BP, CIA, Edwards Cases Raise Selective Prosecution Questions

News headlines on April 25 illustrated yet again the nation's huge problem of selective prosecution -- and the difficulty traditional media have in reporting about the problem.

News stories about the Justice Department's criminal prosecutions regarding the BP oil disaster, the CIA, the John Edwards campaign prosecution each overlooked an obvious dimension: Why authorities select for prosecution certain individuals -- typically weak, wounded and without allies -- and avoid other obvious targets. The willingness of United Kingdom authorities to investigate Rupert Murdoch for illegal wiretapping and polEric Holderitical blackmail contrasts with the timidity of United States officials in exploring potential similar tactics in the United States by the powerful Murdoch and his News Corp. The gist is that reporters dependent on hand-outs from politically motivated prosecutors and similar watchdog officers primarily print what they're told, not what's left out of the announcements.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder, left, and his Justice Department minions piously pretend in the tradition of many predecessors that they are simply enforcing "The Law" without favor or fear. Our Justice Integrity Project addresses this issue from time to time, including in a column last year, Let’s Question Questionable Federal Anti-Corruption Tactics. Favoritism in enforcement is worth underscoring again and again as a major blight not simply on the justice system and defendants, but as a danger to the public's health, safety and financial well-being. That's because many of the laws are to protect those values, not simply to populate the prisons with scapegoats.Greg Palast Cover

A prime example is the Justice Department's announcement, reported here, of the first criminal charges regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster two years ago. The blow-out threatened the health and livelihoods of vast numbers of Gulf of Mexico residents, plus those otherwise affected by its food chain. Now, two years after this monumental and preventable disaster, Holder has brought the entire weight and majesty of the United States government to bear against a mid-level engineer accused of deleting emails. The defendant Kurt Mix, 50, is now threatened with 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count. Never mind that the United States Coast Guard itself prevented some journalists from photographing or otherwise covering the scope of the disaster at the time, and has continually puffed up the safety of conditions.

Fortunately, investigative reporters exist in alternative media to provide perspective. One is author Greg Palast, right, a recent guest on my radio show, who wrote April 24:

The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat. More like a scape-kid, really. Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out. I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have 'cuffed some poor schmuck like Mix -- especially when there's hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher-ups.

This is just a small sample of the day's crime news. We'll examine below similar developments in the day's headlines involving CIA destruction of torture evidence, its unfair John Edwards prosecution that began in North Carolina this week, and more.

As an update, Main Justice and Politico reported: GOP House candidate: John Edwards case is political, with details below.

Jose RodriguezCIA destruction of videotape evidence of torture is in the news again with the forthcoming publication of a memoir by former CIA covert operations chief Jose A. Rodriguez, left. Washington Post reporter Dana Priest published a profile of him April 25. We have previously reported on how Holder and his predecessor, Michael Mukasey, took steps to whitewash the probe. One way was to name as an investigator a career prosecutor who had himself been found to have illegally suppressed when his boss was under suspicion more than a decade ago for corruption. While one can argue,of course, that special circumstances exist when the CIA destroys evidence of torture the conventional media are clearly, on the whole, too intimidated even to mention the different outcomes involved for similar conduct.

A similar situation exists in the trial of former 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards. He faces campaign finance charges for payments by friends to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and his friend, Andrew Young, to cover up an Edwards affair with Hunter during the campaign. Edwards, with just a three percent favorability rating in a recent national poll after the sexGeorge Holding scandal.while his wife was dying of cancer, is an easy target for prosecutors seeking a high-profile conviction of an unpopular target.

But legal experts suggest that this prosecution is rare if not unprecedented since the funds for Hunter and Young did not pass through campaign channels. The case thus opens the door for prosecutors in the future to proceed against many other political figures who use private funds for matters that prosecutors might consider unworthy, while not otherwise illegal. To take another recent example, the parents of former Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign paid hefty amounts to quiet a sex scandal threatening his future politics. The scandal ultimately forced Ensign's resignation.

On the surface, that situation has striking parallels to the Edwards case, but was not prosecuted. Edwards, by contrast, was prosecuted by a longtime Republican opponent, Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney George Holding. Holding, at right, resigned shortly as top prosecutor in North Carolina's Eastern District only after he secured the indictment of the foe of Holding's political patrons. As in several other instances around the nation, the timid Obama administration retained some Bush-appointed prosecutors for years despite a tradition that the presidentially appointed office holders resign upon a change of administration.

As a final example of just now day's headlines suggestion varying standards for prosecution and other oversight, a major inquiry continues in London regarding News Corp. bribery and blackmailing of public officials and illegal wiretapping of both officials and celebrities both to assist "news reporting" and political intrigue.  Scan signs exists so far of any similar concerns by United States authorities even though News Corp. is now based in the Untied States and controls many powerful news and publishing organizations, including Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal.

Relevant news stories on these matters are excerpted below. But it's primarily the alternative, web-based media that connects the dots in a meaningful manner for readers and viewers.None of this is to excuse the weak and despicable, or unfairly malign the powerful. Instead, it's to suggest that the public should insist on all relevant facts, and some sense of proportionality in the treatment of those who undertake similar, arguably criminal actions, and not simply rely on how unelected prosecutors categorize the conduct. As we have often shown, the power to prosecute brings, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the power to convict. That's because of the imbalance of forces between the Justice Department and a defendant, who usually loses job, reputation, savings and friends soon after an accusation.


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Related News Coverage

Salon, Obama Justice and medical marijuana, Glenn Greenwald, April 26, 2012. The President's justification for his crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries has to be heard to be believed. President Obama gave an interview to Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner this week and was asked about his administration’s aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, including ones located in states where medical marijuana is legal and which are licensed by the state; this policy is directly contrary to Obama’s campaign pledge to not “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.”

Obama’s claim about the law is outright false — as Jon Walker conclusively documents, the law vests the Executive Branch with precisely the discretion he falsely claims he does not have to decide how drugs are classified. Obama is affirming the “principle” that he can’t have the DOJ “turn the othe way” in the face of lawbreaking. The same person who directed the DOJ to shield torturers and illegal government eavesdroppers from criminal investigation, and who voted to retroactively immunize the nation’s largest telecom giants when they got caught enabling criminal spying on Americans, and whose DOJ has failed to indict a single Wall Street executive in connection with the 2008 financial crisis or mortgage fraud scandal, suddenly discovers the imperatives of The Rule of Law when it comes to those, in accordance with state law, providing medical marijuana to sick people with a prescription.

BP Oil Disaster

Washington Post, Former BP drilling engineer faces charges related to the Gulf oil spill, Steven Mufson, April 24, 2012. A former BP drilling engineer was arrested Tuesday on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, the Justice Department said.
The two charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill caused by a blowout on BP’s Macondo well. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.

Truthout / Buzzflash, Arrest of BP Scapegoat: Real Killers Walk, Greg Palast, April 24, 2012. The Justice Department went big game hunting and bagged a teeny-weeny scapegoat. More like a scape-kid, really. Today, Justice arrested former BP engineer Kurt Mix for destroying evidence in the Deepwater Horizon blow-out. I once ran a Justice Department racketeering case and damned if I would have 'cuffed some poor schmuck like Mix -- especially when there's hot, smoking guns showing greater crimes by BP higher ups.

CIA Cases

Salon, 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).

Destruction of these tapes was so controversial because it seemed so obviously illegal. At the time the destruction order was issued, numerous federal courts — as well as the 9/11 Commission — had ordered the U.S. Government to preserve and disclose all evidence relating to interrogations of Al Qaeda and 9/11 suspects. Purposely destroying evidence relevant to legal proceedings is called “obstruction of justice.” Destroying evidence which courts and binding tribunals (such as the 9/11 Commission) have ordered to be preserved is called “contempt of court.” There are many people who have been harshly punished, including some sitting right now in prison, for committing those crimes in far less flagrant ways than was done here. In fact, so glaring was the lawbreaking that the co-Chairmen of the 9/11 Commission — the mild-mannered, consummate establishmentarians Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean — wrote a New York Times Op-Ed pointedly accusing the CIA of “obstruction” (“Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation”).

Washington Post, From ex-CIA official, blunt defense of harsh interrogation, Dana Priest, April 24, 2012. The first and only time I met Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., he was still undercover and in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency’s all-powerful operations directorate. The agency had summoned me to its Langley headquarters and his mission was to talk me out of running an article I had just finished reporting about CIA secret prisons — the “black sites” abroad where the agency put al-Qaeda terrorists so they could be interrogated in isolation, beyond the reach and protections of U.S. law. The scene I walked into in November 2005 struck me as incongruous. He was as surprised as anyone that he had risen so quickly to the senior ranks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the account of his decades-long spy career in “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.” The book is due out Monday, after an exclusive interview Sunday night on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Justice Integrity Project, CIA Torture Investigator Plays Powerful But Mysterious Role, July 2, 2011. John Durham is the career federal prosecutor who made news June 30 when the Justice Department acted on his recommendation to narrow a probe of CIA mistreatment of detainees from 101 to two cases. Our Justice Integrity Project revealed last July that a federal appeals court found in 2008 serious misconduct by a team of federal prosecutors supervised by Durham. Thus, the 2008 Bush and then Obama administration appointments of Durham and his prominent Connecticut colleague, Nora Dannehy, to lead major national investigations of misconduct by other federal officials smacks of politics and whitewash.

Nieman Watchdog, New Questions Raised About Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials in U.S. Attorney Firings, Andrew Kreig/Justice Integrity Project, July 25, 2010,  Four days before Nora Dannehy was appointed to investigate the Bush administration’s U.S. attorney firing scandal, a team of lawyers she led was found to have illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case. Andrew Kreig writes that this previously unreported fact calls her entire investigation into question as well as that of a similar investigation by her colleague John Durham of DOJ and CIA decision-making involving torture.xxx

Justice Integrity Project, DOJ Indictment of Former CIA Officer for Leak Raises Questions, Andrew Kreig, April 9, 2012. The Justice Department last week indicted a former CIA officer and recent author on charges of leaking to reporters the name of a covert operative, part of an Obama administration crackdown on leakers. The five-count indictment April 6 accuses John C. Kiriakou, 47, an opponent of waterboarding, of crimes in connection with the capture of an alleged al Qaeda financier, Abu Zubaydah, in Pakistan. The charges and other news reports on related Mideast struggles raise questions in Washington's national intelligence and journalism circles about selective enforcement by such officials as Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director David Petraeus, who became CIA director last fall.

Edwards Case

Scott HortonUpdated: Harper’s via OpEd News, Bread, Circuses, and the Edwards Prosecution, Scott Horton. 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. 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.

The Edwards prosecutors may well win their case, but not because any crime was involved. Rather, they're likely to win because John Edwards is one of the most reviled politicians in the United States, and so a choice target. No doubt his 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.

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 newphew 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.

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.

News Corp. / Rupert Murdoch

Washington Post, Rupert Murdoch denies receiving favors from British government officials, Karla Adam, April 25, 2012. A confident and combative Rupert Murdoch testified Wednesday at a press ethics inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice, where he emphatically denied suggestions he had ever asked for or received government favors for his media empire. During his four-hour appearance before the panel, the News Corp. chief did, however, acknowledge close contacts with several high-ranking officials. Rupert Murdoch defended his 50-year career in the media before a judge-led inquiry in London Wednesday, while in parliament, UK government officials defended the way they've conducted relations with the Murdoch empire. Rupert Murdoch’s empire: Rupert Murdoch’s media empire took a small hit July 13 when News Corp. announced that it would drop its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting. Here’s a look at the rest of the media mogul’s business ventures over the years.  Murdoch is arguably the most highly anticipated of the 266 witnesses to have appeared before the Leveson Inquiry, which Prime Minister David Cameron set up in July amid a phone-hacking scandal at one of the media titan’s tabloids. And his testimony did not disappoint, offering concrete details about his ties with politicians during his long tenure at the center of British life. There was the time in 2008, for instance, when Cameron, then the opposition leader, was flown by Murdoch’s son-in-law to a Greek island, where he joined Murdoch for drinks on a yacht.  Asked whether such behavior was normal, Murdoch said that politicians of all stripes “go out of their way to impress people in the press,” adding: “That’s part of the democratic process. . . . That’s the game.” Asked about the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure last year of his News of the World, a paper he bought more than 40 years ago, Murdoch said that illegally intercepting voice mails and using private investigators were marks of “lazy” journalism.

Guardian (United Kingdom), Rupert Murdoch: myth, memory and imagination; The version of history told by Rupert Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry bears no relation to what actually happened, Sir Harold Evans, April 25, 2012. Rupert Murdoch has apparently lost a great deal of his power of memory, but nature has compensated by endowing him with a vivid imagination. He can surely deploy his new gift in the service of Fox movies. There is the great scene he pitched to Lord Justice Leveson on Wednesday morning where the editor of the Times enters left, closes the door behind him and begs: "Look, tell me what you want to say, what do you want me to say, and it need not leave this room and I'll say it." And our hero proprietor, so famously fastidious about such matters, has to tell Uriah Heep: "That is not my job."  And thus, children, was how Mr KR Murdoch honoured the promises of editorial independence that enabled him to avoid the Monopolies and Mergers Commission over his bid for Times Newspapers in 1981. As the editor in question, I am not able to compete with Murdoch in fabrication – he has had a lifetime of experience – but I do happen to have retained my memory of the year editing the Times, made notes, kept documents and even had the effrontery to write a whole bestselling book about it in 1983, called Good Times, Bad Times.  It has gone unchallenged for 30 years in its detailed account of precisely how Murdoch did break all five of the crucial pledges, did press for adopting his rightwing views, did want to know why we reported the Treasury statistics that the recession continued when the government had previously said it had ended.

Washington Post, Rupert Murdoch testifies on media empire, ties to British elite, Karla Adam, April 25, 2012.  Media titan Rupert Murdoch appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday for what is expected to be his most extensive public grilling, part of an inquiry of press standards set up by the British prime minister. Wearing a black suit and bright blue tie, Murdoch began by saying he welcomed the “opportunity” to speak because he wanted to put “certain myths to bed.”  Murdoch is the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp., the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, whose U.S. companies include Fox Television, Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. He is scheduled to be in the witness box all day Wednesday, spilling over to Thursday if necessary – and to be questioned intensely about his links to Britain’s political elite. As part of his testimony, Murdoch submitted a lengthy witness statement detailing his biography, business interests and the creation of his media empire. Murdoch, 81, has been at the center of British life since he bought the News of the World tabloid more than 40 years ago. He closed the paper last summer after revelations that its journalists had hacked into mobile phones of celebrities, politicians and murder victims in order to pursue stories.

Catching Our Attention on Justice Issues

Antonin ScaliaWashington Post, On immigration case, Scalia throws fair, impartial to wind, Dana Milbank, April 25, 2012.  As the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about an Arizona immigration law, supporters of the crackdown set up an amp on the sidewalk in front of the court and belted out a tune: “We’ve got illegals in the back yard….” In tone and substance, it was nearly identical to the argument Justice Antonin Scalia made inside the court. While other justices at least attempted a veneer of fair and impartial questioning in the highly charged case, Scalia left no doubt from the start that he was a champion of the Arizona crackdown and that he would verbally lacerate anybody who felt otherwise. “The state has no power to close its borders to people who have no right to be there?” he asked incredulously….Technically, Scalia was questioning counsel, but at best the queries were rhetorical. At times he verged on outright heckling. He interrupted Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was arguing against the Arizona law, to say that his position “sounds like racial profiling to me.” He wasn’t the wordiest justice — Sonia Sotomayor interjected 36 times to Scalia’s 35 during the 90-minute session — but he was by far the most caustic and the least inclined to subdue his partisan instincts. Scalia’s tart tongue has been a fixture on the bench for years, but as the justices venture this year into highly political areas such as health-care reform and immigration, the divisive and pugilistic style of the senior associate justice is very much defining the public image of the Roberts Court.

Institute for Political Economy / OpEd news, Trials Without Crimes Or Evidence, Paul Craig Roberts, April 25, 2012. The US government relies on secret evidence in its cases against alleged terrorists, claiming that national security would be threatened if the evidence were revealed. This is abject nonsense. It is an absurd claim that presenting evidence against a terrorist jeopardizes the national security of the United States. To the contrary, not presenting evidence jeopardizes the security of each and every one of us. Once the government can convict defendants on the basis of secret evidence, even the concept of a fair trial will disappear. Fair trials are already history, but the concept lingers. Secret evidence murders the concept of a fair trial. It murders justice and the rule of law. Secret evidence means anyone can be convicted of anything. As in Kafka's The Trial, people will cease to know the crimes for which they are being tried and convicted. This extraordinary development in Anglo-American law, a development demanded by the unaccountable Bush/Obama Regime, has not resulted in impeachment proceedings; nor has it caused an uproar from Congress, the federal courts, the presstitute media, law schools, constitutional scholars, and bar associations.

FireDogLake / Dissenter, The Shroud of Secrecy in Bradley Manning’s Legal Proceedings, Kevin Gosztola, April 25, 2012. Legal proceedings in the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, resumed yesterday, with the defense arguing in the military court at Fort Meade that all charges with prejudice should be dropped. David Coombs, Manning’s lead defense attorney, argued the government did not understand basic military rules for the discovery of evidence in cases. The past two years the government had been searching only for material that they considered a “smoking gun” or “game-changing” evidence. They would not produce evidence that could lead to “reduction of punishment. “The government refused to produce damage assessment reports, hiding behind technicalities (for example, the State Department’s report on the release of diplomatic cables is allegedly incomplete so they refused to hand it over to Coombs). He concluded the only “appropriate remedy” to “widespread discovery violations” was the dismissal of all charges with prejudice because, although the government could no go back and produce the evidence owed to the defense, this would create “speedy trial” issues. At least sixty-three agencies have to go through producing the information. They may also wish to cover up misconduct by rushing a re-review of evidence pertaining to Manning or WikiLeaks. Coombs alleged analysts’ hard drives with evidence had been wiped because the government had delayed preserving the hardware. He also explained that material he was now receiving all of a sudden showed agencies had found “no harm” from the cable releases. Why the government was just now sending this over and why it had taken this long for prosecutors to get their hands on was unknown to Coombs.

Washington Post, Secret Service agents tell confidants that bosses tolerated past behavior, Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura, April 24, 2012.  Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn’t warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips, according to people familiar with the employees’ thinking.  Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs, said the people knowledgeable about the case. The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal.

Eileen FosterHuffington Post, Eileen Foster, Former Countrywide Executive, Calls For Investigation Into Cover-Ups, April 25, 2012. A whistleblower who exposed systemic fraud by Countrywide mortgage lenders called on the Department of Justice on Wednesday to prosecute her former colleagues, if not with fraud, then with covering it up. "If there is insufficient legal evidence to convict these executives of what we believe are obvious crimes, then the federal government should refocus," Eileen Foster, right, a former Countrywide fraud investigations chief, told an audience at the National Press Club gathered to honor her and five others for their truth-telling. "Overwhelming evidence of perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice exist in the numerous claims, court filings and trial and investigative transcripts," Foster said. She herself was fired after reporting that falsified income documentation and faked signatures had been used to steer borrowers into bad mortgages. Countrywide and all its mortgages were bought by Bank of America in 2008. Foster said Countrywide's "rogue culture ... was welcomed, instead of rejected by Bank of America."  Bank of America told iWatch News last year that it takes "appropriate actions" when it uncovers fraud, including cooperating with law-enforcement. Bank of America was one of five banks that agreed to a $25 billion settlement with the U.S. government in February to resolve civil charges related to mortgage fraud.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, responding to Foster's earlier call for prosecuting loan executives for fraud, told CBS News in December that he found "the excessive risk taking to be offensive" and "the greed that was manifested by certain people to be very upsetting." But, he said, "that in and of itself doesn't mean we bring a criminal case." In an interview with Rolling Stone published Wednesday, President Barack Obama was asked why nobody is on trial for the financial frauds that triggered the global economic crisis. "[I]n some cases, really irresponsible practices that hurt a lot of people might not have been technically against the law," Obama said. "They might have been the wrong thing to do, but prosecutors are required to actually build cases based on what the law is." He added however that he thinks "there's still possibilities of criminal prosecutions."