By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director at the Media Access Project, described on my Washington Update radio show today the implications of recent controversial decisions by the Federal Communications Commission to approve Comcast’s deal with NBC Universal this week and create “Net Neutrality” rules. "Andy" Schwartzman has directed Media Access Project’s (MAP) policy efforts since June, 1978. His group's take on the Comcast deal? "FCC Approval of Comcast-NBCU Colossus Will Have Devastating Impact On Free Speech."
The discussion was broadcast Live! nationwide at noon (ET) with my co-host Scott Draughon. You can listen via the archive on My Technology Lawyer Radio Network. Click here for access. We began the show with descriptions of our own investigative reporting on the WikiLeaks government probes in Sweden and the United States, which prompted a reprint of one of our stories today on The Swedish Wire, as described more fully below. In other significant news, the New York Times reported that a federal appeals court hearing yesterday obtained by Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman showed that Republican judges long hostile to his defense on corruption charges may be reconsidering. This is in light of a Supreme Court decision last June that questioned "honest services" convictions in the case. Schwartzman, above right, is one of the nation's leading media attorneys advocating public interest positions. He has appeared on behalf of MAP before the Congress, the FCC and the courts on issues such as cable TV regulation, minority and female ownership and employment in the mass media,”equal time” laws and cable “open access."
Below is a selection of significant new developments on other legal reform issues, with updates on related political, security and media factors. The articles contain a sample of news, with the full article viewable by clicking the link.
Justice Integrity Project & WikiLeaks
Swedish Wire, Partner at Swedish law firm counseling WikiLeaks boss' accusers helped in CIA torture rendition, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2011. Best-selling spy thriller author Thomas Bodström ─ an attorney whose firm represents the two Swedish women making the notorious sex charges against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange ─ knows better than most people that truth is stranger than fiction. As Sweden’s Minister of Justice, Bodström helped his nation in 2001 secretly turn over to the Central Intelligence Agency two asylum-seekers suspected by the CIA of terror, according to materials recently researched via Google by my Justice Integrity Project and by the Legal Schnauzer blog of Roger Shuler.
Salon Unclaimed Territory, Obama officials caught deceiving about WikiLeaks, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 19, 2011. Whenever the U.S. Government wants to demonize a person or group in order to justify attacks on them, it follows the same playbook: it manufactures falsehoods about them, baselessly warns that they pose Grave Dangers and are severely harming our National Security, peppers all that with personality smears to render the targeted individuals repellent on a personal level, and feeds it all to the establishment American media, which then dutifully amplifies and mindlessly disseminates it all. It's long been obvious that this is the primary means for generating contempt for WikiLeaks to enable its prosecution and ultimate destruction (an outcome the Pentagon has been plotting since at least 2008).
Young Turk Television, How The Press Attacks WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Cenk Unger, Jan. 18, 2011 (Video)
Major Law Enforcemnt Initiatives
Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Press Conference on Organized Crime Arrests, Jan. 20, 2011. Today, more than 800 federal, state and local law enforcement officials have arrested over 110 individuals, including dozens of La Cosa Nostra members and associates. In total, 127 people have been charged in 16 indictments unsealed today in four districts in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Department of Justice, 91 Leaders, Members and Associates of La Cosa Nostra Families in Four Districts Charged with Racketeering and Related Crimes, Including Murder and Extortion: Total of 127 Individuals Charged in Brooklyn, NY.; Manhattan, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; and Providence, R.I. Jan. 20, 2011. Click for copies of the indictments.
Controversial U.S. Prosecutions and Review Procedures
New York Times, Judges Take Another Look at Ex-Alabama Governor’s Conviction, John Schwartz, Jan. 19, 2011. Three federal appeals court judges seemed ready on Wednesday to see the convictions of former Gov. Don E. Siegelman of Alabama and the man accused of bribing him in a new light. Lawyers for the former governor and Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth, asked a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to either toss out the 2006 convictions of both men in view of recent decisions by the Supreme Court or at least order a new trial. The judges seemed to acknowledge that the Supreme Court had recently shifted the legal landscape.
Legal Schnauzer, Siegelman Appeal Shines Spotlight on Obama's Dismal DOJ, Roger Shuler, Jan. 19, 2011. Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama, was at the heart of the most notorious political prosecution of the George W. Bush era. It's fitting that the Siegelman hearing comes as a former U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) official launched a blistering attack on the Obama administration's "look forward, not backwards" approach to the apparent crimes of the Bush administration. J. Gerald Hebert said former Bush officials had received "get out of jail free cards," meaning those responsible for the Siegelman prosecution and other legal atrocities have not been held accountable.
Tickle the Wire, Atty. Gen. Holder Announces New Professional Misconduct Review Unit, Allan Lengel, Jan. 19, 2011. The Justice Department has created a “Professional Misconduct Review Unit” to handle disciplinary actions for career attorneys at the department resulting from Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigations. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr., in announcing the new unit on Tuesday, said it will be headed up by Kevin Ohlson, who has served as Chief of Staff and Counselor to Holder since February 2009.
U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Creates Professional Misconduct Review Unit, Appoints Kevin Ohlson Chief, Jan. 18, 2011. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the creation of a new Professional Misconduct Review Unit to handle disciplinary actions for career attorneys at the Department of Justice that arise from Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigations and appointed Kevin Ohlson to be its Chief.
World Opinion on U.S. Procedures
Harper’s No Comment, Australia Opens Probe of CIA Rendition, Scott Horton, Jan.18, 2011. Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian citizen, traveled to Pakistan in 2001, seeking work and religious schooling for his children. Now Australian authorities announce that they believe that Habib’s claims of torture at the hands of Egyptian police are credible and that Habib was transferred to Egypt from Pakistan through a CIA renditions process. They also state that Australian intelligence figures might have been complicit in the rendition to torture and may have been present or close by as he was tortured.