There is only one substantive case left in litigation with the ability to bring tangible accountability for the illegal and unconstitutional acts of the Bush/Cheney Administration’s warrantless wiretapping and surveillance program. That case is Al-Haramain v. Bush/Obama. Yes, there is still Clapper v. Amnesty International, but that is a prospective case of a different nature, and was never designed to attack the substantive crimes of the previous Administration.
A little over a couple of hours ago, late morning here in the 9th, the vaunted “most liberal of all Circuit Courts of Appeal”, the Ninth Circuit, drove what may be the final stake in the heart of Al-Haramain by declining to conduct an en banc review of its August 7, 2012 opinion. The notice from the court today is brief:
The opinion filed on August 7, 2012, and appearing at 690 F.3d 1089, is hereby amended. An amended opinion is filed concurrently with this order.
With these amendments, the panel has voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc.
The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R. App. P. 35.
The petition for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc are DENIED. No further petitions for en banc or panel rehearing shall be permitted.
Before going further with analysis, a word about the “amendments” to the opinion. The “Amended Opinion” is here. You can compare for yourself to the August 7 original opinion linked above, but the difference is pretty slight.
It appears all the court did is delete a few sentences here and there about 18 USC 2712(b). The court did not address, nor change, their erroneous assertion that plaintiffs’ Al-Haramain could have sued under 1806(a), or restore the misleadingly-omitted (by elipsis) language from 1806(a). Nor did the Continue reading
Well hello there Wheelhouse members! Marcy is still on the road, but I am back and ready to roll, so there will start being actual content here again! I want to start with a bit of interesting post-mortem news on Thomas Drake.
As you will recall, Tom Drake was belligerently prosecuted by the DOJ on trumped up espionage charges (See: here, here, here and here) and their case fell out from underneath them because they cravenly wanted to hide the facts. As a result, Drake pled guilty to about the piddliest little misdemeanor imaginable, and will be sentenced, undoubtedly, to no incarceration whatsoever, no fine and one year or less of unsupervised probation on July 15, 2011. But the entire Tom Drake matter emanated out of Drake’s attempt to internally, and properly, cooperate with a whistleblowing to the Department of Defense Inspector General.
The report from the DOD IG in this regard has now, conveniently after Drake entered his plea, been publicly released through a long sought FOIA to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), albeit it in heavily redacted form:
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted Drake under the Espionage Act for unauthorized possession of “national defense information.” The prosecution was believed to be an outgrowth of the DOJ’s investigation into disclosures of the NSA warrantless wiretapping to The New York Times and came after Drake blew the whistle on widespread problems with a NSA program called TRAILBLAZER. Most of the Espionage Act charges against Drake dealt with documents associated with his cooperation with this DoD IG audit. However, this month the government’s case against Drake fell apart and prosecutors dropped the felony charges. Instead, Drake pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of exceeding the authorized use of a computer.
The report, which was heavily redacted, found that “the National Security Agency is inefficiently using resources to develop a digital network exploitation system that is not capable of fully exploiting the digital network intelligence available to analysts from the Global Information Network.” The DoD IG also found, in reference to TRAILBLAZER, that “the NSA transformation effort may be developing a less capable long-term digital network exploitation solution that will take longer and cost significantly more to develop.”
The report speaks for itself and I will not go in to deep quotes from it; suffice it to say, the DOD IG report proves that Tom Drake was precisely correct in his initial complaints that the TRAILBLAZER program was a nightmarish fraud on the taxpayers and inherently inefficient compared to the THIN THREAD program originally devised in house. The money quotes, as noted by POGO, are:
…the National Security Agency is inefficiently using resources to develop a digital network exploitation system that is not capable of fully exploiting the digital network intelligence available to analysts from the Global Information Network.
…the NSA transformation effort may be developing a less capable long-term digital network exploitation solution that will take longer and cost significantly more to develop.
So, in sum, thanks to POGO’s FOIA release here, we now know that not only was the persecution of Tom Drake by the DOJ completely bogus and vindictive, Tom Drake was bloody well right about TRAILBLAZER versus THIN THREAD to start with. Who couldda predicted?
[Given the current surveillance state situation in America, the Keith case, formally known as United States v. United States District Court, is one of the most important cases from our recent past. But I don't really believe you can understand or know the law of a case, without really understanding the facts. The Keith case doesn't have simple facts, but they are fascinating and instructive. So bear with me - this is going to take awhile, and will be laid out over a series of four posts. What follows today is Part I. - Mary]
It was a time of war. America had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. The National Security Agency (NSA) and our military had reassured us this was true. Our national security apparatus, Congress and press had joined behind the office of the President to lead us into a series of forays (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) that would leave tens of thousands of American soldiers dead and many times that wounded physically or mentally, while at the same time decimating over three million Vietnamese and over a 1.5 million Laotians and Cambodians.
At home, we were working our way through the civil rights movement, dealing with the cold war and threats of Russian nuclear weapons and witnessing anti-war protests that left students dead and buildings bombed. Algeria was hosting U.S. fugitives from justice, Eldridge Cleaver and Timothy Leary, while Cuban connections were alleged to be behind much of the organized anti-war movement.
Court martial proceedings had begun for the My Lai killings with polls showing most of America objected to the trial. President Nixon would later pardon Lt. Calley for his role. A trial had also, briefly, seemed to be in the works for the “Green Beret Affair,” the killing of Thai Khac Chuyen by Green Berets running an intelligence program called Project GAMMA. The investigation began after one of the soldiers assigned to the Project became convinced that he was also being scheduled for termination. Charges in the Green Beret Affair would be dropped after the CIA refused to make personnel available, claiming national security privileges.
Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Obama’s Executive Orders banning torture is about just that–the end of the torture regime. (Incidentally, kudos to Greg Craig, whom I beat up yesterday, for giving his first interview to Mayer.) But it offers some useful insight on a debate we’ve been having over the last couple of days–whether or not Obama could have intervened in the al-Haramain trial (and other pending litigation on warrantless wiretapping) in the same way he intervened in the pending habeas petitions.
First, off, Mayer confirms a point I made–that Obama was not about to take on the most politically charged legal decisions in his first day in office.
Moreover, Craig noted in his first White House interview that the reforms were not finished yet and that Obama had deliberately postponed several of the hardest legal questions. Craig said that, as he talked with the president before the signing ceremony, Obama was “very clear in his own mind about what he wanted to accomplish, and what he wanted to leave open for further consultation with experts.”
Obviously, one of those questions is how to approach legal consequences for those who ordered torture–or warrantless wiretapping. The EOs Obama signed last week don’t commit him to an approach on that score. Furthermore, he seems inclined to insulate himself from such decisions by putting them in the hands of Eric Holder, to make it a prosecutorial decision. Though Holder has intimated he’d hold both the architects of our torture regime and of our warrantless wiretapping responsible (lucky for him, he could do it all in a giant 2-for-1 deal), I’m not holding my breath on that score. But we won’t know what he’ll do until he becomes Attorney General.
That said, Mayer makes it clear just how much lobbying has gone into Obama’s evolving policy on torture. She describes a meeting that must have taken place in December 2007 or January 2008 with a bunch of officers–including four star Generals–at which the officers lobbied Obama to end our torture regime. That high-level lobbying continued up until last month. Mayer specifically describes the role of retired Marine General Chuck Krulak who promised to "fly cover" for the Obama Administration after they pushed this through.
Who, might I ask, is doing similar lobbying to restore civil liberties for Americans?
Oh, I know there has been similar lobbying–on the part of civil liberties groups, high profile individuals, and DFH bloggers like you and me. Continue reading