From Tom Paine.com:
Jennifer Van Bergen
August 11, 2006
Jennifer Van Bergen is a journalist with a law degree. Her book, The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America has been called a “primer for citizenship.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few months from now, after midterm elections, if Democrats regain a majority in Congress—or if Democrats regain the Executive office in three years—almost the entire Bush administration could be standing trial.
That’s if Michigan Congressman John Conyers has his way. Conyers issued a scathing, nearly 400-page report detailing crimes that Conyers’ staff found were committed by members of the Bush administration.
Recently I wrote on TomPaine.com about White House liability for war crimes. The Conyers report is both a larger inquiry—looking into crimes committed other than only war crimes—and a smaller one, because it considers largely crimes related to the invasion of Iraq.
The report notes:
If the present administration is willing to misstate the facts in order to achieve its political objectives in Iraq, and Congress is unwilling to confront or challenge their hegemony, many of our cherished democratic principles are in jeopardy. This is true not only with respect to the Iraq War, but also in regard to other areas of foreign policy, privacy and civil liberties, and matters of economic and social justice.
Included in the report are such acts as Bush’s determination to go to war before obtaining congressional authorization; misstating and manipulating the intelligence to justify that war; encouraging and countenancing torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees; and cover-ups and retribution.
The report has not gotten much media attention, which is shocking given the serious and far-reaching allegations contained in it. The violations of 26 different federal laws and regulations range from committing fraud against the U.S., making false statements to Congress, misuse of government funds, obstructing Congress, retaliating against witnesses, and violations of the War Powers Resolution, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and war crimes and torture statutes and treaties. Conyers further details violations of laws relating to leaking and misuse of classified and other government information.
All in all, the picture painted is of an executive gone awry. It is an administration that has no qualms about lying either to its own Congress or to the public that voted it into office. Actively conspiring to interfere with and obstruct proper government functioning, decision-making, or oversight is not beneath this crew. What about going to war preemptively without authorization by Congress or the War Powers Resolution? No problem for this crowd: if there is no intelligence and no justification to support the decision to send our servicemen and women into battle, make it up. If someone stands up and tells the truth—reveals the lies—get back at him by leaking to the press that his wife is an undercover CIA agent. That puts her and her colleagues in danger and harms national security? So what? Nothing is going to stop these guys from carrying out their mission of aggression. It has nothing to do with preserving American values, democracy, or peace.
There is hardly a subject area relating to Iraq where the administration did not engage in some dirty tricks. The administration, according to the report, knowingly or recklessly made false statements about links between Saddam and al-Qaida and 9/11, Saddam’s alleged efforts to acquire nuclear weapons or his acquisition of uranium from Niger or possession of chemical or biological weapons, the Niger forgeries, and the “sliming” of Ambassador Joseph Wilson and outing of his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. Nor did they tell the public the truth about what was being done to detainees: unlawful deportations, “ghosting” detainees, authorizing torture and more.
The extent of the criminal enterprise is breathtakingly upsetting. Why? Because we all know every piece of it but not until the list is all put together and the laws are set forth in front of us do we see what we already knew. This is a criminal administration.
There are few stones unturned in the Conyers Report, but two important laws which Conyers does not cite are the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the general conspiracy law.
(The report actually does cite another part of the conspiracy statute, conspiracy to defraud the government, but it doesn’t cite the general conspiracy clause. Conyers does not try to pull together the substantive offenses—the actual criminal acts. However, he doesn’t need to: Any prosecutor worth his salt would jump at RICO and conspiracy charges with these sets of facts.)
Either RICO or conspiracy are appropriate where there is evidence of an agreement by more than one person (conspiracy) to commit a crime, or where there is evidence of a “pattern of racketeering activity”—which can be any act from a long list of criminal enterprise behaviors, including obstruction of justice, obstruction of criminal investigations, traveling interstate to promote a criminal enterprise, transactions involving chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, international terrorism, and many others.
Either RICO or general conspiracy are used when many separate, otherwise unconnected acts may be viewed as part of a larger plan by more than one person. Indeed, when one considers the acts engaged in by the Bush administration which the report claims violate the law, it is hard to avoid the impression that they constitute a criminal plan or enterprise.
While Byron York commented in the conservative National Review that the Conyers Report is the “Democrats’ Impeachment Map,” the Democrats have taken no action and do not seem inclined to do so. But the report is both less and more than an impeachment map. Impeachment does not put criminals in jail. Conyers’ report could.
© 2006 TomPaine.com