we stopped the use of these letters" in May 2006. An FBI official later clarified those comments, saying emergency letters are still used but now promise a national security letter rather than a subpoena sometime in the future.

This is of course another abuse of power by this Administration. Now in the course of my travels and life I have run across many an American who is unperturbed by this development because they believe they are doing nothing wrong and therefore will not be touched by this controversy. Apparently many Americans do not believe in the U.S. Constitution and its protections for the guilty in order to protect the innocent.

That so many Americans are willing Stalinists is very frightening and it also heartens back to Weimar Germany in 1933. How do you know that you aren’t just "too swarthy" to be a suspect?

Thank heaven for Glenn A. Fine and whatever he has on this Administration, besides the truth and facts that is!

Guns for Everyone but Dred Scott!

When the Wall Street Journal gets it that says a lot!

Here is the word from the WSJ on the most recent D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Parker v. D.C. as to how D.C.’s Gun Law is, or isn’t, in violation of the 2nd Amendment:

March 9, 2007, 7:28 pm

Dred-full Decision

It’s not often these days that courts approvingly cite Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision holding that blacks could not be U.S. citizens. But Dred Scott made a surprising cameo today in another divisive constitutional issue, providing ammunition for a federal circuit court conclusion that the Second Amendment overrides the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns.

The amendment states that “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Gun enthusiasts have stressed the last part to argue that the amendment provides an individual right to own firearms. Gun-control proponents focus on the introductory phrase, arguing that the amendment protects gun ownership only within the context of militia service.

The Supreme Court last spoke on the Second Amendment in 1939, when it upheld a federal law requiring registration of sawed-off shotguns. The justices found no constitutional “right to keep and bear such an instrument,” because a sawed-off shotgun had no “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.” Most federal courts subsequently have dismissed challenges to gun-control laws on Second Amendment grounds.

Gun advocates have urged instead that courts apply the Second Amendment much like the First, providing an individual right rather than a collective one. The Bush administration embraced that view, and in 2005 the Justice Department issued a 109-page memorandum collecting legal and historical arguments for the position.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit cited that memo in reversing a lower court that upheld the gun ban enacted by Washington‘s city council. But writing for a 2-1 majority, Judge Laurence Silberman, among the nation’s most influential judicial conservatives, acknowledged that “there is no unequivocal precedent that dictates the outcome of this case.” So he looked for guidance — and found it in Dred Scott [emphasis mine].

In that case, the court found that the federal government lacked the authority to abolish a slaveowner’s property right in his slaves merely by outlawing slavery in new territories. No one contends “that Congress can make any law in a Territory respecting the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press… [n]or can Congress deny to the people the right to keep and bear arms, nor the right to trial by jury,” Chief Justice Roger Taney, writing for a 7-2 court, explained in the section Silberman cited.

“Although Dred Scott is as infamous as it was erroneous in holding that African-Americans are not citizens, this passage expresses the view, albeit in passing, that the Second Amendment contains a personal right,” Silberman observes, before moving on to other precedents.

The Supreme Court never reversed Dred Scott, but following the Civil War, the 13th and 14th amendments abolished slavery and guaranteed that anyone born in the U.S. automatically was a citizen.

Today’s ruling conflicts with a 2002 opinion by the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, rejecting the individual right theory of the Second Amendment. That suggests the issue may be headed to the Supreme Court for resolution — offering the justices the chance to weigh in on the modern day relevance of Dred Scott to the gun-control debate. – Jess Bravin

Judge Silberman is regarded as a very influential jurist. So, his reliance on the Dred Scott (1847 - 1857) case is outrageous. That he and Griffith could find no other precedent than the Dred Scott decision to justify their decision is a sad day in the Nation and the Federal Judiciary. So, as the Reagan and GW appointees were reduced to relying on the precedent of Dred Scott the question is: how low can the Federal Judiciary stoop? Judge Henderson, who was appointed by GW’s father, dissented. What does that tell you?

It will be very interesting as to how the newly constituted SCOTUS deals with this question, because of course it is headed there. Will they be as retro as the D.C. Circuit after 150 years of progress?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cheney’s Scooter is Guilty on 4 out of 5 Counts.

The most important count is, of course, Obstruction of Justice. That is the heart of the whole scandal. Because Scooter lied, and as well as others, to the Grand Jury, FBI, and the Public, the Prosecution could not get to the truth of the underlying crime: outing a CIA NOC to save the Administration’s Ass and the ensuing cover-up.

For the very best coverage, of course, I am sure that you are following and getting your updates from Firedoglake.com. They have been our heros in keeping up on the trial and all of the legal beagle machinations inherent.

So, now the spin begins.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Must-Do List is a Start.

Here is the Editorial from the New York Times today:

March 4, 2007


The Must-Do List

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.

Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:

Restore Habeas Corpus

One of the new act’s most indecent provisions denies anyone Mr. Bush labels an “illegal enemy combatant” the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious. Habeas corpus is nothing remotely like a get-out-of-jail-free card for terrorists, as supporters would have you believe. It is a way to sort out those justly detained from those unjustly detained. It will not “clog the courts,” as Senator Graham claims. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has a worthy bill that would restore habeas corpus. It is essential to bringing integrity to the detention system and reviving the United States’ credibility.

Stop Illegal Spying

Mr. Bush’s program of intercepting Americans’ international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant has not ceased. The agreement announced recently — under which a secret court supposedly gave its blessing to the program — did nothing to restore judicial process or ensure that Americans’ rights are preserved. Congress needs to pass a measure, like one proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to force Mr. Bush to obey the law that requires warrants for electronic surveillance.

Ban Torture, Really

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that Senator McCain trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules. This amounts to rewriting the Geneva Conventions and puts every American soldier at far greater risk if captured. It allows the president to decide in secret what kinds of treatment he will permit at the Central Intelligence Agency’s prisons. The law absolves American intelligence agents and their bosses of any acts of torture and abuse they have already committed.

Many of the tasks facing Congress involve the way the United States takes prisoners, and how it treats them. There are two sets of prisons in the war on terror. The military runs one set in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. The other is even more shadowy, run by the C.I.A. at secret places.

Close the C.I.A. Prisons

When the Military Commissions Act passed, Mr. Bush triumphantly announced that he now had the power to keep the secret prisons open. He cast this as a great victory for national security. It was a defeat for America’s image around the world. The prisons should be closed.

Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’

The United States has to come clean on all of the “ghost prisoners” it has in the secret camps. Holding prisoners without any accounting violates human rights norms. Human Rights Watch says it has identified nearly 40 men and women who have disappeared into secret American-run prisons.

Ban Extraordinary Rendition

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to believe he will be tortured. The administration’s claim that it got “diplomatic assurances” that prisoners would not be abused is laughable.

A bill by Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, would require the executive branch to list countries known to abuse and torture prisoners. No prisoner could be sent to any of them unless the secretary of state certified that the country’s government no longer abused its prisoners or offered a way to verify that a prisoner will not be mistreated. It says “diplomatic assurances” are not sufficient.

Congress needs to completely overhaul the military prisons for terrorist suspects, starting with the way prisoners are classified. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Bush declared all members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be “illegal enemy combatants” not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions or American justice. Over time, the designation was applied to anyone the administration chose, including some United States citizens and the entire detainee population of Gitmo.

To address this mess, the government must:

Tighten the Definition of Combatant

“Illegal enemy combatant” is assigned a dangerously broad definition in the Military Commissions Act. It allows Mr. Bush — or for that matter anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the United States.

Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Gitmo, where far too many remain to this day. The vast majority will never even be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without charges.

Under legal pressure, Mr. Bush created “combatant status review tribunals,” but they are a mockery of any civilized legal proceeding. They take place thousands of miles from the point of capture, and often years later. Evidence obtained by coercion and torture is permitted. The inmates do not get to challenge this evidence. They usually do not see it.

The Bush administration uses the hoary “fog of war” dodge to justify the failure to screen prisoners, saying it is not practical to do that on the battlefield. That’s nonsense. It did not happen in Afghanistan, and often in Iraq, because Mr. Bush decided just to ship the prisoners off to Gitmo.

Prisoners designated as illegal combatants are subject to trial rules out of the Red Queen’s playbook. The administration refuses to allow lawyers access to 14 terrorism suspects transferred in September from C.I.A. prisons to Guantánamo. It says that if they had a lawyer, they might say that they were tortured or abused at the C.I.A. prisons, and anything that happened at those prisons is secret.

At first, Mr. Bush provided no system of trial at the Guantánamo camp. Then he invented his own military tribunals, which were rightly overturned by the Supreme Court. Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act, which did not fix the problem. Some tasks now for Congress:

Ban Tainted Evidence

The Military Commissions Act and the regulations drawn up by the Pentagon to put it into action, are far too permissive on evidence obtained through physical abuse or coercion. This evidence is unreliable. The method of obtaining it is an affront.

Ban Secret Evidence

Under the Pentagon’s new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed to keep evidence secret from a prisoner’s lawyer if the government persuades the judge it is classified. The information that may be withheld can include interrogation methods, which would make it hard, if not impossible, to prove torture or abuse.

Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence

The military commission rules define this sort of secret evidence as “any information or material that has been determined by the United States government pursuant to statute, executive order or regulation to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security.” This is too broad, even if a president can be trusted to exercise the power fairly and carefully. Mr. Bush has shown he cannot be trusted to do that.

Respect the Right to Counsel

Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration allowed the government to listen to conversations and intercept mail between some prisoners and their lawyers. This had the effect of suspending their right to effective legal representation. Since then, the administration has been unceasingly hostile to any lawyers who defend detainees. The right to legal counsel does not exist to coddle serial terrorists or snarl legal proceedings. It exists to protect innocent people from illegal imprisonment.

Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible. Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this practice.

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.

Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yes, this is just a start but it must be started and soon. The future of the Democracy known as the United States of America depends upon it.

Anything less is a total abdication of the responsibility and sworn allegiance of our Congress to upholding the U.S. Constitution.

Elizabeth Edwards Responds to Ann Coulter’s Supporters!

I have always admired Elizabeth Edwards and her guts. She now has the temerity to take on the Coulter and Right-wing supporters and their silence in their acquiescing to Coulter’s attack on John Edwards and the Gay and Lesbian Community.

Here is what she had to say on their blog:

Hate words and you

When Miss Coulter spoke about John at the conservative convention in Washington yesterday, she used a word that she intended as a nasty and derogatory suggestion. John and I have long ago shrugged off the vile words of this person. When she made a joke about the exact moment of death of Charlie Dean (Howard's brother and a schoolmate of mine), and when she attacked the courageous 9-11 widows, she told you all you need to know about what she is made of: her compassion -- or lack thereof. Now we need to find out about you.

Although her words did not hurt us, they may have hurt some in the gay community. We are all sick and tired of anyone supporting or applauding or introducing hate words into the national dialogue, tired of people thinking that words that cause others pain are fair game. And we are sick and tired of people like Miss Coulter thinking that her use of loaded words about the homosexual community in this country is remotely humorous or appropriate.

John gave a graduation speech at NC State several years ago, and in it he said that none of us can stand by when words of bigotry and division are used. It is only when the rest of us stand up and say that this is not acceptable that we drum out the hate-mongers from amongst us. The first reaction in the room at the conservative convention yesterday was a gasp -- a horrified gasp, even -- but it did not last. In a few seconds, those who were not horrified started clapping and drowned out the gasps.

Now it is our turn to drown out the hate. Find a way -- whether it is contribution here that sends a message to Miss Coulter and those who applauded her (which, of course, I prefer) or whether it is a statement on this blog or others or all of the above -- but please find a way not to sit silent in acceptance. It doesn't change until we say we will not be silent when this happens.

It is time that those who do not approve of this kind of rhetoric stand-up and send a shout out to those who would remain silent. Hate is hateful and should not be tolerated.

Thank you Elizabeth and to all who agree!

Speak-up now before it is too late!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.


1917 - 2007

Black History Month is Over!

So, because Black History is the History of the United States and shouldn’t be relegated to a single month a year, I want to continue it and celebrate a woman who inspired me: Audre Lorde.

From the Lambda Site:

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

"Your Silence Will Not Protect You"

Audrey Geraldine Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City. She decided to drop the "y" from the end of her name at a young age, setting a precedent in her life of self determination. She was the daughter of Caribbean immigrants who settled in Harlem. She graduated from Columbia University and Hunter College, where she later held the prestigious post of Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature. She was married for eight years in the 1960's, and had two children -- Elizabeth and Jonathan.

Lorde was a self described "Black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet". However, her life was one that could not be summed up in a phrase.

Audre Lorde the Poet

Lorde collected a host of awards and honors, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State's Poet Laureate, the Governor, Mario Cuomo, said: "Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice . . . She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere."

Her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine while she was still in high school. The administration of the high school felt that her work was too romantic for publication in their literary journal. Lorde went on to publish over a dozen books on poetry, and six books of prose.

Audre Lorde the Teacher and Activist

Lorde worked as a librarian while refining her talents as a writer. In 1968, she accepted a teaching position at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi where the violence that greeted the civil rights movement was close at hand every night. This period cemented the bond between her artistic talents and her dedication to the struggle against injustice.

Lorde went on to provide avenues of expression to future generations of writers by co-founding the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She was at the center of the movement to preserve and celebrate African American culture at a time when the destruction of these institutions was on the rise. Her dedication reached around the world when she formed the Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa. She was one of the featured speakers at the first national march for gay and lesbian liberation in DC in 1979. In 1989, she helped organize disaster relief efforts for St. Croix in the wake of Hurricane Hugo.

Audre Lorde the Warrior

Late in life, Audre Lorde was given the African name Gamba Adisa, meaning "Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear". It is a name that applies to her whole life. Her struggle against opression on many fronts was expressed with a force and clarity that made her a respected voice for women, African Americans, and the Gay and Lesbian community.

Lorde's son Jonathan Rollins recalled the warrior spirit that his mother possesed by stating that not fighting was not an option -- "We could lose. But we couldn't not fight."

Audre Lorde the Quotable

"The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives." ( Poetry Is Not A Luxury)

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid".

"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."

Audre Lorde the Survivor

Lorde bravely documented her 14-year battle against the cancer in "The Cancer Journals" and in her book of essays "A Burst of Light". In the latter she wrote: ''The struggle with cancer now informs all my days, but it is only another face of that continuing battle for self-determination and survival that black women fight daily, often in triumph.'' She struggled against disease and a medical establishment that was frequently indifferent to cultural differences and insensitive to women's health issues. She stood in defiance to societal rules that said that she should hide the fact that she had breast cancer.

Audre Lorde, died in St Croix, Virgin Islands, on November 17, 1992. Her spirit fights on.

Audre was generous, sweet, fierce, funny, and was able to look into her life, and our lives, with a clarity that is so often missing. She introduced us, her students and friends, to some of the most thoughtful and important historians and theoreticians of our time.

She was supportive and I miss her so.