News of Vice Presidential aid I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby's indictment and resignation reminds me of an earlier time.
Mrs. Bertleson (I think that was her name) ran out to a car I was sitting in and proclaimed, "Ehrlichman and Haldeman just resigned!"
Excitement in her voice.
It was April 30th, 1973 and someone was giving me a ride home from Pullman High School TV Production class. Watergate was in the news. Careers in media were "the thing."
A TV was set up in our school's "people pit." It was tuned to Watergate hearings. Students could mill around and see American history unfold.
Great for civics class.
Even the people pit was an innovation. Steps that went nowhere. Carpeted steps for sitting, lounging. Architects noticed what students liked to do. It was a brand new building.
President Nixon was not popular in that school. The Vietnam war was dragging on.
There were still some conservatives. They would point out that people had better be careful not to trash the President too much. The Russians were still coming and they didn't allow any criticism of their leaders.
Now there is talk of threats from Iran. Threatening to wipe Israel off the map and possibly getting a nuclear weapon.
Does anyone remember the "Domino Theory?" That was a big worry during Vietnam War. "If we let down our guard, the Communists will take over Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, eventually America."
Stepping stones, but not the friendly carpeted steps of our people pit.
Did that ever happen? Did the domino stepping stones ever fall?
Not that I remember, but we did get "Domino's Pizza." And Russia got the Big Mac.
The communists started quarreling among one another and their empires crumbled. Vietnam invaded Cambodia, after we got out of the way, and the Soviet Union kind of fell apart from its own weight. Or did it take Reagan (Nixon reborn?) to push them over?
Will the youth of Iran throw out the old guard religious zealots? Do they need us to help them, or are they better off with out us? Are we doing more harm than good; in Iraq, around the world?
Is our empire about to crumble?
These are both exciting and scary times. Some glee and jubilation over the problems of Bush (I never voted for him), but also a lot of worry.
America did survive Watergate and Vietnam.
A CIA officer’s name was blown, there was an apparent leak of information to friendly reporters in the national media, national security was at stake, a news reporter was eventually jailed, an administration mover and shaker called: “Scooter” has been indicted for possible obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements, and the federal judge assigned to the case was appointed by the same executive branch and had previously served in the White House Media Affairs Office.
Is there just too much by happenstance for this to be just a coincidental thing?
What a saga, sometimes humorous, sometimes crazy and gripping, but in fact, really serious, with each new segment so far finishing with a cliff hanger leaving the country eager for more information. It’s a tangled web of lies, cover-up, judgment of others, and corruption at the highest level of government (an unnecessary war with Iraq). It involves the po-po (the FBI), an assistant to the president of the United States, the chief of staff to the vice president, an assistant to the vice president for national security affairs, and a ruff neck (keeps it real and knows the streets) judge who once admitted as a junior in high school he discovered his father’s guns and straight razor and started sneaking them out of the house tucked into his pants (one of the fights escalated from punching to a boyhood friend being stabbed nine times with an ice pick). There’s also the highly unusual (August 2005) fight where this same federal judge wrestled a man to the ground during a traffic incident on the Chevy Chase Circle (Washington, D.C.).
Maybe it’s just a part of the George W. Bush legacy? Maybe it’s just an element of indeterminacy in human actions which often works in favor of true disclosure? Nonetheless, both political parties would prefer for their own reasons not to pursue the truth, and the media will be content to go along with the typical hyperbole (cover-up), and the greater peril will be to the public’s confidence in the fair and impartial administration of justice.
The American judiciary was placed into the frame work of our system so that no one branch of government could become too powerful and exercise its powers unduly either over the other branches or the American people. For many the separation of power has basically disappeared.
I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, vice president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, although indicted by a federal grand jury on five charges related to the CIA leak probe (one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and two counts of making false statements), appears to be confident that at the end of this process he “will be completely and totally exonerated.” Karl Rove, president Bush’s top political adviser, who testified four times before the grand jury and wasn’t indicted (but not yet out of legal jeopardy), said through his attorney Robert Luskin, “We are confident that when the special counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong.”
But, how can they be so confident? Both Libby and Rove as senior government officials with responsibilities for national security matters (entitling them to access to classified information) were obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18 United States Code, Section 793, and executive Order 12958 (as modified by executive order 13292) not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise required to exercise proper care to safe guard classified information against unauthorized disclosure.
At issue is Joseph Wilson, who was married to Valerie Plame Wilson. Mrs. Wilson was employed by the CIA and her employment status was classified. Prior to July 14, 2003, her affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community. In 2002, after an inquiry to the CIA by the vice president concerning certain intelligence reporting, the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi effort to acquire uranium yellow cake, a processed form of uranium ore. Wilson orally reported his findings to the CIA upon his return.
On or about January 28, 2003, president Bush delivered his State of the Union Address which included “sixteen words” to justify war with Iraq asserting that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. But as part of the American system of check-and-balances on May 6, 2003, the “New York Times” published a column by Nicholas Kristof of which disputed the accuracy of the “sixteen words” president Bush used in the State of the Union Address. The column reported that the ambassador sent to investigate the allegations had reported back to the CIA and State Department in early 2002 that the allegations were unequivocally wrong and based on forged documents (It’s just impossible to operate a clear conspiracy where all the pieces fit together).
On or about June 23 and the morning of July 8, 2003, Libby met with “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller and discussed Wilson’s trip and his belief that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. When the conversation turned to the subject of Joseph Wilson during the second meeting, Libby asked that the information Libby provided on the topic of Wilson be attributed to a “former Hill staffer” rather than to a “senior administration official.” An under secretary of state had orally advised Libby on or about June 11 or 12, 2003, while in the White House that, in sum and substance, former ambassador and career state department official Joseph Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. Additionally, the vice president himself had also advised Libby that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA in the counter-proliferation division.
Shortly thereafter, on July 10 or July 11, 2003, Libby spoke with Rowe, who advised Libby of a conversation Rowe had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip. Libby was advised by Rowe that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.
On September 26, 2003, the Department of Justice authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to commence a criminal investigation into the possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information regarding the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA to various reporters in the Spring of 2003. A major focus of the grand jury investigation was to determine which government officials had disclosed to the media prior to July 14, 2003 information concerning the affiliation of Valerie Wilson with the CIA, and the nature, timing, extent and purpose of such disclosures, as well as whether any official making such a disclosure did so know that the employment of Valerie Wilson by the CIA was classified information (conducted an investigation into possible violations of federal criminal laws, including Title 50, United States Code, Section 421 – Disclosure of the identity of covert intelligence personnel; and, Title 18, United States Code, Sections: 793 Improper Disclosure of National Defense Information, 1001 False Statements, 1503 Obstruction of Justice, and 1623 Perjury).
As part of the criminal investigation, Libby was interviewed by special agents of the FBI on or about October 14 and November 26, 2003, each time in the presence of his counsel. But, during the interviews, Libby is accused of lying about material facts related to the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA. Libby is said to have knowingly and corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice, namely proceedings before the grand jury, by misleading and deceiving the grand jury as to when, and the manner and means by which, Libby acquired and subsequently disclosed to the media information concerning the employment of Valerie Wilson by the CIA. He is also said to have knowingly and willfully made a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation in a manner within the jurisdiction of the federal bureau of investigation. If convicted, the crimes charged in the indictment carry the following maximum penalties: Obstruction of Justice – 10 years in prison; Making False Statements and Perjury – each 5 years; and each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
A George W. Bush appointee will determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed, if any. Judge Reggie B. Walton, with a minimal academic performance in high school, poor grades in college, and very poor showing on the law boards, enrolled into the CLEO program and somehow managed to earn an academic scholarship to American University College of Law. He graduated in 1974 and took a job as a public defender in Philly (Philadelphia). In 1976, he left that job for a position at the D.C.’s United States Attorney’s office. Here, he met Bob Bennett (brother of William Bennett Drug Czar appointed by George H.W. Bush) and in an attempt to establish credibility on minority issues the republicans appointed Walton to the number two drug czar position. For the next two years that followed, Walton traveled the country spreading the republican anti drug message to black communities.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan appointed Walton to the D.C. Superior Court. But for unexplained reasons in 1989, Judge Walton moved to the White House Office of Media Affairs. Only to be appointed again in 1991 by George H.W. Bush to the D.C. Superior Court. President Bush appointed him to the federal bench (District of Columbia) on October 29, 2001.
Please note Judge Walton’s tenure in the White House Communications Office (considered an element of the continuing campaign). The office often calls local radio stations, television stations, and newspapers daily to see if they’d be interested in an interview with an administrative figure. It also has a supporting element (research units) available not only for the communications head but to the chief of staff and other white house senior staffers.
Since his appointment to the bench, Judge Walton has been assigned the majority of the most troubling legal matters involving the Bush administration. An appointed judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, but Judge Walton's willingness to often speak (for the administration it seems) on highly charged partisan issues further shakes public confidence in the judiciary. For example, following the death of Terri Schiavo, Judge Walton was dispatched to speak with NPR’s Ed Gordon about what he considered liberal “activism” in the U.S. Courts.
In 1998, the republican appointee enumerated some of the standard racist conceptions often voiced by the right wing, telling Judy Cresanta and Kari Larney of the Nevada Policy Research Institute “bad parenting, bad neighborhoods and guns” fuels the problem with youthful offenders. However, in the book “Black Judges on Justice” Judge Walton had a black moment (said something really gangsta) and did admit as one of his major frustrations while working with the Bush administration, his inability to convince administration officials of the fact that fighting crime is ineffective without attacking social causes of crime.
Judge Walton is the federal judge who threw out a lawsuit filed by a whistle-blower who alleged security lapses in the FBI’s translator program, ruling that Sibel Edmond’s claims might expose government secrets that could damage national security. He said that he couldn’t explain further because his explanation itself would expose sensitive secrets and disrupt diplomatic relations. Edmond’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, called the decision “Another example of the executive branch’s abuse of secrecy to prevent accountability.” Ms. Edmond, a former contract linguist, alleged in her lawsuit that she was fired in March 2002 after she complained to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations. She contended that she told the FBI an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security. Although the government’s lawyers met with Judge Walton at least twice privately, Edmond had claimed the republican appointee dismissed her lawsuit without hearing evidence from her attorneys.
In September 2005, Judge Walton dismissed two claims, but left open the possibility Steven Hatfill, a scientist once named by the Department of Justice as a possible suspect in the anthrax-letter attacks of 2001, could hold officials accountable (count seeking a declaration that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others unconstitutionally deprived him of employment opportunities). A fourth claim seeking monetary damage from the federal government for alleged privacy act violations, also remains alive, but two counts to hold defendants individually responsible were dismissed. The judge had delayed the case saying that he wanted the Department of Justice investigation of the issue to proceed without interference from Hatfill’s civil suit. Many observers of the investigation dismissed the judge’s pronouncements about the case – the government had been periodically advertising impending breakthroughs since just about the time the spore-ridden letters were mailed out, some critics pointed out. Mr. Hatfill, a bio-terrorism expert, contends his reputation was ruined when law enforcement officials called him a “person of interest.” Hatfill once worked as a researcher at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Md. At one time the FBI had Hatfill under 24-hour surveillance.
Judge Walton also ruled that a Missouri charity financed terrorism and is connected to a similarly named organization in Sudan, dismissing a lawsuit filed by the Islamic American Relief Agency – USA, which is based in Columbia, Mo. The charity had sought to thaw its assets which the treasury department froze in 2004. Lawyers for the Missouri charity had denied any link to terrorism and had said the charity is entirely separate from the Sudanese organization. Judge Walton said his decision was based on both public records and classified documents. Shareef Akeel, a Michigan lawyer representing the charity said nothing in the public part of the record showed that the charity had sent money out of the country for illegal purposes.
In a case involving a request for documents on the Oklahoma City bombing which resulted in convictions of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, Judge Walton held that FOIA plaintiff (Judicial Watch) was required to file an administrative appeal for the documents, even if they were suing over the agency’s refusal to grant expedited processing. Judge Walton said the Judicial Watch was attempting to “bootstrap” its disclosure requests onto its bid for expedited processing. Although it appears that the FBI subsequently failed to timely respond to Judicial watch’s substantive request for documents within 20 days, Judge Walton said he will only consider those facts and circumstances that existed at the time of the filing of the complaint, and not subsequent events.
A coalition of hunting supporters that included Safari Club International and numerous other sportsmen’s groups were dealt a blow by Judge Walton when in 2004 he dismissed their attempt to stop black bear hunting in New Jersey’s National Park Service Lands.
In January 2004, Judge Walton held the longstanding ban on the sale and possession of handguns in Washington, D.C., is constitutional. The suit, brought by the National Rifle Association, challenged the constitutionality of the handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds. In the ruling, Judge Walton dismisses the suit, noting that, “The Court must conclude that the Second Amendment doesn’t confer an individual right to posses firearms. Rather, the amendment’s objective is to ensure the vitality of state militias."
Finally, a three-judge panel of a federal appeal court unanimously reversed Judge Walton, ruling that the public has the right to challenge an interior department official’s approval of the proposed Roundup Power Plant despite studies showing that it would pollute air in Yellowstone National Park and Wilderness areas. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Court of Columbia Circuit affirmed the public’s legal right to challenge a political appointee’s approval of the proposed power plant. Judge Walton had dismissed the case saying the conservation groups lacked standing because the ultimate permitting agency was the State of Montana. The National Parks Conservation Association, The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, The Wilderness Society, and a Denver resident alleged the Interior Department officials violated the Clean Air Act which prohibits degradation of air quality by man-made sources in pristine air sheds such as parks and wilderness areas.
Hey I went to Pullman High School also (Class of 1998) and it was interesting to read about your description of the "People Pit." You will be happy to know that the pit continues to live on today.
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