NPR: “Miracle at the Wall”: Worth both a read and a listen.

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Memorial Day One Year Ago: In Memory of Spc. Nicholas Peters and the Other Kelly Park Boys

Somerville, Mass, (originally posted June 28, 2008)–

The rules are simple enough for the kids playing in the stickball tournament this morning in Kelly Park: There are to be three people to a team. There are four innings per game. Two outs per inning. You walk on three balls. You strike out on two strikes. The second strike can be a foul ball.

Any ground ball not stopped or caught is a single. If you hit the ball over the double court line without it being caught or stopped, you have hit a double. If you smack the ball hard off the fence, you have a triple. And if you hit the ball entirely over the fence, of course, you have hit a home run. If you hit a deep foul ball over the fence, it is unclear whether it is to be counted as a foul ball or home run. In that case, the final decision is left to the whim of a grown up or the good will of the opposing team.

If you are eleven years old, and get a chance to bat, there are traditions to maintain: You must wear an oversized Red Sox jersey with the name Papelbon on the back. (That is the Sox’s closer for those not literate in such things. In an earlier time your jersey would have had the name Garciappara on it.) You dramatically roll your head from side to side to get the hair out of the eyes. Then you check the stick to make sure you are hitting at the ball from the right end. (This is very important; however, you hope that nobody sees you doing this.) Then you dig hard into the pavement with your converse high tops, lean way way back on your heels, and then smack at the ball—eyes closed allowed—with all of your eleven year old might. Whether you hit the ball or not, all is right with the world.

You hope you hit the ball of course. But if you don’t, you still get to have your face painted, hang with the older kids, have a hot dog with anything you want it on it– and then if you are really, really lucky you get to sit on your big brother’s shoulder to watch the dedication of the square to an older boy in the neighborhood.

The corner of Cragie and Summer is to be renamed in dedication for another little boy who once played stick ball in this park. There are two honor guards, one of which will fire off live rounds, interrupting the morning quiet and send singing birds scattering. A representative of the mayor will say a few words.

This is the unveiling of the new street sign dedicating Spc. Nicholas Peters Square.

Nick served a tour of duty in Iraq and came home in one piece. He survived the war but not the peace. Stationed at Ft. Hood, in Texas, someone in a bar did not like the fact that he was wearing a Red Sox jersey, and killed him.

Days after his killing, his baseball coach would say: “I can still see a 6 year old Nick skating at the rink and at 8 years old hitting a baseball.” Nick’s little niece, her mother, Shanna, told me the morning of the stickball tournament, still sees Nick all the time. She declares to her mom: “Uncle is laughing at you!” One day while coloring, she nonchalantly orders: “Uncle! Color in the lines!”

Who is to tell her that she is wrong to believe that her uncle is still with her?

When Nick was buried in a flag draped coffin, he was not buried in his military uniform. He was proud of being a soldier, but did not want to be known or remembered only for being a soldier. It was duty and service for him. But he did not want to be singled out for it. When he was told that he could watch a New England Patriots game from the sidelines if he were to wear his uniform, he said he would much rather dress in his civilian clothes and watch from the stands, his sister Shanna told me.

He had told his family before he left for the war that he did not want to be buried in his military uniform but rather in his Red Sox jersey. Nobody gave it a second thought after his tour of duty was over. Who could have thought that he would be killed at home or for the way he was dressed?

The stickball tournament in not just in honor of Nick, but also his friend, David Martini, who played stickball and baseball and hockey with Nick, and who too has died too young. David was family to Nick’s family and vice versa. Shanna, Nick’s sister, wanted Nick’s day to be David’s too.

All together, four other boys who played stickball with Nicholas Peters in Kelly Park have died too young deaths—the result of senseless violence, suicide, or drug overdoses. Casualties of an invisible war at home like the one in Iraq that has also been disappearing from our media.

When I return home from Somerville to Washington D.C., I find out that my friend Brian has been shot on the street because apparently the two kids robbing him did not think he was willing to hand over his cell phone fast enough. Even though he is shot three times, he is alright—although with one less spleen.

Unable to sleep, I go online and watch over and over again Bobby Kennedy’s speech on the menace of violence in America which he gave on April 5, 1968: “The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old famous and unknown. They are most important of all human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one can be certain who suffer next from senseless act of violence. And yet it goes on and on and on…

“Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily… Whenever we tear a the fabric of he lives which some other man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children—whenever we do this—the nation is degraded.”

The next morning I have to go visit Brian in the hospital to see with my own eyes that Brian is all right. He smiles, banters with friends, nods off, and we are all reassured.

But what amazes everyone is that despite being shot three times, Brian ran quite an entire block and a half away to put some distance between him and the shooter before the police and EMTs could arrive. It makes no sense and perfect sense. He wanted to get to a safe place.

My thoughts return to that eleven year old kid playing in the stickball tournament. You want him to be safe. You think maybe you should have a heart to heart and tell him that when he gets older all that he has to do is not wear that Red Sox jersey certain places. If only it were that simple.

Below here is a video of Bobby Kennedy’s speech. Please watch and comment. And for more, here is a Huffington Post column.

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Memorial Day: RIP Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel




This is from a column I originally wrote for the Huffington Post a couple of years ago:

On the evening of January 14, 1991, shortly after I had watched the U.S. Senate authorize war against Saddam Hussein for the first time, the Vietnam War Memorial, at other end of the mall, is nearly abandoned. It is a chilly day and there is a soft rain. But then the soft rain turns into a heavy rain; it becomes even colder, and dusk descends.

But Steve Carlson, a Marine who had fought in Vietnam, and a good friend, a fellow Marine who served with him, are standing quietly at the Wall. They are looking at the names of friends whom they served with and who died. Carlson’s friend, who works for the government and lives near the Capitol, comes here often. For Carlson, this is his first time.

It does not take them long to find the names of their two friends: Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel. At the time, there were 58,130 names on the Wall. The names are in exact chronological order, depending on when the person died. Campbell and Wenzel died in the earliest days of the war. So their names are on the first stone. And because they died together, at the same time, the names of Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel are right next to each other.

During the debate in the Senate, which I watched from the gallery, supporters of the war resolution talked of minimal casualties, a quick victory, and a “short war.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who won a Silver Star and Bronze Star in Vietnam, only to come home to oppose that war, implored his colleagues:

“There has been a lot of talk on this floor about treaties, resolutions, principles… and all the strategic reasons for going to war… But sometimes… in the words we lose sight of the personal stakes…

“Our VA hospitals are already full of several generations of veterans who carry or wear daily reminders of the costs of war… They cannot care for those already needing help. So, are we ready to spend the money on a new generation of patients?”

The Kerry addressing the Senate that day was a very different man from the one who a decade later would vote for a war resolution with Iraq for reasons of political expedience and his own presidential ambitions. But on this occasion, he was speaking from the heart.

Then Sen. Mark Hatfield, of Oregon, one of the few Republicans to vote against the war resolution, rose to address a near empty chamber: “We have all heard the President’s promise: `This will not be another Vietnam’…

“Even the words are neat and tidy–body bags are not body bags anymore. Now body bags are `human remains pouches’. There, America, does that make you feel better? Your sons and daughters and mothers and fathers will have their faces blown off–their limbs ripped open, but they will not come home in body bags. They will come home in neat and tidy human remains pouches.”

Hatfield once again pleaded to a near empty chamber that his fellow Senators not “avert your eyes.” But to no avail. The Senate and House voted authorizations of war.

A short time later, I am talking to Steve Carlson and his friend about the two friends they have lost:

“Randy Campbell was a kind of golden boy. He was smart. He was sort of the all-American boy except he wasn’t really American. He was a Canadian who joined the U.S. Marine Corps out of a sense of adventure.

“He was intelligent. He could outrun everyone. He could probably beat up everyone in the entire platoon…. He was real statuesque, blond hair, blue eyes.”

Carlson and his friend are unsure how old Randy Campbell was when he was killed. He might have been seventeen or eighteen. Some in their platoon believed that he fudged on his age when he enlisted.

Carl Wenzel was a “quiet guy, kind of an obedient guy,” by contrast. “He did what he was told. . . and that is why he died. He was told not to load his gun. We were under orders not to load our weapons until we were shot at. Carl got shot directly between his eyes before his weapon was loaded.”

About ten or twelve of them had been on patrol, on a reconnaissance mission, looking for Viet Cong. They were radioed by a spotter plane and told there was a high concentration of enemy in the area and instructed to go atop a nearby hill, to settle into a defensive position.

“Randy didn’t want to wait for them to come up the hill and get him. He didn’t have that type of personality. So he went down to set up some booby traps as an early warning system.”

Carlson, his friend, and other Marines they served with are unsure what happened next. That they don’t really know how and why their friends died still causes them considerable pain–even more than twenty years later.

Some of them believe that Randy Campbell may have accidentally detonated his own booby trap: “He was stringing the wire across the trail, kind of like tripwire. We think what he did was that he hooked it to the grenade pin first and then tried to string his wire and thought [the pin] came out and it did. He wasn’t sure and so he went back and grabbed the grenade and that’s when it went off.” Seeing the explosion, the Viet Cong commenced firing, killing Carl Wenzel as well.

But others there that day believe that the Viet Cong simply spotted Randy and opened up on him when he still had the grenade in his hand. And when he was hit, the grenade exploded.

“Whatever the case, the grenade went off that he was holding in his hand. And he was blown to pieces.

“He no longer had any body. His hands were gone. His arms were gone. His chest was gone. Part of his legs were gone. Still, it took him two full minutes to die.”

I have seen too much of this grief in my years of journalism, interviewing too many families who have lost loved ones under the worst of circumstances. I have spent time with the families of murder victims. I once had to interview in a short time more than a dozen families of mentally retarded wards of the District of Columbia who had died because of abuse and neglect. I spent time in Palm Beach, Florida, interviewing the families of loved ones who died of cancer because they received substandard medical care from a corrupt HMO–kept in business over the objections of federal regulators because the owner of the HMO bribed and bought influence to keep operating.

But if there is one universal thing I have learned it is that the already unspeakable grief and pain are cruelly and exponentially compounded if there are unresolved issues as to how a loved one has died.

On this particular day, as Steve Carlson and his friend are telling me about the compounded grief they feel because they don’t know exactly how their friend died, Carlson’s companion tells me that for the looming Gulf War it will take a generation or longer before those who served or those of families who served and died know anything about how their nation came to this war, if they ever know.

“With Vietnam, you had the Pentagon Papers, but that was how many years into the war? What if we had known that stuff years earlier? The war would have ended earlier,” Carlson’s friend tells me.

Then he pledges: “I’ll support… the fighting men in [this] conflict. But if there was political manipulation to get us into this war… you will see me in the streets. You will see me at train stations. And at the military bases. I’m going to get clubbed. I’m going to resist.”

The year before, I had published a long investigative cover story for the Village Voice detailing how the covert foreign policies of Reagan and the first Bush administration had helped armed Saddam Hussein and brought us closer to war: “That American troops could be killed or maimed because of a covert decision to arm Iraq is the most serious consequence of a foreign policy formulated and executed in secret, without the advice and consent of the American people,” I had written.

After listening to Carlson and his friend, I made a promise: I was going to write a series of articles about the government policies that had led the run-up to war. Those who served in the war and their families–and the families who had lost loved ones–wouldn’t have to wait a generation to learn the truth. I was going to write about the subject contemporaneously. And I was going to do it by obtaining the government’s own highly classified files and making them public.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized what a grandiose promise I had made and how improbable it was that I would be able to make good on it. But more confounding was why I was so intensely dedicated to this mission. I had no self-knowledge, and maybe I couldn’t afford to have any. And I had other things going on in my life:

At the time, most everyone around me believed I was dying of cancer.

In 1987, when I was diagnosed, one pathologist wrote in a report: “In my experience over 90 percent of patients with this variety of intestinal adenocarcinoma are dead by the end of two years.” This was the pathologist’s polite way of saying he saw no prospects of my surviving five years at all.

My attorneys were more blunt. In public court papers, they wrote that I faced a “terminal prognosis.”

Knowing that I had little chance of surviving, I filed a medical malpractice suit against George Washington University Hospital, and three doctors. My lawyers alleged that “as a result of the delay of the treatment and diagnosis of Mr. Waas’ cancer, his condition changed from a curable, precancerous condition, to an incurable stage C cancer.”

To put my prognosis and prospects in some perspective, I’ll recall an article by someone who lost a family member to cancer at the age of 42. The author noted that someone who dies at that age had their middle age at 21. If my original diagnosis proved correct. I would have lived out my middle age at 13 or 14.

Nobody expected me to be alive for the trial. And nobody had a reasonable expectation of us prevailing: Medical records turned over by the defense during the pre-trial stages appeared to exonerate those I accused.

Standing at the wall, I didn’t understand why I felt such a bond with two Vietnam Veterans, with whom I had a short, chance encounter, and whom I would never see again–or why I felt such affinity for their two fellow Marines who had been killed.

But like them, I knew that it was not good that there were unresolved questions when someone dies. I could see the pain that my family and friends were going through in anticipation of their loss. Unlike those who survived Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel, I did not want people wondering what had happened to me twenty years later–although at the time I hardly knew this on a conscious level.

Through the litigation against the hospital, I would be able to learn the truth so there would be no loose ends regarding the medical negligence that was almost certain to take my life.

There was something else Carlson said to me that touched me, but once again I had no idea why, at least not then:

“Many veterans will never, never recover,” he told me, “You can see them down here all the time. They’re the walking wounded. For the rest of their lives, they’ve never fully integrated back into society. They never really came home.

“Some have post-traumatic stress disorders, they isolate themselves. They go through multiple relationships… They like to spend time with themselves in quiet dark places in their own bedrooms and close all the blinds in their apartments.

“They are what you call tree-line vets. You see them standing up near the trees. They won’t even come down to the wall. They’ll carry these emotional rocks in their haversacks until the day they die.”

Those words had a tremendous impact on me, and now I understand why. In those haunted vets, I was confronting a potential mirror of myself. Five years under a death sentence at a young age, followed by the aftermath of cancer, could have led me to place where I never returned home. Just as it was a miracle that I escaped death from cancer, so it was every bit a miracle that despite the psychological ravages and aftermath of the disease I had eluded a spiritual death.

After my conversation with the friends of Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel, some extraordinary things happened in my life:

I did not die from cancer.

I was that one in a hundred, or that one in a thousand, or that one in ten thousand, or that one in the impossible.

Please don’t ask me. I just dunno.

As to the lawsuit against the hospital, once again there was an ending that no one could have expected: At trial we were able to demonstrate for the jury that some of the medical records at the core of the hospital’s defense were backdated, fabricated long after the lawsuit was filed.

One of the jurors later told me their deliberations went past the morning because they wanted the free lunch. The jury awarded $650,000 in damages. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s verdict two years later, in 1994. The appeals court decision expanded patients’ rights.

And also in 1992, the fifth year out since my diagnosis of cancer, and the same year that I won my legal case, I was, along with Douglas Frantz, who is currently the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

We had written more than a hundred stories about the covert foreign policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations that led to the first Gulf War with Iraq. The stories were based on thousands of pages of classified documents–from the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon, and even the National Security Council. It was considered the largest and most significant leak of classified government papers since the Pentagon Papers.

I had somehow kept a promise to two people I met at the Wall and would never see again.

Ironically, a decade later, I am virtually doing the same work:

The United States has gone to war a second time with Iraq. And it is now my job to write about whether intelligence was misused to take the nation to war, and if so, who was responsible. It’s my job to attempt to explain for American servicemen and their families how they have come to be placed in harm’s way. It’s the best job in the world. And if the media critics are right–people like Dan Froomkin, Howard Kurtz, Jay Rosen, and Jane Hamsher–I am doing just fine in covering the story.

And being able to write about how the U.S. went to war a second time has allowed me to reacquaint myself with some old friends.

While I was writing about the origins of the first Gulf War, it was a ritual, at least every other week, to sit at dusk, or dawn, with no one else around at the Vietnam War Memorial. Near the stone with the names of Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel.

Now, covering the origins of the second war with Iraq, I have gone back to my ritual. One reason is that I simply feel fortunate. I survived cancer. I am not a name on a Wall or on a quilt.

One of the major problems with journalism today is that too many reporters care more about their constituencies, rather than their readers or their mission. We write for our peers and prize committees. We serve at the pleasure of corporate boards and stockholders. We are too often afraid to stray too far from the conventional wisdom.

If one were to catch a glimpse of me from some distance, at an early morning hour, at the Vietnam War Memorial, they would see someone sitting all by himself, alone. But I am hardly alone. And I am home. I am with my constituency.

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God Bless Zachary Boyd


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Memorial Day Must Reads: Greg Mitchell: “The Soldier in Pink Boxer Shorts”

Greg Mitchell’s column on the front today of Josh’s Talking Points Memo:

Since I have written so often, and for so long, about soldier suicides, and trauma among veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan and back at home, it was a relief to find a fun read yesterday in the new New York Times image-oriented “Lens” blog: The story behind the front page photo on May 12 that showed a few U.S. soldiers fighting the Taliban — one of them dressed mainly in pink boxer shorts and wearing shower sandals. Prize-winning Associated Press photog David Guttenfelder snapped it.

The image had gained some attention earlier, with the soldier’s name emerging, and the small detail that the shorts were of the “I Love NY” variety. His mother talked to a reporter for her hometown paper in Fort Worth and explained that he had purchased the item during a recent visit to New York. She said when she saw the photo she laughed for five minutes, and explained that her boy was a little guy but feisty and the image didn’t surprise her at all.

Last night there arrived this update: Secretary of Defense Gates, speaking at a dinner at the Intrepid Museum in New York City, observed: “Sometimes the public recognition isn’t always expected — or necessarily welcomed. Specialist Zachary Boyd recently was enjoying a well-deserved sleep when his post in eastern Afghanistan came under enemy attack. He immediately grabbed his rifle and rushed into a defensive position clad in his helmet, body armor, and pink boxer shorts that said ‘I Love New York.’

“Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your perspective — an AP photographer was there for a candid shot, a photo which ran shortly thereafter on the front page of the New York Times. Boyd later told his parents that: ‘I may not have a job anymore after the President has seen me out of uniform.’

“Well, let me tell you, the next time I visit Afghanistan I want to meet Specialist Boyd and shake his hand. Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage. And I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that — a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his crosshairs — what an incredible innovation in psychological warfare. I can assure you that Specialist Boyd’s job is very safe indeed.”

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Rumsfeld: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

It was a historic moment.  On Dec. 2, 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum authorizing interrogation techniques against detainees at Guantanamo that the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, has described as “torture.”

In a handwritten notation at the bottom of the memo, apparently believing that the U.S. government was being too lenient and humane to the detainees,Rumsfeld scrawled, “I stand for 8-10 hours a day.  Why is standing limited to 4  hours?”

If Rumsfeld had any thoughts at that historic moment,  thus far that one is the only one recorded for history.

Related articles by Murray Waas:

Murray Waas, “What Did Bush Tell Gonzales?” the Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas, “The Case of the Gonzales Notes,” the Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2008.

Murray Waas, “Cheney’s Call,” National Journal, Feb. 15, 2007.

Murray Waas, “Inside the Grand Jury,” National Journal, Jan. 12, 2007.

Murray Waas, “Cheney`Authorized’ Libby to Leak Classified Information,” National Journal, Feb. 8, 2006.

Murray Waas, “Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel,” National Journal, Nov. 22, 2005.

Murray Waas, “The Meeting,” American Prospect,  Aug. 6, 2005.

Readers can contact Murray Waas by leaving a comment below or through his Facebook accountWaas was, with Jeff Lomonaco, the co-editor of the United States v. I. Lewis Libby, published in the spring of 2007 by Union Square Press.

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The Big Stone Wall: Nine Bush Era Senior Officials Refused to Cooperate with DOJ probes


New piece out on Talking Points Memo:

At least nine Bush administration officials refused to cooperate with various Justice Department investigations during the final days of the Bush presidency, according to public records and interviews with federal law enforcement officials and many of the officials and their attorneys. In addition, two U.S. senators, a congresswoman, and the chief of staff to one of them, also refused to cooperate with the same investigations.

In large part because of that noncooperation, Justice Department officials sought criminal prosecutors in at least two cases so far to take over their investigations so that they can compel the testimony of many of those officials to testify through the use of a federal grand jury.

With the stakes now escalating for both sides — the possibility of grand jury subpoenas for recalcitrant witnesses and the specter of senior government officials invoking their Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination — it remains unclear whether and how many of them will continue to defy investigators.

In one instance, an attorney for former Bush White House chief political strategist Karl Rove recently told TPMmuckraker that even though Rove had refused to cooperate with an earlier Justice Department inquiry into the firings by the Bush administration of nine U.S. attorneys, he would now fully cooperate with a federal grand jury that has been empanelled to hear evidence in the case. But most of the other former senior White House officials, as well as members of Congress and their staffs, declined to say for this article whether they have or will cooperate with the various federal criminal investigations.

Previously, two Justice Department watchdog offices, the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility conducted investigations of the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the politicization by the Bush administration of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. But those two offices do not have the power to compel the testimony of witnesses outside the department itself or to initiate criminal prosecutions. The Inspector General and OPR successfully sought the naming of a criminal prosecutor to take over their probes.

In a report that the Inspector General and OPR made public last September detailing the findings of their investigation of the prosecutor firings, they asserted that their investigation was severely “hampered… because key witnesses declined to cooperate with our investigation.”

In regard to the investigation of the politicization of the Civil Rights Division, investigators sought a criminal investigation in part because four Bush administration appointees refused to cooperate with their initial probe. Two other investigations by the Inspector General and OPR of the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program are also currently underway. It is unclear in those instances whether a criminal prosecutor might eventually take over those investigations as well.

In the case of the firings of the U.S. attorneys, Nora Dannehy, the acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, who took over the investigation from the Inspector General and OPR, recently empanelled a federal grand jury in Washington to hear evidence in the matter.

As TPMmuckraker recently disclosed, the federal grand jury probing the firings of nine U.S. attorneys is currently zeroing in on the role played by recently retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former senior Bush White House officials in the firing of David Iglesias, a former U.S. attorney from New Mexico, according to legal sources familiar with the inquiry.

Last week, the Associated Press confirmed that story, reporting that the federal grand jury had subpoenaed records from Domenici and that Dannehy is also about to interview former Rove aide Scott Jennings, whose lawyer said he is cooperating to the “best of his ability.” Domenici’s attorney, K. Lee Blalock, after originally refusing to comment, and then suggesting to the New Mexico media that the TPMmuckraker report was incorrect, confirmed that the records of his client had in fact been subpoenaed. He also told the Santa Fe New Mexican earlier this month: “The investigation exists, but it is not focused on Senator Domenici to the exclusion of all others.”

But despite the fact that Domenici has already been severely criticized by two internal Justice Department watchdog agencies for refusing to answer questions from the Inspector General and OPR, Blalack is refusing to say whether he will cooperate with prosecutors conducting the current federal grand jury probe. The subpoena of Domenici’s records suggests that Domenici may not have voluntarily wanted to turn them over to authorities. Blalack declined to comment regarding this.


Besides the members of Congress, Justice’s Inspector General and OPR said that their investigation was severely hampered because of the refusal of numerous Bush White House officials involved in the firings to cooperate with their investigation.

Among those named in the report who refused to cooperate with investigators, the report said, were Former White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Deputy White House Counsel William Kelley, and Associate White House Counsel Richard D. Klingler.

So will the four former Bush White House officials now cooperate with Dannehy or testify before the federal grand jury if subpoenaed?

Back to a favorite subject of this blog:

Another investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General has focused on misconduct by J. Robert Flores, the Bush administration’s former administrator of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Although little known outside the Justice Department, the OJJDP doles out more than a quarter of a billion in federal grants each year to decrease the number of juveniles in dangerous facilities and to prevent juvenile delinquency. Flores came under investigation by the Inspector General for allegedly setting aside federal laws and government regulations to award federal grants to political allies of the Bush White House and for also allegedly using federal travel funds to play golf.

During that investigation, Flores’ then-chief of staff, Michele DeKonty, took the Fifth Amendment rather than answer questions from Congress about the awarding of federal grants for political reasons, and similarly refused to be interviewed by the Justice Department’s Inspector General — leading to her immediate firing by then-Attorney General Michael Muksasey. Continue reading

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Missy Higgins: “Where I Stood”

I don’t know anything at all about this singer, Missy Higgins, except I was just listening to radio and was blown away by what I heard. What a revelation. Mournful, soulful, and eloquent all at once. This was like when hearing Shawn Colvin, Jackson Browne, or Eric Anderson for the first time. She is on that level of singer/songwriter– if her other work is anything like this. This blog will try and interview her sometime in the future. I promise not to ask her anything about executive privilege.  Nor will we ask her to write a protest song about executive privilege, as some readers of this blog might want.  If anyone has contact information for her, they can leave it in the comments section below, or contact me through my Facebook page

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Karl Rove to Cooperate with federal grand jury probing firings of U.S. attorneys; As for Congress, that’s another story

I have a story posted tonight on Talking Points Memo quoting Karl Rove’s attorney saying that Rove will cooperate with the federal grand jury probe of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. The lede to the story:

Karl Rove will cooperate with a federal criminal inquiry underway into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and has already spoken to investigators in a separate, internal DOJ investigation into the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his attorney said in an interview.

Rove previously refused to cooperate with an earlier Justice Department inquiry into the firings. The Justice Department’s Inspector General and its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) said in a report released last September detailing their earlier probe of the firings of the U.S. attorneys that their investigation was severely “hindered” by the refusal by Rove and other senior Bush administration officials to cooperate with the probe.

Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said that Rove, however, will cooperate with a federal criminal probe of the firings being led by Nora Dannehy, the Acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut who was selected by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to lead the investigation. Dannehy has recently empaneled a federal grand jury to hear evidence in the matter.

Luskin told me that Rove had earlier not cooperated with the Inspector General and OPR probe into the firings because “it was not his [Karl's] call… it was not up to us decide.” Luskin said that Rove was directed by the Bush White House counsel’s office not to cooperate with the Inspector General and OPR.

Regarding the more recent probe by Dannehy, Luskin said: “I can say that he would cooperate with the Dannehy investigation if asked.”

In recent days, according to legal sources, two former Bush White House officials, including one former aide to Rove, have been contacted by investigators working for Dannehy and asked for interviews. One of the two has agreed to be interviewed.

Regarding the decision to cooperate with Dannehy, Luskin said that Rove “has not and will not assert any personal privileges.” He also said that in regard to the earlier probe, Rove had not done so, but had rather only “followed the guidance of the White House.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Whether Rove will testify before the House Judiciary Committee, however, is another story.

As Dan Froomkin has reported:

Just four days before he left office, President Bush instructed former White House aide Karl Rove to refuse to cooperate with future congressional inquiries into alleged misconduct during his administration.

“On Jan. 16, 2009, then White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin. The message: should his client receive any future subpoenas, Rove ‘should not appear before Congress’ or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House. The letter told Rove that President Bush was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove—even after he leaves office.” Continue reading

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Playing out the first evening of the New Year: Francine Reed, Lyle Lovett, his big band, and his big hair

It’s a little too mellow tonight it seems for politics. But for the die hards, this is interesting: “Barack Obama believed that seven candidates were “highly qualified” to succeed him in the Senate, but the two people Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) has asked to fill the vacant seat weren’t on the president-elect’s list.” Also my friend Charlie Savage’s story in the NYT about special access to get a pardon from the Bush White House. Will there still be a pardon for Libby? I don’t have sources that good, or at least in the know about that, and thus don’t know any more right now on that subject than anybody else. My buddy Jason Linkins on a possible Gonzales book. I know it seems like I am pimpin’ for friends tonight, but everything that I have linked to is meritorious on its own…. the only thing perhaps lacking merit is this post, which might resemble a Larry King column.

On a personal note, my favorite column/post that I wrote last year.

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