Colorado is a major step closer to eliminating the death penalty. The bill to repeal it and use the savings on solving cold cases passed the House by a single vote today. It now goes to the Senate.
The last death penalty case in Colorado cost $1.4 million to prosecute. It costs about $70,000 for a non-capital murder case.
Murray Waas has a fascinating piece in the new Atlantic about Dan Bogden, the onetime U.S. Attorney from Nevada who got shoved out by the Rove Crew:
A Justice Department official told me that the idea of hiring Bogden back is in fact a real possibility, and said that the White House counsel?s office has been quietly vetting his background in anticipation of his possible reappointment?not a difficult task, considering that he has been employed by the government for the majority of his adult life.
If Bogden is reappointed as U.S. attorney, his supervisor will be one of the authors of the Justice Department?s report on the U.S. attorney firings that praised Bogden and severely criticized the Bush administration appointees who fired him. Last Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder reassigned H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of Justice?s Office of Professional Responsibility, to head the executive office of U.S. attorneys, where he will oversee the nation?s 94 U.S. attorneys. By naming Jarrett to his new position, a senior Obama administration official told me, ?I think this administration is sending a message that the era of politicization of the Department should be long due over.? The same official told me: ?The continued service of Dan Bogden might hopefully send the same message.?
Slowly but surely, the men whose careers were ruined by Rove and the Gang are being restored, at least incrementally. David Iglesias, the fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney, has been working on Guantanamo cases for the Navy's JAG unit.
John McKay, the fired U.S. attorney from Washington state, is now working for Getty Images.
I wonder if Karl Rove will have any comment about this anytime in the near future on Fox News. I suspect he's too busy bashing Obama, however.
All the best civil libertarians and progressives went off the rails this weekend when Obama's incredibly sleazy and untrustworthy chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, went on ABC-TV to announce that the Obama administration would not only let CIA hands-on torturers off the hook, but wouldn't even prosecute those who ordered the torture nor the slimy lawyers who gave them the flimsy legalistic cover to do it. (Watch Emanuel espousing what now looks like his own opinion, rather than Obama's.) The president has been on cleanup duty over the mess Obama made ever since.
A report in today's NY Times contradicts Emanuel and points out that Obama is leaving the door open "to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration?s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and he did not rule out taking action against the lawyers who fashioned the legal guidelines for the interrogations."
Mr. Obama said once again that he does not favor prosecuting C.I.A. operatives who used interrogation techniques that he has since banned. But as for lawyers or others who drew up the former policies allowing such techniques, he said it would be up to his attorney general to decide what to do, adding, ?I don?t want to prejudge that.?
...On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program ?This Week? that ?those who devised policy? also ?should not be prosecuted.? But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.
Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department?s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
"He is a face of the past," said one Republican consultant who spoke on the condition he not be named. "A face of conflict and too polarizing. So, not a good face of the party."
Cheney is largely unpopular among voters generally and particularly independent voters that proved so critical to Obama's across-the-board victory last fall. A late March Gallup poll showed that just three in ten voters had a favorable opinion of Cheney while 63 percent felt unfavorably toward him. Those numbers are consistent with where Gallup has shown Cheney for the last three years-- a period long enough to demonstrate a hardening of opinion toward the former vice president.
By Daniel W. Smith and Yousif al-Timimi On TV last night, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders continued the tough cross talk that has been increasing in the past week.
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A federal judge has denied former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's request to modify his bond so he can go to Costa Rica and participate in a reality show.
The Judge had some good advice for Blago:
He also said Blagojevich needs to stick around to read the government's evidence, because only then will he be able to understand the jeopardy he is in.
In an April 17 segment on Fox News' Special Report about the EnvironmentalProtection Agency's (EPA) finding that greenhouse gases can be regulatedunder the Clean Air Act, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle aired JeffreyHolmstead's assertions that the"permitting process under the Clean Air Act slows thingsdown by at least two or three years" and that new regulation wouldgive activist groups "the ability to bring lawsuits, to stop virtuallyany construction project that they disfavor for any[...]
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TARP watchdog Neil Barofksy appeared on CNBC today to discuss the 250-page report card on the bailout the SIGTARP office (that's Special Inspector General of the Toxic Assets Relief Program, but you knew that) submitted today to Congress. The tenor of his appearance was a great deal milder than that of his report. Asked if he worried that his prosecutorial zeal would dissuade financial institutions from participating in federal programs to restore the system to health, he emphasized that those who "play by the rules" had nothing to worry about. "Those institutions -- those banks, those creditors, those those hedge funds -- that are seeking to steal from the system, to game this program -- I hope we do scare them off," he told the program Squawk Box.
The scary thing, of course, is that from the sound of his report there still aren't many rules governing the bailout -- and in part as a result, it's in danger of destroying the government's credibility. Video and excerpts after the jump.
His office has already initiated 20 separate criminal probes.
The report disclosed no details, but it made clear the vulnerabilities to fraud were in no way limited to any single realm of the TARP: crimes thus far detected include "large corporate and securities fraud matters affecting TARP investments, tax matters, insider trading, public corruption and mortgage modification fraud."
Treasury seems to have set gratuitously low expectations for disclosure from TARP recipient banks.
In his office's February report Barofsky noted that "TARP agreements" -- except in those of Bank of America and Citigroup -- "generally do not require recipients to report or track internally the use of TARP funds." So Barofsky sent the 364 TARP-receiving banks a letter asking about just that, and 364 responded.
Although the results of the survey still need to be analyzed, one thing is clear: Treasury's arguments that such an accounting was impractical, impossible, or a wast of time because of the inherent fungibility of money were unfounded.
And those banks have made clear to Barofksy that Treasury has been less than clear it expects them to go comply with the executive compensation laws Congress passed last fall.
Treasury should address the confusion and uncertainty on executive compensation by immediately issuing the required regulations.
The TALF, or Troubled Assets Lending Facility, demands even less than the TARP.Treasury, the report says, failed to secure itself even enough oversight authority over the program to learn the identity of borrowers in the program that defaulted and surrendered their assets as collateral to the government.
In other words, under its current agreement, Treasury does not have access to the identity, or any oversight authority over, the borrowers from whom, in effect, it will be buying surrendered ABS.
Geithner's recently announced Public Private Investment Partnership, under which private investors can qualify for massive non-recourse government loans to invest in toxic and illiquid securities to get the markets back in functioning order may be "inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse."
Basic conflict-of-interest problems in the deal practically beg investors to overvalue the assets for profit in a scheme that also invites corruption, collusion and money laundering, the report says.
The comprehensively botched handling of the AIG bailout -- with the bonus controversy and the AIG Financial Products counterparty payouts comprising two of the six special audits Barofksy's office is conducting of the TARP -- could get even worse, and it's destroying its credibility.
In light of the controversy surrounding AIG's use of government assistance, both through the paying of bonuses and in its dealings with counterparties, failure to impose this requirement with respect to the injection of yet another $30 billion would not only be a failure of oversight, but could call into further question the credibility of the Government's efforts with respect to the assistance provided to AIG.
As a result of the bailout, Treasury is managing a massive portfolio of bank shares, warrants and other assets with no coherent strategy for maximizing its return.In February Barofsky concluded that Treasury "needs, in the near term, to begin developing a more complete strategy on what to do with the substantial portfolio it now manages on behalf of the American people."
As of the drafting of this report, however, no asset manager had been hired to managing the existing asset portfolio, and no investment strategy has been developed.
Sunday's bombshell article by Jeff Stein--and the New York Times' helpful follow up piece--open up so many new lines of inquiry it's hard to know where to begin. But a few things definitely stuck out at us. One question we had is why, according to Stein's story, did the NSA (and not the FBI) conduct the wiretaps? (Yesterday afternoon a couple reports emerged indicating that perhaps the FBI, and not the NSA had done the surveillance, but the Times story seems to confirm what Stein wrote).
Why the curiosity? Well, for one thing, at the time Harman's conversation was supposedly recorded, the FBI had long been investigating the conduct of AIPAC officials under suspicion of passing on classified information and the Harman conversation allegedly involves an attempt to obstruct the DOJ's case. Harman has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but assuming the taps were conducted in conjunction with the AIPAC investigation, this was certainly the FBI's bailiwick, and, for that matter, the FBI has real investigative capability whereas the NSA, though equipped with robust interception capability, does not. So why would the NSA become involved?
One benign possibility is that the NSA was surveilling this agent for completely separate reasons. But Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kevin Bankston cautions that there "has been a greater level of cooperation since 9/11," so there's no reason to assume the NSA wasn't involved from the outset.
I asked FBI spokesman Richard Kolko if he'd describe, in generic terms, the level of interagency co-operation between the NSA and the FBI and the circumstances under which such co-operation would occur. Kolko said he was aware that my inquiry was pursuant to this still-emerging story and refused to comment. (At his behest, I've passed the inquiry along to the Department of Justice.)
A former FBI source who declined to speak on the record suggested that perhaps the NSA's involvement stems back to the origins of this controversy. As my colleague Zack Roth noted yesterday, in May 2005, former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Larry Franklin was taken into custody by federal agents after a months-long investigation revealed he had handed over secret U.S. national security information to Israeli agents. That may be key, because, according to the source, for the most part, the NSA's investigative capability is limited to inquiries into their own people--and as a Defense Department agency, that would include Pentagon officials.
But, of course, the Harman conversation supposedly took place in October 2005, several months after Franklin had already been indicted, and around the same time as Franklin pleaded guilty. And that raises the question of, if the NSA was involved because of Franklin (still a big if), why were they still involved after his specific case was all but wrapped up.
I'll pass along any more information as I learn it--the explanation may prove interesting.
President Barack Obama . . . is leaving the door to open to possible prosecution of Bush administration officials who devised harsh terrorism-era interrogation tactics. . . . Obama did say . . . he could support a Hill investigation if it were conducted in a bipartisan way. [President Obama] also said that it is up to the attorney general whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving these tactics.
Rahmbo and Gibbs are contradicted by the President. Clearly a walkback. What will it mean? We'll find out. Video on the flip.
Abduhl Wali-i-Musi, the sole surviving pirate of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama and kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips has arrived in New York. He will be arraigned today in federal court.
Omar Jamal, Director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, a group that helps Somali immigrants with legal and social issues, said Musi's family has asked his organization to assist in his defense.
The AP has details on his background...he's called "Muse" and he could be 16 or 18. He wasn't born in a hospital and Somalis don't keep birth records. [More...]
The boy's father, Abdiqadir Muse, said the pirates lied to his son, telling him they were going to get money. The family is penniless, he said. "He just went with them without knowing what he was getting into," Muse said in a separate telephone interview with the AP through an interpreter.
He also said it was his son's first outing with the pirates after having been taken from his home about a week and a half before he surrendered at sea to U.S. officials.
Here's a video news report.