Alabama Bribery Case Fiasco Analyzed

Eric HolderHarper's columnist Scott Horton revisits Alabama's federal courts for a harsh appraisal of the Justice Department's performance in a major political corruption case. Our information is that the prosecution, which helped a number of Republican office-holders in various ways, cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. The column rebukes also Obama Administration Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, at left, who, with his team, authorized what is currently fiasco for authorities.Horton's column is Justice Department Rolls Snake Eyes in Alabama Gambling Trial Below are excerpts followed by our national JIP news summary other other notable columns from Aug. 14 through 14:

The Justice Department’s public-integrity section was hit with another embarrassing setback Thursday, this time from the jury in the bizarre Alabama bingo case — Justice’s highest-profile political litigation since its botched prosecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer touted the case against the Alabama politicians as “astonishing” when he announced the arrests.

The jury, however, turned out to be quite unimpressed with the evidence offered. It fully exonerated two defendants, acquitted the others on a number of counts, and deadlocked on the rest. Jurors subsequently disclosed that the overwhelming majority — between eight and ten of them — had been prepared to acquit all of the defendants on all counts.

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Former Senate Chair Declassifies Intel in Novel Way

Bob GrahamA former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Commitee announced Aug. 1 that he wrote his spy thriller Keys to the Kingdom in part to educate the public on vital national security information that he considers over-classified. Three-term Senator Bob Graham of Florida told a National Press Club audience that he is “angry” that the government keeps so much information secret. But he said, he can’t speak out about many of the specifics because of security restrictions on him even after his retirement in 2005 from the Senate.

So, he wrote a novel in order to receive clearance for his writing from the Central Intelligence Agency.  “Forty percent of the book is fact," said Graham, above, in a photo by the Press Club's Noel St. John. "Forty percent is pure fiction. Twenty percent is a combination.” Graham is a Democrat who chaired the Senate’s oversight committee during the 9/11 period. He said that government secrecy regarding the role of Saudi Arabia is one of his major concerns. Thus, his book describes a fictional senator writing an  op-ed saying:

The congressional inquiry in the 9/11 attacks left several secrets unanswered.The top three are Saudi Arabia’s full role in the preparation for and the execution of the plot; the Kingdom’s willingness and capacity to collaborate in future terrorist actions against the United States; and why this and the prior administration conducted a cover-up that thus far has frustrated finding the answers to the first two questions. Now, there is an even more ominous unknown: Does Saudi Arabia have the bomb?

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Judges Hit DOJ in NSA, CIA Leak Cases

Thomas DrakeA Maryland federal judge denounced Justice Department prosecutors for delays and "tyranny" in their prosecution of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was being sentenced on a reduced charge of unauthorized use of a computer after years of being investigated on felony charges as a suspected leaker. Drake is shown at right in a photo by Stephen Depolo. Meanwhile, a federal judge in a separate leak/whistleblower case provided extensive protections to New York Times reporter James Risen, whom authorities are trying to pressure for assistance in their leak prosecution against former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling.

The judicial decisions critical of the Obama Justice Department illustrate why whistleblowers told our Project in a story we reported in January that Obama officials are at least as bad for whistleblowers as were those in the Bush administration. Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald summarized the comments of U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett of Baltimore, a 2003 appointee of President Bush, this way regarding the Drake prosecution:

As for the first issue, the court condemned what it called the "extraordinary position taken by the government, probably unprecedented in this courthouse" of dropping the whole case on the eve of trial after "an extraordinary period of delay." Judge Bennett added: "I find that unconscionable. Unconscionable.  It is at the very root of what this country was founded on against general warrants of the British." As for the second issue, the court reviewed the difficult circumstances of Drake's childhood (he was raised in poverty and sent himself to school with risky military service), his complete lack of any prior criminal record, and -- most of all -- the multiple ways in which the failed prosecution destroyed his life ("the financial devastation wrought upon this defendant"), and flatly refused to impose any fine at all, explaining:  "I'm not going to add to that in any way."

What is most notable about this hearing is that the prosecutor candidly described not only his reasons for wanting a substantial fine imposed on Drake, but (without his saying so) also the motive for the Obama DOJ's broader war on whistleblowers: namely, an attempt to send a "message" of intimidation to future would-be whistleblowers.

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Bloggers vs. Old Media: Who Wins and Why

Marcello Ferrado de Noli

Two weeks ago, I contrasted in this space the growth of Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post with Rupert Murdoch's hacking scandal within his ”old media” empire. Today, Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli, the eminent medical school professor and a longtime human rights activist, asked permission to republish my column in Europe on the Professors Blogg he edits from his offices in Sweden and Italy. My introduction for that column is below, with minor revisions.

I was thrilled to hear that such an eloquent voice for human rights as Dr. de Noli, right, has returned refreshed from a vacation and his recovery from a serious bicycle accident this spring. Freedom lovers throughout the world are inspired by his voice and experience. As a reminder of Sweden’s bizarre WikiLeaks investigation that brought us together last winter at his site, a big part of the story is the usually hidden alliance between “old media” and the leading political parties. They have worked out powerful mechanisms through the years to control the limits of debate on all manner of issues. We see that in the United States now where almost any discussion of restoring the Bush tax cuts on the rich is largely verboten as an option to restore financial balance. Nearly all discussion is on cutting spending, even though opinion polls provide clear majorities for taxing  the wealthy.

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JIP Recovers from Crash; Will Major Media?

By Andrew Kreig

Andrew KreigOur Justice Integrity site is recovering from a system crash last Thursday, which was triggered by our upgrade to ease reader comment. We created an emergency repair over the weekend, and are confident that redesign will soon empower readers to use our material far more effectively. 

If only we could be so confident that the corporate-controlled media will resurrect themselves! They continue to falter in providing basic news coverage on major controversies, such as the U.S. debt-limit deadline. A combination of willful bias and incompetence prompts many to shortchange the public with basic facts about the cause of U.S. deficits and many other issues. For example, a new report today provides shocking new evidence that News Corp. used illegal hacking on ordinary people. Hacking – and potential blackmail – of politicians is probably even more dangerous to the public. An alarming pattern of news manipulation has been revealed also at MSNBC. It shows a pro-Obama bias that deserves to be exposed.

Last year, we reported to you that media criticism is part of our campaign for legal reform because the public cannot correct abuses that are suppressed, ignored or misreported. We regret last week’s tech glitch that disrupted our efforts. But we regret even more the shortcomings described below involving larger organizations that we all rely upon.
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Doubts Raised on Probe of Anthrax Killer

By Andrew Kreig

Bruce IvinsPBS Frontline has identified a big flaw in the official FBI account closing its case on suspects in the deadly anthrax letters in 2001 to congressional leaders and prominent journalists. Those letters frightened the nation's leadership and prompted passage of the Patriot Act curtailing American freedoms. The official view from the FBI and other authorities is that the leading suspect, Bruce Ivins, right, acted alone and then killed himself in 2008 after an award-winning career as a researcher at the Army's advanced research laboratory in Fort Detrick, MD.

But his lab area did not contain the right equipment need to turn liquid anthrax into the powder used to frighten recipients in Congress or the news media, according to FBI disclosures July 15 in a related legal dispute. Among the handful of letter recipients were Senate Majority Leaders Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The two led the Democratic majority to rush passage of far-reaching laws curtailing civil liberties, with the stated purposed of stopping such attacks. Congress renewed those laws this spring with scant debate.

In a separate case, Alabama journalists Roger Shuler (who has repeatedly received threats for his writing, including against his dog) and Lori Alexandra Moore report that a medical examiner's findings suggest foul-play in what was originally reported as the suicide of Major Bashinsky, an attorney prominent in that state's notoriously volatile politics. Shuler and Moore reported that the corpse had no sign of the "strippling" marks normally associated with a close-up wound, but did have signs of duct-tape around the mouth. "The absence of stippling means the shot was from a distance of more than two feet," the authors wrote. "Why would someone shoot themselves in the head from a distance of more than two feet? Is that even possible for most people?" Details are in the appendix below.

Regarding the anthrax case, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald published a July 19 column summarizing the recent research above by PBS, which is working on the story in cooperation with McClatchy Newspapers and Pro Publica:

That Ivins lacked the means, ability and equipment to produce the sophisticated strain of anthrax used in the attacks -- especially to do so without detection and leaving ample traces -- has long been one of the many arguments as to why it is so unlikely that he was the culprit (or at least the sole culprit). The anthrax attack was at least as important as (if not more important than) the 9/11 attack in creating a climate of fear in the U.S. that spawned the next decade's War on Civil Liberties and Terror and posture of Endless War; multiple government officials used ABC News' Brian Ross to convince the nation that Saddam was likely behind those attacks (as but one example, The Washington Post's Richard Cohen, in 2008, cited the anthrax attacks as his primary reason for supporting the attack on Iraq; in October, 2001, John McCain said on David Letterman's program that there is evidence linking Iraq to the anthrax attack).

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