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Context of 'September 30, 2002: No Plea Bargain Sought in Case Against Moussaoui'

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Zacarias Moussaoui.
Zacarias Moussaoui. [Source: Sherburne County Sheriffs Office]Seymour Hersh of New Yorker magazine reveals that, despite a weak case against Zacarias Moussaoui, no federal prosecutor has discussed a plea bargain with him since he was indicted in November 2001. Hersh reports that “Moussaoui’s lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government’s failure to pursue a plea bargain.” Says a federal public defender, “I’ve never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn’t interested in knowing if the defendant had any information—to see if there wasn’t more to the conspiracy.” Apparently a plea bargain isn’t being considered because Attorney General Ashcroft wants nothing less than the death penalty for Moussaoui. One former CIA official claims, “They cast a wide net and [Moussaoui] happened to be a little fish who got caught up in it. They know it now. And nobody will back off.” A legal expert says, “It appears that Moussaoui is not competent to represent himself, because he doesn’t seem to understand the fundamentals of the charges against him, but I am starting to feel that the rest of us are crazier… we may let this man talk himself to death to soothe our sense of vulnerability.” [New Yorker, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Seymour Hersh, Zacarias Moussaoui

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton changes the procedures for handling intelligence in the Pentagon so that his office will receive more classified documents. “I found that there was lots of stuff that I wasn’t getting and that the INR [State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research] analysts weren’t including,” Bolton later recalls in an interview with Seymour Hersh. “I didn’t want it filtered. I wanted to see everything—to be fully informed. If that puts someone’s nose out of joint, sorry about that.” [New Yorker, 10/27/2003 Sources: John R. Bolton]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration has been consolidating control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations, and transforming the role of the CIA into mere “facilitators” of the administration’s policies. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed source interviewed by Seymour Hersh]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Military

John Negroponte resigns from his position as director of national intelligence. The official explanation is that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has lured him to serve as her deputy, a post that has been vacant since July. [Washington Post, 1/4/2007; Fox News, 1/5/2007] But according to sources interviewed by reporter Seymour Hersh, Negroponte’s decision was spurred by a shift in the White House’s Middle East policy (see Late 2006) that he felt was reminiscent of the Iran-Contra affair. A former senior intelligence official tells Hersh, “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the NSC running operations off the books, with no finding.’” (Findings are written communications issued by the president to Congress informing lawmakers about covert operations.) [New Yorker, 3/5/2007] Another factor, according to Hersh, was that he doesn’t get along with Cheney very well—Cheney apparently feels Negroponte is too “legalistic.” [Democracy Now!, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Iraq under US Occupation

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean says that the allegation of an “executive assassination wing,” as recently made by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (see March 10, 2009), could well be a war crime if it is true. Both Dean and MSNBC host Keith Olbermann note that if true, Cheney’s actions could well violate a 1976 executive order that states in part, “No employee of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in political assassination.” Dean says: “[F]ighting terrorism is not dealing with tiddlywinks. We want our government to deal with the most effective tools they have. But they also have to be legal. The executive order, really, is nothing more than direction to the executive branch and the presidency is the only one who you can even argue might have the authority to engage in assassinations. It’s an unresolved question. So, it’s potentially a war crime, it’s potentially just outright murder, and it could clearly be in violation of the Ford executive order.” In the same broadcast, author and political analyst Howard Fineman says of Hersh’s report: “In checking around in the intelligence community today, I can say this, you know, Seymour Hersh is somebody they respect. They don’t always trust. But they put it this way, as one of them said to me, ‘Look, I don’t know anything about this specifically at all, but I wouldn’t dismiss what Sy Hersh is saying without checking carefully.’ That’s their backhanded way of saying it’s worth looking into, for sure.” [MSNBC, 3/12/2009]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Howard Fineman, John Dean, Keith Olbermann, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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