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Archive for December, 2008

Controversial Office of Legal Counsel Will Undergo Heavy Scrutiny Under Obama Regime

By Mary Jacoby
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The famously leak-proof Barack Obama operation hasn’t said much about its plans for the Justice Department. But one thing’s clear: the controversial Office of Legal Counsel notorious for issuing what critics dubbed the “Torture Opinion” —  the sanctioning of extreme interrogation techniques  — is going to come under some heavy scrutiny in the new administration.
Several members of Obama’s DOJ transition review team have been vocal critics of what they’ve called the Bush administration refusal to abide by the rule of law in national security cases.
They include Dawn Johnsen, a law professor at Indiana University who serves as a DOJ transition team “leader,” and Martin Lederman and Christopher Schroeder, also law professors and members of the DOJ review team.
Moreover, Obama’s pick for the influential post of White House staff secretary is Lisa Brown, former executive director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a liberal-leaning advocacy group that was active in the debate against torture.

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Who is Atty. Gen. Nominee Eric Holder?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzx6TOSTghY

Convicted Ex-FBI Agent John Connolly Tells Newsweek: “I’m a Catholic. I Say Rosary Everyday and Pray For My Innocence”

The fascination with ex-FBI agent John Connolly, convicted in a mob murder, continues. Newsweek visited him in a Miami jail to get his take on his conviction in a mob murder.

John Connolly

John Connolly

By Suzanne Smalley and Evan Thomas
Newsweek

For many years, John Connolly was the FBI’s most effective Mafia investigator in Boston. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. He says his “hero” is Bobby Kennedy and points to his family’s devotion to public service (his brother is a retired DEA agent, and his sister became a teacher). But when he met last week with a NEWSWEEK REPORTER at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, he was wearing shackles around his ankles. Once dashing and athletic, the 68-year-old Connolly was stooped and pot-bellied in his bright-red prison jumpsuit. His skin was paper-thin and white from lack of sunlight. For the past three and a half years, he has lived in a tiny, 10- by 12-foot cinder-block cell; his food is slipped to him through a slot in the heavy metal door. He is kept in solitary confinement for his own protection: a few years ago, Connolly says, another former FBI agent was badly beaten by inmates in the same jail.
Speaking with the reporter in a holding room, Connolly was grandfatherly, intelligent, emotional. “Believe me, I am innocent!” he declared, pumping his fist in the air. “I’m a Catholic. I say the rosary every day and pray for my innocence. I pray to Saint Jude, the saint of hopeless causes, and to Saint Rita, the saint of the impossible.”
For Full Story

Blackwater Guards Plan To Surrender in Utah To Get Favorable Venue

Sometimes the pre-trial legal battles can be intense. In this case, the pre-indictment battles are becoming intense. This one is shaping up as a battle of battles.

By Salt Lake Tribune Staff And Wire Services
Washington— Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards indicted in Washington, D.C., for the shooting of Iraqi civilians plan to surrender to the FBI on Monday in Salt Lake City, in hopes of a favorable trial venue, a person close to the case said.
The case already is shaping up to be a series of legal battles before the guards can even go to trial. With a surrendering in Utah, the home state of one of the guards, Donald Ball, of West Valley City, lawyers could argue in a far more conservative, pro-gun venue than Washington.
The person described the decision to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the indictment against the men remains sealed.
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OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Republican Challenger Defeats Indicted Rep. William J. Jefferson

Rep. William J. Jefferson’s loyal voter base finally wore too thin. A Republican has unseated the 9-term Dem, who faces trial some time next year on public corruption charges. As a Congressman, Jefferson still had a chip to bargain with if he decided to plead guilty. He could have agreed to step down in exchange for a more lenient prison term. Now he’s about to lose that.

Winner: Anh "Joseph" Cao

Winner: Anh Cao

Rep. William Jefferson/fox news

Rep. William Jefferson/fox newsWinner Anh

by Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze
The Times-Picayune
NEW ORLEANS — Indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson suffered what may be the final blow of his storied political career in the most improbable way Saturday, when an untested Republican opponent took advantage of Louisiana’s new federal voting rules — and an election delay caused by Hurricane Gustav — to unseat the nine-term Democrat.
With the upset victory, Anh “Joseph” Cao, a eastern New Orleans attorney who fled war-ravaged Saigon as a child, becomes the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. He will represent a district that was specifically drawn to give African-Americans an electoral advantage and one in which two of every three voters are registered Democrats.

For Full Story

MONDAY UPDATE: Jefferson Loses Congressional Salary and Possible Bargaining Chip (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

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Commentary: The Love and Loyalty for Troubled New Orleans Congressman Jefferson Has Faded

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – I always marveled at the voter loyalty Rep. William J. Jefferson generated.  Long after the FBI found $90,000 in marked FBI bills in his freezer in August 2005, many many people in the “Big Easy” still loved him.
Apparently, Saturday there wasn’t enough of that kind of special love to go around. He lost his bid for a 10th term in the general election.
Two years ago, when I was reporter at the Washington Post, I went down to New Orleans to follow Jefferson around on the campaign trail. He seemed like an affable man, humbled by all that he had gone through with the FBI. His homes had been raided. His office had been raided, but he had yet to be indicted.
In the French Quarters, at some of the watering holes, it was easy to find folks who were fed up with Jefferson. But others. Well, they still believed in him. They said they were giving him the benefit of the doubt. One loyalist at a 55-plus apartment building in the Third Ward who had come downstairs to the activity room to hear the Congressman speak, told me:
“All of them are stealing. He just got caught. Since he’s been in office, he’s one of the few black officials who has been able to get in office and do something for the people.”
That opinion seemed to resonate. A few weeks later, Jefferson won his ninth term.
Well, apparently this time, the loyalty had worn thin. Even though demographics had shifted since Katrina, a ham sandwich could have still beaten a Republican in that Congressional district, particularly in this political climate. Instead, it was a Republican who unseated Jefferson. I think in this case, the cry for “change” trumped any anger toward President Bush or the Republican party.
Jefferson now has to keep dealing with his public corruption trial, which should take place some time next year in an Alexandria, Va. courtroom before a no-nonsense federal judge T.S. Ellis III. The case has dragged on, with Jefferson challenging the government in pre-trial motions every step of the way.
Meanwhile, he’s got some company when it comes to legal problems. His sister Betty Jefferson, his brother Mose Jefferson and his niece Angela Coleman were indicted in July on charges of skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars from a non-profit group they controlled. Yes, the Jeffersons are keeping some in the legal community employed.
Sadly, whatever happens to Jefferson, few outside of New Orleans or Capitol Hill will remember him for anything but a little footnote in his life: The guy who hid $90,000 in his freezer.

Blackwater Attorneys Accuse Feds of Unfairly Second Guessing Indicted Security Guards

The legal combat over the combat in Iraq is already starting even before the indictments are unsealed for five Blackwater employees.

By Del Quentin Wilber and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Attorneys for five Blackwater Worldwide security guards charged in a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead accused the government yesterday of engaging in unfair second-guessing of the contractors’ actions in a combat zone.
The five guards — a sixth is in plea negotiations — were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Washington in the shooting, which occurred on Sept. 16, 2007, in Baghdad’s bustling Nisoor Square, according to several sources familiar with the case. The indictment was sealed, and the exact charges are not known. The guards, all former military personnel, are expected to surrender to federal authorities tomorrow, the sources said.
For Full Story

Feds Secretly Recorded Illinois Governor

Let’s see. One governor is in prison. Another is under investigation and is being secretly recorded by the feds. Mmm. Sounds a lot like Louisiana.

By Jeff Coen, John Chase and David Kidwell
Chicago Tribune

Gov. Blagojevich/official photo

Gov. Blagojevich/official photo

CHICAGO — Federal investigators recently made covert tape recordings of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the most dramatic step yet in their corruption investigation of him and his administration, the Tribune has learned.
As part of this undercover effort, one of the governor’s closest confidants and former aides cooperated with investigators, and that assistance helped lead to recordings of the governor and others, sources said.
The cooperation of John Wyma, 42, one of the state’s most influential lobbyists, is the most stunning evidence yet that Blagojevich’s once-tight inner circle appears to be collapsing under the pressure of myriad pay-to-play inquiries.
Wyma, Blagojevich’s chief of staff when he was in Congress, has long been one of the few advisers trusted by Blagojevich and kept in the loop on matters of policy and politics. As the federal probe intensified, Wyma met privately with the governor and his former chief of staff at the governor’s campaign headquarters on the North Side for 90 minutes on Oct. 22.
For Full Story