The Other Side March 11, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, History, Media, Political Commentary.
Tags: david glenn cox, history, mass media, Media, Republican Party, Richard Nixon, roger hollander, watergate
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There is a common story to our lives; it is a story of love and loss, joys and regrets. We all share in these things equally and we are all locked inside of our times. It began as a simple conversation about how much things had changed in America since the mid nineteen nineties. They were times of economic optimism or perhaps were only the sunshine of my own economic optimism, that’s why I say, we are locked in our times.
- Hunter S. Thompson
The Fascist Moses September 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in History.
Tags: al haig, allen dulles, assassination, bay of pigs, cheney, cia, david glenn cox, e. howard hunt, gerald ford, henry kissinger, history, iran hostages, Jimmy Carter, kennedy assassination, leon panetta, nixon administration, paul bremer, Richard Nixon, richard secord, Robert Gates, roger hollander, ronald reagan, rumsfeld, spiro agnew, tim geithner, Vietnam War, watergate, woodstock
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Roger’s note: A stroll down Memory Lane for those of us who lived through and survived the 60s, 70s, etc.
By David Glenn Cox
Let’s kick Richard Nixon, its great fun; we all did it at parties back in the 1970s. But that was the previous generation and this generation has missed out on the fun, like Woodstock. Unbeknownst to this current generation there would have been hundreds of fistfights and stabbings at Woodstock had it not been for three little words, “f**k Richard Nixon!”
All one had to do was simply step between the adversaries and say, “Come on now, guys, hey, look. f**k Richard Nixon!” Instantly the opponents would separate and begin to smile and agree, “Yeah, you’re right, man. f**k Richard Nixon!” The potential warriors would depart as buddies and would exchange bong hits until their eyeballs melted in their sockets and they would forget all about their conflicts.
That was in the twilight’s last gleaming of American democracy, when a President could still be removed from office for malfeasance. Let me rephrase that, Richard Nixon could be removed from office for malfeasance; it’s doubtful whether anyone else could be. I know all about George W. Bush and Bush was a drunken, coke-snorting, mean-spirited, frat boy. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the truest definition of a sociopath, but Nixon was just plain crazy.
Nixon had paranoid delusions that people were out to get him and so he responded with bile, tirades, enemy lists and dirty tricks. Because of his paranoid delusions he alienated everyone around him until even members of his own party would walk all the way across the street just to piss on Richard Nixon. Eventually these self-fulfilling, paranoid delusions gave to Richard Nixon a kind of an Eeyore quality.
Nixon’s most trusted advisor was Henry Kissinger and Nixon only trusted him while he was in the room. Kissinger’s first government job was as a translator for the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. Kissinger was his protege and it was Dulles who helped to plan the Bay of Pigs invasion and Dulles who told Kennedy that he needed to launch an unprovoked, full-scale military attack on Cuba. Kennedy fired Dulles and his Deputy Director Charles Cabell, whose brother Earl Cabell changed the presidential motorcade route in Dallas.
Nice folks. It was Dulles who proposed a plan to fake an aircraft hijacking and to blame it on Cuba. This is where this cast of unknowns began their rise into the halls of corporate fascism. George Bush, E. Howard Hunt, Porter Goss were all operatives under Dulles, and after Dulles was fired their futures were in question. But when Richard Nixon chose Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State their meal tickets became safe and secure. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, CIA operative General Richard Secord was moving heroin on military aircraft in Vietnam and depositing the profits in banks in Australia. Then Secord began to sell pilfered US military hardware to friend and foe alike, and when this was discovered Secord was promoted!
Nixon ran for the presidency with the promise of a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. His secret plan, as it turned out, was this: get Richard Nixon elected President and then fight the North Vietnamese until they give up. Nixon authorized the secret bombings of neutral countries, as well as illegal invasions. Cambodia’s President Norodom Sihanouk was playing both sides so the CIA had him overthrown. Sihanouk had signed a secret pact with China in 1965 but was playing footsie with the CIA, so when the CIA disposed of him, China said, “Good riddance!”
Kennedy wouldn’t expand the Vietnam War, and well, he had an accident. So when Richard Nixon ended the Vietnam War without a victory he, well, he had an accident, too. After invading and bombing civilian areas in neutral countries and bombing civilian and humanitarian targets in North Vietnam, Nixon was removed from office because of a bungled burglary and financial campaign irregularities, and Americans with a straight face say the Catholic Church is in denial!
With Spiro Agnew’s departure due to racketeering conviction two chief executives of the country are removed from office within ten months and no one suspects anything is amiss. No one suspects levers behind the throne but Gerald Ford is elected President by one vote, Richard Nixon’s vote. Ford’s lone claim to fame was to pardon Richard Nixon to end the long national nightmare of Watergate. Nightmare is a good synonym for the coup d’etat that happened while America slept. Two attempts were made on Ford’s life in little more than two years and who was the director of the CIA then? Anyone? Why, it was good old George H. W. Bush.
The first Witch says, “When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
The second Witch, “When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won.”
The third Witch says, “That will be ere the set of sun.”
The first Witch, “Where the place?”
The second Witch, “Upon the heath.”
The third Witch, “There to meet with Macbeth.”
All, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
Gerald Ford was lampooned in the press as a buffoon and even though he was a buffoon he never shot his friend in the face on a drunken hunting excursion or played golf with a Supreme Court Judge who might have to hear cases involving his administration. So either you’re in or you’re out. James Earl Carter was elected with on strong anti-Washington sentiment and Washington responded with a strong Anti-Carter sentiment. For four years Carter and his staff complained of phone calls not being returned and policies not being carried out. Riots and demonstrations were happening in Tehran; did anyone think of reducing the embassy staff or closing the embassy? That’s the job the CIA is supposed to do, and when the Iranians took Americans hostage, who took the fall?
When the military rescue mission failed, who took the fall?
The hostages were released twenty minutes after the swearing in of Ronald Reagan, but the story goes that no deals were struck. Sure, I believe. Somehow the Reagan camp came into possession of Carter’s national security briefings and even Carter’s debate notes. Richard Allen was Reagan’s foreign policy chief during the campaign and he said that he was told to report to Theodore Shackley. Shackley had been fired from the CIA by the Carter administration and it was Theodore Shackley who was the station chief in Miami during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the senior agent was E. Howard Hunt.
So who did the Carter administration suspect had been leaking the classified documents? Two national security officials named Donald Gregg and Robert Gates. That’s somewhat illuminating considering Gates was the lone holdover from the Bush administration. Shackley reported to Bush Senior on the campaign and Gregg reported directly to Shackley.
So Reagan gets elected and hell comes to breakfast: tax cuts for the rich, education cuts for the poor. The giveaways of national resources to coal and timber interests. Drug smuggling in South America, the looting of the savings and loans. For the CIA it was glory days until something went horribly wrong just sixty-nine days into Reagan’s first term. Another of America’s oh so famous lone nuts with a gun shot Reagan as he walked out the front door of the hotel where he was speaking.
I’ll repeat that, the President of the United States walked out the front door of the hotel. Does that sound like good security policy to you? Reagan and aide James Brady were hit with bullets and the hospital was immediately notified, but Reagan’s limo showed up at the hospital almost fifteen minutes after Brady’s and no stretcher was waiting. The excuse given was that the driver, a highly-trained ten year veteran of the Washington Secret Service, got lost in his own hometown. If you had told me that he got lost in Omaha, maybe I’d believe it. If you pulled a stunt like that in Stalin’s Russia, you and your family would be chopping wood in Siberia for generations to come.
During his short tenure as Secretary of State, Al Haig had complained that someone within the administration had been trying to undermine him in the eyes of the President. After hearing that the President had been shot it was Haig’s staff who notified Vice President Bush who was away giving a speech in Fort Worth. It was Haig who convened the cabinet for a status report and began an investigation into the shooter or shooters and then made his famous “I am in charge” statement, which meant that he was in charge of the White House until Bush returned. He later said that Bush had agreed to this over the phone.
When Bush returned to the White House he cancelled the investigation into the shooter or shooters and Haig was then vilified in the press. Al Haig had been hired by Henry Kissinger to serve in the Nixon administration in 1969. Secretary of state George Schultz was also a Nixon/Kissinger protege as were Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer. Nixon begat Reagan, Reagan begat Bush, Bush begat son of Bush.
In the first one hundred and seventy-four years of American history there were three assassination attempts on chief executives and candidates, with only two being successful. Since 1963 there have been six assassinations or attempts: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gerald Ford (twice), George Wallace and Ronald Reagan. Interestingly when Wallace ran in 1968 he ran as a Democrat and was seen as taking votes away from Democrats. When he ran again in 1972 he ran as an independent and was expected to take votes from Republicans and was shot by yet another lone nut with a gun.
In one hundred and seventy-four years only one chief executive was ever impeached. Since 1968 one President was impeached, one President stepped down to keep from being impeached and one Vice President resigned upon conviction for racketeering.
It is tied and twisted like a Gordian Knot; the fiascos and failures of a generation of political leadership can all be tied to the tail of one delusional paranoid, but the names and numbers speak for themselves. It is impossible to say that it all happened because of Richard Nixon, but Nixon hired Kissinger and in doing so made himself the Fascist Moses.
We have wandered in the political desert for forty years and we cannot seem to find our way home. Maybe defense secretary Robert Gates knows the way; He was a Kissinger protege. Maybe Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner knows; he worked for Kissinger, too. Maybe CIA Director Panetta knows. He, too, worked in the Nixon administration. Funny, isn’t it? Defense, Treasury and CIA.
Tags: history, John Dean, nedra pickler, nixon testimony, obama administration, Richard Nixon, roger holllander, watergate, watergate testimony
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Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to the Watergate grand jury, a federal judge yesterday ordered the first public release of the transcript about the break-in that drove him from the presidency.
The 297-page transcript will not be available immediately but will be held until the government decides whether to appeal. In the American legal system, a grand jury is seated to determine whether a law has been violated and whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant prosecution.
The Obama administration opposed the transcript’s release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the former president’s testimony who are still alive.
Nevertheless, US District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.
Nixon was interviewed privately near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after he became the first US president to resign the office. Two grand jurors were flown in and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former US president had testified before a grand jury. Later, Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Ten days after Nixon’s testimony, the third Watergate grand jury was dismissed without handing up indictments.
The historians say the testimony could help resolve continuing debate over Nixon’s knowledge of the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington and his role in the cover-up that protected the conspirators for a time.
“Nixon knew when you testified before a grand jury you exposed yourself to perjury, so I’m betting he told the truth,” said University of Wisconsin Professor Stanley Kutler, who filed the lawsuit along with four historians’ organizations. Kutler, author of “Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes,” previously successfully sued to force the release of audio recordings Nixon secretly made in the Oval Office. “Now, what did he tell the truth about? I don’t know.”
Newspapers reported at the time of Nixon testimony that he was questioned about an 18 1/2-minute gap in tape recordings from the president’s Oval Office, changes made to White House transcripts of the recordings, his administration’s use of the Internal Revenue Service, the government’s tax collectors, to harass his political enemies and a $100,000 (£60,000) campaign contribution from billionaire Howard Hughes. The details of what the president said have never leaked out.
Several Watergate figures filed declarations in support of the petition, including Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean, who served prison time for his role in the scandal. Dean wrote that Nixon’s testimony covers topics that the president only vaguely discussed in his memoirs and his revelations to the grand jury would help stop “those wanting to twist and distort history.”
In rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments for privacy, Lamberth pointed out that most of the surviving Watergate figures have either written about it, given interviews that already are public or spoken under oath in testimony about their involvement. “The court is confident that disclosure will greatly benefit the public and its understanding of Watergate without compromising the tradition and objectives of grand jury secrecy,” Lamberth wrote.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said yesterday that government attorneys were reviewing the ruling.
Other courts have on occasion ordered the release of grand jury records because of their historical impact, including those investigating espionage allegations against Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, amrit singh, amy goodman, bagram, baltasar garzon, bethine church, bush administration, bush six, carl levin, church committee, cia assassination, cia videotapes, COINTELPRO, denis moynihan, detainees, Diane Feinstein, Dick Cheney, enhanced interrogation, frank church, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, independent prosecutor, John Conyers, martin luther king, Nancy Pelosi, nuremburg, patrick leahy, pentagon photos, president obama, roger hollander, rumsfeld, senate armed services, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, watergate, william hayes
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Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by TruthDig.com
The Senate interest in investigation has backers in the U.S. House, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich., who told The Huffington Post recently, “We’re coming after these guys.”
Amrit Singh, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Pentagon’s photos “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib. Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.” The ACLU also won a ruling to obtain documents relating to the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes of harsh interrogations. The tapes are gone, supposedly, but notes about the content of the tapes remain, and a federal judge has ordered their release.
In December 2002, when the Bush torture program was well under way, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on a series of harsh interrogation techniques described in a memo written by William Hayes II (one of the “Bush Six” being investigated by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon). At the bottom of the memo, under his signature, Rumsfeld scrawled: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Rumsfeld zealously classified information in his years in government.
A similar crisis confronted the U.S. public in the mid-1970s. While the Watergate scandal was unfolding, widespread evidence was mounting of illegal government activity, including domestic spying and the infiltration and disruption of legal political groups, mostly anti-war groups, in a broad-based, secret government crackdown on dissent. In response, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities was formed. It came to be known as the Church Committee, named after its chairman, Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church. The Church Committee documented and exposed extraordinary activities on the CIA and FBI, such as CIA efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence) program, which extensively spied on prominent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is not only the practices that are similar, but the people. Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., general counsel to the Church Committee, noted two people who were active in the Ford White House and attempted to block the committee’s work: “Rumsfeld and then [Dick] Cheney were people who felt that nothing should be known about these secret operations, and there should be as much disruption as possible.”
Church’s widow, Bethine Church, now 86, continues to be very politically active in Idaho. She was so active in Washington in the 1970s that she was known as “Idaho’s third senator.” She said there needs to be a similar investigation today: “When you think of all the things that the Church Committee tried to straighten out and when you think of the terrific secrecy that Cheney and all of these people dealt with, they were always secretive about everything, and they didn’t want anything known. I think people have to know what went on. And that’s why I think an independent committee [is needed], outside of the Congress, that just looked at the whole problem and everything that happened.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
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
Tags: arthur blessitt, bay of pigs, billy graham, bob woodward, bush dynasty, bush family, bush illegal abortion, champagne unit, cia, conspiracy theory, conversion, covert operations, dallas, doug wead, evangelicals, frederick clarkson, george h.w. bush, George W. Bush, jack kemp, jfk assassination, John Dean, nixon, pat roberston, poppy bush, reagan, religious right, roger hollander, russ baker, texas national guard, watergate
The Bush family (photo: www.stillman.org)
January 4, 2009
Below is an addendum to today’s feature “New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation for the Bush Family”. The book discussed is Russ Baker’s: Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and what Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008)
Baker has unearthed many startling facts about the careers of Bush 41 and Bush 43. He also draws some head turning conclusions about some of the key figures in both the Watergate scandal and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the relationship of Poppy Bush to both events. But before we summarize some of the book’s major disclosures, it is worth discussing the elephant in the room (For a full analysis of the revelations regarding the religious life of the Bushes, see today’s feature: ).
Investigative works are often labeled “conspiracy theories.” This term is generally used to suggest that whatever an author has learned, he or she may be a bit unhinged, and we may therefore not take the material seriously. And we are safe to go about our business as usual. While there are people and work, no matter how well intentioned to which the label might fairly apply, the label is also used by many of us to dismiss information and analyses that make us uncomfortable even when they legitimately push the boundaries of our understanding of modern politics, business and government. But as we address our own discomfort in the face of such material, we need to remind ourselves that investigative journalism discomfits the author as well. Journalists like Baker are constantly checking and cross checking, making sure that disturbing information is in fact so. Even more awkward are the disturbing questions that the journalist cannot answer, but are themselves so well founded that they must be raised. Conspiracy theorists tend to take the opposite tack. Information is shaped or interpreted to conform to predetermined and often fevered conclusions, while countervailing information is downplayed or ignored.
Baker is a well-respected journalist who has written for major newspapers and magazines and has served as a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. His effort to understand the lives of the presidents Bush unexpectedly led him to reexamine Watergate and the Kennedy assassination and other murky episodes of recent American history, “documenting the secrets that the House of Bush has long sought to obscure.”
“I’ll admit it,” Baker writes in his conclusion. “Fear of being so labeled has haunted me throughout this work. It’s been an internal censor that I’ve had to resist again and again. And also an external one, as friends within the journalistic establishment reviewed my findings, found them both credible and highly disturbing, and yet urged me to stay away from them for my own good. I began to realize that I was experiencing the very thing the process is designed to induce. The boundaries of permissible thought are staked out and enforced. We accept the conventional narratives because they are repeated and approved, while conflicting ones are scorned. Isn’t this how authoritarian regimes work? They get inside your mind so that overt repression becomes less necessary.”
“Whose interests does this serve?” he continues. “As this book demonstrates, the deck has long been and continues to be, stacked on behalf of big money players, especially those in commodities and natural resources *from gold to oil *and those who finance the extraction of these materials. The defense industry, and the aligned growth of business of “intelligence,” provide muscle. On a lower level is an army of enablers*the campaign functionaries, the PR people, the lawyers. This was the Bush enterprise. The Bushes embodied it as a dynasty, but it is larger than them, and will prove more enduring.”
Here are some of the major revelations of the book:
*George H. W. (“Poppy”) Bush, and many of his closest associates throughout his adult life were deeply and secretly enmeshed in covert intelligence activities. He has gone to great lengths to conceal many of his activities, no matter how mundane, and engaged in overt acts of misdirection. Bush’s extensive intelligence ties prior to his becoming CIA Director in the Ford administration, and going back to World War II, have not been previously reported. Baker calls this Bush’s “double life.”
*Poppy Bush was deeply involved with an array of CIA covert operators, Bay of Pigs veterans and rightwing Texas oil industry characters linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Baker shows that Bush was actually in Dallas on November 21, 1963 and was probably there on the day of the assassination as well. Baker draws no particular conclusions from the fact, except to document, describe and underscore the great lengths he went to conceal the fact.
*Baker asserts that, much to his own surprise, Richard Nixon while no innocent, was not the instigator of the Watergate crimes and the cover-up, but appears to have been set-up. What’s more, some of the seeming good guys, were not, and much of what seemed to be, was not as it seemed. Among those he implicates in the set-up are Poppy Bush and perhaps most remarkably, John Dean, the former White House counsel who became best known as the key whistleblower.
*In a related point, Baker notes that Nixon suspected the CIA of infiltrating his White House staff. Nixon recognized the Watergate burglars from his own days supervising covert operations as Vice President in the Eisenhower administration, and knew that their bosses were seasoned CIA hardliners with ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion and events linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nixon battled the CIA for files on what he called the “Bay of Pigs thing,” but never could get access to them. (To borrow from Woody Allen, just because Nixon was paranoid, doesn’t mean they were not out to get him.)
*Baker questions the integrity and independence of famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post who he reports had been recommended for his job by senior Nixon White House officials who had known him when he worked in Naval intelligence prior to his becoming a reporter. In that capacity, which Woodward denies he held, he was a frequent visitor to the White House.
*Baker details the Bush family’s personal, political and business connections to the Saudi royal family; and to apparent international slush funds and money laundering schemes. Much of this is told in such a matter of fact fashion that it is easy to lose sight of the significance of many of the individual facts.
Regarding George W. Bush, in addition to the manufacture of the legend his conversion story (see main story) the book covers familiar turf regarding how strings were pulled to get George W. Bush into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid military service that might send him to Vietnam; how he failed to fulfill that service; and how his failure was systematically covered-up and politically defused. Also covered are the allegations of how W. was an abuser of illegal drugs in addition to his apparently drinking problems as a young man.
One important story from W.’s past that has long been rumored is confirmed in this book. It is a story that perhaps as much as his going AWOL from the National Guard and orchestrating a cover-up could have derailed his political career.
And that story is the illegal abortion he obtained for a girlfriend in Texas before Roe v. Wade. This is substantiated in part by four reporters whose stories were not published, but who shared their “experiences and detailed source notes” and even tapes with him. Two Bush pals took charge of arranging the abortion go to the hospital and who went to the hospital to inform her that he would not see her again. All of the names are named. Certainly as an candidate who was seeking to appeal to conservative evangelical, anti-abortion constituencies, this would have been a high hurdle to overcome.
“As president,” Baker concludes, “Bush promulgated tough new policies that withheld U.S. funds not only to programs and countries that permitted abortions, but even to those that advocated contraception as opposed to abstinence. Moreover, his appointments to the Supreme Court put the panel on the verge of reversing Roe v. Wade. Like his insistence on long prison sentences for first time drug offenders and his support for military action, his own behavior in regard to sexual responsibility and abortion could be considered relevant *and revealing.” Such journalistic understatement is typical of Baker’s narrative, even while reporting potentially politically explosive material.
Perhaps the revelation that would be most difficult for readers will not be anything about the Bush family, or Watergate or the Kennedy assassination, or any of the figures in this nearly 500 page book and 1000-plus footnotes. “These revelations about the Bushes,” Baker writes, “lead in turn to an even more disturbing truth about the country itself. It’s not just that such a clan could occupy the presidency or vice presidency for twenty of the past twenty-eight years and remain essentially unknown. It’s that the methods of stealth and manipulation that powered their rise reflect a deeper ill: the American public’s increasingly tenuous hold upon the levers of its own democracy.”