An appellate decision on the long-running dispute between a former prosecutor and the Department of Justice may provide a new way for journalists to protect their government sources.
The decision came as a result of former prosecutor Richard Convertino’s effort to sue DOJ for Privacy Act violations tied to a 2004 leak to Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter. Ashenfelter reported that Convertino was under investigation by DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility for misconduct on a terrorism trial.
There are no heroes in the underlying suit. Convertino claims DOJ investigated him not for prosecutorial misconduct, but instead to retaliate for criticism of their conduct under the War on Terror and testimony provided under subpoena to Congress. The claim deserves consideration given the lenient treatment DOJ has given to egregious prosecutorial misconduct in other cases (such as Ted Stevens), not to mention other failures to comply with discovery obligations, especially on terrorism trials. But Convertino’s alleged conduct – withholding evidence from defense attorneys – was also inexcusable.
The dispute has sucked Ashenfelter up in a long running fight over whether he should have to testify about his sources. He first tried to refuse by invoking reporter’s privilege, which a judge rejected. But when, in 2008, Convertino tried to depose the reporter, Ashenfelter invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to each question. To defend doing so, Ashenfelter pointed to Convertino’s own claims that he had conspired with criminals at DOJ, as well as to a series of cases (including those under the Espionage Act) and public statements suggesting DOJ might prosecute someone for using documents illegally obtained from the government to do reporting.
On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait, a tiny Persian Gulf emirate. Three days later, US president George HW Bush fielded questions from reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. The key line from, and substance of, those remarks: “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”
Two days after that, Operation Desert Shield commenced with the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia. Desert Shield transitioned into Desert Storm – a short, sharp, successful air and ground attack resulting in the ejection of Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait.
The early days of this military adventure were marked by spirited debate on its merits and trepidation over the possibility of large-scale chemical warfare and mass US casualties.
But by late May of 1991, when I returned home from my tour of duty as a Marine infantry NCO, the war seemed an unqualified success. Saddam’s forces had been routed with fewer than 300 Americans killed and only 800 wounded.
Parades were held. Medals were awarded. Returning troops in uniform got free beer at airport bars. Yes, really – I drank my Budweiser on layover at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. And I drank the Kool Aid that followed, too: Desert Storm had blown away the dark cloud cover of Vietnam and looked set to go down in history as a “good war” not unlike World War II.
Now that NATO officially supports Turkey’s revitalized war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Turks might soon request American weapons, intelligence and diplomatic assistance for their onslaught. When that time comes, we should say no.
Those who would again have us commit American resources to Turkish authoritarians ought to examine the past repercussions of their longstanding policy. From 1985 to 1995, the US government granted $5.3 billion worth of military "protection" to the Turkish government, endowments that at one point accounted for more than three-quarters of Turkey’s imported weaponry. In reality, this "protective" assistance facilitated the brutal repression of innocent Kurds in a state that prohibited the use of Kurdish languages in public spaces and accosted Kurdish civilians for their involvement in dissident political parties. In its effort to eradicate the PKK, the Turkish government incinerated Kurdish homes and wielded Western weapons to extirpate communities, to torture people wantonly, and to assassinate political opponents without trial.
The Turkish government’s illiberal streak still exists today. Over the past couple of weeks, the authorities have attacked antiwar protesters with water cannons and have detained hundreds of Kurdish activists upon the resurgence of Turkey’s war with the PKK. As people who often use Kurdish suffering to justify Western attacks in the Middle East, American statesmen should find this situation appalling.
Early last week, the US publicly announced that it was not going to publicly blame China for the OPM hack.
The evidence of China’s responsibility for the hack has not been made public, and doesn’t seem particularly strong. The FBI initially suggested several possible candidates, including “state actors.” Media outlets took this to mean China, and started reporting China was being blamed. Congressmen took the media reports as proof China did it, and other media outlets took the Congressmen’s comments as proof China did it.
The idiocy through which we got here is neither here nor there though, as the US, which still hasn’t “publicly” blamed China, despite publicly saying they weren’t going to do so, is now publicly saying they’re going to carry out some sort of revenge act against China.
Officials are said to be split on how big of a revenge attack to conduct, and some are afraid that it will spark a revenge attack from China, which would be followed by a revenge-revenge attack, and so on.
Those calling for more aggressive attacks are said to believe it will be a “deterrent” in the future, despite it also being obviously more likely to result in retaliation. The question of whether China even did the OPM hack in the first place seems long since forgotten.
A second round of peace talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, expected to begin before the end of July, 2015, suggests that some parties to the fighting want to declare a cease fire. But even in the short time since the first round on July 7th, fighting has intensified. The Taliban, the Afghan government forces, various militias and the U.S. have ramped up attacks, across Afghanistan.
Some analysts say the Taliban may be trying to gain territory and clout to give them leverage in ‘peace talks.’ Taliban forces, apparently beginning to splinter since the supposed death of Mullah Omar, are now competing with a new Islamic State presence in Afghanistan as various armed groups try to recruit new fighters from among ultra-conservative sectors of the regional population. Spectacular and frightening suicide bombings, hostage taking and a demonstrated capacity to force Afghan government soldiers into retreat or surrender might bolster a group’s claim to be effectively ejecting foreigners from Afghanistan.
However, the US, with its history of waging aerial attacks, using helicopters and weaponized drones, and engaging in constant aerial surveillance, along with its continued night raids and detention of civilians, effectively carries itself as the most formidable warlord in the region.
Throughout June, according to the New York Times, “American drones and warplanes fired against militants in Afghanistan more than twice as much as they had in any previous month this year, according to military statistics.” On July 19th, 2015, US helicopters even fired on an Afghan army facility in the Logar province, killing seven troops and wounding five others. The Afghan Ministry of Defense told CBS News that “coalition helicopters were flying through the area early Monday morning when they came under fire from insurgents. After the insurgents’ attack on the helicopters, the helicopters bombed the area, and as a result an Afghan army outpost was destroyed.”
US military officials are loudly bragging about their latest initiative to reassure Europe, a program that was called, unlikely enough, the European Reeassurance Initiative (ERI), and which to this point has involved moving a lot of sand around, and building some roads in rural parts of several Baltic states.
ERI is nominally the latest in a long line of programs the Obama Administration has announced to “combat Russian aggression,” and which are meant to build up nations along the Russian frontier to support massive US military deployments to spite Russia.
The plans are often ill-conceived, as the US idea to deploy huge amounts of tanks into several of these countries ran into problems because the tanks are stored in swampy areas where the mud makes it virtually impossible to drive a tank, and NATO has taken to having to “ship” those tanks back and forth to their various anti-Russia photo ops.
In this regard, ERI is trying to be the solution for the military-created problem, hauling thousands of tonnes of sand into those swampy areas to build “tank trails” that they can drive the tanks through, along with roads to support the infrastructure for the NATO operations in the area.
The army sees it as a win-win, as the pricey construction involves the use of contractors, and is subsequently popular with the host countries, and also lets the army deploy people to not-war-zones, which is “good for morale.”
That the whole program is make-work to “reassure” European nations about the US commitment to take part in some unlikely, disastrous future war with Russia is just gravy for them, as the Pentagon sees talk of a new Cold War as a great excuse to push for bigger budgets, and if they can’t physically position forces in the Baltic swamps for this scheme, they’ll build up the swamps so they can.