United States News Digest
NSA Spy Case: Senate Judiciary To Subpoena DOJ Records
June 21 (EIRNS)The Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 13 to 3, to authorize subpoenas to the Justice Department for information related to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. Senate Republicans Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), and John Cornyn (Texas) opposed the move.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Arlen Specter (Pa.), on May 21, wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, requesting that documents be produced by June 5. Gonzales failed to turn over anything, and CQ.com reported that the Justice Department rebuffed Leahy in a letter yesterday.
In voting today, Leahy said, "We need this information for our investigation." Specter agreed, pointing to the discrepancy between Gonzales's testimony to the committee last year that there were "no serious disagreements" within the DOJ, and the former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey's testimony to the committee on May 15, in which Comey named Dick Cheney and his top aide David Addington as attempting a "cold coup" against the Justice Department.
Is Cheney Blocking Rice's Testimony on Yellowcake Hoax?
June 19 (EIRNS)Despite having been served with a subpoena, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is still refusing to testify in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the Niger yellowcake hoax and how the infamous "16 words" got into the President's 2003 State of the Union Address. Rice was President Bush's National Security Advisor at the time, and frequently trumpeted Vice President Dick Cheney's propaganda line that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons.
Rice's appearance before the committee has been scheduled a number of times, including for today, with the White House stalling, and even using the excuse of Rice's trip to Moscow, to postpone her appearance. Observers believe that it is Cheney who is insisting that the White House refuse to permit Rice to testify. The next step would be for the full House of Representatives to vote to find Rice in contempt of Congress.
Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) disclosed last week that committee investigators are continuing to interview witnesses and examine documents relative to the Iraq/Niger claim. In recent weeks, the committee has taken depositions or conducted interviews of former CIA Director George Tenet, Tenet's deputy John McLaughlin, and former CIA anti-proliferation official Alan Foley; retired Army Col. Larry Wilkerson (Colin Powell's former chief of staff); and the former head of State Department intelligence, Carl Ford.
The Hill reports that committee member Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) also wants to talk to Rocco Martino, the shadowy Italian businessman who allegedly passed the forged Niger documents to an Italian journalist.
White House E-Mail Destruction Bigger Than Estimated
June 19 (EIRNS)The use of Republican National Committee (RNC) e-mail accounts within the White House was much more extensive than previously known, as was the destruction of potentially hundreds of thousands of such e-mails, in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act. These are some of the conclusions of an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
According to an interim report issued yesterday, the committee has evidence that RNC accounts were used to conduct official Executive Branch business, and that there was extensive destruction of such e-mails by the RNC. Under the Presidential Records Act, all such records must be maintained and preserved. Further, says the report, there is evidence that then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales knew that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, and that he took no action to preserve these official Presidential records.
The use of RNC e-mail accounts within the White House is supposed to be limited to partisan political activity, since the use of government facilities for such activities would be a violation of the Hatch Act. However, investigators and other observers believe that Karl Rove and other White House officials used their RNC e-mail accounts to carry out activities which they hoped to hide from scrutiny, such as their role in using blatantly partisan criteria for the hiring and firing of federal prosecutors.
The report notes that the White House had at first said that only a "handful" of officials had RNC accounts, then later said that it might have been 50. In fact, the report says that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts.
Of the 88 officials, e-mail records were not preserved for 51well over half of the White House users. Even though many of Karl Rove's were destroyed, those preserved by the RNC amount to a staggering 140,216 e-mails for Rove alone! Over half of these were to or from official ".gov" e-mail accountsindicating large-scale and potentially illegal use of official accounts for RNC business, or that Rove was using RNC accounts to hide his political interference in government activities.
Conyers: Bush-Cheney 'Thumbing Nose at the Law'
June 19 (EIRNS)"The administration is thumbing its nose at the law," said House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), commenting on a report on Presidential "signing statements" just issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Under the direction of Dick Cheney and Cheney's lawyer and chief of staff David Addington, "signing statements" have been used to defy Congress's law-making power to an unprecedented extent, and to assert Presidential dictatorial powers.
The GAO study, requested by Conyers and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), examined signing statements for a limited number of bills, only for appropriations bills for fiscal year 2006. The GAO found that President Bush issued 11 signing statements for the 12 appropriations bills, singling out 160 provisions in those bills. The GAO examined 19 of those provisions, and found that of the 19, only ten were executed as written, six were not, and the other three were not triggered, so there was no agency action to examine.
A number of signing statements objected to provisions of law based on the unconstitutional "unitary executive" theoryactually the Führerprinzip of Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt. Others claimed that under the President's alleged powers as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he could ignore Congressional enactments.
"The White House cannot pick and choose which laws it follows and which it ignores," said Senator Byrd in a statement yesterday. "This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the White House is constantly grabbing for more power.... Too often, the Bush Administration does what it wants, no matter what the law."
Libby Pleads to Appeals Court: Keep Me Out of Jail!
June 19 (EIRNS)Lawyers for former Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby filed an emergency motion with a federal appeals court today, asking the court to delay Libby's date with federal prison until his appeal is decided by the appeals courtwhich could take a year or more. If the court lets Libby stay out of prison, this will reduce the pressure being put on President Bush by Dick Cheney and his supporters for Bush to pardon Libby or to commute his sentence.
Federal Judge Reggie Walton, explicitly declining to give Libby any special treatment because of his status, has refused to allow Libby to remain free during this appeal, and instead ordered that Libby must report to prison when the Federal Bureau of Prisons designates a facility for him, which normally takes six to eight weeks.
The White House has fudged, indicating that the President would not decide on a pardon as long as the appeals process is underway, but then qualified that, to as long as Libby "is still outside of the custody of the criminal justice system."
The real danger for Cheney is that Libby, facing imminent incarceration, might decide to cooperate with federal prosecutors and tell them what he knows about Cheney's role in both the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and the ensuing coverup.
Senators Demand Probe of RNC 'Vote-Caging'
June 19 (EIRNS)Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have written to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling for an investigation into illegal voter suppression tactics by Republican National Committee (RNC) operatives in the 2004 election campaign, including Karl Rove's former aide, Tim Griffin, who is now the interim U.S. Attorney of Little Rock, Arkansas.
The letter asks for an investigation to determine if Griffin violated the Voting Rights Act with racially targeted vote "caging," which involves sending out registered letters marked "Do Not Forward" to targeted voters and then challenging these voters' rights when their letters are returned undelivered. The Senators note that the RNC has a history of this kind of activity going back to the 1980s, and had signed consent decrees with the DoJ agreeing to give up the practice. "It is very disturbing to think that Department officials may have approved the appointment of a United States Attorney knowing that he had engaged in racially targeted vote caging," the Senators wrote. "Moreover, it is very disturbing to think that senior officials were aware of this practice and did nothing to refer their information to relevant officials within the Department for investigation."