Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

VIDEO: Evil in List Form

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on March 14, 2009

karlrove_2Note from Allison: Man, I always forget how evil Karl Rove is until I see his nefarious accomplishments laid out in list form. Then, I revert back to amazement that this little cave troll has (thus far) avoided prison.

Think Progress

Last night on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, former Bush adviser Karl Rove brazenly claimed that he never used his White House position to threaten anyone.

Host Bill O’Reilly caught Rove off-guard with this question: “Now in the Bush White House, did you guys ever threaten anybody who disagreed with you?” Rove hesitated, sputtered, and responded, “Not that — not that — you know — not that I recall.” O’Reilly pressed the point:

O’REILLY: So you never threatened?

ROVE: No.

The smirk on Rove’s face suggested that even he had a hard time believing his own answer. Watch it here.

Rove — the political architect of dirty tricks — clearly did use his position in the White House to engage in vindictive political attacks against his perceived enemies:

– Punished Iraq war whistleblower Joe Wilson by outing his wife Valerie Plame, who was an undercover intelligence agent

– Drove a politically-charged prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman

– Orchestrated the political firings of U.S. attorneys

– Threatened the late Michael Connell and demanded he “take the fall” for election fraud in Ohio

– Pressured the Texas Secretary of State to fire an attorney in his office for making comments that reflected poorly on him

All this does not even include Rove’s alleged role in the Swift Boat smears against John Kerry, the whisper campaign against Ann Richards that questioned her sexuality, and the attacks on John McCain’s mental health in South Carolina in 2000.

In 2007, Rove also issued this public threat against House GOP congressmen who dared to criticize Bush on Iraq. “Nobody can risk looking disrespectful to the president without paying a price, and they need to understand that,” he said.

Watch the video here.
(more…)

Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, CIA, politics, torture, War on Terror by allisonkilkenny on February 18, 2009

Update: Greenwald has written an excellent companion post to this article. Highly recommended.

Charlie Savage, New York Times

Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

Leon F. Panetta opened a loophole in the Obama administration’s interrogation restrictions while testifying before a Senate panel this month. (Michael Temchine for The New York Times)

Leon F. Panetta opened a loophole in the Obama administration’s interrogation restrictions while testifying before a Senate panel this month. (Michael Temchine for The New York Times)

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared — prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.

In an interview, the White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, asserted that the administration was not embracing Mr. Bush’s approach to the world. But Mr. Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any “shoot from the hip” and “bumper sticker slogans” approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.

“We are charting a new way forward, taking into account both the security of the American people and the need to obey the rule of law,” Mr. Craig said. “That is a message we would give to the civil liberties people as well as to the Bush people.”

Within days of his inauguration, Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials.

But in more recent weeks, things have become murkier.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were “not sufficient” to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for “additional authority.”

To be sure, Mr. Panetta emphasized that the president could not bypass antitorture statutes, as Bush lawyers claimed. And he said that waterboarding — a technique that induces the sensation of drowning, and that the Bush administration said was lawful — is torture.

But Mr. Panetta also said the C.I.A. might continue its “extraordinary rendition” program, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings, in a more sweeping form than anticipated.

Before the Bush administration, the program primarily involved taking indicted suspects to their native countries for legal proceedings. While some detainees in the 1990s were allegedly abused after transfer, under Mr. Bush the program expanded and included transfers to third countries — some of which allegedly used torture — for interrogation, not trials.

Mr. Panetta said the agency is likely to continue to transfer detainees to third countries and would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment — the same safeguard the Bush administration used, and that critics say is ineffective.

Mr. Craig noted that while Mr. Obama decided “not to change the status quo immediately,” he created a task force to study “rendition policy and what makes sense consistent with our obligation to protect the country.”

He urged patience as the administration reviewed the programs it inherited from Mr. Bush. That process began after the election, Mr. Craig said, when military and C.I.A. leaders flew to Chicago for a lengthy briefing of Mr. Obama and his national security advisers. Mr. Obama then sent his advisers to C.I.A. headquarters to “find out the best case for continuing the practices that had been employed during the Bush administration.”

Civil liberties groups praise Mr. Obama’s early executive orders on national security, but say other signs are discouraging.

 

For example, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department last week told an appeals court that the Bush administration was right to invoke “state secrets” to shut down a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees who say a Boeing subsidiary helped fly them to places where they were tortured.

Margaret Satterthwaite, a faculty director at the human rights center at the New York University law school, said, “It was literally just Bush redux — exactly the same legal arguments that we saw the Bush administration present to the court.”

Mr. Craig said Mr. Holder and others reviewed the case and “came to the conclusion that it was justified and necessary for national security” to maintain their predecessor’s stance. Mr. Holder has also begun a review of every open Bush-era case involving state secrets, Mr. Craig said, so people should not read too much into one case.

“Every president in my lifetime has invoked the state-secrets privilege,” Mr. Craig said. “The notion that invoking it in that case somehow means we are signing onto the Bush approach to the world is just an erroneous assumption.”

Still, the decision caught the attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Two days after the appeals court hearing, they filed legislation to bar using the state-secrets doctrine to shut down an entire case — as opposed to withholding particular evidence.

The administration has also put off taking a stand in several cases that present opportunities to embrace or renounce Bush-era policies, including the imprisonment without trial of an “enemy combatant” on domestic soil, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking legal opinions about interrogation and surveillance, and an executive-privilege dispute over Congressional subpoenas of former White House aides to Mr. Bush over the firing of United States attorneys.

Addressing the executive-privilege dispute, Mr. Craig said: “The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened. But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle.”

The administration’s recent policy moves have attracted praise from outspoken defenders of the Bush administration. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page argued that “it seems that the Bush administration’s antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy” as Mr. Obama’s team embraces aspects of Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism approach.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the sequence of “disappointing” recent events had heightened concerns that Mr. Obama might end up carrying forward “some of the most problematic policies of the Bush presidency.”

Mr. Obama has clashed with civil libertarians before. Last July, he voted to authorize eavesdropping on some phone calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. While the A.C.L.U. says the program is still unconstitutional, the legislation reduced legal concerns about one of the most controversial aspects of Mr. Bush’s antiterror strategy.

“We have been some of the most articulate and vociferous critics of the way the Bush administration handled things,” Mr. Craig said. “There has been a dramatic change of direction.”

Obama Seeks Delay in Deciding on Rove Subpoena

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 17, 2009

McClatchy

rove_obamaWASHINGTON — The Obama administration is asking for two more weeks to weigh in on whether former Bush White House officials must testify before Congress about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The request comes after an attorney for former Bush political adviser Karl Rove asked the White House to referee his clash with the House of Representatives over Bush’s claim of executive privilege in the matter.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., has issued a subpoena requiring Rove to appear next Monday to testify about the firings and other allegations that the Bush White House let politics interfere with the operations of the Justice Department.

Michael Hertz, the acting assistant attorney general, said in a court brief released Monday that negotiations were ongoing.

“The inauguration of a new president has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation,” Hertz wrote in the brief dated Friday. “At the same time, there is now an additional interested party — the former president — whose views should be considered.”

Members of the committee have been seeking the testimony of Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers since the spring of 2007.

Last July, a federal judge in Washington agreed with the House that Miers didn’t have the right to ignore a subpoena from Congress. District Judge John D. Bates’ 93-page ruling was considered a significant setback for the administration, which had asserted a broad executive-privilege claim that would have protected Miers from appearing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later delayed the effect of the ruling until after the November elections.

Since then, Rove’s attorney has indicated that his client would be willing to testify about his role in the prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on bribery charges. Democrats want Rove to testify about the matter because they suspect that he instigated the prosecution.

However, Democrats also insist that Rove should be made to testify about the firings of the nine U.S. attorneys.

Meanwhile, a special prosecutor is investigating what role White House officials had in the firings and whether their involvement constituted a crime.

Rove Not Covered By Executive Privilege

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on February 16, 2009

Raw Story

roveLawyer: Rove won’t take the Fifth if he testifies

Representatives of the Bush White House are no longer advising former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that he is protected by executive privilege as regards testimony about the alleged political prosecution of an Alabama governor.

In an exchange with Raw Story, Rove’s Washington, D.C. attorney, Robert Luskin, also said Rove won’t invoke his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self-incrimination, if and when he testifies about the firing of nine US Attorneys and the prosecution of the former governor.

There’s “been speculation that he would decline to answer questions on Fifth Amendment grounds,” Luskin said. “That’s a personal privilege; he will not assert it.”

Asked if he had a comment on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) proposed “truth commission,” in which Bush officials would be offered immunity in exchange for testimony, Luskin said, “No.”

Last year, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Rove to testify about his knowledge concerning the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, which they alleged was carried out on political grounds after a whistleblower said Rove had a hand in seeking the prosecution. In 2007, Rove was subpoenaed by the Senate about the firing of nine US Attorneys. 

Both times, the Bush Administration asserted that Rove was protected by executive privilege; both times, Rove did not appear. Now, with a newly-installed Democratic president, the ice under Rove appears to have thinned.

Rove was subpoenaed in January and again last week by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). He has been told to appear Feb. 23 for a congressional deposition.

Though it remains unclear what form Rove’s cooperation with Congress and Justice Department investigators – who continue to probe the US Attorney firings and the Siegelman case – might take, it seems increasingly likely that Rove will testify to Congress in some way. Luskin said last Thursday that no agreement had yet been reached with the committee.

Last year, Rove offered to speak in private to House Judiciary Committee investigators about the Siegelman case. He has said repeatedly that he had no involvement in the corruption prosecution mounted by a Bush-appointed US Attorney that critics say was motivated by politics. He refused, however, to testify under oath or in public, and the Committee balked. 

Luskin says Rove’s previous stance was based on advice from the Bush White House but that Bush representatives are no longer advising him on the matter.

“The only basis that Rove has ever declined to appear has been the White House claim of immunity for senior advisors to the president and executive privilege,” Luskin said. “I do think that it’s clearer now that the Siegelman matter falls outside the scope of the former claim and, on that basis, I offered to have Rove appear on this matter.”

“Previously, as to the Siegelman matter, the White House was involved in the discussions about what form Rove’s cooperation might take, hence the discussions about interviews, not public testimony, et cetera,” he said in an earlier exchange. “Rove’s most recent guidance from the White House did not express any limitations.”

Today, “I do not think there are any limitations on potential testimony about Siegelman,” Luskin added. “The circumstances – public testimony, deposition, under oath or not – would be up to the committee.”

That said, Luskin refused to commit his client to testifying publicly or under oath. 

“My circumspection now about what form Rove’s cooperation might take regarding Siegelman comes from a desire not to say anything publicly that might prejudice opportunities to reach a constructive resolution with the committee,” he said. “Rove is already on the record regarding the Siegelman allegations – they are wholly without merit – and he would obviously like to put this to rest.”

He added, “We’re continuing to engage in constructive discussions with the committee to that end, and I’d hesitate to speculate about what form Rove’s cooperation might ultimately take.”

A House Judiciary Committee spokesman declined to comment. The Committee wrote in a letter to Luskin last week that they wouldn’t accept testimony on Siegelman alone, saying that witnesses didn’t get to dictate terms.

Siegelman was convicted in 2006 on bribery charges stemming from accusations that in 1999 former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy had donated to a political fund that was lobbying for Siegelman’s lottery plan in exchange for being appointed to a key medical licensing board. 

He was released on bail last April, after a series of investigations into allegations that his prosecution had been politically motivated. At that time, one Republican whistleblower named Rove as having had a hand in pushing for the prosecution.

The charges against Siegelman were brought by US Attorney Leura Canary, who had been appointed by President Bush in 2001. Her husband, Bill Canary, was a veteran GOP operative who worked in partnership with Rove on numerous Alabama campaigns in the 1990’s, as well as for the Republican challenger who had defeated Siegelman in Alabama’s 2002 gubernatorial race.