Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If We Close In On The Truth; We Will Close The Prison Cell Door On Cheney.

If We Close In On The Truth; We Will Close The Prison Cell Door On Cheney.

Main Core, PROMIS and the Shadow Government (Pt. 4b)

by Ed Encho

In the first three installments of this series I examined the existence of the massive surveillance state database MAIN CORE and how similar tools of oppression are destroying American civil liberties. I also took a look at the criminality of many members of the Bush administration (especially Dick Cheney) and their crusade against The Constitution as well as Cheney's involvement in Continuity of Government programs. I wrote of the targeting of journalists by the rogue cabal operating out of Cheney's office (which is even more relevant with the news of CIA death squads) to crush dissent. In this installment I want to draw a bigger picture of how a network of Wall Street oligarchs, rogue intelligence operatives, organized crime figures and the mysterious alliances that have led to the hostile takeover of the United States. This conclusion to part four will focus on the vast influence Bush Crime Family and the Octopus Ascendant in Obama's America.

Cheney, High-Level Wrongdoing Must Be Focus of Inquiries

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the chief critic of executive excess and wrongdoing in the Senate during recent Republicanand Democratic administrations, wants Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the CIA's harsh interrogation program.

But Feingold wants Holder to do it right.

The chair of the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is concerned that the appointment of a prosecutor by Holder -- which now seems increasingly likely -- come with a charge by the attorney general "to focus on holding accountable the architects of the CIA's interrogation program."

In a letter to Holder, Feingold, who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

Recent news stories indicate that you have reviewed the highly classified 2004 CIA Inspector General report on the CIA's interrogation program, and that as a result you are considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate individuals who may have gone beyond the legal authorization for that program provided by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice. I write to encourage you to do so, but also to urge you to focus on holding accountable the architects of the CIA's interrogation program. While allegations that individuals may have even gone beyond what was justified by those now-public OLC memos are extremely disturbing, we should not lose sight of the fact that the program itself –- as authorized –- was illegal, not to mention immoral and unwise.

As I said in a letter to President Obama in April, the OLC documents make clear that the details of this program were authorized at the highest levels of government, which is where the need for accountability is most acute. Those who developed, authorized and provided legal justification for the interrogations should be held responsible.

I understand this is a difficult decision for you, and I want to assure you that you will have my full support if you take this important step in furtherance of the rule of law.

This is an essential message, and an essential step in the process.

Official Washington does not like accountability.

Holder will be under pressure to organize a narrow inquiry that focuses on the misdeeds of underlings.

But this investigation needs to go where the real wrongdoing took place.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a principle proponent of harsh interrogation during the Bush-Cheney years, and has since emerged as the primary defender of the initiative.

When asked about the use of torture tactics late last year,Cheney told ABC News, "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

That is an invitation -- from Cheney himself -- to, as Feingold suggests, investigate the extent to which illegal activity was "authorized at the highest levels of government" and to "(hold) accountable the architects of the CIA's interrogation program."

Americans should tell the Attorney General to accept this invitation, and the Credo Action project of Working Assets is offering them an opportunity to do just that with a new campaign to "Tell Eric Holder to Start His Torture Investigation with Dick Cheney."

Could Dick Cheney Go to Prison?

By Ray McGovern, Consortium News. Posted July 18, 2009.

Cheney seems to fear that if our system of justice works, he could be in for some serious, uncommuted jail time.

So far, the summer has been mild in the Washington area. But for former Vice President Dick Cheney, the temperature is well over 100 degrees. He is sweating profusely, and it is becoming increasingly clear why.

Cheney has broken openly with former President George W. Bush on one issue of transcendent importance -- to Cheney. For whatever reason, Bush decided not to hand out blanket pardons before they both rode off into the sunset.

Cheney has complained bitterly that his former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby should have been pardoned, rather than simply having his jail sentence commuted.

Cheney told the media that Bush left Libby "sort of hanging in the wind" by refusing to issue a pardon before leaving office. Libby had been convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents investigating the leak of a former CIA operations officer's identity.

"I believe firmly that Scooter was unjustly accused and prosecuted and deserved a pardon, and the president disagreed with that," Cheney said. He would disclose no details of his efforts to lobby Bush on Libby's behalf, saying they would be "best left to history."

It is getting close to history time. You do not need to be a crackerjack analyst to understand that Cheney is feeling betrayed -- that he is thinking not of Libby, but of himself, and fearing that, if our system of justice works, he could be in for some serious, uncommuted jail time.

His situation has grown pathetic. Aside from the man himself, it has fallen almost solely to faithful daughter, Liz, to defend her dad and to start a political backfire to keep him out of prison. She is to be admired for her faithfulness. In the process, though, she has unwittingly given much away.

Liz Cheney on the Offensive

On Washington Times' "America's Morning News" radio program Monday, Liz Cheney acted again as designated hitter, responding to the recent New York Times report that her father had given "direct orders" to the CIA to withhold "information about a secret counterterrorism program for eight years."

Not for the first time, Liz Cheney disclosed what has her father so worried and agitated. She said he is "very angry" over recent press reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may be about to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate "the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices."

She branded this "shameful" -- worse still, "un-American." Not the interrogation practices, mind you, but the notion that her father should be held to account for them.

Typically, she did well in sticking closely to her talking points, arguing that the issue is "somebody taking office and then starting to prosecute people who carried out policies that they disagreed with, you know, in the previous administration."

As if unprecedented decisions to torture, in violation of international law and the War Crimes Act of 1996, can be accurately described as "policies" over which there can be honest disagreement. This is about crimes, not "policies."

Pulling out all the stops, Liz Cheney worried aloud about what this does to "morale at the CIA," where the practitioners of what Bush called "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogation believed they were acting with the blessing of the Justice Department. (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity addressed that bromide frontally on April 29, 2009, in amemorandum to our new president.)

Liz Cheney went on to argue that this could, in the future, inhibit CIA functionaries from various actions out of fear of criminal liability. (To me, that sounds like a distinct plus.)

The Decider

What has pretty much escaped notice in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) is that the former vice president has also reminded us all that President Bush was the "decider."

That unusual word sounded quite macho as Bush strutted about reminding us often that he was also commander in chief. But now, it could be the kiss of death -- for Bush, as well as for Dick Cheney.

Here's what Cheney allowed himself to tell Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer on May 10 about "enhanced interrogation techniques":

Schieffer: How much did President Bush know specifically about the methods that were being used? We know that you -- and you have said -- that you approved this …

Cheney: Right.

Schieffer: … somewhere down the line. Did President Bush know everything you knew?

Cheney: I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.

Small wonder that Republicans are wincing, although the winces have been largely suppressed. The Washington Post reported recently that many Republicans now consider Cheney a major problem, but cannot say so. The Post quoted one Republican strategist on the Cheney dilemma:

"He continues to be a force among many members of our base, and while he is entirely unhelpful, no one has the standing to show him the door."

During a four-day visit to Dallas last week, I learned that Bush continues to be a lofty hero among many folks there -- with the notable exception of the hardy activists of the Dallas Peace Center and Code Pink.

Hefty donations keep pouring in for his library and institute, and any "mistakes" that may have been made during the Bush/Cheney administration are laid at the door of the former vice president.

Leading Republicans are passionate about this. And the phenomenon is not limited to Dallas. Cheney is smart enough to know that he too may soon be "sort of hanging in the wind," along with his former subordinate, Libby.

It's Also About "Fixing" Intelligence

Approval of torture, assassination, warrantless eavesdropping -- hey, there is quite enough to go on, and increasing signs that Cheney will be called on the carpet.

What we have been focusing on, however, glosses over Cheney's key role in purveying lies to get our representatives in Congress to approve a war that qualifies for what the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal called the "supreme international crime" -- a war of aggression.

We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity were on to Cheney very early. Six years ago today, we took the unusual step of sending a formal recommendation to President Bush that he "ask for Cheney's immediate resignation."

Our unprecedented appeal even caught the eye of the FCM, since our "Memorandum for the President" reviewed some of the deceit engineered by the vice president in conjuring up a rationale for war on Iraq and directing the cheerleading for it.

We noted that Cheney, skilled at pre-emption, had stolen a march on his vacationing colleagues by launching, in a major speech on Aug. 26, 2002, a meretricious campaign to persuade Congress and the American people that Iraq was about to acquire nuclear weapons.

That campaign mushroomed, literally, in early October, with Bush and senior advisers raising the specter of a "mushroom cloud" threatening our cities. On the inside of the synthetic clouds one could almost read the label -- "manufactured out of thin air in the Office of the Vice President."

In his memoir, the pitiable former CIA Director George Tenet complains that Cheney's assertion that Iraq would acquire nuclear weapons "fairly soon" did not square with the intelligence community's assessment.

Tenet adds, "I was surprised when I read about Cheney's assertion that, ‘Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.' "

Tenet whines that the vice president did not send him a copy of the speech for clearance. But the malleable CIA director quickly got over it, and told CIA analysts to compose the kind of National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that would provide ex post facto support for Cheney's bogus assertions. Just what Cheney (and Bush) ordered.

Tenet explains lamely, "I should have told the vice president privately that, in my view, his speech had gone too far ... and not let [my] silence imply agreement."

Yes, George; and you should have resisted White House pressure for a dishonest NIE to grease the skids to unnecessary war.

In fact Cheney, as well as Tenet, knew very well that Cheney's assertions were lies.

How? Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, whom Saddam had put in charge of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as missile development, told the United States when he defected in mid-1995 that all (that's right, all) such weapons had been destroyed at his order by the summer of 1991.

In mid-2002, the Iraqi foreign minister, whom CIA operatives had recruited and persuaded to remain in place, was telling us the same thing.

Unwelcome Intelligence

When they briefed the president and his senior advisers on this, CIA operations officers were astonished to learn firsthand that this intelligence was unwelcome.

These officers, who had used every trick in the book to "turn" the foreign minister and get him working for us, were told that further reporting from this source was not needed: "This isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change," they were told.

Tenet was hardly astonished at reports of the nonexistence of WMD. From documentary evidence in the "Downing Street Minutes" we know that Tenet, on July 20, 2002, told the chief of British intelligence that the intelligence was being "fixed" around the policy.

And former U.N. inspectors, like Scott Ritter, could verify that 90 percent of the WMD Iraq earlier possessed had been destroyed -- some during the Gulf War in 1991, but most as a result of the inspections conducted by the United Nations.

The reporting from Kamel and the Iraqi foreign minister, sources with excellent access, was suppressed in favor of "evidence" -- from forgeries, for example, like the infamous Iraq-Niger yellowcake report.

When finally U.S. officials were forced to concede that the Iraq-Niger information was based on a forgery, lawmakers such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., protested loudly -- but too late.

Three days before Bush let slip the dogs of war, NBC's Tim Russert braced Cheney with the assertion by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Saddam did not have a nuclear program.

Cheney strongly disagreed and cited support for his view from the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community. He even ratcheted up his bogus assessment of Iraq's nuclear capability: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

We? Maybe his wife, Lynne, and Liz were on board for that judgment; few others believed it.

Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, retired CENTCOM commander but still enjoying access to the most sensitive information on Iraq, was sitting in the audience on Aug. 26, 2002, and later described himself as astonished at the Iraqi threat as described by Cheney.

The most knowledgeable analysts -- those who knew Iraq and nuclear weapons -- scoffed at Cheney's faith-based intelligence.

In our July 14, 2003, appeal to Bush to ask for Cheney's resignation, we warned of the likelihood that intelligence analysts would conclude that the best way to climb the ladder of success is to acquiesce in the cooking or "fixing" of their judgments, since neither senior nor junior officials would ever be held accountable.

This remains as acute a concern as the tolerance for torture and the like.

We shall have to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder do his duty and move quickly to start the process to hold accountable those responsible for dragging our country down into a moral abyss.

Cheney's CIA Secrets: We Must Fight to Get the Truth

By Marie Cocco, Washington Monthly. Posted July 17, 2009.

The scary part is how little we know about the Bush Administration's clandestine plans.

WASHINGTON -- It is the damned spot that simply will not go out. The legacy of the Bush administration's antiterrorism tactics cannot be washed away in a tide of feel-good rhetoric about moving on, nor will it fade eventually if we apply President Barack Obama's spiritual wisdom that this should be a time for "reflection, not retribution." The revelation that CIA Director Leon Panetta killed a secret program reportedly aimed at assassinating top al-Qaeda leaders, and quickly informed Congress of its existence, does not shock. It has long been a presidential aim to decapitate the terrorist network. Despite Republican claims that President Bill Clinton limply addressed terrorism as only a law enforcement problem, he had taken steps to allow what would have amounted to an in-the-field execution of Osama bin Laden, according to the 9/11 commission.

The peril is not in what Congress and the public already know about President George W. Bush's clandestine plans, but in what we do not know. That Vice President Dick Cheney was deeply involved, and may have been behind the extraordinary level of secrecy applied to the program, deepens the dread.

In just the past few days, other lights have been blinking red. Attorney General Eric Holder has been doggedly, and correctly, pursuing investigative leads in the use of torture against terrorism detainees. Holder may prosecute some who went beyond even the shockingly permissive and almost certainly illegal guidelines cooked up as justification by Bush administration lawyers. Far too many in official Washington see prosecution as a political distraction, and an incendiary one. But this is itself a measure of how thoroughly our moral compass has been shattered. It is Holder's duty to prosecute those who have broken the law. Political calculation, even one that helps the president who appointed him, should not be the decisive factor.

Less bloody than the gruesome details of torture that are likely to come to light in any prosecution are the latest hints that the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program was far more extensive than what has been revealed. This came in a report from the independent inspectors general of the five agencies that have had some involvement in the surveillance, or in use of the information culled from it. The details of the "other intelligence activities" undertaken through the presidential directives that allowed the surveillance remain "highly classified," the inspectors say.

They note the surveillance involved "unprecedented collection activities" and cautioned that the retention and use of this material should be "carefully monitored." Who and what were swept up in this vast net remain unknown. What we know, thanks to the report, is that the information has been kept in the bowels of the operation -- for who knows what purpose. The more the attorney general, Congress and independent investigators look back at what defenders of the Bush administration claim is already well-trod ground, the more rocks they turn over and the more contaminated soil is revealed. The Obama administration has good reason to want to avert its eyes. It is true that in a tit-for-tat era, any effort to hold accountable the lawbreakers of the past will be spun as political justification for failure to move forward with important legislation on such crucial issues as energy and health care. This is another big lie.Congressional Republicans aren't cooperating with Obama's agenda in the first place. Deep differences among Democrats have slowed progress on many issues. If little or nothing gets done in the coming months, it will not be because those cranky civil libertarians, human rights activists and the few members of Congress bold enough to side with them have derailed the president's agenda.

The means to some measure of accountability already is at hand in legislation for a "truth commission," such as that sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan. It would have been easy for the White House to allow this, and a similar Senate measure, to move forward without much ado. Instead, it has told Capitol Hill it wants the idea squashed.

But the trap the White House set for itself has now sprung. Having declared that it would not look back in anger or even with the intent of holding wrongdoers accountable, it is now haunted week after week by new revelations. They are signs that some have a conscience that cannot be stilled.

For Holder, Inquiry on Interrogation Poses Tough Choice

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By DAVID JOHNSTON | Published: July 21, 2009

WASHINGTON — As the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., debates whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate theinterrogations of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he is at the brink of a career-defining decision that risks the anger of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the Justice Department’s main partners in combating terrorism.

There is no surprise then that Mr. Holder is said by officials to have been resistant at first to the idea of appointing a prosecutor, particularly since the Obama administration has made it clear that it wants to put the issue of interrogation practices during the Bush administration behind it. But associates have said he told them that he reacted with disgust when he recently read graphic accounts of interrogations in a 2004 C.I.A. inspector general’s report to be publicly released next month.

“It’s a very difficult decision,” said Philip B. Heymann, who, like Mr. Holder, was a deputy attorney general in former President Bill Clinton’s administration. “It’s about as hard a decision as I can imagine a prosecutor having to make.”

Mr. Holder’s choice is not simply a prosecutorial judgment. President Obama has said criminal acts should be prosecuted, but he has also warned that he does not want his administration distracted from its ambitious agenda by backward-looking inquiries.

A decision by Mr. Holder to investigate would stand as a defining gesture of independence from Mr. Obama and would serve as a sharp contrast to predecessors like Alberto R. Gonzales, who was said by lawmakers in both parties to have run the Justice Department as a satellite office of the White House.

Mr. Holder has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.

But in taking that route, Mr. Holder would run two risks. One is the political fallout if only a handful of low-level agents are prosecuted for what many critics see as a pattern of excess condoned at the top of the government. The other is that an aggressive prosecutor would not stop at the bottom, but would work up the chain of command, and end up with a full-blown criminal inquiry into the intelligence agencies — just the kind of broad, open-ended criminal investigation the Obama administration says it wants to avoid.

In a sense, Mr. Holder put himself in this awkward position. Earlier this year he successfully argued, in the face of C.I.A. protests, for the release of legal memorandums produced by the Justice Department during the Bush administration. The memorandums showed that the administration had authorized the use of interrogation tactics like head-slapping, wall-slamming and waterboarding. The documents also put accusations of torture back in the public eye.

C.I.A. officials apparently believed they had successfully avoided further inquiries into interrogation tactics, but when word came that Mr. Holder was considering opening his own investigation, the agency reacted bitterly.

In a statement this week, a C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said, “The Department of Justice knows — and has known for years — the details of the agency’s past interrogation practices.” He added, “This has all been reviewed and dealt with before.”

A number of cases have been reviewed by nonpolitical prosecutors. But Mr. Holder is said to have raised questions about the thoroughness of some of those inquiries, including examinations of the deaths of detainees under C.I.A. and military control in Iraq.

One of the best known cases is that of Manadel al-Jamadi, who was in the custody of a C.I.A. officer and a contract interpreter at the time of his death in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, after he had first been captured by a team of Navy Seals. Justice Department prosecutors determined that neither could be charged because Mr. Jamadi probably sustained his injuries while in military custody, which lawyers for the Navy personnel denied.

One of Mr. Holder’s first decisions, should he go forward with an inquiry, will be to determine who should investigate and what the scope of an investigation would be. Mr. Holder is said to have rejected the idea of naming an outside prosecutor and is considering candidates from inside the Justice Department.

The limited inquiry, at least initially, would review more than 20 abuse cases, including some involving prisoner deaths, which were referred to federal prosecutors in Virginia but did not result in prosecutions.

Former government lawyers involved in the cases have said they were, as one put it, “a complete mess.” Evidence had been lost or mishandled. Witnesses could not be located, and in some cases, not even the bodies of the deceased could be found.

In addition, an inquiry would probably examine whether the C.I.A. operatives who questioned high-level Qaeda detainees at secret prisons exceeded the Justice Department’s legal guidance. A footnote in a recently released 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum said that the C.I.A. inspector general had found in the 2004 report that interrogators used waterboarding with greater frequency and a larger volume of water than seemed to be approved by the Justice Department.

Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.

Obama’s DOJ Wants to Protect Cheney From Political Embarrassment

The Obama administration asserted a legal argument that a federal judge called the Jon Stewart “Daily Show exemption,” as the Justice Department continued a court fight to protect ex-Vice President Dick Cheney from disclosures about his role in the leak of a CIA officer’s identity six years ago.

At a federal court hearing Tuesday, Jeffrey Smith, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, argued that the transcript of Cheney’s 2004 interview with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about the CIA leak should remain secret for as long as 10 more years to protect Cheney from any political embarrassment that would result from the transcript being released

Last month, Smith cited the possibility that the transcript’s release might discourage future vice presidents from cooperating with criminal investigations because their words could become “fodder for The Daily Show.”

When Smith revived that argument on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan said, “You’re getting back to the Daily Show exemption. You’re not going back there, are you?”

A skeptical Sullivan asked Smith, “How do you distinguish the political fray from the public’s right to know what the government is up to?”

Smith said he was simply arguing that high-level officials like Cheney would be unwilling to speak to criminal investigators if there was a chance that what they said privately would become public. “Presidents don’t really have to cooperate if they really don’t want to,” Smith said.

Last week, Smith argued in court documents that just because Cheney voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by the special prosecutor investigating the leak of Valerie Plame’s covert CIA identity doesn’t mean Cheney “waived any privileges to which he may have been entitled to” since “none of the privileges at issue here was ever his to waive.”

In a footnote contained in a 12-page court filing, Smith wrote, “These privileges belong to the government. The presidential communications privilege belongs to the President; the deliberative process privilege asserted here belongs to the White House; and the law enforcement privilege asserted here belongs to DOJ.

“A government official, even one as senior as the Vice President cannot implicitly waive these governmental privileges by individually submitting to an interview.”

Though Judge Sullivan didn’t issue a ruling in the case, he didn’t appear swayed by the government’s arguments. He said the Justice Department was, in effect, requesting that he “legislate” by issuing some sort of special Freedom of Information Act exemption for vice presidents, which was something “the courts can’t do,” according to a transcript of the hearing.

“What you are asking the court to do is issue a ruling that says every time a special investigator calls a vice president to come down to testify, that information is protected from the public,” Sullivan said.

“No, that’s not it at all,” Smith responded.

Smith said he simply was concerned the transcript would become part of the “political fray” – and that by withholding it for as long as 10 years, its use would be limited to historical purposes.

Time Capsule

That argument brought another incredulous response from Sullivan. “Would there be some impediment to putting this information in a time capsule to be examined by future inhabitants of this world?” Sullivan asked. “Where do I draw the line? This happened five years ago.”

The case stems from a FOIA lawsuit filed last year by the public interest group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is seeking access to Cheney’s interview transcript and now has confronted denials from both the Bush and Obama administrations.

The resistance from the Obama administration has left some of its supporters shaking their heads. Not only does the obstruction go against President Obama’s pledge of government openness, but it is protecting the reputation of former Vice President Cheney, one of Obama’s most vocal critics.

The administration’s position also seems to equate with cheap partisanship a request for information about a major controversy from George W. Bush’s presidency – the leaking of Plame’s covert CIA identity as part of a campaign to discredit her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was an early Iraq War critic.

In a declaration filed with the court earlier this month, Lanny Breuer, an assistant attorney general for the criminal division, said releasing Cheney’s interview transcript could discourage cooperation from future vice presidents and thus would raise “the specter of the grand jury process” each time there was a demand to investigate “baseless, partisan allegations.”

In last week’s filing, Obama’s Justice Department even took an apparent swipe at the House Oversight Committee, which investigated the Plame leak for the past several years. The filing noted that the Cheney transcript was initially sought by “a congressional subpoena from a committee that appeared to be conducting a contentious investigation of the White House.”

In seeking to block disclosure of the transcript this month, Obama’s Justice Department did reveal some new details about special prosecutor Fitzgerald’s interrogation of Cheney. According to one reference in the court filing, Bush and Cheney were in contact about the scandal, including what is described as “a confidential conversation” and “an apparent communication between the Vice President and the President.”

The filing also made clear that Cheney was at the center of White House machinations rebutting criticism from Wilson, who charged in summer 2003 that the Bush administration had “twisted” intelligence to justify invading Iraq in March 2003. While seeking to discredit Wilson, administration officials disclosed to reporters that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.

Besides the contacts with Bush, the filing referenced Cheney’s questions to the CIA about its decision to send Wilson to Africa in 2002 to investigate – and ultimately refute – suspicions that Iraq was seeking yellowcake uranium from the African country of Niger.

Cheney was asked, too, about his role in arranging a statement by then-CIA Director George Tenet taking responsibility for including a misleading claim about the African uranium in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, and Cheney’s discussions with his chief of staff I. Lewis Libby and other White House officials about how to respond to inquiries regarding the leak of Plame’s identity, the court filing said.

Fitzgerald also questioned Cheney about his participation in the decision to declassify parts of a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s alleged WMD. It ultimately fell to Bush to clear selected parts of the NIE so they could be leaked as part of the White House campaign to disparage Wilson.

CREW had represented the Wilson’s in a civil lawsuit against Cheney and other Bush administration officials, which Obama’s Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject. The High Court dismissed the case last month.

Judge Sullivan said if he issues a ruling in favor of CREW, he would allow the government to appeal his decision before ordering the release of the transcript.

Making Sense of Cheney's Madness | By Ivan Eland July 21, 2009

Editor’s Note: There was always an element of mad excess to the Bush administration’s assertions of its unlimited powers, a hubris that invited resistance but prevailed because of the collective cowardice of the Washington press corps and Congress.

In this guest essay, the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland suggests there was a method to the apparent madness, that Dick Cheney developed a post-9/11 strategy to exploit the crisis to achieve long-held goals for a unitary executive and a hyper-imperial presidency:

The seeming irrationality behind the George W. Bush administration’s “against the grain” (and the law) policies on torture, warrantless domestic surveillance, and now notification of Congress about CIA covert operations was not irrational at all.

Most experts say that torture is counterproductive because the subject will tell the interrogator what he or she wants to hear to stop the pain and because many military people say that it merely revs up the opposition, gives them no incentive to surrender, and gives them every incentive to torture U.S. military personnel.

Yet in the face of this mountain of authoritative opinion and the policy’s clear violation of international law and a U.S. criminal statute against torture, the Bush administration gleefully did it anyway.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) clearly prohibited surveillance in the United States without a court-approved warrant and explicitly stated that it was the only law governing that practice.

The Bush administration, in the wake of 9/11, made no effort to get a likely willing Congress to change the already flexible law. After all, if surveillance had been urgently needed to stop a terrorist attack, the secret and pro-security court could have issued the warrant after the fact.

But the Bush administration strangely chose to flagrantly violate the law and Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to conduct domestic warrantless searches anyway.

Most recently, it has been revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney told the CIA to violate a law requiring prompt disclosure of even anticipated covert operations.

The red herring that Republicans are now trying to stand by in defense of the uncharacteristically silent Cheney — that the executive branch must guard intelligence sources and methods — could apply to a particular assassination attempt but not the existence of the entire program over a seven-year period.
Amazingly, Vice President Cheney — not even the President — decided to knowingly and affirmatively disregard the law.

Are these merely examples of Cheney’s or Bush’s arrogance? I suppose arrogance plays a part, but to paraphrase Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff, no crisis should go unexploited.

Pundits galore, including this one, have railed against the Bush administration for cynically using the tragedy of 9/11 to invade Iraq. But fewer have noticed an even worse legacy of the Bush administration than the Iraqi quagmire.

What could be worse than killing U.S. service people and innocent Iraqis? The unitary theory of the executive, that’s what.

Dick Cheney came into office believing that executive power had been excessively eroded during the Vietnam and Watergate years. Few reputable scholars believe this nonsense.

Most presidential scholars have concluded that the executive branch has grown in power vis-à-vis the other governmental branches since the turn of the 20th century, but really got boosted to an “imperial presidency” during the Cold War from the Truman presidency onward.

This development is a far cry from the legislative-dominated system that the nation’s founders and the Constitution envisioned. The slight rollback of executive power during Vietnam and Watergate was only a momentary pause as the executive juggernaut rolled forth up to the Bush administration.

Cheney’s advocacy of the unitary theory, and evidently convincing his self-interested boss to buy into it too, meant that the administration believed that it could use broadly construed commander-in-chief powers — another anathema to the founders — to ignore congressionally passed laws during “wartime.” In dictatorships, we call this “rule by decree.”

So the administration’s willful violation of laws had the more sinister purpose and effect of establishing a “hyper-imperial presidency.” This is the single most important thing that the Bush administration did in office and the worst.

We can already see that in the Obama and probably future administrations, executive self-restraint will be much harder in the face of the temptations of this more powerful inherited office, which will be based on the Bush-era precedents. Fear for the republic.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, andPutting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.

US Might Create Terror Interrogation TeamBy The Huffington Post News Editors

You need to be really stupid, or really cynical, to hand terrorism suspects over to a bunch of semi-literate sadists the way Bush did. What I'm saying is this is a step in the right direction. A lot of people will think torture when they hear the term ... Judge Sonia Sotomayor appeared Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the fourth day of... Logging · Obama Administration Approves First Roadless Logging Contract In Alaska's Tongass National Forest ...
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The NSA Is Still Listening To You

Bush Went Away, But Domestic Surveillance Overreach Didn't. It's Now The Law, And The ACLU Is Fighting Back

By James Bamford

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) building in Fort Meade, Md., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007, during a visit by then President Bush.

July 22, 2009 | This summer, on a remote stretch of desert in central Utah, the National Security Agency will begin work on a massive, 1 million-square-foot data warehouse. Costing more than $1.5 billion, the highly secret facility is designed to house upward of trillions of intercepted phone calls, e-mail messages, Internet searches and other communications intercepted by the agency as part of its expansive eavesdropping operations. The NSA is also completing work on another data warehouse, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

The need for such extraordinary data storage capacity stems in part from the Bush administration's decision to open the NSA's surveillance floodgates following the 9/11 attacks. According to a recently released Inspectors General report, some of the NSA's operations -- such as spying on American citizens without warrants -- were so questionable, if not illegal, that they nearly caused the resignations of the most senior officials of both the FBI and the Justice Department.

Last July, many of those surveillance techniques were codified into law as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA). In fact, according to the Inspectors General report, "this legislation gave the government even broader authority to intercept international communications" than the warrantless surveillance operations had. Yet despite this increased power, congressional oversight committees have recently discovered that the agency has been over-collecting on the domestic communications of Americans, thus even exceeding the excessive reach granted them by the FAA.

I am an author and journalist specializing in national security issues and terrorism, and often communicate with parties in the Middle East as part of my work. Because of concerns that my communications might have been monitored, in early 2006, shortly after NSA's warrantless surveillance program was revealed by the New York Times, I became a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the NSA that argued that the program was illegal and should be shut down. We prevailed in federal district court, with Judge Anna Diggs Taylor finding that President Bush had violated both the law and the Constitution, but lost on the government's appeal when the court ruled the plaintiffs could not prove that they were personally victims of the secret eavesdropping program. In a decision worthy of Lewis Carroll, the appeals court held both that the government could refuse to confirm or deny whether it had monitored plaintiffs' communications and that plaintiffs could not challenge the constitutionality of the program unless they could show that their communications had been monitored. A dissenting judge pointed out that the court's decision was inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and would effectively render the program unreviewable by the courts.

On Wednesday, the ACLU will once again appear in federal court, this time in a separate lawsuit charging that the new FAA statute is unconstitutional. The ACLU is right. While the FAA prohibits the agency from intentionally "targeting" people within the U.S., it places virtually no restrictions on the targeting of people outside the U.S. even if those targets are communicating with U.S. citizens and residents. The law essentially allows the agency virtually unfettered access to the international communications of innocent Americans in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Also troublesome is the fact that the FAA emasculates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the one independent check and balance between the agency and the American public. Originally established as a response to the discovery by Congress in the mid-1970s that the NSA had been illegally eavesdropping domestically for decades, the FISA court required the government to show that there was probable cause to believe that its surveillance target was an agent of a foreign government or terrorist group in order to obtain a necessary warrant. But the new law does away with this requirement, and now the NSA does not even have to identify the targets of its surveillance at all as long as it is targeting people outside the U.S., leaving the agency free, for example, to target human rights activists or media organizations overseas, even if they are communicating with family or editors back in the U.S. As former NSA "voice interceptor" Adrienne Kinne told me in my book, "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America," the agency targeted both groups during the Bush administration, including eavesdropping on intimate bedroom conversations.

Further removing the FISA court from any meaningful role, the new law even gags the judges, prohibiting them from asking the government who, what, where or why it is launching any particular surveillance program.

Finally, the FAA fails to place any meaningful limitations on the NSA's retention of phone calls, e-mail and other communications that it collects -- necessitating the colossal data storage mausoleums it is now building. The agency need only show that it has "reasonably designed" procedures to minimize information retention, which must give way to the NSA's need "to obtain, produce, and disseminate foreign intelligence information." And because "foreign intelligence" is very broadly defined, this allows the NSA to conduct immense data mining operations within those centers.

Among the most striking discoveries to come out of the Inspectors General report was that, despite the enormous expansion of the NSA's capabilities, including turning its giant ear inward for the first time in three decades, no one could point to any significant counterterrorism success. Instead, it warned that while the agency had little difficulty collecting vast amounts of data, the trouble was analyzing it all. It was a problem akin to Jorge Luis Borges' "Library of Babel," a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world's knowledge is stored, but not a single word understood. In this "labyrinth of letters," Borges wrote, "there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences." In addition to the civil liberties and constitutional defects in the new surveillance law, another compelling argument against it is that it only increases the amount of "senseless cacophonies" in America's Library of Babel.

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