The Terrorist Sympathizers Grassley Doesn’t Mention: Chiquita

Predictably, Politico piles onto the latest installment of the McCarthyist attacks on DOJ, largely repeating the attack as made by Dana Perino and Bill Burck. The one thing it does add is some discussion of what Eric Holder should have disclosed at his confirmation hearings last year.

Holder didn’t mention the brief during his confirmation hearings to be Attorney General, even though the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire required him to list all Supreme Court amicus briefs he was party to. His questionnaire lists briefs in only three cases: Miller-El v. Cockrell, Johnson v. Bush and D.C. and Fenty v. Heller.

A Justice Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said “the brief should have been disclosed,” but had been “ unfortunately and inadvertently” left out in the documents submitted to the committee.

“ In any event,” he said, “ the Attorney General has publicly discussed his positions on detention policy on many occasions, including at his confirmation hearings.

Justice Department officials also didn’t mention the briefs in the letter they sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) informing Congress that nine of the department’s political appointees either “represented detainees [or] … either contributed to amicus briefs in detainee-related cases or were otherwise involved in advocacy on behalf of detainees.”

Now, I agree that Holder should have disclosed all this.

But I’m also interested in the tizzy surrounding whether Holder should have disclosed himself in response the questions Chuck Grassley posed on terrorist sympathizers at DOJ. Granted, originally asked were definitely targeted toward creating this witchhunt–that is, to detainees at Gitmo, rather than to the representation of terrorists and their affiliates generally.

But if we’re going to discuss Holder’s “biases,” shouldn’t we start with Holder’s representation of Chiquita, and particularly his success at getting several white Republican men off of charges that they knowing supported right wing Colombian terrorists? Particularly given the way Bush’s DOJ facilitated that process?

The investigation was run by Roscoe Howard, then USA for DC, the guy who believes his warrant was served. But Main DOJ was closely involved. In particular, David Nahmias, then the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of Counter-Terrorism and now the USA in Atlanta, got involved; he and Howard had some disagreements about the case, including on the warrant in question. Nahmias’ boss, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff, was even involved until he left in June 2003 to become a Judge and shortly thereafter Secretary of Homeland Security. In May 2004–just after the two critical events–Howard resigned and went into private practice. Ken Wainstein, then Robert Mueller’s Chief of Staff at FBI, moved to take over as interim and then Senate-approved USA for DC; he is now the Assistant Attorney General for National Security. In short, it’s all a mess, but the guy trying to throw the book at Chiquita moved into private practice right when rotton bananas started hitting the fan, whereas three of the guys working closely with Chiquita at DOJ have had some serious promotions since 2004.Meanwhile, Chiquita brought in former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh to help them out. According to an LAT article now behind firewall, Ford’s Assistant Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Ford’s White House Counsel Roderick Hills started working their DC network.

Chiquita’s “lawyers went all over D.C. to have meetings” with top officials at the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and elsewhere, often without the front-line prosecutors knowing about it, one of the senior Justice Department officials said. “They were trying to cause political pressure.”

That pressure seems to have worked. Because Howard prepared to serve the warrant in question, but Nahmias tried to stop him. The warrant was dated March 24, 2004 and–as we see here–it’s not really clear whether it was served or whether it disappeared into a big Republican black hole. On April 26, 2004, Thornburgh wrote a letter to Nahmias, Christopher Wray (AAG for Criminal Division at DOJ, who replaced Chertoff) and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Thornburgh asked for a meeting before DOJ charged anyone–though it’s unclear whether that meeting ever happened. And then, almost three years later in March of this year, Chiquita settled for a big fine. But none of its executives were ever charged.

All this talk about disclosure and yet we’re still not talking about the inherent racism and double standard that people like Chuck Grassley seem okay with.

Ah well. I have a great idea how to fix the problem of Eric Holder’s non-disclosure of this brief.

Let’s have a dual re-hearing, Eric Holder and Jay Bybee, for their respective positions. Republicans can grill Holder about how, faced with a bunch of detainees collected under the auspices of unlimited presidential power because the evidence relating to those detainees was tainted by torture, he proposes to deal with those detainees. But at the same time, Democrats will be able to ask the questions they should have been able to ask years ago, about why it is that Jay Bybee was too busy protecting Cheney’s Energy Task Force from oversight to notice that his subordinates were claiming to give the President that unlimited power.

Let’s have the guy stuck with the mess Jay Bybee created explain to him the problems that he caused.

Update: Thanks to MinnesotaChuck for the corrections for clarity.

18 replies
      • Minnesotachuck says:

        As long as I’ve got my nitpicking hat on this morning here’s another one:

        But if we’re going to discuss Holder’s “biases,” shouldn’t we start with his representation of Chiquita,

        Does the bolded pronoun refer to Holder or Grassley? My somewhat dysfunctional memory vaguely recalls that Holder has a Chiquita-ed past (storage is fine – it’s retrieval that’s the problem), but the context suggests it could be Grassley.

        PS: Great stuff, as usual

  1. WilliamOckham says:

    I think the question that needs to be asked is this:

    Would it have been acceptable to for the President to have declared the officers and Board of Directors of Chiquita “enemy combatants” and thrown them in the brig with Jose Padilla? If not, why not?

    I’m sure I can get some Columbians to say that Chiquita was involved in a dirty bomb plot against the U.S. and I won’t even have to torture them or pay them. There’s plenty of folks down there that would say that for free.

  2. Gitcheegumee says:

    Here’s an interesting update re: Chiquita—————-

    Civil Suit Against Chiquita for Violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 Proceeding to Discovery Phase

    Feb 13, 2010

    U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled against Chiquita’s motion to dismiss a civil suit for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, brought by the families of missionaries murdered in the mid 1990’s by the Marxist group, the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Ohio-based company held hundreds of banana plantations in Colombia prior to 2007, and according to court records, paid monthly bribes to FARC of $20,000 to $100,000 and ultimately 10% of Chiquita’s gross earnings from Colombia. Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to violating anti-terrorism laws by paying bribes to the right wing terrorist group, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which according to the U.S. Justice Department, totaled $1.7 million. In that case, Chiquita also acknowledged payments to FARC during a period between 1989 and 1997.

    The families of the victims allege that not only was this money a bribe, but Chiquita also provided FARC with weapons and material support, and used FARC to protect Chiquita’s Colombian enterprises.

    Read more at CNN.

  3. Gitcheegumee says:

    Civil Suit Against Chiquita for Violation of the Anti-Terrorism …Feb 13, 2010 … US District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled against Chiquita’s mo.…/civil-suit-against-chiquita-for-violation-of-the-anti-terrorism-act-of-1991-proceeding-to-discovery-phase/ – Cached

  4. klynn says:


    The commentary of the week on the sad state of our nation:

    …for some people, the choice isn’t between “good housing” and “bad housing” but “bad housing” or “no housing at all”. Living in a house without a refrigerator is better than living in a refrigerator box, but America’s modern-day sumptuary laws won’t let poor people like Christine Stevens make that choice for themselves.

  5. klynn says:

    Another OT (but of interest to EW possibly)

    This is getting worse each day for Toyota. First the CA Prius incident, now the NY Prius incident and…

    At the request of a US Congressional committee, Toyota has handed over a 2006 letter from a small Japanese splinter union, the All Toyota Labour Union, which complained that quality was being compromised by longer working hours, outsourcing, shortened development time and a drop in the number of experienced employees in favour of contractors.

    The 20-member union sent the letter amid concern over a surge in recalls of faulty Toyota vehicles. The same year, Toyota was the subject of a criminal investigation into negligence allegations, following an accident in Japan that injured a family of five. The company was eventually cleared.

  6. bmaz says:

    Yeah, Holder should have disclosed the amicus effort in response to that item. However, it is hard for even me to believe it was anything other than an oversight. And it also would tend to make you think that Holder probably didn’t do anything on the brief other than scribble his name if it was that far out of mind.

  7. cregan says:

    The briefs filed by Holder are not an issue to me, other than disclosing them.

    I am sure the man has represented clients on all sides of the spectrum–as mentioned about the Chiquita case.

    My only problem is the lawyer who generally only works for clients with one particular viewpoint. His work is motivated by strongly held beliefs. That is cool for his clients, but gives an indication he has a bias that he may not be able to overcome–not so good in representing all of us in a DOJ position.

    That is something which ought to be disclosed, too.

    That applies for me no matter what side that “particular viewpoint” is on.

  8. fatster says:

    Justice Dept. picks new head for corruption prosecution unit

    “The job has been offered to Jack Smith, a career department prosecutor from Brooklyn who in recent years has supervised sensitive investigations of foreign officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, the sources said.”


    What’s the story on this guy, folks? He ok?

    • bobschacht says:

      …sensitive investigations of foreign officials at the International Criminal Court…

      Hmmm. That kind of background might be helpful in case certain *American* officials are investigated at the International Criminal Court, wouldn’t it?

      Bob in AZ

Comments are closed.