|March 12, 2007|
||Protect and Defend President Bush|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
||Coffee and Donuts Not Included|
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In an editorial entitled, “The Failed Attorney General,” the New York Times wrote Sunday that Alberto Gonzales has “never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency.” Recounting the constitutional abuses that have taken place under Gonzales’ watch, the Times urged Bush to “dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution.” Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Gonzales “has been even more political than his predecessor, Attorney General Ashcroft.” “For the sake of nation,” Schumer said, “Attorney General Gonzales should step down.” Reflecting his keen understanding of how this White House operates, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) responded, “I think the fact that Senator Schumer asked for him to step down means he won’t.” But Schumer isn’t alone in his concerns. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) — who last week expressed his hope that there will soon be “a new attorney general” — conceded yesterday that “there have been a lot of problems” at Gonzales’s Justice Department. A conservative adviser to the White House told the Washington Post, “This attorney general doesn’t have anybody’s confidence. It’s the worst of Bush — it’s intense loyalty for all the wrong reasons. There will be other things that come up, and we don’t have a guy in whom we can trust.”
PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT: A daily drip of new reports surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department has shown that there was “a bald attempt to undercut the independence of prosecutors through tactics that included calling them at home, pressuring them to help Republican candidates, and threatening to punish them for speaking about the firings.” The Chicago Sun-Times writes, “The firing of the prosecutors comes across as transparent in its political designs.” Rather than address the serious concerns, Gonzales last week dismissed the firings as “an overblown personnel matter.” This weekend, more evidence came to light showing that Gonzales has been carrying the water for the White House political operation. New Mexico Republican Party chairman Allen Weh said he complained about fired-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to the White House in 2005 and again to Karl Rove personally in 2006. Weh asked that Iglesias be removed because he was not indicting Democrats. Weh said Rove assured him: “He’s gone.” It wasn’t just Iglesias. Newsweek reports that Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’s chief of staff, developed the list of eight prosecutors to be fired last October “with input from the White House.” The White House acknowledged last night that Rove served as a “conduit for complaints” about prosecutors, delivering instructions to a compliant attorney general.
PRIVACY INVASION: The Justice Department released an Inspector General (IG) report last week showing “pervasive errors in the FBI’s use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail, and financial records in national security cases.” The audit “found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations.” Gonzales had known about the report for three weeks before its public release. The breached national security reporting requirements were precisely the same provisions which Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a “signing statement” as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act’s renewal into law. Bush said he had been “briefed by the Attorney General” and the FBI Director on the report last week, and then quickly added that he retained confidence in Gonzales. But a key conservative ally of Bush was not as dismissive. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) said “there ought to be some heads that roll” over the FBI scandal. Noting Gonzales’ strenuous defense of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program, the New York Times wrote that the administration “has clearly gotten the message that promises (and civil rights) are meant to be broken.” Gonzales was — and has been — “an eager public champion of the absurd notion that as commander in chief during a time of war, Mr. Bush can ignore laws that he thinks get in his way.” “Congress should act quickly to investigate these abuses,” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Mark Agrast writes, “and determine whether the internal checks recommended by the IG are sufficient to prevent their recurrence.”
ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR TORTURE: The litany of abuses documented by the Times includes the fact that “the attorney general helped formulate and later defended the policies that repudiated the Geneva Conventions in the war against terror, and that sanctioned the use of kidnapping, secret detentions, abuse and torture.” While serving as White House counsel, Gonzales helped set the course for the interrogation policy against detainees by yielding legal control to others, “particularly Vice President Cheney’s influential legal counsel, David S. Addington.” In an attempt to justify depriving Guantanamo detainees of their rights to challenge their convictions, Gonzales has opined, “There is no express grant of habeas corpus in the Constitution.” He has blamed the administration’s poor track record of convicting Guantanamo detainees on legal challenges filed by Gitmo lawyers courts. And he has helped usher in a new legal regime that provides the president sweeping new powers under the Military Commissions Act “to arrest and detain non-citizens — and possibly citizens as well — either here or abroad, including individuals who are not engaged in armed conflict against the United States — and to hold them indefinitely without charge.”
GOVERNMENT – SUNSHINE WEEK SPOTLIGHTS PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW: In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a landmark law that opened the government’s records to public scrutiny. Because of FOIA, Vietnam War veterans learned about their exposure to Agent Orange, reporters learned that the military had given U.S. troops in Iraq body armor that failed ballistics tests, and the public learned how many times Jack Abramoff had visited the White House. Unfortunately, under the Bush administration, federal agencies have stalled or ignored an increased number of FOIA requests, classified a record number of documents, stepped up punishment for whistleblowers, and tightened secrecy in the name of national security. A new study by the National Security Archive finds that just one in five federal agencies posts on its website all the records to file FOIA requests and just 6 percent “tell people how to request what does not appear there.” Another study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government “found that 26 federal agencies were processing fewer FOIA requests, making petitioners wait much longer for responses and releasing less information than they were nine years ago.” This week marks Sunshine Week, highlighting the public’s right to know what the government is doing. Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) plan to reintroduce legislation that will strengthen FOIA by giving agencies “strong incentives to act on FOIA requests in a timely fashion.” It will also “ensure that Internet-based journalists and people who write Web logs are given the same reduced FOIA fees as other members of the press” and will establish a FOIA hotline to track requests.
CORRUPTION — HALLIBURTON LEAVING HOUSTON TO FOR ‘LAISSER FAIR ATTITUDE’ OF DUBAI: Halliburton, the oil services giant once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, “will soon shift its corporate headquarters from Houston to the Mideast financial powerhouse of Dubai.” Time Magazine’s Karen Tumulty wondered if their were reasons for the move beyond being closer to Mideast oil reserves: “Is this about tax breaks? Getting beyond the reach of congressional subpoenas? And what about all that sensitive information that Halliburton has had access to? At a minimum, reincorporating in Dubai would mean that Halliburton will be paying less taxes to the U.S. Treasury, even as it collects billions from government contracts.” “Dubai,” the Financial Times reports, “has long positioned itself as a regional business hub, with a laisser faire attitude to business regulations.” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Henry Waxman is “already planning to hold a hearing” on the move, Tumutly reported. Halliburton has brought the added scrutiny upon itself. In February, Waxman’s committee found the U.S. government has wasted $10 billion in Iraq on “overpriced contracts or undocumented costs,” and of that amount, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton. In one especially egregious case, the company “failed to protect the water supply it is paid to purify for U.S. soldiers throughout Iraq, in one instance missing contamination that could have caused ‘mass sickness or death,'” according to an internal company report.
MILITARY — ARMY SECRETARY WHO RESIGNED OVER WALTER REED GIVEN LAVISH FAREWELL CEREMONY: Army Secretary Francis Harvey resigned recently after the Washington Post exposed the neglect and squalor at Walter Reed. Yet last Friday, the Army gave Harvey a celebratory farewell ceremony at the large Conmy Hall in Virginia. The Progress Report obtained a media advisory promoting the event, which stated that Army chief of staff Peter Schoomaker would be hosting the “farewell ceremony” in Harvey’s honor. Harvey not only oversaw the conditions at Walter Reed, but he also chose to place Lt. General Kevin Kiley — who had been personally aware for years about the problems and apparently done nothing — back in control of the hospital. Harvey’s decision was reversed days later by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In the text of his “Message to the Army,” Harvey stated, “I am leaving your ranks saddened,” and claimed the “well-being” of “soldiers and their families” has “always been my highest priority.” The press advisory also noted: “The Secretary of the Army will not conduct a media availability before or after the ceremony.”
The Pentagon has “begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters” in case the President’s escalation fails. The new strategy is more in line with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and is “based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s.”
Tourism to the United States has dropped by 17 percent since 2001. “Two-thirds of respondents worried they could be held back at airports because of a mistake in form filling or a misstatement to immigration officials. Half said officials were rude and that they feared them more than the threat of terrorism or crime.”
Some officials within the White House are calling on President Bush to uphold his pledge to “have the highest of high standards” when it comes to granting pardons. “What you saw was a vice president’s office that was out of control,” a former White House staffer tells Newsweek, arguing against pardoning Scooter Libby.
“A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship.”
The Army expects to have an “annual shortage of 3,000 [midlevel] officers through 2013 as it increases its ranks by 40,000 soldiers.” The Government Accountability Office notes that “officer retention has been a problem for the Army, in part because it “continues to remain heavily involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.’”
Former U.S. attorney John McKay tells Newsweek that after he was fired in December, he received a call from the Justice Department asking if he intended to go public: “He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.”
And finally: They don’t have habeas, but they do have hibiscus. “A select group of detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been allowed to plant gardens for the first time, a military spokesman said. Prisoners in Camp 4, which holds the ‘most compliant’ detainees, started growing tomatoes several weeks ago in concrete soil-filled planters.”