Impeachment is to be used against those offenses which proceed from the conduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust.  They are of the nature which may with peculiar propriety be denoted political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.

–          Alexander Hamilton

The Federalist Papers (#65)

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

–  Theodore Roosevelt

There are currently at least five issues that could – and should – lead to the impeachment of President Bush.  In defense of this statement, I offer the following argument:


Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution says, “The President…shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” Article I grants the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment, and the Senate the sole power to try all impeachments (at least 2/3 of the Senate must vote to convict).  In cases of the impeachment of a President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the Senate trial.  In our nation’s history, only two Presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton (both were acquitted of all charges by the Senate).   In neither of these cases were the reasons for the impeachment as crystal clear as they are in the case of President George W. Bush.


Johnson’s impeachment was an overtly political act.  Johnson was a Democrat who had assumed the Presidency upon the assassination of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, and was extremely unpopular with the Congressional Republicans.  He tried to fire the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who had strong allies in the Congress, but the Congress had passed a law called the “Tenure in Office Act”, which was based on the argument that, since the Constitution requires the Senate’s consent to hire cabinet members, the Senate’s consent must be required to fire them.  The Republican-controlled Congress refused to go along with the firing of Stanton, and when Johnson persisted, the House impeached Johnson.  He was acquitted in the Senate by a single vote.


In Bill Clinton’s case, he was impeached on a charge of perjury relating to his testimony during a deposition in a civil case filed by Paula Corbin Jones (he was also charged with obstruction of justice, the alleged “obstruction” included the perjury).  Incredibly, the charge did not even specify which statement made by Clinton during the deposition constituted the perjury – something that would normally be required in order for Clinton to present an adequate defense.  The alleged perjury had to do with Clinton’s denial of “sexual relations” with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.  However, lawyers for the two sides had agreed upon a specific definition of the term “sexual relations” for purposes of the deposition, and after reading the definition carefully, Clinton testified that he had not had “sexual relations” with Lewinsky under that definition (he did concede that he had “sexual relations” with another woman, Gennifer Flowers, under the same definition).  It all came down to the interpretation of that definition – hardly an issue worthy of impeachment (astonishingly, the definition could be read in a manner that, given the nature of the activities that took place between President Clinton and Lewinsky, technically meant that, while Lewinsky was indeed having “sexual relations” with President Clinton, the President was simultaneously not having “sexual relations” with Lewinsky).  Clinton was acquitted in the Senate on an almost straight party-line vote.


The truth is, neither Johnson’s nor Clinton’s Impeachment is relevant to President Bush’s case.  The precedent that actually applies to our current President is that of President Richard Nixon.  In President Nixon’s case, a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee voted three Articles of Impeachment against the President, all relating to actual criminal acts committed by President Nixon, and organized into three categories:  Obstruction of Justice, Abuse of Power, and Refusal to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas.  Although President Nixon resigned before the full House of Representatives voted on the Judiciary Committee’s Articles of Impeachment, there is no doubt that the full House would have impeached President Nixon, and that the Senate would have voted to convict and remove President Nixon from office (in fact, President Nixon announced his decision to resign the day after the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress, including Senator Barry Goldwater, met with Nixon at the White House to advise him that they did not have the votes to save him, and that Goldwater himself would vote for Nixon’s conviction).  It is this bipartisan Congressional response to the criminal acts committed by a President that is relevant to the Case of George W. Bush.


The issue of what constitutes an impeachable offense was best defined by Gerald Ford, the House Minority Leader at the time, who said in 1970, “The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers [it] to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body [the Senate] considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office.”  He was right – impeachment is a purely political act, carried out by politicians against politicians (and the occasional judge).  However, the Constitutional definition of what constitutes an impeachable offense, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”, seems to indicate that the offense(s) must be criminal in nature.  While treason and bribery are clearly defined crimes under the law, there is some dispute over the meaning of the Constitutional phrase “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”.  Most Constitutional scholars agree that the phrase refers to serious abuses of power – even if they are technically not criminal acts – that threaten our Constitutional form of government, in addition to actual violations of the law.  President George W. Bush has committed such abuses of power, as well as specific violations of United States law.  He should be impeached and removed from office for the following:  (click on the headings – or simply scroll down – for more detailed discussions of each of these issues):


  • The Domestic Spying Program: This program came to light in December of 2005, and is an especially egregious act; not just because the program constitutes a blatant violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (which it clearly does), but also for the contention that the executive branch becomes dominant over the other branches during wartime (the “unitary executive” theory), and because of the President’s claim, in defense of the program, that he has the “Constitutional and Statutory” power to violate any federal law if he, in his sole judgment, determines that it is in the interest of “National Security” for him to do so. This argument was emphatically rejected by a unanimous Supreme Court, including several Nixon appointees, in United States v. Nixon(1974), and must not be allowed to stand now, lest all future Presidents be given the claim to precedent establishing that they are above the law.  For his repeated and confessed violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, for his putting forth the notion of the “unitary executive”, thereby threatening our Constitutional form of government which establishes three co-equalbranches of government, and especially for the Abuse of Power manifested in his assertion that he can declare himself to be above the law, President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.
  • Lying the nation into war: In his January 28, 2003 “State of the Union” Address – the only Constitutionally-mandated communication from the President to the Congress – President Bush gave false and/or misleading statements to the Congress, to the American people, and to the world regarding the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Iraq. These lies include his now-infamous “16 words” regarding uranium from Niger; his list of specific amounts of various chemical and biological weapons (anthrax, botulinum toxin, sarin, mustard, and VX nerve gases), which he presented as solid, verified fact, when in truth these were rough estimates based on information as much as ten years old; the already-debunked “aluminum tubes” claim – without mention of the fact that our nation’s top nuclear experts disputed that claim; and his description of “several mobile biological weapons labs”, knowing full well that the sources for this claim had been deemed unreliable by our own intelligence community.  In other speeches the President and his subordinates made these same assertions, and also made the case that Iraq was “known” to be connected to al Queda, when in fact the informants for this information had also been deemed unreliable.  Each of these statements was a lie, plain and simple, and it can now be demonstrated that the President knew he was lying when he said them; yet together these statements were used to convince the Congress to authorize military force and to justify an invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation; a conflict that has led to over 30,000 American casualties (3,606 dead and 26,558 wounded as of July 8, 2007).  For the Abuse of Power manifested in his demonstrably false and misleading statements to the Congress, which led to a pre-emptive war that has resulted in the death and maiming of thousands of American troops, President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.
  • The Torture and Abuse scandals: The War Crimes act of 1996 makes it a crime for any U.S. National to order or engage in the murder, torture, or inhuman treatment of a detainee, and if the detainee dies, the act imposes the death penalty.  It specifically ties these offenses in with violations of the Geneva Convention against Torture, meaning that if an act was determined to not violate the Geneva Conventions, then by definition it would also not violate the War Crimes Act. When the abuses at detention facilities in Afghanistan (and later seen at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay) came to his attention in January of 2002, rather than prosecuting the abusers under the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act, as his Constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” required him to do, President Bush authorized an “opt-out” of the Geneva Conventions (by labeling the detainees “enemy combatants” rather than “prisoners of war”; the term “enemy combatant” is not found in the Geneva Conventions), thereby protecting the abusers from prosecution.  By thus condoning the abuse instead of prosecuting it, President Bush himself violated the War Crimes Act.  How serious was the President’s violation?  At least 108 detainees have died in U.S. custody since 2002, at least 34 of these have been investigated as homicides, and most of these diedafter President Bush authorized the abuse to continue.  For his failure to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, and for his own culpability under the War Crimes Act of 1996, President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.
  • The CIA Leak Case: With the commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison term following Libby’s conviction on five felony counts (obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to investigators), a commutation granted before the appeal process was complete, and without consulting the Department of Justice, President Bush abused his power of clemency by using that power to keep a member of his own staff, whose crime was committed on the President’s behalf, from talking, and thereby became an accomplice in the obstruction of justice. Given that the underlying crime in this case – the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, an undercover CIA operative – severely harmed our nation’s ability to track the proliferation of WMD’s around the world at a time when we had troops on the ground over that very issue, and given that the disclosure served no purpose other than as retaliation against a political enemy of the President (the operative’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson), this constitutes a clear Presidential Abuse of Power.  For this Abuse of Power, President Bush should be impeached and removed from office.
  • The Refusal to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas: President Bush’s recent refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas has outraged many in the Congress, including some who were there when a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon over that very act. Back in 1974, the Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan majorities, voted to recommend three Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon to the full House of Representatives (Nixon resigned before the full House could vote, but there is no doubt the Articles of Impeachment would have been approved).  The three Articles were for Obstruction of Justice, Abuse of Power, and Refusal to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas!  There is no basis to argue that this is any less of an impeachable offense now.


Yet another reason to impeach President Bush has been put forward by, of all people, Pat Buchanan, the ultra-conservative columnist and commentator, and former Presidential candidate.  A former speech writer for President Nixon, Buchanan has written a column calling for the impeachment of President Bush over his failure to faithfully execute the laws, and to protect the states from “invasion” in relation to the issue of illegal immigration (read the column here).


The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has said that impeachment is “off the table”, and has thus far refused to change her mind, arguing that the American people put the Democrats in the majority in order to pursue their legislative agenda, and that this agenda should be the Democrats’ priority.  I emphatically disagree.  Every member of the Congress – including Speaker Pelosi – took an oath upon assuming office.  They did not take an oath to “pursue a legislative agenda”.  They took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”,and they are failing to live up to that oath each and every day that they do not pursue the impeachment of President George W. Bush!   Speaker Pelosi needs to recognize that our Constitution is under attack by this Administration, and that our Constitutional form of government is in greater danger now than at any other time in our nation’s history (with the possible exception of the War of 1812, when the British burned most of Washington D. C., including the White House itself, threatening our nation’s very existence).  The attacks upon our Constitution perpetrated by the Bush Administration must be repelled by any means necessary, the best of which is the process written directly into the Constitution as a means of protecting it – the process of impeachment.


We as a nation can no longer tolerate the actions of this President.  In our system of government, a President who violates the law must be held accountable.  As stated above, Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution says, “The President…shall [as opposed to “may”] be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.  This clause of the Constitution absolutely requires that a President who has committed such acts be impeached and removed from office.  There is simply no alternative; to not impeach President Bush would go against the United States Constitution.  President George W. Bush must be impeached and removed from office.










“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.  We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.  We will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men; not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak and to defend the causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.  This is no time…to keep silent.  We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the results.  We proclaim ourselves, indeed as we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world.  But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” 

–          Edward R. Murrow


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978 in response to the abuses in domestic wiretapping that had come to light during the Nixon Administration, sets out the procedures that must be followed in order to conduct electronic surveillance of any kind within the United States.  The FISA law was specifically intended to balance the legitimate national security needs of the government with the just-as-legitimate civil liberty needs of the American people, and has been amended no less than five separate times since the 9/11 attacks in order to accommodate the Bush Administration’s post 9/11 surveillance needs.  It was, in fact, written to deal with the exact type of surveillance that the Bush Administration has been conducting since 2002; but the Bush Administration has been doing this without warrants, in direct violation of the FISA law – a felony.


Let’s be clear about one crucial point:  I am not suggesting, even for a second, that the United States government should not be conducting this surveillance, and, despite Bush Administration pronouncements to the contrary, neither are the Congressional Democrats – in the post-9/11 world we can all agree that we must protect ourselves from terrorist attacks.  In fact, if the Bush Administration was not conducting this surveillance, I would be one of those demanding to know why the hell not!  The Bush Administration has continually attempted to justify this domestic spying program by saying that it is necessary for them to violate the laws of the United States in order to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11, but I would insist that we cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the tyranny of fear.  In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln lauded our Founding Fathers for creating a nation “conceived in liberty”, and expressed his hope that our nation, or “any nation so conceived”, could survive.  I believe that we, as a nation, can and must survive – even in the post-9/11 world – as the nation our Founding Fathers created: a nation conceived in liberty.  We must never forget that we are a nation of laws, not of men.  The laws protecting the civil liberties of Americans must be followed at all costs, otherwise we sacrifice what hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to protect – the liberty that we enjoy as American citizens, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.  Aren’t their deaths in defense of liberty worth at least as much as those lives not yet lost?  We cannot betray their sacrifice out of fear; as President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”


I emphatically reject the notion that the Bush Administration has no choice but to violate the law in order to protect our security.   To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”  There is a way to conduct this type of surveillance with proper oversight, as defined by the law.  The exact same surveillance that has been conducted under this program since 2002 – yielding the exact same results in terms of “protecting our country from terrorist attack” – could have been conducted within the law under FISA.  President Bush simply chose to ignore the law, calling the FISA requirements too “cumbersome”.


President Bush’s domestic spying program violates several passages of the FISA law.  Title 18, United States Code, Section 2511(2)(f) reads, “the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance, as defined in section 101 of such Act, and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.”  The exclusivemeans by which electronic surveillance…may be conducted.  That’s pretty clear.  What’s more, FISA even addressed the gathering of foreign intelligence during wartime: in a section entitled “Authorization During Time of War” (50 U.S.C. 1811), FISA reads, “Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.” (my emphasis).  In other words, warrantless wiretapsmay be conducted during wartime – but only for the first fifteen days, and only if the Congress formally declares war (Congress hasn’t issued an official “Declaration of War” since World War II).  The idea behind the 15-day delay in requiring warrants was to give the President time to work with the Congress to extend and/or revise the law in a situation where warrants were not feasible.  Even if we consider the “Authorization to Use Military Force”, passed by the Congress one week after the 9/11 attacks, to be the equivalent of a Congressional declaration of war (which it certainly is not), President Bush has violated this section of the FISA law by expanding warrantless wiretaps beyond the 15-day limit.


President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and others have put forward the argument that the President has a “Constitutional and Statutory” power to ignore the laws of the United States, including FISA, in order to protect “National Security”.  There is nothing in the United States Constitution that says anything even remotely close to this.  Nevertheless, the President has argued that he has the “inherent authority” under the Constitution, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to do so.  In his January 31st, 2006 State of the Union Address, the President even stated that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of these arguments in the past.  This is simply not true – the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that the President is above the law, even in wartime.  According to the Congressional Research Service (a non-partisan arm of Congress), the Court has never recognized the President as “Commander-in-Chief of the Country”, as opposed to Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, or given the President a “monopoly over war powers” (The same report found that the Administration’s defense of the program was “not well-grounded.”)  In fact, in a recent Supreme Court Opinion on the issue of the President’s powers during wartime, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” Outside the very limited terms of FISA (for example, a warrant can be obtained up to 72 hours after the surveillance has begun, or warrantless surveillance may be conducted for the first 15 days following a declaration of war by the Congress), the Supreme Court has never ruled that warrantless wiretaps within the United States are legal – under any circumstances.


The Bush Administration has also asserted that, due to the Constitutional role of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Executive Branch rises above the other branches of government in wartime.  They even have a term for it: the “Unitary Executive”.  Essentially, this means that they believe the Executive Branch becomes the dominant power in the government, and that the other two branches somehow become secondary.  There is simply no Constitutional basis whatsoever for such a contention.  The Constitution clearly divides war powers between the branches:  while Article II declares that the President “shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States”, it also puts a Congressional “check” on the President’s power by requiring the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, and giving the Congress the power to make those laws: “The Congress shall have the power…to provide for the common defense…to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water…to raise and support armies…to provide and maintain a navy…to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; to provide for calling forth the militia…to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia…and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof [including the President].” (my emphasis).  The Congress is clearly given a significant role in passing “all laws which shall be necessary and proper” to achieve its many Constitutional mandates during wartime – laws the President is bound to “faithfully execute” in carrying out his powers as Commander-in-Chief.  The Judicial Branch has a less direct role, but under Article III of the Constitution does hear “all cases, in law and equity, arising under…treaties made, or which shall be made…all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction…[and] controversies to which the United States shall be a party…” (Historical examples of the Judicial Branch’s wartime role are the judicial review conducted of President Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, and of President Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II).  The Bush Administration has claimed that, in a time of war, “extraordinary powers” devolve onto the President, but consider this:  the “War on Terror” is an ongoing conflict, and may well last for the rest of our lives.  How long does the President expect himself (and – after January 20, 2009 – his successors) to wield these “extraordinary powers” he claims devolve upon the President in a time of war?  How long does the Administration expect the Legislative and Judicial branches to accept this new, “secondary” status, rather than the co-equal status clearly written into our Constitution?  This concept of a “unitary executive” constitutes a serious abuse of power that threatens our Constitutional form of government, and therefore meets the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”


The “statutory” authority President Bush claims allows him to authorize warrantless wiretaps is the “Authorization to Use Military Force” (AUMF) passed by the Congress on September 18, 2001, just one week after the 9/11 attacks, which grants the President the authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”  However, specific language always prevails over more general language in the law, and nothing in the AUMF is in any way specific regarding electronic surveillance – in fact, that authorization did not mention electronic surveillance at all.  On the other hand, the FISA law is very specific – it expressly forbids any warrantless wiretaps (except during the first 15 days following a declaration of war by the Congress), and specifically designates its provisions as the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted within the United States.  In order to buy into the Administration’s arguments, we would have to accept the notion that the AUMF, with only vague and general language that did not even mention the subject, somehow repealed the section of FISA declaring that its provisions were the exclusive means by which such surveillance can be conducted, and of course the AUMF did no such thing.  It has also become obvious that Congress had no intention of authorizing domestic wiretaps with that resolution.  Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader who negotiated the AUMF language with the Administration, has stated that the White House asked for language to be inserted that would have expanded the President’s power to include domestic surveillance, but that any such language was specifically rejected.  You don’t have to take Daschle’s word for it, either.  At a press briefing on December 19, 2005, in which he was joined by General Michael Hayden, then the Deputy Director of National Intelligence (and now the CIA Director), Attorney General Gonzales said, “We have had discussions with Congress in the past – certain members of Congress – as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.”  How can the Administration now argue that Congress, by implication, gave the President authority that even the Attorney General acknowledges the Congress had specifically denied to the President?  As Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote in rejecting President Truman’s attempt to seize the steel mills during the Korean War, “It is one thing to draw an intention of Congress from general language and to say that Congress would have explicitly written what is inferred, where Congress has not addressed itself to a specific situation.  It is quite impossible, however, when Congress did specifically address itself to a problem…to find secreted in the interstices of legislation the very grant of power which Congress consciously withheld.  To find authority so explicitly withheld is…to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.” Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. V. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 609 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).


The question here is not whether President Bush has committed a crime – he has clearly done so under FISA – the question is whether the law applies to him.  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this case is the cavalier manner in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Gonzales, and others in the Administration have advanced the assertion that the President is not bound by the law – in essence, that he can unilaterally decide that a given law is obsolete or, in this case, too “cumbersome”.  The President has no such power under the Constitution; in fact, quite the opposite – he is bound by the Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.   This means all of the laws – including FISA.  Instead of “faithfully executing” the FISA law, he has chosen to circumvent it. President Bush has made no attempt to claim that the electronic surveillance, which he has publicly admitted authorizing, in any way complies with the terms of FISA; rather, he has put forth the contention that he can simply choose to ignore the terms of the FISA law as being “too cumbersome”.  The Justice Department, under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his deputy, James Comey, initially resisted this concept; however, under the new Attorney General (Gonzales), the Justice Department has supported the President’s contention.


This takes the discussion to a whole new level.  It is no longer a discussion about the legality of the domestic spying program specifically; it becomes a discussion about something much more fundamental – the question of whether the President is above the law.  Can the President commit crimes with impunity?  Does he somehow have the power to unilaterally decide which laws to follow and which to ignore, without that decision being subject to review of any kind, by either the courts or the Congress?  It is impossible to find anything in the Constitution that would justify such a contention; in fact, as stated above, the Constitution requires the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Despite this clear language in the Constitution, and despite his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the Untied States”, President Bush has claimed to have such power, and actually has the support of most Congressional Republicans  (I have to wonder if they would have granted this same latitude to President Clinton).  The simple fact is that this issue has already been resolved; the argument that the President is above the law was emphatically rejected by a unanimous Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974).


My answer is simple:  No one in this country – not even the President in this post-9/11 world – is above the law.


Yet the Bush Administration has claimed that they are above the law, and can circumvent any law if the President, at his sole discretion, determines that it is necessary for “National Security” for him to do so – a decision, they argue, for which the President is accountable to no one.  This is an extraordinary and untenable claim, and a blatant Abuse of Power.  Those who remember the Nixon Administration should feel a chill at the thought of any President being able to violate any law of their choosing and claim “National Security” – without challenge – as justification for their actions.  As Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Member of Congress and member of the House Committee that considered – and adopted – articles of impeachment against President Nixon, has written, “If the President is permitted to break the law on wiretapping on his own say-so, then a President can break any other law on his own say-so – a formula for dictatorship.  This is not a theoretical danger: President Bush has recently claimed the right as Commander in Chief to violate the McCain amendment banning torture and degrading treatment of detainees.  Nor is the requirement that national security be at stake any safeguard.  We saw in Watergate how President Nixon falsely and cynically used that argument to cover up ordinary crimes and political misdeeds.”  (my emphasis)  And consider this:  If the Bush Administration’s extraordinary claims to power are allowed to go unchallenged, the same authority would exist for all future Presidents!


When the Republicans had the majority in Congress, Senator Pat Roberts (R-VA), as Chairman of the Senate select Committee on Intelligence, succeeded in blocking any attempt to investigate the domestic spying program.  With the Democratic take-over of both Houses of the Congress in the 2006 elections, however, investigations into the domestic spying program are finally going forward.  The Select Committees on Intelligence in both Houses have subpoenaed documents and testimony from key White House staff, but the President has so far refused to comply with these Congressional subpoenas.  President Nixon’s refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas was considered to be an impeachable offense by a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974; there is no basis to argue that the Bush Administration’s refusal to comply is any less of an impeachable offense.


President Nixon once stated (in an interview with David Frost after his resignation), “If the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.”  He also testified in court (at the trial of two of the top officials in the FBI, Ed Miller and Mark Felt, who were accused of civil rights violations – Felt ironically has now been confirmed to have been Bob Woodward’s secret Watergate source, “Deep Throat”) that a Presidential Authorization meant that “what would otherwise be unlawful or illegal becomes legal”.  Obviously, even after he had been forced out of office, Nixon still didn’t “get it” – the President is not above the law. President Bush has argued that he is above the law – but he is simply wrongEven in wartime, the President is bound by the laws of the United States – he does not become a dictator or a king.  There is nothing in the Constitution to support this lack of accountability claimed by the President; rather, the Constitution makes it very clear that the President is accountable to the Congress, to the courts, and to the people of the United States.


The Bush Administration has also tried – erroneously – to claim historical precedent for a President assuming such “extraordinary powers” during a time of war.  Apparently forgetting that he had been given a promotion from White House Counsel (the President’s lawyer and advocate) to Attorney General (the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States), Alberto Gonzales, in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the first day of the Committee’s hearings into the domestic spying program, advocated for the President (instead of advocating for the enforcement of the law) by equating President Bush’s authorization of this warrantless surveillance with the authorizations of surveillance by past Presidents, saying “Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, and [Franklin] Roosevelt all authorized electronic surveillance.” (Hmmm.  I wonder what type of “electronic surveillance” George Washington authorized).  None, however, were relevant to the discussion, because none of them served as President after the FISA law was enacted.  Other Presidential actions cited as precedent for the President having “extraordinary powers” during wartime are Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt; however, the actions of both of these Presidents were subjected to the system of checks and balances and to judicial review – something the Bush Administration claims cannot be applied to them.


In the case of President Lincoln, the Bush Administration has referred to Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War.  What the Administration won’t tell you is that President Lincoln’s order was challenged in federal court, and that the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Roger Taney, ruled against President Lincoln, saying that, since the guarantee of the writ of Habeas Corpus – and the terms under which it may be suspended – is written into Article 1 of the Constitution (the Article that establishes the Congress and defines its powers), only the Congress can suspend it.  Although the Congress then authorized the President to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing President Lincoln to go ahead with his suspension, the point is that President Lincoln’s action was subject to judicial challenge and the system of “checks and balances” required by the Constitution, so this “precedent” does not help to make President Bush’s point.


A second historical precedent the Administration has alluded to is the internment of Japanese-Americans under President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.  Again, that Presidential action was challenged in federal court, but in this case the Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Roosevelt’s action, in the now-infamous “Korematsu” decision.  Again, even though the decision was in his favor, the President’s action was subject to judicial challenge and the system of “checks and balances”, so this “precedent” doesn’t help to make President Bush’s point, either (many years later, the Congress passed a law ordering each Japanese-American internee to receive $20,000 and an official apology from the United States Government).


Attorney General Gonzales appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live in mid-January, 2006, to discuss the warrantless wiretaps, and offered yet another justification:  that President Clinton had violated the FISA law as well.  Specifically, he referred to the 1993 physical search of the home of Aldrich Ames (a CIA officer who was subsequently convicted of spying against the United States).  The search was conducted with the approval of the Attorney General, but without a warrant from the FISA court.  Unfortunately for Gonzales, this is another comparison that doesn’t help President Bush.   At the time (1993), such a physical search required only the Attorney General’s approval – not a FISA court warrant; as Gonzales certainly should have known, the FISA law was amended in 1995 to require a FISA warrant for such a physical search of a home. In other words, the search of Aldrich Ames’ home in 1993 was conducted within the FISA law – unlike the Bush Administration’s domestic spying program.   However, Gonzales’ argument does point out another significant reason to be seriously concerned about this warrantless surveillance program: by claiming the power to violate the law based on the actions of an earlier Presidential Administration, Gonzales opened up the door to future Presidential abuses of power based on the actions of this Administration.


As it turns out, there is historical precedent for President Bush’s illegal authorization of warrantless domestic wiretaps, but I am not referring to the various arguments put forth by Gonzales or others in the Bush Administration.  The true precedent can be found in the so-called “Huston Plan” of the Nixon era (the name “Huston Plan” comes from the staff member who wrote it, Tom Charles Huston). That plan was approved by President Nixon in July of 1970, and, among other things, authorized the National Security Agency, or NSA, to intercept the cables and/or correspondence of Americans communicating overseas; it also removed restrictions on the opening and reading of American citizens’ mail – all without warrants.


Sound familiar?


It was President Nixon’s old friend and law partner, Attorney General John Mitchell (acting at the behest of F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover), who prevailed upon the President that such a policy was flagrantly illegal, and must not be the policy of the United States Government.  President Nixon responded by rescinding his authorization of the “Huston Plan”.  It had been the policy of the United States government for a grand total of five days.  [It is somewhat ironic that, of all people, John Mitchell had to be the one to remind President Nixon of what was legal – Mitchell was a crook; he served 19 months in federal prison for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury relating to, among other things, authorizing illegal wiretaps while serving as Attorney General and President Nixon’s Campaign Manager.]


The authorization of electronic surveillance by the NSA of cellular phone conversations, and the monitoring and reading of email, all without warrants, are merely high-tech versions of the Nixon Administration’s “Huston Plan”. In yet another example of similarity with the Nixon-era plan, it was again the Attorney General, in this case acting Attorney General James Comey – who was then backed up by the hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft – that resisted the plan. Unlike the Nixon Administration’s “Huston Plan”, however, the Bush Administration’s domestic spying program was eventually implemented in spite of the Attorney General’s resistance.


The story of how the Bush Administration renewed this program over the objections of the hospitalized Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and his Deputy Attorney General, James Comey, in 2004 is an especially sordid one.  Comey testified before the Congress on May 16, 2007, that then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card paid a visit to the hospitalized then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, on March 10, 2004, in an effort to make an “end run” around Comey’s refusal, as acting Attorney General during Ashcroft’s hospitalization, to re-authorize the Bush Administration’s domestic spying program.   Ashcroft was recovering from gall bladder surgery after a bout of pancreatitis – a very painful condition.  Ashcroft, who had the gall bladder surgery on March 9th, was loaded up on pain killers and other medications; according to Comey’s testimony, Comey arrived in the hospital room and “began speaking to him [Ashcroft], trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could.  He seemed pretty bad off.”  Ashcroft and Comey had signed off on the domestic spying program when it first began in 2002, but had second thoughts after discussions with the new head of the Justice Department’s legal office, Jack Goldsmith, who had reservations about the program’s legality and constitutionality.  The original authorization was set to expire on March 11, 2004, and Ashcroft and Comey had agreed they would refuse to re-authorize the program.  On March 10, White House officials approached Comey in an attempt to get his re-authorization, but he refused.  The White House then tried to get around Comey by going directly to Ashcroft in his hospital room and getting him to re-authorize the program from his bed, but Comey (who had been alerted to their impending visit by Ashcroft’s Chief of Staff, David Ayers, who had received a phone call from Ashcroft’s very upset wife, Janet) got to the hospital first.  Comey also contacted FBI Director Robert S. Meuller, who sent FBI agents to the hospital with orders not to allow Comey to be removed from the room under any circumstances. Gonzales and Card then arrived and, with Comey, Janet Ashcroft, and two other senior Justice Department officials still in the room, asked Ashcroft to re-authorize the program.  To his credit, according to Comey’s testimony, Ashcroft refused “in very strong terms”, adding, “but that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the Attorney General”, indicating they should ask Comey.


Later that evening, according to Comey’s testimony, Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff, called Comey and angrily demanded that he come to meet him at the White House, but Comey testified that he told Card, “After the conduct I just witnessed, I would not meet with [Card] without a witness.”  Then-Solicitor General Theodore Olsen was contacted and agreed to be the witness, but nothing was resolved at that meeting, which took place at 11:00 pm on March 10th.  The White House renewed the domestic spying program the next day anyway – without the Justice Department’s legal approval!  In the wake of this un-approved renewal, Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Meuller, and other senior Justice Department officials prepared to resign in protest, but President Bush personally intervened, averting a mass resignation that would have been reminiscent of President Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” (On Saturday, October 30, 1973, Nixon’s Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, and his deputy, William Ruckleshaus, both resigned rather than fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal.  Cox was then fired by Robert Bork, who, as the Solicitor General, was the third-highest ranking officer at the Justice Department).


This is just despicable.  To attempt to take advantage of Ashcroft’s medical condition to get around the acting Attorney General’s refusal, knowing that Ashcroft might not even be aware of what he was agreeing to (because of the medications), clearly demonstrates just how low the Bush Administration will sink to get what it wants – even if what it wants is clearly illegal.   This is just one more reason to get this Administration out of office as soon as possible.  These are the people running our nation?


Considering that two of the central figures within the Bush Administration – Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – actually first worked together in the Nixon Administration (in the United States Office of Economic Opportunity), and that President Bush’s father was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time of President Nixon’s resignation, it would be impossible to deny that key members of this Administration have witnessed firsthand what can happen to a President who believes he is above the law.  Furthermore, Cheney and Rumsfeld both served President Ford as White House Chief of Staff (Rumsfeld also served Ford as Secretary of Defense), and President Bush’s father was named by President Ford as the Director of the CIA.  When the Ford Administration considered this same question of Presidential authority (Can the President violate the law in the name of “National Security”?), all three – Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the elder Bush –  urged President Ford not to give up this “Presidential power”, but Ford disagreed.  After President Ford left office, the FISA law was passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Carter.  In light of this history, the (current) Bush Administration’s claim that they believed the President had the authority to authorize these NSA wiretaps without warrants is simply not credible.  They knew better, but made the conscious choice to ignore the law.


The Bush Administration has insisted that there has been “oversight” for this program: they have said that they “consulted” with key members of Congress, specifically the party leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the Chairmen and the Ranking Members of the Select Committees on Intelligence from each of the Houses of Congress.  According to the recollections of these members of Congress, however, these “consultations” were merely brief – and very secret – meetings at the White House with Vice President Cheney, during which they were informed that this surveillance was being conducted – they were not allowed to take notes, they were not allowed to ask questions, they were certainly not being asked to grant permission or approval, and – especially – they were notallowed to discuss it with anyone – not other members of the Congress, not even with other members of the Select Committees on Intelligence!  While I certainly understand – and agree with – the need for secrecy in cases of National Security, how can these meetings possibly be considered “consulting” with the Congress?  They certainly cannot qualify as any significant level of Congressional “oversight”. Furthermore, the FISA law specifically sets up the FISA courts as the “exclusive” agency of oversight for any domestic electronic surveillance – not eight specific Members of the Congress.  Even if the secret meetings with these eight Members of the Congress had been true “consultations”, there is no way to argue that they would suffice to satisfy the FISA law’s “oversight” requirement


The FISA courts were established under the law to grant these warrants in complete secrecy, even retroactively, to provide oversight and to prevent abuses. In the 27 years they have existed, the FISA courts have heard over 10,000 requests for warrants, and have turned down 4.  The Bush Administration could not have been significantly concerned that the requests would be turned down.


As an indication of how flagrant a violation this program represents, James Robertson, a federal judge who was appointed to the FISA court by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, has resigned in protest from the FISA court in the wake of the revelation of the warrantless surveillance, and other members of the FISA court have demanded meetings with the President.  Among other things, they have expressed concerns that some of the FISA warrants they did approve may have been based on information obtained through this warrantless surveillance, which could jeopardize criminal prosecutions which were depending upon those warrants.


On Tuesday, July 18th, 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush had personally intervened to block a Justice Department investigation into the domestic spying program.  According to Gonzales’ testimony – confirmed later in the day by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow – it was President Bush himself who withheld security clearances from the attorneys of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), the Justice Department’s internal ethics unit, which had been asked by the Congress to investigate, among other things, whether dissenting opinions regarding the legality of the domestic spying program were ignored by upper-echelon Justice Department officials and whether the Bush Administration had given the go-ahead for the program before receiving the Justice Department’s legal opinion.  The OPR’s investigation had to be shut down in April of 2006 due to the inability of the attorneys to acquire the security clearances necessary to gain access to the information they needed to go forward, but until Gonzales’ testimony, it was unclear who had made the decision not to issue the clearances.


Let’s put this in some historical perspective: On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon was discussing the FBI’s investigation into the Watergate break-in (which had occurred just six days earlier) with his Chief of Staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman in the Oval Office.  They were especially concerned with money that had flowed through the bank account of one of the burglars arrested at the Watergate, Bernard Barker.  That money had gone from Barker’s account to the account of a Mexico City lawyer, Manuel Ogarrio, and then back into the United States, to the coffers of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), and finally to the cash “slush fund” stored in the safe in Haldeman’s White House office.  President Nixon did not want the money-laundering operation or the connection between the burglars and CREEP discovered, so he ordered Haldeman to contact Richard Helms at the CIA and have him tell the acting FBI director, L. Patrick Gray III, to “back off” that aspect of the investigation, and to claim that if the FBI did not do so, it would adversely impact a national security operation.  Of course there were no “national security” implications involved – the only adverse impact would have been on Nixon’s re-election chances.  This was a blatant abuse of Presidential power, and served the sole purpose of blocking an officially-sanctioned investigation.  When the tape recording of that June 23rd, 1972 conversation became public in the summer of 1974, virtually all remaining support for President Nixon evaporated.  Senator Barry Goldwater, along with the Republican leaders of the House and Senate, went to the White House and informed President Nixon that they did not have the votes to block impeachment in the House, nor to prevent conviction in the Senate – and even Goldwater himself would vote to convict on Article II – the Abuse of Power.  President Nixon announced his resignation the next day.


Now we have another President who has used his Presidential power to block a potentially-damaging Justice Department investigation.  To be sure, it is within the President’s legitimate power to make the decision to withhold a security clearance.  However, it is an abuse of that power, and an Obstruction of Justice, to do so in a manner solely intended to block an investigation.  The Bush Administration claims the security clearances were withheld to limit the number of people who had access to information about the domestic spying program – the program’s details remain top secret – but this claim does not hold up under scrutiny; clearances were promptly granted to those within the Justice Department assigned to defend the program and to those investigating who leaked the information about the program to the press.  If the only concern was to limit the number of people with access to that information, logic would dictate that clearances would have been denied to these officials as well.  It simply does not pass the “smell test” to grant security clearances to those who support the program, but to deny them to those conducting a potentially damaging investigation of the same program.  It is obvious to anyone paying attention that President Bush’s sole intent was to derail the investigation – successfully, as it turned out – and that is precisely the act that served as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for President Nixon.


This blatant Abuse of Power, and the accompanying Obstruction of Justice, constitutes an impeachable offense.  The very same act – abusing Presidential power to block an investigation – was enough to convince Senator Barry Goldwater that President Nixon needed to be removed from office, and Senator Goldwater was certainly no liberal.  The Attorney General has testified that President Bush himself committed this Abuse of Power, and, rather than issue a denial, the White House has confirmed it.  It is almost as if the Bush Administration is challenging the Congress to impeach the President.


If the President felt that the FISA law was too “cumbersome”, he should have worked with the Congress to change, rather than circumvent, the law.  The argument that doing so would have alerted the terrorists to what we were doing is laughable.  First of all, there are ways of dealing with Congress in matters of secrecy – and in fact the FISA law has been revised no less than five separate times since the 9/11 attacks [UPDATE (9/18/07): The Congress, in an attempt to compromise with the Bush Administration, recently amended the FISA law again, this time granting President Bush the authority to conduct this surveillance with only the approval of the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI; the FISA Court would only have to review the criteria being used by these two officials.  A federal court has already declared part of this new revision to be unconstitutional, and the Congress is preparing to reconsider the legislation this Fall [2007].  This revision does not change the fact that President Bush’s approvals of the warrantless wiretaps prior to this revision constituted violations of the law that was in effect at the time].


Second, anyone who thought the terrorists weren’t already aware that we would try to listen in on their cellular phone conversations is simply not paying attention (they are also underestimating the intelligence of our enemies – always a dangerous thing to do).  Even President Bush, in trying to defend his refusal to follow the terms of the FISA law, has described how the terrorists move too quickly, switch phones, and so on.  Why would the terrorists do this if they didn’t think their cellular phone conversations were being listened to?  Furthermore, on April 24th, 2004, at a campaign appearance in Buffalo, New York, President Bush said, “Any time you hear the United States government talking about a wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order.  The Constitutional protections are in place.  Nothing has changed, by the way.  When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”


When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.


Not only was this statement an outright lie (he had authorized the warrantless wiretaps two years earlier), but by saying this in public, in the context of a comment about domestic electronic surveillance, President Bush had already given away what we were doing in the domestic spying program.  Talking about it now doesn’t reveal anything – not one single thing – that hasn’t already been revealed by the President himself.


For serious abuses of Presidential power, including his use of Presidential power to block a Justice Department investigation and the assertion that the President is above the law, and for the threat to our Constitutional form of government posed by the notion of the “unitary executive”, and for his failure to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” through his blatant and continuing violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, to which President Bush has publicly admitted, he should be impeached and removed from office.


UPDATE (9/16/2007):  It has recently come to light that the Bush Administration’s domestic spying efforts involve more than just warrantless wiretapping; they also involve “data mining” of financial, telephone, medical and other records, as well as the use of NSA spy satellites and U-2 spy planes over the United States, spying on Americans.  Apparently, the threatened “mass resignation” of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, and FBI Director Robert Meuller and others in March of 2004 may have been triggered by these activities rather than – or perhaps along with – the March 11, 2004 renewal of the warrantless wiretapping without Justice Department approval.






“The President must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate…it is his duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives. [He should be impeached] if it should appear that he has not given them full information, but has concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated, and by that means induced them to enter into measures injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them…”

– James Iredell, later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,

at North Carolina’s convention ratifying the Constitution, 1790.


There is perhaps no allegation that can be raised against a President that is more serious than that of misleading the nation into war.  There has never been a scandal in our history that reaches this level; from Credit Mobilier to Teapot Dome, from Watergate to Iran-Contra, nothing even comes close.  But it is now clear that, when President Bush claimed that pre-emptive war was necessary in Iraq, he knew he was lying to the Congress, and to the American people, when he told us why.


An allegation such as this has been made before, but only by historians long after the fact.  For example:


  • In the 1840’s President James K. Polk wanted war with Mexico in order to achieve the “manifest destiny” he believed God had ordained for the United States – to extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. At the time, the United States regarded the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas, but Mexico regarded the Las Cruces River, some miles to the north of the Rio Grande, to be the border.  President Polk ordered U.S. troops to march into the disputed territory between the two rivers, and the Mexican Army, considering this action to be an invasion, opened fire on the Americans.  President Polk then went to Congress to ask for a Declaration of War, stating that “American blood has been spilled on American soil”.  Thus began the Mexican-American War, which resulted in the United States acquiring most of what is now California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Utah and Colorado.   President Polk had clearly manipulated the situation to get the Congress to declare war, but his statement was technically true – American blood had been spilled, and it had occurred on what the United States regarded as American soil.


  • The Spanish-American War of the 1890’s was fought in retaliation for the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in the harbor at Havana, Cuba. The explosion that destroyed the Maine was believed to be the work of saboteurs, and the public’s outrage (spurred on by the Hearst newspapers) left no option for the Congress but to declare war on Spain.  “Remember the Maine!” became the U.S. battle cry. As a result of this war, the United States acquired the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as the Philippines, Guam, and other Spanish possessions.  Most historians now believe that the explosion onboard the Maine was probably an accidental boiler-room explosion, and not sabotage.


  • In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson pushed the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution through the Congress, escalating United States involvement in the Viet Nam War.   This resolution was based on information now known to be false – that U.S. ships had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The attack never took place, but Congress passed the authorization, and the results have been devastating for the country.   Much of the blame for the misinformation that led to the “Gulf of Tonkin” Resolution has been placed on Robert MacNamara, the Secretary of Defense at the time, but it is ultimately President Johnson who must shoulder the responsibility.


In contrast to these historical examples, however, the lies of President Bush in leading this nation to war are well documented and are being examined now, rather than many years after the fact.


Title 18, U. S. Code, Section 371 prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States.  The Supreme Court has defined the phrase “Conspiracy to defraud the United States” as “to interfere with, impede or obstruct a lawful government function by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.”  It is the lawful function of Congress to oversee foreign affairs, including making a determination to authorize the use of military force overseas.  In criminal law, a “Conspiracy” is defined as “an agreement between two or more persons to follow a course of conduct which, if completed, would constitute a crime”.  Finally, “fraud” is defined broadly to include statements that are intentionally misleading, even if technically true.  In the build-up to the Iraq war, the false and misleading statements made by the President, the Vice President, and their subordinates, clearly acting in concert to convince the Congress and the American people that pre-emptive war in Iraq was necessary, therefore constitute a “conspiracy to defraud the United States”.


Let me offer some caveats: first, this is not a discussion about whether Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to remain in power – in my opinion the known humanitarian abuses were reason enough to oust him (the debate over how best to go about removing him, and how the Bush Administration has executed this war, are topics worthy of separate discussions); and second, this is not a discussion about supporting the troops – the troops deserve our unwavering support.  These men and women are performing their duties with honor and valor, in the most extreme conditions, putting their lives on the line so that we might enjoy the many liberties that we all too often take for granted (click here for a discussion about President Bush’s failure to support our troops).  This is not a discussion about either of those issues; rather, this is a discussion about a President who lied to this nation – repeatedly – to get us into a war.


Essentially, the case presented to the Congress and to the American people by the Bush Administration justifying pre-emptive war in Iraq rested on two overall assertions: first, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), a category that includes nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; and second, that Saddam Hussein had connections to al Queda, (they even implied that Hussein was somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks).  In truth, these assertions were supported by only the most unreliable of informants, the most generous interpretations of intelligence reports, and the flimsiest of “facts”, yet both of these assertions were presented to the Congress and to the American people as solid information supported by overwhelming evidence.  The entire case for war was a lie, and President Bush and his surrogates knew it at the time.  But this was only part of the deception.  There is now fairly clear evidence that this Administration intended to go to war in Iraq from the get-go (and perhaps even before George W. Bush announced his candidacy for the Presidency), despite public statements to the contrary.


Let’s begin with the “evidence” that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD’s.  This claim was made numerous times, using remarkably similar language, by various officials within the Bush Administration.   Each claim was either false on its face, or was presented in a misleading manner, such as presenting estimates and best guesses as hard facts, exaggerating the threat, or leaving out or adding qualifying words that may seem like minor semantic changes, but actually change the meaning of a sentence dramatically.  Regardless of their form, all of these statements are lies – and President Bush and his surrogates knew they were lying when they said them.


The aluminum tubes are a strong case in point.  These tubes had been the subject of intense debate between the intelligence community and the nation’s leading nuclear experts in the Department of Energy. On September 8, 2002, five officials from the Bush Administration appeared on separate talk shows – Vice President Cheney on NBC’s Meet the Press, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on CBS’sFace the Nation, Secretary of State Colin Powell on Fox News’ Fox News Sunday, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice on CNN’s Late Edition, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers on ABC’s This Week – and all five said that the aluminum tubes Saddam sought were “suitable only for centrifuges” used in enriching uranium.  This date also marked the debut of an exceptionally frightening image: “we don’t want the ‘smoking gun’ to be a mushroom cloud” [Rice]; “Imagine a September 11th with weapons of mass destruction” which would kill “tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children” [Rumsfeld]; “Increasingly, we believe the United States will become the target” of Iraqi nuclear weapons [Cheney]; and so on.  The similar language used by all of them would indicate that they had “conspired” together in making these statements.  Not one of them – not one – mentioned the dissents from the nuclear experts in the Energy Department, who believed the tubes were intended for conventional rockets.  These experts had made it clear to the Administration that the disputed tubes were too narrow, long and thick-walled to fit any known centrifuge design, and that in fact aluminum hasn’t been used for centrifuges since the 1950’s.  Iraq was known to have obtained blueprints for two types of centrifuges, one using maraging steel and the other using carbon fiber. Furthermore, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his presentation to the United Nations Security Council on February 5th, 2003, acknowledged that the latest batch of tubes that had been “seized clandestinely before they reached Iraq” had “an anodized coating on extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces” – a coating that would have to be removed in order to use the tubes for centrifuges in any design.  On the other hand, such a coating resists the type of corrosion that had ruined almost all of Iraq’s existing rockets, and the alloy and dimensions of the tubes exactly matched – to the fraction of a millimeter – those of Italy’s Medusa 81 rocket, a copy of which Iraq was known to be manufacturing (this is now widely believed to be the true intended use of the disputed tubes).


In a blatant example of just how fraudulent the Administration has been on this issue, a new National Intelligent Estimate (NIE) was written regarding the Iraq threat, just before the Congress began to consider authorizing the use of military force in Iraq.  The full, 90-page classified report was delivered to the Congress at 10pm on October 1st, 2002, the night before the Senate began hearings on the issue.  Members were not allowed to take the full, 90-page NIE with them to review, since it was classified, but they could take the 25-page unclassified “summary” with them (this “summary” was also released to the public). The full, classified version outlined the dissents regarding the aluminum tubes, but the shorter, unclassified summary did not. There had literally been a vote to resolve the dispute over the intended use of the tubes, with each of six agencies (including the Energy Department) having one vote.  Four of the agencies – none with expertise in nuclear technology – voted that the tubes were intended for centrifuges; the Energy Department and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research voted that the tubes were intended for rockets.  The unclassified summary merely noted that “most analysts” believed the tubes were intended for centrifuges, without mentioning that the analysts with the necessary expertise to make that determination had disagreed.  This allowed both President Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union Address and in other speeches, and Secretary Powell, in his presentation to the U. N. Security Council, to make the aluminum tubes claim – without having to worry about being contradicted by any member of Congress; to contradict them would have required the members of Congress to reveal classified information!


In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush said “Our intelligence sources tell us that he [Saddam Hussein] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.” We now know this was blatantly misleading, but that no one in Congress could dispute it without risking prosecution for revealing classified information.  The President’s statement was a lie – and Bush knew it.


It was not the only lie the President told in that address, however.  In fact, virtually every claim made by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union Address to justify the need for pre-emptive war in Iraq was a lie – and the President knew it when he said them.  The claims he made are as follows:


“The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax – enough to kill several million people.  He hasn’t accounted for that material.  He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.”


This is an example of presenting estimates as fact.  The “conclusion” that President Bush claims the United Nations reached comes from the 1999 United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) report to the U. N. Security Council, which is based on estimates – not clear facts – and these estimates were regarded by UNSCOM with varying degrees of confidence.  Another problem with President Bush’s claim is that the report mentions only “growth media” which might be used to develop anthrax; the report did not give an amount of the final volume of anthrax that could be produced from the “growth media” – it certainly never stated anything about “over 25,000 liters of anthrax”.


The President’s statement was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If the “growth media” presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to misrepresent what the United Nations reported?


 “The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin – enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure.  He hasn’t accounted for that material.  He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.”


Again, the President’s source is the 1999 UNSCOM report to the U. N. Security Council, and again he is presenting estimates as solid fact.  His own State Department was more honest, noting in a report that “Iraq declared 19,000 liters (of Botulinum Toxin), [but the] U. N. believes it could have produced double that amount.” (emphasis added)


To state unequivocally that Iraq had in fact produced the doubled amount was misleading at best – a lie – and Bush knew it.  If the Botulinum Toxin presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to exaggerate and misrepresent what the United Nations reported?



“Our intelligence sources estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent.  In such quantities, these chemical agents also could kill untold thousands.  He has not accounted for these materials.”


In this statement the President at least acknowledged that “our intelligence sources estimate that…”, but he still wasn’t being honest.  Bush is citing an October, 2002 CIA report that said Iraq was producing “chemical warfare agents,  probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin and VX”.  President Bush conveniently omitted the word “probably”.  The CIA report continued: “gaps in Iraqi accounting and current production capabilities strongly suggest that Iraq maintains a stockpile of chemical agents…” (emphasis added).  President Bush presented Iraq’s production of these agents as known fact, when even the CIA acknowledged that it was guessing.


The President’s statement was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If theses chemical agents presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to misrepresent what the CIA had reported?


“U. S. Intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents.  Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence.  Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions.  He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.”


First of all, Iraq had not, as President Bush clearly implied, denied that such munitions had ever existed; UNSCOM had “supervised the destruction of nearly 40,000″ of these munitions (an estimate that also appears in the October, 2002 CIA report), and estimated that 15,000 – not 30,000, as the President claimed – were unaccounted for.  The carefully chosen wording of President Bush’s statement makes it sound as if these weapons were some sort of missile that could reach the American mainland (which they could not) – a clear attempt to put fear into the hearts and minds of Americans (In October, 2002, in a speech in Cincinnati, President Bush even made the claim that “Iraq is exploring ways of using these [munitions] for missions targeting the United States”) – and the claim that Iraq had “upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents” was a blatant exaggeration – in fact it doubled a threat that was based on an estimate to begin with.


It was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If these munitions presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to exaggerate that threat?


“From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile weapons labs.  These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors.  Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities.  He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.”


All three of the “informants” cited by President Bush were brought to the Administration by Ahmed Chalabi, whose credibility is questionable at best – he has been accused by the United States of giving American military secrets to Iran, among other things (for more information on Chalabi, click here).  As an example of how unreliable these sources were, one of the three informants, an Iraqi chemical engineer given the code name “curveball”, was not even being held by American forces – he was in the custody of a (still un-named) foreign government.  According to the final report of President Bush’s own “Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction”, that foreign government had informed the United States that “curveball” was known to be a “fabricator” who had suffered a “nervous breakdown” and that he was considered to be “crazy”.  Despite all of this, “curveball’s” information was given credibility by an Administration desperate to prove its case. For example, when Secretary of State Colin Powell made his presentation before the United Nations Security Council on February 5th, 2003, the “visual aid” he used in describing the mobile biological weapons labs was a drawing – not a photograph!  No such “mobile biological weapons labs” have been found.   In March of 2004, the CIA finally gained access to “curveball” and categorically repudiated his story – it turned out that “curveball” wasn’t even in Iraq at the time he claimed he was working on Iraq chemical weapons.  In a clear Abuse of Power, the facts surrounding the Administration’s reliance on information provided by a source known to be so unreliable – and, more significantly, a CIA Inspector General’s official report on the subject – were suppressed and kept from the public until after the 2004 elections.  This clear Abuse of Power undermined the democratic process by withholding relevant information from the American voters, and thereby constitutes a threat to our democratically-elected form of government.


President Bush’s statement that “we know that Iraq…had several mobile weapons labs” (emphasis added) was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If these weapons labs presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to mislead us about the sources?


“The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.”


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had in fact reported this information, but it had done so in the early 1990s.  The IAEA’s Gary Dillon, head of the Iraq Inspection team from 1997-1999, reported that, as of 1998, “there were no indications of Iraq having achieved its program goals of producing a nuclear weapon; nor were there any indications that there remained in Iraq any physical capability for production of amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.” (emphasis added).  Even more striking, the IAEA’s official updated report of January 20, 2003 – just about a week prior to the President’s State of the Union Address – repeated Dillon’s information.  It is simply dishonest for the President to present the information reported by the IAEA in the early1990s (that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons), but to then leave out the information reported by the IAEA later in the decade (that the pursuit had come to nothing as of 1998), and that, in fact, the IAEA had reported that Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons had still come to nothing just a week before the President’s address.


The President’s statement was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If Saddam’s nuclear program (such as it was) presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush leave out the follow-up reports?


“The British Government has learned Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”


This is perhaps the most publicly debunked claim made by the President in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and it is an especially egregious one when combined with the claim, discussed above, that immediately proceeded it in the State of the Union Address – that Saddam’s nuclear program was proceeding and just needed uranium to succeed in creating a nuclear bomb.  The two claims combined to lend an added urgency for the President’s case for pre-emptive war, but this statement – that Saddam was actively pursuing enriched uranium on the global market – was blatantly false on its face, and the President knew it. In fact, just two days after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson publicly criticized President Bush for “twisting” intelligence by lying in the State of the Union Address about the Niger uranium, the White Houseacknowledged that this claim was false and should not have been included in the State of the Union Address (does anyone believe they would have ever come clean on this lie if Wilson hadn’t called them on it?).  Less than a week after this forced acknowledgment, the White House retaliated against Wilson by “outing” his wife as a covert CIA operative – thus effectively ending her career (click here for more information on the Bush Administration’s illegal actions regarding this claim).


In summary, each of the President’s statements regarding Saddam Hussein’s possession and development of weapons of mass destruction was a lie – and Bush knew it.  If the WMD programs listed by President Bush presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush have to misrepresent, exaggerate, mislead, and even omit information – in other words, why did he have to LIE to convince us that war was justified?


Another justification used by the Bush Administration for going to war was the alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and al Queda – a connection the President knew did not exist.  In that same State of the Union Address, President Bush said “Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Queda.  Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own…Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans – this time armed by Saddam Hussein.”  This was misleading, it was fear-mongering, and we now know that, not only did Saddam not have any weapons to give to terrorists, he was not connected to al Queda at all.


The allegation that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected to al Queda comes primarily from three assertions: first, that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met with Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Ani, an Iraqi intelligence officer, in the Czech Republic capitol of Prague, in April of 2001; second, that Iraq was training members of al Queda in bomb-making and the use of chemical and biological weapons; and, third, that the presence of Abu Musab al Zarqawi in northern Iraq indicated a cooperative relationship between Saddam and al Queda.   All three assertions were known to be false at the time, yet President Bush presented this information as solid fact supported by strong evidence – in other words, he LIED.


Regarding the first assertion (that Mohammed Atta had met with the Iraq intelligence officer in Prague in April, 2001), this claim was based entirely on the uncorroborated statement of a traveling salesman – known, according to the CIA, to be “an unreliable drunk” – who had seen Atta’s photograph in the newspaper. The American intelligence community regarded this claim as extremely unreliable; both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) “published reports debunking the claim, and disavowing any ‘mature, symbiotic’ cooperation between Iraq and al Queda”, according to a report by Thomas F. Gimble, the Pentagon’s own Inspector General. Nevertheless, the office of Douglas Feith, then the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the head of the now-defunct “Office of Special Plans” (OSP), included this alleged meeting on a list of “known contacts” between Iraq and al Queda when briefing senior Bush Administration officials in the lead-up to the war, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA Director George Tenet. The Pentagon Inspector General’s report, however, noted that this allegation was based on “a single source” – this would be the “unreliable drunk” – and goes on to state, “The intelligence community was united in its assessment that the intelligence on the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and al-Ani [the Iraqi intelligence officer] was at least contradictory, but by no means aknown contact’” (emphasis added). That did not stop Vice President Cheney from telling Tim Russert, on NBC’s Meet the Press on December 9, 2001, that it was “pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack.” (Cheney later denied he had said any such thing, but the transcript is clear).  In fact, Atta’s credit card and phone records indicate that he was in Virginia Beach, VA at the time the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Bush was aware of this.


The assertion that Mohammed Atta had met with the Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April of 2001 was a lie – and Bush knew it.


The claim that Iraq was providing training to al Queda members came from statements made by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, at one time the highest-ranking al Queda member in American custody, but who had been handed over to Egypt in a process known as “rendition”. His statements made while in Egyptian custody were considered highly suspect, and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had circulated a report in February, 2002 – more than a year before we invaded Iraq – that it was probable that al-Libi “was intentionally misleading the debriefers”. This report based its assessment on the fact that al-Libi was no longer in American custody, and that he may have been subjected to harsh treatment [by the way, al-Libi’s rendition to Egypt would be a violation of the Geneva Convention Against Torture if the United States had reason to believe he would be subjected to torture in Egypt – which apparently the DIA believed had in fact happened]. The DIA report also noted that “Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Bagdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.” The CIA joined in the questioning of al-Libi’s information, noting that al-Libi “was not in a position to know if any training had taken place.” Nevertheless, President Bush used al-Libi’s information as “proof” of a link between Iraq and al Queda, and Secretary of State Colin Powell used the information in his presentation to the U. N. Security Council. (Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s former Chief of Staff, described his participation in preparing Powell for the U. N. presentation in an interview on PBS that aired February 3, 2006: “I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council.” Powell himself has called the presentation a “blot” on his record.) In January, 2004, al-Libi recanted his story, and the CIA officially withdrew all assessments based on his statements!  President Bush had received the DIA report in February, 2002, and therefore knew this information was considered by our own intelligence agencies to be unreliable. He chose to use it anyway.


The assertion that Iraq was training members of al Queda in bomb-making and the use of chemical and biological weapons was a lie – and Bush knew it.


President Bush and others in his Administration have also tried to use the presence in Iraq of Abu Musab al Zarqawi to “prove” that there was a connection between Iraq and al Queda (in fact, Vice President Cheney and others within the Bush Administration continue to make this claim, despite all evidence to the contrary; Cheney made the claim in April of 2007 as a guest on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program), but the truth is that there was simply no connection; Zarqawi was operating in a part of northern Iraq that was NOT under Saddam’s control, and, in fact, Saddam had actually been trying to capture Zarqawi. The Administration claimed that Zarqawi had traveled to Bagdad, which is true – but he only traveled there under an alias, and only when he needed medical treatment at a Bagdad hospital.  The Bush Administration knew exactly where in northern Iraq  Zarqawi’s training camp was located, and could have attacked the training camp – this could have easily been justified as part of the War on Terror – but they chose not to do so for the simple reason that Zarqawi’s continued presence there served to help justify their invasion of Iraq.  He was just too useful for their purposes.


The allegation that the presence of Abu Musab al Zarqawi in northern Iraq indicated a cooperative relationship between Iraq and al Queda was a lie – and Bush knew it.


Furthermore, it has now become public that on September 21st, 2001 – just 10 days after the 9/11 attacks – President Bush was briefed on the complete lack of a connection between Iraq and al Queda. In fact, the President was informed that Saddam had tried to establish surveillance over al Queda, believing that the radical Islamic terrorist network represented a threat to his secular regime.  This ties in perfectly with what has been written by Richard A. Clarke, President Bush’s counter-terrorism chief.  Clarke writes (in Against All Enemies) that, just one day after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush told him “I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything.  See if Saddam did this.  See if he’s linked in any way…”  The Presidential briefing on September 21st was in response to this request – they had found no connection whatsoever.


In a letter dated March 18, 2003, sent by President Bush to the Congress to comply with the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq, which required the President to formally notify the Congress when he had determined that military force was necessary, the President made a formal determination that the military action against Iraq was “consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”  He repeated this assertion (verbatim) three days later in another letter to Congress, dated March 21, 2003, which was written to comply with the War Powers Act’s requirement that the President notify the Congress when our military forces are actually sent into action. We now know, however, that this was a false statement – there was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Queda.  If the President knew the statement was false – which clearly he did – these letters would both constitute violations of the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996 (18 U. S. C. 1001), which makes it a felony to knowingly and willfully make false statements to the United States Congress.  As demonstrated above, President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address also violated this act.


In summary, each of the President’s statements regarding a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Queda were lies – and Bush knew it.  If a connection between Saddam and al Queda presented a threat grave enough to justify war, why did Bush knowingly lie to us about it?


And then there is the “Downing Street Memo”.


The significance of this document – and others related to it – cannot be overstated.  The “memo” is actually the minutes of a meeting of the British Cabinet that took place on July 23rd, 2002, in the Office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair (located at 10 Downing Street – hence the name “Downing Street Memo”).  The meeting consisted of a briefing by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 (British Intelligence), outlining meetings with his “counterpart” – probably CIA Director George Tenet – in Washington D. C., from which he had just returned.   In his briefing, Dearlove stated, “President Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.  But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”


The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. 


The meeting continued.  A major theme was how to come up with a legal justification for going to war.  Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, said, “It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided.  But the case was thin.  Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran.”


The case was thin.  Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran.


And still it went on.  Lord Goldsmith, the British Attorney General, noted that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.  There were three possible legal bases: self-defense, humanitarian intervention, or [United Nations Security Council] authorisation.  The first and second could not be used in this case.  Relying on [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 1205 of three years ago would be difficult.”  Jack Straw suggested that “We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors.  This would help with the legal justification for the use of force.”  British Prime Minister Tony Blair added “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors…If the political context were right, people would support regime change.”


This meeting took place 8 months prior to our invasion of Iraq.


Was the “Downing Street Memo” authentic?  Did it accurately reflect what took place at the meeting?  Did this meeting even take place?  The answers come from no less an authority than Tony Blair himself. In a news conference at the White House in June, 2005 – the first news conference following the release of the memo at which both Blair and President Bush appeared – Blair was asked about the memo.  He began by denying that facts were being fixed around the policy (of course he denied this – can you imagine if he had confirmed it?).  He then continued:  “Let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations.”  Notice that he didn’t try to claim that the memo is a forgery, that the meeting never took place, or that the memo somehow did not accurately reflect what took place at the meeting.  He only states that the meeting took place before they went to the United Nations.  Of course it did – going to the U. N. was one of the options they discussed at the meeting to build a legal case for the war!  Essentially, Blair confirmed that the meeting took place, the memo was authentic, and that it accurately reflected what was said at the meeting.  President Bush then threw in his two cents, suggesting that there was something suspicious about the timing of the release of the memo (Blair was in the middle of a re-election campaign), and then added, “And this meeting, evidently it took place in London, before we even went to the United Nations – or I went to the United Nations.”  Even Bush believed the meeting took place, the memo was authentic, and that it accurately reflected what was said at the meeting.


There was more – several other documents were leaked along with the “Downing Street Memo”.  A Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing paper, prepared prior to the July 23rd, 2003 meeting and given to each of the participants in advance, made it clear that Blair had told Bush in April of 2002 – almost a year before we invaded Iraq – that Britain would support the US military to bring about Saddam’s downfall.  A memo written by Britain’s Ambassador to the U. S., Christopher Meyer, told of discussing with then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz the “need to wrongfoot Saddam on the Inspectors”.  A memo written by British Foreign Policy Advisor David Manning described a meeting he had with then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, in which Manning notes that “Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change in undimmed”.  An especially troubling memo, written to Tony Blair by Blair’s Political Director, Peter Ricketts, states unequivocally “The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September…even the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW [chemical weapons/biological weapons] fronts…”, and “US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and [al Queda] is so far frankly unconvincing…”  Another memo, this one written by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, said, “there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL [Usama bin Laden] and Al Qaida.”

(To read these documents for yourself, click here)


The publication of these secret documents called into question the most fundamental aspects of the Bush Administration’s case for war in Iraq, and prompted Rep. John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan and at the time the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee (he is now the Committee’s Chairman), to start an online petition demanding answers from the Bush Administration.  By the time he delivered the petition to the White House, the accompanying letter had been signed by 122 Members of the Congress and he had collected over 560,000 citizen’s signatures.  Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, said he saw “no need” to respond to the petition.


Taken together, what the Downing Street documents clearly show is that President Bush was determined to go to war, at a time when he was publicly saying that war was a “last resort”.  He has said that he did not make the decision to go to war until after Secretary Powell made his presentation to the United Nations, but this is shown by these documents to be a lie.  Furthermore, he has stated that he went to the United Nations in an attempt to avoid war, but these documents show, with amazing clarity, that he went to the U. N. in order to create a legal justification for going to war, by setting up a situation where Saddam would be seen as not complying with United Nations demands – to “wrongfoot” Saddam, as Christopher Meyers put it.  Once again, the President’s statements were lies – and Bush knew it.


President Bush’s desire to invade Iraq dates at least to the beginning of his Presidency; the primary topic of discussion at his very first cabinet meeting was how we could invade Iraq.  In fact, there is evidence that members of the Bush Administration were set on attacking Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein as early as 1998, when a group calling itself the “Project for a New American Century” wrote a letter to then-President Clinton calling for war to achieve regime change in Iraq.  This letter was signed by, among others, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Richard Armitage, and John Bolton (read this letter here).  On one occasion, when asked why he was so intent on removing Saddam Hussein from power, President Bush responded, “He tried to kill my Dad.”


The most recent revelation is that of yet another memo from David Manning (Tony Blair’s Foreign Policy Advisor, who also wrote one of the Downing Street documents), of a meeting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in January of 2003 – two months before we invaded Iraq.  In this meeting, the two leaders actually agreed on a date for the war to begin: “The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March.  This was when the bombing would begin.”  (Remember that President Bush has said that he did not make the decision to go to war until after Colin Powell made his presentation to the United Nations; this meeting took place before Secretary Powell’s presentation).  They set this date even though no WMD’s had yet been found by the U. N. weapons inspectors – weapons they had been counting on to be the key to a legal justification for the planned invasion.  Without WMD’s being found, they still needed a legal justification for the war, and so they brainstormed ideas.  Among his ideas (which included assassinating Saddam Hussein), President Bush suggested “flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U. N. colours.  If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”  The fact that, as of January, 2003, President Bush was still trying to trick Saddam into providing the legal basis for going to war – while at the same time setting the date for the commencement of the bombing – is especially incriminating, and clearly indicates President Bush’s absolute determination to go to war.  [President Bush also predicted at the meeting that it was “unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.”  Oops…]


Perhaps the most telling evidence that President Bush was determined to go to war even when he was telling the American people that he was trying to avoid such a war is the $700 million spent – illegally, according to the Government Accountability Office (the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress) – on preparations for the Iraq war.  This money had been authorized by the Congress to be spent on the war in Afghanistan and on the search for Osama bin Laden – in other words, the actual “war on terror” – but was diverted away from that theater and to the Iraq theater to pay for the construction of air fields, bases, and other apparatus in preparation for the war against Saddam, months before Congress even considered authorizing military action in Iraq.  This misappropriation of funds is an impeachable offense.


The Senate Intelligence Committee has investigated the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.  “Phase I” of the investigation focused on the intelligence itself – and found it to be badly flawed (read the reporthere).  “Phase II”, which was to examine allegations of the misuse and manipulation of that intelligence by the President and other members of the Bush Administration, promised shortly after the 2004 elections, was significantly delayed by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), and proceeded at a snail’s pace; it is moving faster now that the Democrats are in the majority and Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV) is the Committee Chairman.  In November, 2005, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the unusual step of forcing the entire Senate into closed session to demand that “Phase II” go forward, and an agreement was reached that the investigation would proceed, with periodic updates provided to key members of the committee.  Unfortunately, there has been virtually no cooperation on the part of the Bush Administration.  One key area the Democrats on the committee want to examine is the role played by the ultra-secretive “Office of Special Plans” (OSP), run by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, within the Department of Defense.  The Pentagon has specifically refused to provide information on Feith’s role and the activities of the OSP.  While he was Chairman of the Committee, Roberts’

asked the Defense Department’s Inspector General to investigate Feith’s office and activities.  The result of this move is essentially that the Senate Intelligence Committee will now have to wait for the Pentagon to finish investigating itself – and believe me, they’re not in any hurry over at the Pentagon on this one.  Senator Roberts succeeded in his stalling tactics in spectacular fashion.  By allowing “Phase I” to be completed and made public before the 2004 election, but then stalling “Phase II”, Senator Roberts ensured that President Bush would be able to go into his re-election effort presenting himself as the victim of flawed intelligence – when in fact he was the primary purveyor of it.  Had the public known the truth, the election result may have been far different.  Senator Roberts’ actions thereby undermined the American electoral process, which threatens our form of government.  Perhaps the Senate could expel him…


In response to Congressional criticism of his use – or, more accurately, his misuse – of intelligence to justify the Iraq war, President Bush and others in his Administration have put forth the argument that they acted on the same intelligence that the Congress had, the same intelligence that foreign nations had, and even the same intelligence that President Clinton had.  This is three lies rolled into one statement.


The notion that Congress gets the same intelligence that the President gets is simply false on its face – to the point of being laughable. Senator Jay Rockefeller, now the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated “People say, ‘Well, you know, you all had the same intelligence that the White House had.’ And I’m here to tell you that is nowhere near the truth. We not only don’t have, nor probably should we have, the Presidential Daily Brief. We don’t have the constant people who are working on intelligence who are very close to him…There’s a lot of intelligence that we don’t get that they have.” Former Senator – and member of the 9/11 Commission – Bob Kerrey of Nebraska said, “The President has much more access to intelligence than members of Congress do. Ask any member of Congress. Ask a Republican member of Congress, do you get the same access to intelligence that the President does? Look at these aluminum tube stories that came out [that] the President delivered to Congress – ‘We believe these would be used for centrifuges.’ – [President Bush] didn’t deliver to Congress the full range of objections from the Department of Energy experts, nuclear weapons experts, that said it’s unlikely they were for centrifuges, more likely that they were for rockets, which was a pre-existing use. The President has much more access to intelligence than any member of Congress.” Media Matters reported that, “The claim that the White House and Congress saw the ‘same intelligence’ in Iraq is further undermined by the Bush Administration’s use of outside intelligence channels. For more than a year prior to the war, the Administration received intelligence assessments and analysis on Iraq directly from the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Plans (OSP), run by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, and [from] the Iraqi National Congress (INC) a group of Iraqi exiles led by Ahmed Chalabi.”  Thomas F. Gimble, the Pentagon’s Inspector General, has described in a recently-released report how the OSP disregarded contradictory intelligence reports; Gimble also called the activities of the OSP “an alternative intelligence assessment that was improper”.   It is the OSP’s information that is especially important – this is the group whose analysis was not shared with the Congress, and who has so far refused to cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Phase II’ investigation. Even the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, delivered to the Congress at 10pm the night before Congress began hearings, was summarized in a way that eliminated intelligence that did not support the Administration’s case for war and was made available to the Congress in a manner that ensured most members would only read the summary.


The statement that Congress had the same intelligence the President had is a lie – pure and simple.


As for foreign governments having the same intelligence we had; since when do we share all of our intelligence with any other nation?  Last I heard, that was called espionage, and was illegal as hell.  This is worthy of an investigation all by itself.  Besides, it’s not like all of those other nations agreed with us (Russia, Germany and France come to mind…).  We didn’t exactly have the universal support of the world on this invasion, which brings up another key point:  following the 9/11 attacks, the United States enjoyed the almost universal goodwill of the entire world, and the world was still behind us when we attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan – that was seen as an appropriate retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.  President Bush had the opportunity to unite the world against terrorism and usher in a new era of American leadership in a way that could not have been dreamed of prior to 9/11; this would have been a glorious tribute to those who perished in the attacks.


But then we invaded Iraq.  In doing so, President Bush squandered the world’s goodwill.  It is simply gone, and unlikely to ever return – even if, God forbid, we are attacked again.  Now, less than five years after the 9/11 attacks, we are hated in more places around the globe than ever before, and at almost unprecedented levels of intensity.  The fault for that lies squarely with President Bush.


And as far as President Clinton having the same intelligence information, that doesn’t exactly help President Bush’s case – that information was anywhere from 5 to 10 years old!  Why the sudden urgency?  In February of 2001, in response to a question regarding economic sanctions against Iraq, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “Frankly, they have worked.  He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.”  Other members of the Bush Administration (including Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice) made similar statements at that time.  What changed?  If their earlier statements were true, how could they now be acting on “the same intelligence Clinton had”?  Or were they lying in the earlier statements to the Congress?


All of these claims – from WMD’s to links with al Queda to the President’s desire to avoid war – were lies, and the President and his surrogates knew they were lying when they made these statements.  Yet these are the claims which, taken together, “justified” the Iraq war.  The latest casualty statistics are appalling; 3,606 Americans have died in Iraq, and 26,558 more have been wounded [these numbers are as of July 8, 2007].  While some estimates are far higher, by the President’s own estimate at least 30,000 Iraqi citizens have died.


And it was all based on lies.


For his violation of Title 18, U. S. Code, Section 371 – committing conspiracy to defraud the United States – by lying and misleading the nation into a pre-emptive war that has caused the deaths of thousands, for his violation of the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996 (18 U. S. C. 1001) stemming from his letters to the Congress of March 18 and 21, 2003 and from his 2003 State of the Union Address, and for the misappropriation of $700 million that had been authorized by the Congress to the Afghanistan theater, President Bush should be impeached and removed from office.


UPDATE:  (5/3/2007):  President Bush just can’t seem to stop lying to the American people; he has – once again – lied to justify his Iraq war policy by resurrecting the blatantly false “connection” between Iraq and al Queda.  As has been the finding of the 9/11 Commission, the various American intelligence agencies, the Pentagon’s own Inspector General, and others (including former CIA Director –  and a Bush recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – George Tenet), no such “connection” has ever existed!  Despite this history, in a single appearance before The Associated General Contractors of America yesterday (May 2nd, 2007, the day after he vetoed the “Iraq Accountability Act” – the emergency funding bill for the troops that was passed by the Democratic Congress), President Bush made allof the following statements (his words are the quotes in italics) in reference to those whom we are fighting in Iraq:


Al Queda is the group that plot[ted] and planned and trained killers to come and kill people on our soil.  The same bunch that is causing havoc in Iraq was the ones [sic] who came and murdered our citizens.”


OF COURSE al Queda attacked us “on our soil” – we already know this!  But they are NOT the ones “causing havoc in Iraq”!  The “havoc in Iraq” is sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni, and Iraqi citizens fighting against what they see as a foreign occupation.


For America, the decision we face in Iraq is not whether we ought to take sides in a civil war, it’s whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11.”


First, no matter how strenuously President Bush tries to deny it, our troops are stuck in the middle of a foreign civil war.  Estimates range from 100,000 to 600,000 Iraqi deaths – and many more wounded – in the four years since President Bush declared that “combat operations in Iraq are over” (remember the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier?); most of these Iraqi deaths were the result of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence.  The higher end of these estimates are comparable to the casualties during the four-year-long (April, 1861 – April, 1865) American Civil War, and the low end could be still be considered comparable, accounting for the advances in medical technology over the last 130 years.  Second, while I absolutely agree that we should “stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11″, I would insist that fight is in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere – it is not in Iraq.  The Iraq war is, in fact, a diversion of military assets away from “the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11″.


al Queda – the same people that attacked us in America…”


Again, the “people who attacked us in America” are NOT the people we are fighting in Iraq – the “people who attacked us in America” died in the 9/11 attacks, and the people who trained them, supported them, and planned the attacks – in other words, the people we should be fighting – are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, NOT in Iraq!


“…killers who have got their intentions on America


Yet again, these “killers who have got their intentions on America” are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere – NOT in Iraq…


al Queda terrorists who behead captives and order suicide bombings in Iraq would not simply be satisfied to see us gone.  A retreat in Iraq would mean that they would likely follow us here.


I have never understood this argument – what would our staying in Iraq possibly have to do with preventing al Queda terrorists from coming here?  In order to buy into this rhetoric, we would first have to accept the notion that every single al Queda terrorist – from anywhere in the world – is somehow trapped in Iraq, unable to leave as long as our troops are there.  This is, of course, idiotic – isn’t this a “Global War on Terror”?  Al Queda has members in many countries around the world (again, Afghanistan leaps to mind), and our presence in Iraq does nothing to stop any of them from coming to the United States – in fact, quite the opposite; the continued American military presence in Iraq has weakened our defenses here at home (National Guard and Military Reserve units that would normally be here are over in Iraq, for example), and has become a rallying cry and recruiting tool for al Queda.  On the other hand, if our troops were brought home, they could be used to supplement our border security,something that could actually help prevent the terrorists from attacking us here!


These people that attacked us on September the 11th…uh…um…will be emboldened.


This is the same crap we heard from President Nixon about Viet Nam – that if we pulled out, America would be seen as weak, and the enemy (in that case, the dreaded “commies”) would be emboldened. The Viet Nam War was, like Iraq, a civil war in a foreign country (OK, Viet Nam was technically two separate countries – and therefore it was not technically a “civil war” – but the division was an artificial one; they are now one country and were always one people), and most Americans now agree that we should not have been there.  President Nixon, while claiming that he wanted to get our troops out and bring us “Peace with Honor”, instead escalated the Viet Nam War by bombing Haiphong and Hanoi during the peace talks and expanding the war into Cambodia; meanwhile, 20,000 more Americans died in Southeast Asia as Nixon pushed for his “Peace with Honor”.  Of course, Communism has now – with the exception of China and a few very small countries (including Viet Nam) – been defeated WITHOUT us “winning” in Viet Nam, and Viet Nam has become a regular trading partner of the United States.  In other words, catastrophe did not befall America as a result of our leaving Viet Nam; instead, I would argue the catastrophe of 20,000 dead American troops – and an unprecedented level of divisiveness that still infects America – resulted from our staying in Viet Nam.  President Bush has not learned this lesson, however; he is using the same pathetic “machismo” attitude to keep us in the middle of yet another civil war in a foreign country.  How many more American troops will die while the Bush Administration continues to insist on keeping the troops in Iraq “until the job’s done” – their equivalent of “Peace with Honor”?


And how does the Bush Administration define the job being “done”, anyway?  The definition of the Bush Administration’s objective in Iraq keeps changing.  President Bush has actually changed his rhetoric in recent speeches; he no longer even uses the word “victory” – although he used to insist that the United States would settle for nothing less – when discussing our goals in Iraq!  He now uses the word “success” – a subtle but very telling change.  His latest definition of “success” comes from yesterday’s appearance before the Associated General Contractors of America:


Either we’ll succeed (laughs)…or we won’t succeed [OK, I guess that’s true enough…].  And the definition of success as I’ve described is, you know, sectarian violence down with…eh…success is not ‘no violence’.  There are parts of our own country that, you know, have got, you know, a certain level of violence to it.  But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives.


“Success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives”?  How far the mighty have fallen – we used to be in Iraq to accomplish such lofty goals as to liberate the Iraq people, to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq as a shining example that would spread throughout the Middle East, and so on.  Now we’ll settle for a reduced “level of violence”?  And how can President Bush compare the violence in Bagdad to the “certain level of violence” that exists in “parts of our own country”?  While there is certainly a given level of violent crime in America, Iraq is in the middle of a civilwar – complete with military battles and bombings.  There is nothing like this happening in any part of our own country; even the gang violence in our most crime-ridden inner cities does not rise to that level. This comparison, like so much of the rhetoric that comes from the Bush Administration, is a false one.  It is an attempt to “spin” and mislead – in other words, it is a lie.


President Bush obviously believes (or at least wants us to believe that he believes) that our fight in Iraq is a fight against al Queda, but he knows this to be false.  This fact has not stopped the President from making these claims, however.  Iraq’s alleged connection to al Queda – which has repeatedly been proven to have never existed – was a major element of President Bush’s case for war in the first place, and now President Bush is trying to bring this dead story back to life to support his policy of keeping our troops in Iraq.


The gaps in the President’s logic don’t end there.


President Bush has repeatedly said that, if we leave, Iraq will become a “haven” for al Queda terrorists, but yesterday he said (repeatedly) that our troops are fighting al Queda terrorists in Iraq – right now! This would only be possible, of course, if the al Queda terrorists are already in Iraq; if al Queda terrorists are already in Iraq, then hasn’t Iraq already become a “haven” for al Queda terrorists? Furthermore, if, as stated above, the 9/11 Commission, the various American intelligence agencies, the Pentagon’s own Inspector General, former CIA Director George Tenet, and others all agree that there was no “connection” between Iraq and al Queda before we invaded, and if even the Bush Administration has not claimed that there was an al Queda presence in Iraq other than Zarqawi’s training camp (which could have been destroyed separately) before we invaded, why is al Queda in Iraq now, as President Bush claims?  The answer is simple – whatever al Queda presence exists in Iraq now existsbecause of our presence there!


The Bush Administration has also tried to justify our continued presence in Iraq by pointing out that al Queda recruitment worldwide has increased – but why do they suppose that is?  The primary reason it has increased is because our invasion and continued military presence in a Muslim country is the best recruiting tool al Queda could have ever hoped for!  Our continued military presence in Iraq is also providing the best “training opportunities” – in other words, chances to attack Americans – for these new recruits that al Queda could have ever hoped for, and our valiant troops are suffering the deadly consequences of this Administration’s failed Iraq policy as a result.



For more information on the lies of the Bush Administration that led to the war in Iraq, click here






On Monday, November 7, 2005, President Bush addressed the issue of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe by stating, “We do not torture.”  We have all seen the abhorrent pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and there is now voluminous documentation to show that the abuse of detainees by American personnel has not been limited to that infamous place, but in fact is widespread and systemic, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay and, yes, even to those secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe (Why else would Vice President Cheney have been working so hard to convince the Senate to exemptthe CIA from the terms of the McCain amendment against “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment” of detainees in U.S. custody anywhere in the world?) Yet President Bush’s statement was unequivocal – “We do not torture.”  Was he lying, knowing full well that no one – and I mean no one – believed him?  His statement was as absurd as President Clinton’s infamous claim:  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  President Clinton’s statement was equally unequivocal, and was equally disingenuous – in both cases the President making the statement was using the definitions of terms to mislead the American people.


In President Clinton’s case, it was the term “sexual relations”, which was defined (for the purposes of a deposition in a civil case brought by Paula Corbin Jones) in a manner that, given the nature of the activities that took place between President Clinton and Lewinsky, technically meant that, while Lewinsky was indeed having “sexual relations” with President Clinton, the President was simultaneously nothaving “sexual relations” with Lewinsky.  This is obviously a ridiculous proposition, and besides, President Clinton was no longer under oath for the deposition; he was speaking directly to the American people – he should have known better than to think the definition used in the deposition would apply to such a public statement (of course, he also should have known better than to get involved with Lewinsky in the first place…)


In the case of President Bush’s statement, the term in question is “torture”.  Just what constitutes torture?  According to an August, 2002 memo authored by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the pain caused by torture “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”  This is certainly not the definition adhered to by the rest of the world – that definition can be found in Article 1 of the Geneva Convention Against Torture (to which the United States is a signatory): “For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”  (Click here to read the Geneva Conventions for yourself.)  Unlike the world’s definition, the Bybee memo’s definition did not include mental pain, intimidation, or coercion.  The Bybee memo’s definition of “torture” – in fact the entire memo – was later withdrawn by the Justice Department after it became public and could not stand up to public scrutiny; however, President Bush’s “We do not torture” statement indicates that the definition may still be in practical use by the Administration.


For those of you who question whether the Untied States is bound by the Geneva Conventions, Article VI, Section 2 of the United States Constitution reads: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land…” [emphasis added].  Ofcourse we are bound to follow the Geneva Conventions; as a treaty made “under the authority of the United States” under the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions are considered to be “the supreme law of the land”.


And that’s not all; in addition to the Geneva Conventions, the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18 U. S. C. 2441) makes it a crime for any U.S. national to order or engage in the murder, torture, or inhuman treatment of a detainee, and if the detainee dies, the act imposes the death penalty.  This law, like the Geneva Conventions, remains “the supreme law of the land”.


The President of the United States is bound by our Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” (Article II, Section 3).  This requirement encompasses all laws, including treaties, which make up “the supreme law of the land”, and constitutes a vital function of the office of President of the United States.  Furthermore, upon assuming office, the President takes an oath in which, with his hand on the Bible, he “solemnly swears” that he will “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” (Article II, Section 1).  President Bush has taken this oath twice.


Nevertheless, in January of 2002, when then-White House Counsel (now Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales [UPDATE (8/28/2007):  Gonzales has resigned as Attorney General] informed President Bush – in writing – that the mistreatment of detainees by Americans in Afghanistan could be criminally prosecutable under the War Crimes Act, the President failed to live up to his obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. What he should have done was to order the prosecution of those that had violated the law, and to then order an end to all further abuse.  Unfortunately, however, instead of “faithfully executing” the War Crimes Act of 1996 and living up to our obligation under the Geneva Conventions, President Bush chose to protect the offenders from prosecution by authorizing an “opt-out” of the Geneva Conventions.  What President Bush actually did was to create a semantic exception to the Geneva Conventions; he labeled the detainees “enemy combatants” – a term not found in the Geneva Conventions, which therefore do not cover how such persons should be treated – and in so doing insulated the abusers from prosecution under the War Crimes Act, which only applies to violations of the Geneva Conventions.  The result of this move was not just to allow the abuse to continue, but to actually encourage the abusers.  By thus condoning the abuse instead of prosecuting it, President Bush himself probably violated the War Crimes Act which, as stated above, makes it a crime for any U. S. national to order or engage in such abuse.  How serious was the President’s violation?  At least 108 detainees have died in U.S. custody since 2002, and at least 34 of these have been investigated as homicides, with autopsy reports that use words like “suffocation”, “asphyxia” and “blunt force trauma” in describing the cause of death.  Most of these died after President Bush authorized the abuse to continue.  Again as stated above, the War Crimes Act imposes the death penalty if the detainee dies as a result of the abuse!


Does the President’s violation need to be any more serious than that?


The justification usually put forth for the torture of terrorist detainees is the “emergency situation”.  What if a detainee knew the location of a nuclear device set to go off in a major American city within 24 hours?  Isn’t it worth the “mistreatment” of the detainee to protect millions of Americans from being nuked?  The obvious answer is yes, of course it would be – but only if the information you get from the detainee is reliable.  This is especially true in the “emergency situation”, when there is no spare time to double check the information.  The problem is that the information obtained through torture is anythingbut reliable.  In such a scenario, the detainee knows they just have to hold out for 24 hours and give answers that sound credible in order for the torture to stop, and for the damage to be done.  There is no way to claim that a detainee being tortured can be trusted to tell the truth – they are most likely to say something that sounds credible to their abusers, but is in fact a lie.  For example, Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, recalls a time when his torturers were demanding to know the names of the other members of his squadron; he instead gave them the names of the defensive front line of the Green Bay Packers – and the torture stopped.  In other words, he lied as a means of getting the torture to stop while remaining loyal to his country.  What would make anyone think these current detainees are any less devoted to their cause?  Another example is that of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the high-ranking al Queda member who was the source for President Bush’s contention that Saddam Hussein was providing al Queda with training in bomb-making and the use of chemical and biological weapons.  The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had circulated a memo in February of 2002 denouncing al-Libi’s claim, stating that he was probably “intentionally misleading the debreifers” due to the fact that al-Libi was in Egyptian custody and had probably been subjected to torture (al-Libi recanted his story in January of 2004, and the CIA withdrew all assessments based on his statements).

There also can be no question that permitting torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is against international law, even under “exceptional circumstances” (such as the threat of war).  According to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December of 1975, “No State may permit or tolerate torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (emphasis added)  The same U. N. Declaration also requires any public official who orders such treatment to be prosecuted under that nation’s laws (click here to read this Declaration for yourself).  In addition, Article 16 of the Geneva Convention Against Torture states, “Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.  Even if the abhorrent acts that have been committed with President Bush’s “consent or acquiescence” do not constitute “torture”, they certainly qualify as “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, which the United States, as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, is required to “undertake to prevent”.


President Bush has repeatedly said that all of the detainees in United States custody around the world are being treated according to the Geneva Conventions, but he is being disingenuous in this as well.  The Geneva Convention Against Torture refers to how “prisoners of war” must be treated; the detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and the Eastern European prisons have been designated by President Bush to be “enemy combatants” – a term not found anywhere in the Geneva Conventions, which therefore offer no guidelines on how such persons should be treated.  However, Article 7 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”


No one.  Clear enough, Mr. President?


In addition, the Bush Administration has admitted to “hiding” prisoners from the American Red Cross when its representatives have visited our detention facilities, and in fact we now know that there were entire prisons being hidden from the Red Cross – and the Congress – in Eastern Europe.  This is also a violation of the Geneva Convention Against Torture.


The worst thing about torture and prisoner abuse is the harm it does to the image of the United States around the world.  We have lost all credibility on the issue of human rights – even the Red Cross and Amnesty International have demanded an end to our mistreatment of detainees. A poll of Iraqi citizens conducted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (which governed Iraq following the fall of Saddam), taken a few months before the revelations from Abu Ghraib, found that 63% of Iraqis supported the occupation.  The same poll, taken a month after the Abu Ghraib revelations, found that support down to just 9% of Iraqis.  There is almost nothing that could damage our reputation more than being perceived as torturers, yet the Bush Administration has continued to push – very publicly – for the “right” to abuse prisoners.  When Senator McCain introduced a resolution prohibiting the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” of prisoners in U. S. custody anywhere in the world, President Bush spoke out against it. He continued to oppose the measure even after it passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin of 90-9, and stood behind Vice President Cheney as Cheney tried – in vain – to negotiate an agreement with the Senate that would have exempted the CIA from the prohibition in the midst of the world-wide scandal following the revelation that the CIA was operating secret prisons in two (un-named) Eastern European countries.  Why would the Bush Administration push so hard for the “right” to commit acts that the rest of the western world considers so repugnant – and in fact are prohibited under the “supreme law of the land” (the Geneva Convention Against Torture, which is a treaty made “under the authority of the United States”)?


Nevertheless, when after all efforts by the Bush Administration to defeat or weaken it failed, the McCain Amendment banning “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” was reluctantly signed into law by President Bush on December 30, 2005, he issued a “signing statement” stating that his Administration would interpret the McCain Amendment “in a manner consistent with the Constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as commander-in-chief and consistent with the Constitutional limitations on judicial power.”


This “signing statement” is worthy of some discussion.  First, what exactly does he mean by this?  Basically he is saying that he has the power, as head of the Executive Branch and as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to determine when and how this law will be enforced.  In other words, he will enforce this law when – and only when – he feels like it.  Once again President Bush is claiming that he is above the law – he believes he can violate the McCain Amendment any time he determines that it is necessary for him to do so.  The Bybee Memo of August, 2002 claimed that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, has the absolute power to determine the treatment of detainees, and argued against the power of the Congress to place any limitations on the President’s authorization of torture: “Any effort to apply [the War Crimes Act of 1996] in a manner that interferes with the president’s direction of such core matter as the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants thus would be unconstitutional.”  This would ignore the power granted to the Congress under our Constitution to “make rules concerning captures on land and water” and to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces”, as well as the President’s Constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Under our Constitution, the McCain Amendment, the War Crimes Act of 1996, and the Geneva Conventions are all “the supreme law of the land”. The Constitution is clear – the President must follow the law.


Another striking aspect of the President’s “signing statement” practically leaps off the page: notice that he describes the Executive Branch as the “unitary executive branch”.   Notice also that, after making this claim to “unitary” power, President Bush then refers to the “Constitutional limitations on judicial power”.  The term “unitary executive” is used by the Bush Administration to describe their contention that the Executive Branch is the dominant power in the government, and that the other two branches have somehow become secondary.  There is simply no Constitutional basis whatsoever for such a contention – rather, the Constitution clearly creates three co-equal branches of the government.  Whether such “signing statements” carry any legal weight has never been specifically tested in the Supreme Court (new Justice Samuel Alito once defended such statements when he worked for President Reagan’s Justice Department), but the Court has ruled on the concept of a President “rewriting” laws he has signed.  In 1998, the Court struck down the “line-item veto” that the Congress had granted to then-President Clinton, arguing that it gave the President the power to rewrite laws he had signed, thereby unconstitutionally taking away power from the Legislative branch and violating the concept of separation of powers.  This is essentially what President Bush has done with these “signing statements” – he is rewriting laws he has signed.  There is nothing in the Constitution, however, that gives the President the authority to make or interpret the laws.  Under our Constitution, it is the Legislative branch that makes the laws, and the judicial branch that interprets the laws.  As President, he is required to execute the laws.  President Bush’s refusal to properly execute “the supreme law of the land”, justified by the claim that the Executive Branch is above the other two branches, constitutes an Abuse of Power that threatens our Constitutional form of government, and thereby becomes an impeachable offense.


If, in order to protect our nation, we are left with no choice but to commit the most repugnant, abhorrent acts a nation can commit against an individual, what exactly is it we are protecting?  Our Constitution will be meaningless if we are not a nation of laws, if the President can ignore the law, and if the system of government established by our Constitution – three co-equal branches of government – ceases to exist.  Yet this is the vision of America fostered by President George W. Bush.

In a horrid indication of just how badly the torture and abuse scandals have harmed the image of our nation around the globe, the Bush Administration has decided to not seek election for the United States to the new United Nations Human Rights Council – the first time that the USA will not be a member of the foremost U. N. Human Rights panel since the U.N. was founded after World War II.  The formation of the new panel was opposed by the United States and just three other countries – it was approved by a vote of 170-4 in the U. N. General Assembly – so, according to John Bolton, the Bush Administration felt it would be awkward to then seek election to the panel.


The most troubling aspect of this is that, according to Bush Administration officials, the Administration’s true reason for not seeking a place on the panel is that they were afraid of the political fallout if they didn’t get the necessary 96 votes in the General Assembly needed to win a seat.  How incredibly far we have fallen – we are now afraid that we might actually lose if we ran for a seat on the world’s premiere human rights oversight panel – a seat we have held since the U. N.’s inception.


For his failure to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, for the Abuses of Power inherent in his insistence that he can declare himself to be above the law and in his putting forth the notion of the “unitary executive”, and for his own culpability under the War Crimes Act of 1996, President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.







“Exposing an undercover operative is the most insidious form of treason”

                                                            – Former President George H.W. Bush


On Friday, October 28, 2005, a federal grand jury issued a five-count indictment against Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, in relation to the leak of undercover CIA operative Valerie Wilson’s identity to the media.  The Special Prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, stated that his investigation was not over, leaving some question as to whether he would push for any further indictments.  Why does this case matter?  Let’s put this in some perspective:


On August 9th, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  What had started as a “third-rate burglary” (the Nixon Administration’s characterization of the bungled break-in and attempt to bug the Democratic National Committee Headquarters located in the Watergate Office complex) had brought down a President who, less than two years earlier, had been re-elected in one of the largest landslides in American history.  Watergate became the Presidential scandal against which all others are now measured (many scandals since have even had the suffix “-gate” attached to their names; in fact, the CIA Leak Case has occasionally been referred to as “Plame-gate”).  No less than forty members of the Nixon Administration and the Committee to Re-elect the President were eventually convicted of felonies, and many went to jail.


But nothing – nothing – in the Watergate scandal rose to the level of TREASON, which is the issue at the heart of the CIA leak case.


First, some background information, in case you haven’t been following this one:  In the period leading up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq, the White House was looking into the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.  Among the allegations being examined was a claim that Saddam had tried to purchase 500 pounds of enriched “yellowcake” uranium from the African nation of Niger.  If true, this would have been an indication that Saddam was indeed pursuing a nuclear weapon.  Vice President Dick Cheney asked the CIA to look into the allegation.  It was decided that former Ambassador Joe Wilson, the husband of an undercover CIA officer named Valerie Wilson, was perfectly positioned to investigate the charge.  He had formerly served as the U.S. Charge d’Affairs in Iraq, he had been the U.S. Ambassador to several African nations, and he had helped to direct United States policy for Africa for the National Security Council – in other words, he knew the players and the issues involved.  Much has been made of the question as to whether Valerie Wilson suggested her husband make the trip (the Bush Administration and its surrogates have repeated this ad nauseum), or whether other CIA agents had already decided to ask Ambassador Wilson to make the trip, and then simply asked their colleague Valerie Wilson to discuss it with her husband (this is the position the CIA has taken from the beginning).  The truth is that, as Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald said when announcing the indictments against Libby, it is completely irrelevant who first suggested that Ambassador Wilson be the one to investigate the allegations.


What does matter is that Joe Wilson made the trip to Niger in February of 2002, and found that there was simply no basis in truth for the allegation.  Among his findings were that fact that Niger’s two Uranium mines, the Somair and Cominak mines, are run by a consortium of German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Nigerian interests, and, for obvious reasons, are closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Furthermore, he found that the mining operations are “closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities”, and that selling any uranium from these mines – much less the alleged 500 pounds – would require the approval of the Minister of Mines, the Prime Minister, and (probably) the President of Niger.  As Wilson described it, there was “simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired”.  In addition, the documents that supported the allegations – which Ambassador Wilson has never claimed to have seen – had already been shown to be obvious forgeries; the officials who purportedly “signed” the documents weren’t even in office at the time the documents were supposedly written (just who created the forged documents is the subject of another investigation).  Wilson returned in March of 2002 and filed his report with the CIA, which passed on his findings to the White House.  The allegation was subsequently dropped from President Bush’s speeches, including a key address on Iraq that he gave in Cincinnati in early October of 2002.


It would have ended there, had the allegation not resurfaced in the President’s “State of the Union” address on January 28, 2003 – an internationally televised speech devoted largely to justifying pre-emptive war with Iraq.  Specifically, Bush said, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”  (Significantly, this claim was not repeated by Colin Powell in his February 5th address to the United Nations making the case for war.)  Wilson has stated that, at first, he thought Bush must have been referring to some new allegation about some other African nation, but when it became clear that Bush had resurrected the claim Wilson had investigated regarding Niger – a claim Wilson was certain President Bush knew to be false – Wilson began talking to journalists.  On May 6th, the New York Times published a column by Nicholas Kristoff, which did not mention Joe Wilson by name, but which did say that a “former ambassador” who had been sent to Niger to investigate had told the Bush Administration that the charge was “unequivocally wrong” (It was this column, among others, that apparently triggered the White House’s efforts to discredit Wilson’s trip and his report).  On July 6th, Ambassador Wilson himself published an op-ed piece in the New York Times called “What I didn’t Find in Africa”, accusing the Bush Administration of “twisting” intelligence to “exaggerate the Iraqi threat” to the United States.  Two days later, the Administration acknowledged that the 16 words on the African uranium allegation were false, and should not have been included in the President’s “State of the Union” address.


But the fact – acknowledged by the White House – that Wilson was right didn’t mean that the White House would let him off the hook.  On July 14th, Robert Novak published a column called “Mission to Niger”, which, citing “two top Administration officials”, identified Wilson’s wife (by her maiden name, Valerie Plame) as a CIA operative and claimed that Wilson’s trip had been arranged by his wife, rather than an official trip arranged in response to Vice President Cheney’s request, an obvious attempt to discredit Wilson’s findings.  On July 30th, the CIA sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting an investigation into possible criminal violations in the leak of Valerie Wilson’s identity (This is an important point which rebuts another Bush Administration claim – that Valerie Wilson somehow wasn’t considered a “covert operative” – it was the CIA that initiated the investigation!  If Valerie Wilson was not a “covert operative”, then the “Intelligence Identities Protection Act” would not apply to her, and the CIA would not have requested an investigation into “possible criminal violations”.  Obviously, the CIA considered her to be a “covert operative”, and frankly it is the CIA’s opinion – and nobody else’s – that matters here).  On September 26th, the Justice Department began its investigation.  After preliminary inquiries, including the FBI interviews of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby during which Libby allegedly made false statements, Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation, and his deputy, James Comey, appointed Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, as Special Prosecutor on December 30th, 2003.


The White House, at least at first, gave every indication that they intended to cooperate fully with the investigation.  In September of 2003, President Bush publicly stated that if anyone in his administration was “involved” in this leak, they would no longer be part of his administration, and he publicly called on anyone in his administration with information to come forward (either no one came forward, or they did and Bush just isn’t telling).   On September 16th, Scott McClellan told the White House Press Corps that it was “totally ridiculous” to suggest that Karl Rove, President Bush’s long-time friend and political guru, was the leaker.  Two weeks later, he told the Press Corps that he had personally spoken with both Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and was assured that neither of them were the leakers.


More than two dozen members of the Administration eventually testified before the grand jury over about two years.  Among them was Rove, who testified five separate times.  Vice President Cheney was interviewed – under oath – by the Special Prosecutor; and President Bush, while not under oath, was interviewed for over an hour with his criminal attorney at his side.


Meanwhile, as if revealing the name of an undercover CIA operative in print wasn’t treasonous enough for him, Robert Novak appeared on CNN (where he was a regular commentator until he was later suspended indefinitely for saying the word “bullshit” on the air; he is now employed by the Fox News Channel) on October 3rd, 2003 and announced that on documents accompanying a political contribution she made to Al Gore’s Presidential campaign in 1999, Valerie Wilson had listed her employment as an “analyst” for Brewster, Jennings and Associates.  Novak went on to say that he believed no such firm existed.


Actually, Brewster, Jennings and Associates did “exist”; the firm had offices in Washington, D.C. and Boston, and was listed on Dun and Bradstreet’s database of company names, which Novak could have learned if only he had bothered to run a simple “Google” search.  In reality, however, Brewster, Jennings and Associates was a “brass plate” company – a front for an extensive CIA operation, and this is where the most serious damage has been done to our national security by this leak.  The agents operating under the Brewster, Jennings and Associates cover, including Valerie Wilson, were tasked to tracking the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD’s.  To make matters even worse, it has now been revealed in the press that Valerie Wilson was specifically working on intelligence relating to the potential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program – an issue that has been referred to the U. N. Security Council for possible sanctions, and may even lead to U. S. military action.


So why is all this so damaging?  Let’s start with the leak of Valerie Wilson’s name.  Immediately upon publication of an undercover operative’s identity, every foreign intelligence service in the world is going to run her name through their databases to determine if she had ever been in their county, what her activities had been while she was there, and whom she had met with.  Now that Valerie Wilson was a known spy, those she had met with would be presumed to be informants, and many of them – and in some cases their families as well – would be executed, but not before those intelligence agencies determined which other Americans these “informants” had met with, which would lead them to more presumed informants, and so on.  The effect would mushroom, and the United States’ ability to gather intelligence on WMD proliferation would be badly compromised.  We will probably never know how many people died as a direct result of this leak, people who risked their lives – and the lives of their families – to provide information to the United States on the critical issue of WMD’s, but in each and every case we not only lost those sources, but it became that much more difficult to recruit new sources.


The damage became immeasurably worse with Novak’s revelation (which he apparently offered up just in case any of those foreign intelligence agencies missed this tidbit of information) of the Brewster, Jennings and Associates cover.  Once again, every foreign intelligence agency in the world would run the name through their databases to determine if anyone had entered their country in the employment of Brewster, Jennings and Associates.  Once again, anyone who met with any agent using that cover would be presumed to be an informant, and would be executed.  Once again, the ability of the Untied States to gather intelligence on the issue of WMD proliferation would be significantly compromised.


The full extent of the damage may never be known, but is presumed to be severe.  The Brewster, Jennings and Associates network of operatives had been active since 1994, and had agents and/or correspondents all over the world, including the nations of Iraq, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Libya, and Israel; in North Korea, China and Taiwan; in Belarus, Russia, Austria and Serbia; in South Africa and the Congo (Kinshasa); and in India, Pakistan and Malaysia.  More specifically, the Brewster, Jennings and Associates operation had agents working within the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, North Korea’s nuclear laboratory in Yongbyon, Pakistan’s Kahuta uranium enrichment plant, banks and export companies in Dubai, Islamabad, Moscow, Capetown, Tel Aviv, Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Kiev, and Kuala Lumpur, and government agencies in Libya, Pakistan, Malaysia and Iran.  In addition, this leak compromised companies, government officials, and individuals associated with the nuclear smuggling network of Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.  Valerie Wilson herself is now known to have been working specifically on the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and given the continuing escalation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, the damage may be greater than initially thought.  The CIA has confirmed that the entire Brewster, Jennings and Associates operation had to be rolled up in July of 2003 as a direct result of the publication of Valerie Wilson’s identity, and has reportedly given Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald highly classified details on the damage done to the CIA’s WMD tracking network.


In short, revealing the name and cover identity of Valerie Wilson has significantly compromised our nation’s ability to gather intelligence on the global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – and to thereby prevent those weapons from being used against Americans – at a time when we had troops on the ground, in harm’s way and dying daily over that very issue.


If that’s not TREASON, then I don’t know what is.


And don’t forget the timing:  Novak published Valerie Wilson’s identity and status just 10 weeks after President Bush’s photo-op onboard the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, complete with “Mission Accomplished” banner, when he proclaimed that “Major combat operations in Iraq are over.”  At the time Novak’s column appeared, U.S. troops were still actively searching for WMD’s in Iraq, and the apparent lack of WMD’s in that country was becoming a major issue in the press (no such weapons have been found, and the Pentagon has acknowledged that we’re no longer actively looking for them).  Joe Wilson’s July 6th op-ed piece had hit home, and members of the Bush Administration were desperate to discredit him.


According to notes taken by I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, he first learned of Valerie Wilson’s identity from none other than Vice President Dick Cheney at a meeting with Cheney on June 12th, 2003 (Cheney had learned of it from then-CIA Director George Tenet).  Libby also received information about Ambassador Wilson’s trip – and his wife’s role in it – from none other than John Bolton, who was then the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs (this is where Libby got into trouble – he told the FBI and the grand jury he first learned of Valerie Wilson’s identity from NBC journalist Tim Russert).  Libby passed Valerie Wilson’s identity to New York Times journalist Judith Miller, who had published several articles before the war – five of which the New York Times later apologized for in print in a rare mea culpa – that had supported the Administration’s case for the build-up to war.  (Miller never actually wrote an article “outing” Valerie Wilson, but spent 85 days in jail protecting Libby as her “source”.  She claimed a 1st Amendment privilege of confidentiality for her source, but the Supreme Court disagreed and ordered her in contempt of court unless she testified before the Grand Jury – if she had been protecting a “whistleblower” who had been exposing criminal activity at the highest levels of government, she would have been justified in protecting that source.  In this case, however, the conversation itself was the crime, and her “source” was the criminal, and she had no 1st Amendment privilege in protecting him.  By the way, John Bolton visited Miller while she was in jail. Hmmm…).  Libby also discussed Valerie Wilson’s identity with Karl Rove, who then passed it on to TIME Magazine writer Matthew Cooper – and to Robert Novak.  According to the Libby indictment, “On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, Libby spoke to a senior official in the White House (“Official A”) who advised Libby of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip.  Libby was told by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.” [Novak’s article appeared July 14th“Official A” has since been acknowledged to be Karl Rove.  This is a stunning bit of information – both Libby and Rove knew in advance that Novak was going  public with this information (of course, this had been their hope in the first place).  Did Libby tell Vice President Cheney?  Almost certainly – Libby was known for many things, but making major decisions without Cheney’s knowledge and consent was not one of them.  Did Rove tell President Bush?  Again, almost certainly – Bush and Rove have been best friends and political partners for two decades.  Did they tell anyone else?  Probably – at the very least this information was most likely shared with the White House Iraq Group (“WHIG”), an internal working group that was tasked with selling the war and discrediting those who opposed it.  I have to wonder – along the way, did anybody point out that “outing” a covert CIA operative might not be the best idea?




And what should happen to Robert Novak?  Is there an indictment in his future?  If not, why the hell not?  Out of at least six journalists who were contacted by Libby and/or Rove (and possibly others – time will tell), he’s the only vermin who demonstrated the complete and total disregard for his Country, for National Security, for journalistic ethics, and for the law, and actually committed the TREASONOUS act of publishing the name and status of a covert CIA operative.   He is a traitor to his country.  Period.  For his part, Novak has remained publicly silent, but he has apparently cooperated with the Special Prosecutor; he never went to – or was threatened with – jail (so far).  By the way, it should not have surprised anyone that his source was Rove – those two have a long history.  In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush fired Rove from his re-election campaign for leaking information (a negative story about Robert Mosbacher) without authorization – and he leaked it to Robert Novak!


As Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s investigation was entering its final stages, Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper publicly identified Libby and Rove as their sources (information the Special Prosecutor has now confirmed).  In spite of this, both men continued to work at the White House – Rove had been promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff, where he oversaw the White House Domestic Council, the National Economic Council, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council.  While Libby resigned immediately upon learning of his indictments, Rove remained at the White House where, despite having been publicly named by TIME’s Matt Cooper and by the Special Prosecutor (who named Rove – albeit as “Official A” – as Robert Novak’s source) as having mishandled classified information, Rove kept his security clearance, he continued to have access to classified information, and he continued to oversee both the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council.  [UPDATE (8/14/2007):  Rove has now resigned and left the White House.]


In revealing Valerie Wilson’s identity to reporters, both Rove and Libby, along with Robert Novak’s “primary source” – now confirmed to have been then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage , and any other member of the Bush Administration who committed this treasonous act, violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which states, “Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”  The act defines a “covert agent” as “a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency (i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and (ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States.”  Valerie Wilson’s status as a covert agent was in fact classified information (this was indicated in a State Department memo that has been of major interest to the Special Prosecutor’s investigation), and, according to the CIA, she had worked outside the country within the last five years.  The United States was “taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States”, and there is strong evidence that Rove, Libby and many others in the Administration – including members of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) – knew this.  None objected to the information being published by Robert Novak.  The Special Prosecutor has apparently decided that it would be too difficult to prove that these individuals were aware of Valerie Wilson’s status – something that would be required to go forward with a prosecution – and has therefore decided not to indict any of these traitors on the charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.  That’s a travesty.


Back in September of 2003, President Bush publicly stated that if anyone in his administration was “involved” in this leak, they would no longer be part of his administration.  It is now beyond dispute that Rove was “involved” in the leak to Robert Novak (and Matt Cooper).


President Bush at that time also publicly demanded that anyone with information about this leak come forward.  If Rove did not come forward at that time, then for two years he defied a direct and very public order from the President of the United States.


Or did Rove come forward then?  Think about this:  just weeks after making his original statement about anyone being “involved” in the leak, President Bush amended that statement, saying that anyone who had “committed a crime” – meaning they had actually been convicted – would be fired (which is sort of a no-brainer anyway).   Was this not-so-subtle change made to protect Karl Rove?


Whether he did or did not come forward in September of 2003, Rove should have been fired immediately!  How can it be that Rove continued to work at the White House?  How can it be that he continued to hold a Security Clearance?  How can it be that he retained access to classified information?  And how can it be that he continued to oversee both the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council?  President Bush has offered no explanation of any kind regarding Rove’s continued White House employment, his still having a Security Clearance, his retention of access to classified materials, or his continuing oversight responsibilities.




An April 5th, 2007 court filing by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald documented testimony from Libby before the Grand Jury, in which Libby told the Grand Jury that Vice President Cheney told him that President Bush himself had authorized the leak of classified material – namely, selected information from the “National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] on Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction” – to reporters in July of 2003, within days of Joseph Wilson’s article, “What I didn’t find in Africa” being published in the New York Times.  Specifically, President Bush authorized Libby to leak only that information that would support his case for going to war, at a time when criticism of the war was escalating due to the complete lack of WMD’s found in Iraq.  To be sure, the President has the authority to de-classify documents, but this specific document wasn’t declassified until about two weeks later.  At the time the President authorized the leak, the NIE remained classified information.  Even if President Bush makes the argument that his authorizing Libby to discuss this intelligence with reporters constitutes “de-classification” and is therefore within his power, it is an Abuse of that Power to de-classify only that part of the document that would help his re-election bid.


In the Fall of 2003, the President said, “I don’t know of anybody in my Administration who leaked classified information.  If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action.”  Perhaps he should check in the mirror.


As a direct result of President Bush’s authorization, Libby met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed the information with her.  In the court filing, Fitzgerald noted that “The critical conversation occurred only after the Vice President advised [Libby] that the President specifically had authorized [Libby] to disclose certain information.”


Meanwhile, Fitzgerald’s investigation continued.  Among the avenues he continued to pursue was testimony from two more journalists, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and TIME magazine’s Vivica Novak (no relation to Robert “the traitor” Novak).  Woodward, famous for his investigative role during Watergate, has publicly stated that he was told of Valerie Wilson’s identity and job status – even earlier than Libby told Judith Miller – by “a Bush Administration source”, who gave Woodward permission to talk to the Special Prosecutor, but not to identify the source publicly (this source has now been confirmed to have been the same as Robert Novak’s “primary source”:  then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage).  Vivica Novak testified about a discussion she had with Robert D. Luskin, an attorney for Karl Rove, in the Spring of 2004; a discussion which may have triggered the changes in the testimony Rove gave to Fitzgerald’s grand jury.  Her testimony regarding this discussion could have had an impact on whether Rove was indicted; however, Luskin later announced that he had been notified by the Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, that Fitzgerald would not seek an indictment of Karl Rove. As stated above, I consider this to be a travesty.


Valerie Plame Wilson testified in March of 2007 before a Congressional committee investigating the outing of her identity.  Her testimony was eloquent and riveting, and utterly destroyed the primary Republican “talking points” about her – specifically:  first, she was not really a covert agent but was actually a “desk jockey”, and, second, that she was the one who instigated the selection of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, to be sent to Africa to investigate the claim that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellow-cake uranium from Niger (he found the claim to be without merit).


Regarding the first claim, it has already been established that it was the CIA that first requested the investigation into her “outing”, citing her covert status as the reason for the investigation in the first place. Newly-appointed CIA director Michael Hayden has also confirmed – in writing – that she was a covert agent.  We now have her sworn testimony that her status was covert.


She was covert.  Get over it.


Regarding the second claim, Valerie Plame Wilson’s testimony about how her husband’s selection to make the trip came about exactly matches that put forward by the CIA in its initial statements on the matter; that Ambassador Wilson was selected because of his knowledge of the region and the officials involved in both Niger and Iraq.  The fact that he was married to Valerie Plame Wilson did not enter into the decision, except as a means of passing the suggestion on to Joe Wilson.


Enough already.


The Republicans should simply stop trying to put the onus for the crime – yes, crime – of revealing Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA agent onto the Wilsons.  The Wilsons have done nothing wrong here.  The fact is that the evidence presented at the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby clearly demonstrated that members of the Bush Administration – including Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, Vice President Dick Cheney, and even President Bush himself – acted against the security interests of our nation, committing what former President George H.W. Bush has called “the most insidious form of treason” by exposing an undercover CIA agent.


If the Republicans are truly concerned with our nation’s security, where is their outrage over this treasonous act?  Why are they defending the traitors instead of defending our country?


During Libby’s trial, many believed that Vice President Cheney would be called as a witness.  That would have been an unprecedented public spectacle that Cheney would certainly rather avoid.  The Vice President’s office was already heavily involved in this scandal.  During the trial, federal prosecutors introduced into evidence hand-written notes by Vice President Cheney that appear to implicate President Bush in the cover-up of the White House leak of the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.


The notes, which originally read “Not going to protect one staffer [presumably he is referring to Karl Rove] and sacrifice the guy this Pres. asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder [Libby] because of the incompetence of others” (emphasis added).  The words “this Pres.” had been crossed out, and replaced with “that was”.  Is this the “smoking gun”?  Hardly.  But this note was not turned over to investigators with other subpoenaed material when the subpoena was first issued; in fact, it was specifically withheld after consultations between David Addington (Vice President Cheney’s Counsel at the time) and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales.  Prosecutors alleged that the White House realized the notes were an explosive piece of evidence and purposely withheld them from the investigators.


While these notes by themselves don’t constitute the “smoking gun”, the actions of the White House just might; they obviously have not learned the lesson from Nixon – that the cover-up is always worse than the original crime.


The trial rapidly became an expose of how the Bush Administration – and particularly Vice President Dick Cheney – sought to discredit Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Administration’s policy in Iraq.  The prosecution even presented notes, written in Vice President Cheney’s own hand, listing “talking points” for Libby to discuss with reporters.  The prosecution presented a strong case, with every witness disputing Libby’s account of the events that led to the public “outing” of Valerie Wilson.  The defense presented just two days of testimony, apparently believing that Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Woodward’s statement that he heard the information from someone other than Libby (Richard Armitage) was exculpatory enough.  Neither Libby nor Vice President Cheney testified (a major disappointment to those of us who were hoping to see Cheney subjected to cross-examination).


Libby was found guilty on four of the five counts against him (he was acquitted on one count of lying to FBI investigators regarding a conversation with TIME reporter Matthew Cooper).  In statements following the reading of the verdict, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he does not anticipate any further investigation or indictments (what about Karl Rove?  Richard Armitage?  Robert Novak?), but would provide “appropriate” cooperation with any ensuing Congressional investigation.  He also stated that, if Libby wanted to come forward with new information in a possible bargain for a lighter sentencing recommendation, “They can contact me”.  Libby, facing up to 25 years in prison, still refused to name any higher-ups involved in the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity.


As it turned out, Libby was sentenced to thirty months in prison, two years probation, and a $250,000 fine, but his silence on the question of who was involved in the leak and the cover-up was rewarded by having the portion of his sentence requiring him to serve thirty months in prison commuted by President Bush (Libby then immediately paid the $250,000 fine by cashier’s check and will serve the two years of probation).  This commutation was granted just hours after a federal judge refused to allow Libby to remain free on bail while his appeal (of his sentence) was pending.  It was granted before Libby’s appeal process (of his conviction) had been completed, and without consulting the Department of Justice – usually something that should have been required. Clearly, Libby knew he would never spend a day in prison; this is why he kept quiet.  In commuting the prison term, President Bush committed an abuse of power:  while it is absolutely within the President’s power to grant a commutation, it is an abuse of that power – and an impeachable offense – to do so in order to keep a member of his own staff, whose crime was committed on the President’s behalf, from talking. In doing so, President Bush became an accomplice in the Obstruction of Justice being carried out in this case.  To make matters even worse, President Bush has pointedly not ruled out a full pardon for Libby at a later date (my guess is that this full pardon is issued on January 19th, 2009), which will allow the Bush Administration to continue to stonewall on this matter, claiming that they cannot comment on an “ongoing investigation” (since Libby’s appeal of his conviction is still pending).


With the disclosure during the trial that Libby was acting on authorization from “his superiors” in discussing classified information with reporters, and that, specifically, the authorization came from Vice President Cheney, and that the Vice President has now said publicly that President Bush signed an Executive Order giving him (Cheney) the power to declassify material, the disclosure of a covert CIA operative’s identity (Valerie Plame Wilson) can be traced directly to a Presidential action.  The question has become “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Let’s face it – we’ve never had a Presidential scandal quite like this one.  Just never.


Given that the illegal disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s identity severely harmed our nation’s ability to track the proliferation of WMD’s around the world at a time when we had troops on the ground over that very issue, and that the disclosure served no purpose other than as retaliation against a political enemy of the President (former Ambassador Joseph Wilson), this constitutes a clear Presidential Abuse of Power, as does the act of buying Libby’s silence by commuting his prison term.


For these Abuses of Power, President Bush should be impeached and removed from office.


ADDENDUM:  Richard Armitage, the Bush Administration’s former Deputy Secretary of State – the second-highest ranking official in the State Department, after the Secretary of State –has now admitted that he was the Bush Administration source who first revealed Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA employment to both Robert Novak and Bob Woodward.  He called his action “a terrible mistake”, but insisted it was “not malicious”, and that he was unaware of Valerie Wilson’s covert status.  There has been much written in the mainstream media about how this calls into question whether the leak was actually intentional and meant to discredit Joseph Wilson and his trip to Africa.  These writers claim that Armitage was not one of those clamoring for war in Iraq, and that he did not work within the White House (his office was at the State Department).


In my view, this doesn’t change any of that.  Admittedly, Armitage did not work within the White House.  So what?  It’s not like the White House and the State Department never coordinate their actions or communicate with each other.  In this day and age of internet communications, intra-net communications, and, yes, even telephones, the suggestion that the State Department location of Armitage’s office meant he couldn’t have been involved in White House plans is ludicrous.  Furthermore, Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby certainly followed up on Armitage’s revelation in a manner that was malicious and intended to discredit Joe Wilson.  Armitage also served as a foreign policy advisor to the Bush presidential campaign in 2000, as part of a group, which included Condoleeza Rice, that called itself “the vulcans”.  Clearly he was a close associate of several White House insiders in the Bush Administration.


There are additional reasons to believe that Armitage’s action were something other than inadvertent:

  • First, how does someone who prides themselves on keeping state secrets, as Armitage claims he does, manage to leak the name of a covert CIA operative twice?  He revealed Valerie Wilson’s CIA employment to both Novak and Woodward in two separate conversations!  This was “inadvertent”?
  • Second, the notion that Armitage wasn’t one of those clamoring for war in Iraq is simply false on its face – Armitage was a member of the “Project for the New American Century”, and signed that organization’s 1998 letter to President Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power (read the letter here).
  • Third, Armitage has a “checkered past”.  For example, in 1984 Armitage was investigated by President Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime over his involvement with gambling and prostitution interests (there was even a photo that became public, which showed Armitage with a known crime figure, Nguyen O’Rourke), and in1991 he had to withdraw his name from consideration as Army Secretary when this became an issue affecting his chances for confirmation.  He served as President Reagan’s “point man” on POW-MIA issues, where he was accused of not pressing the Viet Nam government hard enough, earning for himself the hatred of POW activists, such as Ross Perot, in the process (the dispute between Perot and Armitage was extensively documented by Time and theBoston Globe in 1986 and 1987).  Even more infamous is his involvement in the Reagan Administration’s Iran-Contra Scandal; during the Oliver North trial, the government stipulated that Armitage was one of the Department of Defense officials directly responsible for the illegal transfers of weapons to Iran and the Contras, and according to a classified Israeli Intelligence report, Armitage met with an Israeli official to discuss the arms sales to Iran.  Armitage testified before the Iran-Contra grand jury and was subsequently accused by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh of having provided false testimony, but Walsh declined to prosecute him because he could not prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that Armitage’s false statements were made deliberately.  In 1989 Armitage was denied an appointment as Assistant Secretary of State because of his role in the Iran-Contra scandal.


The fact that the original source of the Valerie Wilson leak turns out to be a Bush partisan with a shadowy past doesn’t absolve the Bush Administration – or anyone in it – of culpability in the overall CIA Leak Case.  Quite the contrary – it only deepens the intrigue surrounding the whole affair.  Armitage (along with Karl Rove and Robert Novak) will apparently not be prosecuted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.






IN SUMMARY:  President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office for the pattern of behavior demonstrated by the following impeachable offenses:

  • He has committed felonies in office stemming from his violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978; of Title 18, U. S. Code, Section 371 (the statute against committing “Conspiracy to Defraud the United States”); of the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996; of the War Crimes Act of 1996; and has caused subordinates to violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982;
  • He has failed to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” in the areas of domestic wiretaps, war crimes, and the CIA leak case, and has declared – through so-called “signing statements” – that he has no intention of executing certain laws (such as the recent legislation authored by Senator John McCain banning cruel, degrading, or inhuman treatment of detainees), as he is mandated to do under the Constitution of the United States (the American Bar Association has called President Bush’s use of signing statements “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers”);
  • He has misappropriated funds by causing $700 million allocated by the Congress for use in Afghanistan to instead be spent in preparation for the Iraq War, without Congressional notification (much less approval), and at a time when the Congress had not yet authorized the use of military force in Iraq;
  • He has committed serious abuses of Presidential power by declaring himself to be above the law (an assertion he made in his 2006 “State of the Union” Address); by declaring that the Executive Branch ranks above the other branches – the “unitary executive” theory – thereby threatening our Constitutional form of government (which creates three co-equal branches); by asserting that he is not accountable to the Congress or the Courts for his actions; by leaking (or “de-classifying” – without following appropriate de-classification procedures) only those parts of a classified document that would discredit a political enemy and improve his own re-election chances; by retaliating against that same political enemy by causing the exposure of the identity of that political enemy’s wife as an undercover operative for the CIA, even when doing so compromised our Nation’s ability to track the global proliferation of WMD’s at a time when our troops were dying daily in a war fought – at least according to President Bush – over that very issue; and intervening to deny security clearances requested by the Justice Department attorneys attempting to investigate the domestic spying program, for the sole purpose of blocking the investigation.
  • He has refused to comply with congressional subpoenas in relation to the firing of nine United States Attorneys, the domestic spying program, the CIA leak case, the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, and other matters.


George W. Bush has committed all of the above acts.  These acts are well-documented and verifiable, and clearly fall under accepted definitions of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”.   President Bush has admitted to many of them himself, but continues to insist these acts are within his power.


Less than ten years ago, the Republican leadership in the Congress (except for Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, these were the same individuals as are there now) impeached a Democratic President (Bill Clinton) over statements regarding an extramarital affair, yet while they were in the majority in the Congress, they refused to even open an inquiry into the blatantly impeachable offenses committed by a Republican President (George W. Bush).  Clearly, the Republican leadership of the Congress was putting the interests of the Republican Party over the interests of the United States of America – they couldn’t seriously make the argument that Bill Clinton’s statements regarding an extramarital affair constituted an impeachable offense, but in the same breath argue that the above acts committed by President Bush were not even worthy of an inquiry!


So what exactly is the excuse of the Democratic leadership?  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to consider impeachment to be “off the table”, but in my view she is failing to live up to her oath of office – in which she swears to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” – by doing so.


These “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” committed by President Bush represent a true threat to our Constitutional form of government – or what President Lincoln called a nation “conceived in liberty”. Lincoln asked whether “any nation so conceived can long endure”.  I believe that our nation CAN AND MUST endure, but that the only way to assure that America does endure is to call this President to account for his illegal acts.


President Bush must be impeached.


For America’s sake.


Hmmm.  Perhaps if it came out that Bush had an extramarital affair… 


© 2007 by David Bleidistel.  All rights reserved.