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Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Risen Witch Hunt Begins

We slog through a lot of partisan muck and unsavory characters every day on this blog, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, the NYT article by David Johnston outlining how the partisan hacks at the Justice Department are going after the people who leaked the NSA wiretap information -- as well as the journalists involved -- is ringing all the alarm bells.

Glenn says:
[T]his flamboyant use of the forces of criminal prosecution to threaten whistle-blowers and intimidate journalists are nothing more than the naked tactics of street thugs and authoritarian juntas. There is much speculation over whether other eavesdropping programs exist, including domestic eavesdropping programs, as well as whether other lawless programs have been authorized based on the Administration's theories that it has the right to wield war powers against American citizens on American soil.

Our hope for finding out about the existence of other illegality depends upon the willingness of whistle blowers to come forward and journalists to investigate and report such misconduct. That is precisely why the Administration is so aggressively seeking to attack and silence those two groups, and it is why the significance and danger of those attempts really can't be overstated.
As Digby noted yesterday, with the Democratic party practically pummeled into silence and the press either intimidated or bribed into submission, one of the last hopes for checking the unlimited grasp of the BushCo. criminals are the career people at the Justice Department, and that's why BushCo. has been working so hard to stack it with cronies who will do their bidding. They pushed Comey out, gave Alice Fisher a recess appointment, tried (and failed) to crowbar Timothy "Tyco" Flanigan into the number two seat, and now this. The fact that Tom DeLay now sits on the congressional committee that oversees the Justice Department (even as they investigate him) is really just the icing on the cake.

The NYT piece does get one thing wrong, and it's quite critical. It claims that Fitzgerald's actions in the Plame case have opened up the doors for this, and while that may be the battle cry of the BushCo. cronies it completely ignores what Fitzgerald actually did and says.

In the recently released 2004 affidavit in the CIA leak case, Fitzgerald gives a very good outline of the need to protect true whistleblowers, and how this is is actually furthered by prosecuting the smear merchants in the Plame case who disingenuously hoped to hide behind "whistleblower" status:
In deciding whether to issue subpoenas to reporters, I have carefully weighed and balanced the competing interests of the First Amendment and the public interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information and the countervailing interests in effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice: namely determining whether a crime was committed and whether someone should be prosecuted for that crime. One key factor in deciding whether to issue a subpoena has been whether the "source" to be identified appears to have leaked to discredit the earlier source (Wilson) as opposed to a leak who revealed information as a "whistleblower" (e.g. the source for the September 28 Washington Post column). The First Amendment interests are clearly different when the "source" being sought may have committed a crime in order to attack a person such as Wilson who, correctly or incorrectly, sought to expose what he perceived as misconduct by the White House. Indeed, failure to take effective steps to identify such sources might chill future whistleblowers such as Wilson, this impairing "a reporter's responsibility to cover as broadly as possible controversial public issues." (28 CFR Section 50.10).
In ignoring this critical distinction and commencing a witch hunt for the purposes of political intimidation and thuggery, the DoJ is twisting the law to political purposes. And if the New York Times (who clearly have an interest in the matter) doesn't get that distinction, the BushCo. cronies launching this thing certainly won't.

Sometimes I sit here in my pile of papers and my notebooks and wall charts with all the stickies and I watch shit like this go down and I think of all the money and the access and the manpower the GOP corruption machine has at its disposal and I think my god, what hope do we have of combating this. It's overwhelming.

Then I look in the comments section, other blogs and my email and see how smart, how determined, how resourceful and committed people are without hope of any financial gain, based solely on principle and strength of character and I realize that no amount of cash and corruption can beat that down.