Wednesday, October 18, 2006
A True Story of Lies by the CIA, and Abuse of Power by Federal Prosecutors Who Will Do Whatever it Takes
The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have spewed out a constant stream of exhortations about the need for secrecy, for allowing the CIA to do its job, and for trusting federal prosecutors. In this time of heightened concern about terrorism, it is not easy to appreciate the dangers of giving in to the demands of the Bush Administration (as just occurred with the Military Commissions Act). Opponents are painted as liberals or civil libertarians who exaggerate the potential danger with alarmist assertions and abstract concerns about abuses unlikely to ever happen.
It's a harrowing story. I suspect, however, that it's either preaching to the choir (folks like me!) or will be dismissed out of hand by the folks who most need to hear it (the same people who will allege bias or inaccuracy or partisanship or whatever it takes for them to maintain their world view.) But it does raise the question, given this kind of anecdote, what can be done? What can a 2l do? What can Joe Sixpack do?
For me, I've set my quixotic sights on banging the repeal-aumf.org drum; the place to address all of the terrible developments we've been discussing is at the root of the "war" on "terror" zeitgeist itself.
Thanks for the cautionary tale; glad it had a happy ending on at least the personal scale.
I have long thought federal prosecutors have way too much power, and allowing them to suspend habeas corpus (if my understanding of the recent law is correct) sort of removes their last impediment to absolute power. Now they don't even have to try to make a case, they just get some helpful person in the administration to say the word and off to prison the accused goes, for as long as the government wants. Proof? We don't need no stinkin' proof! The law should really be called The Government's Never Wrong, Just Take Our Word For It Act of 2006. It's essentially the result. People think this will never be used against Americans (ie, white, non-terrorist Americans). I think they'll be proven wrong far sooner than anyone (except the government) thinks. Hell, the feds probably already have some targets in mind.
The CIA officials were using the patriotic variation of George Costanza's (Seinfeld) rationalization to Jerry: "It's not a lie if you believe it."
The fact that the prosecutors would seek to keep you from soliciting classified information in open court is not surprising to me. However, I would have thought that the prosecution would have filed motions in limine before discovery began to have the Court enter an order barring you from doing so.
Was there any attempt to do so?
I have a hard time envisioning a judge holding you in contempt unless you violated one of his or her orders barring such a line of questioning.
What a depressing story. Would've said "amazing" a few years ago, but no more.
And since this isn't a terribly responsive post anyway, maybe it's a good time to say thanks to all the posters at Balkinization. This blog has been invaluable -- heck, "amazing," even. You could all be spending the time doing something else, & we're lucky you aren't.
The trial was conducted under the Classified Information Procedures Act. We held closed CIPA hearing before and during the trial on what classified information was allowed in court. Judge Fong's contempt order was based in an alleged violation of his CIPA orders.
As to whether I was indeed guilty of this charge, the final paragraph says it all.
What should be clear from my account is that this was an attempt by the prosecutors to intimidate me in the middle of a trial, which they pulled off quite effectively. If you are going to draw any assumptions about the good faith of the Judge in this situation, I urge you to spend a bit of time looking in the case, and specifically into his conduct. Records of it are available.
I have no idea what went on in your case, thus the question.
Thanks for the answer. That cleared up my question.
Professor Tamanaha: As to whether I was indeed guilty of this charge, the final paragraph says it all.
Sadly, sir, for some it does not say all, and not all will even go back and look at it.
Quoting:In the closed hearing, with only the lawyers and the judge present, the lead prosecutor, from the U.S. Department of Justice, requested that the judge hold the defense attorney in criminal contempt for asking questions of the CIA witnesses that elicited prohibited classified information in open court.(emphasis added)
Quoting:Judge Patel dismissed the charges against me with prejudice.
I'm embarassed to admit I had to double check that term, but presumably your attorney interlocutors on this blog knew what it meant...and simply chose to ignore it until their noses were rubbed therein.
You are too gracious when you say "they were simply doing what they thought was necessary to defend their country." My experience is that they were only looking out for their next promotion.
... My experience is that they were only looking out for their next promotion ...
One of the basic needs of citizens in any country is a decent government. Decent not only in a sense of being decently competent but also decent ethically. We want people running it to be honorable folks with a sense of fairness and decency. Responsible, fair folks.
Sadly we seem to be out of luck, people even at the highest levels of the government appear to be anything but these days. Take for example this government reaction to Maher affair. That totally innocent guy was shipped by the FBI or CIA to Syria for the express purpose of interrogation involving torture.
Think about it. A government of decent people would immediately start an aggressive investigation. How did it happened, why our people went so bad, how do we prevent that from happening again, who do we punish, how do we redress it now?
Well that was the reaction of the Canadian government, the US government showed and continues to show no sign of being troubled by anything in it and refused to assist or participate in Canadian investigation in any way. They didn't even have simple decency to say we are sorry. And when Maher asked in US courts for some redress a federal judge threw it out of hand.
This willingness of the judiciary to assist to the level that would be uncomfortable even to East German judges is particularly galling. Fong, I'm afraid is not a judicial outlier, rather he represents prevailing attitudes.
Widespread lack of basic human decency at all levels of government, from CIA/FBI field agents to federal judges and prosecutors. Preoccupied with their promotions, or misplaced sense of duty they are willing to lie, willing to facilitate, willing to commit any atrocity in the name of whatever is being pushed by the system. Not longer members of the society, rather predators on it. Pounce on and sink your teeth in your victim. You will be rewarded.
Thanks for relating the story.
Astounding story and good notion of how systems have to be comtemplated and designed in terms of their potential shortcomings, too.
The FBI is so much better, right?
An Inconvenient Patriot is a riveting yarn from just within the past five years, published in Vanity Fair.
[It didn't escape notice that one weak link in the investigation chain was a father of "two small children and a settled life in Washington", not some alledgedly blackmailable gay linguist ... yuk, yuk]
Did you say in your post that an IRS agent began a criminal investigation without any other probable cause than observing somebody used a driver and limo to drop their kids off at school? The IRS had to have more than just that didn't they? Maybe not, I guess.
Says the "Dog"
A harrowing story, indeed, and, I fear, a sign of things to come. I guess my own paranoia's not so paranoid, after all. With the purges of the disloyal and the independent from all levels of the "unitary" executive branch, expect trouble from virtually any Federal source.
I am a former CIA officer and I represented Ed Wilson in the case mentioned in your story. Wilson was indicted in four different courts. In the first trial, he was acquitted. I am currently attempting to overturn Wilson's second conviction (in Virginia) where - just as in the Houston case - AUSA Greenberg told the Judge and the jury that Wilson had no contact with the CIA after retiring. The fourth conviction was in N.Y. The FBI agent in that case is currently pending trial for conspiring with the Mafia.
Wilson was freed from prison in 2004.
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