The Alberto Gonzales Show
Betty here, filling in for Rebecca and we are going to address the latest goings on in the Alberto Gonzales cesspool. He's the soon to be former attorney general if you're lost. When Bully Boy went from the governor's mansion in Texas to the White House, he took Gonzales along with him, like a clutch purse. First Gonzales was Bully Boy's lawyer and then J-Ass left the Justice Department and Bully Boy was in search of a new Attorney General. Apparently Harriet Miers didn't think to suggest herself for that post so it went to the woefully underqualified Gonzales. His most memorable public moment prior to being AG was terming the Geneva Conventions 'quaint.' Could a Nazi have said it better?
So Gonzales gets confirmed just as the Senate's learning about the illegal spying and they don't seem too concerned about that or the fact that he's lying to them. But his lies get to be too much and last month even the Senate appeared to tire of it. Like his lie Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein (Washington Post) reported on today:
The Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials have previously acknowledged, with at least 26 prosecutors suggested for termination between February 2005 and December 2006, according to sources familiar with documents withheld from the public.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since last June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.
Now CNN reports that Republican Senator Arlen Specter thinks that when the Senate Judiciary Committee finishes their investigation into the firing of attorney generals (to get "Bushies" in place, to subvert voting rights and so much more), that Gonzales will resign. Quote from Specter: "I have a sense when we finish our investigation, we may have a conclusion to the tenure of the attorney general."
Specter won't call for Gonzales' resignation. AP reports that Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is calling for Gonzales' resignation and the reason is due to the revelations about "a sick bed visit" Gonzales made. No, Albie wasn't delivering chicken noodle soup.
What was he doing? Lengthy excerpt from Massimo Calabresi's "Was Gonzales' Emergency Visit Illegal?" (Time):
When then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales went to John Ashcroft's hospital room on the evening of March 10, 2004 to ask the ailing Attorney General to override Justice Department officials and reauthorize a secret domestic wiretapping program, he was acting inappropriately, Ashcroft's deputy at the time, James Comey, testified before Congress earlier this week. But the question some lawyers, national security experts and congressional investigators are now asking is: Was Gonzales in fact acting illegally?
In dramatic testimony Tuesday, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he raced to the intensive care unit of George Washington University Hospital that evening to intercept Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card and prevent them from convincing Ashcroft to reauthorize the program after Justice department lawyers had concluded that it was illegal. Comey, who during Ashcroft's stay in the hospital was acting Attorney General, has told Congressional investigators that when he arrived at the room and began explaining to Ashcroft why he was there, he was intentionally "very circumspect" so as not to disclose classified information in an unsecure setting and in front of Ashcroft's wife, Janet, who was at his bedside and was apparently not authorized to know about the program.
Comey described what happened next: "The door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there -- to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was -- which I will not do." Ashcroft bluntly rebuffed Gonzales, but Comey's unwillingness publicly to say what Gonzales said in the hospital room has raised questions about whether Gonzales may have violated executive branch rules regarding the handling of highly classified information, and possibly the law preventing intentional disclosure of national secrets.
"Executive branch rules require sensitive classified information to be discussed in specialized facilities that are designed to guard against the possibility that officials are being targeted for surveillance outside of the workplace," says Georgetown Law Professor Neal Katyal, who was National Security Advisor to the Deputy Attorney General under Bill Clinton. "The hospital room of a cabinet official is exactly the type of target ripe for surveillance by a foreign power," Katyal says. This particular information could have been highly sensitive. Says one government official familiar with the Terrorist Surveillance Program: "Since it's that program, it may involve cryptographic information," some of the most highly protected information in the intelligence community.
Wired feels that there are 6 take-away points from the revelations:
Six things have been made abundantly clear by Comey's stunning story:
1) After Comey told Card and Gonzales that the Justice Department no longer considered the program legal, the White House AUTHORIZED the program to continue, even though its own appointees considered the program legally indefensible.
Facing the impending resignation of Attorney General, the FBI Director and a not-insignificant handful of top Justice Department officials, President Bush soon backed down and agreed to let the Justice Department re-write the rules for the program. For the next two weeks the program continued, despite the Justice Department's belief that it was legally indefensible.
2) Andrew Card, according to James Comey, is a liar. After calling Comey into his office after the Intensive Care Showdown, he protested to Comey that he and Gonzales were simply at the hospital to offer best wishes to Ashcroft. He then summoned Comey to his White House office, which Comey wouldn't do without a witness. Comey convinces Ted Olsen, then Solicitor General, to come with him. Card refuses to allow Olsen, the man responsible for arguing cases for the Administration in front of the Supreme Court, into his office.
3) It is absolutely clear now that Alberto Gonzales was installed at the helm of the Justice Department in order to make the Department obey. Comey's story joins together the warrantless wiretapping story with the U.S. Attorney purge story [. . .]
4) It is clear that Gonzales is willing to dissemble and mislead Congress with meandering definitions and legalisms. When talking about disagreements in Congress in February 2006, Gonzales said the disagreements weren't about the program he came to testify about[:]
["}There has not been any serious disagreement -- and I think this is accurate -- there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations which I cannot get into.["]
By "the program the president has confirmed" he's referring to the program as reconfigured after the Intensive Care Showdown.
Just minutes later in the SAME hearing, he was asked when the program started. Gonzales then said, "The authorization regarding the terrorist surveillance program occurred subsequent to the authorization to use military force and prior to the Patriot Act." That's October 2001.
When it's convenient he'll talk about the warrantless surveillance program from its origin. When he's hiding something -- such as the existence of extreme dissension inside the Justice Department, he refers to the program only AFTER it was changed to quell an internal riot.
Gonzales isn't retracting that statement.
5) Huge questions are left unanswered.
What was this program doing before the Intensive Care Showdown? Why did Mueller, the head of the FBI, threaten to resign? This was an NSA program -- what was the FBI doing involved? Secret black bag searches of people's houses? Were names, transcripts and phone numbers being dumped into the FBI's massive intelligence database?
What's the connection between the massive collection of every American's phone records, the NSA's warrantless listening in on conversations and the terrorist watch list? Did the NSA get millions of call records of Americans -- find the ones who had ever called Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and then start listening to their phone calls? Could whole geographic regions -- say Dearborn, Michigan -- that had many calls to countries with radical Islamic presences have had all their residents listened in on?
6) This all came up in a hearing about the U.S. Attorney purge. When is Congress going to hold real hearings into the government's warrantless wiretapping? Where is the oversight in this Congress? Where's this generation's Church Committee?
As Editor & Publisher points out, despite being asked twice today, Bully Boy refused to answer whether or not he'd ordered the visit. Here's the second time he refused to answer:
Q: Was it on your order, sir?
BUSH: As I said, the program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It’s an important part of protecting the United States, and it’s still an important part of our protection, because there’s still an enemy that would like to attack us, no matter how calm it may seem in America, an enemy lurks and they would like to strike. They would like to do harm to the American people, because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology. They want us to retreat from the world. They want to find safe haven, and these just aren’t empty words. These are the words of al Qaeda themselves, and so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people and programs that we constantly brief to Congress.
To quote Meryl Streep from Death Becomes Her, "You're in the crapper now."
Now the Democrats aren't snoozing . . . for a change. Robert Schmidt, of Bloomberg News, reports that Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer, both Democrats, are calling "for a no- confidence vote" on Alberto with Schumer saying the only one with confidence in Gonzales is Bully Boy. Tony Snow gets into the act dismissing the no confidence vote as "a meaningless political stunt" -- apparently the equivalent of landing on a carrier that's almost reached the shore, stuffing your crotch to strut around on board beneath a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."
Big thank you to C.I. for helping me find stuff (over the phone, we went through about 37 articles) and for explaining various points to me. If Rebecca doesn't blog tomorrow (or early Saturday morning), you'll have Jim with you for tomorrow night. Her plan was to return Monday to regular blogging but I swore to her on the phone today that I'm here when needed and it's not a problem. It's a lot of fun. When C.I. and I were going through the articles tonight, it was like when we all used to do "The Third Estate Sunday Review News Review." If I didn't make it clear, by the way, Chuck Hagel is calling for Gonzales to step down. Rebecca had been making a point to notice each time someone did. So add Hagel to the list. Now I hope you read Mike's "Guest post by Mike" and Kat's "The Bono Times?" because they work really well together. Let me also strongly recommend C.I.'s "NYT: Cave joins the cast of Scrubs and he can't do it all on his own, he's no Superman" which is even more important when you read the snapshot and get the news about a report on last year's abductions. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, May 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, 3 US soldiers remain missing, protests take place in Baghdad, Chatham House issues another report (one the domestic mainstream will probably get behind this time), recruiters caught lying on tape and more.
This morning, ICCC was reporting that the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war reached 3400. Today the US military announced: "Three Soldiers were killed and one was wounded when their patrol was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdady May 17." So the 3400 marker has been surpassed -- 3403 is the current total. Michael Munk (Democracy Rising) calculates that the US military has seen "at least 55,471 casualties" during the same period. Meanwhile, for the sixth day, 3 US soldiers remain missing following a Saturday attack. Tina Susman and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) report: "Evidence indicated that the attackers used grenades and other hand-held explosives, and converged from several directions . . . Drag marks leading to tire tracks showed that the missing men were pulled from the area to vehicles about 45 away. The military is trying to determine whether the two Humvees were sufficient to guarantee the troops' protection and whether the patrol had taken necessary precautions. Those precautions would include not being positioned at a spot previously used by U.S. troops". As CNN noted yesterday, "Caldwell said the division headquarters is 'looking very carefully at the whole tactical situation to see if there's something they need to do better." And possibly, a year from now we may know one way or another if the 7 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi were sitting ducks (4 of the 7 US soldiers and the Iraqi translator are dead) and who's responsible for that?
Almost a year ago a similar abductiion happened in the same region (and the ones claiming credit for the kidnapping also cited the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer). In that case, the 3 US soldiers were killed. CBS and AP report: "Three U.S. soldiers slaughtered in a grisly kidnapping-murder plot south of Baghdad last June were not properly protected during a mission that was not well planned or executed, a military investigation has concluded. Two military officers have been relieved of their commands as a result of the litany of mistakes, but neither faced criminal charges, a military official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on Wednesday." Yet despite that reality, the New York Times is not only not interested in front-paging the story (the story has never made the front page), they also aren't interested in pursuing how it happened. Just like they aren't interested in Abeer, war resisters . . .
Democracy Now! has regularly explored is war resisters and today Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez spoke with Agustin Aguayo who explained where his status currently stands: "Technically, I'm still in the military, because I have the right to an automatic appeal to the court-martial. And that is a long process. It could be up to two years. I have a rehearing in the courts in my civil suit against the Army in D.C., and I would like to be reddemed and I would like to be recognized . . . I'm challenging that I was wrongfully denied conscientious objector status. And so, I'm still essentially in the military. However, I don't have to report to any duty station. So I'm essentially free to live my life. And from here, I would like to share with others my experience. I think it's vital, it's crucial that people understand from a different perspective what is actually taking place, what I saw, what my conclusions were and why I couldn't return."
Aguayo joined Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Robert Zabala in the speaking out tour to raise awareness on the realities of the illegal war and the need to stand up against it which has two more scheduled date remaining:
Thursday May 17 - Oakland 4pm youth event and 7pm program at the Humanist Hall, 411 28th St, Oakland. Featuring Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes and the Alternatives to War through Education (A.W.E.) Youth Action Team. Sponsored by Veteran's for Peace Chp. 69, Courage to Resist, Central Committee for Conscientious Objector's (CCCO) and AWE Youth Action Team.Friday May 18 - Berkeley 7pm at St. Joseph the Worker featuring Camilo Mejia.US war resisters are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.
Iraq Veterans Against the War bring truth with them whenever they speak (and they are available for speaking engagements if you have a group or organization that would like to hear from them).
Always speaking truth to power, Iraq Veterans Against the War. In March, a group spoke at
Different Drummer Cafe. Eric Ruder (ISR) provides a transcript and we'll note Adrienne Kinne
Since leaving the military and now that I've finished my degree in psychology, I've been working in VA (Veterans Adminstration) hospitals. I've worked at VA hospitals in Georgia and Virginia and now in Vermont and I've seen so many different soldiers. For the first time our VA hospitals are seeing active-duty soldiers because our Department of Defense hospitals cannot keep up with demand. I've seen a lot of people come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious injuries and a lot of serious things going on with their health. And it really makes me mad -- and I'm not here speaking as a VA employee, but I'm certainly allowed to speak about my experiences there. Not in any official capacity, but it makes me mad when I hear veteran after veteran telling me the difficulties they have getting their services. It makes me embarrassed to work for the VA and I don't want to feel that way because I actually want to work in the VA to help our veterans. It's just so frustrating.
There are so many things that are tied together. I saw one soldier who was stationed overseas and he was an MP and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because he saw our government do things to people that no person should ever have to see our government do. He said that he couldn't go into details because it's all classified, but he still felt that he was bound to military doctrine where you can't tell anything to anyone. But he has nightmares every night because he saw us tortuing people. He was at one of our secret, non-existent prisons and he saw people tortured and he cannot cope with what he has seen.
Turning to today's violence . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 dead from 4 Baghdad mortar attacks (8 wounded) and a police officer died from a Baladroz bombing (one more was left wounded). Reuters reports the death of a police officer from a grenade hurled into his Hilla home (three members of his family were injured) and a Baghdad bridge bombing that left two dead and five injured. AFP reports "in Najaf a street cleaner was killed when he lifted a bag of trash and set off a hand grenade." Thomas Wagner (AP) reports that Thursday saw the third day in a row of attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone: "Terrified pedestrians raced for the safety of concrete bunkers. Motorists abandoned their cars and sprinted for cover. Sirens wailed and loudspeakers warned people to seek safety."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two police officers shot dead in Baghdad (1 wounded), a seucirty worker for a clinic was shot dead in the Diyala province, an electrical engineer was shot dead in Basra, and an Iraqi police officer was shot dead in Salahuddi. Reuters notes a "police major" who was shot dead (so was his son) in Basra. AFP notes a police officer shot dead in Baiji and an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad, the corpses of Emad Ahmed Shareef was found in Kirkuk and 3 corpses in Baquba (one of which was a woman -- all "were shot many times in the head"). Reuters reports 2 corpses discovered in Latifiya. AFP reports the corpse count on Baquba has risen to 9.
On the heels of their previous report castigating Tony Blair for putting the interests of the US ahead of England, Chatham House issues another report. This one is entiteld (PDF format warning) "Accepting Realities in Iraq." Chief points include that a series of civil wars is taking place in Iraq, that US political leaders (including the White House) have repeatedly lowered expectations on Iraq in the last year, that regional neighbors (Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) have more influence than does the US, that there is no "military solution," that power brokers must be reached out to and that Iraq is facing the possibility of collapse. "Muqtada al-Sadr cannot be ignored" is the heading of one section and before Bully Boy thinks Chatham House is on board with him there, they argue instead that efforts must be made to reach out to al-Sadr and that it is foolish to ignore his base, popularity and influence (they also argue that the Jaish al-Mahdi would continue with or without al-Sadr as its leader). Elsewhere in the paper, they argue for the Joe Biden option (splitting Iraq up into three regions and calling it a federation). At nine pages-plus of text, they make many recommendations and it's largely what one would expect from Brookings or any other centrist think tank in the US. They ignore serious realities and, it needs to be noted, they need to learn to source properly. The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune are owned by the same company and IHT has a stronger European presence (than does the Times) so it may make sense to source to IHT over the Times; however, Sudarsan Raghavan and Karin Brulliard work for the Washington Post, not the Boston Globe. Iraqi popular will is not merely discounted, it's ignored which either suggests Gareth Stansfield (author of the report) is unfamiliar with it or that he has no interest in what the people of Iraq might want for themselves. This is the attitude throughout in spite of the occassional sentence such as this: "In effect, Iraqi solutions will need to be found to Iraqi problems." Most alarming is that Stansfield seems completely unaware of the issues for Iraqi women.
Yifat Susskind (MADRE), at CounterPunch, observes the attacks on women and their rights in Iraq and notes: "The US has empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote 'honor killing' as a religious duty. The US has empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote 'honor killing' as a religious duty. . . The US also destroyed the Iraqi state, including much of the judicial system, leaving people more reliant on conservative tribal authorities to settle disputes and on unofficial 'religious courts' to mete out sentencing, including 'honor killings'." To repeat, Chatham House says nothing about that which doesn't seem to demonstrate "Accepting Realities in Iraq." The BBC's James Robbins characterizes the report as "unremittingly bleak." Imagine how much more so if it had really expored realities?
On the subject of the oil law, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) covered it Sunday noting that it "was in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers" despite the "vital" importance the US government has placed on it. Andy Rowell (Oil Change) notes that London, Wednesday, was the site for a protest "oustide the Shell AGM".
In activism news, Matthew Rotchschild (The Progressive) reports on Tim and Yvette Coil (husband and wife) who, in March, happened upon military recruiters attempting to enlist at their public library (Slow-Munroe Falls Public Library, Ohio) and, after getting permission from libary employees, began leaving cards warning people from enlisting. The military recruiters -- apparently never have been taught about freedom of speech -- made a scene, dragged in the library director and Tim Coil (Gulf War Veteran) was arrested. The case goes to trial June 5th. (Contact info can be found here.)
Also on the topic of recruiting, David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet) notes Nashville's WTVF report (audio-video here) of recruiters asking a local man, Jay Mallard, to lie about being on Zolfoft (the man signed up, lied and killed himself) which led WTVF's news team to set up three cameras: "In each case, our undercover producer told recruiters that he was put on Zoloft by a physician for depression. Asked whether he could function without it, he said he wasn't sure. And there, inside those Army recruiting stations, we got the same advice described by Private Mallard's family. . . . Over and over, the recruiters tell us that it's OK to lie."
julian e. barnes
iraq veterans against the war
camilo mejiapablo paredesagustin aguayo
democracy nowamy goodmanjuan gonzalez