November 13, 2007

Elite News Media: Reading Between the Lies

Hatched by Dafydd

I don't know if I'll make this a continuing series; but for today, it's kind of fun (for me, and I'm all that matters in my narcissistic, little bubble-world) to just slalom through a news article and see if we can deduce what's really happening from the way the drive-by media bobs and weaves. Our text today is an AP piece by Devlin Barrett titled "Domestic Spying Inquiry Restarted at DoJ."

The Justice Department has reopened a long-dormant inquiry into the government's warrantless wiretapping program, a major policy shift only days into the tenure of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

The investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility was shut down last year, after the investigators were denied security clearances. Gonzales told Congress that President Bush, not he, denied the clearances.

"We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation," H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press....

"I am happily surprised," Hinchey said. "It now seems because we have a new attorney general the situation has changed. Maybe this attorney general understands that his obligation is not to be the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country."

(Thumbnail distinction: The Office of Professional Responsibility -- OPR -- investigates allegations of unethical or criminal behavior by DoJ attorneys; the Office of the Inspector General -- OIG -- investigates allegations about non-attorney DoJ employees.)

All right, one investigation surrounding the NSA al-Qaeda phone intercept program has restarted -- not an investigation into the propriety of the program itself but into what the DoJ sttorneys told the president and Congress; that basic fact is clear. What AP is obscuring is why... what changed?

Now the investigators have received their security clearances; but two intriguing points bubble up that AP never follows:

  • Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, and I don't believe President Bush ever disputed, that it was Bush, not Gonzales, who denied the clearances in the first place. So how could a new Attorney General -- appointed by Bush -- change that?

    (And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with Attorney General Michael Mukasey not being "the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country." Does Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, 100%, believe that Gonzales secretly talked Bush into denying the clearances, and now Mukasey has talked him into issuing them? This is garden-variety liberal lunacy, the "president as empty vessel" conspiracy.)

  • Another batch of Justice Department investigators, run not by the Office of Professional Responsibility but by the inspector general's office [OIG], did receive security clearances... at the same time that the OPR investigators were denied. That's hardly the action of a president trying to squash an investigation!

The AP article reports this odd fact... but there is no follow-up, no analysis, not even a question mark. Of course not: The fact that other DoJ investigators got the proper clearances doesn't fit the "story" of Bush thwarting the investigation:

The OPR investigation was begun in February 2006 but was shut down a few months later when the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the security clearances to ask questions about the program. Justice Department officials said Gonzales recommended Bush approve the clearances, but the president said no....

A separate Justice Department internal investigation was opened last year by the agency's inspector general. Those investigators received their security clearances around the same time the OPR investigators' were denied, and their probe is ongoing.

Why the OIG but not the OPR?

So what is going on here? The OPR is a council headed by the Counsel on Professional Responsibility, currently H. Marshall Jarrett; but Jarrett has been there since 2005, all through the investigation. So there must be some reason why the president refused to issue clearances to the OPR under Gonzales, but immediately -- before even the ceremonial swearing-in -- issued them for essentially the same OPR under Mukasey.

One possiblity could be that Bush had lost confidence that anything Gonzales did wouldn't be so tainted by the (in my opinion) unwarranted attacks on Gonzales, that it would turn into a PR nightmare. Suppose the Gonzales OPR investigated and found no ethical violation; wouldn't the Democrats simply seize hold of that and scream "cover-up?"

So what may have really been standing in the way of an investigation... is the very damage fraudulently inflicted by Democrats on the creditibility of Alberto Gonzales! By hurling so many unprovable accusations against Alberto Gonzales, always prejudicial but never probative, the Democrats themselves made it politically impossible for him to conduct the very investigations they demanded. Any probe would precipitate a Catch-22:

  • If Gonzales' Department of Justice found culpability, that would give Democrats ammunition to attack the Bush administration;
  • If the DoJ found complete exoneration, that would allow Democrats to cry "cover-up" -- and still attack the Bush administration.

So what is the point of an administrative investigation? Since Bush obviously could not simply order the OPR not to investigate (think how that would look), the only power he had was to deny them the clearances until he had an Attorney General who was not tainted by the slanderous allegations of the Democrats.

By contrast, the Office of the Inspector General appears to be held in higher repute. For one thing, it's run by Glenn Fine... who was appointed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. For another, since it doesn't investigate DoJ attorneys but only the non-attorney aides and other employees, I suspect it's seen by both parties as lower level and not as political: It doesn't investigate political appointees, who are generally attorneys. Ergo, there was no danger of precipitating another "cover-up" confrontation with the Democrats by allowing the Democrat-appointed Fine to investigate career non-attorney employees of the Department of Justice.

I suspect that, regardless of Bush's frequent (and probably sincere) avowals of support for Gonzales and his belief that the accusations were false, the president was savvy enough to know that sometime in the very near future, the pressure would become insurmountable... and Gonzales himself would crumble and resign. So Bush put off some investigations until such time as a new AG could more credibly conduct them.

The "importance" of these investigations

Here's an interesting admission against interest:

Democrats have complained in the past that neither probe reviews whether the surveillance program violates the Constitution, the kind of decision usually reserved for the courts.

So the Democrats are admitting that neither of these two internal DoJ probes will get at the actual meat of what everybody wants to know: Is it constitutional to eavesdrop on overseas terrorists -- even if we might accidentally overhear a conversation he has with an American citizen? That question cannot be resolved by the Department of Justice, but only by the federal court system.

In other words, these DoJ investigations are ancillary side issues... and even the elite media knows it. Yet they're making a huge stink out of it. Ergo, they're not at all confident that there is anything wrong with the eavesdropping program itself: If they thought they had a really strong case on the main issue, why would they even pay attention to the question of "whether the DOJ attorneys who were involved complied with their ethical obligations of providing competent legal advice to their client and of adhering to their duty of candor to the court"?

If you're confident you can convict a defendant of multiple murders, you don't focus on whether you can also get him for income-tax evasion; that's the straw you clutch at as a last resort.

Say, what about the "fired" United States Attorneys investigation? How's that going?

And finally, we have this very soft statement that nevertheless shouts volumes at us:

A department investigation also is looking at last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys -- and whether at least one of them was dismissed because he refused to target Democratic candidates shortly before the 2006 elections.

"At least one of them?" A far cry from the original accusation -- that all seven (or nine, the number seemed only to grow for a time) had been "fired" because they wouldn't throw cases against Republicans or file false charges against Democrats or other wildly improper (and illegal) reasons.

Am I being precipitous by concluding that the phraseology "at least one of them" means that the Democrats have quietly given up on the rest, and are just focusing on a single case?

And which one? There are only two former USAs whose firings have ever been alleged by Democrats to be because they "refused to target Democratic candidates" in corruption probes: David Iglesias and John McKay. One other USA, Todd Graves, resigned under pressure after he refused to prosecute a voter-fraud case against the leftist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which is widely believed to engage in voter registration fraud... which isn't exactly what AP says above.

As for the rest, the Left alleges they were fired for bringing corruption cases against Republicans, not for refusing to bring them against Democrats; and one (Bob Cummins) is alleged to have been fired to "make room" for Karl Rove's "protegé," Timothy Griffin.

So has the entire "dismissal of US Attorneys controversy" collapsed except for one case, for which liberals still keep hope alive? Enquiring minds say -- sure sounds like it!

"In conclusion..." -- and the audience spontaneously cheers

See? It is possible to get one's news from the elite media after all. It just requires an entire archaeological dig.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2007, at the time of 6:12 PM

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