by Brian Foley
September 11, 2007
JURIST Guest Columnist Brian J. Foley of Drexel University College of Law says that on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we should remember that the US government has steadfastly refused to allow investigations that might locate individual blame for this massive security failure…
After major tragedies there are two investigative roads to take in trying to prevent a repeat: determining whether people or policies are to blame. Blaming people entails asking whether the disaster resulted from people failing to design or execute a proper preventive policy (“human error”). Blaming policy entails asking whether the policy failed either because the risk was not foreseeable, or because the harm simply cannot be prevented (“act of God”). Both roads should be taken.
After 9/11, however, the nation raced headlong into blaming policy alone. The prevailing view was stated by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in May, 2002: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would … try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.” But such danger had been imagined, years earlier. For example, in 1994, terrorists hijacked a French airliner seeking to crash it into the Eiffel Tower. Tom Clancy’s best-selling novel Debt of Honor (1994) ends with a Japanese airline pilot crashing his 747 into the U.S. Capitol (pp. 985-86). President Clinton and his staff also understood that an airplane could be used as a missile after a suicidal man piloted a Cessna into the White House lawn, just below the president’s bedroom, in the early hours of September 12, 1994.…Continue reading
By Barry Siegel
September 16, 2007
On Aug. 15, before an overflow crowd at the federal courthouse at 7th and
Mission in San Francisco, three judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
listened to lawyers argue whether the once-obscure “state secrets privilege”
gives the government an absolute right to withhold documents, bury evidence
and block lawsuits.
The government claimed the privilege in connection with two cases challenging
the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance programs, including its controversial
warrantless wiretapping operation. Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, arguing
for the government, maintained that the cases should be dismissed instantly,
no questions asked, because a trial would endanger national security. Presenting
any evidence in a courtroom, he said, would put the country at “exceptionally
When it comes to national security, Garre said, judges must give the executive
branch the “utmost deference.”
After listening to such claims for a while, the senior judge on the appellate
panel, Harry Pregerson, asked Garre whether the state secrets privilege meant
that the courts must simply “rubber stamp” the decisions of the executive.
“The bottom line here is the government declares something is a state secret,
that’s the end of it,” Pregerson said. “The king can do no wrong.”
“This seems to put us in the ‘trust us’ category,” said Judge M.
Margaret McKeown, referring to government assurances that the surveillance program
didn’t violate the law. “We don’t do it. Trust us.…
VDARE.COM – http://vdare.com/roberts/070910_911.htm
September 11, 2007
9-11, Six Years Later
By Paul Craig Roberts
On Sept. 7, National Public Radio reported that Muslims in the Middle East were beginning to believe that the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and Pentagon were false flag operations committed by some part of the U.S. and/or Israeli government.
It was beyond the imagination of the NPR reporter and producer that there could be any substance to these beliefs, which were attributed to the influence of books by U.S. and European authors sold in bookstores in Egypt.
NPR’s concern was that books by Western authors questioning the origin of the 9/11 attack have the undesirable result of removing guilt from Muslims’ shoulders.
The NPR reporter, Ursula Lindsey, said that “here in the U.S., most people have little doubt about what happened during the 2001 attacks.”
NPR’s assumption that the official 9/11 story is the final word is uninformed. Polls show that 36 percent of Americans and more than 50 percent of New Yorkers lack confidence in the 9/11 commission report. Many 9/11 families who lost relatives in the attacks are unsatisfied with the official story. Why are the U.S. media untroubled that there has been no independent investigation of 9/11?
Why are the media unconcerned that the rules governing preservation of forensic evidence were not followed by federal authorities?
Why do the media brand skeptics of the official line “conspiracy theorists” and “kooks”?
What is wrong with debate and listening to both… Continue reading
By David Kravets
August 13, 2007
The Bush administration said Monday the constitutionality
of its warrantless electronic eavesdropping program cannot be challenged.
The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of federal
court lawsuits against the government and AT&T over its alleged involvement
in the once-secret surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The strategy was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era
lawsuit. It has been increasingly invoked in a bid to shield the government
from legal scrutiny.
Two senior Justice Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity
in a teleconference with reporters, reiterated the administration’s position
that it was invoking the so-called “state secrets privilege” in arguing
that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must dismiss the cases because they
threaten to expose information authorities say is essential to the nation’s
“The case cannot be litigated in light of the national security interest
involved,” one official said.
The officials spoke on the condition that their names would not be published
because, they said, it was the government’s protocol not to comment on pending
The Bush administration has invoked the state secrets defense often, from spy
cases and patent disputes to employment discrimination litigation.
Still, two judges have ruled recently that the defense does not apply in two
lawsuits challenging Bush’s surveillance program. President Bush acknowledged
in 2005 that the government was eavesdropping without warrants on communications
in the United States as long as one of the parties to… Continue reading
by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis
It is time to think about the “unthinkable.”
The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.
The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don’t know.
But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.
The real question is not how or when they might do it. It’s how, realistically, we can stop them.
“From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national
strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non-cooperation… For only one thing is certain: denial will do nothing.”
In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor’s mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.
A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.
In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a… Continue reading
By Susan Edelman
NYPost, July 17, 2007
17, 2007 — The $1 billion insurance fund set up for the World Trade Center
cleanup has violated its congressional mandate to pay legitimate worker-injury
claims and “squandered” millions on expenses, an explosive lawsuit
Controlled by Mayor Bloomberg, the WTC Captive Insurance Co. and its agents
have “unethically profited” from the federal fund, draining money
available for ill workers, alleges the suit, to be filed today in Manhattan
The WTC insurance fund has spent close to $74 million on overhead and legal
bills so far – but paid just $45,000 to one worker who fell off a ladder.
While letting the fund pay fat salaries and fees to its employees, consultants
and lawyers, the mayor has wrongly exploited the unit to fight claims by thousands
of workers with illnesses blamed on toxic exposure, the suit says.
“Congress gave Bloomberg a billion dollars to cover for the mistakes he
and his predecessor, Mayor Giuliani, made in failing to protect tens of thousands
of workers,” lawyer David Worby said. “Now, adding insult to injury,
he refuses to use the funds intended for that exact purpose – to help the sick
and dying 9/11 heroes.”
The suit will be filed by Worby Groner & Napoli Bern, a law firm already
battling the city in a class-action negligence suit on behalf of nearly 10,000
ill WTC responders.…
By Deb McKee
WEST TERRE HAUTE — Two men walking across the nation to protest the Iraq war say police officers in West Terre Haute violated their constitutional rights last week when one of the men was arrested for failing to produce identification.
Police say the request for identification was legitimate, and the arrest lawful.
For nearly four months, Raymond Schwab, 32, of Loveland, Colo., and Elliott Nesch, 22, of Fort Collins, Colo. — Brother Raymond and Brother Elliott, to their followers — have been walking from Denver on their way to Washington, D.C., sharing their religious and pacifist beliefs.
They belong to Beit Shalom Ministries, an outreach of the Protestant Free Church Movement, according to their Web site, www.beitshalomministries.org, which is sponsoring the walk.
On the evening of July 8, the two had just crossed the border from Illinois into Indiana when Nesch was stopped by a West Terre Haute police officer.
That in itself is not unusual for the pair.
Nesch said during an interview Friday afternoon that since they began walking, they have been stopped daily by members of various police agencies.
But this week was the first time either of the two ended up in a jail cell.
Carrying signs and often wearing bright orange, prison-type jumpsuits, Nesch and Schwab rarely fail to be noticed as they walk — separately, about five miles apart — along the nation’s roads. The jumpsuits are imprinted with large letters saying, “God is Love,” and “Real Christians Don’t… Continue reading
Tonight on PBS: Tough Talk on Impeachment
July 13, 2007
UPDATE 7/14: If you missed this, you can watch it online at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/images/profile_options_01.gif. Very, very worthwhile hour of your time! (Janice)
A public opinion poll from the American Research Group recently reported that more than four in ten Americans — 45% — favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and more than half — 54% — favored impeachment for Vice President Cheney.
Unhappiness about the war in Iraq isn’t the only cause of the unsettled feelings of the electorate. Recent events like President Bush’s pardoning of Scooter Libby, the refusal of Vice President Cheney’s office to surrender emails under subpoena to Congress and the President’s prohibition of testimony of former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers in front of the House Judiciary Committee have caused unease over claims of “executive privilege.” In addition, many of the White House anti-terror initiatives and procedures — from the status of “enemy combatants” in Guantánamo to warrantless wiretapping — have come under legal scrutiny in Congress and the courts.
Bill Moyers gets perspective on the role of impeachment in American political life from Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION’s John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT.
… Continue reading
“The founding fathers expected an executive who tried to overreach and expected the executive would be hampered and curtailed by the legislative branch… They [Congress] have basically renounced — walked away from their responsibility to oversee and check.” — Bruce Fein
“On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this Administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any President has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined.
Cheney Defiant on Classified Material
Executive Order Ignored Since 2003
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007; A01
Vice President Cheney’s office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.
Since 2003, the vice president’s staff has not cooperated with an office at the National Archives and Records Administration charged with making sure the executive branch protects classified information. Cheney aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and at one point blocked an inspection of their office. After the Archives office pressed the matter, the documents say, Cheney’s staff this year proposed eliminating it.
The dispute centers on a relatively obscure process but underscores a wider struggle waged in the past 6 1/2 years over Cheney’s penchant for secrecy. Since becoming vice president, he has fought attempts to peer into the inner workings of his office, shielding an array of information such as the industry executives who advised his energy task force, details about his privately funded travel and Secret Service logs showing who visits his official residence.
The aggressive efforts to protect the operations of his staff have usually pitted Cheney against lawmakers, interest groups or media organizations, sometimes going all the way to the Supreme Court. But the fight about classified information regulation indicates that the vice president has resisted oversight even by other parts of the Bush administration.…Continue reading
June 12, 2007
Judges Say U.S. Can’t Hold Man as ‘Combatant’
By ADAM LIPTAK
Background: Ali al-Marri, a citizen from Qatar, was arrested on Dec. 12, 2001 in Peoria, Ill., where he was living with his wife and five children while studying computer science at Bradley University. He was initially charged with credit card fraud and lying to federal agents. Then in 2003, he was transfered to military custody and designated an enemy combatant. Government officials contended that he was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent, sent to the United States to commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system. Mr. al-Marri denied the charges and challenged his detention. His case took on added significance when Mr. al-Marri was left as the only enemy combatant being held in mainland America.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled yesterday that the president may not declare civilians in this country to be “enemy combatants” and have the military hold them indefinitely. The ruling was a stinging rejection of one of the Bush administration’s central assertions about the scope of executive authority to combat terrorism.
The ruling came in the case of Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar now in military custody in Charleston, S.C., who is the only person on the American mainland known to be held as an enemy combatant. The court said the administration may charge Mr. Marri with a crime, deport him or hold him as a material witness in connection with a grand jury investigation.
“But military detention of al-Marri must cease,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel.…Continue reading
by Adam Liptak
The New York Times
Trials are on the verge of extinction. They have been replaced by settlements
and plea deals, by mediations and arbitrations and by decisions from judges
based only on lawyers’ written submissions.
More from the New York Times
Federal courts conducted about 3,600 trials in civil cases last year, down
from 5,800 in 1962. That is not an enormous drop— until you consider that
the number of cases has quintupled in the meantime.
In percentage terms, only 1.3 percent of federal civil cases ended in trials
last year, down from 11.5 percent in 1962.
The trends in criminal cases and in the state courts are broadly similar, though
not always quite as striking. But it is beyond dispute that even as the number
of lawyers has grown twice as fast as the population and even as the number
of lawsuits has exploded, actual trials have become quite rare.
Instead of hearing testimony, ruling on objections and instructing jurors on
the law, judges spend most of their time supervising the exchange of information,
deciding pretrial motions and dealing with settlements and plea bargains.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with settlements, at least when they are
the product of reasoned and sensible compromise between evenly matched adversaries.
But trials are not disappearing simply because more cases are being settled.
Instead, they are increasingly being replaced by summary judgments, in which
judges evaluate evidence submitted to them on paper.
“During the last years of the 20th century, summary judgment in the federal
courts moved from a small fraction of dispositions by trial to a magnitude several
times greater than the number of trials,” Marc Galanter, who teaches law at
the University of Wisconsin and the London School of Economics and Political
Science, wrote last year in The Journal of Dispute Resolution.…
By Naomi Wolf, Chelsea Green Publishing
April 28, 2007
Alternet Editor’s note: This is adapted from Wolf’s forthcoming book “The
End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.”
autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took
a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In
a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down —
the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential
areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened
some limits on travel and took certain activists into custody.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at
history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open
society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in
more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective.
It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy, but history
shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to
take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to
look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated in the United States
by the Bush administration.
Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering
that… Continue reading
The American Freedom Agenda’s (AFA) mission is twofold: the enactment of a cluster of statutes that would restore the Constitution’s checks and balances as enshrined by the Founding Fathers; and, making the subject a staple of political campaigns and of foremost concern to Members of Congress and to voters and educators. Especially since 9/11, the executive branch has chronically usurped legislative or judicial power, and has repeatedly claimed that the President is the law. The constitutional grievances against the White House are chilling, reminiscent of the kingly abuses that provoked the Declaration of Independence.
The 10-point American Freedom Agenda would work to restore the roles of Congress and the federal judiciary to prevent such abuses of power and protect against injustices that are the signature of civilized nations. In particular, the American Freedom Agenda would:
Send 500,000 impeachment letters to Pelosi by her first day as speaker,
While arguing about whether we should demand impeachment in another thread,
someone said there had to be a “groundswell of support” like there
was for the impeachment of Nixon and cited this article:
“More than 50,000 telegrams poured in on Capitol Hill today, so many,
Western Union was swamped. Most of them demanded impeaching Mr. Nixon.”
John Chancellor, NBC News on a Special Report on October 20, 1973
We already have more support than that. When John Conyers took Bush his petition
demanding he answer questions about the Downing Street Memo, it had 540,000 signatures, over
ten times as many as wrote about Nixon. I would bet most of those people would
write to demand impeachment of Bush, probably more.
The great thing is, now we have someone to focus this demand on who can and
possibly will act (in spite of her protests to the contrary): Nancy Pelosi.
She should have a half million signatures waiting for her her first day as
Speaker of the House.
I think she and the many of the Democrats want to do this, but to overcome
the reluctance of the DC establishment and big money interests who are afraid
their ox will be gored along with Bush & Cheney, she needs constant overwhelming
evidence of public DEMAND not just support for impeachment.
Fax or snail mail the letter below or your own variation to:
2371 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
450 Golden Gate Ave.…Continue reading
by Catherine Komp
Dec. 11 — A US Department of Homeland Security program that compiles data on millions of travelers and determines how likely they are to be terrorists may be operating illegally, according to privacy advocates and some members of Congress.
The Automated Targeting System (ATS) gathers travelers’ data from foreign governments, from numerous Customs and Border Protection sources, and from the Passenger Name Record, a controversial system used by the United States and Europe to gather travelers’ information from airlines and travel agencies.
ATS has long been used to track imported and exported cargo. But recent revelations by the Department show ATS is also being used to scrutinize airline passengers and cars entering or leaving the United States. The system draws on the collected data to assign a risk factor to each person or vehicle in order to help border patrol agents decide whether travelers “should receive additional screening because the traveler may pose a greater risk for violation of US law.”
It is unclear how long ATS has been used to screen humans. The DHS announced it had expanded ATS to include monitoring people in a November 2 notice in the Federal Register. However, the Department did not say when the expansion took place and some DHS officials have said the program has been in place for years.
Calling the program “equitable,” the agency said it “uses the same risk assessment process” for all individuals.
The DHS has announced it will keep the personal data gathered by ATS for up to 40 years to “cover the potentially active lifespan of individuals associated with terrorism or other criminal activities.…Continue reading
By Carla Binion
October 21, 2006
Consortiumnews Editor’s Note: Many Americans are in denial about what
is happening to the United States. They don’t want to believe that a totalitarian
structure could be put in place in their own country. They don’t want to view
the various pieces of George W. Bush’s “anti-terror” system in that
broad a context. They hope that someone or something — the Supreme Court
maybe — will strike down the excesses of the Republican-controlled Congress
and the Executive Branch.
Though there are still obstacles that stand in Bush’s way — the Nov.
7 elections, for instance — America’s march down a road to a new-age totalitarianism
has advanced farther than many understand, as freelance reporter Carla Binion
argues in this disturbing guest essay:
On October 17, George W. Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act
of 2006. This new law gives Bush power similar to that possessed by Stalin or
Hitler, and grants agencies within the Executive Branch powers similar to those
of the KGB or Gestapo.
Bush justifies this act by claiming he needs it to fight the “war on terror,”
but a number of critics, including former counterterrorism officials, have said
the administration has greatly exaggerated the threat and used illogical methods
to combat terrorism. (Examples are listed below.)
Except for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, few television news reporters have bothered
to mention that the Military Commissions Act has changed the U.S. justice system
and our approach to human rights. As Olbermann said of the new law on his October
17 Countdown program, the new act “does away with habeas corpus, the right
of suspected terrorists or anybody else to know why they have been imprisoned.”
Jonathan Turley, George Washington University Constitutional Law Professor,
was Olbermann’s guest.…
September 29, 2006
Listen to Segment ||
The Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The legislation strips detainees of the right to challenge their own detention and gives the President the power to detain them indefinitely. The bill also immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for torturing detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. We get reaction from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The editors of the New York Times described the law as tyrannical. They said its passage marks a low point in American democracy and that it is our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The legislation strips detainees of the right to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their own detention or treatment. It gives the president the power to indefinitely detain anyone it deems to have provided material support to anti-U.S. hostilities. Secret and coerced evidence could be used to try detainees held in U.S.…Continue reading
by Evelyn Pringle
June 7, 2006
According to US Census Bureau statistics, in 2002, there were over 21 million federal, state, and local government employees in the US. These employees are in the best position to expose misconduct and abuses of power that arise in government agencies. However, the recent US Supreme Court decision effectively muzzles the nation’s watchdogs.
Attorney Barry Turner, a Lecturer of Law at Leeds Law School in the UK, describes the Supreme Court’s decision absurd. “Transparency is essential in any democracy and is a bulwark against corruption, which,” he points out, “requires secrecy to survive.”
“Any society or administration that facilitates secret deals and hides from the truth can only court corruption,” he warns. “Gagging whistleblowers,” he contends, “can only assist the corrupt, the criminal and the fraudster.”
In a nutshell, the question before the Supreme Court was: Does a prosecutor who speaks on a matter of public concern by reporting police misconduct lose his First Amendment protection against retaliation solely because he communicated the message while performing his job?
The plaintiff in the case was Richard Ceballos, a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who informed his supervisors that he believed a Deputy Sheriff had falsified an affidavit to obtain a search warrant in a criminal case.
After Ceballos relayed his findings, he followed up with a written memorandum recommending the dismissal of the case. At a hearing on a motion to challenge the search warrant, Ceballos was subpoenaed by the defense and testified about his findings regarding the affidavit.…Continue reading