Longtime White Supremacist Opens Fire at DC Holocaust Museum, Killing Security Guard; Shooting is Third in as Many Months Linked to White Nationalist Groups
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Longtime White Supremacist Opens Fire at DC Holocaust Museum, Killing Security Guard; Shooting is Third in as Many Months Linked to White Nationalist GroupsJune 11, 2009
Published on Monday, April 13, 2009 by RebelReports
Will Obama Prosecute the Captured Somali ‘Pirate’ in a US Court?
Habeas rights have been trashed, prisoners have been tortured and held without trial for years at Gitmo and Bagram. Obama should finally show respect for the legal rights of prisoners held by the US.
The airwaves, newspapers and websites have been saturated with coverage of the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, the US citizen who was being held by four Somali “pirates” on a small lifeboat in the Indian Ocean, following the unsuccessful attempt by the Somalis to take control of the US-flagged vessel, the Maersk Alabama, a ship owned by a Pentagon contractor.
While details are still emerging, there are definitely some serious questions looming about how the decision to use lethal military force was put into play—in particular three key questions: 1. The legality of the killing of the three Somali men; 2. The political decision to kill them in light of long term potential consequences; and, 3: The legal status of the fourth Somali “pirate” allegedly in US custody.
First the background: We are told that on Friday, President Obama gave the military the green light to use lethal force to rescue Phillips. We also know that a group of “Somali elders” believed they were negotiating with the US to try to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Reports indicate that the Somali elders asked that the four Somalis be allowed to return freely to Somalia without being prosecuted in exchange for releasing Phillips. That was reportedly rejected by the US. On Sunday, the Somalis were told the negotiations were over and that the Americans “had another action.” Shortly after that, lethal force was used—with Navy SEAL snipers on board the USS Bainbridge shooting dead three of the Somali men. The Navy says the snipers took the action because they believed Phillips’s life was in “imminent danger”—this allegedly came when a Somali was pointing an AK-47 at Phillips’s back. A fourth Somali citizen is in custody, though it is unclear when exactly he was taken by the US. Reports indicate that he had been stabbed in the hand in the initial “pirate” raid on the Maersk Alabama and, before the Sunday raid, had voluntarily left the lifeboat holding Phillips to seek medical attention from the US warships and/or to negotiate with the US side.
I have been in touch with two well-respected legal scholars, Francis Boyle from the University of Illinois College of Law and Scott Horton, a military and constitutional law expert. Both agree that the US had legal justification to use lethal force against the “pirates.” Boyle said, “Technically, piracy is a felony under US law. And deadly force can be used against someone involved in the commission of an ongoing felony.”
For his part, Horton said: “The legal rule historically is that pirates on the high seas are fair game for any country’s military. In this case they kidnapped a captain and threatened to kill him, so the use of lethal force against them was fine from a legal perspective. (The bigger question was whether it was a wise thing to do, of course, but that requires an assessment of the entire tactical situation, about which I don’t know enough).”
On that question, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, head of the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, seemed to realize that there may be significant consequences for the decision to kill the Somali men. “This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” Gortney said. As Reuters reported, “Somali pirates have generally not harmed their hostages and officials fear they could now act more violently.”
As one “pirate” said, “The French and the Americans will regret starting this killing. We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now.” Another added, “As long as there is no just government in Somalia, we will still be the coast guard… If we get an American, we will take revenge.”
On the issue of jurisdiction to prosecute the fourth Somali “pirate,” Horton said, “Pirates can be tried anywhere that exercises jurisdiction. Here they attacked a US-flag vessel, which means that the United States would have criminal law jurisdiction if it chose to exercise it.”
There are certain to be calls from blood-thirsty lunatics to send this Somali man to Guantanamo or Bagram with right-wingers like Newt Gingrich and Cal Thomas wrapping this into their tired “Obama is weak on terror” narrative. As Thomas wrote last week on the Fox News website:
What will the Obama administration do if the pirates are captured alive? He won’t sent them to Gitmo, which he is closing down. Will they get ACLU lawyers? Will there be testimony from a “pirates rights” group? Will they be released on a technicality after a trial in U.S. courts? If there is not as forceful a response as there was during the Jefferson administration, it will invite more of these incidents. The world’s tyrants are watching to see how President Obama reacts. The message they get will determine how they respond to America and whether we will be in greater peril.
Indeed, The Wall Street Journal on Sunday called for the Somali man in custody to be “transferred to Guantanamo and held as an ‘enemy combatant,’ or whatever the Obama Administration prefers to call terrorists.” On this point, Horton points out an interesting distinction between the Obama and Bush administration positions on “pirates,” particularly as it relates to the “terrorist” label.
The big legal issue is surrounding calling them “terrorists,” which the Bushies did with regularity and Obama resisted. I think that Obama and his people are correct. These people were motivated by the desire to make money, pure and simple, which makes them conventional pirates. If they were labeled “terrorists,” the insurance company and the ship charter company wouldn’t be able to negotiate with them or make a payment. Pirates they can still pay off, which will often be the most sensible and least costly solution.
If the US decides to pursue prosecution of the Somali “pirate” in custody in a US court, he would obviously hopefully have a right to a defense (which would clearly enrage the crazies) and the nature of that defense could well depend on what type of legal counsel he ends up with and how his lawyers present the motives of his actions, as described to them, in attempting to seize the Maersk Alabama. This could be a major test of Obama’s legal interpretation of the rights of prisoners taken by the US in unusual circumstances (to put it mildly). In an era when due process has been trashed in the US and prisoners have been tortured at CIA “black sites” and held without trial for years at Guantanamo and elsewhere, Obama should allow exactly what Thomas and his ilk fear so much—respect for the legal rights of prisoners held by the US.
So what would a “pirate” defense actually look like? Remember, some Somalis—and other international observers— do not exactly see the “pirates” as being 100% unjustified in their actions. This form of “piracy” really escalated after the 1991 collapse of the Somali government and Western ships allegedly dumping waste off the Somali coast and devastating the Somali fishing industry, a primary source of income in the Somali coastal areas where many of the “pirates” are based.
If Obama elects not to take the terrible option of sending the man to Guantanamo, it will be interesting to see if Obama elects to bring him to the US or, as has been suggested by some, prosecute him in Kenya.
As Professor Boyle pointed out, “certainly if he were tried in a United States federal district court, he could try to make the points [about dumping, etc], which is why they might send him to Kenya to avoid all of that… If i remember correctly, under the Geneva Convention definition of piracy (which is not precisely the same thing as the federal statute), the crime of piracy must be for a private purpose, not a public purpose. So he might be able to raise these issues on the question of intent—that he acted for a public purpose, not a private purpose.”
Boyle later emailed me the following quote from St. Augustine:
Kingdoms without justice are similar to robber barons. And so if justice is left out, what are kingdoms except great robber bands? For what are robber bands except little kingdoms? The band also is a group of men governed by the orders of a leader, bound by a social compact, and its booty is divided according to a law agreed upon. If by repeatedly adding desperate men this plague grows to the point where it holds territory and establishes a fixed seat, seizes cities and subdues peoples, then it more conspicuously assumes the name of kingdom, and this name is now openly granted to it, not for any subtraction of cupidity, but by addition of impunity. For it was an elegant and true reply that was made to Alexander the Great by a certain pirate whom he had captured. When the king asked him what he was thinking of, that he should molest the sea, he said with defiant independence: “The same as you when you molest the world! Since I do this with a little ship I am called a pirate. You do it with a great fleet and are called an emperor.”
Jeremy Scahill is author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and a correspondent for Democracy Now!, as well as a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute. His website is RebelReports.com
by Jeff Adelson, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday November 12, 2008, 1:20 PM
In the wake of a weekend slaying tied to a Ku Klux Klan initiation ritual, Washington Parish authorities said they are surprised to learn the group was based in their area.
A Tulsa, Okla., woman who traveled to Louisiana to join the Ku Klux Klan was shot to death by the leader of the group’s Bogalusa chapter Sunday after she tried to back out of initiation rites at a remote, sandbar camp in northeastern St. Tammany Parish, authorities said Tuesday.
An investigation Monday resulted in the arrests of eight members of the Klan branch, which had flown under the radar of officials in St. Tammany and Washington parishes, investigators said. The suspects, all from the Bogalusa area, include Raymond “Chuck” Foster, who has been booked with murder in the shooting of the unidentified woman.
While investigators continue to probe whether the membership of the Sons of Dixie included anyone beyond the eight Bogalusa-area residents arrested Monday, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Shannon Lyons said it did not appear the group had an extensive reach or a significant organization.
“I just think they’re wannabes, simple-minded people,” Lyons said Wednesday.
Lyons reiterated his agency’s surprise to find a hate-group active in the parish. No hate crimes have been reported to the Sheriff’s Office and no other significant signs of Klan activity have been seen, he said.
“It was kind of a shock to us,” Lyons said.
“It’s a situation that almost defies logic, ” St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said Tuesday. “When you think you’ve seen it all, something like this occurs.”
The woman, still unidentified by midday Wednesday apparently learned about Foster’s group, the Sons of Dixie, through the Internet and applied so she could recruit others in Oklahoma, Strain said. Investigators have recovered the woman’s application to join the Klan and noted that she had requested that the organization waive its typical membership fee.
The woman came to Louisiana by bus on Friday to begin her initiation into the group, Strain said. After several rites, including a head-shaving, she was taken to a camp on a sandbar, accessible only by boat, in the Pearl River Canal near Sun.
The initiation continued at the campsite, with rituals that consisted mainly of lighting torches and “running around in the woods, ” Strain said.
Sunday night, the woman decided she wanted to leave the camp, sparking an argument with Foster that soon turned violent, Strain said. Foster pushed the woman down and, as the argument continued, he shot her with a .40-caliber handgun, the sheriff said.
Belongings set ablaze
Foster immediately moved to cover up the crime, Strain said. He quickly flipped the woman’s body over and tried to dig out the bullet with a knife before ordering his followers to destroy evidence, Strain said.
“That shows you the callousness of this individual, ” the sheriff said.
During the night, Klan members set fire to the woman’s belongings as well as the campsite and dumped her body near Lock No. 3 Road, about a half-mile from the shooting site, Strain said.
But it was the group’s effort to cover up the shooting that eventually put investigators on their trail.
Foster’s son, Shane Foster, and Frank Stafford showed up at the Circle K store on Louisiana 21 in Bogalusa early Monday morning and asked the clerk how they could remove bloodstains from their clothes, said Lt. Tom Anderson of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office. The clerk, who recognized the men, later called the Sheriff’s Office, and the men were soon found, Anderson said.
Alerted to the situation, St. Tammany Parish deputies then converged on the campsite while the remaining six Klan members fled. Deputies found the woman’s body and caught five of the suspects in the woods, Strain said. Foster turned himself in after being contacted by police, Strain said.
At the campsite, investigators found weapons, several flags, five white Klan uniforms and one black imperial wizard uniform. The uniforms are festooned with patches, including one that reads, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out, ” and a pin shaped liked a noose.
“I can’t imagine anyone feeling endangered or at risk from these kooks, ” Strain said. “This Sheriff’s Office will not allow it. We’re not going to tolerate this in St. Tammany.”
The Klan’s involvement came as a surprise to law enforcement in St. Tammany and Washington. Officials from both sheriff’s offices said they had not seen any significant crimes that could be attributed to the Klan, with Washington Parish Deputy Brian Davidson saying the most significant indication of activity in his parish was a single case of graffiti.
However, Strain and Davidson both said the revelation of this group will spur further investigation to determine the group’s membership and activities. Investigators have search warrants for the suspects’ homes that might provide more evidence of the group’s reach and intentions.
“How much of this is pageantry and how much of this is serious? It’s too early to tell, ” Strain said.
Foster was booked into the St. Tammany Parish jail in Covington on a charge of second-degree murder, which would carry a life sentence if he is convicted. He has a long criminal record, mostly in Washington Parish, including arrests on charges of manslaughter, aggravated and second-degree battery, burglary, identity theft, forgery and indecent behavior with a juvenile. The outcome of those charges could not be determined Tuesday.
Shane Foster, 20; Random Hines, 27; Danielle Jones, 23; Frank Stafford, 21; Alicia M. Watkins, 23; Timothy Michael Watkins, 30; and Andrew Yates, 20, were booked with obstruction of justice.
Criminal histories on these seven suspects were not immediately available.
Officials have alerted the FBI in case federal charges are appropriate.
Quiet, until now
Although Klan activity in Washington Parish led to some of the most horrific actions of the civil rights era, including the still-unsolved shooting of the first two black deputies in the parish, its recent history has been relatively quiet, according to an organization that tracks hate groups.
Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s investigative unit, said Klan activity throughout the state is relatively low. The organization did not know about the Sons of Dixie or any other Klan branches in Washington Parish before now, Potok said.
However, hate groups are on the rise nationwide, largely as a result of anti-immigration sentiment, Potok said. His organization is tracking about 888 groups across the country, a 48 percent increase from the number of active groups last year.
The particulars of this crime are unusual, he said.
“I’ve never seen a case like this, where a recruit was murdered because she tried to back out, ” said Potok, who has been investigating hate groups for more than 10 years.
Though the extent of the group’s activities remains unclear, Potok said the killing shows that a threat could come even from small, seemingly disorganized groups.
“It’s easy to dismiss these people as lunatics, the fringe of the fringe of the fringe, ” Potok said. “And while that’s often true, that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of killing someone or in some cases a great many people.”
Jeff Adelson can be reached at email@example.com or 985.645.2852.
Seamus Stout — Johnny Jump Up
Seamus Stout — Donald McGallavry
How do you White Nationalists explain this? You say you are not violent toward others or hate other races, yet the actions of people within your group are violent. It seems like you hate Catholics, Blacks, Native Americans, Mexicans, Jews, Gays, women who fight for equal rights, and Progressives/Liberals.
I hope the people behind this crime receive justice. Though I do admit justice doesn’t seem to matter anymore in this country. I remember years ago writing Justice doesn’t live in the United States anymore. I really believe that from what I have experienced in life. Truth and Justice died in the United States and have been replaced by lies and getting away with crimes.
The Arizona Republic
Native American shot in fight with White group
by Alyson Zepeda – Sept. 29, 2008
A Native American man was shot in the leg and two others were injured Sunday after several White males and females wearing “white pride” T-shirts attacked two of the men. A police bias crimes unit was investigating the case.
The two men, Native Americans ages 48 and 24, were walking home from a store near 48th Avenue and Thunderbird Road when they were confronted and assaulted by several White men and women about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Phoenix police said.
Relatives of the victims were nearby at a barbecue and heard them yelling for help. Two male relatives, 25 and 27, ran to intervene. The attackers retreated to a nearby house and one of the first victims, angry over the attack, followed to confront them, banging on the front door, authorities said.
One of the victim’s relatives attempted to pull the man pounding on the door away when several shots were fired from inside the house and the 48-year-old man was hit in the leg, police said.
Officials are aware of at least three suspects were still conducting interviews Monday afternoon to identify others involved. John Merek, 21, was booked into jail on one count of aggravated assault.
The case has been forwarded to a Bias Crimes Unit within the Phoenix Police Department, which is trained to identify and investigate hate crimes.
A hate crime is a crime that is motivated by dislike of a race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability sexual orientation or gender.
In Arizona a person convicted of a hate crime may face an increased sentence of up to 10 years.
Published on Monday, September 29, 2008 by The New York Times
No Charges Expected in Dismissal of Attorneys
by Eric Lichtblau
WASHINGTON – A Justice Department investigation offers a blistering critique of the political motivations that led to the firings of a group of United States attorneys in late 2006 but stops short of recommending criminal charges against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or others in the affair, officials said.
Mr. Gonzales, who resigned last year after coming under criticism because of the firings, has been the main focus of interest, in part because several members of Congress charged that he may have perjured himself in his testimony through his memory lapses and misstatements about the firings. (File photo)The Justice Department’s inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility have been investigating the firings since last year, trying to determine who in the Bush administration ordered the firings, whether the dismissals were intended to thwart investigations and whether anyone had broken the law in carrying out the firings or in testifying about them.
Officials with the department refused to discuss the report in advance of its scheduled release on Monday, though it has been the subject of Web reports since Friday. A lawyer for Mr. Gonzales declined to comment.
Mr. Gonzales, who resigned last year after coming under criticism because of the firings, has been the main focus of interest, in part because several members of Congress charged that he may have perjured himself in his testimony through his memory lapses and misstatements about the firings.
But officials with knowledge of the inspector general’s investigation and defense lawyers who have been involved in it said they did not expect that the investigation would recommend that criminal charges be pursued at this point against Mr. Gonzales or other officials. The report was expected to recommend that investigators continue to pursue some elements of the case, meaning that the legal questions around Mr. Gonzales would continue.
One former official with knowledge of the investigation, who like others spoke about the report only on condition of anonymity, said that much of the criticism in the findings was expected to center on Kyle Sampson, who was Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff and carried out the firings of eight prosecutors.
The report was also expected to produce evidence that Mr. Sampson was carrying out directives crafted by more senior officials, including Mr. Gonzales; Karl Rove, the former political adviser to President Bush; and Harriet E. Miers, a former White House counsel. A lawyer for Mr. Sampson declined to comment.
A lawyer with knowledge of the investigation said the report would not change the basic story line that the prosecutors, several of whom were working on sensitive public corruption cases, were fired in large part because they were not considered loyal team players who could faithfully carry out the White House’s agenda.
But the investigation did unearth some e-mail messages that were not disclosed to Congressional investigators during their own review of the controversy last year, the lawyer said, and that e-mail and other evidence are expected to shed new light on the motivations for the firings.
The dismissal that has drawn the most scrutiny is that of David C. Iglesias, who was fired as the United States attorney in New Mexico after clashing with Republicans over what they saw as his slow pursuit of Democrats in a corruption investigation.
One central question is the role officials at the White House, including Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers, played in the firings. But Paul K. Charlton, who was fired as United States attorney in Arizona after clashing with supervisors in Washington over a number of policies and investigations, said he was concerned that the inspector general’s limited jurisdiction and the White House’s refusal to turn over key records might have stymied the investigation.
The inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility, which conducted a joint investigation, have kept their findings under tight guard before the public release, declining to discuss any details with central players in the investigation or their lawyers. “It’s been a lockdown,” one defense lawyer said.
© 2008 The New York Times
Published on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
The Gulag Americano
by Sean Gonsalves
Whenever I’m grasping for perspective amid the creeping fascism of the present moment, I reach for the autobiography of someone who struggled to live a meaningful life under historical circumstances worse than mine.
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago,” which very personally details the soul-crushing oppression Stalin imposed across the Soviet Union, does the trick.
If just for the sheer power and passion of the prose, I suggest you put it on your summer reading list, though what compelled me to read it wasn’t a desire to revel in first-rate writing. I’m reading it because — well — this is post 9/11 America, where torture as official policy is countenanced by a so-called freedom-loving people, the majority of whom dare call themselves “Christians.” In journalism, “objectivity” has its place. But to remain detached in the face of torture is lose one’s humanity.
The 10-minute video released last week showing a 16-year-old Omar Khadr weeping, calling for his mommy, as he is questioned by clearly sadistic Canadian intelligence agents in 2003, provides the first glimpse of interrogations inside the Guantanamo military prison.
Still imprisoned as an “enemy combatant” five years later in the Gulag Americano on the island of Cuba, the video ought to send shivers down the spine of any moral being on the planet.
Solzhenitsyn’s bone-chilling description of being arrested in the name of “state security” comes to mind. “Arrest! Need it be said that it is a breaking point in your life, a bolt of lightening which has scored a direct hit on you? That it is an unassimilable spiritual earthquake not every person can cope with, as a result of which people often slip into insanity? The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: ‘You are under arrest…’”
“‘Resistance! Why didn’t you resist?’ Today those who have continued to live on in comfort scold those who suffered. Yes, resistance should have begun right there, at the moment of the arrest itself. But it did not begin. And so they are leading you…”
Where are we being led?
Lisa Hajjar, law professor UC Santa Barbara, has an answer. “The fact that the U.S. has adopted a policy of torture is now beyond dispute, as is the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of totally innocent people have been subjected to officially sanctioned torture and abuse.”
The morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest defense put forward by administration apologists is that if “errors” were made, it was done with “good intentions,” and in some cases has provided valuable information.
However, “people knowledgeable about the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah…have said that any information they provided came during non-coercive interrogations, Hajjar counters. “But because they were tortured, the use of this information for their prosecutions becomes problematic.”
To understand how we got here, Hajjar notes, it’s important to appreciate that the Bush administration goal has been to roll back the legal constraints on the executive branch put in place in the wake of Watergate. Another part of the project is “to repudiate international law as ostensibly ‘un-American.’ Torture is a crime. Now is the time for ‘law and order’ types to ‘get tough on crime.’”
History News Network editor Rick Shenkman backs that up in even more blunt terms. “Despite Watergate, Republicans have never given up their belief in an imperial presidency. If the president does something, it’s not illegal, was Nixon’s line of defense.”
“President Bush violated the law numerous times during his presidency without once expressing remorse at having done so,” Shenkman adds. “Violate the law by going around the FISA court? No problem. Torture terrorist suspects by waterboarding them? No problem, even as his own attorney general designate opined that torture is illegal under the Constitution as a violation of the 14th amendment.”
Remember when Cheney shot his buddy Harry Whittington in the face in that hunting accident? Interesting to note that as a longtime member of the Texas GOP, Whittington was the only Republican to serve on the board of the Texas Department of Corrections. His experience led him to make an observation I’ve tried to make several times over the years.
While prisons get criminals (or “terrorists”) off the streets and dish out retributive justice, what about restorative justice?
We get so caught up in what criminals “deserve” that we lose sight of what Cheney’s buddy came to see: “Prisons are to crime what greenhouses are to plants.”
I’m not suggesting we open the prison doors and let everyone out. But, seeing as how “getting tough” on crime and terrorists is supposed to make us safer, we need journalists and concerned citizens to ask, out loud: If the majority of prisoners are eventually going to be freed because they’re not serving life sentences, doesn’t gulag treatment of prisoners ensure there will be plenty more future victims?
Even laying aside the obvious moral and legal ramifications of prisoner abuse, if the answer to that question is ‘yes,’ then we’ve got the dumbest detainee policy imaginable.
Sean Gonsalves is a news editor and columnist with the Cape Cod Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Monday, July 7, 2008 by The Los Angeles Times
More Scrutiny, Secrecy At Justice Department
by Richard B. Schmit
WASHINGTON – Justice Department lawyers and investigators have come under more scrutiny after the Sept. 11 attacks than at perhaps any time since Watergate. Questions have been raised about the administration’s strategies for going after terrorism suspects and about whether politics was allowed to taint the department’s core mission to provide equal justice under the law.But the internal unit that polices the lawyers’ conduct has been operating under a growing shroud of secrecy, shutting down what were once regular, public disclosures about its activities.
The Office of Professional Responsibility historically has attracted little attention because of its focus on the department’s everyday civil and criminal matters. Now, however, it is taking on some of the weightiest issues in government — examining the role Justice’s lawyers played in formulating administration interrogation policies for suspected terrorists and in endorsing a National Security Agency program of warrantless electronic surveillance.
It has been thrown the task of deciding whether department lawyers engaged in selective prosecution of Democratic political figures. It also is looking into lawyers’ involvement in a decision four years ago to deport a Canadian citizen to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured. That case has emerged as one of the most infamous examples of a policy known as rendition, in which suspected terrorists are transferred to other nations for interrogation.
The OPR has broad power to recommend disciplinary action, including dismissal, if it finds that any of the Justice Department’s 10,000 lawyers have violated ethics rules or other regulations. But officials have declined to say whether even one government lawyer has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct in connection with the war on terrorism — despite often fierce criticism from civil liberties groups, defense lawyers and judges.
The ethics watchdog has exonerated department lawyers in at least two high-profile terrorism-related investigations.
According to a redacted copy of a confidential OPR report obtained by The Times, the office found that department lawyers had not engaged in misconduct in connection with the controversial practice of using special warrants to round up and incarcerate men after Sept. 11 who were considered witnesses to crimes. Human rights groups said the technique was a way to illegally detain, sometimes for months, dozens of Muslims whom the government suspected but could not prove were engaged in criminal activity.
The report, issued more than a year ago, concluded: “Department of Justice attorneys involved did not misuse the material witness statute, and thus did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment.”
The OPR also exonerated department lawyers in connection with the case of Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim attorney in Portland, Ore., who was detained when the FBI erroneously linked his fingerprints to detonators involved in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. In 2006, the government apologized and paid Mayfield a $2-million settlement. The OPR action was made public by the Justice Department without elaboration.
But the resolution of most matters investigated by the OPR remains closely guarded, even in cases where courts have found evidence of serious prosecutorial misconduct.
For example, a multimillion-dollar securities fraud case in Las Vegas was dismissed two years ago after an assistant U.S. attorney acknowledged in the middle of trial that he had failed to turn over evidence to defense lawyers that undermined the credibility of some crucial government witnesses.
“This is prosecutorial misconduct in its highest form; conduct in flagrant disregard of the United States Constitution; and conduct which should be deterred by the strongest sanctions available,” a federal appeals court ruled in agreeing that dismissal of the fraud charges was warranted. The U.S. attorney reported the allegations to the OPR, which sent a team to Nevada to investigate.
Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Vegas, told a legal newspaper that the OPR found no evidence of “intentional misconduct” by the office. She declined to say whether any other misconduct was found or whether any discipline was ordered. The OPR declined to comment.
Though the office does not release reports about individual cases, it does inform the parties to the investigations of the results, and they are free to make the decisions public.
After President Bush took office in 2001, the Justice Department reversed a decade-old policy of publicly disclosing detailed summaries of OPR investigations of department lawyers found to have committed professional misconduct. Janet Reno, attorney general since 1993, had believed that publicizing the information would bolster confidence in the department; and during her tenure she had authorized the release of two dozen public summaries of misconduct cases — including one against then-FBI Director William S. Sessions.
The OPR also has been far behind in producing required annual public reports summarizing its activities. Last month, it released its report covering fiscal year 2005. That means many investigations undertaken during the tenure of former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales remain under wraps.
Some legal experts say there is an impression that the Justice Department is hiding something.
Publishing the summaries “reassures the public that [the Department of Justice] takes its self-regulatory responsibilities seriously and puts prosecutors on notice that they face public embarrassment if they are caught engaging in wrongdoing,” said Bruce Green, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Fordham Law School in New York.
Associate Deputy Atty. Gen. David Margolis said it was his decision to excuse the OPR from preparing summaries of cases that might be released to the public. He said the decision reflected a lack of resources, as well as concern about balancing public interests with the privacy rights of individual attorneys facing accusations.
“My goal is to get fair and speedy dispositions of allegations against our attorneys,” he said, “and, to the extent possible, let the public know what we did and why we did it without unnecessarily or gratuitously . . . publicly humiliating our line attorneys as individuals.”
© 2008 The Los Angeles Times
German men sentenced for making women sex slaves
BERLIN (Reuters) – A German court sentenced a pair of middle-aged men to more than 12 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually abusing and torturing two young women they held captive for several weeks — part of the time in a dog kennel.
The ordeal ended when a third woman taken hostage by the two German men managed to escape her captors and alert police, the court in the northern town of Verden said.
In addition to jail sentences, the court ordered the accused, identified as Stephan K., 42, and Bernd K., 55, to pay damages of 150,000 euros ($237,000) to each of the two women, while the third woman was awarded 5,000 euros.
The abuse of the women, who were aged between 18 and 23 at the time, began when the eldest was captured in August 2006 after she followed up a fake job advert posted by the men. Four weeks later, the men abducted the second woman the same way.
During their captivity at a two-storey house in Garlstedt near Bremen, the two women were repeatedly raped, a spokeswoman for the court said.
They were also locked in a kennel, made to crawl around on all fours on a leash, eat from a dog bowl and subjected to blasts of deafening music, she added.
The men, who filmed some of the abuse, also forced one of the women to prostitute herself, or face violent reprisals.
“The court concluded that the men who came for sex were unaware of the circumstances,” the spokeswoman said.
In mid-October, the men bound and gagged their third victim, but she escaped handcuffed and naked through an upstairs window, and alerted police with the help of a passing jogger.
Afterwards, the two men fled, each taking one of the remaining women by force. Within four days, Bernd K. had turned himself in, the court said. Police captured the younger man with the last captive woman just over a month later.
The older man received a 12-1/2 year sentence, while Stephan K. was handed a 14-year term, to be followed by a potentially indefinite period of preventive detention, the spokeswoman said.
The latter sentence reflected the fact the man had marked sociopathic and sadistic tendencies, she added.
“The court said they were deeply ingrained and would probably be apparent when he was 70,” she said.
The 14-month trial of the men, which received considerable attention in local German media, was partly closed to the public due to the disturbing nature of the evidence.
(Reporting by Dave Graham, editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Mary Gabirel)
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