Attorney General Strengthens Commitment to Equal Opportunity in Recovery Spending

Equal opportunity is one of our nation’s most valuable national assets.

On September 27, 2010, the Office of the Attorney General reinvigorated our nation’s commitment to opportunity for all people by releasing a memorandum adopting The Opportunity Agenda’s ongoing policy recommendations for the economic recovery.

To comply with civil rights requirements prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, and gender in federally funded programs, the Attorney General stated that federal agencies should consider:

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Holder Reiterates Support for Miranda Rule -- But Still Wants to Change It

Testifying to the House Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated his support for civilian trials for suspected terrorists and emphasized that Miranda warnings do not prevent suspects from talking. But he also repeated his statement, first made last Sunday, that the "public safety exception" to the Miranda rule should be "modernized" and "clarified" - although he never explained what's wrong with the Supreme Court rule as it stands now.

"I can point to the facts and history which has shown that giving Miranda warnings has not had a negative impact on our ability to obtain information from terrorism suspects," Holder testified this afternoon in a hearing that lasted most of the day. "There is a misconception that people have that a giving of Miranda warnings necessarily means that people will stop talking." But "whether or not people will talk is not determined solely by Miranda warnings" but is based more on the rapport developed by the interrogator with the suspect and any advantage the suspect thinks he'll get from cooperating, Holder explained. He added that Miranda warnings often actually help investigations because if a suspect decides he wants a lawyer, "the defense attorney frequently convinces that person to cooperate in the hope that a sentence would be lessened. So even if it has the initial impact of stopping the information flow, that does not mean that it permanently stops it."

Some Republicans have been hammering Holder lately for allowing law enforcement authorities to read the failed Times Square and Christmas Day bombing suspects their Constitutional rights, and lawmakers such as Dan Lungren (R-Cal.) and Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) continued that line of attack at today's hearing.

But even as he insisted that Miranda rights and civilian trials have been highly effective tools for fighting and prosecuting terrorism in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Holder repeated his recent statement that he wants to work with Congress to "clarify" and "modernize" the public safety exception to the Miranda rule.

In New York v. Quarles, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984 carved out an exception to the requirement that a suspect must be read his rights prior to interrogation for his statements to be admissible in court. The Supreme Court said that law enforcement authorities may delay informing a suspect of his rights when there is an imminent threat to public safety.

That exception has been commonly applied in terrorism cases. In the questioning of the two recent attempted bombing suspects, Faisal Shahzad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, for example, both were initially questioned by investigators pursuant to that exception before being read their rights. Both provided information, and continued to do so even after they were told they had a right to remain silent and to representation by a lawyer.

In a letter sent today to President Obama, three prominent former FBI interrogators urged the president not to mess with the current Supreme Court rule.

"Legislating on this subject could very well result in rules that unnecessarily constrain law enforcement officials and hinder their ability to adapt to unforeseen situations," wrote former FBI agents Jack Cloonan, Joe Navarro and Jim Clement. They added: "In our decades of working in law enforcement, including the years following 9/11, Miranda rights never interfered with our ability to obtain useful information or make prosecutable cases."

Judging from his statements at today's hearing, Eric Holder believes that as well. It remains unclear, then, why he'd even consider amending this decades-old Supreme Court rule - placing future terrorist convictions in jeopardy for years to come.

Holder also reiterated that the location of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators' trial is still under consideration by the Department of Justice. Holder said he's taking into account the reactions of political leaders and residents in the areas where it might be held.

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, where Holder originally said the trial would be held in a federal court, today announced that he supports having the trial in New York so long as the federal government restores some $50 million in funding that Homeland Security officials recently said would be cut from New York's anti-terrorism budget.

That funding could be easily restored by closing Guantanamo Bay. As Human Rights First pointed out in a recent video, it costs up to $125 million a year simply to operate the Guantanamo Baydetention camp. And that's not including the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government spent to build it.

Dems Urge Holder to Stay Strong on 9/11 Trial

Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today urged Attorney General Eric Holder to stick to his initial determination that the alleged 9/11 plotters should be tried in civilian court, and not bow to partisan politics on what should be a legal determination.

"I think that the degree to which this dialogue has escalated is really very unhealthy," said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) at this morning's hearing, calling the recent attacks on Holder "reprehensible."

"Democrats did not do to Bush following 9/11 what has been done to this administration.. . . I believe the best interest of the people of this nation are served by the Attorney General, and the President, having maximum flexibility as to which venue these defendants should be tried in...I have never seen anything quite like this."

Feinstein was referring to pending legislation that would require the Obama administration to try the 9/11 defendants in the recently-created military commissions rather than in traditional federal courts, where almost all terrorism cases have been tried in the past. Another pending bill would require the administration to place all terror suspects in military custody rather than have them questioned by the FBI, which has the most experienced terrorist interrogators.

Feinstein denounced these efforts at the Senate hearing as based on deliberate ignorance. "The record is ignored," she said. "It doesn't matter that the Bush administration brought 200 terrorists to justice under Article 3 courts," she said, apparently referring to a Human Rights First study analyzing the successful prosecutions of self-described Islamic terrorists since 9/11. "It doesn't matter that the military commissions, fraught with controversy, have convicted only three terrorists, two of whom are already out."

Citing the recent guilty pleas of convicted terrorists Najibullah Zazi and David Headly, she said: "the fact of the matter is that Article 3 courts have other charges they can use if they don't have evidence to sustain a pure terrorists charge," referring to the civilian federal court system authorized by Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution. "You should have that option," she said to Holder. "A lot of the attacks are just to diminish you. You should not buy into that. You should stay strong."

Senators Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) made similar remarks and echoed Feinstein's concerns.

Attorney General Eric Holder this morning gave no indication whether the 9/11 plotters will ultimately be tried in a civilian court or military commission, although he promised that the decision would be made within "a number of weeks."

Holder said that "New York is not off the table as a place where they might be tried," yet said the administration would "take into consideration" local objections.

Although local officials had initially supported hosting the trial, after a downtown real estate group protested about the disturbance to local businesses, officials such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer reversed their stance.

Holder made clear this morning, though, that the trials could be held in federal court even if they don't take place in downtown Manhattan. "The Southern District of New York is a much larger place than simply Manhattan," said Holder. "There's also the possibility of trying the case in other venues beyond New York."

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) hammered Holder on his initial decision to try the case in a New York court, then criticized him for wavering on the decision in response to local objections, and concluded: "I hope you will reevaluate this and we will soon have clarity about what the policy of the Department of Justice is."

Holder wouldn't say where the 9/11 defendants will ultimately be prosecuted, he did defend the track record of civilian federal courts, which he said have prosecuted close to 400 terrorists since 9/11, relying on recently-released Justice Department numbers.

Holder pleased some of his critics, however, by repeating that the administration still intends to hold 48 detainees "who are too dangerous to transfer but not feasible to prosecute."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who's been pushing Congress and the administration to support legislation that would create a scheme for indefinite detention without trial within the United States, seized on the opportunity to note that the rules for indefinite detention based on "dangerousness" remain unclear.

"I would urge you to work with Congress to see if you can retain flexibility," Graham said to Holder. "If you're a member of Al Qaeda you're a continuing threat to the world," he said, adding: "holding a member of Al Aaeda who is a continuing threat until they die in jail is okay with me."

Asked by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) whether there would be a review process for those indefinitely detained prisoners who could be left to die in jail, Holder said: "that's something we 're still working on."

Holder didn't specifically say whether that process would be developed by the executive branch or should be created by Congress, although he indicated that an interagency review was ongoing and that he's "hoping to have something we will be willing to share and put in place in a relatively short time."

Torture Has To Be Investigated No Matter What Dick Cheney Calls It

Buried in a recent Washington Post article is an interesting fact that Harry Shearer points out in a blog on the Huffington Post today: that in at least one recent Guantanamo detainee case, the US Justice Department did not deny that the detainee was tortured. It just argued that the court should accept his statements as reliable anyway. The DOJ lost that argument, and Saeed Mohammed Saleh Hatim won his petition for habeas corpus.

Dick Cheney may like to call those interrogations "enhanced," but in everyday parlance they're what the DOJ is implicitly acknowledging: tortured.

There are two important implications of this.

The first is that, not surprisingly, Dick Cheney and the Washington Post's newest columnist, Marc Thiessen, who've been going around claiming both that "torture works" and that "we did not torture" are just flat-out wrong on both counts. Torture doesn't "work" if you can't rely on the information you get out of it. And even the Department of Justice - and the U.S. Military Commissions, for that matter - have acknowledged that the U.S. did indeed "torture."

The second implication follows up on the point I made recently about the still-unreleased report on the ethics investigation of those DOJ attorneys who authorized detainees' torture. If even the Department of Justice is not denying detainees' claims that they were tortured, doesn't that suggest that further investigation on the part of DOJ is required? After all, the U.S. government has committed, in signing onto the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to investigate and prosecute torture committed by its own government.

Of course, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to undertake a "preliminary review" of the actions of some CIA operatives who may have participated in abuses. But a recentdecision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces calls the limits of that investigation into question. On Friday, the court agreed to hear an appeal from Charles Graner, Jr., the army private who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Graner, who was accused of stacking naked prisoners in a human pyramid and ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs, claimed the trial judge was wrong not to let jurors see the legal memos from the Department of Justice that approved the "enhanced interrogation tactics" Dick Cheney is still so proud of. Apparently Graner's lawyer thinks they would show his client was just following orders - or at least plausibly interpreting them to permit Graner's bizarre conduct.

Which brings us back to the role of those Justice Department lawyers. If the military's highest court thinks there's a plausible argument to be made that those memos justified some of the most degrading and obviously illegal conduct you can think of, then how can the Justice Department continue to refuse to criminally investigate the role of those lawyers?

The issue has been set aside for more than a year now while the government claims its Office of Professional Responsibility is still completing its about-to-be-issued report. But that claim is becoming less and less plausible. If that report isn't released soon, the Justice Department's inaction will look more and more like a coverup.

 

 

 

Mea Culpa on Palin: She Sucks.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Matt - one of the reasons I started my site is because I know so many on the so-called left who secretly admire Sarah Palin for various reasons but can't reconcile it politically or acknowledge it publicly.

There are a LOT of us.

I think there is a way to do both - critique her whackadoodle aspects and enjoy other things about her, the diva/pretty tomboy notwithstanding.

She is something totally new down here. I'd rather deal with it than try and repress it away, because we know where repression lands us.

Plus, she's just flat out totally sexy. Just because I say so doesn't mean I'm ever going to vote for her lol

Well - that pretty much sums up how I felt about Sarah Palin up until about 5 minutes ago. True that I often cringed with the winking, Clinton references and the strange phrasings - but usually it was with a smile.  I despised the sexism Palin was a subject to and was saddened to see my fellow progressives go so far astray from their values when it came to 'Bible Spice' and 'Caribou Barbie.'

But it would appear that I was dead wrong about this horrible person.

Wayne Anthony Ross, her choice for attorney general, has an alleged fondness for rape jokes and doesn't like homosexuals.

Ross, who once described gay people as "immoral degenerates," was quizzed this week about how he would view cases involving homosexuality as the state's top legislator.

"Let me give you an analogy -- I hate lima beans," Ross told a legislative hearing into his nomination.

"I've never liked lima beans. But if I was hired to represent the United Vegetable Growers, would you ask me if I liked lima beans? No. If I disliked lima beans? No. Because my job is to represent the United Vegetable Growers."

A letter from Leah Burton, a lobbyist on children's issues and domestic violence, has caused an uproar, hogging headlines and infuriating some of Alaska's most outspoken bloggers, who play a critical role in reporting politics in the remote and far-flung state.

Burton alleges that in 1991, she heard Ross say at public meeting that domestic violence "wouldn't be an issue if women would learn to keep their mouth shut."

At the hearing, Ross denied making that statement, and also denied making the suggestion in the same conversation that it was acceptable for a man to rape his wife.

For the sake of Alaskans I only hope that she is out of office soon enough. To my fellow progressives - I apologize for the folly of my ways.

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