TPM News

The Washington Post's extensive four-part series on the shoddy health care provided to imprisoned illegal immigrants ends today with a look into the drugging of detainees, oftentimes for no medical reason. (Washington Post)

The Detroit City Council narrowly voted to begin the removal of embattled Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Tuesday. The measure, passing by one vote, asks the governor to force Kilpatrick out as the council simultaneously moves to do the same. (Detroit Free Press)

Another legacy of the Bush administration: Using federal agency bureaucrats to propose or adopt rules limiting lawsuits, circumventing an unfriendly Congress and the public's watchful eye. (Associated Press)

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You'd think that an Iraqi anti-corruption crusader who testified before Congress about his travails would find no great difficulty in obtaining asylum in the United States. You'd think the U.S. would be grateful for the news that $18 billion worth of corruption had virtually "stopped" reconstruction in Iraq. But not so much.

Former State Department officials told Congress earlier this week that, though Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, was able to get access into the U.S., he is not allowed to work and is living hand to mouth. Why has he fallen through the cracks?

It's always a toss-up between negligence/incompetence and malfeasance with this administration. On the negligence side of things, you have the disastrously impenetrable immigration system, which has allowed so few Iraqis to come to the U.S. As The New York Times reports today, U.S. soldiers have actually set up organizations to help their interpreters gain asylum, since the Iraqis, even though they face certain threat of death for collaborating with American forces, cannot navigate the system on their own. As one Army captain tells it, interpreters are required to produce a letter from a general, which he said was "like a junior associate at a Fortune 500 company asking the chief executive for a letter of recommendation."

But then there's the malfeasance side of things. One of the former officials testified that "a senior State Department official had ordered agency employees not to give al Radhi references or contact him" for help with his asylum.

That might have a lot to do with the trouble that Radhi gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the administration. Like pointing out that corruption ran rampant under Maliki and that he'd jiggered the system so that corruption judges could not bring charges against any of his senior officials without his approval -- that was a decree on which Secretary of State Rice refused to pass judgment when she testified late last year. Rice also refused to comment on Radhi's many accusations.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) declared at the hearing early this week that he is "going to ask the State Department what in the hell are they thinking." Somehow I don't think Rice will be any more forthcoming this time around.

Esquire has posted the transcript of its wide ranging interview with former Justice Department official John Yoo. While Yoo is best known for his time at the Justice Department crafting jaw-dropping legal opinions authorizing torture, the interview shows that he harbors some unexpected opinions. For instance, who knew that the guy who gave the legal green light to the administration to pursue their most controversial policies takes a broad view of impeachment and Congressional oversight?

This is from the interview, where Yoo is speaking about his time as the general counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) during the late 1990s:

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Both The Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer report that it's just a matter of time before Ohio AG Marc Dann steps down.

Apparently it wasn't the Dems impeachment filing that is driving him out, but Republicans' attempt to launch an investigation by Ohio's inspector general. He reportedly has offered to resign if Dem legislators blocked the bill: another investigation he does not need.

It's time for your surveillance bill update. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) says that he's drafted a compromise on retroactive immunity for the telecoms. How does it bridge the gap between the House Dems, who refuse to wipe away the forty or so lawsuits against the telecoms for collaborating with the administration's wireless wiretapping program, and the White House, who refuse to pass any surveillance bill without such a measure?

Well, he's not saying, although he's dropping some hints:

"I think we've come up with some things that would involve the court, but not get to a position where it would endanger the program or the carriers."...

Bond said the language, drafted with White House consent, represented a "new provision we've come up with" on immunity. He would not give details other than to say that the FISA court would have a role. It is unclear whether the new approach will gain approval from Democratic leaders and negotiators.

Bond says that the measure is not the one that was offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would have directed the secret FISA court to have determined whether the telecoms had followed the law or participated "in good faith with an objectively reasonable belief that such assistance was lawful." Most Democrats supported that, but all Republicans except Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) didn't. Since Bond says that his solution doesn't "endanger" the telecoms, one would think that his proposed solution would be even less risky than having the secret court make a determination as to whether the telecoms really believed they had legal cover. I can't wait to see it.

Meanwhile, The Hill also reports that Bond is negotiating directly with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). It's unclear as of yet whether Hoyer is amenable to Bond's offer, but they're talking.

Last week, I did a complete rundown of the incredibly sordid case of Ohio Attorney General Mark Dann (D). Democrats, though united in their desire for Dann to resign, had not quite arrived at impeachment as the solution. As one lawmaker put it, it wasn't clear if Dann's transgressions had gone beyond "being stupid."

Well, with Dann continuing to refuse to step down, Democrats have united on impeachment as the solution. This morning, they filed articles of impeachment in Ohio's House, with 42 of the 45 Dems supporting the nine counts.

The House Judiciary Committee wants Karl Rove to testify about what he knows about the prosecution of ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL). Rove doesn't want to testify. Conyers has threatened to seek a subpoena, and in response, Rove's lawyer made an offer for a compromise yesterday.

It was somewhat of an improvement on Rove's preliminary offer, which was a private interview with no transcript or oath and with strictly defined parameters. The new offer is that he will testify in writing. So it would create a record of his answers, thus creating a clear basis for prosecution if he were to lie. On the other hand, it's hardly the ideal forum for questioning.

Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has yet to indicate what he thinks of the offer. We'll let you know when he does.

Throughout the House Judiciary Committee's struggle to obtain White House documents and have Harriet Miers testify about the U.S. Attorney firings, House Republicans adopted a contrary stance.

They're firm believers in Congressional oversight, they said, but citing Miers and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten with contempt of Congress was the wrong way to go. If they lost the battle in court, then the executive would come out much stronger. It would "make the presidency in America, a much stronger, imperial office," as Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) put it. Democrats, of course, think we're already there.

Well, now House Republicans have brought their opposition to court. In a filing yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Cannon asked the court to allow them to file a brief in the case arguing against the House's suit and with the administration. They are just trying to save the House from itself, they write:

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The Washington Post's four-part series on sub-standard health care provided for illegal immigrants with fewer rights than convicted felons, detained in Gitmo-like prisons, continues today with a look into the perils of mental health treatment at detention centers. (Washington Post)

Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali, dual Iraqi and Candadian citizen and Army translator working in Iraq, has been court-martialed by the U.S. military for stabbing another contract worker on Feb. 23. This is the first such prosecution of a civilian military contractor working for the U.S. since the Vietnam War. (US News)

Esquire takes a careful look at John Yoo, former Justice Dept. lawyer and author of what are now called the torture memos, and the steps he took when contemplating the rationales for torture during a war with a unique foes. (Esquire)

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Just in time to run during the Spring sweeps, the Pentagon has rolled out a slate of charges against five Guantanamo Bay detainees for conspiring in the 9/11 attacks. Kudos to the Convening Authority for beating expectations with a well-timed launch.

Unfortunately, the move does come shortly after one of the senior Pentagon officials working on the commissions was disqualified from dealing with Osama Bin Laden's alleged driver Salim Hamdan's case. For some reason, the judge didn't seem to appreciate Brig. Gen. Tom Hartmann's taste for "sexy" cases that grab the public's attention (he's obviously never tried to run a PR campaign himself). It was a black eye surely, but you know the old saying: there's no such thing as bad press. They are riding that wave.

Now, the naysayers will point to the fact that the nascent commissions are sure to drag on for possibly as much as a year before the actual trials begin. There are still plenty of kinks (allegations of torture, politicization, lack of due process, etc.). And then there's the small matter of the Supreme Court, which might overturn the applecart all over again in the near future. You can understand the frustration of the administration: they had hoped to roll out the trials before the 2006 election, and here we are in the run-up to the 2008 election, and the clock is ticking.

But all is not lost. The detainees should be arraigned in June. And there should be frequent opportunities between now and November to remind the public of what's going on down there. Finally, justice is served.

Note: The Convening Authority Susan Crawford had planned to include charges against Mohammed al Qahtani, the supposed 20th hijacker, along with the other five, but Qahtani has been struck from the charging sheet. Now, Qahtani's lawyer has immediately jumped to the conclusion that Crawford's decision to dismiss the charges affirms "that everything he said at Guantánamo was extracted through torture -- or the threat of torture," and that his treatment was "so well documented and unconscionable that he is unprosecutable.'' But I gotta figure that this crew is sharper than that. Crawford can bring those chargers against Qahtani at any time. The 20th hijacker deserves his own unique launch, to be sure. Maybe in October?