David Kirkpatrick

July 16, 2010

Bush 43-era DoJ pursued obscenity cases over national security

Just wow.

From today’s Reason Alert:

Earlier in the trial, we learned the Bush administration actually diverted resources away from national security and onto the Stagliano case. Abowitz says, “After originally working on national security issues, [FBI Special Agent Daniel] Bradley testified, he was transferred to the obscenity desk and assigned to an already open investigation into Stagliano. How’s that for government priorities?”

For more on the actual trial, here’s a Reason article from today.

February 15, 2010

Dick Cheney admits to being a war criminal

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:11 am

Cheney openly declared himself a “big supporter of waterboarding.”

Waterboarding is considered torture under U.S. and international law, and the imposition of, or ordering from a leadership position of, torture constitutes a war crime.

There is no possibility Cheney was confused and didn’t realize he was admitting to criminal activity. He clearly is either playing chicken with the Obama Justice Department on the potential for legal action on his admission, or he’s truly gone around the bend and sees himself far enough above the law that legal statutes no longer apply to to his activities.

At any rate I doubt he travels to many first world nations around the globe for the rest of his days.

From the link, Andrew Sullivan on this admission:

The question is therefore not if, but when, he is convicted as a war criminal – in his lifetime or posthumously.

In fact, the attorney general of the United States is legally obliged to prosecute someone who has openly admitted such a war crime or be in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on Torture. For Eric Holder to ignore this duty subjects him too to prosecution. If the US government fails to enforce the provision against torture, the UN or a foreign court can initiate an investigation and prosecution.

These are not my opinions and they are not hyperbole. They are legal facts. Either this country is governed by the rule of law or it isn’t. Cheney’s clear admission of his central role in authorizing waterboarding and the clear evidence that such waterboarding did indeed take place means that prosecution must proceed.

Cheney himself just set in motion a chain of events that the civilized world must see to its conclusion or cease to be the civilized world. For such a high official to escape the clear letter of these treaties and conventions, and to openly brag of it, renders such treaties and conventions meaningless.

September 3, 2009

NYT calls for Cheney’s scalp

Well not quite, but pretty darn close. This New York Times editorial is asking for far reaching investigation into the Bush 43 torture regime and specifically calls out Dick Cheney for his self-admitted role in this disgraceful period of United States history.

Quite a turnaround from a newspaper that notoriously refused to use the word “torture” with U.S. activities for many, many years.

From the first link:

After the C.I.A. inspector general’s report on prisoner interrogation was released last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney settled into his usual seat on Fox News to express his outrage — not at the illegal and immoral behavior laid out in the report, of course, but at the idea that anyone would object to torturing prisoners. He was especially vexed that the Obama administration was beginning an investigation.

In Mr. Cheney’s view, it is not just those who followed orders and stuck to the interrogation rules set down by President George Bush’s Justice Department who should be sheltered from accountability. He said he also had no problem with those who disobeyed their orders and exceeded the guidelines.

It’s easy to understand Mr. Cheney’s aversion to the investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered last week. On Fox, Mr. Cheney said it was hard to imagine it stopping with the interrogators. He’s right.

The government owes Americans a full investigation into the orders to approve torture, abuse and illegal, secret detention, as well as the twisted legal briefs that justified those policies. Congress and the White House also need to look into illegal wiretapping and the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured.

Mr. Cheney was at the center of each of these insults to this country’s Constitution, its judicial system and its bedrock democratic values. To defend himself, he offers a twisted version of history:

Update — The Daily Dish ran a post today clarifying that the main issue is the NYT news department, and not the editorial board, avoiding the word “torture” in context of U.S. activities that amount to, well, torture.

July 17, 2009

Obama, Bush and warrantless wiretapping

I’m of two minds on this case. On one side I think the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the general public in the dark about elements of spycraft sausage-making. Flip that coin over and you have a double dose of privacy concerns and the government essentially arguing it can’t be held accountable by the very people who “own” the government in United States citizens.

Obama’s rapidly disillusioned supporters see the DoJ actions as a betrayal. I tend to see this as protecting entrenched interests of the executive branch. Some of these interests are part of the dark Bush 43 legacy.

Of course one reason I voted for Obama was for the White House to get out the cleaning fluids and scrub away the insidious creep of the government into privacy and civil liberties. Change? Maybe not so much. Hopefully only not so much just yet.

From the link:

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation squared off in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday over a warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush administration. The EFF sued the government and officials who implemented the secret program in September in an effort to get the government to stop the practice of recording communications involving U.S. citizens without a federal warrant. The EFF argues that this warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but government lawyers say the lawsuit should be thrown out because it could lead to the disclosure of state secrets.

The judge in the case, Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, already heard most of these arguments during an ongoing 2006 suit, Hepting v. AT&T, that also sought to put an end to the program. The EFF brought this second suit, Jewel v. NSA, after Congress passed a law last year that protected telecommunications companies like AT&T from lawsuits over the wiretapping.

Click here to find out more! On Wednesday, DoJ lawyer Anthony Coppolino argued that federal laws allow people to sue government employees who leak information, but do not let them sue the government itself. Coppolino added that litigating such cases could put state secrets at risk by exposing details of the government’s anti-terrorist programs.

May 11, 2009

Google better watch out …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:02 pm

… the U.S. government is about to crack down on antitrust regulation.

February 14, 2009

Obama, truth commissions, rendition and transparency

Here is a long, but interesting, roundup of opinion on how the Obama administration is handling the misdeeds, and possible criminal behavior, of the Bush 43 administration, and transparency in the DOJ and counterterrorism policy.

All of this will be points of discussion for a long while.

Bush team members will have a domestic axe over their collective heads until something definitive is worked out by the Obama administration regarding war crimes that were committed. These same officials will always have an international axe dangling loosely. I’m guessing quite a few can’t travel to a number of European countries lest they get nabbed and hauled to the Hague for trial.

Transparency, the Department of Justice and counterterrorism policy will always be a politcal football regardless which party is in power and setting policy.

If these subjects interest you it’s worth the time to hit this link and read Tobin Harshaw’s extensive roundup of bloggy goodness. Lots of opinions and good arguments, and if you’re really into the topics there are links galore to even more of the same.

Here’s Harshaw’s lede:

While President Obama has made it pretty clear he’d like to move on, the idea of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for its counterterrorism programs and other alleged misdeeds refuses to die. Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, has been making noises about investigations and criminal charges for a while and now Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for a “truth commission” — a “a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind” with a “straightforward mission … to find the truth.”

Well, before we set out in search of axeless Washingtonians, a rare breed indeed, let’s discuss all the options. Leahy’s idea is probably along the lines of what Jack Balkin of Yale Law School recommended in a Times Op-Ed article last month: “create presidential commissions and Congressional oversight hearings on various subjects: detention and interrogation practices, extraordinary rendition, reform of military commissions and reform of surveillance practices. These different commissions have different objects and functions; a single truth commission could not begin to address them all.”

For some on the left, this is soft stuff. Sharing the page with Balkin, Dahlia Lithwick wrote that “Some commentators have suggested that any such truth commission should promise immunity or a pardon in exchange for truthful testimony, but I believe that if it becomes clear that laws were broken, or that war crimes were committed, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate further.”

November 14, 2008

Deep rot at Justice

The Bush 43 Department of Justice has been a disgrace, and may well be much worse than the public even knows about right now. Good luck to the incoming DoJ team to shovel through this shitpile.

Scott Horton puts it all in perspective here.

From the Daily Beast link:

Painful as the appearances were of prosecutorial misconduct emerging from the Justice Department’s own letter, in retrospect that letter raises still more troubling issues. It now appears that the Justice Department was aware of even more startling allegations of misconduct raised directly by a member of the prosecution team, and documented with internal communications, but it consciously chose to hide all of this from the court and from opposing counsel. This would warrant another disciplinary review and possible action against the prosecutors.

In the meantime, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary is scrambling to find a new job. But her imminent departure serves to highlight a broader problem. As President-Elect Obama works to pick a new attorney general, his transition team is focused on a series of far more complex issues at the Justice Department. Public confidence in the work of the department has fallen to the lowest level since the Watergate scandal, when attorney generals John Mitchell and Richard Kleindienst were indicted and convicted.

Alberto Gonzales and his three most senior deputies were all forced from office in disgrace as evidence mounted that they had abused the Department for political purposes. An internal investigation of this abuse could not be concluded because of obstruction from the White House and the refusal of Bush Administration lawyers to cooperate. A special prosecutor had to be appointed to investigate a number of allegations of politically abusive conduct concerning the operations of U.S. Attorney offices around the country.

Simply appointing a new attorney general will not resolve these problems, but it would be a significant first step. As the Siegelman case shows, some of the departing U.S. attorneys are leaving behind a legal toxic waste dump that may take years to clean up.

Deep Dive:  The key documents in the case.

Scott Horton is a law professor and writer on legal and national security affairs for Harper’s Magazine and The American Lawyer, among other publications.

If you have an interest in the Don Siegelman saga, TPMMuckraker has a many, many posts outlining this disgrace of justice in our nation, a nation of laws except under Bush 43’s DoJ as it turns out.

August 7, 2008

This development in the DOJ inquiry …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:35 pm

does not bode well for the Bush 43 administration. It looks less and less likely the stench of cronyism and corruption surrounding the current group in the White House will just go away after the election.

From the link:

Murray Waas confirmed today something we’ve suspected for a long time: that the Justice Department has widened the net in the Inspector General’s U.S. attorneys firing probe to include allegations that senior White House officials made false statements to Congress.

From the Huffington Post:

The Justice Department investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys has been extended to encompass allegations that senior White House officials played a role in providing false and misleading information to Congress, according to numerous sources involved in the inquiry.. . . Federal investigators have obtained documents showing that Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Chris Oprison, then an associate White House counsel, drafted and approved the letter even though they had first-hand knowledge that the assertions were not true.

 

The letter referenced was sent from the Justice Department to Congress on February 23, 2007and denied Karl Rove’s involvement in the replacement of fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins by Rove protege Tim Griffin.

Just a month later, however, the DOJ was forced to admit that the February letter had been “contradicted by Department documents.”

July 28, 2008

DOJ under Gonzales violated the law

An internal Department of Justice report prepared by the department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office found the Gonzales DOJ broke the law by politicizing the department:

In her position as White House liaison for the Justice Department, Ms. Goodling was involved in hiring lawyers for both political appointments and non-political, career positions. Regardless of the type of position, the report said, Ms. Goodling would run through the same batch of questions, asking candidates about their political philosophies, why they wanted to serve President Bush, and who, aside from Mr. Bush, they admired as public servants. Sometimes, Ms. Goodling would ask: “Why are you a Republican?”

Such questioning was allowed for candidates to political appointments, but was clearly banned under both civil service law and the Justice Department’s own internal policies, the inspector general said. Ms. Goodling’s questioning also generated complaints from one senior official who believed it was improper, long before the issue became a public controversy following the firings of nine United States attorneys. The inspector general concluded that Ms. Goodling knew that questioning applicants to career positions about their political beliefs was improper.

Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thinks this politization of the DOJ imperiled US citizens:

Responding to today’s report from the DOJ Inspector General, Leahy said in a statement:

“The report reveals decisions to reject qualified, experienced applicants to work on counterterrorism issues in favor of a less experienced attorney on the basis of political ideology. Rather than strengthening our national security, the Department of Justice appears to have bent to the political will of the administration. Further, the report reveals that the ‘principal source’ for politically vetted candidates considered for important positions as immigration judges was the White House- a clear indication of the untoward political influence of the Bush administration on traditionally non-political appointments.”

For more in-depth coverage of the entire scandal, head over to TPMMucker where they’ve been on this case for a long, long time providing a wealth of information the Bush 43 administration would rather had never seen the light of day.

June 24, 2008

Politicizing Justice

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:43 pm

John Ashcroft turned out to be one of the early, and surprising, good guys in the Bush 43 administration — most notably on his push-back against then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on warrantless wiretapping. All that said, his run at the head of the Department of Justice was less than perfect.

One of the more struturally damaging aspects of the DOJ under Bush 43 has been the blatant, and illegal, politicization of the hiring practices at the department, bringing in scads of underqualified graduates of third-rate at best Christian law schools simply because the candidates had what I’ll charitably term “Bush conservative” bona fides.

A black mark on Ashcroft’s mixed legacy will be setting this process into motion.

From the second link:

The blistering report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is the first in what will be a series of investigations growing out of last year’s scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys. It appeared to confirm for the first time in an official examination many of the allegations from critics who charged that the Justice Department had become overly politicized during the Bush administration.

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. While the recruitment was once controlled largely by career officials in each section who would review applications, political officials in the department began to assume more control, rejecting candidates with liberal or Democratic affiliations “at a significantly higher rate” than those with Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring.

February 7, 2008

Department of Justice uber alles?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:11 pm

Attorney General Michael Mukasey provided some amazing legal machinations before Congress today. He essentially declared that the Department of Justice determines US law.

From the linked TPM Muckraker post:

Mukasey wanted to say it more carefully. “I think what I said was that we could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a Justice Department opinion.”

So a Justice opinion, even if wrong and in direct violation of law, provides immunity from prosecution by the DoJ. Just wow, and more than a bit tautological.

This is damn close to saying the DoJ is the final arbiter of US law. I think the Supreme Court might have something to say on the subject.

(For more information on TPM Muckraker and their now special relationship with the DoJ, check out this post and extensive comments.)