Now, I could be "nice" and just post the link .. but no, I decided anyone dropping by should just have their eyes popped out looking at the length all this takes up .. and its' only an executive summary, afterall.
Most weeks, I just keep rolling my eyeballs on a daily basis, sometimes I choke, other times I can just bawl for days thinking of all the dead and those made poor(er) and homeless, the arrested, the tortured, the unheard and ignored, the hassled and those who have been disappeared (yes to the last), the unfairly imprisoned and also those too stoopid or uneducated to figure out what is going on. Ah, I am repeating what is clearly delineated below:
Bush Scandals List:
updated 12/21/07, recent changes in red. please contact us with corrections and additions.
....Bush's Presidency began in the shadow of a contested and likely stolen election and promised to be unsuccessful in a largely forgettable and unremarkable way. 911 changed all that and transformed a plodding, and essentially AWOL one termer into an accidental hero. Enormous power flowed to his office but Bush had no idea how to use it. He liked to campaign, not govern. In those around him, he prized loyalty over competence and honesty. A believer in the notion of "to the victor go the spoils," he was the perfect mark for every conniver, bumbler, bungler, hack, hanger on, and would be crony that Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and their friends could find. In the normal course of things, this would have spelled failure. Post-911, it was catastrophic.
....At this critical juncture in our history we needed an adult but got an adolescent. Instead of responsibility, we got a truant. In place of flexibility we got obduracy. In the face of great and complex challenges, we got strawmen, a black and white universe, my way or the highway, regurgitated stump speeches, and a steadfast refusal to compromise not just with opponents but with reality.
....What all this comes down to is that George Bush should never have become our President. He is not just a bad President but the worst one we could have had, the worst our country has ever seen. This is a judgment that many Americans have come to but which our political establishment and media, even after 6 years, have yet to acknowledge, accept, and act on. This is the tragedy and crime of our times.
1. Walter Reed outpatient treatment, poor living conditions, undelivered mail, lack of caseworkers to oversee and facilitate patient care for amputees, brain injured, and psychologically disabled veterans; Walter Reed is not the only military hospital about which questions have been raised; also out there the underfunding of the VA.
....The problems at Walter Reed came to the public's attention through a series of articles by Dana Priest beginning February 18, 2007. Following them, Gen. George Weightman who ran Walter Reed for 6 months resigned March 1, followed by the forced resignation of Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey the next day. Weightman's boss Army Surgeon General Gen. Kevin "I don't do barracks inspections at Walter Reed" Kiley who lived across from the notorious Building 18 and who had run the hospital from 2002-2004 lasted one day as the new head of Walter Reed before he was removed. He resigned from the Army on March 12.
....One source of the difficulties at Walter Reed was the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decision on August 25, 2005 to close Walter Reed. Planned renovations were canceled. Another was the privatizing of support services at the hospital. The workforce dropped from 350 experienced professionals to 50 who were not and the contract was given to IAP. IAP began work at Walter Reed in 2003. In 2004, IAP lobbied successfully against an Army recommendation not to privatize the workforce. The OMB reversed the Army finding and the services contract was given to IAP in January 2006 although its implementation was delayed a year. IAP is run by two former KBR executives and had a well connected board of directors as well as being owned by a powerful holding company the Cerberus hedge fund.
....However, the generally low priority given to ongoing patient care for wounded soldiers was probably the single greatest reason for the woes at Walter Reed. It bears remembering that there were problems noted as early as 2004 and certainly by 2005 and that Walter Reed is located in the nation's capital minutes from the White House, the Congress, and the offices of major media outlets. Washington didn't know about Walter Reed because it didn't want to know.
2. Firing of US attorneys. Most of the country's 93 US attorneys are usually replaced within the first 2 years of a new administration and this is what happened when Bush came into office in 2001. US attorneys are political appointees and are chosen to reflect the policy priorities of a President. Still their primary job is to uphold the law, and the law is not supposed to be partisan. Karl Rove, of course, had other ideas. He believes that government should be politicized and populated with compliant partisan hacks loyal to him and his.
....The plan was to create a list of political hires and fires of US attorneys under the direction of the White House (i.e. Rove and Harriet Miers) which Gonzales (and Bush) would then dutifully sign off on. There were two components. First, on February 7, 2006, regulations were published giving Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the power to hire and fire all non-civil service employees of the Justice Department (DOJ). On March 1, 2006, Gonzales signed an order delegating this power (subject to his nominal final approval) to two fairly junior and inexperienced staffers: Monica "Loyalty oaths" Goodling his senior counselor and liaison with the White House and his Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson. Second, sometime late in 2005 (shortly before the conference report for the Patriot Act Extension was filed on December 8, 2005), language originating at the DOJ was surreptitiously inserted into the act by Brett Tolman which allowed Gonzales to make indefinite interim US attorney appointments without Senate approval. The conference report was passed and became law on March 9, 2006. So again, the two parts were first to set up a system where Rove could control the hiring and firing of US attorneys and second to bypass the Senate confirmation process which might interfere with the first part.
....On December 7, 2006, eight US attorneys were notified that they would be fired. Most came from swing states. Most were considered not to have aggressively enough prosecuted Democrats or voter fraud cases in the run up to November 2006 elections, the idea being that such prosecutions would have helped Republicans in close elections. Worse some were investigating and had even prosecuted prominent Republicans. And then there were those partisan hacks waiting in the wings to replace them.
1. Carol Lam, Southern California, convicted Rep. Duke Cunningham and indicted the former No. 3 at the CIA Dusty Foggo.
2. H. E. Cummins III, Eastern Arkansas, had been asked to investigate the Republican Governor in the neighboring state of Missouri. He announced the investigation finished in October 2006 a month before the election but was fired anyway to make way for Timothy Griffin, an aide to Karl Rove who had been the principal opposition researcher in the Bush 2004 campaign.
3. David Iglesias, New Mexico, angered Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson when he refused to push for indictments of Democratic officials before the election after they inappropriately contacted him.
4. Daniel Bogden, Nevada, similarly was replaced by Brett Tolman who was crucial to bypassing Senate scrutiny of these appointments.
5. Paul K. Charlton, Arizona, was investigating Republican Representative Rick Renzi for corruption.
6. John McKay, Western Washington, angered state Republicans for not creating voter fraud cases in the 2004 Governor's race which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by 129 votes.
7. Margaret Chiara, Western Michigan. It is not clear why she was fired. She was on the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of US attorneys. It may have been to make way for Russell Stoddard who had been languishing out in Guam as First Assistant Attorney after Frederick Black got demoted for investigating Abramoff's activities in the North Marianas.
8. Kevin V. Ryan, Northern California, is the only one of the 8 who deserved to be on the list because he did run his office poorly. DOJ actually wanted to keep him on but a federal judge forced the issue and his name was added to the list.....As they say, it is not the crime but the coverup. Gonzales has given so many different and contradictory stories about the firings that it is hard to keep up and then there is his memory. In his Senate testimony of April 19, 2007, he answered he couldn't remember by some counts 71 times. He didn't know who had called for such a list. He couldn't remember having been very involved in the process. He even forgot to mention the March 1, 2006 order in his testimony. In fact, he knew very little about what were major decisions at the department he supposedly ran but, despite this, he did know there was nothing improper in any of it. Testifying in the House on May 10, 2007, his memory and his believability were little improved. Kyle Sampson too had memory problems but did contradict Gonzales' claim that he had not been involved. For his part, Sampson described himself as just the guy that others dropped their files off to and his contribution to the process was to keep them in his desk drawer. Initially, Monica Goodling took an indefinite leave of absence, then resigned, then said she would take the 5th in any Congressional testimony. On May 23, 2007, after a grant of immunity she testified that Paul McNulty the Deputy Attorney General was more aware of events surrounding the firings (although this is far from clear), that she had crossed the line (i.e. broken the law) in asking career DOJ hires about their political affiliations, that Gonzales' statements were inaccurate (i.e. he lied), and that Gonzales had sought to harmonize their stories (i.e. obstruct justice). Goodling, like Sampson, tried to portray herself as a bit player despite Gonzales' extraordinary grant of authority to them both. On June 21, 2007, Paul McNulty testified before the Congress and basically stonewalled, saying that he was out of the loop, that he didn't know who created the firing list, that there was no problem at the DOJ, and that there was no contradiction between his testimony and that of anyone else, including Monica Goodling. On July 11, 2007, Sara Taylor who left her post of White House political director in May randomly invoked Executive privilege and otherwise and like so many others had a bad memory. She did state that she had had no dealings with Bush concerning the firings. Along with her selective use of Executive privilege, this contention further undermined the claim that an Executive privilege was involved and left the possibility of a contempt citation. On July 12, 2007, former White House counsel Harriet Miers refused to appear pursuant to a House Judiciary Committee subpoena, leaving her open to contempt proceedings as well.
....From this use of Executive privilege, it is clear that the White House, and more specifically Karl Rove, was involved in the firings and was, in fact, calling the shots in this affair, and that those at Justice, including the Attorney General, were just the eager, if dim, facilitators of it.
....In addition to the Sampson and Goodling resignations, Michael Battle Director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA) who informed the US attorneys of their firing left the DOJ on March 16, 2007. Paul McNulty the No. 2 at the DOJ and Deputy Attorney General announced his resignation on May 14, 2007 to become effective later in the summer. Although left out of the loop on the details of the firings and giving false Congressional as a result for which he apologized, McNulty did approve the firings and through his Chief of Staff Michael Elston warned several of those fired to stay quiet about them. Elston announced his resignation on June 15, 2007. On June 22, 2007, Bill Mercer who was Acting Associate Attorney General (the No. 3 spot at the DOJ) withdrew his nomination for the permanent position. On August 27, 2007, Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation as Attorney General effective September 17, 2007.
....The DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) informed the Senate in June 2007 that it was investigating Goodling's claim that Gonzales had tried to tamper with her testimony.
....Congress intervened and changed the relevant provision of the Patriot Act to re-instate the Senate's role in confirming US attorneys (May 22, 2007). This was signed into law June 14, 2007. Provocatively, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continued to make interim appointments right up to the Presidential signing.
3. Plamegate. Scooter Libby Chief of Staff to the Vice President was convicted on March 6, 2007 on two counts of perjury before the Grand Jury and one count each of obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. Placing political payback (against an individual and an agency) above national security, the Vice President's office orchestrated the outing of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, her cover company Brewster Jennings, other agents which had used this same cover, and her contacts. All this was done in retaliation for an op-ed in the New York Times on July 6, 2003 written by her husband ambassador Joe Wilson. In it, he publicly debunked the "16 words" in Bush's January 28, 2003 State of the Union which claimed that Saddam Hussein had sought to obtain uranium from Africa (Niger). This undercut the argument that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat and showed that the Bush Administration had known this was so in advance of the war. Wilson had been sent to Niger to investigate this charge in February 2002 at the request of the CIA and had reported nearly a year before its use in the SOTU that it was false. After several attempts by among others Karl Rove to pitch Plame's identity to the media, on July 14, 2003, Valerie Plame was outed in a column by Robert Novak In his closing argument at the Libby trial, Patrick Fitzgerald detailed Cheney's guiding hand in the conspiracy behind the outing and spoke of a "cloud" over the Vice President. That cloud remains.
....On June 5, 2007, Scooter Libby received a preliminary sentence of 30-month term in federal prison, with a 2-year term of supervised release following the completion of that sentence, a $250,000 fine, and a requirement of 400 hours of community service. This was confirmed June 14 and bail during appeal was denied. Scooter's defense solicited letters on his behalf from Washington's conservative elite. These praised his legal expertise and national security credentials and were likely counterproductive since they made clear he was well aware of the legal ramifications of lying to a grand jury and the security implications of outing a CIA agent. A group of conservative attorneys led by Robert Bork also filed an unsuccessful, last minute amicus brief questioning the legitimacy of Patrick Fitzgerald's appointment as prosecutor. It called the appointment a "close" question although its rationale depended upon a lone Supreme Court dissent in a case that was not closely decided and its effect would be to prevent independent investigations of high US officials. On July 2, 2007, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit unanimously denied Libby's appeal. Hours later George Bush commuted Libby's sentence eliminating any jail time. This is an Administration that believes it is outside the law and acts accordingly. It is not so much that they have contempt for the law. Rather they have contempt for us. The cloud that was over Cheney now covers Bush as well.
....A civil suit filed by Valerie Plame was dismissed on July 19, 2007 by judge John D. Bates who ruled that, while Plame's complaint had merit, the court did not have jurisdiction.
....On December 10, 2007, Libby's lawyers announced that they were dropping his appeal. This is all part of a legal strategy to stonewall and run out the clock. Since Libby had his sentence commuted rather than receiving a pardon, he could continue to assert a 5th Amendment privilege if he were summoned to give testimony before Congress. Beginning an appeal gave a patina of credence to such a contention. However, to go forward with the appeal once this point had been made would have been expensive and unnecessary. The last thing Scooter wanted was a successful appeal since this could have resulted in a retrial and another conviction, very likely after Bush had left office. At that point Scooter would have no one to commute his sentence or pardon him and he could have faced real jail time. This was not the object of the exercise.
4. Iraq: axis of evil, lack of preparation for occupation, looting, including the National Museum, too few troops, lack of training, lack of equipment, lack of securing loose Iraqi munitions, disbanding the Iraqi army, banning the Baathists, the CPA, cronyism, Paul Bremer, losing tons of money literally, lack of international inclusion in reconstruction and security, weak Constitution, formation of sectarian parties, weak government, denial of actual conditions in Iraq, for example, its civil war, ignoring 4 years of failed policies and the basic proposal of the Iraq Study Group to withdraw, escalating instead, continuing lack of any discernible mission. A brief analysis of casualty figures can be found here and here.
5. Afghanistan, transferring resources to Iraq before the job was finished, the results: a resurgent Taliban, continuing warlordism, and exploding opium production
6. Iran and saber rattling, axis of evil, lack of engagement, refusal to talk to, addressing the nuclear issue through threats, clumsy attempts to blame Iran for the debacle in Iraq and a failure to recognize their very real interests there.
7. North Korea, axis of evil, ditching the 1994 agreement and freezing of bank accounts because of dubious uranium program, the plutonium program which led to a fizzled first nuclear test, and something like a return to the 1994 agreement
8. Osama bin Laden, where are you? The blown opportunity at Tora Bora. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the roles of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in terrorism. Pakistan's intelligence service the ISI created the Taliban. Despite $11 billion in US aid from 2001 through 2007, the government of Pervez Musharraf continues to give it safe haven in Pakistan. As for al Qaeda, those efforts which do occur are limited and often timed to the visits of American dignitaries. In addition, Bush's oft stated policy of spreading democracy was dealt a blow when Musharraf fearing a Supreme Court decision preventing him from holding the Presidency and remaining Chief of Staff of the armed forces declared a state of emergency and instituted martial law on November 3, 2007.
....The Saudis for their part fund radical madrassas throughout the Moslem world and have a domestic educational system run by the most extreme of their homegrown extremists. Saudi and Gulf oil dollars find their way to many terrorist groups as well as the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.
9. Civilian contractors; also no bid contracts; in Iraq Halliburton tainted food and water, overpriced gas; Blackwater use of private security contractors, what used to be called mercenaries, with little or no accountability
10. The Military Commissions Act: torture, indefinite detention, the end of habeas corpus, and kangaroo courts. One of the last acts of the Congress before the November 2006 elections, it passed the Senate on September 28 and the House the next day and was signed into law by Bush on October 17. The short story on this is that, pre-election, the Republicans pushed it and the Democrats caved on it. As bad as the military commissions envisioned in the act are, the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) which designate who is to be tried are even worse. They were complete shams. Decisions were made on the flimsiest and most general information without challenge or taking into account the methods (torture) used to obtain it. Detainees lacked effective legal representation, and the CSRTs did not come close to meeting minimal standards of judicial process, even a preliminary one. To top it off, as later military judges have found, the CSRTs designated detainees "enemy combatants" which does not meet the Military Commissions Act standard of "unlawful enemy combatants" vitiating their findings to date. Even when they make up the rules they can't get it right.
....The case of Murat Kurnaz shows how flawed the CSRTs are. He was a Turkish citizen who had lived his entire life in Germany. On October 3, 2001, at the point of getting his German citizenship, he traveled to Pakistan to visit religious sites. In December 2001, he was removed from the group he was traveling with, arrested by Pakistani police, and flown to Guantanamo 4 weeks later. In September 2002, he was interrogated by American and German intelligence officers who concluded that he had no links to terrorism and should be freed. This view was repeated in a memo dated May 19, 2003 from the commanding general of the Criminal Investigation Task Force, the Pentagon unit responsible for interrogating detainees. Against this was a memo dated June 25, 2004 by Brigadier General David Lacquement, then head of the US Southern Command's intelligence unit, who said Kurnaz was a danger because he had among other things prayed during the national anthem, asked how high the basketball rim was in the prison yard (which in Lacquement-speak indicated a desire to escape), and enquired about guard schedules and detainee transfers. There was also the accusation that Kurnaz knew someone who knew a suicide bomber (except this was later shown to be untrue) and had stayed at a hostel in Pakistan run by a religious group linked to terrorism (the group's link was also untrue). Kurnaz's CSRT was held on October 4, 2004 where he was determined to be an enemy combatant. His lawyers challenged this in a DC District Court. (This was before the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.) In a January 2005 opinion, Judge Joyce Green found that the CSRT process had been biased and was contrary to US and international law. This opinion became public on March 25, 2005 when it was inadvertently released by court officials. Nevertheless, Kurnaz continued to be held. In January 2006, a yearly Review Board hearing reconfirmed.that Kurnaz was an enemy combatant. Meanwhile Kurnaz's detention and German participation in his interrogation was giving the story legs in Germany. Also in January 2006, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought up the case with Bush. On May 31, 2006, the FBI weighed in indicating that it had no interest in Kurnaz. In July 2006, a special Review Board met and determined that he was no longer an enemy combatant. The reasons for this change of status remain classified. Kurnaz was flown back to Germany goggled and shackled where he was released on August 24, 2006. Despite repeated findings by the intelligence community that Kurnaz was innocent of any links to terrorism, flimsy, false, and easily refutable evidence allowed by the CSRTs resulted in his detention without any formal charge for more than 4 1/2 years, a detention that would have continued if it had not been for the accidental leak of details of his case by a DC court and the personal intervention of the head of the German government.
....On July 20, 2007, a three judge panel of the DC Circuit in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. US rejected parts of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005 asserting that it will expect to examine all information bearing on a detainee's case and not just what the government used in deciding to hold a detainee. SCOTUS on June 29, 2007 changed its mind and decided to take a look at these cases in the fall, especially in light of what the Circuit Court might decide.
....On September 24, 2007 in the Khadr case, a military appeals court found that on hearing more evidence a military judge had the power to determine that an alien enemy combatant was also an "unlawful" one. If upheld, this could clear the way for trials under the MCA. On November 8, 2007, the government informed Khadr's defense that it had an exculpatory eyewitness which it had known about from the beginning but only chose to tell the defense about several years into Khadr's detention.
....On October 5, 2007, the chief Guantanamo prosecutor career Air Force Colonel Morris Davis resigned in a dispute with reserve Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann (until recently a corporate lawyer now legal adviser to the convening authority for the Military Commissions Susan Crawford). The function of the convening authority is to approve or reduce charges against the accused or make plea agreements with them. It is supposed to be an arbiter, but in a clear conflict of interest, Crawford and Hartmann pressed the prosecutor's office to file the most serious charges possible in an attempt to drum up publicity and support for the military commissions process. Davis has since said another reason for his departure was the placement of his office under that of the Department of Defense's General Counsel. The DOD GC is William Haynes (See item 194) who signed off on the torture memos prepared by John Yoo for the Department of Defense. No matter how rank and foul this travesty of American justice is, it seems to have a never-ending capacity to get worse.
....In Congressional testimony on December 11, 2007, Hartman refused to say whether waterboarding was torture or whether waterboarding of an American soldier by a foreign government would be considered torture. He did suggest that he had no problem with evidence gained by torture being admitted into court proceedings.
11. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the destruction of New Orleans, FEMA and "Heck of a job, Brownie," lack of preparation, lack of emergency aid, slowness of reconstruction, Bush ignores for days then gives address from Jackson Square in New Orleans promising aid which never comes or much of which goes to politically connected outstate no bid contractors, disparity between response to Louisiana and Republican Trent Lott's Mississippi; Bush refuses to waive 10% state match for federal funds (waived in many previous disasters) increasing the bureaucratic paperwork, reducing aid to affected areas, and further slowing and complicating rebuilding.
12. Bush authorized warrantless NSA wiretapping in October 2001. However, Joseph Nacchio former CEO of Qwest convicted April 19, 2007 of insider trading reported that the NSA in a meeting on February 27, 2001 (1 month after Bush became President and 6 1/2 months before 9/11) tried to sign Qwest up to a warrantless surveillance program and that when Nacchio refused the NSA pulled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts from the company.
....Under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) a warrant would be needed from the FISA court (federal judges entrusted with these decisions in addition to their regular jobs) for domestic to international telephone or internet communication. The bar for such a warrant is extraordinarily low, has almost never been denied, and can be granted up to 3 days after the surveillance as begun (in order to give maximum flexibility in emergency situations). This is in contrast to international to international communications which have always been considered legitimate targets for US intelligence organizations and require no warrant.
....The post-9/11 Bush program acquired its legal basis from a John Yoo memo originating in the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It went much further than cutting FISA out of the loop and probably included surveillance of not just domestic to international communication but also domestic to domestic surveillance of any communication with the original domestic participant. It is conceivable that this continued to those domestic contacts and then to their contacts in ever expanding (and less relevant) circles of surveillance. Data mining may have been used to winnow down the number of contacts.
....Alternately, the Administration may have been exploiting the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). This act required telecoms to configure their equipment to facilitate governmental wiretapping. While the act was not envisioned as a means of large scale warrantless wiretapping, it could with the help of service providers like the telecoms be turned into one. Supporting this view is that on March 10, 2004, the DOJ, FBI, and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) petitioned the FCC to extend CALEA to the internet (see item 252). This action coming as it did on the same day as the Ashcroft hospital visit (described below) may have been an effort to expand or acquire additional cover for a data mining program that was already in operation. It may have been the warrantless hoovering of domestic communications that troubled some at the DOJ.
....In any case in March 2004, the OLC under its new head Jack Goldsmith a defense oriented conservative rejected Yoo's reasoning and reversed its position on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General James Comey both conservatives and Bush appointees accepted this finding. Then Ashcroft came down with acute gallstone pancreatitis and transferred his powers to his deputy Comey who became Acting Attorney General. In a scheme apparently orchestrated by Vice President Cheney, Bush called Mrs. Ashcroft and Cheney "on the President's behalf" ordered then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to go to the hospital and get the ailing and doped up Ashcroft to sign off on the surveillance program. Mrs. Ashcroft informed her husband's Chief of Staff David Ayers about the impending visit and he contacted Comey. Comey in turn contacted FBI Director Robert Mueller to order the FBI agents guarding Ashcroft to remain in his room (as witnesses) and raced to the hospital and Ashcroft's room in the ICU. This set the scene for the now famous March 10, 2004 hospital room confrontation where Gonzales and Card ignoring Comey tried to get Ashcroft's signature. Ashcroft was, however, lucid enough to refuse to sign and to point out the obvious: that he did not have the power to do so since Comey was the Acting Attorney General. Despite the refusal by the DOJ to vouch for the program's legality, Bush re-authorized it anyway. A threat by Ashcroft, Comey, and Mueller to resign did, however, result in changes to the program. The OLC came up with a narrower justification under the AUMF for a more limited program which became the TSP (Terrorist Surveillance Program). It should be noted that this program in all of its manifestations and despite its various justifications has been illegal on its face since its inception.
....The program became public when the New York Times reported on it in December 2005. In 2006 various unsuccessful attempts were made to accommodate the program. This included the infamous attempted "compromise" by Arlen Specter to legalize its worst excesses and retroactively amnesty any illegalities. Under mounting pressure and with a new Democratic Congress, Alberto Gonzales announced on January 18, 2007, a "deal" with the FISA court which would put the program under its supervision. Gonzales maintained, however, that Bush still had Article II power to go outside the court if he wanted to.
....On July 24, 2007, Gonzales testified under oath before Senate Judiciary Committee that before going to the hospital to see Ashcroft he had met with a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders overseeing intelligence matters (the Gang of 8) and that they had approved the predecessor to the TSP. Several of the Democratic members of the Gang of 8 denied that such approval was ever given. Additionally, Gonzales asserted that the program discussed was not the TSP but another program. Both General Hayden then head of the NSA and John Negroponte then DNI have indicated that this was precisely the program discussed albeit in its unmodified form. Finally, Gonzales maintained in his testimony that there had been no serious disagreement about the program despite the objections from the DOJ. Along with his constantly changing testimony concerning the US Attorney firings, this discrepancy led four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26, 2007 to ask Solicitor General Paul Clement (in his role of Acting Attorney General for matters in which Gonzales has recused himself) to name a special prosecutor to determine whether Gonzales has obstructed justice, perjured himself, and made false statements.
....Despite previous abuses, April 10, 2007 intelligence czar DNI John "Mike" McConnell (not to be confused with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell) proposes allowing NSA to conduct domestic surveillance of foreign nationals completely outside of FISA, extend from 3 days to one week surveillance without seeking FISA permission "in emergency situations," immunize telecoms, and extend FISA warrants from 120 days to one year. McConnell has a large conflict of interest in the immunization of telecoms issue. Like too many others, McConnell has benefited from the revolving door between government and private enterprise. He has been director of defense programs at Booz Allen Hamilton a large defense and intelligence firm with CIA and NSA consulting contracts and chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the primary business association for NSA and CIA contractors. In short, he has intimate connections to precisely those corporate players most closely involved in promoting the use of telecoms in intelligence gathering and with the greatest vested interest in keeping this arrangement going .
....On August 5, 2007, Bush signed into law a 6 month revision of FISA which would allow warrantless wiretapping of non-American individuals "reasonably" thought to be outside the US and incidentally of US citizens as long as these are not the primary targets of surveillance. The Attorney General (at the time of the bill's signing this was still the eminently untrustworthy Alberto Gonzales) and the DNI (the as we will soon see truth challenged Mike McConnell) alone and without any outside judicial review would see the program was properly carried out. In effect, this was a backdoor way to surveil Americans without a warrant.
....The need for such a bill was raised at the last minute as lawmakers were on their way out of town for the August recess. Although it only became public later, the ostensible reason for modifying FISA at this particular juncture was an unspecified terrorist threat to the Capitol (which DNI McConnell knew at the time was based on an unreliable source). Mike McConnell then negotiated with Democratic Congressional leaders on a Democratic bill to address perceived shortcomings in the FISA law. The White House, however, wanted FISA gutted, and McConnell reneged on his deal with the Democrats. With the Congressional vacation coming on and members eager to leave, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caved. Through their parliamentary machinations, the Democratic bill was defeated and the Republican version endorsed by the White House passed. The end result was, abetted by a dishonest DNI, another power grab by the Bush Administration and the failure of the Democrats to stand up to it.
....On September 10, 2007, DNI McConnell testified before a Senate committee that the newly gutted FISA law the Protect America Act resulted in the arrest of 3 Germans planning to attack Americans in Germany. When German authorities pointed out that the Germans in question had come to their attention through US surveillance initiated under the old FISA statute, McConnell retracted his statement without apologizing for it.
....On September 20, 2007, McConnell testified falsely again that surveillance of Iraqi insurgents holding American troops had been held up for 12 hours due to FISA court restrictions. The delay, however, occurred because of the initial weakness of the request submitted by the NSA to the DOJ (which given the low threshold for FISA warrants is telling) and subsequent foul ups in finding a senior official to sign off on it. Since the old FISA law allowed surveillance to begin up to 72 hours before the granting of a warrant, it is unclear why this was even an issue.
13. SWIFT surveillance of international financial transactions
14. Black prisons and extraordinary rendition to facilitate interrogation by torture
....Khalid El-Masri a German citizen was detained by Macedonian police in late 2003. His name was similar to the alleged mentor of the al Qaeda Hamburg cell (of which two of the 911 pilots Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi as well as Ramzi Binalshibh were members). He was held for 3 weeks and then released. Although the CIA knew that this El-Masri was not the one they were looking for, they kidnapped him and took him to Afghanistan where he was interrogated and beaten for months. Eventually, on May 28, 2004, after two orders from then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and being made to promise never to talk about what happened, El-Masri was dumped at night on a road in Albania. On December 6, 2005, the ACLU filed suit on his behalf in federal court. On May 18, 2006, Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis III dismissed the case accepting the government's contention that a suit into Masri's illegal detention would compromise national security. The dismissal was upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 2, 2007. On January 31, 2007, a German prosecutor issued warrants for 13 people suspected of participation in the kidnapping. For his part, since his release, El-Masri has had a troubled history. On May 17, 2007, after an argument with clerks about a defective iPod, he set fire to the store and burned it down. On October 9, 2007, the Supreme Court denied certiorari to a suit by El-Masri and let stand a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion accepting the government's state secrets argument and dismissing the case.
....Meanwhile on February 17, 2003, the CIA kidnapped a cleric Abu Omar in Milan and rendered him to Egypt where he was held and tortured. In December 2005, an Italian court issued arrest warrants for 22 CIA agents. Abu Omar was released early in 2007.
....Several European countries are looking into the rendition programs. These efforts are complicated by US stonewalling and the complicity of their own intelligence services.
....Something similar happened to Maher Arar. A Canadian resident with dual Canadian/Syrian citizenship was detained at JFK in New York on September 26, 2002 because he knew someone who knew someone who knew Osama bin Laden. He was held in US custody for 2 weeks without access to a lawyer. Then because the Canadian government falsely declared he was no longer a resident and with the knowledge of their intelligence services, he was rendered to Syria where he was held for a year and tortured. He was released October 5, 2003 and returned to Canada. The Canadian government eventually exonerated Arar and paid a $10.5 million settlement. A suit entered by Arar in US federal court was dismissed on February 16, 2006 on national security grounds. The US government has never admitted any wrongdoing and Arar continues to be on the US No-Fly list.
....As for black prisons, these were created to hold high value ghost detainees up to one hundred in number beyond the oversight of the judiciary and Congress, essentially so that they could be tortured. 14 of these, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, were eventually transferred to Guantanamo. In Europe, Poland and Romania were rumored to be sites of the prisons. US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan held others. The remainder were scattered throughout the world in complicit countries and on other US bases. Although there had been previous revelations, the story broke officially in a Dana Priest Washington Post report of November 2, 2005. President Bush acknowledged their existence nearly a year later on September 6, 2006.
....The purpose of both rendition and black prisons was to gain actionable intelligence, an obsession in the Bush Administration. In its pursuit, they stooped to torture and bartered our image as a champion of human rights for a stack of unreliable information. It is an exchange that is impossible to justify.
15. Homeland Security: white elephant (organization), black hole (money), Tom Ridge and threat levels, Michael Chertoff and general incompetence.
....As of May 1, 2007 at DHS, under Chertoff's direction, there were 138 vacancies and another 92 currently being recruited among the department's top 575 positions. Most of these were in the department's policy, legal and intelligence sections, immigration agencies, FEMA, and the Coast Guard. Luckily, nothing important.
16. K Street Lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, North Marianas, removal of investigating US attorney Frederick Black (Guam), Gale Norton and Steven Griles at Interior, go betweens Italia Federici for Norton and Susan Ralston for Rove, tribal casinos; conviction of Rep. Bob "Freedom Fries" Ney (R-OH) for conspiracy and false statements re Abramoff's Indian casinos scam
17. Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, No. 3 at the CIA under Porter Goss, tied to the Duke Cunningham scandal, and poker "read money laundering" parties with limos and hookers for government officials and representatives. Foggo was indicted for fraud February 13, 2007 by fired US attorney for Southern California Carol Lam two days before she left office. On May 10, 2007, an expanded, superseding indictment was filed against Foggo, and Cunningham associate and co-conspirator Brent Wilkes.
18. Duke Cunningham convicted of receiving $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion, the MZM connection. Mitchell Wade the founder of the defense contracting firm MZM purchased Cunningham's Del Mar home for $1,675,000 then put it back on the market a month later for $975,000. Cunningham lived in Washington on a yacht owned by Wade. In exchange for these kinds of bribes and favors, Cunningham steered contracts to MZM. One of the first in July 2002 was for $140,000 for computers and office furniture for Vice President Cheney which turned out in actuality to be for anthrax screening (for which MZM had zero expertise). Another in September 2002 was for a data storage system for CIFA (see item 158 on CIFA's domestic spying). $5.4 million of the $6.3 million contract was profit. As it turned out the system was incompatible with CIFA's and was never installed. As often happens in these kinds of arrangements, Lt. Gen. James C. King who helped set up CIFA went to work at MZM and became its President in June 2005 replacing Wade. By the time that Cunningham pled guilty on November 28, 2005, he had managed to steer $150 million in contracts to MZM, a firm which before Cunningham and Wade hooked up received no important government contracts.
....Another player in the Cunningham scandals was Brent Wilkes who founded ADCS a data conversion firm. He too won contracts through Cunningham and according to Wade set up a prostitution ring for the benefit of Cunningham and other legislators at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels. On November 5, 2007, Wilkes was convicted in federal court on all 13 felony counts he was charged with. These included conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. In addition to paying for flings in Hawaii and Las Vegas for Cunningham, Wilkes was accused of giving Cunningham $100,000. Wilkes said it was to buy Cunningham's boat although the deal never went through and Wilkes never asked for the money back. Wilkes also passed along $525,000 to help cover a mortgage for a house in Santa Fe for Cunningham. In exchange for these bribes, Wilkes' company received about $80 million dollars in contracts.
19. Tom Delay, creator of the K Street Project, squeezing lobbyists to finance Republicans only, indicted for conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws (money laundering) in Texas, also connections to the Abramoff scandal. Major figure in Washington culture of corruption
20. Mark Foley, chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, resigned over the House page scandal: sending sexually explicit messages to pages
21. Cheney's Energy Policy, Big Oil's writing of it, and refusal to divulge that participation
22. Tax cuts for the wealthiest, corporations and on capital gains; retention of the AMT.
HR 1836 the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was signed into law June 7, 2001. It was projected to reduce total surpluses by approximately $1.35 trillion over the 2001-2011 period. Its principal feature was a reduction spaced over the 2001 to 2006 period in the 4 highest tax brackets.
HR 2 the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was signed into law May 28, 2003. It increased the exemption amount for the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT), decreased the tax rates for income from dividends and capital gains, modified tax law relating to bonus depreciation and expensing, and allowed certain 2003 corporate estimated tax payments to be shifted into 2004. Its principal effects would occur in its first 5 years from 2003-2008 and would cost $342.9 billion in this period.
HR 1308 the curiously named Working Families Tax Relief Act was signed into law October 4, 2004. Its main feature involved extensions and changes in the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Its principal costs occurred over the 2005-2009 period and were estimated to be $122 billion.
In 2005, there was an attempt at another tax cut bill which failed. In 2006, the Republicans broke their tax cuts up into a couple of bills .
HR 4297 was signed into law May 17, 2006. It was to cost about $70 billion, split roughly between cuts on dividends and capital gains on the one hand and cuts in the Alternate Minimum Tax (AMT) on the other.
HR 6111 was signed into law December 20, 2006. It was a minor catchall bill extending and modifying some expiring tax provisions and was projected to cost $40 billion over the period from 2007 to 2016.Looking over the various bills, it is likely they became increasing hard to sell over time. They certainly became smaller. Still a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money. It's just that after Bush got a trillion dollars for the rich in his first bill, everything else seemed small by comparison.
23. Global warming: denial of manmade origin, followed by minimization of the effects of the manmade contribution, continued reliance on fossil and carbon based fuels, little movement on CAFE standards and conservation, and political interference in scientific reports.
March 13, 2001, Bush rejects Kyoto Protocols (finished December 1997 but never ratified by the US Senate) and casts doubt on the causes of climate change.
June 11, 2001, in reference to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, Bush questions both the extent of global warming, its impact, and the manmade contribution to it.
February 14, 2002, Bush announces his Clear Skies Initiatives which lacks any limits on CO2.
April 2002, at the urging of ExxonMobil Bush blocks reelection of Robert Watson, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and advocate of reducing greenhouse gases.
June 3, 2002, an EPA report to the UN admits global warming largely due to human activities.
June 4, 2002, Bush dismisses the report as "put out by the bureaucracy" and reiterates his opposition to Kyoto.
August 19, 2002, White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) chief of staff Philip Cooney a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a non scientist questions why climate change is mentioned at all. In September 2002, for the first time in six years, the annual EPA report on air pollution "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends" omits the section on global warming.
November 2002, Our Changing Planet, an annual report to Congress on the Climate Change Science Program for oversight and budget purposes is heavily edited by Philip Cooney.
April-May 2003, CEQ Chairman Jim Connaughton edits the draft of what will be the August 2003 "Fabricant" opinion.
June 23, 2003, the EPA issues "Draft Report on the Environment 2003" in which the section on global warming was pulled after Philip Cooney sought to replace data showing sharp increases in global temperatures with references to a study funded by the API questioning the evidence for global warming.
July 2003, the Administration releases its Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program. Philip Cooney along with other CEQ officials made at least 181 edits emphasizing the uncertainty of global warming and 113 de-emphasizing the human contribution to it. The CEQ also inserted language about the possible benefits of global warming and removed recommendations to do something about it.
August 28, 2003, in response to a petition by environmental groups to regulate greenhouse gas emissions on new cars (based upon an April 10, 1998 opinion by then EPA General Counsel Jonathan Cannon which found that carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases were air pollutants), the EPA denied the petition. The General Counsel at the time Robert Fabricant reversed what was known as the Cannon memo and declared that greenhouse gases were not air pollutants.
Early 2005, Bush meets with author, non scientist, and global warming skeptic Michael Crichton. Bush had read his novel "State of Fear" which depicts global warming as a conspiracy.
June 1, 2005, Rick Peltz a scientist at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP) resigns and accuses Phillip Cooney, the then chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) of editing scientific papers so that they would agree with Administration policies on climate change.
June 10, 2005, Cooney resigns
June 13, 2005, Cooney is hired by ExxonMobil
September 21, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center in testimony before the Commerce Committee denied a connection between Katrina and global warming, ascribing an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes to natural fluctuations. Mayfield was a popular and respected media figure whose thinking on this was out of the mainstream. His testimony, however, was carefully worked out between committee staff and the Office of Legislative Affairs at NOAA to in the words of one staffer Tom Jones smack "the shit out of this issue."
December 2005, NASA climatologist James Hansen reported his work was being monitored and his access to the press limited by a 24 year old Bush political appointee in NASA's PR department George C. Deutsch. Deutsch also tried to qualify references to the Big Bang as this conflicted with his fundamentalist beliefs.
February 7, 2006, Deutsch resigns after it becomes known that he lied on his resume about having a college degree.
April-November 2006, the Smithsonian (almost all of whose $1.1 billion budget comes from the government) self censors an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic which it had delayed six months while trying to tone it down.
July 20, 2006, Dr. Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center at NOAA had his Congressional testimony on global warming modified and weakened by political appointees at the White House Council of Environmental Quality, the OMB, the Commerce Department, and NOAA.
January 30, 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists releases a report indicating that 150 climate scientists from 8 federal agencies had personally experienced at least one instance of interference in their work in the previous 5 years (for a total of 435 incidents).
April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA rejects the Fabricant opinion and requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. The commonwealth of Massachusetts argued successfully that it and its citizens had suffered and would suffer ecological damage, including loss of coastal lands, due to global warming.
May 2007, Bush continues to use the mantra of short term, unsustainable "economic growth" to oppose meaningful international (G-8) approaches, such as carbon trading and emission caps.
May 31, 2007, in an NPR interview, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin admits that global warming exists but doubts that it is a problem "to be wrestled with".
September 28, 2007, Bush at a meeting held in competition with a UN conference on global warming called on those countries which emit the most greenhouse gases to set voluntary caps but did not say what those should be, even for the US.
October 23, 2007, the White House cut written testimony of Julie Geberding director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 14 pages to 6 removing references to specific diseases, health problems, and global warming as "a serious public health concern."
December 3-15, 2007, at the UN's Bali conference on moving beyond the Kyoto Accords, the Bush Administration continued to refuse binding commitments for reduction in carbon emissions. Instead there will be two more years of negotiations effectively punting any real decisions to the next Administration. Unfortunately, the effects of global warming are unlikely to wait on this further bout of procrastination.(see also item 42)
24. Terri Schiavo (family and privacy rights in end of life cases); Senate Majority leader Bill Frist making his famous (and erroneous) video diagnosis; the memo written by Brian Darling, the legal counsel for Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) that the Schiavo case was a great political issue which could be used against the Democratic Senator from Florida Bill Nelson. Republicans who had cast the Schiavo case as a "moral" issue initially declared the memo a Democratic plant and dirty trick before the real source came out.
25. Big budget deficits and vastly increased national debt; the national debt as of the date of Bush's 2001 inauguration was $5.7 trillion in mid-April 2007 it was $8.8 trillion an increase of 35%.
26. The stacking of SCOTUS with right wing conservatives Roberts and Alito; the threat to Roe v. Wade; April 18, 2007 in a 5-4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart SCOTUS upholds a ban on "partial birth" abortions (intact dilation and extraction). The procedure is rare and performed for medical reasons. Such a ban has been a goal of abortion foes who see it both as a step in a direct overturning of Roe and as part of an indirect approach to place so many restrictions on abortions as to effectively eliminate them
....The opinion written by Kennedy is remarkable for its inflammatory use of language (partial birth abortion, abortion doctors, killing the fetus, etc.) and example (an account of the procedure by an anti-abortion nurse). Kennedy manages to condescend not only to women but to their physicians as well. He essentially gives them both his considered medical opinion, as a lawyer, and orders them to follow it. The word hubris comes to mind.
27. Medicare: a bigger time bomb than Social Security left unaddressed
28. Medicare Part D: In an effort to spike a Democratic issue and protect the interests of drug and insurance companies, Republicans came up with their version of a Medicare drug prescription bill (Medicare Part D). The fix as they say was very much in. Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) Chairman of the Commerce Committee was listed as the principal "author" of the bill which was largely written by industry lobbyists. Shortly after its passage, Tauzin announced his retirement and swung a deal to become a lobbyist at $2.5 million/year with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Big Pharma's trade group. Thomas Scully who headed Medicare at the time lied to Congress about the program's expected costs, understating them by $134 billion, and then threatened the program's chief actuary Richard Foster with firing if he told Congress the truth. He too quickly returned to the private sector and a law firm lobbying for the healthcare industry.
....The bill came up for a vote in the House at about 3 AM on November 22, 2003. Votes are usually held open for 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, the bill was failing 215-219. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom Delay spent the next few hours engaged in arm twisting and, in the case of Nick Smith (R-MI), bribery. They were successful. The vote was closed at 5:53 AM after nearly 3 hours, and the bill passed the House 220-215. It passed 54-44 in the Senate 3 days later on November 25, was signed into law December 8, 2003, and, after a signup period, went into effect January 1, 2006.
....The bill prohibited Medicare from using its market share to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices and forced enrolling seniors into private insurance plans. It presented them with multiple and confusing plans which might cover some but not other of their prescriptions. On top of this, most plans had various co-pays and deductibles further complicating the situation. And it had its famous donut-hole, which was introduced to meet the Administration's fake cost estimates. Prescriptions would be covered up to a certain amount and then not covered until a higher threshold had been reached. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) described the program succinctly as "somewhere between a bureaucratic nightmare and elder abuse."
29. Healthcare (in general)
30. Cooked intelligence and the Office of Strategic Plans/ Doug Feith; stovepiping and Cheney's alternate intel operation; pitching stories to credulous compliant reporters like Judy Miller then citing these stories as independent evidence; Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress feeding fake stories and dubious sources like "Curveball" into the mix; the subsequent coverup and Republican delayed and deep sixed Congressional investigations into the politicization of intelligence; an Inspector General's report of February 9, 2007 declared Feith's activities inappropriate but stopped short of calling them illegal. The IG's rationale seemed more political than legal since Feith was running an intelligence operation which would be illegal.
31. 2000 Presidential election; voter suppression and cooked felons list, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Governor Jeb Bush, Bush consigliere Jim Baker oversaw the recount, Theodore Olson argued Bush v. Gore: SCOTUS decided 7-2 to stop recounts because of inconsistent procedures and 5-4 insufficient time to begin new recount, giving Bush the election
32. 2004 Presidential election; Ohio voter irregularities that consistently favored Bush; Ken Blackwell was the Republican Secretary of State and honorary co chair of the Bush campaign who oversaw the election in Ohio. He opted for touch screen voting machines which left no paper trail and were sold by Diebold whose CEO Walden O'Dell was a Republican fundraiser. Long lines and too few machines in traditionally Democratic and minority areas also occurred.
....The Ohio Republican Party was unusually corrupt and was largely voted out in the November 2006 elections. It was epitomized by Tom Noe a Bush Pioneer who made illegal contributions to the Bush campaign at the same time he was looting millions from the state's workers comp program in a kooky coin investment scheme. He's currently serving ~20 years on state and federal charges.
33. Attempts to torpedo the 911 Commission. Although now largely forgotten, the Bush Administration fought the 9/11 Commission every step of the way and it was only pressure from the American public and most especially from the families of the victims of 9/11 that the commission was formed and was able to come up with some kind of a report however flawed and incomplete.
....Bush and Cheney resisted calls for such a bipartisan commission for over a year arguing that the matter was best left to Republican controlled intelligence committees in the Congress. It was not until November 27, 2002 that Bush announced the commission's formation. He did his best to see that it went nowhere. Members were to be chosen by both Congress and the White House raising questions about the commission's independence. Democratic co-chair George Mitchell on December 11, 2002 and Republican chair Henry Kissinger (whom the White House had insisted on appointing) on December 13, 2007 resigned due to conflicts of interest. Kissinger did not want to make public the financial records (and connections) of his security consulting company Kissinger Associates. Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton were named to replace them. The specter of conflicts of interest remained. Through their careers in government and on corporate boards, essentially all of the commission members had such conflicts. Perhaps the most egregious of these was Philip Zelikow the commission's executive staff director who had worked closely with Condoleezza Rice on the National Security Council in the first Bush Administration and co-written a book with her.
....Bush also tried to limit the commission's activities by giving it a budget of only $3 million to investigate the biggest terrorist attack in the country's history. The Challenger investigation cost $50 million by comparison. Later Kean and Hamilton asked for a further $11 million to be included in the $75 billion supplemental slated to fund the invasion of Iraq. The White House initially refused the funds before reversing itself.
....The White House also placed many roadblocks in the commission's path slowing its work. The commission was originally given 18 months or to the end of May 2004 to make its report. When a 60 day extension was requested, this too was initially denied. The commission report was eventually released on July 22, 2004.
....The White House sought both to shape and limit testimony. Before former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke testified, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales contacted two commission members Fred Fielding and James Thompson with information to discredit Clarke which they duly presented.
....On Presidential Daily Briefs, after dragging its heels for months, the White House allowed them to be viewed by only 4 of the 10 commissioners who were to report back to the others. However, the White House denied the full commission access to the notes made by the 4 approved commissioners. Moreover, of 360 PDBs requested, only 24 were made available by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. On March 14, 2004, the White House finally responded to the commission by releasing a 17 page summary of PDBs related to al Qaeda from the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
....The White House refused requests for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify. The rationale given was that historically National Security Advisers had not testified before Congress. This was completely untrue, and Rice finally testified on April 8, 2004. Rice's testimony, however, came with the price that no other White House aides were to be called.
....Bush initially placed a one hour limit on his testimony before the commission. This was rejected. But his testimony was highly conditioned. On April 29, 2004, he and Dick Cheney together met with the commission in private with no oath or transcript and only one staffer to take notes which were not to be made public.
....Finally, it should be remembered the 9/11 Commission was bipartisan. This does not mean the same thing as non-partisan. In order to achieve consensus, there was a deliberate decision not to assign personal blame. This was a critical shortcoming. Because as the Bush Administration's repeated obstruction of the investigation into its complacency and inaction before 9/11 showed, it had much to hide.
34. Failure to implement the 911 Commission recommendations. The Commission report was released on July 22, 2004 with its recommendations. A Republican President and Republican controlled Congress stalled and delayed them for 3 years. It was not until Democrats regained control of the Congress that anything was done. HR 1 on implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations passed the Congress on July 27, 2007 and was signed into law on August 3, 2007.
35. Marginalization of the UN; UN hating John Bolton made our UN ambassador (in a recess appointment); as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bolton requested raw NSA transcripts 10 times in an effort to spy on and embarrass his bosses and coworkers. NSA transcripts are required to have the names of Americans redacted. Raw transcripts contain the names. It later came out that the release of unredacted transcripts was much more common than previously thought and that up to 10,000 names had been so released to various departments of government
36. Preventive war doctrine, aka Cheney's one percent doctrine and the Bush doctrine. Bush first enunciated it at a speech at West Point on June 1, 2002. Preventive war is different from pre-emptive war. In preventive war, there is no imminent threat and this type of war is considered a war crime. (Think of Hitler attacking Poland.) In pre-emptive war, there is an imminent threat and this type of war is sanctioned by international law. (Think of the Israelis striking the Egyptian army in the Sinai in 1967) After the failure to find WMD in Iraq, the Administration dropped any pretense of imminence and overtly embraced the preventive war doctrine, asserting the right to eliminate threats before they develop.
....In a curious and very late attempt at revisionist history, on December 11, 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied that Iraq, the preeminent example of the Bush Doctrine, was about pre-emption, i.e. prevention.
QUESTION: After 9/11, the President declared policy of preempting threats to the nation before they fully manifested themselves. Yet we've seen some of the intelligence about those threats is often flawed, significantly. Can a preemption policy coexist with imperfect intelligence?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would argue with you -- I don't think I would argue with you, I would argue that we have -- I don't think we've yet employed preemption. I would -- we could have a discussion about Iraq, continuing state of war since '91, shooting at our airplanes, almost a half dozen or more resolutions on this issue. I mean I think this was a long, long buildup. And I think it was a case in which you implement it or you had pretty much exhausted diplomatic options with Iraq.Problem, as Ross Perot used to say, solved.
37. Loss of US reputation internationally after massive post-911 world support. Here are some percentage US approval ratings pre-Bush and current. From here and here.
38. No serious attempt to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The epitome of this was Condoleezza Rice's announcement in Luxor on January 15, 2007 of talks on talks to develop a "political horizon" for a return to the "road map" leading to a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement. This is not serious.
39. Underfunding of basic research. The federal budget for R&D in 2006 (the last year that Republicans held a majority in the Congress) was $132.3 billion. In constant FY 2005 dollars (used hereafter), this broke down to around $73 billion in defense related R&D and $56 billion in non-defense R&D.
....Defense R&D increased 2001-2006 from $50 billion to $73 billion. Most of this increase came from weapons development, not basic science. From 2001-2005, defense spending on science and technology (basic research) rose from slightly more than $10 billion to about $13 billion before being cut back to 2001 levels in 2006.
....Non-defense R&D initially increased due to a 5 year initiative 1998-2003 (begun during the Clinton years) to double funding for the NIH from approx. $14 billion to $28 billion. After this point NIH funding (which accounts for half of non-defense R&D) stagnated. Non-defense non-NIH funding has remained essentially unchanged since 1992 (or for about 15 years).
....While Bush has greatly increased the size of the federal budget, during his tenure funding for basic research which has been the foundation of our technological preeminence has languished or been cut. Democrats since taking control of the Congress have made some moves to increase funding in the 2008 budget.
40. Alberto Gonzales: politicization of the department, even down to the intern program, decimation of career lawyers and evisceration of divisions, like civil rights. The US attorney firings and the use of political litmus tests in hiring. The use of corruption, voter suppression, and voter fraud cases to influence elections.
....Gonzales was counsel to the President before becoming Attorney General. This should have meant that he moved from being the President's lawyer to the people's lawyer but it is clear that he continues to see his main client as the President. Some think that he is dishonest; others say he is incompetent. He is both.
....On August 27, 2007, Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation as Attorney General effective September 17, 2007. While numerous scandals and investigations have swirled around him, it is not yet known what reason precisely forced him out or why this happened now.
41. FDA: drug testing; food safety: underfunding, cutback in inspections and inspection staff (a decrease of 12% between 2003 and 2006), reliance on self-policing, lack of inspection of imported foods, and inability to force recalls.
42. EPA: mercury levels for coal plants, delay in release of climate change reports; failure to address CO2 levels in global warming: Massachusetts v. EPA April 2007. On May 14, 2007, Bush asked government agencies to come up with a plan and submit it to him 3 weeks before he leaves office. The stalling continued on May 31, 2007, when Bush called for what was termed an aspirational goal of coming up with voluntary limits to greenhouse gases in the next 18 months (or again just before he leaves office) to go into effect after Kyoto expires in 2012. The number of civil cases brought against polluters decreased 70% between 2002 and 2006 compared to the rate in the 1990s.
....December 19, 2007, Bush's EPA refused to grant California a waiver so that it could enforce stricter than federal emissions guidelines. The state along with 16 others sought to force automakers to cut emissions in all their vehicles by 30% by 2016.
43. Porter Goss and the gutting of the CIA: Goss a conservative Republican Congressman who chaired the House Intelligence Committee was chosen to replace George Tenet in 2004. He promised to be non-partisan in his new role, a promise he did not keep and which it is difficult to imagine anyone took seriously at the time. He brought with him some of his House staff, the "goslings". Their doctrinaire style produced confusion, demoralization, resignations, and not much else. Having done what damage he could and being largely isolated, he resigned suddenly on May 5, 2006, achieving the distinction of being one of the few people who was too big an embarrassment even for the Bush Administration, well that and that he was outmaneuvered and marginalized by the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
44. Militarization of intelligence: Rumsfeld perhaps out of pique that the Afghanistan operation was largely a CIA affair and conceiving the world as one big turf battle pressed to put all special operations under Pentagon control. The vast majority of intelligence funding is already funneled through the Defense Department. In addition to this, the current intelligence czar the Director of National Intelligence John Michael McConnell is a retired vice admiral. The CIA is currently headed by an active duty general Michael Hayden (USAF). The top man at the NSA (formerly headed by Hayden) is Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander (Army). And the National Counterterrorism Center is headed by another retired vice admiral John Scott Redd. General James R. Clapper Jr. is Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Lt. Gen. William J. (Jerry) Boykin is Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis is Deputy Director for Human Intelligence at the CIA. Retiring Army Lt. General Dell Dailey, formerly Director of the Center for Special Operations at the Pentagon which runs black ops, was nominated to head the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) at the State Department. He was confirmed June 22, 2007.
45. Rampant cronyism
46. Signing statements: As of early 2007, there have been 147 signing statements challenging over 1,140 provisions in about 150 federal bills. In the past signing statements were used to establish grounds for a possible future challenge of a law by the Executive branch or to assert that signing a specific bill did not imply a surrender of an underlying Presidential power. Bush has used them to maintain that he will only obey a law or a part of a law when it suits him.
47. Unilateral (aka Unitary) Executive doctrine: the brainchild of John Yoo and David Addington which seeks to establish a legal framework through misreading the Constitution for a Presidential dictatorship
....On December 7, 2007, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) released parts of Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions that he got declassified concerning Bush's warrantless wiretapping programs:
1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.
2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II.
3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations.What this says is that the President under his Article II powers as Commander in Chief can do whatever he wants and that he is the sole arbiter of whether what he does is legal. This echoes Richard Nixon famous dictum: 'Well, when the President does it that means it is not illegal." And we saw how well that turned out.
48. Overuse and abuse of the National Guard and Reserves; posse comitatus; decreased ability to deal with natural disasters; also much National Guard equipment is now in Iraq and there is currently a $24 billion shortfall in equiping National Guard units in this country. In a sign of how the National Guard are treated, in a story reported October 3, 2007, the Pentagon wrote orders for 1,162 members of the Minnesota National Guard who served the longest tour of any ground unit in Iraq: 22 months for 729 days to avoid giving them GI Bill education benefits which they would have been entitled to if they had served one single day more.
49. Increasing unpreparedness of US ground forces (Army and Marines): too many tours, extended tours, too little rest between tours, insufficient training
50. US balance of trade deficit. This is a measure both of our general indebtedness and our competitiveness. In 2001 it was $389 billion. In 2006 it was $758.5 billion, a 95% increase. The deficit in goods (as opposed to services) accounts for almost all of this.
51. 2005 Grassley Bankruptcy bill heavily favoring lenders
52. Mexican cross border trucking and safety concerns
53. Karl Rove did not lose his security clearance after his participation in the Valerie Plame case. Instead it was quietly renewed in late 2006. Henry Waxman would like to know why.
54. Detention of families for immigration violations; large ICE raids which leave children of detainees unaccounted for; immigrant detentions for long periods in a hodgepodge of facilities without adequate medical care (resulting in deaths), suicide prevention, or legal representation.
55. Dubai Ports deal
56. The Patriot Act that no one had time to read and passed anyway; the Patriot Act extension that people had the time to read and passed anyway.
57. Attempts to privatize Social Security dating all the way back to a stacked commission report of December 11, 2001; Andrew Biggs who favors privatization made deputy director of Social Security in a recess appointment after the Senate made it clear it would not take up his nomination because of his privatization views.
58. The War on Science
59. Conviction of David Safavian for lying and obstruction June 20, 2006 re his dealings with Jack Abramoff. In the 1990s, Safavian was a business partner of Grover Norquist. In 2002, he was named Senior Advisor and Acting Deputy Chief of Staff at the GSA and in November 2003 was made head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the OMB in the White House
60. Presidential adviser Claude Allen stealing from Target
61. Bush casually admits to lying about decision to fire Rumsfeld
62. Armstrong Williams and paid propagandists
63. Decimation of the Labor Department presided over by Elaine Chao, married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; job safety, job creation, wage increases, unions, and workers' rights have languished under her stewardship. Edwin Foulke who heads OSHA continues the Administration policy of trusting to self-regulation of industry, by industry, for industry.
64. Net neutrality and media content and ownership policies
65. Backing Israel while it destroyed Lebanon July 12, 2006-August 14, 2006
66. Presidential Daily Brief August 6, 2001: Bin Laden determined to attack in US
67. EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman declares toxic filled Ground Zero safe for cleanup. On August 9, 2003 the EPA Inspector General finds differently. In Congressional testimony June 25, 2007, Whitman states that it was not her fault and blames the terrorists for the site being toxic.
68. Sago mining disaster hearings and MHSA's David Dye who walked out of the hearings; Bush push for reduction in fines for safety violations and non-collection of them since 2001.
69. Bush nominates Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court on October 3, 2005. She was serving as White House counsel after Alberto Gonzales went to the DOJ. A typical Bush crony appointment, nevertheless it quickly runs into problems. Miers has little knowledge of Constitutional law, but what dooms her nomination is that conservatives don't think she is conservative enough. Think Roe v. Wade. The nomination is withdrawn October 27, 2005. A few months later Miers' involvement in the firings of the US attorneys begins.
70. Bush vetoes a stem cell research bill July 19, 2006 (Bush's first veto). Bush vetoes a second stem cell research bill June 20, 2007 (Bush's third veto).
71. Attack on Plan B contraception, staffing Women's Health positions with religious conservatives: Dr. Eric Keroack at Health and Human Services who thought birth control demeaning to women and Dr. David Hager at FDA who tried to keep Plan B prescription only. His wife contended in divorce proceedings that he had repeatedly sod*mized her without her consent. On October 15, 2007, Bush appointed Susan Orr as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (Keroack's position). Orr who currently heads child welfare programs at HHS is a virulent opponent of birth control considering it part of a "culture of death". This is another example of an upside down appointment: choosing someone whose positions are the very antithesis of their job's mission.
72. Clear Skies Act of February 14, 2002 a failed attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act. Bush reacted by changing standards on nitrogen oxide, SO2, and mercury through the EPA. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 based on bad science in how to protect communities from forest fires and on the effects of "thinning" forests, i.e disrupting ecosystems. The real aim was to remove public scrutiny on sweetheart deals with logging companies by claiming such deals were to protect communities even when there were no communities in the vicinity.
....On December 5, 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2003 US Forest Service rule, part of the Healthy Forests Initiative, which exempted cuts up to 1,000 acres and burns up to 4,500 acres in national forests from environmental review. The rule allowed about 1.2 million acres to be cut or burned each year without studying the environmental impact of these activities.
73. Missile defense shield that doesn't work. So far the only tangible result is that Vladimir Putin has used it as an excuse to introduce a new class of MIRVed (multiple warhead) ICBMs and threaten the Europeans. This is payback for the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty announced December 12, 2001 and entered into effect June 13, 2002. On June 14, Russia announced that it was pulling out of START II (negotiated in the 1990s) which covered the de-MIRVing of ICBMs and which Russia had never gotten around to ratifying anyway. Putin knows that Russia is not threatened by such an ineffective system and that Russia has plenty of conventional ICBMs to overwhelm it even if it did work. As for targeting Europe, although it sounds scary, this represents little change from current policy. De-targeted Russian (and US) missiles can be re-targeted in a matter of seconds to minutes. On July 14, 2007, Putin suspended Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. The Bush missile shield is providing an excellent excuse for Russia to detach itself from the security framework put in place at the end of the Cold War.
74. Leandro Aragoncillo naturalized Filipino-American in Cheney's office (previously Gore's) accused of spying for the Philippines and possibly France, pled guilty to unlawfully possessing secret US government documents. He was sentenced to 10 years on July 18, 2007.
75. Defunding overseas AIDS programs that promoted condom use for prevention; ineffective abstinence only programs. With these should be mentioned domestic abstinence only programs directed at teens which have proven to be abysmal failures.
76. Call for a constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.
77. Opening up Bristol Bay, the last pristine large-scale salmon fishery in the world, to oil drilling. Congress has also sanctioned further drilling in the Gulf of Mexico including off the coast of Florida. Interior has proposed drilling off the coast of Virginia which would need Congressional approval which isn't likely.
78. Accusation that Clintons trashed the White House before leaving, including stealing the Ws from keyboards
79. James Guckert aka Jeff Gannon had a series of websites 1999-2002 where he advertised his services as a male "escort" or prostitute. In November 2002, Guckert began posting and publishing conservative pieces under the name Jeff Gannon. Although he had no journalistic experience, Gannon was soon accredited to the White House press corps where between February 25, 2003 and early 2005 he appeared over 200 times. During this period he represented Talon News and GOPUSA, websites owned by Robert Eberle a Republican operative from Texas. Several of Gannon's visits did not correspond to press events and has led to speculation about which of his trades he was practicing during them. Gannon was known for lobbing softball questions and writing stories from press releases. On January 26, 2005 this led to his undoing when he asked at a Presidential press conference a question that appeared too friendly even by Washington standards,
Q Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?It is important to point out that Gannon was exposed by the liberal blogs dailykos and Americablog. Although Gannon had been engaged in these antics for two years under the nose of the White House corps, steely-eyed reporters that they were, they never noticed.
80. Native American trust funds and Trust Responsibility to Indian Country
81. Selling creationist materials at the Grand Canyon gift shop claiming it was 6000 years old
82. Banning photographing return of coffins of slain American soldiers
83. False military reporting: Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch. Pat Tillman was an NFL player who post-911 joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan April 22, 2004. He was immediately mythologized John Wayne-style by the military. On May 28, 2004, it came out that he died in a friendly fire incident. Details of Tillman's death and the coverup surrounding it continue to dribble out. On July 13, 2007, the Bush White House invoked Executive privilege on its communications with the Pentagon concerning the story pursuant to requests from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It is likely that Bush knew within a week of Tillman's death that the initial accounts of it were false. Executive privilege has become an indispensable tool in the stonewall this Administration has constructed around itself.
....On July 31, 2007, retired Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger who headed Army special forces received a letter of reprimand from Army Secretary Pete Geren for his role in the affair and may lose a star and a tenth of his retirement pay. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal who heads the Special Operations (black ops) Command approved Tillman's Silver Star citation on April 28, 2004 in which Tillman is described as being killed by devastating enemy fire. The next day he sent a back channel memo saying he thought Tillman may have been the victim of friendly fire. McChrystal remains on active duty and has never been punished although a Pentagon Inspector General's report recommended that action be taken against him for misleading and inaccurate statements.
84. AIPAC espionage scandal; former DOD employee Lawrence Franklin pled guilty to passing information on Iran to Israel through two AIPAC employees
85. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram; the Marine massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha and its coverup. A few cases:
Rasul: On June 28, 2004 SCOTUS in a 6-3 decision ruled that the US court system had jurisdiction over non US nationals held at Guantanamo. Rasul had been released to the UK before the ruling on March 29, 2004.
Hamdi: On June 28, 2004 SCOTUS 8-1 ruled that U.S. citizens can not be detained indefinitely as enemy combatants without due process. Hamdi was released to Saudi Arabia on October 9, 2004 on condition that he give up his US citizenship.
Hamdan: On June 29, 2006, SCOTUS in a 5-3 decision ruled that Bush's military tribunals were illegal under the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions and needed Congressional authorization (which was supplied by the Military Commissions Act or MCA of September 2006)
Khadr/Hamdan: On June 4, 2007, a military court dismissed charges against them because their Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) had designated them enemy combatants. The MCA authorizes trials for "unlawful" enemy combatants only, which they had not been designated. On September 24, 2007 in the Khadr case, a military appeals court found that on hearing more evidence a military judge had the power to determine that an alien enemy combatant was also an "unlawful" one. If upheld, this could clear the way for trials under the MCA.
al Marri: On June 11, 2007, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a legal US resident (similar to Hamdi) can not be denied due process and held indefinitely as an enemy combatant outside the purview of the US judicial system.
86. Asserted right to open US mail
87. The housing bubble, its collapse, subprime mortgage crisis. Since about 1998, subprime mortgage loans have accounted for about 1/4 of US home sales. Such mortgages allowed people with low or bad credit ratings to purchase homes. Easy credit resulted in a housing boom/bubble between 2000 and 2005 and was touted as a major plank of Bush's "ownership society". The problem was people were sold too much house financed by loans that they could initially, if marginally, afford but which they could not after a few years as the terms on their loans changed and monthly payments greatly increased. The effects of this nonsensical lending and speculation were delayed for awhile as the housing market was on the way up and the value of homes (including those financed by subprime loans) steadily increased, but in late 2006 the bubble became unsustainable and burst. Ameriquest the largest subprime lender went belly up after a $325 million settlement with 30 state Attorney Generals for deceptive lending and marketing practices. (Its former CEO Robert Arnell was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands by George Bush.) It was not alone. Other subprime lenders like Mortgage Lenders Network USA and Ownit followed suit. Market analysts try to downplay the significance of the subprime disaster but its effects continue to ripple through financial markets. For one thing most of the mortgage loans were not held by the original lenders but sold to investors and hedge funds. As a result two Bear Stearns funds failed and on August 9, 2007 the French bank BNP Paribas froze withdrawals from 3 of its funds due to subprime losses sparking a major sell off in stock markets and forcing central banks to inject ~$180 billion into markets over a 24 hour period to avoid a credit crunch. The fallout from this housing bubble collapse will be with us for years and is going to be very, very expensive.
....On December 6, 2007, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson presented the Administration's much awaited plan to help homeowners with subprime mortgages. The program called for a voluntary 5 year freeze on rates due to reset between January 1, 2008 and July 31, 2010. It was available only to those who were not delinquent in their payments and delays but does not do away with interest rate resets at the end of this period. Finally, it would affect at most 20% of such loans and probably far fewer (~12%). All in all, the Paulson plan does little to help homeowners but then it was never meant to. The real reason for the plan was to support housing prices which could fall 20% to 30% due to the subprime bubble and so thereby minimize losses to investors.
....On December 11, 2007, the Fed cut short term interest rates down to 4.25%. This is the rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans. It was the third rate cut since September 2007 bringing the total decrease to a full percentage point. While this could fuel inflation, it is unclear that it will have any effect on the underlying fundamentals of the liquidity crisis brought on by the subprime bubble.
....On December 18, 2007 European central banks created a $500 billion fund to provide two week loans to commercial banks at 4.21% interest. The problem with most banks is not that they lack money on hand but that they are leery of lending it.
88. Bush connections to Enron and Ken Lay. Lay was connected to the elder Bush but helped finance the younger Bush's gubernatorial campaign. In 2000 he was a Bush Pioneer, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the Republican convention and the Bush inaugural celebration. Through Enron, he also contributed more than a million dollars in soft money to the Republican party. In exchange, Bush stayed out of the California energy crisis and Lay participated in Cheney's Energy Task Force which wrote Bush's business friendly energy policy. When Enron collapsed, Bush could barely remember ever having met the man.
89. Refusing to intervene in the California electricity crisis in early 2001
90. Lack of action on Darfur despite Congress declaring it genocide in a resolution of June 22, 2004 and Bush's own Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 9, 2004
91. Failure to adequately fund programs to reduce poorly secured nuclear material in Russia
92. Refusal to grant security clearances to OPR (Office of Public Responsibility) lawyers investigating the role of Gonzales both as WH counsel and later as AG in authorizing warrantless NSA wiretapping thus quashing the investigation
93. Political interference in the Justice Department lawsuit against Big Tobacco. 3 then DOJ officials Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum (No.3 at the DOJ), head of the Civil Division Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and his deputy, Dan Meronin intervened in June 2005 at the last minute in the government's case. They torpedoed a provision which would have removed corporate officers shown to have engaged in fraud. They asked that some witnesses weaken their testimony. They also reduced a government demand for an industry funded smoking cessation program from $130 billion to $10 billion. Later, the presiding federal judge Gladys Kessler ruled that a prior appellate court decision precluded such a program. Of course, this was not the argument which the DOJ officials were making. Their interest was in keeping Big Tobacco from taking a Big Hit.
94. White House involvement in election day phone jamming of Democrats in New Hampshire November 5, 2002; Charles McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party pled guilty to conspiracy on July 28, 2004 and was later sentenced to 7 months in prison; James Tobin New England head of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee made two dozen calls to the White House over a three day period during this time. He was convicted for his participation on December 15, 2005. This was reversed on appeal March 21, 2007. His case was sent back to the district court and will be retried in December 2007. A major reason for the slow progress of the Tobin case to trial (3 years) was that the FBI assigned only a single agent part time to it.
95. Sweetheart plea deal for Steven Griles former No. 2 at the Interior Department. Griles and his then girlfriend Italia Federici worked with Jack Abramoff and later lied to Congress about it. The proposed deal by the government: no cooperation demand, the minimum 10 months, 5 to be served at the home of his now wife Sue Ellen Wooldridge who had just left Justice where she was an assistant attorney general heading the environment division. She signed a generous consent decree with ConocoPhillips despite being friends with a Conoco vice president and despite the fact that Conoco was being represented by Griles.
....On June 26, 2007, US District Judge Ellen Huvelle sentenced Griles. Griles asked for probation and blamed the Senate for his lying. The judge didn't buy this or the government's deal and doubled his prison time to the full 10 months. He was also fined $30,000 and given 3 years probation.
96. The unfired (Bush appointed) US attorneys who targeted 80% of their political corruption cases against Democrats
97. Insertion into the Patriot Act extension of language allowing US attorneys to be named without Senate approval. This provision originated with Daniel Collins a former Associate Deputy AG back in 2003 but was taken by then Assistant AG for Legislative Affairs (now Principal Associate Deputy AG) William Moschella in 2005 and forwarded to Brett Tolman, a protege of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch on Arlen Specter's staff who snuck it into the bill. Specter denied knowledge of the insertion and said he had not read the bill. He admitted, however, that his chief of staff Michael O'Neil did know. As a reward, Tolman was nominated US attorney for Utah and confirmed by the Senate July 21, 2006 in the usual way and not the one he slipped into the Patriot Act. Gonzales approved but maintained he didn't know how it happened.
98. Massive and illegal abuse by FBI of National Security Letters (administrative warrants) or NSLs. A report by DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine of March 2007 estimated that 143,000 NSLs had been issued between 2003 and 2005. An exact number was not possible because recordkeeping was so bad that an unknown number were never properly recorded. In response to the IG's findings, Alberto Gonzales stated that he was unaware of abuses in the program although he had begun receiving reports about them beginning in 2005. On June 15, 2007, DC federal district court judge John Bates ordered the FBI to begin producing documents related to NSL abuse pursuant to a FOIA request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation by July 5. On July 13, 2007, Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller announced that a new office would be formed within DOJ's National Security Division to oversee the program and prevent abuses. Of course, these were the same people who promised that there would be no abuses in the first place.
99. Attempted use of GSA to promote Republican candidates; presentation by Scott Jennings deputy political director to Karl Rove at a video conference of 40 political appointees hosted by GSA head Lurita Doan in violation of the Hatch Act. Later, Doan testifying before Congress had severe memory loss. Doan at GSA has been involved in various contract irregularities. In a letter to Bush on June 8, 2007, the Office of Special Counsel which investigates this kind of thing called for Doan to be punished to the fullest extent for violations of the Hatch Act and obstructing its investigation.
....At least 20 other meetings involving senior officials from 15 government agencies and the White House discussing political prospects were held before the 2006 elections also in violation of the Hatch Act. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has begun investigations into these.
100. Karl Rove and the culture of corruption. What did Karl Rove see in George Bush that he tied his fortunes to Bush's political star? Rove saw Bush as inhabiting the intersection of often disparate and conflicting elements of the Republican Party. Bush came from a powerful Texas family. His father had been President and that meant not only name recognition but contacts to the Republican Establishment. Bush Senior was also tightly connected to the conservative monied classes in Texas, the Northeast, and the country more generally. Despite this, Bush Junior assiduously cultivated and exploited a "good ole boy" image so at odds with his family's wealth and power. Although born in Connecticut and schooled in the Northeast, as a Texan and with the Everyman shtik, Bush could also lay claim to being both a Southerner and a Westerner and so tap into two important bastions of the Republican Party. As a recovering alcoholic turned to religion, Bush Junior added in another part of the Republican base the religious Right, evangelical and family values vote. With this and a smattering of Spanish, Rove saw Bush could court the Hispanic vote as well. In other words, from Rove's point of view Bush was a political goldmine.
....Here were two men with little knowledge of or curiosity about the world, motivated by no great philosophy but with a great thirst for power and a willingness to do anything no matter how sleazy or dirty to win it. This was not about consensus building. It was about 50% plus 1 or close enough for a court to decide in their favor. Rove probably would have sought to politicize the federal government in favor of the Republican Party anyway but the disputed nature of the 2000 vote gave him an added incentive and 911 supplied him with a golden opportunity. The result has been the most thoroughgoing politicization, often in contravention of the law, of all aspects of government in our lifetimes.
....The goal was to carve out a permanent majority using the 50% plus one philosophy, but there were two problems. First, while Bush personified the many facets of the modern Republican Party, neither he nor Rove ever unified them. The conflicts between social conservatives, libertarians, and the wealthy remained. The wealthy got their tax cuts but the financial situation of Nascar dads became more precarious. Social issues got two Supreme Court justices but no real money, and to date little change in the law. Nativist types clashed with pro-business ones over immigration. Rove's outreach to the expanding numbers of minorities in the country came crashing down. The result was a peeling off not a building up until Bush and Rove were left with only their hardcore base of 25-30%. Second, placing political loyalty above professionalism and experience in government did not strengthen the Republican Party or the conservative cause. It created instead an environment of corruption, cronyism, incompetence, and failure. Examples of this can be found everywhere in this Administration and form much of the content of this list, but the epitome of this collision between ideology and the real world is Iraq. The practical problem with politicization of government is that it doesn't work and produces bad results of which Iraq is the most obvious and worse.
....On August 13, 2007, Karl Rove Bush's chief political adviser throughout his entire political career announced his resignation to become effective on August 31, 2007. From his 5 appearances before the grand jury in the Valerie Plame/outing of a CIA agent case, to violations of the Hatch Act and the Presidential Records Act, the US Attorney firings, and lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence peddling schemes, investigations have swirled around Rove. Bush has invoked Executive Privilege to protect him. It may not have been enough. In Washington's culture of corruption, all roads lead to Rove.
101. Voter suppression, voter ID laws, exaggerating the problem of voter fraud, attempts to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act on its renewal; Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican volunteer in the Florida recount, was Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's Civil Rights division where he signed off on Tom Delay's 2003 Texas redistricting plan and a 2005 Georgia voter ID law overruling staff recommendations that they were discriminatory. Both were struck down in the courts. In the Georgia case, a federal appeals judge compared the ID system to Jim Crow poll taxes. In April 2005, on his own and without consulting voting rights attorneys, Spakovsky incorrectly advised the Arizona Secretary of State that provisional ballots should not be given to voters who lacked proper ID. Spakovsky went on to be a Commissioner at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in a January 6, 2006 recess appointment. In October 2007, Spakovsky's nomination to a regular appointment was bundled with that of other FEC nominees but instead of ensuring his confirmation it caused all the nominations to languish. On December 18, 2007, a federal district judge in Florida Stephan Mickle granted a preliminary injunction against a Spakovsky backed plan that would have rejected voter applications if information on them differed from that on their driver's license or Social Security records. The judge stated that such requirements made it harder to vote and so undermined the intent of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
....The head of the Civil Rights Division during this period was Bradley Schlozman. Schlozman was highly political. He wanted to know if prospective hires were Republicans and forced out employees who committed the sin of not agreeing with him. Although having no prosecutorial experience, Schlozman was named US attorney for Western Missouri on March 23, 2006. In a blatant attempt at voter suppression and in contravention of DOJ guidelines, he filed voter fraud cases days before the November elections. His was one of the first of the "interim" appointments made under the revised provisions snuck into the Patriot Act and there have been suggestions that his predecessor Todd Graves was forced out to make way for him. He left in April 2007 to work at the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA). Schlozman testified about his activities before the Senate on June 5, 2007. Like most recent DOJ witnesses, he suffered from extreme memory loss. He testified that Craig Donsanto OK'ed the pre-election Missouri cases although Donsanto is the one who wrote the DOJ guidelines. A May 2007 update to these guidelines weakens or eliminates the prohibition on bringing politically sensitive cases near to an election. Schlozman quietly left the DOJ sometime mid-August 2007.
....John Tanner has been head of the Voting Rights Section since 2005. He precleared the Georgia ID program going against the recommendation of 4 out of 5 of the section's career attorneys. The one dissenting attorney was new and was apparently one of the political hires to a career position made by Schlozman. Tanner also changed guidelines so that staff could not recommend an objection to a state voting law. In June 2005, he wrote a preemptive letter to election officials in Franklin County, Ohio assuring them that the lack of sufficient voting machines in minority areas during the 2004 election did not amount to discrimination. Finally, in October 2007, Tanner was still defending the Georgia ID law asserting that its negative effects fell primarily on the elderly and so by extension on whites because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do: They die first."
....In addition, although Tanner's productivity has been minimal his travel at taxpayer's expense has been maximal. In 2003-2004, he racked up 206 days of travel during 46 trips. From May 2005 (after becoming head of the section) to the end of 2006, he took 36 trips accounting for 97 travel days. This is widely at variance with his predecessors. It also included 3 trips to Hawaii one each year although the section had no lawsuits ongoing or in preparation. One of these was taken with his deputy Susana Lorenzo-Giguere who is herself being investigated for filing motions so that she could charge per diem expenses while on summer vacation with her family in Cape Cod.
....John Tanner announce his resignation on December 14, 2007 to be effective immediately. He is not, however, gone. He transferred to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices.
....Wan J. Kim who headed the Civil Rights Division after Bradley Schlozman's departure is an Orrin Hatch protege. Kim announced his resignation effective August 31, 2007.
102. Campaign finance and political corruption
103. Swift boating of John Kerry (2004); push polling and McCain's black baby in the South Carolina primary (2000); Sam Fox made Ambassador to Belgium in a recess appointment. Fox's nomination was withdrawn in the Senate where it faced certain defeat. Fox was controversial because he had given $50,000 to the anti-Kerry smear campaign of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
104. No Child Left Behind, based on flawed and false data, chronically underfunded, capricious in its evaluations, places test scores above knowledge; allegations have arisen that people at the Department of Education pushed reading programs as part of NCLB that they had financial interests in.
105. Susan E. Dudley made administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. Dudley who doesn't believe in regulation except in extreme cases when the "market fails" was named to this powerful regulatory post in a recess appointment on April 4, 2007.
106. Paul Wolfowitz, after his disastrous hyping of the Iraq war, did a McNamara and went to the World Bank to do good. He brought his neocon values, a doctrinaire, secretive management style, and a real gift for poor leadership to rail against corruption in 3rd world countries while practicing some of it himself closer to home. Prohibited from supervising his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a senior communications officer at the bank, he detailed her to the Department of State, gave her a raise of $47,340 twice what was permitted, and then a further raise of $13,000 bringing her salary to $193,000 tax free and making her the highest paid official in the State Department and that includes Condoleezza Rice. Wolfowitz's eventual defense of the raise was that Riza was very angry at leaving the Bank and might have sued although as the Bank later pointed out she did not have grounds to do so. Her initial boss at state was none other than Liz Cheney. Her job through State was to set up the Foundation for the Future to promote civil society in the Middle East. After 1 1/2 years there, it still has no permanent office, executive officers, or staff and has yet to disperse a grant. There is also the matter of a security clearance that Riza, a non-citizen unaffiliated with an allied government, would need to work at Defense (through an earlier contract with the defense contractor SAIC arranged by Wolfowitz through Doug Feith) or more recently at State and which would be extremely unusual to give to someone in her situation.
....Wolfowitz dragged out his departure from the Bank for nearly a month doing serious damage to the institution. He was eventually forced to announce his resignation on May 17, 2007 effective June 30, 2007. In keeping with his double standard on corruption and despite his disastrous stewardship at the Bank, he will not go cheaply into the night. His severance package will be in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. The poor should get such deals. On June 25, 2007, pro-business, free trader (and like Wolfowitz) neocon Robert Zoellick was approved as the World Bank's new president.
....In December 2007, Wolfowitz doing a stint at that den of current and washed up neoconservatives the American Enterprise Institute accepted an offer from Condoleezza Rice to take on the part time position of chairman of the State Department's International Security Advisory Board. The post was last held by the somnolent and Presidential candidate Fred Thompson. The Board's current 18 members are members in good standing of the nation's military industrial complex with ties to Lawrence Livermore, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Bechtel and with a heavy concentration on nuclear weaponry.
107. Kenneth Tomlinson chairman of the CPB politicized public broadcasting, commissioned a biased study to monitor liberalism on Bill Moyer's show NOW, resigned after an IG report alleged political tests and inappropriate dealings in the creating of a new show; later he was put on the board of governors for the Voice of America where there were further allegations of hiring a friend, misuse of staff, improper billing, and use of his office to run a horse racing operation
108. Matteo Fontana, a general manager in the Office of Federal Student Aid in the Education Department held and sold shares worth at least $100,000 in Student Loan Xpress whose activities he was ostensibly overseeing. He was placed on paid leave. Fontana's boss who oversees the student loan program Theresa Shaw resigned on May 8, 2007 a few days before Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was to testify before Congress. The official reason given for Shaw's leaving was that she had "plans to take some time off." This is part of the larger scandal of sweetheart deals between universities and companies making loans to students to the detriment of students. On June 1, 2007, the Department of Education came out with new rules to regulate the $85 billion student lending business.
109. A 9th US prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger in Minnesota was replaced by Rachel Paulose. Paulose at age 33 joined the DOJ and after less than 2 months as a senior counsel to deputy attorney general Paul McNulty she was named to the USA position in Minnesota. She was also reputed to be good friends with Monica "Loyalty oaths" Goodling and had a reputation for quoting the bible and dressing down staff. As a result on April 5, 2007, three of her top assistants, career prosecutors, resigned their administrative positions and voluntarily demoted themselves rather than work with her in a sign of their complete lack of faith in her abilities
....The push to oust Heffelfinger appears to have resulted from an attempt to suppress the Native American vote in 2004. In Minnesota, many Native Americans vote Democratic, live off reservation, and have tribal IDs as their principal source of identification. The Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer refused to accept these for voting purposes. An assistant US attorney in Heffelfinger's office Rob Lewis contacted Joseph Rich a career prosecutor and the head of the voting section of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Rich recommended an investigation which was vetoed by Bradley Schlozman. Attempts to gather further information were effectively derailed by Hans von Spakovsky. Shortly before the November election, federal District Judge James Rosenbaum ruled that tribal IDs could be used. Heffelfinger who was cited in testimony by Monica Goodling as spending too much time on Native American issues (He headed the US attorneys subcommittee on Native American issues) resigned effective February 28, 2006. As one of her first acts, interim USA Paulose got rid of Rob Lewis.
....On November 19, 2007, Paulose's resignation as USA was confirmed. It had been reported in September 2007 that she was the subject of an Office of Special Counsel investigation enquiring into her conduct as USA in Minnesota. She will return to main DOJ where she will serve as the counsel to the Rachel Brand Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy.
110. Use of GWB43.com email servers through the RNC to transact government business outside the White House logging and archiving system in contravention of the law; also similar use of Blackberries; a large but unknown number of emails have now been reported "lost", a situation that is nearly impossible given current backup systems.
111. Georgia Thompson a purchasing agent in Wisconsin was convicted of steering a contract to a company in which 2 executives had contributed the maximum to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's re-election campaign. Thompson had been a hire of the previous Republican governor and no evidence was produced at trial that she knew of the contributions. Remanded by the Republican judge who heard the case, she served 4 months of an 18 month sentence before an appeals court overturned her conviction after oral arguments where one judge typified the government's case as "beyond thin" and ordered her freed the same day. The case was brought by Bush appointed US attorney Steven Biskupic during the campaign and was used in Republican campaign ads to accuse Doyle of corruption
112. US attorney for New Jersey and former Bush "Pioneer" Chris Christie issued subpoenas in a corruption probe of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez two months before the Nov. 2006 elections. Menendez was in a tight race with Tom Keane. After Menendez won, the investigation went away
113. Kay Coles James, dean of Pat Robertson's Regent's government school, made director of the Office of Personnel Management in 2001. In 2002, John Ashcroft eases qualifications for DOJ hiring. The influx into the DOJ of young, poorly qualified lawyers on a conservative religious mission begins
114. In a rushed process, Bernard B. Kerik, a Rudy Giuliani protege and former New York City Police Commissioner, was nominated to be Secretary of Homeland Security December 3, 2004. He withdrew his name a week later ostensibly because of his employment of an undocumented immigrant as a nanny. However, it quickly came out that Kerik was also involved in a dubious stock sale of stun gun manufacturer Taser International shortly before a critical report by Amnesty International, a sexual harassment suit, connections to a construction company Interstate Industrial Corporation tied to the Gambino organized crime family, use of an apartment donated for 911 relief as a love nest where he could meet his girlfriends, including Judith Regan, and accepting gifts in contravention of ethics rules (for which he paid a $221,000 fine). Kerik was also the inept Interim Minister of the Interior in Iraq under Paul Bremer's CPA in 2003. On November 9, 2007, Kerik was indicted on 14 federal counts including certifying that Interstate Industrial Corporation was mob-free in exchange for $255,000 in renovations for his apartment, accepting $200,000 in rent off the books, bribery, tax fraud, theft of honest services, and making false statements to government officials.
115. The Bush back story: The time in the TANG, the transfer to the Alabama National Guard, the lost years, the 1976 DUI in Maine, the business bailouts, the governorship, hardline on drug crimes despite his own past history and a fast and loose approach to the death penalty
116. As of February 2006, the terrorist watchlist of the National Counterterrorism Center: the bizarrely named Terrorists Identity Datamart Environment (TIDE) has 400,000 names representing 300,000 people. The Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list had 44,000 names on it as of October 2006. 75,000 others are on an extra screening list (CBS). The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) keeps the government's consolidated master watchlist which it makes available to other government agencies. Its list has grown from 158,374 names in June 2004 to 754,960 names in May 2007, an increase of about 200,000 a year. The size of the lists, that they contain numerous errors, that it is difficult or impossible to remove names or correct errors, the presence of common names, and the ease with which these lists can be subverted by real terrorists raise questions why such large, sloppy lists exist at all.
117. Insta-declassification in contravention of Bush's own Executive order 13292 and without consultation with the original classifying agency. Also abusive and indiscriminate classification (secrecy for secrecy's sake) of government documents
118. Vice President Cheney shoots 78 year old lawyer Harry Whittington Feb. 11, 2006 during a quail hunt at the Armstrong ranch in Texas. The shooting is not reported until the next day and then by the ranch owner to a Corpus Christi reporter. Under pressure and despite his disdain for the press, Cheney finally breaks his silence Feb. 15 on Fox News. Any real investigation is smothered by the powerful Armstrong family (who by the way are the ones who set Cheney up in his job at Halliburton) and the story remains incomplete.
119. Homeland Security's Automated Targeting System (ATS) database which makes a terrorist risk assessment on anyone traveling to or from the US by any means and keeps it for 40 years
120. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refuses to recuse himself from Cheney's appeal of a Sierra Club lawsuit to keep records of his 2001 Energy Task Force secret. Shortly after SCOTUS agreed to take up the case, Scalia flew with Cheney on Jan. 5, 2004 on Air Force Two to Louisiana for a duck hunting trip. Cheney stayed two days and Scalia four. June 24, 2004, SCOTUS decides 7-2 to send the case back to the district court for reconsideration of the government's separation of powers argument. Scalia and Thomas going further concurred and dissented thinking that the appellate court should have been the one to deny the Sierra Club's discovery request. May 1, 2005, the DC Court of Appeals dismisses the Sierra Club case holding that Cheney could keep the participation of oil companies in his Energy Task Force secret.
121. The Election Assistance Commission which was created to do election research after the 2000 election debacle issued a December 2006 report which changed the conclusions of its experts and exaggerated the problem of voter fraud. Previously, the Commission released a report only under Congressional pressure that indicated that voter ID programs suppressed voter turnout among minorities. The EAC also has oversight of voting machines and voting software in which it has failed.
122. Bush tried unsuccessfully to kill the confirmation of Mohammed ElBaradei to a third term as head of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). ElBaradei and the IAEI had stated in the runup to the Iraq war that the famous aluminum tubes were for rockets not centrifuges, that the Niger documents were fakes, that there was no evidence that Iraq was trying to reconstitute a nuclear program, and that the Iraqis had been cooperative with IAEA inspections. As part of the Bush campaign in 2005 to oust him, the NSA tapped his phones in an unsuccessful attempt to show he was being soft on Iran. John Bolton unsuccessfully lobbied for more aggressive surveillance of him. ElBaradei was reconfirmed and later that same year won the Nobel Peace Prize
123. Alice Fisher named to head the Criminal Division at the DOJ in a recess appointment, later confirmed September 19, 2006 (just before the Nov. 2006 elections). A protegee of Michael Chertoff, she worked under him as deputy head of the Criminal Division but has no experience as a criminal prosecutor. She also worked on the Senate investigation into the Clinton era Whitewater scandal and was a lobbyist of HCA the healthcare company controlled by the family of the recent Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist. She has opposed rescinding the more gratuitous aspects of the Patriot Act, favored its extension unchanged, participated in discussions of abusive interrogation methods at Guantanamo, and reportedly has social ties to Tom Delay's defense team. Under her leadership, the investigation into Abramoff's many connections (some of which go back to Delay) has gone nowhere.
124. After being admonished 3 times by the House Ethics Committee in 2004, Tom Delay through Dennis Hastert had the Republican head of the committee replaced and staff fired. Ethics rules were also changed making it easier to kill ethics investigations. An initial provision to allow an indicted member of the House leadership to continue to hold his position was rescinded after negative publicity.
125. Collusion of the media: the NYT, WaPo, Time, Newsweek, cable and network news in the Bush disasters through silence, lack of investigation, and above all accepting uncritically whatever spin came out of the White House on anything
126. Failure of the Democratic Party to act as an opposition party for nearly 5 years
127. A supreme lack of oversight by a rubberstamping Republican Congress over the same 5 years
128. The use of the 2002 AUMF against Iraq to justify the Bush invasion and an ongoing US military presence there. The UN Resolutions it cites, including those sanctioning military force, are from the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The UN never passed a resolution that authorized the use of military force in the Second Gulf War. On June 28, 2004, the US returned sovereignty to the reconstituted state of Iraq and in doing so acknowledged that the Iraq referenced in the AUMF as well as the legal rationale for a US presence in (and occupation of) the country no longer existed.
....The AUMF placed Democrats in a political bind. Despite later protestations, they knew it meant war. Knowing this, they were faced with the following calculus. They could vote against the AUMF, but since Bush was going to war anyway they would be portrayed as unpatriotic and not supporting the troops. If the war was quick and successful, regardless of the merits of the case, they would be portrayed as weak and wrong. If they voted for, they might not get credit but they would avoid blame. Still some did vote no.
....The AUMF passed in the House October 10, 2002 by a vote of 296-133 with 3 not voting. 81 Democrats voted for the AUMF. 126 voted against it (with 1 not voting). Only 6 Republicans voted against. It passed the Senate the next day with a vote of 77-23. 27 Democrats voted for it. 22 Democrats voted against, including Jeffords (I-VT). Only one Republican Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) voted against. Bush signed the AUMF into law on October 16, 2002.
....These are the Senate Democrats who voted for the AUMF:
Baucus (D-MT)..................Edwards (D-NC)...................Nelson (D-NE)
Bayh (D-IN)....................Feinstein (D-CA).................Reid (D-NV)
Breaux (D-LA)..................Harkin (D-IA)....................Rockefeller (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)................Hollings (D-SC)..................Schumer (D-NY)
Carnahan (D-MO)................Johnson (D-SD)...................Torricelli (D-NJ)
Carper (D-DE)..................Kerry (D-MA)
Cleland (D-GA).................Kohl (D-WI)
Clinton (D-NY).................Lieberman (D-CT)
Daschle (D-SD).................Lincoln (D-AR)
Dodd (D-CT)....................Miller (D-GA)
Dorgan (D-ND)..................Nelson (D-FL)
129. President Bush awards the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to General Tommy Franks, George Tenet, and Paul Bremer for their efforts to create the disaster that Iraq has become
130. Real ID Act of 2005 mandates essentially a national identity card by forcing states to have nationally compatible driver's licenses. The program has multiple goals: facilitate surveillance and data mining and make it harder for illegal aliens to get jobs and for the poor to vote
131. Jose Padilla. This is not about a bad and deluded man, but rather that an American citizen held in the United States could be held for 3 1/2 years (May 8, 2002-January 3, 2006) outside the purview of American courts and tortured. He was transferred to the regular US legal system only because his case challenging Bush's power to declare him an illegal enemy combatant was wending its way to the Supreme Court. The transfer successfully pre-empted this when the Court declined April 3, 2006 to hear the case. The lack of a Supreme Court determination and passage of the Military Commissions Act mean that any American can still be declared an illegal enemy combatant and held indefinitely without charge, and if the MCA is to be believed (and unlike the Padilla case) without any right to habeas corpus.
....On May 14, 2007, Padilla who was initially accused of being a terrorist mastermind behind a plot to detonate a dirty bomb inside the US was put on trial for being a minor member of a conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim outside the US. Among the many dubious and disturbing aspects of this case: the length and nature of detention, his mental fitness to stand trial, the change in jurisdiction from military to civilian, and the major reduction in the scope of the charges and Padilla's role in them, the government claims it "lost" evidence, specifically a DVD of Padilla's last interrogation as an enemy combatant from March 2, 2004. On August 16, 2007, he and his codefendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi were found guilty on all counts.
132. National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act of 2005. This sets up a state by state but nationally compatible data base of prescribed controlled substances available to many agencies. The substances include not only painkillers taken for more than a couple days but also tranquillizers and sleeping pills.
133. Jean-Bertrand Aristide the President of Haiti who was certainly no Boy Scout was flown out of the country on February 29, 2004 in the midst of an insurrection that was not exactly opposed by the Bush Administration "willingly" according to American authorities, "kidnapped" according to Aristide.
134. Hugo Chavez the controversial President of Venezuela was briefly deposed in a military coup April 11, 2002. The Bush Administration initially recognized the interim government of Pedro Carmona the head of the national business federation and said that Chavez had brought the coup on himself. The coup collapsed and Chavez resumed power two days later on April 13, 2002. Later the Bush Administration condemned the coup.
135. Bush's ethanol program will not solve America's energy problems. It is a boon to corn state farmers and the politicians who represent them but depletes soil that would be better reserved for food production. Ethanol is also a carbon based fuel and contributes to global warming directly through its burning and indirectly through its production.
136. Post the November 2006 elections, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly used the filibuster to obstruct Congressional action. This has happened so far on Iraq resolutions (even some co-sponsored by Republicans), an intelligence bill requiring greater accountability, and a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies. This is especially egregious in light of the last Congress where then Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist repeatedly threatened Democratic Senators contemplating a filibuster with the "nuclear option" of doing away with it by changing Senate rules.
137. The stacking of the federal judiciary with unqualified rightwing hacks; the role of the Gang of 14 (7 Democrats and 7 Republicans) who came together to avoid the nuclear option and push hyper-conservative judicial choices: Janice Rogers Brown (DC Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit); no agreement could be made on two others William Myers and Henry Saad and their names were eventually withdrawn. The Gang of 14 was also involved in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh (also to the important DC Circuit). Kavanaugh had no trial experience but had worked for essentially partisan causes, such as Kenneth Starr's Clinton investigations for 5 years, the 2000 Florida recount, and as an Associate Counsel in the current Bush Administration where he worked to nominate and confirm unqualified, radically conservative candidates rather like himself.
....On June 27, 2007, Senator Patrick Leahy raised the possibility that Kavanaugh might be prosecuted for lying to Congress. In testimony, Kavanaugh said he had taken no part in developing the Administration's policy with regard to enemy combatants. Recent articles in the Washington Post indicate that he had.
138. Ralph "I need to start humping in corporate accounts" Reed led the Christian Coalition in the 1990s and was an associate of both Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist. Abramoff funneled millions in 1999 and 2000 to Reed in exchange for Reed's mobilizing evangelicals in support of Abramoff's various schemes. These included: spiking an Alabama law which would have allowed gaming at dog tracks in competition with Choctaw casinos which were Abramoff clients; similar opposition to an Alabama state lottery; opposition to the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (the rationale, a major stretch, was that it didn't go far enough) for his client eLottery; opposition to a Tigua casino in Texas to the benefit of his clients the Lousiana Coushatta; and then in 2002 persuading the Tigua that he Abramoff could use his connection to Reed to help them get back their casino. Reed was an indispensable cog in the Abramoff machine.
139. Aggressive proselytizing by Christian evangelical faculty and cadets at the US Air Force Academy. A report was issued June 2005 but it is not clear if much has changed. The USAF Academy also has a recurrent history of cheating and sexual assault.
140. The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, an idea for those who don't believe in the separation of church and state or the Establishment Clause in the Constitution (First Amendment). A political and financial sop to rightwing Christians, the program has given no money to non-Christian groups. It is unclear how much money has actually gone through the program. The real problem is that any money should be distributed in this way.
....On June 25, 2007, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 in Hein, Director, White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives et al v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. et al that taxpayers do not have standing to contest this spending in violation of the Establishment clause A) because they can not show direct harm and B) because Establishment challenges under Flast v. Cohen are only allowed if a specific Congressional statute is at issue. SCOTUS held that the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives had been created wholly within the Executive Branch and that no specific monies had been appropriated to it by Congressional statute so no challenge could be made. This is fairly squirrely reasoning (increasingly typical of the Roberts Court) because the money didn't just appear out of nowhere and what money the Congress does appropriate and how it is spent by the Executive must meet Constitutional requirements such as the Establishment Clause. In any case, the bottom line is that in the view of SCOTUS the Congress and/or another President are the ones to change this. Ordinary Americans need not apply.
141. Military disability ratings: A 30% rating is the cutoff between receiving payments, staying within the military healthcare system, and eligibility for family coverage and is now given out more rarely than before the beginning of the Iraq war, despite the large number of soldiers with severe injuries.
142. Earmarks: Special interest funding directed to a specific project by an individual legislator. The most famous example was Republican Senator Ted Stevens' $223 million for a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Earmarks exploded in number and expense under the Republicans. Bush only decided that there was something bad about them (nearly 6 years into his Presidency) when Democrats won control of the Congress.
143. Medicare privatization. This began in 1982 and grew throughout the 1990s with 17.3% of Medicare recipients enrolled in 1999 in private plans when it went into decline. Since the start of Medicare Part D (passed 2003, went into effect January 1, 2006), numbers have begun to rise again. One of the reasons for this increase is that they are being aggressively, and often unscrupulously, marketed to unsuspecting elders. In addition, private plans receive government subsidies to make them competitive with Medicare itself. This is money that could go to reducing Medicare premiums generally but instead goes to higher overhead and profits for private providers.
144. Signing of a nuclear cooperation deal with India December 18, 2006. This is another example of the Bush Administration and Congress's selective approach to nuclear non-proliferation. Israel's nuclear program is ignored. Iraq is, in part, invaded for a mythical program that existed only in the fevered imaginations of Cheney, Feith, Bush, and Rice. At the same time, nuclear moves in North Korea and Iran are opposed. Meanwhile the deal with India will allow it to dedicate some of its facilities completely to nuclear arms production.
145. Julie MacDonald, who has a degree in civil engineering and no background in the natural sciences, was named the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Interior Department on May 2004. She altered and reversed conclusions in scientific reports to prevent species from being protected. The Bush Administration to date has listed 58 species (54 as the result of litigation) as endangered as opposed to 512 in the Clinton years and 234 by the first President Bush. MacDonald also hired Todd Willens who worked with the former Republican Representative and anti-environmentalist Richard Pombo. According to a March 2007 Inspector General report, she also passed on internal department documents to the oil industry and land developers in contravention of federal rules and to aid filing of lawsuits against the department. In one instance she pushed to have an endangered species which lived on her farm in California's Central Valley (the Sacramento splittail fish) delisted. Facing oversight hearings, she resigned April 30, 2007.
....The endangered species program has been without a director for a year and, as of July 2007, 30% of its positions are unfilled. On July 20, 2007, H. Dale Hall the current director of the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that 8 decisions made by MacDonald concerning species protection and land use would be reviewed and likely reversed. On November 27, 2007, it was announced that seven of them would be.
146. From tales of the revolving door. Darleen Druyun was a principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition and management where she negotiated a sweetheart deal worth $23 billion for leasing air tankers from Boeing. She was also negotiating at the same time for an executive position at Boeing. The deal was made. She left the Air Force and took up her new position at Boeing. In a 2004 plea agreement, Druyun pled guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 9 months in a minimum security prison, 7 months of home detention, 150 hours of community service, and required to pay a $5,000 fine.
147. Luis Posada Carriles is an anti-Castro terrorist who masterminded the October 6, 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner killing 73. He had worked before this with the CIA and after the Cubana bombing during the Reagan Administration helped funnel aid to the Contras. In 1997, he directed a series of bombings in Cuba against the growing tourist industry there. In April 2005, running out of places to hide, he requested asylum in the US but the following month was detained for entering the country illegally. Despite his terrorist past, he was released on bond to home detention on April 19, 2007. On May 8, 2007, a federal judge in Texas dismissed the case against him for lying to immigration authorities. Contrast his treatment to that of terrorists like the "waterboarded" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Apparently it is not what you bomb but who you bomb that counts.
....In a somewhat similar case, Vang Pao, a leader of the American Hmong community who led Hmong forces in Laos against Communist troops during the Vietnam War, was arrested on June 4, 2007 for violation of the Neutrality Act and weapons charges as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government of Laos. Despite the gravity of the allegations against him and the national security aspects, he was nevertheless ordered released on $1.5 million bail on July 12, 2007.
148. James Knodell, Director of the Office of Security at the White House, in testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform chaired by Henry Waxman said that no internal White House investigation was ever initiated (contrary to Executive order 12958 requiring one) in the period between July 14, 2003 when Valerie Plame a covert CIA agent was outed in a column by Robert Novak and September 29, 2003 when the Department of Justice asked the FBI to investigate pursuant to a request from the CIA of September 16, 2003.
149. Robert Cobb, NASA's tame Inspector General since 2002, tipped off former NASA head Sean O'Keefe to audits he would be performing and search warrants the FBI would be executing. O'Keefe, primarily known for his forceful dealing with the 1991 Tailhook scandal, was an accountant by training without a scientific or engineering background whose tenure at NASA was marked by drift. He got the top NASA job in December 2002 through his connection with Dick Cheney and, while still NASA administrator, campaigned for Bush in 2004 as a "private citizen". He left in February 2005. The inappropriate contact between NASA administrators and the NASA Inspector General continues as well as its coverup. The NASA General Counsel Mike Wholley illegally destroyed a tape of a meeting (between the current NASA head Michael Griffin and Cobb and his staff) to avoid it ever becoming public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
150. Evangelos Dimitros Soukas a convicted felon serving 8 years for tax fraud was scheduled to testify on April 12, 2007 before the Senate Finance Committee on identity theft and filing false tax returns. The Department of Justice challenged the right of the Congress to order a prisoner in federal custody to appear before it, even though this has happened numerous times in the past. A federal district judge did not agree with the DOJ and Soukas testified. The DOJ move appeared baffling, an empty assertion of Executive power, but, may have been pre-emptive to prevent more controversial prisoners from testifying in the future.
151. Excessive corporate pay, retirement, and severance packages in the Bush era. Even post-Enron, control over executive compensation still rests largely in the hands of the executives themselves and the compliant boards of directors they often select. Pay is still not coupled to performance and stock options still encourage executives to manipulate stock prices (which is very much not the same thing as performance as the Enron case showed) for their own benefit. Reporting the cost of stock options was not mandated by the SEC until August 2006. The total cost of multi-year options is still not reported fully but treated as a year by year expense making the true cost look smaller. Back dating of options so they could be purchased at a lower price was also fairly common until somebody noticed it constituted fraud. Spring loading, a variant of insider trading, i.e. exercising an option and buying just before news that will drive up the stock price, still occurs.
152. Eliot Spitzer the then New York State Attorney General (and not the SEC or the Bush Administration) announced on May 21, 2002 that Merrill Lynch had agreed to sever contacts between its analysis and investment divisions and to pay a $100 million fine. The lack of such separation was behind a lot of the dot com bubble in the 1990s as well as propping up Enron and facilitating its scams. It is a recognition of sorts of a systemic problem, although the fine was a tiny fraction of what investors lost and it is unclear how "objective" analysts are going to be even with the supposed wall to the investment side.
153. Scott Bloch initially deputy director for the Task Force for Faith Based and Community Initiatives became the head of the Office of Special Counsel (whose function is to protect whistleblowers) on January 5, 2004. Once there he summarily closed hundreds of ongoing cases, decried cases that had a "homosexual agenda", tried to use the office to protect a non-governmental employee who was a defender of Intelligent Design, gave 12 of his in-office critics the choice of immediate re-assignment to field offices or be fired, and was the subject of complaints filed with his own office. In April 2007, Bloch announced an investigation into Karl Rove's political machinations. The real aims of such an investigation probably do not include carrying out a real probe but are more likely an attempt by Bloch to hold on to his job, derail efforts to remove the OSC from the purview of the White House, stymie other investigations into Karl Rove, conduct a whitewash, and/or run out the clock.
....On December 18 and 21, 2006, Bloch had a private service Geeks on Call come in to scrub the drive on his personal office computer. He kept a back up on a thumb drive which he has refused to surrender to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) currently investigating him.
154. Lax security at US nuclear facilities and airports exposed by whistleblowers Richard Levernier and Bogdan Dzakovic for which they were punished.
155. The 120,000 hours of counter terrorism related recordings that the FBI had not translated by September 2004; related to this is the case of Sibel Edmonds. She blew the whistle on the backlog and the dubious skills and allegiances of some of the translators the FBI was employing. For this she was rewarded by being fired.
156. Monica "Loyalty oaths" Goodling comes up again in an investigation of the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into whether she used party affiliation in determining hires of entry level prosecutors. Did she? Given Gonzales‚ March 1, 2006 order delegating hiring authority to her and her role in the US attorney hiring and firing scandal, the answer is obvious.
157. Michael Baroody who was Executive Vice President of the National Association of Manufacturers a powerful K Street lobbying group was nominated by Bush on March 1, 2007 to head the Consumer Products Safety Commission. NAM has sought to limit or even eliminate corporate liability for unsafe products and environmental practices. NAM decided to give Baroody a $150,000 extraordinary payment on his way out the door. It is hard to say whether this is simply a further conflict of interest or just straightforward bribery. On May 23, 2007, Baroody withdrew his nomination, one day before the beginning of hearings.
158. The Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) created February 19, 2002 created a database the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN) [sorry for the acronym gobbledygook] composed of TALONs Threat and Local Observation Notices. These are basically raw unvalidated reports of threats posed by dangerous civilian group like the Quakers. The idea of the military spying on civilians is unsettling. The Founding Fathers after all fought a revolution over such abuses and in the 4th Amendment enunciated: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Beyond this, CIFA did not follow its own guidelines in how it managed the material it obtained. The story does not end there. Duke Cunningham swung CIFA work to Mitchell J. Wade's company MZM in exchange for bribes. He was aided in this by CIFA Director David A. Burtt II and his top deputy Joseph Hefferon. In August 2006, Burtt resigned and Hefferon retired when the Cunningham-MZM connection was made public.
....On November 30, 2005, two days after Duke Cunningham enters into a plea agreement, all TALON reports were deleted from the JPEN database. However, the TALON program continues. (These programs never really die.) In keeping with the DOD (Department of Defense) Inspector General's usual lackluster performance, a report requested by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in January 2006 and released June 27, 2007 on TALON failed to address who was responsible for violations in following the program's guidelines or why they occurred. The report also didn't examine if current safeguards were adequate or if the program should continue. The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that it will close the TALON system on September 17, 2007. Per the press release, the Pentagon "is working to develop a new reporting system to replace Talon, but in the interim, all information concerning force protection threats will go to the FBI's Guardian reporting system." It has also been reported that CIFA will keep a copy of record as evidence that the program was properly administered (or if they want to start it up again as some point). As for impropriety, yes, this occurred, but the real problem with the program is that it is and was blatantly unconstitutional. Nor as I pointed out earlier do these programs ever die. So is TALON really gone? No. Names are changed but functions remain and the data are never destroyed.
159. Bush's March 6, 2003 news conference. Less than two weeks before the start of the Iraq War, the "independent" press willingly play-acted spontaneity in what was a heavily scripted propaganda piece promoting the war.
160. An investigation into Bill Frist former Senate Majority Leader was closed on April 27, 2007. He was not indicted for insider trading in selling his stock in the family's large healthcare company HCA shortly before a major fall in its stock price. It was all just a coincidence, a very profitable coincidence.
161. Julie Myers was made Assistant Secretary of DHS to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a recess appointment on January 4, 2006 after the Senate failed to vote on her nomination. Bush re-nominated her January 9, 2007. She was confirmed by voice vote on December 19, 2007. Myers is another Bush hire whose lack of experience is overshadowed by who she is related to. She is the niece of former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force General Richard Myers. She is a protégée of Michael Chertoff and was his chief of staff when he headed the Criminal Division. She is married to John Wood former chief of staff to Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security and is currently US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri replacing Bradley Schlozman.
....At ICE, she has sponsored aggressive, high profile, and controversial raids against illegal immigrants. The irony of someone whose success is based not on hard work but on connection imprisoning those who are hard working but without connection is I suspect lost upon her.
162. Randall Tobias, US Director of Foreign Assistance and head of US Agency for International Development (USAID) with the rank of Deputy Secretary of State since March 29, 2006. Before this he was our first Global AIDS Coordinator (October 2003) where he criticized condom use, discouraged outreach to sexworkers, and promoted abstinence only programs. As Director of Foreign Assistance, he continued to oversee the Global AIDS program. He resigned April 27, 2007 after it came out that he had been named as using a Washington escort service. I am not a prude about these things but I do see a problem between his personal activities and his public positions.
163. Robert E. Coughlin II, deputy chief of staff of the Criminal Division at the DOJ, resigned on April 6, 2007. He was a friend and colleague of Kevin Ring who was an Abramoff associate.
164. Stuart Bowen was Inspector General for the Bremer's CPA and documented that $8.8 billion had gone missing. He stayed on as Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) chronicling waste, abuse, and fraud. In the 2007 Defense appropriations act an item was snuck in terminating Bowen's job, because well, he was doing his job. When this became known, funding was restored. In April 2007, Bowen released reports showing that in a sample of what reconstruction projects there were and which were deemed successful, most were not being maintained and were no longer usable for their original functions.
....Bowen a Republican whose investigations have proved an embarrassment to the Bush Administration is now under investigation himself subject to a complaint by a group of former employees who left his office on less than amicable terms. The complaint has been taken up by the President's Council on Integrity and Excellence headed by Clay Johnson III, a longtime friend of the President, and by Thomas Davis III the ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee. Davis says this is not about retribution although at this point that is exactly what it looks like.
165. Continued Republican support of the Iraq war after the November 2006 elections flying in the face of public opinion, the election results, and reality. Republican losses were largely attributable to Iraq but have done little to change the minds of Republican lawmakers. Bush and Republicans demanded that Democrats come up with an Iraq plan. When they proposed withdrawal, they were accused of micromanagement. Yet withdrawal is precisely what Republicans pushed for during the Clinton Administration when they tried to force legislative ends to deployments in both the Balkans and Somalia. War resolutions have been filibustered by Senate Republicans, sometimes and even despite the fact they co-sponsored them. Opposition to Bush's war policies are portrayed as "fringe" although they are supported by 60%-70% of the American people. They accuse Democrats of not backing the troops and then vote on a near perfect party line basis against a supplemental to fund the troops and applaud the President's veto of it on May 1, 2007 (the 4th anniversary of Bush's catastrophically wrong Mission Accomplished speech). They ask for patience and to give the surge a chance even after a record of 4 years of failure, constantly worsening conditions in Iraq, and inaction by the Iraqi government.
166. George Bush signed the "Secure Fence Act" into law on October 26, 2006. Its purpose is to construct a barrier to stem illegal immigration into the country along the Mexican border. How a 700 mile fence along a 2100 mile border would accomplish this or what effect it would have on the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country is unclear. The initial estimate for its cost was $2 billion, and $1.2 billion was budgeted for it. The final cost, however, if it is ever built (which is unlikely), could be between $8 billion and $30 billion. In other words, it is an expensive, pointless gesture to anti-immigrant feeling without addressing what an immigration policy could or should be.
167. Development of a coverup strategy to fight Congressional oversight that involves more than a little Karl Rove and obstruction of justice. In addition to the public relations campaign that there is nothing to see and they have cooperated anyway, we have
1. Threatening witnesses (Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General Michael Elston acting, he says, on Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty's orders to tell 3 of the 8 fired US attorneys to stay quiet or else)
2. Preventing witnesses from testifying (Condi Rice directing Simon Dodge not to testify about his early identification of the uranium from Niger for Iraq documents as fakes and Rice's knowledge of this as National Security Advisor)
3. Large but incomplete docudumps that are missing key information (for example, the November 15-December 4 email gap around the time that the US attorney firings were being finalized)
4. Attempted destruction of evidence and/or Claiming that evidence has been lost (Rove's deleted emails, Monica Goodling's instruction to remove older versions of files)
5. Slow response or non-response (the failure of Rice to answer written questions; dragging out the document production process)
6. Claims of executive privilege regardless of merit (to keep Karl Rove and Harriet Miers from testifying under oath or to block production of emails, even those on non-White House servers, and even after the assertion that Bush was not part of the firing process)
7. Coaching of testimony known to be false by the coachers (Karl Rove and Kyle Sampson misleading Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty into giving testimony that attorneys were fired for "performance" reasons, which Rove and Sampson knew to be false)
8. Testifying but with severe amnesia (Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, Lurita Doan)
9. Lying (as evidenced by Gonzales' numerous stories, Sampson misstating his role in the attorney firings, or Victoria Toensing in defining who is and is not a covert agent)
168. When Oregon Senator Gordon Smith was up for re-election in 2002, Dick Cheney working with Sue Ellen Wooldridge (Stephen Griles' current wife who was deputy chief of staff to Gale Norton at the Interior Department before moving on to Justice) moved to divert more water from the Klamath River for irrigation purposes to help the area's Republican farmers. In February 2002, Bush and Karl Rove announced their support for the idea. In March after a preliminary report by the National Academy of Sciences requested by Cheney, Interior's Gale Norton approved the diversion and quashed scientific views to the contrary. As a result, in the following months, water levels dropped resulting in a large die off of salmon but Senator Smith won his election. In March 2006, a federal judge put limits on the draw off in an attempt to protect Northwest fisheries.
169. Debra Wong Yang the US attorney for Central California (Los Angeles) left office on November 11, 2006 a month ahead of the more well known firings of 8 US attorneys on December 7, 2006. She had been investigating Representative Jerry Lewis. Part of this was an offshoot of USA-San Diego Carol Lam's investigation into Representative Duke Cunningham and defense contractor and briber Brent Wilkes. I say part because Jerry Lewis has been rated one of the most corrupt members of Congress. And then there are the interesting connections. The Cerberus group, for example, which gave large contributions to Lewis and his organizations, owns IAP the outfit involved in the Walter Reed scandal. As for Debra Yang, after resigning for "personal" reasons, she joined the law firm representing Lewis and received a highly unusual $1.5 million dollar signing bonus.
....After Yang's departure, the Lewis investigation went nowhere for 7 months due to "budget cuts". Then career prosecutor Michael Emmick was put in charge of the case in June 2007. Emmick is perhaps best known for being Ken Starr's chief assistant in the Monica Lewinsky affair. He is set, however, to retire in September 2007. An exception could be made if he were working on an important case, but the investigation of one of the most corrupt members of Congress does not apparently meet this threshold.
170. Nepotism Cheney-style. Although she had no background in Middle Eastern affairs, in the run up to the Iraq war in 2002, Elizabeth Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughter, was named to the newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (where she could keep an eye on things for her father at a critical juncture in the fabrication of the case for war). She left in 2003 to work on her father's re-election campaign but returned after the election in 2005 as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and as such was the second ranking diplomat at State for the Middle East. She was Shaha Riza's boss when she came to State. She also headed the Iran-Syrian Operations Group (ISOG) with a budget of $80 million. This was a kind of reprise at State of what Douglas Feith's Office of Strategic Plans had been at the Pentagon. It was aimed at regime change in the two countries, especially Iran. She left State in 2006. She is married to Philip Perry, general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.
171. Dick "I had other priorities in the 60s than military service" Cheney received 5 deferments to avoid service in Vietnam. He did no more than what many did at the time. Still it is a very strange start for one who prides himself on being a superhawk and who views our relations with the rest of the world as a matter of will, and paranoia. As Vice President, he has been the extremist behind the throne, one of the few for whom 911 was a godsend because it furnished him the opportunity to realize his most radical tendencies. Unlike Karl Rove who believes in turning government into an extension of the Republican Party, Cheney believes in making government a direct extension of the President. And if that President is weak and uninvolved, well then all that accumulated power flows quite naturally to the next person in line who is more engaged, the Vice President say. Of course, Cheney will only use this power against our enemies. Unfortunately, he sees enemies everywhere.
....Cheney understands that sometimes lies must be used to serve a higher truth and that even after being exposed they still have power, hence the repetition of even the most thoroughly debunked assertions, like the connection between Saddam and al Qaeda or that the Vice Presidency is not part of the Executive Branch. It doesn't matter that they are untrue. They take up time and energy. They delay, misdirect, and confuse action on issues.
....While Cheney has been spectacularly successful in acquiring power, he has been a disaster in using it. The results are a preventive and preventable war in Iraq, domestic spying, welfare for the rich, largesse for Halliburton, a mania for secrecy, and a whittling away of Constitutional rights and safeguards, in other words a country less safe, more unequal, and less free.
172. Johnnie Burton, director of the Minerals Management Service since 2002 resigned May 7, 2007 after an Interior Inspector General report of December 2006. During her tenure, she reduced audits and depended on self-reporting by energy companies resulting in underreporting and underpayment of royalties. The first auditor Bobby Maxwell who noticed a problem had his job eliminated.
....As part of this, Burton also failed to review leases. Only 9% have been since 2000. In a particularly egregious case, approximately 1100 bungled oil and gas leases for the Gulf of Mexico dating from 1998-1999 which failed to tie royalties to changes in oil and gas prices were left unexamined for years and then not promptly addressed and renegotiated once they were known. The GAO estimates that $1 billion in royalty payments has been lost on these leases and that another $6.4 billion to $9.8 billion could go uncollected over their lifetime.
173. Punishment of defense counsel at Guantanamo for doing their jobs. Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift who won the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case which held that the Executive could not set up military tribunals on its own without approval by the Congress was forced out of the Navy JAG corps as a result. Major Michael Mori who defended Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks got for him a plea deal on March 26, 2007 whereby he was given 7 years all but 9 months of which were suspended and which he could serve in Australia. As a reward, Mori was passed over for promotion, offered remote postings, and rejected as a judge trainee. To date, 4 of 6 military defense attorneys up for promotion have been similarly passed over. Another Lieutenant Commodore Matthew Diaz has been convicted of giving secrets to the benefit of a foreign government for having given a list of Guantanamo detainees to a New York law firm the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2005. On May 18, 2007, he was sentenced to 6 months in the brig and discharge. At the time (before the Military Commissions Act), the Center had won the right in Rasul v. Bush to file habeas briefs on behalf of detainees but the US sought to block these by refusing to turn over the names and so preventing the detainees from getting legal representation. The US has fought such disclosure despite Rasul and even though it is obligated to release this information at least to the Red Cross under the Geneva Conventions and failure to do so is a violation of international law. Lt. Colonel Cobly Vokey chief of Marine defense attorneys for the western US resisted his superiors‚ attempts to limit defense efforts in the trials of Guantanamo detainees and Marines accused in the Haditha massacre. He was fired from his position and then re-instated after fellow Marine attorneys protested and he had announced his retirement effective May 1, 2008.
174. Despite backlogs and a 2005 budget that resulted in a $1.3 billion deficit, VA officials received $3.8 million in bonuses. About half a million went to officials who sat on the review boards giving out the bonuses.
175. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was recommended by the 911 Commission to make sure that in countering terrorism the privacy rights and civil liberties of Americans were respected. Established by law on December 17, 2004, it first met more than a year later on March 14, 2006. Its first public meeting was on December 5, 2006. Its 5 members currently are chosen by the President although there is currently legislation to make it an independent agency. The Board's chairwoman is Carol Dinkins a former law partner of Alberto Gonzales. Theodore Olson who argued Bush v. Gore is also a member. In its first report (2007) to Congress, the Administration made over 200 changes even after the final draft had been approved by the committee, resulting in the resignation of the one of the board members Lanny J. Davis.
176. Johnnie Frazier, the Commerce Department's Inspector General who is supposed to investigate and prevent this kind of thing, was found by the government's whistleblower agency the Office of Special Counsel to have wrongly demoted his top deputy, Edward Blansitt, and his chief counsel, Allison Lerner, after Blansitt refused to sign off on expenses Frazier incurred during an August 2006 junket to Boston and New York. When Frazier learned of the investigation, he sought to destroy emails concerning his activities. Additionally, Frazier's Deputy Assistant Inspector General Thomas Phan has filed a civil rights complaint against him charging harassment and has also sought an investigation by the OSC. Frazier is also facing an inquiry by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE). May 25, 2007, a report by the OSC found that Frazier had violated prohibitions against punishing subordinates. June 7, 2007, Frazier resigns.
....Before leaving, Frazier did a survey of travel by Commerce personnel. Out of a total of 641 trips from October 2004 to May 2006, a sampling of 63 showed 49 were not properly authorized.
177. In 2007, Bill Roderick the Acting Inspector General for the EPA tried to cut his staff of 360 by 60. They are tasked with making sure that the EPA enforces its pollution rules. Roderick cited potential budget cuts for the proposed reductions just before he got a $15,000 bonus.
178. Janet Rehnquist, daughter of the late Chief Justice, was Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services from August 2001 to March 2003. She replaced numerous senior staff including all six of her deputy inspector generals through involuntary retirements and reassignments. She delayed an audit of Florida's pension fund before the 2002 election in which the President's brother Jeb Bush was running for re-election. The audit would have shown that the fund had lost $300 million in the Enron collapse.
179. Karla Corcoran was strictly speaking a Clinton appointment having been made the Post Office's Inspector General in 1997. Nevertheless, she extends into the Bush era and no discussion of Inspector General misconduct would be complete without her. She resigned in August 2003. Her tenure was marked by "rampant waste, cronyism, questionable management and personnel practices, and substandard performance." Her office was incredibly inefficient in uncovering fraud and waste. On the other hand, she held really good parties bringing her whole staff of 750 to Washington once a year for a week at a cost of $1 million each time.
180. Russian scientists in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund set up a meeting to discuss the problem of increased human-polar bear interactions. These have become more frequent and dangerous as the bears are forced out of their usual ranges due to the melting of arctic ice packs. A polar bear expert Craig Perham from the Fish and Wildlife Service was invited along by Margaret Williams of the WWF. Perham was told by the Interior Department in February 2007 that he could not talk about global warming at the meeting because it was not part of the agenda, even though the meeting had no agenda and global warming was the cause of the change in polar bear movements.
181. The American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund (AVCR) is a fake "voting rights" group created by Republicans to give "non-partisan" testimony on the dangers of that most Republican of obsessions and inexistent of problems, voter fraud. It was registered on March 17, 2005 and was the only voting rights group to testify 4 days later on March 21, 2005 in House hearings held by now convicted Representative Bob Ney on voting problems in Ohio in 2004. The group was put together by Thor Hearne, both national and Missouri counsel for the 2004 Bush campaign, and Missouri's Republican Senator Kit Bond. Like the Swiftboaters, this is another group with a highly partisan agenda masquerading as an impartial observer.
182. In 2000 the EPA announced plans to phase out over 4 years the gasoline additive MTBE which had been found to be contaminating ground water supplies. These were canceled when Bush took office. As a result, MTBE is still in use but, due to law suits against oil companies, state bans, and lack of Congressional agreement in 2005, its production is half of what it was.
183. On May 30, 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft removed restrictions on domestic spying by the FBI in counterterrorism investigations, including political and religious groups without probable cause. Unsurprisingly, the FBI used its new powers (as it admitted on November 23, 2003) to spy on antiwar protesters
184. On August 23, 2004, the Labor Department changed regulations contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 to raise the minimum salary (from $155 to $455/week) at which executive, administrative, and professional employees must be paid overtime. I expect the idea was that they should be happy to have a job and that there was no reason to go overboard and actually pay them for their work.
185. In a show of rare prescience, on May 6, 2002 George Bush voided the US signature on the treaty (signed by Clinton) establishing an International Criminal Court at the Hague and so set the US and its leaders effectively outside its jurisdiction.
186. On August 9, 2002, the Department of Health and Human Resources changed its medical privacy regulations. While patients were given the right to review and correct their medical records and not have medical information disclosed to their employers without their consent, doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers could do so among themselves and with insurance companies for treatment and billing purposes. Pharmacies were also allowed to enter into agreements with drug companies to promote their brands to patients without disclosing this relationship.
187. The Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935 is one of those acts which no one has ever heard of and since its repeal in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 it is likely no one ever will. PUHCA kept regulated energy companies from moving into unregulated businesses and so placed limits on their size, activities, and abilities to manipulate markets. You might think that was a good idea after the 2000-2001 electricity debacle in California. The Bush Administration and a Republican Congress more responsive to lobbyists than facts disagreed.
188. May 24, 2007 Bush nominates James Holsinger as the next Surgeon General. Holsinger believes that homosexuality is a lifestyle not an orientation and that it is incompatible with Christian teaching. The Surgeon General is described as the nation's top health educator.
....On July 10, 2007, Richard Carmona Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006 testified that he had been muzzled by Bush political appointees and prevented from discussing stem cell research, emergency contraception, prison healthcare, mental health issues, and the effectiveness of abstinence only programs. He related that a report on the health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke was delayed for years and its conclusions weakened.
....A 2006 report on poverty and world health has still not been released as of July 2007 because of the efforts of William R. Steiger the 37 year old head of the Office of Global Health Affairs at Health and Human Services and godson of the elder Bush. Steiger has held the post since 2001 although he has no background in health or medical issues. Steiger criticized inaccuracies and lack of analysis in the report which was pre-read and well received by healthcare professionals. In fact, Steiger's real gripe was that the report did not promote Bush health policies. This is not the first time that Steiger has engaged in such behavior. In 2004, at the behest of food manufacturers and sugar producers, he sought changes in a health report on obesity.
189. In June 2007, Italia Federici agreed to plead guilty to tax evasion and obstructing a Congressional investigation. She was Jack Abramoff's go between for the Interior Department. She headed the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a fake pro-business anti-environmental group created by Gale Norton (who went on to become Secretary of the Interior 2001-2006) and Grover Norquist. At the time of her Abramoff related activities, she was romantically involved with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior Stephen Griles who has also pled guilty to obstructing a Congressional investigation. Her sentence which could have been ~ 16 months was reduced to two months in a halfway house and 4 years probation because of her cooperation with investigators.
190. Thomas Barnett entered the DOJ's antitrust division in April 2004 and became its head (assistant attorney general) on February 10, 2006. Barnett sent a memo to state prosecutors in May 2007 urging them to drop an investigation into a complaint by Google that Microsoft's new Vista operating system slowed Google's search engine in preference to Microsoft's own version. The Google complaint has its origins in a consent decree monitoring Microsoft's antitrust compliance. Before coming to the Justice Department, Barnett was the Vice Chair of the Antitrust and Consumer Protection Practice Group of Covington & Burling, the Washington law firm which had represented Microsoft in the antitrust proceedings. Barnett's efforts seem to have backfired for now, but not for want of trying on his part. On June 19, 2007, Microsoft agreed to modify Vista later this year to allow users to disable the Microsoft version and choose another search engine, thus solving the speed problem.
191. The Palestinian civil war. January 2006 the populist and rejectionist Hamas (one of the Islamist organizations that Israel had supported in the past as a counterweight to Fatah) wins Parliamentary elections pushing out of government a corrupt but well entrenched Fatah. Clashes between Fatah and Hamas militants begin almost immediately. Despite Bush's oft stated support of democracy in the Middle East, the US organizes a boycott of Hamas. The US and the Europeans cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel holds back tax receipts. International banking transactions are blocked preventing aid from other countries. The result is a sharp increase in unemployment, poverty, and radicalism in the Territories, especially Gaza where Hamas is strongest. At the same time, the background pattern of Israeli and Palestinian attacks and counter-attacks continues. In the deepening humanitarian and political crisis, Western governments led by the US seek to do end runs around Hamas funneling aid directly to the Palestinian people bypassing the PA and backing the Fatah Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an alternative to Hamas. In addition to political support, the US supplies Fatah security forces with weapons. A national unity government is finally cobbled together in February 2007 but doesn't last. In May, 500 Fatah fighters enter Gaza from Egypt with Israeli approval and Bush okays $40 million to train 4,000 troops directly under Abbas' control. Violence flares in June 2007 and greatly outnumbered and outgunned Fatah fighters are kicked out of Gaza. On June 14, 2007, Abbas dissolves the "national unity" government. A few days later on June 16, Fatah forces effectively expel Hamas from the West Bank. Instead of accepting the results of a democratic election and engaging with its opponents, the Bush Administration fomented a civil war. As has happened so many times before, it didn't do its homework or the math, and the consequences were once again not those it expected. The Palestinians are even weaker and more divided. Gaza has real potential to become a full blown humanitarian crisis. The situation is more dangerous and peace even further away.
192. Selling the war: Part 1. Iraq the reasons. Some say there was no reason for the war. This is untrue. Many reasons were given for it, just no good one. Here are a dozen of them grace of Bush, Cheney, the neocons from the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and the 2002 AUMF.
2. Saddam Hussein behind 9/11
3. Saddam Hussein connected with al Qaeda
4. Fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here
5. Spread democracy
6. Saddam Hussein was a bad man
7. Iraqi violations of UN Resolutions
8. The 1993 assassination attempt against GHW Bush
11. Defend Israel
12. Bad intel
193. Selling the war: Part 2. Iraq the turning points. While enough for a hexadecagon, not enough to make a difference.
1. May 1, 2003 End of major combat operations announced on board the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln: Mission accomplished
2. July 22, 2003 Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusai killed
3. December 13, 2003 Saddam Hussein captured
4. March 8, 2004 Interim Constitution
5. June 28, 2004 Interim government formed/Sovereignty returned
6. November 2004 Second siege of Fallujah
7. January 30, 2005 First elections for transitional assembly
8. May 3, 2005 Transitional government formed
9. October 15, 2005 Vote on constitution
10. December 15, 2005 Elections for permanent assembly
11. April 22, 2006 Nuri al Maliki replaces interim PM Ibrahim Jaafari in forming a permanent government
12. May 20, 2006 Maliki presents permanent government: the key ministries of Defense, Interior, and National Security are left unfilled
13. June 7, 2006 Jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed; June 8, 2006 last ministries filled in permanent government (175 days after the elections)
14. December 30, 2006 Saddam Hussein executed by hanging
15. January 10, 2007 Bush announces his New Way Forward plan, aka the "surge". Deployment of surge forces completed June 15, 2007. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Petraeus claim progress is being made.
16. September 10-11, 2007 General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify before Congress and report the "surge" is working
194. Torture and Guantanamo
September 25, 2001, John Yoo at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) writes a memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales in which he opines that in the war on terror the President's decisions are "for him alone and are unreviewable."
January 9, 2002, John Yoo together with Robert Delahunty assert in a memo to the Pentagon that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
January 22, 2002, Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General and head of the OLC, communicates this finding to White House counsel Gonzales.
January 25, 2002, Gonzales sends a memo (written by David Addington) to George Bush in which he argues that the war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
January 26, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell writes to Gonzales arguing that the Geneva Conventions should be applied to Taliban and al Qaeda whether or not there is a legal duty to do so.
January 27, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declares that Guantanamo detainees are not prisoners of war, i.e. not covered by the Geneva Conventions.
January 29, 2002, Bush agrees with Rumsfeld.
February 1, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft weighs in and agrees with Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, and Bush that the Geneva Conventions to do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees.
February 2, 2002, agreeing with Colin Powell, the State Department's top lawyer William Taft IV points out that non-observance of the Geneva Conventions could endanger American troops.
Febraury 7, 2002, Bush signs an executive order that says the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees and further asserts his authority to suspend compliance with the Conventions in future conflicts.
February 26, 2002, it having been decided that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees, Jay Bybee further informs the Pentagon that these detainees have no protection against self incrimination since they are outside the purview of US courts.
August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee writes to Gonzales his now infamous memo (drafted by John Yoo with the help of then legal counsel to the VP David Addington and then deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan) in which he asserts that "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."
October 2002, officers at Guantanamo request permission to use "harsh interrogation techniques" (i.e. torture) on detainees.
November 4, 2002, Major General Geoffrey Miller takes command of the prison at Gunatanamo with a mandate to get actionable information from detainees.
November 27, 2002, Rumsfeld signs off on harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo.
January 15, 2003, Rumsfeld looking for greater legal cover both for himself and interrogators rescinds his order and directs Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes II to create a review panel to come up with new interrogation rules. Haynes chooses Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker to head the panel. (Walker's previous claim to fame was that she had been behind a coverup of sexual abuse scandals at the Air Force Academy.)
March-April 2003, Judge Advocate Generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force protest the dumping of the Geneva Conventions and the well established doctrine of the UCMJ.
March 13, 2003, Jay Bybee confirmed as federal judge to the 9th circuit (West Coast) Court of Appeals.
March 14, 2003, Yoo delivers a memo to DOD General Counsel Haynes addressing issues before the Walker panel and is taken as the controlling legal opinion for it. The memo has, I believe, never been released.
April 4, 2003, the Walker panel accepts the definition of torture outlined in Bybee's August 2002 memo and okays harsh interrogation techniques.
April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld signs off on some of the recommended harsh interrogation techniques.
Summer 2003, John Yoo leaves the OLC and returns to UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.
December 2003, things begin to unravel. The new head of the OLC Jack Goldsmith (although he had worked for DOD General Counsel Haynes) informs his former boss that the March 2003 Yoo memo is under review and "should not be relied upon for any purpose."
July 14, 2004, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the OLC (acting head) Patrick Philbin in Congressional testimony puts the onus back on the Secretary of Defense saying that harsh interrogation techniques must be conducted "in accordance with the limitations and safeguards specified by the Secretary," and that the President's Article II powers as Commander in Chief can not be used as a justification.
December 2004, General Craddock head of Southern Command appoints Air Force Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt to investigate FBI allegations of torture at Guantanamo. He finds abuses and recommends that Major General Geoffrey Miller be held accountable and admonished, a recommendation which General Craddock who had been Rumsfeld's senior military assistant rejects.
February 4, 2005, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the OLC Daniel Levin writes to DOD General Counsel Haynes reminding him again of both Goldsmith's opinion and Philbin's testimony. He informs Haynes that the March 2003 Yoo memo has been formally withdrawn.
March 17, 2005, Haynes rescinds the Walker panel report based on the March 2003 Yoo memo and sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques, writing "I determine that the Report of the Working Group on Detainee Interrogations is to be considered a historical document with no standing in policy, practice, or law to guide any activity of the Department of Defense."
May 10, 2005, the new acting head of the OLC Steven Bradbury produces two secret legal opinions supporting forceful interrogation methods as long as these do not "shock the conscience". These are supplemented on May 30, 2005 by a third opinion. None have so far been made public.
December 30, 2005, Bush signs into law the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill which contains the McCain Detainee Treatment Act which ostensibly limits harsh interrogation techniques. The act is weakened by the Kyl-Levin amendment which allows evidence gained by torture and restricts habeas corpus rights of detainees to challenge their treatment. Bush completely vitiates the provision by appending a signing statement which states that the President will abide by its limitations, if he feels like it.
October 17, 2006, Bush signs the Military Commissions Act into law. It immunizes torturers retroactively to November 26, 1997.
July 20, 2007, in accordance with the Military Commissions Act, Bush signs an Executive order allowing the CIA to engage in aggressive interrogation techniques but without specifying what they are claims that these will not amount to torture.
195. Torture and Iraq
March 2003, Stephen Cambone is made Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Summer 2003, Stephen Cambone almost certainly with Rumsfeld's blessing sends Lt. General William G. (Jerry) Boykin to Guantanamo to see Major General Miller about prisons in Iraq. Boykin a born again Christian gained a reputation for his anti-Islamic remarks. He is currently the Deputy Undersecretary for Intelligence at the DOD.
Aug. 31-Sept. 9, 2003, Miller goes to Iraq and Abu Ghraib where he recommends that prisons become part of the intelligence gathering process. Per Brig. General Janis Karpinski commandant of Abu Ghraib, Miller pushes to gitmo-ize the prison. Miller later denies this.
October-December 2003, period of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib.
January 13, 2004, Army Spec. Joseph M. Darby, an MP with the 800th at Abu Ghraib, leaves a disc with photographs of prisoner abuse on the bed of a military investigator.
February 26, 2004, Major General Antonio Taguba issues a classified report on the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
April 28, 2004, Sixty Minutes II airs the photos after a 2 week delay, setting off an international firestorm.
April 30, 2004, Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib appears online; Major General Geoffrey Miller is picked to replace Janis Karpinski and oversee detainee operations in Iraq.
Early May 2004, the Taguba report is leaked.
May 6, 2004, Taguba meets with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who professes ignorance of his report, asks whether torture occurred, and claims not to have seen the photos from Abu Ghraib although 4 months have passed from the initial report and more than 2 months from the in house release of Taguba's report.
May 7, 2004, Rumsfeld testifies before the Senate and professes surprise and ignorance of events at Abu Ghraib. He does name Joseph Darby for the first time as the one who notified authorities about the abuse. Darby subsequently received death threats and he and his family had to enter protective military custody.
July 20, 2007, in accordance with the Military Commissions Act, Bush signs an Executive order allowing the CIA to engage in aggressive interrogation techniques but without specifying what they are claims that these will not amount to torture.
September 14, 2007, it is reported that CIA director Michael Hayden banned the use of waterboarding by CIA interrogators sometime in 2006.The aftermath: Despite numerous reports, no attempt was made to investigate up the military chain of command or the civilian political leadership of the Pentagon and the White House. So far, about a dozen enlistees have been convicted of various Abu Ghraib related offenses. One special forces officer Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan is facing charges. Colonel Thomas Pappas who ran the intelligence section where the abuses occurred received a reprimand. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was demoted and some of her underlings were also reprimanded. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez the military commander in Iraq retires without his extra star. And, of course, Major General Antonio Taguba who did his duty in a professional manner was forced to retire as of January 1, 2007, no sir, can't have people behaving like that in this Administration.
196. Vice President Cheney's bizarre assertion that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is not part of the Executive Branch. (If it isn't, where does it fit in our Constitutional system, or does it?) As a result, since 2003, he has unilaterally exempted his office from compliance with Executive Order 12958 which requires information about its classification and declassification activities be provided to the National Archives so that national security materials can be safeguarded. In 2004, the OVP blocked an on-site inspection by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) part of the National Archives. In mid 2006, the ISOO wrote to Cheney's Chief of Staff David Addington twice on the subject but received no answer. In January 2007, the ISOO asked Alberto Gonzales and the DOJ to resolve the matter. Cheney's response was to seek to abolish the ISOO and eliminate the National Archives' ability to refer disputes to the DOJ.
....Additionally, in 2001 the OVP refused to tell the GAO as part of its oversight function who had participated in Cheney's Energy Task Force. This was a governmental request and is different from the Sierra Club lawsuit. (The GAO sued but the case was dismissed by a compliant conservative judge John D. Bates on the grounds that the GAO lacked standing and that the matter fell outside the purview of the court.) Cheney has also refused to disclose travel paid for by special interests as required by law. Since 2004, he has denied requests to name the political appointees on his staff. He has asserted control over Secret Service documents which detail visitors to his residence and exempted these from Freedom of Information requests. Finally, per Executive Order 13233 of November 2001, the Vice President is given authority to prevent public release of his (the OVP's) papers after he leaves office.
197. Another wrinkle on the US attorney scandal. On June 22, 2007, Bill Mercer Acting Associate Attorney General (from September 2006) withdrew his nomination for the permanent No. 3 position at the DOJ 4 days before his confirmation hearings. Mercer has been US attorney for Montana since April 20, 2001. In June 2005, he was given a second position as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in Washington. On October 20, 2005, US District Chief Judge Donald Molloy of Billings informed Attorney General Gonzales that Mercer was in violation of federal law since he no longer lived in the district. On November 10, 2005, Gonzales wrote back to the judge stating that Mercer still had a domicile there, returned on a regular basis, and would return permanently as soon as his "temporary" assignment was finished. The same day at Mercer's request, Brett Tolman (who had snuck in the interim US attorney language into the Patriot Act extension) inserted a second provision which allowed US attorneys to live outside their districts and hold other jobs. Mercer's confirmation hearing would have raised embarrassing questions about his role as an absentee US attorney and changing the language in the Patriot Act. His name also appeared in emails concerning the US attorney firings. He has stated his intention to return to his US attorney position in Montana.
198. On June 19, 2007, John Rizzo testified in confirmation hearings for the position of CIA General Counsel. Rizzo has been Acting Counsel for the last 3 years and is a 30 year veteran of the agency. He has also served as Senior Deputy General Counsel and as Deputy General Counsel for Operations. This means that he was part of or headed the CIA legal team that gave guidance to CIA personnel at the time that the CIA was engaged in running black prisons, conducting kidnappings and renditions to countries that practiced torture, and using interrogation methods that amounted to torture. In this last regard, there is the question of an unreleased August 2002 memo (not the Bybee one) from Justice to the CIA listing approved interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, hypothermia, refusal of pain medication for injuries, sleep deprivation, light and sound bombardment, and forced positions for prolonged periods of time. At his hearings, Rizzo described the CIA's interrogation program based on the 2002 memo as humane. He also didn't deny that the CIA could kidnap an American citizen overseas, saying only that it would be "extremely problematic". In other words, Rizzo is a classic enabler of policy no matter how dubious or illegal that policy is. As of August 2007, a hold placed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on his confirmation remains in effect. In September 2007, the Senate intelligence committee requested that Rizzo's nomination be withdrawn and the nomination was withdrawn September 25, 2007.
199. The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) is another obscure governmental body that has no reason to exist. Created in 2000, its nine members (actually still two short at seven) were not appointed until 2004, and it was not funded until 2005. Meant to cut down on unnecessary classification, it has to date made no recommendation to declassify anything. Most recently, a Senate attempt to declassify the Intelligence Committee's report on pre-Iraq war assessments of WMD, including Ahmed Chalabi's input into them hit a brick wall when members sought to go through the PIDB. The PIDB noted that it could only consider a request to declassify if it originated with the President. This is a classic Catch-22. If a President classified something and wanted it kept classified, he/she would not make such a request. If the President wanted something declassified, it is unclear why he/she would bother going through the PIDB. So why does the PIDB exist?
200. On June 28, 2007, the Supreme Court 5-4 in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 eliminated the use of racial classification to avoid racial segregation in public schools. Its version of color blindness is to ignore the effects of past discrimination. The ruling is another indication that the two Bush appointees Roberts and Alito have no intention of honoring stare decisis (respect for precedent) which they swore to uphold at their confirmation hearings. It effectively undermines the 1954 landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka by leaving school districts few or no options to address and prevent segregation or re-segregation in their educational systems.
....The pattern of the Roberts court with respect to precedent is becoming clear. Using a majority of 5 conservative judges: Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, the court has embarked on a course to overturn hallmark decisions like Roe and Brown, not by direct reversal but by dismantling them piece by piece until all the meaning in them is gone. It has also sought to roll back other laws and time elsewhere as well. In doing so, its reasoning has been remarkable for its inconsistency. This is Bush's court and with Iraq it may well be his most enduring and pernicious legacy.
201. On May 29, 2007, SCOTUS decided 5-4 in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. that Ledbetter had only 180 days to file an EOCC complaint of salary discrimination based on sex and that although the discrimination had been going on for years, the court would consider only wage discrimination that had occurred within 180 days of her filing.
....It further stipulated the unrealistic and onerous condition that "Ledbetter should have filed an EEOC charge within 180 days after each allegedly discriminatory employment decision was made and communicated to her." This was an example of the Court ignoring how the world actually functions. Corporations often prohibit employees from discussing their remuneration and make doing so grounds for dismissal. Employees may not come to know that they are being discriminated against for some time, what means are available to challenge such discrimination, if it is worth their while to contest it, and if they have the courage to do so. The decision greatly reduces the scope of discrimination claims and effectively gives corporations a Get Out of Jail Free card for patterns of long term discrimination.
202. On June 25, 2007, SCOTUS decided 5-4 in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. that corporations could use their general funds to run "issue" oriented ads, even those naming candidates, within 30 days of a federal primary election or 60 days of a federal general election in contradiction of requirements of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. This is a continuation of the infamous dictum that money equals free speech. Apparently SCOTUS thinks there isn't sufficient money in our political system or that it is not sufficiently bought. Another interesting aspect of the case is that the specific timeframe in question occurred during the 2004 election cycle and had long been rendered moot. Nevertheless, it was resurrected by invoking the notion that the controversy was capable of repetition, yet evading review. In other words, the Court will, if it wants to and regardless of the facts, look at a case long over (as here), take a very restricted view of time limits as in Ledbetter, or declare it moot as in Padilla.
203. On June 25, 2007, SCOTUS decided 5-4 in Morse et al v. Frederick that a school principal acted appropriately in confiscating a banner from a student which read Bong Hits 4 Jesus because it appeared to advocate drug use in violation of school policy. The decision confirmed the view that SCOTUS has a solid majority of prigs who were never teenagers and were born with their sense of humor and proportion permanently disconnected. SCOTUS did not have to take up this case but, having done so, it did not need to be so mindlessly Victorian about it. Curiously, while the Court was eager to rush to protect children's Fourteenth Amendment rights in the Seattle/Louisville case, it showed little regard for their First Amendment rights in Morse v. Frederick. Go figure.
204. On June 28, 2007, SCOTUS decided 5-4 in Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc., DBA Kay's Kloset . . . Kay's Shoes that a manufacturer/distributor can fix the minimum price at which its goods can be sold by a retailer. The theory championed by Robert Bork among others is that by giving a manufacturer/distributor more control of its brand (including its price) it can better protect its brand. Putting it another way, by reducing competition within a brand, competition can be encouraged between brands. Such an approach may have some validity in high end niche markets for limited periods of time, but the key here is that it only may have a beneficial effect (albeit a highly restricted one) not that it will have one. Under such circumstances, is a potential, ephemeral advantage really worth undermining the Sherman Anti-Trust Act with its well understood and well accepted ban on price fixing? The current hyper-conservative (and extremely activist) Court thinks so. Once again, so much for stare decisis.
205. A no bid Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contract to the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton beginning in May 2003 ballooned over 4 years from $2 million to $124 million. This is part of the saga of the privatizing of intelligence services and the ongoing mismanagement and incompetence at DHS. It was presided over by Cheney crony and Booz Allen Vice President James Woolsey. When the contract (now split into 5 parts) was finally put up for bid by DHS, Booz Allen won them all. You have to wonder what message DHS was trying to send by rewarding those who had effectively screwed them over.
206. April 28, 2006, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson stated in a speech that he cancelled a contract with a minority advertising firm because the contractor had said he did not support Bush. Later, Jackson in the face of mounting criticism said he made the story up. However, his chief of staff testified (as part of an Inspector General's investigation) that Jackson had intervened in the contracting process when contractors had known Democratic ties. In keeping with the pattern of tame IGs who permeate the Bush bureaucracy, the HUD IG downplayed the issue by saying, "there were some limited instances where political affiliation may have been a factor in contract issues involving Jackson." Even if limited, such instances violate department policies and more importantly violate the law by establishing a political test, something that neither Jackson nor his IG seem to have any problems with.
....Jackson is also currently being investigated by the FBI and the HUD IG for swinging a contract to a friend and golfing partner William Hairston. Through Jackson, Hairston got a job in January 2006 at NKA Contractors which ran the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) which HUD had taken into receivership. Although NKA Contractors got good marks for its work, Hairston did not get along with its management, and shortly thereafter the company, not Hairston, was let go. Hairston received $93,755 from NKA from January to April 2006 and $392,000 from HANO from July 2006 to June 2007.
....In February 2006, Jackson helped swing a direct contract to another friend Michael Hollis a prominent Atlanta lawyer and businessman to serve as the executive administrator of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (which had been under HUD receivership since 2003). Despite a lack of experience in the field, Hollis was paid $450,000 (4 times as much as his predecessor) in 2006, including a $124,000 a year expense account.
....It's good to have friends.
207. Donald Rumsfeld Defense Secretary from 2001-2006, master of Shock and Awe and Abu Ghraib, famously said on December 8, 2004, "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." This was in response to a question about raiding garbage dumps to cobble together armor for flimsily protected Humvees. The problem was that this was over two years from when the buildup to the Iraq invasion began and over a year and a half after Bush's Mission Accomplished speech declared major hostilities over. At the same time, Pentagon spokesmen defended Rumsfeld saying that he was not involved on a day to day basis with Iraq due to his work on the Pentagon's quadrennial review. In other words, he was too busy with the Army he wished to have as opposed to the one he had or the one he needed for Iraq. This was all supposed to result in "force transformation" of the military into small, light but lethal units for future wars, again the very opposite of the no frills but numerous boots on the ground that General Shinseki had correctly predicted were needed for Iraq. Rumsfeld's treatment of Shinseki sent a clear message to the uniformed military that they could agree with Rumsfeld and his minions or else. This was a sure guarantee for compliant generals and bad military advice.
....Rumsfeld also took on the Pentagon's arcane and antiquated procurement process. Under his leadership, he made a bloated and inefficient system even more so. Examples can be found here (An excellent resource for waste in government and in the Pentagon in particular.)
....Rumsfeld ran the gamut from arrogantly dismissive to insincerely reflective. He told us that he not only knew that Saddam had WMD but he knew where they were. On March 30, 2003, he assured us, "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." When massive, uncontrolled looting broke out in Baghdad, his response on April 11, 2003 was "Stuff happens" and "freedom is untidy." Yet in his October 16, 2003 memo to General Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and General Peter Pace, victory which he continued to believe in to the end had already become "a long, hard slog." Such an admission might have been expected to lead to a certain belated humility or at least a change in policy, but in the event it resulted in neither.
....Rumsfeld could be unintentionally revealing, "illustrative" he would call it, as when he opined, "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." While comically convoluted, in the end he missed the point. It was not all the knowns that were the problem. It was what he thought he knew and didn't that was. Long after the insurgency got started Rumsfeld was still talking about "deadenders". By the time Rumsfeld got around to admitting the insurgency's existence, Iraq was already well on its way to civil war. Rumsfeld couldn't see past his preconceptions. He punished those who disagreed with them. The result was he was constantly behind the curve addressing issues that had moved on.
....In his list of accomplishments which he left at the Pentagon before leaving, Rumsfeld cites the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the training and equipping of 131,000 Iraqi Ministry of Defense and 180,000 Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces as number one and two. Guantanamo is number four. Can anything be more telling? One country in civil war, another trending that way, a shell army, a cover for militias and death squads, and an international human rights controversy, these are what Rumsfeld without irony points to as his monuments.
208. January 10, 2003, the Bush administration issues guidelines that would exempt up to twenty million acres of "isolated" wetlands and seasonal streams from protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This went to court and in Rapanos v. United States June 19, 2006, Kennedy's opinion was controlling but his definition of what constituted wetlands was unclear. He defined them as those that "alone or in combination with similarly situated lands in the region, significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity" of the navigable waters covered by the CWA. However, land adjacent to non-navigable tributaries must be decided on a case by case basis. This was a recipe for regulatory mayhem. In September 2006, draft guidelines prepared by the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to address the issues raised by SCOTUS were pulled at the urging of big coal, developers, and cattle ranchers. They were reworked by the White House's Council on Environmental Quality and re-issued in June 2007 to track more closely with commercial concerns.
209. As with wetlands, a goal of the Bush Administration has been to open up all federally held lands and resources to commercial exploitation, no matter how short term, no matter now destructive. A case in point is the Roadless Rule.
January 12, 2001, in the last days of Bill Clinton's Presidency, the Roadless Rule is published in the Federal Register. It prohibits roadbuilding in 58.5 million acres of roadless wilderness. This accounts for about 1/3 of the nation's forests.
February 5, 2001, Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman suspends the Roadless Rule.
December 12, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the Roadless Rule overturning an Idaho challenge to it.
December 23, 2002, the Bush Administration announces plans to give governors the right to seek exemptions to the Roadless Rule.
June 9, 2003, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey repeats the Administration's intention to change the Roadless Rule to grant governors waivers to it.
December 23, 2002, the 17 million acres (about 4% of which is old growth) of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the planet's largest temperate rainforest, is exempted from the Roadless Rule.
July 12, 2004, Ann Veneman proposes a new rule which would give governors an 18 month window in which to petition the US Forest Service to open up "roadless" areas to roadbuilding to facilitate logging and drilling for gas and oil.
May 13, 2005, Bush issues the new rule allowing state petitions.
August 5, 2005, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the Tongass National Forest management plan and bars roadbuilding pending revision of it.
August 28, 2005, several states and environmental groups sue and the case is assigned to federal District Judge for Northern California Elizabeth Laporte
September 20, 2006, Judge Laporte reinstates the Roadless Rule nationwide with the exception of the Tongass National Forest.
February 6, 2007, Judge Laporte enjoins roadbuilding in conjunction with drilling permits and leases issued since May 2005.
April 9, 2007, the Forest Service with the timber industry appeal Judge Laporte's decision to the 9th Circuit.After 6 years, the Administration has neither given up on nor cut back on its plans. It goes to show how singleminded and persistent the Bush Administration is. The Roadless Rule is popular and supported by most Americans. We would like to see some of our national patrimony preserved both for ourselves and future generations. This has not caused the Administration to hesitate for a second in its attempts to overturn it. Only the efforts of states and environmental groups in the courts have kept them so far from succeeding.
210. The invocation of national security can be used to cover so many faults. On March 6, 2006, there was a leak of 35 liters of highly enriched uranium at the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin, Tennessee. If this material had pooled anywhere to a depth of a few inches, a nuclear reaction would have ensued with subsequent release of radiation and potential for (non-nuclear) explosion and fire. As it was, the plant was closed for 7 months. Neither the public nor the Congress was informed until an annual report 13 months later in April 2007. As a result of the accident, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) modified the facility's license in a confirmatory order dated February 21, 2007. By law, such a change requires a period of public comment but the notice for public comment was itself stamped Official Use Only and not made public. This was pursuant to a memo of August 24, 2004 in which all correspondence whether sensitive or not (including the memo stating this policy) was to be kept out of public view. After talks with staff from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the NRC agreed to re-release its order for public comment.
211. How it gets done. Back in the 1990s, the state of Utah challenged the Bureau of Land Management's grant of interim protection from mining, drilling, and logging on 2.6 million acres of the San Rafael Swell pending a Congressional decision on whether it would receive wilderness status. In 1998, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Utah on all but one count of its complaint and the suit became moribund. That should have been the end of it. But in 2003, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton came to an agreement. In March 2003, Utah amended its complaint re-opening the suit and on April 11, 2003, the Bush Administration settled it on Utah's terms. It did this by capping wilderness areas at the 22 million acres already so designated, effectively excluding the San Rafael Swell and opening it up to commercial exploitation. On August 11, 2003, Bush nominated Leavitt for the post of Administrator at the EPA. Leavitt had no experience in the field but he had helped out in the Utah deal and favored in general the Bush policy on the environment of voluntary controls and weakened oversight. He was confirmed October 28, 2003 and served 2 years before replacing Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services.
212. That compassionate conservative thing. December 19, 2002 the White House's Office of Management and Budget instructs EPA to value the lives of senior citizens at 63 percent that of younger Americans when calculating the costs and benefits of air pollution regulations. The result decreases, of course, the benefits side of the equation and weakens the case for regulation.
213. A June 27, 2007 report by the Department of Defense Inspector General detailed two companies Force Protection and Armor Holdings awarded single source contracts worth $2 billion dollars to deliver armor kits for Humvees and other vehicles used in Iraq. The armor was not adequately tested, delivered late, and often contained unusable or missing parts. The contract was let despite the fact that other suppliers were available and could have competed for the work.
214. A whiff of hypocrisy. July 9, 2007, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) releases a statement admitting to using the DC Madam's (Deborah Palfrey) Escort Service. Vitter is a "family values" social conservative against abortion and gay marriage and for abstinence only programs. Vitter's admission came after the release of telephone records and an investigation funded by Hustler's Larry Flynt which showed that Vitter had used the escort service at least 5 times between 1999 and 2001. He refuses to resign. (see also 238)
215. On July 12, 2007, the GAO released a follow up to a 2003 report. It found that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing procedures for radioactive materials remained ineffective. GAO investigators incorporated a bogus company, got a post office box in West Virginia (one of 16 states which does not handle such applications), submitted an application for a radioactive materials license directly to the NRC, received it within 28 days, modified it, and were able to successfully approach two companies which sold road testing equipment containing americium-241 and cesium-137. The exercise was to see how easy it would be to get materials for a "dirty bomb." The NRC downplayed the threat but changed its procedures. It now requires face to face visits with applicants from unfamiliar companies (a recommendation from the 2003 report). The GAO also recommended in 2006 that the NRC take steps to prevent counterfeiting and modification of licenses. It is unclear what is being down on this front.
216. Hedge funds buy companies, make some changes, and then sell them or their parts off at a vast profit. Their managers receive enormous compensations (hundreds of millions) for this which are not taxed as income but at the much lower rates of capital gains (max 15%). That is not the end of it. One hedge fund Blackstone recently went public to the tune of $4.75 billion for its managers. On this, they paid $553 million in taxes, most of it at the 15% rate. It does not end here. Managers maintain that their going public represented a sale of $3.7 billion worth of the company's brand identity (called its "good will") and are currently claiming deductions based on the depreciation of the Blackstone brand (for going public), not at the 15% capital gains rate but at the much higher 35% income tax rate. Over 15 years, this deduction will result in a return of $750 million to them or $197 million more than what they originally paid in taxes. We will end up paying them for taking their company public and for the huge profit they made doing so. The rich are not like us, and neither are the laws that cover them.
217. More how it gets done. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) is the 9th largest defense contractor and is an integral part of the military-industrial complex. Its board and upper ranks are filled with heavy hitters from the military and intelligence communities who use the revolving door to cycle back and forth between the company and government. It is a convenient arrangement. Not only does the company have easy access to contracts with either little or no bidding but it has inbuilt protection against its failures and misdeeds. The result is no matter how badly a job is bungled penalties vary from minimal to non-existent. The costs to the nation's security as a result of such boondoggles are large but unquantifiable. A few examples:
The NSA needed a computer system to process and manage the huge number of communications it monitors. SAIC got a $280 million contract and 26 months to develop the system called Trailblazer. 4 years and a billion dollars later with no program in sight, the NSA finally pulled the plug it. But since it still needed the system, the NSA relet the contract which was again won by SAIC this time for $361 million.
SAIC was also behind the FBI's disastrous program to computerize its case and filing system into a single integrated database. The contract was worth $124 million. After 3 years the Virtual Case File as it was called didn't work and was abandoned.
From 1993 to 2002, David Kay was at SAIC where he became director of its Center for Counterterrorism Technology and Analysis. He was a major promoter of the idea that Iraq had large WMD programs and championed the case for the Second Gulf War. In 2003-2004, he ran the hunt for WMD in Iraq. When none were found, he said on January 28, 2004 that "it turns out that we were all wrong." But it really wasn't "we", but those like Kay who had pressed the case so hard by ignoring what evidence there was and relying instead on highly dubious sources produced by the likes of Ahmed Chalabi. When Bush appointed a commission to investigate what had happened, three of those on the commission had ties to SAIC. Naturally no fingers were pointed SAIC's or Kay's way and no conflict of interest concerns were raised.The SAIC story emblematic of so many companies represents the problems and dangers of outsourcing essential services to private contractors. The results are sweetheart deals, cost overruns, delays, systems that don't work, and very, very little accountability. Companies that do this kind of work and those that run them wrap themselves in a patriotic flag even as they loot the nation's treasury and weaken its security with shoddy products that don't work.
218. The MRAP case. As early as December 2003, a need was seen for heavier vehicles than the Humvee in Iraq (MRAPs) that could withstand and deflect IED blasts. Rumsfeld's emphasis on force transformation and lighter, faster vehicles; his punitive and dictatorial management style; the Pentagon's institutional slowness; the usual pitfalls with contracting, generals unwilling to risk their careers by disagreeing with Rumsfeld; the Pentagon's year in year out insistence that troop levels would soon be reduced, all these things delayed MRAPs being made a priority for 3 1/2 years (until May 2007 when Secretary Gates made it one). It is estimated that since December 2003 when the need was first noted about 30% of US combat deaths in Iraq have come from the lack of such vehicles.
219. Another emasculation of oversight. The Intelligence Oversight Board is a civilian intelligence oversight panel created in the 1970s with the purpose of notifying the President and the Attorney General of intelligence activities which it deems to be illegal. During the first two years of the Bush Administration, the board was vacant. During the first 5 1/2 years (2001-2006), the board made no notifications --this was while the FBI was playing fast and loose with NSLs, the CIA was engaged in torture and black prisons, and the NSA was conducting massive warrantless wiretapping.
220. These are the people protecting you. The Department of Homeland Security outsources many security duties to private contractors like the Wackenhut Corporation. This included the DHS headquarters in Washington at least until numerous security breaches were reported there. The worst and wackiest of these involved an anthrax scare where Wackenhut officials took what was called a suspicious white powder into Secretary Chertoff's office and disposed of it by dumping it out the window.
221. In the ongoing saga of Rove inspired Hatch Act violations, before the November 2006 elections drug czar John Walters and his deputies traveled at government expense to some 20 political events for at risk Republican candidates where federal grants and actions benefiting their districts were announced. The violation is that government funds are not to be spent for political purposes, and, as a natural extension of this, (un-elected) government officials acting in their official capacities are not to engage in partisan activities.
222. President Bush has promised to veto an extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This program afforded some medical coverage to 6.9 million children in 2006. Its purpose is to cover children from families making more than the cutoff for Medicaid eligibility but not enough to afford private insurance. The proposal which has provoked the veto threat would increase the limit from 200% to 300% of the Medicaid cutoff and cover an additional 3.3 million children. It would be paid for by increasing the cigarette tax to $1 per pack. Over 5 years, program costs would increase from $35 billion to $60 billion (in other words ~$12 billion/year or about what is being spent for a single month of the Iraq war in 2007). Bush contends that this would cause the poor to shift from (expensive) private plans to the more affordable SCHIP program, showing that Bush is more interested in the health of insurance companies than in that of the nation's children.
....On August 17, 2007, the Bush Administration quietly announced rules changes in SCHIP that would limit eligibility of children from middle class families and place punitive deductibles on them in order to force them into more expensive private plans. On October 3, 2007, Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill. On October 18, 2007, the House failed to override Bush's veto (2/3 needed). The vote was 273-156 with 154 Republicans siding with the President.
....On October 25, 2007, an SCHIP modified to remove some adults from its coverage passed the House 265-142 and the Senate 64-30 on November 11. 2007. Bush vetoed this bill (his 7th) as well on December 12, 2007.
....This is compassionate conservatism? To favor greedy but inefficient and uncompetitive insurance companies over a widely popular government program which covers the health needs of more children and at less cost. Good to know.
223. How it is done up North. In December 2006, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) bought a $300,000 property along the Kenai River from a major campaign contributor Bob Penney for $179,400. After the story refused to go away, Murkowski announced in July 2007 that she would sell back the property at the original price.
....Meanwhile in 2000 Senator Ted "Slow Toobz" Stevens had renovations to his house doubling its size paid for by Veco an oil services company. On July 30, 2007, the FBI and IRS raided the Stevens home. Stevens also steered $558,000 to a former aide Trevor McCabe for the purchase of property near one of his pet projects, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. This sale is under investigation by the FBI and the Interior Department. McCabe is also a business partner of Stevens' son Ben a former state senator who is himself under investigation for how federal grants to the seafood industry were distributed.
....Finally, Representative Don Young agreed to return only part of $5,500 in illegal campaign contributions, the part on which the statute of limitations had not run out. Also Young is being investigated for a yearly pork roast hosted for 10 years by Veco CEO Bill Allen which was used to funnel money to Young in exchange for contracts. Allen recently pled guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges. In one of Young's more interesting schemes, he added an earmark for a $10 million interchange in Florida in exchange for a fundraiser that netted his campaign $40,000. This in itself was not unusual. As chairman of the House transportation committee, he was used to getting campaign contributions in states that would benefit from the road funds he controlled. What set this earmark apart from thousands of others is that Young substantially changed the wording of the earmark after the bill had already been passed the Congress. That's chutzpah.
224. 44 former state Attorney Generals signed a petition of July 13, 2007 addressed to the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees asking for a full review of the investigation, prosecution, sentencing, and detention of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Siegelman was convicted of re-appointing healthcare executive Richard Scrushy to a hospital board in exchange for a $500,000 donation to a lottery campaign. The government sought 30 years but, on conviction, he was sentenced to 7 years 4 months. Despite not being a flight risk and having substantial grounds for appeal, he was immediately remanded into custody.
....There is more than a hint that the prosecution was politically motivated. A lawyer Dana Jill Simpson working on Republican Bob Riley's gubernatorial campaign submitted an affidavit describing a 2002 conference call in which a top GOP strategist Bill Canary said Karl Rove had promised him that the Department of Justice would go after Siegelman. In the event, an investigation was begun by US Attorney Leura Canary, Bill Canary's wife. She recused herself only after objections were raised by Siegelman's attorneys. The case was taken over by Acting US Attorney Louis V. Franklin who claimed he decided "independently" to pursue an investigation which had already been going on for months.
225. Another heckuva job. Trying to avoid legal liability, FEMA lawyers banned the testing of 120,000 trailers purchased to house Katrina victims for high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Problems were first noticed in early 2006. The Sierra Club did test dozens of trailers and found formaldehyde levels high enough in 83% of them that would have required federal workers to wear respirators if they were exposed all day to it. 60,000 of the trailers are still in use. Although the story finally broke in August 2007, as of October 2007, FEMA has not tested any of the trailers still occupied.
226. The DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a memorandum of July 10, 2007 declaring that Harriet Miers had been absolutely immunized by the White House from responding to a subpoena to appear and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The basis of the opinion goes to the sloppy and disdainful way in which the Bush Administration responds to legal challenges. The Attorney General delegates authority to the Assistant Attorney General of the OLC to issue these kinds of opinions to agencies within the Executive branch. The Assistant Attorney General (AAG) of the OLC may in turn delegate this authority but must supervise the delegated work. As it is, Gonzales has recused himself from matters pertaining to the US Attorney firings. So the opinion should have been given by the AAG of the OLC, but here's the catch.
....The opinion was signed by Steven Bradbury. Bradbury was made acting AAG and nominated twice to be made permanent AAG. However, the Senate returned his nomination to the President more than 210 days before the issuance of the memo. (They did so by the way because of Bradbury's role in justifying the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. The quashed OPR probe mentioned in item 92 also involved possible wrongdoing by Bradbury and the OLC.)
....Pursuant to Title5 of the US Code 3346(b)(2)(B): "if a second nomination for the office is submitted to the Senate after the rejection, withdrawal, or return of the first nomination, the person serving as the acting officer may continue to serve . . . for no more than 210 days after the second nomination is rejected, withdrawn, or returned." So Bradbury was no longer acting AAG of the OLC and had no authority to issue the opinion. What this means is that the White House has asserted a vast and absolute Executive privilege based on a legal rationale that has as much legal force as if you, me, or your neighbor's dog had written it.
227. The House and Senate can vote a statutory contempt citation if the conditions of a subpoena are not met. By law, the contempt citation is then referred to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." With regard to citations in response to claims of Executive privilege in the US Attorney firings scandal, unnamed Administration officials have asserted that the Congress has no power to force the Department of Justice through the US Attorney for DC to convene a grand jury and pursue charges of contempt. They are basing this position on an untested May 30, 1984 opinion by then head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Theodore Olson. Olson argued that since the Executive executes the laws in specific cases, it is an infringement of the separation of powers that Congress should substitute its judgment for the Executive's and direct it to apply a law against any specific individual. He then seeks to marry this concept to the situation of an individual receiving a contempt citation from the Congress in an Executive privilege case. According to Olson, prosecutorial discretion allows the Executive to decline to pursue such a case.
....What Olson is really arguing, however, is not separation of powers but that the Executive is an independent power.
"The Executive's exclusive authority to prosecute violations of the law gives rise to the corollary that neither the Judicial nor the Legislative Branches may directly interfere with the prosecutorial discretion of the Executive by directing the Executive Branch to prosecute particular individuals." p.115As such, the Executive is unaccountable to anyone in how the laws are executed, except in the broadest terms I suppose of election, funding, and impeachment. Olson's argument also assumes the duties of US Attorneys are identical with the interests of the Executive, which in practice are those of the sitting President. If this view were to be accepted, US Attorneys would cease to be agents of the law and become agents of a particular President and his/her agenda. In other words, they would become political not legal officers. It was precisely the Administration's attempts to erase this difference which produced the Attorney firings scandal in the first place.
228. Political appointees serve at most until a change in Administrations. Civil service employees are forever. Matthew McKeown, a protege of current Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, was appointed to the Solicitor's Office at Interior in 2001. McKeown was also an associate of the now convicted Stephen Griles and his wife Sue Ellen Wooldridge. In 2005, he followed Wooldridge to the DOJ and its environmental division where he remained until July 2007. McKeown has backed Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative (see item 72) and in 2004, he called the Endangered Species Act hospice care at a convention of the Property Rights Foundation. On July 23, 2007, he was hired into the career civil service position of deputy associate solicitor at Interior meaning he and his ideas will be there long after Bush is gone.
229. On October 24, 2006, the night before John Brownlee the US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia completed a plea bargain with Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, he received a phone call from Michael Elston Chief of Staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty who urged him to go slow. Elston was acting on behalf of a Purdue Pharma executive and was contacted by Mary Jo White a former US Attorney representing Purdue Pharma. It is unlikely that Elston acted without McNulty's knowledge.
....The Oxycontin case had been brought because Purdue Pharma had downplayed the dangers and addictive nature of the painkiller. Between 2000 and 2001, it was blamed for 146 deaths and may have been responsible for as many as 318 others. Despite Elston's call, Brownlee went through with the plea deal which included the company pleading guilty to one felony and being fined $635 million. Three former executives also pled guilty to misdemeanors. This was actually a fairly light punishment seeing as the company had made billions off Oxycontin and none of the executives pled to felonies. 8 days after the settlement, Brownlee's name appeared on a list kept by Elston of US Attorneys to be fired. In the event, Brownlee kept his job.
230. According to a GAO report of July 31, 2007 up to December 2005 there was no centralized system of records to track equipment transfers to Iraqi security forces. While the commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command- Iraq (MNSTC-I ) in 2004-2005 a certain David Petraeus reported that "about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005," "the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets." This results in a discrepancy of "about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005." Petraeus called it a clerical error but it is likely that much of this equipment ended up in the hands of militias, making Petraeus, not Iran, the biggest illicit arms supplier in Iraq. The government also doesn't think it was just a clerical error and has launched numerous criminal investigations into this and related projects to equip Iraqi forces.
....In July 2007, American Logistics Services, later Lee Dynamics International, was suspended from doing further business amid accusations that it had paid bribes to Army contracting officers. Additionally, in 2004-2005, an Iraqi businessman Kassim al Saffar ran a arms market out of one of its warehouses through which many of the untracked weapons passed and disappeared, all this with the knowledge and apparent approval of American government and company officials.
231. Another upside-down nomination. David Palmer a DOJ careerist was nominated by Bush on September 15, 2006 to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Palmer is chief of the Employment Litigation section in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. 8 of his colleagues wrote a letter to the Senate committee overseeing his nomination in which they noted that Palmer was not much of a lawyer, did not understand the principles of Title VII and constitutional law which served as the basis of the section's activities, and was himself the subject of a complaint of employee abuse. When he became section head, he treated people badly and morale and productivity plummeted. After 11 months, Palmer withdrew his nomination over the weekend of August 4-5, 2007.
232. And another. Peter Kirsanow an arch-conservative opponent of affirmative action was named on December 6, 2001 by direct appointment to a 6 year term on the Civil Rights Commission by President Bush. The appointment was contested but ultimately confirmed by the DC Court of Appeals in May 2002. On July 19, 2002, Kirsanow said that if there were another terrorist attack, "you can forget civil rights in this country" and that if it came from a certain ethnic community "I think we will have a return to Korematsu." (Korematsu was the Supreme Court decision validating the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II). As a Civil Rights Commissioner, he had a report critical of Bush's civil rights record removed from the commission's site and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Supreme Court nominations of both John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
....On November 16, 2005 and again on February 10, 2006, he was nominated to the National Labor Relations Board. He was given a recess appointment by Bush on January 4, 2006. Kirsanow's labor background is that of an anti-union attorney opposed to the minimum wage.
233. In the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 which Bush signed into law on March 9, 2006, death penalty advocates included language which stripped federal judges from determining if states in death penalty cases had provided defendants with adequate legal counsel. The act gave this power instead to the Attorney General. In Texas, Alberto Gonzales then Governor Bush's general counsel from 1994-1997 was known for his skimpy, biased clemency recommendations in capital cases. DOJ regulations on this issue are due to take effect in late summer 2007.
234. The "Petraeus" report. After vetoing the Democratic version on May 1, 2007, Bush signed the Iraq supplemental into law on May 25, 2007. One of its provisions was for a report to be delivered by September 15 on conditions in Iraq. Bush repeatedly sought to delay and deflect criticism of the lack of progress in Iraq by saying he wanted to wait until General Petraeus (and Ambassador Crocker) delivered their report. The spin on this was that Petraeus as a military man would give an objective and impartial report. This was never in the cards. Petraeus was chosen to lead the surge because he was its biggest supporter and as its leader had an obvious conflict of interest in assessing it.
....Nevertheless, the White House sought to limit public access of Petraeus and Crocker. Beginning in early July the White House began floating the idea to members of Congress that Petraeus and Crocker should testify to Congress in closed session out of the public eye. When this came out on August 16, the White House denied that this had ever been their intention. In what the White House calls coincidence, Petraeus is currently scheduled to testify on the anniversary of 9/11.
....It gets worse. The Petraeus report will, in fact, be written not by Petraeus but by the White House. So the Petraeus report will not really be the Petraeus report. Nor will Congress have a chance to question Petraeus on what will be the non-Petraeus report (that they and we have been asked to wait for for months) since the general will testify 4 days before its release. This whole situation is made all the more incomprehensible because the actual content of the report from whomever it emanates in this Administration has been known from the beginning: The situation is complicated, some progress is being made, we should keep the surge going as long as we can, bad things will happen if we leave.
235. Despite his nomination being returned twice by the Senate to the White House and opposed by the United Mine Workers union, Richard Stickler was recess appointed Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor and head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.on October 16, 2006. His background was in engineering, not health. He worked for the mining industry for 30 years and managed some of the most dangerous and frequently cited mines in the country. He is an opponent of greater mine safety regulation.
236. Daniel Pipes was recess appointed to the board of directors of the US Institute of Peace from April 2003 to January 2005. The USIP is a prestigious Establishment foreign policy organization promoting peaceful solutions to world conflicts and is perhaps best known for its hosting of the Iraq Study Group. Pipes on the other hand is best known for being an opponent of academic freedom and being virulently anti-Moslem. He has also defended the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
237. Pettifogging frogmarchery and other lunacy. Nicole Nason who became head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in May 2006 has instituted a policy forbidding staffers from making on the record statements. When New York Times reporter Christopher Jensen sought information for a story from an NHTSA expert, he was directed instead to Nason who is a not an expert in the field but a lawyer. When he expressed an interest in discussing her no attribution policy, she became suddenly unavailable. So now you can only get information from the NHTSA if it has been politically vetted, except, of course, on the no attribution policy itself which apparently even Nason is too embarrassed to defend.
238. Sex, power, and hypocrisy. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), an anti-homosexual, anti- gay rights politician, was arrested on June 11, 2007 at the Minneapolis airport for lewd behavior in a men's restroom (i.e. soliciting a sex act from a male undercover officer). Choosing to represent himself, he later pled guilty on August 8 to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, a charge of gross interference of privacy was dismissed, and a 10-day jail sentence was suspended. Additionally, Craig was fined $500 and placed on unsupervised probation for one year. Because the arrest did not occur in Idaho or the capital, it fell off the map until August 27, 2007 when it was picked up by Roll Call. The following day Craig announced he had done nothing wrong, that he wasn't gay, and that he should have contested the charges. He refused to resign. In other words, Craig was telling the public not to believe their lying eyes.
....An added aspect of this is that unlike Senator Vitter's (R-LA) heterosexual and illegal escapades, Senate Republicans are backing an investigation into Senator Craig's homosexual and illegal ones. Because of this pressure from fellow Republicans, on September 1, 2007, Craig announced his resignation effective September 30. He then backed off this date as he tried to withdraw his guilty plea, a move rejected by the court judge on October 4, 2007. He then announced he would serve out the rest of his term. This may have less to do with serving the people of Idaho and more with an attempt to avoid a subpoena in the Brent Wilkes (think Cunningham) trial.
239. Bunnatine Greenhouse was a chief contracting officer for the Army Corps of Engineers who criticized contracts given to Halliburton subsidiary KBR in the runup to the Iraq war, in particular an "emergency" (to avoid regular bidding procedures) $7 billion Restore Iraq Oil no bid contract to last up to 5 years. The obvious problem here is that an emergency contract should be used to address immediate needs. While the KBR contract could have been let on an emergency basis to cover those initial needs, there was no reason to continue it for any length of time and certainly not for 5 years on a no bid basis. In other words, it should have been allowed to run for no more than a year without opening it up for bidding, especially since other companies existed which could do the work. A Pentagon audit independent of Greenhouse but validating her concerns found that KBR had overcharged the government by $61 million for fuel deliveries under the contract. Greenhouse's superiors, however, granted KBR a waiver and quashed the audit. In October 2004, Greenhouse was informed she would be demoted
240. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ran a massive data mining program called ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement) from 2004 to mid 2006. It was one of 12 and run out of the Directorate for Science and Technology. ADVISE sifted through personal information on ordinary Americans derived from 50 DHS and 100 other databases. Aside from being expensive and ineffective, it moved from the trial stage to operation without a required privacy review or business case why it should be used. Because of the lack of a privacy review, three pilot programs run off of ADVISE were quietly suspended in March 2007. There is talk of canceling ADVISE but as I have said before these programs seldom die and their information is almost never destroyed.
241. Invocation of state secrets by the government to prevent suits (usually involving 4th Amendment violations) from going forward. The Bush Administration has used this argument 39 times in the last 6 years as compared to its use 59 times in the previous 24 years. In many cases it has been used not to protect national security but as a shield to hide illegality.
242. When greed and special interests gang up against very small children . . . In early 2004, the International Formula Council (IFC), the lobbying organization for the infant formula industry, successfully changed an ad campaign (begun in 2003 and lasting to 2005) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which promoted breastfeeding. The IFC figures leading the effort against the ads were Clayton Yeutter who had been Secretary of Agriculture 1998-1991 and chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) 1991-1992 and Joseph Levitt who had just used the revolving door to leave the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition which regulates infant formula to become an industry lobbyist.
....The goal of the campaign was to raise the visibility of breastfeeding in reducing childhood obesity and asthma. The IFC, however, found the ad campaign too
....Additionally, HHS press officer Rebecca Ayer effectively smothered an epidemiological meta-study put together by the HHS Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The study showed that breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in ear and intestinal infections, as well as rates of diabetes, leukemia, obesity, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Ayer not only refused to issue a press release on it but forbade the AHRQ from doing so and told the study's author Suzanne Haynes not to talk to the press about it.
....The take home lesson here clearly is that it is the babies' fault. They should be better and more informed consumers.
243. Another gutted agency. Bush appointed Harold Stratton in 2002 (left July 2006) to head the Consumer Products Safety Commission. As a former New Mexico attorney general and a conservative libertarian, Stratton had a history of opposition to consumer protection cases. As chairman, he resisted recalls of defective products and backed the Bush mantra of voluntary standards and self-regulation. He also hired John Mullan an attorney for the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) industry as general counsel. Despite the fact that in 2004, 150 children died in ATV accidents and 44,000 were injured and despite his own personal conflict of interest, Mullan successfully torpedoed a ban on ATV sales for use by minors, saying that voluntary standards were working. The CPSC was initially whacked by Reagan who cut its size by half but Bush has continued the process of undermining its mandate. It is down to 420 employees and a budget of $62 million. Many of its experts have left. Compliance investigations are down 45% since 2002. It conducts investigations into only 10%-15% of incidents resulting in injury or death and now seldom checks products entering into the United States. This FEMA-tization of the CPSC has come at a cost as the numerous recent cases of defective products, especially toys, from China have shown.
....In late October 2007, acting chairwoman of the CPSC and former official at the US Chamber of Commerce Nancy Nord announced her opposition to Congressional efforts to double the commission's budget to $141 million over 7 years, increase staff by 20%, raise maximum fines from $1.8 million to $100 million, protect whistleblowers, assign laboratories to test and certify products, allow state prosecutors to enforce consumer safety law, make it easier to issue reports on defective products and go after the executives who knowingly violate the law, and ban lead in toys. In other words, anything that would make the CPSC more effective. (see also 157)
244. A crony's chronicle. Steven Law was Senator Mitch McConnell's 1990 campaign manager and later became his chief of staff. When McConnell was named chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1996, he chose Law as its executive director. In 2001, Elaine Chao (McConnell's wife) and the new Secretary of Labor made him her chief of staff. In 2004, he became the Deputy Secretary of Labor. While in this position, he did his best to weaken unions and undermine overtime regulations. From the Labor Department he moved on to become chief legal officer and general counsel of the US Chamber of Commerce. Why am I not surprised?
245. A leaked draft of a GAO assessment of progress in Iraq reported on August 30, 2007 found that Iraq had met only 3 of 18 benchmarks. Despite a requirement for an up or down assessment, the draft fudged on its mandate and noted some progress had been made on 2 others. It was widely assumed that the report was leaked in anticipation of last minute attempts to doctor it. This is, in fact, what happened when the Pentagon called the report too harsh in its judgments. The final report (Congressional testimony September 4; released September 5) found 3 benchmarks were met and continued the fudge by declaring 4 others partially met. On this basis, the media reported failure in 11 of the 18 benchmarks. While this is hardly a sterling recommendation, GAO's own self-censorship and the DOD's lobbying, nevertheless, produced a result far better than the bottomline 3 of 18 benchmarks met. And what were the 3?
1. Ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
2. Establishing joint security stations in Baghdad neighborhoods.
3. Setting up committees to support the Baghdad security plan.....While minority political parties may have rights, they do not have power, and any protections they may enjoy do not extend outside the parliament building. Joint security stations may have been set up, but how trustworthy and dependable the Iraqi personnel manning them are is open to serious question. Finally, setting up committees is easy. Actually producing results and increasing security in Baghdad, not so much. A more honest evaluation of real change in Iraq would have given a score of 0 of 18. But that is, of course, not how things are done in the Bush Administration nor how to sell a "surge".
246. Peter Keisler is another top DOJ official who is leaving, kind of. He was Assistant Attorney General and head of the DOJ's Civil Division. In this position, Keisler fought the habeas corpus petitions of a group of ethnic Uighurs held at Guantanamo. Most of them had already been determined to be "no longer enemy combatants" (NLEC) by Bush's own CSRTs (Combat Status Review Tribunals) but continued to be held anyway. The Uighurs are a repressed minority in northwest China and their continued detention may be a result of a deal with the Chinese. Like most detainees currently held at Guantanamo, the government itself does not suspect them of having any ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban.
....Keisler was one of the DOJ officials who interfered in the Department's case against Big Tobacco in June 2005.
....Keisler a cofounder of the Federalist Society has been nominated repeatedly to fill John Roberts' seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals so far without success. He was first nominated on June 29, 2006, but this nomination was returned on September 29, 2006. He was renominated November 15, 2006 but the session ended without any action taken. Bush nominated him yet again on January 9, 2007. The nomination remains in limbo and is likely to remain so.
....Keisler's resignation from the DOJ was to become effective September 21, 2007. But on September 17, 2007, Bush in announcing Michael Mukasey's nomination as Attorney General named Keisler acting Attorney General.
247. In a massive security breach, on August 30, 2007, six nuclear tipped cruise missiles were loaded by mistake on to the wing pylons of a B-52 bomber in Minot, North Dakota, flown for 3 1/2 hours over 6 states to Barksdale, Louisiana., and left sitting for 10 hours on a runway. You could probably write a book on how many security protocols this violated. How our military controls its nuclear weapons is not supposed to look like an episode of the Keystone Kops. It is indicative of a systemic failure and is as serious as serious gets. Yet the Air Force appears reluctant to mount a thoroughgoing investigation of, and change in, its security procedures to guarantee the integrity of its nuclear arsenal.
248. More revolving door. Marion Blakey previously at NTSB headed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from September 13, 2002-September 13, 2007. She will become CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) an industry trade group on November 12, 2007. The FAA regulates and gives out contracts to member companies of the AIA. Blakey recused herself from matters related to the AIA and its companies only when she began negotiations with them in late June 2007 (2 1/2 months before her departure from the FAA). Her current salary is $168,000. The departing head of the AIA makes over a half million. As they say, do the math.
249. On September 11, 2007, the DOJ announced it would not pursue charges against 3 former corporate officers of Chiquita Banana, its CEO Cyrus Freidheim, general counsel Robert Olson, and board member Roderick Hills for paying $1.7 million in bribes to a Columbian paramilitary group the AUC from 1997 to 2004. The AUC is a rightwing death squad responsible for thousands of murders and is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. The three said they had sought legal advice from then Assistant Attorney General and head of the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff but had received no reply and so had continued the payments. It is unclear what part of bribing a terrorist death squad for 7 years they had difficulty understanding was illegal. The company pled guilty in March 2007 and agreed to pay a $25 million dollar fine and create a corporate integrity program. So to recap, 3 American corporate executives helped fund a terrorist organization for years and the Bush Department of Justice just told them they have no problem with that. Do you think the result would have been the same if these guys had been running a Moslem charity sending money to Hamas?
250. Alexis Debat was an ABC counterterrorism consultant from 2001 to June 2007 and for a year and half to September 2007 the director of the terrorism and national security program at the Nixon Center. He was also a fraud. On September 7, 2007, a French correspondent Pascal Riché reported that Debat had published a fake interview in the journal Politique Internationale with Barack Obama in which the candidate purportedly declared that Iraq was "already a defeat for America" which had "wasted thousands of lives". It soon came out that Debat had published similarly fictitious interviews in the same periodical with a whole host of public figures: Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Gates, Kofi Annan, Michael Bloomberg, and Alan Greenspan. His claim of a PhD from the Sorbonne was likewise fiction.
....Debat used his trumped up résumé and the positions he gained from it to push a neocon agenda on terror and war with Iran. He was behind an April 2007 story alleging that Pakistan was supporting a Baluchi group conducting raids inside Iran and another in the London Times on September 2, 2007 which (at a time when Cheney was pushing for action against Iran) detailed a proposed massive 3 day US bombing campaign against that country. There was also a June 2007 story on large numbers of suicide bombers infiltrating the US and Europe.
....This episode raises many questions. How many stories in which Debat was involved are tainted? Will ABC conduct a thorough investigation? Why did no one at ABC or the Nixon Center bother to check his credentials? To what extent was he a back channel conduit for the Administration's views? The Debat affair is an example of an increasingly common and disturbing triad: a complicit and complacent media, a conniving Administration, and a corrupt punditocracy that is willing to sell itself out to both.
251. Another Inspector General in name only. Howard Krongard was confirmed as the State Department's IG in May 2005. A letter of September 18, 2007 from Henry Waxman outlining his concerns noted,"One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush Administration" and"your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports, and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies." Krongard's abrasive style and bad management have led to the resignations of his Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits, and the Counsel to the Inspector General. Of 27 investigator positions, only 7 are filled.
....Despite State having spent $3.6 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan (two countries where corruption is endemic), Krongard refused to send any investigators to look into allegations of waste and fraud there and no investigation into the contracts themselves has been completed. He also torpedoed cooperation with the DOJ into First Kuwaiti the firm that has been hired (for $600 million) to build the new US embassy in Baghdad. First Kuwaiti has been accused of incomplete and shoddy work. When the electricity was turned on in the guard camp for the embassy, substandard wires melted. A subcontractor failed to certify that the construction site was free of mines or that underground tunnels were secure. First Kuwaiti has also been accused of forced labor in transferring Filipinos (who thought they were going to work in Dubai) to Baghdad, then confiscating their passports so they couldn't leave, and subjecting them to physical and verbal abuse and poor living conditions.
....Krongard prevented investigators from seizing evidence of procurement fraud (counterfeit computers with pirated software for a police academy) against a contractor in Afghanistan and hindered an investigation into weapons smuggling in Iraq by a private security contractor Blackwater.
....He inappropriately passed on to Kenneth Tomlinson (item 107), head of the board of governors for the Voice of America, a letter from members of Congress requesting an investigation into Tomlinson's conduct. Among other things, Tomlinson was accused of double billing for work done at the CPB and the VOA and billing for work not done for the VOA. What made Krongard's action especially egregious was that the information he sent included the confidential complaints of a former Board employee.
....In House hearings on November 14, 2007, Krongard showed to what lengths he would go to parse the truth. He denied initially ever having contacted Tomlinson and only later under further questioning admitted sending the letter not to Tomlinson but to Tomlinson's executive director.
....Krongard censored reports and withheld from Congress information about security problems at American embassies because he did not want the Department (and those who ran it) to look bad. And he did the same with regard to audits until material critical of the Department was excised.
....Krongard's brother joined security contractor Blackwater's advisory board in July 2007. Blackwater was the subject of a State Department investigation as recently as the September 16, 2007 shootings of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad, but Krongard professed ignorance of his brother's connection to the company at the same November 14, 2007 House hearings. The brother resigned his position with Blackwater on November 16, 2007.
....On December 7, 2007, Krongard announced his resignation as IG to become effective around January 15, 2008.
252. Friends in high places. Two of the telecoms current big issues are to scuttle Net Neutrality and to receive immunity retro-actively for their cooperation with the NSA in its warrantless wiretapping program. It just so happens that the new Counselor to the President and Karl Rove replacement (since June 13, 2007) is Ed Gillespie whose lobbying firm was hired last year by the US Telecom Association (including AT&T) to oppose Net Neutrality. And then on September 6, 2007, in an unusual move, the DOJ weighed in on an FCC request for comments with an anti-Net Neutrality filing. Its essentially rubberstamping Antitrust Division opined,"The FCC should be highly skeptical of calls to substitute special economic regulation of the Internet for free and open competition enforced by the antitrust laws." In other words, it is OK to sacrifice the public interest in a free, open, and "small d" democratic internet as long as the telecoms can increase their profits.
....Meanwhile on September 17, 2007 Peter Keisler head of the DOJ's Civil Division was named Acting Attorney General. He has been connected to AT&T for a long time. On October 13, 1998 (decided January 25, 1999), before he came to the DOJ, Keisler argued successfully AT&T v. Iowa Utilities Board before the Supreme Court in a case based on the 1996 Telecommunications Act challenging states' rights to grant monopolies to local carriers. Later as head of the Civil Division at the DOJ, Keisler argued on June 23, 2006 before Judge Vaughn Walker in the US District Court for Northern California for dismissal on the basis of the State Secrets Privilege of a class action lawsuit (Hepting v. AT&T) brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of the telecom's customers who were subjected to warrantless wiretapping through the telecom's cooperation with the NSA. AT&T's counsel in the proceedings was Bradford Berenson who was an Associate White House counsel from 2001-2003 during Alberto Gonzales‚ tenure there. He described AT&T as an innocent bystander. The judge did not buy their arguments. Parenthetically, both Keisler and Berenson have worked to limit the rights of Guantanamo detainees.
....(The program in question involved a secret room at an AT&T facility in San Francisco into which traffic from AT&T's major fiber optic routers was split off. Only technicians with NSA clearance had access to the room. The room and program were "discovered" by a then AT&T technician Mark Klein. Documents he obtained showed that the design for the room was completed by December 2002 and that construction on it began in early 2003. Its designation indicated that the NSA had other such rooms. The room contained equipment that could strip out and analyze network and customer usage information. It also had peer linking cut ins from February 2003 which connected it to the electronic feeds for virtually the entire internet. Where did all this information go? It's hard to say although DARPA's Total Information Awareness program (TIA) is run out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.)
....Finally, DNI Mike McConnell continues to lobby Congress on the retro-active immunity issue for telecoms. The telecoms have also mounted a behind the scenes congressional lobbying campaign led by James Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president and deputy chief of staff to GHW Bush, and William Barr, Verizon general counsel and Attorney General under the elder Bush.
....Sometimes it is difficult to tell where the government ends and corporations like AT&T begin.
253. As reported September 2007, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the NSA is planning to expand a murky and problem plagued internet security program Turbulence. Its ostensible purpose is to protect the nation's electronic infrastructure from attack by terrorists and hackers. However, as an unnamed government official said,"If you're going to do cybersecurity, you have to spy on Americans to secure Americans."
....The program has the hallmarks of a pet project of someone highly placed in the NSA, or the White House. It has an annual budget of $500 million, and both the budget and program were hidden from the Congress for over a year by means of a complicated shell game of creative accounting and splitting up its components (so it would be harder to identify and track not from our enemies but from our Congress). That takes considerable pull. Still the strategy is a simple one, get a program up and running before it can be quashed. Once up, as I have noted before, programs like Turbulence are virtually impossible to kill. In this light, the hookup with DHS is not about inter-agency cooperation but about extending the program's political constituency and improving its chances for survival.
....Turbulence is by its nature highly intrusive and ripe for abuse. Yet from its origins, it has been designed to avoid to the maximum possible any oversight. It is another case of the Bush Administration which has a record of repeatedly abusing the public trust saying, "Trust us," again.
254. Charles Riechers while awaiting White House confirmation to the post of principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition was provided a job for two months through a defense contractor for which he was paid $26,788 and for which he admits he did no work (although he did attend the Christmas party). The defense contractor which so obligingly hired Riechers is Commonwealth Research Institute (CRI) which (ironically on at least a couple of levels) is registered along with its parent company Concurrent Technologies with the IRS as a tax-exempt charity. So let's see, we have fraud, misappropriation of funds, violation of hiring guidelines, and sweetheart relationships with dubious actors, just what we need in a procurement officer overseeing $30 billion in Air Force contracts.
....On October 15, 2007 Riechers was found dead an apparent suicide.
255. Karl Zinsmeister has been Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy since June 2006, replacing the disgraced Claude Allen (item 60). Zinsmeister sees the breakdown of the family as being the primary cause for poverty and crime. His solution is, of course, marriage counseling. Why is the family breaking down? It's about sex. It drives people crazy apparently. Zinsmeister thinks a lot about sex (nothing unusual there) but, unlike most of us, sees it at the root of most of society's problems. In other words, Karl Zinsmeister is a kook, one of many in this Administration. He should not be let near sharp objects, let alone something serious like domestic policy.
256. Blackwater is the largest private security contractor working in Iraq. It was first hired by Paul Bremer's CPA in 2003 in a $21 million no bid contract. This was followed by another no bid contract in June 2004 to provide security for State Department (DOS) personnel in Iraq. The no bid contract was let as a matter of urgency but if this was the case, it is unclear why Marines or Special Forces were not used, or why, despite the urgency, there was still time to do a comparative cost analysis of various security contractors before awarding the contract to Blackwater. The no bid contract was eventually shifted to a "competitive" one in May 2006 (actually 3 security contractors were each awarded $1.2 billion). DOS has paid the company $832 million for services in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. In all Blackwater has received over a billion dollars in federal contracts going from $737,000 in 2001 to $593 million in 2006.
....It costs 6 times as much to use a Blackwater operative as it does for a US serviceperson or about $445,000 a year. Many of Blackwater's contractors received their training in the US military.
....The DOS has a detailed guide of how Blackwater is supposed to act in potentially threatening situations and how force is to be escalated, but in practice with convoys barreling down roads often the wrong way, these are routinely ignored and maximum force is used first not last. Between January 2005 and April 2007, Blackwater personnel were in 168 incidents involving firearms. In 143 or 85% of them, Blackwater employees fired first. The situation is complicated by the fact that private security contractors are responsible to no one. Just before leaving Iraq in June 2004, Paul Bremer signed Order 17 which placed all contractors outside Iraqi law. As civilians, contractors do not appear to fall under the military's UCMJ, and federal investigation from the US is difficult and has not been rigorously pursued.
....Blackwater first came to national attention on March 31, 2004 when 4 of its contractors were caught in Falluja in unarmored vehicles and killed. Their burned bodies were hung from a bridge. This incident sparked the first siege of Falluja and eventually the destruction of that city later that year. There have been other incidents.
....On June 25, 2005 in al Hillah, Blackwater employees initially tried to cover up the shooting of an innocent bystander, a father of six. In a DOS effort to hush up the incident, the victim's family was paid $5,000
....On November 28, 2005 in Baghdad, a Blackwater commander directed his convoy to randomly collide with 18 vehicles "for no apparent reason".
....In an incident in 2006 in the Green Zone a Blackwater vehicle collided with a military Humvee. The Blackwater employees drew their weapons, disarmed the American soldiers, and holding them at gunpoint made them lie down in the dirt until the Blackwater vehicle could be cleared.
....On Christmas Eve 2006 in the Green Zone, a drunk Blackwater employee shot and killed a bodyguard of Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mehdi. The DOS helped spirit him out of the country within 36 hours of the shooting. His punishment was that he was fired by Blackwater. The DOS also talked down a settlement to the victim's family from $250,000 to $15,000 arguing that they did not want to set a precedent.
....On September 16, 2007, Blackwater employees securing a square in western Baghdad for a second convoy escorting USAID officials (evacuated from a meeting because of a bomb) fired a single shot at a car (for no discernible reason) in a line of traffic some distance from their position. Although the driver had been killed, the car continued to roll forward and Blackwater employees opened up on it and the surrounding area with indiscriminate fire that killed 17 and wounded 24. A subsequent FBI investigation concluded in November 2007 that at least 14 of the killings were unjustified.
....Blackwater was also involved in post-Katrina security and was criticized for its heavyhandedness. Prince originally sent 180 of his men into New Orleans on his own with no contract from anyone (think vigilantes) although shortly thereafter a very profitable one appeared.
....The distinction between private contractor and employee is not an empty one. The private contractor designation has allowed Blackwater to avoid paying up to $49 million in Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes. However, according to an 2005 IRS finding, they are employees.
....The company is owned by Erik Prince a well connected Republican and former Navy Seal. In addition to Prince's own political ties, Joseph Schmitz COO and general counsel of Blackwater's parent company the Prince Group is Jeb Bush's brother-in-law.
....Our country spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined yet essential government security services are being contracted out (at inflated rates) to private armies made up of cowboys and mercenaries. This is not only expensive in monetary terms, but the lack of accountability of these armed and dangerous actors seriously undercuts America's already precarious position in Iraq. It rings hollow to talk about law and order to Iraqis when high profile security contractors show on a daily basis that they have no use for either.
....On October 24, 2007, assistant Secretary of State for diplomatic security Richard Griffin announced his resignation. He oversaw private security contractors hired through State and stonewalled in his Congressional testimony before Henry Waxman's committee on October 2, 2007. At the same time that Condoleezza Rice accepted Griffin's resignation, she promoted two senior staffers who also were supposed to have overseen private security contracts, Justine Sincavage head of the Overseas Protection Operation and Kevin Barry who previously had held this post. Barry and Sincavage are also to receive bonuses for their work to be awarded December 20, 2007. However, Barry appears to have retired November 30, having no doubt accomplished all that he could.
....The September 16 shootings are being investigated by the FBI. Its task was complicated by being brought in a few weeks after the event and by "Garrity" immunity grants (statements for internal purposes only) which State officials gave to Blackwater employees. On being made aware of the immunity grant, the DOJ sealed the employee statements and shifted the direction of the FBI's investigation from its Criminal Division to the National Security Division.
257. The runup to the Iraq war. For nostalgia buffs:
May 15, 2001 in congressional testimony: "It [Iraq] has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful."
February 5, 2003 in his now infamous, reputation killing presentation to the UN Security Council on Iraq's WMD: "The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world."Condoleeza Rice:
July 29, 2001 on CNN: "We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."
September 8, 2002 on CNN: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."Dick Cheney:
April 15, 1994 at the American Enterprise Institute: "Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."
May 14, 2007 on Fox News: "Al Qaeda has based its entire strategy on the proposition that they can break the will of the American people, that if they kill enough that eventually the U.S. Government will withdraw. They believe that . . . Al Qaeda has said Iraq is the central front in their war on the United States. You do not want to withdraw and give them a victory in Iraq."The charitable explanation is that 9/11 addled their brains.
258. After al Qaeda attacks on two US embassies on August 7, 1998 and on the USS Cole on October 12, 2000 and the Taliban's brutality and fanaticism, its oppression of women, and its destruction of a world cultural icon the Buddhas of Bamyam on March 21, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced a grant of $43 million on May 17, 2001 to the Taliban government for its efforts to eradicate opium production. This was only 4 months before 9/11 and is emblematic of the Administration's lack of emphasis on counterterrorism in the period before 9/11.
259. Citing difficult qualification rules, the DOJ has not as of October 2007 dispersed any of $8 million budgeted in 2006 to states for DNA testing which might potentially exonerate convicted individuals. At the same time, it has had no problems in spending $214 million to collect DNA samples from convicts and improve crime labs. You could call it a question of priorities.
260. In August 2007, the head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced a new rule to curb illegal immigration. The Social Security Administration (SSA) would send letters to employers of discrepancies in employees‚ SSA records. If the discrepancies were not rectified by the employees within 90 days, employers would be required to fire them. The idea was that illegal immigrants often use false Social Security documents. The reality is that the SSA database is not very reliable and produces a lot of false positives. A December 2006 report by the Inspector General for the SSA estimated that of the agency's 435 million records 17.8 million have errors that would generate a discrepancy notification. 12.7 million of these are in the files of American citizens. On October 10, 2007, federal judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California issued a stay on the grounds that the DHS had not made a required analysis of the rule's impact on businesses. The DHS under Chertoff's leadership continues to combine vast intrusiveness with even vaster incompetence.
261. In a blatant conflict of interest compromising the integrity and independence of the office of the CIA Inspector General, having a chilling effect upon it, and operating outside usual governmental guidelines, CIA Director Michael Hayden ordered (circa October 2007) an internal inquiry headed by a close aide Robert Dietz into John Helgerson the CIA Inspector General. Helgerson has been criticized by those involved in the CIA's controversial detention and interrogation programs for looking a little too closely at their activities. Apparently torturers have feelings too. Who knew?
262. Joseph Schmitz (see end of item 256) member of the cult-like Opus Dei was Inspector General at the Department of Defense from March 21, 2002-September 9, 2005 before going on to become COO and general counsel at Blackwater's parent company the Prince Group. As DOD IG, Schmitz hired L. Jean Lewis as his chief of staff. The IG's office is supposed to be nonpartisan. Lewis on the other hand was about as partisan as they come. She was a Republican activist who as a nondescript investigator of the Resolution Trust Corporation (which dealt with the S&L mess) made a criminal referral to the US Attorney in Little Rock listing Bill and Hillary Clinton as possible witnesses on September 2, 1992 (2 months before the 1992 Presidential election). She then contacted the USA's office numerous times in the run up to the election to check on and push the investigation. Later she testified under oath that she had only discussed the matter after the election. She also lied to Congress in 1995 about secretly taping an RTC lawyer. During her testimony she broke down and was briefly hospitalized. She was saved by Ken Starr who intervened, suspended the investigation against her, and then started investigating those at the RTC who had spoken out against her.
....In 2002, Alan White, a protégé of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and director of Investigative Operations at the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) violated the Hatch Act by running for a partisan post on a school board. The IG received an anonymous tip about this and 3 upper echelon members of the IG office began an investigation. Schmitz in turn was tipped off to their investigation by Grassley. Schmitz sent out investigators of his own who seemed mainly interested in finding out who the anonymous tipster was. As for the 3 looking into the matter, they were fired a month later.
....As has been seen in many department and agencies during the Bush Administration, Schmitz ran a service that hired and protected partisan hacks. Competence was punished and loyalty was rewarded. Is it any wonder that the IG's oversight of defense contracts, especially those related to Iraq was so poor?
263. As part of Julie Myers' reconfirmation as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it came out that ICE agents from October 2006 to April 2007 used chemical restraint on 33 deportees because of "combative" behavior. They were basically zapped with the powerful anti-psychotic Haldol which put them into a drug induced stupor. It is not legal to use unless prescribed by a physician. The ICE agents were not physicians nor acting under the orders of one. In addition, non-emergency medication of a patient without their consent even by a physician is battery. Finally, use of psychotropics by a government for non-medical reasons without consent is a textbook definition of torture. I would ask what the ICE agents were thinking but they clearly weren't. (see also items 54 and 161)
264. The Downing Street memo written by Richard Dearlove then head of MI6 describes a meeting on July 23, 2002 between Bush and British officials in which Bush expressed the view that war with Iraq was inevitable and outlined the case for war. Several of the British officials found the President's rationale weak. They were assured, non-specifically, that intelligence was being mustered to strengthen this case. The memo was published on May 1, 2005 in the British press and got heavy coverage, appearing just before a general election. In this country, it was virtually ignored by the traditional media until it was pushed by the blogosphere.
....The importance of the memo is twofold. First, it showed that 8 months before the commencement of hostilities the decision for war had already been made and that Bush was not interested in a diplomatic solution. Simply put, Bush had lied. Second, the reaction to the memo or lack thereof demonstrated how co-opted and incurious the American news media had become. They hesitated to pick up the story or see its significance. Nor did they use it to launch any thoroughgoing or serious investigation into the justifications for the war. They had become the dog that did not bark.
265. On September 17, 2007, Bush nominated Michael Mukasey, a very conservative federal judge retired just days before (September 9, 2007) from the Southern District of New York, to be Attorney General. Mukasey presided over the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair who were involved in the first WTC bombing in 1993 but were convicted of conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks. He also heard part of the Padilla case where he ruled that Padilla could be held as an enemy combatant though he could through a habeas petition challenge that designation. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) initially demanded the White House deliver documents and witnesses it had been stonewalling on in exchange for bringing up Mukasey's nomination, but quickly caved on this in part because another Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was a sponsor of Mukasey.
....Confirmation hearings were held October 17-18, 2007. They were reminiscent of those of Chief Justice John Roberts. Mukasey gave smooth non-answers which avoided any specifics. Nevertheless, his positions could not be completely hidden. He backs Bush's right to torture as long as it is not called torture. He believes in indefinite detention and suspension of habeas corpus for "enemy combatants". He supports the sham Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) and thinks they are doing a good job. He would like to close Guantanamo but said nothing about when and how he would do this or what would become of the detainees held there. He accepts that Bush's Global War on Terror (GWOT) is a war in the legal sense without giving any legal rationale for this opinion. He suggested that Presidents see the War Powers Act as an unconstitutional infringement on their Article II powers as Commander in Chief. While saying that he would not like to see a confrontation between the Legislative and the Executive branches over this, he sympathized with the President's position. Along these same lines, he decried a unilateral Executive but supported it in certain circumstances. One of these was surveillance conducted outside of (the increasingly gutted and irrelevant) FISA.
....He pledged to depoliticize the Department of Justice and cooperate on Congressional oversight but again refused any specifics. Disingenuously, he asserted that private meetings not under oath without a transcript for some current and former White House officials, as offered by Bush, would be more effective than public hearings under oath with a transcript since these would foster "franker" exchanges. He promised to review Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions (used to justify most of Bush's unconstitutional actions) and change those he disagreed with. He did not say he would share them with the SJC or other committees and subject them to Congressional oversight.
....In short, aside from the more blatant politicization of the DOJ under Gonzales, Mukasey is on board with the Administration on most issues. His chief qualifications to date appear to be A) a willingness to take the job of Attorney General for 15 months, B) a pulse, and C) that he is not Alberto Gonzales.
....On October 23, 2007, Democratic members of the SJC submitted the following written question to Mukasey: "Is the use of waterboarding, or inducing the misperception of drowning, as an interrogation technique illegal under U.S. law, including treaty obligations?" They suggested that their vote would depend on his response. On October 30, 2007, he gave a 4 page reply in which he didn't answer the question, called it a hypothetical, and then went on at length about the legal reasoning that he would use to answer it if he ever had to. Since he referenced the "shocks the conscience" standard of the Bradbury memo (which essentially allowed waterboarding and reflected the views of Dick Cheney and David Addington), it is clear that Mukasey would never hold that this form of torture was illegal.
....On November 2, 2007, two Democratic Senators from the pro-torture wing of the party Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced that they would vote for Mukasey in committee, assuring a floor vote and likely confirmation. On November 6, 2007, the SJC approved Mukasey's nomination 11-8 with all Republicans and the 2 Democratic Senators voting for torture and the unilateral Executive. On November 8, 2007, Mukasey was confirmed 53-40 on an up or down vote engineered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
266. In a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) study, airport screeners at Chicago's O'Hare missed 60% of fake bombs hidden in clothes and carry-ons in tests conducted in 2006. The failure rate at LAX was 75%. Meanwhile NASA withheld the results of an $8.5 million airline safety study which showed that runway traffic problems and near collisions occurred much more often than previously thought. It went so far as to order the contractor which conducted the study to purge all trace of the study's data from its computer system. The rationale was that NASA did not want to scare anyone. It is currently rethinking its decision. Feel safer?
....On November 15, 2007, the GAO released a report on airport security. It was a follow up to a March 2006 study. Investigators were still able to pass through comercially available components for improvised explosive and incendiary devices at 19 US airports even when screeners were following standard security procedures.
....A GAO report dated November 20, 2007 but released December 5, 2007 noted that the FAA has made some progress in runway and ramp safety at US airports. 70% of US commercial airports were found to be substantially in compliance, up from 55% in 2000. Incursions (aircraft potentially colliding on the ground) had not, however, decreased in the last 5 years. The FAA is supposed to update its safety plan every 2-3 years but had not done so since 2002 resulting in a lack of coordination among airports on safety issues. The FAA did not keep adequate data on planes overruning runway and ramp areas or on rampway injuries. Finally, its alerting systems did not always work.
267. Dyncorp is another private security company in Iraq which has received over $1 billion in contracts from the State Department since 2004 to train the Iraqi police. We all know how well that turned out. Dyncorp's contracts have been handled by a single official at State for more than 10 years and, despite this or more likely because of it, no one at State can find the contract file on Dyncorp's billion dollar contract. All in all, it's like the Keystone Kops, only more expensive.
268. Abdallah Higazy was an Egyptian staying in New York on 9/11. His hotel was evacuated and hotel employees found in his room a radio capable of communicating with airline pilots. Higazy was subsequently arrested. He denied knowing anything about the radio. Nevertheless, an FBI agent Michael Templeton was able to coerce a confession out of Higazy by threatening retaliation against his family in Egypt (a country which tortures). In a bail hearing on January 11, 2002, the government used Higazy's varying accounts of the radio to argue that he could not be trusted and should not be granted bail. Then, his case took an unexpected turn. An airline pilot returned to the hotel where Higazy had been staying and asked if they had seen his radio. As a result of this, Higazy was freed but sued the hotel and the FBI agent. On October 18, 2007, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that the FBI agent had violated Higazy's Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. The opinion was originally posted on line then withdrawn and reposted the next day with the part about Templeton's threats removed.
269. On October 24, 2007, Leslie Southwick was confirmed by a vote of 59-38 to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a conservative judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, Southwick ruled, in defiance of an employee's appeals board decision backed by state law, to reinstate a state employee who had referred to a colleague as a "good ole n*gger." In another case, he joined with the majority opinion that a lesbian mother should be denied custody of her 8 year old child noting in part her homosexuality and moral fitness: "the mother may view her decision to participate in a homosexual relationship as an exertion of her perceived right to do so. However, her choice is of significant consequence, as described before in the discussion of our State's policies, in that her rights to custody of her child may be significantly impacted." Despite his racial insensitivity and homophobia, Southwick was confirmed through the critical support of conservative Democrats (the Gang of 14) and the lack of opposition by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. On August 2, 2007, Southwick was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate with a favorable report 10-9 with Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voting with the committee's Republicans. Ben Nelson (D-NE) then helped drum up support for the nomination on the floor and on October 24, 2007, cloture on the nomination passed 62-35 paving for the final vote later the same day.
270. On October 22, 2007, a federal judge in Dallas declared a mistrial in the government's case against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), an American Islamic charity. This was the Bush Administration's signature effort to deny funding to terrorist organizations. Some HLF members had ties to Hamas and some of its activities were anti-semitic. On December 4, 2001, Bush declared the HLF a "specially designated global terrorist" giving aid to Hamas, and its assets were seized. The criminal trial began in Dallas on July 23, 2007. The HLF and 5 of its chief officers faced 197 charges of supporting terrorism by giving $12.4 million from 1995-2001 to zakat (Islamic charity) committees to build hospitals and to help the poor in the Occupied Territories. This was not so much a tough as an impossible sell. One defendant was acquitted on all but one charge. No defendant was convicted on any charge. This is another example of the Bush Administration's attempt to use the specter of terrorism to scare a jury into a conviction instead of convincing them with oh say, evidence and a pertinent legal theory.
271. The State Department has not one but two anti-corruption units in Iraq, the Anti-corruption Working Group and the Office of Accountability and Transparency. The one boycotts the other's meetings and the OAT has had 4 directors in 10 months (2007), the most recent being a paralegal with no background in anti-corruption work. This would only be a concern if Iraq was one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. Oh wait.
272. On September 25, 2007, Logistics Health, a medical services company, won a 5 year contract worth up to $790 million dollars to provide immunizations, physicals, and dental exams to members of the Reserves and the National Guard despite criticisms of work done by Logistics in the past and the fact that two other companies had lower bids. The President of Logistics is Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from December 3, 2004 to January 26, 2005. Another notable name at Logistics is William Winkenwerder Jr. who joined the company on May 31, 2007. He had been Assistant Secretary of Defense for health affairs from 2001 until his resignation on April 16, 2007 and oversaw the program in question. As with all tales of the revolving door, we are expected to believe that this is all innocent coincidence.
273. Showing that it can now be trusted, FEMA deputy director Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson staged a fake news conference on October 23, 2007 about the agency's response to the Southern California wildfires. The press was given only 15 minutes notice. This made it impossible to attend, but reporters were given the option to listen but not ask questions by phone. FEMA staffers posing as reporters then lobbed softball questions which Johnson proceeded to swat out of the park. Unfortunately, some of the real reporters recognized the voices of the staffers over the phone, and the truth came out. For an agency whose credibility was blown to smithereens by its fumbling during Katrina, this was not the way to restore it.
....As a result of blowback from this story, on October 29, 2007, it was announced that FEMA's press chief Pat Philbin would not be taking over a similar position for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. Aside from getting caught, I would think this episode would have made him the perfect choice for the truth challenged McConnell.
274. Like Jose Padilla, Zacarias Moussaoui is another sad, bad man, only sadder and a lot loopier. He did have ties to al Qaeda but his connection to 9/11 remains unclear. He was in the country to learn to become a pilot, but he wasn't very good at it and succeeded only in making himself look suspicious. This resulted in his arrest on August 16, 2001 in Minnesota on an immigration violation. Local FBI wanted to search his laptop and apartment but were vetoed by their superiors. This represented a major blown opportunity since evidence from these might have led to members of the 9/11 network through Moussaoui's personal and financial contacts with them.
....His trial was a circus. Much of this was the result of Moussaoui's own unpredictable behavior, outbursts, and apparent mental instability, but the prosecution and government officials and witnesses added considerably to it. On the one hand, there was a defendant, seemingly oblivious to his legal jeopardy, who was often at war with everyone in the courtroom and frequently undercut his case. On the other, there was a prosecution determined to seek the death penalty for a connection to 9/11 that was largely unproven.
....The trial began on January 2, 2002 with Moussaoui refusing to enter a plea. Federal district judge Leonie Brinkema for Eastern Virginia entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. On April 22, 2002, he fired his attorneys. On June 13, 2002, he began defending himself with defense counsel standing by. In July 2002, he indicated that he wished to plead guilty to 4 of the charges. Judge Brinkema gave him a week to think about it and then withdrew the plea because of her doubts concerning his understanding of what he was doing. Then in a brilliant bit of legal theater Moussaoui asked to call other terrorists in US custody. This occupied the court from October 2002 to March 2005. The prosecution opposed the request. Brinkema took the death sentence off the table in retaliation. She was overturned. The defense took the witness request to the Supreme Court which denied certiorari, and returned the case to Brinkema. In the meantime on November 14, 2003, after various harangues and disruptions by Moussaoui, Brinkema rescinded his right to represent himself. Then on April 22, 2005, Moussaoui dropped another bombshell by pleading guilty to all 6 charges while still denying any connection to 9/11. Despite Moussaoui's obviously dysfunctional relationship with reality, Brinkema this time accepted his plea.
....The trial entered the penalty phase with Moussaoui continuing to act erratically. On February 14, 2006, prosecutors informed Brinkema that 3 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials had chosen not to speak with defense lawyers, even though none of them knew they had been asked and one said that he would have been willing to do so. Then on March 13, 2006, the prosecution informed Brinkema of witness tampering by TSA attorney Carla Martin and other improprieties. In emails to TSA officials, Martin acknowledged that the government's case was weak and coached witnesses on how to punch up their testimony. She made available to two of them transcripts of witnesses who had already testified and she advised another not to talk to defense lawyers. Prosecutors also admitted that 2 witnesses had watched television coverage of the trial because the prosecution had failed to inform them of the judge's order not to. Finally, one of the prosecutors David Novak had spoken to 2 of the witnesses on the phone at the same time. He stated that it was for scheduling purposes only and no content of the trial was discussed.
....Despite the government's malfeasance and misfeasance, Brinkema allowed the trial to go forward but without the TSA witnesses. This seriously weakened the government's case (which was by no means that strong to begin with) since its strategy had been to show what the FBI and the TSA might have done to prevent 9/11 if Moussaoui had told investigators what he knew at the time of his arrest (ignoring the FBI's failure to pursue its investigation after his arrest). In other words, prosecutors were arguing that Moussaoui should be put to death on the basis of a hypothetical half of whose premise had just gone up in smoke and the other half of which depended on the jury overlooking the government's own inaction. On May 3, 2006, the jury failed to approve the death penalty, and Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison.
....The Moussaoui case represents a series of "might have beens": What might have happened if the Bush White House had not de-emphasized terrorism pre-9/11, if it had sent out an alert throughout the government after the August 6, 2001 PDB: Bin Laden determined to attack in US, if it had paid attention to CIA Director George Tenet's warnings, or if it had paid heed to what FBI agents in Minnesota and elsewhere were trying to tell it. What might have happened post-9/11 if Moussaoui's defense counsel had been allowed to mount an adequate defense without being sabotaged by a disturbed client, a permissive judge, and governmental misconduct. And no, I am not saying that Moussaoui should have been found innocent, only that his trial was start to finish an awful avoidable mess.
275. Seven years after 9/11, the Department of Energy has failed to secure from terrorist attack bomb grade fissile material at 5 of 11 nuclear facilities either by reducing the number of sites holding such material or by hardening them. Instead it has sought to weaken the security guidelines. Two sites one in Idaho and the other in Oak Ridge, Tennessee are not expected to be in compliance with 2005 standards until 2013 and 2015, respectively.
276. On October 26, 2007, it was announced that DNI Mike McConnell will no longer release summaries of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). The ostensible reason is that they give information to our enemies. If you have ever read one of these summaries and the oracular language they are written in, you know that they mostly state the obvious. Their importance lies in at what point the intelligence community is willing to put into writing what is mostly common sense for an Administration that doesn't want to hear it. Besides another step in McConnell's descent into paranoia and his obsession with keeping us uniformed, the speculation is that Dick Cheney was unhappy about the most recent NIE's failure to beat the drums of war on Iran.
277. Donald Vance was an American working for an Iraqi private security firm. He suspected that the company was involved in supplying arms to militias and death squads associated with the Shia dominated Interior Ministry. On a trip to Chicago in October 2005 he met with and agreed to be an informer for the FBI. On April 15, 2007, feeling unsafe, he phoned the US embassy and a military rescue team was sent to extract him. He told the team of two large weapons caches and was taken to the embassy where he was interviewed by embassy personnel. Later that night he and another American Nathan Ertel were handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken to Camp Cropper where for the next 97 days, Vance was interrogated, sleep deprived, and denied access to an attorney. In a truly Kafkaesque twist, Vance was being held for knowledge of the activities that he was informing on to the FBI. Ertel was designated as "innocent" on May 7 although it took 18 more days for him to be released. For his part, Vance was held until July 20, 2007 although the military knew of his FBI connection within the first 3 weeks of his detention. On December 18, 2006, Vance filed suit against the US government and Donald Rumsfeld for violation of his Constitutional rights. This is that rare combination of brutal and clueless that distills in a single episode why the Bush Administration should not be allowed expansive Executive powers, why the Iraq adventure was doomed from the get go, and why whistleblowers should be given combat pay.
278. Sami al Haj was a cameraman for al Jazeera arrested in Pakistan on December 15, 2001. He was transported to Guantanamo where he has been held ever since without charge. al Jazeera has often been critical of this country's Middle East policies. Almost all of al Haj's interrogations have centered on establishing a putative connection between al Jazeera and al Qaeda.
....Bilal Hussein a photographer for the AP in Iraq who won part of a 2005 Pulitzer was arrested in April 2006 although the arrest was not acknowledged until September 17, 2006. He is being held in Iraq by the US outside Iraqi jurisdiction despite the protestations of the AP.
....These two cases show to what extent the US military is willing to go after journalists who do not toe its propaganda line and bring into question the Pentagon's story that the missile strike on April 8, 2003 on the Baghdad offices of al Jazeera in which a reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed was an accident.
279. Evisceration of the US Commission on Civil Rights. By law, no more than half of the commission's 8 members can belong to any one party. A December 6, 2004 DOJ memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales opined that party affiliation meant only the nominee's party registration at the time of their appointment. The next day Bush selected two Republicans who re-registered as independents for places on the commission, giving Republicans an effective 6-2 majority. As a result, the commission's practice of holding fact finding hearings 3 times a year was done away with. Projects looking at civil rights enforcement and undercounting of minorities by the Census Bureau were cancelled. In their place, the commission issued reports on how integration in primary and secondary schools did not improve education, questioning how minorities were selected for top law schools, and recommending doing away with set asides for minority contractors. (see also 232)
280. A case for war with Iran began early in the Bush Administration. In January 29, 2002 State of the Union, Iran was added into Bush's new Axis of Evil as something of an afterthought:
Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [WMD] and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom. States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.The argument waxed and waned over the years, often in reaction to developments real or perceived in Iran's nuclear program but also to other events. In July-August 2006, Iran was blamed for its support of Hezbollah during Israel's bombing of Lebanon and then in 2007 for its much more tangential backing of Hamas against Fatah in the Palestinian civil war. In this country in 2007, the Iran blame game developed 3 well defined prongs: in the White House, the Congress, and the media.
Bush at an October 17, 2007 news conference on the nuclear aspect:
I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace. But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.And Cheney before Washington Institute for Near East Peace (WINEP) on October 21, 2007:
The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.Then there was the Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) story of Iranians supplying Shia militias with especially lethal IEDs which the military and intelligence community pitched to credulous journalists. On February 10, 2007, Michael Gordon came out with the first of several pieces at the New York Times which were notable for their anonymous sourcing and unsubstantiated claims. These articles were heavily criticized in the blogosphere but it didn't stop Gordon from revisiting the subject on March 27, 2007 and April 8, 2007 and recycling many of the previous charges.
....In Gordon's original piece the accusation was made that the smuggling of EFPs into Iraq was "approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei and carried out by the Quds Force." This claim quickly fell apart but it did not stop Bush without any additional evidence from asserting in a February 14, 2007 Valentine's Day presser:
I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.'s that have harmed our troops . . . And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what's worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?Blaming the Iranians for American deaths in Iraq provided a useful excuse for Bush's failures there and helped gin up the case for a future conflict with Iran.
....Bush's bellicosity toward Iran worried some in Congress. Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) on January 16, 2007 sponsored a resolution (H. Con. Res. 33) calling for an explicit Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) before any attack on Iran. The Democratic leadership essentially killed it by referring it to committee.
....On March 12, 2007, Pelosi stripped out similar language requiring Congressional authorization for an attack on Iran from the Iraq supplemental bill (HR 2206). The next day she addressed AIPAC's annual conference. A coincidence I'm sure.
....On May 16, 2007, Defazio brought up the issue of an AUMF again in H. Amdt. 187, an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill HR 1585. It was defeated 136-288.
....On June 20, 2007, H. Con. Res. 21 a resolution sponsored by Steven Rothman (D-NJ) called for the UN to take action against Iran for its nuclear program and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for violating the UN Convention on Genocide for his remarks (which Middle East expert Juan Cole said were mistranslated and misconstrued) calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map". It passed 411-2.
....On July 11, 2007, the Senate passed a resolution (S.Amdt 2073) introduced by Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) 97-0. It repeated most of the charges made in the press against Iran but actually only required reports on Iran's activities.
....Back in the House HR1400 the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 sponsored by Tom Lantos (D-CA) passed 397-16. It increased nuclear and financial sanctions and sought to "place the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRG] on the list of specially designated global terrorists, and place the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters."
....On September 26, 2007, the Senate passed the Kyl-Lieberman (S.Amdt. 3017 as modified) 76-22. Like the Lantos bill, the original text asked that the IRG be put on the list of specially designated global terrorists but contained two more disturbing paragraphs:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxiesThe Congressional actions should be seen as a continuum moving from a demand for an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) as was done with Iraq, to a laundry list of charges against Iran, to sanctions, and finally to a call for military action. The final text of Kyl-Lieberman took a step back allowing military action against Iran but only in Iraq:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to stop inside Iraq the violent activities and destabilizing influence of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies.
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States National power inside Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments in support of the policy with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.It is unclear if there will be a conflict with Iran. Cheney and the neocons want it. The media are complicit, and the Democrats complacent. The costs and repercussions, however, would be great and not easily controlled. Such a conflict would be far worse than Iraq, and that is what is so troubling. Bush's Iran policy is deeply reminiscent of the stumbling, ill-considered lurch that took us into Iraq. We seem to have learned nothing.
....On December 3, 2007, the summary of the November 2007 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) was released (despite DNI Mike McConnell saying he wasn't going to do this anymore). It stated that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in Fall 2003 (blowing the Cheney backed case for war to pieces and raising questions why it was pushed for as long as it was). It further stated that even if Iran revived its program it was unlikely to have sufficient enriched uranium for a bomb by 2009, that it might have the capability to build a bomb in the 2010-2015 time range but that it probably would be after 2013 and possibly after 2015.
....The Administration sat on this NIE for a year due to its content (November 2006). The original push for a change came from notes obtained in the summer of 2006 exchanged among Iranian officials complaining about the shutting down of the nuclear weapons program. In the subsequent months, the case only became stronger with the defection of a Revolutionary Guard General Ali Reza Asghari to Turkey in February 2007 and old communication intercepts the government came across in July 2007.
281. Donald Kerr, a former SAIC executive and current No. 2 to DNI Mike McConnell, in remarks on October 23, 2007 concerning the opening of the National Intelligence Coordination Center (NIC-C) a project to share intelligence collected across federal agencies stated that
"Too often, privacy has been equated with anonymity; and it's an idea that is deeply rooted in American culture. The Long Ranger wore a mask but Tonto didn't seem to need one even though he did the dirty work for free. You'd think he would probably need one even more. But in our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity - or the appearance of anonymity - is quickly becoming a thing of the past."Looking past the crude racism, Kerr's view is that if we have a Facebook page or use a credit card online, we should have no objection to the government collecting information on us without our consent or knowledge and without a warrant. What is it about the 4th Amendment that these people do not understand or can't remember?
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.I suppose the Constitution like the Geneva Conventions has become "quaint" and if we uphold the Constitution, the terrorists win.
282. One of the most egregious violations of Constitutional rights during the Bush Administration has been the establishment of the extremely inaptly named "free speech" zones. The Secret Service has worked with local police to create areas out of sight of and up to a half mile away from Bush appearances for anyone deemed a protester. If anyone refuses to be removed to these locations, they are arrested. Only anti-Bush demonstrators are restricted to the zones. Bush supporters are left alone.
....When Bush went to Pittsburgh on Labor Day (September 2) 2002, a retired steel worker Bill Neel refused to go to a free speech zone and was arrested. His crime? He was carrying a sign which read: "Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us." Neel famously commented, "As far as I'm concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone." In throwing out the disorderly conduct charge against him, state district court judge Shirley Rowe Trkula wondered, "I believe this is America. Whatever happened to "I don't agree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it?"
....Anti-free speech procedures were codified in a Presidential Advance Manual of October 2002 written by a White House staffer Gregory Jenkins. The manual recommends: 1) using the Secret Service to work with local police to "designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or mortorcade route"; 2) ticketing as a means of "deterring potential protestors from attending events"; 3) the formation of "rally squads" made up of but "not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities" whose job is to use "signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform" and "lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors"; 4) and finally, "As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."
....Also in October 2002, Brett Bursey a veteran protestor was arrested in Columbia, South Carolina for holding a "No war for oil" sign. Bursey was standing in a crowd of people with pro-Bush signs but he was the only one directed to go to a "free speech" zone half a mile away. On asking, he was told that the reason he was being removed was because of the content of his sign. A local charge of trespass was dropped since Bursey was standing on public property, which is not a crime in South Carolina. At this point, US Attorney Strom Thurmond, Jr. charged Bursey with violation of an exclusion zone around the President. It is not clear where this exclusion zone was nor why Bursey was the only one in the crowd so charged. A US Magistrate Bristow Marchant denied Bursey a jury trial, found him guilty, and ordered him to pay a $500 fine. Bursey appealed and lost.
....On July 4, 2004, Jeffery and Nicole Rank were arrested in Charleston, West Virginia for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts with Bush's name with a circle around it and a line drawn through it. The back of one bore the message "Love America, Hate Bush" and the other "Regime Change Starts At Home." They refused to cover the t-shirts or leave and were removed in handcuffs. Nicole Rank was also temporarily suspended from her job at FEMA. Charges of trespass were later dismissed and the city of Charleston extended an apology. The ACLU took up their case suing the Secret Service and Gregory Jenkins. On August 16, 2007, the Secret Service settled with the Ranks for $80,000 but did not admit fault.
....On March 21, 2005, three Denver residents were ejected from a taxpayer funded townhall meeting for arriving in a car that had a bumper sticker "No more blood for oil". A Republican volunteer Michael Casper in a sworn deposition (as part of an ACLU suit) said he was directed to remove the group by Steven Atkiss, then Deputy Director of White House Advance, and the lead advance staffer for the event James O‚Keefe. The White House had for 2 years refused to say who was involved in the incident.
....These are only a few of many similar incidents. The Secret Service seems to make no distinction between protecting the President from physical harm and shielding him from political embarrassment and accountability. As for the First Amendment with its guarantees of free speech and peaceful assembly, the White House and Secret Service would not know it if it bit them.
283. On November 13, 2007 at 7:30 in the evening in an email, the White House released an Executive Order creating a system of Performance Improvement Officers to monitor that "Agencies shall apply taxpayer resources efficiently in a manner that maximizes the effectiveness of Government programs in serving the American people." This may sound like a "good government" initiative, but is rather another backhanded attempt to politicize the bureaucracy. Performance Improvement Officers (think political commissars) are to "advise the head of the agency, with respect to a program administered in whole or in part by the agency" and "assist the head of the agency in the development and use within the agency of performance measures in personnel performance appraisals, and, as appropriate, other agency personnel and planning processes."
....There are several aspects of the order which raise red flags. First, this is one of the most corrupt, incompetent, and crony filled Administrations in the history of the Republic. Second, real oversight has always been anathema to Bush and the Republicans. Third, there is already a system of Inspector Generals whose business it is to see that agencies do the jobs they have been tasked with. True, this system has been greatly weakened by the Bush predilection for filling these positions with cronies, but that should not cause anyone to think that Performance Improvement Officers will be any different. Fourth, this Administration has had 7 years to increase efficiency in agencies. If "performance improvement" had ever been a priority, you might think it would have been addressed by now. Fifth, the Executive Order does an end run around Congress. If this were a legitimate proposal, why an Executive Order instead of an enacted law? The answer is because an act of Congress would invite outside oversight. That is not the object of the exercise. Instead, this is a last ditch effort to stack the federal bureaucracy with political hacks and influence agency policies long after the Bush Administration is gone.
284. On November 28, 2007, Al Hubbard a top Bush economic advisor and chairman of the National Economic Council announced his resignation to be effective by the end of the year. Hubbard joined the Council at the beginning of Bush's second term and leaves in the midst of the subprime fiasco, an ongoing crisis in credit markets, a correction in the stock market, and skyhigh oil prices. On all this, he opined, "We obviously have problems in the housing sector and we have problems in the financial sector, but . . . real America is doing just fine." "Real" in this context I take to mean "wealthy". Hubbard backed the Administration's benighted stance on global warming, its push to privatize Social Security, its opposition to the SCHIP bill (see item 222), and its desire to tax healthcare benefits as income. In other words, Hubbard is a near archetypal example of the Bush advisor. They screw everything up. They get everything wrong, and do so from positions of great responsibility. Then they leave.
285. In the waning months of the Bush Presidency, industry lobbyists are pushing for rule changes at federal departments and agencies. Once finalized these rules can not be easily rescinded or modified by an incoming Administration. The National Association of Manufacturers wants to restrict a Labor Department regulation requiring businesses of 50 or more employees to give their workers up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for a child birth or personal or family medical problem. Coal companies want the Interior Department to grant them the right to dump the results of their mountaintop mining operations into surrounding valleys and creeks. Some coal powered electric plant operators want the EPA to grant them a waiver on installing anti-pollution equipment. Poultry producer groups want to be able to dump ammonia laden waste from their chickens on the ground. Car manufacturers want the Transportation Department to weaken car roof standards to withstand rollover accidents. Trucking companies also want the department to increase the maximum number of hours truckers can drive. Hopefully, lawsuits will delay many of these until the next Administration but the rush is on.
286. In November 2007 in a British appeals court, a lawyer representing the US Alun Jones QC responded to a query that the US has the right to kidnap British citizens if they are wanted under US law. This applies not just to terrorism cases but any offense. It also is applicable to a citizen of any country regardless of whether or not the US has an extradition treaty with it. The case in the UK revolves around members of the Tollman family who are fighting extradition to the US for bank fraud and tax evasion. In 2005, US officials tried to have Gavin Tollman arrested in Canada and driven to the US border where he was to be turned over to US authorities. A Canadian judge ordered his release citing the failure of US officials to follow normal extradition procedures.
287. Much as he could scarcely remember Ken Lay after the collapse of Enron (see item 88), in January 2006 Bush said of Abramoff, "I don't know him. I've never sat down with him and had a discussion with the guy." The White House has so far admitted 7 visits by Abramoff, 6 early in 2001 and one in 2004. Judicial Watch, a conservative group (yes, I know something of a surprise), has sought in a suit all White House records concerning Abramoff's visits. The White House has countered with yet another State Secrets argument, that release of Secret Service logs would result in the release of Sensitive Security Records and information about how the Secret Service protects the President. At the same time the Bush Administration rationalizes its increasingly intrusive and widespread surveillance of Americans without warrant and in contravention of the 4th Amendment, it hides even its most mundane activities behind stonewalls, stalls, classification, and specious State Secret arguments.
288. One of the unexpected turns in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (see item 274) came in October 2002 when he sought testimony from other terrorists in US custody. Based on a CIA declaration of May 9, 2003, the government made the following disclosure to the defense:
Question: Whether the interrogations of (redacted) are being recorded in any format?
Answer: No.On April 22, 2005, Moussaoui decided to plead guilty on all charges while denying any role in the 9/11 attacks, something of a logical contradiction. On November 14, 2005, in anticipation of the penalty phase of the trial, a CIA executive declared again:
"U.S. government does not have any video or audio tapes of the interrogations of (redacted)"In a letter dated October 25, 2007 to US District Judge Brinkema who presided over the Moussaoui trial, US attorneys stated that the CIA notified them on September 13, 2007 that a videotape of an interrogation had turned up. A further search was made which uncovered a second videotape and a short audio tape. Prosecutors maintained that none of these made reference to Moussaoui or to 9/11 and that therefore these errors "do not prejudice the defendant in light of his guilty plea, extensive admissions in the penalty phase, and the jury's decision not to impose a death sentence." In other words, no harm no foul.
....However as a result of this development in the Moussaoui case, on December 6, 2007, the story came out that the CIA had made tapes of harsh interrogations, i.e. torture, of detainees among them Abu Zabaydah and that the CIA in 2005 headed at the time by Porter Goss (see item 43) had destroyed them. As the prosecutors' letter in the Moussaoui case showed, they did not get them all. In a statement the current CIA head General Michael Hayden said that such videotaping was stopped in 2002 and that the destruction of those videotapes that existed was done to protect CIA officials and their families from retaliation by terrorists. Other CIA officials admitted it was also to avoid legal jeopardy. These events raise serious legal issues: destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, not to mention the awareness of intelligence officials that what they were doing was torture.
....As a parenthesis, Hayden contention that videotaping of interrogation sessions ended in 2002 appears to be at variance with the government's own admission that it 'lost" the videotape of Jose Padilla's last interrogation of March 2, 2004 (before his transfer to civilian custody on January 3, 2006). Or were other intelligence entities videotaping interrogations besides the CIA?
289. Approximately 2.5 million Americans apply for Social Security disability each year. About 2/3 of these are rejected at the state level. Of these, about 575,000 appeal this initial decision and 2/3 of these (~380,000) eventually win a reversal. As a result of underfunding by the Bush Administration and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, a backlog in 2000 of 311,000 cases has grown to 755,000 and the waiting time for an appeals hearing has increased from 258 days to more than 500. Reducing the backlog would cost an extra $100 million a year. Bush would prefer to spend the money on his wars. It's important to have priorities.
290. On December 15, 2007, it came out that the Bush Administration is circulating proposed new rules that would place the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps of each service under the control the politically appointed general counsel of that service and give these general counsels power over the promotions of JAG officers. This would effectively politicize military justice and shows that the attempts to politicize the Department of Justice exemplified by the US Attorneys scandal (see item 2) were not an isolated event but part of an ongoing and more general program. It was announced on December 19, 2007 that the DOD's General Counsel William Haynes who had pushed the idea decided to shelve it "in light of the feedback". Sometimes shining a bright light in a dark corner has an effect.
291. The unseen costs of Bush's war. Up to 109 active duty military personnel committed suicide this year through November 2007. There were 99 confirmed suicides in 2006, at the time the highest number since the First Gulf War in 1991. This does not tell the whole story. There is no national tracking of suicides among veterans. A CBS investigation using data from states for 2005 into this aspect showed that veterans in general commit suicide at a rate roughly twice that of non-veterans (18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000 versus 8.9 per 100,000). However, among young veterans ages 20 to 24 who served during the war on terror (data from 2004-2005), the suicide rate was 2 1/2 to nearly 4 times as high as for the general population (22.9 to 31.9 per 100,000 versus 8.3 per 100,000
....In the period 2001-2007, the military discharged 22,500 service people from the armed forces for a "pre-existing" personality disorder. Those who were so discharged lost healthcare and disability benefits and in some cases were forced to repay re-enlistment bonuses. In fact, many of them were suffering from problems they acquired during their service, such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
....A study in the November 14, 2007 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) compared a health questionnaire given to service people immediately after leaving Iraq and again at a median of 6 months later. 88,235 Army soldiers were found to have responded to both questionnaires in the time period between June 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006. The cohort obtained contained both active duty and National Guard and Reserve. Marines were not included because few had completed both questionnaires. Both active duty and reserve soldiers reported similar rates of traumatic combat experiences (69.6% vs 66.5%). Based on the two questionnaires, clinicians identified 20.3% of active duty and 42.4% of reserve/National Guard who required mental health treatment. Increasing problems between the two questionnaires included:
Intrapersonal conflicts: active duty 3.5% to 14.0% and reserves 4.2% to 21.1%
PTSD: active duty 11.8% to 16.7% and reserves 12.7% to 24.5%
Depression: active duty 4.7% to 10.3% and reserves 3.8% to 13.0%
Overall mental health risk: active duty 17.0% to 27.1% and reserves 17.5% to 35.5%Of those who reported a high rate of PTSD symptoms on the first questionnaire 59.2% of active duty and 49.4% of reserves reported improvement by the second questionnaire. However, twice as many new cases of PTSD showed up on the second questionnaire.
....While the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans recite endlessly the mantra of supporting the troops, the reality is that beyond using them in their wars they have no interest in them.
292. In a civil complaint, Jamie Leigh Jones alleged that at the age of 19 while working for Halliburton/KBR in Houston, Texas, she was forced into a sexual relationship with her supervisor Eric Iler. She was able to obtain a transfer to another department Overseas Administrative Services (OAS) and a posting to Iraq. Iler made efforts to gain a supervisory position over her there. When this did not happen he filed a bad recommendation in her file. Jones arrived at Camp Hope in the Green Zone in Baghdad on July 25, 2005 and was quartered in essentially a male barracks. On July 28, 2007, she was drugged and brutally gang raped by KBR employees working as firefighters, including Charles Boartz named in the complaint. She informed a KBR official of the rape and was seen by KBR medical personnel. State Department officials were also notified and a rape kit was administered when she was seen at the Army hospital. The rape kit was turned over to KBR employees and subsequently disappeared. Jones was then held in a trailer against her will without food, water, or means of communication until she was able to persuade a guard to lend her his cell phone. She was able to get through to her father in Texas who contacted their Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Jones was then given the choice of either getting over it or returning to Texas with no assurance of a job. She filed suit in Texas against Halliburton, KBR, named and unnamed defendants, and the US government on May 16, 2007. Halliburton has sought to be removed from the suit because it has since divested itself of KBR. KBR has sought to enforce a provision of Jones‚ contract for binding arbitration, where it has usually been successful. This would also keep the file sealed. Jones‚ husband also being a plaintiff, however, is not so constrained. On December 19, 2007, Jones testified before Congress.
....In some ways, this was inevitable. Bremer's Order 17 placed contractors outside Iraqi law and US officials at State and Defense made no attempt to place them under American jurisdiction. Even after her rape no US government entity made a serious attempt to investigate the rape. Nor did Halliburton, KBR, and OAS exercise any meaningful guidance over their employees. The result was that contractors operated essentially outside any law, and they behaved accordingly. Shooting Iraqis or raping a young woman, the attitude of impunity is the same. They do it because they know they can.