Rove’s Swedish Connections: Controversy & The Facts

By Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli (Exceprted from his blog Feb. 13):

Naomi Wolf's guest-article in my "Professors Blogg"  – which mentioned (among other matters) Karl Rove’s potential involvement in the Swedish political crusade against Assange – had a huge impact among Swedish blog-readers. The site Bloggosfär picked her column Feb. 12 to be its top-recommended reading on the Julian Assange theme. Knuff.se also cited the article in its front page that day. Yet some in the Swedish media deny the article’s implication that Rove might be relevant to the Assange case, or even to Sweden’s governing Moderate Party. That confirms the characterization by Assange’s lawyers about disregard by Swedish media for objectivity and fair play in this sensitive case. "Professors Blogg" replied to this political threat by republishing the initial controversial column by Andrew Kreig that Wolf cited. Also, we provide Kreig’s updated analysis on Rove. It describes past and current developments, leading right to yesterday, Feb. 12. The author Andrew Kreig is prominent human-rights defender. His second gästblogg is a new update of his article on Rove. This update is being published for the first time in "Professors Blogg."

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By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

As indicated by the above introduction, links between Karl Rove and Sweden’s governing party continue to generate controversy. That’s because of implications of Sweden’s all-out effort to capture WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Most recent was an attack Feb. 11 by the Swedish website Makthavare (“Those in Power”) on my reporting and on author Naomi Wolf’s willingness to cite it in her column criticizing Sweden’s police procedures in the Assange case.

This prompts me to reaffirm the original column published by the Huffington Post on Dec. 19, “Rove Suspected In Swedish-U.S. Political Prosecution of WikiLeaks.” You’ll see below how the author of the Makthavare blog, Andreas Henriksson, selectively omits evidence that does not support his defense of Rove. My update here will show how developments since then illustrate how the Assange law enforcement scandal is similar to many Rove-style political prosecutions in the United States. Among the tell-tale signs are using the media to smear a defendant with pre-trial leaks. These foster an anti-defendant climate in the courts and public, helping to ensure that unfair court procedures will not generate effective protest by legislators, the media or general public. The Rove Ascendancy in America
Some Europeans seeing this column through the initiative of the famed human rights advocate Dr. Marcello Vittorio Ferrada de Noli may not be thoroughly familiar with Rove’s career. There’s no shame in that. Most Americans know little more than that he is a frequent pundit welcomed on TV by fellow news experts after being a controversial Republican strategist and advisor, most famously as political advisor in the White House to President Bush from 2001 to mid-2007.
The non-partisan Justice Integrity Project I lead has taken a keen interest in the concept of political prosecutions in the United States. This is a controversial concept since the conventional wisdom in the United States, as in Sweden, is the justice system operates in a transparent and otherwise fair manner, with laws enforced by dedicated professionals. The comforting mantra in both nations is that “political prosecution” cannot occur in any systematic fashion because higher courts and the media supposedly prevent political pressure by serving as careful watchdogs over the public interest.

The conventional wisdom comforts those who want to go about their business without distraction. But closer inspection reveals scandalous patterns of political prosecutions and related due process violations. Rove has been linked to some of the worst recent U.S. abuses, but never formally charged, must less convicted. Many others from both parties have been implicated both before and after him, making the problems almost intractable because few in power risk opening Pandora’s Box. The Bush administration dismissed nine powerful regional U.S. attorneys for political reasons mid-term in 2006, some of whom fought back to unleash an immediate scandal. But that evaporated after Rove resigned, while never admitting wrongdoing. Then Republicans, in effect, threatened incoming Democratic Attorney Gen. Eric Holder at his confirmation hearing with disclosure of his role in 1990s rendition and torture if he vigorously investigated the Bush-era. Follow up investigators found it convenient to focus narrowly on the circumstances of a few firings, and ignore the vast injustices caused by remaining prosecutors.  In essence, all follow-ups matched the slogan of bureaucrats everywhere: “Mistakes may have been made -- but not by us, or anyone we know.”

The high-rated CBS program 60 Minutes broadcast an exposé in 2008, “Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal?”  This documented how Republicans framed on corruption charges one of the last white Democrats who held statewide appeal in Alabama. But the powerful forces at work behind his prosecution, allegedly including Rove himself, are indeed influential. So, the broadcast was delayed many months and ultimately failed to include any of the most powerful evidence: That the Republican federal judge helping the Bush administration railroad Siegelman into a prison in chains for a non-crime was being rewarded on the side by some $300 million in Bush federal contracts to a closely held company the judge controlled as its largest stockholder.

Pushback
Hollywood filmmaker John McTiernan, whose credits included such classics as “Die Hard” and “Terminator,” directed a 2009 documentary, “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove” that illustrated the shocking nationwide pattern of the devastation Rove and his confederates caused to victims whose lives and families are ruined by unjust prosecutions.
McTiernan stayed in the background by funding a group called Restore Justice at Justice to produce it. But despite his renown for directing some of the world’s biggest action heroes the impact of a real-life drama was limited by public apathy. Also, the New York Times and others undercut him by noting McTiernan’s own prosecution on a charge of lying to a government official who phoned his home one night to ask about the notorious private eye Anthony Pellicano. Pending an appeal, McTiernan likely faces a year in prison from his sentence for something that’s not even a crime in many nations.

Without that burden, I entered these debates with a front-page Huffington Post exposé May 15, 2009 documenting why, “Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because Of Judge’s ‘Grudge.’” I published many similar articles, and promoted the oft-overlooked work of other reporters who document similar abuses around the United States. I made things easy for timid officials and reporters by organizing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC a pioneering conference showing for a national audience the scandal of political prosecutions in the United States.  No one needed to take professional risks by any initiative. All anyone needed to do was attend or watch the CSPAN broadcast of the conference. For scholars, the reasons for massive violations of due process in the United States are amply illustrated in such books as “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent” by Harvey Silverglate. He is an expert who has many times testified to Congress and who spoke at a free-market Cato Institute conference on video.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Wall Street Journal op-ed editor and Reagan administration assistant Treasury Secretary, is among others describing abuses in books and columns. One of many is, “It Does Happen in America: The Political Trial of Don Siegelman.” That Roberts column in 2008 rebuts, among other things, the current suggestion by Henriksson at the Makthavare blog that suspicions of Rove-inspired injustice are propounded solely by the left.

Fast Forward to Sweden
With this context, a trained eye can discern the possibility of the same patterns arising in the Assange case. Last June, a political persecution victim in the United States told me and another reporter about a prominent Swedish official’s unexpected offer earlier that day to seek political asylum in Sweden for Siegelman. The former’s governor’s case was pending at the Supreme Court, which granted Siegelman an unexpected victory June 30 by remanding the most serious charges against him. The former governor would have been disgraced, of course, if he had tried somehow to sneak out of the country to go to Sweden. In December, it suddenly struck my source that the asylum offer for Siegelman shared the same general outline of Assange’s hopes of a Swedish welcome that summer. That inquiry went cold when Siegelman told me he never saw the email about asylum.

Whatever the case on that, research into the public record readily establishes a Swedish balancing act between the political pressures incentivizing any government to augment its powers, and the nation’s fine reputation for an independent judiciary, human rights and neutrality.

Let’s start with an objective reality. In researching Karl Rove & Co., I went to the company’s website biography, which listed among clients Sweden’s Moderate Party, whose roots are as the nation’s leading conservative party. Henriksson, the Makthavare author who illustrates his blog with a photo of himself interviewing Rove, does not mention my inquiry in this week’s attack on my reporting. Henriksson further seeks to defend Rove from his critics by going to Pär Henriksson, a former communications director for the conservatives. Henriksson obtains from Henriksson a statement that the latter does not know of any 2008 meeting between Rove and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, right. Makthavare obtains a similar comment from Dr. Roland Poirier Martinsson of the Timbro Media Center. Makthavare then cites these comments as proof positive determining the issues, and proceeds to disparage me (although not by name), Wolf because she cited me, plus Reinfeldt biographer Dr. Brian Palmer and U.S. broadcaster Amy Goodman.

Pathetic. First, let’s welcome any on-the-record comment by the former communications director and others. These are inherently secret matters. That’s exactly why I hosted Dr. Martinsson and Dr. Palmer, left, on my radio show in January. We broadcast their comments worldwide and now make them available for you again. In Dr. Palmer’s broadcast, he describes why he titled his biography, “George W. Reinfeldt” to suggest that Reinfeldt has shaped his right-wing policies with a veneer of moderation and populism, much like George W. Bush. Also, I wrote a separate column on the interview with Rove’s friend, Dr. Martinsson, entitled, “Swedish Pundit Assails WikiLeaks, Downplays Rove Ties.” Unlike the journalist Henriksson, who is too busy lecturing other commentators on the need for sound journalism practices to contact the rest of us for comment, I don’t pretend to know everything going on at the highest and most secret levels of government. So letting them have their say is fine with me. But it says something about the mind-set of some “journalists” that they rely on the comment of a public relations man – and neglect to confront Rove, whose most important function apparently is to serve as a prop to show Makthavare’s importance amongst those who rule.

That’s access journalism. My original article clearly states that I went directly for comment to Rove’s chief of staff. That’s a step Henriksson does not describe making, despite his noble-sounding claim that journalists like him take these extra steps -- unlike the “bloggers” he disparages. I welcome criticism even after thousands of bylined articles in four decades in this business and law. But I fail to see how a quote from a public relations man resolves a complex matter, including the possibility of political intrigue. Maybe there’s nothing there. But if true, why in the world would a public relations executive help confirm it?

Even in the United States, vast numbers of open questions remain about Rove’s involvement in major scandals despite his self-promoting book last year, his forgetful congressional testimony, his outright lie in the Wall Street Journal about his testimony and thousands of emails that have been disclosed -- while vast numbers of others conveniently disappeared from government servers. I published a column in Harvard’s Nieman Watchdog publication for journalists last year, “A Few Questions For Karl Rove On His Book Tour.”  The column noted unexplained matters involving backroom strategies that regional reporters might want to ask when Rove ventured to the relatively open forum of bookstores. That moment has largely passed. These days, Rove is not only a major consultant to governments and business, but a pundit whose views are aired as much as anyone’s aside from network TV personnel. In that environment, fellow pundits treat one another with kid gloves on sensitive issues even if they ostensibly mix it up on politics. More important than any of that, Rove has now raised an estimated $100 million plus so far just in the past year or so from big business via his American Crossroads organizations to help fund politicians who work with him. Thus he’s not simply a strategist and member of the self-protecting inner circle of elite media.

He’s a go-to money-man. That’s the highest accolade possible in most of our better circles.  It’s also one of the best protections possible from unwanted questions, especially from greedy politicians, job-seeking fellow “journalists” and gutless prosecutors.

What About Assange?
Defenders of established powers usually make the unwarranted assumption that anyone who questions authorities over treatment accorded such defendants as Assange must be a supporter as well as a leftist. Not true. In my case, I’ve reported that investigative reporter Wayne Madsen lectured at the National Press Club to say that he was approached to join the WikiLeaks board in its earliest days, and now believes that Assange is bad for investigative journalism for various reasons too complex to describe here at length. But they include Madsen’s claim that Assange proceeds erratically and is compromised by past and perhaps current associations. Furthermore, I have no problem if Assange is prosecuted for sex crimes in the same manner as anyone else similarly suspected. In 1970 at Cornell University, I proudly took the first women’s studies class at any U.S. college (in its second year) and this am lecturing to a women’s group on the need for reviving the fight for women’s rights. But I learned also at Cornell that Nietzsche taught us in Part VI of the Use and Abuse of History that the struggle for truth should never depend on personal views. “The search for truth is often thoughtlessly praised,” Nietzsche wrote in the unusually eloquent translation by Adrian Collins a century ago. “But it has something great in it only if the seeker has the sincere unconditional will for justice.”

The Assange case not only puts to the test this standard of justice, but comes at a particularly important historical juncture. WikiLeaks and its imitators can threaten all manner of officials in the United States and Sweden covering multiple administrations, and extending to puppet masters who prefer to remain hidden and prosperous within the private sector.  Beyond that, however, the case comes at a time when the traditional media – exemplified in Sweden for two centuries by Bonnier AB and elsewhere by Rove’s major patron Rupert Murdoch – are gearing up to reassert their dominance over web-based competitors and other threats to established power centers in business and government. Roger Shuler, who helped break the news of the Rove connection to Sweden, published a blog Feb. 10 about this issue, entitled, “Rove and Wallenberg Are At The Heart Of The Julian Prosecution.”

This kind of larger context was illustrated in dramatic fashion by last week. The pro-Assange hacker group Anonymous exposed thousands of emails from a private contractor seeking business from major companies by a vast dirty tricks and disinformation campaign against bloggers, human rights activists and unions critical of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of America. The shocking plan was intended to be consummated on Feb. 14 via the Chamber’s law firm, Hunton and Williams, according to the emails. The Chamber and bank have denied involvement (naturally since the deal was to be through the law firm) but the evidence shapes up as a monumental scandal not dissimilar to that alleged by critics of the Assange prosecution.  We have excerpted many of the key news articles at our Justice Integrity Project.

Rove’s long-time friend Tom Donahue runs the U.S. chamber. Similarly, their former colleague at the American Trucking Association Bill Canary runs the Business Council of Alabama that was involved in the Siegelman prosecution while Canary served as campaign manager for Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent. This cosy circle included Canary’s wife, the Bush-appointed and Obama-retained U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. Her office helped implement the all-out jihad against Siegelman that exceeds even Sweden’s efforts against Assange.  As extensively documented in sworn court filings (but not by the corporate-owned U.S. media), the Siegelman prosecution is filled with appalling due process abuses by authorities, including attempts to bludgeon Siegelman and the main witness against him with sex scandals. That’s one of the fingerprints for Rove-era political prosecutions in the United States. Curiously in Sweden, the Bonnier-owned Expressen somehow obtained leaks of the first report of Assange’s alleged scandal.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether Rove had anything to do with this week’s Chamber scandal. A pioneering figure creates many imitators.  Similarly, we still do not know whether he made any specific advice to anyone in Swedish politics regarding the Assange and WikiLeaks case.

That’s a matter for Swedish journalists – and yes, bloggers – to determine by tough-minded inquiry aided by subpoena power via Parliament. Who would do it if Assange is sent to Sweden for secret proceedings in a sex case with no power to open the discussion with subpoena power to cross-examine officials?  And if Sweden wins its epic extradition battle to capture Assange and he faces rendition (“extradition,” polite language) to the United States?  Why would journalists who proceed as stenographers during the current travesty have any more incentive to raise an alarm? Finally, I’ve often heard from proud Swedes, most recently in the Henriksson column this week, that Parliament would never tolerate injustice without raising an alarm. Would this be the same Parliament that thoroughly investigated the Thomas Bodström involvement in a 2001 CIA rendition, even before Eva Franchell’s 2009 book?  Or is it the Parliament that’s preventing another international human rights disgrace currently by demanding sworn answers from key players before something dire happens again? Perhaps Bodström’s friends in Parliament might like to probe the Reinfeldt administration on the sensitive points regarding the merits of the sex investigation against Assange? Probably not so much, or we would have seen more effort by now to reconsider the international human rights disgrace the Assange prosecution has become for Sweden.

The economics of traditional media are in shambles thanks to the Internet, Assange and his cohorts are convenient villains, whether in the mold of Ibsen’s “The Enemy of the People” or Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein.”

Breaking the mold are independent commentators like Naomi Wolf.  As noted in the introduction, one gutsy commentary disputed Swedish police procedures. Another challenged fellow American reporters Feb. 4 in, “WikiLeaks, Revolution, and the Lost Cojones of American Journalism.” Wolf is a well-connected journalist and former advisor to Vice President Gore during his 2000 Presidential campaign who provided an emperor’s new clothes moment when she reminded “journalists” to get off the high horse when they criticize Assange. “U.S. journalists also know perfectly well that they too traffic in classified material continually -- and many of our most prominent reporters have built lucrative careers doing exactly what Assange is being charged with,” she wrote. “Any sophisticated dinner party in media circles in New York or Washington has journalists jauntily showing prospective employers their goods, or trading favors with each other, by disclosing classified information.”

She is a kindred spirit with the esteemed medical school professor Ferrada-Noli who labours far into the night to maintain this blog with new material such as hers. Even with their considerable outside stature, they are among the countless “bloggers” who are so despised by big business, government officials and those journalists who win promotions via clever abilities to transmit accepted wisdom in the guise of news.

But Sweden has many independent spirits also. Looking ahead, the nation and the world will have a great chance to see what’s produced by those willing to read the documents available and ask the obvious questions, no matter what the implications.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment

Below are excerpts from selected recent columns about legal reform and related issues in security, the news media and politics. The full text or videos are available from the button News Reports at the top of this site's Home Page.


Chamber of Commerce/Hunton & Williams/HBGary Scandal

Emptywheel, The HBGary Scandal: Using Counterterrorism Tactics on Citizen Activism, Marcy Wheeler, Feb. 14, 2011. The essence of the Chamber of Commerce/Bank of America/HBGary scandal is the use of intelligence techniques developed for use on terrorists deployed for use on citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

Legal Schnauzer, Chamber of Commerce Thuggery Comes As No Surprise, Roger Shuler, Feb. 14, 2011. Reports last week that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had engaged in a campaign to sabotage its political opponents were not a surprise here at Legal Schnauzer headquarters. Evidence strongly suggests that we were targeted by people with ties to the Alabama Republican Party, which has been heavily influenced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its local affiliate, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).

FireDogLake, Key Players in Operation Ratf%!k, Jane Hamsher, Feb. 14, 2011. Listing of key players. Sample: Richard Wyatt Jr., Partner: According to Steckman of Palantir, the Department of Justice called Bank of America’s Edward O’Keefe and told them to hire Wyatt to deal their Wikileaks problem. This allowed communications with Operation Ratf%&k subcontractors to hide under attorney-client privilege.

Security Dark Reading, HBGary Launches HBGary Federal, Dec. 7, 2009. HBGary, Inc., the leader in enterprise malware detection and analysis, today announced the spin-off of its U.S. government cybersecurity services group. "As an early adopter of HBGary Digital DNA, the U.S. government understands that the bad guys not only exist but are already inside our mission critical systems." said Greg Hoglund, CEO and founder of HBGary.

Assange Prosecution, Rove Consulting

Professors Blogg (Sweden), Karl Rove’s Swedish Connections: The Controversy And The Facts, Andrew Kreig (Blog edited by Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli), Feb. 13, 2011. My Huffington Post column in December describing links between Karl Rove and Sweden’s governing party continues to generate controversy. That’s because of implications of Sweden’s all-out effort to capture WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Developments since then illustrate how the Assange law enforcement scandal is similar to many Rove-style political prosecutions in the United States. Among the tell-tale signs are using the media to smear a defendant with pre-trial leaks. These foster an anti-defendant climate in the courts and public, helping to ensure that unfair court procedures won’t generate effective protest by legislators, the media or general public.

Makthavare (Sweden, Those in Power), Naomi Wolf: Karl Rove works for the Conservatives, Andreas Hendriksson, Feb. 11, 2011. (Google Translation). A guest post by Naomi Wolfe has now found its way into the Swedish blogosphere. Makthavare.se sorts out what is really true and not about Roves Swedish connections.

Washington Post, Arguments in Assange extradition hearing end; ruling expected Feb. 24, Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam, Feb. 11, 2011. Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange insisted in the closing arguments of his extradition hearing Friday that the Swedish arrest warrant against him was not valid, adding that media leaks about the sexual assault allegations against him had created a "toxic atmosphere" that ensured he could not get a fair trial in Sweden.

Government Surveillance

McClatchy Newspapers, Obama assertion: FBI can get phone records without oversight, Marisa Taylor, Feb. 12, 2011. The Obama administration's Justice Department has asserted that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process or court oversight, according to a document obtained by McClatchy. That assertion was revealed -- perhaps inadvertently -- by the department in its response to a McClatchy request for a copy of a secret Justice Department memo. Critics say the legal position is flawed and creates a potential loophole that could lead to a repeat of FBI abuses that were supposed to have been stopped in 2006. The controversy over the telephone records is a legacy of the Bush administration's war on terror. Critics say the Obama administration appears to be continuing many of the most controversial tactics of that strategy, including the assertion of sweeping executive powers.

Official Misconduct & Suspected Political Prosecutions

Asbury Park Press, Solomon Dwek a liability in trials? Hampers prosecution in two corruption cases, so officials decide to do without his help, Jean Mikle, Feb. 14, 2011. When Solomon Dwek ran his national real estate Ponzi scheme, he used the power of persuasion to con relatives, investors and even a major bank out of tens of millions of dollars. When Dwek later worked undercover for the FBI, 46 politicians, political operatives and rabbis were arrested on money laundering and bribery charges, mostly because Dwek had convinced them he could be trusted. Now, though, Dwek's silver tongue may have lost its luster. In the last year, the developer has had mixed results convincing federal juries that he is indeed telling the truth. The tally: one conviction, one partial conviction and one acquittal. Federal prosecutors didn't bother calling him to a fourth trial. Those two losses were the first defeat for the government in a corruption case since 1999, when four West New York police officers beat racketeering charges.

Washington Post, DeLay aide sentenced to 20 months in Abramoff lobbying scandal, Spencer Hsu, Feb. 11, 2011. A federal judge sentenced a onetime media aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay to 20 months in prison Thursday, crediting him with serving as a key government witness in the unraveling of the corruption scandal surrounding the congressman and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.