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Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Vows to “Follow the Law” in Torture Scandal

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

I’ll say it again, it’s a good idea to investigate allegations of torture, but it will be extremely difficult to charge someone in this case. It just seems so difficult to not only find the right law that would apply, but one that would lead to a successful prosecution.


WASHINGTON (CNN)
— Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that he would “follow the law” as he weighed potential prosecutions of Bush administration officials who authorized controversial harsh interrogation techniques.
Some groups want Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the issue.

Some groups want Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the issue.

In Holder’s first public comments on the issue since President Obama’s statements on the matter Tuesday, the attorney general responded to questions briefly and cautiously.

“We are going to follow the evidence, follow the law and take that where it leads. No one is above the law,” Holder said at an Earth Day event.

Some human rights groups have demanded that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, but the attorney general appears to be in no hurry to decide how to proceed.

Obama said Tuesday that the attorney general would ultimately decide whether to proceed with prosecutions of those in the Bush administration who drew up the legal basis for aggressive interrogation techniques.

For Full Story

Intelligence Officials Went Around Atty. Gen. Gonzales to Inform Rep. Pelosi

Alberto Gonzales

Alberto Gonzales

As details continue to surface, the story gets more interesting. And it’s interesting to note the role of Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, whose reign over the Justice Department was suspect, to say the least.

By Jeff Stein
Spy Talk
WASHINGTON — Intelligence officials, angry that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had blocked an FBI investigation into Democratic Rep. Jane Harman’s interactions with a suspected Israeli agent, tipped off Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, that Harman had been picked up on a court-ordered National Security Agency wiretap targeting the agent.

In doing so, the officials flouted an order by Gonzales not to inform Pelosi, three former national security officials said.
Pelosi, D-Calif., was not officially briefed about the probe, as was widely reported Wednesday. Instead, the information was disclosed to her privately after a planned investigation of Harman was aborted, intelligence sources said.

Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly confirmed as much Wednesday.

For Full Story

Pressure Mounting For Justice to Review Conviction of Ex-Ala. Gov. Siegelman

Could this case be named “Stevens II” after ex-Sen. Ted Stevens, whose conviction was erased because of government misconduct? Pressure continues to mount for the Justice Department to review the ex-governor’s conviction. Chances are there will be a review.

Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman

Ex-Gov. Don Siegelman

By JOHN SCHWARTZ and CHARLIE SAVAGE
New York Times
Less than a month
after the Justice Department asked a judge to drop the case against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska because of prosecutorial misconduct, 75 former state attorneys general from both parties have urged Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to conduct a similar investigation of the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, who was convicted nearly three years ago on bribery and corruption charges.

In a letter to Mr. Holder, the attorneys general said Mr. Siegelman’s defense lawyers had raised “gravely troublesome facts” about his prosecution that raise questions about the fairness and due process of the trial.

“We believe that if prosecutorial misconduct is found, as in the case of Senator Ted Stevens, then dismissal should follow in this case as well,” the group said in the letter, which was organized by Robert Abrams, a former attorney general of New York.

Lawyers for Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, have long accused the Justice Department under President George W. Bush of conducting a politically motivated prosecution that they say was filled with irregularities, including a failure to turn over pertinent information to the defense team.

For Full Story

ICE to Open New Office in Tulsa

In a sign of stepping up enforcement of illegal workers, ICE is opening this new office.

By OMER GILLHAM
Tulsa World Staff Writer
iceTULSA — Immigration officials are opening a new office in Tulsa to investigate human trafficking, drug smuggling and the employment of illegal workers at potential terrorist targets such as oil refineries and airports, an official said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is establishing a Resident Agent in Charge Office in Tulsa, said John Chakwin, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Dallas.

The establishment of the new office with ICE funding is being announced Monday.

The Resident Agent in Charge Office is expected to open officially in late August and will be located at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Chakwin said.

“This office will have all the investigative powers of handling crimes and incidents involving the U.S. border,” Chakwin said.

For Full Story

Bush Admin. Prepared for Harsh Interrogation Tactics Before Being Granted Legal Ok

There’s no turning back at this point. While President Obama wanted to brush this aside and move on, the demand for a full-scale investigation of torture seems to be winning out. Expect lots of scandal, but it seems it will be tough to ever file criminal charges against any Bush officials, let alone get a conviction.white-house

By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Intelligence and military officials under the Bush administration began preparing to conduct harsh interrogations long before they were granted legal approval to use such methods — and weeks before the CIA captured its first high-ranking terrorism suspect, Senate investigators have concluded.

Previously secret memos and interviews show CIA and Pentagon officials exploring ways to break Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees in early 2002, up to eight months before Justice Department lawyers approved the use of waterboarding and nine other harsh methods, investigators found.

The findings are contained in a Senate Armed Services Committee report scheduled for release today that also documents multiple warnings — from legal and trained interrogation experts — that the techniques could backfire and might violate U.S. and international law.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Announces New Anti-Trust Leadership (Main Justice)

Fed Air Marshals to Get 30 Day Suspension for Drunk Driving Arrests

Probably not a bad idea to craistock_000001465593xsmallckdown on federal air marshals who violate the law. Makes sense.

By Michael Grabell
ProPublica

Federal air marshals arrested on drunken-driving charges will face a 30-day suspension without pay under a new policy (PDF) from the Transportation Security Administration.

The penalty replaces a policy in which air marshals convicted of drunken driving could be punished with a letter of reprimand, one of the lowest penalties.

The new policy comes after a report by ProPublica found that more than 40 air marshals had been charged with crimes since the agency expanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The report appeared in Nov. 13 editions of USA Today.

Robert Bray, director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, said the tougher penalty is a way to implement “a culture of accountability” in the agency.

“We’ve had pretty strong feedback” from the rank and file, he said. “They feel as professionally and personally embarrassed by these actions as I do, and they want these people dealt with.”

Under the policy, a 30-day suspension is mandatory for any “alcohol-related offense,” a broad category that includes a police report of driving under the influence, refusing a sobriety test, an arrest or a conviction.

The minimum 30-day suspension puts the air marshals in line with other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. It took effect Friday.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 armed air marshals fly undercover on U.S. flights to protect against possible terrorist attacks. The official number is classified.

At least nine air marshals have been convicted of drunken driving, according to a Transportation Security Administration memo obtained by ProPublica.

A group that lobbies on behalf of federal officers agreed with the change in policy.

“We’re out there to protect the families of the American public — not endanger them with drunk driving,” said Frank Terreri, an air marshal and representative with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “We were honestly surprised that it was as lenient as it was.”

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who grilled TSA officials about drunken-driving incidents at a congressional hearing, said that he is encouraged by the stricter penalties but that air marshals convicted of driving drunk should be fired. “Their job is too important to get a conviction for drunken driving,” Poe said.

FBI Adds First Domestic Terror Suspect to its Most Wanted Terrorist List

San Diego/fbi photo

San Diego/fbi photo

Osama bin Laden, move over. Meet animal rights bomber Daniel Andreas San Diego.

 

By Henry K. Lee and Demian Bulwa
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI added an alleged animal rights bomber from Sonoma County to its list of “Most Wanted” terror suspects Tuesday, underscoring the agency’s increasing focus on such activists by lining him up next to Osama Bin Laden and 22 other Islamic extremists.

Daniel Andreas San Diego, 31, a former resident of tiny Schellville who is believed by authorities to be hiding out in Costa Rica, is the first domestic terror suspect to be added to a list that officials created a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

San Diego is accused of detonating pipe bombs in 2003 at a pair of firms, Chiron Corp. in Emeryville and Shaklee Corp. in Pleasanton. No one was hurt in the early morning attacks, though the FBI contended Tuesday that San Diego “intended to cause serious injury or death.”

Investigators believe the firms were targeted because they had done business with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a New Jersey laboratory that conducts experiments on animals for clients.

 For Full Story

Reporter Scores Victory in Fight to Protect Confidential Sources

The press scored a big victory in Detroit on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that a Detroit Free Press reporter did not have to disclose sources during a deposition because he feared incriminating himself. It’s an interesting defense and an interesting ruling.

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

By Sandra Svoboda
Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Veteran journalist David Ashenfelter had been ordered three times to submit to a deposition in a former federal prosecutor’s lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, is seeking the identity of an unnamed source or sources in a January 2004article Ashenfelter wrote about an internal investigation into Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism-related trial following 9/11.

Convertino won convictions against three of the four men tried, but those verdicts were overturned after it was discovered Convertino withheld evidence from the defense.

Convertino alleges that the leak was a violation of his rights under the federal Privacy Act. He can’t win his case without knowing who talked to Ashenfelter, his attorney has said.

Ashenfelter faced the possibility of jail or fines for contempt of court if he didn’t cooperate with the deposition.

Although U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland had previously ruled that Ashenfelter had to answer questions from Convertino’s attorney, Tuesday in a closed-door deposition Cleland agreed with Ashenfelter and the paper’s attorneys that the Pulitzer Prize winner had sufficient grounds for a Fifth Amendment defense – in other words he could refuse to answer questions on the grounds of possible self-incrimination.

For Full Story