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Justice Department

Obama administration backs Bush, tries to kill ‘lost’ White House emails lawsuit

RAW STORY

Missing email includes day Cheney’s office told to preserve emails in CIA leak case WASHINGTON — Welcome to change.

The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails in a stunning reversal of Obama’s rhetoric about Bush secrecy on the campaign trail.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President, including one of the groups that helped derail former House Speaker Tom DeLay, say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, allegedly resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House “discovered the problem” in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

The exact number of missing e-mails is unknown, but several days on which e-mails were not archived covered key dates in a Justice Department inquiry into the roles of Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides in leaking the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

Ironically, Cheney’s office is missing emails from the very day President Bush told reporters he’d “take care of” whatever staff member had actually… Continue reading

Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics

By Jill Lawrence
February 16, 2009
USA Today

WASHINGTON – Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in
tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating
some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether
its tactics in the “war on terror” broke the law.

USATodaypollClose
to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations
that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program
of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor
criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal
charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

CALLS TO MOVE ON: Even reversed, Bush policies divide

Even more people want action on alleged attempts by the Bush team to use the
Justice Department for political purposes. Four in 10 favored a criminal probe,
three in 10 an independent panel, and 25% neither.

The ACLU and other groups are pressing for inquiries into whether the Bush
administration violated U.S. and international bans on torture and the constitutional
right to privacy. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and his Senate counterpart,
Patrick Leahy, have proposed commissions to investigate.

Asked Monday about Leahy’s plan, President Obama said he would look at it.
He added, “my general orientation is to say, let’s get it right moving
forward.” Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have declined to rule
out prosecutions. Leon Panetta, named to head the CIA, said this month that
CIA officers… Continue reading

Eric Holder Signals No Prosecutions of Bush War Criminals

By Dennis Loo
January 30, 2009
WorldCantWait.net

Attorney General nominee Eric Holder in written response to a question posed to him during his Senate confirmation hearing by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) stated:

“Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts, and no one is above the law. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in ‘reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions’ authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”

Newsweek described
this written statement as “carefully vetted by Obama’s White House lawyers.”
In other words, Holder’s statement fairly reflects Obama’s and Holder’s intentions
in this regard.

Holder’s comment came to light when a Holder aide pointed to it in an attempt to refute a Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) assertion, reported by the Washington Times (“Holder Assures GOP on Prosecution”) on January 28, 2009 that Holder had promised him that he was not going to prosecute Bush officials for war crimes. The Washington Times article created a storm of concern among human rights groups and others who are rightfully determined that the Bush White House’s crimes against humanity be prosecuted. Holder and the White House rushed to try to reassure people that Holder has not promised the GOP anything.

Sen. Bond had been threatening to block Holder’s nomination in committee over this issue. Bond met with Holder privately this week twice and Sen. Bond emerged from those meetings supporting Holder’s nomination.… Continue reading

Obama order could present problems for Rove

John Byrne
January 27, 2009
RawStory.com

A little-noticed twist in an order issued by President Barack Obama the day
after his inauguration may present problems for former White House Deputy Chief
of Staff Karl Rove and other Bush Administration officials that have been targeted
for their alleged role in various scandals.

Rove was subpoenaed Monday afternoon by House Judiciary Committee Chairman
John Conyers (D-MI). When the dogged Democrat subpoenaed him last year, Bush
Administration lawyers invoked “executive immunity” to prevent Rove
from testifying.

This year, however, George W. Bush is no longer in the president’s chair. Determination
of executive privilege must now also be examined by President Obama’s lawyers.
In fact, Rove’s lawyer made direct reference to Obama’s role in any future decision
to enjoin Rove’s appearance on the congressional witness stand Monday night.

“It’s generally agreed that former presidents retain executive privilege
as to matters occurring during their term,” Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin,
told The Washington Post. “We’ll solicit the views of the new White House
counsel and, if there is a disagreement, assume that the matter will be resolved
among the courts, the president and the former president.”

Luskin doesn’t concede that Rove isn’t covered by Bush’s blanket immunity,
but appears to acknowledge that the question of keeping Rove off the witness
stand has become more complex.

“The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise
of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection
(a) of this section, may jointly determine that… Continue reading

Obama restores some of the ‘Freedom’ to FOIA

January 23, 2009
By Michael Doyle
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — One curious soul on Feb. 8, 2001, filed a Freedom of Information
Act request with the State Department.

He or she is still awaiting a reply.

Nearly eight years have passed, making the early 2001 search for information
one of the State Department’s 10 oldest pending FOIA requests. While extreme,
it also reflects how information flow slowed markedly during the Bush administration.

“In the past, it’s been difficult even for a public agency like ourselves
to obtain information that affects our operations,” Tom Birmingham, general
manager of the Westlands Water District in Fresno, Calif., said on Friday.

As one of his first acts, President Barack Obama issued an order reversing
his predecessor’s approach toward the release of government documents. Scholars,
journalists, farmers and the simply curious now await the reopening of federal
information taps tightened since 2001.

In fiscal 2007, for instance, the Defense Department completely granted approximately
48 percent of the FOIA requests it processed. In fiscal 1998, by contrast, the
Clinton administration’s Defense Department completely granted approximately
61 percent of FOIA requests.

The Pentagon was not alone, a review of federal agency reports shows. Percentages
are approximate, because of how the reports are compiled, but trends are obvious.

The Interior Department completely granted approximately 64 percent of FOIA
requests processed in 1998 but only 47 percent in 2007. The State Department
completely granted 28 percent of FOIA requests processed in 1998, compared with
9 percent in 1998.

Other federal agencies, though not all, likewise lessened access to information
during the Bush administration, the review of public records reveals.…

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Paul Krugman on our Need to Know What Happened These Last 8 Years

What Obama Must Do A Letter to the New President

PAUL KRUGMAN
Rolling Stone

Dear Mr. President:

Like FDR three-quarters of a century ago, you’re taking charge at a moment when all the old certainties have vanished, all the conventional wisdom been proved wrong. We’re not living in a world you or anyone else expected to see. Many presidents have to deal with crises, but very few have been forced to deal from Day One with a crisis on the scale America now faces.

So, what should you do?

In this letter I won’t try to offer advice about everything. For the most part I’ll stick to economics, or matters that bear on economics. I’ll also focus on things I think you can or should achieve in your first year in office. The extent to which your administration succeeds or fails will depend, to a large extent, on what happens in the first year — and above all, on whether you manage to get a grip on the current economic crisis.

There is, however, one area where I feel the need to break discipline. I’m an economist, but I’m also an American citizen — and like many citizens, I spent the past eight years watching in horror as the Bush administration betrayed the nation’s ideals. And I don’t believe we can put those terrible years behind us unless we have a full accounting of what really happened. I know that most of the inside-the-Beltway crowd is urging you to let bygones be bygones, just as they urged Bill Clinton to let the truth about scandals from the Reagan-Bush years, in particular the Iran-Contra affair, remain hidden.…

Continue reading

Feds Drop Case Against Accused Iraqi Agent

Originally published at “Scoop” Independent News by Michael Collins

“The Government has determined that continued prosecution of this case as to LINDAUER would not be in the interests of justice.” *

(Jan. 16, Wash. DC) The Department of Justice entered a motion to drop all charges against Susan Lindauer yesterday morning, Jan. 15, 2009. The filing (see below) at the federal district court in lower Manhattan ends the government’s attempt to prosecute her for allegedly acting as an “unregistered agent” for Iraq. Since her arrest in early 2004, she has repeatedly asked for a trial to present evidence that she had been a United States intelligence asset since the early 1990’s.

By filing this order, the government surrendered forever its ability to prosecute Lindauer as an “Iraqi foreign agent” and for lesser charges contained in the indictment, including a one week trip to Baghdad in March, 2002.

Lindauer made the following statement today, Jan 16, 2009: “I am disgusted by this case. They think that they have defeated me by denying my day in court. It could not be more wrong. If we can’t have a criminal trial, we’re going to have a civil trial for damages.”

Lindauer was arrested in March, 2004 shortly after offering to testify before a Bush appointed blue ribbon commission evaluating U.S. pre-war intelligence on Iraq. In late February, she informed the offices of two commission members, Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and Trent Lott (R-MS), that she could testify that U.S. pre-war intelligence was proactive and… Continue reading

What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us

By Columbia Journalism Review
January 14, 2009

Advocates for open and transparent government are quick to note that no American
presidential administration has, in practice, been enthusiastic about reducing
secrecy in the executive branch–for some obvious and sometimes quite legitimate
reasons. There are secrets that almost everyone agrees should remain secret.
But secrecy must be balanced with the citizens’ right to examine the operations
of their government–to learn, to improve, to enforce, and sometimes to
shame. That’s especially true when there are political or bureaucratic
incentives for secrecy that deserve far less respect than true matters of national
security. And despite the bipartisan resistance from those in power, the arc
of history has trended, if unevenly, toward openness. Claims of excessive secrecy
have become a tried and true political battering ram, easily wielded by the
party in opposition. Technological evolution has not only made the dissemination
of information easier and faster, but also has heightened our appetite for disclosure.
The trend isn’t confined to the political sphere. Betty Ford’s frank
discussion of her struggles with cancer and alcoholism in the 1970s marked a
new era of openness in our personal medical lives, and the invention of the
personal video camera spawned a cottage industry around moments–gaffes,
goofs, tragedies–that were once private.

Against that backdrop, there is wide agreement among journalists and openness
advocates that the administration of George W. Bush was an aberration, at least
in the modern era. Bush and his advisers came into office with a broad vision… Continue reading

Will We Get Accountability? Obama’s Reply to Blogger Bob Fertik’s Special Prosecutor Question

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

As Bush gives his final press conference today, lamenting the “mistakes” of his presidency, some are wondering if he and other members of his administration will get a chance to tell such tales to a special prosecutor.

“History will look back,” he told reporters, most likely hoping the next administration’s Justice Department will solely look forward. Judging from the most recent comments from his successor, that may very well be the case.

It all started when Bob Fertik, progressive writer and co-founder of Democrats.com, posed this question to President-elect Barack Obama:

“Will you appoint a special prosecutor — ideally Patrick Fitzgerald — to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”

Fertik submitted the question to Change.gov, the official transition Web site for the incoming Obama Administration. The site has a forum called “Open for Questions” where people can post items of particular concern for the Obama team to review. Fertik’s question got so much attention and approval from other users on the site that it made its way to the top of the Change.gov list and onto the Sunday talk shows, finally garnering this response from Obama when George Stephanopoulos asked the question directly:

“We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the… Continue reading

Cold War vets sue over alleged germ experiments

By Paul Elias
Associated Press
January 7, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Six veterans who claim they were exposed to dangerous chemicals, germs and mind-altering drugs during Cold War experiments sued the CIA, Department of Defense and other agencies today.

The vets volunteered for military experiments they say were part of a wide-ranging program started in the 1950s to test nerve agents, biological weapons and mind-control techniques.

They allege in their lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court that they were never properly informed of the nature of the experiments and are in poor health because of their exposure. They are demanding health care and a court ruling that the program was illegal because it failed to obtain their consent.

Marie Harf, a CIA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which seeks class action status on behalf of all participants allegedly exposed to harmful experiments without their knowledge.

At least 7,800 U.S. military personnel served as volunteers to test experimental drugs such as LSD at the Edgewood Arsenal near Baltimore, Md., during a program that lasted into the 1970s, the lawsuit said. Many others volunteered for similar experiments at other locations,  according to the lawsuit.

“In virtually all cases, troops served in the same capacity as laboratory rats or guinea pigs,” the lawsuit said.

One notorious CIA project from the 1950s and 1960s, code-named MK-ULTRA, involved brainwashing and administering experimental drugs like LSD to unsuspecting individuals. The project was the target of at least three Congressional inquiries in the 1970s,… Continue reading

U.S. seeks 147-year sentence in torture case

Dec. 29, 2008
Associated Press

MIAMI – U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father’s reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture — which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror — as a “flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority” that warrants severe punishment of Taylor.

“It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week’s filing. “The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute.”

Remainder of article at msnbc.com

Continue reading

Utah lawyer says Obama’s A.G. pick behind cover-up

Originally published at  The Salt Lake Tribune by Pamela Manson on December 25, 2008

Accusation–Attorney general-nominee led effort to kill investigation into prisoner’s death.

A Salt Lake City lawyer who claims his brother was tortured and murdered in a federal prison is alleging that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder played a role in covering up the crime.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee members, lawyer Jesse Trentadue acknowledges the paper trail on Holder’s actions “is scant,” but claims he was the “point man” in an effort to persuade Congress to not investigate his brother’s death. He is asking that Holder be questioned at his confirmation hearing next year about his alleged attempt to block efforts “to obtain a certain measure of justice for my brother’s murder.”

The Department of Justice, where Holder served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, referred a request for comment to the Presidential Transition Team (PTT). A statement issued by an Obama transition aide denied Trentadue’s allegations.

“Multiple independent investigations have found that Kenneth Trentadue’s death was a suicide,” the statement said. “There is simply no  evidence to support the claims in this letter.”

The body of Kenneth Trentadue, who had served time for bank robbery and was being held on an alleged parole violation, was found hanging in his cell at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City on Aug. 21, 1995.

Several investigations by state and federal agencies ruled the death a suicide, but his survivors believe Kenneth Trentadue was strangled… Continue reading

The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It’s time to stop the mission creep.

By Thomas A. Schweich
Sunday, December 21, 2008

We no longer have a civilian-led government. It is hard for a lifelong Republican and son of a retired Air Force colonel to say this, but the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government. Our Constitution is at risk.

President-elect Barack Obama’s selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, to be his national security adviser and, it appears, retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be his director of national intelligence present the incoming administration with an important opportunity — and a major risk. These appointments could pave the way for these respected military officers to reverse the current trend of Pentagon encroachment upon civilian government functions, or they could complete the silent military coup d’etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media.

While serving the State Department in several senior capacities over the past four years, I witnessed firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government. The first assault on civilian government occurred in faraway places — Iraq and Afghanistan — and was, in theory, justified by the exigencies of war.

The White House, which basically let the Defense Department call the budgetary shots, vastly underfunded efforts by the State Department, the Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to train civilian police forces, build… Continue reading

Bush Insider Who Planned To Tell All Killed In Plane Crash: Non-Profit Demands Full Federal Investigation

VelvetRevolution.us

Michael Connell, the Bush IT expert who has been directly implicated in the rigging of George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 elections, was killed last night when his single engine plane crashed three miles short of the Akron airport. Velvet Revolution (“VR”), a non-profit that has been investigating Mr. Connell’s activities for the past two years, can now reveal that a person close to Mr. Connell has recently been discussing with a VR investigator how to tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Connell told a close associate that he was afraid that the George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw [him] under the bus.”
 

Editor’s Note:
Our sincere, heartfelt condolences to Heather Connell, her children and family at this tragic, painful time…

 

A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell’s life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR’s attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General , Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell’s not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside… Continue reading

Bush Regime Declares Itself Above the Law

By Paul Craig Roberts
December 05, 2008
Information Clearinghouse

The US government
does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but no other government can match the
hypocrisy of the US government.

It is now well documented and known all over the world that the US government
tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and that the US government has
had people kidnaped and “rendentioned,” that is, transported to
third world countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Also documented and well known is the fact that the US Department of Justice
provided written memos justifying the torture of detainees. One torture advocate
who wrote the DOJ memos that gave the green light to the Bush regime’s
use of torture is John Yoo, a Vietnamese immigrant who somehow secured a US
Justice Department appointment and a tenured professorship at the University
of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. John Yoo is the best case
against immigration that I know.

Members of Berkeley’s city council believe that Yoo should be charged
with war crimes. The US government has charged lesser offenders than Yoo with
war crimes. Yoo helped the DOJ achieve the Bush regime’s goal of finding
a way around the torture prohibitions of both US statutory law and the Geneva
Conventions.

The way around the law that Yoo provided for the sadistic Bush regime was closed
down by the US Supreme Court, which voided Yoo’s arguments, and Yoo’s
torture memo was rescinded by the Department of Justice. Nevertheless, Yoo’s
obvious… Continue reading

Bush-Appointed Judge Declares Five Detainees Held Illegally, Orders Immediate Release

November 21, 2008
By William Glaberson
New York Times

A federal judge issued the Bush administration a sharp setback on Thursday, ruling that five Algerian men have been held unlawfully at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp for nearly seven years and ordering their release.

It was the first hearing on the government’s evidence for holding detainees at Guantánamo. The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, said the government’s secret evidence in the case had been weak: what he described as “a classified document from an unnamed source” for its central claim against the men, with little way to measure credibility.

“To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” Judge Leon said. He urged the government not to appeal and said the men should be released “forthwith.”

The habeas corpus case was an important test of the administration’s detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men and low-level foot soldiers along with hardened fighters and terrorist commanders.

The judge also ruled that a sixth Algerian man was being lawfully detained because he was a facilitator for Al Qaeda, arranging travel for others to fight the United States, and planned to become a fighter himself.

The six men are among a group of Guantánamo inmates who won a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling in June that the detainees had a constitutional right to seek their release in federal court. The decision said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped them of their right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus lawsuits.…

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Refuse to Tolerate Torture – New report details shattered lives of released Guantánamo detainees

Image of banner for John Yoo must goRefuse to Tolerate Torture
By Linda Rigas
November 18, 2008
Posted at FireJohnYoo.org
Excerpts from Scott Horton’s Justice After Bush: Prosecuting An Outlaw Administration in Harper’s Magazine.

This administration did more than commit crimes. It waged war against the law itself. It transformed the Justice Department into a  vehicle for voter suppression, and it also summarily dismissed the U.S. attorneys who attempted to investigate its wrongdoing. It issued wartime contracts to substandard vendors with inside connections, and it also defunded efforts to police their performance. It spied on church groups and political protestors, and it also introduced a sweeping
surveillance program that was so clearly illegal that virtually the entire senior echelon of the Justice Department threatened to (but did not in fact) tender their resignations over it. It waged an illegal and disastrous war, and it did so by falsely representing to Congress and to the American public nearly every piece of intelligence it had on Iraq. And through it all, as if to underscore its contempt for any authority but its own, the administration issued more than a hundred carefully crafted “signing statements” that raised pervasive doubt about whether the president would even accede to bills that he himself had signed into law.

No prior administration has been so systematically or so brazenly lawless. […] Indeed, in weighing the enormity of the administration’s transgression against the realistic prospect of justice, it is possible to determine not only the crime that calls most clearly for prosecution but also the crime that is most likely to be successfully prosecuted.

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No Pardons! Nadler Introduces H.R. 1531

by Justin A. Martell
911blogger.com

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) took one of the first steps in holding the Bush Administration accountable when he introduced House Resolution 1531 on Thursday.

The official title of HR 1531, which was introduced to the House Judiciary Committee, is “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President of the United States should not issue pardons to senior members of his administration during the final 90 days of his term of office.”

The resolution notes, “President George W. Bush may have committed crimes involving the mistreatment of detainees, the extraordinary rendition of individuals to countries known to engage in torture, illegal surveillance of United States citizens, unlawful leaks of classified information, obstruction of justice, political interference with the conduct of the Justice Department, and other illegal acts,” and that, “Bush has been urged to grant preemptive pardons to senior administration officials who might face criminal prosecution for actions taken in the course of their official duties.”

Rep. Nadler is the current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties . According to an email sent out by Democrats.com, Nadler’s leadership on this issue is crucial because he “can use his credibility and clout to move the resolution forward either during the lame duck session in December or when the next Congress convenes on January 6.”

Democrats.com has also urged the public to persuade their representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 1531. You can contact your representative on your… Continue reading