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Sun

17

Aug

2008

Secure the Evidence NOW !
Sunday, 17 August 2008 14:29
by Stephen P. Pizzo

The Bush administration's days are numbered. That's both a good and bad news story.

The good news is we are now less than six months away from the end of America's longest nightmare.

The bad news is we have less than six months for congress and the courts to insure that, when these guys leave Washington on Jan 21, 2009, they leave behind an accurate and complete historical record.

George W. Bush, unpopular now in the extreme, comforts himself with the oft repeated hope that "history will vindicate our policies."

Well, history can only vindicate — or condemn — if it has a complete historical record to work from. And as the days tick down to the end of this administration's reign, it has become increasingly obvious that there's a lot they have not wanted us to know, have not allowed us to know and are highly unlikely to let us know — unless the evidence is secured before it can be hidden behind the walls of a yet-to-be built Bush Library, spirited away by individual administration officials or — most likely — simply deleted or shredded. (I know because I've been here before).

I'm not going to waste the reader's time listing all the high crimes and misdemeanors this bunch is now suspected of having committed over it's eight years in power. (Here's an excellent list though) Suffice it to say that they have made the Nixon administrations look like choir boys and girls by comparison. But at least in case of the Nixon gang, Congress and the Supreme Court secured the relevant evidence, including the all-revealing Oval Office tapes.

And believe me, the Bushies noticed what happens when the evidence of crimes is left laying around rather than destroyed. Nixon later said his greatest regret was not destroying those tapes when he had the chance.

Who knows ... maybe all us finger-pointers and accusers have been wrong all along. Maybe the Bush folk actually didn't break laws at all. Who knows... anything is possible. And, if that can be proven, I will be the first one to admit I was wrong.

But before I — or history — can reach such a conclusion, we need a complete historical record.

Unfortunately this Democratic-controlled congress is so steeped in political game-playing aimed at November elections, they are not about to engage in anything that even approaches fulfilling their constitutional obligations, vis a vie impeachment or real hearings.

But one thing Congress could and should do, and do immediately, is compile a detailed list of every document the administration has refused to turn over on the grounds of executive privilege. Then issue individual subpoenas for each document as well as blanket subpoenas for all documents "disclosed and undisclosed," covering specific areas of investigation; the war, the politicization of Dept. of Justice, energy policy meetings, Katrina response, etc.

Of course, if we've learned anything over the past couple of years it's that we cannot depend on the Democrats in Congress to show much backbone. Which is why the courts need to get involved, and fast. Public interest legal groups, on both the right and left, have an obligation to their own principles and to history to turn their full attentions to preserving the complete documentary history of this administration.

Groups usually on the opposite sides of issues, should join forces on this one. They should get to federal court and make the case that this administration's public record of either refusing to turn over documents, and refusing to testify under oath and of even destroying electronic documents (such as five million White House emails) establishes a prima facia case in favor of a court injunction against the destruction or removal from government offices of the following records be they physical or virtual:

All:
  • - schedules,
  • - meetings and meeting notes.
  • - official memos,
  • - official files,
  • - official emails sent and/or received from any domain.
  • - logs, including but not limited to, phone logs, visitor logs, Secret Service logs and official aircraft logs.
  • - employment records, including interview notes and internal memos on would-be hires.
  • - contracts, no bid and otherwise, including, but not limited to, all related notes, memos and emails
This federal court injunction must apply, not only to the White House, but to all and each cabinet-level agencies as well as the CIA, NSA, Office of Special Operations. (And, since it is public knowledge that Vice President, Dick Cheney, maintains his own secure document trove in his office, this injunction should make particular note of that safe as well. )

Sure, I know there are already laws against public officials removing or destroying official documents. But relying on those laws would be a serious mistake. This administration has shown many times that when an existing law or regulation gets in the way of their agenda, needs or schemes, the President simply issues an executive order that neuters the troublesome rule or law.

In this case all Bush would have do come early January is issue an executive order directing "all Executive Branch offices, agencies and employees to clear your files of any extraneous materials." Such an order would provide all the legal cover needed for wholesale document destruction.

Federal court injunctions ordering all executive branch employees, including the President and Vice President, to secure all documents, would add a layer of legal risk — obstruction of justice — that George could not simply wipe away with a stroke of the Presidential pen.

Look, I understand none of this legal-beagle activity is as satisfying or as sexy as a juicy public impeachment. But, barring George or Dick being caught red-handed waterboarding Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House, impeachment is simply not going to happen.

So, unless something else is done to secure the 8-year documentary record of this administration — or at least what's left of it — Bush, Cheney and their army of sycophant accomplices will leave office, having wiped their fingerprints clean from the longest list of suspected crimes in office in American history.

From now on when you close your eyes at night, listen and you can almost imagine you hear that sound of hundreds of industrial-strength shredders warming up. It's up to us to assure they are not used to between now and January to destroy the evidence needed to prove, or disprove, the suspicion that the Bush administration has been the most subversive and lawless in American history.
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