Eric Holder Rewards the Teams that Gave Torturers and Mortgage Fraudsters Immunity

As TPM’s Ryan Reilly noted yesterday, among the awards Attorney General Eric Holder gave out at yesterday’s Attorney General’s Award Ceremony was a Distinguished Service Award to John Durham’s investigative team that chose not to prosecute Jose Rodriguez or the torturers who killed their victims.

The 13th Distinguished Service Award is presented to team members for their involvement in two sensitive investigations ordered by two different Attorneys General. In January 2007, Attorney General Michael Mukasey asked Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead a team that would investigate the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the CIA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham assembled the team and began the investigation. Then, in August 2009, Attorney General Holder expanded Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham’s mandate to include a preliminary review of the treatment of detainees held at overseas locations. This second request resulted in the review of 101 detainee matters that led to two full criminal investigations. In order to conduct the investigations, the team had to review significant amounts of information, much of which was classified, and conduct many interviews in the United States and at overseas locations.

The timing on this award–coming even as DOJ aggressively prosecutes John Kiriakou for talking about this torture–is particularly cynical.

Holder also presented a Distinguished Service Award to the team that crafted a $25 billion settlement effectively immunizing the banksters for engaging in systemic mortgage fraud.

The third Distinguished Service Award is presented to the individuals involved in procuring a $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement between the United States, 49 state attorneys general and the five largest mortgage servicers, representing the largest federal-state settlement in history.   The settlement includes comprehensive new mortgage loan servicing standards, $5 billion to state and federal treasuries and borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure, $20 billion in consumer relief and a $1 billion resolution of False Claims Act recoveries by the Eastern District of New York.

As DDay has documented relentlessly, the settlement is little more than kabuki, with most of the “consumer relief” consisting of actions the banks were already taking.

To get an idea of how outrageous it is to give an award to the torture non-prosecution team and the kabuki settlement team, compare what those teams did with the rest of the Distinguished Service recipients.

  1. The team that successfully prosecuted United States v. AU Optronics et al.,an international cartel that fixed the price of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels sold in the United States and around the world
  2. The team that implemented national standards aimed at eliminating sexual abuse in our nation’s confinement facilities
  3. The kabuki mortgage settlement team
  4. The team that investigated and dismantled the Coreflood Botnet, also known as Operation Adeona [this was a controversial expansion of Federal power to combat hacking, though since the team worked with a court order, better at least than what the government did to WikiLeaks]
  5. The team that investigated and convicted 37 members of the La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang in the San Francisco area
  6. The Tribal Trust Negotiation Team, which negotiated settlements with more than 40 Tribes in complex and long-running Tribal Trust cases [I’m not sure, but I believe this is the Cobell settlement, which is in many ways another kabuki settlement, but at least the tribes finally get some compensation]
  7. The Raj Rajaratnam investigation and prosecution team
  8. “The team whose extraordinary service led to the prosecution of Ahmed Warsame” [I quoted this because Warsame has not been convicted yet; the second-to-last item in his docket was a sealed January 5, 2012 document following a continuance, suggesting he may be cooperating in some way; this award should be considered recognition for the further twisting of our legal system to allow for novel war on terror uses]
  9. The Rod Blagojevich investigation and prosecution team
  10. INTERPOL Senior Inspector Joseph J. DeLuca for his outstanding leadership and law enforcement coordination in the apprehension and extradition of international fugitives
  11. Assistant Inspector General Thomas F. McLaughlin for 22 years of service in OIG and certain initiatives he conducted while there, including prosecuting department employees
  12. The CrimeSolutions.gov Development Team for its leadership in creating and launching the premier online resource for information about evidence-based programs and practices in criminal justice, juvenile justice and crime victim services
  13. The torture non-prosecution team
  14. The Congressman William Jefferson investigation and prosecution team

Five of these are for successful prosecutions–AU Optronics, MS-13 gang members, Raj Rajaratnam, Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson. Another two–the Coreflood Botnet and Warsame actions–neutralized a threat, albeit through novel and controversial means. And then there are the teams that worked to make the criminal justice system more humane.

But rather than holding criminals accountable–punishing those that degraded our nation and created new reasons for people to join terrorists, punishing those who crashed our economy and stole the wealth of millions of families–the Durham and Mortgage Settlement teams made us less safe. They immunized crime, rather than punishing it.

“No one is above the law,” Eric Holder has said on other occasions. Not surprisingly, he didn’t say that yesterday, because it’s clear that some people–the torturers and the banksters–are indeed above the law.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. scribe says:

    So, in ten days or so I’m supposed to vote for this guy’s boss, i.e., to ratify all that has been done (or not done) in the prior 4 years?

    All Obama had to do to be cruising to a re-election landslide on the scale of Reagan in 1984 or Roosevelt in 1936 would have been to prosecute, rather than immunize, the mortgage frauds. Not even hit the torturers. You makes your choices, you deals with the fallout.

    And, FWIW, the Blago prosecution was deserving of the award only because it was a successful political hit on someone who posed a real threat, from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, to the myth. Other than that, it was just a generic tenacious prosecution of another defendant rendered broke before trial even started.

    As to the MS13 – another instance of ordinary criminal prosecution rendering needless the enhanced usages of the Transnational Criminal Organization construct.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @scribe: Yeah, been thinking abt the MS13 timing as well. And had the same thoughts abt Blago. And William Jefferson, though he was never really a taint to Obama, just to the Dems.

  3. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Vote third party because it is crystal clear either of the Rombama twins are totally against you. (unless you are reading this on your private jet.)

  4. LM Lewis says:

    Unfortunately, this is SOP in federal agencies. They seem to think issuing awards will fool the public into believing that–all other evidence to the contrary–they are diligently performing their jobs. The worse they do their jobs, the more awards they make.

    On of my favorite examples was an award given to employees of an FSIS office tasked with ensuring that meat imports from other countries meet US food safety requirements. The agency’s Inspector General had been investigating the office and issued a report blasting the office for repeatedly approving countries to ship to the US before meeting legal requirements. The only staff member not to receive an award had refused to violate the law.

    Shocking and, alas, routine in federal government.

  5. Bob Schacht says:

    This is a difficult thing, because Obama’s record on prosecuting torturers and banksters is so bad. We have two main competitors, both of whom have feet of clay. As mature, well-informed voters, we must sort out and evaluate the pros and cons of both candidates. This is not between black and white, but between two shades of grey. And for me, Romney’s negatives are worse than Obama’s, in quantity and quality. But I am deeply bothered by Obama’s negatives.

    Bob in AZ

  6. joberly says:

    EW, about your point # 6: the Tribal Trust Settlement in April of this year is different than the *Cobell* settlement. *Cobell* was a matter of mismanagement by the US of individual Indian trust accounts, for example, lease-rents on individual trust allotments that the Bureau of Indian Affairs managed for individual Indians. *Cobell* required an act of Congress to appropriate $3.4 billion for the court’s judgment, an action that finally took place in 2010 The Tribal Trust Settlement was for mismanagement by the BIA of tribes’ trust accounts. There are no Michigan tribes on the list, but there are five tribes from Wisconsin & Minnesota–I believe the payments were for mismanagement of tribal timber accounts between 1900 and 1930.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A distinguished service award for John Durham. Like giving George Bush an award for frequent attendance.

Comments are closed.