Saturday, July 12, 2008

Law School Dean Calls Conference to Plan Bush War Crimes Prosecution

[And some of my students find my attitude towards Bush and Cheney remarkable! More people like Dean Velvel need to come forward and tell it like it is. If they do, viva la difference!]

Posted Jun 17, 2008, 06:51 am CDT
ABA Journal

By Debra Cassens Weiss

The dean of Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is planning a September conference to map out war crimes prosecutions, and the targets are President Bush and other administration officials.

The dean, Lawrence Velvel, says in a statement that “plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth."

Other possible defendants, he said, include federal judges and John Yoo, the former Justice Department official who wrote one of the so-called torture memos.

“We must insist on appropriate punishments,” he continued, “including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war criminals in the 1940s."

Velvel elaborates in an introduction to a series of articles published in The Long Term View (PDF). He writes “there is no question” that Bush and other officials are guilty of the federal crime of conspiracy to commit torture.

He also criticizes Justice Department officials for their legal memos. “The DOJ lawyers who wrote the corrupt legal memos giving attempted cover to Bush's actions have been rewarded by federal judgeships, cabinet positions, and high falutin' professorships,” he writes. Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley law school, while another former Justice Department official who signed a Yoo memo, Jay Bybee, is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Velvel tears into President Bush as well, writing: “The man ultimately responsible for the torture had a unique preparation and persona for the presidency: he is a former drunk, was a serial failure in business who had to repeatedly be bailed out by daddy's friends and wanna-be-friends, was unable to speak articulately despite the finest education(s) that money and influence can buy, has a dislike of reading, so that 100-page memos have to be boiled down to one page for him, is heedless of facts and evidence, and appears not even to know the meaning of truth.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial published today stands in stark contrast to Velvel’s criticism. It assails House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers for issuing subpoenas seeking information about the possible torture of Sept. 11 suspects. The editorial mentions the testimony of British professor Philippe Sands, who also contends U.S. officials are guilty of war crimes.

“Nearly seven years after 9/11, the U.S. homeland hasn't been struck again and American civil liberties remain intact,” the newspaper writes. “So how does Congress say ‘thank you’? By trying to ruin the men who in good faith set the legal rules that have kept us safe.”

Friday, July 11, 2008

It Gets Worse: Prospective Immunity in the Telecom Bill and Enlisting Any Persons To Spy on You

[Bush gets caught violating FISA by a) failing to get court approval for his wiretaps and surveillance over "suspects," and b) his list of suspects includes the entire American population.

Upon hearing of this, Congress does what? Demands his immediate resignation? Initiates impeachment procedures? Nope. It revises FISA in order to retroactively and in the latest bill, prospectively, forgive any of these crimes and gives him the power to demand the co-operation of any companies or individuals such as landlords or custodians or any other person to provide information about and spy upon any person the government chooses.

What kind of society exactly is it that tolerates this? What kind of government allows this? What kind of presidential candidates vote for this? What kind of "change we can believe in" is this!]

Forget Retroactive Immunity, FISA Bill is also about Prospective Immunity

By Matthew Rothschild, July 10, 2008

Leave it to George Bush to point out a little-noticed aspect of the FISA bill that he likes, but you should hate.

In his chortle over the Democratic cave-in on FISA, Bush said, “It will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will, themselves, be protected from lawsuits for past—or future—cooperation with the government.”

The news lies between those dashes.

Opponents of the FISA bill, from the ACLU to Russ Feingold, have been focusing on retroactive immunity for AT&T and Verizon and the other telecom companies.

But what may be even more alarming is the prospective immunity that telecom companies and Internet service providers and others are guaranteed by this bill.

Here are some of the relevant passages:

“The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may direct, in writing, an electronic communication service provider to a) “immediately provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary . . . b) maintain under security procedures approved by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence any records concerning the acquisition or the aid furnished. . . .”

And here’s the kicker: “No cause of action shall lie in any court against any electronic communication service provider” for providing this information.

Thus we have the Congress granting to the Executive Branch and the private sector enormous new powers to violate our privacy.

In essence, the government can now conscript the private sector to do its dirty work. But don’t pity the companies; the government will pay them for coughing up our secrets, the bill says. “The government shall compensate, at the prevailing rate, an electronic communication service provider for providing information, facilities, or assistance.”

It gets worse.

The prospective immunity extends beyond telecom companies and ISPs to include even landlords and custodians, and it is not limited to the provision of communication contents or records.

Check out Title VIII: “Protection of Persons Assisting the Government.” A “person” is defined as “an electronic communication service provider” or “a landlord, custodian, or other person who may be authorized or required to furnish assistance. . . .” Note how wide open is the category of “other person.”

And “assistance” is defined as “the provision of, or the provision of access to, information (including communication contents, communications records, or other information relation to a customer or communication), facilities, or another form of assistance.” Notice how wide open is the category of “another form of assistance.”

All of these “persons” providing “assistance” are now immunized by this bill for their future actions so long as the Attorney General certifies them in court.

Look what’s happening here: The combined powers of the Executive Branch and the private sector are now arrayed against the individual.

This is not what our Founders had in mind.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's Official: Congress Cares More About Protecting Felon Bush Than About You and Me

Senate Approves Telecom Immunity and New Eavesdropping Rules

Filed at 3:15 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Wednesday affirmed its intention to protect from civil lawsuits telecom companies that helped the government wiretap Americans without court authorization after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It turned back three amendments that were offered during final debate on a bill that overhauls the rules on secret government eavesdropping.

The votes suggest the surveillance bill will pass by an easy margin later Wednesday, and signal an end to almost a year of wrangling between the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and Congress and the White House over the president's warrantless wiretapping program.

The House approved the surveillance overhaul last month.

The long fight on Capitol Hill has centered on one question: whether to shield from civil lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on American phone and computer lines after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, without the permission or knowledge of a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The lawsuits allege that the White House and the companies violated U.S. law by going around the FISA court to start the wiretaps. The court was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.

For the rest of this breaking story, see here.

The first inaccuracy in this story is that the felonious, widespread wiretapping and surveillance (as in, for example, intercepting all of the calls and Internet activities streaming through AT&T's lines) began after 9/11. In fact it started as early as February 2001, seven months before 9/11.

Second, Obama and Chris Dodd and the others who introduced/backed amendments to try to strip the bill of immunity did so knowing that their efforts would fail and the bill would pass. Obama's claims that this bill, which he voted for, is an improvement over the existing law, the Protect America Act, is false because PAA is set to expire and the 1978 FISA bill would have then been in effect. This would have exposed not only the telecoms to the lawsuits they so richly deserve, but expose the White House to prosecution for violating FISA.

What Obama, Dodd, Feingold or any of the others who opposed this bill should have done, as Obama did promise previously to do, is filibuster the damn bill.

To those who still hold out hopes that an Obama White House will make a real difference, consider this: if Barack refuses as a Senator to stand up and do what is right and what needs to be done, then what will he do as a President when he must stand up individually and do what is right and what needs to be done. You don't need to wait and see and hope for the best. You can see what he is willing to do and what he's not willing to do right this minute.

Past, as they say, is Prologue.

The fate of the country and the fate of the planet cannot be left in the hands of men and women such as these. It is necessary that individuals take a stand and not leave matters in the hands of those who will not do what must be done. We the people must stand up and act.

The Case for Murder Against Bush

[As an author of one of the seven impeachment books, I can relate to Bugliosi's frustration about the mainstream media's blackout of his book. In his case, because of his fame, mainstream cred, sterling publishing record and the market out there for his case against war criminal Bush, his book is nonetheless selling extremely well, despite the blackout.

This Times' article represents a chink in that wall of silence, although the article fails to mention - and thereby perpetuates - mainstream media's silence about impeachment. Bugliosi's point in the piece below about corporate media's fear of the right wing and not vice-versa is, of course, very true and a central element in today's political climate.

The right gets to do and say literally anything it wants and the "left" or better put, mainstream and quasi-left, feel that they need to tiptoe around and not incur the wrath of the right wing banshees. Yep, Ann Coulter, I'm thinking specifically of you.]

From the New York Times, 7/7/08:

Ex-Prosecutor’s Book Accuses Bush of Murder


As a Los Angeles county prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi batted a thousand in murder cases: 21 trials, 21 convictions, including the Charles Manson case in 1971.

As an author, Mr. Bugliosi has written three No. 1 best sellers and won three Edgar Allan Poe awards, the top honor for crime writers. More than 30 years ago he co-wrote the best seller “Helter Skelter,” about the Manson case.

So Mr. Bugliosi could be forgiven for perhaps thinking that a new book would generate considerable interest, among reviewers and on the broadcast talk-show circuit.

But if he thought that, he would have been mistaken: his latest, a polemic with the provocative title “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” has risen to best-seller status with nary a peep from the usual outlets that help sell books: cable television and book reviews in major daily newspapers.

Internet advertising has been abundant, but ABC Radio refused to accept an advertisement for the book during the Don Imus show, said Roger Cooper, the publisher of Vanguard Press, which put out the book.

ABC Radio did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Bugliosi, in a recent telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles, said he had expected some resistance from the mainstream media because of the subject matter — the book lays a legal case for holding President Bush “criminally responsible” for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq — but not a virtual blackout.

His publisher and publicist said they had expected that Mr. Bugliosi’s credentials would ensure coverage — he is, after all, fairly mainstream. His last book, a 1,612-page volume on the Kennedy assassination, “Reclaiming History,” which was published last year, sought to debunk the conspiracy theorists. It is being made into a 10-hour miniseries by HBO and the actor Tom Hanks.

Mr. Bugliosi said bookers for cable television, where he has made regular appearances to promote books, have ignored his latest offering. MSNBC and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” were two outlets Mr. Bugliosi had thought would show interest, but neither did.

“They are not responding at all,” he said. “I think it all goes back to fear. If the liberal media would put me on national television, I think they’d fear that they would be savaged by the right wing. The left wing fears the right, but the right does not fear the left.”

A spokeswoman for Comedy Central said the staff of “The Daily Show” was on vacation and unavailable for comment. A representative for MSNBC said: “We get many pitches to interview authors and very few end up on our programs.”


On Mr. Bugliosi’s book, Mr. Cooper said, “I expected there would be people who would choose not to talk about it. But I thought some would.”

Mr. Bugliosi has had more than 100 radio interviews about the book, and Vanguard was behind an aggressive Internet campaign that included ads on liberal blogs. “It’s been frustrating on one hand but exhilarating on the other,” Mr. Cooper said. “Using the Internet has been an integral fact in the success of this book. I feel terrific about the sales of this book.”

For the rest of this story, see here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July Farce

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” -- Major General Antonio Taguba (Ret.)

In the wake of Fourth of July celebrations, I’d like to ask a nettlesome question of those who have been festooning themselves and their surroundings with red, white and blue, flying Old Glory from their pickup trucks and lawns, and proudly singing about living in the “home of the brave:” WHY BOTHER?

What liberties that July 4th is supposed to represent have all too few Americans stood up to defend over the last nearly eight years?

Which freedoms have not been undermined or outright eliminated with nary a fuss in this “land of the free?” What bravery in this “home of the brave” have all too few Americans demonstrated to date?

The conditions that spawned the American Revolution are worse today than they were back in 1776.

We have, after all, a president and vice-president who declare that they stand above the law, whose loyal and fawning retinue of law professors, lawyers, advisers and Supreme Court Justices tell them that they can do absolutely anything if it’s wrapped in the foil of the “national interest,” including overriding and ignoring Congressional law, Constitutional provisions, the ongoing torture of even – gasp - youngsters, endless detention without charges even being brought, and spying on hundreds of millions of Americans.

We have, after all, a White House that committed the gravest war crime of all by launching wars on countries that did not threaten us and had not attacked us, doing so on the basis of literally hundreds of lies that they were caught red-handed purveying, resulting in the unjust and immoral deaths of well over a million people to date.

We have, after all, a White House that daily conceals its ill intentions and ill deeds from the American people and has turned governance into nothing more than sheer deception, exercised with unprecedented and unalloyed cynicism.

We have, after all, a White House that readily commits treason to punish its political opponents, then turns around and has the nerve to accuse its critics of treason, while its apologists in the media and think tanks scream betrayal and sedition hourly of anyone who retains a shred of sense and humanity.

We have, after all, a White House and Congress that has abrogated the Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus, items specifically cited in the American Revolution’s grievances against King George.

We have, after all, a White House that is preparing to launch another illegal and unjust war, using the same playbook they used on Iraq, and a Congress and major presidential candidates that have green-lighted this newest crime.

We have, after all, a White House that criminally and recklessly left New York City and New Orleans open to disasters, despite repeated, explicit, and credible warnings for years preceding, failing further to come to victims’ aid in a timely fashion, the equivalent of abandoning wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

We have, after all, a government whose enablers and apologists in the Democratic Party and the mass media mock the First Amendment, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the “home of the free” by their failure to stand up to - and their collusion with - these moral monsters and anti-rationalists in the White House.

We have, after all, two candidates for president who both refuse to hold these war criminals and tyrants accountable through impeachment and who promise us “change” while having done nothing substantive to change the government that they themselves have been important members of all of these years.

We find, after all, ourselves, and this country, at an historic crossroads.

Yet nearly every single one of our august political leaders and sage opinion-leaders continue to claim, against all sense, legal precedent, and propriety, that holding our own homegrown, world-class criminals accountable for their perverse crimes is unthinkable.

* * *

What is unthinkable is that we should allow these daily outrages and atrocities to continue in our names as Americans.

Anyone paying even partial attention to what has been going on should feel deep shame over what our country has done - and is doing - in the world and real anger about what we, and our fellow citizens, have been and are allowing.

Those who say that they want change and are content at this point to support Obama’s candidacy should ask themselves this question: how can righting the terrible wrongs of this White House and this Congress be so easy and so simple as going into a voting booth for a few minutes once every few years and pushing a few buttons?

How can infamous and grave injustices such as these (thirty seconds of looking at the pictures from Abu Ghraib is enough for anyone who still has a conscience), which grow like Topsy every minute, be rectified by so little done and measures taken so late as voting?

What have Americans, who say they prize being Americans, been doing to protect dissenters’ right to dissent, scientists’ right and need to tell inconvenient truth to power, women’s and homosexuals’ right to choice, the planet’s very ability to survive, Muslims and undocumented workers’ right to equal protection under the law, Afghani, Iraqi and Iranian women, children, boys and men’s right to live and right not to be killed and/or tortured by American military forces, crushed under the heel of Pax Americana?

Why aren’t there more Americans engaging in the necessary and valorous acts of civil resistance in the face of barbarities being committed every single day?

Why have too many Americans been willing to listen so far to the hypnotic and Houdini-like promises of “change” from the very individuals who have been co-conspirators in these unspeakable acts and predatory policies?

Why has “going along” with the status quo been so powerful a pull upon people who know in their hearts that others are being killed and tortured in our names?

* * *

1930s and 1940s Germany forewarned us of this. In the Germans’ case, at least, nothing like the rise of fascism had ever happened before in a country such as that.

This lack of knowledge and warning, unfortunately, cannot be said of Americans, circa 2008.

There are those who acutely realize these things. The problem they and we face is that the forces arrayed against us have extraordinary resources and hold the levers of power, even though they are small in number and supremely unpopular - Bush and Cheney are only able to venture out before hand-picked crowds because an unfiltered gathering would like to tar and feather them. But the fact remains that Bush and Cheney are in power and the party of “opposition,” well, isn’t the party of opposition. Wishing them to be what they aren’t won’t do.

We also confront the fact that the broad masses of people of this country, as much as they in their large majority dislike or even despise Bush and Cheney, and are disgusted by the Democrats’ craven complicity, have not yet done much more than tell pollsters this fact and voted against the GOP in recent elections. They continue to be held in thrall to business as usual, while terrible deeds are being carried out in the shadows at home and in plain sight abroad.

Many gnash their teeth at the preceding. Many blame the masses for their quiescence.

But social change has never been accomplished through the masses of people rising as one to do the right thing. Social change has never really been secured merely or mainly through the ballot box. Social change has always started with small, determined numbers who then succeed in mobilizing a fraction of the population whose actions and stand come to represent the sentiment of the majority or near majority.

The question then is how can such a minority - as I’ve written, the 1% - be mobilized?

We don’t need to move the entire population to act. The inaction of the majority is nothing new. Their inaction isn’t the principle reason why things continue to go so atrociously.

We do need to – and must - move a fraction of the populace to act and thereby through their stepping forward provide the necessary leadership to represent the sentiments of the majority and move on behalf of that majority to drastically alter the direction of this country.

The 1% of the people is our proverbial Archimedes fulcrum.

Parading before us, as in a July Farce parade, is our naked emperor. Following him are the pretenders to the throne, who are still clothed, but as they march along, they are visibly shedding their clothes, one by one. Speech before AIPAC, threatening to attack Iran, there goes the jacket. Support for the telecom amnesty bill, off goes the pants. Opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning execution of convictions of child rape, the shirt’s fluttering to the ground.

We the people have to break the spell and turn the stands and the street into a festival of the oppressed. Some – you - have to start it. And others will be emboldened by the actions of the truly brave.

Here is something that everyone can and should do: don orange, the color of resistance. Wear it everyday – a ribbon, an armband, a button. Spread it to others. Support and/or join those planning to demonstrate at the DNC in August in Denver. Help to get war criminal John Yoo fired as a law professor and tried as a war criminal. Stop the recruiters from fueling the war machine with fresh young bodies. Stand up and be counted!

Want Some Torture With Your Peanuts?

[Brought to you courtesy of the same people who failed to do anything to prevent or minimize 9/11 despite repeated, urgent, explicit, and credible warnings from numerous foreign governments and from individuals within U.S. law enforcement directly transmitted to George Bush.]

By Jeffrey Denning

Just when you thought you’ve heard it all...

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

• take the place of an airline boarding pass

• contain personal information about the traveler

• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?

See the rest of this article here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Setting Our Sights Much Higher Than Obama

See this terrific essay just posted at OpEd News by Malcolm Shore.