Friday, June 29, 2007
"The Way To Stop Discriminating On The Basis Of Race, Is To Stop Discriminating On The Basis Of Race." - Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
A divided Supreme Court yesterday restricted the ability of public school districts to use race to determine which schools students can attend, a decision that could sharply limit integration programs across the nation.
The nine justices split decisively along ideological grounds, with a five-justice majority ruling that school admission programs in Seattle and Louisville violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection to individuals. Educators said the decision may lead many districts to drop efforts at racially balancing schools.
In a dramatic 45 minutes on the final day of the court's term, three justices took turns reading sometimes-biting opinions that portrayed the ruling as either the natural affirmation or a bitter betrayal of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision of 1954.The disturbing part of this decision is that the Conservatives seem to understand the purpose of the race based school plans is completely different than race based school plans that excluded children from schools, yet they fail to believe that there is anything that can be done about it.
This misreading seems to completely ignore INTENT which is a foundation of the American Legal System. The courts have been designed for intelligent discussion of the intentions of the actors that appear before it.
If you kill someone, a HUGE question asked by the legal system in America is WHY. Why did you shoot that man? "Well your honor, because he was raping and strangling a 6 year old girl" is a hugely different answer than "I shot him because he was black." The intentions of the actors matter.
The court today noted the INTENT of the school systems, "Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a plurality that included Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. "The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again -- even for very different reasons."
The statement "Even for very different reasons" clearly spells out that the Conservatives on the Court are well aware that the intentions of the school plans is not EXCLUSION but INCLUSION, which was a foundation of Brown v. Board of Education. The court ignores this distinction.
Roberts even wrote ""Simply because the school districts may seek a worthy goal does not mean they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it." This complete misunderstanding of the basic meaning of DISCRIMINATION by the Chief Justice is appalling. (Just for the record here's the definition: Discrimination- unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice.) The court acknowledges that prejudice isn't driving the school districts in these cases, but ignores it.
Justice Thomas took this smoke and mirrors concept one step further in a concurring opinion that the dissenters would "constitutionalize today's faddish social theories . . . if our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories." Apparently acknowledgment of the benefits of integration are "faddish social theories" according to Justice Thomas. By this reasoning, Justice Thomas should NEVER have been appointed to the bench. If race hadn't been a factor in George H.W. Bush's decision to appoint Justice Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall, then the current makeup of the Supreme Court would be all white. NO ONE would argue that Thomas was appointed because of his Judicial Qualifications alone. No one. And to ignore this mocks the appointment of Justice Thomas. He's a fraud.
Today's decision takes the concept of color blindness to a ridiculous level.
From now on when someone claims to have been discriminated on the basis of race, the court will be forced to ignore their race in making a decision on whether or not they have been discriminated against and ignore their race in fashioning a remedy. This is fucking ridiculous.
"The Way to Stop Discriminating on the Basis of Race, is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" is going to go down in history with some other famous appalling pronouncements of the court. Chief Justice Roberts willfully ignores the intent of the actors and labels the actions of the school boards "discrimination" when their actions weren't designed to discriminate, but to INTEGRATE. The Chief Justice has willfully perpetrated a FRAUD on the American public with his deceitful slight of hand.
What the New Bush Roberts Court was really trying to say was "Dear Black People, Shut Up and Quit Complaining. Discrimination no longer exists and is a figment of your imagination. Don't tell me you can PROVE that you've been discriminated against because when you bring it up my answer to you is going to be..... You're Black? I'm sorry, I don't see race. I'm colorblind."
Just my thoughts.
Hugs and Kisses,
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"I Like To Think I'm A Good Steward Of The Environment" - GWB
By Jo Becker and Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 27, 2007; Page A01
Sue Ellen Wooldridge, the 19th-ranking Interior Department official, arrived at her desk in Room 6140 a few months after Inauguration Day 2001. A phone message awaited her.
"This is Dick Cheney," said the man on her voice mail, Wooldridge recalled in an interview. "I understand you are the person handling this Klamath situation. Please call me at -- hmm, I guess I don't know my own number. I'm over at the White House."
Wooldridge wrote off the message as a prank. It was not. Cheney had reached far down the chain of command, on so unexpected a point of vice presidential concern, because he had spotted a political threat arriving on Wooldridge's desk.
In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.
Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.
First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.
Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.
Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.
The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.
By combining unwavering ideological positions -- such as the priority of economic interests over protected fish -- with a deep practical knowledge of the federal bureaucracy, Cheney has made an indelible mark on the administration's approach to everything from air and water quality to the preservation of national parks and forests.
It was Cheney's insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time, that led Christine Todd Whitman to resign as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, she said in an interview that provides the most detailed account so far of her departure.
The vice president also pushed to make Nevada's Yucca Mountain the nation's repository for nuclear and radioactive waste, aides said, a victory for the nuclear power industry over those with long-standing safety concerns. And his office was a powerful force behind the White House's decision to rewrite a Clinton-era land-protection measure that put nearly a third of the national forests off limits to logging, mining and most development, former Cheney staff members said.
Cheney's pro-business drive to ease regulations, however, has often set the administration on a collision course with the judicial branch.
The administration, for example, is appealing the order of a federal judge who reinstated the forest protections after she ruled that officials didn't adequately study the environmental consequences of giving states more development authority.
And in April, the Supreme Court rejected two other policies closely associated with Cheney. It rebuffed the effort, ongoing since Whitman's resignation, to loosen some rules under the Clean Air Act. The court also rebuked the administration for not regulating greenhouse gases associated with global warming, issuing its ruling less than two months after Cheney declared that "conflicting viewpoints" remain about the extent of the human contribution to the problem.
In the latter case, Cheney made his environmental views clear in public. But with some notable exceptions, he generally has preferred to operate with stealth, aided by loyalists who owe him for their careers.
When the vice president got wind of a petition to list the cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park as a protected species, his office turned to one of his former congressional aides.
The aide, Paul Hoffman, landed his job as deputy assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife after Cheney recommended him. In an interview, Hoffman said the vice president knew that listing the cutthroat trout would harm the recreational fishing industry in his home state of Wyoming and that he "followed the issue closely." In 2001 and again in 2006, Hoffman's agency declined to list the trout as threatened.
Hoffman also was well positioned to help his former boss with what Cheney aides said was one of the vice president's pet peeves: the Clinton-era ban on snowmobiling in national parks. "He impressed upon us that so many people enjoyed snowmobiling in the Tetons," former Cheney aide Ron Christie said.
With Cheney's encouragement, the administration lifted the ban in 2002, and Hoffman followed up in 2005 by writing a proposal to fundamentally change the way national parks are managed. That plan, which would have emphasized recreational use over conservation, attracted so much opposition from park managers and the public that the Interior Department withdrew it. Still, the Bush administration continues to press for expanded snowmobile access, despite numerous studies showing that the vehicles harm the parks' environment and polls showing majority support for the ban.
Hoffman, now in another job at the Interior Department, said Cheney never told him what to do on either issue -- he didn't have to.
"His genius," Hoffman said, is that "he builds networks and puts the right people in the right places, and then trusts them to make well-informed decisions that comport with his overall vision."
Robert F. Smith had grown desperate by the time he turned to the vice president for help.
The former Republican congressman from Oregon represented farmers in the Klamath basin who had relied on a government-operated complex of dams and canals built almost a century ago along the Oregon-California border to irrigate nearly a quarter-million acres of arid land.
In April 2001, with the region gripped by the worst drought in memory, the spigot was shut off.
Studies by the federal government's scientists concluded unequivocally that diverting water would harm two federally protected species of fish, violating the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Bureau of Reclamation was forced to declare that farmers must go without in order to maintain higher water levels so that two types of suckerfish in Upper Klamath Lake and the coho salmon that spawn in the Klamath River could survive the dry spell.
Farmers and their families, furious and fearing for their livelihoods, formed a symbolic 10,000-person bucket brigade. Then they took saws and blowtorches to dam gates, clashing with U.S. marshals as water streamed into the canals that fed their withering fields, before the government stopped the flow again.
What they didn't know was that the vice president was already on the case.
Smith had served with Cheney on the House Interior Committee in the 1980s, and the former congressman said he turned to the vice president because he knew him as a man of the West who didn't take kindly to federal bureaucrats meddling with private use of public land. "He saw, as every other person did, what a ridiculous disaster shutting off the water was," Smith said.
Cheney recognized, even before the shut-off and long before others at the White House, that what "at first blush didn't seem like a big deal" had "a lot of political ramifications," said Dylan Glenn, a former aide to President Bush.
Bush and Cheney couldn't afford to anger thousands of solidly Republican farmers and ranchers during the midterm elections and beyond. The case also was rapidly becoming a test for conservatives nationwide of the administration's commitment to fixing what they saw as an imbalance between conservation and economics.
"What does the law say?" Christie, the former aide, recalled the vice president asking. "Isn't there some way around it?"
Next, Cheney called Wooldridge, who was then deputy chief of staff to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and the woman handling the Klamath situation.
Aides praise Cheney's habit of reaching down to officials who are best informed on a subject he is tackling. But the effect of his calls often leads those mid-level officials scrambling to do what they presume to be his bidding.
That's what happened when a mortified Wooldridge finally returned the vice president's call, after receiving a tart follow-up inquiry from one of his aides. Cheney, she said, "was coming from the perspective that the farmers had to be able to farm -- that was his concern. The fact that the vice president was interested meant that everyone paid attention."
Cheney made sure that attention did not wander. He had Wooldridge brief his staff weekly and, Smith said, he also called the interior secretary directly.
"For months and months, at almost every briefing it was 'Sir, here's where we stand on the Klamath basin,'" recalled Christie, who is now a lobbyist. "His hands-on involvement, it's safe to say, elevated the issue."
'Let the Water Flow'
There was, as it happened, an established exemption to the Endangered Species Act.
A rarely invoked panel of seven Cabinet officials, known informally as the "God Squad," is empowered by the statute to determine that economic hardship outweighs the benefit of protecting threatened wildlife. But after discussing the option with Smith, Cheney rejected that course. He had another idea, one that would not put the administration on record as advocating the extinction of endangered or threatened species.
The thing to do, Cheney told Smith, was to get science on the side of the farmers. And the way to do that was to ask the National Academy of Sciences to scrutinize the work of the federal biologists who wanted to protect the fish.
Smith said he told Cheney that he thought that was a roll of the dice. Academy panels are independently appointed, receive no payment and must reach a conclusion that can withstand peer review.
"It worried me that these are individuals who are unreachable," Smith said of the academy members. But Cheney was firm, expressing no such concerns about the result. "He felt we had to match the science."
Smith also wasn't sure that the Klamath case -- "a small place in a small corner of the country" -- would meet the science academy's rigorous internal process for deciding what to study. Cheney took care of that. "He called them and said, 'Please look at this, it's important,'" Smith said. "Everyone just went flying at it."
William Kearney, a spokesman for the National Academies, said he was unaware of any direct contact from Cheney on the matter. The official request came from the Interior Department, he said.
It was Norton who announced the review, and it was Bush and his political adviser Karl Rove who traveled to Oregon in February 2002 to assure farmers that they had the administration's support. A month later, Cheney got what he wanted when the science academy delivered a preliminary report finding "no substantial scientific foundation" to justify withholding water from the farmers.
There was not enough clear evidence that proposed higher lake levels would benefit suckerfish, the report found. And it hypothesized that the practice of releasing warm lake water into the river during spawning season might do more harm than good to the coho, which thrive in lower temperatures. [Read the report.]
Norton flew to Klamath Falls in March to open the head gate as farmers chanted "Let the water flow!" And seizing on the report's draft findings, the Bureau of Reclamation immediately submitted a new decade-long plan to give the farmers their full share of water.
When the lead biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service team critiqued the science academy's report in a draft opinion objecting to the plan, the critique was edited out by superiors and his objections were overruled, he said. The biologist, Michael Kelly, who has since quit the federal agency, said in a whistle-blower claim that it was clear to him that "someone at a higher level" had ordered his agency to endorse the proposal regardless of the consequences to the fish.
Months later, the first of an estimated 77,000 dead salmon began washing up on the banks of the warm, slow-moving river. Not only were threatened coho dying -- so were chinook salmon, the staple of commercial fishing in Oregon and Northern California. State and federal biologists soon concluded that the diversion of water to farms was at least partly responsible.
Fishermen filed lawsuits and courts ruled that the new irrigation plan violated the Endangered Species Act. Echoing Kelly's objections, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit observed that the 10-year plan wouldn't provide enough water for the fish until year nine. By then, the 2005 opinion said, "all the water in the world" could not save the fish, "for there will be none to protect." In March 2006, a federal judge prohibited the government from diverting water for agricultural use whenever water levels dropped beneath a certain point.
Last summer, the federal government declared a "commercial fishery failure" on the West Coast after several years of poor chinook returns virtually shut down the industry, opening the way for Congress to approve more than $60 million in disaster aid to help fishermen recover their losses. That came on top of the $15 million that the government has paid Klamath farmers since 2002 not to farm, in order to reduce demand.
The science academy panel, in its final report, acknowledged that its draft report was "controversial," but it stood by its conclusions. Instead of focusing on the irrigation spigot, it recommended broad and expensive changes to improve fish habitat. [Read the final report]
"The farmers were grateful for our decision, but we made the decision based on the scientific outcome," said the panel chairman, William Lewis, a biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "It just so happened the outcome favored the farmers."
But J.B. Ruhl, another member of the panel and a Florida State University law professor who specializes in endangered species cases, said the Bureau of Reclamation went "too far," making judgments that were not backed up by the academy's draft report. "The approach they took was inviting criticism," Ruhl said, "and I didn't think it was supported by our recommendations."
Whitman, then head of the EPA, was on vacation with her family in Colorado when her cellphone rang. The vice president was on the line, and he was clearly irked.
Why was the agency dragging its feet on easing pollution rules for aging power and oil refinery plants?, Cheney wanted to know. An industry that had contributed heavily to the Bush-Cheney campaign was clamoring for change, and the vice president told Whitman that she "hadn't moved it fast enough," she recalled.
Whitman protested, warning Cheney that the administration had to proceed cautiously. It was August 2001, just seven months into the first term. We need to "document this according to the books," she said she told him, "so we don't look like we are ramrodding something through. Because it's going to court."
But the vice president's main concern was getting it done fast, she said, and "doing it in a way that didn't hamper industry."
At issue was a provision of the Clean Air Act known as the New Source Review, which requires older plants that belch millions of tons of smog and soot each year to install modern pollution controls when they are refurbished in a way that increases emissions.
Industry officials complained to the White House that even when they had merely performed routine maintenance and repairs, the Clinton administration hit them with violations and multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Cheney's energy task force ordered the EPA to reconsider the rule.
Whitman had already gone several rounds with the vice president over the issue.
She and Cheney first got to know each other in one of the Nixon administration's anti-poverty agencies, working under Donald H. Rumsfeld. When Cheney offered her the job in the Bush administration, the former New Jersey governor marveled at how far both had come. But as with Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, another longtime friend who owed his Cabinet post to Cheney, Whitman's differences with the vice president would lead to her departure.
Sitting through Cheney's task force meetings, Whitman had been stunned by what she viewed as an unquestioned belief that EPA's regulations were primarily to blame for keeping companies from building new power plants. "I was upset, mad, offended that there seemed to be so much head-nodding around the table," she said.
Whitman said she had to fight "tooth and nail" to prevent Cheney's task force from handing over the job of reforming the New Source Review to the Energy Department, a battle she said she won only after appealing to White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. This was an environmental issue with major implications for air quality and health, she believed, and it shouldn't be driven by a task force primarily concerned with increasing production.
Whitman agreed that the exception for routine maintenance and repair needed to be clarified, but not in a way that undercut the ongoing Clinton-era lawsuits -- many of which had merit, she said.
Cheney listened to her arguments, and as usual didn't say much. Whitman said she also met with the president to "explain my concerns" and to offer an alternative.
She wanted to work a political trade with industry -- eliminating the New Source Review in return for support of Bush's 2002 "Clear Skies" initiative, which outlined a market-based approach to reducing emissions over time. But Clear Skies went nowhere. "There was never any follow-up," Whitman said, and moreover, there was no reason for industry to embrace even a modest pollution control initiative when the vice president was pushing to change the rules for nothing.
She decided to go back to Bush one last time. It was a crapshoot -- the EPA administrator had already been rolled by Cheney when the president reversed himself on a campaign promise to limit carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming -- so she came armed with a political argument.
Whitman said she plunked down two sets of folders filled with news clips. This one, she said, pointing to a stack about 2-1/2 inches thick, contained articles, mostly negative, about the administration's controversial proposal to suspend tough new standards governing arsenic in drinking water. And this one, she said as she pointed to a pile four or five times as thick, are the articles about the rules on aging power plants and refineries -- and the administration hadn't even done anything yet.
"If you think arsenic was bad," she recalled telling Bush, "look at what has already been written about this."
But Whitman left the meeting with the feeling that "the decision had already been made." Cheney had a clear mandate from the president on all things energy-related, she said, and while she could take her case directly to Bush, "you leave and the vice president's still there. So together, they would then shape policy."
What happened next was "a perfect example" of that, she said.
The EPA sent rule revisions to White House officials. The read-back was that they weren't happy and "wanted something that would be more pro-industry," she said.
The end result, which she said was written at the direction of the White House and announced in August 2003, vastly broadened the definition of routine maintenance. It allowed some of the nation's dirtiest plants to make major modifications without installing costly new pollution controls.
By that time, Whitman had already announced her resignation, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. But the real reason, she said, was the new rule.
"I just couldn't sign it," she said. "The president has a right to have an administrator who could defend it, and I just couldn't."
A federal appeals court has since found that the rule change violated the Clean Air Act. In their ruling, the judges said that the administration had redefined the law in a way that could be valid "only in a Humpty-Dumpty world."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Criminals in the White House: Bush Administration has Contempt for the Law. I say Impeach.
Coulter Continues to Spread Lies to the American Public, Chris Matthews Allows it.
On the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, right-wing pundit and syndicated columnist Ann Coulter falsely claimed that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "was working with Al Qaeda's top agents" and expressed surprise that host Chris Matthews "did not know that Saddam had sent his top agents to work with top agents from Al Qaeda." Coulter later compared Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's relationship with the Taliban to Saddam's relationship with Al Qaeda, saying, "Saddam was working with Al Qaeda, too!" However, investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9-11 Commission found no evidence of an operational relationship between Saddam's regime and the terrorist organization. During her Hardball appearance, Coulter also falsely asserted that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards "charge[d] a poverty group $50,000 for a speech" and that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) accused "evangelicals" of "hijacking America" in a June 23 speech.
Contrary to Coulter's claim that Hussein "was working with Al Qaeda" and that he "sent his top agents to work with top agents from Al Qaeda," a September 8, 2006, Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that "[p]ostwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support." The report further noted that "[p]ostwar information indicates there were three instances in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime." The committee cited a meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in 1995, in which the officer reportedly rebuffed the Al Qaeda leader's request for support. The committee also noted intelligence indicating that an Al Qaeda operative traveled to Iraq in 1998 and 2002 to request a meeting with Saddam, but was refused in both cases.
The 9-11 Commission similarly found "no evidence" that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda "developed into a collaborative operational relationship." Also, on April 5, the inspector general of the Defense Department declassified a report that reviewed the prewar intelligence-gathering activities conducted by the department's Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG), run by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith. The report noted that the PCTEG had released alternative intelligence assessments asserting that "Iraq has been complicit in supporting al-Qaida terrorist activities." The report went on to describe the office's intelligence handling as "inappropriate" and specifically rebutted its assertion of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. The report stated that "[t]he Intelligence Community discounted conclusions about the high degree of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida," adding in a footnote that it is "noteworthy" that the postwar debriefings of Saddam and other former high-ranking Iraqi government officials confirmed the intelligence community's assessment:
Noteworthy is that post-war debriefs of Saddam Hussein, [former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister] Tariq Aziz, [former Iraqi intelligence official Barzan Ibrahim Hasan] al-Tikriti, and [Al Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh] al-Libi as well as document exploitation by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories. The terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida were validated, "no conclusive signs," and "direct cooperation ... has not been established."
Coulter's made her false claim after Matthews noted that "40 percent of Americans believe that it was Iraq, Saddam Hussein, who attacked us on 9-11" and asked, "Does that concern you, that people are misinformed?" However, while Matthews prefaced the discussion by describing those who believe Saddam was behind 9-11 as "misinformed," he did not correct Coulter's subsequent false assertion Saddam "was working with Al Qaeda's top agents." Matthews clearly knew that was the case, having noted the Defense Department inspector general's report on the April 6 edition of Hardball, during which he asserted, "It's official. Saddam was not allied with Al Qaeda. Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11."
Later on the June 26 edition of Hardball, Coulter falsely claimed that Edwards "charge[d] a poverty group $50,000 for a speech." In fact, according to Edwards' personal financial disclosure for 2006, Edwards did not "charge a poverty group $50,000 for a speech."
According to that disclosure, Edwards received the following fees for speaking in 2006:
- $35,000 from the Hunter College Foundation Inc., City University of New York
- $32,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan
- $12,000 from the Gonzaga University Law School
- $32,000 from the International Housewares Association
- $16,000 from Mount Union College
- $32,000 from Regberg and Associates Inc.
- $40,000 from the Stanford in Government Public Policy Forum
- $32,000 from the Stanford Washington Research Group
- $44,000 from the University of California, Davis, Mondavi Center
- $40,000 from the University of Judaism
- $40,000 from the University of Texas-Pan American Foundation
- $40,000 from the Vanderbilt University Impact Series
- $20,000 from the Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference
Coulter was apparently distorting an earlier story about Edwards, noted by Media Matters for America, in which several media outlets reported that Edwards charged the University of California-Davis $55,000 for a January 2006 speech without noting that the cost was offset by ticket prices, according to the Edwards campaign.
Later in the program, Coulter falsely claimed that Obama "just gave this speech on evangelicals hijacking America." In fact, in the June 23 speech to which Coulter was apparently referring, Obama did not blame "evangelicals" for "hijacking America." Rather, he said "somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us." From the speech:
So doing the Lord's work is a thread that's run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means faith should have no role in public life. Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural without its reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's "I Have a Dream" speech without its reference to "all of God's children." Or President Kennedy's Inaugural without the words, "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." At each of these junctures, by summoning a higher truth and embracing a universal faith, our leaders inspired ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.
But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design. There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich. I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version.
As Media Matters noted, on the June 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, in reference to the same speech, Coulter said, "I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using 'hijack' and 'religion' in the same sentence."
Big Media Continues to Allow Republicans to LIE with impunity. Fred Thompson continues to LIE to the American Public.
Since April 2007, ABC Radio Networks has featured a daily commentary from former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), titled the "Fred Thompson Report." ABC Radio launched the "Fred Thompson Report" amid growing speculation that Thompson would run for president in 2008. When asked if he would run on the March 11 broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Thompson told host Chris Wallace: "I'm just going to wait and see what happens, as I say. I'm going to have my own thoughts about what's necessary to get the job done, be successful in doing it." Thompson's aides have since strongly indicated that he will, in fact, seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, claiming that Thompson has raised several million dollars and even suggesting the date of his official announcement. Thompson told the Associated Press on June 26: "You're either running or not running. I think the steps we're taking are pretty obvious." Nevertheless, ABC Radio continues to host his daily commentaries.
A Media Matters for America review of Thompson's commentaries for ABC Radio Networks revealed that he has repeatedly advanced conservative misinformation on a variety of issues. Recordings and transcripts of each "report" are available on ABCRadioNetworks.com.
Tax cuts and juvenile homicide
In his June 22 commentary, Thompson claimed that the Bush tax cuts have "been so good for our country in so many ways," adding: "Prosperity is a wonderful thing in many ways. When societies have strong economies, people voluntarily take care of all kinds of problems, and the quality of life improves for everybody. This may be particularly true for children." Thompson offered an example of the way in which the "prosperity" he attributed to the Bush tax cuts has benefited children:
THOMPSON: Since 1993, according to Justice Department statistics, the juvenile homicide rate was cut in half. For kids between the ages of 14 and 17, the reduction was even greater. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System shows child abuse declined by 43 percent and childhood sexual abuse by almost half. Sexual assaults against adolescents dropped by more than two thirds and aggravated assaults by almost 75 percent.
This is dramatically good news, especially for children and their parents. And the reasons behind these improvements in the lives of American children are linked to economic growth.
The irony is that we got these improvements in our children's lives from a strong economy driven by tax cuts.
According to Justice Department statistics, however, the drop in the juvenile homicide rate occurred almost entirely between 1993 and 2000 -- during the Clinton presidency, and before the Bush tax cuts. The homicide victimization rate per 100,000 population for children ages 14-17 in 1993 was 12.1 and dropped every following year to 4.8 in 2000. After 2000, the rate decreased to 4.3 in 2003, rising to 4.6 in 2004. Similarly, the homicide offending rate per 100,000 population for children ages 14-17 was 31.3 in 1993, and dipped every following year to 9.5 in 2000. After 2000, it lowered to 8.8 in 2003, then rose to 9.1 in 2004.
In his June 6 commentary, Thompson referred to the sentencing of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 30 months in prison as "the last in a series of acts that has resulted in a shocking injustice -- one created by and enabled by federal officials." Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements during the federal investigation into the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Thompson said of the Plame investigation:
THOMPSON: Nevertheless, the CIA demanded that the Department of Justice investigate the leak of her name. Not surprisingly, the fact that the CIA was making such a request was leaked. This put pressure on the DOJ. The DOJ, in turn, promptly caved to the media and congressional pressure to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the Plame leak. However, there were two glaring problems for anyone with a sense of justice, or who may have gone to law school for one semester.
The Justice Department and the new Special Counsel knew that:
1.) The leaking of Valerie Plame's name didn't constitute a crime because she was not a "covered person" under the relative criminal statue and,
2.) They already knew the name of the leaker: State Department official Richard Armitage.
Yet small matters such as these do not matter much to Justice Department officials trying to cover their own fanny, or to a newly minted Special Prosecutor with a reputation to make and members of the media to satisfy.
U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed Special Counsel by the Justice Department on December 30, 2003, and charged with investigating the Plame leak. Thompson's claim that the Justice Department or Fitzgerald "knew" before that time that the "leaking of Valerie Plame's name did not constitute a crime because she was not a 'covered person' under the relative criminal statue" -- presumably the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) -- is contradicted by a sentencing memorandum filed on May 25, in which Fitzgerald asserted that "[i]t was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute (Title 50, United States Code, Section 421) as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press."
Moreover, in a May 29 filing, Fitzgerald included an "unclassified summary" of Plame's CIA employment, which established that she had headed a counterproliferation operation focused on Iraq and had traveled overseas in an undercover capacity in the five years prior to the disclosure of her identity. From the document:
On 1 January 2002, Valerie Wilson was working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations (DO). She was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) at CIA Headquarters, where she served as the Chief of a CPD component with responsibility for weapons proliferation issues related to Iraq.
While assigned to CPD, Ms. Wilson engaged in temporary duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity -- sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official cover (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.
At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson's employment relationship with the CIA on 14 July 2003, Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.
Thompson's claim that the Justice Department and Fitzgerald "already knew the name of the leaker" echoed false claims that Armitage's role in the investigation exonerated Libby and other officials under scrutiny. As Media Matters noted, the fact that Armitage was the original source for columnist Robert D. Novak's original column revealing Plame's identity is not inconsistent with reports that Libby leaked Plame's identity to others before the Novak column -- specifically, to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Armitage was first publicly identified as Novak's source for Plame's identity in Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (Crown, 2006), by Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and The Nation Washington editor David Corn. Armitage confirmed that he was the source for Novak's July 14, 2003, column, which first identified Plame as a CIA operative. In a September 7, 2006, interview with CBS News, Armitage said that he went to the FBI in October 2003 and told investigators he was Novak's source.
In his April 13 commentary, Thompson mocked those who "think that our planet is suffering from a fever," saying:
THOMPSON: Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.
NASA says the Martian South Pole's ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter's caught the same cold, because it's warming up too, like Pluto.
This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.
Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn't even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There's a consensus.
Thompson's claims about "Martian warming" echoed what National Geographic described as "one scientist's controversial theory" stipulating that "global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun." As Media Matters noted, National Geographic reported that "Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia" noted that "2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey" show "that the carbon dioxide 'ice caps' near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row," and theorized that because warming is occurring naturally on Mars, warming on Earth might also be attributable to natural causes. According to the National Geographic article, "Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun's heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets." The article went on to report that Abdussamatov's theory has "not been well received by other climate scientists," and quoted "Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England's Oxford University" saying that Abdussamatov's "views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion." According to Wilson, they "contradict the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report." The article added that "[t]he conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet's orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun," and that "most scientists think it is pure coincidence that both planets are between ice ages right now."
THOMPSON: On the issue of Al Qaeda's relationship with Iraq, for example, Tenet said that the CIA had proof of Al Qaeda contact with Saddam's regime; that the regime had provided safe haven for Al Qaeda operatives and that Saddam had provided training assistance for Al Qaeda terrorists. He went on to say that the CIA had no proof that the relationship was operational or that they had any ongoing working relationship -- that it could have been that each side was just using the other. Maybe my recollection is faulty on this, but that doesn't seem to be inconsistent with what folks in the administration said. In other words, there was clearly contact and a relationship, but no one knew exactly what it meant.
In fact, administration officials -- Vice President Dick Cheney in particular -- frequently claimed direct connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and often suggested a link between Iraq and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As Media Matters noted, Cheney suggested that Iraq had been involved in the 9-11 attacks by repeatedly citing a Czech intelligence report that lead 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001, and claimed on the December 9, 2001, broadcast of Meet the Press that the report was "pretty well confirmed." Cheney continued to push the connection even after the 9-11 Commission concluded that "[w]e do not believe that such a meeting occurred," as The New York Times reported on June 18, 2004. In a June 14, 2004, speech, Cheney said that Saddam "had long established ties with Al Qaeda." The 9-11 Commission, however, found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Posted to the web on Wednesday June 27, 2007 at 1:06 PM EST
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
50 High School Presidential Scholars Sign Letter Urging Bush to Stop Torture. Bush the War Criminal Lied and Told them the U.S. Doesn't Torture.
WASHINGTON — President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.
The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.
"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.
The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.
The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation's highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.
"I know all of you worked hard to reach this day," Bush told the students in his education speech. "Your families are proud of your effort, and we welcome your family members here. Your teachers are proud of your effort, and we welcome your teachers. And our entire nation is proud to call you Presidential Scholar."
The scholars travel to Washington each June for seminars, lectures and workshops with government officials, elected representatives and others.
Punisher's Editors Note: Here's my Question for you right wing jackasses. If the U.S. "Doesn't Torture" they why are there so many of you right wing fascist fucks like Antonin Scalia trying to justify torture by saying "nobody would convict Jack Bauer," and by saying "if it saves lives we should do anything we have to do" and that kind of bullshit. If we don't torture, then why the post hoc justifications for torture? We're doing it, you know it, and that makes many in the Bush Administration War Criminals.
Bill O'Reilley Calls 16 Year Old a "Pinhead." If I ever see Bill O'Reilly on the street I'm gonna punch that jackass in the mouth.
Bill O'Reilly is in his element when it comes to badgering the children of 9/11 victims, accusing kidnapping victims of enjoying their captivity, and anything involving loofahs or falafels. But put him in front of an affable and articulate 16-year-old, and he turns to mush.
Last week, O'Reilly imploded during an interview with Jesse Lange, a rising junior at Boulder High School in Colorado (video above). He was on the program to address O'Reilly's criticism of the Boulder High sex-education program. Lange tells Radar that he knew he was brought on for an opposing view, but his main concern before the show was how to address O'Reilly. "I wasn't sure whether or not I should call him Bill or Mr. O'Reilly," Lange tells Radar. "In the end, I decided to call him Bill, because if I called him Mr. O'Reilly, it would imply that I viewed him as some sort of expert or authority figure." Lange also says that in a brief pre-show interview, O'Reilly asked him not to quote the incendiary parts from The O'Reilly Factor For Kids. "Bill expressly asked me not to talk about it on the air," he says, but the book was the perfect counterpoint to O'Reilly's thinly constructed premise.
When Lange did quote from the book, the hotheaded host got so defensive that he labeled Lange a "pinhead" and cut him off when he tried to read the kiddie propaganda book's inflammatory passages. (Fox even took it upon themselves to remove O'Reilly's "pinhead" remark from subsequent airings of the segment.)
As for what it's like being the kid who put a hurting on Bill O'Reilly, Lange says he is getting "a couple hundred Facebook requests a day" and letters from college professors, "just asking me to consider their schools when I apply to college." (He's also single, ladies.) As for any fallout with O'Reilly, Lange says Bill isn't so tough when he's not on the air, "He didn't say anything to me when the segment ended ... he just had his producers cut off my feed."
Monday, June 25, 2007
Tricky Dick Should Be Laughed Out Of Washington.
Dick Cheney sure loves to claim executive privilege. Remember this?
That refusal is expected to fuel political outcries that the administration is hiding information about its relationship with Enron Corp., and may prompt the General Accounting Office -- Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm -- to file a rare lawsuit against the White House.
Cheney, who was asked on Sunday-morning news programs to defend his position, said White House attorneys looked into the matter and concluded that documents gathered by the task force he headed are protected by the rules of executive privilege. -- Houston Chronicle, 2002
The Bush White House is ''particularly jealous" about keeping administration documents and decision-making from public view, Fortier said. He predicted that Cheney, who fought and won the right to keep the work of the energy task force secret, may well try to exert executive privilege if he is called to testify. -- Boston Globe, 2005
"Disclosure of the records at issue could reveal an ever-expanding mosaic that would allow observers to chart the course of vice presidential contacts and deliberations in unprecedented fashion," government attorneys argued in a brief filed yesterday. "Such an unwarranted intrusion into the most sensitive deliberations of the vice presidency cannot be countenanced." -- New York Sun, 2006
Well hold onto your hats and let the spin begin! It turns out that for the last four years, despite repeatedly claiming executive privilege to avoid having to do such annoying things as testify before Congress, Dick Cheney has been preventing the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office from performing a mandatory inspection of his office by claiming - get this - that he's not part of the Executive Branch. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Cheney has held that his office is not fully part of the executive branch of government despite the continued objections of the National Archives, which says his office's failure to demonstrate that it has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government's top secrets.
How convenient! The vice president is a member of the Executive Branch when he needs to claim executive privilege, but not a member of the Executive Branch when that would mean having to open his records to the National Archives.
You know, this kinda reminds me of the time in 2003 that Cheney said of Halliburton, "I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years," and then it turned out that just two years later his Halliburton stock options rose by 3,281%.
Talk about having your cake and eating it. (Or in Cheney's case, having your blood and drinking it.)
Thick as Thieves... Alberto Gonzales Covers Tricky Dick's Tracks.
July 2-9, 2007 issue - A new battle has erupted over Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to submit to an executive order requiring a government review of his handling of classified documents. But the dispute could also raise questions for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For the past four years, Cheney's office has failed to comply with an executive order requiring all federal offices—including those in the White House—to annually report to the National Archives on how they safeguard classified documents. Cheney's hard-line chief of staff, David Addington, has made the novel argument that the veep doesn't have to comply on the ground that, because the vice president also serves as president of the Senate, his office is not really part of the executive branch.
Cheney's position so frustrated J. William Leonard, the chief of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which enforces the order, that he complained in January to Gonzales. In a letter, Leonard wrote that Cheney's position was inconsistent with the "plain text reading" of the executive order and asked the attorney general for an official ruling. But Gonzales never responded, thereby permitting Cheney to continue blocking Leonard from conducting even a routine inspection of how the veep's office was handling classified documents, according to correspondence released by House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman.
Why didn't Gonzales act on Leonard's request? His aides assured reporters that Leonard's letter has been "under review" for the past five months—by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). But on June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had "no documents" on the matter, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NEWSWEEK. Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter "puzzling and inexplicable"—especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response "was and remains accurate" because Leonard's letter had generated no "substantive work product."
Waxman told NEWSWEEK he now plans to investigate the handling of the issue by Justice as well as Cheney's refusal to comply with the executive order, which he called part of a "pattern" of stonewalling by the veep. Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said, "We're confident we are conducting the office properly under the law." She also pointed to comments by White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said that Bush, not the National Archives, was the "sole enforcer" of the executive order relating to classified information.
Dick Cheney: War Criminal. He makes Nixon look like a lightweight.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 25, 2007
Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby.
The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'" if interrogators confined themselves to treatment allowed by the Geneva Conventions.
From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion of prisoners in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.
Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.
A backlash beginning in 2004, after reports of abuse leaked out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, brought what appeared to be sharp reversals in courts and Congress -- for Cheney's claims of executive supremacy and for his unyielding defense of what he called "robust interrogation."
But a more careful look at the results suggests that Cheney won far more than he lost. Many of the harsh measures he championed, and some of the broadest principles undergirding them, have survived intact but out of public view.
The vice president's unseen victories attest to traits that are often ascribed to him but are hard to demonstrate from the public record: thoroughgoing secrecy, persistence of focus, tactical flexibility in service of fixed aims and close knowledge of the power map of government. On critical decisions for more than six years, Cheney has often controlled the pivot points -- tipping the outcome when he could, engineering stalemate when he could not and reopening debates that rivals thought were resolved.
"Once he's taken a position, I think that's it," said James A. Baker III, who has shared a hunting tent with Cheney more than once and worked with him under three presidents. "He has been pretty damn good at accumulating power, extraordinarily effective and adept at exercising power."
'At Any Time and in Any Place'
David S. Addington, Cheney's general counsel, set the new legal agenda in a blunt memorandum shortly after the CIA delegation returned to Langley. Geneva's "strict limits on questioning of enemy prisoners," he wrote on Jan. 25, 2002, hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."
No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk? Cheney's lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives "difficult to predict," might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials.
Geneva rules forbade not only torture but also, in equally categorical terms, the use of "violence," "cruel treatment" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" against a detainee "at any time and in any place whatsoever." The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony [Read the act]. The best defense against such a charge, Addington wrote, would combine a broad presidential directive for humane treatment, in general, with an assertion of unrestricted authority to make exceptions.
The vice president's counsel proposed that President Bush issue a carefully ambiguous directive. Detainees would be treated "humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of" the Geneva Conventions. When Bush issued his public decision two weeks later, on Feb. 7, 2002, he adopted Addington's formula -- with all its room for maneuver -- verbatim.
In a radio interview last fall, Cheney said, "We don't torture." What he did not acknowledge, according to Alberto J. Mora, who served then as the Bush-appointed Navy general counsel, was that the new legal framework was designed specifically to avoid a ban on cruelty. In international law, Mora said, cruelty is defined as "the imposition of severe physical or mental pain or suffering." He added: "Torture is an extreme version of cruelty."
How extreme? Yoo was summoned again to the White House in the early spring of 2002. This time the question was urgent. The CIA had captured Abu Zubaida, then believed to be a top al-Qaeda operative, on March 28, 2002. Case officers wanted to know "what the legal limits of interrogation are," Yoo said.
This previously unreported meeting sheds light on the origins of one of the Bush administration's most controversial claims. The Justice Department delivered a classified opinion on Aug. 1, 2002, stating that the U.S. law against torture "prohibits only the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and therefore permits many others. [Read the opinion] Distributed under the signature of Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the opinion also narrowed the definition of "torture" to mean only suffering "equivalent in intensity" to the pain of "organ failure ..... or even death."
When news accounts unearthed that opinion nearly two years later, the White House repudiated its contents. Some officials described it as hypothetical, without disclosing that the opinion was written in response to specific questions from the CIA. Administration officials attributed authorship to Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who had come to serve in the Office of Legal Counsel.
But the "torture memo," as it became widely known, was not Yoo's work alone. In an interview, Yoo said that Addington, as well as Gonzales and deputy White House counsel Timothy E. Flanigan, contributed to the analysis.
The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line into torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."
That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA -- including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government has prosecuted as a war crime since at least 1901. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.
Yoo said for the first time in an interview that he verbally warned lawyers for the president, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that it would be a risky policy to permit military interrogators to use the harshest techniques, because the armed services, vastly larger than the CIA, could overuse the tools or exceed the limits. "I always thought that only the CIA should do this, but people at the White House and at DOD felt differently," Yoo said. The migration of those techniques from the CIA to the military, and from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, aroused worldwide condemnation when abuse by U.S. troops was exposed.
Through is spokeswoman, Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales declined a request for an interview about his time in the White House counsel's office and his interactions with Cheney. The vice president's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, declined to comment on Yoo's recollection.
On June 8, 2004, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell learned of the two-year-old torture memo for the first time from an article in The Washington Post [Read the article]. According to a former White House official with firsthand knowledge, they confronted Gonzales together in his office.
Rice "very angrily said there would be no more secret opinions on international and national security law," the official said, adding that she threatened to take the matter to the president if Gonzales kept them out of the loop again. Powell remarked admiringly, as they emerged, that Rice dressed down the president's lawyer "in full Nurse Ratched mode," a reference to the head nurse of the mental hospital in the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Neither of them took their objections to Cheney, the official said, a much more dangerous course.
'His Client, the Vice President'
In the summer and fall of 2002, some of the Bush administration's leading lawyers began to warn that Cheney and his Pentagon allies had set the government on a path for defeat in court. As the judicial branch took up challenges to the president's assertion of wartime power, Justice Department lawyers increasingly found themselves defending what they believed to be losing positions -- directed by the vice president and his staff. One of the uneasy lawyers was Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson , a conservative stalwart whose wife, Barbara, had died on Sept. 11, 2001 when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Olson shared Cheney's robust view of executive authority, but his job was to win cases. Two that particularly worried him involved U.S. citizens -- Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi -- who had been declared enemy combatants and denied access to lawyers.
Federal courts, Olson argued, would not go along with that. But the CIA and military interrogators opposed any outside contact, fearing relief from the isolation and dependence that they relied upon to break the will of suspected terrorists.
Flanigan said that Addington's personal views leaned more toward Olson than against him, but that Addington beat back the proposal to grant detainees access to lawyers, "because that was the position of his client, the vice president."
Decision time came in a heated meeting in Gonzales's corner office on the West Wing's second floor, according to four officials with direct knowledge, none of whom agreed to be quoted by name about confidential legal deliberations. Olson was backed by associate White House counsel Bradford A. Berenson , a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Berenson told colleagues that the court's swing voter would never accept absolute presidential discretion to declare a U.S. citizen an enemy and lock him up without giving him an opportunity to be represented and heard. Another former Kennedy clerk, White House lawyer Brett Kavanaugh, had made the same argument earlier.
Addington accused Berenson of surrendering executive power on a fool's prophecy about an inscrutable court. Berenson accused Addington of "know-nothingness."
Gonzales listened quietly as the Justice Department and his own staff lined up against Addington. Then he decided in favor of Cheney's lawyer.
John D. Ashcroft, who was attorney general at the time, declined to discuss details of the dispute but said the vice president's views "carried a great deal of weight. He was the E.F. Hutton in the room. When he talked, everybody would listen." Cheney, he said, "compelled people to think carefully about whatever he mentioned."
When a U.S. District Court ruled several months later that Padilla had a right to counsel, Cheney's office insisted on sending Olson's deputy, Paul Clement, on what Justice Department lawyers called "a suicide mission": to tell Judge Michael B. Mukasey that he had erred so grossly that he should retract his decision. Mukasey derided the government's "pinched legalism" and added acidly that his order was "not a suggestion or request."
Cheney's strategy fared worse in the Supreme Court, where two cases arrived for oral argument alongside Padilla's on April 28, 2004.
For months, Olson and his Justice Department colleagues had pleaded for modest shifts that would shore up the government's position. Hamdi, the American, had languished in a Navy brig for two and a half years with out a hearing or a lawyer. Shafiq Rasul, a British citizen at Guantanamo Bay, had been held even longer. Olson could make Cheney's argument that courts had no jurisdiction, but he wanted to "show them that you at least have some system of due process in place" to ensure against wrongful detention, according to a senior Justice Department official who closely followed the debates.
Addington, the vice president's counsel fought and won again. He argued that any declaration of binding rules would restrict the freedom of future presidents and open the door to further lawsuits. On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in the Hamdi case that detainees must have a lawyer and an opportunity to challenge their status as enemy combatants before a "neutral decision maker." The Rasul decision, the same day, held 6 to 3 that Guantanamo Bay is not beyond the reach of federal law.
Eleven days later, Olson stepped down as solicitor general. His deputy succeeded him. What came next was a reminder that it does not pay to cross swords with the vice president.
Ashcroft, with support from Gonzales, proposed a lawyer named Patrick Philbin for deputy solicitor general. Philbin was among the authors of the post-Sept. 11 legal revolution, devising arguments to defend Cheney's military commissions and the denial of habeas corpus rights at Guantanamo Bay. But he had tangled with the vice president's office now and then, objecting to the private legal channel between Addington and Yoo and raising questions about domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
Cheney's lawyer passed word that Philbin was an unsatisfactory choice. The attorney general and White House counsel abandoned their candidate.
"OVP plays hardball," said a high-ranking former official who followed the episode, referring to the office of the vice president. "No one would defend Philbin."
Rumsfeld, Cheney's longtime friend and mentor, gathered his senior subordinates at the Pentagon in the summer of 2005. He warned them to steer clear of Senate Republicans John McCain, John W. Warner and Lindsay O. Graham, who were drafting a bill to govern the handling of terrorism suspects.
"Rumsfeld made clear, emphatically, that the vice president had the lead on this issue," said a former Pentagon official with direct knowledge.
Though his fingerprints were not apparent, Cheney had already staked out a categorical position for the president. It came in a last-minute insert to a "statement of administration policy" by the Office of Management and Budget, where Nancy Dorn, Cheney's former chief of legislative affairs, was deputy director. Without normal staff clearance, according to two Bush administration officials, the vice president's lawyer added a paragraph -- just before publication on July 21, 2005 -- to the OMB's authoritative guidance on the 2006 defense spending bill [Read the document].
"The Administration strongly opposes" any amendment to "regulate the detention, treatment or trial of terrorists captured in the war on terror," the statement said. Before most Bush administration officials even became aware that the subject was under White House review, Addington wrote that "the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto" any such bill.
Among those taken unawares was Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England. More than a year had passed since Bush expressed "deep disgust" over the abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib, and England told aides it was past time to issue clear rules for U.S. troops.
In late August 2005, England called a meeting of nearly three dozen Pentagon officials, including the vice chief and top uniformed lawyer for each military branch. Matthew Waxman, the deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, set the agenda.
Waxman said that the president's broadly stated order of Feb. 7, 2002 -- which called for humane treatment, "subject to military necessity" -- had left U.S. forces unsure about how to behave. The Defense Department, he said, should clarify its bedrock legal requirements with a directive incorporating the language of Geneva's Common Article 3 [Read Common Article 3]. That was exactly the language -- prohibiting cruel, violent, humiliating and degrading treatment -- that Cheney had spent three years expunging from U.S. policy.
"Every vice chief came out strongly in favor, as did every JAG," or judge advocate general, recalled Mora, who was Navy general counsel at the time.
William J. Haynes II, a close friend of Addington's who served as Rumsfeld's general counsel, was one of two holdouts in the room. The other was Stephen A. Cambone, Rumsfeld's undersecretary for intelligence.
Waxman, believing his opponents isolated, circulated a draft of DOD Directive 2310. Within a few days, Addington and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, invited Waxman for a visit.
According to Mora, Waxman returned from the meeting with the message that his draft was "unacceptable to the vice president's office." Another defense official, who made notes of Waxman's report, said Cheney's lawyer ridiculed the vagueness of the Geneva ban on "outrages upon personal dignity," saying it would leave U.S. troops timid in the face of unpredictable legal risk. When Waxman replied that the official White House policy was far more opaque, according to the report, Addington accused him of trying to replace the president's decision with his own.
"The impact of that meeting is that Directive 2310 died," Mora said.
'Total Indifference to Public Opinion'
Over the next 12 months, Congress and the Supreme Court imposed many of the restrictions that Cheney had squelched.
"The irony with the Cheney crowd pushing the envelope on presidential power is that the president has now ended up with lesser powers than he would have had if they had made less extravagant, monarchical claims," said Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan.
Flanigan, a founding member of that crowd, said he still believes that Addington and Yoo were right in their "application of generally accepted constitutional principles." But he acknowledged that many battles ended badly. "The Supreme Court," Flanigan said, "decided to change the rules."
Even so, Cheney's losses were not always as they appeared.
On Oct. 5, 2005, the Senate voted 90 to 9 in favor of McCain's Detainee Treatment Act, which included the Geneva language [Read the bill]. It was, by any measure, a rebuke to Cheney. Bush signed the bill into law. "Well, I don't win all the arguments," Cheney told the Wall Street Journal.
Yet he and Addington found a roundabout path to the exceptions they sought for the CIA, as allies in Congress made little-noticed adjustments to the bill.
The final measure confined only the Defense Department to the list of interrogation techniques specified in a new Army field manual. No techniques were specified for CIA officers, who were forbidden only in general terms to employ "cruel" or "inhuman" methods. Crucially, the new law said those words would be interpreted in light of U.S. constitutional law. That made a big difference to Cheney.
The Supreme Court has defined cruelty as an act that "shocks the conscience" under the circumstances. Addington suggested, according to another government lawyer, that harsh methods would be far less shocking under circumstances involving a mass-casualty terrorist threat. Cheney may have alluded to that advice in an interview with ABC's "Nightline" on Dec. 18, 2005, saying that "what shocks the conscience" is to some extent "in the eye of the beholder."
Eager to put detainee scandals behind them, Bush's advisers spent days composing a statement in which the president would declare support for the veto-proof bill on detainee treatment. Hours before Bush signed it into law on Dec. 30, 2005, Cheney's lawyer intercepted the accompanying statement "and just literally takes his red pen all the way through it," according to an official with firsthand knowledge.
Addington substituted a single sentence. Bush, he wrote, would interpret the law "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief."
Cheney's office had used that technique often. Like his boss, Addington disdained what he called "interagency treaties," one official said. He had no qualms about discarding language "agreed between Cabinet secretaries," the official said.
Top officials from the CIA, and the Justice, State and Defense departments unanimously opposed the substitution, according to two officials. John B. Bellinger III, the ranking national security lawyer at the White House, warned that Congress would view Addington's statement as a "stick in the eye" after weeks of consensus-building by national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.
None of that mattered. With Cheney's weight behind it, White House counsel Harriet E. Miers sent Addington's version to Bush for his signature.
"The only person in Washington who cares less about his public image than David Addington is Dick Cheney," said a former White House ally. "What both of them miss is that ..... in times of war, a prerequisite for success is people having confidence in their leadership. This is the great failure of the administration -- a complete and total indifference to public opinion."
'Almost Everything' Cheney Wanted
On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court struck its sharpest blow to the house that Cheney built, ruling 5 to 3 that the president had no lawful power to try alleged terrorists in military commissions [Read the opinion]. The tribunal order that Cheney brought to Bush's private dining room, and the game plan Cheney's lawyer wrote to defend it, fetched condemnation on disparate legal grounds. The majority relied, as Addington's critics foresaw, on Justice Kennedy's vote.
Not only did the court leave the president beholden to Congress for the authority to charge and punish terrorists, but it rejected a claim of implicit legislative consent that Bush was using elsewhere to justify electronic surveillance without a warrant. And not only did it find that Geneva's Common Article 3 protects "unlawful enemy combatants," but it also said that those protections -- including humane treatment and the right to a trial by "a regularly constituted court" -- were enforceable by federal judges in the United States.
The court's decision, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, was widely seen as a calamity for Cheney's war plan against al-Qaeda. As the Bush administration formed its response, the vice president's position appeared to decline further still.
White House strategists agreed that they had to submit legislation to undo the damage of the Hamdan case. Cheney and Addington, according to a former official with firsthand knowledge, favored a one-page bill. Their proposal would simply have stated that the Geneva Conventions confer no right of access to U.S. courts, stripped U.S. courts of jurisdiction over foreign nationals declared to be enemy combatants and affirmed the president's authority to create military commissions exactly as he had already done. Bush chose to spend the fall of 2006 negotiating a much more complex bill that became the Military Commissions Act.
The White House proposal, said Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, "did not come out exactly as the vice president would have wanted."
In another reversal for Cheney, Bush acknowledged publicly on Sept. 6 that the CIA maintained secret prisons overseas for senior al-Qaeda detainees, a subject on which he had held his silence since The Post disclosed them late in 2005. The president announced that he had emptied the "black sites" and transferred their prisoners to Guantanamo Bay to be tried.
The same week, almost exactly a year after the vice president's office shelved Waxman's Pentagon plan, Waxman's successor dusted it off. DOD Directive 2310.01E, the Department of Defense Detainee Program, included the verbatim text of Geneva's Common Article 3 and described it, as Waxman had, as "a minimum standard for the care and treatment of all detainees." [Read the directive] The new Army field manual, published with the directive, said that interrogators were forbidden to employ a long list of techniques that had been used against suspected terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001 -- including stripping, hooding, inflicting pain and forcing the performance of sex acts.
For all the apparent setbacks, close observers said, Cheney has preserved his top-priority tools in the "war on terror." After a private meeting with Cheney, one of them said, Bush decided not to promise that there would be no more black sites -- and seven months later, the White House acknowledged that secret detention had resumed.
The Military Commissions Act, passed by strong majorities of the Senate and House on Sept. 28 and 29, 2006, gave "the office of the vice president almost everything it wanted," said Yoo, who maintained his contact with Addington after returning to a tenured position at Berkeley.
The new law withstood its first Supreme Court challenge on April 2. It exempts CIA case officers and other government employees from prosecution for past war crimes or torture. Once again, an apparently technical provision held great importance to Cheney and his allies.
Without repealing the War Crimes Act, which imposes criminal penalties for grave breaches of Geneva's humane-treatment standards, Congress said the president, not the Supreme Court, has final authority to decide what the standards mean -- and whether they even apply.
'I'd Like to Close Guantanamo'
Air Force Two touched down in Sydney this past Feb. 24. Cheney had come to discuss Iraq. Prime Minister John Howard brought the conversation around to an Australian citizen who had unexpectedly become a political threat.
Under pressure at home, Howard said he told Cheney that there must be a trial "with no further delay" for David Hicks, 31, who was beginning his sixth year at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay. Five days later, Hicks was indicted as a war criminal. On March 26, he pleaded guilty to providing "material support" for terrorism.
At every stage since his capture, as he changed taxis at the Afghan-Pakistan border, Hicks had crossed a legal landscape that Cheney did more than anyone to reshape. He was Detainee 002 at Guantanamo Bay, arriving on opening day at an asserted no man's land beyond the reach of sovereign law. Interrogators questioned him under guidelines that gave legal cover to the infliction of pain and fear -- and, according to an affidavit filed by British lawyer Steven Grosz, Hicks was subjected to beatings, sodomy with a foreign object, sensory deprivation, disorienting drugs and prolonged shackling in painful positions.
The U.S. government denied those claims, and before accepting Hicks's guilty plea it required him to affirm that he had "never been illegally treated." But the tribunal's rules, written under principles Cheney advanced, would have allowed the Australian's conviction with evidence obtained entirely by "cruel, inhuman or degrading" techniques.
Shortly after Cheney returned from Australia, the Hicks case died with a whimper. The U.S. government abruptly shifted its stance in plea negotiations, dropping the sentence it offered from 20 years in prison to nine months if Hicks would say that he was guilty.
Only the dramatic shift to lenience, said Joshua Dratel, one of three defense lawyers, resolved the case in time to return Hicks to Australia before Howard faces reelection late this year. The deal, negotiated without the knowledge of the chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, was supervised by Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority over military commissions. Crawford received her three previous government jobs from then-Defense Secretary Cheney -- she was appointed as his special adviser, Pentagon inspector general and then judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Yet the tactical retreat on Hicks, according to Bush administration officials, diverted attention from the continuity of U.S. policy on detainees.
A year after Bush announced at a news conference that "I'd like to close Guantanamo," the camp remains open and has been expanded. Senior officials said Cheney, with few allies left, has turned back strong efforts -- by Rice, England, new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson, among others -- to give the president what he said he wants.
Cheney and his aides "didn't circumvent the process," one participant said. "They were just very effective in using it."
'This is a Dangerous World'
More than a year after Congress passed McCain-sponsored restrictions on the questioning of suspected terrorists, the Bush administration is still debating how far the CIA's interrogators may go in their effort to break down resistant detainees. Two officials said the vice president has deadlocked the debate.
Bush said last September that he would "work with" Congress to review "an alternative set of procedures" for "tough" -- but, he said, lawful -- interrogation. He did not promise to submit legislation or to report particulars to any oversight committee, and he has not done so.
Two questions remain, officials said. One involves techniques to be authorized now. The other is whether any technique should be explicitly forbidden.
According to participants in the debate, the vice president stands by the view that Bush need not honor any of the new judicial and legislative restrictions. His lawyer, they said, has recently restated Cheney's argument that when courts and Congress "purport to" limit the commander in chief's warmaking authority, he has the constitutional prerogative to disregard them.
If Cheney advocates a return to waterboarding, they said, they have not heard him say so. But his office has fought fiercely against an executive order or CIA directive that would make the technique illegal.
"That's just the vice president," said Gerson, the former speechwriter, referring to Cheney's October remark that "a dunk in the water" for terrorists -- a radio interviewer's term -- is "a no-brainer for me."
Gerson added: "It's principled. He's deeply conscious that this is a dangerous world, and he wants this president and future presidents to be able to deal with that. He feels very strongly about these things, and it's his great virtue and his weakness."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.