House holds Bannon in contempt; TX Lt. Gov. pays out for GOP voter fraud; CA GOP's recall boondoggle; Vets dump Sinema; Manchin could dump Dems; TX steals minority House seats; IL boosts Dems (a little)...
In an interview on Tuesday evening with the German television program “Frontal 21,” on channel ZDF Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Rapporteur responsible for torture, stated that with George W. Bush’s head of state immunity now terminated, the new government of Barack Obama was obligated by international law to commence a criminal investigation into Bush’s torture practices.
“The evidence is sitting on the table,” he stated. “There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.” He pointed to the U.S. undertakings under the Convention Against Torture in which the country committed that it would criminally prosecute anyone who tortured, or extradite the person to a state that would prosecute him. “The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court,” Nowak said.
Law professor Dietmar Herz clarifies that under U.S. and international law, George W. Bush bears personal responsibility for the introduction of torture. From the point of his departure from office, head of state immunity terminates, and under clear principles of international law, the United States is obligated to commence a criminal investigation and then a prosecution.
In related news, top Congressional Democrats, including Senators Reid, Levin and Whitehouse, as well as Representatives Pelosi, Hoyer and Conyers have all indicated recently, in various forms, interest in investigations and/or accountability for various Bush crimes, which, reports Jason Leopold at Public Record, amounts to a growing consensus among Dems to approve a probe into torture allegations, and perhaps more.
UPDATE 1/26/09: In an interview with CNN, Nowak said he believes there is already enough evidence to prosecute fomer SecDef Don Rumsfeld:
"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."
President Obama announced the nomination on Thursday of a former government lawyer, who had been critical of the legal rationale for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, to lead the Justice Department’s national security division.
The lawyer, David Kris, served as a senior Justice Department official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations from 2000 to 2003, and is widely respected in Washington for his knowledge of intelligence law.
In late 2005, following the public disclosure of the N.S.A. wiretapping program approved by President Bush, Mr. Kris wrote a 23-page legal analysis that described as “weak’’ and likely unsupportable some of the Bush administration’s key legal arguments in justifying the program.
And when he was still at the Justice Department, he advised his boss, who was at the time Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, not to sign a mysterious batch of wiretapping warrants — which grew out of the program — because intelligence officials would not reveal how the information in the wiretaps was obtained.
As we've been predicting for some weeks ago, the flood of revelations that would be flowing forth after Obama was sworn in would likely make what we currently know about Bush Era illegalities and incompetence seem like barely the tip of the iceberg.
Just one day after the Inauguration, Russell Tice, the NSA whistleblower who originally participated in that agency's illegal warrantless wiretapping program, and revealed details of same to the New York Times' back in late 2005, has now come forward with more details that he had been disinclined to release previously (he had been, after all, hounded by the FBI, subpoenaed by a grand jury, etc. after his original, heroic revelations.)
He spoke yesterday on MSNBC, revealing that American journalists were targeted by Bush's program which "had access to all Americans' communications." Please watch the remarkable video interview at right. Both that, and the text below, is from RAW STORY's coverage last night...
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications --- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."
"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year --- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."
When Olbermann pressed him for specifics, Tice offered, "An organization that was collected on were US news organizations and reporters and journalists."
"To what purpose?" Olbermann asked. "I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every email sent by all the reporters at the New York Times? Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York?"
Tice did not answer directly, but simply stated, "If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything."
At the end of the MSNBC interview, Olbermann asked Tice to appear again this evening (Thursday) for more discussion on this issue.
Three years ago, BRAD BLOG alum David Edwards first ran this rarely-seen full version of Dr. Martin Luther King's August 28, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on these pages.
We're happy to post it in full again today, of all days --- on Martin Luther King Day, and the day before the first African-American finally takes the oath as President of the United States --- as more relevant than ever, including the now-familiar phrase: "the fierce urgency of now".
If you've never seen or heard it in full, or even if you have, we hope you'll enjoy it. Let freedom ring...
Last week, President-elect Barack Obama said he was open to "good ideas" from anyone, even from the New York Times' Paul Krugman. (Video here.)
"If Paul Krugman has a good idea...then we're gonna do it," said Obama. He was speaking about "good ideas" for his economic stimulus package at the time, but we'd written that we hoped the sentiments might extend to good ideas on any important issue that his administration might face, including some good ideas of our own that we'd offered to his transition team, who had consulted with us, as they are working on review of the dreadfully-failed U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
Well, as it turns out, the New York Times' Paul Krugman does have some very good ideas, as noted in an op-ed yesterday, this time on why the Obama administration must bring accountability for the crimes of the Bush Era. The must-read column, headlined "Forgive and Forget?" begins this way...
Eric Holder just told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the behavior of president Bush has been illegal, and that he, Eric Holder, will uphold the rule of law. It will be very hard to maintain those positions and not prosecute or appoint a Special Counsel to prosecute Bush's crimes.
Here's roughly what was said:
10:29 a.m. Leahy: is "waterboarding" torture and illegal?
Holder: yes, it is torture.
Leahy: Can other nations legally torture Americans?
Leahy: Can President of the United States immunize acts of torture?
Holder: Nobody is above the law. President has Constitutional obligation to enforce the laws. We have laws and treaties. The president acts most forcefully and has the greatest power when consistent with Congressional intent and directives. The president does NOT have the power that you have indicated.
Leahy: Washington Post yesterday reported that the top Bush Admin. official on military commissions says we tortured a detainee.
I've had this picture in my mind lately, an editorial cartoon-like drawing, of a dam about to break and someone (Obama?) leaning hard up against it in futile hopes of keeping it from bursting forth. The dam and its contents, in my mind's eye, are labeled "Bush Administration Crimes and Failures." I've been pondering, over the last several days, how we're soon likely to learn that everything we think we already know about the historically-unparalleled failures, crimes and cover-ups of the Bush administration, will likely prove to be barely the tip of the iceberg as the Bushies lose their power, and "the files" are finally opened for all to see.
It's likely to take years, after President Obama is sworn in next week, to unearth the entire breadth of the degradation, filth, corruption and dismantling of federal law and U.S. Constitution under the current administration, and to piece together all of the unshredded and likely-shredded evidence both, and to take in the information likely to pour forth from officials and former officials who finally find the courage to tell the world just how bad it all really was and is (even if many of them would now be doing so only to salvage their own hide.)
One hint of what will be found beyond the tip of that iceberg, or inside that near-to-bursting dam (take your metaphorical pick) comes in today's remarkable report [PDF] from the DoJ Inspector General on the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the DoJ's Civil Rights Division and "other improper personnel actions" in the division.
It's remarkable on several fronts. Not only because it describes the politicization of the department under the Bushies, their strictly illegal hiring practices; their determined dismantling of a core of career attorneys devoted to years of legal-processes in the fight for civil rights; as well as perjury and out-and-out lying to Congress, but also because the report itself --- in one last classic stroke of corrupt Bush Administration gaming of the system --- was completed last July, prior to the election, but held for release until today, just 7 days before the criminals (or at least those who won't be still-embedded like cancer cells within the federal buearocracy for years to come) take their leave.
And, as if all of that isn't bad enough, with the out-and-out finding of criminal wrongdoing in the report (such as illegal hiring practices and lying about them to Congress), the Bush Administration's own DoJ has decided that no prosecutions should be brought against the Bush Administration's own DoJ for the Bush Administration's own DoJ's now-well-documented actions in breaking federal law.
The bastardization of the DoJ Civil Rights division is a topic which we've covered closely over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, and even played a part in helping to expose, for example, when the head of the Voting Section in that division, John Tanner, was forced to resign from his post, not long after we'd video-taped and published controversial (and inaccurate) comments he made at a 2007 conference in Los Angeles declaring that disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at the polling place were more of a concern for the elderly than for African-Americans because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
(See our now-infamous video, shot by our own Alan Breslauer, at right.)
As today's (actually July's) report reveals, that wouldn't be the only unfortunate --- and one might say, "ironic", given his position --- derogatory remark made about African-Americans by Tanner. But the bulk of the report, it seems, is devoted to one Bradley Schlozman, who insidiously twisted the mission of the Civil Rights division, brought political prosecutions in order to try and affect the outcome of elections, in violation of written DoJ policy, and attempted (and arguably succeeded) in helping to engineer an outright illegal, and ideological purge --- an ethical cleansing, if you will --- at the department, in an attempt to stack it with far rightwing brethren from the Federalist Society, or "right thinking Americans" (RTAs), as he referred to them among friends...
[UPDATE 1/8/09: Oops! The article discussed below is indeed from Wednesday, but from a Wednesday in 2007! March 14th to be precise. I'll not out the colleague who sent it to me, who similarly thought it was published yesterday. But I'll thank the commenter who finally noticed the date on the Reuters article, re-remind myself of the the dangers of "road blogging" too quickly, and otherwise make myself feel better by noting that my originally expressed caution about getting too optimistic at this point was apparently well placed. As another commenter then noted, the original bill in question was later blocked in the Senate by an unknown, likely-Republican, Senator. Let's hope the Ds now have enough votes and control of the Senate to avoid the same fate for these bills that need to be passed now in the new Congress. And my apologies for the false-positive alarm. - BF]
So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.
What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.
On Sunday, BeliefNet reported that the website for Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County, Cal., contained a warning that unrepentant gays were forbidden from joining the church:
Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one's life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted as a member at Saddleback Church.
Yesterday, that section, which was part of a longer diatribe about the sin of homosexuality (see below), is gone. According to BeliefNet, this link led to the page banning gays. Now it connects to a page titled "What We Believe." BeliefNet is known for down-the-line reporting on religion. It was recently purchased by Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp.
As Jon Ponder noted here on Tuesday, a bi-partisan U.S. Senate panel has found [PDF] that George W. Bush was responsible for approving War Crimes (torture and abuse) at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Dick Cheney admitted in a recent interview to helping to approve War Crimes (torture and abuse) in interrogations, and the corporate media --- with the lone exception of MSNBC --- have been virtually as silent on what may be the most offensive crimes ever committed by an Executive Branch in the U.S. as they were during the lead-up to and follow-through on the War on Iraq, when those same officials sent our nation into war on the basis of demonstrable lies.
George Washington University's highly-respected constitutional law professor Jonathon Turley, noting the War Crimes now known and admitted to by Bush and Cheney, asked Keith Olbermann Tuesday night, "If someone commits a crime and everyone's around to see it and does nothing, is it still a crime?"
(Please watch the video at right, or read the text transcript at the end of this article.)
During the discussion, Turley mentioned --- no less than three different times --- that it'll be up to the citizens whether or not any action is actually taken to prosecute those who committed these crimes.
But is there any real basis --- in 2008 --- for his well-meaning argument? Not bloody likely...
Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that --- in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California --- is looking for a fight.
Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.
After the debacle of Prop 8 --- which Obama never mentioned on a public platform during the campaign and has not addressed since Election Day --- this is a kick in the gut to every gay American. Here's a quick look at Warren's positions from Right Wing Watch:
Despite Overnight Detention in County Jail for 'Disorderly Conduct', as Orchestrated by Broward's Election Chief, a Candidate for That Same Office, Ellen Brodsky, Remains Uncharged a Month Later and Still Seeking Discovery Documents...
Counter Charges for 'False Arrest' Still to Come...
It's been more than a full month since the November 13th arrest of Broward County, FL's election integrity advocate Ellen Brodsky and the state has still failed to file formal charges or supply her with discovery documents.
As The BRAD BLOG reported in detail following the arrest, Brodsky was taken into custody, seemingly at the behest of her opponent in the election, after attempting to oversee the public counting of ballots for the election in which she ran as a candidate for Supervisor of Elections.
The arrest for "disorderly conduct" (according to police records) was caught on tape and posted here last week. The tape shows fairly clearly that there was no such disorderly conduct by Brodsky, despite the order for the arrest having apparently been issued by the office of the current Broward Supervisor of Elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes.
Today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel picks up the story with an update noting that Brodsky, a month since her arrest, has been forced to seek a judge's order demanding that prosecutors explain why she was arrested in the first place.
The BRAD BLOG has also obtained a copy of a motion to compel discovery exhibits, which have similarly not been given to her, as filed by Brodksy's attorney earlier this month.
Ellen Brodsky has asked a judge to order prosecutors to explain why she was arrested at the election office warehouse.
The case is open but no charges have been filed, State Attorney's Office spokesman Ron Ishoy said Tuesday.
Her lawyer, Tanner Andrews, denies wrongdoing. He wants to know what exactly his client is accused of doing and who made the accusation on Nov. 13.
"Why they arrested her would be a really good start," he said.
The most cogent broadcast media discussion about Same Sex Marriage issues that we recall seeing. As usual, it comes from The Daily Show. Also, as usual, the opponent here --- in this case Mike Huckabee --- ultimately can come up with absolutely no legitimate reason to oppose full rights for all Americans, other than concerns about having to rewrite a few editions of Merriam-Webster's. Bravo, Jon...
Even if he's out of his mind in regard to things like evolution and equal rights for Americans, Huckabee's a decent fellow who, we suspect, will some day have a "revelation" and reverse his opinion on both of those things once he no longer perceives he needs them to win public office (for example, after he no longer plans to run for anything). That cynicism, of course, runs contrary to my belief that he's "a decent fellow". But hey, nobody's perfect, right?
Admittedly, events of the last decade or two have greatly lowered our bar for "decent fellows" when it comes to Republicans, unfortunately.
Last month we reported the story of the arrest of Broward County, FL, election integrity advocate and independent candidate for Supervisor of Elections, Ellen Brodsky. She was handcuffed and arrested, according to the police report, for "disorderly conduct" and "trespass/structure or conveyance" while trying to observe post-election ballot counting and canvassing procedures in the county.
After her arrest, orchestrated by her opponent, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, Brodsky was held overnight in the county jail until 5:45am the next morning, despite her son having posted bail for her --- a grand total of $25 --- at 8:30pm the night before.
Brodksy has an impressive record of finding serious problems with counting and election procedures in Broward County, which undoubtedly helped foster the animus from her opponent Snipes. Shamefully, as we pointed out in our original coverage, Brodsky is only the latest in a string of EI advocates around the country who have been arrested recently while trying to peacefully carry out public observation of our public elections.
Here now is the video tape of the incident that results in her arrest, as captured on a small flip camera provided by election watchdog organization VideoTheVote.org. The man seen on the phone, at the beginning of the tape, calling the police, is Snipes' deputy Fred Bellis. It's clear that Bellis, in cahoots with Snipes --- again, Snipes was Brodsky's election opponent --- clearly seems to have been choreographing the entire arrest.
As you'll see in the video below, the fact that she was arrested at all, much less for "disorderly conduct," is absolutely incredible and clearly without merit. Our original report offered a great deal of background and context, as well as comments from Brodsky and a number of both EI advocates and a state election official from a different county who have all worked with her. They all, almost uniformly, described the turn of events at the time as "outrageous" and an "abuse of power."