Posts Tagged ‘investigation’

Israeli general ‘tried to cover up truth about death of Rachel Corrie’

May 7, 2010

Israeli war hero accused of suppressing testimony that could reveal what really happened to Gaza activist

By Ben Lynfield, The Independent/UK, May 7, 2010

The peace activist Rachel Corrie died on 16 March 2003

The peace activist Rachel Corrie died on 16 March 2003

Seven years after the American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza, evidence has emerged which appears to implicate Israel’s Gaza commander at the time, in an attempt to obstruct the official investigation into her death.

The alleged intervention of Major-General Doron Almog, then head of Israel’s southern command, is documented in testimony taken by Israeli military police a day after Ms Corrie was killed on March 16, 2003. The hand written affidavit, seen by The Independent, was submitted as evidence during a civil law suit being pursued by the Corrie family against the state of Israel.

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Cheney Is Wrong: There Is Precedent for the Torture Investigation

September 2, 2009
Steve Sheppard
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vice President Cheney has complained that the Attorney General’s new investigation of alleged torture during the Bush Administration is unprecedented. Cheney says that such an investigation is merely political, criminalizing a disagreement between Presidents over policy. He claims that no administration has investigated its predecessors’ crimes, and that it is wrong for the Obama Administration to break tradition.

Yet, as Cheney well knows, the United States has previously investigated criminal acts by officials, even White House officials. Indeed, such investigations – and the resulting prosecutions – are the duty of the White House.

Cheney’s Complaint and Its Echoes

On August 30, Cheney denounced Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to appoint a prosecutor to investigate allegations that Americans broke the law by torturing detainees. The former Vice President complained of “the terrible precedent it sets” to investigate agents because “when a new administration comes in, it becomes political. … I just think it’s an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration. ”

This charge has legs. Former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith similarly claimed, “Prosecutions would set the dangerous precedent that criminal law can be used to settle policy differences at the expense of career officers.” And Georgetown Law School’s Paul F. Rothstein suggested that “investigating the actions of a past presidential administration sets an uneasy legal precedent.”

Of course, Cheney has other arguments, which we’ve heard before: Arresting agents for breaking the law would be bad for morale, and they’d be less willing to break the law in the future. What was done wasn’t torture, and anyway it worked; and we need to use it a lot more often to stay safe. But the precedent claim is new, and it occupied much of Cheney’s attention on Sunday’s Fox News show.

Cheney argues that this investigation poses a new risk to our government. No U.S. president has overseen the investigation and – as Cheney predicts – the prosecution of the agents or officers of a prior administration. He sees this as a new precedent, and a bad one.

Yet Cheney is wrong. There are precedents. Moreover, there is a reason why there are so few: Most administrations investigate themselves, something the Bush Administration refused to do.

The Teapot Dome Investigation and Prosecutions

Albert Bacon Fall was a powerful Senator when he joined the cabinet of President Warren G. Harding in 1921. Fall became Secretary of the Interior and managed to acquire jurisdiction over the U.S. Navy’s oil reserve, consisting of oil pools in California and in the Teapot Dome formation in Wyoming. Fall gave non-competitive contracts to his friends in major oil companies, allowing them to drill without bidding for the right to do so. Secretary Fall argued that the leases were in the national interest; bids were unneeded owing to the reputation of the firms. Yet he failed to mention the $385,000 given to him by one of his friends at one of those very firms.

Harding died in 1923, and the following year, President Calvin Coolidge acted on a Senate committee recommendation to appoint special counsel to investigate the whole mess. Counsels Altee Pomerene and Owen Roberts were confirmed, after much debate in the Senate over their independence and qualifications. They brought two civil suits and six criminal actions, including three separate criminal cases against Secretary Fall. In the 1925 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in United States v. Albert Fall, Fall’s bribery conviction was upheld. He served nine months in prison.

Perhaps we should excuse Vice President Cheney for not remembering Teapot Dome. Yet it is harder to believe his memory failed him regarding prosecutions of members of an administration he himself investigated, for carrying out Presidential policies that amounted to criminal activities.

The Iran-Contra Investigation and Prosecutions

Elliot Abrams was Assistant Secretary of State from 1985 to 1989. He was the primary official in the State Department overseeing the work of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who supplied arms to Nicaraguan rebels in violation of the law. Abrams worked with Alan Friers at CIA, and sought funds for the Nicaraguan operation from the Sultan of Brunei – an effort about which Abrams misled Congress in 1986.

Both Abrams and Friers were investigated by Lawrence Walsh, as well as by congressional committees, one of which included an outraged Dick Cheney. Following Walsh’s indictments, both Abrams and Friers pled guilty to felonies in 1991. Abrams, however, was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

Though Walsh’s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair began in 1986 at the order of FBI Director William H. Webster, the investigation continued after President Reagan left office in January 1989. The specific determinations to focus the investigation upon and to indict Abrams and Friers were made during the next administration.

When One Administration Won’t Clean House, the Next Must

There are other precedents too, admittedly imperfect ones. For instance, while the timeline is different, and President Nixon’s own Attorney General started the Watergate investigation, there are parallels between aspects of the Watergate cases and Attorney General Holder’s new investigation. It’s important to recall that White House aides John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman and former Attorney General John Mitchell were pursued after Nixon left the White House, with each being convicted in 1975.

True, these are not many cases. One might wonder why so few administrations have initiated investigations of the wrongs of their predecessors.

The answer is that when other scandals arose, the administrations involved – and the Congress that was then in session – did not wait for the next administration. They investigated allegations and prosecuted their malefactors themselves. From Abraham Lincoln’s dismissal of Simon Cameron, to Ulysses Grant and the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872 or the Whiskey Ring of 1875, to the Veterans Bureau scandal of 1923, to the IRS scandal of the 1950s, allegations of wrongdoing were taken seriously by both the Congress and the President serving in the administration that was in office when the allegations were made. In these and many other cases, there was no need for the later administration to investigate, because, as with Watergate, the investigation was either already concluded or in full swing when the next administration took office.

True, not all claims of illegal official conduct are investigated. Yet the serious crimes that become known to the public often are. Only if one administration refuses to start an investigation, must its successor do so. So it is not the Obama administration’s action, but the second Bush administration’s omission, that should be the focus of criticism here.

The President is the Chief Executive, responsible for enforcing all the laws. That the laws were broken on the orders of a predecessor can be no excuse for not investigating their violation, and may be no excuse for not prosecuting if violations are found. The crime of torture, under 18 U.S.C. § 2340, is punishable by twenty years in prison or by execution of the torturer. Notably, the crime of torture can only be committed by a person acting under color of law. So Congress enacted a crime that can be committed only by the very same category of people that the Vice President is aggrieved even to see investigated.

This is not a question of policy. Even if there were no precedents at all, it would make no difference. Crimes are crimes, though they are committed by government agents or the Vice President’s allies. Ask Scooter Libby.

Dick Cheney may be forgiven his sketchy use of history, as long as we don’t accept his peculiar views of the past, or let them color our views of the future. Or of the law. After all, the former Vice President has many reasons not to want this particular investigation. Not the least reason, which he has yet to list, is that there may be more investigations to come.

Steve Sheppard is the Judge Enfield Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law and author of I Do Solemnly Swear: The Moral Obligations of Legal Officials, just released by Cambridge University Press, among other works..

Nadler: Obama Violating Law By Not Investigating Bush

August 21, 2009
by Sam Stein | The  Huffington Post, Aug 21, 2009

Obama Bush

Even as the issue of torture appears likely to burst back onto the public agenda next week — thanks to the much anticipated release of an internal CIA report — one of the most progressive voices in Congress is arguing that the Obama White House has a legal obligation to investigate the Bush torture legacy.

New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told the Huffington Post that he believed that President Obama would be breaking the law if he decided to oppose launching investigation into the authorization of torture.

“If they follow the law they have no choice,” Nadler said in an interview this past weekend.

The logic, for Nadler, is straightforward. As a signatory of the convention against torture, and as a result of the anti-torture act of 1996, the United States government is obligated to investigate accusations of torture when they occur in its jurisdiction.

The alternative, Nadler said, “would be violating the law. They would be not upholding the law; they would be violating it.”

Nadler said that a special prosecutor should handle the task, because some of the likely subjects of such an investigation worked in the Justice Department. “There is an inherent conflict interest,” said Nadler,” which is why you must appoint a special prosecutor. But, again, you have no choice because that’s the law.”

Respected by his colleagues as one of the sharpest legal minds in Congress, Nadler has taken a leading role in pushing the Obama administration to investigate its predecessor. Beyond the legal requirements, he argues that there is a moral and political imperative – lest the precedent be set that potential illegalities go un-probed. In recent weeks, Attorney General Eric Holder has hinted that he would support a special prosecutor to look into the narrow issue of whether some interrogators exceeded their instructions. But Nadler is far from satisfied with what he’s seeing from DOJ.

“[Holder] was strongly inclined to support a special prosecutor,” he said. “But not for the lawyers who wrote the memos justifying the torture, and not for anybody who acted within the scope of those memos; only for some local level guy who acted beyond the scope of those memos, who waterboarded with too much water or whatever.”

“You must not limit it that way,” he added. “Again it would be against the law to do it because you have got to investigate everybody involved in torture or in a conspiracy to order torture.”

But Nadler is no dupe. He recognizes that this matter is complicated by politics. He says his major concern is not whether the Obama administration sees the legal rationale for such an investigation, but rather whether it has the political fortitude for tackling such a task.

“If you start prosecuting the Bush people,” Nadler said, “you know what is going to be said? What’s going to be said is, this is politically motivated payback for the Clinton impeachment. That is what they are going to say.”

“And you know that if you do this, there is going to be a tremendous pushback starting with Fox News and everywhere else,” he added, “not on the merits but on the political motivation of the Obama administration for vengeance… Who needs that? So from a political point of view it is the last thing you want to do. From a point of view of reestablishing justice in this country, it is essential.”

Granai: anatomy of a massacre

August 19, 2009
Morning Star Online/UK, Tuesday 18 August 2009
Ian Sinclair

On May 4 the US bombed the village of Granai in Farah province, Afghanistan, killing 140 civilians according to the Afghanistan government, including approximately 90 children.

It was the single largest loss of life caused by US/NATO forces since the 2001 invasion.

President Hamid Karzai denounced the air strikes as “unjustifiable and unacceptable,” hundreds of people demonstrated in Kabul and in Farah city there was a riot outside the governor’s office and traders closed their shops in protest.

The US military initially claimed the civilians had been killed by grenades hurled by Taliban fighters. These assertions were shown to be false by eyewitness accounts and were quickly withdrawn.

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Congress not likely to form panel on alleged torture

April 25, 2009
Reid, Pelosi

Alex Brandon / Associated Press; David Paul Morris / Bloomberg News
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to let a Senate panel finish its work. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants an independent inquiry.
Alex Brandon / Associated Press; David Paul Morris / Bloomberg News
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to let a Senate panel finish its work. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants an independent inquiry.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama oppose the idea, but several prominent Democrats disagree.

Reporting from Washington — Congress is unlikely to form an independent panel to study the Bush administration’s program of harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects now that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have voiced opposition to the idea.

Reid (D-Nev.) said he preferred to allow the Senate Intelligence Committee to finish its investigation of the Bush-era practices before taking further action. That could take the rest of the year, he said. Different approaches for two men at center of 'torture memo' controversy

Obama told congressional leaders Thursday that he thought an independent inquiry would create a distraction from his legislative agenda.

Obama’s and Reid’s stances are at odds with those of several prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and liberal interest groups. Some have long been eager to investigate the Bush-era interrogation program, and possibly to prosecute lawyers and other officials who greenlighted it.

New details of the interrogation methods, which included waterboarding and other techniques some have labeled torture, came to light last week when Obama released legal memos from the Bush Justice Department that laid out some of the techniques and the legal rationale for them.

The new details had seemed to add momentum to the call for an independent commission, similar to the one that Congress created to study the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the government’s response to them.

For months, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for a so-called truth commission that would investigate the actions of officials in the White House, the Justice Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and other entities involved in the fight against terrorism.

Leahy said this week that such a commission would not target Bush officials for blame. “I’m not out just to hang a lot of scalps on the wall. I want to know exactly what happened so that it won’t happen again,” he told reporters.

Congressional investigations can carry risks for those who plan them, sometimes leading to unintended consequences. The Democratic Congress’ inquiry into the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s elevated Lt. Col. Oliver L. North into a folk hero.

A congressional inquiry might appear to the public as Democrats merely settling scores with the previous administration, said Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., chief counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice, a civil liberties think tank at New York University School of Law.

Schwarz was a lawyer to the 1970s Senate committee chaired by then-Sen. Frank Church that examined CIA abuses during the Cold War. He believes an independent commission would be better suited to investigate Bush-era anti-terrorism policy and would have more public credibility.

“If you are careful in doing that,” Schwarz said, “you are more likely to get people who will say: We’re looking at really important issues for the future of the United States.”

But such commissions pose their own problems. Although the Sept. 11 panel was largely considered a success, as a body outside government it had difficulty gaining the cooperation of federal agencies. Also, it lacked the ability to enact the reforms it advocated.

In its report, the 9/11 commission avoided assigning blame to individuals. One critic of a proposed panel to investigate interrogations during the Bush era says that would be impossible in this instance.

“It would be like a gigantic special counsel — even worse,” said David B. Rivkin Jr., an official in the George H.W. Bush administration. “It would just poison the atmosphere in Washington.” The end result, he said, would be laying the groundwork for criminal prosecution, either by the Justice Department or by an international tribunal.

Obama has left the question of criminal prosecutions of Bush-era officials to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. The Justice Department’s internal inquiry of its lawyers’ actions on terrorism policy could be made public within the next several weeks. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), has said he will launch his own inquiry after the Justice Department’s report is made public.

Peter Nicholas in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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