Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The NYT Looks at America

I think this editorial in yesterday's New York Times is significant, as the mainstream media come around to realize that America has gone wrong. It is sad to remember that this very newspaper was one of the leading voices to drag us into the hole we're in now, repeating the lies, promoting the propaganda as our leaders robbed us of our rights, our self-respect, and our common sense, but it is good to see them waking up. It isn't just that mistakes have been made, or accidents have overwhelmed us -- the past seven years have been a nightmare that we brought on ourselves by electing these criminals. (You can argue about vote-counts, but they would have been irrelevant if the people had decidedly ejected these clowns from our national discourse.)

It is impossible for local citizens to fight at the national level, and I believe TeachTheFacts.org has done as well as you can do, staking out a realistic-sized battlefield, digging our trenches, and coming out day after day to fight the local fight against moral ugliness. People in communities all over the country have done this, but you can only do so much when the national leadership is dragging the country down as fast as they can.

This NYT piece pulls no punches. I think it adequately expresses the sense of gloomy outrage that many of us feel as we watch the country we love turn into something shameful.
There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.

Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.

In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where “high-value detainees” were subjected to ever more barbaric acts, including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that “experts” could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed, after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans would never know.

The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners — some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports — to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress.

These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush’s two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more — so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America. Looking at America

There is one big thing I disagree with in this editorial: the solution they recommend. I'm sorry, but "We can only hope" doesn't do it. If you care, this is a time for action. You need to resolve to stop this decay, and if you can, if you have an extra minute in your day, if you have an extra ounce of energy, you need to speak out, you need to act, you need to do something besides "only hope." If all you do is study the candidates and make sure you vote for the right one, we'll consider that "doing something."

People, join us in fighting back. I don't care which candidate you back or what party you're affiliated with, but let's look at the upcoming campaigns as an opportunity to put our once-proud country back on her feet. Look at the big picture; we need to turn things around radically and rapidly.


Anonymous Impeach them! said...

Stonewalled by the C.I.A.

MORE than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” — and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks. Soon after its creation, the president’s chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission.

The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.

...As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.’s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.

Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton served as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the 9/11 commission.

January 02, 2008 7:36 AM  
Anonymous yeah-yeah-yeah said...

"this editorial in yesterday's New York Times is significant, as the mainstream media come around to realize that America has gone wrong"

Oh yeah. After pushing the Bush agenda the last couple of years, the New York Times has finally come around.

What a relief! Maybe now the Washington Post and the Washington Blade will see the light and come out against the Bush administration.

January 02, 2008 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Impeach them! said...

And now that we got rid of Gonzo at DOJ, maybe the Bush Administration will learn what real accountability is.

Veteran Prosecutor Takes Over CIA Probe
Posted: 2008-01-03 03:30:08
WASHINGTON (AP) - For the high-profile, politically charged investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation videos, the Justice Department is turning to a low-profile, politically independent prosecutor.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed John Durham, a veteran federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to oversee a full criminal investigation that could further challenge the Bush administration's handling of terrorism suspects.

The CIA acknowledged last month that in 2005 it destroyed videos of officers using tough interrogation methods on two al-Qaida suspects. The revelation touched off a congressional inquiry and a preliminary investigation by the Justice Department into whether the CIA violated any laws or obstructed congressional inquiries such as the one led by the Sept. 11 Commission.

Durham, who has served with the Justice Department for 25 years, has a reputation as one of the nation's most relentless prosecutors. He was appointed to investigate the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston, a probe that sent former FBI agent John Connolly to prison.

"Nobody in this country is above the law, an FBI agent or otherwise," Durham said in 2002 after Connolly's conviction, a rare public statement for a prosecutor who usually avoids reporters.

Prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia, which includes the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va., had removed themselves from the case. CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson, who worked with the Justice Department on the preliminary inquiry, also removed himself.

"The CIA will of course cooperate fully with this investigation as it has with the others into this matter," agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

Durham will serve as acting U.S. attorney on the case, a designation the Justice Department frequently makes when top prosecutors take themselves off a case. He will not serve as a special prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald, who acted autonomously while investigating the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity.

"The Justice Department went out and got somebody with complete independence and integrity," said former Connecticut U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, who worked with Durham. "No politics whatsoever. It's going to be completely by the book and he's going to let the chips fall where they may."

Durham gained national prominence following the 1989 murder of Mafia underboss William Grasso, which led to one of the biggest mob takedowns in U.S history. He then turned to Connecticut street gangs, winning dozens of convictions and putting some gang leaders in jail for life. Former Attorney General Janet Reno hand-picked Durham to lead the investigation into the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston.

Durham, a Republican, has shown no tolerance for corruption in either party. He supervised the corruption investigation that sent former Republican Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland and several members of his administration to prison.

"He'll suck the political air right out of the investigation and just go after the facts," said Mike Clark, a retired FBI agent who investigated Rowland. "He's going to do it his way and just keep digging."

The CIA already had agreed to open its files to congressional investigators, who have begun reviewing documents at the agency's Virginia headquarters. The House Intelligence Committee has ordered Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who directed the tapes be destroyed, to appear at a hearing Jan. 16.

In June 2005, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered the Bush administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay." Kennedy was overseeing a case in which U.S.-held terror suspects challenged their detention.

Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos. The recordings involved suspected terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The Justice Department has argued to Kennedy that the videos weren't covered by his order because the two men were being held in secret CIA prisons overseas.

In an opinion piece in Wednesday's New York Times, Sept. 11 commission chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton accused the CIA of obstruction for failing to respond to requests for information about the 9/11 plot. The CIA has asserted that the panel had not been specific enough in its requests.


Yeah, we believe the CIA will cooperate now that the instructions are "specific enough," just like the White House has cooperated with every request Congressional Committees and Courts have made by stonewalling and claiming "national security," in case after case. Let's hope DOJ will get back to doing its job instead of acting like the White House's personal attorney. The Constitution and the rule of law must be defended and respected, especially by officials elected to serve the people.

Posted 12/21/2007 @ 4:36pm
Lawyers Stepping Up
Katrina vanden Heuvel

We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law…. We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws…. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight …. Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution…. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President. -- American Lawyers Defending the Constitution

Over one thousand lawyers – including former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein – have signed onto the above statement demanding wide-ranging investigative hearings into unconstitutional and potentially criminal activity by the Bush administration.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and winner of the 2007 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, said: "The majority of lawyers in this country understand that the Bush administration has really gone off the page of constitutional rights and off the page of fundamental rights, and is willing to push the Congress to restore those rights." Ratner said he was "dismayed" that a Democratic majority has failed "to push on key illegalities… the torture program, and now the destruction of the tapes involving the torture program; the warrantless wiretapping, the denial of habeas corpus, the secret sites/rendition program, special trials, and of course what we now know is the firing of US Attorneys scandal…. The minimal that absolutely is needed to get us back on the page of law is to have serious investigative hearings that go up the chain of command and figure out who is responsible for what."

Ratner noted that even with regard to the US attorney's investigations, where Congressional committees held Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove in contempt, leadership has failed to enforce these actions by bringing the resolutions to a vote. "Just announcing that investigations will be held and subpoenas will be issued is terribly insufficient unless Congress is willing to enforce the subpoenas by issuing contempt citations," Ratner said. "Congress has a constitutional duty to oversee the activities of the executive branch and our entire system of government is threatened when Congress simply folds before an obstinate executive. Issuing contempt citations against Bolten, Miers, and Rove should be Congress's first order of business in 2008."

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, discussed the administration's torture program violating three US-ratified treaties and the US torture statute; the illegal War in Iraq violating the US-ratified UN Charter as a war of aggression; and Attorney General Michael Mukasey's conflict of interest in overseeing investigations into the torture program and the destruction of the CIA interrogations tapes.

Also speaking with reporters was Jesselyn Raddack, a former Justice Department ethics lawyer who served as an advisor during the interrogation of John Walker Lindh (the "American Taliban"). Raddack said, "My e-mails documented my advice against interrogating Lindh without a lawyer, and concluded that the FBI committed an ethics violation when it did so anyway. Both the CIA videotapes and my e-mails were destroyed, in part, because officials were concerned that they documented controversial interrogation methods that could put agency officials in legal jeopardy…. " Raddack pointed to the Department of Justice's investigations of Enron and Arthur Anderson for obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, and the need for the same aggressive oversight and legal proceedings in these scandals.

This is a vital effort by those charged with defending our constitution, as Ratner said, "This lawyers' letter and the growing number of signatures we'll have on it, and prominent people – it's a way of saying to Congress, ‘You need some backbone. You need to have a serious investigation, wherever it might go, on these issues that really have taken the United States out of the mainstream of human rights.' It's absolutely critical… We've opened up the door to illegality…. Unless we have accountability on those illegalities, we're going to be facing a very bleak future in which fundamental rights will not really be obeyed."


January 03, 2008 7:37 AM  

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