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Suspected Hamas Operative References Libby Precedent To Seek Reduced Jail Time

Thu, 2007-07-05 08:35

The New York times reported yesterday that Scooter Libby’s commutation has been a “gift” for defense attorneys, with many using the so-called “Libby motion” to argue, “My client should have got what Libby got, and here’s why.” Subsequently, judges may have “reason to lighten sentences and undermining the goal of a more uniform justice system.”

The New York Sun reports today that an “alleged Hamas operative is likely to be among the first criminal defendents to try to capitalize on President Bush’s commutation.” Mohammad Salah is scheduled to be sentenced next week on obstruction of justice charges, with a 22 year maximum sentence. “What the president said about Mr. Libby applies in spades to the case of Mohammed Salah,” said defense attorney Michael Deutsch.

Deutsch plans to use several of Bush’s arguments to argue for reducing the prison sentence for Salah to probation:

When Mr. Bush commuted that prison sentence on Monday, he made particular note of the alleged unfairness in how Libby’s sentence was calculated. “Critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury,” the president wrote. […]

It applies to an even greater extent in Mr. Salah’s case,” Mr. Deutsch said. “In our case, these allegations were presented to a jury and he was acquitted.”

Mr. Deutsch also noted that while Libby was convicted of lying to the FBI and a grand jury in a criminal investigation, the lies Salah was convicted of telling were part of his defense to a civil case brought by the family of a victim of a Hamas-sponsored bombing.

The Salah case is one of many that may be influenced by Libby’s commutation. Susan James, defense attorney for former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL), who was convicted of corruption and obstruction of justice charges, plans to argue for the “Libby treatment” for Siegelman. “[Bush] has basically come in and said the sentence is too harsh,” James said. “I’ll find some way to weave that into our argument,” James said.

The Bush administration alleges that Hamas aides terrorist groups. Just last month, the White House stated that Hamas is a “dangerous force” that follows “the way of terror.” Salah’s use of the “Libby motion” to reduce his own sentence bolsters the fact that Libby’s commutation has undermined Bush’s own national security policies.

More at Sentencing Law and Policy.

Texas screening of SiCKO inspires health care activism.

Thu, 2007-07-05 08:08

Boing Boing has a “first-hand account of a trip to see Michael Moore’s Sicko in a suburban mall in Dallas, in which the audience of conservative cowboys were converted to health-care activists“:

The entire Sicko audience had somehow formed an impromptu town hall meeting in front of the ladies room. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is Texas goddammit, not France or some liberal college campus. But here these people were, complete strangers from every walk of life talking excitedly about the movie. It was as if they simply couldn’t go home without doing something drastic about what they’d just seen. […]

The talk gradually centered around a core of 10 or 12 strangers in a cluster while the rest of us stood around them listening intently to this thing that seemed to be happening out of nowhere. … The conversation stopped instantly as all eyes in this group of 30 or 40 people were now on him. “If we just see this and do nothing about it,” he said, “then what’s the point? Something has to change.” … Suddenly everyone was scribbling down everyone else’s email, promising to get together and do something …though no one seemed to know quite what.

Tony Snow’s Defense Of Bush Commutation: ‘He Did What He Does Normally’

Thu, 2007-07-05 07:17

In an op-ed in the USA Today, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow mangles and distorts the facts in an attempt to claim Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison time was a demonstration of how much the “President respects justice.” Snow writes:

[Bush] believes it is important to respect the jury’s work. … So the president left intact the felony convictions and two of the major punishments — the fine and probation.

But he conveniently ignores Judge Reggie Walton’s recent warning that Bush’s clemency order “may wipe out Libby’s 2-year probation as well,” because the probation was contingent on prison time.

Snow continues: “No president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush.” Yes, it is true Bush has been stingy with his pardon and clemency power. Bush previously had commuted only three sentences, “all for drug offenses, from more than 5,000 requests. He has issued 113 pardons, fewer than other modern presidents.”

As the New York Times noted, Bush refused to grant commutations in very similar cases as Libby’s. The case of Victor Rita, a man who served for 25 years in the armed services and faced a similar fate as Scooter, stands out as an example of Bush’s hypocrisy. The Carpetbagger Report writes:

Both Rita and Libby are first-time offenders; both were convicted of the exact same crime. One lied about gun registration; the other lied about his role in outing a covert CIA operative during a time of war. The president believes the prior should be away for nearly three years, but believes the latter shouldn’t spend a single moment behind bars.

In a stirring conclusion that also serves as an indictment of Bush, Snow writes, “[The President] did what he does normally, and what makes those of us who work for him proud. He proceeded on the basis of principle.” Indeed, Bush did what he does routinely, showcasing once again his “principle” of rewarding incompetence and malfeasance from unethical staff for carrying out the White House’s horrendous decisions.

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Soldiers in Iraq become U.S. citizens.

Thu, 2007-07-05 06:54

Yesterday on the Fourth of July, 161 U.S. troops became naturalized American citizens. There were supposed to be 163 soldiers, but two were killed in the past month.

ThinkFast: July 5, 2007

Thu, 2007-07-05 06:02

President Bush equated the war in Iraq with the U.S. war for independence during a speech yesterday. “Like those revolutionaries who ‘dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty,’ Bush said, American soldiers were also fighting ‘a new and unprecedented war’ to protect U.S. freedom.”

Associates of Bilal Abdulla, the doctor “who is accused of riding a flaming Jeep into Glasgow’s international airport on Saturday, say he was a religious zealot and a lone wolf whose anger about political developments in Iraq may have driven him to an act of terrorism.”

453: Number of unidentified corpses, “some bound, blindfolded, and bearing signs of torture,” found in Baghdad during June, an increase of 41 percent since the escalation began in January.

U.S. diplomats in Iraq, “increasingly fearful over their personal safety after recent mortar attacks inside the Green Zone,” filed a cable highlighting “a cascade of building and safety blunders” in the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad “as signs that their vulnerability could grow in the months ahead.”

In his upcoming memoir, The Prince of Darkness, 50 Years Reporting in Washington, Robert Novak “will seek to settle some scores with colleagues in the nation’s capitol. But he won’t be expressing any regrets for printing the name of and ‘outing’ covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.” He writes, “Judging it on the merits, I would still write the story.” (more…)

Was Rove involved in commutation discussions?

Wed, 2007-07-04 18:31

According to the New York Times, Republican sources say that Karl Rove did not have an “extensive” role in the commutation deliberations “because his participation would have been awkward“:

Karl Rove, the chief White House strategist and one of Mr. Bush’s closest and longest-serving aides, had been implicated in the leak investigation, and it was unclear how extensive a role he played in the deliberations.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, ultimately decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Rove. Some Republicans said they believed that Mr. Rove steered clear of the pardon discussions, perhaps because his participation would have been awkward.

“I talk to Karl a lot, and I just never got any sense that he was involved in that at all,” said Vin Weber, a Republican former congressman who said he believed that Mr. Libby should be pardoned.

High school scholars discuss meeting with Bush.

Wed, 2007-07-04 17:48

Last week, a group of “50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program” handed a letter to President Bush urging him to put a halt to “violations of the human rights” of terror suspects held by the United States. The handwritten letter said in part, “We do not want America to represent torture.” The young woman who handed Bush the letter, Mari Oye, talked with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman about the interaction:

OYE: [Bush] read down the letter. He got to the part about torture. He looked up, and he said, “America doesn’t torture people”. And I said, “If you look specifically at the points we made” — because we were careful to outline specific things that are wrong with the administration’s policy. He said — so I said, “If you look specifically at what we said, we said, we ask you to cease illegal renditions,” and then I said, you know, “Please remove your signing statement to the McCain anti-torture bill.” And then I said that for me personally, the issue of detainee rights also had a lot of importance, because my grandparents had been interned during World War II for being Japanese American.

At that point, he just said, “America doesn’t torture people” again. And another kid, actually, from Montana came forward and said, “Please make the US a leader in human rights.” And that happened in the space of about a minute, but it was a very interesting minute with the President of the United States.

Watch a video of the interview here.

Conyers to hold hearing on executive clemency.

Wed, 2007-07-04 17:05

The House Judiciary Committee, “upset after Bush’s decision to grant clemency to I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby,” will hold a hearing on July 11 to examine presidential clemency power. From a statement issued by Conyers’s office:

In light of Monday’s announcement by the president that he was commuting the prison sentence for Scooter Libby, it is imperative that Congress look into presidential authority to grant clemency, and how such power may be abused. Taken to its extreme, the use of such authority could completely circumvent the law enforcement process and prevent credible efforts to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch.

REPORT: The Iraq War Architects Revisited

Wed, 2007-07-04 13:45

More than four years after the initial invasion, the decision to go to war in Iraq has come to be widely viewed as the “worst foreign policy mistake” in our nation’s history. But the architects of the Iraq war have largely avoided taking accountability for their respective roles in that terrible decision.

In April 2006, ThinkProgress produced a report reviewing the key architects of the Iraq war. ThinkProgress has updated the report with the latest information on where the key architects are now, expanding it to include a few more integral planners of the conflict.

The original thesis remains the same: President Bush still has not fired any of the architects of the Iraq war; instead, they continue to reap rewards for their disastrous incompetence. Just this week, we witnessed two glaring examples of this fact:

Paul Wolfowitz: As deputy secretary of defense, he aggressively pushed for war, repeatedly making false assurances about the ease of victory in Iraq. Bush later rewarded him with a post at the World Bank, which he was forced to resign in disgrace after becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal. But last week, Wolfowitz announced he was landing at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank that “has the President’s ear” on national security issues.

Scooter Libby: Even though the administration had failed to hold him accountable, a jury of his peers did. But, like many of his Iraq war architects, Libby was given safe refuge by President Bush and spared from serving any prison time, despite lying and obstructing justice in a federal investigation that had its roots in the decision to go to war.

Check out the updated report HERE.

On July 4, Bush tells troops to prepare for more deaths.

Wed, 2007-07-04 13:30

The President “defended his Iraq war policy in a patriotic Fourth of July talk, saying that while he honors the sacrifice of U.S. troops, now is not the time to bring them home. … Bush said victory in Iraq will require ‘more patience, more courage and more sacrifice.’”

Laura Bush Rebukes President On Abstinence-Only Requirement For AIDS Relief

Wed, 2007-07-04 12:47

In 2003, Congress passed the President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provides HIV/AIDS drugs and funding to 15 countries plagued by the virus. However, President Bush and the conservative-controlled Congress tacked a restrictive provision to PEPFAR requiring that one-third of prevention funding go to promoting abstinence education.

Last month, the House rejected the policy, passing legislation that would allow Bush and future presidents to waive the abstinence-only provision. In response, Bush threatened a veto, claiming “he would veto any legislation that weakens current policy and laws on abortion.”

In an interview with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux this week, First Lady Laura Bush disagreed with her husband’s right-wing agenda, stating that she believes condoms are “absolutely essential” and supports waiving the abstinence-only provision. Watch it:

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While the U.S. spends the most money on AIDS relief, the abstinence-only provision hinders programs that could use more money for treatment.

Furthermore, a Government Accountability Office report in 2006 found that 12 of the 15 “focus-countries” were forced to reduce spending on HIV/AIDS prevention in order to meet the abstinence requirements. Programs backing safe-sex practices subsequently lost necessary funding.

UPDATE: The Center for Health and Gender Equity has more on Laura Bush’s statements.

Transcript: (more…)

Bush, Nixon are most unpopular presidents ever.

Wed, 2007-07-04 11:13

A new Rasmussen analysis finds that George Washington continues to be the nation’s most popular president, with 94 percent of Americans viewing the Father of our Country favorably. The highest unfavorable rating for any president — 60 percent — is earned by Richard Nixon.” But close “Nixon’s heels for most unpopular is the current president, George W. Bush. Fifty-nine percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.”

Land sale to Rep. Ken Calvert violated the law.

Wed, 2007-07-04 10:06

The sale of 4 acres of public land to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and his investment partners by the Jurupa Community Services District in 2005 violated California state law, according to a grand jury report released yesterday. The report said that the group should have first offered the land to other public agencies, including the local park district that wanted it.

Congressional Republican criticizes Bush’s commutation.

Wed, 2007-07-04 09:34

“Mr. Libby was tried by a jury of his peers and was convicted of a felony, ” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) said in a statement. “The fact that Mr. Libby committed this crime while serving as a public official makes it all the more egregious. Excessive or not, Mr. Libby’s sentence should be respected.”

UPDATE: The Washington Times says it does not agree with Bush’s decision.

Romney: Libby commutation was ‘reasonable.’

Wed, 2007-07-04 07:29

“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor refused to pardon an Iraq war veteran’s BB-gun conviction, on Tuesday called President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence ‘reasonable.’ … During the four years Romney was in office, 100 requests for commutations and 172 requests for pardons were filed in the state. All were denied.”

ThinkFast: July 4, 2007

Wed, 2007-07-04 06:40

The economic American dream “that children would be more prosperous than their parents, is in question as perhaps never before.” Since 1973, “median family income has been essentially flat,” and men in their 30s “earn roughly $5,000 less than their father’s generation.”

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton believes that President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison term may also wipe out his two-year probation. “Strictly interpreted, the statute authorizing probation indicates that supervised release ’should occur only after the defendant has already served a term of imprisonment,’” Walton wrote.

The Fourth of July is the peak season for purchasing American flags. In 2006, $5.3 million worth of U.S. flags were imported from other countries, mostly from China. Now, a “move is on in state legislatures to ensure that the flags folks will be flying and buying this Independence Day were made on this fruited plain.”

More than 180,000 civilians are now working in Iraq as U.S. contractors, exceeding the number of U.S. troops. The “death toll for private contractors in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has topped 1,000,” with 13,000 wounded.

193,000: Number of employees the U.S. government needs to hire in the next two years, facing “a difficult task competing with the private sector for qualified employees.” Around “480,000 federal employees expected to retire or resign in the next five years.” (more…)

Bush administration’s hypocrisy on federal sentencing.

Tue, 2007-07-03 19:40

In commuting Scooter Libby’s prison sentence, “President Bush drew on the same array of arguments about the federal sentencing system often made by defense lawyers — and routinely and strenuously opposed by his own Justice Department.” Last month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Justice Department “would push for legislation making federal sentences tougher and less flexible.”

Olbermann: Bush, Cheney should resign.

Tue, 2007-07-03 18:51

In an extended Special Comment tonight, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called on President Bush and Vice President Cheney to resign. He concludes his commentary with this:

We of this time–and our leaders in Congress, of both parties–must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach–get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.


And give us someone–anyone–about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

Watch a portion:

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BBC reporter released.

Tue, 2007-07-03 18:17

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston “has reportedly been freed from kidnappers in Gaza after almost four months in captivity.”

Global warming imperils July 4th festivities.

Tue, 2007-07-03 15:58

Climate Progress notes that Independence Day fireworks are being canceled due to worsening droughts. “The record droughts around the country have nixed fireworks in a half dozen states.”