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I can’t seem to escape reporting on the current Washington scandals no matter how I try. But I’ve got a few things worth mentioning.
My guess is that Scooter Libby will try to keep his case in appeal until January 2009, when Bush can pardon him at the last minute and suffer little fallout for his decision. But it would be nice if Libby, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney saw the inside of a jail cell for at least one of their crimes. I do feel a slight bit of sympathy for Libby, because “Scooter” is a really terrible nickname.
US Attorney firings
As I understand it, the key thing here is that Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzalez, and possibly Big W himself decided to fire US attorneys who had refused to launch investigations of Democratic politicians or back off of investigations into Republican politicians. They then replaced them with US attorneys more to their liking. In other words, hirings and firings for solely political purposes.
- before being appointed to Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzalez was essentially George W. Bush’s personal lawyer (”general counsel”) since 1994. The fact that Bush nominated his personal attorney to Attorney General of the United States is so fucking shady that somebody in Congress should have, y’know, stopped it.
- the ability to replace US attorneys when there’s a vacancy is a new power granted to the Department of Justice thanks to the Patriot Act. Previous to the signing of the Patriot Act, one or two people thought “gee, maybe the government will abuse the new powers that this Act gives them.” Those people were clearly crazy.
- if these fired attorneys lost their jobs for refusing to give in to Republican pressure, how many other US attorneys were pressured also pressured to do so, yet caved in to keep their jobs? Frankly, that’s a much better question to be asking.
- author and Watergate whistleblower John Dean claims that “it’s a very standard Rove operation… to have people who are running against his… candidates to be under investigations that somehow disappear as soon as the election is over.” Basically, he’s arguing that these attorneys were fired because they refused to take place in a smear campaign that would influence the outcomes of state elections.
- the NY Times reported that Bush had spoken to Gonzalez about the attorneys back in October, to “to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud”. In recent years, “voter fraud” has been the rationale for Republicans to remove potential Democratic voters from the voter rolls (or in other cases, challenge likely Democratic voters, in hopes of having their votes invalidated. Or to harass likely Democratic voters so that they won’t make the effort to vote). And of course, this effort has largely been racist, as people of color are less likely to vote Republican. So either was asking Gonzalez to carry out a racist plan to steal votes, or perhaps he was innocently passing along requests to do so without realizing what they meant (as we know, Bush isn’t real bright).
Walter Reed scandal
Is anyone really suprised that an administration that would send people out to suffer and die in an imperial war would then shortchange those same people’s medical care when they came back wounded? “Support the troops” has never meant “support the troops.” It means “I am loyal to the president and his war”. However, the opposite phrase, like “you don’t support the troops” means “you hate America.”
That being said, a lot of those ill-treated American soldiers have a lot of goddam blood on their own hands. While huge numbers of Iraqi civilians have been killed by insurgents and death squads, huge numbers were also killed by American bombs and bullets. I’m sure that most of those wounded Iraqi survivors are not getting treatment half as nice as they do at Walter Reed.
The FBI and Justice Department have now admitted that the FBI illegally gathered the phone records of thousands of people over a two-year period, and that’s just the stuff they’re willing to admit.
Basically, the FBI is allowed to demand phone records from phone companies without a warrant, if a) they send the company an official National Security Letter, b) they have also sent a request for a subpoena to the US Attorneys office, and c) this info relates to an imminent threat to national security. Instead, the FBI has sent phone companies thousands of a) regular letters, b) without applying for subpoenas, c) on cases with no imminent threat, that d) often had nothing at all to do with national security.
Even better, once the FBI has this data, they stick it into a database accessible by tens of thousands of federal employees (not just the FBI), private companies, and foreign governments.
The ability to gather these phone records with National Security Letters is a new power granted to the FBI thanks to the Patriot Act. Previous to the signing of the Patriot Act, one or two people thought “gee, maybe the government will abuse the new powers that this Act gives them.” Those people were clearly crazy.
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