Friday, July 13, 2007

A Gonzales update.

The WaPo reported on Wednesday:

"Two senior Justice Department officials said yesterday that they kept Attorney Alberto R. Gonzales apprised of FBI violations of civil liberties and privacy safeguards in recent years."

According to the story by John Soloman, James A. Baker, a career official who heads the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, discussed the "problems or violations or compliance incidents, however you want to refer to them" with the "Attorneys General." (I guess, he's trying to say Ashcroft knew about this stuff, too.)

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth L. Wainstein says he, too, "discussed a number of times oversight concerns and, underlying those oversight concerns, the potential for violations," with Gonzales.

But he says Gonzales wasn't lying when told sentators in 2005 that there hadn't been one "verified case of civil liberties abuse," since 2001.

According to the WaPo, "Wainstein cited what he described as a dictionary definition of 'abuse' in defending Gonzales's remark." [What is the the meaning of "is.?"]

Gosh, for something that is so totally on the up and up, there sure is a lot of legalistic double speak and Slick Willyese flying around.

Of course, we're not any further along in really finding out what Gonzales knew and when he knew it or if he cared to know it. It's so funny how no one over at Justice can ever to recall anything happening at any time. I think perhaps they ought to get EPA over there to check for lead in the water. [Naturally, the lead paint manufacturers might get a little huffy about that. Better see what the EPA's commisar for lead paint says first.]

In any case, even if Gonzales was told about all these "problems or violations or compliance incidents, however you want to refer to them" concerning FBI overeach with the Patriot Act, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to believe Alberto just didn't listen.

In another WaPo article concerning who said what to who about Valerie Plame, Michael Abramowitz writes that when Dick Armitage told State Department officials that he might have leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak:

"One of them called then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to report that the State Department possessed information relevant to the leak investigation and had already contacted the Justice Department. The aide, former State Department lawyer Will Taft, asked Gonzales if he wanted to know the details. Gonzales said no, according to 'Hubris' a book on the case by journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn."

See, why would he want to know about that? It's not like W., his boss, was concerned about leaks or anything when he was White House counsel . . .

"Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks."

Oh, did El Jeffe say that? No one told me . . . Uh, I don't recall. . . "I can only provide information as to what I know and to what I recall."

If someone told Alberto something and he didn't care about that something, does that qualify as him not having heard it?

'Can I testify to only what I care about?'

Contempt for Congress.

The WaPo reports:

"A court battle over President Bush's broad but largely untested claims of executive privilege grew more likely yesterday when a House panel took the first step toward bringing contempt charges against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. Miers had been subpoenaed to appear before a House Judiciary subcommittee to testify about her role in last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys, but declined to attend after Bush's White House counsel advised her not to appear."

You know, I've always kind of had the impression that Herriet Miers wasn't the sharpest knife in the kitchen draw but, man oh man, where does she come off thinking she can just ignore a Congressional subpoena? As Chairman John Conyers says, "Are congressional subpoenas to be honored, or are they optional."

When you're talking about our imperial war president, the law is always optional, I guess. I'm sure his handlers can wrap the threat of al-Qaeda around their refusal to let Miers testify.

Isn't this woman a lawyer, though? Is she really willing to risk a contempt charge based on some legal mumbo jumbo cooked up by Fred Fielding? A "bedrock presidential prerogative" my rosy red butt!

Well, after seeing what happened to Scooter Libby, what does she have to worry about, really? There isn't any way W. is going to let one of his nannies go to jail. For sure he doesn't want her even going near Patrick Leahy. You know, the whole not so sharp thing is a concern. Leahy could really go to town on Meirs, I'm thinking.

Just look what happened to Sar Taylor under a barage of questioning led by Leahy. She tried to play it both ways and came out worse for the experience. Even sleepy old Arlen Specter said to her, "There's no way you can come out a winner. You might have been on safer legal ground if you'd said absolutely nothing."

Which is why Herriet Miers must stay far, far away from that troublesome Pat Leahy!. She'll spill the beans for sure. She'll get that deer in the headlights look in her eyes and she'll be road kill.

Is Bush a mole for OBL?

As we approach the 6th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th 2001, a five-page summary of a new intelligence threat assessment says al-Qaeda is as strong as it ever was. AP reports U.S. intelligence officials, paraphrasing the report, say OBL's outfit is "considerably stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001."

W. claimed yesterday that the report is being misinterpreted, that it doesn't say al-Qaeda is as strong as it was before 9/11 (although, that's exactly what the report does say). W.'s lame defense for why al-Qaeda is no worse for wear after six years, 4,000 dead Americans and half a trillion dollars down the drain, is:

"They are weaker than they would have been."

They're weaker since W. allowed the last remnants of al-Qaeda to limp away across the Pakistan border, so he could get his war on with the man that tried to kill his daddy? They're weaker than they would have been since we've created a power vacuum in Iraq that's allowed them to flourish in a live-fire training camp that OBL and his fellow terrorists could have only dreamt about before the invasion?

They're weaker than they would have been if they didn't now enjoy total sanctuary on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, thanks to our good friend Pervez Musharraf's peace treaty with them?

The LA Times reports: "In the new threat assessment, U.S. intelligence officials lay most of the blame for Al Qaeda's resurgence on a peace agreement between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders last fall."

Back in September 2006 when W. had Musharraf over for dinner, Musharraf promised him: "There will be no al-Qaeda activity in our tribal [area] or across the border in Afghanistan." W. turned to Musharraf and said: "When the president looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won't be a Taliban and won't be al-Qaeda, I believe him." [WaPo]

There he goes again looking into people's eyes and reading their souls.

To any reasonable person not engaged in a self-deluded messianic crusade, it would appear that al-Qaeda might have never recovered from Tora Bora if OBL -- along with all the other al-Qaeda wannabes that have popped up all over the world since 2003 -- hadn't been provided with a perfect recruiting poster in the form of Iraq. OBL had said all along the United States was bent on conquering the Middle East to grab it's energy resources and -- lo and behold -- the US goes ahead and invades an Arab country and, even better than that, on the night of the invasion the first thing W. tells the people of Iraq is: "Do not damage the oil wells."

It's as if OBL wrote the speech himself.

"Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions." Ulysses S. Grant

After all the years of fear mongering by this administration (9/11, vote Republican, 9/11, Democrats love Osama, 9/11); after we've let so many fundamental rights and protections just slip away; and after Abu Ghraib and the disgrace of Gitmo; after all we've lost in the name of fear itself, what has all this bought us?

To me, it looks like we've purchased another devastating attack. We're sitting ducks, thanks to this administration's serial blunders. While half our Army is bogged down in a pointless war 3000 miles away, the other half is sitting here at home virtually disarmed. What remaining weapons and equipment we do have is being ground to pieces in the scorching sands of Mesopotamia.

If this were an old episode of the Outer Limits or the Twilight Zone, I'd suspect our President had been replaced by a foreign spy whose every move was being perfectly choreographed from abroad to leave us completely defenseless, at which point, our enemies to waltz right in without firing a shot.

This time, sadly, instead of the intrepid American Patriot stepping in at the last minute to reveal the plot and save us all, we have the President's political allies in Congress and in the media aiding and abetting him at every turn. No matter how ludicrous the justifications for his dangerous policies, which at every turn have clearly and unambiguously undermined our national security, they march in lock-step behind their fearless leader right over the cliff, dragging all of us along with them into the abyss.

If ever there was an urgent need for duel impeachments, it is now. This isn't about political score settling or revenge for stained blue dresses, this is a matter of national survival. Can we afford 500 more days of this? After all, as W. is so fond of reminding us, our enemies have only to get lucky once. Just one bad day out of those few remaining to this President could transform our beloved country into such a nightmarish landscape, that even with our historic innate good nature and God given bounty, we'd be hard pressed to overcome it.

This current administration's criminal incompetence and staggering dereliction of duty has placed the American people behind the proverbial 8-ball. All one needs to do is recall how this administration mishandled, and continues to mishandle, New Orleans to imagine what another attack on us could result in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The sad state at the Department of Justice:

Well, well, guess who's scheduled for another visit to Senator Leahy's woodshed? If you guessed Al "Waterboard" Gonzales, you guessed correctly. It seems more evidence of the AG not being totally candid under oath during testimony to Congress has cropped up.

According to the WaPo:

"As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers.

'There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,' Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act."

What do you know about that? And, it gets better . . .

A report Gonzales received on April 21, 2005 had to do with violations of the use of National Security Letters (NSLs), yet when an inspector generals report came out detailing the many abuses by the FBI of these letters this past March, he said: " I was upset when I learned this . . . To say that I'm concerned about what has been revealed in this report would be an enormous understatement." [Or an enormous fib]

So either, he's so out of the loop that he just happened to miss all these reports coming across his desk for the past two years, or -- gasp -- he's LYING.

Naturally, W. "still has faith in the attorney general," according to a WH spokesman, so no matter how much he fabricates and obfuscates, the chief law enforcement officer of the country will continue to make a mockery of the Department of Justice -- until he gets to that finish line.

See the DoJ mission isn't about law enforcement or justice anymore, it's been demoted to the president's personal legal department, mainly focused on furthering the agenda of the radical right and -- now more than ever -- keeping his cronies out of jail. Just look at the Libby case: Normal procedure at the DoJ is lawyers go over requests for pardons or commutations and forward their recommendations, based on the law and the merits of the case, to the president for his signature. In this case, Justice was kept totally out of the loop and was caught as flat-footed as everyone else.

One wonders what folks at the Department think about their fearless leader now that he just let the White House roll over him and the department like that. I'm thinking there were probably not a small number of DoJ employees mentally composing resignation letters while they were stuck in traffic on their way out of town that fateful Monday night.

I think what former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday about his experience with the administration applies to not only him but to all agencies of the executive branch, including DoJ:

"Anything that doesn't fit into political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or buried." (Ask the fired prosecutors about that.)

Gonzales is simply a political commissar for the administration, he's not interested in upholding the values of the institution. He was a not so skilled yes-man in Texas, just cleaver enough to get W. out of jury duty, but he's in way over his head in Washington. What makes this guy think he can just go to the Senate and lie his face off time after time after time. [My God, Arlen, WAKE UP! He's making a fool out of you!]

The theological agenda, though, is the most disturbing aspect of this whole take over of Justice. What has the Civil Rights Division been up to these last six years? Protecting Christians in a 99.9% Christian nation against -- what? And flooding the ranks of the Department with recent graduates from Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School isn't exactly a great recipe for assuring the highest level of legal expertise for the coming years. It does make sense, however, if you have a notion to pervert the secular nature of our country that's been enshrined in our democratic way of life for over 200 years.

You know, I remember a few years back the folks most opposed getting rid of Miranda warnings were those in law enforcement (when that basic protection was being threatened by get-tough-on-crime-types). Their basic argument, if I recall correctly, was that Miranda kept the police honest. Making sure all the i's were dotted and all the t's were crossed, made for better police work overall. This is the problem with playing fast and loose with long established rules that have somehow managed to get us through many other wars and civil disturbances. You start playing it ear and the wheels come off fairly quickly.

More abuses, idiocy and colossal wastes of money coming:

Now, we have faith based law enforcement. Faith in a gut felling. Faith in date mining. Not that date mining has proven to be effective in the least, but John Poindexter said it, I believe it, that settles it!

AP reports:

"The FBI is gathering and sorting information about Americans to help search for potential terrorists, insurance cheats and crooked pharmacists, according to a government report obtained yesterday. Records about identity thefts, real-estate transactions, motor-vehicle accidents, and complaints about Internet drug companies are being searched for common threads to aid law-enforcement officials, the Justice Department said in a 38-page report to Congress on the agency's data-mining practices."

Patrick Leahy says this database is "ripe for abuse." Really, what makes him think that? Al Gonzales has been doing a bang-up job on watching out for abuses with illegal wire-tapping and NSLs, I think we can trust him with something called the "System to Assess Risk," a new database they're working on that looks at your car insurance payments and decides whether you're a potential terrorist. Note: If your name is Abdul or Osama, you may want to think about changing it to John or Fred; something less threatening like that.

It's a sad fact that in the end, whether Al Gonzales stays or leaves, no one is going to be running the show over at Justice until we get a new administration in power. Who in his or her right mind would want to take over that mess with only about 500 days to go? I'm thinking there are a lot of people who'd love to see the return of Janet Reno right now! You think you had problems then, ha!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three years and 501 posts of totally pointless -- and unprofessional -- opinion writing.

Gosh, this blog's 3rd anniversary just passed 6 days ago and I didn't even notice (I began this blog on July 4, 2004). This is also my 502nd post at this blog, which is something, I guess. Not to say every post has been exactly monumental in its impact on the blogosphere. Still, 502 posts is nothing to sneeze at. Add to that the 477 posts at Let's Talk About Democracy and you're starting to talk about running up some posting numbers on the many issues, which led up to our current predicament in the world.

But what does it all mater, right? No one cares about opinion writing, just ask those professionial media types. All bloggers are parsites. We take the hard work of real journalists and leech off it because, not only are we all lazy, but we're also crazy. (Well, that goes for the right wing bloggers anyway!)

All of us who are concerned about the way things are going in this country and around the world should just shut up. Either get a journalism degree and get a real job in a corporate media operation, like all the muckrackers of the Gilded Age and the Progessive era did (and pampleteers like Thomas Paine did, too), or leave it to the professionals.

I'm going back to blogging into the ether now, so attention all professional journalists: keep producing all that great material for me to use. We couldn't do it without you all!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Addendum to previous post:

This new plan to get the Sunni militias on our good side is something I saw coming back in July of '05, I think it was at LTAD. If the pentagon had just consulted me back then, we'd be out of Iraq by now!

Best quote by Ray Odinero today:

"We've given them a little ammo, some flares, but mostly humanitarian aid," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. ground forces commander, said last month. "We're not arming these guys, we're just changing the direction they're pointing their guns in. AP

Backing the Sunnis?

So, what is going on here? I read in the paper that British authorities have issued charges against Bilal Abdullah, the Iraqi doctor driving the Jeep Cherokee that crashed into Glasgow Airport. I thought we were fighting a war against terror, not coddling terrorists (due process is only for good criminals, like rapists and murderers). I'm wondering why our limp-wristed, tea drinking allies in the war on terror aren't dropping 2000 lbs bombs on these guys; or hooding them; or whisking them away to undisclosed locations for enhanced interrogation or something manly like that. This is the WOT, not a job for law enforcement! Giving them their day in court only undermines our cherished freedoms. Geez, Louise!

It's sort of telling, though, that even the terrorists in Iraq want out. They've decided to join the other 4 million Iraqis already on the move. I thought I heard somewhere -- don't quote me on this -- that 9000 Iraqi doctors had immigrated to the UK since W. started his perfect little war 2003. If even half that number is correct, then Iraq has big problems.

But, we already knew that. The thing now is to stay the course. In his wisdom, our great war leader told a crowd of captive National Guardsmen on the 4th of July that if we were to leave Iraq now: "The terrorists we are fighting would not lay down their arms. They would follow us here."

The problem with that old lie is that the Iraqi terrorists have followed British home and apparently these two doctors in the UK were trying to make it over here, too. AP reports:

"Two suspects in the British terrorism case contacted a U.S. agency that certifies foreign doctors about coming to the United States, the FBI said Friday."

Who knows how many other terrorists with professional credentials might have slipped through the cracks?

Not to say the DoJ could possibly drop the ball on allowing terrorists into the country or anything, but . . . well, that is what I'm saying. Now that Al Gonzales is laying low, deep in the bunker with the Veep and all his subordinates have either quit or are under subpoena, it's hard to see him paying too much attention much of anything else besides getting to the finish line.

And meanwhile ICE is totally bent on proving to the AM radio crowd how tough they are on illegal-immigrants, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility to speculate that one or more of these guys might be setting up shop as we speak.

In that case, it sure would be nice to have all the thousands of first responders in the Guard, currently fighting in Iraq, back here. Because it seems to me that the only ones we have to worry about are a relatively small number of al-Qaeda types over there that aren't going to be got by any surge.

Despite the doomsday scenario W. and his apologists paint, the Sunni insurgents who make up the bulk of the people we're fighting over there, aren't about to load themselves onto troop carriers and storm the Jersey shores if we pull our troops out tomorrow.

In fact, many of these old line insurgents are now out best buddies. Michael Gordon reports in the NYT that many Sunnis are "less inclined to see the [our] soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear U.S. troop reductions are all but inevitable, and are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from militias." Those being the Shiites and al-Qaeda. The military for its part is more than happy to enlist the help of groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade to root out terrorists and IEDs. Gordon writes that "U.S. officers have been willing to overlook the insurgent past of some of their new allies." [I bet.]

It turns out our commanders on the ground have pretty much given up on the Shiite government in Baghdad being able to do anything about the security situation. Which kind of presents an awkward situation: While W. is burning up the video conferencing lines telling his good buddy Nuri al-Maliki he supports him 100%, his commanders on the ground are shunting the al-Maliki's security forces aside and doing business with Sunni insurgents who up until a few months ago were fighting pitched battles with those same forces and -- oh yeah -- planting IEDs and taking potshots at our guys.

But, that’s all in the past. We're friends now. Wasn't there a rather large uproar in Congress last year when news slipped out that we were talking to groups that might have killed US troops? Not so much now, though, Congressmen up for re-election next year all of a sudden see the practicality of doing deals with the Sunnis.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so. I predicted this development last year.

I wrote in LTAD in March of '06:

"I said it along time ago and I'll say it again, we're going to eventually wind up backing the Sunnis. The Shiites may be the majority in Iraq, but the Sunnis are the majority around the region. If we ever expect to get the help of our Arab allies in the Middle East, we're going to have to back the Sunnis. "

[And I went into this theory at length before that, but I can't find the quote now.]
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