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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Chickenhawk Conspiracy

In the new issue of the Nation, Elizabeth de la Vega outlines the case against BushCo. for criminal conspiracy:
The Supreme Court has defined the phrase "conspiracy to defraud the United States" as "to interfere with, impede or obstruct a lawful government function by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest." In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement "between two or more persons" to follow a course of conduct that, if completed, would constitute a crime. The agreement doesn't have to be express; most conspiracies are proved through evidence of concerted action. But government officials are expected to act in concert. So proof that they were conspiring requires a comparison of their public conduct and statements with their conduct and statements behind the scenes. A pattern of double-dealing proves a criminal conspiracy.

The concept of interfering with a lawful government function is best explained by reference to two well-known cases where courts found that executive branch officials had defrauded the United States by abusing their power for personal or political reasons.

One is the Watergate case, where a federal district court held that Nixon's Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, and his crew had interfered with the lawful government functions of the CIA and the FBI by causing the CIA to intervene in the FBI's investigation into the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters. The other is U.S. v. North, where the court found that Reagan administration National Security Adviser John Poindexter, Poindexter's aide Oliver North, and others had interfered with Congress's lawful power to oversee foreign affairs by lying about secret arms deals during Congressional hearings into the Iran/contra scandal.
It's an interesting article, and one of the things she calls for is Phase II of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report to be completed, so maybe Harry Reid is just answering a clarion call today. Her analysis of the Libby indictments, which is also quite compelling, is online here.