Tag: Eric Holder

Jul 10

Eric Holder Returns to His Roots

After six years of protecting them, former Attorney General Eric Holder triumphantly returned to his roots, the law firm where he defended Wall Street and the banking industry before his appointment as AG. As though this was ever in doubt.

Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Barack Obama’s former top cop cashes in after six years of letting banks run wild

Eric Holder has gone back to work for his old firm, the white-collar defense heavyweight Covington & Burling. The former attorney general decided against going for a judgeship, saying he’s not ready for the ivory tower yet. “I want to be a player,” told the National Law Journal, one would have to say ominously.

Holder will reassume his lucrative partnership (he made $2.5 million the last year he worked there) and take his seat in an office that reportedly – this is no joke – was kept empty for him in his absence.

The office thing might have been improper, but at this point, who cares? More at issue is the extraordinary run Holder just completed as one of history’s great double agents. For six years, while brilliantly disguised as the attorney general of the United States, he was actually working deep undercover, DiCaprio in The Departed-style, as the best defense lawyer Wall Street ever had.

Holder denied there was anything weird about returning to one of Wall Street’s favorite defense firms after six years of letting one banker after another skate on monstrous cases of fraud, tax evasion, market manipulation, money laundering, bribery and other offenses. [..]

In this light, telling reporters that you’re going back to Covington & Burling to be “engaged in the civic life of this country” seems like a joke for us all to suck on, like announcing that he’s going back to get a doctorate at the University of Blow Me.

Holder doesn’t look it, but he was a revolutionary. He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world’s richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.



The transcript can be read here

Eric Holder Returns as Hero to Law Firm That Lobbies for Big Banks

By Lee Fang, The Intercept

After failing to criminally prosecute any of the financial firms responsible for the market collapse in 2008, former Attorney General Eric Holder is returning to Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm known for serving Wall Street clients.

The move completes one of the more troubling trips through the revolving door for a cabinet secretary. Holder worked at Covington from 2001 right up to being sworn in as attorney general in Feburary 2009. And Covington literally kept an office empty for him, awaiting his return.

The Covington & Burling client list has included four of the largest banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Lobbying records show that Wells Fargo is still a client of Covington. Covington recently represented Citigroup over a civil lawsuit relating to the bank’s role in Libor manipulation.

Covington was also deeply involved with a company known as MERS, which was later responsible for falsifying mortgage documents on an industrial scale. “Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and several other large banks,” according to an investigation by Reuters.

The Department of Justice under Holder not only failed to pursue criminal prosecutions of the banks responsible for the mortage meltdown, but in fact de-prioritized investigations of mortgage fraud, making it the “lowest-ranked criminal threat,” according to an inspector general report.

Jan 08

James Risen Still Protecting Press Freedom

Freedom of the Press and Speech have come under attack lately from the and, strangely, from the so-called left. The vicious attack on the office of “Charlie Hebdo” was especially vicious but there are more subtle attacks on our rights from the US Department of Justice. Even though Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he would force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal the sources for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” Holder approved the issue of a limited subpoena requiring Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling who is being charged as a whistleblower under the 1917 Espionage Act. On January 5th in an unusual pre-trial hearing, Risen finally testified, for the first time under oath, in a Virginia federal courtroom

The terse, and at times combative, testimony prompted a lawyer for Sterling to question whether prosecutors could even proceed with their case.

There are many unequivocal statements the government cannot prove without Risen, said Edward MacMahon, a lawyer for Sterling. Sterling was indicted on unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other charges in 2010. [..]

On Monday, Risen said he did not want to provide any information to the government that it might be able to use as a “building block” to prove or disprove a “mosaic” it was trying to make. He made the comments just days before Sterling is scheduled to begin trial on Jan. 12.

New York Times reporter Mark Appuzo spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and  Juan González about the possibility of Risen being held in contempt and going to jail

It remains to be seen if Risen will testify at all. If he does and stick to his guns, will Holder stick to his statement that no journalist would go to jail on his watch for doing his or her job?

Dec 12

Spare Me the Lecture About the Law

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If upholding the law is too hard for Barack Obama and Eric Holder, then they are among the ranks of the accused torturers and should just resign.

UN Expert Calls For Prosecution Over U.S. Torture

All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized or carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. officials said Wednesday.

It’s not clear, however, how human rights officials think these prosecutions will take place, since the Justice Department has declined to prosecute and the U.S. is not a member of the International Criminal Court.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it’s “crystal clear” under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. [..]

However, a Justice Department official said Wednesday the department did not intend to revisit its decision to not prosecute anyone for the interrogation methods. The official said the department had reviewed the committee’s report and did not find any new information that would cause the investigation to be reopened.

UN Official: Prosecute “Systematic Crimes and Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law”

Jim White, emptywheel

Ben Emmerson is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. His statement released yesterday in response to the SSCI torture report points out the clear responsibilities that the US has under the Convention Against Torture and other international human rights laws to prosecute not only those who carried out torture, but those who designed the torture program and gave orders for its implementation. [..]

Emmerson doesn’t say that those responsible for the crimes should be brought to justice. He says outright that they MUST be brought to justice. Emmerson further points out that being authorized at a high level in the government gives no protection. Further, he notes a “conspiracy” to carry out the crimes.

Emmerson then goes on to destroy Barack Obama’s “look forward” bullshit and John Durham’s coverup disguised as an investigation:

   International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes.

   As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.

Obama, Holder and Durham simply cannot grant immunity for these crimes. International law forbids it. More specifically, the Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, prohibits it. Similarly, the Convention on Enforced Disappearances also comes into play in the crimes committed by the US and also prevents the granting of immunity that Obama has tried to orchestrate.

(emphasis mine)

Mark Udall Says The CIA Is Still Lying

By Matt Sledge, Huffington Post

The CIA is still lying about its post-9/11 torture program, even in the face of a devastating Senate report, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Wednesday.

In a dramatic floor speech during his final month in the Senate, Udall said the CIA’s lies have been aided and abetted by President Barack Obama’s White House and called on the president to “purge” his administration of CIA officials who were involved in the interrogation program detailed in the report.

“It’s bad enough to not prosecute these officials, but to reward and promote them is incomprehensible,” Udall said. “The president needs to purge his administration.”

Udall said the lies are “not a problem of the past,” citing the CIA’s response to the 6,000-page torture report. He said the agency took seven months to write a formal comment after the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the report in December 2012 — and when it did, it was full of lies and half-truths meant to justify the agency’s actions.

MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes questions Pres. Obama’s premise that we are a “nation of laws”

Nov 12

The Nightmare on Wall Street

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that the banks were too big and too hard to prosecute for the “massive criminal securities fraud” behind the high risk mortgage securities that led up to the 2008 financial collapse. Instead the Justice Department opted for civil settlements with large fines with no admission of any wrong doing.

Actually, it wasn’t. It appears that the Obama administration’s chief law enforcement officer chose not to prosecute despite all the evidence at his disposal. In his return to Rolling Stones, investigative journalist Matt Taibbi introduces Alayne Fleischmann, JPMorgan Chase’s $9 billion nightmare:

She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn’t take it anymore.

“It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street,” she says. “I thought, ‘I can’t sit by any longer.'” [..]

Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.

Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as “massive criminal securities fraud” in the bank’s mortgage operations.

Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she’s kept her mouth shut since then. “My closest family and friends don’t know what I’ve been living with,” she says. “Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview.”

Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. “Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way,” Fleischmann says.

This past year she watched as Holder’s Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called “statements of facts,” which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts.

Matt and Ms. Fleischmann joined Democracy Now‘s hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss ow JPMorgan wrecked the economy and avoided prosecution.

The full transcript can be read here

Nov 12

This Is Not the Loretta Lynch You’re Looking For

President Barack Obama has nominated Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to replace Attorney General Eric Holder who announced his retirement just before the mid-term election. Her credentials and qualifications for the post are excellent and her record in her current position. She is viewed as a strong civil rights defender, did pro-bono work prosecuting Rwandan war crimes, and has come down hard on public corruption. That said, she will likely follow Holder’s stance on Wall Street and the banking industry that they are too big to prosecute.

Lynch, who joined Holder in Washington over the summer to announce a $16 billion settlement with Bank of America over its conduct leading up to the meltdown, has similarly suggested the federal government is doing everything it can to hold companies accountable.

“[People] want the head of this bank or that investment bank to go to jail, and the types of cases that we actually have been developing tend to be a little bit smaller,” she told a New York civic association last year. “They tend to involve mortgage companies themselves who issued fraudulent mortgages” and may have made misleading statements or received “a kickback.”

“There in fact have been a number of prosecutions like that all over the country,” she said. “But those are smaller cases and they don’t get the kind of attention that people are looking for. So people often don’t think that anything has happened.”

She said it all comes down to “what you can prove.”

“We have to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt their intent was to defraud the public, and sometimes jurors just think they were bad at what they did,” she said.

And there is ample reason in her background to believe that she’ll be no better than Holder in holding the mega-banks accountable. David Dayen at Salon has the evidence:

Lynch’s first job was as a litigation associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel in the mid-1980s. Their litigation department includes the legendary First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who defended the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case (Abrams subsequently argued the Citizens United case, on “campaign money is speech” grounds). But it also does a great deal of white-collar defense in securities and antitrust law, representing companies like AIG, HSBC, Credit Suisse, Bank of America and more. It’s a corporate law firm.

Lynch then served at the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn for 11 years, rising to run the office during the end of the Clinton administration, from 1999 to 2001. When she left, she became a partner at Hogan & Hartson (it has since merged to become Hogan Lovells). It’s a giant D.C. law firm specializing in government regulatory, corporate and financial law. Like Cahill Gordon & Reindel, it advises all sorts of corporations, and it even has a separate lobbying firm, one of the top five in the United States. We know that Lynch worked on white-collar criminal defense and corporate compliance while in private practice at Hogan & Hartson. [..]

Now, she was just a litigation associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel. And at Hogan & Hartson she did admirable pro bono work with prosecutors in the Rwandan war crimes tribunal. But what this says is that she has a long history interacting with a certain class of corporate lawyers and executives, understanding their perspective in critical ways.

That’s further buttressed by a strange detour in her legal career – serving as a director of the New York Federal Reserve Board from 2003 to 2005. Here she worked with people like former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill, ex-Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld and ex-Blackstone chairman Pete Peterson.

The directors of the New York Fed don’t play a huge role in supervising Wall Street banks or conducting monetary policy. But their biggest job is to select the president of the organization. And in 2003, Loretta Lynch had one of six votes in the appointment process that eventually put someone named Timothy Geithner in charge.

Ms. Lynch’s association with bankers and the Fed won’t be a reasons not to confirm her. However, her appointment has been stalled by the lame duck Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who said there are more important issues to be resolved before the Republicans take control in January. Also, needless to say, her nomination has come under attack from the Tea Party faction of the Senate and news media, some of it, of course gets it dead wrong:

The conservative news site Breitbart.com suffered a rather awkward pants-down moment when a media watchdog site pointed out Breitbart had confused its Loretta Lynches when publishing an attack on the woman President Obama has nominated to be the next attorney general. The site said the 55-year-old nominee served as one of President Bill Clinton’s defense attorneys during the Whitewater investigation of 1994.

She didn’t. That was a different Loretta Lynch. [..]

The Loretta Lynch Breitbart was referring to – the Whitewater attorney – was also a former California public utilities commissioner. She worked as the director of policy and research for California Gov. Gray Davis (D) and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California. Her law degree is from Yale.

California Lynch is 52.

And white.

And blonde.

With blue eyes.

This is nothing new for the right wing, as Rachel Maddow says they create their own parralel unvierse and stick with it.

No, this is not the Loretta they’re looking for either.

 

May 17

The DOJ Hates the Fourth Amendment

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This administration, especially the Department of Justice really hates your Fourth Amendment rights and is doing everything in its power to narrow your right to privacy as much as it can.

DOJ Says Americans Have No 4th Amendment Protections At All When They Communicate With Foreigners

by Make Masnick, Techdirt

We’ve already questioned if it’s really true that the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply to foreigners (the Amendment refers to “people” not “citizens”). But in some new filings by the DOJ, the US government appears to take its “no 4th Amendment protections for foreigners” to absurd new levels. It says, quite clearly, that because foreigners have no 4th Amendment protections it means that any Americans lose their 4th Amendment protections when communicating with foreigners. They’re using a very twisted understanding of the (already troubling) third party doctrine to do this. As you may recall, after lying to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department said that it would start informing defendants if warrantless collection of information under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was used in the investigation against them.

Last October, it finally started alerting some defendants, leading courts to halt proceedings and re-evaluate. As two of those cases have moved forward, the DOJ is trying to defend those cases, and one way it’s doing so is to flat out say that Americans have no 4th Amendment protections when talking to foreigners.

   The Supreme Court has long held that when one person voluntarily discloses information to another, the first person loses any cognizable interest under the Fourth Amendment in what the second person does with the information. . . . For Fourth Amendment purposes, the same principle applies whether the recipient intentionally makes the information public or stores it in a place subject to a government search. Thus, once a non-U.S. person located outside the United States receives information, the sender loses any cognizable Fourth Amendment rights with respect to that information. That is true even if the sender is a U.S. person protected by the Fourth Amendment, because he assumes the risk that the foreign recipient will give the information to others, leave the information freely accessible to others, or that the U.S. government (or a foreign government) will obtain the information.

This argument is questionable on so many levels. First, it’s already relying on the questionable third party doctrine, but it seems to go much further, by then arguing that merely providing information to a foreign person means that it’s okay for the US government to snoop on it without a warrant.

The official US position on the NSA is still unlimited eavesdropping power

by Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU at The Guardian

One year after Snowden, the government is defending – in not-so-plain sight – the ‘paramount’ power to spy on every call and email between you and your friends abroad

The government’s argument is not simply that the NSA has broad authority to monitor Americans’ international communications. The US government is arguing that the NSA’s authority is unlimited in this respect. If the government is right, nothing in the Constitution bars the NSA from monitoring a phone call between a journalist in New York City and his source in London. For that matter, nothing bars the NSA from monitoring every call and email between Americans in the United States and their non-American friends, relatives, and colleagues overseas.

In the government’s view, there is no need to ask whether the 2008 law violates Americans’ privacy rights, because in this context Americans have no rights to be violated.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out that former Sen Russ Feingold warned us back in 2008 about the abuses that could occur under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

Feb 14

The Free Press is Dying in the US

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The group that monitors attacks on freedom of information worldwide, Reporters Without Borders, released in 2014 Free Press Index which rates the decline of the free press in countries around the world. Not unsurprisingly, the United States dropped 13 spots from last year, now ranking just 46th among 180 countries, between Romania and Haiti. RWB lays that blame at the feet of President Barack Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder:

In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power.

The group is calling on the United Nations to monitor how member states meet their obligations to protect reporters. See the World Press Freedom Index and the 3-dimensional map “freedom of the press worldwide”

The Obama administration also came under attack by the Committee to Protect Journalists for aggressive leak prosecutions, secret subpoenas, surveillance and its marked lack of transparency and access:

Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013, a special report by CPJ found.

The Obama administration’s policy of prosecuting officials who leak classified information to the press intensified with the sentencing of Chelsea Manning (then known as Pvt. Bradley Manning) to 35 years in prison and the indictment of NSA consultant Edward Snowden.

As part of its investigations into earlier leaks, the Justice Department revealed it had secretly subpoenaed the phone records of nearly two dozen Associated Press telephone lines and the emails and phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen. The two cases, and language in the Rosen subpoena that suggested the journalist could be criminally charged for receiving the information, provoked widespread criticism. The backlash resulted in the drafting of revised Justice Department guidelines on press subpoenas and a renewed debate in the Senate of a federal shield law that would allow journalists greater protection for their sources.

As the debate moved forward in the Senate, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen in his long-term effort to protect a confidential source, setting up a likely Supreme Court showdown.

Snowden’s leak of a still unknown quantity of classified information on secret surveillance programs spurred both a national and international outcry and, after a report that Al-Jazeera’s communications had allegedly been spied on, caused journalists to fear even more for their sources. The secrecy surrounding the surveillance programs echoed a pervasive lack of transparency and openness across government agencies where, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to head the most open government in history, officials routinely refused to talk to the press or approve Freedom of Information Act requests.

Journalists faced limitations covering national security-related trials, in cases of alleged terrorism at Guantánamo Bay and in the court-martial of Manning in Virginia.

Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders, joined [Democracy Now! ]’s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh to discuss the decline of the free press and the safety of journalists.

Oct 12

DOJ sues Texas RV park for violation of Fair Housing Act (evicting transwoman)

Eric Holder has filed a lawsuit putting the federal government behind the discrimination claim of a transwoman against a Texas RV park.

On October 3 the suit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas (Tyler Division) against George Toone and his company, In Toone Services.  In Toone Services owns Texas RV Park in Athens, TX.

Roxanne Joganik filed a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in June 2012, alleging that Toone discriminated against her on the basis of sex, violating the federal Fair Housing Act.  Joganik and her roommate, Darlina Anthony, moved into the park on a month-to-month lease in April of 2011.  In Toone Services acquired the property in May of 2012, 5 days after Joganik had paid her rent through the month of June.  Joganik informed Toone that she was transgender and asked him if he would have a problem with her wearing female clothing in the common areas of the RV park.  Toone said it would be a problem because “there are children around the pool.”  So Joganik refrained from doing so.

A week later Toone distributed copies of the new park rules, requiring residents to sign them along with their service agreements.  The rules said that management “reserved the right to refuse entrance to anyone for any reason other than ‘race, religion, handicapped (sic), color or national origin.'”  The new rules did not include sex or family status, which are protected classes under the FHA.  So Joganik refused to sign the rules.

Aug 13

Mortgage Fraud Settlement: Is a Fraud

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As we have documented here at Stars Hollow, the task force that was created to pursue mortgage fraud and hold the banks accountable was, and is, a sham game to protect the banks from real relief for defrauded homeowners.

Your mortgage documents are fake!

by David Dayen, Salon

Prepare to be outraged. Newly obtained filings from this Florida woman’s lawsuit uncover a horrifying scheme

A newly unsealed lawsuit, which banks settled in 2012 for $1 billion, actually offers a different reason, providing a key answer to one of the persistent riddles of the financial crisis and its aftermath. The lawsuit states that banks resorted to fake documents because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.

This reality, which banks did not contest but instead settled out of court, means that tens of millions of mortgages in America still lack a legitimate chain of ownership, with implications far into the future. And if Congress, supported by the Obama Administration, goes back to the same housing finance system, with the same corrupt private entities who broke the nation’s private property system back in business packaging mortgages, then shame on all of us. [..]

Most of official Washington, including President Obama, wants to wind down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and return to a system where private lenders create securitization trusts, packaging pools of loans and selling them to investors. Government would provide a limited guarantee to investors against catastrophic losses, but the private banks would make the securities, to generate more capital for home loans and expand homeownership.

That’s despite the evidence we now have that, the last time banks tried this, they ignored the law, failed to convey the mortgages and notes to the trusts, and ripped off investors trying to cover their tracks, to say nothing of how they violated the due process rights of homeowners and stole their homes with fake documents.

The very same banks that created this criminal enterprise and legal quagmire would be in control again. Why should we view this in any way as a sound public policy, instead of a ticking time bomb that could once again throw the private property system, a bulwark of capitalism and indeed civilization itself, into utter disarray? As Lynn Szymoniak puts it, “The President’s calling for private equity to return. Why would we return to this?”

White-collar fraud expert proves ‘mortgage-backed securities’ neither mortgage-backed nor secure

by Scott Kaufmann, The Raw Story

The forged documents were endorsed by employees of companies long bankrupt, executives who signed their name eight different ways, or “people” named “Bogus Assignee for Intervening Assignments” so that the banks could establish standing to foreclose in courts. The end result, according to white-collar fraud expert Lynn Szymoniak, is that over $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities are still, to this day, based on fraudulent mortgage assignments.

The lawsuit against Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citi and GMAC/Ally Bank was settled in early 2012 for $1 billion, but now that the evidence is unsealed, Szymoniak and her legal team are free to pursue the other named defendants, including HSBC, the Bank of New York Mellon, and US Bank. “I’m really glad I was part of collecting this money for the government, and I’m looking forward to going through discovery and collecting the rest of it,” Szymoniak told Salon.

Eric Holder Owes the American People an Apology

Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg News

The Justice Department made a long-overdue disclosure late Friday: Last year when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder boasted about the successes that a high-profile task force racked up pursuing mortgage fraud, the numbers he trumpeted were grossly overstated. [..]

In an updated press release Friday, which corrected its initial release of last October, the Justice Department said a review of the cases found that the inflated figures included defendants who had been sentenced or convicted in fiscal year 2012 — not just people who had been criminally charged, as originally reported. Its original, lofty tally also included cases in which the victims weren’t distressed homeowners. [..]

What a charade. No wonder the government found it so difficult to bring a meaningful number of accounting-fraud cases against bank executives after the financial crisis. Its own books were cooked. [..]

This was the second time, mind you, that Holder’s Justice Department had pulled a stunt like this. In December 2010, Holder held a press conference to tout a supposed sweep by the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force called “Operation Broken Trust.” (The mortgage-fraud program was part of the same task force.) As with the mortgage-fraud initiative, Broken Trust wasn’t actually a sweep. All the Justice Department did was lump together a bunch of small-fry, penny-ante fraud cases that had nothing to do with one another. Then it held a press gathering.

Between this sham that protects the banks and the egregious violations of the press and privacy of all Americans with abusive use of FISA, Eric Holder owes us more than an apology, he owes us his resignation as Attorney General.

Jul 19

New DOJ Journalist Rules: For Thee But Not For Me

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In the recent embarrassing uproar over Attorney General Eric Holder’s labeling a James Rosen, reporter for Fox News, a co-conspirator in a federal leak probe and issued a secret search warrant for his e-mails, Holder said that Department of Justice rules would be reviewed and revised as needed. The “New Rules” on media policy (pdf) were issued last week. The rules, as Marcy Wheeler at empty wheel points out, will only apply to explicitly to “members of the news media,” not journalists per se.

The definition might permit the exclusion of bloggers and book writers, not to mention publishers like WikiLeaks. [..]

That approach would have several advantages over protecting “the news media.” First, by protecting the act of journalism, you include those independent reporters who are unquestioningly engaging in journalism (overcoming the blogger question I laid out, but also those working independently on book projects, and potentially – though this would be a contentious though much needed debate – publishers like WikiLeaks), but also exclude those news personalities who are engaging in entertainment, corporate propaganda, or government disinformation.

The rules also are a move to set up an “official press.” More from Marcy who goes into detail:

The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press.

That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” They repeat over and over and over and over, “news media.” I’m not sure they once utter the word “journalist” or “reporter.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” [..]

The limitation of all these changes to the “news media” is most obvious when it treats the Privacy Protection Act – which should have prevented DOJ from treating James Rosen as a  suspect. [..]

The PPA, however, applies to all persons “reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” [..]

I’m clearly covered by the PPA. But the FBI could easily decide to exclude me from this “news media” protection so as to be able to snoop into my work product.

Congratulations to the “members of the news media” who have been deemed the President’s official press. I hope you use your privileges wisely.

Update: I’ve learned that the issue of whom this applied to did come up in background meetings at DOJ; in fact, DOJ raised the issue. The problem is, there is no credentialing system that could define who gets this protection and DOJ didn’t want to lay it out (and most of the people invited have never been anything but a member of the news media, making it hard for them to understand how to differentiate a journalist).

Ultimately, I think DOJ is so anxious for Congress to pass a shield law (which they say elsewhere in their report) because it’ll mean Congress will do the dirty work of defining who is and who is not a journalist.

The full article is a wealth of information and worth the time to read it, along with all the links.

The Obama administration and Congress are coming very close to creating a state sanctioned press, a true “Pravda on the Potomac,” as The Washington Post is unofficially called. This is Cass Sunstein’s dream come true.

Jul 12

Comey Set To Be Confirmed

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If anyone, at this point, thinks that President Barack Obama would a change from the Bush administration, his nomination of James Comey to be FBI Director should be proof that any change from the past was a delusion. Besides his record of approving torture, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping, at his confirmation hearing Comey defended current US surveillance practices.

James Comey defends US surveillance practices at FBI confirmation hearing

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Former deputy attorney general who famously rebelled against warrantless spying in 2004 declines to criticise current policy

James Comey, the former US deputy attorney general, said Tuesday that the secret surveillance court that approves wiretapping requests is “anything but a rubber stamp”, even though the so-called Fisa court approves nearly every surveillance request by the government.

“I think folks don’t understand that the FBI operates under a wide variety of constraints,” Comey testified during his confirmation hearing to succeed Robert Mueller as the second director of the bureau since 9/11. The combination of the Fisa court, investigative guidelines from the US attorney general, congressional scrutiny and internal inspectors general are “very effective” at checking FBI abuse, Comey argued.[..]

But Comey declined to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records when senators asked if they should be scaled back.

Having been out of government since 2005, Comey said that he was “not familiar with the details of the current programs” and did not wish to opine on them. “I do know, as a general matter, the collection and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counter-terrorism.”

When questioned about the use of drones, Comey said he did not think drones should be used to kill US citizens in America, but left the door open for cases of “imminent threats.” The precise definition of what circumstances would constitute an “imminent thread” were left unanswered.

Former FBI agent, Colleen Crowley, who was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police, joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss Comey’s testimony and inevitable confirmation.



Transcript can be read here

At his confirmation hearing to head the FBI, former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records of Americans and defended the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed to be enemy combatants. Comey also explained why he signed off on a memo authorizing waterboarding while serving under Attorney General John Ashcroft. We get reaction from former special FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who served with the Bureau from 1981 to 2004. The New York Times just published her op-ed titled “Questions for the FBI Nominee.” In 2002, Time magazine named her and two other female whistleblowers as Time’s “Person of the Year,” for warning about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks.

What digbt said: What do you have to do to not be eligible for promotion in official Washington?

I’ve always thought it was a mistake for the administration not to pursue prosecutions for the torture regime. It seems like a bad idea for a powerful nation to ignore war crimes. You have to assume that it could blow back on it some time in the future. But since we now know that the presidency is largely a ceremonial position without any power to shape the debate, affect legislation or influence the military industrial complex, it’s clearly awfully tough to do anything at all. Best stick to nice pictures with foreign leaders and leave it at that.

However, even those who view the office as nothing more than a symbol of leadership would have to grant that the president surely has the discretion not to promote the people who signed off on the war crimes.

Jul 06

Comey’s Torture Advocacy Questioned

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Try as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder might to denounce torture their actions with the last round of nominees and appointments to crucial positions speak louder than their words. First is was John Brennan to head the CIA, whose dubious record during the Bush/Cheney regime on torture and covering up war crimes was glossed over by Obama. Then there is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, an inveterate liar who has a memory problem as well, “I forgot the Patriot Act.” Really? Clapper also served as an executive for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security company contracted to gather data for the NSA, who employed Edward Snowden.

Now, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Robert Mueller is retiring and who does Obama choose to replace him? Another Bush crony, James B. Comey, who served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Comey, as has been hammered by the Obama administration supporters, blocked, along with Mueller, the Bush administration’s attempt to renew a still secret and illegal surveillance program on Americans’ electronic communications. That incident is only part of Comey’s record at DOJ which includes his support of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. In her article at The Guardian, Laura Murphy reviews Comey stands on these issues and questions just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it?

On Torture

On 30 December 2004, a memo addressed to James Comey was issued that superseded the infamous memo that defined torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure”. The memo to Comey seemed to renounce torture but did nothing of the sort. The key sentence in the opinion is tucked away in footnote 8. It concludes that the new Comey memo did not change the authorizations of interrogation tactics in any earlier memos.

In short, the memo Comey that approved gave a thumbs-up on waterboarding, wall slams, and other forms of torture – all violations of domestic and international law. [..]

On Warrantless Wiretapping

While, to his credit, (Comey) he immediately began raising concerns (pdf), the program was still in existence when the New York Times exposed it in December 2005. This was a year and a half after Comey’s hospital showdown with Gonzales and Card. In fact, the warrantless wiretapping program was supported by a May 2004 legal opinion (pdf) produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and signed off by Comey, which replaced the 2001 legal opinion Comey had problems with (pdf).

This, of course, raises the question: just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it? Last weekend, the Washington Post provided a new theory: the Marina program, which collects internet metadata. Now, the Senate has an opportunity to end the theorizing and find out what exactly Comey objected to.

On Indefinite Detention

The final stain on Comey’s record was his full-throated defense of the indefinite military detention of an American citizen arrested on American soil. In a June 2004 press conference, Comey told of Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida member accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb as well as blow up apartment buildings in an American city. By working for al-Qaida, Padilla, Comey argued, could be deprived of a lawyer and indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant on a military brig off the South Carolina coast for the purpose of extracting intelligence out of him

In a letter to Comey, two Democratic senators, Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, expressed concern on Wednesday about Mr. Comey’s views on waterboarding and his role in approving “enhanced interrogation techniques” while at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration. They are asking Comey to explain his e-mail of April, 2005, where he gave his approval of 13 interrogation techniques that included waterboarding.

. . Mr. Comey gave his assent to a Justice Department legal opinion that authorized the C.I.A. to use 13 interrogation methods, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation. The opinion “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

But he said in the e-mail that he disagreed with another legal opinion addressing the “combined effects” of the harsh methods, suggesting that their use in combination might be illegal. He recorded his views in e-mails to Chuck Rosenberg, then his chief of staff, as if deliberately creating a record in case his position might become relevant to his record in the future, as it has.

Appointing Comey to head the FBI is a another slap in the face to voters to whom Mr. Obama promised that he would end the Bush era abuses. Instead, Mr. Obama and his appointees not only continued these programs but covered up the wrong doing of the past, reinforcing and expanding the abuses.

This is what Barack believes.

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