How Did the Media Report Taint

On DOJ’s ‘Political Purge’ & Torture Probers?

Several bloggers and editors promptly followed up on my report in Nieman Watchdog July 26 about the Justice Department’s apparent whitewash of its probe of U.S. attorney firings under George W. Bush. Harper's legal columnist Scott Horton wrote an online column suggesting the revelations further illustrated a whitewash.

But it was hard to find even a word about it in the traditional press. There wasn’t any reaction from the Justice Department or legislators either, although there’s nothing new about this kind of governmental response to press exposés. It falls in the category of, “Leave it alone and maybe it’ll go away.”

-- Andrew Kreig

The Justice Integrity Project story dealt with what was, from all appearances, a flimsy and tainted nationwide probe that led to arguably the most important mass exoneration of high-level federal wrongdoing since President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 pardon of Iran-Contra convicts.

Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman wrote us to say of the DOJ’s recent action in ending its investigation in a letter to Congress July 21, “This is an outrageous act of cowardice and cover-up.” Siegelman, the defendant in the nation’s most controversial federal prosecution of the decade, later was even more harsh in describing the DOJ’s decision July 21 to clear all recent Bush White House and DOJ personnel of suspicions of lawbreaking:

The DOJ has all the resources in the world to go after Lance Armstrong [on a multiyear, multimillion-dollar probe of suspicions that Armstrong cheated in bike races] but they don’t have the balls to go after Karl Rove.

What’s new, or relatively new, in media coverage of all this is that bloggers and online news groups, not the elite press, took at least some initiative for noting my story.

Human rights attorney Scott Horton, for example, wrote a hard-hitting online column for Harper’s Web site within hours of my report, titled, “New questions raised about prosecutor who cleared Bush officials in U.S. Attorney firings.”

In Horton’s “More on the latest DOJ whitewash,” he argued that a federal court’s long-secret misconduct finding against the DOJ’s special prosecutor Nora Dannehy further undercut what he called her “farcical” conclusion: That no criminal wrongdoing occurred in the George W. Bush DOJ’s purge of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

A few others prominent in reporting the 2006 scandal or editing websites helped my story get republished in about 15 Web-based, independent outlets. The gist of the story was that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 threw out all substantive charges against a Connecticut official corruption defendant, Charles Spadoni, because Dannehy’s trial team had illegally suppressed exculpatory evidence during trial.

Dannehy was appointed only days after the charges against Spandoni were thrown out. So the obvious, as yet-unanswered questions are:

• How could a prosecutor with such a black mark be trusted to do a serious, independent investigation?
• And why would someone in charge appoint her in the first place?

To read my full blog report on this, read The Daily Censored: Underreported News & Commentary, "How Did the Media Report A Taint On DOJ’s ‘Political Purge’ & Torture Investigators?"

-- By Andrew Kreig. Contact author: Andrew (at) Justice-Integrity (dot) org