Finally-A Judge Who Understands the Constitution

 Constitution, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, The Courts  Comments Off on Finally-A Judge Who Understands the Constitution
Feb 242009

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that a Federal Judge is questioning the constitutionality of the law designed to give the telecommunications companies blanket immunity for their illegal wiretaps. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has asked President Obama’s Justice Department to present its views by Wednesday on whether the law gives the attorney general too much power to decide whether a company is immune from lawsuits.

This is some progress, but Obama voted for the law when he was a Senator, and during his confirmation hearings last month, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated he would defend the law.

Under the law, a judge is required to dismiss a wiretapping suit against a telecommunications firm if the attorney general explains the firm’s role to the judge in a confidential statement. The government would say either that the firm had no role or that it participated based on assurances that the president had approved the eavesdropping to protect the nation from terrorism.

Judge Walker rightfully notes that the law appears to set no criteria for the attorney general to use when deciding if he will “grant” immunity for a particular company. I’m guessing it doesn’t because then Presidents Bush/Chenney were fighting to protect their friends. Walker is relying on a 1944 Supreme Court ruling which sets constitutional limits on laws granting power to the President.

Oh, I forgot, under Bush, the Constitution was just a “quaint old document.”

Justice Department Continues the Assault on Justice

 Congress, Constitution, Featured, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Justice Department Continues the Assault on Justice
Aug 202008

Most likely it will come as no surprise that the Bush Administration’s Justice Department continues it’s assault on freedom and the Constitution. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Justice Department is about to issue guidelines for starting FBI investigations that a number of U.S. Senators believe could lead to innocent Americans being spied upon by government agents or informants, “all without any basis for suspicion.”

These are rules that apparently require no Congressional approval, but are Attorney General Guidelines implemented to safeguard Americans in the wake of abuses by the FBI in the 1960s. Leave it to the Cheney Administration to figure out a way to turn that on it’s head and use it against us.

While Senators Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold, Edward M. Kennedy and Sheldon Whitehouse have joined Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter in asking for a delay and period of public comment before issuing the guidelines. I’m sure AG Mukasey is quaking in his boots given the Congress’ lack of enthusiasm for protecting the Constitution and fulfilling their oversight responsibilities.

According to the Post report, following their briefings, the four Democrats said the guidelines would:

  • Let the FBI use “a variety of intrusive investigative techniques” with no evidence of possible wrongdoing. The techniques could include: long-term FBI surveillance, interviewing neighbors and workmates, recruiting informants and searching commercial databases for information on people, “all without any basis for suspicion.” “We are particularly concerned that the draft guidelines might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities,” the senators wrote.
  • Allow the government to collect foreign intelligence information inside the United States without current legal protections for U.S. citizens or legal residents. The senators noted that the broad term “foreign intelligence” would cover any information relating to the activities of a foreign government, organization or person.
  • Allow the information gathered to be broadly shared among government agencies. “We have serious questions about the scope of information sharing as it relates to U.S. persons who are under no suspicion of wrongdoing,” the senators wrote.

We can only pray that the Congressional Health Insurance covers spinal transplants, so these people can each get them one. Talk about a toothless tiger.

Mukasey Says They Knew About 9-11 Call

 General  Comments Off on Mukasey Says They Knew About 9-11 Call
Apr 012008

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last week, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said one of the dumbest things ever to come out of this scandal ridden Administration. He was making a speech trying to stir up support for the FISA bill with telecom immunity, where he basically claimed that U.S. Intelligence apparently knew a call came from Afghanistan safe-house to a phone in the U.S.

Before 9/11, Mr. Mukasey said, “We knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went. We’ve got” – here the Attorney General paused with emotion – “we’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn’t come home, to show for that.”

Keith Olberman called him out on the statement:

The government knew about some phone call from a safe house in Afghanistan into the US about 9/11, before 9/11, and even though it had the same FISA courts and the same right to act against international targets in 2001 as it does now, you didn’t do anything about it? Well, this would seem to leave only two options. Either the Attorney General just admitted that the government for which he works is guilty of malfeasant complicity in the 9/11 attacks or he’s lying. I’m betting on lying. If not, somebody in Congress better put that man under oath right quick.

You could send him to Gitmo, I suppose.

How about a little Congressional oversight here.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

A Little Habeas for Your Corpus

 Constitution, Crime, Culture, Fun Stuff, Humor, Politics, Presidency, Society, The Courts  Comments Off on A Little Habeas for Your Corpus
Jun 112007

Wow, the courts have sure been busy lately. They have given us lots of fun stuff to cover. Let’s see what we have:

Paris Hilton — OK, we won’t dwell on this case, as it’s a lot like a car wreck. You hate it happened, are pissed because it’s making you late, but you can’t help but slowdown and look as you go by. I do want to comment on those that think she’s getting jail time because she’s a celebrity…”after all,” they say, “she was only violated once on her probation.” Well, she’s had a couple of DWI’s, and been stopped several times for driving on a suspended license. The first time, the paper she’d signed agreeing to not drive was in the car with her. Come on, she thought she could get away with it. I’m fine with her doing some time.

Genarlow Wilson — You’ve probably never heard of Mr. Wilson, but a couple of years ago he received a felony sentence of 10 years in jail, and a sexual offender designation for having sex with a 15 year old girl. Sounds bad, right? Well the sex was consensual, and at the time Wilson was a 17 year old honor student and athlete in high school. A Georgia judge decided to use a little common sense and reduce the charge to a misdemeanor sexual battery charge, with a sentence of time served. Not surprisingly, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said Monday afternoon that he had filed notice of appeal, arguing that Georgia law does not give a judge authority to reduce or modify the sentence imposed by the trial court.

Robert Alan Soloway — Mr. Soloway is been dubbed variously the Seattle Spammer and the King of Spam. In a U.S. District Court in Seattle on 10 counts of mail fraud, 5 counts of wire fraud, 2 counts of e-mail fraud, 5 counts of aggravated identity theft and 13 counts of money laundering. According to MSNBC:

“Spam is a scourge of the Internet, and Robert Soloway is one of its most prolific practitioners. Our investigators dubbed him the Spam King because he is responsible for millions of spam e-mails,” Jeffrey Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement.

Soloway is being accused of operating false Web sites and more than 50 domains, through which he posed as an advertiser offering legitimate “broadcast e-mail services” with “permission-based opt-in e-mail addresses.” He allegedly deceived legitimate businesses into buying marketing software and services that turned out to be spam tools. Businesses that complained were met with intimidation and threats, according to the allegations against Soloway.

Continue reading »

Miracle on DOJ Street

 Congress, Corruption, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Miracle on DOJ Street
May 242007

Steve Benen, in a post at Crooks and Liars makes an excellent point about the U.S. Attorney firings. It seems that all these high ranking Justice Department officials have been asked who created the list of the U.S. Attorneys to be fired, and none of them know. I guess given Bush’s divine dispensation, it just floated down from heaven.

Benen sums it up quite well:

Lawmakers asked Kyle Sampson about who drew up the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired and how those names got on the list. Dunno, he said. They asked Alberto Gonzales. Beats me, he said. They asked Paul McNulty. Ask everybody else, he said. They asked Monica Goodling. Ask anybody else, she said.

As Benen says, it really is a simple question for which there seems no answer.

Mar 112007

NY Times says fire “the Failed Attorney General”:

We opposed Mr. Gonzales’s nomination as attorney general. His résumé was weak, centered around producing legal briefs for Mr. Bush that assured him that the law said what he wanted it to say. More than anyone in the administration, except perhaps Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Gonzales symbolizes Mr. Bush’s disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law.

On Thursday, Senator Arlen Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, hinted very obliquely that perhaps Mr. Gonzales’s time was up. We’re not going to be oblique. Mr. Bush should dismiss Mr. Gonzales and finally appoint an attorney general who will use the job to enforce the law and defend the Constitution.

Think about that last line. Everyone, every President and every American, should want and expect an A.G. who will enforce the law and defend the Constitution — everyone, that is, except George Bush.

Terrorists At the Cartoon Network

 Crime, General, Humor, Places, Society  Comments Off on Terrorists At the Cartoon Network
Feb 012007

Hat Tip to Homeland Stupidity

I’m in Boston this week for training, and the HUGE story up here has been the massive terrorist threat unleashed several weeks ago by the Cartoon Network (discovered only yesterday).

Over the past several weeks Cartoon Network, to promote their television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, placed boards with LED renditions of the mooninites across ten cities. This would have been fine, except for the person who saw one of them attached to a girder above a busway near the Sullivan Square T station. On Wednesday, some frightened little brain-dead Bostonian spotted Ignignokt and Err in Boston – and called the police.

That subway station and Interstate 93 above it were closed for over two hours as police moved in to “neutralize the threat.”

A source close to the investigation told WBZ it was a “sophisticated electronic device” that somebody placed there for a reason. It was not an explosive device and police say it did not pose any danger to anyone.

The device, a large circuit board with wires and batteries, was found attached to a beam with magnets about 15 to 20 feet above a busway that runs below an elevated section of the highway.

A bomb squad officer removed it and authorities blasted it with a water cannon around 10 a.m. to render it useless. The highway and T station re-opened a short time later. – WBZ

“The device was an electronic circuit board with some components that were consistent with what we know to be improvised explosive devices,” MBTA Police Lt. Sal Venturelli said.

Let’s see, it was basically a circuit board with LEDs (one of our guys said it reminded him of a Lite Brite, if you remember those). But for God’s sake, the only thing it actually had in common with an IED was maybe the batteries. So does that mean everything with batteries is now suspicious. Let’s compare, shall we:

Cartoon Character sign

This is the sign


This is an IED (Oh yeah, couldda fooled me)

The two men who placed the blinking Ignignokt and Err devices in the Boston area, Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington, and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and placing a hoax device. The two were released earlier today on a $2500 cash bond.

Massachusetts officials proved that they are completely out of their minds and desperately need to be committed to mental institutions.

“We’re not going to let this go without looking at the further roots of how this happened to cause the panic in this city,” said state Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose police department caused the panic.

“It’s a hoax, and it’s not funny,” said Gov. Deval Patrick, who doesn’t know what the word hoax means, and has no sense of humor.

“It’s clear the intent was to get attention by causing fear and unrest that there was a bomb in that location,” Assistant Attorney General John Grossman said. The state certainly did cause a lot of fear and unrest. Grossman was speaking at the pair’s arraignment today, laying on the BS thick. “The appearance of this device and its location are crucial . . . This device looks like a bomb.” See above.

“I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents,” Boston mayor Thomas Menino said yesterday. There ought to be a law against frivolous lawsuits like the one Menino is proposing.

Remember, these things have been posted for weeks, and they’ve been in other cities without the panic. Go figure.

Waterboard Rumsfeld?

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on Waterboard Rumsfeld?
Nov 102006

If he has nothing to hide…

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany’s top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hey, maybe the Germans can try that cute little trick that Bush’s CIA did in Italy. Just swoop in and steal people off the street of a NATO ally, then ship them out of the country to be tortured. I mean, after all, America is the beacon of hope in the world and we set the standard for decency. Hell, we are decency country-ified. Anything we do is per se humane and legal. So why couldn’t the Germans use the same tactics on us? I understand war criminals don’t get the same rights as real people anyway – you know, like habeas corpus or the Geneva Conventions – so no harm no foul.

We are at war, you know.

Gonzales Backtracks on Senate Testimony – Hints At Additionaly Spying Programs

 Congress, Constitution, Politics  Comments Off on Gonzales Backtracks on Senate Testimony – Hints At Additionaly Spying Programs
Mar 012006

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee clarifying his Feb. 6 testimony on Bush’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities. I call it backtracking.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration’s original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.

At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it “and that is all that he has authorized.”

But in yesterday’s letter, Gonzales, citing that quote, wrote: “I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities.” Using the administration’s term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, “I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject” of the Feb. 6 hearing.

Shorter version: Bush has been engaged in more warrantless spying on Americans than the Administration has disclosed to date.

At least one constitutional scholar who testified before the committee yesterday said in an interview that Gonzales appeared to be hinting that the operation disclosed by the New York Times in mid-December is not the full extent of eavesdropping on U.S. residents conducted without court warrants.

“It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance programs ongoing that the president hasn’t told anyone about,” said Bruce Fein, a government lawyer in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations.

Sen. Russ Feingold called Gonzales’ misleading Senate testimony right away. From his Feb. 7 statement, delivered on the Senate floor:? Continue reading »

War On Terror Over; Gonzalez Pursues Porn

 Crime, Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on War On Terror Over; Gonzalez Pursues Porn
Sep 212005

Taking his cues from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez has decided to make the War on Porn "one of the top priorities" of the AG’s office.  In early August, the FBI’s Washington Field Office sent around a job listing to recruit eight federal agents, a supervisor and support staff to take on "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography. The squad will focus its efforts on those who produce pornography depicting consenting adults.  Such porn profiteers include Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., General Motors Corp., Time Warner, and several major hotel chains.  The conservative Family Research Council endorsed the move, saying it gave them "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."  Some FBI agents were not so pleased.  As one anonymous agent put it sarcastically: "I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror. We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Hope you feel safer?