Why Not Snakes?

The CIA was authorized under the Bush Administration to use insects as interrogation enhancements. But no snakes. Not one thing about snakes. I’m smelling some kind of injustice here.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

We found out today that the Bush Administration wrote a memo that authorized the use of insects as an interrogation enhancement. Here’s the creepy crawly from Time:

The CIA desire to use insects during interrogations has not previously been disclosed, according to two civil liberties experts contacted by TIME. The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002, described the CIA’s plans for using insects this way:

“You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a catapiller in the box with him.”

An additional sentence at the end of this paragraph is redacted in the copy made public Thursday. Later in the same memo, Bybee concludes that “an individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe physical pain or suffering if a caterpiller was placed in the box.” Bybee adds, however, that the interrogators should not tell Zubaydah that the insect sting “would produce death or severe pain.”

This sounds like the rejected script of a James Bond film or something. The evil guy, who has a lair inside a mountain, tortures Bond with insects. No, no, the rewrite says they have to use snakes. Hey, even Indiana Jones hates snakes!

Man, this is lame. The Bushies simply had no imagination. They should have had Simon Cowell lecture the terrorist suspects, or just shown them pictures of Dick Cheney and his friend with the shot up face. These guys needed some serious advice. Insects, indeed. What about the SNAKES!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

DOJ Drops Case Against Ted Stevens

Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In October 2008, Senator Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted on several charges of official corruption. He subsequently lost his reelection bid in November. Since then, there have been a variety of defense motions to overturn the conviction and have a new trial.

Today, the Department of Justice announced that it’s dropping all charges against Stevens:

The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence from the senator’s defense team during his trial.

The reversal is an embarrassment for the department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it…

Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General? The conspiracy theorist in me leans toward the former. The pragmatist in me leans toward the latter, because it seems quite hasty for current Attorney General Eric Holder to totally drop the charges, unless the errors were so egregious as to prevent a retrial.

There’s gotta be one hell of a backstory to this case. I wonder if we’ll ever hear it?

Update: Daily Kos has a short diary that explains why AG Holder’s decision was the right one.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Non-Racists Indicted for Burning Black Church on Election Day

The indictments came down in the Massachusetts arson attack on a black church, an attack that happened the night Barack Obama was elected President. But neighbors and family are insisting the young perps are not racist. I suppose it is all an accident or something.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I know that headline seems odd, so let’s start from the beginning. That might better help you understand. Benjamin Haskell, Michael Jacques, And Thomas Gleason were indicted a couple days ago for setting fire to an African American church on election night in Springfield, MA. The indictment came from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and while one might wonder why the indictment didn’t happen sooner, it is somewhat comforting that this indictment has now gone forward. Here’s the report from the DOJ press release:

Benjamin Haskell, 22, Michael Jacques, 24, and Thomas Gleason, 21, all of Springfield, Mass., were arrested early this morning on a civil rights violation, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker; U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Glenn N. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – Boston Field Division; Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Boston Field Office; Colonel Mark Delaney, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; William Bennett, Hampden County District Attorney; and Commissioner William J. Fitchet of the Springfield Police Department.

“Today’s arrests demonstrate the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws,” Becker said. “Racial violence tears at the fabric of our great nation and will not be tolerated.”

In documents unsealed today, the government alleged that in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, Haskel, Jacques and Gleason engaged in a conspiracy to burn and succeeded at burning the Macedonia Church of God in Christ’s building, a newly constructed building where religious services were to be held for a predominantly African American congregation. The building was 75 percent completed at the time of the fire, which destroyed the entire structure, leaving only the metal superstructure and a small portion of the front corner intact. Investigators determined the fire to be incendiary in nature and caused by an unknown quantity of gasoline applied to the exterior and interior of the building.

Haskel, Jacques and Gleason have been arrested and charged in a complaint with conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate the parishioners of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in the free exercise or enjoyment of their rights as secured in the Constitution and laws of the United States.

“We will not tolerate those who victimize others,” said U.S. Attorney Sullivan. “Racism has devastating effects on individuals, and stifles the quality of life in the community. I am angered and saddened that the neighborhood has endured such cruel acts by those living in the same community.”

“This crime has caused a great deal of physical and emotional harm. It is a crime against our entire community. All of us have been injured. All of us are hurt, but we are also resolved to hold those responsible accountable,” said District Attorney Bennett.

Non-Racists? Did I really write that in the headline up there? In the usual news piece where a local paper, this time the aptly named Springfield Republican, interviews the neighbors and friends of the lowly perps, several of those interviewed testify that Haskell, Jacques and Gleason are not racists. Here’s a bit of that testimony, from the Springfield Republican:

In the week since a collection of federal, state, and city law enforcement officers arrested Gleason, Haskell, and Jacques, relatives and friends expressed shock and dismay that the young men could be involved.

Michael McDonald, Haskell’s father, said vehemently that his son is innocent.

“He is a good kid, and he didn’t do it,” McDonald said. “Come on. He was not raised like that.”

The authorities are portraying the incident as “a racist thing,” McDonald said. His son, he added, “has black friends and listens to rap music.”

Gleason’s father, Thomas A. Gleason, also disputed that his son could commit a hate crime based on either race or religion.

“As far as we are concerned, he is innocent,” he said. “He was home when this happened, as far as I know.”

The elder Gleason said he raised his son as a Christian.

“He doesn’t have an enemy in the world, as far as I know. He has a heart the size of Texas.”

He noted that, along with Cullins, three of his son’s eight friends who attended a Wednesday detention hearing are black.

“A heart the size of Texas,” eh? Is there an implication there that there is no racism in Texas, or that these boys, raised as Christians couldn’t possibly be racists? I suppose the father of Thomas Gleason thinks there was a case of mistaken identity or something. Or that it was all an accident caused when his son was carrying a can of gasoline through the church, like he was taking a shortcut or something back to his car. Yeah, that’s it! Heck, if it was a church with white members Thomas Gleason would have accidently torched it as well, I suppose.

No, we are not yet in a post-racial world, folks.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Obama Acts, Cornyn Whines, Specter Snivels

Barack Obama denounced torture in his Inaugural speech, and now he has signed four executive orders helping to end the practice by US personnel. John Cornyn, on the other hand, is holding up Eric Holder’s AG nomination because Holder won’t swear not to prosecute torturers, or those who gave the orders. Specter is with Cornyn.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Surely it should have dawned on Senator John Cornyn Tuesday that there’s a new regime in town and that Barack Hussein Obama will not tolerate torture. Surely he hard this section in Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Maybe Cornyn didn’t understand the Inaugural address, and that’s why he’s holding up Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation? Well, if Senator Cornyn did not understand Barack Obama’s stand on torture, then the executive orders Barack Obama signed today just might get through Cornyn’s thick skull. Heck, maybe Cornyn needs some help from George Bush to understand this, after all, Cornyn is thought to be one of the stupidest Senators in the Senate. But back to Obama’s executive orders today. He is closing Gitmo within a year, forming a commission to figure out what to do with the inmates at Gitmo, some of whom are dangerous, eliminate torture by US personnel by requiring the strict adherence to the US Army Field Manual, and special circumstances concerning Ali al-Marri. Sounds to me like there’s a new sheriff in town.

But Senator Cornyn wants to leave that sheriff without his chief officer, the Attorney General. Why does Cornyn oppose Eric Holder’s nomination? Holder has yet to say whether he will or will not prosecute cases of torture perpetrated by US personnel. Cornyn is defending those who have tortured on the floor of the Senate. He’s taking up the cause Bush didn’t have the stones to do when he failed to give a blanket pardon to all who tortured in Bush’s name.

Senator Cornyn isn’t the only one who wants the torturers and those who ordered them to go scot free. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post report:

But even as Cornyn was getting out of the way of one appointee to President Obama’s Cabinet, he raised new questions about another. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided yesterday morning to delay a vote to send Holder’s nomination to the full Senate while lawmakers attended the morning National Prayer Service with Obama. The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday, but Republicans then requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules.

. . .

Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week. Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices. Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally.

So Snarlin’ Arlen is right there with his buddy John Cornyn. I’m sick of Arlen Specter. He may have a reputation for bipartisanship, but Arlen Specter failed to protect us from Bush’s authorization of the use of torture, he failed to protect us from Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department, he failed to prevent domestic spying, and he now looks to be a failure in tracking down just how the Bush Administration instituted its regime of lawlessness. Maybe he’s got a magic waterboarding theory or something that makes everybody immune.

OK, I’m angry at Arlen Specter once again. If there is any man in the US Senate who knows his own complicity in allowing the Bush Administration destruction of the Department of Justice, it should be Specter. And if Specter has a hope in Hell of negotiating his way to victory in 2010 against Allyson Schwartz or Pat Murphy or Joe Sestak, then he needs to show that he understands that the rule of law is important. Murphy and Sestak, at least, will pound him on the issue, and they’ve both got battlefield cred. Any of those candidates will use this opposition to Eric Holder as Specter trying to give one last bone to Bush, who abused the constitution far worse than any President we have had in years. For Specter’s own sake he needs to get behind Holder immediately.

I know someone who is having lunch with Mr. Specter tomorrow. OK, I know several someones, and I just might pass along a question and see if one of the folks, Specter donors all, will ask it. Give me some suggestions, please, but make them politic, something that can be asked in a roomful of people who know the constitution well and are dedicated to defending it.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Alberto Gonzales Can’t Find a Job, Whines

Alberto Gonzlaes has decided to write a book. It will consist of several hundred blank pages, as he simply doesn’™t recall much of what he did during his tenure in the Bush Administration. What is pitiful is that Gonzales compares himself to victims of the War on Terror, because the Senate picked on him, I suppose. Shameful and pitiful.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Republicans have been unable or unwilling to protect their own, and have not found a nice, cushy job for amnesiac and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Poor Alberto Gonzales. He’™s whining to the Wall Street Journal about his treatment on Captial Hill and et cetera, and has now decided to write a tell all book. (OK, the jokes about how he could possibly write a book if he ‘œcan’™t recall’ are cheap, if accurate.) Gonzales, famous for tracking down John Ashcroft in order to justify violating the constitution with the NSA domestic surveillance program, is now whining because, as a lawyer charged with knowing the law, he’™s got a track record of not recalling how he violated the constitution. But the whiney complaints are good reading, at least when in a Wall Street Journal blog:

Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration’™s ‘œwar on terror.’ He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.

‘œWhat is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?’ he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.

During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that ‘œfor some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror.’

This is pretty much the most clueless statement I can imagine. The treatment Gonzales received concerned the program of politicizing the department he was in charge of, the Department of Justice. It came after a string of answers which showed Gonzales either didn’™t know at all what was happening in his own DOJ, or was purposely misleading Senators with a string of ‘œI do not recall’ answers. Gonzales now doesn’™t just fail to recall, he fails to understand the enormity of his incometencies. Look for no responsibility taken in this book.

Worse here is that Gonzales compares himself to the real victims in the War on Terror, the men and women who died on 9/11, the soldiers who died because of Bush’™s policies, the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead. . . those are victims of the ‘œWar on Terror.’ Mr. Gonzales is at worst complicit in some of those deaths in that he helped justify some ugly policies. At best, Gonzales is merely a bumbling incompetent, and thus his is not a tragic story. Tragedy requires one fall from great heights, after all, and while Gonzales’™ role in the Bush Administration was a high-ranking one, it was still a role in the failed and incompetent Bush Administration.

The interview with the WSJ is a bit pitiful and self-serving, of course. Gonzales is a Republican, after all. Here’™s another excerpt:

Among other things, Mr. Gonzales said Tuesday that he didn’™t play a central role in drafting the widely criticized legal opinions that allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to use aggressive interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects and expanded the president’™s power to hold ‘œunlawful combatants’ and terrorism suspects indefinitely. He also said he told the truth to Congress about a classified eavesdropping program authorized by the president, and admitted to making mistakes in handling the U.S. attorney firings while maintaining that he made the right decisions. He says that while he bears responsibility as former Attorney General that ‘œdoesn’™t absolve other individuals of responsibility.’

Mr. Gonzales, 53 years old, doesn’™t have a publisher for his book. He said he is writing it if only ‘œfor my sons, so at least they know the story.’

This last bit seems a bit poignant. Gonzales gives excuses about his behavior concerning the NSA program and the torture policies of the Bush Administration, and then cops a little responsibility about the US Attorney scandal. I’™m surprised he admits to anything, really. This guy is universally considered a liar and an incompetent, after all. But it is poignant because it appears Gonzales knows that the only ones he can convince about his good name and reputation are his own sons. How far he has fallen.

Let’™s not let Alberto Gonzales off the hook, though. He was a lawyer with a degree from Harvard when he was hired by President Bush. He’™d worked for Bush in Texas, so likely knew what he was getting himself in for. There are no excuses for the damage he did to our constitution, and while Alberto Gonzales’™ sons may indeed believe his accounts, it is unlikely anyone else will. I’™m just wondering where the man finds a publisher who will touch the book.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Activist Judge Alert: Rules Bush Advisors NOT Immune from Congress Subpoenas

Judge John G. Bates of the US District Court ofor the District of Columbia has ruled against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, saying they have no immunity when it comes to testifying before Congress about the firings of US Attorneys. I suppose the Bush appointed judge, a US Attorney himself once upon a time, respects US Attorney independence.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Well, look to the right wingers to hammer Judge John G. Bates of the US District Court for District of Columbia. He’™s made a ruling against the claims by Bush advisors that they hold immunity from Congressional subpoenas. Of course, the Bushies will appeal. They’™re likely going to hope that the US Supremes will find in their favor, as so many of them were appointed by Bush, or are sympathetic to him. From the New York Times:

The House Judiciary Committee wants to question the president’™s chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and former legal counsel Harriet Miers, about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. But President Bush says they are immune from such subpoenas. They say Congress can’™t force them to testify or turn over documents.

U.S. District Judge John Bates disagreed. He said there’™s no legal basis for that argument. He said that Miers must appear before Congress and, if she wants to refuse to testify, she must do so in person.

‘œHarriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena,’ Bates wrote.

He said that both Bolten and Miers must give Congress all non-privileged documents related to the firings.

But wait, wait! According to his biography, Judge John G. Bates was appointed in December of 2001. That would mean he was appointed by Dubya himself! So is he an activist judge or not? I’™m thinking the guy is merely following the law. Perhaps this is Bush incompetence at its finest, where they can’™t even appoint judges who will consistently rule in their favor, thus cover for their crimes.

Thursday, July 31st, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Limbaugh Urges Riots in Denver

…and you should be urging Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (a Republican) to investigate. How is it that a GOP attack dog frontman can call for riots in the streets of Denver during the Democratic National Convention, and not be currently residing in a jail cell someplace? Because, apparently, IOKIYAR. Still, Inciting to Riot is a felony – and the Colorado AG should be all over this…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Here’s a situation that should be looked into by the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Attorney General of Colorado. On Wednesday, radical right wing pitchman Rush Limbaugh called for riots at the Democratic National Convention later this year in Denver:

He said the riots would ensure a Democrat is not elected as president, and his listeners have a responsibility to make sure it happens.

“Riots in Denver, the Democrat Convention would see to it that we don’t elect Democrats,” Limbaugh said during Wednesday’s radio broadcast. He then went on to say that’s the best thing that could happen to the country…

…Limbaugh said with massive riots in Denver, which he called “Operation Chaos,” the people on the far left would look bad.

“We do, hopefully, the right thing for the sake of this country. We’re the only one in charge of our affairs. We don’t farm out our defense if we elect Democrats … and riots in Denver, at the Democratic Convention will see to it we don’t elect Democrats. And that’s the best damn thing that can happen to this country, as far as I can think,” Limbaugh said…

Inciting to riot is a felony in most states, and I’m sure that there are federal statutes that are also applicable. And let’s posit for a moment that, say, Air America host Rachel Maddow called for riots in Minneapolis at the Republican National Convention. Do you think Maddow would be in a lockup someplace this morning? Or at least would have received a very annoyed phone call from the Minnesota AG’s office?

Someone needs to tell me the difference between Rush Limbaugh and Moqtada al-Sadr (above and beyond the fact that al-Sadr is an ordained cleric, and Limbaugh is just an ordinary asswipe). And I want to know how Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, etc. etc. can continue getting away with inspiring their listeners to violence, yet are never called on it by either the Republican Party leadership or law enforcement authorities.

If you feel so moved, you can contact the Colorado Attorney General’s office and express your concerns. At a minimum, inciting to riot is a serious offense. When the call goes out from someone of Limbaugh’s stature, who has legions of loyal dittoheads hanging on his every word, it’s very, very likely that his “call to arms” could motivate some right wing crackpots to action.

Update: The more I think about this, the more incensed I’m becoming. I really do think this calls for a blogswarm to, at a minimum, hold Limbaugh’s feet to the fire, and get some high profile Republicans (such as Colorado AG Suthers) on record as denouncing his call to arms. What Limbaugh and his ilk are doing is well beyond the boundaries of protected free speech. It’s way past time for this stuff to stop.

Others commenting at this hour: Shake’s Sis, Booman, C&L, Suburban Guerrilla, Brilliant at Breakfast

Update 2: From Booman, StevenD, and Brendan – Limbaugh’s rhetoric certainly does rise to the level of inciting to riot, by both Colorado and Federal statutes.

Friday, April 25th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Gonzo — 83% think he should be gone

That’™s an MSNBC poll.

Hope he whines and sputters on his way out.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’™s an MSNBC poll.

Hope he whines and sputters on his way out.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |
Category: DOJ,Permalink