Administration Opposes Plame Appeal May 21, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
Tags: ben conery, bush crimes, cia operative, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, doj, joseph wilson, justice department, Karl Rove, lewis libby, obama administration, plamegate, richard armitage, roger hollander, saddam hussein, scooter libby, valerie plame
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The Obama administration Wednesday took the side of top Bush administration officials – including most-vocal recent critic, former Vice President Dick Cheney – in the ongoing fight over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by Mrs. Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, against several top Bush administration officials. The department’s move continued the Bush administration’s policy to fight the suit, which has already been dismissed by two lower courts.
“The decision of the court of appeals is correct and does not conflict with any decision of this Court or any other court of appeals,” said the brief filed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, and Justice Department attorneys Mark B. Stern and Charles W. Scarborough. “Further review is unwarranted.”
The Justice Department filing agreed with the lower courts that none of the Wilsons’ several legal arguments gave an appropriate basis for such a lawsuit.
The Supreme Court has not acted on the Wilsons’ request that it hear the case.
The Wilsons filed suit in 2006 against top Bush administration officials who they say violated their constitutional rights by publicly disclosing that Mrs. Wilson was an undercover CIA operative. The lawsuit names Mr. Cheney, former White House senior adviser Karl Rove, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson,” said Melanie Sloan, one of the couple’s attorneys and the executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The government’s position cannot be reconciled with President Obama’s oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions.”
The White House referred questions about the case to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
The case follows a classic Washington scandal that has come to be known as “Plamegate.”
Fallout from the controversy led to the conviction of Libby on charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the leak of Mrs. Plame’s identity, though he was not charged with the actual leak. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s 2 1/2-year prison sentence, without his having spent a day behind bars, after the sensational trial that peeked into the sometimes cozy and questionable relationship of Washington journalists and their politician sources.
The scandal had its roots in the 2003 State of the Union address, in which Mr. Bush said Saddam Hussein has recently tried to buy uranium in Africa. Mr. Wilson became a vocal and public critic of this claim, which the Wilsons say led the Bush administration to leak that information to columnist Robert Novak as an act of revenge. Mr. Armitage was later revealed to be the leaker.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
Tags: al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, anti-torture act, blue ribbon commission, bush administrations, bush prosecutions, cheney, cia, constitution, crimes against humanity, criminal code, david addington, democracy, doj, geneva conventions, George Bush, illegal survelance, interrogation tapes, Iran-Contra, John Dean, john yoo, justice department, ken lay, martin garbus, patrick leahy, pelosi, president obama, reconciliation commission, roger hollander, scooter libby, senate judiciary, special prosecutor, Taliban, torture, truth commission, war crimes act, watergate
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Judges and jurors, not politicians or unelected commission members, should determine whether Bush & Co. broke the law.
It’s really quite simple. Truth and Reconciliation commissions, Congressional committees and blue ribbon commissions like the 9/11 Commission, are not deterrents to torture, illegal surveillance or lawyers on the Justice Department who attempted to justify the torture. They have a very limited function.
But they don’t punish anyone; don’t deter anyone, don’t even put pressure on the people who committed the acts and cannot really get at the truth to determine responsibility. They do not bring the full force of America’s 230 years of law down on the offenders. They don’t truly help rein in the powers of future presidents or defense secretaries who want to do the same or similar acts the next time they react to what they see as an extraordinary crisis. And different presidents, Democrats and Republicans from Woodrow Wilson and the prosecutions during the Red Scare, to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the internment of 110,000 Japanese, Lyndon Johnson, lying about the Gulf of Tonkin and to dramatically increase troop strength, nearly always find crisis and overreact.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called at different times for either a Truth and Reconciliation commission or a Blue Ribbon commission. Neither is appropriate.
The best truth and reconciliation model comes from the South African experience. In South Africa, these commissions were used to begin the healing after the brutality of apartheid. It grants the confessing wrongdoers immunity. It was for a different time and place.
The Blue Ribbon commission gets attention and, along with Congressional committees, can get exposures and may help lead to better laws. But they create the danger of interfering and at times making impossible criminal trials of criminals. And they let criminals go unpunished.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of both the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committees and a former U.S. Attorney, supporting Leahy’s call, said that a torture commission might need the power to immunize witnesses on a case-by-case basis, and “it is beside the point” if it endangers criminal prosecutions.
We should go ahead with criminal prosecutions. It is the only way, through grand juries, subpoenas and trials, to get the facts and help America clean up some of its recent past.
The American people, immersed as they are in the economic crisis, are angry about torture and other illegalities of the Bush administration and want those prosecutions.
The February, 2009 USA Today/Gallup Poll shows 38 percent of Americans favor criminal prosecution of torturers, 38 percent for prosecution of those who used illegal surveillance, and 41 percent for those involved in the subversion of the Justice Department. Americans by a wide margin are in favor of criminal prosecutions than independent or Congressional panels. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe something must be done — we can’t walk away from the crimes against humanity committed in our name.
The argument is made that criminal prosecutions area too difficult, too lengthy, too expensive, too political and will keep the country divided. But there have always been political expensive and difficult trials. We have had long, expensive, political trials for John Dean during Watergate, Eliot Abrams during Iran-Contra, Scooter Libby today and even Aaron Burr nearly two hundred years ago.
Leahy argues against criminal prosecutions because “a failed attempt to prosecute for this conduct might be the worst result of all if it is seen as justifying dishonest actions.” But that’s true for every criminal prosecution — should murderers, John Ehrlichmann, Scooter Libby or Enron officials not be prosecuted because the possibility of an acquittal justifies their actions? If so, junk the criminal system.
We can’t leave it to politicians. Many Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are alleged to have known about the torture and surveillance programs and either approved or said nothing. Pelosi (who, interestingly, has called for criminal prosecutions) has consistently equivocated on what she knew and when she knew it. It’s unlikely Democrats on commissions, let alone Republicans, are going to pursue the inquiry to its final end. They will undermine Congressional Commissions, and blue ribbon Commissions, but they cannot so easily undermine criminal prosecutions.
The criminal trials of the chief of the Bush defendants can certainly be shorter and probably less expensive than the Barry Bonds or Scooter Libby prosecution, and less purely political than Thomas Jefferson’s presidentially controlled prosecution of Aaron Burr.
The Bush people violated some clear specific crimes. Failing to get wiretaps permission from the Federal Internal Security Courts is a felony. Representatives of the Justice Department, local police and federal agent who participated in break-ins or wiretaps without warrants, are guilty of clear and unambiguous federal crimes. Federal Agents who did illegal surveillance even when the Justice Department refused to sign off on its illegality can be found guilty. Violation of the Federal Anti-Torture Act, which has been on the books for years, bars citizens from committing torture abroad, is a felony.
The War Crimes Act of 1996 is violated even if there is not what the Bush defendants would claim is “torture.” That act punishes those who act cruelly and inhumanely. Waterboarding, vicious dogs, and exposing detainees to temperature extremes could all be punished by a jury.
Bush’s people, afraid of the applicability of the War Crimes Act, inserted a provision into a 2006 law that made the War Crimes Act retroactively ineffective. But Congress can change that now, that law can be used for prosecutions.
The defense will claim, say opponents of criminal trials, that defendants relied on the now infamous August 1, 2002 legal opinion of the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, and his assistants justifying torture and the opinions on illegal surveillance creating fog and evasion and therefore, they will get off. And that all the lawyers did was give their albeit controversial opinions, a full defense. Jurors will get confused by legal experts who support the views of the Bush lawyers. It’s too complicated for a jury, we are told.
But we have prosecuted lawyers, experts and those who rely on legal or accounting opinions in many cases. Kenneth Lay could refer to legal or accounting documents prepared to justify his case all day long and not be saved. The legal opinions rendered by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and David Addington are such transparent documents that an American jury of citizens is, at the very least entitled to have an opportunity to pass judgment on them. Even as lawyers within the Bush administration repudiated the opinions, the illegal practices went on. No jury would have difficulty in rejecting John Yoo’s memorandum that reject the basic tenets of an American democracy.
Can a jury really decide the tough questions, such as whether Alberto Gonzales’ opinion, concluding the Geneva Convention Protections do not apply to prisoners of war captured for Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Of course. A jury can determine if the legal opinion was a facade to justify actions already taken — only the legal process with grand juries and subpoenas has any hope of piercing the wall of defense that will be used to block that inquiry. Those memos were not used to interpret the law — they were intentionally written to change the law. No Commission can hope to get facts behind these opinions as quickly as the Courts.
Our criminal law has specific status that reach overseas to punish torturers. Section 2340A of our Federal Criminal Code makes it a crime for any person “outside the United States to commit or attempt to commit torture.” But, say the critics of criminal prosecution, torture is too vague a word for a prosecution. Not so. Judges and juries routinely define much vaguer terms – what does “reasonable doubt of guilt” or “reasonable doubt of guilt with a degree of moral certainty.” What does cruel and inhuman treatment mean? They are always past precedents to help us define these terms.
Juries determine competency in cases interpreting wills and estates, and sanity in criminal cases, with the help of experts, whom they often barely understand.
It is wrong to say that lower level officials, or lower level military personnel can get off by claiming they followed higher orders. They did what fellow soldiers did – they followed the morality culture created by their environment and superiors. That’s not a defense. When police officers in Los Angeles, Jackson, or New York beat prisoners, or deny them rights, most know they are violating the laws — they do it nonetheless. And they can be and often are prosecuted.
At times CIA personnel and people within the White House knew with certainty they were acting illegally. When the CIA destroyed at least 92 interrogation tapes to cover up what was done to the detainees, they violated a specific court order that prohibited that destruction.
I don’t have a religious faith in the majesty of the law. It is just the far best alternative.
Is the criminal prosecutors and the process itself often flawed? Of course. At times, are the guilty declared innocent and the innocent declared guilty? Of course. Do conviction make it far less likely that torture will continue? Probably so. Will a string of successful prosecutions ensure that we will never have Americans participate in torture or illegal surveillance? Probably not. Does it make torture and illegal surveillance less likely? Yes.
At the end of the day, I would rather have American jurors, bound by the Constitution and the law, make the decision rather than politicians or unelected blue ribbon commission members. I would rather have the judges, bound by precedent and law, determine what is, and is not legal.
President Obama has said this is not the time to look back but to look forward. There was a claim that the need for bipartisanship argued against prosecution. But the illusion of bipartisanship, if it ever truly existed, has been broken.
President Obama and the Congress should now name a Special Prosecutor.
Tags: Barack Obama, cia, Deep Throat, Forensic Experts, Google, H.R. Haldeman, james bamford, John Erlichman, keith thomson, nsa, oval office, Politics News, Richard Nixon, Robert Novak, roger hollander, Rosemary Woods, scooter libby, Valerie Plame Wilson, watergate, Yahoo
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Keith Thomson, January 27, 2009, www.huffingtonpost.com
Perhaps the most frequently-asked question about Watergate is: “How could the conspirators have been so foolish, gabbing away even though they knew the tape recorder was on?” The answer: They were human, and, as such, erred.
Anne Weisman, chief counsel for the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, compared the infamous gap in the Nixon-Haldeman Oval Office tape to the 14 million White House emails from March 2003 to October 2005 that were missing during the investigation of the Valerie Plame CIA leak, when they might have yielded a smoking gun.
“The Watergate Tapes had an eighteen-and-a-half minute gap where [Nixon secretary] Rosemary Woods did whatever she did,” Weisman told me. “We’re talking here about a gap of at least fourteen million emails.”
Rosemary Woods demonstrates how she accidentally may have erased tapes
Early this year, the White House found the emails — it turns out they never were missing but rather, unaccounted for due to a “flawed and limited” internal review. On January 14, Weisman convinced a federal court to order the White House to preserve the emails and all relevant records.
Now, filling in the gaps in the CIA leak case — like why Bush administration officials exposed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert operative status to Robert Novak and other journalists — may be as simple as entering “plame” as a search term (or “plane,” allowing for misspelling).
“Email is a blessing, and it can be a curse, because it’s a written record,” Weisman said. “And people know that intellectually. Still they dash off emails, without thinking about what they’re saying, as if they’re talking on the phone. As a result, you get a lot of very honest information that isn’t scrutinized the way official memoranda are.”
Weisman also recognizes the possibility that the perpetrators of the leak had the good sense not to chronicle their activities. Or they may have simply deleted their emails.
I interviewed two computer forensics experts familiar with the White House system. Per requests for anonymity, what follows is an amalgam of those interviews:
Q: Can you recover a deleted email?
A: Piece of cake.
Q: Is there a way to delete an email so that computer forensics experts would be unable to find any trace of it?
A: There are hundreds of ways.
Q: If the deleted email had been sent using the White House server, could you still locate it on the backup tapes? [Every night, backup tapes of all White House emails are made and stored in a separate location in case of fire or disaster; the March 2003 to October 2005 tapes also were unaccounted for during the leak investigation].
A: The backup tapes could contain the deleted email, absolutely.
Q: Could someone delete an email that’s on a backup tape?
A: You could easily just make a new backup tape. Put on whatever time and date stamp you want. From an evidentiary standpoint, the stamps are meaningless.
Q: So if a perpetrator pulled that off, is that the end of your investigation?
A: More like the beginning. Like an old-fashioned gumshoe, you try to sniff out clues.
Q: For instance?
A: A very simplistic example is, even if there’s no evidence of emails written to firstname.lastname@example.org, that address may still be in the email address book on a staffer’s computer or BlackBerry. [The Bush administration was also ordered to turn over all devices containing emails.] Something as little as that can broaden the scope of the investigation.
Q: What if that address has been expunged from the address book?
A: The entire hard drive may have been swapped out. But the trail doesn’t necessarily go cold there.
In other words, the computer forensics investigation, fundamentally, is as old as hide-and-seek, and will continue to be so until computers can be programmed to remedy human error. Assuming mistakes were made, the scope of the investigation would conceivably expand beyond the 14 million existing White House emails to every email the leakers ever have sent and received: In the digital age, the world increasingly is becoming an Oval Office Tape Recorder 2.0.
I spoke to perhaps the world’s foremost expert on the subject, James Bamford, a former intelligence analyst who wrote The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, his third New York Times best-selling book about the National Security Administration. “In order to send an email, the White House has to send it via Novak’s server,” he said. “Novak’s email provider would have the content, if they’ve kept it until now.”
Internet service providers routinely make daily back-up tapes. Moreover, a Yahoo! official told me that her company has retained a majority of individual user emails, since 1997, and has no plans to throw them out. Google has a similar offline backup system. So even if one of the leakers eschewed the White House server and sent the smoking-gun using a personal Yahoo! account from his mother-in-law’s laptop computer in Cheboygan, then flung the computer into Lake Michigan, the correspondence likely would be available in its entirety.
Bamford noted that logs of telephone calls placed and received by the leaker would be readily accessible at this juncture as well. In addition, according to a CIA source, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some of the audio was captured by intelligence agency communication intercept systems.
The sum total is Anne Weisman’s prospects for reeling in the new Haldeman or Erlichman may be greatly enhanced. Weisman wouldn’t mind if, in the process, light were shed on such issues as the U.S. Attorney firings controversy, editing of government reports to downplay scientific findings about global warming, and how exactly 14 million emails were lost to a “flawed and limited” internal review in the first place.
So what is her immediate plan?
For five years, at least.
The 14 million emails have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration along with 300 million other documents. In accordance with the Presidential Records Act, it will be five years before the Freedom of Information Act allows her to seek a single correspondence.
In the interim, the Supreme Court may hear her case, Wilson v. Libby, potentially giving her subpoena power. She considers her best shots, however, to be either an Act of Congress or an initiative taken by the Obama administration. “They may not want to have to defend the old administration,” she said. “They may think the American public deserves to know what happened.”
Failing that, the hope is to receive an email from email@example.com.
H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff
Former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame Wilson
The 43 Who Helped Make Bush The Worst Ever January 16, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Alberto Gonzales, american presidency, american presidents, ari fleischer, banking system, bush administration, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, david addington, Dick Cheney, douglas feith, Economic Crisis, elliot abrams, fema, George Bush, harriet miers, Henry Paulson, Iraq, John Ashcroft, john bolton, john yoo, joseph wilson, Karl Rove, katrina, michael brown, new orleans, paul bremer, paul wolfowitz, progresss report, roger hollander, rumsfeld, scooter libby, stephen johnson, torture, us attorney firings, valerie plame, waterboarding, worst president
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The Progress Report
|January 16, 2009||
by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, Pat Garofalo, Igor Volsky, Matt Duss, Brad Johnson, and Matt Yglesias
Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. The Progress Report heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.
1. Dick Cheney — The worst Dick since Nixon. The man who shot his friend while in office. The “most powerful and controversial vice president.” Until he got the job, people used to actually think it was a bad thing that the vice presidency has historically been a do-nothing position. Asked by PBS’s Jim Lehrer about why people hate him, Cheney rejected the premise, saying, “I don’t buy that.” His top placement in our survey says otherwise.
2. Karl Rove — There wasn’t a scandal in the Bush administration that Rove didn’t have his fingerprints all over — see Plame, Iraq war deception, Gov. Don Siegelman, U.S. Attorney firings, missing e-mails, and more. As senior political adviser and later as deputy chief of staff, “The Architect” was responsible for politicizing nearly every agency of the federal government.
3. Alberto Gonzales — Fundamentally dishonest and woefully incompetent, Gonzales was involved in a series of scandals, first as White House counsel and then as Attorney General. Some of the most notable: pressuring a “feeble” and “barely articulate” Attorney General Ashcroft at his hospital bedside to sign off on Bush’s illegal wiretapping program; approving waterboarding and other torture techniques to be used against detainees; and leading the firing of U.S. Attorneys deemed not sufficiently loyal to Bush.
4. Donald Rumsfeld — After winning praise for leading the U.S. effort in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, the former Defense Secretary strongly advocated for the invasion of Iraq and then grossly misjudged and mishandled its aftermath. Rumsfeld is also responsible for authorizing the use of torture against terror detainees in U.S. custody; according to a bipartisan Senate report, Rumsfeld “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”
5. Michael Brown — This former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association was appointed by Bush to head FEMA in 2003. After Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Brownie promptly did a “heck of a job” bungling the government’s relief efforts, and was sent back to Washington a few days later. He was forced to resign shortly thereafter.
6. Paul Wolfowitz — As Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005, Wolfowitz was one of the primary architects of the Iraq war, arguing for the invasion as early as Sept. 15, 2001. Testifying before Congress in February 2003, Wolfowitz said that it was “hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.” Wolfowitz eventually admitted that “for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction,” as a justification for war, “because it was the one reason everyone [in the administration] could agree on.”
7. David Addington — “Cheney’s Cheney” was the “most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” As the leader of Bush’s legal team and Cheney’s chief of staff, Addington was the biggest proponent of some of Bush’s most notorious legal abuses, such as torture and warrantless surveillance, and is a loyal follower of the so-called unitary executive theory.
8. Stephen Johnson — The “Alberto Gonzales of the environment,” EPA Administrator Johnson subverted the agency’s mission at the behest of the White House and corporate interests, suppressing staff recommendations on pesticides, mercury, lead paint, smog, and global warming.
9. Douglas Feith — Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001-2005, Feith headed up the notorious Office of Special Plans, an in-house Pentagon intelligence shop devised by Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to produce intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. A subsequent investigation by the Pentagon’s Inspector General found the OSP’s work produced “conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.”
10. John Bolton — As Undersecretary of State, Bolton offered a strong voice in favor of invading Iraq and pushed for the U.S. to disengage from the International Criminal Court and key international arms control agreements. A recess appointment landed Bolton the job of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, despite his stringent animosity toward the world body. Today, he spends his time calling for war with Iran.
11. John Yoo — As a lawyer for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo authored a series of legal memos giving military interrogators authority to use torture and coercive techniques when interviewing terrorist suspects. Yoo said that only those techniques that inflict pain equivalent to “death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions” constitute torture. Last year, he refused to answer whether or not the president could order a detainee to be buried alive.
12. Ari Fleischer — Bush’s first press secretary helped redefine the role as that of liar-in-chief rather than informer of the public, earning a reputation as “the world’s most dishonest flack.” Whereas his successors sometimes looked uncomfortable lying, Fleischer was having fun, spinning a cowed and gullible press corps through two massive tax cuts and the initiation of a war undertaken on false pretenses.
13. John Ashcroft — In 2003, as Bush’s first Attorney General, Ashcroft approved waterboarding and other torture techniques on detainees. Ashcroft’s nomination was controversial, as he had a history of opposing school desegregation. The chief architect of the invasive Patriot Act, Ashcroft maintains to this day that Bush is “among the most respectful of all leaders ever” of civil liberties.
14. Henry Paulson — Even as the financial system was crashing down around him, Treasury Secretary Paulson insisted for months that the banking system was “safe and sound.” Once he decided that the economy needed saving, Paulson requested nearly unfettered authority to send billions of taxpayer dollars to banks with no oversight.
15. L. Paul Bremer — This Presidential Medal of Freedom winner took over the Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2003. Under his mismanagement, the insurgency exploded in Iraq. Bremer claimed he had all the troops he needed to secure the country, overestimated the strength of the new U.S.-trained Iraqi army, disbanded the Iraqi army leaving thousands of Iraqi soldiers with no income and no occupation, and enacted a de-Baathification law that barred many experienced Iraqis from government positions.
16. Bradley Schlozman — As a recent DOJ Inspector General report demonstrates, Schlozman was a central figure in Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department. Violating civil service laws, Schlozman used political and ideological considerations to ensure that only “right-thinking Americans” received jobs. He eventually lied to Congress about his efforts.
17. J. Steven Griles — A former energy lobbyist and no. 2 official in the Interior Department, Griles went to jail for lying to Congress about illegal favors he did for corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Griles also abused his position “to unlock nearly every legal barrier to exploitation” of our nation’s oil and mineral reserves. Before his conviction, Griles left the White House to become a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips.
18. Condoleezza Rice — As Bush’s national security adviser, Rice was another strong advocate for invading Iraq, once famously warning that the U.S. should attack Iraq and not wait for solid proof of its WMD because “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Rice also ignored an urgent warning from the CIA before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that a strike inside the U.S. was imminent.
19. Scooter Libby – Cheney’s former chief of staff was a key player in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame as part of the Bush administration’s quest to punish Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for publishing an op-ed debunking one of the White House’s main justifications for invading Iraq. Libby was ultimately convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in a federal investigation into Plame’s outing but later had his 30-month prison sentence commuted by Bush.
20. Monica Goodling — Goodling was the most notorious graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University during her tenure in the Justice Department. As the White House liaison at the DOJ, she based the department’s hiring of candidates on their sexual preference, GOP loyalty, and adherence to conservative ideology.
21. Alphonso Jackson — As Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Jackson let the U.S. housing market crumble while he was busy giving lucrative contracts to his golfing buddies, retaliating against Bush critics, and erecting giant photo homages to himself.
22. Michael Hayden — As director of the National Security Agency, Hayden ran Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and misled Congress about the program’s legality. After moving to the CIA, he dismissed the destruction of evidence implicating the CIA in torture as “in line with the law.”
23. Lurita Doan — The former head of the General Services Administration (GSA)who doled out a no-bid contract to a friend, Doan famously hosted a meeting of White House political operatives where she asked how GSA employees could “help ‘our candidates’ in the next election.” After the Office of Special Counsel called for her firing, she was forced to resign at the request of the White House.
24. Gale Norton — A former industry lobbyist and Bush’s first Secretary of the Interior, Norton pushed a radical ideological agenda “through regulatory rollbacks, suppression of science, preferential treatment, and collusion with industry” — including doctoring scientific findings on the impacts of oil drilling on caribou. After resigning under the cloud of ties to Jack Abramoff, she joined Shell Oil.
25. Lester Crawford — After promising to act on the morning-after contraceptive pill during his confirmation hearings, the former FDA Commissioner “indefinitely postponed nonprescription sales of emergency contraception over the objections of staff scientists who had declared the pill safe.” Crawford resigned after just two months on the job and later pleaded guilty “to charges that he hid his ownership of stock in food and drug companies that his agency regulated.”
26. Harriet Miers — Well-known for being Bush’s failed Supreme Court nominee, Miers also thought it was “important” to her as White House Counsel that Rove protege Tim Griffin was installed as a U.S. Attorney, making her a central figure in the U.S. Attorney scandal. She is said to have called Bush “the most brilliant man she had ever met.”
27. Hans Von Spakovsky — Originally a political appointee in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, Spakovsky “injected partisan political factors into decision-making” and used every opportunity “to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.” In 2008, Spakovsky withdrew his name from consideration for the FEC, following months of opposition from lawmakers and civil rights groups.
28. Tommy Franks — As head of U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003, Franks oversaw Osama bin Laden’s great escape from Afghanistan, gave orders for the stabilization of Iraq via PowerPoint, assumed that the U.S. would draw down to 25,000 troops by the end of 2004, and had American soldiers stand idly by as chaos and lawlessness took hold after the invasion.
29. Thomas Scully — As chief administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Scully was the White House’s head negotiator on the Medicare prescription drug bill. Scully threatened to fire chief actuary Richard Foster if he revealed that Bush’s Medicare Part D legislation “would cost 25% to 50% more than the Bush administration’s public estimates.”
30. Julie MacDonald — A top Interior Department appointee, MacDonald “interjected herself personally and profoundly” and “tainted nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species” over a five-year period, intimidating the staff with “abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive” tactics. MacDonald also leaked government documents to a young acquaintance whom she met while playing “internet role-playing games.”
31. William Haynes — As the former general counsel at the Defense Department, he was part of a five-person team of high-level administration lawyers, dubbed the “War Council,” that tossed the Geneva Conventions aside and hatched out the legal framework for torture in secret meetings.
32. David Safavian — Safavian was (twice) tried and convicted for his role in the jack Abramoff scandal. Safavian was found guilty of “lying and obstructing justice” in an attempt to cover-up “his many efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA.”
33. James Connaughton — As chairman of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, Connaughton wrote EPA press releases downplaying the danger of the air quality in lower Manhattan following 9/11. “A former lobbyist for utilities, mining, chemical, and other industrial polluters,” Connaughton insisted “there’s a lot of disagreement” about humans’ impact on global warming, and he touted a bogus study purporting to show that the 20th century was not unusually warm.
34. William Luti — A former Navy officer and Cheney aide, Luti was dispatched to the Pentagon in 2001 to work underneath Feith to find “evidence” to support his boss’s belief in conspiracy theories linking Saddam to al Qaeda. Luti was an integral component of Cheney’s campaign to pressure intelligence professionals to conform their judgments to administration policy rather than reality.
35. Susan Orr — As Assistant Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs, this former Family Research Council official oversaw funding for the only federal program that provided contraceptive services to low-income Americans. Orr cheered Bush’s anti-contraception record, saying, “Fertility is not a disease. It’s not a medical necessity that you have [contraception].”
36. Christopher Cox — Under Chairman Cox, the Securities and Exchange Commission censored internal reports showing that it ignored critical signs pointing to Wall Street’s meltdown. Cox’s SEC also failed to detect Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, despite a decade of warnings.
37. Elliott Abrams — An Iran-Contra convict pardoned by Bush 41, Abrams was named by Bush 43 as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations. As a founding Project for a New American Century signatory and a staunchly pro-Israel neoconservative, Abrams supported expanding Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon into Syria and advocated a Fatah coup after Hamas won the February 2006 Palestinian elections.
38. Philip Cooney — A former oil lobbyist who served as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Cooney doctored climate reports to “soften” words and phrases linking greenhouse gas emissions to global warming. After his political interference was revealed, Cooney left the White House to become a lobbyist for Exxon.
39. Colin Powell — Though Bush called him “an American hero” when he appointed him to be the first African-American Secretary of State, Powell placed an ugly “blot” on his record when he pushed the Bush administration’s faulty case for the Iraq war in a speech to the U.N. on Feb.5, 2003, using inaccurate information. Liberal hawks and the media rallied around Powell’s false case, calling it the “winning hand” for war.
40. Elaine Chao — The Labor Secretary made it through all eight years of the Bush administration, driving morale at the Labor Department so low that staffers threw a “good-riddance party” to cheer her departure. She leaves behind a “deeply troubled department” that “spent eight years attacking workers’ rights, strong workplace health and safety rules, and unions while they carried the water for Big Business.”
41. Julie Myers — After being hired as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement based on little more than her personal connections, Myers made herself famous by awarding “Most Original Costume” to an employee who dressed up in blackface and a prison costume for Halloween. She was also heavily criticized for conducting politically-motivated immigration raids.
42. Wade Horn — As Assistant Secretary for Community Initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services, Horn funneled millions of tax-payer dollars into right-wing abstinence-only programs. Shortly before he resigned, it was revealed that he had given nearly $1 million “to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), where he was the president for at least three years until joining the Bush administration in 2001.”
43. George Deutsch — As a young, inexperienced press officer for NASA, Deutsch “told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word ‘theory’ at every mention of the Big Bang.” He resigned in 2006 after it was discovered he had lied on his resume, falsely claiming that he had a journalism degree from Texas A&M.
Dishonorable Mentions: Bush appointees who didn’t quite make the list included a child pornography aficionado, a patron of hookers, a shoplifter, a mail fraudster, an operator of an illegal horse gambling ring, and a CIA official who took bribes in the form of prostitutes.
Bush, 30 Officials, To Be Named In Complaint On Torture To Go To Obama Administration January 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, ashcroft, bybee, cia, cia interrogations, civil liberties, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, constitution, defense departmentrobert mueller, Dick Cheney, fbi, geneva conventions, geogre tenet, George Bush, Guantanamo, human rights, illegal wars, International law, Iraq, john yoo, national security, rendition, roger hollander, rule of law, rumsfeld, scooter libby, sherwod ross, torture, torture and abuse, torture policies, valerie plame, War Crimes, willima howard taft
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|Written by Sherwood Ross
WAR CRIMES REPORT SAYS WHITE HOUSE REJECTED ALL ADVICE FROM GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THAT TORTURE WAS ILLEGAL;
REPORT NAMES 30 HIGH BUSH OFFICIALS COMPLICIT IN TORTURE.
President Bush and his aides repeatedly ignored warnings that their torture plans were illegal from high State Department officials as well as the nation’s top uniformed legal officers, the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, a new published report states.
“These warnings of illegality and immorality given by knowledgeable and experienced (government) persons were ignored by the small group of high Executive officers who were determined that America would torture and abuse its prisoners and who had the decision-making power to secretly require this to be done,” said Lawrence Velvel, chairman of the “Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference On Planning For The Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals.” The Steering Committee’s Report was drafted for the entire committee by Chair Velvel, a noted legal education reformer.
The Report anticipates a more extensive, full scale complaint, currently being drafted, that will be presented to the Executive Branch after January 20th, urging prosecution of President Bush and those who aided him.
“Far from American officials and lawyers authorizing or engaging in torture because it was lawful, they authorized and engaged in it because they wanted to (and) kept their actions secret from interested officials for as long as they could lest there be strong opposition to the torture and abuse they were perpetrating,” Velvel said. “They deliberately ignored repeated warnings that the torture and abuse were illegal and could lead to prosecutions, and they ignored these warnings even when they came from high level civilian and military officers.”
A preliminary Report by the Steering Committee seeking Federal prosecution of American officials “who ordered, authorized, approved or committed war crimes,” released January 9th, 2009, says they are guilty of “wholesale” violations of statutes that include Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the Federal War Crimes Act, the Convention Against Torture, plus numerous other violations of U.S. and international laws.
The Report said prisoners were subjected to savage beatings, sleep deprivation, slow drowning, hanging by chains, being slammed head-first into concrete walls, temperature extremes, food deprivation, burial alive in coffin-like boxes for extended periods, and even threats against their families.
Among other things, the Report charges the General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA), knowingly approved of at least 117 renditions to torture and that such renditions were “personally encouraged by President George W. Bush…”
In addition to President Bush, those named for prosecution by the Steering Committee include:
Vice President Dick Cheney and his former chief of staff and legal counsel David Addington, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her predecessor Colin Powell, former Attorneys-General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his aide Alice Fisher, former deputy assistant Attorney General; and Tim Flanigan, a deputy White House attorney.
Also named by the Steering Committee is I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, former assistant to President Bush. Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Federal investigators in the Valerie Plame affair. President Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence. Additionally, Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone, General Michael Dunlavey, and Major General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of Guantanamo prison, Cuba.
CIA officials cited in the Report are former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet; Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center; James Pavitt, former CIA Deputy Director for Operations; General Counsel Scott Muller; Acting General Counsel John Rizzo; David Becker; contract officer James Mitchell, and an unidentified woman that formerly headed the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit and also briefed President Bush.
Among the lawyers guilty of war crimes are former Assistant Attorneys General Jay Bybee and John Yoo; Defense Department chief legal officer Jim Haynes; Robert Delahunty, special counsel with Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice; Patrick Philbin, deputy assistant Attorney General; Steven Bradbury, head of the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel; Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a former Staff Judge at Guantanamo; Mary Walker, General Counsel of the Air Force and Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice.
“Torture and abuse were discussed at meetings of the so-called Principals Committee, where George Tenet presented graphic details of interrogations to a Committee which included some of Bush’s highest associates, including Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Cheney and, at times, John Yoo.
The above-mentioned Bush officials were involved in shaping or carrying out torture policies despite written and/or verbal warnings given by high government officials in the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and other agencies. Among these objectors were:
# William Howard Taft IV, the Legal Advisor to the State Department whose 40-page memo of January 11, 2002 warned Bush’s claim the Geneva Conventions were not applicable to prisoners held by the U.S. could subject Bush to prosecution for war crimes. State Department lawyer David Bowker further warned “there is no such thing” as a person that is not covered by the Geneva Conventions.
# The Defense Department’s own Criminal Investigative Task Force headed by Col. Brittain Mallow warned Haynes that tactics used at Guantanamo could be illegal. His warnings were ignored by Haynes, whose position was based on statements of Yoo and Chertoff.
# FBI Director Robert Mueller barred FBI agents from participating in coercive CIA interrogations, “a warning-fact well known to many in the Executive,” the Steering Committee Report said. Also, Marion Bowman, head of the FBI’s national security law section in Washington called lawyers in Jim Haynes’ office in the Pentagon to express his concern but said he never heard back.
# David Brant, head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service learned about the torture and abuse at Guantanamo and took the position that “it just ain’t right” and expressed his concern to Army officials in command authority over military interrogators at Guantanamo but “they did not care,” the Report said.
# A senior CIA intelligence analyst that visited Guantanamo in 2002 reported back that the U.S. was committing war crimes there and that one-third of the detainees had no connection to terrorism. The report alarmed Rice’s lawyer John Bellinger and National Security Council terrorism expert General John Gordon but their concerns were “flatly rejected and ignored” by Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales, as well as by Rumsfeld’s office.
# Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora carried his concern over Guantanamo torture to Haynes and to Mary Walker, head of a Pentagon working group that was drafting a DOD memo based on Yoo’s work that authorized torture. Mora said what was occurring at Guantanamo was “at a minimum cruel and unusual treatment, and, at worst, torture.” His warning was ignored.
“The Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are the country’s top uniformed legal officers,” appointed to Walker’s working group, “were appalled at what they were seeing, and each wrote a memo of dissent to torture and abuse,” the Steering Committee’s Report said.
“Their memos warned not just that what was being approved was contrary to the legal and moral training American servicemen have always received, and not just that there would be international criticism, but also that interrogators and the chain of command were being put at risk of criminal prosecutions abroad.” But these warnings by the nation’s top uniformed legal officers were ignored.
“If Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and others are not prosecuted,” Velvel said, “the future could be threatened by additional examples of Executive lawlessness by leaders who need fear no personal consequences for their actions, including more illegal wars such as Iraq.”
Besides Velvel, members of the Steering Committee include:
Ben Davis, a law Professor at the University of Toledo College of Law, where he teaches Public International Law and International Business Transactions. He is the author of numerous articles on international and related domestic law.
Marjorie Cohn, a law Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif., and President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Chris Pyle, a Professor at Mount Holyoke College, where he teaches Constitutional law, Civil Liberties, Rights of Privacy, American Politics and American Political Thought, and is the author of many books and articles.
Elaine Scarry, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University, and winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.
Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center For Constitutional Rights, of New York City, which was recently involved with war crimes complaints filed in Germany and Japan against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others.
David Swanson, author, activist and founder of AfterDowningStreet.org/CensureBush.org coalition, of Charlottesville, Va.
Kristina Borjesson, an award-winning print and broadcast journalist for more than twenty years and editor of two recent books on the media.
Colleen Costello, Staff Attorney of Human Rights, USA, of Washington, D.C., and coordinator of its efforts involving torture by the American government.
Valeria Gheorghiu, attorney for Workers’ Rights Law Center.
Andy Worthington, a British historian and journalist and author of books dealing with human rights violations.
Initial actions considered by the Steering Committee, Velvel said, are as follows:
# Seeking prosecutions of high level officials, including George Bush, for the crimes they committed.
# Seeking disbarment of lawyers who were complicitous in facilitating torture.
# Seeking termination from faculty positions of high officials who were complicitous in torture.