United States News Digest
Watergate Redux: Is the White House Planning a 'Saturday Night Massacre'?
Are Bush and Cheney planning a "Saturday Night Massacre" to get rid of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, just as Richard Nixon fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox?
In the Aug. 15 issue of Newsweek, reporter Michael Isikoffas have many othersraised the question of what will happen to Fitzgerald, who is investigating the illegal leaking of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, now that Deputy Attorney General James Comeywho appointed Fitzgerald, after Attorney General John Ashcroft was forced to recuse himselfhas left the Department of Justice. (According to some Washington insiders, Comey was actually fired, because he would not exercise his authority to rein in Fitzpatrick.)
Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is likely to be named Acting Deputy Attorney General, according to Isikoff, but he has his own conflicts, in that he is an old friend of George W. Bush, and shares membership with Bush in Yale's secret Skull & Bones society.
When Comey appointed Fitzgerald as special prosecutor in December 2003, he gave him extraordinary powers, but he also has the right to revoke his authority.
The Internet magazine Salon, on Aug. 9, said there have been rumblings on the blogs, that Bush might try to replace Fitzgerald when his term expires this fall. As one immediate parallel, Salon points to Bush's demoting of the Acting U.S. Attorney in Guam, who was investigating Jack Abramoff, the day after he had issued a subpoena for documents related to Abramoff's lobbying contract (an unrelated story on Abramoff appears below).
Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, says, in regard to the Newsweek report, that the replacement of Comey by Bush crony McCallum is of concern to him. Conyers said, "I will be looking into issues of oversight and recusal."
The case took a sudden turn on Friday, Aug. 12, when the Washington Post reported that Comey, who had been slated to remain at his position until October, "cleared out his desk" and left the office.
But before his sudden departure, Comey named David Margolis, a career Justice Dept. prosecutor, with over 40 years experience in the DoJ, to oversee Fitzgerald's investigation. Comey's appointment of Margolis obviously aimed at preempting any attempt by the Bush-Cheney (also, Rove-Libby) White House to shut down the probe.
One indication that the offensive against Fitzgerald by the White House is serious, is the report that Republican Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (Ill) was complaining that Fitzgerald was spending too much money on the investigation, and that it should be ended in September.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 9, Salon reported that four Congressional DemocratsJohn Conyers of Michigan, Louise Slaughter and Maurice Hinchey of New York, and Rush Holt of New Jersey, say that Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, should immediately provide jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller a personal waiver that would allow her to testify about their conversation. Miller is in jail on a contempt charge for failure to answer questions in the investigation of the leaking of the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Wilson.
"The President has promised that his administration will 'fully cooperate' with the investigation," the Democrats wrote. "We are concerned that your conduct may have fallen far short of the President's pledge of full cooperation. This is particularly important because the President has said he would only fire someone who actually committed a crime; your refusal to waive Ms. Miller's pledge of confidentiality is impeding the full cooperation that could lead to such an administrative sanction."
A Bad Day for Tom DeLay as Abramoff Is Indicted
August 11 was a bad day for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and his neo-con and Likudnik cronies, continuing a bad week of news for DeLay.
Federal prosecutors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., indicted a key DeLay associate, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, along with New York businessman Adam Kidan, on bank fraud charges. The charges stem from the September 2000 purchase by Abramoff and his partners of SunCruz Casinos from Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, and the alleged use of a fake wire transfer to defraud two lenders of some $60 million to finance the deal. SunCruz runs a fleet of gambling boats.
Abramoff is accused of using some of SunCruz's income to subsidize his fundraising endeavors, including purchase for private boxes at D.C.-area sports arenas to entertain major GOP donors and politicians. The Miami Herald Aug. 11 noted that Abramoff is also the target of a Federal probe into the millions of dollars he and a lobbyist partner raked in from casinos owned by Indian tribes, and that he is under scrutiny for his fundraising and other political activities on behalf of Tom DeLay. The Herald remarked that the today's indictment "represents only one of several potential serious legal problems for Abramoff and Kidan that stretch from South Florida to the Northeast," stating that police have been questioning them about the gangland-style murder of Boulis five months after selling the casino fleet to the Kidan group.
The Federal Election Commission announced the same day, that its audit of a committee founded by DeLay, Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, found that ARMPAC failed to report more than $300,000 in debts owed to vendors, and incorrectly paid for some activities with money from another DeLay-connected PAC.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, a Texas state district judge refused to dismiss charges of money laundering and accepting illegal contributions, against two DeLay associates. The accused, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, argued unsuccessfully that the charges were based on an unconstitutionally vague Texas law, and that the indictments were improperly worded. Colyandro worked for DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority, and Ellis for ARMPAC.
NIE Warned Bush: Regime Change in Iran Highly Unlikely
A NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) released last spring warned President George W. Bush that regime change in Iran was highly unlikely, and that Tehran's Mayor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had a good chance to win the Presidential election. The leak of this NIE report, following the release to the Washington Post last week of the associated NIE study denying Iran's capacity to build nuclear weapons for at least 10 years, is further evidence of institutional efforts to stop Vice President Dick Cheney's war plans. The report said that Iran was not in a "pre-revolutionary state" in regard to internal opposition to the regime. It also said that the campaign of Ahmadinejad, due to his campaign against corruption, had widespread popularity and could win the election.
Newsweek noted, in its Aug. 14 issue, that this report preceded Bush's call to support for the "Iranian people" who are standing up for "liberty," and Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-Pa) bill to fund the exiles instigating regime change.
Pentagon Steps Up War Planning for Continental U.S.
The U.S. Northern Command has developed the first-ever war plans for guarding against, and responding to, terrorist attacks inside the U.S., according to the Washington Post Aug. 8. The Post account states that the Pentagon, earlier this year, directed the Northern Command to plan for as many as three simultaneous attacks, and cites two classified documents: (1) CONPLAN 2002, which pulls together previously issued orders for homeland missions, regarding, air, sea, and land operations, and which covers preventive and deterrent actions, as well as post-attack responses. (2) CONPLAN 0500, which deals specifically with 15 potential crisis scenarios.
The strategy relies heavily on the use of National Guard troops (which are of course stretched very thin already due to the Iraq war), and active-duty forces, if needed.
Pentagon planners have told Congress they see no need to change the 1878 Posse Comitatus law, which prohibits the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, saying domestic military operations would be based on the President's Constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief. However, NorthCom chief Adm. Timothy Keating has left the door open to seeking an amendment of the Posse Comitatus statute.
In June, the Pentagon issued an unclassified document called "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support," which sets out the public version of how the Defense Department would take the lead in military missions inside the United States in the event of a terrorist or other attack, and circumstances in which the DOD would provide support to civil authorities. The document says that first, the military will attempt to deter attacks on the U.S. homeland, but if this fails, "we will also defeat direct threats within U.S. airspace and on U.S. territory."
The day after the Post report, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff took issue with the Pentagon's view, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that his department "has the responsibility under the President's directives to coordinate the entirety of the response to a terrorist act here in the United States."
These new plans appear to be an update of some old plans, particularly the 1960s-era "Operation Garden Plot"the still-active planning document for domestic military operations.
In 2002, Lyndon LaRouche warned that the establishment of the Northern Command was a preparatory step for a military dictatorship over North America and the Caribbean.