Petitioning For A Special Prosecutor: Crashing The MSM

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On December 30, 2008 I wrote here about Ari Melber helping to push the petition and public awareness of Bob Fertik’s great efforts at forcing the demand for a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute Bush administration war crimes to the top of the list of questions for Barack Obama at, under Additional Issues. At the time Ari had written a great article for The Nation, which was also published at Huffington post, about Obama’s Open For Questions invitation for citizen input.

Ari Melber is The Nation’s Net Movement correspondent and a writer for the online magazine’s blog State Of Change. Ari’s own website is

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Well, that wasn’t a one shot effort on Ari’s part, and he emailed me on Thursday to let me know that he’s been at it again, continuing his push as Net Movement correspondent with another article on Thursday at The Nation, Torture Prosecutor Tops 70,000 Questions for Obama on Change.Gov. His article was also graciously showcased again by Arianna Huffington at Huffington Post, yesterday.

Since all of that happened several more progressive bloggers including Digby and David Swanson have picked up on the story and it’s been spreading, finally prompting even the New York Times to relent and write about it, as Ari explains in his article below.

We’re getting somewhere folks, inch by groaning inch, but we are making an impact!

Here is Ari’s article in full on the flip:

Torture Prosecutor Tops 70,000 Questions for Obama on Change.Gov

Ari Melber, The Nation, January 08, 2009

A whopping 70,000 questions poured into over the past week, in response to the Obama transition team’s call for citizen queries to the President-Elect.  After votes from about 100,000 people, the top ranked question asks Obama whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and illegal surveillance by the U.S. government.

I’ve been working with activist Bob Fertik to organize support for the question, and several progressive bloggers urged readers and Obama supporters to vote for it last week.  Digby, who has written extensively about the Bush administration’s abuse of the rule of law, recently reported on the progress:

I wrote a post about [an] initiative spearheaded by Ari Melber of The Nation and to ask President-elect Obama if he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate war crimes in the Bush administration over at (In a previous round, it was the sixth most asked question…) This time, through their efforts, it’s number one. This is particularly important, since the press has only asked Obama about this one time, last April. And a lot has happened since then, most obviously the fact that Vice President is all over television admitting to war crimes as if he’s proud of it.

Then The New York Times picked up the news:

[T]he number one submission on the popular “Open for Questions” portion of the site might seem more than a little impolitic to [President Bush]: “Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor — ideally Patrick Fitzgerald — to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping,” wrote Bob Fertik of New York, who runs the Web site,

Though the Obama team has promised to answer some of the top questions as early as this week, they have not said whether they will respond to Mr. Fertik’s, which has received more than 22,000 votes since the second round of the question-and-answer feature began on Dec. 30. The site logged more than 1.5 million votes for 20,000-plus questions… The second highest-ranked submission, which is about oversight of the nation’s banking industry, is several thousand of votes behind the query about a special prosecutor. Mr. Fertik’s question has been pushed to the top, in part, by a coalition of liberal bloggers…

The national press corps has not raised this issue with Obama since his victory. (When it surfaced in April, Obama said he would order his attorney general to “immediately review” the potential crimes.)  And while the leading question in the last forum was dispatched breezily — Will you legalize marijuana? No. — this one is far more challenging, both substantively and politically.  

The Times notes that Obama’s team has “not said” whether it will even answer Fertik’s question, though ignoring the question that came in first out of 74,000 would turn this exercise into a farce.  A terse, evasive answer would be similarly unacceptable. After all, there would be little point in this online dialogue if it reiterates things we already know, (Obama is not in N.O.R.M.L.), and refuses to provide new information.  

That’s why this may be the first big test for as a genuinely interactive dialogue.  

Thousands of Americans are asking whether President Obama will order an independent investigation to ensure our laws are enforced — in an era when powerful people in government have engaged in criminal conduct and relentlessly tried to make their behavior off limits for media and political discussion.  We expect a “yes,” “no” or detailed explanation of how and when Obama and his aides will make this decision. Time is running out, of course, because the question must be answered, for Congress and the public, before Eric Holder’s confirmation hearing.  He must explain how he will restore independence, professionalism and the rule of law to a Justice Department that politicized U.S. attorneys and covered up torture and warrantless surveillance.

Law professor Jonathan Turley, a nonpartisan legal analyst who testified before Congress in favor of President Clinton’s impeachment, recently explained that Holder simply should not be confirmed if he is not prepared to enforce the laws banning torture. “Eric Holder should be asked the same question that Mukasey refused to answer in his confirmation hearing: is waterboarding a crime?” Professor Turley stated. “If he refuses to answer or denies that it is a crime, he should not be confirmed. If he admits that it is a crime, he should order a criminal investigation.”  According to, the crowds agree with the experts on this one.

These articles have not been Ari’s only efforts at promoting the issue in mainstream media. Here is Ari going head to head with Ron Christie, former advisor to President Bush II and assistant to Vice President Cheney, on MSNBC television, December 23, 2008, the week that Vice President Dick Cheney proudly confessed on national television to supporting and actually authorizing torture:

Ari also posted at Daily Kos about this on Friday.


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    • Edger on January 10, 2009 at 14:59

    Kudos to Ari!

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  1. a discussion about Blagojavich into a question of “fairness” in the investigation of torture!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Great finds Edger.

    I also noticed that TerranceDC at BooMan Tribune is starting a front-page series there on torture and the need for accountability. He’s making videos based on “Torturing Democracy.” Here’s the first diary titled Prosecute Them, I. I left him a comment about the petition.

  2. like we’ve still got our work cut our for us. The site has answers posted for this round of “Open for Question.”

    They relegated Bob Fertik’s question to “Previously Addressed Questions” and quoted Biden from the past on it.

    Vice President-elect Biden, 12/21/08: “[T]he questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is-is something the Justice Department decides.  Barack Obama and I are-President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We’re focusing on the future… I’m not ruling [prosecution] in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.”

    We’re going to have to “yell louder.”

  3. who agrees with us.

    David Cole in The New York Review of Books. Very interesting summary that ends with this.

    We cannot move forward in reforming the law effectively unless we are willing to account for what we did wrong in the past. The next administration or the next Congress should at a minimum appoint an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to investigate and assess responsibility for the United States’ adoption of coercive interrogation policies. If it is to be effective, it must have subpoena power, sufficient funding, security clearances, access to all the relevant evidence, and, most importantly, a charge to assess responsibility, not just to look forward. We may know many of the facts already, but absent a reckoning for those responsible for torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment-our own federal government-the healing cannot begin.

  4. I think so many of your efforts are involved with this, as well.  

    Late last night, I had seen Ari’s newest article in The Nation.  He’s relentless — obviously, he feels as strongly about it all as we do.

    Turley’s responses were excellent in the article you linked to.

    Little by little!  

  5. Jason Leopold, on his own website:

    Home  Torture  Obama’s DOJ Won’t Pursue Bush Officials Over Torture Policy, Aides Say Obama’s DOJ Won’t Pursue Bush Officials Over Torture Policy, Aides Say        

    Written by Jason Leopold    

    Friday, 09 January 2009 18:47  

    Last month, President-elect Barack Obama invited the public to submit questions to him via his transition website,, on a wide-range of topics. He promised to respond to some of the top queries up until his Jan. 20, inauguration.

    Since then, progressive activists have launched a major grassroots effort to get the public to ask Obama whether he intends to have the Department of Justice appoint a special prosecutor “to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.”

    The effort is spearheaded by Bob Fertik of (a website not affiliated with the Democratic party) who said more than 22,000 people have submitted the question about the appointment of a special prosecutor to Obama’s transition website. Obama has not answered the query even though it’s one of the top 20 questions submitted on his transition website.

    Fertik is also gathering 100,000 signatures for a petition demanding that Attorney General designee Eric Holder appoint a special counsel to “investigate and prosecute” government officials who may have committed war crimes. . . . .

    also at


    • dkmich on January 10, 2009 at 18:54

    You are really making some noise.  I can’t wait to see what he does with this one.  As the article says, he can’t afford to blow it off like he did pot.   Wonder if Obama anticipated us when he created the website.  God bless the internet.  

  6. And I’m so glad Ari mentioned you in his diary over at the Orange.  I’m hotlisting him so I don’t miss a chance again to rec his diaries.

    I’ve found myself as a blogger drawn to single-issues, i.e., immigration, racism, Katrina, Native Americans, etc.  But at bottom, they are all about human rights and how without real laws and enforcement of those laws, they are not “rights” at all, but only vague wishes or hopes.

    I think working on the issue of torture, of making sure those with the most power are held accountable, directly relates to those other issues I find most important.

    And I agree:  Kudos to Ari!!!!!

  7. Senator Minority Whip Jon Kyl told Hugh Hewitt that he would oppose Eric Holder’s nomination as AG because he’s against torture.

    And he’s also made some very unfortunate statements about our interrogation of prisoners, terrorists, and other things that lead me to believe that he is not going to be supportive of the Patriot Act, the FISA law, and others. And if he can’t be supportive of those laws, then he shouldn’t be Attorney General.

  8. it may be pertinent to know that DoD Directive 5100.77 Law of War Program (dtd Nov 5, 1974) is now cancelled. It has been replaced with DoD Directive 2311.01E Law of War Program (dtd May 9, 2006).

    Off-Topic: Cheeno says, “Hi!”,

    nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn                                                nm jk

    above ^ actually typed by our kitty ^

    • sharon on January 12, 2009 at 03:27

    the gaza offensive rocked me to my core and i have been living in i-p diaries at dkos.  i know it is not to be spoken of here so will not go deep but just say that it is overwhelming.  we are all fortunate not to be gazans.

    reading this essay was like a breath of fresh air.  before coming here i read sam stein at huff post – obama leaves door open to investigating bush, but wants to “look forward”…  basically a regurgitation of the stephanopoulos interview, but love that he ended with with a quote from dawn johnsen:  

    We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation’s honor be restored without full disclosure.

    i think she may be our heroine.  

    also spent some time in the prosecution diaries i saw at dkos spreading the word about the petition and h.res. 9.  it is good that conyers’ commission resolution got fp attention, but i think nadler’s resolution is stronger.  i hope he considers doing a diary at dkos and rides the wave.

    okay, just wanted to say that i am back.  so great to hear such excitement and enthusiasm.  

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