Friday, June 29, 2007

The imperial vice presidency

The imperial vice presidency

New details about his secret mission to expand the power of the president show that Cheney, at the end of his career, refuses to loosen his grip.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Pages 1 2

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh

Vice President Cheney speaks about the war in Iraq on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, April 24, 2007.

June 28, 2007 | When Huey P. Long left the governorship of Louisiana in 1932 to become a U.S. senator, he filled the position with a childhood friend named Oscar Kelly Allen, known as O.K., who gave the OK to whatever the Kingfish wished. The story is still told, perhaps apocryphal, that one day a leaf wafted through an open window and landed on O.K.'s desk and, without hesitation, he signed it.

Two months after 9/11, on the day of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in the Oval Office with a four-page executive order designating terrorism suspects as enemy combatants to be held indefinitely, with no right to have their detention reviewed by any court except newly created military commissions, where they would not be permitted to learn the accusations or evidence against them, or be represented by counsel, or even know that their case had been heard and decided.

The secretary of state and the national security advisor were deliberately kept uninformed as the White House staff secretary prepared the order for signature. According to a four-part series published this week in the Washington Post on the extraordinary power of the vice president, "When it [the order] returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text." Colin Powell was stunned when he learned of the fait accompli. "What the hell just happened?" he asked. Condoleezza Rice was described as "incensed." But neither of them, then or later, effectively challenged Cheney's usurpation of executive authority. And, as can be gathered inferentially, Bush never bothered to ask Cheney about their opinions on the executive order or to call them; nor did he seem to care.

The Washington Post series, written by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, is an acknowledgment, after more than six years, of the hardly secret scope of Cheney's unprecedented influence. The articles provide fresh detail of his elaborate network within the federal government and how he pulls its strings. On principle, Cheney and his aides are hostile to regular lines of authority set up to enforce professional standards and a responsible chain of command. Having served as President Ford's chief of staff, he understood intimately how control of the paper flow meant control of the decision making. In 1999, the Post reported, Cheney explained to a conference of presidential historians: "The process of moving paper in and out of the Oval Office, who gets involved in the meetings, who does the president listen to, who gets a chance to talk to him before he makes a decision, is absolutely critical."

Cheney has crushed the normal interagency process that permitted communication, cross-fertilization and cooperation at the sub-Cabinet level through all previous modern administrations. At the same time, he has isolated Cabinet secretaries, causing them to be fired when they contradicted him, as he did with Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill.

Cheney thrives in darkness, operating by stealth within the government, and makes a cult of secrecy. None of these insights are new, except for additional telling details. Reports the Post: "Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped 'Treated As: Top Secret/SCI.'"

The Post series appeared just as Cheney refused to provide his office's documents to the National Archives and Records Administration as provided by law. He then attempted to abolish the specific agency within the Archives to punish it for its impudence. Cheney's chief of staff and former counsel, David Addington, floated the novel doctrine that the vice president is not "an entity within the executive branch." He claimed that the Archives had no authority and that therefore it "is not necessary in these circumstances to address the subject of any alternative reasoning." Only when Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., proposed cutting off the vice president's $4.8 million in executive-branch funding did Cheney concede.

Despite the absurdity of Addington's argument, Cheney has a point, though not a constitutional one. He has transformed an office that Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice president, John Nance Garner, said was "not worth a bucket of warm piss" into one of vast power. Cheney has acted as the Stalin of the Bush administration, the master of the bureaucracy, eliminating one rival after another, ruthlessly and unscrupulously concentrating power, the culmination of a more than 30-year career. The Post articles are based on information provided by dissidents who have suffered at Cheney's hand and have given Post reporters stories proving that Cheney's whole point is power.

Rather than transcending the executive, Cheney has deranged it in his effort to remake it into a branch of government of unlimited, unaccountable power. The head of the search committee who chose himself to be the experienced vice president to a callow president saw in George W. Bush his opportunity radically to alter the place of the executive within the federal government, which he had been straining to do since he served as Donald Rumsfeld's assistant in the Nixon White House. Cheney has viewed recent American history as a struggle between the imperial presidency necessary in a brutish world and the naive, undependable and in some cases disloyal constraints of Congress, the press and the judiciary. Under Bush, Cheney has shaped the presidential prerogative, acting as "an entity within the executive branch." Secrecy is essential to the protection of presidential prerogative. Follow the paper trail to the Mosler safe.

Even as the spotlight shines on the opaque Cheney, the light reflects on others as well. By shielding Bush from alternatives, Cheney has locked in certain decisions that Bush stubbornly defends as his own. The president's plight is not that of a removed ruler tragically kept from knowing what his government is doing in his name. He has had time to observe the consequences. He is aware of what Cheney says to him. The Decider decides that Cheney will decide what the Decider decides. This is not a case of if-only-the-czar-knew. In the seventh year of his presidency, Bush's decision making consists of justifying his previous decisions.

Next page: John Ashcroft was outraged by the memos on detainee policy

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bush suffers major defeat: immigration reform bill blocked in Senate

Bush suffers major defeat: immigration reform bill blocked in Senate

Published: Thursday June 28, 2007

President Bush suffered a major defeat Thursday as the immigration reform bill was defeated in the Senate. Although there had been strong conservative opposition to the bill, the president had been pushing for it hard the last few weeks.

"The Senate drove a stake Thursday through President Bush's plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections," the Associated Press reports.

Excerpts from AP article:


Bush, seeking to salvage the biggest domestic initiative of his final two years in office, called senators earlier in the morning seeking help.

However, supporters needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to keep the bill alive. Aligned against it were conservatives who derided the legislation as a grant of amnesty for illegal behavior and some Democrats who said it would leave a new group of temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation.

Supporters pointed to the bill's tougher border security and workplace enforcement measures, along with an immediate infusion of $4.4 billion to pay for them, as reasons to keep the bill alive for a final vote Friday.

The carefully crafted compromise was left for dead after a similar vote three weeks ago but was revived by Bush and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who gave opponents more chances to change it.



Is the end near for Cheney

Is the end near for Darth Cheney? June 27, 2007


The hot-off-the-presses announcement that the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed testimony about the Bush warrantless wiretapping program, and asked for a massive document dump, isn’t just significant for its surface reasons. In my view, it’s the latest signal that the reign of Dick Cheney as shadow president is coming to an end.

One of the individuals Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy is calling on the carpet is Cheney chief of staff David Addington. Addington, for those who don’t know, is Cheney’s consigliere, crafting the nuances of Cheney’s most favored initiatives, from illegal surveillance to torturing prisoners. He’s been called “the most powerful man in Washington you’ve never heard of.” Currently he’s known for the increasingly absurd and bizarre explanations as to why Cheney is somehow simultaneously part of the executive branch, yet not part of it. Addington has been Cheney’s right hand since the beginning, pushing his initiatives to classify everything related to the Office of the Vice-President and bury the entire Bush regime in shrouds of secrecy.

So if he’s getting summoned, you know it’s serious. Addington is no pawn to be sacrificed like Scooter Libby, but as Cheney has proven time and again, he will do all he can to preserve his own power at the expense of people he formerly called allies. But at the same time, Addington’s relationship to Cheney is much like Karl Rove’s is (was?) to Bush–they know so much about where the bodies are buried that they may just be too dangerous to let dangle on the hook. Then again, I’m sure that’s what Libby thought too.

This move signifies a play in a larger gambit to me. Why is it suddenly getting the mainstream’s attention that Cheney claimed for himself distinct privilege in the administration? The progressive blogosphere knew about this for months, but couldn’t get anyone to bite. Indeed, what made a story that was boring in February so interesting in June?

And what about the Washington Post’s sudden publication of “The Angler,” a massive four-part series detailing in grisly depth the arrogance, hubris, and brutal authoritarian incompetence of ol’ Deadeye Dick? There’s no way the Post would set this ball rolling now unless something bigger was coming down the pike. Not unless there were insiders pushing to get this information out there and using the Post as the mouthpiece. I’m not disputing the excellent work of Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, but a even a journalistic neophyte like myself knows you don’t let something like this fly unless you’re sure there’s protection–or that the target is too wounded to fight back.

So what happens next? Will Cheney suddenly step down due to unspecified health problems? Will he agree to resign, much like his idol Nixon, in order to avoid impeachment? Will he barricade himself in the West Wing armed with his trusty shotgun? Whatever he chooses to do, he has already secured his place in history–by surpassing his idol’s dubious honor as one of the most destructive and anti-democratic forces ever to hold power in our country’s modern history. Any ending will probably be inadequate to sufficiently encompass all the shady dealings and dirty deeds of the Cheney adminstration.

But an ending is still needed, nonetheless.

ADDENDUM: WOW. Commenter Djerrid just provided a link to what may be the Grand Unified Field Theory of GOP conspiracies. This would totally explain why Fred Thompson’s been so slow to actually begin his campaign–he’s auditioning for Cheney’s spot, not Bush’s, and thus will be able to add incumbency to his resume of being a lobbyist and “Law & Order” cast member. But given how the conservative press swoons over his Reaganesque profile, I can’t see this being out of the realm of possibility at all.

Legal expert: White House stonewalling may force Congress to charge president with criminal offenses

Legal expert: White House stonewalling may force Congress to charge president with criminal offenses

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Keith Olbermann announced on Wednesday's Countdown that the White House is refusing on grounds of executive privilege to honor Senate subpoenas and release documents relating to its warrantless wiretapping. In addition, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, has sent a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) saying Cheney's office will not comply with oversight by the National Archives because it is not "an agency."

Olbermann then turned to law professor Joanathan Turley, who agreed tentatively that the administration might move slowly enough to "run out the clock" on its time in office. "But there is one thing that might concern them about the court," Turley said, "and that is, you know, for many years, since we first found out about this program, some of us have said that this was a clearly criminal act that the president called for. ... If we're right, not only did he order that crime, but it would be, in fact, an impeachable offense."

"Both sides, both Democrats and Republicans, have avoided this sort of pig in the parlor," Turley continued. "They don't want to recognize that this president may have ordered criminal offenses. But they may now be on the road to do that, because the way Congress can get around the executive privilege in court is to say, we're investigating a potential crime."

Olbermann went on to joke that the attempt to pin down Cheney's real nature is starting to sound like a game of 20 Questions. Turley laughed and said, "The position adopted by Mr. Addington and Mr. Cheney, to put it bluntly, was absurd. ... In past administrations, if someone like Mr. Addington made such a moronic argument as this one, they would be out of a job the next week. ... I think that what it really shows is the lack of sort of adult supervision within the administration."

Olbermann probed further into why Cheney has given up claiming he is not part of the executive branch but is still not complying with the order. "Is this an attempt to stop what Congressman Emanuel talked about yesterday, cutting off the funding? Is it just more smokescreen?"

"This administration, I have to say, has a certain contempt for the law," said Turley. "They treat it like some of my criminal defendents used to treat it. ... They come up with any argument that might work. ... It's a sort of shocking development. ... But at the end of the day, they will lose, and they're making the situation worse."

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on June 27.

Subpoenas; Now What?

So the subpoenas are out. What are we looking at?

Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 06:04:02 PM PDT

OK, so the subpoenas have been issued:

The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration's warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.

Besides issuing the subpoenas, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.

What happens if the White House and the VP tell Congress to go Cheney itself?

Essentially, the Senate's options for dealing with non-compliance are:

  1. Move to hold the targets of the subpoenas in statutory contempt of Congress
  2. Move to hold the targets in inherent contempt of Congress
  3. Extend the deadline for compliance and make threats regarding either #1 or #2 above
  4. Come to some negotiated settlement with the "administration" -- i.e., closed door, no transcript testimony, limited document release, etc.
  5. Do nothing, complain loudly about obstructionism, stonewalling, and lawlessness, and hope that voters elect Democrats in 2008, because Republicans are so nasty
  6. Ask the House to impeach

That's really about it. Most likely outcome? If history's any guide, the answer lies somewhere in the neighborhood of #4. Although it should be said that history's never really been any kind of a guide for this "administration." But there's always a first time for everything, and no doubt when backed into a corner, the White House gang will be depending on the quasi-precedent of the negotiated settlement to save its bacon (or at least allow them to futz around long enough to run out the clock and slip out the back door in January 2009).


Well, statutory contempt of Congress is prosecuted at the discretion of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. And we know where the U.S. Attorneys' offices are at these days. But has the U.S. Attorney ever declined to prosecute such a case? Yes it has: EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch, during the Reagan administration.

How about inherent contempt? Well, that takes the Justice Department out of the loop. But it's a daring move, involving trying the contemnors at the bar of the Senate, and possibly arresting and imprisoning them on the direct authority of the Senate and its Sergeant at Arms. Has it ever been done? Yes it has, though the last time was over 70 years ago.

Extended deadlines, negotiated settlements and doing nothing all carry their own peculiar problems, mostly political. Will the executive branch ever take the legislative branch seriously if they don't hold the line? Will voters take Congress seriously? Will they be angry? Grateful? Indifferent? And what will future presidents think they're likely to face if this Congress lets this president slide?

And finally, impeachment. We know the problems, and don't need to list them again. But is this really an impeachable offense?

(More after the jump.)

  • ::

Yes it is:

Article 3

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Adopted 21-17 by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

Just wanted to remind everyone of that.

Get your popcorn, and send your Congresscritter a note of encouragement. The options going forward are limited, and they're going to need to stiffen their spines for a long fight if they're going to offer any serious resistance to the Bush "administration's" vision of the New Imperial Presidency.

Senate Issues Subpoenas in Eavesdropping Investigation

June 27, 2007

Senate Issues Subpoenas in Eavesdropping Investigation

WASHINGTON, June 27 — The Senate Judiciary Committee today issued subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the Justice Department after what the panel’s chairman called "stonewalling of the worst kind" of efforts to investigate the National Security Agency’s policy of wiretapping without warrants.

The move put Senate Democrats squarely on a course they had until now avoided, setting the stage for a showdown with the Bush administration over one of the most contentious issues arising from the White House’s campaign against terrorism.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said the subpoenas seek documents that could shed light on the legal basis used by the administration to justify the wiretapping, as well as on disputes within the government over its legality.

In addition, the panel is seeking materials on issues related to the wiretapping , including those concerning the relationship between the Bush administration and several unidentified telecommunications companies that aided the N.S.A. eavesdropping program.

The panel’s action was the most aggressive move yet by lawmakers to investigate the N.S.A. program since the Democrats gained control of Congress this year. Mr. Leahy said at a news conference today that the committee issued the subpoenas because the administration has followed a “consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection” in dealing with Congressional efforts to scrutinize the program. “It’s unacceptable. It is stonewalling of the worst kind,” he added.

The White House, the vice president’s office and the Justice Department declined today to say how they would respond to the subpoenas. “We’re aware of the committee’s action and will respond appropriately,” Tony Fratto, White House deputy press secretary, said.

“It’s unfortunate that Congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney also said his office would respond later, while a Justice Department spokesman said, “The department will continue to work closely with the Congress as they exercise their oversight functions, and we will review this matter in the spirit of that longstanding relationship.”

The Senate panel’s action comes after dramatic testimony last month by James Comey, former deputy attorney general, who described a March 2004 confrontation at the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft between Justice Department officials and White House aides over the legality of the program.

Before Mr. Comey’s testimony, the White House had largely been able to fend off aggressive oversight of the N.S.A. wiretapping program since it was first disclosed in December 2005. The Republican-controlled Congress held a series of hearings last year, and even considered several legislative proposals to curb the scope of the eavesdropping. But Mr. Cheney repeatedly pressured Republican Congressional leaders to pull back without forcing the administration’s hand.

When the Democrats won the 2006 midterm elections, many political analysts predicted that the N.S.A. program — which a federal judge declared unconstitutional — would be one of the first Bush administration operations to undergo new scrutiny. But in January, administration officials announced that it was placing the program under the legal framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a move it had previously refused to consider.

The Democrats have largely focused on objections to the war in Iraq in their first months in power, and had appeared reluctant to take aggressive steps to challenge policies on harsh interrogation practices, secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons and wiretapping without warrants, for fear of being labeled soft on terrorism.

For instance, at a confirmation hearing June 19 for John A. Rizzo as general counsel of the C.I.A., no member of the Senate Intelligence Committee directly challenged the agency’s practices of secret detention or harsh interrogation.

Mr. Rizzo successfully dodged the tougher questions by saying he preferred to answer them in closed session. The Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted closed-door oversight of the N.S.A. wiretapping program, but it has not been as aggressive as the Judiciary Committee in publicly challenging the administration over it.

But Mr. Comey’s testimony has given Democrats an opening to argue that they are focusing on the legal issues involved in the program, rather than on the merits of monitoring the phone calls of suspected terrorists.

“The Comey testimony moved this front and center,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. “Alarm bells went off. His testimony made it clear that there had been an effort to circumvent the law.”

The Senate panel has been asking the administration for documents related to the program since Mr. Comey’s testimony, but the White House had not responded to a letter from Mr. Leahy and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the committee. As a result, the panel voted 13 to 3 last Thursday to authorize Mr. Leahy to issue the subpoenas, with three Republicans voting in favor of issuing them. Separately, the House Judiciary Committee has also threatened to issue subpoenas for the same documents.

The wiretapping is just one of several legal issues on which Congress and the administration are squaring off. For example, the White House is under pressure to respond to subpoenas issued two weeks ago by the House and Senate judiciary committees for witnesses and documents related to the dismissal of federal prosecutors. Thursday is the deadline for the White House to turn over documents linked to Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel and Sara M. Taylor, the former political director.

If the White House fails to produce the material, the House and Senate could begin a process leading to contempt resolutions to force compliance. Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney is in a separate standoff with Congress and the National Archive over his office’s refusal to follow an executive order concerning the handling of classified documents by his office.

Congressional Democrats were angered when Mr. Cheney declared that his office did not have to abide by the order that all executive branch offices provide data to the National Archives about the amount of material they have classified.

Mr. Cheney’s office said that he was not a member of the executive branch, because he was president of the Senate, and so was not bound by the order. House Democrats responded by threatening to cut off funding to his office.

David Johnston and Scott Shane contributed reporting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Column: Paul's 9/11 theory should be considered

Column: Paul's 9/11 theory should be considered

Published: Friday May 18, 2007

Ron Paul's assertion in this week's Republican presidential debate that American foreign policy in the Middle East invited the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 should not be dismissed, lest Americans continue to ignore the lessons of history, a CNN contributor wrote in an opinion piece Friday on the network's Web site.

"As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today," wrote Roland S. Martin, who also hosts a talk show in Chicago. "We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day."

After Paul, a Texas congressman, asserted that terrorists attacked the US "because we've been over there" bombing Iraq for a decade, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he'd never heard such an assertion and pounced on Paul and demanded a retraction of the statement.

Paul's performance at the debates has rankled some GOP faithful, who have said he should not be allowed to participate in future debates. Supporters of the outspoken, quirky longshot have responded in force, inundating Republicans unfriendly to their cause with angry phone calls, according to The Hotline's On Call blog.

Martin said the emotional response from Giuliani and the crowd at the debate belies a full understanding of the implications of America's military interventions around the globe.



Granted, Americans were severely damaged by the hijacking of U.S. planes, and it has resulted in a worldwide fight against terror. Was it proper for the United States to respond to the attack? Of course! But should we, as a matter of policy, and moral decency, learn to think and comprehend that our actions in one part of the world could very well come back to hurt us, or, as Paul would say, blow back in our face? Absolutely. His real problem wasn't his analysis, but how it came out of his mouth.


As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today. We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day.

Does that provide a moral justification for what the terrorists did on September 11?

Of course not. But we should at least attempt to understand why.

Think about it. Do we have the moral justification to explain the killings of more than 100,000 Iraqis as a result of this war? Can we defend the efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived would jeopardize American business interests?

The debate format didn't give Paul the time to explain all of this. But I'm confident this is what he was saying. And yes, we need to understand history and how it plays a vital role in determining matters today.



Pentagon: Gays should still serve

Pentagon: Gays should still serve

The Pentagon, in a policy obtained by The Advocate, has indicated that lesbian and gay military personnel who are discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law are qualified to continue to serve the nation.


'Off the Table'

A. Alexander, June 25th, 2007

Let's see here ... hmmm ... impeachment? No, not impeachment - not here. It's 'off the table'. Yes, of course, forgot about that. Forgot about the fact that impeachment is 'off the table'. Wonder what it would take to get impeachment "on" the table?

Gosh, what if, say, the President unconstitutionally and unilaterally decided to make a bunch of notes claiming himself to be exempted from laws passed by Congress and then, for hoots-n-giggles, perhaps, actually refused to adhere to a third of said laws; would impeachment be 'on the table' then?

Still no impeachment upon the table, huh? Wonder what it takes then, to get impeachment on the table. Is fellatio the ONLY thing that rises to high crimes and misdemeanors?

Okay, what if the Attorney General of the United States, the nation's lead defender of "the law," went before Congress and perjured himself in like, say, eh-hem, 'bout half a dozen instances. Would impeachment be 'on the table' then?

No, still no impeachment upon the table, huh? Wonder what it takes then, to get impeachment on the table. Is a stained blue dress the ONLY thing that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?

Hmmm ... well, what if the Vice-President single-handedly exempted himself from, um, say, like the Executive Branch and therefore, the Constitution. Would impeachment be on the table then?

No, nope, nuh-ah, impeachment is not to be placed upon the table.

So, here is the question to be pondered: If the Democrats won't do anything to end the endless war in Iraq; if Democrats won't do ANYTHING to defend the Constitution and democracy from a group of criminals; and if the Democrats will do nothing to stop the administration's mad march toward tyranny, what possible reason is there for the people to continue supporting the Democrats?

Let's see here...hmmm...impeachment? When Democrats put impeachment 'on the table' and begin holding hearings for the impeachment of one or all of the felons listed above, "We the People" will put voting Democratic 'on the table' again. Until then, voting Democratic is 'off the table.'

Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court hands victory to Bush on faith-based initiatives

Supreme Court hands victory to Bush on faith-based initiatives

Michael Roston
Published: Monday June 25, 2007

On a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of taxpayers did not have standing to sue the US government for its funding of faith-based initiatives with federal money. The decision, Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, was written by Samuel Alito, the second Supreme Court Justice appointed by President George W. Bush, according to the website SCOTUSBlog.

The group People for the American Way slammed the decision as threatening the First Amendment.

"It’s a bad day for the First Amendment. The Supreme Court just put a big dent in the wall of separation between church and state, and a big smile on Pat Robertson’s face," said Ralph Ness, the group's president, in a statement. "Today’s ruling will make it more difficult for citizens whose tax dollars are being unlawfully spent to subsidize religion to bring a complaint in court. It is also consistent with a broader strategy by right-wing judges and activists to restrict standing for average Americans to challenge powerful government and business interests."

But in Alito's decision, the Justice was dismissive of the worries of the plaintiffs in the case.

"None of the parade of horribles respondents claim could occur...has happened," the Court's newest Justice wrote. "In the unlikely event any do take place, Congress can quickly step in."

In a second 5-4 ruling, the Court ruled that schools could censor student expression outside of school grounds. The case was prompted by Juneau, Alaska, students who were punished after they held up a 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' poster while attending a field trip to see the running of the Olympic Torch, according to CNN. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision.

In a third 5-4 ruling, the Court decided that a Wisconsin-based anti-abortion group should have been allowed to run so-called 'issue ads' in the two months leading up to the 2004 Election. The decision opens the way for interest groups, business, and union to make a greater effort to sway federal elections. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion in the case.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida"

Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida"

(updated below)
Josh Marshall publishes an e-mail from a reader who identifies what is one of the most astonishing instances of mindless, pro-government "reporting" yet:
It's a curious thing that, over the past 10 - 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants there as "al-Qaida" fighters. When did that happen?
Until a few days ago, the combatants in Iraq were "insurgents" or they were referred to as "Sunni" or "Shia'a" fighters in the Iraq Civil War. Suddenly, without evidence, without proof, without any semblance of fact, the US military command is referring to these combatants as "al-Qaida".
Welcome to the latest in Iraq propaganda.
That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."
But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don't think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing "Al Qaeda fighters," capturing "Al Qaeda leaders," and every new operation is against "Al Qaeda."
The Times -- typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting "reporting" of Michael Gordon, though not only -- makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan -- that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: "Al Qaeda."
What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."
But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that "Al Qaeda" was the smallest component of the "enemies" we are fighting in Iraq:
A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .
The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .
The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.
And note that even for the "smallest" group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as "Al Qaeda," but as those "affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda." Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of "Al Qaeda" was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.
But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along.
Here is the first paragraph from today's New York Times article on our latest offensive, based exclusively on the claims of our military commanders:
The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.
The article then uses the term "Qaeda" an additional 19 times to describe the enemy we are fighting -- "Qaeda leaders," "Qaeda strongholds," "Qaeda fighters," "Qaeda groups," the "Qaeda threat," etc. What is our objective in Iraq? To "move into neighborhoods cleared of Qaeda fighters and hold them."
In virtually every article from the Times now, anyone we fight is automatically designated "Al Qaeda":

Cheney ordered Secret Service logs destroyed

Cheney ordered Secret Service logs destroyed, paper reports

John Byrne
Published: Saturday June 23, 2007

VP created new secret document classification, keeps 'man-size' safes

A massive piece in Sunday's Washington Post reveals the true extent of secrecy Vice President Dick Cheney requires.

So clandestine is the Vice President's work that he has created a new secret document designation: "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

That's not all: the piece also reveals that Cheney keeps 'man-size' Mosler safes on hand for "workaday business" and has destroyed all Secret Service visitor logs, in addition to already refusing to comply with a national security directive issued by President Bush, which RAW STORY first reported earlier this week.

Not only does he refuse to give the names of his staff, Cheney won't even disclose how many people he employs.

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency," the Post article says. "Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs."

"Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools," the piece adds. "Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

"Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets," the Post adds. "By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

The Post intimates that Cheney's office is like a black hole -- everything goes in, but nothing comes out.

"In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out," the Post reporters note. "Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down."

Read the full Post article here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bush claims oversight exemption too

Bush claims oversight exemption too

The White House says the president's own order on classified data does not apply to his office or the vice president's.
By Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writer
June 23, 2007

WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

The issue flared Thursday when Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) criticized Cheney for refusing to file annual reports with the federal National Archives and Records Administration, for refusing to spell out how his office handles classified documents, and for refusing to submit to an inspection by the archives' Information Security Oversight Office.

The archives administration has been pressing the vice president's office to cooperate with oversight for the last several years, contending that by not doing so, Cheney and his staff have created a potential national security risk.

Bush amended the oversight directive in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to help ensure that national secrets would not be mishandled, made public or improperly declassified.

The order aimed to create a uniform system for classifying, declassifying and otherwise safeguarding national security information. It gave the archives' oversight unit responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of each agency's classification programs. It applied to the executive branch of government, mostly agencies led by Bush administration appointees — not to legislative offices such as Congress or to judicial offices such as the courts.

"Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," the executive order said.

But from the start, Bush considered his office and Cheney's exempt from the reporting requirements, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in an interview Friday.

Cheney's office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002 but stopped in 2003.

As a result, the National Archives has been unable to review how much information the president's and vice president's offices are classifying and declassifying. And the security oversight office cannot inspect the president and vice president's executive offices to determine whether safeguards are in place to protect the classified information they handle and to properly declassify information when required.

Those two offices have access to the most highly classified information, including intelligence on terrorists and unfriendly foreign countries.

Waxman and J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, have argued that the order clearly applies to all executive branch agencies, including the offices of the vice president and the president.

The White House disagrees, Fratto said.

"We don't dispute that the ISOO has a different opinion. But let's be very clear: This executive order was issued by the president, and he knows what his intentions were," Fratto said. "He is in compliance with his executive order."

Fratto conceded that the lengthy directive, technically an amendment to an existing executive order, did not specifically exempt the president's or vice president's offices. Instead, it refers to "agencies" as being subject to the requirements, which Fratto said did not include the two executive offices. "It does take a little bit of inference," Fratto said.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project, disputed the White House explanation of the executive order.

He noted that the order defines "agency" as any executive agency, military department and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" — which, he said, includes Bush's and Cheney's offices.

Cheney's office drew criticism Thursday for claiming that it was exempt from the reporting requirements because the vice president's office is not fully within the executive branch. It cited his legislative role as president of the Senate when needed to break a tie.

At a Friday news conference, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said constitutional scholars could debate that assertion.

But, she said, Cheney's office is exempt from the requirements because the president intended him to be.

Cheney's office did not comment Friday.

Several security experts said they were not aware that the president had exempted his own office from the oversight requirements.

But they said it fit what they saw as a pattern in the administration of avoiding accountability, even on matters of national security.

"If the president and the vice president don't take their own rules seriously, who else should?" said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute at George Washington University in Washington that lobbies for open government.

"If they get a blank check, it's a recipe for disaster. I can't think of a quicker way to break down the credibility of the entire security-classification system."

Blanton noted that the White House had acknowledged that a substantial number of in-house e-mails had disappeared in recent years, at a time when investigators wanted to review them for possible evidence of inappropriate leaks of classified information.

"If there are all these great safeguards in place, then where are the e-mails?" Blanton asked.

Waxman, chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote an eight-page letter to Cheney on Thursday in which he complained that the vice president had refused to adhere to the executive order. Waxman, citing the criminal investigation of Cheney's office related to the leak of a CIA agent's identity, suggested that the vice president's office was a national security risk.

He also accused Cheney or his staff of trying to have the archives' watchdog unit abolished after its director, Leonard, pressed for more oversight and for a legal opinion from the Justice Department as to whether the executive order applied to the vice president's office.

Perino denied that attempts were made to abolish the unit.

A spokeswoman for the archives, Susan Cooper, would not comment Friday on whether the archives' watchdog unit ever tried to inspect the president's executive office or obtain annual classification reports.

Fratto said that he was not aware of such an effort but that it would be rebuffed. "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, but the executive order does not grant them that authority," Fratto said.

He noted that the oversight requirements did, however, apply to the National Security Council, the president's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials.

Fratto said that the White House and Cheney's office had a legal obligation to adhere to the executive order's guidelines regarding the proper handling of classified documents, even if they didn't have to submit to oversight by an outside agency.

"Neither Mr Cheney Or His Staff Is Above The Law..."

White House Defends Cheney's Refusal of Oversight

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 23, 2007; A02

The White House defended Vice President Cheney yesterday in a dispute over his office's refusal to comply with an executive order regulating the handling of classified information as Democrats and other critics assailed him for disregarding rules that others follow.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Cheney is not obligated to submit to oversight by an office that safeguards classified information, as other members and parts of the executive branch are. Cheney's office has contended that it does not have to comply because the vice president serves as president of the Senate, which means that his office is not an "entity within the executive branch."

"This is a little bit of a nonissue," Perino said at a briefing dominated by the issue. Cheney is not subject to the executive order, she said, "because the president gets to decide whether or not he should be treated separately, and he's decided that he should."

Democratic critics said Cheney is distorting the plain meaning of the executive order. "Vice President Cheney is expanding the administration's policy on torture to include tortured logic," said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). "In the end, neither Mr. Cheney or his staff is above the law or the Constitution."

The dispute stems from an executive order, issued in 1995 by President Bill Clinton and revised by President Bush in 2003, establishing a uniform, government-wide system for protecting classified information. Cheney's office, like its predecessor, filed reports about its handling of classified information to the National Archives and Records Administration oversight office in 2001 and 2002 but has refused to do so since. His office also blocked an on-site inspection to examine its handling of classified data.

The Archives' Information Security Oversight Office sent two letters to Cheney requesting compliance but never received a response. The office then asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in January to decide whether Cheney was violating the executive order, but he has not responded either. Instead, according to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Cheney's staff tried to get the oversight office abolished this year.

Perino said the president does not think the office should be eliminated, "and I don't think that anyone has suggested that." Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride would not comment on the record yesterday about whether the office targeted the oversight office or why Cheney's staff complied with the order in 2001 and 2002 and then decided not to in 2003.

The argument that Cheney's office is not part of the executive branch prompted ridicule by many administration critics. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that has been highly critical of the White House, suggested that Cheney is "attempting to create a fourth branch of the government." If he is not governed by executive branch security requirements, the group asked if he is covered by Senate rules.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said he plans to propose next week, as part of a spending bill for executive operations, a measure to place a hold on funds for Cheney's office and official home until he clarifies to which branch of the government he belongs. Emanuel acknowledged that the proposal is just a stunt, but he said that if Cheney is not part of the executive branch, he should not receive its funds. "As we say in Chicago, follow the money," he said.

Staff writer Shailagh Murray contributed to this report.

False History & Logic

Sen. Levin's False History & Logic

By Robert Parry
June 21, 2007

If you’re wondering why the Iraq War is likely to continue indefinitely despite mounting public outrage and a failed military strategy, part of the answer can be found in two words: Carl Levin.

Levin, a low-key Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, has wedded himself to a line of thinking that is both historically wrong and logically unsound. Yet, his faulty reasoning, if maintained, virtually guarantees that George W. Bush will keep winning every war-funding round with Congress through the end of his presidency.

On June 21, Levin spelled out his thinking in a Washington Post op-ed entitled “Lincoln’s Example for Iraq.” Levin asserted that he is modeling his Iraq War position on Abraham Lincoln’s stance on the Mexican War, launched by President James Polk in 1846 after a declaration of war by Congress.

“In his only term in Congress, Abraham Lincoln was an ardent opponent of the Mexican War,” including voting for an amendment that called the conflict “unnecessary and unconstitutionally begun by the President,” Levin wrote.

Yet, Levin noted, “when the question of funding for the troops fighting that war came, Lincoln voted their supplies without hesitation.” Levin likens Lincoln’s anti-war position to his own, since the Michigan senator opposed President Bush’s war resolution in 2002 but has vowed to continue voting money for the troops as long as they remain in the field.

But what Levin doesn’t tell you is that the Lincoln example is by no means an historical parallel to Levin’s position on the Iraq War. For one, Lincoln wasn’t even in Congress when the war with Mexico was declared on May 13, 1846. Lincoln took his seat in the House of Representatives on Dec. 6, 1847.

By then, the war with Mexico was already won. The decisive battle of Chapultepec was fought almost three months earlier, on Sept. 12, 1847, and American forces entered Mexico City on Sept. 14.

Though there was a delay in negotiating a final peace treaty due to the political chaos in the Mexican leadership, the war was effectively over. So, Lincoln’s readiness to supply the troops was not a vote for continuing an indefinite war with Mexico; it was simply to send supplies while a final peace treaty was negotiated.

The peace treaty was signed in the village of Guadalupe Hidalgo, near Mexico City, on Feb. 2, 1848, formally ending a conflict that had lasted less than two years. By contrast, the Iraq War has dragged on for more than four years with no end in sight.

In other words, Levin is historically wrong when he uses Lincoln’s stand on the Mexican War to justify his own on the Iraq War. While Levin says he will give President Bush a blank check as long as the Iraq War continues, there is no reason to believe that Congressman Lincoln would have done the same for President Polk if that Commander in Chier were set on a bloody, indefinite occupation of the entire Mexican countryside.

Clueless Senator

Besides Levin’s bogus history lesson, the five-term senator also seems to misunderstand how Congress works.

Having ruled out a termination of war funding, Levin suggests that the only viable course for ending the Iraq War is to convince enough Republicans to join Democrats in setting a date for withdrawing and repositioning U.S. forces.

“By setting a policy that begins with putting into law a timetable for starting a troop reduction, rather than trying to stop funding, we offer the best chance for stabilizing a country that we invaded while also sending the message to our troops that, even though we oppose the President’s policy, we are united behind them,” Levin wrote.

Levin also noted that support for a withdrawal timetable “has grown steadily,” attracting 51 votes – including two Republicans – in April 2007, rising from 39 votes in June 2006 and 48 in March 2007.

By contrast, he observed, that in May, only 29 senators – all Democrats – voted against giving Bush the $100 billion that he demanded with virtually no strings attached. Levin joined the majority in voting the blank check, which many anti-war Democrats viewed as a betrayal and a capitulation.

Referring to the 29 no votes, Levin added, “that’s a long way from the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster or the 67 needed to override a veto.”

But Levin’s logic is wrong again. While his proposal – to impose a troop withdrawal deadline – would require 60 votes to stop a Republican filibuster and then would need 67 votes to overcome Bush’s certain veto, the same is not true for a war-funding cut-off.

To secure the money to continue fighting the war, Bush is the one who needs majorities in both the House and the Senate. Indeed, arguably, he would need 60 votes in the Senate to end a filibuster if anti-war senators mounted one.

More likely, however, if faced with a determined Democratic majority, Bush would have no choice but to seek a compromise in order to get at least some of what he wants.

In other words, if the Democrats were to hold firm against giving Bush another blank check – as their leaders vowed to do in early 2007 – Bush would have to decide between accepting some strings, such as a withdrawal timetable, or getting no money at all, thus forcing an end to the war.

By contrast, Levin’s “strategy” amounts to running up the white flag at the beginning of the battle, telling Bush that the Democrats will cave in if he sticks to his guns. That approach proved disastrous in May when Democrats retreated tails between their legs and Bush celebrated their humiliation.

After that debacle, not only was the Democratic “base” furious but public opinion polls showed a drastic drop-off in support of the Democratic-controlled Congress. A similar round of feckless posturing this fall will only harden the voters’ contempt, thus playing into Republican hands for Election 2008.

Yet a reprise of the May catastrophe is exactly what Levin is promising with his false analogy to Lincoln and the Mexican War.

Indeed, Levin appears to have unfurled what looks like a perpetual white flag of surrender. In his Post op-ed, he declared that the only option he sees is to wait until enough Republicans abandon Bush and join in overriding the President’s veto of another timetable bill.

“Until that day, we will continue to fund the troops, following the example so wisely set by Abraham Lincoln 160 years ago,” Levin wrote.

But chances of a mass Republican defection from Bush appear highly unlikely. Indeed, the Republicans have maintained a much stricter discipline over their members, even those in strongly anti-war states, than the Democrats have.

So, Levin – holding a key position as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and trusting in his misguided historical analogy – appears ready to let the killing go on.

Bush Godfather of crime syndicate

Bush's Mafia Whacks the Republic

By Robert Parry
June 20, 2007

In years to come, historians may look back on U.S. press coverage of George W. Bush’s presidency and wonder why there was not a single front-page story announcing one of the most monumental events of mankind’s modern era – the death of the American Republic and the elimination of the “unalienable rights” pledged to “posterity” by the Founders.

The historians will, of course, find stories about elements of this extraordinary event – Bush’s denial of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial, his secret prisons, his tolerance of torture, his violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, his “signing statements” overriding laws, the erosion of constitutional checks and balances.

But the historians will scroll through front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and every other major newspaper – as well as scan the national network news and the 24-hour cable channels – and find not a single story connecting the dots, explaining the larger picture: the end of a remarkable democratic experiment which started in 1776 and which was phased out sometime in the early 21st century.

How, these historians may ask, did the U.S. press corps miss one of history’s most important developments? Was it a case like the proverbial frog that would have jumped to safety if tossed into boiling water but was slowly cooked to death when the water was brought to a slow boil?

Or was it that journalists and politicians intuitively knew that identifying too clearly what was happening in the United States would have compelled them to action, and that action would have meant losing their jobs and livelihoods? Perhaps, too, they understood that there was little they could do to change the larger reality, so why bother?

As for the broader public, did the fear and anger generated by the 9/11 attacks so overwhelm the judgment of Americans that they didn’t care that President Bush had offered them a deal with the devil, he would promise them a tad more safety in exchange for their liberties?

And what happened to the brave souls who did challenge Bush’s establishment of an authoritarian state? Why, the historians may wonder, did the American people and their representatives not rise up as Bush systematically removed honorable public servants who did their best to uphold the nation’s laws and principles?

One could go down a long list of government officials who were purged or punished for speaking up, the likes of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

The Taguba Purge

Yet possibly the most troubling case was revealed in mid-June by The New Yorker’s investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the case of Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and issued a tough report that prevented the scandal from being swept entirely under the rug.

Rather than thank Taguba for upholding the honor of the U.S. military, the Bush administration singled out this hard-working, low-key general for ridicule, retribution and forced retirement in early 2007.

In an interview with Hersh, Taguba described a chilling conversation he had with Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, a few weeks after Taguba’s report became public in 2004. Sitting in the back of Abizaid’s Mercedes sedan in Kuwait, Abizaid quietly told Taguba, “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I’d been in the Army 32 years by then,” Taguba told Hersh, “and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”

It was also an early indication that Taguba’s military career was nearing its end. In January 2006, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff, called Taguba and without pleasantries or explanation told Taguba, “I need you to retire by January 2007.”

So, the general who had violated the omerta code of silence was banished from Bush’s Mafia.

Hersh wrote that the sensitivity over Taguba’s report went beyond its graphic account of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib; it also brought unwanted attention to a wider pattern of criminal acts committed with the approval of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“The administration feared that the publicity would expose more secret operations and practices,” including a special military task forces or Special Access Programs set up to roam the world and assassinate suspected terrorists, Hersh wrote.

Hersh quoted a recently retired CIA officer as saying the task-force teams “had full authority to whack – to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’” a phrase meaning assassination.

“It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the ex-officer told Hersh. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the [CIA] chief of station.” [New Yorker, June 25, 2007, edition]

In other words, President Bush not only had arrogated to himself the right to snatch people off the street and lock them up indefinitely without trial but he had dispatched assassins around the world to eliminate alleged “bad guys.”

The bigger picture – the stark and grim image of what had transpired over the past half dozen years in the name of the American people – was that the United States could no longer claim to be a nation of laws and liberties. It had become a country governed by a criminal mob deploying an unsavory collection of capos, consiglieres and hit men.

In this view, George W. Bush was no longer President of a Republic but Godfather of the world’s most intimidating crime syndicate. But that was a reality that the U.S. news media could not afford to acknowledge in real time, though it might become the unavoidable conclusion of future historians.