Monday, April 05, 2004

Privacy for us...

- Sibel Edmonds is a former translator for the FBI with a top-secret security clearance. According to an interview with the newspaper The Independent (UK), on February 11 she gave the 9/11 Commission detailed information showing senior Bush administration officials knew of plans to use aircrafts in attacks on US cities well before they happened.

Hired as a translator right after 9/11, by the end of the following winter she was complaining to her superiors about severe problems in the translation department. In March 2002 she was fired as a result.
When Mrs Edmonds sued the FBI over her dismissal, the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, at the request of the FBI director, Robert Mueller, invoked the rarely used "state secrets privilege" procedure to petition the court to dismiss the case. A statement issued by the Department of Justice said this had been "to prevent the disclosure of certain classified and sensitive national security information".
- The Bushites continue their struggle to avoid admitting that corporate executives and their PR flacks were the driving force behind the "new" energy policy created by Dick "The Big Dick" Cheney's "energy task force."
Cheney's energy plan was published three years ago and the administration has been fighting lawsuits since, arguing that it would violate the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine to have a judge force the president or vice president to reveal who they met with in private,
says Daily News Online, quoting the Los Angeles Times for April 2.

However, they are, perhaps, just perhaps, slowly being brought to heel. On Wednesday, in a suit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the US District Court in DC ruled that the records in question are "agency records" that lie outside any shield protecting the president and vice-president and ordered the release of thousands of pages of documents. Meanwhile, a suit brought by the Sierra Club and the conservative legal foundation Judicial Watch contending that the secret meetings violated an open-government law, earlier resulted in a similar ruling. The White House refused to comply, lost in Appeals Court, and has appealed to the Supreme Court.

- Attempts by the House Ways and Means Committee to investigate charges by chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster that he had been threatened with being fired if he told Congress the truth about projected costs of the prescription drug part of last fall's Medicare deform bill have been scuttled by the White House and committee chair Bill Thomas (R-CA). Again from Daily News Online, again quoting the LA Times for April 2:
A senior White House official and the former Medicare administrator, central figures in a controversy over the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug law, declined to appear before a House committee Thursday, defying Democrats who had sought their testimony.

Citing executive privilege, the White House refused to send Doug Badger, the special assistant to the president for health policy, to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee. The former Medicare administrator, Thomas Scully, who no longer works for the government, wrote the committee a letter saying he had been busy traveling and would be unable to appear.

Democrats then tried to persuade the committee to subpoena them, but those motions failed along party lines, by a vote of 23 to 16.
Thomas then blocked a proposal to have Scully come on another date, effectively putting and end to the investigation.

A bizarre sidebar to this is that in refusing - more accurate than "declining" - to appear, Scully wrote the committee that
when he was administrator, Foster was not free to communicate directly with lawmakers.

"There is no question whatsoever," he wrote, "that I made it very clear to Foster, both directly and indirectly, that I, as his supervisor, would decide when he would communicate with Congress."
That is, he as much as confessed! He was responsible for Foster's contacts with Congress and thus he himself was guilty of willfully hiding that fact that the pill plan would cost $140 million more than the Bushites claimed - that is, that he actively concealed relevant and accurate information about a major piece of legislation.

How big do you think his bonus will be?

- In response to a request from the 9/11 Commission, the Clinton Library released thousands of pages of documents relating to his administration's dealings about terrorism. However, continuing it's steadfast policy of stall, delay, and foot-drag, the White House withheld most of them until they were caught out. On Friday, the White House agreed to allow the commission to review the papers. Official White House scumbag Scott McClellan insisted it was "simply ridiculous" to suggest they'd been anything less than totally, fawningly cooperative with the commission, claiming they'd provided "everything they [i.e., the commission] need."

In addition to wondering how even this crew has the gall to assert that the target of an inquiry gets to decide what information that inquiry "needs," note carefully that the agreement is to let the commissioners "review" the documents - but they have to go over to the National Archives to do so. The White House has given no assurances that any of the papers will actually be released.

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