Friday, August 18, 2006
Pulling Teeth for Gold
First, Slate has great piece up on the background of "no knock" warrants as well as the "the most important Supreme Court case you've never heard about" Hudson v. Michigan.. (HT to TalkLeft)
Also, while Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory is locked up finishing his book, he has a guest post, by Pete Guthier and Hypathia, called "Using the Drug "War" to Expand Government Power." Hmmm. There was an ulterior motive?
Finally, and sickeningly, TalkLeft has post called "Justice Dept. and ATF Sink to New Low" about ATF agents attempting to seize the gold caps from two federally indicted defendant's teeth. An excerpt, from the Seattle Times story:
According to court documents and attorneys involved in the case, Flenard T. Neal Jr. and Donald Jamar Lewis -- who were both charged in U.S. District Court with several counts of drug and weapon violations in January -- on Tuesday were taken from the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac to the U.S. Marshal's Office in Tacoma. There they were told the government had a warrant to seize the grills from their mouths and that they were being taken to a dentist in Seattle for removal.
Both made hasty calls to their attorneys, but were loaded into a vehicle and on their way to Seattle when their attorneys were able to persude a judge to stop the seizure, according to Neal's federal public defender, Miriam Schwartz.
The next time someone asks, "How can you defend those people?" tell them what Richard Troberman, past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers told the Seattle Times:
"It sounds like Nazi Germany when they were removing the gold teeth from the bodies, but at least then they waited until they were dead."
Another Spying Story
Here's what I wrote:
It's hard to keep track of all the evidence of illegal acts, but another story was revealed this week, via Alternet, about an Oregon lawyer whose office and home were searched, shortly after he began representing a person named al-Buthi. You can find the article at http://www.alternet.org/rights/35807/
"A few months [after he started representing al-buthi] Nelson observed inconsistencies when he came to his office: His computer would be left on, disks still in the drive, materials shifted. Fellow lawyers... noticed someone on at least three occasions posing as a janitor, trying to get into the office...
Nelson approached the security people at the building, they wouldn't talk to him.... "There was no direct denial. At the end, I said, 'You probably couldn't tell me if something was going on anyway.' He said, 'That's probably right.'"
After these incidents, Nelson brought the al-Buthi files to his house. That's when he and his wife experienced lapses in his home alarm that the company monitors refused to explain..."
The article describes Nelson as a "close friend" of Brandon Mayfield's, the Oregon lawyer whose fingerprint the FBI claimed to have a "no doubt" match to one found in the Madrid train bombings. The FBI later released Mayfield (after Spanish authorities matched the print to someone else), claiming in court to having made an "honest mistake."
One of the lawyers involved in the case told me Mayfield's children suspected the searches when they saw their alarm clocks blinking (showed power cut off during search) and when they found muddy boot prints on the carpet. On one occasion, one of Mayfield's kids, home sick from school, hid inside his own house while agents roamed around it.
In Mayfield's case, the FBI had a FISA warrant, but the judge refused to allow continued monitoring of Mayfield after his release.
In the case of Mayfield's friend, attorney Thomas Nelson, the article states that "[i]n August 2004, as a routine court procedure, the FBI provided the lawyers and defendants with documents... [but] accidentally released a document that showed the government had used logs of conversations between the lawyers and their clients... to categorize Al-Haramain as a terrorist group. The catch is that the logs were obtained without a warrant."
Like the Bush administration, it appears the FBI decided to ignore that pesky constitution and those meddling judges and spy on attorneys, even in their homes, without a warrant.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
You can't make this stuff up!
But this "pilot program" to test raw sewage to determine the number of people using drugs is right out of Kafka. According the the Washington Post article:
If government studies are a reliable guide, about 25,000 residents of Fairfax County -- 2.5 percent of its population -- have used cocaine in the past year. The same data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggest that about 9,000 have partaken within the past 30 days.
Those estimates, based on personal and computer-assisted interviews, rely almost completely on the candor of the respondents. The Bush administration, hoping to someday broaden the government's knowledge of illegal drug use, is probing the mysteries of Fairfax's sewage for a clearer picture.
The news from the "Decider" just gets more bizarre every day. It would be funny if it weren't an indication that this administration weren't throwing Fourth Amendment down the same sewer their latest pilot project is focused on.
How did Jon Stewart miss this one?
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Frank Rich is the New Ed Murrow
Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?
By FRANK RICH
WHEN America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.
This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.
President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a "shameful act" that is "helping the enemy." Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.
We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.
Well before Dana Priest of The Post uncovered the secret prisons last November, the C.I.A. had failed to keep its detention "secrets" secret. Having obtained flight logs, The Sunday Times of London first reported in November 2004 that the United States was flying detainees "to countries that routinely use torture." Six months later, The New York Times added many details, noting that "plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements." These articles, capped by Ms. Priest's, do not impede our ability to detain terrorists. But they do show how the administration, by condoning torture, has surrendered the moral high ground to anti-American jihadists and botched the war of ideas that we can't afford to lose.
The N.S.A. eavesdropping exposed in December by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The Times is another American debacle. Hoping to suggest otherwise and cast the paper as treasonous, Dick Cheney immediately claimed that the program had saved "thousands of lives." The White House's journalistic mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote that the Times exposé "may have ruined one of our most effective anti-Al Qaeda surveillance programs."
Surely they jest. If this is one of our "most effective" programs, we're in worse trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring "traitors" like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.
Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.
Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In "Breakdown," a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's "investigation" of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.
Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate "poker parties" swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.
Besides driving out career employees, underperforming on Iran intelligence and scaling back a daily cross-agency meeting on terrorism, Mr. Goss's only other apparent accomplishment at the C.I.A. was his war on those traitorous leakers. Intriguingly, this was a new cause for him. "There's a leak every day in the paper," he told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune when the identity of the officer Valerie Wilson was exposed in 2003. He argued then that there was no point in tracking leaks down because "that's all we'd do."
What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work." His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of "Jawbreaker," the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.
Soon to come are the Senate's hearings on Mr. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A. As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Mr. Bush endorsed his new C.I.A. choice with the same encomium he had bestowed on Mr. Goss: He's "the right man" to lead the C.I.A. "at this critical moment in our nation's history." That's not exactly reassuring.
This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.
Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 — "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one — and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the same grocery stores."
If Democrats — and, for that matter, Republicans — let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.
Here is Tristero's piece about the article, where the text appeared in a comment.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Not to be missed
(1) Lawyer's Home Searched without a Warrant.
In this eerie article from Alternet, new evidence surfaces that "An Oregon attorney may have proof of Bush's domestic spying operation." The summary goes on to predice that "the illegal program's days may be numbered" but how many times have we misunderestimated these people's willingness to break the law and even defend this act? The story of the FBI's detention of lawyer Brandon Mayfield is scary enough, but the story of Mayfield's "close friend," Thomas Nelson, is even more shocking. An example...
Thomas Nelson has been practicing administrative law for most of his professional life, but after Sept. 11 he first began offering pro bono work for immigrants detained in broad FBI terrorism sweeps.[...]
Nelson officially started representing al-Buthi in September 2004 ...
A few months later, Nelson observed inconsistencies when he came to his office: His computer would be left on, disks still in the drive, materials shifted...
The Oregonian reported that attorney Jonathan Norling "was sleeping on a couch at their practice early one morning last May, when a man dressed as a custodian tried to enter Nelson's office. Norling startled the man twice one night in July, when he caught the man trying to enter the locked office." The man in question had what appeared to be a valid badge for the building. But Norling notes, "This person wasn't a cleaning crew. I know the cleaning crew. I've worked here seven years, and I've worked a lot of nights, and I never experienced anything like that until Tom was working (on this case)."
Though Nelson approached the security people at the building, they wouldn't talk to him. "They were very blunt," he told AlterNet in a phone interview. He then took his concerns to the building manager. "It was all very disconcerting and inconclusive," says Nelson. "There was no direct denial. At the end, I said, 'You probably couldn't tell me if something was going on anyway.' He said, 'That's probably right.'"
After these incidents, Nelson brought the al-Buthi files to his house. That's when he and his wife experienced lapses in his home alarm that the company monitors refused to explain. "They basically stonewalled us," says Nelson. "We kept calling people and they kept referring us around and saying 'We'll call you back,' but no one would ever call back."
Sensing that he may be experiencing the same kinds of searches as the FBI performed in Brandon Mayfield's case, Nelson wrote a letter [PDF] to Karin Immergut, U.S. attorney for Oregon in September 2005, requesting she "look into the matter and to inform me if representatives … have engaged in these searches." Immergut said she was not aware of any warrantless searches. After the New York Times broke the NSA story, Nelson wrote Immergut again, stating that, based upon the report, he may be the target of searches outside of the scope of FISA. Immergut responded, "I was completely unaware of any NSA surveillance program until I read about it in the media," and suggested Nelson contact the NSA directly.
I'm sure they'll be forthcoming and upfront. Hopefully this line of questioning will come out in Hayden's confirmation hearings, but I'm not holding my breath after reading the Democrats are already voicing their support for the former head of the NSA. Illegal warrantless spying inside attorney's homes, a President who justifies breaking the law, and a weak opposition party whose every move seems geared towards not appearing soft on national security. A terrifying combination.
(2) Here is a link to Glenn Greenwald's latest post on the real risks of the Bush administration ignoring the Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold. An excerpt:
This continuous evasion of judicial review by the administration is much more serious and disturbing than has been discussed and realized. By proclaiming the power to ignore Congressional law and to do whatever it wants in the area of national security, it is seizing the powers of the legislative branch. But by blocking courts from ruling on the multiple claims of illegality which have been made against it, the administration is essentially seizing the judicial power as well. It becomes the creator, the executor, and the interpreter of the law. And with that, the powers of all three branches become consolidated in The President, the single greatest nightmare of the founders. As Madison warned in Federalist 47:From these facts, by which Montesquieu was guided, it may clearly be inferred that, in saying "There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates," or, "if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers," he did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no control over, the acts of each other.
As I've reported before Glenn's upcoming book is revolutionizing net publishing and the book's development and success look to be as big of a story as it's contents. You can pre-order the book, How Would a Patriot Act? here.
(3) According to today's Washington Post, "NSA Stymies Justice Dept. Spying Probe"
According to the article,
"The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program."
The news just keeps getting better, doesn't it? Steve Earle has a point when he says, "It just keeps getting tougher every day, to sit around and watch it while it slips away."
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Can't Have it Both Ways
But yesterday the Washington Post, reported, under the headline "Administration Is Singing More Than One Tune on Spanish Version of Anthem," he has he hasn't always felt this way. An excerpt...
In his book, “American Dynasty,” Kevin Phillips wrote that Bush “would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in Spanish, sometimes partying with a ‘Viva Bush’ mariachi band flown in from Texas.”
The article also quotes Leonard Rodriguez, who was national director of Hispanic Coalition for Bush/Cheney 2000:
“Honestly, I don’t remember him ever singing the national anthem in Spanish,” said Leonard Rodriguez ... “I can’t see any of his advisers recommending it.” But he added: “They may have played it. That’s certainly in the realm of possibility.” And Rodriguez said he does not recall Bush ever objecting to it.
Looks like another attempt to distract us from Iraq and $3.00 a gallon gas sorta backfires. Watch out for more distraction attempts (a pre-emptive nuclear attack?) as the administration's desperation continues and the midterm elections approach.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Neil Young's New Song "Let's Impeach the President"
Anybody who says "I ain't playin' for pepsi, ain't playing for coke, ain't playing for nobody, I think it's a joke" the year that Miller Beer sponsored the Stones on Tour has the credibility to turn a deceptively simple rock song into a anthem that pushes people into action.
A Congressman whose name escapes me was asked the other day what it would take to push Congress into voting on a resolution to get out of Iraq and he responded something to the effect of "when people are in the streets and it runs on the news." Evidently Margaret Mead was onto something when she said, "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Here are the song lyrics, which begins streaming tomorrow.
Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door
He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war
Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones
What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government’s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?
Let’s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected
Thank god he’s cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Never Misunderestimate A Neocon
In fact, Bush even called the article's claims "wild speculation." However, notice that in this description, the article's claims were not disputed, only called "wild speculation." Terrifyingly, if the claims were not true, wouldn't you think a denial or a clarification was in order? In short, if it's not true, why not deny it rather than calling it "speculation?" Of course, it's speculation and of course an unprovoked nuclear attack is "wild," but if there's not some truth to it, why not deny it? The answer is terrifying, especially given what we know about this "shoot first, ask questions later" administration.
I just never thought they'd go nuclear, but I've constantly "misunderestimated" their gall and the places their "messianic vision" would take them.
One point I read yesterday that resonated is that there are two factions within the Bush administration who will both push for an attack. First, the hard-line, cold warriors like Cheney will push for decisive action and "shock and awe" even after their last attempt depletes our resources and our allure in the world. To them, knowing their influence is waning and their days in power numbered, this looks like the last chance to act. Secondly, political pragmatists- who tolerate the hard-liners but whose vision is much more geared toward retaining power- will push for an attack in the face of 38% approval ratings, remembering the days when the "mission was "accomplished" and the country rallying around their flag-draped fake flyboy.
So I'm scared, to death. Why? People much smarter than me, whose opinions I trust are scared too. For example, Digby stated yesterday:
I don't think I'm a panic artist. At least I never have been. But after the last few years I have to say that Billmon's dark prediction sounds entirely believable to me. This Iran thing scares the hell out of me, and I'm not sure what anyone can do about it..
This president has asserted a doctrine of presidential infallibility. He does not believe that he can be stopped. And the way things are going I think he may think he has nothing to lose. There has been a sense of craziness in the air ever since 9/11, but it's just taken a very, very surreal turn
The post he was referring to is Billmon's excellent essay, appropriately entitled "Mutually Assured Dementia" which start out...
Maybe it's just me, but I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran – plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.
I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?
For another interesting post revealing another possible neocon motive for invading Iraq, check out this post, from Grand Moff Texan which starts out with this...
I may be spinning my wheels, but in putting together pieces of things I've been hearing over the last week I'm beginning to think that something weird may happen in the next couple of weeks.
An invasion of Iran is not possible. Iran's nukes are not the only target, they are only a pretext. The goal is what the goal was all along, apparently, and I've never heard its name before today.
Khuzestan. Perhaps the goal is not to take Iran, or take on Iran, but to spin off a part of Iran that Iran has trouble holding onto, thus redrawing the map and significantly altering the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region.
The point is, Digby is right. There has "been something crazy in the air since 9-11." Now that the public is turning on Bush and now that he's claimed that he's willing to do what no future Democratic or Republican president would do, who knows where his messianic vision will take him.
Think I'm exagerating and that this would be on the network news if it were truly scary? Well, the lead story on CNN.com right now is "The Last Minutes of Flight 93," which is pretty good evidence that something crazy is still in the air after 9-11. Consider also that Congress, which has acted primarily as a rubber stamp to Bush's policies after 9-11, is just now responding to opinion polls and checking the power of the Neocons, and is also in recess for the next 10 days or so.
Each time these people have been given an inch, they've tried to take it a mile. They ignore the law, they distort the facts, they "fix" the intelligence around the "policy," they claim they talk to God, and they feel their days are numbered.
What will they do next? Billmon says we might not feel the consequences at home significantly right away, but he rightfully makes the point that we don't know this and that the results of an unprovoked nuclear attack could be devastating for our economy, our security and our national standing.
Osama, obviously cognizant of the fact that the Muslim world sits atop much of the world's oil reserves and that the West is structured to rely on this, has expressed his dream of seeing oil prices at $150 a barrel.
Bush, obviously cognizant of the fact that his vision for Iraq is not panning out, wants to reverse his fortunes and preserve his legacy, wants to return to his aircraft carrier days. Since attacking is so much easier than governing and long term vision is so much more difficult than short term "mission" planning, and since he's surrounded himself with "Machiavellian Mayberrys" and cowboy-like cold warriors, Hersch's "wild speculation" looks to be as accurate as his descriptions of Abu Ghraib.
Will Osama's dream of $150 oil prices merge with Bush's dream of "liberating" another country with firepower?
It looks dire, and nobody seems to be asking the questions as we sit on the verge of striking another country with a nuclear weapon.
I hope to God I'm wrong and that somebody will be laughing at this post in the future. (At least they'd be reading it, unlike now!)
But what if I'm not?