Weekly Featured Commentary:
Salon, Obama takes Bush’s secrecy games one step further, Glenn Greenwald, Mar 26, 2012. The ACLU is suing the Obama administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking to force disclosure of the guidelines used by Obama officials to select which human beings (both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) will have their lives ended by the CIA’s drone attacks (“In particular,” the group explains, the FOIA request “seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killing”). The Obama administration has not only refused to provide any of that information, but worse, the CIA is insisting to federal courts that it cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security; from the CIA’s brief in response to the ACLU lawsuit...What makes this so appalling is not merely that the Obama administration demands the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough. Numerous Obama officials — including the President himself and the CIA Director — have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. So Obama officials are eager to publicly tout the supposed benefits of the CIA’s drone programs in order to generate political gain for the President: to make him look like some sort of Tough, Brave Warrior single-handedly vanquishing Al Qaeda. March 24
Editor's Choice: Click below for the Justice Integrity Project's monthly archive of cutting-edge news excerpts for March 2012.
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), New Legislation Includes POGO's Recommendations for Ending Human Trafficking in U.S. War Zones, Dana Liebelson, March 31, 2012. U.S. taxpayers unknowingly fund human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan because of poor contractor oversight--but bipartisan Members of Congress are cracking down on this deplorable crime. A new bill introduced on Monday in the House and the Senate incorporates many of POGO's recommendations for stopping U.S. contractors and subcontractors from getting away with modern-day slavery. Some contractors may complain, but both versions of the bill deserve resounding support from the public. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (S. 2234 and H.R. 4259) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) respectively, along with many notable cosponsors. The legislation is the long-awaited response to a variety of reports from war zones over the course of several years—including the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report, which found “tragic evidence of the recurrent problem of trafficking in person by labor brokers or subcontractors of contingency contractors.”
OpEd News, How Does a "Common Citizen' Know If They Can Be Target of NDAA? Kevin Gosztola, March31, 2012. At the start of the first hearing on a lawsuit challenging the Homeland Battlefield Act, a federal judge appeared to be 'extremely skeptical' that those pursuing the challenge had grounds to sue the US government. However, by the end of the hearing, the judge acknowledged plaintiffs had made some strong arguments on why there was reason to be concerned about the Act, which passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year's Eve last year. Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News eported that Judge Katherine B. Forrest cited the lack of definition of terms such as 'substantial support' or 'associated forces,' which appear in the law. Without clearly knowing what 'substantial support' for terrorism or 'associated forces' of terrorist groups could be, Forrest asked, 'How does the common citizen know?
New York Times, Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool, Eric Lichtblau, March 31, 2012. Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.
Huffington Post, Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce Face Possible Campaign Donation Disclosure After Ruling, Paul Blumenthal, March 30, 2012. On Friday evening, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling that could begin the process of revealing the identities of secret donors to groups connected to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. The court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC rules that restricted campaign donor disclosure are not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure. "We are very happy to see the judge got it right," says Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog that was a part of the team challenging the FEC rules. Those rules state that donors to groups spending money on "electioneering communications," or advertisements that do not specifically call to elect or defeat a candidate, must only be disclosed if they specifically earmarked their donation to that particular expenditure. Since few, if any, donors to these groups ever earmark their donation for a specific election expense there was no disclosure. That FEC rule came in the wake of the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC. That ruling overturned a ban, instituted by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, regarding direct corporate and union contributions to electioneering communications.
FireDogLake, The Eight Big Mistakes Democrats Made Regarding the Constitutionality of ObamaCare, Jon Walker Friday March 30, 2012. To understand how we got to the point where the Supreme Court could potentially strike down the entire Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate, it is important to identify the string of stupid mistakes Democrats made that got us to this point. By my current count, Democrats had at least eight big chances to avoid this possible that they completely messed up.
New York Magazine, Is the Fighting Spirit Between the New York Post and Daily News Dead? Joe Coscarelli, March 30, 2012. That's what former New York Daily News editor Martin Dunn writes today in the Guardian. Yesterday, the New York Observer reported that not only had alleged Manhattan madam Anna Gristina bragged on tape about being "very, very close friends" with New York Post editor Col Allan, but the tabloid's supposed sworn enemy the Daily News had the story and decided not to run it. It all gets complicated because current News editor Colin Myler is a friend and former deputy to Allan at Rupert Murdoch's Post, but his predecessor Dunn insists that a few years ago there would've been blood. Dunn remembers the good old days:
During my time as the editor-in-chief of the Daily News, it wasn't a case of the gloves occasionally coming off — they were never on and no one bothered looking for them! Even though Col Allan has labeled the allegations "outrageous" (a complaint that somehow never seems to generate much sympathy for a butt-kickin' tabloid editor), the fact that the story was generated from law-enforcement sources would normally be a green light to get ink on paper. Tabloid editors have traditionally never been able to resist a punch at a rival and still raise a glass in the bar afterwards. When Myler took over at the Daily News, it seemed like the war might really get going again because of his split with the Murdoch family over phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World, where Myler worked as editor for four years until its sudden closing. This incident shows the opposite.
Jersey Journal, Convicted former Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini granted 2 extra weeks of freedom before prison term, Michaelangelo Conte, March 29, 2012. The date that corrupt former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini must begin serving her 3-year prison sentence has been pushed back two weeks because of her poor health following a recent knee surgery, her attorney said. "We are grateful she has been given this extension to get herself recuperated," attorney Peter Willis said today of the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares that moves Beldini's surrender date from April 3 to April 15. The lawyer said Beldini is hospitalized and doing "terribly," although "she is stable for the moment in terms of her blood pressure and vital signs but has had this very invasive knee surgery and her general health is poor." Beldini, 76, was one of more than 40 people arrested in July 2009 as part of the FBI's massive Bid Rig III probe, which centered mostly on FBI informant Solomon Dwek's dealing with municipal officials and candidates for office. Beldini, who was treasurer of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy's re-election campaign in 2009, was convicted on two counts of bribery in February 2010 for accepting two $10,000 contributions from Dwek in exchange for promises to help his obtain approvals for his supposed real-estate deals. She is sentenced to three years in federal prison. Willis said that while recovering from a recent knee surgery Beldini suffered a series of mini-strokes, an irregular heartbeat that was difficult to control with medication, and was experiencing erratic blood pressure. Willis has motions pending that contend Beldini did not get a fair trial and he is asking Linares to grant her a new trial. The government has argued that the motions are inappropriate, and that Beldini's trial was fair.
Institute for Political Economy / OpEd News, Empires Then and Now, Paul Craig Roberts, March 28, 2012. Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America's empire is really an empire as the Americans don't seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it. America's wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington's wars. So what is it all about? The answer is that Washington's empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans' incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.
Salon, What NPR means by “reporting,” Glenn Greenwald, March 28, 2012. It is well worth listening to this 4-minute NPR story from this morning (embedded below) on the grave and growing menace of “state-sponsored Terrorism” from Iran. NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston does what she (and NPR reporters generally) typically do: gathers a couple of current and former government officials (with an agreeable establishment think-tank expert thrown in the mix), uncritically airs what they say, and then repeats it herself. This is what establishment-serving journalists in Washington mean when they boast that they, but not their critics, engage in so-called “real reporting”; it means: calling up Serious People in Washington and uncritically repeating what they say (see here and here for the episode when Temple-Raston voiced that basic claim to me, as she boasted of special knowledge she possessed about Anwar Awlaki’s guilt obtained when unnamed government officials whispered assertions to her in private which she then uncritically repeated: that’s real reporting).
Guardian (United Kingdom), US acted to conceal evidence of intelligence failure before 9/11; Operation Foxden, delayed by turf war between the FBI and the CIA, given green light three days before the al-Qaida attacks, Ian Cobain, March 27, 2012. The US government shut down a series of court cases arising from a multimillion pound business dispute in order to conceal evidence of a damning intelligence failure shortly before the 9/11 attacks, MPs were told. Moreover, the UK government is now seeking similar powers that could be used to prevent evidence of illegal acts and embarrassing failures from emerging in court, David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, told the Commons. The Justice and Security green paper being put forward by Ken Clarke's justice ministry has already faced widespread criticism from civil rights groups, media representatives and lawyers working within the secret tribunal system that hears terrorism-related immigration cases.
Huffington Post, Health Reform's Day In Court: Don't Bet The Farm On The Mandate, Robert Kuttner, March 25, 2012. The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the subject of three days of oral argument before the Supreme Court beginning Monday, could well turn on whether the Court concludes that Congress can compel a citizen to buy a commercial product, in this case health insurance. At the heart of the Act is the "individual mandate" which President Obama campaigned against as a candidate, and then turned around and supported as president. The mandate was part of a deal with the health insurance industry, which stopped ferociously opposing the Administration's bill once it became a source of additional business.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation, Heather Vogell, John Perry, Alan Judd and M.B. Pell, March 24, 2012. Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing. The analysis doesn't prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.
AP / Huffington Post, NYPD Infiltrated Liberal Political Groups, According To New Documents, Mat Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, March 23, 2012. Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities. The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York's 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters. Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department's intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.
Legal Schnauzer, Facebook Warns Prospective Employers Not to Ask for Passwords in Job Interviews, Roger Shuler, March 23, 2012. A story about employers asking prospective workers for their Facebook passwords during job interviews has spread rapidly this week on the Web. Now, Facebook itself has joined the fray, warning employers to back off. When I first heard about the story, I thought it was a joke. But it's serious, as this piece from Reuters shows, with its headline "More Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords." From the Reuters piece: Studies have shown that Facebook can be a useful hiring tool. Just a 5- to 10-minute perusal of a user’s profile can net more information than a basic personality test. It’s no wonder employers head to the site to check out prospective hires.
New York Times, Justices’ Ruling Expands Rights of Accused in Plea Bargains, Adam Liptak, March 22, 2012. Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a pair of 5-to-4 decisions that vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers. “Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The right to adequate assistance of counsel cannot be defined or enforced without taking account of the central role plea bargaining takes in securing convictions and determining sentences.”
Los Angeles Times / Philadelphia Daily News, Justices expand rights of accused in plea deals, David G. Savage, March 22, 2012. The Supreme Court, noting that virtually all criminal cases are settled through plea deals, has ruled for the first time that defendants have a right to competent advice from a lawyer on whether to accept an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. At a minimum, the court said, the defendant must be told of any formal offers from a prosecutor that would result in a favorable deal. The pair of 5-4 decisions handed down Wednesday could broadly affect the nation's criminal-justice system because of the importance of plea deals. "Ours for the most part is a system of pleas, not a system of trials," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The "simple reality" is that 97 percent of federal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions result from guilty pleas, he said. For that reason, it is crucial, he said, that the constitutional right to a competent lawyer is not limited to trials alone, but also to the back-and-forth of plea deals.
Frontline, As 'Murdoch's Scandal' Unravels, Many Implicated, Lowell Bergman, March 22, 2012. Bergman's Frontline documentary, which airs March 27 on PBS stations, details how the story broke. It also profiles the people who uncovered information about the scandal — and the price they paid for trying to bring it to light.Allegations of phone hacking and bribery brought down Rupert Murdoch's tabloid News of the World. Criminal and parliamentary investigations are now under way in the U.K., and dozens of journalists and top executives from Murdoch's paper have been arrested. Scotland Yard has been investigating the scandal, but several police officials from that iconic institution have also been implicated; they're accused of accepting bribes from reporters at Murdoch's papers. "A number of them went to work for Murdoch's paper afterward — these are higher-level officials — and we don't know what other things went on," says PBS Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman. "We have plenty of rumors, lots of stories — but for sure, the police themselves have stood up and said that at The Sun, one of Murdoch's papers, there was a 'culture of corruption.'"
Washington Post, Supreme Court halts EPA bullying, Jennifer Rubin, March 22, 2012. Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 9-0 decision, slapped down President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency’s arrogant denial of property owners’ right to contest in court the EPA’s administrative abuses. It was a revealing decision — about the Obama administration, more than the court. In this administration, the 9-0 Supreme Court decisions highlight the degree to which the president’s policies are far outside the mainstream, both legal and political. If you can get Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia to agree that the government has overstepped its bounds, you know that the administration’s disregard of constitutional and statutory boundaries is as egregious as it is obvious.
Republic Magazine, Federal Judge Slaps FBI for Continuing OKC Bombing Cover-Up, William Grigg, March 22, 2012. During a March 20 hearing in Salt Lake City, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups described as “astounding” the FBI’s claim that critical video of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing had simply gone “missing” – an assertion that buttresses attorney Jesse Trentadue’s belief that the Bureau has spared no effort to cover up critical facts about the atrocity. Trentadue, whose brother Kenney was murdered by federal agents in Oklahoma shortly after the 1995 terrorist attack, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for surveillance video of Timothy McVeigh parking the truck bomb outside the Murrah Federal Building, and dashcam video of his arrest by a state trooper 90 minutes after the explosion. The FBI claims that these indispensable pieces of evidence regarding what was at the time the worst terrorist act in U.S. history have simply vanished in the tenebrous depths of an official warehouse, much like the Ark of the Covenant was at the end of the first Indiana Jones film. The attorney filed his first FOIA request in December 2006, and the Bureau has done its formidable best to ignore, mislead, misdirect, and otherwise obstruct efforts to produce the records, as it is required to by law.
Jersey Journal, Former Jersey City council candidate argues federal prosecutors targeted her because she's a Democrat, Terrence T. McDonald, March 21, 2012. Lawyers for Lori Serrano, the Jersey City City Council candidate arrested in the 2009 corruption sweep, argue in a new court filing that Serrano’s mail-fraud indictment should be dismissed, saying the U.S. Attorney’s Office discriminated against her because she is a Democrat. Serrano, and other Operation Bid Rig III defendants, were arrested and prosecuted so Gov. Chris Christie, the former U.S. Attorney and then gubernatorial candidate, could gain an “unfair advantage” over Democrats in the 2009 state election, the March 19 motion reads. Serrano, a former Jersey City Housing Authority chair, is charged with not reporting a $5,000 cash payment from confidential informant Solomon Dwek on campaign-finance documents. “Prior to her meeting with government agent Dwek, she was never identified as one who would take bribes,” reads the 13-page motion. “With no history of public office, there was no legitimate reason for her to be targeted.” Serrano’s lawyers also argue that there is no merit to the mail fraud charge, which stems from federal prosecutors’ assertion that she mailed a “materially false” campaign report that did not have any reference to the Dwek payment.
Common Cause, Common Cause Files IRS Complaint Against Liberty Central, Group campaigned aggressively against Members of Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act. Press Release Contact: Mary Boyle, March 21, 2012. Extensive political activity in the 2010 elections by a nonprofit group founded and formerly run by lobbyist and Tea Party activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas appears to have violated federal tax laws, Common Cause said today. “As the Internal Revenue Service examines how some of these ‘social welfare’ groups continue to enjoy tax exemptions while getting directly involved in electoral politics, it should take a close look at Liberty Central,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause. In a letter sent today to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Common Cause requested an investigation of Liberty Central’s tax status. If the agency finds that the group’s primary activity was influencing the 2010 elections, the letter urged that Liberty Central lose its tax-exemption, be reclassified as a political organization, and face appropriate taxes and penalties. Liberty Central currently is classed as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group, permitted by IRS regulations to engage in political activity so long as that is not its primary focus.
OpEd News, Election Integrity's Victoria Collier Speaks Up, Joan Brunwasser, March 21, 2012. My guest today is Victoria Collier. Welcome to OpEdNews, Victoria. You're the daughter and niece of James and Kenneth Collier, authors of the book Votescam: The Stealing of America, a chronicle of their 25-year investigation into how elections are rigged by computerized voting machines. Victoria is the editor of www.votescam.org. I've run across a number of your most recent OpEd pieces including What To Do When They "Let" Us Win Elections and Why Americans Viciously Protect Their Hub Caps But Not Their Ballots: A Thoughtful Exploration of Modern Democracy. I guess you're not too happy with the state of our nation these days:
We know the machines that count our votes -- including Optical Scanners and Touchscreens -- are controlled by a small cartel of corporations that manufacturer them and program their software. Lynn Landes explains on her website that there is no government oversight of our elections, or the elections equipment industry: "There are no government standards or restrictions on who can sell and service voting machines and systems. Foreigners, convicted criminals, office holders, political candidates, and news media organizations can and do own these companies. . . Many voting machine companies appear to share managers, investors, and equipment which raises questions of conflict-of-interest and monopolistic practices." The two biggest corporations, Diebold and ES&S, were originally owned by two Russian brothers, Todd and Bob Urosevich. They took over other manufacturers until they were the major election equipment suppliers. In 2009, Diebold was sold to ES&S. Currently, the only other company of any significance is based in Canada.
Legal Times, Senate Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing On Ted Stevens Report, Mike Scarcella, March 21, 2012. The Washington attorney who investigated allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens case is expected to testify next week on Capitol Hill about his investigation. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Henry "Hank" Schuelke III will address the 525-page report he put together about government abuses in the Stevens public corruption prosecution in Washington. The hearing on the Stevens report is scheduled for March 28 at 10 a.m., Leahy said. Leahy’s office did not indicate whether any of the defense lawyers who represented the Stevens prosecutors have been invited to speak at the hearing.
Schuelke, of Washington’s Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler, was appointed to investigate whether five Justice Department trial attorneys should be charged with criminal contempt for violating court orders. Schuelke’s report did not recommend criminal charges against any of the Stevens prosecutors.
Legal Schnauzer, Misconduct in Ted Stevens Case Shines a Glaring Light on Siegelman Prosecution, Roger Shuler, March 20, 2012. A special counsel late last week released a scathing, 525-page report about Department of Justice misconduct in the prosecution of Ted Stevens, the late U.S. senator from Alaska. News of the release received scant notice in the mainstream Alabama press, so you would never know the story has profound implications for one of the most high-profile criminal prosecutions in our state's history. Thankfully, Harper's legal-affairs contributor Scott Horton is up to the task of explaining what misconduct in the Stevens case means for the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. We might sum up Horton's take with these two key points: (1) If special counsel Henry F. Schuelke III, left, thinks DOJ personnel behaved abhorrently in the Stevens case, he truly would be blown away by their behavior in the Siegelman case; and (2) If prosecutorial misconduct caused the DOJ to come to an agreement that vacated convictions in the Stevens case, justice demands similar action in the Siegelman case.
Huffington Post, Jack Abramoff Does Not Know How He Will Pay Back $44 Million, Will Not Go On 'Dancing With The Stars,' Arin Greenwood. March 20, 2012. Jack Abramoff is sitting in a Starbucks just south of Dupont Circle. He is not wearing his infamous black hat. Or any hat at all. He is just another guy in a button-down at a computer with an iced tea and an iPhone that rings a lot. One who served some three and a half years in prison for crimes relating to his work as a lobbyist and who owes $44 million in restitution for defrauding his Indian tribe clients.
Best of New Orleans, The Sudden Dubiety of His Redoubt; Perricone broke some major rules by publicly discussing current cases, Clancy DuBos, March 20, 2012. In terms of volume, disgraced Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone has rivaled his assumed namesake, noted newspaper columnist and essayist H. L. Mencken, but that's as far as it goes. Suffice it to say that the prosecutor who masqueraded as the acerbic — and prolific — "Henry L. Mencken1951" in the reader comment sections of nola.com is no H. L. Mencken. For starters, the real Mencken had the guts, and the integrity, to use his own name. Mencken also was a great wordsmith; Perricone is, by comparison, a quasi-literate poseur. His rants betrayed not so much a een mind as a disturbed one. By his own admission, Perricone posted some 600 comments under the "Mencken" nom de plume. Attorneys and others who have followed this story suggest he had several other online alter egos, all of whom, like "Mencken," had a penchant for pretentious but archaic words ("dubiety" was a favorite), alliteration and, above all, spleen. Why the anonymity? Several reasons. Perricone broke some major rules by publicly discussing current cases. Like many anonymous online commenters, he no doubt felt he couldn't be traced. Many cowards — and bullies — find that anonymity offers them a certain redoubt (to borrow another of Perricone's favorite bons mots), if not a misplaced sense of bravado.
Inside Criminal Justice, Remembering James Q. Wilson, Joan Petersilia, March 19, 2012. James Q. Wilson, who died in Boston this month at the age of 80, left a legacy of wisdom—and clear and prolific scholarship—that has informed almost every area of America’s crime policy. Whether you agreed with his positions or not, there was no denying that his writings were a force to be reckoned with on such diverse topics as the death penalty, gun control, drugs, juvenile justice, crime prevention, deterrence, prisons and policing. He single-handedly changed the American conversation in these and many other substantive areas. Most of the media comments on Jim’s death mention his famous 1982 ‘Broken Windows’ policing article published in the Atlantic Monthly with George Kelling. That article argued that if the police stopped ignoring minor law infractions, such as graffiti and public drinking, the rate of more serious crime would go down.
Harper's / No Comment, What the Stevens Case Tells Us, Scott Horton, March 19, 2012. Following the Justice Department’s agreement in 2009 to vacate the convictions it obtained of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, it conducted an internal probe into the conduct of its senior lawyers and—surprise!—exonerated them and itself. It then refused to make the report public. However, at the time the conviction was voided, the presiding judge in Stevens’s case, Emmet Sullivan, appropriately wary of the department’s ethics office, appointed a special prosecutor, Henry F. Schuelke, III, an eminent Washington attorney and former prosecutor, to probe the DOJ’s conduct....The report, though it is focused on the conduct of prosecutors and not the guilt or innocence of Senator Stevens, leaves the clear impression that had the DOJ accorded fundamental notions of fairness any role in the case—as opposed to careerism and political bloodsport—it might never have gone to trial.
This information would have remained hidden forever but for Judge Sullivan’s appointment of a special prosecutor—a highly unusual move. The report shows, as conservative columnist George Will aptly suggested, that if the Stevens case did genuinely involve corruption, then much of it was lodged deep inside the Justice Department itself. DOJ spokesmen are laboring to minimize the damage from this report. They will stress that this was a single incident. But in fact, hardly a week passes without reports of scandalous misconduct by prosecutors involving the suppression of exculpatory evidence....
The truly alarming thing about the Stevens and [Former Alabama Gov. Don] Siegelman cases is that senior prosecutors in Washington pressed the cases forward, excited at the prospect of a high-profile conviction....Predictably (and dishonorably), blame has been laid on the most junior lawyers on the team, including a young man who committed suicide, fearing he would be scapegoated. Yet the most serious and consequential failure in these cases was inescapably a lack of oversight and good judgment at the top....A Congressional inquiry into the systematic misconduct inside the Criminal Division is necessary, as is legislation, (such as the bill recently proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), that would sanction prosecutors who withhold exculpatory evidence. The Department must be challenged on its persistent whitewashing of ethics violations, and on its obstinate refusal to punish prosecutors who engage in acts that might well be prosecuted if they were done by defense counsel. The Justice Department says constantly that it “takes its disclosure duties seriously,” but its conduct plainly establishes the opposite. The Department’s credibility and integrity are now plainly on the line.
Guardian (United Kindgom), Afghanistan and American imperialism, Glenn Greenwald, March 19, 2012. Afghans have been excluded from the judicial process after the shooting that left 16 dead. No wonder anti-US feeling is growing. US army staff sergeant Robert Bales is accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children, and then burning some of the bodies. Though this horrific crime targeted Afghans on Afghan soil, Afghanistan will play no role in investigating the crime or bringing the perpetrator (or perpetrators) to justice. That is because the US almost immediately whisked the accused out of Afghanistan and brought him to an American army base in Fort Leavensworth, Kansas. The rapid exclusion of Afghans from the process of trying the accused shooter has, predictably and understandably, exacerbated the growing anti-American anger in that country. It is hard to imagine any nation on the planet reacting any other way to being denied the ability to try suspects over crimes that take place on its soil. A Taliban commander quickly gave voice to that nationalistic fury, announcing: "We want this soldier to be prosecuted in Afghanistan. The Afghans should prosecute him." Demands that the atrocity be investigated by Afghans are grounded in part by reports that Bales did not act alone. While US military officials decreed from the start that Bales was the lone culprit, eyewitnesses in the villages reported the presence of multiple attackers.
New York Times, For 2 Titans of U.S. Court in Newark, Bad Blood, William Glaberson, March 18, 2012. One of the powers that be in the courthouse here is a federal judge who used to be a congressman. Another is New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, who used to be a Justice Department official in Washington. Usually, polite banalities would mark the dealings between such legal players — but not this time.
Instead, their relationship has become the courthouse equivalent of a nuclear war, with lawyers desperately trying to avoid getting caught in the middle. The judge, William J. Martini, 65, a Republican congressman in the 1990s, has taken to rolling his eyes and barking “sit down” at federal prosecutors while declaring their tactics “grossly offensive.” The United States attorney, Paul J. Fishman, 55, a Justice Department official under President Bill Clinton, has had his prosecutors call the judge “misguided,” “irrational” and worse in court filings. The feud centers on two cases, a murder trial and a drug trial. In the murder case, Judge Martini dismissed some charges in a racketeering indictment and limited the evidence that Mr. Fishman’s office could introduce. In the drug case, Judge Martini refused to impose a mandatory 40-year sentence, which he said was excessive for a street-level trafficker. Both cases featured Judge Martini steaming about what he labeled overzealous prosecutors, an appeals court overruling him, and Mr. Fishman’s prosecutors claiming that he proceeded to cripple their cases anyway.
Washington Post, Federal prosecutors need to play fair with evidence, Editorial Board, March 18, 2012. A report released last week lays out in shocking detail the government’s badly marred prosecution of the late senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Unforgivably, prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that could have helped the former senator refute corruption charges. The lengthy report underlines the need to revamp rules governing the government’s handover of exculpatory evidence. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Mr. Stevens’s state of Alaska, has introduced a reform bill that should serve as a starting point for such discussion.Ms. Murkowski’s bill would mandate that prosecutors turn over all evidence in their possession that may “reasonably appear to be favorable to the defendant,” whether or not it is deemed material to the case. The bill allows prosecutors to seek judicial approval to withhold information that may harm national security or endanger victims or witnesses. Three federal court districts — two in Alabama and one in Florida — already require prosecutors in their jurisdictions to abide by such rules. The proposal is supported by a diverse coalition that includes the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Bar Association. While taking up Ms. Murkowski’s proposal, lawmakers should consider going further.
FireDogLake, Harbinger of the American Spring? Edward Teller, March 18, 2012. I got back from a St. Patrick’s Day Party and started watching the live stream of the police riot in New York City, as they cracked down on the six-month anniversary celebration of Occupy Wall Street. There was an intended message here. Sadly, the way this is turning, it won’t be long before the cops kill somebody. We have to be ready to fight harder when that happens. I covered the student demonstrations at the University of Washington after the Kent State killings for KRAB FM radio. People fought harder then nationwide, after demonstrators were killed by adjuncts of law enforcement. I truly hope we will do that when the inevitable happens again. With firm non-violent action. The authorities will fight hard to keep us from communicating. They will lose. There have been several attempts by either the Obama administration or Democratic Party-affiliated organizations to suborn aspects of OWS, or to derail it when thwarted. Don’t be fooled. At the same time, the administration will be quietly backing legislation on the national and local levels that will try to disorganize us, make taking photographs of cops breaking the law illegal, and cutting off funding or media sources to the most outspoken of us.
RT / Op Ed News, Senators terrified with abuse of Patriot Act's secret laws, March 18, 2012. Two US senators wrote the U.S. attorney general this week, urging the federal government to give the American public evidence explaining how the Patriot Act has been interpreted since signed into law in 2001. In a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder sent Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) plead with the government to provide the American people with the facts behind what the Patriot Act can let America's top investigators do. The lawmakers, who have rallied for disclosure of these details for more than two years, say citizens would be "stunned" to learn what the government believes it can get away with under the law. The controversial USA Patriot Act was hastily signed into legislation after the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks under the guise of a being a necessity for preventing future terrorist efforts, but for over a decade since the law has become notorious for its ability to stick federal eyes into seemingly every aspect of the American public in the name of counter-terrorism.
BradBlog, Pandemonium at MO GOP Caucus as Party Leaders Seen Attempting to Steal It From Paul Supporters, Brad Friedman, March 18, 2012. This is just amazing. At yesterday's GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO --- one of the largest and most conservative counties in the state --- the Republican establishment is seen blatantly attempting to steal the caucus from supporters of Ron Paul. As the caucus was prematurely shut down before a vote, with state police called in, no delegates were elected at what "was to have been the biggest single prize of the day," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage of the Missouri Caucuses' mess. It was just the latest, of many, embarrassments to arise out of a GOP caucus state this year.
Huffington Post / New York Sun, The Big Story About Crime and Punishment That James Q. Wilson Missed, Conrad Black (left), March 17, 2012. It is with trepidation and regret that I demur in any degree from the widespread praise accorded political scientist James Q. Wilson, who died a couple of weeks ago from leukemia, aged 80. He was a brilliant and a delightful man, and one of the greatest and most amiable figures in the neoconservative movement, the more so as he was not especially aggressive in his advocacy nor even a reformed liberal, though he had been a supporter of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey, and a member of LBJ's Crime Commission. Wilson’s greatest influence was on treatment of crime, and he is rightly credited with much of the progress that resulted from what is generally called the “Broken Window” theory — that leaving broken windows unrepaired would ensure that a great many more windows would be broken; and that repairing them and punishing the vandals and intruders responsible would radically reduce the incidence of crime.
Unfortunately, Jim Wilson’s influence in areas of custodial policy and the technical operation of criminal justice were a good deal less benign and effective than his suggestions for deterring crime at point of incidence. Also unfortunately, my own legal travails did not become a subject of discussion between us, other than a typically gracious note of solidarity from him early on. I was looking forward to constructively engaging him on the subject when this ghastly persecution I have endured finally ends in a few weeks.
I don’t think Jim Wilson ever remotely grasped how thoroughly corrupt and intrinsically unjust the U.S. justice system is, as only someone who has been through it from the wrong end can. When I asked him if he had no misgivings about the plea bargain system, in 2002, before I had any direct experience of what a bazaar of extortion, perjury, and intimidation it is, he did not go beyond acknowledgement that improvements would be desirable. He generally approved high incarceration rates, oblivious to the implications of the United States having six to 12 times as many incarcerated people per capita as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Jersey Journal, Misconduct in NJ's USAO? "Absurd! Agustin C. Torres, March 17, 2012. Former 31st District assemblyman Lou Manzo, who had the federal corruption indictment against him dropped last month by a federal judge, is now seeking restitution of his legal expenses from the federal government. A motion was filed Wednesday under what is called the Hyde Amendment, where former defendants ask to be reimbursed for expenses incurred under what is considered wrongful prosecution cases. In the court papers, Manzo's attorney, John Lynch of Union City, argues that there was selective prosecution and it was politically motivated. They call its a frivolous lawsuit. Manzo has always insisted that Operation Big Rig III was meant to bolster Chris Christie's gubernatorial campaign and that people in the U.S. Attorney's Office were negotiating for posts in a Christie state administration. A spokesman for the feds had said the Manzo assertions are absurd, and that spokesman now performs the same duties from the Governor's Office.
Jersey Journal, Hudson County politicians call Gov. Christie's claim that county is out to "help themselves" outrageous, Stephanie Musat, March 17, 2012. In a 30-minute speech in a packed hall, Christie said Romney's financial and personal successes prove he can run the country and wield executive power better than anyone else in the running. Governor Chris Christie took the stage in Illinois in support of Mitt Romney's presidential bid. But before the New Jersey Governor talked about the Republican nominee, he took a shot at one of his own counties. In his 28-minute speech, Christie constantly referenced New Jersey as a punch line but some Hudson County politicians think the governor took it too far when he called Hudson County for its corruption-riddled past. Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said using Hudson County as the butt of his jokes is getting old. Former Assemblyman Lou Manzo called the statement "tasteless and hypocritical," adding that because he was in Illinois -- not New Jersey -- the statement was cowardly as well. Manzo said Christie has done his own "coloring outside the lines to help himself," noting when Christie didn't report a loan he had given to one of the lead prosecutors that aided his campaign, Christie called it "an honest mistake."
New York Times, Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act, Charlie Savage, March 16, 2012. For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public — or even others in Congress — knew about it.
On Thursday, two of those senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained.
Legal Times, Stevens Report Details Botched Prosecution, 'Systematic' Concealment of Evidence, Zoe Tillman and Mike Scarcella, March 15, 2012. In a 525-page report (PDF) released this morning, a special prosecutor detailed the mismanagement and, in some cases, misconduct that he believed characterized the Justice Department's handling of the prosecution against late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Reactions were swift. Prosecutors cleared of misconduct expressed support for the report's findings, while those found responsible for wrongdoing claimed they were unfairly targeted. Stevens' defense lawyers called the report proof of "the worst misconduct we've seen in a generation by prosecutors."
Jersey Journal, Former assemblyman Louis Manzo says feds broke law in prosecuting him and should reimburse him $150,000, Michaelangelo Conte, March 15, 2012. Now that every charge filed against former state assemblyman Louis Manzo by the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been thrown out by a judge, Manzo has filed a motion seeking to have $150,000 in attorney fees reimbursed under the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment, which was enacted in 1997, allows for court costs to be reimbursed to criminal defendants where the court finds the position of the United States was “vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith.” “What we filed today shows without a doubt that federal prosecutors broke the law, and my question is why are they immune and why isn’t anyone prosecuting them,” Manzo told The Jersey Journal. Manzo said he has lost his house and business as a result of the failed prosecution. Compensation awarded under the Hyde Amendment would come out of the budget of the specific federal agency involved, in this case the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “It is stunning that someone who was recorded agreeing to sell the office for which he was running conduct a federal judge described as reprehensible would attack prosecutors who were following that evidence where it led,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael said last night about Manzo’s filing.
Washington Post, Prosecutors concealed evidence in Ted Stevens case, judicial investigators find, Del Quentin Wilber and Sari Horwitz, March 15, 2012. Federal prosecutors and agents concealed key evidence, suffered a collective memory lapse that strains credulity and were hampered by internal politics, poor supervision and a crushing deadline, judicial investigators concluded in a blistering 514-page report examining the bungled high-profile corruption trial of the late senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The report is a detailed accounting of what went wrong in what once seemed like a promising prosecution of the long-serving senator on corruption charges. It provides new details about what it called the “systematic concealment of significant” evidence from Stevens’s attorneys.
Legal Times, Stevens Report Details Botched Prosecution, 'Systematic' Concealment of Evidence, Zoe Tillman and Mike Scarcella, March 15, 2012. In a 525-page report (PDF) released this morning, a special prosecutor detailed the mismanagement and, in some cases, misconduct that he believed characterized the Justice Department's handling of the prosecution against late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Reactions were swift. Prosecutors cleared of misconduct expressed support for the report's findings, while those found responsible for wrongdoing claimed they were unfairly targeted. Stevens' defense lawyers called the report proof of "the worst misconduct we've seen in a generation by prosecutors." On the heels of the report's release, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced new legislation this afternoon aimed at preventing the type of prosecutorial misconduct found in the Stevens case in the future. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tasked special prosecutor Henry “Hank” Schuelke III with examining the Justice Department’s handling of the Stevens case after it collapsed in 2009.
FireDogLake, Defense Files Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Bradley Manning, Kevin Gosztola, March 15, 2012. The defense filed a motion to dismiss all charges with prejudice against Bradley Manning after concluding the government had violated Manning’s rights by failing to turn over evidence. After more than an hour of deliberation in court over a motion to compel discovery, defense attorney David Coombs declared that the defense would be filing a motion. The defense decided the way the government was using Brady, which is a rule that mandates the disclosure of evidence, violated Manning’s right to a fair trial. The defense urged the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, to examine the request to compel discovery, the standards cited by the government, and what they relied upon to provide evidence thus far needed when reviewing the motion.
Wired, The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say), James Bamford, March 15, 2012. NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever. Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013....In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.
New York Times, Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith, March 14, 2012. Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
Washington Post, State Dept. moves to fire Peter Van Buren, author of book critical of Iraq reconstruction effort, Lisa Rein, March 14, 2012. Peter Van Buren, a foreign service officer who wrote an unflattering book about his year leading two reconstruction teams in Iraq, was stripped of his security clearance, banned from State Department headquarters for a time and transferred to a telework job that consists of copying Internet addresses into a file. Now the State Department is moving to fire him based on eight charges, ranging from linking on his blog to documents on the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks to disclosing classified information. In 24 years as a diplomat, Van Buren was posted around the world and speaks four languages. He called the termination notice he received Friday the coup de grace in a series of blows he received since his book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, was published last fall.
New York Times, A U.S. Tie to Surveillance Push in Chinese Cities, Andrew Jacobs and Penn Bullock, March 14, 2012. In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government’s Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts. The Bain-owned company, Uniview Technologies, produces what it calls “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that enable police officials in different jurisdictions to share images in real time through the Internet. Previous projects have included an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, Has a rogue federal prosecutor assumed the persona of venerable journalist H.L. Mencken on NOLA.com? Gordon Russell, March 14, 2012. Who is "Henry L. Mencken1951"? Judging by his online postings on NOLA.com, he's a conservative law-and-order type who sees corruption everywhere. But he's more Jefferson Parish than Jefferson Avenue: He mocks Tulane as the refuge of spoiled kids, and Uptown as the self-imagined center of the universe. He hates Mardi Gras.
Legal Schnauzer, Judges Make All the Difference in Alabama Federal Corruption Trials, Roger Shuler, March 13, 2012. Why were gambling magnate Milton McGregor and five other defendants found not guilty on all charges last week in the federal bingo trial in Montgomery? Why were former Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO convicted almost six years ago in the same court, on facts and law that were remarkably similar to those in the bingo case? Reporter Kim Chandler used roughly 80 column inches in Sunday's Birmingham News to address those questions. But in two stories that took up almost all of one page and a nice chunk of another, Chandler never addressed the No. 1 reason the cases had radically different outcomes. Chandler's stories compare and contrast the McGregor and Siegelman cases, but none of the experts addresses the difference in the judges. Perhaps that is because Chandler did not ask them about it. Perhaps it is because the experts, and the reporter, did not want to admit that one judge can be competent and honest while another one is neither.
National Journal, Is Eric Holder Costing Barack Obama the Election? Michael Hirsh, March 13, 2012. With his poll numbers bruised by rising gas prices, President Obama last week casually mentioned at a news conference that the actions he was taking included "making sure that my attorney general is paying attention to potential speculation in the oil markets." But is Eric Holder, who is gaining a reputation for passivity in a number of investigations, really paying attention? Obama added that he had asked Holder "to reconstitute a task force that's examining" oil speculation, which is partly responsible for the rapid runup in prices. And yet the so-called task force that Holder convened almost a year ago, in April 2011, the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, has met only several times, leading a frustrated Obama to call for it to be "reconstituted." And in the week that's passed since Obama made his comments, the task force has met once more, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.
FireDogLake, UN Torture Chief’s Report Officially Condemns US Treatment of Bradley Manning, Kevin Gosztola, March 12, 2012. After fourteen months of investigation, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has published his report on the United States’ “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly released classified information to WikiLeaks. The findings are part of a report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in countries of the world. Mendez concluded, “Imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.” He demanded to know why the government was holding an “unindicted detainee in solitary confinement.” The government asserted in a response to Mendez that the “brig commander” had authorization to “impose” an “isolation regime” because of the “seriousness of the offense” for which Manning would eventually be charged. Mendez tried to get a private unmonitored meeting with Manning on the conditions of his detention.
Salon, Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters, Glenn Greenwald, March 12, 2012. We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group, MEK, that is legally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization, and then meeting with and advocating on behalf of that Terrorist group, is very significant for several reasons. On the day the Humanitarian Law decision was released, CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer interviewed Fran Townsend, George Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor and now-CNN analyst, and Townsend hailed the decision as “a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration.” What is particularly repellent about all of this is not the supreme hypocrisy and self-interested provincialism of Fran Townsend. That’s all just par for the course. What’s infuriating is that there are large numbers of people — almost always Muslims — who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. See also: New York Times, Bush’s Chief Terrorism Adviser Is Leaving, Unscathed, David Johnston, Dec. 22, 2007. For more than four years, Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush’s departing chief terrorism adviser, has worked at the center of contentious antiterrorism programs, but unlike other battle-scarred West Wing colleagues, she is leaving with barely a scratch.
Fox News, Obama Impeachment Bill Introduced in Congress, March 12, 2012. Let the president be duly warned. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., has introduced a resolution declaring that should the president use offensive military force without authorization of an act of Congress, “it is the sense of Congress” that such an act would be “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.” Specifically, Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution reserves for Congress alone the power to declare war, a restriction that has been sorely tested in recent years, including Obama’s authorization of military force in Libya.
American Spectator, Leon Panetta: Clueless or Brazen? If not for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who would protect our Constitution from assault by Obama, Panetta & Co.? Jed Babbin, March 12, 2012. Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies.
Washington Post, Prosecution of ex-NSA official Thomas Drake was ‘ill-considered,’ former agency spokesman says, Ellen Nakashima, March 12, 2012. A former Justice Department spokesman has acknowledged that the prosecution of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake was “ill-considered.” In an exchange with Politico correspondent Josh Gerstein about the department’s prosecutions of alleged leakers, former Department of Justice Director of Public Affairs Matt Miller on Saturday said the Drake case, which ended last year in a misdemeanor plea deal, was unlike other cases because “Drake did seem to be trying to expose actual government waste. I think the outcome of the case probably shows that it was an ill-considered choice for prosecution.”
Bloomberg News, Supreme Court Influenced by Politics, Poll Shows Americans Say, Julie Bykowicz and Greg Stohr, March 12, 2012. Respondents to the Bloomberg News National Poll expect that the Supreme Court will be influenced by politics when it decides the fate of President Obama’s health care overhaul this summer. Highlights include:
• 75% of respondents say the U.S. Supreme Court will be influenced by politics when it rules on the constitutionality of a health-care law signed by President Barack Obama two years ago. Only 17% said the decision would be based solely on legal merits. 8% said they weren’t sure.
• 80% of Independents in the Bloomberg News National Poll say the court will not base its ruling solely on legal merits.
• 81% of tea party supporters believe the politics will play a role in the decision, the highest percentage of any subgroup examined.
• 37% of respondents said the health care law should be repealed. 11% said it should be left alone, the smallest percentage in the four polls during which the question has been asked.
WND, Obama impeachment bill now in Congress declares president's use of military without approval 'high crime, misdemeanor,',Drew Zahn, March 12, 2012. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C., has introduced a resolution declaring that should the president use offensive military force without authorization of an act of Congress, “it is the sense of Congress” that such an act would be “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.” In an exclusive WND column, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo claims that Jones introduced his House Concurrent Resolution 107 in response to startling recent comments from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “This week it was Secretary of Defense Panetta’s declaration before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he and President Obama look not to the Congress for authorization to bomb Syria but to NATO and the United Nations,” Tancredo writes. In response to questions from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., over who determines the proper and legal use of the U.S. military, Panetta said, “Our goal would be to seek international permission and we would … come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress – I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.”
OpEd News, The Dirty War on WikiLeaks is Now Trial by Media in Sweden, John Pilger, March 12, 2012. War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose manipulation and deception are essential for starting an unpopular colonial war. To the chagrin of many in authority and the media, WikiLeaks has torn down the facade behind which rapacious western power and journalism collude. Today, war by media is increasingly understood by the public, as is the trial by media of WikiLeaks' founder, and editor Julian Assange. Assange will soon know if the Supreme Court in London is to allow his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual misconduct, most of which were dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm and do not constitute a crime in Britain. On bail for 16 months, tagged and effectively under house arrest, he has been charged with nothing. His "crime" has been an epic form of investigative journalism: revealing to millions of people the lies and machinations of their politicians and officials and the barbarism of criminal war conducted in their name.
WMR, White House battles U.S. intelligence factions via WikiLeaks and Anonymous, Wayne Madsen, March 12, 2012 (Subscription required.) The Obama White House is running a covert operation that is using authorized leaks of information through groups such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous to battle against other parts of the U.S. intelligence community that are resisting Obama efforts to engage in massive warfare in cyber-space, according to well-placed Pentagon insiders. Using the assets of the U.S. Cyber Command, headed by General Keith Alexander and continuing warrantless wiretapping authorities carried over from the Bush administration, a covert group of White House conspirators working under the direction of White House Office of Information Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) chief Cass Sunstein and National Security Council adviser Samantha Power, Sunstein's wife, cyber-hackers have gained access to various computer networks and released information damaging to White House enemies in the intelligence community. The most recent target of such activity was the private intelligence firm Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based company that is close to Republicans and employs a number of former CIA and military intelligence personnel.
Birmingham News, Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations, Kim Chandler, March 11, 2012. Campaign contributions are the lifeblood of politics. But when exactly does a campaign contribution be¬come a bribe? That's been a central question in the state's last two major public corruption trials as prosecutors ac¬cused public officials of swapping donations for offi¬cial actions. Defense law¬yers say the line is fuzzy be¬tween what is legal and what is not and say they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will review the bribery conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and offer up some clarity.
Florence Times-Daily (Alabama), Millions lost in Alabama gambling trial, Mike Goens, March 11, 2012. Did the guilty get away with it or did another political witch hunt blow up in the faces of those with an agenda? Either way, between 35 million and 40 million of our tax dollars walked out the door Wednesday with the remaining six defendants in a federal gambling corruption trial. All six, as well as fellow defendants who were acquitted in 2011 during the first trial, were found not guilty Wednesday. By the way, some estimate as much as $50 million was spent on investigating and prosecuting the defendants, which included a casino owner, former and current state legislators, lobbyists and others. In trying to answer the question posed above, it seems logical this case is another example of a political witch hunt gone bad. You’d be naive to think legislators don’t receive favors from lobbyists who seek a particular vote on an issue. It happens, but you cannot say it happened in this case. Twenty-four jurors were asked to sit through weeks of testimony, evaluate volumes of evidence and listen to taped conversations of key players in the case. None of those jurors — not one — agreed the evidence proved the accusations on any of the hundreds of criminal counts presented. Enough said.
Salon, Dennis Kucinich and “wackiness,” Glenn Greenwald, March 10, 2012. Last week, Rep. Dennis Kucinich was defeated in a Democratic primary by Rep. Marcy Kaptur after re-districting pitted the two long-term incumbents against each other. Kucinich’s fate was basically sealed when the new district contained far more of Kaptur’s district than his. His 18-year stint in the House will come to an end when the next Congress is installed at the beginning of 2013. Establishment Democrats have long viewed Dennis Kucinich with a mixture of scorn, mockery and condescension. In sum, Kucinich was one of the those rare people in Washington whose commitment to his beliefs outweighed both his loyalty to his Party and his desperation to cling to political office. He thus often highlighted the severe flaws, deceit and cowardice of his fellow Democrats and their Party as well as the broader political class. That’s why he has to be vilified as crazy and wacky. He’s long been delivering an unpleasant message about the Democratic Party and Washington generally, and like all unwanted messengers, has to be dismissed and marginalized so that this criticism disappears. Thus, those who brought us the Iraq War, Endless War in general, citizen assassinations, the systematic incineration of the Constitution known as the War on Terror, the financial collapse, the destruction of the middle class, and the financial and political supremacy of banker-criminals are sane and respectable. Those who most vehemently opposed those assaults, like Dennis Kucinich, are the “wackiest.”
Oakland Tribune, Berkeley police chief sends sergeant to reporter's home to request story changes, Kristin J. Bender and Thomas Peele, March 9, 2012. Minutes after reading a late-night news story online about him that he perceived to be inaccurate, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan ordered a sergeant to a reporter's home insisting on changes, a move First Amendment experts said reeked of intimidation and attempted censorship. Meehans's actions were "despicable, totally despicable," said Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publisher's Association. "It's the most intimidating type of (censorship) possible because the person trying to exercise it carries a gun."
The Guardian, NAACP to call on UN to investigate voter disfranchisement in US; Delegation to travel to Geneva to tell human rights council that attempt is being made to restrict black and Latino right to vote, Ed Pilkington, March 10, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/09/naacp-un-voter-disfranchisement-us The leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, will travel to Geneva next week to tell the UN human rights council that a coordinated legislative attempt is being made by states across America to disfranchise millions of black and Latino voters in November's presidential election. The delegation, headed by the NAACP's president, Benjamin Jealous, will address the council on Wednesday and call on the UN body to launch a formal investigation into the spread of restrictive electoral laws, particularly in southern states. The NAACP intends to invite a UN team to travel across America to see for itself the impact of the new laws, which it argues are consciously designed to suppress minority voting. The UN has no power to intervene in the workings of individual American states. But Jealous told the Guardian that the UN had a powerful weapon in its armory: shame.
ABA (American Bar Association) Journal, DC Court of Appeals Disbars Lawyer for ‘Egregious’ Murder-Case Misconduct While a Federal Prosecutor, Martha Neil, March 8, 2012. Former assistant U.S. attorney G. Paul Howes was disbarred today by the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals. It is the first time in at least 10 years that a lawyer anywhere in the country has been disbarred by judges over conduct as a federal prosecutor, USA Today reports. Howes misused $42,000 in vouchers he was supposed to give to witnesses for expenses related to their testimony in court, instead providing them as payments to informants' relatives and girlfriends in high-profile murder and gang cases. Once this came to light, sentences were substantially reduced in at least nine cases, says a three-judge panel in the court's written opinion (PDF). In addition to giving vouchers to individuals who weren't supposed to receive them, Howes "compounded this initial misconduct by failing to disclose the voucher payments to either the court or opposing counsel, pursuant to District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8 (e), Brady v. Maryland, and Giglio v. United States, even though such payments were relevant to the jurors’ credibility determinations of key government witnesses’ testimony," the opinion continues. "Finally, respondent intentionally misrepresented to the court that such disclosures had been made."
Legal Schnauzer, Alabama's Long Bingo Nightmare Is Over, But We Still Need Accountability, Roger Shuler, March 8, 2012. One of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended yesterday when a federal jury found that all defendants in the Alabama bingo trial were not guilty [Editor's note: including Milton McGregor, at right). The jury clearly reached the correct verdict--and after two trials and a months-long, anti-bingo crusade led by former Governor Bob Riley--citizens might be tempted to say, "Whew, thank God that's over." But the public should resist such a response, no matter how understandable it might be. That's because officials who were responsible for bringing this bogus case should be held accountable, either through an internal DOJ investigation or a Congressional review. Better yet, we hope the defendants can uncover some uncomfortable truths, and seek significant damages, with one or more massive lawsuits--perhaps through the civil provisions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Harper's / No Comment, Holder Dances the Assassination Tango, Scott Horton, March 8, 2012. On Monday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before law students and faculty at Northwestern University in Chicago to deliver a speech widely billed as a definitive statement about the law governing drone warfare. On Monday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before law students and faculty at Northwestern University in Chicago to deliver a speech widely billed as a definitive statement about the law governing drone warfare. The speech had been anticipated for some time, thanks in part to Charlie Savage of the New York Times, who revealed in October the existence of a nearly fifty-page memorandum that David Barron and Martin Lederman, two academics then in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had prepared justifying a White House decision to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who resided in Yemen.
Wayne Madsen Report, Justice Dept. prosecutor targeting whistle blowers and journalists has his own criminal history, Wayne Madsen, March 7, 2012 (Subscription required). William Welch II was the chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. While the title of his former office -- public integrity -- implies that Welch is dedicated to fighting corruption in the government, in President Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's Orwellian world of "Newspeak," Welch is the chief inquisitor of government whistle blowers and journalists who have communicated with them. After committing ethical and legal violations in his investigation of the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, acts that resulted in criminal charges being dropped against Stevens and a criminal contempt of court investigation being opened against Welch, along with a Justice Department ethics probe, Welch continues to investigate national security whistle blowers. Welch has become a de facto special prosecutor, a modern-day Juan de Torquemada, responsible for pursuing government "leakers" and journalists. Welch's targets have included National Security Agency fraud whistle blower Thomas Drake. He also has his sights set on former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and James Risen, the New York Times national security correspondent who Welch believes communicated with Sterling. Risen and the Times are fighting a subpoena for Risen to answer Welch's questions before a grand jury. Previously quashed by U.S. Judge for the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia Louise Brinkema, the subpoena has been appealed by Welch and Holder to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.
Sunlight Foundation, Abramoff: 'You've got to trust me,' Kathy Kiely, March 6, 2012. (National Press Club Photo at left by Noel St. John, portrayng Jack Abramoff and United Republic President Nick Penniman). Over the weekend, Jack Abramoff disputed one of our blog posts. Since the convicted former lobbyist neither responded to our call for comment before publication nor called us afterwards to point out what he said was our error, we decided to catch up with him Monday night at the National Press Club to ask a few questions. It was an intriguing evening that featured the disgraced ex-lobbyist trying to out-reform the reformers as well as a potentially explosive allegation that Abramoff had a potential business partner in the Washington press corps. The setting was a panel on campaign finance reform that drew more than 100 people, and that began with a moderator's plea for civility and a beefy security guard taking a conspicuous position at the front of the room. Abramoff appeared unruffled by the presence of a small group of Native Americans, there to represent tribes he bilked, staring implacably at him from the front row. (A court has ordered partial restitution of the more than $45 million in fees that Abramoff and business partner Michael Scanlon collected from casino-owning tribes.)
WMR, Convicted former GOP super-lobbyist denies past ties to DC call girl ring, Wayne Madsen, March 6, 2012 (Subscription required). Convicted former Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who once regaled members of Congress with golf trips to Scotland, fancy meals at his downtown Washington restaurant, and $975 courtside tickets at Washington Wizards basketball games, denied he was ever involved in providing sex escorts for politicians or their staff members.
Democracy Now! Is the $7.8 billion BP oil spill settlement a bad deal for Gulf residents and businesses? Video interview by Amy Goodman, March 5, 2012. Investigative journalists Greg Palast and Antonia Juhasz examine who wins and who loses in BP’s settlement. “[BP’s] basically being told, like a bank robber — you put the money back and everything will be forgiven,” says Palast, who also investigated the Exxon Valdez settlement. Meanwhile, state and federal governments are still pursuing separate civil claims against BP for environmental damage. “That’s when we’re going to hopefully uncover those 72 millions pages of investigation that will include wrong doing not just by BP, not just by Transocean, not just by Halliburton, but by every major oil company involved offshore, and very likely based on my research, wrongdoing by the Obama administration,” says Juhasz. “It is a desire to keep that out of the public that has pushed the settlement process forward.” We also speak with Florida State University Oceanography Professor Ian MacDonald about what it means to restore the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of the oil spill, BP pledged up to $500 million over a decade to conduct independent scientific research on the environmental effects. But MacDonald notes that, “When the oil was gushing, there were literally hundreds of ships … studying this disaster. Now as we try to learn what happened, and prepare ourselves for the next catastrophe, we have nothing like those kinds of resources present.”
Wall Street Journal, Key Excerpts from Holder’s Speech on Targeted Killing, Joe Palazzolo, March 5, 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder defended the Obama administration’s use of lethal force on suspected terrorists in a speech this afternoon in Chicago. Holder spent a good portion of it explaining the administration’s legal rationale for targeting a U.S. citizen abroad, as it did in the operation that killed the New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Yemen. Below are excerpts from his prepared remarks. "Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan....[I]t is entirely lawful – under both United States law and applicable law of war principles – to target specific senior operational leaders of al Qaeda and associated forces. This is not a novel concept....Some have called such operations “assassinations.” They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced. Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes."
Eric Holder, Murder is Legal, David Swanson, March 5, 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday explained why it's legal to murder people -- not to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes, not to shoot someone in self-defense, not to fight on a battlefield in a war that is somehow legalized, but to target and kill an individual sitting on his sofa, with no charges, no arrest, no trial, no approval from a court, no approval from a legislature, no approval from we the people, and in fact no sharing of information with any institutions that are not the president. In reality, the 2001 authorization to use military force violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the UN Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. It dates to only 10 years ago. And it is already getting old, as it is becoming harder and harder to accuse people of involvement in the attacks of September 11, 2001. No international law recognizes secret global war without limitation in time or space. There is no long established tradition of this madness. There has never been any type of violence that somebody wouldn't call "defensive," but the traditional right to national military defense applies only to nations being attacked by other nations, and not in a mystical or ideological sense, but actually attacked in the geographic area formerly known as the nation.
Salon, Obama, Iran and preventive war, Glenn Greenwald, March 5, 2012. President Obama yesterday joined virtually every U.S. political leader in both parties in making the obligatory, annual pilgrimage and oath-taking to AIPAC: a bizarre ritual if you think about it. During his speech, he repeatedly emphasized that he “has Israel’s back,” rightfully noting that his actions in office prove this (“At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time”). One of his goals was commendable — to persuade the Israelis not to attack Iran right now – but in order to accomplish that, he definitively vowed, as McClatchy put it, that “he’d call for military action to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.” In other words, he categorically committed the U.S. to an offensive military attack on Iran in order to prevent that country from acquiring a nuclear weapon; as AP put it: “President Barack Obama said Sunday the United States will not hesitate to attack Iran with military force to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Democracy Now! Cato Senior Fellow: Koch Brothers Want To Take Over Cato Because ‘Cato Wasn’t Doing Enough To Defeat’ Obama, Ian Millhiser, March 5, 2012. News Report: They told Bob that they intended to use their board majority to remove Ed Crane from Cato and transform our Institute into an intellectual ammo-shop for American for Prosperity and other allied (presumably, Koch-controlled) organizations. That statement of intent is certainly consistent with what we’ve been hearing from both Kevin Gentry and Nancy Pfotenauer.
Legal Schnazuer, Has the Sexual Abuse of Boys Reached a Crisis Stage? Roger Shuler, March 5, 2012. The most important story of the year might be playing out right now -- and it involves the ongoing revelations about the sexual abuse of boys, allegedly by men who were in positions of trust. The issue first hit the national radar last November, when criminal charges were brought against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. That quickly was followed by allegations against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. Perhaps the most disturbing story yet came last week out of Troy, Ohio -- and it had nothing to do with coaches or sports. It involves a "family unit" that apparently was horrifyingly dysfunctional. An adoptive father has been charged with raping his three sons and using one of them as a prostitute for two other men. The three men are in jail on rape charges.
National Press Club, People still bring guns on planes, TSA’s Pistole tells NPC, Heather Forsgren Weaver, March 5, 2012. More than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people are still bringing guns onto airplanes, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told a Luncheon March 5. Over the recent President’s Day weekend, 19 guns were found in carry-on baggage nationwide, Pistole said. It is not believed that any of the people carrying these weapons were doing so with a malicious intent, he added. TSA matches 100 percent of all travelers in the United States against watch lists created by other agencies, Pistole said.
Mudflats News, BP Settlement Sells Out Victims; Deal buries evidence of oil company willful negligence, Greg Palast, March 4, 2012. As BP had no choice but to pay proven damages and conceded as much, what exactly are the lawyers getting paid for? (Don't be surprised if the fee requests hit a billion dollars.) How could these lawyers let BP walk away on the cheap? The judge picked the lawyers that would settle or try the case for the 120,000 plaintiffs. His Honor side-lined the legal "A-Team," like Cajun trial lawyer Daniel Becnel, guys with the guts, experience and financial wherewithal to go eyeball-to-eyeball with BP and not blink. Welcome to Louisiana, oil colony. So BP walks without the civil punishment that tort law and justice demand, grinning and ready to do it again: drill on the cheap with the price paid by its workers and the public. But stopping a trial denies the public more than the full payment due: it denies us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The President has just opened up the arctic waters of Alaska for drilling, has reopened the Gulf to deepwater platforms, and is fiddling with the idea of allowing the XL Pipeline to slice America in half.
Associated Press / Enterprise: Federal sentences still vary widely, Nedra Pickler, March 4, 2012. A new study shows that federal judges are handing out widely disparate sentences for similar crimes 30 years after Congress tried to create fairer results, but the differences don't line up with the party of the president who appointed the judges, despite any impressions that Republicans or Democrats may be tougher or softer on crime. Sentencing data from the past five years that was analyzed for The Associated Press by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse during this presidential election year show that sentences for the same types of crimes vary significantly between judges in the same courthouse. On Monday, TRAC planned to launch the first publicly available database of sentencing records, sortable by judge, after a 15-year struggle to get records from a reluctant Justice Department.
WMR, Justice Dept. prosecutor targeting whistle blowers and journalists has his own criminal history, Wayne Madsen, March 7, 2012. (Subscription required.) William Welch II was the chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. While the title of his former office -- public integrity -- implies that Welch is dedicated to fighting corruption in the government, in President Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's Orwellian world of "Newspeak," Welch is the chief inquisitor of government whistle blowers and journalists who have communicated with them. After committing ethical and legal violations in his investigation of the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, acts that resulted in criminal charges being dropped against Stevens and a criminal contempt of court investigation being opened against Welch, along with a Justice Department ethics probe, Welch continues to investigate national security whistle blowers. Welch has become a de facto special prosecutor, a modern day Juan de Torquemada, responsible for pursuing government "leakers" and journalists. Welch's targets have included National Security Agency fraud whistle blower Thomas Drake. He also has his sights set on former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and James Risen, the New York Times national security correspondent who Welch believes communicated with Sterling. Risen and the Times are fighting a subpoena for Risen to answer Welch's questions before a grand jury. Previously quashed by U.S. Judge for the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia Louise Brinkema, the subpoena has been appealed by Welch and Holder to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.
Natural News, TSA forces new mom to pump milk out of her breasts in public restroom before boarding the plane, Mike Adams, March 4, 2012. As NaturalNews readers already well know, the real agenda of the TSA has absolutely nothing to do with airport security (TSA security is a joke) and everything to do with "prisoner training" the public. It's all about humiliation and dehumanization. It's about teaching the slave citizens that they are animals to be ordered around by a bunch of lawless government tyrants who only impersonate actual law enforcement officers (TSA "officers" are not sworn officers in any way, and they have no law enforcement training). The latest example of all this involves a Hawaiian mother who recently attempted to board an airplane in Lihue, Hawaii. She was carrying a breast pump and several empty bottles to hold her breast milk later on. For those who may not know, many new moms frequently use breast pumps to fill bottles with their own natural mother's milk which they later give to their children. Remarkably, upon seeing these empty bottles, the TSA agent in charge lapsed into a power trip frenzy and told her that she could not carry empty bottles on the airplane! Editor's Note: The TSA later issued a statement apologizing for what a spokesperson called "a misconummuniation at our end."
Durham News-Observer, Tracey Cline's recent attack is in character, J. Andrew Curliss, March 4, 2012. Tracey Cline could not admit she was wrong. On a Friday morning in mid-January, Cline stood in a cramped private hallway on the fifth floor of the Durham County Courthouse. Arms folded, Durham's district attorney was inches from Bill Thomas, a longtime Durham lawyer. Thomas represented Orlando Hudson, a judge for more than two decades, who had been attacked relentlessly for months by Cline. A hearing was about to begin on Cline's latest claims. She was a prosecutor who would not back down from anyone. She acted with fierce conviction when she believed she was right. She was aggressive, too, and often framed her pursuit of justice as advocacy for crime victims. It also shows the reasons she was permanently removed from her job Friday -- a stunning inability to get facts straight and an unwillingness to change course when confronted with reasons to do so. She is out of office now because of her words and actions against Durham's senior judge -- lengthy filings filled with vitriolic language, unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, tales of a conspiracy with The News & Observer and other accusations of misconduct that have been obliterated by three judges.
Locust Fork News-Journal, BP Announces Lawsuit Settlement with People Along the Gulf Coast, Glynn Wilson, March 3, 2012. British Petroleum company has reached a tentative settlement agreement with a large number of people along the Gulf of Mexico coast who are suing for damages from the largest and most devastating environmental disaster in U.S. history. If the plaintiffs agree to the final settlement and it is approved by the court and the government, it will prevent a prolonged court trial and members of the public who suffered damages may receive compensation much sooner, although the amount they receive would be reduced. The settlement calls for ending the separate claims fund run by Ken Feinberg, shown at right in a Wikipedia photo. The Obama administration hired him to handle paying out $20 billion the administration seized from BP.
Questions remain, however, about whether all of those damaged by the spill will agree to the settlement. Those waiting for money from Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility can take what the settlement vehicles offer or opt out and make a claim directly to a BP-run entity. Or they can file separate lawsuits and hold out for more, but that could take many years to work its way through the courts and then there is no guarantee the amounts won’t be thrown out of court by conservative judges in the South.
New York Times, Corporate Abuse Abroad, a Path to Justice Here, Lincoln Caplan, March 3, 2012. The Supreme Court heard arguments last week on this question in a case brought by Nigerian citizens against the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and other firms, charging gross violations of human rights in Nigeria. Four conservative justices expressed skepticism about the federal courts having the reach to deal with such disputes. But an arcane 1789 law, called the Alien Tort Statute, permits just such lawsuits to be heard in federal courts if brought against individual defendants. The same should hold true for corporations accused of such offenses abroad, provided they have contact with this country, say, by selling products here. In a world where multinational corporations are primary actors, the need for a way to hold them accountable for extreme abuses is more urgent than ever. When corporations do business in America, they have to operate under American law. Providing a forum for victims seeking justice against corporate bad actors is appropriate to America’s history and role in the international community....There is no good justification for a categorical rule against corporate liability. As the economist Joseph Stiglitz said in an amicus brief, these lawsuits can be an efficient way to enforce human rights in countries where court systems and other means of policing violations are ineffective. Potential civil liability gives corporations an incentive to improve their conduct. If a multinational company commits an offense like torture, the fact that it is a corporation and not an individual is immaterial in the pursuit of justice.
UN Office High Commissioner of Human Rights, Corporations must be held accountable for human rights violations, Feb. 20, 2012. The lawsuit, Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell), was brought in 2002 by 12 Nigerians who allege that the company “aided and abetted” the human rights violations committed against them by the Nigerian Government in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta. Shell, through a Nigerian subsidiary, was involved in oil exploration and production in the region between 1992 and 1995, at the time the abuses allegedly occurred. This case is one of several brought against Shell in relation to the violent suppression of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people, a group campaigning for the rights of local people and protesting against pollution caused by oil companies. Nine of the Movement’s members, including its leader, well-known writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged in 1995 after being convicted of murder by a military tribunal. In 2009, after more than a decade in the American courts, Shell settled three of the actions brought on behalf of the widow of Saro-Wiwa and others, offering a total of $15.5 million as compensation to a number of individuals, to cover legal costs of the plaintiffs and to set up a social fund for the community. The company denied that in offering a settlement it was conceding any wrongdoing. The remaining case, Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, was brought principally on behalf of the widow of another of the ‘Ogoni Nine’, Dr Barinem Kiobel, and 11 others. They sued under a little-used American statute, the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, which gives American courts the jurisdiction to rule on human rights abuses perpetrated against foreign citizens outside the United States. The specific allegations in the case charge that the Nigerian military and police, with logistical and financial support from Shell, “engaged in a widespread and systematic campaign of torture, extrajudicial executions, prolonged arbitrary detention, and indiscriminate killings constituting crimes against humanity to violently suppress this movement.”
Washington Post, BP, plaintiffs reach Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement, Steven Mufson, March 2, 2012. BP will pay an estimated $7.8 billion to settle a lawsuit over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill with attorneys representing thousands of individual plaintiffs and businesses on the eve of a major trial in a New Orleans federal court, the company said Friday night. BP said it expects to pay the settlement from the money remaining in a $20 billion escrow account, or trust fund, it set up during the spill to resolve individual and business claims without going to court. BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. BP agreed late Friday to settle lawsuits brought by more than 100,000 fishermen who lost work, cleanup workers who got sick and others who claimed harm from the oil giant's 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster. The settlement amount includes $2.3 billion to help resolve economic loss claims related to the gulf seafood industry, the company said. The rest of the money paid out by BP will be determined by two separate sets of formulas and matrices, one for economic claims and one for medical claims. The process will be court supervised. BP also agreed to provide medical consultations for the next 21 years to people with health-related claims and to pay $105 million to improve health care in gulf communities.
Harper's No Comment, The United States of Fear: Six Questions for Tom Engelhardt, Scott Horton, March 2, 2012. Tom Engelhardt is a prolific writer and editor, and the curator of TomDispatch, a popular website that presents political commentary. I put six questions to him about his new book, The United States of Fear, in which he projects a fairly gloomy near-term future for an America pulling back from Empire: "In my book, I say that we are now in a “post-legal America” when it comes to the National Security Complex. What that means is simple enough. The U.S. legal system, which still applies to you and me, really no longer applies to the national-security state. What the last decade-plus should have taught anyone working in that world is: no matter how extreme or potentially illegal your actions may be, American justice no longer applies to you. You will never be brought before a court of law, whatever you do. Torture, illegal surveillance, kidnapping terror suspects off the streets of global cities and rendering them to torturing regimes—it really doesn’t matter. It’s as if the mother ship of the national-security complex had simply lifted off from American earth and was now beyond our control. Thought of another way, only one prosecutable crime exists today—under the Espionage Act, no less—for anyone in the complex: whistleblowing. In other words: do what you want, just don’t tell Americans what goes on in these precincts or we’ll take you down."
New York Daily News, Weiner Dropped FBI Dime on Grimm Fundraising, Celeste Katz, March 2, 2012. Months before the implosion of his own political career in a sexting scandal, then-Rep. Anthony Weiner dropped a dime on Michael Grimm with the FBI about allegations of trying to extort donations from an influential rabbi and threatening him in the process. The complaint at the time was that Grimm had mentioned that he was a former FBI agent and let the rabbi know, through his interpreter and staff, that he could help the congregation, or make life tougher for them, and that he was a good person to have as a friend, not an enemy,” the same law enforcement source said. The News reported Sunday that in 2008, Grimm urged a federal judge to spare Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York-based developer with three bribery-related convictions, from serving a day in prison. And in August, the News reported that Grimm had done business with Carlos Luquis, a fellow ex-FBI agent who served time for his role in a $2 million scam.
FireDogLake, Live Blog: WikiLeaks Releases the Stratfor Emails (Day 5), Kevin Gosztola, March 2, 2012. Dear US media, a “source” in the FBI was feeding information to Stratfor related to ongoing government investigations. Oh, yawn. Here at Firedoglake the release has been receiving full coverage. And, these are some highlights from Day 4 of the release:
—Stratfor’s FBI source was James Casey. Last night, Firedoglake‘s Jane Hamsher put up a post showing how she had harnessed the power of Google and figured out, by plugging in Casey’s email address, that he had just quit the FBI on February 29. His retirement was covered by a Florida newspaper. And, of course, the writer of the article never realized that simultaneously news has been swirling around all week that someone in the FBI told Stratfor there was a “sealed indictment” against Julian Assange.
—WikiLeaks released more emails on the Occupy movement. The emails released were partially known to exist prior to the release because Anonymous released a few of them. They deal with a Texas Public Safety Department agent, who was spying on an environmental activist group, Deep Green Resistance, at Occupy Austin General Assemblies. Additionally, the emails suggest someone might have been spying on Occupy Des Moines and, actually, that person might have been an analyst for Stratfor, who just so happens to be from Iowa.
—Emails released raised doubts about whether Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea. The emails did not make much news at all, but the fact is that Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton was giving updates indicating the body was being moved to Maryland. If Burton was giving accurate information when he said he saw a “sealed indictment” against Assange, then his updates on where Bin Laden’s body was going after he was killed may be credible.
FireDogLake, Stratfor “Source” James Casey Leaves FBI, Jane Hamsher, March 1, 2012. Moral of the story: Bradley Manning gets charged with “aiding the enemy” for potentially leaking information that was available on the SIPRNET to hundreds of thousands of people. This guy gets a gold watch and no investigation for potentially leaking the existence of a sealed DoJ indictment of Julian Assange that I imagine almost nobody knew about. If I were Bradley Manning’s lawyer I’d be putting James Casey, LLC on my witness list pronto. He seems to be the chatty type.
Legal Schnauzer, Racist Montana Judge Hardly Is the Only Rogue on the Federal Bench, Roger Shuler, March 2, 2012. A federal judge in Montana made national headlines this week when he confessed to having sent an e-mail that included a racist joke about President Barack Obama. Many Americans probably found the actions of U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull appalling. But as someone who has been before federal judges on several occasions, I was not at all surprised. In fact, I'm not sure racism would even make a top-five list of disturbing characteristics I've witnessed from federal judges.
Legal Times, DOJ Prosecutor Challenges Release Of Ted Stevens Misconduct Report, Mike Scarcella, March 1, 2012. A federal appeals court in Washington has been asked to review a judge's decision to publish a 500-page report documenting allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that doomed the corruption case against the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. One of the prosecutors in the Stevens case, Edward Sullivan, filed a notice indicating he wants the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to examinewhether the report should be released to the public. So far it appears only Sullivan has asked the appeals court to review the dispute. Other prosecutors in the case, however, had earlier urged the presiding trial judge to either seal the report or to not release it. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington’s federal trial court this week refused to stay the pending appeal of the planned March 15 publication of the investigative report. (Emmet Sullivan and Edward Sullivan are not related.)
Wall Street Journal, Ex-Attorneys General Back Siegelman, Steve Eder, March 1, 2012. More than 100 former attorneys general are backing one of their own — Don Siegelman, Alabama former governor and attorney general, who was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges. Siegelman was convicted in 2006 based on allegations that a donor gave $500,000 in contributions to a state lottery campaign that Sigelman favored in exchange for a seat on a state health care-board. After years of appeals, he’s looking to the U.S. Supreme Court a second time hear his case. On Thursday, the group of former attorneys general led by former New York AG Robert Abrams weighed in with a friend of the court brief. According to the brief:
This case is about the criminalization of First Amendment freedoms — the giving and receiving of campaign contribution — based on an indefinite standard that will significantly alter the liberty of constituents to contribute to political campaigns without fear of criminal liability and the desire of citizens to run for political office in a system that largely depends on private contributions.
The brief was backed by 113 former top state lawyers, including some who also served as governors, such as Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin’s James Doyle. Siegelman spent nine months in custody, and has been free on bond awaiting appeal since 2008.