Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gone Zo But Not Forgotten

Former A.G. A. G. Back In The Headlines

It's been a long time since we've heard about former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The little worm probably thought he wriggled off the various hooks he'd impaled himself on in service to his idol Führer President George W. Bush. Think again. From The Atlantic (via Crooks and Liars):
In March 2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a now-famous late-night visit to the hospital room of Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking to get Ashcroft to sign a certification stating that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was legal. According to people familiar with statements recently made by Gonzales to federal investigators, Gonzales is now saying that George Bush personally directed him to make that hospital visit.
This incident is one of the worst examples of abuse of power in an administration rife with - indeed characterized by - abuse of power. I blogged about this dramatic story back in May of 2007 when the testimony of James Comey revealed the incident in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee. I lamented a day later that it had been virtually ignored by the Lamestream Media (abbreviated LaMe) - in stark defiance of the journalistic rule, "if it bleeds, it leads."

My opinion then, to which I still adhere, was that if the American public knew what went on in John Ashcroft's hospital room it would have led to Bush and Cheney's being lynched impeached. So I think one correction needs to be made to Murray Waas's otherwise excellent article about these new developments. The 'now-famous' visit to Ashcroft's hotel room is nothing of the sort. I would bet that it's only famous to the denizens of Greater Left BlogSylvania, because a) the LaMe have kept schtum about it, so 70% of the public have never heard the story and b) the complicit House and Senate chose not to make an issue of this political dynamite, that could well have put Bush, Cheney, and Gonzo in the dock defending against treason charges.

For a more thorough understanding of the issues surrounding this incident I urge you to read the entire Waas article and/or my own post from May of last year (links will open in new windows.) There are two new stories here, the first the revelation above, from Gonzo's own lips, that George Bush personally directed him to make that hospital visit. That's big. There's been speculation about this, Gonzo testified that he was acting 'on the authority of the White House' but until now that left the possibility open that he was under Cheney's direction. (TPM Muckraker has archive YouTube footage of Gonzo's testimony that goes to this issue.) This new revelation, if true, puts Dubya's skinny neck right on the chopping block. The deliberate and underhanded effort to subvert the Constitution and the rule of law in a naked grab for power is undeniable.

I just have to insert a reminder here. When this hospital room incident happened, Gonzales was still White House Counsel, John Ashcroft was the titular Attorney General but was not actively carrying out the duties of that office, and James Comey was the acting Attorney General. It's important to know that to understand the level of impropriety of Gone-Zo's actions.

The second aspect of the story that's new is the information "that in another instance the President asked [Gonzales] to fabricate fictitious notes." Parts of that story appear in the Murray Waas article linked above. Waas has a separate article here about the fabricated notes aspect of the story. This one puts Gone-z0's neck on the block, and I have to comment that it is simply shocking to see how compliant AGAG is with the most outrageous requests from his president.
President Bush reauthorized the surveillance program on March 11, 2004, one day after the hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to sign a certification saying that the program was legal and could therefore continue.

In reauthorizing the surveillance program over the objections of his own Justice Department, President Bush later claimed to have relied on notes made by Gonzales about a meeting that had taken place the day before (March 10), in which Gonzales and Vice President Cheney had met with eight congressional leaders—also known as the “Gang of Eight”—who receive briefings about covert intelligence programs. According to Gonzales’s notes, the congressional leaders had said in the meeting that they wanted the surveillance program to continue despite the attorney general’s refusal to certify that it was legal.

But four of the congressional leaders present at the meeting say that’s not true; they never encouraged the White House to sidestep the objections of the attorney general and continue the program without his approval.

Investigators are skeptical of the notes because Gonzales did not write them until days after the meeting with the congressional leaders, and he wrote them after both Bush and Gonzales had together signed a reauthorization of the surveillance program.

Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time he met with the congressional leaders, has told investigators working for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General that President Bush personally directed him to write the notes so that he could “memorialize” what the legislators had told him, according to a report made public by the Inspector General’s Office on September 2 and sources close to the investigation.

The timing of when Bush directed Gonzales to write the notes is important: investigators say the fact that they were written after both the meeting and the reauthorization of the program might indicate that they were written in order to provide an after-the-fact justification for the signing of the reauthorization—and that that timing might have given Gonzales a motive to lie in the notes.
For the sake of clarity and brevity I'll try to sketch this out in bullet-point form.
  • The Bush/Cheney crime syndicate wanted desperately to be able to wiretap whomever that they wanted to, whenever they wanted to, without oversight.
  • They knew damn well that this was illegal, as the FISA statutes had made this particular insult on the Fourth Amendment a FELONY - specifically emphasizing that the President himself was not only not exempt from the law, but after Nixon's transgressions was the very target of the law
  • The Department of Justice seems to have initially certified the surveillance program on good faith, but significantly had done so without the White House really having disclosed what it was they were signing off on.
  • When the DoJ got details (probably not full details) of what Bush/Cheney were actually doing with the initial authorization, they declared the program to be illegal, and vehemently declared that the certification would not be renewed.
  • By the time the initial certification was to expire, Attorney General John Ashcroft lay in Intensive Care in the hospital, was recovering from surgery and under heavy sedation.
  • Alberto Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card were dispatched to Ashcroft's hospital room with a manila envelope containing the renewal of the DoJ certification that the surveillance program was legal.
  • James Comey had already refused to sign this document. Ashcroft, Comey and other chief officials at DoJ as well as Robert Mueller, director of the FBI had all threatened to resign if the illegal wiretapping program continued.
  • The President personally phoned ahead to advise Ashcroft's wife that Gonzales and Card were on their way. This led Ashcrofts Chief of Staff to call Comey and Mueller to advise them of what was about to go down.
  • Comey sped to the scene to prevent Ashcroft from being pressured while he was in no condition to defy a two-on-one play to subvert justice. Mueller called the FBI agents assigned to guard Ashcroft and order that under no circumstances was Comey to be removed from the room.
  • Ashcroft, to his credit, refused to be steamrolled, telling Gonzales and Card, "I'm not even the Attorney General right now, he (Comey) is." Thus the illegal attempt to obtain the illegal certification of an illegal program was thwarted.
  • Phase Two begins. Having failed to subvert the Justice Department, the White House turned their efforts to the Legislative Branch. Gonzales and Dick Cheney met later the same day (Mar. 10, 2004.) with the so-called Gang of Eight.
  • The next day President Bush re-authorized the surveillance program HIMSELF!! through an executive order - exerting a dictatorial power that he did NOT have under any interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America.
  • At some point AFTER this bogus 'reauthorization' Gonzales cobbles up notes giving a false account of the meeting with the Gang of Eight - an account wherein the Gang of Eight said they wanted the surveillance program to continue.
  • The Congressmen who attended the meeting said that they did NOT express such desire.
In the shortest summation I can distill this to - the President of the United States committed fraud in order to usurp the powers of both the Judicial and Legislative branches, in order to commit a large number of serious felonies. More alarming, nobody tried to stop him in the face of these patent High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Glenn Greenwald discussed these related stories with Murray Waas in Friday's Salon Radio segment. If this isn't Shock and Awe directed against the very foundations of the country I don't know what would be.

Geez Louise. Could it get any worse for the beleaguered Gonzales? It appears so. TPM Muckraker reports that the DoJ is going to release a report on Monday about the Prosecutors' Purge scandal. In that short report TPM recalls a predicition made by David Iglesias, who was one of the US Attorney's dismissed under questionable circumstances:
I expect them to conclude that there is sufficient evidence to show that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty committed perjury in their statements before Congressional committees and investigators.
Seems like Alberto's got a whole lot of 'splainin' to do.

Cross-posted from Les Enragé