Beast of the Month - June 2007
Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General
"I yam an anti-Christ... "
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
"Senator, that I don't recall remembering."
Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee
As June begins, the smell of justice is in the air. After all, the noteworthy celebrity villain Paris Hilton is finally going to jail for her crimes against humanity.
Okay, maybe Paris isn't the most deserving candidate to stick up for, but with all the late-night talk show monologue snickering, somebody has to. Granted, the idea of Ms. Hilton's simple life turning into a Chained Heat lesbian prison film (perhaps featuring Sybil Danning in a cameo) certainly has its appeal, at least as a "reality" show or "home" video. But isn't all this focus on bad little Paris just making her a convenient scapegoat while the more substantive crimes of the Bush Administration continue to go unpunished? For example, is Paris a worse scofflaw than Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General and The Konformist Beast of the Month?
To George W. Bush, a guy who loves giving out pet nicknames, Gonzales is referred to a Fredo, a fairly insulting reference to the incompetent member of The Godfather Corleone clan. Of course, considering Shrub's dismal record, he appears more suited for the Fredo name (although he must compete with his brother Neil for the title.) Others, most notably the Website Buzzflash.com, have given Gonzales the more deserving moniker of Consigliere, in honor of Robert Duvall's Tom Hagen in the Puzo-penned, Copolla-directed classic. He is, after all, Bush's little fixer of legal problems, a position he's held since 1996 when he got Bush off serving jury duty. (Shrub made a big show on how he was eager to serve on a jury like a "common man" - until he found out it was a drunk-driving case, which would require him to reveal his then covered-up history of driving smashed. In came Fredo, who argued that, as Governor, he may later be asked to pardon in the case, which would put him in conflict-of-interest if he sat on the jury.) Personally, we at The Konformist like to refer to Gonzales as "Sanjaya" since, whenever he opens his mouth, we wonder why he hasn't got his ass booted out of the DOJ already.
But unlike Sanjaya on American Idol, Gonzales is still the Attorney General because his miserable performance is precisely what Bush wants. For example, in April before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales, in the most embarrassing spectacle in front of the esteemed group since Clarence Thomas told Long Dong Silver jokes, used some version of "I don't recall" 71 times in testimony. At the time, Gonzales seemed dazed and confused, perhaps because conventional wisdom was he soon would be out of a job over the Attorney Firing Scandal (which prompted his testimony in the first place.) Even GOP Senators were publicly urging him to throw in the towel. Cut to May, and in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales, though still with a memory loss resembling Guy Pearce in Memento, seemed confident, relaxed, even a tad cocky with a smirk on his face. What caused the change? More than likely, Bush told him he wasn't going to dump him, perhaps because his unconvincing obfuscations have successfully hampered the Congressional investigations surrounding Bush.
Unsurprisingly, though the support of Fredo by Bush has apparently become even stronger, the evidence of corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power by Gonzales has become, incredibly, even greater since his April testimony. The biggest bombshell in May: testimony from former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey that Gonzales and then Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card attempted to secretly visit then Attorney General John Ashcroft while he laid ill, medicated and disoriented in a hospital, in order to reauthorize a secret wiretapping program that Comey, then acting AG, refused to sign off on as legal. Only by rushing to Ashcroft's hospital with FBI Director Robert Mueller was this end-around stopped. As Comey put it: "I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man..."
This revelation is stunning on three counts. One, it shows that Ashcroft, for all his far-right political leanings, scary religious fundamentalism and point-man status for ramrodding the PATRIOT Act through Congress, was actually a stronger defender of civil liberties than Gonzales, which may have had something to do with his "resignation" in 2004. (Like Comey, Ashcroft was opposed to the warrantless wiretapping program.) Two, it shows that members of the Bush Team literally use gangster-type methods to get what they want. (No word if Gonzales and Card were going to leave a horse's head in Ashcroft's bed to clinch an offer he couldn't refuse.) And third, it hints at evidence that the NSA wiretapping program, already blatantly illegal with what is known about it, was at one point even more contemptuous of the law than what has been reported.
After the showdown, changes were made in the program that allowed Ashcroft to sign off on it. What were these changes? Both the New York Times and Washington Post have hinted at the likely answer, perhaps because, as has been the case over the Bush years, they have the evidence already but have decided to hide it from the public in collusion with the political establishment. To its usual credit, The World Socialist Web Site was explicit about the logical explanation in a May 18 article. The smoking gun appears to be Mueller's involvement in the dispute, who, like Ashcroft and Comey, considered resigning over the standoff. While Comey and even Ashcroft had every reason to take umbrage at the Bush Mob's defiance of their legal opinion, why would the FBI Director, no civil libertarian, give a rat's ass? The most plausible explanation: this was a turf battle, and while Mueller may not care about privacy rights, he DID care about protecting his FBI. More explicitly, the NSA historically has only been involved in international surveillance, while the FBI held domain in domestic spying. It seems Occam's Razor would suggest that, at least until the program was modified under protest by Ashcroft, Comey and Mueller, the warrantless NSA spying program involved communications completely within the United States. Of course, since Gonzales is now the man in the DOJ signing off on any programs, there is good reason to suspect that the secret spying program involves such communications again.
Of course, the NSA spying program is merely one of many outrages involving the Bush Team where Gonzales is a pivotal person. Among his most notorious hits:
* ATTORNEY FIRING SCANDAL: Eight US Attorneys were dumped from the DOJ last December. (One of the eight, David Iglesias, was the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in the film A Few Good Men, who egged on Jack Nicholson's classic line, "You can't handle the truth!") At least 26 attorneys have been considered for firing since 2005, with three others receiving pink slips. Though it's customary for mass replacements in attorneys to occur at the start of a new administration, widespread mid-term firings are unprecedented, with only two in the previous quarter century for misconduct. While attorneys are appointments that can be hired and fired at will, in this case, it appears the vast majority were fired for blatantly partisan purposes. Specifically, four of the eleven fired were involved in key target areas for so-called "voter fraud" claims, under Karl Rove's cynical plan to use bogus election fraud investigations to suppress minority voters. The four were unwilling to press charges in the cases, and lost favor in the Bush Team for this. Meanwhile, five were involved in high-profile investigations of GOP figures, most notably Carol Lam, who nailed Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham for bribery. An email by Gonazales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson revealed that "loyal Bushies" were to replace the ousted prosecutors. All told, the scandal reveals a grotesque attempt to politicize the DOJ, with strong evidence of both voter fraud and obstruction of justice by the Bush gang. Further obstruction was done by Gonzales himself, who in a March 13 press conference declared about the scandal: "I never saw documents. We never had a discussion about where things stood." Ten days later, it was revealed he attended an hour-long meeting on November 27 where he approved a detailed plan for the mass firings. Meanwhile, in his testimony before the Senate, he claimed he left the decisions on firings to his staff, but internal emails later revealed he personally urged the ousting of Ms. Lam. Faced with evidence of perjury, even Gonzales has admitted: "incomplete information was communicated or may have been communicated to Congress."
* TORTURE & GENEVA CONVENTION VIOLATIONS: Gonzales authored a January 2002 memo that argued against the Geneva Convention applying to alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters held in detention, declaring "a new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders some of its provisions quaint." This memo led directly to the torture and abuse that followed in places such as Camp X-Ray and Abu Ghraib.
* REJECTION OF HABEAS CORPUS RIGHTS: In January, Gonzales, showing flawless logic, stated before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away." This drew a stunned response from GOP Senator Arlen Specter: "Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?" Gonzales didn't budge on his opinion. With the shameful passage of the Military Commissions Act last year, which allows those labeled "unlawful enemy combatants" to be stripped of habeas corpus, his translation of Constitutional rights is more than a mere philosophical disagreement.
* GOVERNMENT SECRECY: Gonzales drafted Executive Order 13233 (issued by Bush on November 1, 2001, soon after 9/11) placed limits on Freedom of Information Act access to records of former presidents. He also fought to keep Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force documents secret. In other words, while he's been rapidly invading the privacy of the American public, Gonzales has been pushing more secrecy for the Bush Mob.
Based on the above, there's no reason he should still be the Attorney General, but it appears, contrary to recent conventional wisdom, he's not going anywhere. After all, Bush is standing by him, and since Fredo is, above all, a "loyal Bushie" hack, that likely won't change any time soon. The only other way Gonzales can lose his job is if Congress impeaches him, but the Democrats, showing no sign of gonads, aren't up for such a fight (much less impeaching Cheney or Bush.) They have threatened a resolution of no-confidence, believing that would shame him and Bush into his resignation. Apparently they haven't been paying attention the last six and a half years.
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of Gonzales' term as AG: the American public has been saved the prospect of Fredo as a Supreme Court justice. His name had been floated as a Bush nominee, and since he was viewed as a "moderate" Republican, he seemed like a candidate who could sail through confirmation without much Democratic opposition. Thanks to his miserable record as AG, a future Justice Gonzales plan seems doomed. Still, that Gonzales could be a leading candidate for a powerful lifetime appointment by the Bush Team shouldn't leave Americans feeling to confident about the future of justice in the USA.
In any case, we salute Aberto Gonzales as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Al!!!
Cohn, Marjorie. "The Quaint Mr. Gonzales." Truthout 13 November 2004 <http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/111304A.shtml>.
Collins, Michael. "Did Bush Commit Election Fraud?" Scoop 23 April 2007 <http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0704/S00350.htm>.
Crawford Greenburg, Jan and de Vogue, Ariane. "Gonzales Contradicts His Own Testimony." ABC News 16 April 2007 <http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=3046651&page=1>.
Egelko, Bob. "Gonzales Says the Constitution Doesn't Guarantee Habeas Corpus." San Francisco Chronicle 24 January 2007 <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/01/24/MNGDONO11O1.DTL>.
Eggen,Dan and Goldstein, Amy. "Voter-Fraud Complaints by GOP Drove Dismissals." Washington Post 14 May 2007.
Eggen,Dan and Kane, Paul. "Karl Rove Knew About Firings, E-Mails Show." Washington Post 16 March 2007.
Isikoff, Michael. "Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet?" Newsweek 31 January 2005.
Kay, Joe. "Former Justice Department Official Describes Illegal Actions by Bush Administration in Defense of Domestic Spying." World Socialist Web Site 17 May 2007 <http://wsws.org/articles/2007/may2007/come-m17.shtml>.
Kay, Joe. "Former Justice Department Official's Testimony Raises Question: How Extensive Is Police State Spying in the US?" World Socialist Web Site 18 May 2007 <http://wsws.org/articles/2007/may2007/come-m18.shtml>.
Kellman, Laurie. "White House Pressed Ashcroft on Wiretaps." Associated Press 15 May 2007 <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070515/ap_on_go_co/eavesdropping>.
"Married to the Mob, the Story of Alberto G." BuzzFlash 17 May 2007 <http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/editorials/135>.
Palast, Greg. "Fired Prosecuters: Rove's 'Obstruction of Justice?'" GregPalast.com 14 May 2007 <http://www.gregpalast.com/investigative-journalist-greg-palast-reports-on-the-firing-of-new-mexico-attorney-david-iglesias>.
Rich, Frank. "When Will Fredo Get Whacked?" New York Times 25 March 2007.
Scelfo, Julie. "Quite Unprecedented." Newsweek 15 March 2007 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17627519/site/newsweek/page/0/>.