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The Inherent Conflict Of Interest With DOJ's OPR And David Margolis

Who watches the watchers? Always a valid question; today I want to look at the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility and its conduct in the investigation of United States governmental attorneys, specifically within the Office of Legal Counsel, involved in the Bush/Cheney torture program. Aside from the facts and conclusions (discussion underway here, here and here), the report is notable for the process producing it, namely the DOJ investigating itself and, not so shockingly, exculpating itself. This will be the first in a series of more specific posts on this blog discussing the multiple, and severe, conflict of interest issues inherent in the OPR Report.

The first, and most obvious, issue of conflict with OPR is that it places evaluation and resolution of ethical complaints against DOJ attorneys in the hands of the DOJ. The power to determine whether there is any impropriety is solely within the hands of those supervising and/or ultimately responsible for the impropriety. Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 0.39a, OPR reports directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. A vested interest if there ever was one.

Most governmental agencies have independent Inspectors General which operate independently of the agency leadership, have jurisdiction of the entire agency including legal counsel, and thus have credibility as somewhat neutral and detached evaluators and voices. Not so the DOJ, who has arrogated upon themselves the sole right to sit in judgment of themselves. This action to grab the exclusive authority for themselves and exclude the independent IG was first accomplished by Attorney General Order 1931-94 dated November 8, 1994 subsequently codified into the Code of Federal Regulations and reinforced through section 308 of the 2002 Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Just in time for the war on terror legal shenanigans!

Glenn Fine, the DOJ IG has given Congressional testimony to the US Senate regarding the inherent conflict:

Second, the current limitation on the DOJ OIG’s jurisdiction prevents the OIG – which by statute operates independent of the agency – from investigating an entire class of misconduct allegations involving DOJ attorneys’ actions, and instead assigns this responsibility to OPR, which is not statutorily independent and reports directly to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In effect, the limitation on the OIG’s jurisdiction creates a conflict of interest and contravenes the rationale for establishing independent Inspectors General throughout the government. It also permits an Attorney General to assign an investigation that raises questions about his conduct or the conduct of his senior staff to OPR, an entity that reports to and is supervised by the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and that lacks the insulation and independence guaranteed by the IG Act.

This concern is not merely hypothetical. Recently, the Attorney General directed Read more

What the Scope of the IG Report on Warrantless Wiretapping Tells Us

Remember how when Congress passed the FISA Amendment Act last year, they required that the Inspectors General of the various agencies involved in the warrantless wiretapping produce a report on the program? They did an interim report–basically describing the scope of the report–last September (and produced in unclassified form last November). It took Secrecy News pulling teeth to get this released (six months after the fact), but here is the interim report.

General Scope

I’m going to show you the whole scope-related section, then unpack it line by line.

The DoJ IG is completing work on a broadly-scoped review of the Program, which the DoJ IG has been conducting over the past 18 months. In accord with its normal procedures and consistent with classification requirements, the DoJ IG will release its report when completed. The DoJ IG’s review examines the involvement of the DoJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the Program, including the use of and control over Program information; compliance with relevant authorities governing the Program as these authorities changed over time; and the impact and effectiveness of Program information on DoJ’s and FBI’s counterterrorism efforts. The review also describes various legal assessments of the Program, legal and operational changes to the Program, any use of Program information in the FISA process, and the transition to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders related to the Program.

The NSA IG’s review will examine the evolution of the Presidential authorization as it affected NSA, the technical operation of the Program, the preparation and dissemination of the product of the Program, and communications with and representations made to private sector entities. The review will address access by NSA to legal reviews and information concerning the Program and will also examine NSA’s interaction with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the transition of Program activities to operations under court orders. The review will also include a description of NSA’s oversight of the Program. To conduct the review of the Program, the NSA IG will both initiate new work and draw upon a substantial body of completed evaluations.

The DoD IG will examine the involvement of the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the establishment and implementation of the Program.

The ODNI IG will examine the involvement of DNI senior leadership in the Program and DNI communication with private-sector entities concerning the Program. Read more

Second Working Thread on DOJ OIG Torture Report

The comments on the previous thread on the DOJ OIG Torture Report just closed.

But I’ve been meaning to start a new thread with a link to the searchable report that Selise made. Selise adds:

  1. Appendix B and C I did not convert.
  2. I compressed the file when I was done (it got up to 72MB) so it’s back to about 6 MB.
  3. if there are any important errors I should correct, just let me know…

Working Thread: DOJ IG Report on Torture

William Ockham and masaccio have been making very interesting comments about the DOJ IG report on torture for the last several days, and I decided it was high time to put up a working thread on the report.

To kick us off, let me point to a long masaccio comment in which he explores the apparent plan–subsequently scotched–to transfer al-Qahtani out of Gitmo so he could be tortured more aggressively.

WilliamOckham asked on an earlier thread about the redactions in the chapter on Al-Qahtani. I have been looking at that chapter, and I am pretty sure the missing word is transfer or transport. Most of the deletions to that point in the report relate to one of three things: detention locations other than Iraq, Bagram, and GTMO; techniques of interrogation used on specific people; and agencies, probably including the CIA and perhaps its personnel and divisions.

When we get to Chapter 5 on Al-Qahtani, we see the redaction in question. Apparently the point of interviewing him was to see what he could tell people about the 9/11 attacks, since he was believed to be the twentieth hijacker. In line with the other redactions, we see CIA, or some other three letter word redacted, and more redactions of techniques and people. We get a real hint about the word transfer or transport from footnote 71, which specifically states that there was a proposal to move Al-Qahtani to Jordan or Egypt to allow them to use other techniques. This appears in the text at least once, at page 88. The use of SERE techniques is raised, and footnote 62 says that these include dietary manipulation, sleep deprivation, nudity and waterboarding. There are several other mentions of the use of waterboarding.

There are several references to the intention of the military to very aggressive techniques, using words like relentless, and sustained attack (p. 90). Then there is this:

According to the FBI, [its agents] had concerns not only about the proposed techniques, but also about the “glee” with which the would-be participants discussed their respective roles in carrying out these techniques and the “utter lack of sophistication” and “circus-like atmosphere” within this interrogation strategy session.

This lead me to speculate that the key to the redaction is that the transfer in question is not the transfer to Jordan or Egypt, but to an American black site where US personnel or contractors would torture him. Read more

Journalists Name Former DC USA as Hatfill Leaker

Apparently, at least some of the journalists who reported that Steven Hatfill was a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation have revealed their sources (after being released by those sources).

Attorneys for the former Army physician who was branded a "person of interest" in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings named three federal officials Friday who they said leaked investigative details that harmed their client.

The physician, Steven J. Hatfill, has not been charged with a crime and maintains his innocence. Hatfill is suing the FBI, the Justice Department and a handful of present and former law enforcement officials. He alleges that the leaks were illegal, damaged his reputation and violated his right to privacy.

"We have identified three of the leakers who were previously anonymous," one of Hatfill’s attorneys, Mark A. Grannis, said near the outset of a sparsely attended hearing in federal court. "Some of the most damaging information leaked in this case [came] straight out of the U.S. attorney’s office."

The anthrax mailings killed five people and sickened about 20 others from Florida to Connecticut. Coming on the heels of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon, the mailings led to the shutdown of a Senate office building and heightened the nation’s fear of prolonged terrorism.

Hatfill’s attorneys alleged that the three officials who leaked investigative details to the media were: Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who from 2001 to 2004 served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; Daniel S. Seikaly, who served as Howard’s criminal division chief; and Edwin Cogswell, who formerly served as a spokesman for the FBI.

This is where this suit will get interesting. Many of the stories that Hatfill named in his suit complained about the revelation of facts pertaining to ongoing FBI searches: news that dogs searching for anthrax had responded to locations on Hatfill’s property.

The agents quietly brought the dogs to various locations frequented by a dozen people they considered possible suspects — hoping the hounds would match the scent on the letters. In place after place, the dogs had no reaction. But when the handlers approached the Frederick, Md., apartment building of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, an eccentric 48-year-old scientist who had worked in one of the Army’s top bioweapons-research laboratories, the dogs immediately became agitated, NEWSWEEK has learned. "They went crazy," says one law-enforcement source. The agents also brought the bloodhounds to the Washington, D.C., apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and to a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana, where Hatfill had eaten the day before. In both places, the dogs jumped and barked, indicating they’d picked up the scent. (Bloodhounds are the only dogs whose powers of smell are admissible in court.) Read more

DOJ Launches a Criminal Probe into Torture Tapes

So says AP’s Matt Apuzzo:

"The Department’s National Security Division has recommended, and I have concluded, that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter, and I have taken steps to begin that investigation," Mukasey said in a statement released Wednesday.

Mukasey named John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to oversee the case.

Anyone know anything about John Durham?

Update: A profile on Durham here:

John H. Durham looked impatient, distracted and, odd as it might seem in the circumstance, privately amused by the spectacle of it all – which is to say, he looked pretty much like he usually looks.

He was in the cavernous new federal courthouse, off to the side of the podium, pinned down by reporters. Heavier hitters in law enforcement – drawn from their offices like moths to television lights – were looking serious and trying not to embarrass themselves while taking questions about Durham’s newest case. It involves nothing less than systemic corruption of an FBI office.

That Durham could have better explained his own case to the press is not to suggest that he is retiring. He is not. In a courtroom, prosecuting a defendant, he sometimes looks ready lunge at defense lawyers – if a 50-year-old lawyer trapped 16 hours a day in a cramped office can still lunge. He’ll clinch with anyone, anywhere. One year in Connecticut, as an assistant U.S. attorney, he put a third of New England’s mafia in jail. He has never lost a case.

[snip]

"He’s obviously a very fierce competitor," Cardinale said. "But he’s not a zealot. And he does it by the rules. He is very professional. He is courteous. I’ve been up against them all over the country and I’d put him in the top echelon of federal prosecutors. He’s such a decent guy you can’t hate him. That can make it hard to get motivated."

The view from within law enforcement is even less complicated.

"There is no more principled, there is no more better living, there is no finer person that I know of or have encountered in my life," said Richard Farley, a former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Haven division. [my emphasis]

He certainly doesn’t look like a pushover. And given that he’s taken on the FBI, he knows how to go after Federal agencies.

Banana Split

The investigation into Chiquita for supporting Colombian terrorists always stank. Chiquita’s executives got some high level meetings at DOJ and–purportedly–DOJ told them they should not worry about paying protection money to terrorists, so long as they cooperated with DOJ’s investigations into the Colombia death squads. Then, no charges were filed against any of the well-connected Republican executives. But now we find out that a warrant supposedly served on Chiquita back in 2004 may never have been served (h/t Rayne).

What happened to the search warrant that the government supposedly served on Chiquita Brands International three years ago? The lead prosecutor on the case — in which Chiquita was accused of funding terrorism — has always thought that the warrant was executed. But lawyers for the company and a U.S. Department of Justice official recently said that it wasn’t. Their revelation has led to new questions: Was the warrant blocked, and if so, why?

[snip]

… one highly placed Justice official confirms that no warrant was executed. This official, who spoke on the condition he not be named, wouldn’t elaborate.

In a postpublication interview, [the original prosecutor Roscoe] Howard says he still believes the warrant was obtained and executed, and that the Justice Department is "stonewalling" for reasons he doesn’t understand. He adds, "I’ve got no doubt it was executed, but someone may be covering it up for some reason." Howard and Seikaly both say that their former colleagues in Justice won’t discuss the warrant with them now, which puzzles them.

[snip]

Ken Wainstein also played a key role in the Chiquita probe. At the time of the Justice deliberations over the warrant, he was chief of staff to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which would have been responsible for serving the warrant. Boyd, Wainstein’s current spokesman at the national security division, declined to comment on his boss’s involvement with the Chiquita warrant.

One source close to the Chiquita investigation, who asked to remain anonymous, says he suspects that the warrant was cancelled either by someone at the Justice Department’s main headquarters or at the FBI. If the warrant were sabotaged, it raises questions of favoritism, and even obstruction of justice. Read more