December 23, 2005

Big Lies in Support of 'tator Bush - Dick that is

This has got to be the most dishonest, intellectually bankrupt, egotistical Presidency in the history of history.

There is a reason for the 2nd Amendment...this is it.

By Eleanor Clift

Every holiday season, we on "The McLaughlin Group" hand out news awards. Some categories, like "Biggest Winner," are easy (My choice was Chief Justice John Roberts, with the oil companies as runner-up). Others are a struggle to fill, like who to insult with the “Overrated” award.

In compiling this year’s list, I had the highest number of entries for the category, “Biggest Lie.” I chose the White House declaration that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent. They were the principal participants in the effort to discredit former ambassador Joe Wilson because he had raised doubts about one of the pillars of their argument for war, namely that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium to make a bomb.

Another favorite—heard all the time from the White House—is that “everybody saw the same intelligence we did.” Members of Congress don’t see the President’s Daily Briefing (one of them was the glossed-over pre-9/11 document that warned “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the U.S.”), and they didn’t see all the qualifying caveats about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, or the doubts about the credibility of the sources the administration was relying on.

Bush is good at stating the obviously untrue. “We do not torture,” he declared despite ample evidence to the contrary from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Vice President Cheney went to Capitol Hill repeatedly to lobby for the U.S. right to torture, capitulating only when the vote went against him 90 to 9. Sen. John McCain, who was tortured when held prisoner during the Vietnam War, took on Bush’s No. 2 and stood up for democratic principles. It’s a wonder Cheney has any credibility left after assuring the country in May, “the insurgency is in its last throes.”

The revelation that President Bush authorized spying on American citizens without warrants is a late entry to the year’s “Biggest Lies” list. Bush says he bypassed the law because of the need for speed. He may believe that, but the facts say otherwise.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established a special FISA secret court designed to act expeditiously. The executive branch can tap anybody’s phone and not even get a warrant until 72 hours after the fact. The FISA court isn’t picky; it’s only turned down five requests out of 19,000 in its quarter-century existence. Bush publicly and proudly says he will continue to break the law. The Washington Post reported that one FISA court judge has resigned in apparent protest, and the others are asking why we have a secret court when it is ignored.

Bush’s explanation is riddled with lies. He says our enemies are watching and threatens The New York Times, which broke the spying story, with legal action. It takes a vivid imagination to believe that Osama bin Laden and his buddies are keeping up with the niceties of FISA courts and would otherwise have no idea their phones might be tapped. Bush says he talks to Congress all the time and that there was plenty of congressional oversight. Not true. The Gang of Eight (leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, plus the chair and ranking members of the Intelligence Committees) were forbidden to take notes or discuss what they were told with colleagues or staff. Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s hand-written letter to Cheney expressed uneasiness about the program. Rockefeller couldn’t have its legality evaluated by staff. He couldn’t even have the letter typed because of the secrecy. That hardly qualifies as congressional oversight.

The cavalier attitude toward the checks and balance of a democratic society is a pattern with this administration. Bush and Cheney regard Congress and the judiciary as obstacles, not as equal branches of government. The polls show that a majority of Americans no longer trust this team, which is why Bush and Cheney are hitting back hard at their critics. If they lose this round over spying, the spillover effect will be devastating for their war policy and on any domestic agenda they hope to salvage. We have no mechanism to deal with a president who has lost the trust and confidence of the American people and has three years remaining in office. Impeachment is a nonissue; it’s not going to happen with Republicans in control of the House and Senate.

What will happen is more open insurrection on the part of senators—both Democrats and Republicans. Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito are scheduled to begin the first week in January. In the weeks since being named by Bush, there have been a series of stories about Alito’s early writings as a member of the Reagan administration. Alito wants us to believe he was a callow young thirtysomething who advocated far-right positions to curry favor for a job. The White House is telling senators that Alito didn’t mean all those things he wrote about disregarding privacy rights and overturning Roe v. Wade—another big lie. No wonder this year’s list was so easy to put together.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

December 20, 2005

Activist Judge?

Taken from The Narcosphere

Judge in Scooter Libby, Sibel Edmonds cases is redacted in action
By Bill Conroy

What do two of the biggest national-security news stories of the century — the Valerie Plame leak scandal and the legal case of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds — have in common?
They both are being presided over by the same federal judge in the District of Colombia, Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee to the federal court and a man who appears to have a few well-kept secrets of his own.

All federal judges are required under ethics rules to file what is known as “financial disclosure reports.”

The disclosure statement filed by Walton, which was obtained through the dogged efforts of a conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch, is curious in what it does not reveal. Remember, this judge is arguably handling two of the most sensitive and potentially far-reaching challenges to the free press and the public’s right to know of our times.

In the Plamegate case, a top White House aid, Scooter Libby, has already been indicted and additional indictments may be forthcoming (Karl Rove?). In addition, a bevy of insider journalists in the media-center establishment have been subpoenaed to testify in the case, and one, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, has already done jail time for her initial refusal to identify her sources on the story.
Edmonds was fired from her job as an FBI translator after blowing the whistle on alleged espionage being carried out by a fellow FBI employee. She was prevented from pursuing a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed in 2002 (based on alleged violations of her civil rights) because of the state-secrets privilege claim, a claim upheld by Judge Walton. That claim essentially shut down her ability to present evidence in the case under the smokescreen that it would jeopardize national security.

An appeal in the Edmonds case was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. She now has a separate case pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. Ironically, in both cases, Judge Walton was randomly assigned to hear her complaints at the District Court level. Walton also has randomly been assigned to hear the Plamegate case involving Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

So given the high-stakes poker being played in both these cases, one civil and one criminal, why has no one in the establishment press bothered to ask what is contained in Judge Walton’s financial disclosure statement? After all, his investments and financial backers would be of keen interest in gauging his ability to hear these cases in an unbiased manner, right?

We already know that Walton has been a Bush-team insider for years. He grew up on the hardscrabble side of life in a steel town in Pennsylvania, and by his own admission was arrested three times as a teenager and even witnessed a stabbing while participating in a street fight. After beating the odds and making it through law school, he rose quickly in the Washington legal establishment, earning an appointment from former President Reagan to a District of Colombia Superior Court judgeship. He was later taken under the wing of the self-styled man of virtue William Bennett, serving as a top gun in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during Bennett’s tenure there. Then, in 2001, current President Bush appointed him as a federal judge in the District of Columbia.

So it would be natural to suppose that Walton has some loyalty to the Bush administration, but that alone is not proof of bias with respect to the Edmonds and Valerie Plame-related cases.

Still, Edmonds points out that the way Walton landed on her original whistleblower-related case (the one the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear), as well her currently pending case, does seem a bit more than a cosmic coincidence.

“Walton was the original judge on my case (the Supreme Court case), when we filed our case (in District Court in Washington, D.C.) in July 2002,” Edmonds says. “Another judge was assigned to it, then, mysteriously and with no reason, it was transferred to another judge, and then again, a few weeks later, it was transferred to Walton.

“Walton is now assigned to my (new) case, … another random one.”

So Judge Walton seems to be in a critical role in serving as the point man in the federal judicial system for two explosive cases — the Edmonds civil case and Libby’s criminal case — both of which have vast implications for the White House and for the country in general.

So shouldn’t we know who’s buttering Walton’s bread in terms of financial backing? Why have ethics rules mandating such disclosures, if the information is not disclosed in cases, such as these, where the stakes are so high?

Well, it seems, at least according to the only document that Judicial Watch could shake loose in its public-records quest, that Walton doesn’t think so. His financial disclosure statement, the one released for public inspection through Judicial Watch, is completely redacted, every line of it.

Take a look here for yourself.

Now, ask yourself, why would that be, and what might lurk in the shadows of Judge Walton’s fiscal closet? If there nothing to hide, then there is nothing to lose by shedding some light on the retractions, is there?

But let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s probably all fine -- just a safety precaution, as the following excerpt from a 2004 Government Accountability Office report explains:

"The Ethics in Government Act requires judges and other federal officials to file financial disclosure reports as a check on conflicts of interest. However, given potential security risks to federal judges, Congress authorized redactions of information that could endanger them. This redaction authority is set to expire at the end of 2005."
That has to be why the big boys in the media have ignored this issue to date, right? After all, there are some things that take precedence over national security and the outing of covert CIA operatives.

If not, and these redactions do not, in reality, protect Judge Walton's security, but rather only his dignity, then we have to wonder why our fearless media leaders have been content to graze on other appetizers.

But not to fear, I'm sure if there is cause for alarm, we'll hear the media-pundit elephants charging through the fields toward this alfalfa patch soon.

In the mean time, let’s keep this whole messy topic between you and me, for now. We wouldn’t want to stir up any disharmony inside the Washington press-corps insiders’ circuit. They’ve got future cocktail parties to attend….