Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 26th, 2007

Monica Goodling is up kim-chi creek with no paddle

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Josh (and two of his readers) lay it out:

A couple TPM Readers chime in on DOJ White House liaison Monica Goodling’s plan to plead the 5th before the Senate Judiciary Committee …

First, TPM Reader TB

A party can request a hearing (in federal or state court) to examine whether the party invoking the Fifth has done so properly. Goodling’s attorney’s letter does not provide a valid basis for invoking the Fifth. You can’t invoke the Fifth to avoid perjury charges (or obstructing justice with the selfsame testimony). (I have the cases here, if you want them.) You can’t invoke the Fifth because you think the Committee is on a witch hunt. Etc.They shouldn’t let Goodling get away with this. She either is refusing to providing testimony because she may be testifying about some crime she has previously committed (which is a valid reason for taking the Fifth) or she isn’t. If she is, and a Judge so determines, then fine (and goodbye to her attorney’s ridiculous GOP talking points), and if she isn’t, she should be compelled to testify under subpoena.

The funny thing is she may be obstructing justice (protecting others) by refusing to testify under a bogus claim of needing to take the Fifth.

Talk to some attorneys who work with Congressional committees and see which court they can take this to — I would suspect the D.C. Circuit.

TPM Reader EJ makes the same point …

I read the letter from Ms. Goodling’s attorney, and it seems rather odd to me. He says that Ms. Goodling will not testify because she fears that, even though telling the truth, she may face perjury charges due to the hostility of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. The Fifth Amendment, however, has nothing to do with perjury or with feared partisanship. Rather, it states a privilege against self-incriminating testimony. If the Fifth were to be accepted every time a witness feared a perjury indictment, we would have very few witnesses, indeed. I’m far from an expert on this matter, but I wonder if the Fifth has been properly invoked at all here.

I’m obviously not a lawyer. But I think these good folks may be on to something. (TPM Reader TB identifies himself as a lawyer.) Certainly there’s no 5th amendment privilege against testifying before meanies. So the alleged partisanship of the committee doesn’t fly. And in any case, the committee doesn’t prosecute you for perjury. Unless I’m completely forgetting how this works, all they can do is make a referral to the Justice Department. (Maybe they can hand it to Gonzales next time he comes to testify.) And the most sensible defense against a perjury trap, I would have thought, would be to tell the truth. After all, to the best of my knowledge Goodling hasn’t testified on this subject before — so it’s not like they can trap her into contradicting previous sworn testimony.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 8:43 pm

Select Diebold or they’ll sue

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This is unusual: Diebold is suing Massachusetts because it lost a contract bid to a competitor. Given the many problems with Diebold machines, I would say that the suit is a long shot. Here’s the story:

Diebold Election Systems Inc. , one of the country’s largest manufacturers of voting machines, is scheduled to argue in court today that the Office of the Secretary of State wrongly picked another company to supply thousands of voting machines for the disabled.

The contract is valued at about $9 million.

William M. Weisberg , a lawyer representing Diebold, said in an interview yesterday that the company wants a review of the internal records showing how Galvin’s office came to select AutoMARK earlier this year.

“We compete against AutoMARK around the country all the time,” Weisberg said. “Based on the criteria set out by the Commonwealth, we had a fair degree of confidence we’d come out on top, and nothing we heard during the process dissuaded us of that confidence.”

Weisberg said Diehold was so stunned it did not get the contract that it now believes “it’s worth the time and money” of going to court to challenge the contract’s award, even though the company at this stage has no hard evidence of unfair treatment.

Galvin yesterday called the Diebold suit “frivolous” and unlikely to succeed. “My office made a very reasonable selection after a long, open process of evaluating the voting machines,” Galvin said.

“We are entirely confident we will prevail,” he said.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Business, Government

The Smithsonian cleans house in a Small way

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From the Carpetbagger, again:

The Smithsonian announced this afternoon that its top official, Secretary Lawrence Small, has resigned in the wake of a scandal involving his expense account. An internal audit in January found that Small had made $90,000 in unauthorized expenses, including private jet travel and expensive gifts, and charged the Smithsonian more than $1.1 million for use of his home since 2000.

I blogged earlier about Small.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 6:04 pm

Posted in GOP

That Alberto!

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From the Carpetbagger:

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted he would stay on the job because he’s so “focused on protecting our kids.” It was a rather weak defense, and as it turns out, protecting children isn’t his strong point anyway: “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton…are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution’s minor boy inmates.”

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26 March 2007 at 5:58 pm

Yet another corrupt GOP land deal

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You know Denny Hastert’s little get-rich-quick scheme. There have been others, and the DCCC has put one on video.

Greg Sargent provides the background:

If you’re a devoted reader of TPMmuckraker you probably know about GOP Rep. Gary Miller, the California Congressman who recently earned the distinction of becoming the 20th member of the 109th Congress to fall under scrutiny from the Feds for a series of fishy land deals. Miller’s being probed for allegedly not paying taxes on land he sold to the city in 2002.

Now the DCCC has just put together a Web video lampooning Miller, and we’ve got an advance copy. The key news in the video is this: The DCCC has obtained through a Freedom of Information request a video of Miller begging the Monrovia County City Council in 2000 to buy his land.

This is important because in his defense against the tax charge, Miller has said that the city forced him to sell it — which under California law would have allowed him to defer paying the taxes.

But there he is on tape, appeearing to be saying something quite different. While it’s been reported already that Miller made his plea before the City Council, the video of it hasn’t yet hit the light of day, the DCCC says. So take a look:

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 5:56 pm

Posted in GOP

Can Goodling take the Fifth?

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Via Kevin Drum, Orin Kerr thinks not:

The Associated Press reports:

Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

“The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real,” said the lawyer, John Dowd.

“One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby,” he said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.

I’m not sure I follow the rationale here. The Fifth Amendment privilege is available if the witness has reasonable ground to believe that her testimony will be used against her to prove an element of a crime. Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591, 598 (1896). What crime might Goodling have committed? I’m also puzzled by the comparison to the Libby case. Libby was prosecuted and convicted because he lied under oath, not because he admitted to criminal activity. Is Goodling taking the Fifth because if she testifies under oath she would lie and face perjury charges rather than tell the truth? If so, that’s not a valid basis for the privilege. See, e.g,, United States v. Seewald, 450 F.2d 1159 (2d Cir. 1971). Or perhaps she is taking the Fifth because she lied before, and her testifying truthfully this time will reveal her earlier lies?

UPDATE: According to the first page of the letter Goodling’s counsel sent to the Senate, the rationale for taking the Fifth seems to be that Congress isn’t being very open-minded and Democrats don’t trust the Bush Administration. That’s a new one; I don’t think I’ve ever come across that one before. (Maybe there is more on the other pages of the letter not yet available?)

Read the rest of this entry »

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26 March 2007 at 5:42 pm

Gonzales, spinning like a big dog

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Here’s Gonzales trying to defend himself. Pretty weak, but interesting. What a doofus.

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26 March 2007 at 3:35 pm

Paper shredders will be working overtime

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The data shredders are already at it. Josh Marshall:

Last year all of us investigative reporter types were poring over the Federal Procurement database to look over MZM’s various government contracts. But, according to Laura Rozen, they’ve apparently all been purged from the database.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 3:34 pm

Recipe to make on a rainy day

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Video

The GOP vs. Carol Lam

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From TPMmuckraker:

Despite the fact that no one from the Justice Department ever confronted Carol Lam over her performance on immigration prosecutions — and the fact that Lam’s connection to the Duke Cunningham case remains a far more credible logic for her firing — the story that she was dismissed because of that continues to gain credence. So let’s take one last look at what the record shows.

First and foremost, the idea that Lam did not prioritize border cases is demonstrably false. As the Justice Department stated in a letter three months before Lam was fired, half of the prosecutors in Lam’s office were dedicated to criminal immigration cases.

Second, the demand that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and others were making, that her office have a “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting alien smuggling, was an impossible one. All you need to do is look at the numbers. There are approximately 140,000 immigration arrests in Lam’s district per year — and approximately 110 lawyers in her office to handle them. They manage to file around 3,000 cases per year total, one of the largest loads in the country.

Third (and it bears repeating), Justice Department officials never confronted Lam about her immigration policy.

The ire directed at Lam from Republican lawmakers and some within the Justice Department had to do with a choice Lam made. Given the chronic lack of resources — approximately 140,000 immigration arrests in Lam’s district per year vs. approximately 110 lawyers in her office — she decided to use her resources to prosecute the more serious cases. As an internal Justice Department report summarized the strategy:

SDCA [the Southern District of California] does not prosecute purely economic migrants. SDCA directs its resources to bringing felony charges against the most egregious violators, focusing on illegal aliens with substantial criminal histories such as violent/major felons, recidivist felons, repeat immigration violators on supervised release, and alien smuggles and guides. SDCA does not prosecute foot guides that do not have a serious criminal history.

It was a calculation with potentially adverse political consequences, since it would mean a drop in the sheer number of cases filed. And it was the reason that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and others directed criticism at Lam.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 1:21 pm

Aged, Frail, and Denied Care

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More on why the US needs national health insurance:

Mary Rose Derks was a 65-year-old widow in 1990, when she began preparing for the day she could no longer care for herself. Every month, out of her grocery fund, she scrimped together about $100 for an insurance policy that promised to pay eventually for a room in an assisted living home.

On a May afternoon in 2002, after bouts of hypertension and diabetes had hospitalized her dozens of times, Mrs. Derks reluctantly agreed that it was time. She shed a few tears, watched her family pack her favorite blankets and rode to Beehive Homes, five blocks from her daughter’s farm equipment dealership.

At least, Mrs. Derks said at the time, she would not be a financial burden on her family.

But when she filed a claim with her insurer, Conseco, it said she had waited too long. Then it said Beehive Homes was not an approved facility, despite its state license. Eventually, Conseco argued that Mrs. Derks was not sufficiently infirm, despite her early-stage dementia and the 37 pills she takes each day.

After more than four years, Mrs. Derks, now 81, has yet to receive a penny from Conseco, while her family has paid about $70,000. Her daughter has sent Conseco dozens of bulky envelopes and spent hours on the phone. Each time the answer is the same: Denied.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 10:39 am

Something you might have missed

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because it was below the fold in this story. Here it is:

Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.

Rove thanked the audience for “all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected.” He added, “A lot in American politics is up for grabs.”

The department’s civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read that story again. It shocks the conscience.

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26 March 2007 at 10:23 am

Getting Things Done, again

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I’ve mentioned David Allen’s book Getting Things Done several times, and today the Simple Dollar has a good review of the book:

Getting Things Done
David Allen
Changed my life in September 2005

During the early stages of my adult life, my time management was truly awful. I would waste time in complete idleness on a daily basis and spend other times simply struggling to know where to start with larger projects. I was fairly strong in a strictly professional sense because I had some natural vision, but in terms of managing my own life, I was abysmal and I knew it.

I tried a number of personal productivity philosophies and nothing worked. I went to some seminars and they just didn’t click. I kept finding myself returning to the same old ruts of doing the same old stuff.

In mid-2005, two things happened almost simultaneously that changed everything. First, my wife and I found out that we were going to have a child. We immediately threw ourselves into education about parenting and it became obvious that I was either going to have to give up the concept of sleep or else I would have to learn how to manage my time better. Second, I stumbled across several personal productivity sites largely focused on the GTD philosophy, mostly due to some feverish searching about time management.

I didn’t know anything about GTD at the time, so I ordered Getting Things Done and read it. And then I read it again. And then I started trying it. It seemed so incredibly simple that I basically didn’t believe that it would work.

It did.

Right now, I have a full time job, I maintain this site, I spend at least three hours a day just with my child, I keep up with several other hobbies, I keep up with my household chores, I’m writing a book, and I’m considering another blog launch. How? I finally got it, and this book opened the door.

What’s it about?

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 9:47 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Josh Marshall explains what’s at stake

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Good summary for those who just don’t get it:

Given the amount of attention we’ve given to the US Attorney Purge, there’s been no end of right-wing nutjobs who’ve written in asking just what the big deal is. In most cases, these are just attacks dressed up as questions. And I do my best — not always successfully — to ignore them. But interspersed in that mess of emails are a few who seem to be asking, genuinely, what the big deal is. Perhaps they’re critics of the president or conservatives who genuinely don’t see it. So here’s how I’d answer that question.

For all the intensity and hostility awash in our politics, there are some lines we just assume aren’t going to be crossed, lines that are so basic that the civil compact itself can’t easily survive if they’re not respected.

One of those is the vote. Whoever’s in power and however intense things get, most of us assume that the party in power won’t interfere with the vote count. We also assume that the administration won’t use the IRS to harrass or imprison political opponents. And we assume that criminal prosecutions will be undertaken or not undertaken on the facts.

Yes, there’s prosecutorial discretion. And the grandstanding, press-hungry DA is almost a cliché. But when a politician gets indicted for corruption we basically all assume it’s because they’re corrupt — or, given the assumption of innocence, that the prosecution is undertaken because the prosecutor believes their case is strong and that the defendant committed the crime.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 8:30 am

The unifying scandal

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TPMmuckraker sees the latest scandal to emerge from the rat-infested Bush Administration may unify a whole host of scandals. The latest scandal is the politicization of the General Services Administration. Here’s the story:

A glimpse of the supra-scandal?

The Washington Post‘s front page story today is about a meeting in January between the head of the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan, top agency officials, and Scott Jennings, Karl Rove’s deputy. The topic: how the agency could help “our candidates.”

The GSA is the government’s landlord and heads up nearly $60 billion per year in government contracts. The meeting was about how to turn that buying power to Republican advantage.

The angle of the Post‘s story is that Doan’s eagerness to join the scheme (get Republicans to take credit for the opening of federal facilities around the country, while preventing Democrats like Nancy Pelosi from doing so) seems a blatant violation of the Hatch Act, a law that prevents federal employees for using their positions for politics.

But there’s another lens through which to view the story, a lens that may be helpful in understanding the purging of the U.S. attorneys . I yield the floor to a long-time TPM reader:

….on January 26, Lurita Alexis Doan, the administrator of the government’s contracting agency, sent an e-mail to its top-level political appointees inviting them to attend or videoconference into a presentation by J. Scott Jennings, deputy director of the White House political office. The subject of the presentation? Why, polling data from the 2006 elections. And then, the article (and the indefatigable Rep. Waxman) alleges, the administrator solicited ideas for helping “‘our’ candidates in the next elections.” Doan, of course, denies that such ideas were solicited. The White House explains that it was “a factual assessment of the political landscape.” But just looking at what’s already been admitted – that the conference call took place, and that Jennings presented polling data on the elections – offers prima facie evidence of a Hatch Act violation. Why on earth would regional administrators for the GSA need to be made aware of the political landscape? The White House isn’t even claiming that there’s a policy-driven reason for the presentation. The *defense* here is that Jennings gave an unabashedly political presentation to a group of government officials. Unbelievable.

The reader continues: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 8:13 am

Seriously injured soldiers being sent to fight

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From Salon.com:

Last November, Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, a communications specialist with a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, had surgery on an ankle he had injured during physical training. After the surgery, doctors put his leg in a cast, and he was supposed to start physical therapy when that cast came off six weeks later.

But two days after his cast was removed, Army commanders decided it was more important to send him to a training site in a remote desert rather than let him stay at Fort Benning, Ga., to rehabilitate. In January, Hernandez was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where his unit, the 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, was conducting a month of training in anticipation of leaving for Iraq in March.

Hernandez says he was in no shape to train for war so soon after his injury. “I could not walk,” he told Salon in an interview. He said he was amazed when he learned he was being sent to California. “Did they not realize that I’m hurt and I needed this physical therapy?” he remembered thinking. “I was told by my doctor and my physical therapist that this was crazy.”

Hernandez had served two tours in Iraq, where he helped maintain communications gear in the unit’s armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles. But he could not participate in war maneuvers conducted on a 1,000-square-mile mock battlefield located in the harsh Mojave Desert. Instead, when he got to California, he was led to a large tent where he would be housed. He was shocked by what he saw inside: There were dozens of other hurt soldiers. Some were on crutches, and others had arms in slings. Some had debilitating back injuries. And nearby was another tent, housing female soldiers with health issues ranging from injuries to pregnancy.

Hernandez is one of a dozen soldiers who stayed for weeks in those tents who were interviewed for this report, some of whose medical records were also reviewed by Salon. All of the soldiers said they had no business being sent to Fort Irwin given their physical condition. In some cases, soldiers were sent there even though their injuries were so severe that doctors had previously recommended they should be considered for medical retirement from the Army.

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26 March 2007 at 8:07 am

Nice summary about a bad guy

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From the Center for American Progress:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not fit to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Since President Bush swore him in on Feb. 3, 2005, Gonzales has steadily politicized the Justice Department, putting partisan administration priorities above the best interests of the American people. His involvement in the Bush administration’s prosecutor purge demonstrated his willingness to abuse his position and exploit the agency, whose mission is to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” He has not only fired qualified U.S. attorneys, but driven away respected civil rights officials and replaced them with political appointees, pushed laws that discriminate against minorities, and overseen the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties. Now, both liberal and conservative lawmakers, pundits, members of the media, and the American public are pushing for Gonzales’s resignation. As the New York Times recently wrote, Gonzales “has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency. If anyone, outside Mr. Bush’s rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still had doubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them.”

LYING UNDER OATH: On March 12, Gonzales assured the nation that he did not participate in the administration’s dismissal of eight well-respected U.S. attorneys: “I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.” But e-mails released over the weekend show that the attorney general “was told of the dismissal plan on at least two occasions, in 2005 when the plan was devised and again in late 2006 shortly before the firings were carried out.” On Nov. 27, 2006, Gonzales met with at least five top Justice Department officials and developed a “five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors.” This inconsistency is just the latest from the attorney general on the prosecutor purge. On Jan. 18, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that the Bush administration never intended to take advantage of a Patriot Act provision that allows the President to appoint “interim” U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period of time, without Senate confirmation. But e-mails from Dec. 2006 show that Gonzales’s then-chief of staff Kyle Sampson intended to use this provision to make an end-run around the Senate, writing, “There is some risk that we’ll lose the authority, but if we don’t ever exercise it then what’s the point of having it?” Gonzales also told the Senate, “I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.” This claim has turned out to be false too, raising the possibility that Gonzales lied under oath. The Justice Department has admitted that it fired the U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Bud Cummins, for political reasons — to install a Karl Rove-protege. Evidence continues to mount that multiple attorneys were pushed out because they weren’t “loyal Bushies.”

SUPPRESSING MINORITY VOTERS: The Justice Department has attempted to cover-up the partisan firings by accusing several of the ousted U.S. attorneys of failing to aggressively pursue charges of voter fraud. Like the administration’s efforts to push out the lead prosecutor in the Jack Abramoff investigation in 2002, the more recent firings suggest that the White House allowed politics to govern the administration of justice. Republican leaders, such as the New Mexico GOP chairman, complained to Karl Rove that the former prosecutor David Iglesias didn’t go after voter fraud aggressively enough. Former U.S. attorney in Washington John McKay upset White House officials and state GOP leaders when he refused to convene a federal grand jury to investigate voter fraud in the hotly contested 2004 gubernatorial election, which had been certified in favor of the Democratic candidate. But McKay says his office thoroughly reviewed every allegation of voter fraud in the 2004 election and “concurred with the state trial court judge that there was no evidence — and let me just emphasize, zero evidence — of election voter fraud in that election.” Iglesias, who was called “inattentive” to voter fraud by New Mexico GOP officials, had actually been “heralded for his expertise in that area [voter fraud] by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.” As the New York Times notes, “In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. By resisting pressure to crack down on ‘fraud,’ the fired United States attorneys actually appear to have been standing up for the integrity of the election system.”

POLITICIZING CIVIL RIGHTS: The push to find voter fraud where there is no evidence is part of Gonzales’s politicization of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Nearly 20 percent of the division’s lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration’s conservative views on civil rights laws. Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas.” A Boston Globe report in June 2006 concluded that Gonzales was “filling the permanent ranks [at the Justice Department] with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights.” Just 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003 have strong civil rights backgrounds, compared to 77 percent in 2001-2002. In 2004, high-ranking Justice political appointees overruled the department’s attorneys and analysts who “recommended rejecting” Georgia’s voter ID law “because it was likely to discriminate against black voters.”

ERODING CIVIL LIBERTIES: Politics has trumped civil liberties during Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department. Gonzales advised the President to shut down “a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program,” when he “learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation.” Last week, Sharon Y. Eubanks, the “leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies,” said that “Bush loyalists” in Gonzales’s office “repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government’s racketeering case.” “The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.” More recently, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concluded that FBI agents often demanded Americans’ personal data “without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.” The administration’s abuses of requirements imposed by Congress were “precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a ‘signing statement‘ as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act’s renewal into law.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 8:01 am

3 1/2 years in jail: it doesn’t count…

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This is astounding. So you can be locked up for years, with no charges filed, and all that time doesn’t count as awaiting trial—because no charges. Great.

A federal judge refused to dismiss terrorism support charges against Jose Padilla on Friday, rejecting defense claims that his 3 1/2 years in custody as an enemy combatant violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed with prosecutors that Padilla’s years in isolation at a Navy brig did not count because he had not yet been charged.

The criminal charges came when Padilla, a U.S. citizen accused of being an al-Qaida operative, was added to an existing Miami terrorism support indictment in November 2005. Only then did the clock start for the Sixth Amendment’s right to a “speedy and public trial,” Cooke said.

“I agree that the law in this case is that a criminal trial proceeding begins with the filing of the criminal process,” Cooke said. “Mr. Padilla has been promptly brought to court in that matter.”

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., previously ruled that Padilla’s detention as an enemy combatant without criminal charge was legal.

Orlando do Campo, one of Padilla’s four court-appointed lawyers, insisted that the lengthy imprisonment gave prosecutors an unfair advantage in building their case, including incriminating statements Padilla made during months of interrogation.

“No one has ever been treated the way Mr. Padilla has been treated,” do Campo said.

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26 March 2007 at 7:58 am

Kevin Drum on the Purge

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He ends his list with a perfectly reasonable question that I hope journalists keep asking:

Is there, as Alberto Gonzales insists, a perfectly reasonable explanation for Purgegate? I guess there might be, but there are sure an awful lot of reasons to be skeptical. Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  1. Prior to the purge, DOJ lawyers quietly inserted a clause in the Patriot Act that allowed them to appoint new U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval. Why did they do this when their own emails show that the existing system hadn’t caused them any problems?
  2. They fired eight USAs at once. This is wildly unprecedented in the middle of an administration. Why did they feel the need for such an extensive sweep?
  3. None of the eight were given a reason for being fired.
  4. DOJ initially lied when asked why they were fired, chalking it up to “performance reasons” even though five of the eight had previously received reviews placing them in the top third of all USAs. Why lie if there’s an innocent explanation?
  5. Five of the eight were either aggressively prosecuting Republicans or else failing to prosecute Democrats to the satisfaction of local politicians. Coincidence?
  6. David Iglesias reported that he received case-related calls from from Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici shortly before the midterms. He believes the calls were intended to pressure him into indicting some local Democrats before election day. He didn’t, and a few weeks later he was fired.

    On a similar note, the day after Carol Lam notified DOJ that she was planning to expand the Duke Cunningham investigation, Kyle Sampson emailed the White House and told William Kelley to call him so he could explain the “real problem” he had with Lam. What was the real problem that he didn’t feel comfortable putting in email?

  7. When DOJ released thousands of pages of emails last week, there was a mysterious 18-day gap from a period shortly before the firings were announced. There are virtually no emails from within this period even though it seems like precisely the time when there would have been the greatest amount of email traffic. Where are the emails?
  8. The email dump contained virtually nothing from before the firings discussing the reasons for targeting the eight USAs who were eventually fired. Surely there must have been such a discussion?
  9. DOJ has now had weeks to come up with a plausible story for the firings and they still haven’t. This is truly remarkable. Why not just tell the truth? That doesn’t take weeks to concoct.

Except for #9, none of these things by themselves would generate much suspicion. Put them all together, though, and you have to be a real dead-end loyalist to believe there’s nothing fishy going on. Throw in #9 and even the dead-enders ought to be scratching their chins.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 7:55 am

Glenn Greenwald on the vapidity of the media

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UPDATE: Read it here.

It really does seem as if the TV news and political commentary has been given totally over to the entertainment value it brings. Glenn Greenwald has a very strong column today, complete with a video clip. It’s a powerful piece:

I want to return to the video clip of the jovial and dismissive discussion of the U.S. attorneys scandal on yesterday’s Chris Matthews Show (embedded below). In one sense, this clip is completely typical of how our national media thinks and talks about political matters. But there just is something about this particular discussion and the giggling, vapid participants that is extra vivid and instructive on a visceral level.

Whatever one thinks of how convincing the available evidence is thus far, nobody who has an even basic understanding of how our government functions could dispute that the accusations in this scandal are extremely serious. Presumably, even those incapable of ingesting the danger of having U.S. attorneys fired due to their refusal to launch partisan-motivated prosecutions (or stifle prosecutions for partisan reasons) at least understand that it is highly disturbing and simply intolerable for the Attorney General of the U.S. — the head of our Justice Department — to lie repeatedly about what happened, including to Congress, and to have done so with the obvious assent and (at the very least) implicit cooperation of the White House. Even the most vapid media stars should be able to understand that.

And yet so many of them do not. They continue to defend the administration by insisting that even if the accusations are correct, there was no real wrongdoing here. Add Fred Hiatt to that list, as he defends the Bush administration’s prosecutor firings in his Washington Post Editorial today by insisting that Gonzales appears “to have tried to cover up something that, as far as we yet know, didn’t need covering. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president . . . .”

Just as was true for their virtually unanimous insistence that there was no wrongdoing worth investigating in the Plame case — including the serial lying and obstruction of justice from the Vice President’s top aide, one of the most powerful people in the White House — they also see nothing wrong whatsoever with serial lying and corruption by the Attorney General in this case.

Think about this: there are only two instances in the last six years where real investigations occurred in any of the Bush scandals — this U.S. attorneys scandal (because Democrats now have subpoena power) and the Plame case (due to the fluke of two Republican DOJ officials with integrity, James Comey and Patrick Fitzgerald). And in both cases, it was revealed conclusively that top Bush officials — at the highest levels of the government — repeatedly and deliberately lied about what they did. Isn’t that pattern obviously extremely disturbing? And imagine what would be revealed had there been real investigations — journalistic or Congressional — of all the other scandals that ended up dying an inconsequential death due to neglect and suppression.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2007 at 7:45 am

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