Friday, October 05, 2007

another day, another broken law

Well, as you may know, I am not a lawyer, but my common sense sure keeps telling me that laws are being broken. Yesterday, I touched upon my feeling that private security contractors had likely run afoul of the Anti-Pinkerton Act of 1893; today, I want to direct your attention to 18 U.S.C. 1001, AKA The Fraud and False Statements Statute.

It was really quite by accident that I happened upon an old post by Morton Halperin (he’s the smart Halperin) that talked about how NSA director Michael Hayden’s bout of lying to Congress bore a striking resemblance to the behavior of Nixon CIA chief Richard Helms. Helms, as Halperin points out, was charged under the FFSS (my shorthand) for lying to Congress about CIA involvement in overthrowing the Allende government in Chile (he plead no contest and received a suspended sentence). That item referred me to 18 U.S.C., and this is the text of the law that once brought people to justice:

Section 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any
matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or
judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly
and willfully -
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or
device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the
same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5
years, or both.
(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial
proceeding, or that party's counsel, for statements,
representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or
counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.
(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the
legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to -
(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a
matter related to the procurement of property or services,
personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a
document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to
the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative
branch; or
(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the
authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of
the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or

(my apologies if the formatting above doesn’t hold to form)

OK, again, I’m not a lawyer, but as I read it, that first part about concealing and covering up and misrepresenting sure sounds like a good many moments from the last six and three-quarter years,

Specifically, I thought about 18 U.S.C. 1001 while reading two days of New York Times’ revelations about secret Justice Department memorandums that provided the “intellectual” cover for the CIA to continue the Bush/Cheney policy of torturing prisoners taken in their GWOT™. With new information about documents that gave the go-ahead to techniques and programs that Congress outlawed and the Supreme Court said violated the Geneva Conventions, documents that Bush officials from the Attorney General and DCI on down failed to provide to the appropriate oversight committees, it seems to me abundantly clear that several members of the administration have knowingly and willfully concealed and covered-up the DoJ findings, and then just as knowingly and willfully made false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements about what has actually been happening inside the White House, the Justice Department, and an unknown number of “black sites” around the world.

Saying “we do not torture” or, as White House spokesperson Dana Perino said on Thursday, “What I can tell you is that any procedures that they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful,” actually doesn’t get around the language of the Fraud and False Statements Statute. It’s not whether the findings that Justice drafted are sound or well-reasoned or will withstand judicial scrutiny, it is that Justice drafted said findings and then failed to inform Congress while all sorts of administration personnel basically pretended that the memos didn’t exist.

News this morning tells us that Rep. John Conyers wants the memos turned over to his committee, and the ACLU is calling for an independent investigation. Could they have 18 U.S.C. in mind?

Indictments anyone?

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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