Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
In this piece in his Atlantic blog, James Fallows (former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter) examines and explains what made Obama’s Charleston speech so excellent. Well worth reading. It begins:
I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator. It was also one that could have come only at this point in his public career—and not, for instance, when he was an intriguing figure first coming to national notice, as he was during his celebrated debut speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston 11 years ago; or when he was a candidate fighting for political survival, as he was when he gave his “Race in America” speech in Philadelphia early in 2008.I’ll explain why I say so, but first a word about the odd circumstances in which I’ve heard and learned about the speech.
* * *
During the past week’s tumultuous events I have been physically and electronically removed from the swirl of news. Through the Confederate-flag aftermath of the murders in Charleston, to the Supreme Court’s healthcare and same-sex marriage rulings, to the president’s speech yesterday, I wasn’t in range of TVs or radios or more than a little trickle of the Internet and thus am catching up on everything all at once now.
Our scene of removal was the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana, a Serengeti-scale longterm project to restore the northern grasslands to their original plant and animal population. It is a deeply impressive undertaking, and part of its power is the very fact that it is so far distant from urbanized America and its dramas and concerns. We’ll be writing more about it.Yesterday, on our Cirrus flight down from northern Montana to the Denver area, we were listening to news programs on Sirius XM radio—which is (properly!) designed so that the news/music programming automatically blanks out whenever there’s a transmission on the air-traffic control frequencies. We were about 100 miles (or 30 minutes) north of Gillette, Wyoming, where we’d planned to make a refueling stop, when we came across a station playing the memorial service for Reverend Clementa Pinckney. We began listening, and heard the introduction for the president when we were about 20 minutes out.
The closer we got to the airport, the more frequent the air-traffic chatter became. In the final few minutes, it was back and forth: “We do not earn grace. We don’t deserve it. It is freely given by God—” “—Cirrus Five-Sierra-Romeo, runway three-four in use, report ten miles out, altimeter three zero two four—” “—We cannot leave our children in poverty.” It was only when we’d landed and were rolling along the taxiway to the refueling area, and the controller part of the conversation was done, that Sirius kicked back in with someone singing Amazing Grace. Deb and I looked at each other and thought: Could that have been Obama?
* * *
And of course it was. His singing was the aspect of the speech that will be easiest to remember. That is in part because it was so unusual and in part because it was so brave: Obama sang well, but not perfectly. For someone so precise and aspiring-to-perfection in most other realms of achievement, and so obviously hyper-aware of his levels of skill (he told Marc Maron in his remarkable WTF interview that he didn’t like playing basketball any more, now that he recognized that age had made him the weakest player on the court), singing like another enthusiastic parishioner, and not like a featured member of the choir, was brave and said something about his comfort with this crowd.
And of course he was aware that “this crowd” was not simply the many hundreds packed into that arena but the many millions around the world who would see it live, or later on. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the value of seeing this speech, in one of the video versions now available, versus just reading the text. (For the record: a video of the full nearly five-hour session is here, with Obama appearing around time 3:55; a New York Times video of his 35-minute speech itself is here; and the White House transcript of his remarks is here.) Like most Obama speeches, the text is indeed carefully written. But it is something entirely different as … I was going to say “as delivered,” but really the term is “as performed.”Here are the three rhetorical aspects of the speech that I think made it more artful as a beginning-to-end composition than any of his other presentations: . . .
Justice Scalia seems to have trouble remembering his own opinions. Linda Greenhouse reports in the NY Times:
Sometimes the Supreme Court moves in mysterious ways. The health care decision was not one of those times.
A case that six months ago seemed to offer the court’s conservatives a low-risk opportunity to accomplish what they almost did in 2012 — kill the Affordable Care Act — became suffused with danger, for the millions of newly insured Americans, of course, but also for the Supreme Court itself. Ideology came face to face with reality, and reality prevailed.
The 6-to-3 vote to reject the latest challenge means that one or perhaps two of the justices who grabbed this case back in November had to have jumped ship. Here’s why: It takes at least four votes to add a case to the court’s docket. Given that the decision to hear this case, King v. Burwell, was entirely gratuitous — the Obama administration had won in the lower court, and an adverse decision in a different appeals court had been vacated — we can assume the votes came from the four justices who nearly managed to strangle the law three years ago in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.
These four were Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Maybe Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., excoriated in right-wing circles for having saved the statute with a late vote switch last time, also agreed to hear the new case. Or maybe his four erstwhile allies were trying to put the heat on him. It’s a delicious question without, at least for now, an answer.
When I think of this case on its trajectory toward the court, the image that comes to mind is of the great white shark in “Jaws,” swimming silently under the water, its lethal teeth bearing down on the statutory language freshly discovered by the administration’s enemies: “Exchange established by the State.”
Do “words no longer have meaning,” as Justice Scalia put it in his angry dissenting opinion? What, after all, could be clearer? The state, not the federal government. The two are not the same. They are different! So poor and middle-class people in the 34 (mostly red) states that refused to set up their own insurance exchanges, defaulting that task to the federal government, are just out of luck. They aren’t eligible for tax subsidies to help them buy insurance, subsidies that are critical to making the law work. End of story, end of case, end of the Affordable Care Act (or Scotuscare, as Justice Scalia said the law should be re-named).
The chief justice’s masterful opinion showed that line of argument for the simplistic and agenda-driven construct that it was. Parsing the 1,000-plus-page statute in a succinct 21-page opinion, he deftly wove in quotations from recent Supreme Court opinions.
Who said that we “must do our best, bearing in mind the fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme”? Why, it was Justice Scalia (actually quoting an earlier opinion by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) in a decision just a year ago.
And who said that “a provision that may seem ambiguous in isolation is often clarified by the remainder of the statutory scheme” because “only one of the permissible meanings produces a substantive effect that is compatible with the rest of the law”? Why, Justice Scalia again.
“In this instance,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.” He concluded: “A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.” Among the chief justice’s silent partners in the six-justice majority opinion was Justice Kennedy, by most accounts the driving force behind the near miss three years ago. . .
Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:
Was I on the edge of my seat, waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare subsidies? No — I was pacing the room, too nervous to sit, worried that the court would use one sloppily worded sentence to deprive millions of health insurance, condemn tens of thousands to financial ruin, and send thousands to premature death.
It didn’t. And that means that the big distractions — the teething problems of the website, the objectively ludicrous but nonetheless menacing attempts at legal sabotage — are behind us, and we can focus on the reality of health reform. The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?
The answer is, better than even many supporters realize.
Start with the act’s most basic purpose, to cover the previously uninsured. Opponents of the law insisted that it would actually reduce coverage; in reality, around 15 million Americans have gained insurance.
But isn’t that a very partial success, with millions still uncovered? Well, many of those still uninsured are in that position because their state governments have refused to let the federal government enroll them in Medicaid.
Beyond that, you need to realize that the law was never intended or expected to cover everyone. Undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible, and any system that doesn’t enroll people automatically will see some of the population fall through the cracks. Massachusetts has had guaranteed health coverage for almost a decade, but 5 percent of its nonelderly adult population remains uninsured.
Suppose we use 5 percent uninsured as a benchmark. How much progress have we made toward getting there? In states that have implemented the act in full and expanded Medicaid, data from the Urban Institute show the uninsured falling from more than 16 percent to just 7.5 percent — that is, in year two we’re already around 80 percent of the way there. Most of the way with the A.C.A.!
But how good is that coverage? Cheaper plans under the law do have relatively large deductibles and impose significant out-of-pocket costs. Still, the plans are vastly better than no coverage at all, or the bare-bones plans that the act made illegal. The newly insured have seen a sharp drop in health-related financial distress, and report a high degree of satisfactionwith their coverage.
What about costs? In 2013 there were dire warnings about a looming “rate shock”; instead, premiums came in well below expectations. In 2014 the usual suspects declared that huge premium increases were looming for 2015; the actual rise was just 2 percent. There was another flurry of scare stories about rate hikes earlier this year, but as more information comes in it looks as if premium increases for 2016 will be bigger than for this year but still modest by historical standards — which means that premiums remain much lower than expected.
And there has also been a sharp slowdown in the growth of overall health spending, which is probably due in part to the cost-control measures, largely aimed at Medicare, that were also an important part of health reform.
What about economic side effects? . . .
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Yesterday, Mary Jo White was in London to address the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). While there, she commented on the U.K.’s new plan to hold senior managers in the finance industry responsible for fraud in their departments. Each senior manager will have a specific delegated responsibility and if fraud occurs in their area, he or she can be terminated and banned for life from the industry if the senior manager had knowledge of the fraud. White called the idea “intriguing.”
While White was chatting with her fellow securities regulators in London on this novel idea of actually holding crooked Wall Street bosses accountable, Thomas Hayes was on trial in another section of London over charges that he rigged the benchmark interest rate, Libor, on which interest rates on loans and financial instruments are set around the world. Yesterday, Hayes produced for the jury a “Guide to Publishing Libor Rates,”which his superiors at UBS had crafted for traders, teaching them how to manipulate Libor to benefit trading positions of UBS. Hayes’ bosses are not on trial.
In 2012 when JPMorgan Chase was caught using hundreds of billions of dollars of its depositors’ money inside its commercial bank to make wild, exotic derivative bets (London Whale affair) to benefit its own profits, while losing at least $6.2 billion in the process, neither the head of that unit, Ina Drew, nor the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, were charged. Only two low-level traders, Javier Martín-Artajo and Julien Grout, were charged in the matter for hiding losses on the trades. Both of these individuals live abroad and efforts to extradite them for trial in the U.S. have thus far failed, conveniently leaving the public in the dark about how much their bosses knew.
On October 21 of last year, the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve System released a sanitized report on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s supervision of JPMorgan Chase during the London Whale debacle. The skimpy report revealed that the staff of the New York Fed, one of JPMorgan’s regulators, had on three occasions – 2008, 2009, and 2010 – recommended an examination of the Chief Investment Office where the $6.2 billion in London Whale derivative losses were eventually discovered in 2012. The recommended examinations mysteriously didn’t happen. Jamie Dimon sat on the Board of Directors of the New York Fed – his own bank’s regulator – from 2007 through 2012.
On November 21 of last year, the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley, was himself hauled before a Senate panel to answer questions swirling around its coziness with the Wall Street firms it regulates. One deal at Goldman Sachs was allowed to proceed because it was “legal but shady” in the opinion of a New York Fed official. Shady is clearly the best one can hope for in the midst of epic corruption on Wall Street today.
The Senate hearing was triggered by a run of regulatory failings by the New York Fed and the September release of internal tape recordings made by Carmen Segarra, a former bank examiner at the New York Fed who says she was fired in retaliation for refusing to change her negative examination of Goldman Sachs. Portions of the tape recordings were released by ProPublica and public radio’s This American Life, showing a lap dog regulator afraid to take on a powerful Wall Street firm.
In 2012 Wall Street On Parade broke the story that Dudley, head of the body supervising JPMorgan Chase, had an outrageous conflict of interest that had actually been vetted and approved by the New York Fed. According to internal documents, Dudley’s spouse had previously worked for JPMorgan Chase and was receiving $190,000 annually in deferred compensation distributions from the bank. The $190,000 was to continue until 2021.
That kind of a conflict also comes under the heading of “legal but shady,” which appears to have blossomed into an art form at Wall Street regulators.
Then there was the SEC’s case against a shady and illegal deal called ABACUS at Goldman Sachs. On April 16, 2010, the SEC explained the deal as follows: . . .
It’s really too bad that the Federal government has so little will to take action.
I often disagree strongly with Feinstein’s positions, but then she will surprise me by (for example) pushing through the publication of a slightly censored executive summary of an important report on the US program of systematic torture of prisoners and suspects. Connie Bruck profiles her in the New Yorker:
Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, is making a late career of not quite pleasing anyone. After five decades in politics, Feinstein, at eighty-one, is the oldest sitting member of the Senate, where a late term is often less a valedictory than a chance for activism: think of Edward Kennedy or Mitch McConnell. With its elaborate rankings and deferential codes, the Senate rewards longevity; senior members have better committee seats, more loyal patrons, first choice of desk space in the chamber. As they near retirement age—whatever that means, in an institution where nearly a quarter of the members are over seventy—senators can hope to change a thing or two.
When Barack Obama took office, on January 20, 2009, the Democrats held the Senate, and Feinstein had just become chairman of the powerful Intelligence Committee. At Obama’s inaugural ceremony, she delivered the welcoming remarks, standing before an eager crowd and declaring, “Future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in our nation.” Skeptics on the National Mall might have noted that this was not a novel sentiment in such speeches, but for Feinstein it was an earnest indicator of political engagement. As the Bush Administration came to an end, the country was reconsidering the decisions of the previous eight years, particularly the ethics of the War on Terror.
Feinstein is sometimes described as a centrist, but it is because her views are varied, not because they are mild; she thinks of herself, more accurately, as a pragmatist. Especially in recent years, on issues she cares deeply about, she will take positions that other senators do not. Feinstein has pursued a deal to prevent Iran from building nuclear arms more intently than any of her colleagues. In March, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress, in the hope of averting a possible deal, Feinstein appeared on “Meet the Press” and said, “What Prime Minister Netanyahu did here was something no ally of the United States would have done.” When I saw her the next day, she told me, “For Netanyahu to come here with a clear view of preventing an agreement was really inappropriate. Particularly because this President’s Administration has provided more than twenty-five billion dollars to Israel, far more than to any other country.”
Although Feinstein mostly votes with the Democrats, she is less predictable than many of her colleagues. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she voted to confirm several of President George W. Bush’s nominees. In 2007, she endorsed Michael Mukasey for attorney general—even as he dodged the question of whether waterboarding is torture, saying only, “If it amounts to torture, then it is not constitutional.” A Democrat from hyper-liberal San Francisco, she has persistently defended government surveillance programs and targeted killings by drones, and she has been one of the C.I.A.’s most faithful supporters. Last year, after President Obama called to move authority for drone strikes from the C.I.A. to the Defense Department, Feinstein placed a classified amendment in a spending bill that helped keep the program where it was. When the activist Edward Snowden revealed that the N.S.A. had amassed the phone records of vast numbers of American citizens, he was hailed on the left as a whistle-blower. Feinstein said, “I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower. I think it’s an act of treason.” Advocates for human rights and civil liberties responded with angry editorials. The journalist Glenn Greenwald has said that her “disgusting rhetoric recalls the worst of Dick Cheney.”
The former Secretary of State George Shultz, who has raised money for Feinstein’s campaigns from Republican friends in California, told me, “Dianne is not really bipartisan so much as nonpartisan.” Slightly formal in style, she adheres faithfully to procedure and protocol; she believes in settling disputes privately, and by argument rather than by force. Even in less than momentous situations, she is a dogged negotiator. William Luers, a former ambassador and the head of the Iran Project, recalled, “I don’t think anyone has a meeting with her where she says, ‘I’m with you all the way.’ Rather, she says, ‘I’m with you, but you have to understand under what terms.’ ”
In her office recently, she described how she broke with the C.I.A. over the detention and interrogation program that began in the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. From the first time Feinstein was briefed about the program, she opposed it. On September 6, 2006, Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and described a network of “black sites”: secret facilities where C.I.A. interrogators subjected detainees to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” seeking information about possible terrorist attacks. Hayden, self-assured and pugnacious, insisted that the interrogations were carefully run and unassailably effective. Afterward, Feinstein wrote to him that his testimony was “extraordinarily problematic,” and that she was “unable to understand why the C.I.A. needs to maintain this program.” In November, when Hayden appeared before the committee again, Feinstein peppered him with questions. She wanted to know how the agency guarded against abuse, whether detainees were stripped of their clothes, whether they were fed during periods of sleep deprivation. Although she and several colleagues raised objections, Hayden, not long afterward, told a meeting of foreign diplomats, “This is not C.I.A.’s program. This is not the President’s program. This is America’s program.”
In December, 2007, the Times revealed that C.I.A. officers had secretly destroyed videotapes of interrogations, against the advice of White House officials. A few days later, Hayden, insisting to the Intelligence Committee that there had been no “destruction of evidence,” turned over cables related to those taped interrogations. For months, two committee staff members reviewed the cables, which described the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, whom the C.I.A. suspected was a high-ranking Al Qaeda member, and of a detainee named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
In February, 2009, the staff members appeared before the committee and described what they had found. Nearly twenty-four hours a day for twenty days, Abu Zubaydah was stripped naked and subjected to multiple “enhanced” techniques: slammed into a wall, slapped, deprived of sleep, confined in a coffin-size box, forced into painful postures. He was also waterboarded at least eighty-three times. Two psychologists, contracted by the C.I.A. to develop and run the interrogation program, reported that Abu Zubaydah was “ready to talk” during the first exposure, but “we chose to expose him over and over until we had a high degree of confidence he wouldn’t hold back.” After the first waterboarding sessions, a C.I.A. official wrote, “Several on the team profoundly affected . . . some to the point of tears.” By the seventh day, the C.I.A. team had informed headquarters that it was unlikely Abu Zubaydah had the threat information the agency was seeking, but the team was instructed to continue. During one waterboarding session, investigators found later, Abu Zubaydah “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
Nashiri was subjected to similar measures. Investigators determined that he was put in a “standing stress position,” with “his hands affixed over his head,” for at least two days. It was implied that his mother would be brought before him and sexually abused. He was waterboarded. After each session, his interrogators reported that he was coöperative, but officials told them to persist, because he had not provided information on imminent attacks. When the interrogators objected, they were replaced.
Feinstein described the interrogations as “ugly, visceral.” As the new chairman of the committee, she had the authority to try to effect change. “You set the table, so to speak,” she said recently. “You make the determinations, what will come up, what the committee will do.” She called for a full investigation of the C.I.A. program, and the committee voted in favor of it, 14–1. That was the genesis of what became known as the torture report, a sixty-seven-hundred-page tome, laden with footnotes. When the report was completed, in December, 2012, it included an appendix devoted to Hayden, detailing more than thirty misstatements in one session of his testimony. (Hayden argues that the Democrats misinterpreted the intent of his testimony, saying, “I described the norms—how things were supposed to work—and they found the exceptions.”)
Michael Schiffer, who was a member of Feinstein’s staff for a decade, told me that Feinstein retains a stubborn, perhaps naïve faith that the system is run by people who are trying to do the right thing for the country. “When that faith is shaken, she is really determined to do something about it,” he said. “It was that faith that caused her to be so enraged about torture.” A former intelligence officer, who knew Feinstein from her years on the Intelligence Committee, saw her determination a little differently: “The worst thing, from Dianne Feinstein’s perspective, is trying to keep her from doing her job of oversight. And if you lie to her that’s bad.”
When Obama took office, Feinstein assumed that he would be a strong ally. During the campaign, he had excoriated the Bush Administration for the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, forthrightly calling the interrogation tactics “torture.” On his second day in the White House, he issued an executive order that banned C.I.A. detention and effectively prohibited the use of waterboarding and other coercive techniques. In the end, though, what Feinstein’s group released was not the full report but a five-hundred-page executive summary, with a fraction of the meticulous, excruciating details. The summary’s release, last December, came after an eleven-month battle, in which Feinstein and several other Democrats on the committee fought strenuously against the C.I.A.—and, unexpectedly, the Obama White House. . .
Later in the profile:
In December, 2012, the committee approved the final report (eight Democrats and one Republican voted yes) and sent it to President Obama. The report concluded that the enhanced techniques were far more brutal than the agency had disclosed, and were an ineffective means of obtaining accurate information. The C.I.A. had justified them by enumerating terrorist plots that had been “thwarted.” The report examined twenty of these examples and found them “wrong in fundamental respects.”
An example of complete incompetence in action, described at Motherboard by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:
The US government’s human resources agency has suffered two large data breaches on its systems in large part because it failed to heed warnings from its own overseers, who had identified serious security issues for years. Now seems the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whose breach hit at least 4.2 million government workers, can’t even deal with the aftermath of the hack the right way.
“Every aspect of the OPM breach is a case-study in how not to prepare for and respond to an intrusion,” Robert Lee, a security researcher who believes he may have been a victim of the breach, told Motherboard.
On Monday, June 8, the agency started sending emails to the victims to notify them of the breach and to offer free identity theft and credit monitoring services. But instead of sending the emails from an OPM.gov address, OPM outsourced this service toCSID, a fraud detection company.
As a result, many victims got suspicious.
“There was just concern, of course, with phishing attempts and things like that,” OPM spokesperson Samuel Schumach told Motherboard. “People were uncomfortable clicking on an enroll now button on an email.”
The Department of Defense even asked OPM to instruct CSID to stop sending notifications, because DoD members are trained not to click on links coming from emails they don’t recognize, the Washington Post reported.
Other government agencies were wary of the notifications too. Last week, an IT officer from the Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory sent an email to the lab’s staffers to warn them that OPM had hired a contractor to send the notification emails, and that they’d be coming from a @csid.com address rather than an @opm.gov one, according to a copy of an email obtained by Motherboard.
“As always we should be wary of unexpected messages from unknown entities,” the email from the IT officer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory read.
This was a screw up, according to security experts.
“These emails absolutely look like phishing emails,” said Lee, who, as an Air Force Cyber Warfare Officer and a PhD candidate researching cyber security at Kings College in London, could have been a victim of the hack.
Worse, OPM waited a month to start telling victims that they had been hacked and used a contractor to do it—something that, according to Lee, is “beyond negligent.”
When asked why OPM didn’t send the emails itself, Schumach, the spokesperson, said that he “honestly didn’t know” the answer.
OPM could’ve done better in notifying victims, but it was also put in a tough, “catch-22” situation after it was hacked, according to Adrian Sanabria, a security analyst at at 451 Research. . .
Will the incompetents be replaced? Well, the oversight is provided by Congress (speaking of incompetents), so I would guess not.
You may recall that the CIA quite overtly destroyed all video evidence of their torture sessions. That was not a problem. So I wonder whether the Inspector General’s office will be punished at all. We have a government now that has institutionalized cover-ups and systematically punishes whistle-blowers.
Marisa Taylor reports in McClatchy:
Two government watchdog agencies are investigating whether the Pentagon inspector general destroyed evidence improperly during the high-profile leak investigation of former National Security Agency senior official Thomas Drake.
The Justice Department acknowledged the probes in a letter last week to a federal magistrate judge who recently received the allegations from Drake’s lawyers. The judge is determining whether she should take further action in a case that ended in 2011 when Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
The Justice Department told the judge the inquiries are being conducted by a committee that looks into allegations of misconduct by inspectors general offices and the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates whistleblower complaints.
“DOD OIG’s handling of documents . . . is within the scope of an ongoing inquiry by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC),” Raymond Hulser, the chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, wrote to U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher in a letter dated June 11. “In the event that OSC finds evidence of criminal conduct during the course of its work, it will refer that evidence to the Department of Justice for appropriate action.”
The pair of executive branch probes renews questions about the federal government’s controversial pursuit of Drake on charges that he improperly retained classified information under the Espionage Act.
Drake was one of the first officials to be targeted by the Obama administration in its controversial use of the Espionage Act against those it suspects of providing classified information to the news media.
He was investigated after he’d cooperated with congressional and Pentagon inspector general inquiries of the NSA’s surveillance programs.
When the Justice Department’s case against Drake unraveled in 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett criticized the government for the prosecution and sentenced Drake to probation.
It’s unclear what action, if any, Magistrate Judge Gallagher could order. The improper destruction of documents in a criminal case can violate evidence-retention rules that government lawyers are required to follow and can lead to sanctions. Drake’s criminal case is over, however, and the prosecutors themselves are not accused of wrongdoing.
The Justice Department, the Pentagon inspector general’s office and Drake’s lawyers declined to comment.
The Justice Department’s letter to Gallagher wasn’t filed publicly in court, although McClatchy obtained a copy.
The government’s handling of documents first became an issue during the evidence-gathering stage of Drake’s prosecution, when his criminal defense lawyers sought records related to his whistleblower cooperation with the Pentagon inspector general’s office in order to defend him.
At the time, the Justice Department told the judge that most of the “hard copy documents” related to the Pentagon inspector general’s office audit that Drake had cooperated with couldn’t be provided to the defense because they’d been destroyed “pursuant to a standard document destruction policy.”
Drake’s current lawyers, who didn’t represent him in the criminal case, told the court in a letter in April that they learned otherwise while representing Drake in his recent whistleblower claim against the NSA.
Drake’s lawyers wrote that the Pentagon inspector general’s office destroyed the documents “outside of normal policy and to impede . . . the criminal case.” . . .
Note that the Department of Justice simply lied to the court: an outright, blatant lie. And they will not be punished for it, which is why I write that cover-ups are now institutionalized as regular procedure.