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The Congressional Quarterly reports on a growing body of evidence that indicates US interrogators are using mind-altering drugs on prisoners suspected of terrorist ties. The evidence is not yet conclusive, but reporter Jeff Stein writes: “There can be little doubt now that the government has used drugs on terrorist suspects that are designed to weaken their resistance to interrogation. All that’s missing is the syringes and videotapes.”
Connection to Yoo Memo - The idea that the US might be using hallucinogenic or other drugs on detainees in Guantanamo and other US detention facilities was bolstered by the recent revelation of another “torture memo,” this one written in 2003 by then-Justice Department lawyer John Yoo (see March 14, 2003). Yoo wrote that US interrogators could use mind-altering drugs on terror suspects as long as the drugs did not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.” Yoo first rationalized the use of drugs on prisoners in earlier “torture memos” (see January 9, 2002 and August 1, 2002).
Criticism - Stephen Miles, a bioethicist and author of a recent book detailing medical complicity in US torture of suspected terrorists, notes: “The new Yoo memo, along with other White House legal memoranda, shows clearly that the policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs was being laid. The recent memo on mood-altering drugs does not extend previous work on this area. The use of these drugs was anticipated and discussed in the memos of January and February 2002 by [Defense Department, Justice Department], and White House counsel using the same language and rationale. The executive branch memos laid a comprehensive and reiterated policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs.” Jeffrey Kaye, a clinical psychologist who works with torture victims through Survivors International, says plainly: “Yes, I believe [drugs] have been used. I came across some evidence that they were using mind-altering drugs, to regress the prisoners, to ascertain if they were using deception techniques, to break them down.”
Varieties of Drugs and Placebos Being Used? - It is well known that US military personnel often use sedatives on shackled and hooded prisoners on “rendition” flights from Middle Eastern countries to Guantanamo. There is no hard evidence to support claims that US interrogators are using hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD on detainees. However, Michael Caruso, who represents suspected al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla (see May 8, 2002), filed a motion last year asserting that his client “was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.” Caruso had no proof to back up his claim.
KUBARK - Stein notes that a 1963 CIA interrogation manual, code-named KUBARK, advocated the use of placebos as well as real drugs on prisoners. And Michael Gelles, a psychologist with the Naval Criminal Investigative Institute who has spoken out against the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo, says that he never saw anything related to drugs. “I never saw that raised as an issue,” he says. Hallucinogens such as LSD do not make subjects tell the truth. According to KUBARK, “Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation.”
Winging It - In July 2003, the CIA, the RAND Corporation, and the American Psychological Association hosted a workshop that explored the question of using drugs to “affect apparent truth-telling behavior” (see June 17-18, 2003). After 9/11, top Bush administration officials pushed military commanders for quick intelligence but, according to a recent study, the interrogators unsure how to use harsher methodologies (see December 2006) and began “mak[ing] it up on the fly.”
Guantanamo - Guantanamo staff judge advocate Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver says that some of the interrogators drew inspiration from the popular TV drama 24 (see Fall 2006). Beaver makes no mention of drugs being used, but Ewe Jacobs, the director of Survivors International, says she may not have seen or heard about their use. “The Guantanamo camps were isolated from one another,” he says. What happened in one part of the facility may not have been known in other areas. Miles adds, “I suspect that most of the use of interrogational drugs was by CIA and Special Ops interrogators, and thus still remains classified.”
Credibility Issues - As with victims of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program from the 1960s and 70s, when unwitting subjects were dosed with hallucinogenic drugs and their reactions catalogued and observed, the detainees who may have been forcibly given such drugs will likely not be believed by many. Absent hard evidence, many will consider the detainees either “looney,” in Stein’s words, or liars. Few believe that Padilla was drugged. And, Stein concludes, “Even fewer will believe the other prisoners, a number of whom are deranged from prolonged interrogation—if they ever get out.” [Congressional Quarterly, 4/4/2008]
Entity Tags: Jose Padilla, Ewe Jacobs, Diane E. Beaver, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), American Psychological Association, Jeff Stein, John C. Yoo, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of the Army, Jeffrey Kaye, Stephen Miles, RAND Corporation, Michael Caruso, Michael Gelles, Survivors International
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
The New York Times’s editorial board berates former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo for his defense of his 2003 advocacy of torture (see April 2, 2008), joining retired military officials (see April 2-4, 2008) and legal experts (see April 2-6, 2008). The board writes: “You can often tell if someone understands how wrong their actions are by the lengths to which they go to rationalize them. It took 81 pages of twisted legal reasoning to justify President Bush’s decision to ignore federal law and international treaties and authorize the abuse and torture of prisoners. Eighty-one spine-crawling pages in a memo that might have been unearthed from the dusty archives of some authoritarian regime and has no place in the annals of the United States. It is must reading for anyone who still doubts whether the abuse of prisoners were rogue acts rather than calculated policy.… The purpose of the March 14 memo was equally insidious: to make sure that the policy makers who authorized those acts, or the subordinates who carried out the orders, were not convicted of any crime.… Reading the full text, released this week, makes it startlingly clear how deeply the Bush administration corrupted the law and the role of lawyers to give cover to existing and plainly illegal policies.… When the abuses at Abu Ghraib became public, we were told these were the depraved actions of a few soldiers. The Yoo memo makes it chillingly apparent that senior officials authorized unspeakable acts and went to great lengths to shield themselves from prosecution.” [New York Times, 4/4/2008]
Author and former civil litigator Glenn Greenwald writes that he is angered, but not particularly shocked, at the US mainstream media’s failure to provide in-depth, extensive coverage of the recently released 2003 torture memo (see March 14, 2003 and April 1, 2008) and another memo asserting that the Bush administration had declared the Fourth Amendment null and void in reference to “domestic military operations” inside the US (see April 2, 2008). Greenwald also notes the lack of coverage of a recent puzzling comment by Attorney General Michael Mukasey about 9/11 (see March 27, 2008). Instead, Greenwald notes, stories about the Democratic presidential campaign (including criticism over Barack Obama’s relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and Obama’s recent bowling scores) have dominated press coverage. According to a recent NEXIS search, these various topics have been mentioned in the media in the last thirty days:
“Yoo and torture” (referring to John Yoo, the author of the two memos mentioned above)—102.
“Mukasey and 9/11”—73.
“Yoo and Fourth Amendment”—16.
“Obama and bowling”—1,043.
“Obama and Wright”—More than 3,000 (too many to be counted).
“Obama and patriotism”—1,607.
“Clinton and Lewinsky”—1,079. [Salon, 4/5/2008]
(For the record, on March 30, Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania during a campaign stop, in the company of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Newsmax is among the many media outlets that provided play-by-play coverage of Obama’s abysmal performance on the lanes—he scored a 37. The site reported that Obama lost “beautifully” and was “way out of his league.”) [NewsMax, 3/31/2008]
Media Attacks Obama's 'Elitism' - The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz gives over much of his column to a discussion of Obama’s eating and bowling habits, making the argument, according to Greenwald, that Obama is “not a regular guy but an arrogant elitist.” Kurtz defends his argument by compiling a raft of “similar chatter about this from Karl Rove” and others. Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson spent a week’s worth of columns calling Obama’s bowling his biggest mistake, a “real doozy.” MSNBC reported that Obama went bowling “with disastrous consequences.” Greenwald notes that the media “as always,” takes “their personality-based fixations from the right, who have been promoting the Obama is an arrogant, exotic, elitist freak narrative for some time.” In this vein, Time’s Joe Klein wrote of what he called Obama’s “patriotism problem,” saying that “this is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what’s wrong with America than what’s right.” Greenwald notes, “He trotted it all out—the bowling, the lapel pin, Obama’s angry, America-hating wife, ‘his Islamic-sounding name.’” Greenwald calls the media fixation on Obama’s bowling and his apparent failure to be a “regular guy” another instance of their “self-referential narcissism—whatever they sputter about is what ‘the people’ care about, and therefore they must keep harping on it, because their chatter is proof of its importance. They don’t need Drudge to rule their world any longer because they are Matt Drudge now.” [Salon, 4/5/2008]
Entity Tags: Michael Mukasey, Matt Drudge, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, MSNBC, Joe Klein, Barack Obama, Bob Casey, Jr, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Glenn Greenwald, Margaret Carlson, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Howard Kurtz, NewsMax
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently issued a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” (see November 26, 2007) that would entail a possibly permanent US military presence in Iraq (see March 7, 2008). Although the Constitution requires Congressional approval to commit any US forces to a battle zone, Bush officials have refused to address that concern (see March 13, 2008). In a Senate hearing on April 8, 2008, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker says that the Bush administration has no plans to ask Congress for such permission—although the agreement would need to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament. Crocker is asked by Hillary Clinton (D-NY) if an agreement would be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament, and Crocker replies: “The Iraqi government has indicated it will bring the agreement to the Council of Representatives. At this point, it is not clear, at least to me, whether that will be for a formal vote or whether they will repeat the process they used in November with the Declaration of Principles in which it was simply read to the members of the Parliament.” Clinton asks, “Does the administration plan to submit this agreement to our Congress?” and Crocker responds: “At this point, Senator, we do not anticipate the agreements will have within them any elements would require the advice and consent procedure. We intend to negotiate this as an executive agreement.” Yale law professor Oona Hathaway notes that such an agreement must be approved by Congress “either as a treaty or as a congressional-executive agreement.” [Think Progress (.org), 4/8/2008] Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) releases a letter from 31 Iraqi legislators to coincide with concurrent hearings in the House; the letter asserts that the Iraqi Parliament will not ratify any deal that does not provide a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops (see May 29, 2008).
The press reports that, beginning in the spring of 2002, top Bush administration officials approved specific details about how terrorism suspects would be interrogated by the CIA. The officials issued their approval as part of their duties as the National Security Council’s Principals Committee (see April 2002 and After). [ABC News, 4/9/2008] The American Civil Liberties Union’s Caroline Fredrickson says: “With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House. This is what we suspected all along.” [Associated Press, 4/10/2008]
Law professor Jonathan Turley, discussing recent revelations that top White House officials regularly met to discuss and approve torture methods for terror suspects in US custody (see April 2002 and After and April 11, 2008), says: “What you have are a bunch of people talking about what is something that’s a crime. For those of us who look at the criminal code and see torture for what it is, this is like a meeting of the Bada Bing club. These people are sitting around regularly talking about something defined as a crime. Then you have [former Attorney General] John Ashcroft standing up and saying, maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this at the White House. Well, obviously, that’s quite disturbing. It shows that this was a program, not just some incident, not just someone going too far. It was a torture program, implemented by the United States of America and approved as the very highest level. And it goes right to the president’s desk. And it’s notable that this group wanted to get lawyers to sign off on this, and they found those lawyers, people like Jay Bybee and John Yoo (see August 1, 2002). And those people were handsomely rewarded. In Bybee’s case, he became a federal judge after signing off on a rather grotesque memo that said that they could do everything short of causing organ failure or death.” Asked if what the White House officials did could lead to war crimes prosecutions, Turley answers: “It’s always been a war crimes trial ready to happen. But Congress is like a convention of Claude Rains actors. Everyone’s saying, we’re shocked, shocked; there’s torture being discussed in the White House. But no one is doing anything about it. So what we have is the need for someone to get off the theater and move to the actual in going and trying to investigate these crimes.” [MSNBC, 4/10/2008]
John Conyers. [Source: Public domain / US Congress]Democrats in Congress lambast the Bush administration over recent disclosures that senior White House officials specifically approved the use of extreme interrogation measures against suspected terrorists (see April 2002 and After). Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) calls the news “yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture.… Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture? Long after President Bush has left office, our country will continue to pay the price for his administration’s renegade repudiation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights.” [Associated Press, 4/10/2008] John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, calls the actions “a stain on our democracy.” Conyers says his committee is considering subpoenaing members of the Principals, and perhaps the author of the torture memo, John Yoo (see August 1, 2002), to testify about the discussions and approvals. [Progressive, 4/14/2008]
President Bush admits he knew about his National Security Council Principals Committee’s discussion and approval of harsh interrogation methods against certain terror suspects (see April 2002 and After). Earlier reports had noted that the Principals—a group of top White House officials led by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice—had deliberately kept Bush “out of the loop” in order for him to maintain “deniability.” Bush tells a reporter: “Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people. And yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” Bush says that the news of those meetings to consider extreme interrogation methods was not “startling.” He admitted as far back as 2006 that such techniques were being used by the CIA (see September 6, 2006). But only now does the news of such direct involvement by Bush’s top officials become public knowledge. The Principals approved the waterboarding of several terror suspects, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Shortly After February 29 or March 1, 2003 and March 10, 2007); Bush defends the use of such extreme measures against Mohammed, saying: “We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it. And no, I didn’t have any problem at all trying to find out what Khalid Shaikh Mohammed knew.… I think it’s very important for the American people to understand who Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was. He was the person who ordered the suicide attack—I mean, the 9/11 attacks.” [ABC News, 4/11/2008] Bush’s admission is no surprise. The day before Bush makes his remarks, law professor Jonathan Turley said: “We really don’t have much of a question about the president’s role here. He’s never denied that he was fully informed of these measures. He, in fact, early on in his presidency—he seemed to brag that they were using harsh and tough methods. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that he was aware of this. The doubt is simply whether anybody cares enough to do anything about it.” [MSNBC, 4/10/2008]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls for an independent counsel to investigate President Bush and his current and former top officials over their involvement in approving torture against terror suspects held captive by US military and intelligence personnel (see April 2002 and After and April 11, 2008). The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, says: “We have always known that the CIA’s use of torture was approved from the very top levels of the US government, yet the latest revelations about knowledge from the president himself and authorization from his top advisers only confirms our worst fears. It is a very sad day when the president of the United States subverts the Constitution, the rule of law, and American values of justice.” The ACLU’s Caroline Frederickson adds: “No one in the executive branch of government can be trusted to fairly investigate or prosecute any crimes since the head of every relevant department, along with the president and vice president, either knew [of] or participated in the planning and approval of illegal acts. Congress cannot look the other way; it must demand an independent investigation and independent prosecutor.” Romero says the ACLU is offering legal assistance to any terrorism suspect being prosecuted by the US: “It is more important than ever that the US government, when seeking justice against those it suspects of harming us, adhere to our commitment to due process and the rule of law. That’s why the ACLU has taken the extraordinary step to offer our assistance to those being prosecuted under the unconstitutional military commissions process.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/12/2008]
Ruth Conniff. [Source: PBS]Columnist and veteran news commentator Ruth Conniff writes in the Progressive that she is disturbed both by the news that senior Bush officials signed off on the use of specific torture methods against al-Qaeda suspects in US custody (see April 2002 and After), and by the fact that the mainstream media, with notable exceptions, has virtually ignored the story. Between this story and the follow-up that President Bush himself knew of the discussions and approvals (see April 11, 2008), Conniff asks: “Why is this not bigger news? Remember when the nation was brought to a virtual standstill over Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern? We now have confirmation that the president of the United States gave the OK for his national security team to violate international law and plot the sordid details of torture. The Democrats in Congress should be raising the roof.” [Progressive, 4/14/2008]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases Defense Department documents that confirm the military’s use of illegal interrogation methods on detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan. The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, are from an Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) probe. The ACLU’s Amrit Singh says: “These documents make it clear that the military was using unlawful interrogation techniques in Afghanistan. Rather than putting a stop to these systemic abuses, senior officials appear to have turned a blind eye to them.” In the CID reports, Special Operations officers in Gardez, Afghanistan, admitted to using what are known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) techniques, which for decades American service members experienced as training to prepare for the brutal treatment they might face if captured (see December 2001, January 2002 and After, and July 2002). At least eight prisoners in custody at Gardez were beaten, burned, and doused with cold water before being placed into freezing weather conditions. One of the eight prisoners, Jamal Naseer, died in US custody (see March 16, 2003). Subsequent investigations ignored numerous witness statements describing torture; Naseer was eventually declared dead due to a “stomach ailment.” The documents also provide evidence showing that prisoners were sodomized. “These documents raise serious questions about the adequacy of the military’s investigations into prisoner abuse,” says Singh. [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/16/2008]
The Justice Department launches an investigation into whether its former officials acted properly in advising President Bush that his wartime authority trumped domestic law, United Nations treaties, and international bans on torture. The investigation hinges on a March 2003 memo written by then-Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo that approved of Bush officials’ intent to use torture (see March 14, 2003). Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says the investigation will “help us discover what went wrong and how to put it right.” Whitehouse continues, “The abject failure of legal scholarship in the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis of torture suggests that what mattered was not that the reasoning was sound, or that the research was comprehensive, but that it delivered what the Bush administration wanted.” Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says that the investigation is part of an overall investigation that has been underway for years. [Associated Press, 4/17/2008]
The Washington Post reports that at least two dozen current and former detainees at Guantanamo Bay claim that they were given drugs against their will, or witnessed other inmates being drugged. These detainees believe that they were drugged in order to force confessions of terrorist ties from them (see 2002-2005). The CIA and the Defense Department deny using drugs in their interrogations, and suggest that such claims are either lies or mistaken interpretations of routine medical treatment.
Claims Bolstered by Justice Department Memo - But the claims are bolstered by the recent revelation of a 2003 Justice Department memo that explicitly condoned the use of drugs on detainees (see March 14, 2003). The memo, written by then-Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, reversed a decades-old US ban on the use of “mind-altering substances” on prisoners. Instead, Yoo wrote, drugs could indeed be used as long as they did not inflict permanent or “profound” psychological damage. US law “does not preclude any and all use of drugs,” Yoo wrote. The claims are also given weight by a 2004 statement from the commander of a detention facility in Afghanistan, who alluded to the CIA drugging detainees (see February 2004).
Drugging Detainees a Gross Violation of Anti-Torture Treaties - Legal experts and human rights groups are calling for a full accounting, including release of detailed prison medical records. They say that forcing drugs on detainees for non-medical reasons is a particularly serious violation of international treaties banning torture. Medical ethics expert Leonard Rubinstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, says: “The use of drugs as a form of restraint of prisoners is both unlawful and unethical. These allegations demand a full inquiry by Congress and the Department of Justice.” Scott Allen, the co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, says that there are no accepted medical standards for the use of drugs to interrogate or subjugate prisoners. Any such use “would have to be considered an experimental use of medicine.… The involvement of physicians and other health professionals in such a program would be a profound betrayal of medical trust and needs to be investigated further.” The Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, but they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war. Law professor Barbara Olshansky, the author of a book on military tribunals, says: “If you’re talking about interrogations, you’re talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone. The law is beyond clear.”
Team of Guards Present - When inmates were injected or forced to take pills, former detainees claim, the personnel administering the drugs were always accompanied by a squad of specially equipped guards known as the “Immediate Reaction Force” to handle any possible violent reactions from the drugged inmates. One former detainee who was later released without charge, Ruhel Ahmed, recalls that the guards wore padded gear and “forced us to have injections.” Ahmed recalls, “You are not allowed to refuse it and you don’t know what it is for.” He says he was given about a dozen injections, which “had the effect of making me feel very drowsy.”
No Solid Evidence of Claims - No evidence of such drugging is known to the public, outside of detainee claims of effects from the injections that range from unnatural drowsiness to full-blown hallucinations. Former US intelligence officials have acknowledged giving sedatives to terror suspects before transporting them from one facility to another (see May 1, 2002). Former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora, who attempted without success to resist the Bush administration’s decision to use harsh interrogation tactics against detainees (see December 17-18, 2002), says he knows of no instances where detainees were drugged as part of their questioning. However, he adds, the detainees “knew they were being injected with something, and it is clear from all accounts that some suffered severe psychological damage.” Emi MacLean, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), an organization which represents dozens of current and former detainees, says that many former detainees have clear and disturbing memories of being forcibly drugged. “Many speak about forced medication at Guantanamo without knowledge about what medication they were being forced to take,” MacLean says. “For some released [military] detainees, the forced medication they experienced was the most traumatic part” of their captivity. Other detainees have claimed, in interviews and statements provided by their lawyers, to have had injections and/or pills forcibly administered to them. One former detainee, French national Mourad Benchellali, says that during his three years at Guantanamo he was given treatments that were described to him as antibiotics or vitamins, yet they left him in what he describes as a mental fog. “These medicines gave us headaches, nausea, drowsiness,” Benchellali recalls. “But the effects were different for different detainees. Some fainted or threw up. Some had reactions such as pimples.” Other injections, often administered by force, left him and other detainees nauseated and light-headed, he says. “We were always tired and always felt groggy.” Detainee Moazzam Begg says that he believes he was given legitimate medications, but in improper dosages by poorly trained prison workers. Once, while being treated with pills for a panic attack, he began to hallucinate. “I saw things moving when they were not,” he recalls. “I talked to myself. I cried, laughed and sat immobile in a corner for hours. All of this was noted by the MPs and recorded.”
Use of Hallucinogens on Recalcitrant Prisoners? - Benchellali says that a different type of injection was used on detainees who were particularly uncooperative. His recollections are echoed by statements from four other detainees. “The injection would make them crazy,” he recalls. “They would have a crisis or dementia—yelling, no longer sleeping, soiling themselves. Some of us suspected they were given LSD.” Center for Constitutional Rights attorney J. Wells Dixon says the government seems to have given drugs to detainees whose extended captivity made them distraught or rebellious. “Many of these men have become desperately suicidal,” Dixon says. “And the government’s response has been to administer more medication, often without the consent of the prisoners.” [Washington Post, 4/22/2008]
Entity Tags: John C. Yoo, Central Intelligence Agency, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, Barbara Olshansky, Alberto Mora, Emi MacLean, J. Wells Dixon, Mourad Benchellali, Scott Allen, Physicians for Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, Moazzam Begg, US Department of Justice, Leonard Rubinstein, US Department of Defense, Rhuhel Ahmed
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
An Indonesian court officially declares Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) an illegal organization. JI is believed to be al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Southeast Asia. The Indonesian government had previously refused to ban JI, even though it supported a United Nations ban on JI shortly after the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002 and October 24, 2002). This court decision takes place during a trial of two high-ranking JI leaders, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana, both of whom were arrested the year before. Both are sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting terrorist activities. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna calls the decision “a huge victory against terrorism.” He adds: “This will have a direct impact on the leadership of JI, the most lethal terrorist group in Southeast Asia. Unless a terrorist was about to commit an attack, or had committed an attack, the Indonesian police couldn’t arrest them. Today if anyone is distributing propaganda and that person is linked to JI, that person can be arrested.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 4/22/2008]
In recent letters to Congress, the Justice Department has suggested that the Geneva Conventions’ ban on “outrages against personal dignity” does not automatically apply to terrorism suspects in the custody of US intelligence agencies (see August 8, 2007 and March 6, 2008). The letters are just now being made public, with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) making them available to the Washington Post. Last year, Wyden asked the Justice Department to provide an explanation for President Bush’s 2007 executive order authorizing the CIA to continue using so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” on detainees (see July 20, 2007) even as Bush claimed US interrogators would always observe Geneva restrictions. The department responded with several letters that reasserted the Bush administration’s contentions that it is not bound by domestic law or international treaties in deciding how the Geneva Conventions apply to the interrogation of terror suspects. [Washington Post, 4/27/2008; Voice of America, 4/27/2008]
'Humane Treatment' Subject to Interpretation, Circumstances - The Justice Department acknowledges that the US is bound by Common Article 3 of the Conventions, which requires that a signatory nation treat its detainees humanely; however, the letters say that the definition of “humane treatment” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and can depend on the detainee’s identity and the importance of the information he possesses. In a letter written to a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, Brian Benczkowski, wrote, “Some prohibitions… such as the prohibition on ‘outrages against personal dignity,’ do invite the consideration of the circumstances surrounding the action.” The government can weigh “the identity and information possessed by a detainee” in deciding whether to use harsh and potentially inhumane techniques, according to Benczkowski. A suspect with information about a future attack, for example, could and possibly would be subjected to extreme treatment, he says, and notes that a violation of the Geneva Conventions would only occur if the interrogator’s conduct “shocks the conscience” because it is out of proportion to “the government interest involved.” He continued, “The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act.” Furthermore, any action defined as an “outrage upon personal dignity” must be deliberate and involve an “intent to humiliate and degrade.”
Government Arguments 'Appalling,' Says Senator - A spokeswoman for Wyden, Jennifer Hoelzer, says that the administration’s contention that the Geneva Conventions can be selectively applied is “stunning.” Hoelzer says: “The Geneva Convention in most cases is the only shield that Americans have when they are captured overseas. And for the president to say that it is acceptable to interpret Geneva on a sliding scale means that he thinks that it is acceptable for other countries to do the same. Senator Wyden—and I believe any other reasonable individual—finds that argument appalling.” Law professor Scott Silliman, who teaches national security law at Duke University, agrees with Wyden’s assessments. He notes, “What they are saying is that if my intent is to defend the United States rather than to humiliate you, than I have not committed an offense.” An anonymous Justice Department official disagrees. “I certainly don’t want to suggest that if there’s a good purpose you can head off and humiliate and degrade someone. The fact that you are doing something for a legitimate security purpose would be relevant, but there are things that a reasonable observer would deem to be outrageous.” However, he adds, “there are certainly things that can be insulting that would not raise to the level of an outrage on personal dignity.” Wyden states that if the US is subjective in deciding what is and isn’t compliant under Geneva, then other countries will do the same to US prisoners in their custody. “The cumulative effect in my interpretation is to put American troops at risk,” he says. [Washington Post, 4/27/2008; New York Times, 4/27/2008] He adds that the letters help make the case for a law that explicitly puts the CIA interrogations under the same restrictions as the military, or another set of clear standards. [Wall Street Journal, 4/27/2008]
'Full Compliance' - The CIA refuses to comment on Benczkowski’s memo, but spokesman Mark Mansfield says the CIA’s detainee program “has been and continues to be in full compliance with the laws of our country.” He adds, “The program has disrupted terrorist plots and has saved lives.” [Washington Post, 4/27/2008; New York Times, 4/27/2008]
Entity Tags: Geneva Conventions, Mark Mansfield, Brian A. Benczkowski, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, US Department of Justice, Ron Wyden, Senate Intelligence Committee, Jennifer Hoelzer
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Authors and columnists Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton show that the Pentagon’s recently revealed covert propaganda program using “independent military analysts” to promulgate Pentagon viewpoints about Iraq and the war on terror (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond) is “not only unethical but illegal.”
Congress Prohibitions Since 1951 - According to every appropriations bill passed by Congress since 1951, “No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.”
Congressional Research Service Finds Government-Funded Propaganda Illegal - A March 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service defines “publicity or propaganda” as either “self-aggrandizement by public officials… purely partisan activity… covert propaganda.” Farsetta and Rampton explain, “By covert propaganda, GAO [the Government Accountability Office] means information which originates from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it came from a third party.” The GAO has determined that government-funded video news releases (VNRs) are illegal when an agency such as the Defense Department fails “to identify itself as the source of a prepackaged news story [and thusly] misleads the viewing public by encouraging the viewing audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual—the essential fact of attribution is missing.” Farsetta and Rampton argue that the supposedly “independent” commentary by the complicit analysts is little different from the VNRs. The GAO has also noted, “The publicity or propaganda restriction helps to mark the boundary between an agency making information available to the public and agencies creating news reports unbeknownst to the receiving audience.”
Justice Department Finds Propaganda Cannot be Funded by Government - And in 2005, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) found that after the Bush administration had been caught paying pundits to write op-eds favorable of administration policies, “OLC determined in 1988 that a statutory prohibition on using appropriated funds for ‘publicity or propaganda’ precluded undisclosed agency funding of advocacy by third-party groups. We stated that ‘covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties’ would run afoul of restrictions on using appropriated funds for ‘propaganda.’” Farsetta and Rampton write: “The key passage here is the phrase, ‘covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties.’ As the [New York] Times report documented in detail, the Pentagon’s military analyst program did exactly that.” [PRWatch, 4/28/2008]
Pentagon Says Program Legal - Former Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says the program is simply a “mirror image” of the Pentagon’s program of embedding journalists with combat units in the field, and Pentagon spokespersons insist that the program was merely to ensure that the US citizenry was well informed about the war. [New York Times, 4/21/2008]
In a 6-3 decision, the US Supreme Court upholds a 2005 Indiana law requiring voters to show photo identification before voting, despite concerns that it will effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters who have no such ID. Writing for the majority of judges, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “The state interests identified as justifications for [the law] are both neutral and sufficiently strong to require us to reject” the lawsuit challenging the law. In a dissenting opinion, Justice David Souter wrote “Indiana has made no such justification” for the law. Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita concedes that the state did not present a case of voter impersonation, which the law was designed to safeguard against. [CNN, 4/28/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that, according to newly released documents, the US military continued to use abusive and illegal interrogation methods on detainees well after an October 2003 directive meant to end such practices was issued. A number of Defense Department documents shows how military medical workers systematically failed to report abuses, and how psychologists took part in such interrogations—violations of both the law and medical oaths, the ACLU says.
Documents Part of Church Report - The documents, part of what is known as the Church report (see May 11, 2004), have been newly unredacted in connection with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2004. The government has yet to release any details of interrogation methods used after the 2003 directive was issued. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh says the documents also show that “the use of some of the techniques… continued even until July 2004, despite the fact that many were retracted by the October 2003 memorandum, and some were subsequently prohibited by the May 2004 memorandum.” The report says, “The relatively widespread use of these techniques supports our finding that the policy documents were not always received or thoroughly understood.” The Church report, an internal review of prisoner interrogation policies conducted after the Abu Ghraib scandal, found that no military or civilian leaders either directed or encouraged the prisoner abuses committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. [Associated Press, 4/30/2008]
Medics Failed to Report Abuse - According to the documents, Army medics failed to report abuses even after witnessing them. The Church report found that “enlisted medics witnessed obvious episodes of detainee abuse apparently without reporting them to superiors.” One medic watched as guards deliberately struck a detainee in his wounded leg. Two separate incidents involved detainees handcuffed in painful positions for extended periods of time; one of the detainees suffered a dislocated shoulder and the other experienced what the ACLU terms “excruciating pain when eventually forced to stand.” Another medic witnessed pictures of naked detainees in a pyramid but did not report the episode to superiors. “The documents reveal that psychologists and medical personnel played a key role in sustaining prisoner abuse—a clear violation of their ethical and legal obligations,” says Singh. “The documents only underscore the need for an independent investigation into responsibility for the systemic abuse of detainees held in US custody abroad.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/30/2008]
Partial Disclosure - Some of the report was disclosed in 2005, and parts of it have been declassified. Other portions remained classified in the interest of national security, according to government officials. Singh says these documents prove again that such classifications further a pattern “of claiming national security as pretext for withholding information to cover up embarrassing information.” The ACLU has long been critical of the Church report, calling it incomplete and sanitized. Lawsuits to force further disclosure are still pending. [Associated Press, 4/30/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 4/30/2008]
Regardless of the intention of the military to “minimize” its controversial “stop-loss” program (see November 2002 and January 19, 2007), which forces US soldiers to remain deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan for months after their term of duty has expired, the number of soldiers affected by the policy has increased by 43 percent in the last year, and Army officials say the stop-loss program will remain in effect through at least the fall of 2009. Some officials say that the number of troops affected by stop-loss orders will fall as “surge” troops (see January 10, 2007) redeploy. Currently, over 12,230 soldiers are being prevented from returning home even though their commitments to the Army have expired. That number was 8,540 in May 2007. Since 2002, about 58,000 soldiers have been affected by stop-loss policies. “As the [war zone] demand comes down, we should be able to get us weaned off stop-loss,” says Lieutenant General James Thurman. Stop-loss policies forbid active-duty soldiers within 90 days of retirement or obligated service from leaving the Army if they are in units alerted for deployment. Reservists and National Guard members are barred from leaving if their units have been alerted for mobilization. Though Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the Army and other branches of service to “minimize” their use of stop-loss, the number of soldiers affected has increased since Gates’s orders were issued in January 2007. [Army Times, 5/5/2008]
Mohammed Jawad, who has been detained at Guantanamo since age 16 (see December 17, 2002 and January 13, 2009), is beaten so badly by guards that weeks later he still has what Salon’s Glenn Greenwald will describe as “extreme bruises on his arms, knees, shoulders, forehead, and ribs.” [Salon, 1/21/2009]
Former Bush White House press secretary Scott McClellan, in his book What Happened, reflects on what he considers to be the biggest mistakes of President Bush’s presidency: the rush to war with Iraq, and the unwillingness to admit that rushing to war was an error. McClellan writes: “The first grave mistake of Bush’s presidency was rushing towards military confrontation with Iraq. It took his presidency off course and greatly damaged his standing with the public. His second grave mistake was his virtual blindness about his first mistake, and his unwillingness to sustain a bipartisan spirit during a time of war and change course when events demanded it.” McClellan writes that his own views of the Iraq war “have evolved in parallel to those of most Americans.” Before the invasion, McClellan writes that he was torn between uncertainty over launching an unprecedented pre-emptive strike on a nation that had not attacked us, and a desire to avenge the 9/11 attacks. Now, he has “been forced to conclude that we should never have rushed to war in the first place.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 210]
The Justice Department is investigating four cases of alleged selective prosecution, including the prosecution and overturned conviction of Wisconsin government official Georgia Thompson by former US Attorney Steven Biskupic (see April 5, 2007). The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) informs the House Judiciary Committee of the investigations, in a letter signed by OPR chief H. Marshall Jarrett. Since Thompson’s conviction was overturned over a year ago, her prosecution has been widely criticized as giving the appearance of being politically motivated (see April 7-10, 2007, April 16, 2007, and April 24, 2007). Committee members John Conyers (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) are spearheading the committee’s probe into the Thompson prosecution. Many suspect that Biskupic prosecuted Thompson in order to avoid being fired in the 2006 US Attorney purge (see March 10, 2006, December 7, 2006, and December 20, 2006). Biskupic has denied knowing he was being considered for termination before he opened his prosecution of Thompson (see March 2, 2005), though he has also admitted to learning about being on the “purge” list after the fact (see April 14, 2007). After he opened that investigation, his name disappeared from the list. [WisPolitics Courtwatch Blog, 5/23/2008; Capital Times, 5/29/2008]
Mohammed Jawad, a young Guantanamo detainee held in US captivity for almost six years (see December 17, 2002) and charged with attempted murder (see October 7, 2007), agrees to participate in his trial (see March 12, 2008), but authorizes his defense counsel, Major David Frakt, only to represent him for the purpose of challenging the legitimacy of the military commission system. Frakt tells the court that Jawad has been punished for his behavior at his arraignment (see March 12, 2008) by the loss of certain “comfort items,” including his only blanket. Frakt asks that the blanket and other items be returned to Jawad, asks for a mental health evaluation (see December 2003), and for changes in Jawad’s conditions of confinement. [Human Rights First, 9/2008] At some point in May, presumably after the hearing, Jawad will be severely beaten by his guards (see May 2008).
The US military dismisses charges against Mohammed al-Khatani. In February 2008, al-Khatani was part of a small group of detainees held at the Guantanamo prison charged before a military tribunal with involvement in the 9/11 attacks (see February 11, 2008). Al-Khatani is said to be the would-be “20th hijacker” who was refused entry to the US in August 2001 (see August 4, 2001). However, he was later captured and subjected to months of torture at Guantanamo (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003). The Pentagon official who announces the dismissal of charges against him, Convening Authority Susan Crawford, gives no explanation. The charges are dismissed “without prejudice,” which means they could be reinstated at any time. However, many believe that the charges against him are dismissed because of the torture he underwent, as well as the fact that he appears to have only been a unsuccessful low-level figure in the plot. [New York Times, 5/14/2008] In 2006, MSNBC predicted that he would never face trial due to the way he was tortured (see October 26, 2006). However, he still remains imprisoned at Guantanamo. In January 2009, Crawford will confirm that she dismissed the case against al-Khatani because he was indeed tortured (see January 14, 2009). She will say that the treatment suffered by al-Khatani “did shock me,” and will continue: “I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it.” Crawford will lay much of the blame for al-Khatani being tortured at the feet of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “A lot of this happened on his watch,” she will say. [Washington Post, 1/14/2009]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases Pentagon documents that include previously classified internal investigations into the abuse of detainees in US custody overseas. The documents provide new details about the deaths of detainees in Iraq, and internal dissent in the military over torture methods used at Guantanamo Bay. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh says: “These documents provide further evidence that the torture of prisoners in US custody abroad was not aberrational, but was widespread and systemic. They only underscore the need for an independent investigation into high-level responsibility for prisoner abuse.” The documents provide details of four investigations into prisoner deaths conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS):
March 2003: Iraqi prisoner Hemdan El Gashame was shot to death in Nasiriyah (see March 2003);
June 2003: A 53-year-old Iraqi man, Naem Sadoon Hatab, was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment camp in Nasiriyah (see June 2003);
November 2003: Manadel al-Jamadi was beaten to death, apparently with a stove, at Abu Ghraib (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003 and November 5, 2003);
2004: Iraqi prisoner Farhad Mohamed died in Mosul (see 2004); later examination found contusions under his eyes and the bottom of his chin, a swollen nose, and cuts and large bumps on his forehead.
Another document shows that as far back as September 2002 Army officials were objecting to the methods used in interrogating Guantanamo prisoners (see September 2002). [American Civil Liberties Union, 5/14/2008]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responds to a just-released Justice Department report about prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and in US-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan (see May 20, 2008). “Today’s OIG [Office of the Inspector General] report reveals that top government officials in the Defense Department, CIA, and even as high as the White House turned a blind eye to torture and abuse and failed to act aggressively to end it,” says ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. “Moreover, the country’s top law enforcement agency—the FBI—did not take measures to enforce the law but only belatedly reported on the law’s violations. It’s troubling that the government seems to have been more concerned with obscuring the facts than with enforcing the law and stopping the torture and abuse of detainees. Had the government taken action in 2002, perhaps the disgrace of Abu Ghraib and other abuses could have been avoided.” Senior ACLU official Caroline Fredrickson says: “Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently testified to Congress that he cannot prosecute anyone for anything approved by Justice Department opinions that authorized detainee abuse (see February 7, 2008). But no one gets immunity for acts they should have known were illegal. The filtering up of information from FBI agents to high government officials makes claims of immunity even more incredulous.” And ACLU senior legislative counsel Christopher Anders says: “This new report should become exhibit A at the next Congressional hearing on the Bush administration’s use of torture. The House Judiciary Committee is in the middle of the first thorough Congressional review of the development and implementation of the torture policies at the top levels of government. The questions are who did what and what crimes were committed. This Justice Department report helps answer both questions.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008]
Entity Tags: Christopher Anders, Anthony D. Romero, American Civil Liberties Union, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, House Judiciary Committee, US Department of Justice, Michael Mukasey, US Department of Defense, Caroline Fredrickson
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
The Department of Justice (DOJ) releases a long-anticipated report on the alleged torture and abuse of terrorist suspects in US custody. The report was spurred by a Congressional request after Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests showed that FBI agents at Guantanamo had raised concerns about CIA- and military-conducted interrogations. The report identifies then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as a recipient of complaints of torture. [American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008] The report, issued by DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine, shows that CIA officials regularly ignored DOJ warnings that the interrogation tactics they were using amounted to “borderline torture.” The report also concludes that the Defense Department is ultimately responsible for how prisoners in military custody are being treated. As a result, the report finds no reason to bring criminal complaints against CIA officials or interrogators.
'Seven Months of Foot-Dragging' - The report documents what CBS News calls “seven months of foot-dragging” by the Pentagon, which attempted to water down the report. Failing that, the report cites numerous instances where Pentagon officials attempted to redact information in the report from public view. The report is lightly redacted.
FBI Praised for Legal, Non-Coercive Interrogation Techniques - The report generally praises the FBI’s own interrogation efforts, methods, and results. It confirms that when CIA officials became impatient with what they were calling “throwaway results” by FBI interrogators, particularly in the case of Abu Zubaida (see April - June 2002), the CIA took over interrogations of prisoners such as Zubaida and began using harsh, torturous techniques. The FBI pulled its agents from the ongoing interrogations, refusing to participate in what it considered to be illegal actions (see May 13, 2004). (In 2009, a former FBI interrogator will confirm that the FBI gathered far more useful information from its non-coercive techniques than the CIA did with its “borderline torture” methods—see Late March through Early June, 2002 and April 22, 2009.) [CBS News, 5/20/2008; Newsweek, 5/20/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008]
Witnesses to Torture - However, the report makes clear that FBI agents witnessed harsh interrogations that may have constituted torture at three locations—Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base facility, and Guantanamo Bay. FBI agents are explicitly banned from using brutality, physical violence, intimidation, or other means of causing duress when interviewing suspects. Instead, the FBI generally tries to build a rapport with suspects to get information. “Beyond any doubt, what they are doing (and I don’t know the extent of it) would be unlawful were these enemy prisoners of war,” one FBI employee, senior FBI lawyer Spike Bowman, reported. Bowman worried that the FBI would be “tarred by the same brush,” when asked whether the FBI should refer the matter to the Defense Department Inspector General, and added, “Were I still on active duty, there is no question in my mind that it would be a duty to do so.” The report cites two FBI agents at Guantanamo who “had concerns not only about the proposed techniques but also about the glee with which the would-be [military] participants discussed their respective roles in carrying out these techniques, and the utter lack of sophistication and circus-like atmosphere within this interrogation strategy session.” [CBS News, 5/20/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008]
Blocking Access to Zubaida - CIA general counsel John Rizzo refused to let DOJ investigators interview Zubaida for the report. The CIA has admitted that Zubaida was waterboarded (see Mid-May, 2002, March 2002 and April - June 2002). The report says that the CIA’s denial of access to Zubaida was “unwarranted,” and “hampered” the investigation, and contrasts the CIA’s actions with those of the Defense Department, which allowed DOJ investigators to interview Guantanamo prisoners. Rizzo told the DOJ that Zubaida “could make false allegations against CIA employees.” [Newsweek, 5/20/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008]
Split over Al-Khatani - The rift between the CIA and FBI came to a head over the treatment of Mohamed al-Khatani, one of several suspected terrorists accused of being the fabled “20th hijacker” for the 9/11 attacks (see December 2001). According to the report, al-Khatani was abused in a number of ways by military interrogators at Guantanamo; the report cites the use of attack dogs, shackling and stress positions, sexual humiliation, mocking al-Khatani’s religion, and extended sleep deprivation among other tactics. FBI officials complained to the White House after learning that military interrogators forced him to “perform dog tricks,” “be nude in front of a female,” and wear “women’s underwear on his head.” Al-Khatani did eventually “confess” (see July 2002), but FBI officials expressed serious doubts as to the validity of his confession, both in its accuracy and in its admissability in a criminal court. The then-chief of the Guantanamo facility, Major General Geoffrey Miller, ordered a “relentless” and “sustained attack” on al-Khatani. “The plan was to keep him up until he broke,” an FBI agent told superiors, and some of those superiors worried that those techniques would render his confession inadmissible. Al-Khatani was hospitalized for hypothermia during those interrogations. His lawyer, Gitanjali Gutierrez, says her client recently attempted suicide because of his treatment. “The tactics that were used against and the impact, the pain and suffering it caused him and the damage that it caused him does rise to a level of torture,” she says. The government recently dropped all charges against al-Khatani (see October 26, 2006 and January 14, 2009), because if he had been brought to trial, all of the evidence of his treatment would be made public. [CBS News, 5/20/2008; Newsweek, 5/20/2008; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/20/2008]
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Glenn Fine, John Rizzo, Marion (“Spike”) Bowman, Gitanjali Gutierrez, Geoffrey D. Miller, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Condoleezza Rice, Abu Zubaida, Mohamed al-Khatani, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Defense
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
The House Judiciary Committee releases a May 5 letter written to Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR—see May 5, 2008). The letter advises Conyers that OPR is investigating “allegations of selective prosecution relating to the prosecutions of Don Siegelman, Georgia Thompson, and Oliver Diaz and Paul Minor.” The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are investigating widespread allegations of politically-driven prosecutions by the Justice Department under the Bush administration. Former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL) is facing bribery charges. Georgia Thompson is a former Wisconsin state employee convicted of corruption by US Attorney Steven Biskupic (see April 14, 2007), but who was set free after an appeals court found the case against her irreparably flawed. Diaz, a former Mississippi State Supreme Court justice, and Minor, a Mississippi lawyer, were both prosecuted by US Attorney Dunn Lampton, and the cases for both are being investigated by the House Judiciary Committee as being possibly driven by partisan political interests. [TPM Muckraker, 2/25/2008; TPM Muckraker, 5/22/2008; Talking Points Memo, 2011]
Thirty-one Iraqi legislators write a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the entire US Congress emphasizing that their government has no intention of signing any security agreement with the US that does not include a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. The US government is working to hammer out an agreement between itself and the Iraqi government that would provide for some temporary (see March 7, 2008) or permanent (see June 5, 2008) US presence in Iraq. On June 4, Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) will release the letter. The letter reads in part, “[T]he majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters.” [US House of Representatives, 5/29/2008; Politico, 6/4/2008]
An Algerian woman who was allegedly date-raped by local CIA station chief Andrew Warren (see September 2007) complains about this to the US embassy. She makes a statement to the US Marine Security Guard detachment commander, saying that she was date-raped the previous year. The commander then reports the allegations to Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Kevin Whitson. Another DSS agent, Jared Campbell, will later travel to Germany, where the woman resides, and will interview her there on September 25, 2008, learning details of the alleged rape. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/2008 ]
The Secret Service, in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies, thwarts at least four alleged assassination attempts on the life of presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL—see May 2007 and After). One attempt is launched by militiamen in Pennsylvania, one by white supremacists in Denver, one by white supremacists in Tennessee, and one by an active-duty Marine in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. All the participants are arrested and charged with a variety of criminal actions. The Secret Service refuses to give details of the alleged assassination plots. [Time, 9/30/2010]
The campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain (R-AZ) says that if elected, McCain would retain the right to operate his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans. Like President Bush, McCain believes that the president’s “wartime” powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight. McCain’s campaign is also backing off on earlier assertions that more oversight is needed for telecom companies accused of illegally cooperating with the NSA’s domestic spying program; the campaign now says that McCain is for “unconditional immunity” from prosecution for telecoms. Campaign spokesman Doug Holtz-Eakin says: “[N]either the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.… We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.” The Article II citation has long been used by Bush officials to justify their contention that a president’s wartime powers are virtually unlimited. McCain’s stance directly contradicts a statement he made in December 2007, when he told Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage: “I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.… I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law.” McCain’s campaign is so far refusing to respond to requests to explain the differences between his December assertions and those made today. [Wired News, 6/3/2008]
The USS Peleliu. [Source: Zack Baddor / AP]Human rights groups claim that the US is operating “floating prisons” as detention facilities for prisoners taken in the “war on terror.” The groups claim that the US is keeping prisoners aboard ships such as the USS Ashland, the USS Bataan, and the USS Peleliu (see December 27, 2001), and say that the Americans refuse to admit to the existence of such detainees. The human rights group Reprieve has asked that the US list the names and whereabouts of such “ghost detainees” held aboard US vessels. The existence of the detainees has come to light from a number of sources, including statements from US military officials, information provided by the Council of Europe and other parliamentary bodies, and prisoner testimonies (see June 2, 2008).
Details of Detentions - Reprieve says the US has used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. While aboard, the prisoners are interrogated, then rendered to undisclosed locations. Fifteen of those ships may have operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia, which hosts a large British-American military base (see July 27, 1971-May 26, 1973 and After February 7, 2002). According to information obtained by Reprieve, in early 2007, the Ashland was involved in the detention and rendering of over 100 individuals abducted by Somali, Kenyan, and Ethiopian forces during an upsurge of fighting in Somalia, and then interrogated by FBI and CIA agents. Those individuals have now disappeared, but many are believed to be held in prisons in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantanamo Bay, among other possible sites. One prisoner released from Guantanamo has retold the account of a fellow inmate’s detention: “[H]e was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantanamo.” Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, says the US military “choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.… By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001 (see November 17, 2005). The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”
British Officials Ask for Accountability - Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, says both the US and British governments must own up to their practices of rendition and “ghost detainees.” “Little by little, the truth is coming out on extraordinary rendition,” he says. “The rest will come, in time. Better for governments to be candid now, rather than later. Greater transparency will provide increased confidence that President Bush’s departure from justice and the rule of law in the aftermath of September 11 is being reversed, and can help to win back the confidence of moderate Muslim communities, whose support is crucial in tackling dangerous extremism.” Tyrie has requested that an investigation into the use of Diego Garcia as a rendition refueling stop be undertaken (see June 2, 2008). Liberal Democrat MP Edward Davey adds: “If the Bush administration is using British territories to aid and abet illegal state abduction, it would amount to a huge breach of trust with the British government. Ministers must make absolutely clear that they would not support such illegal activity, either directly or indirectly.” A US Naval spokesman says that none of its vessels have “detention facilities,” but admits that some detainees had been put on ships “for a few days” during their initial days of detention. He refuses to comment on reports that US Naval vessels stationed in or near Diego Garcia had been used as “prison ships.” [Guardian, 6/2/2008]
The British human rights organization Reprieve claims that the US has detained around 26,000 terror suspects in its network of secret prisons. It also says that several prisoners were held on a network of secret prison ships, both for detention and for interrogation sessions that were held “off the books.” The prisoners allegedly included American-born John Walker Lindh (see December 2001-January 2002) and Australian David Hicks (see July 3, 2003). Reprieve says that the US has used ships stationed off the Somali coast and off the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia to detain suspects (see June 2, 2008), including the USS Ashland, the USS Bataan, and the USS Peleliu; up to 17 naval vessels have been used, the group says. The Navy admits that its ships have sometimes housed prisoners for short periods of time, but denies that its vessels are used as long-term floating prisons. “We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships,” says Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. Reprieve bases its claims on evidence from the US military, the Council of Europe, and testimony from a former detainee at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Associated Press, 6/2/2008]
The Iraqi government will miss a July 31, 2008 target for an agreement on long-term relations between the US and Iraq (see March 7, 2008), according to an Iraqi government spokesman. The Bush administration wants the agreement—which is far more broad and permanent than previously disclosed—passed for what many believe are political purposes (see June 5, 2008). Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says the agreement will not be made by the target date: “I don’t think that we can meet this date. There is a difference in viewpoints between Iraq and the US. I don’t think that time is enough to end this gap and to reach a joint understanding.… Therefore, we are not committed to July as a deadline.” Iraq is also considering possible alternatives to the proposed agreement, he says, but gives no details. The agreement has raised strong objections among many Iraqis, who suspect the US of trying to create a permanent occupation of their nation. [Reuters, 6/3/2008]
Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, writes to Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting access to the transcripts of interviews by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see Shortly after February 13, 2002). The interviews were conducted as part of the investigation of former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Waxman notes that he made a similar request in December 2007 which has gone unfulfilled (see December 3, 2007). Waxman wants the reports from Bush and Cheney’s interviews, and the unredacted reports from the interviews with Libby, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former White House aide Cathie Martin, “and other senior White House officials.” Information revealed by McClellan in conjuction with his new book What Happened, including McClellan’s statement that Bush and Cheney “directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby,” and his assertion that “Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney… allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie,” adds to evidence from Libby’s interviews that Cheney may have been the source of the information that Wilson worked for the CIA. For Cheney to leak Wilson’s identity, and to then direct McClellan to mislead the public, “would be a major breach of trust,” Waxman writes. He adds that no argument can be made for withholding the documents on the basis of executive privilege, and notes that in 1997 and 1998, the Oversight Committee demanded and received FBI interviews with then-President Clinton and then-Vice President Gore without even consulting the White House. [US House of Representatives, 6/3/2008; TPM Muckraker, 6/3/2008]
Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Henry A. Waxman, Condoleezza Rice, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Scott McClellan, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Michael Mukasey
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Two Iraqi lawmakers denounce a proposed deal that would provide for a permanent presence of US forces in Iraq (see March 7, 2008 and June 5, 2008). In a hearing of a House foreign affairs subcommittee chaired by William Delahunt (D-MA), two Iraqi legislators, Sheikh Khalaf al-Ulayyan and Professor Nadeem al-Jaberi, both lambast the deal. Al-Ulayyan is a Sunni cleric and al-Jaberi is a Shi’ite parliamentarian. Al-Jaberi says that the biggest problem with the deal is that it threatens Iraq’s sovereignty. “The Iraqi government right now does not have the full reign of its sovereignty, because of the thousands of foreign troops that are on its land,” he says. “And perhaps the Iraqi government does not have as of yet sufficient tools to run its own internal affairs. Therefore, I ask the American government not to embarrass the Iraqi government by putting it in a difficult situation with this agreement.” Since the status of the two nations is so unequal, al-Jabari says, the deal will likely “lead to more instability,” and they hope “any future agreement does not affect or impact Iraqi sovereignty, such as permanent military bases.” Any such security deal must wait until US troops have fully withdrawn from Iraq, he says. Al-Ulayyan says he wants to “salute the American people for their stand against the war, which we saw on TV in the form of demonstrations and protests.” While he warns against a precipitous withdrawal of US forces that might lead to “impotence and flaws in the security,” he notes that “protecting Iraq does not require signing long-term agreements like the one proposed, because [the US has] bases in surrounding countries like Kuwait, Jordan and so forth, and therefore, we don’t see any importance or need for military bases in Iraq.” [Washington Independent, 6/4/2008]
The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, denies that the US is trying to set up permanent military bases in Iraq. Recent reports have shown that the Bush administration is apparently trying to “strong-arm” Iraq into agreeing to a permanent military presence in the country (see June 5, 2008). While the Bush administration wants a military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, “It is not going to be forever,” Crocker says. “There isn’t going to be an agreement that infringes on Iraqi sovereignty.” The military agreement will have a provision for periodic review and renewal, as do similar agreements with other countries, Crocker says. Many Iraqi lawmakers and civilians are balking at some of the provisions of the proposed agreement, including the long-term placement of private security forces inside Iraq, the legal immunity enjoyed by US government and corporate personnel, the longevity of the 50 or so bases proposed in the agreement, the US control over Iraqi airspace, and, more generally, the worry that the agreement will lock in US military, economic, and political domination of the country for generations to come. “The Americans have some demands that the Iraqi government regards as infringing on its sovereignty,” says lawmaker Haider al-Abadi. “This is the main dispute, and if the dispute is not settled, I frankly tell you there will not be an agreement.” Crocker denies that the bill contains any secret provisions, and that the entire deal is “transparent” for both Iraqis and Americans. The proposed agreement was kept secret for at least a month before being leaked to the British press in April (see March 7, 2008). [Associated Press, 6/5/2008]
The British newspaper The Independent reports on a secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad that would indefinitely perpetuate the American occupation of Iraq, no matter who wins the US presidential elections in November. Under the accord, US troops and private contractors will occupy over 50 permanent military bases, conduct military operations without consulting the Iraqi government, arrest Iraqis at will, control Iraqi airspace, and be immune from Iraqi law. The agreement goes much farther than a previous draft agreement created between the two countries in March (see March 7, 2008). It is based on a so-called “Declaration of Principles” issued by both governments in November 2007 (see November 26, 2007). The US says it has no intention of entering into a permanent agreement (see June 5, 2008).
Forcing Agreement Over Iraqi Opposition - President Bush intends to force the so-called “strategic alliance” onto the Iraqi government, without modifications, by the end of July. Inside sources believe that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki opposes the deal, but feels that his government cannot stay in power without US backing and therefore has no power to resist. Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement that limits Iraqi sovereignty, insiders believe that their resistance is little more than bluster designed to shore up their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence; they will sign off on the agreement in the end, observers believe. The only person with the authority to block the deal is Shi’ite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. But al-Sistani is said to believe that the Shi’a cannot afford to lose US support if they intend to remain in control of the government. Al-Sistani’s political rival, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has exhorted his followers to demonstrate against the agreement as a compromise of Iraqi sovereignty. As for the other two power blocs in the country, the Kurds are likely to accept the agreement, and, interestingly, so are many Sunni political leaders, who want the US in Iraq to dilute the Shi’ites’ control of the government. (Many Sunni citizens oppose any such deal.) While the Iraqi government itself is trying to delay the signing of the accord, Vice President Dick Cheney has been instrumental in pushing for its early acceptance. The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks trying to secure the agreement.
'Explosive Political Effect' - Many Iraqis fear that the deal will have what reporter Patrick Cockburn calls “an explosive political effect in Iraq… [it may] destabilize Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.” Cockburn writes that the accords may provoke a political crisis in the US as well. Bush wants the accords pushed through “so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated.” The accord would also boost the candidacy of John McCain (R-AZ), who claims the US is on the brink of victory in Iraq. It would fly in the face of pledges made by McCain’s presidential opponent Barack Obama (D-IL), who has promised to withdraw US troops from Iraq if elected. McCain has said that Obama will throw away a US victory if he prematurely withdraws troops. An Iraqi politician says of the potential agreement, “It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty.” He adds that such an agreement will delegitimize the Iraqi government and prove to the world that it is nothing more than a puppet government controlled by the US. While US officials have repeatedly denied that the Bush administration wants permanent bases in Iraq, an Iraqi source retorts, “This is just a tactical subterfuge.”
Exacerbating Tensions with Iran - Iranian leader Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says that the agreement will create “a permanent occupation.… The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans.” The deal may also inflame tensions between Iran and the US; currently the two countries are locked in an under-the-radar struggle to win influence in Iraq. [Independent, 6/5/2008]
Entity Tags: Moqtada al-Sadr, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, Hashemi Rafsanjani, John McCain, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ryan C. Crocker, Sayyid Ali Husaini al-Sistani, Patrick Cockburn, Nouri al-Maliki, Independent
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel, discussing the proposed permanent basing of US forces in Iraq (see June 5, 2008), says that, according to US and Iraqi officials, the bases would technically belong to Iraq. Such a measure is part of what Engel calls “a face saving device.” Engel says that “US troops would reside on them as tenants.” Engel’s report meshes with a recent statement by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has said that “there isn’t going to be an agreement that infringes on Iraqi sovereignty” (see June 5, 2008). [American University Radio, 6/5/2008; Think Progress (.org), 6/7/2008]
The Senate Intelligence Committee releases its long-awaited “Phase II” report on the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in convincing the country that it was necessary to invade Iraq. According to the report, none of the claims made by the administration—particularly that Iraq had WMD and that its government had working ties with Islamist terror organizations such as al-Qaeda—were based in any intelligence reporting. The committee released “Phase I” of its report in July 2004, covering the quality of intelligence used in making the case for war; the second phase was promised “soon afterwards” by the then-Republican leadership of the committee, but nothing was done until after Democrats took over the committee in November 2006. The report is the product of what the Associated Press calls “nasty partisan fight[ing]” among Republicans and Democrats, and largely fails to reveal much information that has not earlier been reported elsewhere. [Associated Press, 6/5/2008] The report is bipartisan in that two Republican committee members, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), joined the committee’s Democrats to sign the report. [Hill, 6/5/2008]
False Linkages between Iraq, Al-Qaeda - Time magazine notes that the report “doesn’t break any new ground,” but tries “to make the case that President Bush and his advisers deliberately disregarded conflicting intel and misled Americans on the severity of the Iraqi threat.” Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) says: “It is my belief that the Bush administration was fixated on Iraq, and used the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. To accomplish this, top administration officials made repeated statements that falsely linked Iraq and al-Qaeda as a single threat.” [Time, 6/6/2008]
Examination of Five Speeches - The report looks at the statements of current and former Bush administration officials such as President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, between October 2002 and the actual invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (see January 23, 2008), largely focusing on five speeches:
Cheney’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention (see August 26, 2002);
Bush’s statement to the UN General Assembly (see September 12, 2002);
Bush’s speech in Cincinnati (see October 7, 2002);
Bush’s State of the Union speech (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003);
and Powell’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council (see February 5, 2003).
The report contrasts these speeches and statements to intelligence reports that have since then been released. The report only assesses the veracity of public comments made by Bush officials, and does not delve into any possible behind-the-scenes machinations by those officials or their surrogates. Some of the report’s conclusions:
“Statements which indicated that [Saddam] Hussein was prepared to give WMDs to terrorists were inconsistent with existing intelligence at the time, as were statements that suggested a partnership between the two.”
“Claims that airstrikes on their own would not be sufficient to destroy purported chemical and biological weapons in Iraq were unsubstantiated.”
“Most statements that supported the theory that Hussein had access to or the capacity to build chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons did not take into account the disagreements between intelligence agencies as to the credibility of the WMD allegations.”
'Statements beyond What the Intelligence Supported' - Rockefeller says the administration concealed information that contradicted their arguments that an invasion was necessary. “We might have avoided this catastrophe,” he says. The report finds that while many of the administration’s claims were supported by at least some intelligence findings, the administration routinely refused to mention dissents or uncertainties expressed by intelligence analysts about the information being presented. The committee’s five Republicans assail the report as little more than election-year partisanship, and accuse Democrats of using the report to cover for their own members, including Rockefeller and Carl Levin (D-MI), who supported the administration’s push for war at the time. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 6/5/2008 ; Associated Press, 6/5/2008; Time, 6/6/2008] Rockefeller answers the Republican charges by saying, “[T]here is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully accurate.” Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) writes in a note attached to the report: “Even though the intelligence before the war supported inaccurate statements, this administration distorted the intelligence in order to build its case to go to war. The executive branch released only those findings that supported the argument, did not relay uncertainties, and at times made statements beyond what the intelligence supported.” [Huffington Post, 6/5/2008]
Entity Tags: Chuck Hagel, John D. Rockefeller, Colin Powell, Dianne Feinstein, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Carl Levin, Olympia Snowe, Al-Qaeda, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Senate Intelligence Committee, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
The US is pressuring the Iraqi government to accept a military agreement for permanent US bases in Iraq (see March 7, 2008 and June 5, 2008) by using some $50 billion of Iraqi money being kept in the US Federal Reserve Bank as a negotiating tool. About $20 billion in outstanding court judgments exist against Iraq in the US. A presidential order currently gives that money protection from judicial attachment. But, US officials have told Iraqi lawmakers, if they do not sign the accord with the US, President Bush will lift that immunity and the $20 billion will be confiscated by the US court system. [Independent, 6/6/2008; Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 6/6/2008] Reporter Patrick Cockburn writes: “The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 percent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq’s independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new ‘strategic alliance’ with the United States.” Cockburn writes that regardless of the financial “blackmail,” Iraqis are resistant to the agreement because they fear it will make their nation a perpetual “client state” of the US. [Independent, 6/6/2008]
Jan Schakowsky. [Source: Washington Post]Fifty-six Democratic members of the House of Representatives send a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether top Bush administration officials committed crimes in authorizing the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics against suspected terrorists (see April 2002 and After). The lawmakers, who include John Conyers (D-MI), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Intelligence Committee members Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), cite “mounting evidence” that senior officials personally sanctioned the use of such extreme interrogation methods. An independent investigation is needed to determine whether such actions violated US or international law, the letter states. “This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law,” the letter says. It adds that a broad inquiry is needed to examine the consequences of administration decisions at US detention sites in Iraq, at Guantanamo, and in secret prisons operated by the CIA. The interrogation methods have resulted in “abuse, sexual exploitation and torture” that may have violated the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the American Anti-Torture Act of 2007. “Despite the seriousness of the evidence, the Justice Department has brought prosecution against only one civilian for an interrogation-related crime,” the letter reads. “Given that record, we believe it is necessary to appoint a special counsel in order to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation occurs.” Conyers tells reporters after sending the letter, “We need an impartial criminal investigation.” The entire detainee controversy is “a truly shameful episode” in US history, he says. “Because these apparent ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were used under cover of Justice Department legal opinions, the need for an outside special prosecutor is obvious.” The Justice Department refuses to comment on the letter. Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch says that the letter is significant even if Mukasey refuses to appoint a special counsel. “The fact that so many representatives have called for the investigation helps lay the groundwork for the inevitable reckoning and accounting that the next administration is going to have to do regarding this administration’s practices,” she says. [US House of Representatives, 6/6/2008; Washington Post, 6/7/2008; United Press International, 6/7/2008]
Entity Tags: Jerrold Nadler, House Intelligence Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), House Judiciary Committee, Human Rights Watch, Michael Mukasey, US Department of Justice, John Conyers, Jan Schakowsky, Jennifer Daskal
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
During a PBS broadcast of a panel discussion about US interventions in the Middle East, host Bill Moyers observes that the hidden costs of the Iraq war are staggering. He notes that the huge number of suicides among US soldiers in Iraq as well as those who have come home is “the dirty little secret of this war.” The broken Veterans Administration, and its inability to provide decent medical care for the troops, is another, he says. Not only are these underreported in the US media, he says, even the economic costs get relatively little play, despite the fact that “The war’s costing us $5,000 a second, $12 1/2 billion to $13 billion a month,” with the costs ultimately soaring into the trillions of dollars. “[T]hat would seem to hit people in the viscera,” he says. Guest Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher says that the economic issues of the war are one of the biggest reasons why President Bush’s approval ratings stay below 30 percent, even as the media touts the “surge” (see January 2007 and January 10, 2007) as such a success. “[T]he reason is the people figured out long ago, long ago that the war was a mistake and that it’s incredibly costly in the human and financial and even moral terms.” [PBS, 6/6/2008]
The FBI arrests Pittsburgh-area resident Bradley T. Kahle as part of a larger sweep of a domestic terrorist group (see June 8, 2008). Kahle, a recruiter for the Pennsylvania Citizens Militia, tells authorities he had planned to shoot black people from a rooftop in Pittsburgh, and says that if either Barack Obama (D-IL) or Hillary Clinton (D-NY) are elected president, the country will be engulfed in civil war. Kahle, a resident of Troutville, Pennsylvania, allegedly gave undercover FBI agents explicit instructions on how to make deadly grenades using “bean cans” or other such containers. Undercover agents have been monitoring Kahle and other area domestic terrorism plotters for well over a year. In a raid, FBI agents find 16 improvised bombs in what the agents term a “gun reloading room,” along with cans of fragmentation and bags of lead shot. Kahle has shown undercover agents a number of firearms, including assault rifles and a sniper rifle, and over 5,000 rounds of ammunition. An FBI affidavit says of Kahle’s improvised grenades: “Kahle continued that a tactic for employing a bean can, if raided, is to wait until the police shoot gas through your door. The hole made by the gas projectile can then be used to throw a bean can grenade back out at the approaching entry team to kill as many law enforcement officers as possible.” He allegedly told an undercover agent that once he began attacking law enforcement officials: “You wouldn’t want to be near me. SWAT teams included. Bring them all on.… don’t send the kids, bring your very best. Hey, eight or 10 good bean bombs… five or 600 rounds of ammo and some good equipment. I would be a tough take.” Kahle told undercover agents that he intended to begin by shooting judges, magistrates, and police chiefs, which he said would “start the doomsday process.” He also told an undercover agent that he hoped Clinton or Obama would “get assassinated” if they were elected president. “If not they will disarm the country, and we will have a civil war.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/11/2008; Associated Press, 6/11/2008; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011] Federal Judge Pete Pesto will rule that despite Kahle’s stockpile of weapons and his rhetoric, he does not pose a threat to the community, and releases him on house arrest with an electronic monitor pending his trial. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/12/2008] Kahle will be acquitted of all charges. He will say that “the US Constitution was the big winner” in the verdict. Defense attorney Blair Hindman will successfully argue that Kahle never directly threatened anyone, and all of his weapons were for defensive purposes and “no different than what thousands of other Americans have in their garages.” [Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, 3/10/2010]
A screenshot of a local Pittsburgh news broadcast showing three of four suspects arrested on charges of domestic terrorism. [Source: FireDogLake (.com)]The FBI arrests four Pittsburgh-area people on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks. Marvin Hall of Rimersburg, Perry Landis of the Clarion area, Morgan Jones of Lucinda, and Melissa Huet, presumably of Pittsburgh, are arrested after authorities learned they were stockpiling a cache of weapons with plans to target local government buildings. Two more suspects will be arrested days later, including Bradley T. Kahle (see June 8, 2008). Many of the six have ties to the right-wing militia movement; Landis is sergeant-at-arms of the Brookville Tiger Militia in Jefferson County. In a raid, the FBI confiscates hundreds of weapons, including hunting rifles, a Romanian assault rifle, 16 homemade bombs, homemade rockets, a homemade flame thrower, blasting caps, and cannons. The four made threats to blow up government buildings and carry out other acts of domestic terrorism. They face numerous federal firearms charges as well as charges of illegal sales, manufacture, and transport of weapons. The raid is the culmination of three years of investigations, including the insertion of undercover agents inside the operation. Federal agents have raided other area compounds over the last two days in the Clarion area; one of these raids led to Kahle’s arrest. Landis has told undercover agents that he intended to assassinate Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA). David Neiwert, a progressive reporter and blogger who is an expert on right-wing terrorism, later writes of the dearth of mainstream media coverage: “Imagine, if you will, how this would have been handled were these folks of Arab extraction or believers in radical Islamist ideology instead of your garden-variety far-right American ideology. CNN would have the cameras and reporters there, NBC would host an hour discussing the threat, and [conservative bloggers] Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs’ Chuck Johnson would [be] bouncing around the walls of their rubber rooms even more frenetically than usual amid shouts of ‘Jihad!!!!’” [KDKA-TV, 6/9/2008; David Neiwert, 6/10/2008; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/12/2008; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011] Hall, Landis, Jones, and Huet will be convicted. [Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, 3/10/2010]
A group of German civil rights lawyers files a lawsuit against the German government, demanding that the government attempt to extradite 13 CIA agents named in the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen. Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border (see December 31, 2003-January 23, 2004 and January 23 - March 2004). He was flown by the CIA to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and abused for months. El-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004, and told that he was the victim of mistaken identity (see May 29, 2004). No government or body has yet taken responsibility for el-Masri’s kidnapping and brutalization. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US officials have refused to address the case, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the US acknowledged making a mistake with el-Masri.
Accountability - “We are demanding accountability” with the lawsuit, says attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. For himself, el-Masri says, “I just want the German government to acknowledge what happened to me.” An American judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by el-Masri against the CIA and three US corporations in 2006 (see May 18, 2006). In January 2007, German prosecutors issued warrants for the arrests of 13 CIA agents, accusing them of wrongfully imprisoning el-Masri and causing him serious bodily harm. The US Justice Department refused the requests, citing “American national interests,” and the German Ministry of Justice dropped the request. The lawsuit seeks to force the German government to reconsider extradition for the CIA agents.
Extraordinary Rendition - According to human rights organizations, el-Masri’s case is an example of “extraordinary rendition,” where the US takes suspected terrorists to foreign countries where they are subjected to abuse and torture. A criminal lawsuit against CIA officers in conjunction with the el-Masri case is also ongoing in Macedonia; that case could end up before the European Court of Human Rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union has also filed a petition on el-Masri’s behalf through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body that seeks to establish international laws. [Associated Press, 6/9/2008]
Obama’s birth certificate, obtained from the Hawaii Department of Health. [Source: FightTheSmears (.com)]Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), running for the Democratic nomination for president, releases a digitally scanned copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate. His campaign is responding to persistent rumors that he is not a legitimate American citizen. In the process of releasing the certificate, Obama’s campaign also launches a Web site called Fight The Smears, devoted to debunking the allegations that, among other things, Obama is not a citizen, he is a closet Muslim, he took his oaths for political office on a copy of the Koran, he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and other falsehoods. As Obama was born in Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961, his birth certificate comes under Hawaiian state law, and those laws state birth certificates are not public records. Only the individuals, or immediate family members, may request copies. The copy of the birth certificate released by the Obama campaign confirms that his name is legitimately “Barack Hussein Obama,” not “Barack Muhammed Obama,” “Barry Soetoro,” or other claimed variants, and states that Obama’s mother is Stanley Ann Dunham, an American, and his father is Barack Hussein Obama, an “African.” The birth certificate release only inflames the “birther” claims that Obama is hiding his true citizenship, religion, political alliances, and other such personal facts (see June 27, 2008). [St. Petersburg Times, 6/27/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 7/1/2009; Honolulu Advertiser, 7/28/2009]
Physicians for Human Rights logo. [Source: Newsguide (.us)]Retired Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the probe into prisoner torture and abuse at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison (see March 9, 2004), accuses the Bush administration of committing “war crimes,” and calls for Bush officials to be held accountable. Taguba’s remarks are part of a wide-ranging report on US torture by the human rights organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The report, released today, finds that US personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, isolation, being hung from ceilings, and other practices. One prisoner was forced to drink urine. “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Taguba wrote in the report. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” PHR calls the report the most complete medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date. The report focuses on statements from, and medical examinations of, 11 detainees held for long periods of time in various US-run prisons and facilities before being released without charges. The report, titled “Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” concurs with an investigation of Guantanamo conducted by investigative reporters for McClatchy News. PHR president Leonard Rubenstein says there was a direct connection between the Pentagon’s authorizations of extreme interrogation methods and the abuses his organization documented. “The result was a horrific stew of pain, degradation, and… suffering,” he says. [Physicians for Human Rights, 6/2008; McClatchy News, 6/18/2008]
The lawyer for Mohammed Jawad, a young Guantanamo detainee held in US captivity for almost six years (see December 17, 2002) and charged with attempted murder (see October 7, 2007), attempts to have the charges against his client dismissed. Major David Frakt tells the court that Jawad has been subjected to a harsh regime of sleep deprivation nicknamed the “frequent flyer program.” Records show that Jawad was moved from one cell to another 112 times over the period of two weeks, with guards shackling, moving, and unshackling him for an average of once every two hours and 50 minutes. Frakt tells the court that Jawad had attempted suicide months before. The military commission judge refuses to dismiss the charges. [Human Rights First, 9/2008]
The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that foreign terror suspects held without charge at Guantanamo Bay have the Constitutional right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts. The Court splits along ideological lines, with the more liberal and moderate members supporting the finding, and the more conservative members opposing it. Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered a centrist, writes the ruling. He writes, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” The ruling specifically strikes down the portion of the Military Commissions Act (see October 17, 2006) that denies detainees their habeas corpus rights to file petitions. [Associated Press, 6/12/2008; Associated Press, 6/12/2008] The case is Boumediene v. Bush, and was filed in the Supreme Court in March 2007 on behalf of Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian citizen held in the Guantanamo camp since 2002 (see January 18, 2002). It was combined with a similar case, Al Odah v United States (see October 20, 2004). [Oyez (.org), 6/2007; Jurist, 6/29/2007]
'Stinging Rebuke' for Bush Administration - The ruling is considered a serious setback for the Bush administration (a “stinging rebuke,” in the words of the Associated Press), which insists that terror suspects detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere have no rights in the US judicial system. It is unclear whether the ruling will lead to prompt hearings for detainees [Associated Press, 6/12/2008; Associated Press, 6/12/2008] ; law professor James Cohen, who represents two detainees, says, “Nothing is going to happen between June 12 and January 20,” when the next president takes office. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr says the decision will not affact war crimes trials already in the works: “Military commission trials will therefore continue to go forward.”
Scalia: Ruling Will 'Cause More Americans to Be Killed' - President Bush says he disagrees with the ruling, and says he may seek new legislation to keep detainees under lock and key. Justice Antonin Scalia, the leader of the Court’s ideological right wing, agrees; in a “blistering” dissent, he writes that the decision “will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” In his own dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts argues that the ruling strikes down “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants.” Joining Scalia and Roberts in the minority are Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Voting in the majority are Kennedy and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens.
Military Tribunals 'Doomed,' Says Navy Lawyer - Former Navy lawyer Charles Swift, who argued a similar case before the Supreme Court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld (see June 30, 2006), says he believes the ruling removes any legal basis for keeping Guantanamo open, and says that military tribunals are “doomed.” The entire rationale for Guantanamo and the tribunals, Swift says, is the idea that “constitutional protections wouldn’t apply.” But now, “The court said the Constitution applies. They’re in big trouble.” Democrats and many human rights organizations hail the ruling as affirming the US’s commitment to the rule of law; some Republican lawmakers say the ruling puts foreign terrorists’ rights over the safety of the American people. Vincent Warren, the head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, says: “The Supreme Court has finally brought an end to one of our nation’s most egregious injustices. By granting the writ of habeas corpus, the Supreme Court recognizes a rule of law established hundreds of years ago and essential to American jurisprudence since our nation’s founding.” [Associated Press, 6/12/2008]
Entity Tags: Stephen Breyer, Vincent Warren, US Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, Military Commissions Act, Peter Carr, Bush administration (43), Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Charles Swift, Clarence Thomas, David Souter, George W. Bush, Lakhdar Boumediene, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, James Cohen, John G. Roberts, Jr, US Department of Justice
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
An internal Justice Department (DOJ) audit by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that found the department’s hiring practices were politically motivated in some instances has led critics to renew charges that DOJ officials, including US Attorneys, may have brought groundless charges against Democrats in order to affect elections. The audit, the results of which were recently made public, found that Bush administration officials implemented a policy in 2002 to screen out applicants with liberal or Democratic affiliations. The audit found that such disqualifications “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliation.” Former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL), convicted of bribery charges that he has said were politically motivated, says, “[The audit] validates and verifies what we all knew was taking place, and that is that under [the Bush administration] the Justice Department has been politicized and used as a political tool.” The OPR is investigating several cases, including Siegelman’s, along with charges filed against Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and Wisconsin state procurement official Georgia Thompson (see May 5, 2008 and May 22, 2008). Federal prosecutors have denied the cases were filed for any political reasons, prompting House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) to say, “The department’s bald denials that politics never affected the cases under investigation simply cannot be taken at face value.” Thompson’s attorney Stephen Hurley says: “What they’ve said is politics played a role in personnel decisions. The question is did it play any role in decisions to prosecute? The latter is a much more serious issue.” He says he is ready to speak with officials from OPR. “I’d be glad if somebody called me because I have facts they might want to know,” Hurley says. [Associated Press, 6/25/2008]
David Addington and John Yoo before the House Judiciary Committee. [Source: Washington Post]David Addington, the chief counsel for Vice President Cheney and one of the architects of the Bush administration’s torture policies (see Late September 2001), testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. He is joined by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who authored or contributed to many of the legal opinions that the administration used to justify the torture and “extralegal” treatment of terror suspects (see November 6-10, 2001). Addington, unwillingly responding to a subpoena, is, in Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank’s description, “nasty, brutish, and short” with his questioners. [Washington Post, 6/27/2008] He tells lawmakers that the world has not changed much since the 9/11 attacks: “Things are not so different today as people think. No American should think we are free, the war is over, al-Qaeda is not coming.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/27/2008]
Refusing to Define 'Unitary Executive' - Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) peppers Addington with questions about the Bush administration and its penchant for the “unitary executive” paradigm, which in essence sees the executive branch as separate and above the other two, “lesser” branches of government. Addington is one of the main proponents of this theory (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But instead of answering Conyers’s questions, he slaps away the questions with what Milbank calls “disdain.”
Addington: “I frankly don’t know what you mean by unitary theory.”
Conyers: “Have you ever heard of that theory before?”
Addington: “I see it in the newspapers all the time.”
Conyers: “Do you support it?”
Addington: “I don’t know what it is.”
Conyers (angrily): “You’re telling me you don’t know what the unitary theory means?”
Addington: “I don’t know what you mean by it.”
Conyers: “Do you know what you mean by it?”
Addington: “I know exactly what I mean by it.”
Open Contempt - He flatly refuses to answer most questions, and treats the representatives who ask him those questions with open contempt and, in Milbank’s words, “unbridled hostility.” One representative asks if the president is ever justified in breaking the law, and Addington retorts, “I’m not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of.” When asked if he consulted Congress when interpreting torture laws, Addington snaps: “That’s irrelevant.… There is no reason their opinion on that would be relevant.” Asked if it would be legal to torture a detainee’s child (see After September 11, 2002), Addington answers: “I’m not here to render legal advice to your committee. You do have attorneys of your own.” He offers to give one questioner advice on asking better questions. When asked about an interrogation session he had witnessed at Guantanamo, he replies: “You could look and see mouths moving. I infer that there was communication going on.” At times he completely ignores questions, instead writing notes to himself while the representatives wait for him to take notice of their queries. At other times, he claims an almost complete failure of memory, particularly regarding conversations he had with other Bush officials about interrogation techniques. [Washington Post, 6/27/2008] (He does admit to being briefed by Yoo about an August 2002 torture memo (see August 1, 2002), but denies assisting Yoo in writing it.) [Los Angeles Times, 6/27/2008] Addington refuses to talk more specifically about torture and interrogation practices, telling one legislator that he can’t speak to him or his colleagues “[b]ecause you kind of communicate with al-Qaeda.” He continues, “If you do—I can’t talk to you, al-Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.” When asked if he would meet privately to discuss classified matters, he demurs, saying instead: “You have my number. If you issue a subpoena, we’ll go through this again.” [Think Progress, 6/26/2008; Washington Post, 6/27/2008]
Yoo Dodges, Invokes Privilege - Milbank writes that Yoo seems “embolden[ed]” by Addington’s “insolence.” Yoo engages in linguistic gymnastics similar to Addington’s discussion with Conyers when Keith Ellison (D-MN) asks him whether a torture memo was implemented. “What do you mean by ‘implemented’?” Yoo asks. Ellison responds, “Mr. Yoo, are you denying knowledge of what the word ‘implement’ means?” Yoo says, “You’re asking me to define what you mean by the word?” Ellison, clearly exasperated, retorts, “No, I’m asking you to define what you mean by the word ‘implement.’” Yoo’s final answer: “It can mean a wide number of things.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2008] Conyers asks Yoo, “Could the president order a suspect buried alive?” Yoo responds, “Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don’t think I’ve ever given advice that the president could order someone buried alive.” Conyers retorts: “I didn’t ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked you thought the president could order a suspect buried alive.” Yoo answers, “Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don’t think a president—no American president would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.” Conyers says, “I think we understand the games that are being played.” Reporter Christopher Kuttruff writes, “Throughout his testimony, Yoo struggled with many of the questions being asked, frequently delaying, qualifying and invoking claims of privilege to avoid answering altogether.” [Human Rights First, 6/26/2008; Truthout (.org), 6/27/2008]
Steven Hatfill in 2008. [Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images]Steven Hatfill, who was called a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), agrees to a $5.82 million payment from the government to settle his legal claim that the Justice Department and the FBI ruined his career and invaded his privacy. Hatfill was the main focus of the anthrax investigation for several years, but was never arrested or charged. A federal judge presiding over his lawsuit recently said there “is not a scintilla of evidence” linking him to the attacks. The government does not formally admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but the payout is widely viewed as an exoneration for Hatfill. For instance, the Los Angeles Times calls Hatfill “all but exonerated.” No witnesses or physical evidence were ever produced to link Hatfill to the attacks. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) says the government’s payout to Hatfill confirms that the anthrax investigation “was botched from the very beginning.… The FBI did a poor job of collecting evidence, and then inappropriately focused on one individual as a suspect for too long, developing an erroneous ‘theory of the case’ that has led to this very expensive dead end.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/28/2008; Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
Logo for the Hawaii Department of Health. [Source: Baby Guard Fence (.com)]PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, publishes a scathing denunciation of so-called “birther” claims that presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is not a legitimate American citizen. The story has gained traction mostly through Internet blogs and emails circulating among far-right and “tea party” organizations and figures, making wildly varying claims—Obama is a Kenyan, he is a Muslim, his middle name is Mohammed, his birth name is “Barry Soetoro,” and so forth. PolitiFact’s Amy Hollyfield writes: “At full throttle, the accusations are explosive and unrelenting, the writers emboldened by the anonymity and reach of the Internet. And you can’t help but ask: How do you prove something to people who come to the facts believing, out of fear or hatred or maybe just partisanship, that they’re being tricked?” Hollyfield notes that PolitiFact has sought a valid copy of Obama’s birth certificate since the claims began circulating months ago. PolitiFact has already secured a copy of Obama’s 1992 marriage certificate from the Cook County, Illinois, Bureau of Vital Statistics, his driver’s license record from the Illinois secretary of state’s office, his registration and disciplinary record with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and all of his property records. The records are consistent, all naming him as either “Barack H. Obama” or “Barack Hussein Obama,” his legitimate, given name. PolitiFact ran into trouble with the birth certificate. Obama was born in a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, and according to Hawaiian law, that state’s birth certificates are not public record. Only family members can request copies. The Obama presidential campaign originally declined to provide PolitiFact with a copy, until the campaign released a true copy of the certificate (see June 13, 2008). When PolitiFact received the document, researchers emailed it to the Hawaii Department of Health, which maintains such records, to ask if it was real. Spokesman Janice Okubo responded, “It’s a valid Hawaii state birth certificate.” Instead of settling the controversy, the certificate inflamed the so-called “birthers,” who asked a number of questions concerning the certificate, including queries about and challenges to:
the certificate’s seal and registrar’s signature;
the color of the document as compared to other Hawaiian birth certificates;
the date stamp of June 2007, which some say is “bleeding through the back of the document,” supposedly calling into question the validity of the stamp and, thusly, the entire certificate;
the lack of creases from being folded and mailed;
the authenticity of the document, which some claim is “clearly Photoshopped and a wholesale fraud.”
Further investigation by PolitiFact researchers supports the validity of the certificate and disproves the allegations as cited. Hollyfield writes: “And soon enough, after going to every length possible to confirm the birth certificate’s authenticity, you start asking, what is reasonable here? Because if this document is forged, then they all are. If this document is forged, a US senator and his presidential campaign have perpetrated a vast, long-term fraud. They have done it with conspiring officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, the Cook County (Ill.) Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Illinois secretary of state’s office, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and many other government agencies.” Hollyfield notes that the Hawaii Department of Health receives about a dozen email inquiries a day about Obama’s birth certificate, according to Okubo. She tells Hollyfield: “I guess the big issue that’s being raised is the lack of an embossed seal and a signature.” On a Hawaiian birth certificate, she says, the seal and signatures are on the back of the document. “Because they scanned the front… you wouldn’t see those things.” Hollyfield concludes that it is conceivable “that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible.” But she goes on to ask doubters “to look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over. There is not one shred of evidence to disprove PolitiFact’s conclusion that the candidate’s name is Barack Hussein Obama, or to support allegations that the birth certificate he released isn’t authentic. And that’s true no matter how many people cling to some hint of doubt and use the Internet to fuel their innate sense of distrust.” [St. Petersburg Times, 6/27/2008]
Retired AT&T “whistleblower” Mark Klein (see December 15-31, 2005 and July 7, 2009) has a short essay published in Wired News, sharply criticizing the recently passed legislation that amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA—see July 10, 2008) and granted telecommunications firms immunity from prosecution for helping government agencies illegally spy on American citizens. Klein initially offered the essay in letter form to the New York Times, but although the editors there showed what Klein will call “some interest,” they rejected the letter. Instead, Wired News’s Ryan Singel accepted the letter for one of his “Threat Level” columns. Singel describes Klein as “furious” at the vote, and quotes Klein: “[Wednesday]‘s vote by Congress effectively gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies and endorses an all-powerful president. It’s a Congressional coup against the Constitution. The Democratic leadership is touting the deal as a ‘compromise,’ but in fact they have endorsed the infamous Nuremberg defense: ‘Just following orders.’ The judge can only check their paperwork. This cynical deal is a Democratic exercise in deceit and cowardice.… Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter—such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: ‘When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.’ This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship. The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment—all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.” [Wired News, 6/27/2008; Klein, 2009, pp. 108]
Newsweek reports that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the CIA’s destruction of video of the torture of al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is continuing, but proceeding slowly. Federal prosecutor John Durham has recently filed a federal court affidavit that states he is examining whether anyone “obstructed justice, made false statements, or acted in contempt of court or Congress in connection with the destruction of the videotapes.” He is specifically attempting to determine if the destruction violated any judge’s order. But progress is slow, and the investigation is likely to take six months or more, which means any criminal charges will probably come after the November 2008 presidential elections. Two sources close to former intelligence officials who are potential key witnesses in the case say these officials have not been summoned to give grand jury testimony. One of them has not even been questioned by the FBI yet. [Newsweek, 6/28/2008] Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Durham to head the investigation in January 2008 (see January 2, 2008).
A federal appeals court overturns a Defense Department determination that Guantanamo detainee Huzaifa Parhat has been properly held as an enemy combatant.
The three judges, including one very conservative judge, unanimously reject the allegations made against Parhat. Parhat is a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in western China, and has been held at Guantanamo for more than six years. The Defense Department claims that Parhat is “affiliated” with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uighur resistance group, and that this group in turn is “associated” with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But the court says the classified evidence provided little to no support for these claims. The court mocks the government assertion that its accusations against Parhat should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents, comparing this to the declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” The ruling states, “This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true.” But while Parhat’s enemy combatant status is rejected, it is unclear what this will actually mean for him. US officials say they cannot return him to China for fear the Chinese government will mistreat him, and no other country has been willing to accept him or the 16 other Uighurs held at Guantanamo. This is the first case reviewing the government’s secret evidence for holding a Guantanamo detainee, and observers suggest the ruling could broadly affect other detainees because of its skeptical view of the government’s evidence. [New York Times, 7/1/2008]
The Defense Department announces that it is charging al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with “organizing and directing” the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 (see October 12, 2000) and will seek the death penalty. Al-Nashiri was captured in 2002 (see Early October 2002), held and tortured in secret CIA prisons until 2006 (see (November 2002)), and then transferred to Defense Department custody at the Guantanamo prison (see September 2-3, 2006). He will be tried there in a military tribunal. Al-Nashiri told a hearing at Guantanamo in 2007 that he confessed a role in the Cole bombing, but only because he was tortured by US interrogators (see March 10-April 15, 2007). CIA Director Michael Hayden has conceded that al-Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding. [Associated Press, 6/30/2008] Khallad bin Attash, who is being held at Guantanamo with al-Nashiri and other al-Qaeda leaders, allegedly had a major role in the Cole bombing, but he is not charged. Presumably this is because he has already been charged for a role in the 9/11 attacks.
Milt Bearden, a retired 30-year CIA veteran who served as senior manager for clandestine operations, writes: “The [Bush] administration’s claims of having ‘saved thousands of Americans’ can be dismissed out of hand because credible evidence has never been offered—not even an authoritative leak of any major terrorist operation interdicted based on information gathered from these interrogations in the past seven years. All the public gets is repeated references to Jose Padilla (see June 10, 2002), the Lackawanna Six (see April-August 2001), the Liberty Seven (see June 23, 2006), and the Library Tower operation in Los Angeles (see October 2001-February 2002). If those slapstick episodes are the true character of the threat, then maybe we’ll be okay after all. When challenged on the lack of a game-changing example of a derailed operation, administration officials usually say that the need to protect sources and methods prevents revealing just how enhanced interrogation techniques have saved so many thousands of Americans. But it is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.” Bearden suggests that the CIA might have been permanently “broken” by its use of torture, and that some US officials will likely face the threat of being arrested overseas on torture charges for years to come. [Washington Independent, 7/1/2008]
Jean Duley. [Source: Skip Lawrence / Fredrick News-Post]Scientist Bruce Ivins has had psychological problems since at least 2000, and his problems had become more pronounced after late 2006, when he realized the FBI was targeting him as their main anthrax attacks suspect. For the past three to six months, Ivins had been attending therapy sessions led by social worker Jean Duley. On July 9, 2008, Duley seeks a restraining order against him.
Duley's Claims against Ivins - In the paperwork for the order, she claims that he arrived for a group counseling session in his hometown of Fredrick and announced that, faced with the prospect of being charged with murder for the anthrax attacks, he had bought a gun and a bulletproof vest and had “a very detailed plan to kill his co-workers” at USAMRIID, the nearby US Army bioweapons laboratory where he still worked. In a court hearing on this day, Duley tells a judge: “He was going to go out in a blaze of glory, that he was going to take everybody out with him.… He is a revenge killer.… When he feels that he has been slighted, and especially towards women, he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings.” Duley also says that Ivins had a history of making homicidal threats going back to his college days, and that he has threatened her. She adds that he will soon be charged with five murders, which is the number of deaths in the anthrax attacks. In court records, Duley writes that Ivins’s psychiatrist had “called him homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions.” [New York Times, 8/2/2008; Washington Post, 8/6/2008]
Unclear Relationship with FBI - Duley says in her court testimony that she is cooperating with the FBI, but the nature and extent of her cooperation remains unclear. It is unclear, for instance, how she could know that Ivins is going to be charged with the anthrax attacks soon.
Duley Alone with Her Claims - Ivins also sees a psychiatrist named David Irwin. But Irwin will later remain silent about Ivins, as will all the people in Ivins’s group therapy sessions. The Washington Post will later note, “To this day, Duley is the only person who has said publicly that Ivins intended to kill.” [Washington Post, 8/6/2008] A Guardian article will later comment: “Notably lacking in the FBI’s case, is corroboration of the deadly threats of revenge killings made by Ivins in group therapy, according to Duley. Nobody else from those sessions has spoken up? And if… the FBI knew about it, why was he allowed to continue working in the lab, with his high-security clearance as late as just [weeks before his suicide]? Why was he allowed to roam free for that matter?” [Guardian, 8/11/2008]
Poor Qualifications - Duley is an entry-level drug counselor and only allowed to work with patients under supervision of a more experienced professional. She is said to be a program director for Comprehensive Counseling Associates, a local mental-health counseling center. But less than one month later, it will be reported that she no longer works there. A Guardian article will call her statement to the judge “embarrassing,” as she misspells basic words one would assume a person in her field would know well, for instance spelling therapist as “theripist.” [Bloomberg, 8/1/2008; Guardian, 8/11/2008]
Duley's Troubled Past - Duley also has what the Washington Post calls a “troubled past.” She has recently completed 90 days of home detention after a drunk driving arrest in December 2007 (which is ironic given that she is working as a drug counselor). She has other convictions, including possession of narcotics paraphernalia. In a 1999 newspaper interview, she said she had been a member of a motorcycle gang member and a drug user. “Heroin. Cocaine. PCP. You name it, I did it.” [Washington Post, 8/6/2008; Guardian, 8/11/2008] In any case, the judge immediately grants an Emergency Medical Evaluation Petition for Ivins. The next day, Ivins is removed from work at USAMRIID and taken to a hospital (see July 10, 2008).
Italian police testifying at the trial for the kidnap of Islamist extremist Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (see Noon February 17, 2003) name their four former CIA contacts. The 12 policemen, all members of the Milan Counterterrorism Police and the Milan Carabinieri Special Branch, say the four CIA officers are Robert Seldon Lady, former chief of the agency’s Milan base, Jeff Castelli, former CIA station chief in Rome, Sabrina Se Sousa, and Betnie Medero. The four are accused of being involved in the kidnap and have all previously been named in prosecution documents. The CIA declines to comment. [Congressional Quarterly, 4/19/2008]
President Bush signs the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), a revamping and expansion of the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978). The legislation passed the House by a sweeping 293 to 129 votes, with most Democratic Congressional leaders supporting it over the opposition of the more liberal and civil liberties-minded Democrats. Republicans were almost unanimously supportive of the bill. Though Democratic Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) managed to delay the bill’s passage through the Senate, their attempt to modify the bill was thwarted by a 66-32 margin. (Dodd credits AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein (see December 15-31, 2005 and July 7, 2009) as one of the very few people to make the public aware of the illegal NSA wiretapping program, which the FISA amendment would protect. Without Klein, Dodd states, “this story might have remained secret for years and years, causing further erosion of our rights.”) Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, gave his qualified support to the bill, stating: “Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program.” Obama had opposed an earlier Senate version that would have given “blanket immunity” to the telecommunications companies for their participation in the illegal NSA wiretapping program (see December 15, 2005). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who organized Democratic support for the bill in the House, said that she supported the bill primarily because it rejects Bush’s argument that a wartime chief executive has the “inherent authority” to conduct some surveillance activity he considers necessary to fight terrorism. It restores the legal notion that the FISA law is the exclusive rule on government spying, she said, and added: “This is a democracy. It is not a monarchy.” Feingold, however, said that the bill granted “retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that may have engaged in President Bush’s illegal wiretapping program.” The amendments restore many of the provisions of the expired Protect America Act (PAA—see August 5, 2007) that drastically modify the original FISA legislation and grant the government broad new surveillance powers. Like the PAA, the FAA grants “third parties” such as telecommunications firms immunity from prosecution for engaging in illegal surveillance of American citizens if they did so in partnership with government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA). [Washington Post, 6/20/2008; CNN, 6/26/2008; US Senate, 7/9/2008; White House, 7/10/2008; Klein, 2009, pp. 95-97] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) actually refused to honor a “hold” placed on the bill by Dodd, a highly unusual move. Klein will later note that Reid has in the past always honored holds placed on legislation by Republicans, even if Democrats were strongly supportive of the legislation being “held.” Klein will write that Pelosi crafted a “showpiece” FISA bill without the immunity provisions, garnering much praise for her from civil liberties organizations; however, Pelosi’s colleague House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) had secretly worked with the White House to craft a bill that preserved immunity for telecoms, and on June 10, Pelosi “rammed” that bill through the House. The final bill actually requires the judiciary to dismiss lawsuits brought against telecom firms if those firms can produce evidence that they had worked in collusion with the NSA. Feingold later observes that the final bill is not a “compromise, it is a capitulation.” [Klein, 2009, pp. 101-103] Klein will write that Democrats and Republicans have worked together to “unw[ind] one of the main reforms of the post-Watergate era and accepted the outrageous criminal rationalizations of [President] Nixon himself.” Klein will quote Nixon as saying, “If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal” (see April 6, 1977), and will say that is “the essence of the FISA ‘compromise’” and turned Congress into the White House’s “rubber stamp.… It is the twisted judicial logic of a dictatorship.” [Klein, 2009, pp. 107]
Entity Tags: Nancy Pelosi, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Christopher Dodd, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Mark Klein, Russell D. Feingold, Richard M. Nixon, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, National Security Agency, Protect America Act
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Luis Ramirez, dying of head injuries suffered during a beating by four Pennsylvania teenagers. [Source: Latino Politics Blog (.com)]Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez is beaten to death in what appears to be a racially-motivated murder by a group of white teenagers in a Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, city park. Ramirez, a 25-year-old father of two children, has searched for work in Pennsylvania’s coal region since coming to America in 2002. Witness reports say that the group of “six or seven” teenagers, which includes a number of players on the Shenandoah Valley High School football team, shout racial slurs, including “stupid Mexican,” while they beat and stomp Ramirez; however, local law enforcement authorities later say race played no part in the murder. Witnesses say that the teenagers instigate the conflict by shouting at Ramirez; he briefly engages them in a fight and then walks away, but, responding to further shouts and imprecations, rushes the teenagers again. Arielle Garcia, a friend of Ramirez’s, says that she and her husband Victor Garcia attempt to break up the fight, “but kids were trying to fight my husband.” She says that the teenagers beat and kick Ramirez unconscious, and continue stomping and kicking him while the Garcias are attempting to protect him where he lies on the ground. She says that one teenager delivers a particularly forceful kick to the head, causing Ramirez to “start… shaking and foaming out of the mouth.” One of the youths who beats Ramirez later tells one of Ramirez’s Hispanic friends to tell area Hispanics to get out of Shenandoah, “or you’re going to be laying next to him.” Ramirez’s fiancee Crystal Dillman, a local resident, says Ramirez was often called derogatory names such as “dirty Mexican,” and advised to return to Mexico. “People in this town are very racist toward Hispanic people,” Dillman says. “They think right away if you’re Mexican, you’re illegal, and you’re no good.” Police chief Matthew Nestor acknowledges that the area has seen a spike in racially-motivated rhetoric and even violence in the last decade, since an influx of Hispanics swelled the area’s population. “Things are definitely not the way they used to be even 10 years ago,” Nestor says. “Things have changed here radically. Some people could adapt to the changes and some just have a difficult time doing it.… Yeah, there is tension at times. You can’t deny that.” Local reporters are denied access to the police incident log, even though it is a publically accessible document; borough manager Joseph Palubinsky says the reporters have “done enough damage already,” and refuses them access. A local newspaper writes after the murder, “[T]his tragic incident is not so much about who is responsible for America’s failed immigration policy as it is about the right of human beings to—live.” [AlterNet, 7/24/2008; Democracy Now!, 7/24/2008] Ramirez dies in a hospital two days later. Four teenagers are charged for causing his death; all four plead not guilty. Brandon Piekarsky (who delivers the fatal kick to Ramirez’s head) and Colin Walsh face homicide charges. Derrick Donchak and a juvenile, Brian Scully, face lesser charges. Dillman says: “I think they might get off, because Luis was an illegal Mexican and these are ‘all-American boys’ on the football team who get good grades, or whatever they’re saying about them. They’ll find some way to let them go.” Gladys Limon of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund calls the Ramirez murder “a case of enough is enough.… [T]his is happening all over the country, not just to illegal immigrants, but legal, and anyone who is perceived to be Latino.… I do believe that the inflammatory rhetoric in the immigration debate does have a correlation with increased violence against Latinos.” Mayor Thomas O’Neill says: “I’ve heard things like, ‘We don’t want to send our kids back to school because we’re afraid people don’t like Mexicans.’ That’s shocking to me. That is not the Shenandoah I know.” O’Neill acknowledges that since Ramirez’s death, he has learned of a number of racial incidents in Shenandoah that he says had never been brought to his attention. [New York Times, 8/5/2008; Associated Press, 5/4/2009] Garcia tells a radio reporter of the harassment she has suffered from white Shenandoah residents: “You know, like I was pregnant with my son, and they told me: ‘What’s that in your belly? Another person I’m going to have to pay for? Another Mexican on welfare?’ Like stuff like that. It’s disgusting.” [Democracy Now!, 7/24/2008] None of the four will be convicted of murdering Ramirez; instead, they will either plead guilty to, or be convicted of, far lesser charges (see May 2, 2009 and After).
Entity Tags: Derrick Donchak, Brian Scully, Brandon Piekarsky, Arielle Garcia, Crystal Dillman, Victor Garcia, Thomas O’Neill, Shenandoah Valley High School, Matthew Nestor, Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Joseph Palubinsky, Gladys Limon, Colin Walsh
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
On July 23, 2008, anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins is released from a mental hospital. He had been in the hospital since July 10 after Jean Duley, a social worker who had been leading drug counseling group sessions attended by Ivins, tried to get a restraining order against him (see July 10, 2008). Just before Ivins was hospitalized, Duley made a series of remarkable claims about him, for instance claiming that he had just told her he had “a very detailed plan to kill his co-workers,” and, “He was going to go out in a blaze of glory, that he was going to take everybody out with him” (see July 9, 2008). Jeffrey Taylor, the US Attorney in Washington, DC, will later be asked why Ivins was not arrested after his release. Taylor will avoid the question and merely reply, “Our job in law enforcement is to pursue our criminal investigation.” But Joseph diGenova, who had previously held Taylor’s job, will explain, “They never arrested him because they wanted him to confess.” DiGenova will claim that the FBI was heavily pressuring Ivins into confessing because prosecutors knew “there would have been all sorts of problems on the reliability of the scientific analysis.” Ivins is said to be placed under 24- hour surveillance after his release, although it seems likely he was under surveillance already. [New York Times, 8/4/2008; Bloomberg, 8/7/2008]
Jameel Jaffer. [Source: ACLU (.org)]The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases three heavily redacted documents detailing the Bush administration’s use of brutal torture methods against detainees in US custody. The documents are turned over to the ACLU by the CIA after a judge orders their release (see May 27, 2008). “These documents supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody,” says ACLU official Jameel Jaffer. “The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the US once prosecuted as war crimes.” One document is an August 2002 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo authorizing the CIA to use particular interrogation methods, including waterboarding (see August 1, 2002). The memo states that interrogation methods that cause severe mental pain do not amount to torture under US law unless they cause “harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoners.” The other two documents, from 2003 and 2004, are memos from the CIA related to requests for legal advice from the Justice Department. The 2003 memo shows that the OLC authorized the agency to use what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques”; the memo shows that when those techniques were used, the CIA documented, among other things, “the nature and duration of each such technique employed” and “the identities of those present.” The 2004 memo shows that CIA interrogators were told that the Justice Department had concluded that waterboarding and other “harsh interrogation methods” did not constitute torture. The memo also advised CIA interrogators that, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling that courts can decide whether foreign citizens could be held at Guantanamo (see June 28, 2004), they should be aware that their actions might possibly be subject to judicial review. Jaffer says: “While the documents released today do provide more information about the development and implementation of the Bush administration’s torture policies, even a cursory glance at the documents shows that the administration continues to use ‘national security’ as a shield to protect government officials from embarrassment, criticism, and possible criminal prosecution. Far too much information is still being withheld.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 7/24/2008]
Six FBI agents and one Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent testify at a military commission hearing for detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan. Although at least one witness is anonymous, the FBI agents testifying include Robert Fuller and Craig Donnachie. Fuller admits that the bureau failed to read Hamdan his Miranda rights following his capture in 2001 (see November 24, 2001), and describes a tour of al-Qaeda facilities Hamdan took them on (see Shortly after November 24, 2001). Although Hamdan only provided what they thought was incomplete information, the agents all deny coercing or threatening him. [USA Today, 7/24/2008; Reuters, 7/24/2008]
Jim Adkisson as he is escorted from the church under heavy police escort. [Source: Knoxville News Sentinel]Jim David Adkisson of Powell, Tennessee, enters the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the morning performance of a children’s play, Annie Jr., and opens fire. Two people die from gunshot wounds; seven others are injured. No children are injured by Adkisson’s shooting spree. Greg McKendry, an usher, is shot while trying to protect members of the congregation and dies immediately. Linda Kraeger is shot in the face and dies shortly thereafter. Betty Barnhart, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, Linda Chavez, Allison Lee, Tammy Sommers, and John Worth Jr., are injured, three critically. [UUWorld, 7/28/2008]
Shooting - Adkisson enters the church quietly and removes a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun from a guitar case. He gets off three shots before being wrestled to the ground by church members. [NBC News, 7/18/2008; UUWorld, 7/28/2008] (Early news reports claim Adkisson fires up to 13 shots, a contention that is later proven erroneous.) [Agence France-Presse, 7/27/2008] According to eyewitness Sheila Bowen, the music director sees the shooting and yells, “Get the hell out of here, everybody!” [New York Times, 7/28/2008] “We heard the first shot,” says eyewitness Marty Murphy. “It sounded like a bomb went off. We thought it was part of the program at first. The second shot is when everyone started calling 911 and telling everyone to get down.” [Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/28/2008] During the shooting, Adkisson shouts “hateful things,” according to witness Barbara Kemper, who minutes later attempts to comfort a young boy whose mother is wounded in the head by Adkisson’s shots. Kemper will not give details of what Adkisson shouts. [Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/27/2008] Adkisson has a large cache of ammunition in his possession, but is unable to reload his weapon before being restrained; one of the congregants who tackles Adkisson, Jamie Parkey, later says that he and his fellow members “dog piled” Adkisson to the floor. “He had the gun leveled in our direction,” Parkey later tells a reporter. “That’s when I pushed my mother and daughter to the floor and got under the pew. When I saw the men rushing him was when I got up to join them.” Another eyewitness, Marty Murphy, later recalls: “There were shotgun shells all over the place, so he must have thought he was going to get more shots in. He had those shells everywhere.” Parkey’s 16-year-old daughter is in the play; his six-year-old daughter is in the sanctuary with Parkey. Neither are injured, though the younger daughter is extremely upset and covered in a victim’s blood. Police respond to the shooting within minutes and arrest Adkisson. Members Mark and Becky Harmon witness the shootings; Becky Harmon later tells a reporter: “Within seconds people were tackling him. The hardest part was there were so many children there and they all had to see this. It was just devastating.” [NBC News, 7/18/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/27/2008; UUWorld, 7/28/2008] Bowen says one of the men to wrestle Adkisson to the ground, history professor John Bohstedt, thought for a time that Adkisson had a bomb with him. She says of Bohstedt: “He moved very quickly and he assessed the situation very quickly. He’s sitting on this guy. He had a package with him, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, and John was afraid that that might be a bomb, so John was screaming at everyone to get out.” The package turns out to be a prop for the play. [New York Times, 7/28/2008] Two witnesses call the first victim, McKendry, a hero for attempting to protect other congregants. “Greg McKendry stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us,” says Kemper. Taylor Bessette, McKendry’s foster son, adds, “Make sure everyone knows that Greg McKendry was a hero, a total hero.” McKendry acted as a human shield to protect the children on stage. “He stood in front of the bullets and… actually took the bullets to save the child,” Bessette says. [Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/27/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/27/2008] Amira Parkey, a teenaged friend of Bissette’s, says of Adkisson: “This guy does not realize how many lives he totally destroyed. People who do this, they think they’ve got problems, but they destroy so many other people’s lives.” [New York Times, 7/28/2008]
Reactions from Congregation, Others - Parkey later says: “For the situation, everyone responded phenomenally. [Two TVUUC members] mobilized and got the kids out the back.” The play’s director, Vicki Masters, calls for the children to evacuate the building, and another woman ushers the children to a nearby Presbyterian church after Adkisson is subdued. “Everybody did exactly what they needed to do,” says Parkey’s wife Amy Broyles. “There was very little panic, very little screaming or hysteria. It’s a remarkable congregation of people. I’ve never seen such a loving response to such an overwhelming tragedy.” TVUUC member Mark Harmon says: “This is a very courageous congregation. Not just the three or four people who tackled the gunman, but also the religious education director who got the children out of the way, and the people afterward who consoled each other.” Unitarian Universalist Association president William G. Sinkford says after the shooting: “A tragedy such as this makes us acutely conscious of the beauty and fragility of our lives and those of our loved ones. I am especially saddened by this intrusion of violence into a worship service involving children and youth. I know that many people, both in Knoxville and around the country, are struggling with shock and grief right now. I pray that those so affected will find strength and comfort.” Parkey and Broyles are at the church to visit, but after the day’s events, they decide to join the church. Broyles later tells a reporter, “Now that this has happened, having experienced that with them today, we definitely want to be part of this congregation.” [NBC News, 7/18/2008; UUWorld, 7/28/2008]
Personal, Racial, Political Motives for Shooting - Adkisson apparantly has both personal and political motives for the shooting. His ex-wife, Liza Anderson, had been a member of the church years before, which may have been a personal reason for him selecting the church as the target of his violence. Additionally, Adkisson seems to have been triggered by a virulent hatred of liberals, blacks, gays, and Jews. Police find a four-page statement written by him in his car. According to Knoxville Police Department Chief Sterling Owen IV, Adkisson’s shooting was motivated by his “hatred of the liberal movement.… Liberals in general, as well as gays.” Owen also says that Adkisson blames liberals for his failure to get a job (see July 27, 2008 and After). TVUUC, like many UU churches, is active on behalf of the gay community. [UUWorld, 7/28/2008; Associated Press, 7/28/2008] “It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Owen says. And a longtime acquaintance, Carol Smallwood, tells a reporter that Adkisson is a loner who hates “blacks, gays, and anyone different from him.” In 2000, Adkisson’s ex-wife, Alexander, took out an order of protection against Adkisson, telling police that Adkisson often drank heavily and had threatened “to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out.” She told a judge that she was “in fear for my life and what he might do.” [Chancery Court of Anderson County, Tennessee, 3/1/2000 ; Associated Press, 7/28/2008; CNN, 7/28/2008]
Guilty Plea - Several months later, Adkisson will plead guilty to the shootings, and will release the document to the press (see February 9, 2009).
Entity Tags: William G. Sinkford, Carol Smallwood, Vicki Masters, Taylor Bessette, Tammy Sommers, Allison Lee, Amy Broyles, Betty Barnhart, Becky Harmon, Barbara Kemper, Amira Parkey, Sterling Owen IV, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Marty Murphy, Jim David Adkisson, Joe Barnhart, Sheila Bowen, Greg McKendry, Jack Barnhart, John Bohstedt, Jamie Parkey, Linda Chavez (TVUUC), Mark Harmon, Liza Anderson, Linda Kraeger, John Worth, Jr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
A selection from Adkisson’s ‘manifesto’ explaining his desire to kill liberals. [Source: Jim David Adkisson / Crooks and Liars] (click image to enlarge)Jim David Adkisson, a former Army mechanic held on first degree murder charges in lieu of a $1 million bail after killing two people and wounding seven at a Knoxville, Tennessee, church (see July 27, 2008) [NBC News, 7/18/2008; Associated Press, 7/28/2008; CNN, 7/28/2008] , apparently chose to kill members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) because the church is considered a liberal organization. This conclusion is drawn from statements to the police and a rambling four-page document found in his car. In those statements and the document, Adkisson expresses his intense hatred of liberals, blacks, and homosexuals. He tells police that he opened fire in the church because he “wanted to kill liberals,” and the TVUUC has a reputation as one of Knoxville’s gathering places for liberals. “That church had received some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things,” says Knoxville police chief Sterling Owen, “and that is at least one of the issues we believe caused that church to be targeted.” Adkisson will express no remorse whatsoever for his crimes [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; Guardian, 7/28/2008; New York Times, 7/29/2008; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009] , later saying that if given the chance, he would do the same thing again (see February 9, 2009), and characterizes his motives as rooted in patriotism. [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] He writes that he expected to be in the church until police arrived, and ultimately to be slain by police. [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] Police later add that evidence shows Adkisson planned the shooting for a week, but as Owen notes, “I’m sure this is something that’s been building a long time.” [Guardian, 7/28/2008] Friends and neighbors tell of an angry, embittered man who hates extravagantly and blames others for his misfortunes, though some describe him as “friendly” and recall him spending a lot of time on his motorcycle. [Fox News, 7/28/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/28/2008] “Adkisson was a loner who hates blacks, gays, and anyone different from him,” says longtime acquaintance Carol Smallwood. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008]
Hate Crime - Police are determining whether to charge Adkisson with the commission of a hate crime. [CNN, 7/28/2008] Knox County commissioner Mark Harmon, a member of the church, says that knowing of Adkisson’s feelings towards liberals and gays “does clarify just what type of hate crime this was. Regardless of motivations, when someone comes into your house of worship and shoots a shotgun indiscriminately it’s an earth-shattering act of hatred.” [New York Times, 7/29/2008]
Frustration at Unemployment - The document found in Adkisson’s car is divided into four parts. The first gives some details about Adkisson’s frustration at being unable to find a job, a situation for which he blames unnamed “liberals.” Adkisson writes that he is a former soldier and accomplished husband who cannot find work as a mechanic, and whose wife left him. “Over the years, I’ve had some good jobs, but I always got layed [sic] off,” he wrote. “Now I’m 58 years old and I can’t get a decent job. I’m told I’m ‘over qualified,’ which is a code word for ‘too damned old,’ like I’m expected to age gracefully in poverty. No thanks! I’m done.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] Police later report that Adkisson was on the verge of losing his government-subsidized food stamps when he went on his shooting spree. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008]
Hatred of Liberals - The document quickly turns to Adkisson’s deep hatred of liberals. “[Democrats] are all a bunch of traitors,” Adkisson writes. “Liberals have attacked every major institution that made America great.” He continues: “I’ve always wondered why I was put on the earth.… [L]ately I’ve been feeling helpless in our war on terrorism. But I realized I could engage the terrorists’ allies here in America. The best allies they’ve got.” He slams the “liberal Supreme Court Justices” and Washington Democrats, and spends some vitriol on President Obama, whom he calls “Osama Hussein Obama,” a “radical leftist” who “looks like Curious George.” A police affidavit reads in part: “He felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets. Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement… he would then target those that had voted them into office.” As a generalization, Adkisson writes, “Liberals are a pest like termites, millions of them… the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets, kill them where they gather.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; CNN, 7/28/2008; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009]
Hatred of TVUUC - Adkisson then turns to his hatred of the TVUUC, which he calls a “cult” that “worships the God of Secularism” and a “den of un-American vipers.” He accuses the church of elitism and hypocrisy, saying it accepts “perverts” but hates conservatives, and asks, “[H]ow is a white woman having a niger [sic] baby progress?” He calls the church members “ultra liberals” who are “foot soldiers” for liberals in government. “Don’t let the word church mislead you,” he writes. “This isn’t a church, it’s a cult. They don’t even believe in God. They worship the God of secularism.… The UU church is the fountainhead, the veritable wellspring of anti-American organizations.” Adkisson’s motivation to attack this specific church may have a personal element; he writes of the church: “They embrace every pervert that comes down the pike, but if they find out your [sic] a conservative, they absolutely hate you. I know. I experienced it.” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009; Knoxville News Sentinel, 2/10/2009] A former neighbor of Adkisson’s, Karen Massey, says that Adkisson may hate the idea of religion altogether. She recalls a conversation she had with him centering on the news that her daughter had just graduated from a nearby Bible college. After she explained that she was a Christian, Massey recalls: “He almost turned angry. He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it.” Massey recalls Adkisson frequently complaining about his parents, who apparently “made him go to church all his life.… He acted like he was forced to do that.” [Fox News, 7/28/2008]
'Hate Crime' - Adkisson writes flatly, “This was a hate Crime [and] a Political Protest.” He continues: “This was a Symbolic Killing.… I wanted to kill every Democrat in the Senate” and other such places, as well as “everyone in the Mainstream Media,” but since “I couldn’t get to the generals and high ranking officers… I went after the foot soldiers, the chickensh_t liberals that vote in these traitorous people.” He concludes his document by explaining: “No one gets out of this world alive so I’ve chosen to skip the bad years of poverty.… The future looks bleak. I’m absolutely fed up! So I thought I’d do something good for this country—kill Democrats ‘til (sic) the cops kill me.… Liberals are a pest like termites… the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets.… I’d like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I’ve done. If life ain’t worth living anymore, don’t just kill yourself… kill liberals. Tell the cop that killed me that I said, ‘Thanks, I needed that.’” [Adkisson, 7/27/2008 ; ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009]
Police: Apartment Contains Right-Wing Books - A police search reveals that Adkisson’s home contains brass knuckles, empty boxes of shotgun shells, a handgun, and an array of right-wing political books. Before the search, Adkisson tells police that he left the door unlocked for them because, he says, “he expected to be killed during the assault.” Among the books found by the police: Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder by radio talk show host Michael Savage, Let Freedom Ring by Fox News and radio talk show host Sean Hannity, and The O’Reilly Factor, by Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly. [Raw Story, 7/28/2008; Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/28/2008]
Reactions - Mark Hulsether of ReligionDispatches (.org) writes that Americans need to look at Adkisson’s document “squarely and soberly—both the pain and despair (and apparently sincere patriotism) underlying the manifesto, as well as its sensationally hateful, twisted, and violent ideas. It is time for people from across the political spectrum—not only liberals but also sincere people on the right, as well as people in the mainstream media who too-often enable the far right—to use today’s news as a wake-up call. Discourses that demonize ‘liberalism’ and/or treat such demonizing as a harmless joke (as when Ann Coulter called for terrorists to bomb the New York Times building) seem even less funny today than they did yesterday.” [ReligionDispatches (.org), 2/10/2009] After learning of some of Adkisson’s beliefs and statements, Amy Broyles, who was at the church the day of the shooting, will tell a reporter that Adkisson “was a man who was hurt in the world and feeling that nothing was going his way. He turned the gun on people who were mostly likely to treat him lovingly and compassionately and be the ones to help someone in that situation.” [Associated Press, 7/28/2008]
Bruce Ivins in 2003. [Source: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]US government microbiologist Bruce Ivins dies of an apparent suicide. The Los Angeles Times is the first media outlet to report on his death three days later. The Times claims that Ivins died “just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him” for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). For the last 18 years, Ivins had worked at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the US government’s top biological research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. His name had not been made public as a suspect in the case prior to his death. He dies at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine. Apparently there is no suicide note or any other known final message from Ivins. [Los Angeles Times, 8/1/2008] According to the Washington Post, Ivins had ingested the pills two or three days before he actually died. He was admitted to Frederick Memorial Hospital two days before his death. Investigators had scheduled a meeting with Ivins’s attorneys to discuss the evidence against him. However, Ivins dies two hours before the meeting is to take place (see July 29, 2008). [Washington Post, 8/2/2008] Apparently, no autopsy is performed on Ivins’s body. A Frederick Police Department lieutenant says that based on laboratory test results of blood taken from the body, the state medical examiner “determined that an autopsy wouldn’t be necessary” to confirm he died of a suicide. [Bloomberg, 8/1/2008]
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) is retracting previous comments he made about Republican presidential candidate and fellow senator John McCain (R-AZ). Cochran recently recounted the story of McCain physically assaulting a Nicaraguan official in 1987 (see Fall 1987). He has said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” Cochran has now backed off of his characterization somewhat, and says that McCain has learned to control his temper since 1987. A Cochran spokesperson says: “I think Senator Cochran went into as much detail yesterday as is necessary to make the point that, though Senator McCain has had problems with his temper, he has overcome them. Though Senator Cochran saw the incident he described to you, decades have passed since then and he wanted to make the point that over the years he has seen Senator McCain mature into an individual who is not only spirited and tenacious but also thoughtful and levelheaded.” Cochran supports McCain’s bid for the presidency. [Biloxi Sun-Herald, 7/1/2008]
The Justice Department formally clears Steven Hatfill of any involvement in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The department sends a letter to Hatfill’s lawyer, stating: “We have concluded, based on lab access records, witness accounts, and other information, that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the particular anthrax used in the attacks, and that he was not involved in the anthrax mailings.” [MSNBC, 8/8/2008] Hatfill won $5.8 million from the government in a settlement in June 2008, but the government admitted no wrongdoing and did not make any statement officially clearing him (see June 27, 2008).
The lawyer for Mohammed Jawad, a young Guantanamo detainee held in US captivity for almost six years (see December 17, 2002) and charged with attempted murder (see October 7, 2007), again attempts to have the charges against his client dismissed (see June 19, 2008). Major David Frakt shows evidence that General Thomas Hartmann, the military commission’s chief legal adviser, had pressured Guantanamo prosecutors to charge his client (see January 13, 2009 and January 18, 2009). Judge Stephen Henley finds that Hartmann had indeed brought undue pressure to prosecute Jawad, and bars Hartmann from any further involvement in the case as Hartmann has demonstrated his inability to stay neutral. Henley also orders a top-level review of the charges against Jawad. [Human Rights First, 9/2008] Henley will throw out the evidence against Jawad, ruling that Jawad’s confession was obtained through torture (see November 22, 2008).
A photograph of the actual Hawaiian birth certificate of Barack Obama, being held by FactCheck (.org) writer Joe Miller. [Source: FactCheck (.org)]FactCheck (.org), a non-partisan arm of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, certifies that its experts have verified that the birth certificate released by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is valid (see June 13, 2008). Since the release of the digitally scanned image, a firestorm of controversy (see July 20, 2008) has erupted over the authenticity of the certificate, even after Hawaiian officials verified its validity (see June 27, 2008) and the discovery of a printed birth announcement from a Honolulu newspaper (see July 2008). FactCheck notes that much of the controversy has been sparked by author Jerome Corsi, whose recent book Obamanation makes a host of negative claims against Obama (see August 1, 2008 and After), and who has told a Fox News interviewer that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake” (see August 15, 2008). FactCheck releases the following statement: “We beg to differ. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined, and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving US citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as ‘supporting documents’ to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the USA just as he has always said.” The actual certificate is in the hands of Obama campaign officials in Chicago, FactCheck reports, and has the proper seals and signature from Hawaiian registrar Alvin Onaka.
Certificate Meets Requirements for State Department Passport Issuance - FactCheck reports: “The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a US passport: ‘your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.’ The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above” in a photograph reproduced on FactCheck’s Web site.
'Short Form' Certificate - The copy possessed by the Obama campaign is called a “short form birth certificate.” The so-called “long form” is created by the hospital in which a child is born, and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is what is provided by Hawaiian officials upon receiving a valid request for a birth certificate: It “is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department.”
Scan Artifacts - The digitally scanned version released by the Obama campaign does indeed show “halos” around the black-text lettering, prompting some to claim that the text may have been copied onto an image of security paper. However, FactCheck writes, “the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.”
Date Stamp, Blacked-Out Certificate Number - The digital scan also contains an unusual date stamp and a blacked-out certificate number. Campaign spokesperson Shauna Daly explains that the certificate is stamped July 2007 because that is when Hawaiian officials produced it for the presidential campaign. The campaign did not release a copy until mid-2008, leading some to speculate that the date stamp proved the digital scan was a forgery. Of the certificate number, Daly says that the campaign “couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we’ve found out it’s pretty irrelevant for the outside world.” FactCheck writes, “The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 - 010641.”
'African' Father - Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., is listed on the certificate as “African,” sparking claims that Obama is actually of Kenyan citizenship. Kurt Tsue of the Hawaii Department of Health tells FactCheck that the father and mother’s race are told to officials by the parents, and thusly “we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be.” FactCheck writes: “We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama Sr. would have thought of and reported himself as ‘African.’ It’s certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.”
Differences in Borders - The “security borders” on the digital scan do indeed look slightly different from other examples of Hawaii birth certificates. Tsue explains: “The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised.” He also confirms that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for “all reasonable purposes.” [FactCheck (.org), 8/21/2008]
The fake Canadian birth certificate lawyer Philip Berg submitted to ‘prove’ his contention that President Obama is not an American citizen. [Source: Obama Conspiracy Theories (.org)]Attorney Philip J. Berg files a lawsuit alleging that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is not an American citizen and is therefore ineligible to hold the office of president (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, and August 21, 2008). Berg’s lawsuit is dismissed three days later by Federal Judge R. Barclay Surrick on the grounds that Berg lacks the standing to bring the lawsuit. Berg names Obama as a defendant in the lawsuit under his given name of Barack Hussein Obama and under three alleged “pseudonyms,” “Barry Soetoro,” “Barry Obama,” and “Barack Dunham.” Berg alleges that Obama “cheated his way into a fraudulent candidacy and cheated legitimately eligible natural-born citizens from competing in a fair process.” Surrick rules that ordinary citizens cannot sue to ensure that a presidential candidate actually meets the constitutional requirements of the office. Instead, Surrick writes, Congress could determine “that citizens, voters, or party members should police the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the presidency,” but it would take new laws to grant individual citizens that ability. “Until that time, voters do not have standing to bring the sort of challenge that Plaintiff attempts to bring.” Surrick cites Article III of the Constitution in ruling that Berg has no standing to bring his lawsuit. He also criticizes Berg’s premise, noting that it is unlikely in the extreme that Obama could have gone so long without being discovered as a foreign-born alien. “Plaintiff would have us derail the democratic process by invalidating a candidate for whom millions of people voted,” Surrick rules, “and who underwent excessive vetting during what was one of the most hotly contested presidential primary [sic] in living memory.” Surrick cites a similar case, Hollander v. McCain, which failed to find that presidential contender John McCain (R-AZ) is not an American citizen. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone to American parents serving in the military, and thusly is a US citizen (see March 14 - July 24, 2008). After the dismissal, Berg tells a conservative blogger: “This is a question of who has standing to stand up for our Constitution. If I don’t have standing, if you don’t have standing, if your neighbor doesn’t have standing to ask whether or not the likely next president of the United States—the most powerful man in the entire world—is eligible to be in that office in the first place, then who does?” Berg says he will appeal the decision. [Berg v. Obama et al, 8/21/2008; US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 8/24/2008 ; WorldNetDaily, 10/25/2008; Allentown Morning Call, 1/16/2009]
McCain Lawyer Calls Lawsuit 'Idiotic' - A lawyer for the McCain-Palin campaign, reading over the filing before Surrick issues his ruling, assesses it as “idiotic” and determines that it will certainly be dismissed. The McCain-Palin campaign will begin investigating the claims of Obama’s “non-citizenship,” and determine them to be groundless (see July 29, 2009). [Washington Independent, 7/24/2009]
Injunction to Supreme Court Requested - Berg will also file an injunction asking the Supreme Court to block Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency. “I am hopeful that the US Supreme Court will grant the injunction pending a review of this case to avoid a constitutional crisis by insisting that Obama produce certified documentation that he is or is not a ‘natural born’ citizen and if he cannot produce documentation, that Obama be removed from the ballot for president,” Berg writes in a press release. [Smith, 10/31/2008]
Appeal Built on Fraudulent Evidence - In his appeal, Berg will introduce a fraudulently edited audiotape purporting to provide evidence that Obama was born in a Kenyan hospital (see October 16, 2008 and After); Berg will write in a filing: “Obama’s grandmother on his father’s side, half brother, and half sister claim Obama was born in Kenya. Reports reflect Obama’s mother went to Kenya during her pregnancy.… Stanley Ann Dunham (Obama) gave birth to Obama in Kenya, after which she flew to Hawaii and registered Obama’s birth.” [Greg Doudna, 12/9/2008 ] Berg will also include incorrect and falsified citations of American and international law drawn from such sources as “Wikipedia Italian version” and “Rainbow Edition News Letter.” He alleges, without real proof, that Obama had lied or been unclear about what hospital he was born in, and that he had been adopted by his stepfather Lolo Soetoro. Berg’s “proof” of the Soetoro “adoption” comes from an incorrect record made by an Indonesian grade school which listed Obama’s name as “Barry Soetoro” and listed his nationality as “Indonesian.” Berg writes that obviously Obama had “renounced” his American citizenship, and, thusly, there is “absolutely no way Obama could have ever regained ‘natural born’ status.” Immigration lawyer Mitzi Torri later calls Berg’s assertion “completely wrong,” citing the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which would have precluded a child of Obama’s age from renouncing his citizenship even had he wanted to do so. Torri will note, “Berg wants to say that this document from a school in Indonesia, which has no signature, which has no standing whatsoever, is more important than Obama’s birth certificate or our immigration law.” Berg will also make the false claim that because Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 when, he will claim, the US had a travel ban in effect, Obama could not have done so on an American passport and therefore must have used a passport drawn on his “foreign” citizenship. The claim is fraudulent; no such travel ban existed in 1981 (see Around June 28, 2010). Berg will later say of the Pakistan claim, “We got that from someplace.” [BERG v. OBAMA et al (second filing), 9/29/2008; Washington Independent, 7/24/2009] Berg’s lawsuit was not helped by his submission of an obviously fraudulent Canadian birth certificate that purported to prove Obama was born in Vancouver, Canada. The certificate lists Obama as “Barack Hussein Mohammed Obama Jr.,” and the registrar is listed as “Dudley DoRight,” a famous Canadian cartoon character. [Obama Conspiracy (.org), 8/2/2009]
Appeal Rejected - The Supreme Court will refuse to hear the appeal. Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller will say Berg’s lawsuit is “dead in the water,” but Berg will promise, “We’re not going to give up on this.” [Allentown Morning Call, 1/16/2009]
Entity Tags: Lolo Soetoro, Mitzi Torri, R. Barclay Surrick, John McCain, Ann Dunham, Charles Miller, Immigration and Nationality Act, US Supreme Court, Barack Obama, Philip J. Berg
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, a former Army prosecutor at Guantanamo, resigns his position after becoming increasingly disillusioned and despondent over the treatment of detainees at the facility, many of whom he believes are likely innocent.
A Reluctant Believer in Stories of Abuse - Vandeveld began as an enthusiastic prosecutor. He joined to help avenge the 9/11 attacks, and served for seven years as a military lawyer in Bosnia, Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. “All of us fought because we believed that we were protecting America and its ideals,” he will later write. “But my final tour of duty made me question everything we had done.” Vandeveld was a prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions in Guantanamo from June 2007 through September 2008. He will write, “Warning signs appeared early on, but I ignored them.” He was powerfully impressed when his superior officer, Colonel Morris Davis, resigned rather than agree to pursue politically motivated prosecutions (see October 4, 2007). Vandeveld’s own turning point came when he began working on the prosecution of Mohammed Jawad, who was 16 at the time he was captured (see December 17, 2002). When Vandeveld learned that Jawad claimed to have been horrifically abused while in US custody, as he later recalls: “I accused him of exaggerating and ridiculed his story as ‘idiotic.’ I did not believe that he was a juvenile, and I railed against Jawad’s defense attorney, whom I suspected of being a terrorist sympathizer.” He came to change his mind, eventually filing a declaration in federal court “stating that it is impossible to prepare a fair prosecution against detainees at Guantanamo Bay (see January 13, 2009).… I had concluded that the system of handling evidence is a haphazard farce. I saw this clearly with Jawad.” Vandeveld will write that he has seen evidence proving both Jawad’s age and his stories of being brutalized, including beatings, being thrown down a flight of stairs, and being subjected to an intense program of sleep deprivation (see June 19, 2008): “As a juvenile, Jawad should have been treated with care, held separately from the adult population, and provided educational and other rehabilitation services. Instead, he was placed in isolation and deprived of sleep. More than once he tried to commit suicide, according to detainee records” (see December 2003).
Torturing an Innocent Man - Vandeveld began combing through evidence suggesting that Jawad was innocent, and found that not only had Jawad been duped and drugged by the terrorists who recruited him, the evidence shows that he never carried out the attack against US soldiers of which he stands accused. Vandeveld writes of the difficulties he had in gathering the evidence; military investigators repeatedly kept it from him. “Only after long delays and many, many requests was it finally given to me,” he will later write, “because even after nearly seven years, the military commissions do not have a system in place for discovering exculpatory evidence or providing it to the defense” (see January 20, 2009).
Sinking into Despair - Vandeveld began working towards Jawad’s release to his family in Afghanistan. But Vandeveld’s superiors refused to countenance the idea. Vandeveld will write of his increasing depression and despair, and his inability to discuss his mental anguish with his family or friends due to the classified nature of the case. He finally turned to a Jesuit priest, Father John Dear, whom, he writes, “has written and spoken widely about justice.” He could not give Dear more than an overview of the situation, but Dear’s advice was blunt. “Quit Gitmo,” Dear told him. “The whole world knows it is a farce. Refuse to cooperate with evil, and start your life over.” But Vandeveld was afraid to take Dear’s advice. As he recalls, “I was afraid of losing friends, my job, whatever popularity I enjoyed, and my status as someone who was well thought of in this community.”
Resignation - It was Dear and, ironically, Jawad’s defense lawyer, whom Vandeveld descirbes as “a scorned adversary whose integrity and intelligence transformed him into a trusted friend,” who finally led Vandeveld to make a decision: he resigns. His final appearance before the Guantanamo military commissions was as a witness in Jawad’s defense (see January 13, 2009). “My testimony was a confession of sorts,” he later writes, “an acknowledgment of the error of my own ways as well as a candid admission of the shortcomings of the system that I had so enthusiastically supported.” [Washington Post, 1/18/2009] Vandeveld will write that Guantanamo has become a “stain” on the US’s international reputation (see January 18, 2009). He will also call for Jawad’s release (see January 13, 2009).
A second Algerian woman who was allegedly date-raped by local CIA station chief Andrew Warren (see February 17, 2008) complains about this to the US embassy in Algeria. She makes a statement to the Deputy Chief of Mission, Thomas Daughton, saying that she was date-raped earlier in the year. Daughton then reports the allegations to Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Kevin Whitson. Another DSS agent, Gregory Schossler, will later travel to Spain, where the woman resides. He will interview her there on September 25, 2008, learning details of the alleged rape. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/2008 ]
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) files a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA), President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Cheney chief of staff David Addington, and other members of the Bush administration. The EFF claims the lawsuit is “on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal unconstitutional and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records.” The EFF is referring to its ongoing lawsuit against AT&T and other telecommunications firms, which it accuses of colluding with the NSA to illegally monitor American citizens’ domestic communications (see December 15, 2005). The case, the EFF writes, “is aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it.” After January 2009, the newly elected Obama administration will challenge the lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, on the grounds that to defend itself against the lawsuit, the government would be required to disclose “state secrets” (see Late May, 2006). The government used similar arguments to quash the EFF’s lawsuit against AT&T (see April 28, 2006), arguments which were rejected by a judge (see July 20, 2006). [Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2009] The suit will be dismissed (see January 21, 2010).
John LaBruzzo. [Source: Daniel Erath / Times-Picayune]Louisiana State Representative John LaBruzzo (R-Metarie) says he is considering a legislative proposal to offer poor women $1,000 to be sterilized. LaBruzzo says that poor people who receive government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people. Offering poor women money to have their fallopian tubes “tied” would lower their birth rates, LaBruzzo explains. “We’re on a train headed to the future and there’s a bridge out,” he says of what he calls potentially dangerous demographic trends. “And nobody wants to talk about it.… What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare.” Such payments would be voluntary, he says, and might include other forms of birth control, including vasectomies for men. He would also consider tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income couples to have more children. LaBruzzo, who represents the same district that sent former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to the Louisiana State House in 1989, is receiving criticism that calls his proposal racist, sexist, unethical, and immoral. LaBruzzo counters that since more white people are on welfare than black people, his proposal is not targeting race. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, he’s a racist,’” LaBruzzo says. “The hard part is to sit down and think of some solutions.” LaBruzzo is opposed to abortion in any form, and describes his sterilization program proposal as providing poor people with better opportunities to avoid welfare, because they would have fewer children to feed and clothe. [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/23/2008]
Nicolo Pollari, former head of the Italian military intelligence service SISMI, asks for former US national security adviser and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to testify in his defense in a kidnap case. The case concerns the 2003 rendition from Italy to Egypt of Islamist extremist Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (see Noon February 17, 2003). SISMI and the CIA worked together on the abduction and several operatives of both organizations are now on trial for it. Rice approved the operation shortly before it was carried out (see Between February 10, 2003 and February 16, 2003). The value of Rice’s testimony is unclear. According to reporter Jeff Stein, one observer of the case says that at best Rice could only say that the US wanted to kidnap Nasr. However, as the US is not co-operating with the Italian investigation, Rice does not go to Italy to testify. [Congressional Quarterly, 9/24/2008]
The US and Britain jointly drop all charges against terror suspect Binyam Mohamed, realizing that Mohamed’s confession to his involvement in a so-called “dirty bomb” plot (see November 4, 2005) is likely the product of torture and not real (see July 21, 2002 -- January 2004). However, his captors refuse to release him from Guantanamo, driving him to try to force the matter by filing a lawsuit (see February 4, 2009) and going on a hunger strike (see February 8, 2009). In late February 2009, Mohamed will be released (see February 22-24, 2009). [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009]
A Web graphic accusing presidential candidate Barack Obama of beginning his political career in the home of college professor William Ayers. [Source: Kickin and Screamin (.com)]Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) accuses Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) of “palling around with terrorists” who intend to attack American targets. Palin, telling audiences in Colorado and California that it is “time to take the gloves off,” says Obama has ties to the 1960s-era radical group Weather Underground through an acquaintance, University of Illinois at Chicago professor William Ayers. Obama, Palin says, “is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” The Weather Underground was once labeled a domestic terrorist group by the FBI. Ayers served on a board with Obama and held a fundraiser for Obama’s Senate run in 1995. Obama has condemned Ayers’s connections with the Weather Underground, and most media organizations have discounted any ties between the two men. The Weather Underground has been defunct for decades. Palin says she is not attempting to “pick a fight” with Obama, but is telling campaign audiences about Obama and Ayers because “it was there in the New York Times… and they are hardly ever wrong.” Ayers, she says, “was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol.’ Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.… This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us.” Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan condemns Palin’s remarks, and cites a list of media outlets that have debunked the so-called Obama-Ayers connection. “Governor Palin’s comments, while offensive, are not surprising, given the McCain campaign’s statement this morning that they would be launching Swiftboat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation’s economic ills,” Sevugan writes. He also notes that the New York Times is one of the media outlets that debunked the connection, stating, “In fact, the very newspaper story Governor Palin cited in hurling her shameless attack made clear that Senator Obama is not close to Bill Ayers, much less ‘pals,’ and that he has strongly condemned the despicable acts Ayers committed 40 years ago, when Obama was eight.” The Obama campaign calls the attempt by the McCain-Palin campaign to link Obama to Ayers part of a campaign of “dishonest, dishonorable assaults against Barack Obama.” [Christian Science Monitor, 10/5/2008]
Steven Bradbury, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), officially repudiates an OLC memo from seven years earlier claiming that the president has the unilateral authority to order military strikes or raids within the US (see October 23, 2001). “[C]aution should be exercised before relying in any respect” on the memo, Bradbury writes, and it “should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose.” The 2001 contention that the Fourth Amendment is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant in the face of presidential authority “does not reflect the current views of this Office,” Bradbury writes. Another portion of that 2001 memo, the contention that the president can set aside First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press (see October 23, 2001), are no longer operative, Bradbury writes. Much of Bradbury’s memo is an attempt to explain and justify the 2001 memo by recalling the period of anxiety and disarray after the 9/11 attacks. [US Department of Justice, 10/6/2008 ; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] Yale law professor Jack Balkin will later note that the memo does not repudiate “any of the Bush administration’s specific policies regarding surveillance, detention, and interrogation.” [Jack Balkin, 3/3/2009]
The Washington Post reports on a raid on an ACORN office in Nevada stating that ACORN “had hired 59 felons through a work release program as canvassers.” [Washington Post, 10/7/2008] However, it does not mention that the program is perfectly legal and arranged in part through the Nevada State Department of Corrections. In fact, according to Mike Slater, the executive director of Project Vote, which partnered with ACORN in its voter registration work in Nevada, the Nevada State Department of Corrections actually approached ACORN to propose it employ inmates. [Huffington Post, 10/7/2008] According to the investigation affidavit, the inmates worked under “constant supervision” and with “no access to telephones or internet.” [Clark County District Court, 10/6/2008 ]
Washington State resident Steven Marquis files a petition in Washington’s Superior Court demanding that Secretary of State Sam Reed either prove that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is a “natural born” citizen or remove him from the presidential ballot. Marquis says that granting his petition would “prevent the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters” who might otherwise choose a candidate who is a valid citizen. “At this point, Mr. Obama has not allowed independent or official access to his birth records nor supporting hospital records,” Marquis writes in his petition, and accuses the Hawaii Health Department of “violat[ing] federal law by ignoring formal Freedom of Information requests for the same.” Obama has long since posted an authentic copy of his birth certificate on the Internet (see June 13, 2008), and this has repeatedly been verified as valid (see June 27, 2008, July 2008, and August 21, 2008). Marquis references another lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship, filed by lawyer Philip Berg and awaiting a hearing in a federal district court (see August 21-24, 2008). Marquis explains the timing of his petition—just before the presidential elections—as caused by Obama’s “delay and subsequent non-response to reasonable request for valid certificates.” He also cites the Washington secretary of state’s office’s refusal to certify Obama’s birth certificate as he has previously requested, writing, “To date, in this regard, Secretary of State Sam Reed has not carried out that fundamental duty.” Washington Superior Court Judge John Erlick will throw out Marquis’s petition, saying Reed has no such authority to force Obama to prove his citizenship, and cites Marquis’s failure to name Obama as a party to his complaint. [WorldNetDaily, 10/16/2008; Mid-Columbia Tri-City Herald, 10/28/2008; WorldNetDaily, 11/13/2008]
Andrew Warren, the CIA’s station chief in Algeria, is summoned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to explain date-rape charges that have been made against him (see September 2007 and February 17, 2008). Warren initially tells his CIA boss that he is “surprised” to learn of the complaints. According to the official, Warren is “at ease,” and he advises Warren to take care of the issue and talk to a security officer. Warren is then interviewed by Diplomatic Security Service agent Scott Banker at CIA headquarters. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/2008, pp. 11 ; Washington Post, 3/23/2010] Warren tells Banker that he did have sex with his two accusers, but it was consensual. He says he has pictures of them on his cell phone and digital camera, which he voluntarily surrenders for forensic analysis. The analysis uncovers multiple photographs of the two women, along with various others. However, he refuses to surrender his personal laptop computer, which he says is in his hotel room, even though he says it probably contains photos of the two alleged victims. Banker sends two agents to monitor the room, fearing Warren will attempt to destroy information on the computer. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/2008, pp. 11 ] When Warren arrives at the hotel room, the agents confront him over the laptop and he pulls it out of his shoulder bag before entering the room. Banker will later tell a court that Warren had lied about the laptop and that it was with him “the entire time,” even during the interview at CIA headquarters. According to a government motion filed for Warren’s trial, “child pornographic images” are later found on the computer. [Washington Post, 3/23/2010]
Alaskan Independence Party logo. [Source: Alaskan Independence Party]Reporters and authors Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert compile an investigative report for Salon that documents the large, if shadowy, network of far-right militia support that Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) enjoys. Palin is running for vice president with presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ). Two of her most powerful supporters are Mark Chryson, the former head of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), and Steve Stoll, a far-right activist and member of the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) known in his home region of the Mat-Su Valley as “Black Helicopter Steve.” Both Chryson and Stoll are large financial contributors to Palin’s various political campaigns, and, as Blumenthal and Neiwert write, “they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during, and after her victory,” referring to her successful campaigns for mayor of Wasilla (see Mid and Late 1996) and, later, Alaska’s governor. Chryson’s AIP fought to eliminate taxes, support what it called “traditional family” values, remove all restraints from gun ownership, and perhaps most controversially, force Alaska to secede from the United States. Still a proud AIP member, Chryson tells the reporters that he still has “enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement,” but assures the rest of the nation, “We want to go our separate ways, but we are not going to kill you.” Under Chryson’s leadership and on into the present, the AIP works to connect with like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South of the US. Chryson is from Wasilla, Palin’s hometown, and during the 1990s his support was critical in making Palin the mayor of Wasilla and later the governor of Alaska. He and Stoll played an equally critical role in shaping her political agenda after her victories. Governor Palin often worked closely with Chryson as he and the AIP worked to successfully advance a wave of anti-tax, pro-gun legislative initiatives, and helped Chryson put through a change in Alaska’s Constitution to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. As both mayor and governor, Palin and Chryson worked together to extract revenge against local officials they disliked. Palin often took Chryson and Stoll’s advice on hiring government officials. “Every time I showed up [in Wasilla] her door was open,” Chryson says. “And that policy continued when she became governor.”
Originally Saw Palin as Too Accomodating with Democrats - Chryson first met Palin in the early 1990s, when he was a member of a local libertarian pressure group called SAGE, or Standing Against Government Excess. He met her through SAGE founder Tammy McGraw, who was Palin’s birth coach. Palin was a leader in a pro-sales tax citizens group called WOW, or Watch Over Wasilla, which helped her win a seat on the Wasilla City Council in 1992. Chryson liked her, but considered her too willing to work with council Democrats to be of use to him. Chryson was then jockeying to become head of the AIP, a powerful political party that in 1990 had elected Wally Hickel (AIP-AK) as governor; Palin wanted to be mayor of Wasilla. Chryson and Palin quickly determined that they could help one another. Chryson became leader of the AIP in 1997, and saw Palin as a chance for the AIP to take its message more mainstream. He helped quiet the more racist members and platform planks of the AIP, and reached out to Alaska’s growing Christian-right movement by emphasizing AIP’s commitment to “traditional family” values and its opposition to gay rights. Chryson even succeeded in softening the AIP’s insistence on secession. Chryson is an expert at crafting his political message to appeal to disparate groups, and succeeded in forging alliances with white supremacists, far-right theocrats, neo-Confederates, and more moderate right-wing groups that do not advocate open racism, rebellion, Christian theocracy, or violence. In 1995, Palin’s husband Todd joined the AIP, further cementing Chryson’s increasing support of Palin.
Palin Secured AIP Support for Mayorality - With Stoll, Chryson helped gain Palin the mayorship of Wasilla in the 1996 election, comforted by Palin’s steady move rightward as she continued her tenure on the city council. Palin’s opponent in that election, Republican John Stein, will later say of Chryson and Stoll: “She got support from these guys. I think smart politicians never utter those kind of radical things, but they let other people do it for them. I never recall Sarah saying she supported the militia or taking a public stand like that. But these guys were definitely behind Sarah, thinking she was the more conservative choice.… They worked behind the scenes. I think they had a lot of influence in terms of helping with the back-scatter negative campaigning.” Chryson helped Palin craft a successful campaign based on personal attacks on her opponents, both Stein and her Democratic opponent. Palin characterized Stein as a closet Jew and a sexist, both mischaracterizations, and falsely challenged the legal status of his marriage. Wasilla resident Phil Munger, a close friend of Stein’s, recalls, “I watched that campaign unfold, bringing a level of slime our community hadn’t seen until then.” Chryson helped Palin thwart a local gun-control measure (see June 1997). Chryson and Palin attempted to name Stoll to an empty seat on the Wasilla City Council, but were thwarted by another councilman, Nick Carney, who considered Stoll too “violent” to be a successful council member.
Implementing AIP Agenda as Governor - Chryson recalls helping Governor Palin slash property taxes and block a measure that would have taken money for public programs from the Permanent Fund Dividend, or the oil and gas fund that doles out annual payments to citizens of Alaska. Palin endorsed Chryson’s unsuccessful initiative to move the state legislature from Juneau to Wasilla. She was successful at helping Chryson get pro-militia and gun-rights language into the Alaska Constitution. In 2006, Chryson helped Palin bring Hickel on board as the co-chairman of her gubernatorial campaign; Hickel’s presence meant the implicit endorsement of the AIP for Palin’s candidacy. Hickel later said of his support, “I made her governor.” Hickel now supports Palin’s bid for the vice-presidency, spurred in part by her explicit endorsement of the AIP agenda (see March 2008).
Infiltrating the Mainstream - Chryson has long advocated that AIP members “infiltrate” both Republican and Democratic parties, and points to Palin as a model of successful infiltration. “There’s a lot of talk of her moving up,” AIP vice chairman Dexter Clark says of Palin. “She was a member [of the AIP] when she was mayor of a small town, that was a nonpartisan job. But to get along and to go along she switched to the Republican Party.… She is pretty well sympathetic because of her membership.” It is possible, Blumenthal and Neiwert speculate, that Clark saw Palin as so closely aligned with Chryson and the AIP that he wrongly assumed she was an official member. Chryson understands that as a vice-presidential candidate, Palin has no intention of espousing secessionist or racist views. Indeed, he hopes that her inauguration will represent the beginning of a new and deeper infiltration. “I’ve had my issues but she’s still staying true to her core values,” Chryson says. “Sarah’s friends don’t all agree with her, but do they respect her? Do they respect her ideology and her values? Definitely.” [Salon, 10/10/2008] In the days after this article appears, the McCain-Palin campaign will confirm that Sarah Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982, and claim that she was never a member of AIP. AIP chairperson Lynette Clark will say that her husband Dexter’s recollection of Palin as an official AIP member is mistaken, and reiterate that she and AIP support Palin fully in her bid for the vice presidency. [ABC News, 9/1/2008; Alaskan Independence Party, 9/3/2008]
Entity Tags: Wally Hickel, Watch Over Wasilla, Steve Stoll, Standing Against Government Excess, Sarah Palin, Phil Munger, David Neiwert, Dexter Clark, John Birch Society, John C. Stein, Alaskan Independence Party, Mark Chryson, Nick Carney, Max Blumenthal, Lynette Clark
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
The Diplomatic Security Service searches the Algiers home of Andrew Warren, the chief of the local CIA station, who is facing date rape allegations (see September 2007 and February 17, 2008). The search uncovers apple martini mix (Warren gave one of his alleged victims two apple martinis), multiple data storage devices, including multiple computer hard drives, memory cards, the drugs Valium and Xanax, which can be used for date rape purposes, and a handbook on the investigation of sexual assaults. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/2008, pp. 11-12 ]
The press reports that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) recently submitted a voter registration form filed under the name “Mickey Mouse” to the Orange County, Florida, board of elections. Fox News co-anchors Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer, hosting the “straight news” program America’s Newsroom, mock ACORN for filing the form. Under Florida law, ACORN is required to submit all voter registration forms even if it suspects they are bogus: failure to submit a voter registration form is punishable by a $1,000 fine. Kelly reports the form submission, and Hemmer reports that the form was rejected, saying, “ACORN says they are required to turn in every application that is filled out, even if it says Mickey Mouse.” Kelly then says: “I love that, they’ve got the obligation to submit it no matter what it says. Mickey Mouse, Jive Turkey, which we saw yesterday. How are we to know?” ACORN official Brian Kettenring tells a Tampa Bay Times reporter, “We must turn in every voter registration card by Florida law, even Mickey Mouse.” The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters cites the pertinent Florida statute: “A third-party voter registration organization that collects voter registration applications serves as a fiduciary to the applicant, ensuring that any voter registration application entrusted to the third-party voter registration organization, irrespective of party affiliation, race, ethnicity, or gender shall be promptly delivered to the division or the supervisor of elections.” If a third-party voter registration organization such as ACORN fails to submit any voter registration form, it is liable for a “fine in the amount of $1,000 for any application not submitted if the third-party registration organization or person, entity, or agency acting on its behalf acted willfully.” Kettenring says he is not sure the “Mickey Mouse” voter registration form came through ACORN, though it bore a stamp indicating that it was collected by someone affiliated with the organization. ACORN has come under fire for problems with some of the forms submitted by its employees, including 35 voter registration forms submitted in Pinellas County, Florida, that the Pinellas Board of Elections considered questionable. Recent forms submitted by the organization in Las Vegas listed the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys. Republicans are claiming that the “Mickey Mouse” submission and others are part of a nationwide conspiracy by ACORN to subvert the electoral process; Republican National Committee (RNC) counsel Sean Cairncross says that ACORN is a “quasicriminal organization” engaged in “a widespread and systemic effort… to undermine the election process.” Kettenring says that a few of ACORN’s paid voter registrars are attempting to get paid by submitting forms that are clearly not legitimate. ACORN says it fires canvassers who forge applications, citing a recent firing in Broward County of one worker who turned in applications with similar handwriting. The organization alerted the county’s election supervisor to the problem. ACORN pays $8/hour for canvassers to register votes, and does not pay bonuses for volume or a specific number of signatures. The organization says officials call each name on the forms to confirm their legitimacy, but under Florida law must submit even problematic forms. [Tampa Bay Times, 10/14/2008; Media Matters, 10/14/2008] In March 2008, Fox reporters misquoted a Washington state official regarding allegations of ACORN-driven voter fraud (see May 2, 2008). Seven days before the Fox News report, officials raided the Nevada offices of ACORN in a fruitless attempt to find evidence of voters being fraudulently registered (see October 7, 2008). Four days after the report, independent factcheckers will find allegations of voter registration fraud leveled against ACORN to be entirely baseless (see October 18, 2008). Five days after the report, a Fox News guest will accuse ACORN of causing the subprime mortgage crisis (see October 19, 2008). And in 2009, Fox News host Glenn Beck will accuse ACORN and President Obama of working together to create a “slave state” within the US (see July 23, 2009).
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) defends itself against allegations of voter fraud and attempting to overthrow America’s democratic system, allegations stemming largely from Republicans, conservative news organizations, and right-wing talk show hosts. The Associated Press reports that Republican lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation into ACORN’s practices of registering Americans to vote, and cites examples of ACORN filing questionable voter registration forms (see October 14, 2008). Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the Democratic presidential contender, says Republicans should not use any issues with ACORN as an excuse to stop people from voting on Election Day. ACORN has registered some 1.3 million voters, many of them young, minority, or poor citizens, and all of whom tend to vote Democratic. Elections officials in at least eight states are looking into voter fraud allegations leveled against the organization. ACORN spokesperson Kevin Whelan tells reporters that the organization is proud of “the vast, vast majority” of its over 13,000 paid canvassers who worked in 21 states to register voters. “They did something remarkable in bringing all these new voters,” he says. The group has acknowledged that some of its employees may have turned in questionable forms in order to meet their registration goals and continue working with the group, but says it has worked to weed out such problematic forms and has alerted county election officials to potential problems. Whelan says ACORN does not hesitate to fire employees who turn in fraudulent registration forms. Most states require third-party registration organizations such as ACORN to turn in even blatantly fraudulent forms under penalty of law. House Republicans have written to Attorney General Michael Mukasey demanding a Justice Department investigation, and requesting Justice Department help in making sure ballots by what they call “ineligible or fraudulent voters” are not counted on Election Day. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Obama’s Republican opponent, says the Obama campaign should take action to rein in ACORN’s registration efforts in order to combat what he calls “voter fraud,” and notes that Obama represented ACORN in a 1995 lawsuit in Illinois. McCain’s running mate, Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), says, “Obama has a responsibility to rein in ACORN and prove that he’s willing to fight voter fraud.” McCain has joined his House Republican colleagues in demanding a federal investigation. Obama says his campaign has no ties to ACORN, and says, “This is another one of those distractions that get stirred up during the campaign.” Recently a conservative Ohio think tank, the Buckeye Institute, filed a lawsuit against ACORN, charging it with criminal corruption under a civil provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is usually employed against alleged members of organized crime. [Associated Press, 10/14/2008] The liberal media watchdog Media Matters notes that the Associated Press and CNN have both failed to report that Obama was joined by the Justice Department, the League of Women Voters, and the League of United Latin American Citizens in the 1995 lawsuit. The lawsuit was intended to force Illinois to implement the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA—see May 20, 1993), and was found in favor of ACORN and the other plaintiffs. [Media Matters, 10/15/2008] Recently, officials raided the Nevada offices of ACORN in a fruitless attempt to find evidence of voters being fraudulently registered (see October 7, 2008). Independent fact-checkers will soon find allegations of voter registration fraud leveled against ACORN to be entirely baseless (see October 18, 2008).
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA—see July 10, 2008). The EFF is particularly concerned with the portion of the legislation that grants retroactive immunity from prosecution to telecommunications firms that worked with government agencies to illegally conduct electronic surveillance against American citizens (see December 15, 2005). The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, or FAA, violates the Constitution’s separation of powers, according to the EFF, and, the organization writes, “robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law.” The lawsuit was triggered by Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s recent submission of a classified certification in another EFF lawsuit about illegal electronic certification (see January 31, 2006) that claimed the electronic surveillance conducted on behalf of the National Security Agency by AT&T did not happen. EFF senior attorney Kevin Bankston says: “The immunity law puts the fox in charge of the hen house, letting the attorney general decide whether or not telecoms like AT&T can be sued for participating in the government’s illegal warrantless surveillance. In our constitutional system, it is the judiciary’s role as a co-equal branch of government to determine the scope of the surveillance and rule on whether it is legal, not the executive’s. The attorney general should not be allowed to unconstitutionally play judge and jury in these cases, which affect the privacy of millions of Americans.” Mukasey’s certification claimed the government has no “content-dragnet” program that surveills millions of domestic communications, though it does not deny having acquired such communications. EFF has provided the court with thousands of pages of documents proving the falsity of Mukasey’s assertions, the organization writes. EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl says: “We have overwhelming record evidence that the domestic spying program is operating far outside the bounds of the law. Intelligence agencies, telecoms, and the administration want to sweep this case under the rug, but the Constitution won’t permit it.” EFF spokesperson Rebecca Jeschke tells a reporter that the FAA “violates the federal government’s separation of powers and violates the Constitution. We want to make sure this unconstitutional law does not deny telecom customers their day in court. They have legitimate privacy claims that should be heard by a judge. Extensive evidence proves the existence of a massive illegal surveillance program affecting millions of ordinary Americans. The telecoms broke the law and took part in this. The FISA Amendments Act and its immunity provisions were an attempt to sweep these lawsuits under the rug, but it’s simply unconstitutional.” EFF lawyers fear the FAA will render their lawsuit invalid. [Electronic Frontier Foundation, 10/17/2008; Salon, 10/17/2008] The EFF has filed a related lawsuit against the NSA and senior members of the Bush administration (see September 18, 2008).
Andy Martin. [Source: Andy Martin]Hawaiian resident Andy Martin files a writ of mandamus in Hawaii’s Supreme Court to compel Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI) to release a certified copy of presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s “vital statistics record,” apparently asking that Hawaii ignore federal privacy laws and release the “long form” birth certificate on file for Obama (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008). His request is denied. [WorldNetDaily, 11/13/2008] When his lawsuit is dismissed, Martin responds on a blog for defeated Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton (D-NY), in a posting reprinted on the Free Republic and a number of other conservative blogs. Martin expresses his doubt that Obama has just flown to Hawaii to visit his dying grandmother, apparently referencing conspiracy theories on right-wing radio that Obama went to Hawaii to “scrub” his birth records (see November 10, 2008). He suggests that it is his lawsuit that caused the Obama campaign “to panic and suspend his presidential campaign to head off Andy’s stories.” (Martin has been posting a number of blog entries about Obama being a “covert Islamist”—see October 1, 2007 and April 18, 2008). He is, he boasts, “on the verge of taking down the Obama campaign,” calling himself “the good sheriff stand[ing] alone against the Obama Gang. Eliot Ness and the Untouchables? The Long Ranger? Pick your own hero. Martin vs. Obama explodes into a Hollywood classic.” Martin writes: “I will do my best to defeat Obama even though I essentially stand alone. I stand tall. All of the protagonists are from Chicago. Despite ridicule and envy from Chicago’s corrupt mainstream media, I have spent over forty years successfully fighting crooked politicians like Barack Obama and his Daley Machine cronies.” He cites “support” from Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, and his own participation as a blog commenter on FoxNews.com and YouTube. He says he “became the target of a massive liberal assault at the [New York] Times” after one Hannity broadcast: “On direct orders from the Emperor Obama, the New York Times then unleashed its smear machine on me.” He says his “investigative team” defeated the Times’s attempt to “destroy me,” writing: “I am still standing and the Times’ credibility is going into the toilet.… High Noon.… Barack Obama vs. Andy Martin. The drama builds as we move closer and closer to disclosing the dramatic truth about Barack Obama.… Barack Obama is an enemy of the Constitution. He is using tens of millions of dollars in clandestine campaign cash from unknown sources to stage an electoral coup d’etat in our nation. That is why I keep fighting for the truth. Barack Obama has been lying to the American people. And his Big Lie is about to be exposed.” [Andy Martin, 10/21/2008] Shortly after the lawsuit’s dismissal, Martin will abruptly abandon his accusations that Obama is a Muslim, and will begin asserting that Obama is a secret Communist taught by his “father,” a black activist named Frank Marshall Davis (see Before October 27, 2008). In a wide-ranging article about the “birther” controversy, Salon columnist Alex Koppelman will later note that Martin was denied an Illinois law license on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to practice law. [Salon, 12/5/2008]
Philip J. Berg. [Source: Qui Non Negat, Fatetur (.com)]Attorney Philip J. Berg, whose lawsuit challenging Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s citizenship was thrown out of a Pennsylvania court (see August 21-24, 2008), claims that because Obama never personally responded to his lawsuit, Obama is thusly “admitt[ing]” to the lawsuit’s allegations. Berg charged that Obama was not born in the United States (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008), but in Mombasa, Kenya. Berg cites Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states that unless the accused party provides a written answer or objection to charges within 30 days, the accused legally admits the matter. Obama, through his campaign lawyers, filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit and did not directly answer the charges in it. Therefore, Berg says Obama has legally admitted he is not a natural-born citizen. Berg is asking the court to formally declare Obama’s admission and for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to name someone else as its presidential candidate. To a reporter with the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily, Berg says: “Obama and the DNC ‘admitted,’ by way of failure to timely respond to requests for admissions, all of the numerous specific requests in the federal lawsuit. Obama is ‘not qualified’ to be president and therefore Obama must immediately withdraw his candidacy for president and the DNC shall substitute a qualified candidate.” Obama’s campaign has said that lawsuits such as Berg’s (see March 14 - July 24, 2008, August 21-24, 2008, October 9-28, 2008, October 17-22, 2008, October 21, 2008, October 31 - November 3, 2008, October 24, 2008, October 31, 2008 and After, November 12, 2008 and After, November 13, 2008, and Around November 26, 2008), are not actually about Obama’s birth certificate, but instead are “about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen.” Obama’s campaign has issued a number of documents and assertions that prove Obama’s citizenship, as have several non-partisan fact-checking organizations. Berg has offered to drop his lawsuit if Obama will prove his citizenship to Berg’s satisfaction. Berg tells a conservative blogger: “It all comes down to the fact that there’s nothing from the other side. The admissions are there. By not filing the answers or objections, the defense has admitted everything. He admits he was born in Kenya. He admits he was adopted in Indonesia. He admits that the documentation posted online is a phony. And he admits that he is constitutionally ineligible to serve as president of the United States.” [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2008] Joseph Sandler, a lawyer who filed one of the motions to dismiss on behalf of Obama, says Berg’s contention is erroneous. He goes on to explain why claims like these are never challenged or explained by defending lawyers: “When you file a motion to dismiss, to try to get the case thrown out before any factual inquiry is made, the facts that the plaintiffs put into their complaint are assumed to be true. You have to show that even if the facts were true, they don’t have a case.” [Washington Independent, 7/24/2009]
A photograph of Ashley Todd, with a backwards ‘B’ scratched into her face. Todd claims an Obama supporter beat her and scratched the letter into her face. [Source: Dan Garcia / Hollywood Grind]Twenty-year-old Ashley Todd, a volunteer for the presidential campaign of John McCain (R-AZ), tells Pittsburgh police she was attacked, beaten, and robbed by an African-American male who claimed to be a Barack Obama (D-IL) supporter. According to Todd, the man accosted her at a Citizens Bank ATM in Bloomfield, Pennsylvania. He was brandishing a knife, Todd claims. Todd gave him $60. When the man saw a bumper sticker on her car supporting McCain, she says, he punched her in the back of the head, knocked her down, and beat her, saying, “You are going to be a Barack supporter.” He then pinned her down and used the knife to scratch a “B” (for Barack) into her right cheek; she attempted to fight back, but he said he was going “to teach her a lesson for being a McCain supporter” before actually cutting her. He then fled, Todd says. Todd’s left eye is also bruised. The attack happened around 8:50 p.m.; Todd calls the police around 9:30 p.m., after the attack. She initially refuses medical attention. The next day, however, she will receive a full checkup at a local hospital, including an MRI. Todd says she is not a member of the McCain campaign, but went to Washington, DC, in June for training with the College Republicans. She posted pro-McCain and anti-Obama comments on Twitter in the hours preceding the attack, the last one coming just minutes before she alleges she was accosted. She describes her alleged assailant as a dark-skinned black man, 6 feet 4 inches tall, 200 pounds with a medium build, short black hair and brown eyes, wearing dark-colored jeans, a black undershirt, and black shoes. She emphasizes that her assailant is an Obama supporter. Within hours of the alleged attack, Todd posts comments on Twitter about it, along with allegations that she was targeted deliberately by members of the local Obama campaign and exhortations to support McCain in the upcoming elections (see October 23-24, 2008). The Hollywood Grind, reporting on the incident, observes: “Despite the information we’ve gathered above, there are three things that make us skeptical. First, Ashley is a hardcore McCain supporter, as evidenced by her Twitter updates… that show her posting Twitter updates right up until the alleged attack, then the last post three hours after the attack. Second, she initially refused medical attention, but finally got it the next morning. Third, the ‘B’ scratched on her face is backwards, making it look like it was done in a mirror.” [Associated Press, 10/23/2008; Hollywood Grind, 10/23/2008; Fox News, 10/24/2008; London Times, 10/25/2008] Todd acts suspiciously almost from the moment the police respond to her complaint. She goes to the house of a friend and fellow College Republican, Dan Garcia, a University of Pittsburgh law student. After being told of the alleged attack, Garcia treats her wounds and contacts the police. When an officer arrives at Garcia’s house, Todd becomes belligerent when asked where the attack took place. “I don’t know!” she shouts, using an expletive. “I’m not from here.” Todd, Garcia, and the officer then drive through Bloomfield, the town where Todd alleges the attack occurred, until they arrive at the Citizens Bank on Liberty Avenue. Todd then tells the officer that the Citizens Bank ATM is where she was attacked. She refuses medical attention offered by the officer, and instead leaves with Garcia to go eat at a diner, apparently making some of her Twitter posts during her time at the diner. It is during this time that Garcia takes the photograph of Todd with the scratched “B” on her face. Garcia then persuades her to go to a nearby hospital. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008] The next day, Todd will admit to lying about the incident, and will admit to inflicting the “B” on herself (see October 24, 2008). It is unclear how much of her story as reported in the press comes from Todd, and how much of it is embellished by a McCain campaign operative (see October 23-24, 2008).
Within hours of Pittsburgh resident Ashley Todd’s claim that she was attacked by a black Barack Obama supporter whom, she says, carved a “B” (for “Barack”) into her face during the attack (see October 22, 2008), conservative blogs and political Web sites begin an outpouring of enraged and supportive posts and articles supporting Todd and lambasting the Obama campaign and the “liberal media” which, they say, will do its best to cover up the alleged attack. Todd uses her Twitter account, and her connections as a member of the College Republicans and a McCain campaign volunteer, to spread the word about her alleged attack. The photograph of her and her wounds, taken by her friend Dan Garcia and given to police and the College Republicans, is quickly posted on the popular conservative news and gossip site Drudge Report, which calls the attack a “mutilation.” The Drudge article takes the controversy to a national level. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008; TPM Election Central, 10/24/2008; Media Bistro, 10/24/2008]
Bloggers Respond - Conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, writing for the popular blog Instapundit, uses the Drudge article for the basis of his own post (repeating the claim that Todd was “mutilated”), and writes, “This is so serious that I predict it will get almost one-tenth as much national coverage as something some guy may have yelled at a Palin rally once.” He repeats a comment from another blog that says, “But, were it a black woman with an ‘M’ carved in her cheek [presumably for ‘McCain’], we’d be getting 24/7 coverage.” [Glenn Reynolds, 10/23/2008] Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey, writing for another popular blog, Hot Air, calls the attack a “maiming,” though he does not blame the Obama campaign for it, instead writing that “this particular criminal sounds like he’s a couple of bricks short of a load even for that crowd.” Morrissey initially resists the idea that Todd may be perpetuating a hoax, writing, “Not too many young women would scar their faces just to create a political hoax,” but later admits that Todd lied and calls her a “very, very disturbed young woman.” [Ed Morrissey, 10/23/2008] A blogger for College Politico calls the attack “horrifying” and derides bloggers at the liberal Daily Kos for being “unsympathetic,” citing comments that expressed doubts about Todd’s veracity, calling them “deprived” (apparently intending to call them “depraved”) and saying that the Kos bloggers “have absolutely no reason to doubt her.” He goes on to criticize conservative bloggers who also express their doubts about Todd’s story, calls some of the skepticism “idiotic,” and says the fact that the “B” is carved backwards “MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING” (caps in the original). The blogger later posts updates acknowledging that the story is a hoax, and calls Todd “the lowest level of scum.” [College Politico, 10/24/2008; College Politico, 10/24/2008] A blogger calling himself “Patrick” for the conservative Political Byline posts the picture of Todd and writes, “So, this is what they do to people who support McCain.” In his title, he says Todd’s attacker is “One of Barry’s fans, I’m sure,” referring to Senator Obama, and calls Obama the “Marxist Magic Negro.” Like the others, he eventually acknowledges that the story is a hoax. [Political Byline, 10/24/2008]
Malkin Expresses Doubts - One conservative blogger who does not immediately leap on the Todd story is Michelle Malkin. When the story breaks, she writes of her suspicions about the “B” being carved so neatly into Todd’s face, and carved backwards, and how she finds Todd’s initial refusal to accept medical treatment questionable. Before Todd admits to the fraud, Malkin writes: “We have enough low-lifes and thugs in the world running loose and causing campaign chaos and fomenting hatred without having to make them up. I’ve been blowing the whistle on the real, left-wing rage not on the front page and in-your-face tactics throughout the election season. Hate crimes hoaxes—by anyone, of any political persuasion, and of any color—diminish us all.” [Michelle Malkin, 10/23/2008]
Presidential Campaigns Respond - The McCain campaign issues a statement denouncing the attack as “sick and disgusting”; the Obama campaign issues a statement deploring the attack and demanding that Todd’s assailant be quickly brought to justice. Both McCain and his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), telephone Todd with expressions of concern and support. The Pennsylvania communications director for the McCain campaign, Peter Feldman, quickly spreads the story, along with the photo of Todd, to reporters around the state, along with what reporter Greg Sargent will call “an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established.” Apparently Feldman is the person who first tells reporters that the “B” stands for “Barack.” [TPM Election Central, 10/24/2008; Media Bistro, 10/24/2008; London Times, 10/25/2008]
Obama Campaign Demands Explanation, Corrections - Todd soon admits that she lied about the attack, and though she claims her memory does not well serve her, says she probably scratched the “B” into her cheek herself (see October 24, 2008). When the national press learns that Todd lied about her attack, the Obama campaign becomes incensed, demanding that the McCain campaign explain why it was pushing a version of the story that was, in Sargent’s words, “far more explosive than the available or confirmed facts permitted at the time.” The Obama campaign also pressures some news outlets, including KDKA-TV and WPXI-TV, to rewrite their reports to remove the inflammatory and “racially charged” information concocted by Feldman, including claims that the alleged attacker told Todd he would “teach [her] a lesson” about supporting McCain, and that the “B” stood for “Barack.” There is no evidence of the national McCain campaign becoming involved in promulgating the falsified Todd story. [TPM Election Central, 10/24/2008]
'Okay Obama Frame-Job. ... I'd Give You a 'B' - After the story is exposed as a fraud, many post irate or sarcastic rejoinders on Twitter, using the hash tag ”#litf08” to ensure their viewing on the College Republican Twitter account, “Life in the Field,” where Todd made many of her Twitter posts. A former blogger for the Senate campaign of Christopher Dodd (D-PA), Matt Browner-Hamlin, asks: “Anyone know which Rove protege is responsible for #litf08? Because they lack the execution skills of the man himself.” Browner-Hamlin is referring to former Bush administration campaign manager Karl Rove. Another commenter writes: “Hmm, it was an okay Obama frame-job, just a few inconsistencies snagged you. Overall I’d give you a ‘B.’” And another commenter asks, “Do 50 College Republicans [the description of the ‘Life in the Field’ volunteers] try this kind of stunt often?” College Republicans executive director Ethan Eilon claims his organization “had no idea” Todd “was making this story up.” [Wired News, 10/24/2008]
Pittsburgh Councilman Demands Apology from McCain Campaign - The Reverend Ricky Burgess, a Pittsburgh City Council member, will demand an apology from the McCain campaign for deliberately spreading a story it had not confirmed, and for embellishing it to make it even more racially inflammatory. “That one of your campaign spokespersons would spread such an incendiary story before any confirmation of the facts is both irresponsible and runs counter to our nation’s constitutional guarantee that no one be denied life, liberty, or property without due process,” Burgess writes. He demands an apology for “inflaming the divisions of this country,” and later says: “I don’t know why they chose to push this story. But it just seems suspicious to me that they would target this story, which has a fictional African-American person harming a non-African-American person in this city.” A McCain campaign spokesman initially derides Burgess and his source, the progressive news blog TPM Election Central, writing: “The liberal blog post that the councilman cites has no basis in fact. The McCain campaign had no role in this incident. We hope the young woman involved in the incident gets the help that she needs. It’s disappointing that Pittsburgh law enforcement time and resources were wasted by her false allegations.” [WTAE-TV, 10/27/2008; Burgess, 10/27/2008 ; Burgess, 10/27/2008 ]
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, College Politico, Ed Morrissey, College Republican National Committee, Daily Kos, Dan Garcia, Drudge Report, Ethan Eilon, Ashley Todd, Ricky Burgess, Glenn Reynolds, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Greg Sargent, Michelle Malkin, Political Byline, Peter Feldman, Matt Browner-Hamlin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
A handcuffed Ashley Todd is escorted from a Pittsburgh police station by detectives. [Source: Keith Srakocic / Associated Press]Ashley Todd, the Pittsburgh woman who told police she was beaten by an African-American Obama supporter who carved a “B” (for “Barack”) into her face (see October 22, 2008), admits she lied about the incident. She was never attacked, she admits, and cut the “B” into her right cheek herself, though she says her memory is faulty on the subject.
Serious Inconsistencies Lead to Polygraph, Questioning - Though Pittsburgh police began by treating Todd as the victim of a crime, they noted serious inconsistencies in her story from the outset. Originally she told a story of being mugged by a black man who, after threatening her with a knife, then struck her in the back of the head with an unknown object and knocked her to the ground, where he punched, kicked, and threatened to “teach [her] a lesson” for being a McCain supporter before kneeling and scratching the “B” into her face. Police administered a polygraph test to Todd, though they have refused to release the results of that test; police spokeswoman Diane Richard says Todd’s story began to change after the polygraph was administered. Photographs from the Citizens Bank ATM that she claimed was the site of the attack do not verify her claim. Lieutenant Kevin Kraus, who heads the major crime squad for the Pittsburgh Police Department, says, “She told lie after lie, and the situation compounded to where we are right now.” He says Todd is being kept in custody for her own protection, and says the police are considering whether she may need a psychiatric evaluation. “We don’t feel she should be able to walk out onto the street,” says Pittsburgh Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant. “We wouldn’t want any further harm to come to her.” Kraus says: “She hasn’t really shown any obvious remorse. She’s certainly surprised that it snowballed to where it is today.” Kraus says she is angry with the media for blowing the story out of proportion (see October 23-24, 2008). Bryant says: “The backwards ‘B’ was the obvious thing to us when we first saw her. Something just didn’t seem right. And, first of all, with our local robbers, they take the money [and flee]. They’re in and out. They’re not stopping to do artwork.… We suspect she may have inflicted the injuries herself. We don’t think anyone else is involved.” Bryant says that Todd’s story changed more than once while she was with police. During points in the questioning, she said, among other things: she was attacked before, not during, her visit to the ATM; she was hit from behind and rendered unconscious; she didn’t know she had been cut or robbed until she went to the apartment of a friend, Dan Garcia; the attacker sexually fondled her. “After a while, she just simply stated that she wanted to tell the truth,” Bryant says. Under questioning, Todd abandoned her story of being brutalized by a black Obama supporter, and then told police she was driving alone, looked in the rearview mirror, saw her black eye and the “B” on her face, and didn’t know how they got there. She assumed she could have done it herself, she said, and then she made up the story about the attacker as she was driving to Garcia’s house. “She saw the ‘B’ on her face, and she immediately thought about Barack,” Bryant says. Kraus says the letter’s appearance made him instantly suspicious, both because of it’s being backwards—as if it were done by Todd while looking in a mirror—and because of its unusual neatness. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008; Fox News, 10/24/2008; Hollywood Grind, 10/24/2008; WTAE-TV, 10/27/2008] Richard says: “Miss Todd stated she made up the story, which snowballed and got out of control. Miss Todd stated she was not robbed and there was no 6-foot-4 black male attacker.” [WTAE-TV, 10/27/2008] Garcia says while he initially supported Todd, he is now furious with her and wants no more contact with her. “I don’t know why she would do this,” he says. “I would think that she needs help. I had red flags going up, but I didn’t think it was prudent of me to ask the truth. I wanted to make sure she was OK.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008]
Area of Alleged Attack Heavily Traveled - The area at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street where Todd had said the attack took place is heavily traveled in the daytime, full of traffic, pedestrians, restaurants, and stores. Doug Graham, a local resident, says it is unlikely any such assault at the Citizens Bank would go unnoticed, as Todd originally claimed. “There ain’t no way nobody saw that,” he says. “It’s always hopping up there. Something fishy, I knew the first second I saw [her story]. Something fishy.” [Fox News, 10/24/2008]
Huge Waste of Money, Man-Hours - Bryant says Todd’s false report created “a huge waste of time, with many man-hours and people coming in on overtime just to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.” Kraus adds: “It created intensive national and international attention. We’ve had detectives working around the clock since she made the bogus allegation. The cost to the city of Pittsburgh has been many, many dollars and resources.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008]
Todd a McCain Campaign Employee - Ethan Eilon, executive director of the College Republican National Committee, acknowledges that Todd is working as a field representative on behalf of the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, and has taken a year off from her studies at Blinn College to work on the campaign. [Fox News, 10/24/2008] Ashley Barbera, the communications director for the College Republicans, says: “We are as upset as anyone to learn of her deceit. Ashley must take full responsibility for her actions.” McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Peter Feldman says in a statement: “This is a sad situation. We hope she gets the help she needs.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008; Fox News, 10/24/2008] However, it later emerges that Todd is not just a volunteer, but a paid campaign worker earning a stipend of $3,600 from the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). The CRNC will announce Todd’s employment in a statement announcing her termination from the organization, but will later remove the statement from its Web site. The liberal news and opinion Web site Buzzflash will preserve a portion of the CRNC’s statement. [Buzzflash, 10/24/2008]
Previous Incidents - In March 2008, Todd was asked to leave a group of Ron Paul (R-TX) supporters in Texas after using dishonest campaign tactics (see March 2008).
'MySpace' Description - Todd has a MySpace profile under the screen moniker “Italian Pajamas.” She lists her occupation as “Being a bad_ss.” Next to her picture, she references the title of a song by the group Panic at the Disco, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths [sic] off,” but adds to it “but its [sic] better if you do.” She lists as one of her favorite books The Scarlet Letter. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008]
Faces Charges of Filing False Police Report - Police say that Todd faces criminal charges for making a false police report, and is being held in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of a $50,000 bond. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/24/2008; Fox News, 10/24/2008] The next day, Todd is charged (see October 25-30, 2008).
Entity Tags: Doug Graham, Diane Richard, Maurita Bryant, Kevin Kraus, Ethan Eilon, Dan Garcia, John McCain, College Republican National Committee, Ashley Todd, Ashley Barbera, Peter Feldman
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections
A Georgia court throws out a petition by the Reverend Tom Terry of Atlanta to force Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel to either prove presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) is an American citizen or remove him from the election ballot. “I bear no personal ill will against Barack Obama,” Terry says in a statement. “In fact, his election solely on the basis as the first African-American president-elect is a very positive thing for our nation. However, as an American, I have very grave concerns about Mr. Obama’s possible divided loyalties since he has strenuously and vigorously fought every request and every legal effort to force him to release his original birth certificate for public review and scrutiny (see June 13, 2008). I think that is significant.” Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter refuses to hear the suit, ruling: “I don’t think you have standing to bring this suit. I think that the attorney general has argued the law. I think he is correct. I think you are not a lawyer.” Terry will appeal the suit, telling a reporter: “Hopefully, this action will be noticed by other states and they will also take a serious look at the meaning of Georgia’s Supreme Court’s actions. It is apropos that the Latin motto in the Georgia Supreme Court is interpreted: ‘Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.’ I think if the Court rules in my favor, that motto will come alive with meaning and impact.” [WorldNetDaily, 11/13/2008]
Ashley Todd, a volunteer for the John McCain (R-AZ) presidential campaign, is charged with filing a false report to police after falsely claiming that a black Obama supporter mugged her and carved the letter “B” (for “Barack”) into her face (see October 22, 2008 and October 24, 2008). The Times of London observes: “The incident illustrates the depth of hatred of some McCain supporters towards the Democratic nominee, who would become America’s first black president if he wins the November 4 election. Race has been a sensitive issue in the contest and a number of prominent Republicans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have criticised the increasingly divisive tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. Some supporters have been freely expressing their distaste for a black president to reporters attending McCain rallies, while cries of ‘terrorist!’ and ‘kill him’ have been heard from the crowd at televised events.” Fox News executive vice president John Moody says that, if the incident is proven false, it could do irreparable damage to the McCain campaign. “This incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election,” he writes. “If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.” [London Times, 10/25/2008] Tood soon agrees to enter a program for first-time offenders in return for being allowed to leave jail. She also is required to accept mental health treatment. If she accepts treatment, completes the program, and stays out of further trouble with the police, her record will be expunged. Todd still says she cannot explain why she invented the story. [Associated Press, 10/30/2008; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 10/30/2008]
As reported by progressive media watchdog Media Matters, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh distorts and misstates comments by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama from 2001, asking listeners how Obama can be sworn in as president if he “flatly rejected” the Constitution. Limbaugh tells his listeners that Obama “calls himself a constitutional professor or a constitutional scholar. In truth, Barack Obama was an anti-constitutional professor. He studied the Constitution, and he flatly rejected it. He doesn’t like the Constitution, he thinks it is flawed, and now I understand why he was so reluctant to wear the American flag lapel pin. Why would he?… I don’t see how he can take the oath of office” because “[h]e has rejected the Constitution.” Obama said during a September 6, 2001 panel discussion on Chicago’s WBEZ radio that the Constitution “reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.” Obama’s criticism was directed at the Founding Fathers’ handling of the issue of slavery in the Constitution. Later in the discussion, Obama said that the Constitution is “a remarkable political document that paved the way for where we are now.” Limbaugh plays carefully edited clips from the WBEZ program but does not play the larger portion of Obama’s remarks that give a fuller picture of his meaning. Instead, he falsely accuses Obama of saying that the Constitution cannot “be fixed,” and asks: “How is he going to… how is he gonna place his hand on the Bible and swear that he, Barack Hussein Obama, will uphold the Constitution that he feels reflects the nation’s fundamental flaw. Fundamental. When he talks about a fundamental flaw, he’s not talking about a flaw that can be fixed. Fundamental means that this document is, from the get-go, wrong.” Media Matters notes that “several influential Republicans,” including President Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Chief Justice John Roberts, “have articulated a similar view” to Obama’s. [Media Matters, 10/28/2008]
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