Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Administration lies and cover-ups

By Carol Gee

Today is what is known as April Fools Day. About.com explains what it is:

. . . an observance that takes place in many western countries every April 1, traditionally known as April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day (aka Poisson d'Avril — "April Fish" — in France). It is a day when humor reigns and harmless pranks, practical jokes, and hoaxes are sanctioned. Customary practices range from simple tricks played on friends, family, and coworkers to elaborate media hoaxes concocted for mass consumption.

Traditionally we "hook" someone by telling them something that is not true, they believe it, and you get the fun of making them look like a fool for believing the story in the first place. It was always intended to be in good fun. I was always the perfect subject for the joke; I was never able to be the perpetrator, so I missed out on a lot of the fun. The rest of this post is not fun, it is about foolishness.

April Fools List -- Today's post is about foolish people from the past 7 years that have attempted to hook us by telling us some things that were not true and telling "lies of ommission" that are intended to cover up the truth. But unlike in the April Fool's scenario, they are the ones who look like fools, not us. They might deserve a "by" from us if they had confined their tall tales to April 1 each year, and then fessed up to their fibs. But that has never happened. What follows are three news stories that name names and cover the truth of multiple lies and cover-ups that will leave the current administration's reputation ruined.

Named: John Ashcroft, Harriet Miers, Condoleezza Rice -- For many months the B ush administration attempted to prevent the revelation of the existence of an illegal warrantless wiretapping program, operating outside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Finally the NYT decided to break the story. The reporters won a Pulitzer prize for their work. Slate Magazine publishes the story behind the Lichtblau story on warrantless wiretapping. (Wed. 3/26/08) To quote:

For 13 long months, we'd held off on publicizing one of the Bush administration's biggest secrets. Finally, one afternoon in December 2005, as my editors and I waited anxiously in an elegantly appointed sitting room at the White House, we were again about to let President Bush's top aides plead their case: why our newspaper shouldn't let the public know that the president had authorized the National Security Agency, in apparent contravention of federal wiretapping law, to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants.

. . . For more than an hour, we told Bush's aides what we knew about the wiretapping program, and they in turn told us why it would do grave harm to national security to let anyone else in on the secret. Consider the financial damage to the phone carriers that took part in the program, one official implored. If the terrorists knew about the wiretapping program, it would be rendered useless and would have to be shut down immediately, another official urged: "It's all the marbles." The risk to national security was incalculable, the White House VIPs said, their voices stern, their faces drawn. "The enemy," one official warned, "is inside the gates." The clichés did their work; the message was unmistakable: If the New York Times went ahead and published this story, we would share the blame for the next terrorist attack.

More than two years later, the Times' decision to publish the story—a decision that was once so controversial—has been largely overshadowed by all the other political and legal clamor surrounding President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program: the dozens of civil lawsuits; the ongoing government investigations; the raging congressional debate; and the still-unresolved question, which Congress will take up again next week, of whether phone companies should be given legal immunity for their cooperation in the program. Amid the din, it's easy to forget the hits that the newspaper took in the first place: criticism from the political left over the decision to hold the story for more than a year and from the right over the decision to publish it at all. But the episode was critical in reflecting the media's shifting attitudes toward matters of national security—from believing the government to believing it less.

Named: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and current AG, Michael Mukasey -- Since the Congress went in its Spring Break recess, various Bush administration officials and Congressional Republicans have been speaking out in public urging passage of the Senate's version of amending and extending the FISA laws. And it has been the scene of some of the biggest "whoppers" to come out of Washington in recent memory. In addition there have been a steady drip of inadvertant revelations that have been very helpful to the cause of truth. Glenn Greenwald's "Michael Mukasey's tearful lies," (Sat. 3/29/08) is an example. Greenwald concludes:

These are multiple falsehoods here, and independently, this whole claim makes no sense. There is also a pretty startling new revelation here about the Bush administration's pre-9/11 failure that requires a good amount of attention.

Even under the "old" FISA, no warrants are required where the targeted person is outside the U.S. (Afghanistan) and calls into the U.S. Thus, if it's really true, as Mukasey now claims, that the Bush administration knew about a Terrorist in an Afghan safe house making Terrorist-planning calls into the U.S., then they could have -- and should have -- eavesdropped on that call and didn't need a warrant to do so. So why didn't they? Mukasey's new claim that FISA's warrant requirements prevented discovery of the 9/11 attacks and caused the deaths of 3,000 Americans is disgusting and reckless, because it's all based on the lie that FISA required a warrant for targeting the "Afghan safe house." It just didn't. Nor does the House FISA bill require individual warrants when targeting a non-U.S. person outside the U.S.

. . . UPDATE II: The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the Mukasey speech and is asking some of the right questions:

Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred. He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn't sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn't monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.

As indicated, FISA didn't require a warrant for that call, but these questions have to be pursued. Mukasey can't be allowed to drop such a deceitful little bombshell like this -- blaming FISA for the Bush administration's failure to detect the 9/11 attacks -- and then refuse to answer basic questions about his incredibly manipulative claims.

Named: David Addington, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss. Pictures generally do not lie, unless they have been intentionally doctored. The videos taken over the years of CIA interrogations of detainees, evidently told truths that the agency did not want revealed. So they were destroyed. What follows is an excellent history and analysis of the scandal and remaining legal difficulties in a New York Times story on the CIA destruction of tapes (Fri. 3/28/08). To quote:

But nearly four months after the disclosure that the tapes were destroyed, the list of legal entanglements for the C.I.A., the Defense Department and other agencies is only growing longer. In addition to criminal and Congressional investigations of the tapes’ destruction, the government is fighting off challenges in several major terrorism cases and a raft of prisoners’ legal claims that it may have destroyed evidence.

“They thought they were saving themselves from legal scrutiny, as well as possible danger from Al Qaeda if the tapes became public,” said Frederick P. Hitz, a former C.I.A. officer and the agency’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, speaking of agency officials who favored eliminating the tapes. “Unknowingly, perhaps, they may have created even more problems for themselves.” . . . “This is like any other cover-up,” Mr. Remes said. “We’ve only scratched the surface.”

The question remains. Will we be looked on as a foolish country; is no one in the list of fools (the post's list is not inclusive) ever really held accountable?

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