Edwards Verdict Shows Excesses By DOJ Corruption-Probers

The failure of federal prosecutors May 31 to win guilty verdicts against former Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards on campaign violations illustrates the Justice Department's ongoing arrogance and incompetence in politically sensitive cases.

John EdwardsThe Justice Department's crusade to imprison Edwards for up to 30 years on highly dubious charges showed poor judgment when the relevant campaign finance law is so murky. And now a federal jury empaneled in North Carolina has agreed by rendering an acquittal on one charge and no decision on the remaining five counts. The mistrial continues an extraordinary series of defeats and controversial results for the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, an elite unit that is supposed to preserve public trust in government by prevailing against the nation's most corrupt officials in the most important cases.

As in recent high-profile cases stretching from Alabama to Alaska over the past four years, the unit has again humiliated itself, needlessly hurt defendants and wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Edwards is at right in a file photo from his term as a North Carolina senator before his current disgrace for cheating on his ailing wife, fathering an illegitimate daughter and trying to hide his affair.

"To pick this kind of case and spend tens of millions of dollars to prosecute a failed presidential candidate just doesn't make any sense to me," commented Bush-appointed former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner. A Republican, he is now a partner at the powerhouse Washington law firm of Wiley Rein. "I'm not a fan of John Edwards or his underlying conduct," Toner continued, "but I never thought it was a violation of the federal election laws, let alone a criminal violation." Among others denouncing the Edwards prosecution as ill-conceived have been campaign finance lawyer Brett Kappel, who said the verdict was no surprise because "it was a difficult legal theory to prove." Another is Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who published a column, Edwards' Jury Couldn't Decide and for Good Reason.

Eric HolderOur Justice Integrity Project similarly has denounced the prosecution from the start as an unwarranted attempt to criminalize Edwards' reprehensible personal conduct. Our view is that authorities should take on tough cases, but use their powers with a clear view of a prosecution's overall cost-benefit. Those circumstances should include the likelihood of success, seriousness of the offense and the expected benefits for the public, including deterrence of future crime. The DOJ failed miserably by most of those criteria in the Edwards case, as predicted.

Prosecutors used an innovative legal theory to describe as illegal money that helped Edwards hide his illicit romantic affair from his family and the public. But a new theory not used against other candidates made success difficult to predict. These issues could have been explored in a lower-key civil action or even a criminal prosecution with lesser charges. But authorities, including holdover Bush prosecutor George Holding, tried to throw the book at Edwards in a mega-trial in hopes that public revulsion against him would translate into convictions.

In this, the Justice Department followed a pattern under both Republicans and Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, above left. DOJ setbacks have included the corruption prosecutions of Republican U.S. Sen Ted Stevens of Alaska in 2008, former New Jersey mayoral candidate Louis Manzo in 2009, and Alabama gambling kingpin Milton McGregor and four former state legislators this year. Most disgraceful of all is the Bush-initiated prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, which the government "won" in a 2006 trial and in appeals conting curently before the Supreme Court -- despite compelling evidence that the Bush administration framed the state's most popular Democrat and Obama officials have made a political calculation to let him rot in prison for the rest of his life rather than investigate the DOJ's many lapses and antagonize powerful interests.

All of those prosecutions were originally brought by such Bush-appointed prosecutors as Chris Christie (now New Jersey's governor). They were among the 85 U.S. attorneys who were allowed for suspicious reasons to remain in their jobs in 2006 during the unprecedented Rove-linked political purge of nine federal prosecutors. This was to create cadres of what one DOJ leader called "loyal Bushies" in the 93 regional U.S. attorneys offices, who were encouraged to use their vast discretion against political opponents, sometimes in highly dubious cases.

Charges have been dismissed in most of these cases, with some convictions taintedby oppressive tactics. The government failed to secure a single conviction against McGregor and his major co-defendants in two trials, for example, despite scores of charges and vast expense to taxpayers.

Although the Bush and Obama DOJ have obviously enjoyed successes also in public corruption cases the government's presumed fairness, power and expertise are supposed to ensure that even DOJ's courtroom losses do not become nationally notorious. The Washington Post summarized the Edwards case as follows:

In four weeks of testimony, Edwards was portrayed by a parade of witnesses as a scheming and manipulative politician, but at least some jurors remained unconvinced that he orchestrated an elaborate conspiracy to secretly funnel nearly $1 million that should have been declared as campaign contributions to his mistress and the aides who helped him hide an extramarital affair during the 2008 presidential campaign.

When the decision was read by the clerk, Edwards’s face betrayed no emotion, but he slumped back in his chair. Moments later, he turned to his parents, Wallace and Bobbie Edwards, and they smiled at him broadly. When the jury left the courtroom, Edwards rose and leaned across the bar in a long embrace with his daughter, Cate Edwards, who has been in the courtroom almost every day through a grueling trial.

Prosecutors must decide whether to retry the case. The trial judge, Catherine Eagles, said in court Thursday that she had reviewed issues related to the trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted in a corruption case in 2010 after his first trial ended with a hung jury.

But legal and campaign law experts were lining up Thursday to predict that Edwards would not be retried and to criticize the U.S. Justice Department for bringing the charges in the first place.
George Holding

Edwards, a 58-year-old Democrat who served one term in the U.S. Senate, has become such a pariah in North Carolina that many of his closest friends and supporters have cut ties with him. During many days of the trial, his 30-year-old daughter, Cate, was the sum total of his support network inside the court, though his parents also spent considerable time there in the final days of testimony.

The Justice Department filed charges last year against Edwards in a case jointly investigated by Washington officials and Eastern District U.S. Attorney George Holding, right, a former aide to the late ultra-conservative Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. President Bush named Holding to the powerful prosecution post in 2006 after he helped his predecessor secure the convictions of a number of high-profile of officials, primarily Democrats, including former N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, former House Speaker Jim Black and former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance. The highest-rankiing was former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, convicted on state charges in a joint state-federal investigation that involved Holding.

The Obama administration continued Holding in office until he secured the Edwards indictment last year. Holding has since embarked on a congressional campaign as a Republican for the state's 13th district. He won the GOP primary last month based in significant part on his track record of imprisoning officials. He denies political motivations in his cases. But in a lengthy profile last year, the specialized news site Main Justice examined suspicions about his motivations and the Obama administration's goals in retaining him. Similarly, Harpers legal columnist Scott Horton wrote:

As a U.S. attorney, Holding championed the idea of charging Edwards with election-finance crimes. Election-law experts around the country view Holding's theories as borderline crackpot, but the Holder Justice Department, fearing that it would be accused of partisanship, allowed Holding to stay on and gave him free rein to pursue the case, even as his other objectives -- tilting the political balance in the state toward the G.O.P. and winning a seat in Congress for himself -- were open secrets.

No doubt [the Edwards] affair, undertaken while his heroic wife was dying of cancer, makes him the definition of a cad, but while he may be morally unsuited for high office, that is not the question in this trial. If Edwards can be imprisoned for using campaign funds to try to cover up his flaws, then few politicians could fairly escape prison. The Justice Department appears instead to be engaged in statutory vandalism, and it is awarding itself exceptional power to intrude into the electoral process -- a power that is ripe for abuse, as the Edwards case demonstrates.

Regarding the Obama administration, we have seen a pattern in a number of regions whereby the Obama administration sought to protect its reputation by enabling Republican prosecutors from the "loyal Bushie" era to keep their jobs so long as they focused on a few already unpopular scapegoats, such as Edwards, Siegelman or former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Although this kind of selective prosecution serves the short-term interests of both the retained prosecutors and Obama administration, it is a political perversion of the justice system, much like when Bush Justice Department illegally hid evidence to win a corruption conviction against fellow Republican Ted Stevens. That Stevens conviction carried short-term career enhancement for those involved. But it proved devastating for the Department's overall reputation when the trial judge protested the government law-breaking.

With more than 100,000 personnel and many criminal and civil cases, the Justice Department has many dedicated employees, worthy cases and successes, of course.  Among its  initiatives this week are its new probe of efforts by states to purge voters in dubious circumstances just before elections. Our project has reported serious abuses by politically motivated state election officials  Among the most outrageous allegations were those by author Greg Palast documenting how Florida in 2000 skewed results by unfairly deleting up to 91,000 eligible voters just before the Presidential elections.  Out of timidity, federal authorities and newspapers have overlooked these major scandals for the most part. So, the Obama DOJ deserves praise for this week's initiative, Department Of Justice Tells Florida To Stop Purging Voter Rolls, even though the order is in Democrats' self-interest.

But then we have such other situations as the flawed Edwards prosecution. Justice Department officials never tire of quoting the inspirational sayings of New Deal-era Attorney General Robert Jackson. He was famous for telling his staff that when the Justice Department pursues a just cause it never loses, even when the process renders a courtroom "defeat." That's an inspiring concept from the future Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg war crimes chief prosecutor.

But why not implement Jackson's rhetoric really, truly and consistently?

 


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Related Edwards Case News Coverage

Updated: Forbes, The John Edwards trial: The prosecutors' ball of steel wool predictably sinks, Harvey Silverglate, June 11, 2012. The day that I read the judge’s instructions to the jury in the John Edwards campaign financing criminal trial that ended May 31st with an acquittal on one count and a deadlocked jury on the other five, I turned to my paralegals – college graduates who have not yet attended law school – and predicted a deadlocked jury on all counts. I was close – the jury acquitted on one and “hung” on the rest. Why was I so certain that the jury would not convict Edwards, despite his being one of the least savory public figures in decades? Because nobody—including, apparently, the judge—could demonstrate a clear understanding of the dangerously vague federal laws under which Edwards was being tried. John Edwards made a mess of his life, as well as the lives of just about anyone unfortunate enough to have been in his orbit – family members, campaign aides, everyone. That is a sin for which he likely will be punished for the rest of his life (and, if one believes in a hereafter, beyond as well). But, had Edwards been convicted of violations of federal campaign finance laws for accepting donations meant to cover up his affair, an untold number of candidates for political office would find themselves vulnerable to the whims of the Department of Justice and would face prosecution for activity that would seem in no way illegal.  Serious damage would be done to the balance inherent in our tripartite form of government, in which no single branch (executive, legislative or judicial) is supposed to exert a death grip, or even a choke-hold, on any other. The kindest thing said about the Justice Department’s political corruption unit’s foray was typified by the Wall Street Journal’s Valerie Bauerlein on the eve of jury selection: “The case could set a precedent in the way campaign-finance laws are enforced,” she wrote. “The Justice Department’s corruption unit is using an aggressive interpretation of the law to make the case against Mr. Edwards.”

Scott HortonHarper's No Comment,The Edwards Circus Leaves Town, Scott Horton, June 1, 2012. The case of United States v. John Edwards has come to an end. The jury acquitted Edwards on the principal charge of accepting an illegal campaign contribution from heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in 2008, and deadlocked on the remaining charges; a mistrial was declared. The case continues the long string of embarrassing reversals for the Justice Department’s public-integrity prosecutors. The outcome is particularly striking because the circumstances could not have been more favorable to the prosecutors. They targeted a man who is probably the most reviled politician in America. The judge handling the case, Catherine Eagles, initially cautioned prosecutors against playing to the emotions of the jurors, then permitted them to do exactly that, allowing evidence of emotional confrontations between Edwards and the wife he had betrayed—evidence that could easily have fueled a daytime soap opera, but had no place in a federal courtroom. Judge Eagles also blocked Edwards from presenting expert evidence on the proper construction of election-finance laws, allowing federal prosecutors to proceed unchallenged on the issue. That ruling rested on the view that federal election law was so clear that any person of normal intelligence could read and understand it—a proposition that no one who knows anything about the subject would agree is correct. Clearly, the stage was laid for a conviction. The prosecutors failed to get one because their case was built on emotion and lacked substantive merit, which was ultimately clear to enough of the jurors to block it from going forward.

The Atlantic, The Edwards Trial: A Bad Idea From Before the Start, Andrew Cohen, May 31, 2012.  You don't have to have a shred of respect for the man -- and you probably don't -- to appreciate what a waste of precious time this case has been for the Justice Department. The foggy corner of the world of campaign finance law has indeed been largely transformed since 2008 and 2009, the time when Republican-holdover U.S. Attorney George Holding, a man with a plan and political aspirations in North Carolina, began to investigate some of the big-money donations made to Edwards during his dramatic and doomed presidential campaign. Four years ago, for example, most of the nation still believed that the First Amendment permitted rational campaign finance regulations.

Washington Post, Edwards Acquitted of One Charge, Manuel Roig-Franzia, May 31, 2012, Johnny Reid Edwards, a honey-voiced North Carolina lawyer who parlayed his boyish good looks and inspiring personal history as the son of a mill-worker into a meteoric political rise, was acquitted of one count Thursday in a corruption case, as the judge declared a mistrial on five other charges on which the jury was deadlocked. Edwards emerged from the courthouse with his daughter and parents by his side to deliver remarks that sounded more like repentance than triumph. He lamented his “sins” and said he would not have to go far to find who is responsible. “I don’t have to go any further than the mirror,” he said. “It’s me and me alone.”

Associated Press / Huffington Post, John Edwards Trial: Mistrial Declared In Case, Michael Biesecker, May 31, 2012. John Edwards' campaign finance fraud case ended in a mistrial Thursday when jurors acquitted him on one charge and deadlocked on the other five, unable to decide whether he used money from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress while he ran for president and his wife was dying of cancer. The month-long trial exposed a sordid sex scandal, but prosecutors couldn't convince jurors the candidate masterminded a cover-up using about $1 million, and ultimately, jurors decided tawdry didn't necessarily mean criminal. "While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else responsible for my sins," Edwards said on the courthouse steps. t was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would retry Edwards on the other counts.

Huffington Post, Edwards' Jury Couldn't Decide and for Good Reason, Alan Dershowitz, May 31, 2012. The jury in the John Edwards case rendered exactly the right verdict. Of course they couldn't make up their mind on most of the charges. No rational person could. All reasonable people should now hope that the Justice Department sees the light of day and does not seek a retrial. The jury has spoken, though ambiguously, and there is no reason to believe that another fairly picked jury will be able to discern the precise intentions of the actors with any greater certainty or precision.  This entire farce of a trial is part of a larger problem that infects not only America but other Western countries as well: the criminalization of policy differences and of personal sin. No one can justify what John Edwards did to his family, to American politics and to himself. He will forever pay a steep price for his selfishness and arrogance. But it is not a price that all Americans should have to pay by the distortion of the criminal justice system into a Rorschach test, in which the jury is asked to interpret vague action and attribute precise intentions to actions done with mixed motives.

Judicial Watch, Edwards Mistrial is No Vindication, Tom Fitton, May 31, 2012. Facing six felony counts and a possible prison sentence, former North Carolina Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards spent the week squirming in his seat as a North Carolina jury continued to contemplate his fate. Ultimately, the judge was forced to declare a mistrial on five of the six counts. Some political pundits have expressed support for the argument made by Edwards' legal team that these "gift payments" to Ms. Hunter were not technically campaign contributions and are therefore not subject to campaign finance law. But our friend Hans Von Spakovsky over at the Heritage Foundation exposes this dubious line of reasoning in an excellent article he published on May 18. According to Hans, the money paid to Edwards' mistress was "dishonest, dishonorable, and illegal:"Federal law...prohibits the conversion of campaign funds to any personal use (2 U.S.C. §439a). Most important, FEC regulations state that the payment of a personal expense by any person other than the candidate is considered a contribution to the candidate, unless the payment would have been made irrespective of the candidacy (11 CFR 113.1). As the FEC said in a prior advisory opinion (AO 2008-17), the key question is, "Would the third party pay the expense if the candidate was not running for Federal office?"

Raleigh Public Record, Holding Defeats Coble in US House Primary, Charles C. Duncan Pardo, May 9, 2012.  In the most hotly contested local race for this primary, George Holding defeated Paul Coble in the Republican Primary for U.S. House District 13. Holding, former U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of North Carolina, received 43.5 percent of the vote. Paul Coble, chair of the Wake County Commission, got 34.2 percent.

Harper’s via OpEd News, Bread, Circuses, and the Edwards Prosecution, Scott Horton, left, May 1, 2012. Last week, in a courtroom in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Justice Department launched its latest political charade in the guise of a public-integrity prosecution. Former Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, a man with whom President Obama once broached the possibility of an appointment as attorney general, faces charges that he spent nearly $1 million in campaign donations to cover up an embarrassing sexual liaison. This, prosecutors insist, was a federal crime, for which Edwards could spend as many as 30 years in prison and face a $1.5 million fine. Meanwhile, on televisions across the state, a well-financed G.O.P. advertising campaign, apparently timed to coincide with the trial, is launching broadsides against sexual indiscretions and moral laxity by leading figures in the North Carolina Democratic Party. And in North Carolina's thirteenth congressional district, which sweeps in a crescent north and west from Raleigh, George Holding is seeking to reclaim the district for the G.O.P. Holding is both a dedicated Republican activist and the Bush-era U.S. attorney who launched a criminal probe targeting Edwards, the former darling of North Carolina Democrats.

Politico, GOP House candidate: John Edwards case is political, Josh Gerstein, April 30, 2012. A House candidate in North Carolina running against a former U.S. Attorney in the state is reportedly accusing the ex-prosecutor of ginning up the federal campaign finance prosecution of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) for political purposes. Paul Coble, a Wake County commissioner and nephew of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), made the claim against former prosecutor George Holding Friday in an interview with Main Justice, a website covering the Justice Department. Coble said in the interview was "no question" Holding was seeking to advance his political career by pursuing the case against Edwards and another against former Gov. Mike Easley (D-N.C.). Coble also called the two cases a waste of taxpayer money. "I think there is no question that Holding thought those two cases would take him to Congress," Coble told Main Justice. "Likewise, Edwards is a horrible person for what he did to his wife and family...But the real question is about how valid the charges were against him."  An adviser to Holding, Carter Wrenn, dismissed Coble's claim as a bid to advance his own political prospects in the race for the Republican nomination in North Carolina's 13th district, according to the report. "It's just a bunch of politics....People say most anything to get themselves elected," Wrenn told Main Justice.

Washington Post, The John Edwards trial: A final public flogging, Chris Cillizza, April 23, 2012. The trial into allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing by former North Carolina senator John Edwards opens today in Greensboro, a sort of final public flogging for a man who twice sought the highest office in the country. “This is the end for John Edwards in public,” said one former Edwards strategist of the trial. “He is not the type to do a TV show like [Elliot] Spitzer and can’t do anything with voters.”  What Edwards is, ostensibly, charged with is accepting more than $900,000 in illegal campaign contributions from two wealthy donors — cash that was designed to keep his mistress (and the mother of his child) quiet during the presidential campaign. But, the truth of the matter is that what’s really on trial — at least in the court of public opinion — is Edwards himself, the one-time golden boy of the Democratic party who rose quicker and fell faster than almost anyone in modern politics.

Main Justice, Behind the John Edwards indictment, a prosecutor's political history, Channing Turner, June 8, 2012.The North Carolina prosecutor behind the John Edwards campaign finance indictment has a history of political contributions and support for Edwards's political opponents, according to a Main Justice review.

Michaek CollinsOpEd News, The Edwards Prosecution -- They have better things to do, Michael Collins, left, June 6, 2011. The Edwards prosecution is a mockery of justice.  The cast of characters consists of people who should have recused themselves rather than bringing a prosecution. Like the nonstop assault on Don Siegelman, it suggests other motives. Why don't they go after the Wall Streeters and big banks?

Main Justice, Behind John Edwards Indictment, A Prosecutor's Political History, Channing Turner, June 8, 2011. The North Carolina U.S. Attorney behind the campaign finance indictment of John Edwards has a history of financial contributions and support for Edwards's political opponents, according to Main Justice review.

Associated Press / Huffington Post, George Holding Resigning: John Edwards Investigation Prosecutor Quitting After Indictment, Emery P. Dalesio, June 10, 2011. A federal prosecutor announced his resignation Friday after staying in his North Carolina post three years into President Barack Obama's administration to avoid disrupting investigations into former presidential candidate John Edwards and former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. George E.B. Holding will step down as U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina on July 8 after five years in the office. U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., had agreed on Holding's replacement but wanted the appointee of former President George W. Bush to stay in office until the investigations into the two high-profile Democrats were complete.

Justice Integrity Project, Let’s Question Questionable Federal Anti-Corruption Tactics, Andrew Kreig, June 14, 2011. Major developments during recent days in federal anti-corruption probes in Maryland, North Carolina and Alabama underscore the scandalous conditions within the Justice Department that most Democrats and Republicans dare not to address.

Catching Our Attention on Other Justice, Secrecy & Media Issues

Al GoreAl Gore, left, as told to Pam Miles, Don Siegelman's recent petition to the U.S. Supreme Court will make history -- one way or the other -- and may be the most important decision for the preservation of justice and democracy that the court will have rendered in recent times, May 31, 2012. Even Republican journalist, George Will, said recently in The Washington Post: Is it bribery or just politics? “Everyone who cares about the rule of law should hope the Supreme Court agrees to hear Don Siegelman’s appeal….today’s confusion and the resulting prosecutorial discretion kill the exercise of Constitutional right, of political participation and can imprison people unjustly.”

Don Siegelman Family113 former state attorneys general, both Republicans and Democrats, filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of Don stating that what Don was accused of doing was never considered a crime until he was convicted of it! Now we need the Supreme Court to agree to hear Don's case. If they don't, the lower court decision will stand, and an innocent man will be resentenced to prison. We can't let that happen.

I’m writing to ask that you support Don's fight for freedom and justice before the U.S. Supreme Court. I have contributed financially to Don’s Legal Defense Fund and I have pledged my personal support. I'm standing with Don. Will you join me? Don needs your help. You can help Don [portrayed at right with his family and help to fight for justice by clicking this link: “Yes ,I’ll help Don.”

Washington Post, CIA probes its process for screening books on agency, Greg Miller and Julie Tate, May 31, 2012. The CIA has begun an internal investigation into whether a process designed to screen books by former employees and protect national security secrets is being used in part to censor agency critics, U.S. officials said. The investigation coincides with the publication of a flurry of books from CIA veterans, and it is largely aimed at determining whether some redactions have been politically motivated. Among the publications expected to get particular scrutiny is a memoir by the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who used his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” to mount a vigorous defense of interrogation methods that were widely condemned but that he asserts provided critical intelligence about al-Qaeda. The target of the probe is the agency’s Publications Review Board. The PRB evaluates hundreds of submissions each year and is supposed to focus exclusively on whether publication of material would threaten national security interests.

Jose RodriguezSalon, Crime boasting for profit: Shielded from all forms of accountability, a CIA official is able to publish a book glorifying his illegal acts, April 25, 2012. On December 7, 2007, The New York Times reported that the CIA “in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program.” Documents obtained when the ACLU asked a federal judge to hold the CIA in contempt of court — for destruction of evidence which that judge had ordered be produced — subsequently revealed that the agency had actually “destroyed 92 videotapes of terror-suspect interrogations.” The videotapes recorded interrogations of detainees who were waterboarded and otherwise tortured. The original NYT article, by Mark Mazzetti, reported that “the decision to destroy the tapes was made by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who was the head of the Directorate of Operations, the agency’s clandestine service” (the NYT later reported that some White House officials had participated in the deliberations and even advocated the tapes’ destruction).

Washington Post, Israel to indict reporter over leak of documents, Joel Greenberg, May 31, 2012. Israel’s attorney general has decided to indict an Israeli journalist who in an investigative report revealed that top army officers had approved killings of wanted Palestinian militants in the West Bank, charging him with illegal possession of classified documents.  The move against Uri Blau, a reporter with the liberal newspaper Haaretz, was the first prosecution of an Israeli journalist for possession of classified materials and drew sharp criticism from civil rights advocates and prominent defense correspondents, who called it a blow to freedom of the press. The Justice Ministry said in an announcement Wednesday that Blau would be charged with unauthorized possession of secret information, though without intention to harm state security, and that legal action was taken because “this is an extreme case.”  Blau based his reporting on a trove of some 1,800 army documents, hundreds of them classified, that were given to him by a former soldier who copied them when she worked in the office of the chief of the army’s Central Command, the regional command that includes the West Bank. The former soldier, Anat Kamm, is serving a 41 / 2-year prison term for stealing the documents, which included summaries of top-level operational meetings cited by Blau in his article, one of several he wrote based on the material, which was passed to him in a USB flash drive.

Huffington Post, Department Of Justice Tells Florida To Stop Purging Voter Rolls, May 31, 2012.  The Department of Justice demanded that Florida stop purging its voter rolls, Talking Points Memo reported Thursday. In a letter sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the Justice Department ordered the state to end the practice because it has not been approved under the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, the DOJ said the purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to complete changes to their registration rolls 90 days in advance of an election. Since Florida's primary is on August 14, all maintenance should have been completed by May 14. In recent weeks, the state has identified as many as 180,000 potential noncitizens that will be vetted and possibly removed from voter registration rolls. The practice sparked controversy when a Miami Herald analysis revealed that Hispanic, Democratic and Independent voters are more likely to be on the list. In fact, 58 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are Hispanic, according to the Herald's review.

Washington Times, Obama’s secret kill list; President’s procedure for terminating his enemies is illegal, Andrew P. Napolitano Thursday, May 31, 2012. The leader of the government regularly sits down with his senior generals, spies and advisers and reviews a list of the people they want him to authorize their agents to kill. They do this every Tuesday morning when the leader is in town. The leader once condemned any practice even close to this, but now he relishes the killing because he has convinced himself that it is a sane and sterile way to keep his country safe and himself in power. The leader, who is running for re-election, even invited his campaign manager to join the group that decides whom to kill.