David Kirkpatrick

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.

June 18, 2008

More on Bush 43 and torture

With Congress looking into the torture program of the Bush 43 regime, there’s plenty of news and analysis out there.

Here’s Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent:

In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated report. Interrogation techniques designed for use at Guantanamo Bay, which President George W. Bush had decreed outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions, had “migrated” to Iraq, which Bush recognized was under Geneva, concluded panel chairman James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary. Schlesinger’s panel, however, did not explain which officials ordered the abusive techniques to transfer across continents — or how and why they became Pentagon policy in the first place.

Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee answered those questions. In a marathon hearing spanning eight hours and three separate panels, the committee revealed, in painstaking detail, how senior Pentagon officials transformed a program for Special Forces troops to resist torture — known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, or SERE — into a blueprint for torturing terrorism detainees.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), released numerous classified documents from the crucial period of mid-2002 to early 2003, when the policies of abuse took shape inside the Defense Dept. “Senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees,” Levin said. “In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.”

And Scott Horton at Harper’s :

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a simple question: who initiated torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some times: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.

 

January 31, 2008

Another take on US torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:35 pm

Here’s more on Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee from Scott Horton writing at Harper’s. It’s a great dissection from a legal philosophy bent.

From the article:

Watching Mukasey was a painful experience. What the public hoped for with his appointment was simple enough: that someone would occupy the office of attorney general who possessed integrity, common sense, independence and the basic skills that accompany a sound legal mind. The essence of what a lawyer owes his client is independent professional judgment.

Elihu Root, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt’s and one of the titans of the New York Bar, put it bluntly and in terms that could not be better suited to the current predicament. “About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damn fools and should stop.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee put Michael Mukasey to the test yesterday. And he left the hearing room as an embarrassment to those who have known and worked with him over the last twenty years, and who mistakenly touted his independence and commitment to do the right thing, come what may. On the other hand, Vice President Cheney, the principal author of the torture system, must be elated and relieved. Indeed, Cheney’s lawyer Shannen Coffin rushed to National Review Online to give Mukasey’s performance an enthusiastic seal of approval. Mukasey flunked the simple test that Elihu Root posed for all lawyers: he doesn’t have the gumption to tell the president that his torture program is unlawful and needs to be shutdown. Moreover, he’s fully bought in to the cover-up.

From all accounts Mukasey, as described above, was considered an independent and strong legal intellect. The equivocation over torture coming time and again from various members of the Bush 43 administration, and now Mukasey, makes you start to wonder what exactly they now know.

It’s an old dodge to get someone into a difficult position by allowing them information that must be kept secret or their head might be served up on a platter as well.

If this subject if of any interest to you I heartily recommend reading the entire article linked at the beginning of the post. Let’s just say Horton sums things up with, by all appearances the current US stance on torture is it’s fine when we do it, bad when other countries do it. Comically playground-style reasoning, but very depressing since it seems to be current US policy.