Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
In Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” the character Dick the Butcher, a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, uttered the words, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” If taken in the context of the play, the line, intended as a comedic aside, was actually a compliment to those lawyers who upheld the laws and protected society. Those words have taken on different meaning over the years and are now often used in reference to those lawyers who have twisted the laws to protect the corrupt and dishonest and, often as not, defend illegal wars and torture, as well as, circumvent the US Constitution. It has often been rephrased, as the title of this article, to fit a narrative, as in the case of “reforming” the NSA, “the first thing we do, is fire all the liars.”
Leading First Amendment lawyer, James Goodale, is the former general council to the New York Times and was the driving force behind the NYT‘s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He was instrumental in the winning strategy that resulted in the 6 – 3 Supreme Court ruling that the US government could not stop the Times from publishing the documents. In his opinion piece at The Guardian on the proposed reforming of the NSA, Prof. Goodale noted that President Barack Obama’s first concern should be to fire all the liars, starting with the Director of National Intelligence, James R Clapper and General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, among others who have both blatantly lied to Congress.
NSA lawyers lied to secret Fisa court Judges John D Bates and Reggie B Walton. In recently released opinions, Bates said he had been lied to on three separate occasions and Walton said he had been lied to several times also.
But Clapper and Alexander have not been held in contempt of Congress. Nor have the Justice Department attorneys, who lied to Judges Walton and Bates, been disciplined. Part of the answer as to why this is so came out last week.
The Justice Department told USA Today that it had no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to those judges. In the ordinary course, the Justice Department’s office of professional responsibility investigates the behavior of lawyers who have been subject to accusations such as those made by Judges Bates and Walton.
You read that correctly, the Obama DOJ has no intention of investigating the attorneys who lied to Judges Bates and Walton
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility routinely probes judges’ allegations that the department’s lawyers may have violated ethics rules that prohibit attorneys from misleading courts. Still, OPR said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by USA TODAY that it had no record of ever having investigated – or even being made aware of – the scathing and, at the time, classified, critiques from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2009 and 2011.
Prof. Goodall also calls Pres. Obama’s statement in his August 9, 2013 address on the NSA that he would appoint experts to examine NSA practices, “reasonable” but points out that it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere:
Robert Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and an attendee, told the Guardian the he “did not hear much discussion” of changes to the bulk surveillance activities.
“My fear is it’s a simulacrum of meaningful reform,” said Sascha Meinrath, a vice president of the New America Foundation, an influential Washington think tank, and the director of the Open Technology Institute, who also attended. “Its function is to bleed off pressure, without getting to the meaningful reform.”
It’s pretty predictable that there will be no meaningful reform coming from a committee comprised of intelligence insiders, former White House officials and Obama advisers.
Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, is a member, as is Richard Clarke, a White House counter-terrorism aide to three presidents. Cass Sunstein, a former White House regulatory staffer who is married to the new US ambassador to the United Nations; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; and Peter Swire, a Georgia Tech professor and former aide to Obama and Bill Clinton, round out the panel.
Over at emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler pointed out a detail that Prof. Goodale missed:
In just its third open hearing this year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has arranged the following witnesses for tomorrow’s hearing on NSA’s spying.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced the committee will hold an open hearing to consider legislative changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to include the NSA call records program, on Thursday, September 26, at 2 p.m.
WHAT: Public hearing on FISA, NSA call records
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
National Security AgencyDirector General Keith Alexander
Deputy Attorney General James Cole
Ben Wittes, Brookings Institution
Tim Edgar, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
So DiFi’s idea of an “open hearing” is to invite two established liars. And for her non-governmental witnesses, one keeps declaring Congress NAKED! in the face of evidence the government lies to them, and the other tells fanciful stories about how much data NSA shares.
It’s like DiFi goes out of her way to find liars and their apologists to testify publicly. [..]
It’s DiFi’s committee. And if she wants every single open hearing to serve as a platform for accomplished liars, I guess that’s her prerogative.
But observers should be clear that’s the purpose of the hearings.
As Prof Goodale concludes, the culture of lying to the public and courts by the US intelligence community is nothing new but it lies with President Obama to force the NSA to change. The best place for that change would be to fire the liars, Clapper and Alexander. So far, it appears the president is not much interested in that solution.