Thursday, March 29, 2007

Okay, I can admit it, I was wrong.

Yes, good reader, like I said in my first post on this blog, I can admit without shame when I am wrong. And wrong I was when I posted earlier today that Kyle Sampson would lie his ass off to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors because they weren't politicizing their cases like the Bush regime and Republican lawmakers wanted them to. Ari Berman of The Nation writes that Alberto Gonzalez's former chief of staff decided, in his own self-interest, to abandon the sinking ship that is the Attorney General's office.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Sampson contradicted Gonzales's claims that he was not directly involved in the firing of eight US attorneys.

"[I] was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on," Gonzales told reporters on March 13. Not true, Sampson says.

"The Attorney General was aware of this process from the beginning," Sampson testified.

I thought Sampson would continue to take the fall for his boss. But like the Rude Pundit so eloquently wrote the other day, it's turning out to be a matter of the "criminals turning on each other faster than hyenas going at the last bit of a carcass." Sampson went into detail about Gonzalez's direct involvement in the decision to sack the eight prosecutors for failing to politicize their cases.

Maybe he figured, as a comment on Berman's piece speculates, that since he was under oath and Lewis Libby got convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, he'd better play it smart and rat out his former boss.

he's under oath, and they have all the e-mails, and he knows what happened to
Libby. Karl Rove? the man is a political genius.

Posted by JOHANNESROLF 03/29/2007 @ 1:04pm

It could be that, but maybe there's a bit of revenge for being made the fall guy, the guy they sacked even though he was a loyal lackey. If it were me, I'd be harboring some mighty bitter feelings for having been giving walking papers just to save one of the asshole-in-chief's buddies, who really doesn't deserve it anyway and let's face it, Gonzalez really is a creepy motherfucker isn't he? Why shouldn't Sampson sing like a canary in a cage?

The fascist Bush got to appoint Attorney General is going down. The signs are there, and it is only a matter of time before he follows Donald Rumsfeld into political retirement. Like I said, it's all about saving the rat bastard-in-chief, and when it comes to that anyone is expendible.

One Flunky Testifies, While Another Refuses

In my previous entry I reported a Reuters news story revealing that Monica Goodling, one of Alberto Gonzalez's flunkies in the Injustice Department, refuses to testify in front of Congress -- choosing to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. This of course gives the distinct impression that Goodling is afraid she will place herself in danger of being caught committing perjury, or that she would be exposed as having committed some other crime(s) under Gonzalez's orders -- thereby implicating not only herself but her boss.

Now, it appears that Gonzalez's former chief of staff is testifying before Congress about the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors for purely political reasons (they refused to politicize prosecutions at the behest of the White House and Republican officials). Undoubtedly Kyle Sampson is busy lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about how and why the firings took place.

But this raises a question in my mind: why, if Gonzalez's former chief of staff has the balls to risk perjury charges for lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, doesn't Goodling? What does she have to lose by testifying under oath? Her job? Probably; but it isn't as if members of the Bush regime haven't had to resign in disgrace before, following very nasty candals. And only one, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has actually been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. With that track record, Goodling really only faces the prospect of losing her job and having to go into the private sector to wait until the next Republican regime comes to power so she can get it back.

There is only one logical explanation: Goodling won't testify because she's trying to hide her role in the attorney firings, and that of her boss. This refusal to testify may only be delaying the inevitable, however. Democrats are calling for Gonzalez to step down, and even a growing number of Republicans are publicly questioning his continued viability as Attorney General. In the end, it's all about protecting George W. Bush from impeachment. And if Gonzalez has to go, like long-time ally Donald Rumsfeld before him, then so be it. Rumsfeld -- who resigned in disgrace as Secretary of War right after the 2006 midterm elections -- found out the hard way that sooner or later, when it comes to protecting the Shrub and his gargoyle, anyone can be sacrificed on the political alter.

Kyle Sampson is lying to Congress as I type this. He'll be caught lying, of course, as all liars eventually are. And he will ultimately make Monica Goodling's refusal to testify seem even more suspicious, thus adding to the exposure of this regime as one that flails about in desperation trying to salvage something it never had -- and that something is credibility. In that same desperate flailing in 2003, a covert CIA operative's career was destroyed and her colleagues' and contacts' lives jeopardized, her work on WMD counterproliferation and America's security compromised. The selfishness of the Bush regime is such that it will sacrifice anyone and anything, including national security, to protect the top dogs. Goodling might do well to consider that when she receives the subpoena, and ponder whether she would serve herself and her country better by telling the truth. After all, it's not as if she isn't expendible to the White House. And if she doubts that, she can ask Rumsfeld.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Gonzalez Flunky Pleads Fifth, Won't Testify

You can read the Reuters news story here. More on this as the scandal develops.

Friday, March 23, 2007

LIEberman again refuses to rule out switching to GOP

The Raw Story reports that Republican Joe LIEberman is once again publicly mulling a switch to the GOP, the party whose money and votes got him another, undeserved term in the U.S. Senate after losing the Democratic primary last August to challenger Ned Lamont.

"I wouldn't rule [a switch to the GOP] out," Leiberman says to [Norah] O'Donnell, adding that "my real hope here is to stay and fight for the kind of Democratic Party I joined when John F. Kennedy was president." He also says that he could support a Republican pro-war presidential candidate.
Translation: he's hoping he can force Democratic candidates to abandon, once and for all, the progressive wing and join up fully with the conservative Democratic Leadership Council -- the hawkish, pro-Israeli apartheid wing of the party that is also conveniently pro-corporate -- by holding over their heads the threat of caucusing with the Republicans, thereby throwing control of the Senate to them and halting investigations that have so far uncovered the multitude of lies told by Alberto Gonzalez under oath about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys for purely political reasons.

What's that? You doubt what I'm saying? Read on:

Earlier, the Hartford Courant reported that "money poured in" from Republican donors after Lieberman lost in the Democratic primary while running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. Lieberman later defeated challenger Ned Lamont in the general election.
And he did it with Republican money, political support and votes ("On August 17, 2006 the National Republican Senatorial Committee stated that they would favor a Lieberman victory in the November election over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont," according to the Wikipedia entry on him -- LIEberman would go on to win over Lamont in the general election, with a strong majority of Republicans voting for the incumbent and an equally strong majority of Democrats voting against him, as shown by a CNN exit poll last year). breaks down the vote total by party:

Democratic Votes:
Lamont - 65%
Lieberman - 33%
Schlesinger - 2%

Republican Votes:
Lamont - 8%
Lieberman - 70%
Schlesinger - 21%

Independent Votes:
Lamont - 35%
Lieberman - 54%
Schlesinger - 10%

So here's what we have with Joe LIEberman: a Republican who has been masquerading as a Democrat for years, so he could win election in a Blue State. A Republican who got all pissy because voters got sick of him lying to them and cozying up to a dictator and his party, that have run this once-great nation into the ground. A Republican who is abusing his "independent" status to force Democrats in the Senate to cave in on issues vital to the public, against the wishes of said public. A Republican who refuses to rule out making what has been obvious to everyone official, and is stating flat out that he is willing to publicly back the Republican nominee for president next year.

I'm betting LIEberman jumps ship this year, probably within the next six months. All it'll take is for him to think there is a serious chance doing so will protect his precious little tin dictator Shrubya from the growing number of official investigations and subpoenas (he's already abused his position as chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee to block investigations into the regime's missteps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). Voters in Connecticut who were duped by LIEberman ought to feel betrayed, and respond with a very public recall election.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nixon is laughing his ass off in hell.

You just know he's laughing from his place in hell. The president who created a Constitutional crisis in the 1970s in the wake of the Watergate scandal, leading to the Articles of Impeachment being drawn up against him -- thereby forcing him to resign from office to avoid the inevitable shitstorm impeachment would bring -- is cackling with the sort of maniacal glee only the damned can produce as they wither forever in the flames of Perdition, and have suddenly become privy to some uproariously funny bit of news from the land of the living. Richard Nixon's shade is laughing because he has been through the exact same song and dance routine George W. Bush is now trying to mimic. And he knows, in the void where his heart should be, that sooner or later it's all going to come crashing down around the would-be dictator's ears.

Nixon tried to fire U.S. attorneys investigating his involvement in crimes and political scandals. But he didn't have the support apparatus Bush has now, with six years of a complacent, complicit Republican Congress and an Orwellian "PATRIOT Act" granting his administration authority to bypass Congress in matters of appointing federal prosecutors. Nor did he have a spineless Democrat-controlled Congress that was afraid to raise the specter of impeachment for refusing to comply with Congressional investigations.

But Nixon ultimately realized that sooner or later, when you've tried to grab more power than you're legally entitled to and the outrage has built to epic proportions, you're going to end up paying. And pay he did. Congress had had enough of Nixon's power-grabbing, and so had the public. He was forced to resign, rather than risk an impeachment process that would have eventually landed him in prison and ended the Republican Party's political ambitions for generations.

That same, sick scenario is playing out again -- only this time the stakes are much higher. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez and all the other fascists that comprise the regime are not about to let themselves be made subject to the rule of law. They are too selfish to give up their ill-gotten power, and they don't care about the damage their actions are causing this nation. Congressional Democrats may be more timid than they were when Nixon was president, but this will not last; they are starting, albeit slowly, to find their spines. And now that they're back in power, they aren't going to be told "no" by the regime. The public wants answers, and it wants justice. It's why Democrats were voted back into power last Fall. And a righteously angry public will not be denied.

Nixon learned the hard way that you can't stall justice forever. You can try, but sooner or later justice will find a way to win out. Which is why he's laughing his dead ass off even as he roasts in the fires of hell: because his old cronies Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld really thought they could succeed where their old boss had failed, that they and their buddy Shrubya could commit high crimes in office and manage to escape their predecessor's fate; but Nixon knows from experience that just isn't so. Some people never learn from history, and so are condemned to repeat it. This is the delicious irony Nixon is cackling over. Misery loves company, and Nixon knows he's going to be reunited with his old pals from back in the day. Good times!

Gerald Ford's shade has now shambled over to the specter of his old boss. He, too, found out the hard way what happens to presidents who try to deny a pissed off electorate justice. He asks Nixon what's so god-damned funny, and Dicky-boy tells him. Ford simply shakes his head in sorrow (for he knows that some folks never learn, and that he is going to have to suffer the presence of the cretins who surrounded him in the '70s forever--"goddamnit, the afterlife well and truly sucks and why oh why did I ever pardon this fucking maniac?"), and shambles back off to his own corner of Perdition to sulk. Nixon just scowls at his former veep, his mirthful mood now ruined. "Johnson was right about him," Nixon thinks. "Too dumb to even fart and chew gum at the same time, much less have a sense of humor." Or irony.

Friday, March 16, 2007

David Corn on Plame's Testimony

David Corn of The Nation writes about Valerie Plame Wilson's testimony today before a Congressional Committee hearing spearheaded by Henry Waxman:

Anyone who has read Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by Michael Isikoff and me, would know (as we disclosed for the first time) that Valerie Wilson was the undercover operations chief for the Joint Task Force on Iraq of the Counterproliferation Division, a unit of the agency's clandestine operations directorate. (See my piece, "What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA," here.) Both the book and the article reported that she had traveled overseas--undercover--within the five years before her name appeared in the Novak column. There was other evidence--official evidence--that she had been a covert officer at the CIA. When special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Libby in October 2005, he said that Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA was classified information. (He repeated that at the trial.) And in a January 2004 letter to Democratic Representative John Conyers, the CIA noted that the Valerie Wilson's CIA employment status was "classified information."

Now comes the victim of the leak. Testifying to the committee, Valerie Wilson reported that the CIA still prohibits her from saying much about her CIA career. (The agency has held up the publication of her memoirs, claiming at one point that she cannot acknowledge working for the CIA prior to 2002.) But Plame was able to tell the committee, "I was a covert officer." She said she helped to "manage and run operations." She noted that prior to the Iraq war she had "raced to discover intelligence" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions," she said under oath, "to find vital intelligence." She said these trips had occurred within the past five years. She added that she could "count on one hand" the number of people outside the CIA who knew of her employment at the agency: "It was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit." She also explained that a covert officer at the CIA is "just like a general" who may spend time commanding troops in Afghanistan and then return to the Pentagon before heading off to another theater: "Covert operations officers, when they rotate back for temporary assignment in Washington, are still covert."

Before she testified, Representative Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, read an opening statement in which he said that Valerie Wilson had been a "covert" officer" who had "served at various times overseas" and "worked on the prevention of the development and use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States." Waxman noted that the CIA had cleared this statement. And during the questioning period, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings reported that General Michael Hayden, the CIA director, had told him, "Ms. Wilson was covert."

When the White House engaged in the leaking of Plame Wilson's identity as CIA, it was done with full knowledge that she was a covert operative. It had to be; Cheney's office was in charge of the operation run by Joe Wilson's wife, they went looking for her when her husband went public with what he knew about the Iraq-Niger lie, and someone undoubtedly would have discovered her covert status upon learning she was CIA. Thus the crime of knowingly revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA officer is itself proven--if only in the court of public opinion. Congress must issue subpeonas and hear testimony under oath, with charges of perjury and obstruction of justice preceeding impeachment or other sanctions for those caught lying under oath.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Arguments Against the Arguments Against Impeachment

In my previous two entries, I went into some detail about the revelations exposed in large part by the trial and conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby: that he was part of but one of several efforts going on within the Bush regime to discredit Joseph Wilson by outing his wife as CIA.

As John Nichols of The Nation reports, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) is preparing to investigate the leaking of Valerie Plame-Wilson's status as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency to the press in 2003. But as Laura Flanders--also of The Nation--reports, Congressional Democrats are too worried about risking the chances of their party taking back the White House next year to perform their sworn duty to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Such cowardice is unconscionable in light of the literally hundreds of instances of lawbreaking, violations of the U.S. Constitution, and abuses of executive power. The excuses given for not impeaching and removing a dictatorial regime from power are many, but when examined closely they fall short of credibility. I will now debunk each "argument" (read: lame excuse) against impeachment that has most often popped up.
  • Impeaching Bush and Cheney would divide an already split nation.
The nation is already hotly divided along partisan lines, no thanks to the Bush regime and its neocon enablers in the right-wing press. But polls have shown that the majority of Americans favor impeachment if it is shown that Bush and Cheney lied us into war and if it is demonstrated that they played active roles in outing Valerie Plame-Wilson as CIA. This is a far cry from the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which most Americans opposed, rightly recognizing the process as purely motivated by partisan politics.
  • Republicans would have a field day attacking Democrats with charges of partisan politics.
They're doing that anyway. If the situation is "damned if they do, and damned if they don't," Democrats might as well be damned for doing. They can also seize control of the debate by pointing out that they are simply following the GOP's lead from 1998 and holding an executive who has broken the law accountable. They can say, "Republicans believed that perjury was worthy of impeachment, so why not lying us into war or outing a CIA operative?" Fear of recrimination from a political party that is now out of power in the most important branch of government shouldn't prevent Democrats from doing what they have to do.
  • Impeachment now would be pointless, since it is so close to the next presidential election cycle.
Pointless, perhaps, if you look at it from a strictly political point of view. However, from a Constitutional point of view there is indeed a point: impeaching both Bush and Cheney would prevent them from issuing pardons for themselves and their lackeys after leaving office. Although impeachment would never make it past the Senate (unless evidence of high crimes comes out that is so compelling it convinces 66 senators to vote in favor), it would nevertheless demonstrate that high crimes in office will not be tolerated no matter what political convenience dictates.
  • Democrats need to focus their time and energy on ending the war in Iraq, preventing war with Iran and passing a progressive agenda. Impeachment would simply distract from that.
This is perhaps the most obviously flawed argument against impeaching the Shrub and his gargoyle; with a such a tenuous grip on the Senate and Bush's veto power, Democrats are in no position to pass their legislative agenda now. Republicans in the Senate will filibuster any progressive legislation that passes the House of Representatives, or else force Democrats to accept amendments that gut their bills. And even if by some miracle their legislation manages to pass both chambers of Congress intact, Democrats simply do not have enough votes to override the inevitable veto. And even in the highly unlikely event Congress does manage to override an executive veto, the Shrub will just issue another illegal signing statement voiding the law. This would obviously include any binding legislation ending the war in Iraq, and blocking military action against Iran without Congressional approval. In short, there is already a stalemate that gives Democrats nothing but time and energy to devote to impeachment proceedings. And impeachment would certainly prevent the Shrub and his gargoyle from starting yet another war America can't win.
  • It would hurt Democrats going into next year's elections.
Impeaching Bill Clinton in 1998 did not cause the GOP to lose control of Congress in 2000; nor did it prevent them from stealing the presidency that same, latter election cycle. But let's look at the other side of this argument: when Gerald Ford, in a selfish act of political pragmatism, pardoned Richard Nixon it backfired on him completely; he lost the presidential election in 1976. Ford pardoned Nixon one month after his predecessor resigned from the presidency ahead of impeachment. Thinking a drawn out trial would hurt him politically, Ford reasoned that it would be better to risk the ire of voters than to have any reminder that he was Nixon's vice president, and therefore tied (no matter how precariously) to the Watergate scandal. But the gamble did not pay off. The American public, denied the justice they craved in the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam war, expressed their anger by voting in Democrat Jimmy Carter as president. Democrats would do well to remember this history lesson going into next year's election: impeaching Bush and Cheney for high crimes may not cost them Congress or the White House, but letting them get away with high crimes crimes surely will.

So there you have it; there is no valid reason, no excuse Congressional Democrats have for shirking their Constitutional duties. Impeachment is at this point the only way to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes. And if Democrats are smart they can go to the saner Republicans in both chambers and make a deal, in which the latter group's legislation will get a fair debate if--and ONLY IF--they support Democratic efforts to impeach and remove Bush and Cheney. Not that this will happen, mind you, but it's a possibility.

But someone needs first to light the fire under Congress to do its duty. Recall efforts must be used to force key Democrats (and Republicans) to initiate and support impeachment. Although such recall efforts are not likely to succeed, a real threat of early removal from office may be enough to get things moving. And savvy voters could point out that California governor Gray Davis was successfully removed from office in 2003, mere months after his re-election. If members of Congress targeted for recall elections balk at the idea of impeachment, they will use some variation of the above excuses for why they won't do their jobs. You can use my points in crafting your counter-arguments. If efforts by state legislatures work to force the House of Representatives to debate impeachment, these points will prove even more invaluable in that they may be used to convince squeamish members to find their backbones.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

To Serve But Not Protect: Abuse of Women in the US Military

Celebrate International Women's Day!

With some truth:

Amy Goodman, on the always valuable Democracy Now! featured today some eye opening interviews about the treatment women serving our military in Iraq receive from their fellow male soldiers. Her guests describe high levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault of female soldiers by male soldiers. The harassment is so bad that:
[Q]uite a few [women in the military] ... were ordered to not go out at night alone and not to go to the latrines or the showers without a buddy, without another woman. This was not being told to the men, and the problem was that there often weren’t other women to choose... or it entailed waking somebody up in the middle of the night to get them to go with you. And, you know, the soldiers are working twelve hours a day, on the whole, out there. They’re getting almost no sleep. They wake up all night long for one reason or another. So having to wake somebody up because you need to go to the bathroom is not as light as it may sound. But also, they felt that -- it was a universal recognition that it was dangerous for women out there. And they weren’t talking about danger from the Iraqis, they were talking about, as I’ve said, danger from their fellow soldiers.

Colonel Janis Karpinski, best known for her role as commander of the Abu Ghraib prison, has also spoken out on the treatment of female soldiers in Iraq. Last year, she testified:
Because the women, in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the portoilets or the latrines, were not drinking liquids after 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. And in 120-degree heat or warmer, because there was no air conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep. And rather than make everybody aware of that, because that’s shocking -- and as a leader, if that’s not shocking to you, then you’re not much of a leader -- so what they told the surgeon to do was, “Don’t brief those details anymore. And don’t say specifically that they’re women. You can provide that in a written report, but don’t brief it in the open anymore.”

The fear of assault was so high that women have died of dehydration. And the army simply directed for it to be covered up.

One woman veteran described how she carried a knife at night.
AMY GOODMAN: You carried a knife with you?
SPC. MICKIELA MONTOYA: Yeah, and I would carry a knife with me later on.
AMY GOODMAN: For what purpose?
SPC. MICKIELA MONTOYA: Just to feel safe, because, I mean, you can’t -- I don’t know. I don’t know, I just felt safer that way.
AMY GOODMAN: Safe from the Iraqis?
SPC. MICKIELA MONTOYA: No, safe from the other soldiers. I never intended on using the knife for an Iraqi. I had my M-16 for that. But my knife, I always just kept it for another soldier, because any time I would have any type of strong sexual harassment words spoken, I just mainly felt a little bit more secure, and it was visible, too, to the other soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Helen Benedict, [professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, who has written three books on sexual assault and abuse], what is the Pentagon doing about this?
HELEN BENEDICT: They have set up a sexual assault website, which gives directions to soldiers on how to report a sexual assault either anonymously or not anonymously, and it defines it. And they also are now holding classes on what sexual harassment is. Very often if there is a report of an assault, the first response is to hold one of these classes.
The trouble is, all the soldiers I’ve talked to say, that this is just a kind of cosmetic. The reality is you can’t report it anonymously. These are closed societies full of gossip. Everybody knows what’s going on, as you’ve already heard. And also, the leadership don’t really want to hear about this, because it disrupts the chain of command, it undermines morale. So the result is that most soldiers don’t say anything, and when they do, they’re shut up.

Another woman vet, Spc. Suzanne Swift decribes how she was pressured by her platoon sergeant into having sex. She reported it, but nothing happened. And when she cut it off, he “made [her] life hell.”
When she came back from Iraq, she was then going to be redeployed, and she was getting ready to go, but then, as she was making her way to the car, she said to her mother she just couldn’t do it, and she went AWOL. The Eugene police came to her house, to her mother's house, and they arrested her. They handcuffed her, and then she was put back on the base in Fort Lewis. She called her mother, and she said she was put under the supervision of one of the officers who had abused her.
She was court-martialed. She was offered a deal initially. If she would sign a statement saying that she had never been raped in the Army, they would just give her a summary court-martial, which means a reprimanding letter in the file. She refused to sign that, saying she wouldn’t let them make her lie. And so, she was court-martialed. She served a month in prison, December, and she was told she had to stay in the Army for another two years.

Celebrate International Woman's Day and support the troops by telling a little truth about the treatment of women in the army.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Truths Exposed In the Libby Trial

Right-wingers are frothing at the mouth over I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction on charges of perjury, falsifying statements to federal investigators, and obstruction of justice. On a local radio show this morning, one I listen to when my clock-radio alarm goes off in the morning before work, all but one of the hosts knows the truth and states it. Only one denier continued to propagate the deceptions Bush apologists have been using to confuse the general public about what this trial was really all about.

This being the Truth Zone, it is my solemn duty to tell the truth whenever lies are told. And lies are being told about the Libby trial, and especially now that guilty verdicts have been handed down. In my previous entry, I went into some detail about the sordid facts of the leak investigation that culminated in Libby's conviction. I will re-iterate those facts, and provide new information gleaned from the Libby trial.

This is what we know: Members of the Bush regime leaked the identity of a covert CIA officer to the press in the Summer of 2003, in retaliation for her husband's calling bullshit on a major lie told by the regime about Iraq in the run-up to the war. They leaked her CIA status not only as a means of revenge for unpleasant truths spoken publicly, but also to intimidate future whistleblowers. Since it is a crime to leak the identity of a CIA officer, the Justice Department was left with no choice but to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the leak; this was done at the behest of the CIA, which knew a crime had been committed.

David Corn of The Nation and Michael Isikoff of Newsweek did their own, journalistic investigation and wrote a book telling what they had learned, titled, "HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR". Among other revelations, Corn and Isikoff describe what it is exactly that Valerie Plame-Wilson did at the CIA. They explain she was NOC (Non-Official Cover, which means her status was unknown to all but those who needed to know). And they also explain who else besides Libby leaked the information to the press.

Karl Rove, for instance, was one of conservative columnist Robert Novak's sources for his July 2003 column, in which he blabbed that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Wilson, you may recall, had been asked to go to the African nation of Niger to confirm for the Bush regime what the CIA and other, more independent officials had already dismissed as unreliable information: allegations that Iraq had tried to acquire a form of uranium, called "yellowcake," from that country. Wilson went in 2002, spoke with the relevant people, and came back having confirmed the exact opposite of what the Bush regime wanted--that no such attempt to acquire uranium had taken place; the French consortium that controlled its former colony's uranium mines practiced the strictest oversight, and the shipping routes' geographic nature made it impossible to sneak large quantities of uranium out of the country (Iraq was accused of trying to purchase 500 tons). Documents allegedly proving an attempted transaction were proven to be crude forgeries, which were drafted with the help of an Italian huckster seeking to make money by peddling false information to Italy's intelligence agency.

Although this highly dubious intel was kept out of speeches in 2002, in January 2003 then undersecretary of state John Bolton (who would go on to become the U.S.'s ambassador to the United Nations) succeeded in getting the false Iraq-Niger allegation inserted into George W. Bush's state of the union address. The invasion and occupation of Iraq commenced about two months later, with the case for war having been strengthened significantly by that lie. Months later, Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed explaining his trip to Niger, revealing the deception behind the White House's drive for war. With no WMD found in Iraq and media criticism publicly embarrassing the regime, a concerted effort to discredit Wilson was launched.

Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, then-White House spokesliar Ari Fleischer and others in the regime leaked his wife's CIA identity to members of the press--including Novak, Time's Matt Cooper and the NYT's Judy Miller. But only Novak used what he had been told to aid and abet the Bush regime in its crime by going to print with what he knew. According to Corn, writing yesterday for The Nation on the Libby verdict:

Libby's account, Fitzgerald charged, was a cover story designed to remove him and the vice president from a leak investigation that was targeting the White House. At the trial, Fitzgerald methodically presented a series of witnesses who testified that weeks before the leak they had told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA: Marc Grossman, who had been undersecretary of state for policy in 2003; Robert Grenier, a former top CIA official; and Cathie Martin, who had been Cheney's communications director. Craig Schmall, Libby's CIA briefer at the time, testified that Libby had discussed Valerie Wilson with him. Schmall also testified that after the leak occurred, while he was briefing both Cheney and Libby, they asked him what he thought about the leak scandal. Noting that some commentators had dismissed the leak as "no big deal," Schmall explained that he considered it a "grave danger." He explained to Libby and Cheney that foreign intelligence services could now investigate everyone who had come into contact with Valerie Wilson when she had served overseas. "Those people," he said, "innocent or otherwise, could be harassed...tortured or killed

Fitzgerald also called Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, as a witness. Fleischer, who had struck an immunity deal with Fitzgerald in return for his testimony, testified that on July 7, 2003--the day after Joseph Wilson published an op-ed piece accusing the White House of having twisted the prewar intelligence--Libby disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA link to him at lunch and said this information was "hush-hush." The conversation Fleischer recalled, was "odd." (Fleischer also testified that he had leaked information to two reporters about Valerie Wilson--although it was unclear whether he had done anything more than egg on these reporters to discover her CIA connection. Later in the trial, Washington Post reporter testified that Fleischer had disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA connection to him.)

But that's not the only revelation to come out of the trial. As Corn writes, "Matt Cooper testified Libby had confirmed for him the leak about Valerie Wilson he had received from Karl Rove." So Rove was, contrary to right-wing liars' defense of all people and things pertaining to the Shrub, just one of many sources for the leak. In fact, the trial revealed that he had vetted the Noval column just days prior to its publication. But the uncovering of the truth doesn't stop there. From the Nation column:

It was a powerful case. All these witnesses--except Russert--said they had spoken to Libby about Wilson's wife prior to the leak. Three said they had provided Libby information about her. (And Libby had conceded that Cheney had done so, too.) Libby, though, had told the FBI and the grand jury he had known nothing concrete about her at the time of the leak. And his explanation was convoluted: yes, Cheney had told him that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA; but he had forgotten that the vice president had done so; he then heard about her from Russert and believed this was the first time he was learning about her. This defense--I knew, I forgot, I learned it anew and was surprised--was implausible.

These revelations open a small window into the workings of a diseased regime bent on war, and bent on revenge against anyone who publicly embarrassed Bush & Co. by telling the truth in a public forum. But they don't end there, as Corn concludes his piece:

The trial was not a satisfying end to the leak case. Fitzgerald's mission was not to discover the whole truth of the saga and reveal all to the public (as he pointed out when speaking to reporters today). He was on the hunt for a crime--and for criminals. He ultimately concluded he could not prosecute the leakers--Rove, Libby, and then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage--for having disclosed information regarding Valerie Wilson. (The law prohibiting government officials from intentionally revealing information about clandestine intelligence officials requires a prosecutor to prove the leaker knew the officer was undercover.) So his criminal investigation focused on whether Libby lied. (He also investigated Rove for having possibly lied to the grand jury but ultimately decided not to indict him.) Consequently, only information from his investigation related to the Libby cover-up became public. What else Fitzgerald uncovered remains a secret. And per the rules governing criminal cases, it will stay a secret, he told reporters.

After the verdict was delivered, only one juror, Denis Collins, a Washington Post reporter in the 1980s, spoke to the press. He noted that jurors more than once asked, Why was Libby here, not Rove, not someone else? "Where are these other guys?" he said. The jurors were convinced, he noted, that Libby was guilty as charged (on four of the counts). But the jurors also believed he had been ordered by Cheney to talk to reporters as part of the White House's spin operation. In other words, some White House wrongdoers or conspirators (if not conspirators in the strict legal definition of the word) had gotten off. But there was nothing the jurors could do about this, he said: "It was not a question of who we could punish about going to Iraq." What about the prospect of a presidential pardon? one reporter asked Collins. Will you feel cheated if Bush pardons him? No, Collins replied: "He's been pilloried. We found him guilty." (Conservatives have already started a campaign for a Libby pardon.)

Unless Libby sings in exchange for a lighter sentence, unlikely given that his lawyers are pushing for a new trial and an appeal should that effort fail (with a likely pardon by Bush waiting in the wings should it become necessary), Fitzgerald cannot use what evidence he has to go after Cheney, Rove and the others; Fleischer cut a deal to avoid prosecution, so he is essentially untouchable as well. Libby will not spend enough time in prison, if any, and so will have no reason to blab to Fitzgerald to save his own skin from a potential thirty-year sentence. So the investigation into who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame-Wilson's CIA status is over, with only one man's criminal conviction and a sense that justice was not truly served. The primary criminals got away with their crimes, because Congress will not initiate impeachment proceedings or launch its own, official investigation of the leak.

These are the unfortunate truths exposed by the Libby trial and its verdict: Not only were there multiple efforts within the Bush regime to punish Joe Wilson for telling the truth about a major lie that led to war by leaking his wife's CIA identity, the people responsible will not be prosecuted and the one man who took the fall will likely not see any significant time in prison. Nor will Congress do anything about it, unless the public forces it to. This is what America has come to, good readers. Next entry, I debunk the primary excuses given for not impeaching Bush and Cheney in my effort to join in pressuring Congress to do its job.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby Guilty on Four of Five Counts

The jury has finally delivered its verdict: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is guilty on four out of five counts pertaining to perjury, lying to federal investigators, and obstructing justice. Dick Cheney's former chief of staff could face twenty-five years in prison, according to the Reuters news article that came out today.

As The Nation's David Corn waits for attorneys to finish preening in front of the cameras to write up his complete evaluation of the trial, its outcome and its consequences, fellow Nation writer Max Blumenthal gives his own take on the verdict. In order to understand the full scope of this trial and its consequences, it is necessary to explain some important historical facts.

NOC, or Non-Official Cover, means exactly what the designation implies: Valerie Wilson's status as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency was classified -- unknown to all but her superiors, her immediate household and most of her colleagues operating inside the clandestine operation she led. Her cover, working for a dummy corporation called Brewster Jennings, was set up to protect her real job at the Agency: head of a counter-proliferation outfit on alleged Iraqi WMD. NOCs are different from Official-Cover agents, who typically claim to work for other areas of government; NOCs must pretend to be private citizens, completely unaffiliated with the federal government. These agents come and go from the field as needed in the course of their intel-gathering work. Although assigned to a desk job at the time her cover was blown, Valerie Plame-Wilson maintained her NOC status. Her identity as a Central Intelligence Agent was still top secret. She was undercover.

This cover was blown, not by some foreign enemy, but by her own employers in the Bush regime. They did this horrible thing because her husband called bullshit on a lie told by that regime, in which Iraq was falsely accused of having tried to purchase 500 tons of "yellowcake" uranium from a Nigerian mine. The lie was debunked in July 2003, in an op-ed by former ambassador to Niger, Joseph Wilson. He was sent to determine the validity of claims that Iraqi officials had tried to purchase the uranium in an attempt to obtain the materials necessary to make nuclear weapons.

But Wilson's trip proved the exact opposite of what Cheney and Bush wanted to be told. The uranium consortium was and remains tightly controlled by the French, and no one would have been able to make inquiries without raising red flags. Furthermore, documents allegedly proving a transaction were exposed as crude forgeries. Wilson came back and reported this to the CIA in 2002. Nevertheless, despite the lie having been successfully ommitted from Bush's speeches that same year, then-undersecretary of state John Bolton managed to get the deception inserted into the Shrub's 2003 State of the Union address.

Months after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, bolstered in large part by the Iraq-Niger lie, Wilson wrote his op-ed telling the public what he knew. The column was printed in newspapers across the nation, including the New York Times. In retaliation, the Bush-Cheney White House leaked the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame-Wilson, to members of the press, hoping some of them would publish this classified information in the right-wing media's attempts to discredit the former ambassador.

In spite of empty promises to fire anyone caught being involved in the leak, the people directly involved in leaking Plame's identity to the press were never shown the door. But when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald got hold of the case, indicting Libby on five charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Cheney's chief of staff was forced to resign.

The investigation stalled, because Libby lied to the FBI and to the grand jury. Concocting a bullshit defense of poor memory, Scooter's attorney's tried unsuccessfully to get their client acquitted. Fitzgerald brought out witnesses from both the press and the Bush regime, all of whom contradicted Libby's earlier testimony before the grand jury. The defense failed to knock holes in the prosecution's case, at least on four of the five charges. And it failed to deliver promised testimony from Libby, and Cheney himself. Which isn't surprising, since Cheney would have committed perjury in order to protect himself from disclosures of his own involvement in the leak.

The revelations in the trial have made clear that Cheney, Karl Rove and other high-ranking officials in the regime (including former White House spokesliar Ari Fleischer) were along with Libby actively engaged in leaking Valerie Plame's CIA identity to members of the press. The reasons for doing this were two: to retaliate against her husband for telling unpleasant truths in a most public manner, and to intimidate other, potential whistleblowers from coming forward with what they knew about the campaign of deception in the run-up to the Iraq war.

So Libby is guilty of lying to the FBI and a grand jury, and of obstructing justice. And on the one charge of which he was acquitted, lying to the FBI about his conversation with former Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper, the jury only found him not guilty because the charge was lying to the FBI and not lying to Matt Cooper; Libby had lied to the Time reporter when he had said he didn't even know Wilson had a wife. Even though the jury believed Libby had been honest with the FBI in saying he had lied to a reporter about what he knew, the eleven-member group (one was dismissed for becoming "contaminated" by outside news). But this was the least offensive charge Libby was acquitted for; he was convicted on the more serious charges. What does this mean, then, for the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA 'NOC' after her husband called the Bush regime out for one of its bigger lies in the run-up to the Iraq war? Will we see Cheney indicted for illegally disclosing Plame's covert CIA status? Will Karl Rove now face charges, having been revealed to have vetted right-wing columnist Robert Novak's piece outing Mrs. Wilson as CIA? And if either of them do face the prospect of indictment, will it be enough for Democrats to finally begin the impeachment process?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lamont Calls LIEberman Out. Again.

Go check out Ned Lamont's entry at the Huffington Post. It's worth reading, if only for reminding ourselves that Joe LIEberman deserves to be recalled by Connecticut voters for, as usual, lying to them.

Meanwhile, The Nation's John Nichols reports that a number of towns in Vermont are preparing to vote on impeachment.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rudy - The Mayoralty Years - Parte Une

In 1982, Rudy had been married to his childhood sweetheart, Regina Peruggi, who was also his cousin (first or second depending upon whose version you believe) for 14 years. Suddenly, our man became possessed by the spirit of Henry VIII and claimed to have discovered that he didn't have the correct dispensation from the Catholic Church for said marriage and promptly obtained an annulment. What he had really discovered was Donna Hanover, a soap opera actress whom he had met down in Miami, presumably while he was busy returning Haitian boat people to the Tonton Macoute. In 1984, she became Donna Giuliani, the mother of his children - of whom she later retained custody when she became Donna Hanover again. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In 1989, Rudy decided to run for Mayor of New York City as a "Liberal" Republican - Liberal because he sought and received the endorsement of the New York State Liberal Party, headed by one Ray Harding. Everyone wondered why Harding would endorse a Republican over Democratic candidate David Dinkins - they were not to find out for another 10 years. Giuliani was narrowly defeated by Dinkins, losing primarily because of low ratings among minorities whose instinct remained unfailingly correct through the next 2 elections.

Although crime in New York had decreased in every year of Dinkins' administration, he never trumpeted the fact and his reputation suffered as a result of the Crown Heights riots. Giuliani's "law and order" campaign played upon racist fears and appealed almost exclusively to upper-class New Yorkers. In a well-publicized 1992 incident, he appeared at a rally for the Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA), where a mob of off-duty policemen, some in uniform, gathered outside City Hall, shouting racist epithets about Dinkins and bearing subtle signs such as "Dump the washroom attendant". It brought Rudy some bad publicity, but despite receiving a record low percentage of the minority vote, he edged Dinkins in the 1993 election thus becoming the first Republican Mayor of New York City since John Lindsey (a true Liberal) in 1965.

Giuliani's plan for crime reduction was simple: zero-tolerance of petty crimes such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, aggressive "squeegee men", homelessness, etc. To implement this plan, Rudy appointed Bill Bratton as NY Police Commissioner in 1994. Bratton instituted a system called CompStat, which encouraged precinct heads to meet their quota, but also enabled them to underreport crime in their precincts. Thus Bratton was credited with the ensuing crime reduction and in 1996 his picture appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. In a jealous rage, Rudy fired him immediately and continued to take credit for the ever-decreasing crime rate, even though the same same thing was happening in most major American cities during the 1990's.

However, his dreams of glory took a southward turn with the police brutality case that grabbed national headlines in 1997. Abner Louima, a 30-year old Haïtian immigrant, interceded in a fight between two women in a nightclub.. The police were called and a confrontation between the police and the patrons and bystanders erupted. The responding patrol officers included Justin Volpe, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder, and Thomas Wiese, among others. In the ensuing scuffle, officer Volpe thought he was struck by a "sucker punch" and for reasons that remain unclear, identified Louima as his assailant and arrested him.

The arresting officers beat Louima with their fists, nightsticks and hand-held police radios on the ride to the station. The beating continued later, culminating with Louima being sexually abused in a bathroom at the 70th Precinct station house in Brooklyn. Officer Justin Volpe kicked Louima in the groin, then, while Louima's hands were cuffed behind his back, sodimized him with his nightstick and various other degradations that required several operations to repair. I'll skip the rest of the details for the faint of heart (which includes me). Louima also initially claimed that the officers involved in the attack called him a n***** and shouted, "This is Giuliani time" during the beating. He later recanted this claim, and the reversal was used by defense lawyers to cast doubt on the entirety of his testimony.

Volpe initially pleaded not guilty to several counts of violating Louima's civil rights, obstruction of justice and making false statements to police. Midway through the trial, Volpe changed his plea to guilty, confessing to having sodomized Louima. Despite the fact Louima had several broken teeth, Volpe denied that he ever struck Louima in the mouth with the stick and claimed that he only put it very close to Louima's mouth. Volpe also admitted that he had threatened Louima's life; in 1999, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, a $525 fine and restitution in the amount of $277,495.

Charles Schwarz was convicted in 2000 for helping Volpe assault Louima in the bathroom and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Public condemnation of the attack, however, was not universal. For instance, Sean Hannity was one of Louima's biggest critics during the trial, charging that he had fabricated the rape, calling him "lying Louima", and using interviews with people alleging Louima had past sexual relationships with men to bolster the claim that he had sustained his injuries during a "gay sex act." Hannity stopped using the "Lying Louima" epithet after Volpe confessed to sodomizing Louima with the help of another officer.

[Thanks to Wikipedia for their account of the Louima case].

Here endeth the first term of Rudolph Giuliani

Next Rudy - The mayoralty years - Part Deux