We scored an amazing mass media victory this week, which we must
immediately build on and expand, when first Keith Olbermann took note
of the fact that the number one question on the Obama "change" site
was asking about a special prosecutor for the torture and wiretap
crimes of the Bush administration.
Then George Stephanopoulos asked Obama himself to answer the question
directly on This Week on Sunday. First, Obama tried to duck the
question with a talking point that could have come straight out of
Karl Rove's twisted mouth, that he was "looking forward not
backward". But, when pressed by Stephanopoulos, Obama also suggested
that it would largely be up to Eric Holder, his attorney general
Bingo, that's it. We must now literally FLOOD the phones of key
selected members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with calls for
Eric Holder to answer how he will uphold the rule of law with respect
to the crimes of the outgoing administration. The confirmation
hearing starts this Thursday at 9:30 AM, so we have to jump all over
this in the couple days between now and then.
During the confirmation hearings for Mukasey, and especially in
subsequent hearings, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had
some pointed and pithy things to say about accountability, and we
need to remind them of the arguments they made before, and to hold
Eric Holder to at least the same standard. Based on these past
statements, the best prospects we have are these in roughly this
1) Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (CT)
2) Senator Dick Durbin (IL)
3) Senator Patrick Leahy (VT)
4) Senator Russ Feingold (WI)
Please call each of the four above if you can, and do some other
Democrats if you have time. Other possible good advocates are Senator
Ted Kennedy (MA), and even maybe Senator Chuck Schumer (NY). Though
you will recall that the only Democrats who voted for Mukasey in
committee were Schumer and Feinstein, otherwise he never would have
made it to a vote in the full Senate, where he barely squeaked though
with the smallest margin ever. And this was despite the fact that any
fool could tell up front he would be nothing but a made man for the
Bush crime family. Don't even bother calling the Republicans.
OK, so here's the plan. Because the members of the Judiciary
Committee represent the whole country you have every right to ask
them to represent your concerns, even if you are not from their own
state (but all the better if you are). We call each of the above,
with SPECIFIC REFERENCE to their own past statements, as detailed in
each of the sections further below, and appeal to them to simply make
the same points they made in opposing Mukasey, and then Holder WILL
be confirmed by standing for the proposition that nobody is above the
Beside the points specific to each senator, our two general talking
facts are that
1) the number one question on Obama's own site was a special
prosecutor for torture and wiretapping by the Bush Administration,
2) Obama said in response (to Stephanopoulos) that Eric Holder was
"the people's lawyer" and that "his job is to uphold the
So we need to lead in with, and find a way to weave both of these
talking facts into ALL of our communications this week, in some
paraphrase or another. The corporate media is already working to
marginize both, so we must REPEAT them as much as possible. In this
way we create a powerful mantra vibration.
THIS LAST POINT IS ABSOLUTELY DROP DEAD CRITICAL
If we can get at least one Senator to simply STATE these two facts on
the record during the confirmation in their own questioning we are on
our way to victory. If you are really motivated, call progressive
radio shows and propagate the talking facts there too.
If you click on the link for the Stephanopoulos interview above you
will notice that the third section (about Eric Holder) has been CUT
off the video, even though it is still on the page in the transcript.
This is no accident. The whole thing was there in the video when
first posted, and then it got cut short. Why? Because our the sworn
enemies of the people in the corporate media will try to propagate
only the "look forward not backward" talking point.
But OUR talking fact from that Obama response is the Eric Holder
responsibility thing, and we must emphasize and focus on that.
Now for the specifics you will need to know Senator by Senator to
talk to their offices. REMIND them of what they said before. We
encourage you to watch the YouTube clips linked below if you want
lots of good stuff to use in your conversation, but just the excerpts
below are certainly adequate to adapt into your own words, which is
also important to do.
SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (CT)
This is a beauty situation because Whitehouse specifically lambasted
Mukasey about the idea that we shouldn't look backward (the evil
talking point) at the "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice"
hearing of July 9, 2008 as follows from this YouTube clip:
"In the eight months you have been in office, have you had occasion
yet to determine whether waterboarding is torture."
When Mukasey said no, he had not bothered, Whitehouse said.
"I detect a very pronounced reluctance to look backward into the
problems at the Department of Justice."
And he continued at length on this subject adding,
"It is highly inadequate to have this only look going forward
approach that I detect. It is very important I think that we also be
prepared to look backwards, find out exactly what went wrong and
clean it up."
To put this in context, at Mukasey's original confirmation (July 18,
2008, 2nd day, afternoon session), he had expressly demanded to know
if Mukasey considered waterboarding to be torture saying.
(transcript of entire 2nd day)
WHITEHOUSE: "So is water-boarding constitutional?"
MUKASEY: "I don't know what's involved in the technique. If
water-boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."
WHITEHOUSE: "If water-boarding is constitutional is a massive hedge."
MUKASEY: "No, I said, if it's torture. I'm sorry. I said, if it's
WHITEHOUSE: "If it's torture? That's a massive hedge. I mean, it
either is or it isn't. Do you have an opinion on whether
water-boarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a
reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their
faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of
drowning -- is that constitutional?"
MUKASEY: "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional."
WHITEHOUSE: "I'm very disappointed in that answer. I think it is
But at the end Mukasey had promised him,
MUKASEY: "I'm going to pledge to undertake to review the practices."
So you can understand how outraged Whitehouse was when Mukasey tried
to play totally dumb on this same subject eight months later.
Obama has already stated himself that waterboarding is torture. Bush
and Cheney have now both admitted to authorizing waterboarding. So it
MUST be prosecuted. This is not optional. And no attorney general of
the people can have any other response and still uphold the law and
the Constitution they are sworn to protect and defend.
DICK DURBIN (IL)
>From the same transcript just above Dick Durbin also jammed Mukasey
about torture practices.
DURBIN: "We had questions yesterday about the issue of torture under
the Geneva Conventions. The techniques which have been attributed to
this administration involve painful stress positions, threatening
detainees with dogs, forced nudity, water-boarding -- that is,
simulated drowning -- and mock execution.
When we had the judge advocates general testify, I asked, point
blank, whether they believed that these techniques violated the
Geneva Conventions. They said yes.
And I asked if they felt if those techniques were used against an
American detainee, they would be violative of the Geneva Convention.
And they answered in the affirmative.
What is your opinion?"
Mukasey gave a totally evasive answer.
Then eight months later at the "Oversight of the U.S. Department of
Justice" hearing of July 9, 2008, Durbin emphasized in this YouTube
"I have written several letters, Senator Whitehouse joined me in
those letters, to you and to others, asking if you were going to
investigate whether there was any criminal wrongdoing by members of
this administration, relative to the establishment of standards for
the treatment of detainees and the use of torture."
Durbin referenced various reports that concluded that torture HAD
occurred, and further demanded that Mukasey "make a clear break and
initiate this investigation."
Durbin clearly believes there cannot be a clear break from past
practices without prosecuting those who committed these crimes in the
past. Not a thing has changed. Neither can the Obama administration
nor its new attorney general just skate past all these crimes like
they never happened.
PATRICK LEAHY (VT)
Tagged on the front of the YouTube clip just above was a snippet of
Leahy talking about wiretapping in very blunt terms at follows:
"I want someone to go to jail, if they're snooping on Senator
McCain's passport or Senator Obama's passport, I don't care who it is
the fact that they're doing this, or they're snooping on John Jones'
Another YouTube clip (starting at about 5:45) from the same hearing
has the rest of what he said, asking if someone should go to jail for
the widespread electronic privacy invasion they were getting reports
Mukasey responded that,
"If somebody committed a crime, we are going to do our level best to
make sure that somebody goes to jail, because that is a deterent, it
is the ultimate deterrent, it's one of the better deterrents . . .
we're going to follow and prosecute that case, a prosecutable case."
But obviously Mukasey did no such thing. There never was a
prosecution any kind, without which there can be NO deterrence. And
we cannot allow the same total disregard for enforcing the law to
continue any longer. Eric Holder must commit to prosecuting the
crimes which have been so long neglected, starting upon his
On the subject of torture, Leahy was quoted by NPR at the Senate
Judiciary Committee vote of Mukasey on Nov 6, 2007 (three weeks after
the confirmation hearings), as saying,
"The president says we do not torture, but had his lawyers redefine
torture down in secret memos in fundamental conflict with American
values and law."
So what's the deal now? A mere six months ago Leady very vociferously
wanted people to go to jail. Are those people still criminals or not?
That has not changed, and neither can the just result required.
RUSS FEINGOLD (WI)
At the original Mukasey confirmation hearings (July 18, 2008, 1st
day, morning session), Senator Feingold was especially concerned
about warrantless wiretapping abuses, stating,
(transcript of entire first day)
"When we met a few weeks ago, I asked about your view of the legality
of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, as described by the
president. You said that you were, quote, 'Agnostic,' unquote, about
whether the president can authorize violations of a statutory
criminal prohibition and both Senator Leahy and Senator Hatch have
brought this up.
But this was a key issue in my consideration of the nomination of the
last attorney general, so I want to return to it. I agree with you.
We're, of course, better off if we don't have conflicts in this
hearing. But conflicts do arise, conflicts have arisen. And the
United States Supreme Court has serious and detailed jurisprudence in
I don't think it's simply a matter of there being gray areas. I think
there is a record and there are cases that help inform us, and I'm
sure you, in your experience and excellent record, would agree with
Now, you've had several weeks to consider the question I asked you,
so I'll ask you again. Do you believe that the president has the
constitutional power to authorize violations of the criminal law when
acting as commander in chief?"
Mukakey again pretended ignorance.
So wiretapping, one of the two big crimes referred to in the top
question on Obama's own site, is certainly one of Senator Feingold's
great personal concerns. He needs to raise this again with Holder and
ask what will be done to hold people accountable for any crimes
CHUCK SCHUMER (NY)
Perhaps Schumer feels guilty about being one of only two Democrats to
allow Mukasey to slide through at the original Judiciary Committee
level. But he certainly expressed his total disgust eight months
later (by the end of this YouTube clip), when Mukasey would not even
concede that Karl Rove ought to be interviewed about the gross abuse
in the prosecution of the Siegelman case.
This is not specific to either torture or wiretapping, but if
accountability is important to Senator Schumer, he must at the same
time agree that there is much still left unaccounted for, and
criminally so, from the bad Bush years. He described his feelings as
being very "troubled". How is he to be untroubled unless the new
attorney general now enforces the law for a change?
At the vote on Mukasey in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Ted
Kennedy (MA) asked why, in essence, the Senate should trust Mukasey's
assurance about enforcing a new law when laws on the books already
prohibit waterboarding. He had not participated in the original
confirmation hearings because he was in surgery at that time.
link as above)
As to Senator Kennedy, if you have time to call him as well, and the
other Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee, Herb Kohl (WI),
Dianne Feinstein (CA), Benjamin Cardin (MD), and for the next week
only Joe Biden (DE), you can just make the general arguments that we
cannot in any way have rule of law for the future unless the crimes
of the past are prosecuted to the full extent of that law. Again,
don't bother with the Republicans. They have already been instructed
by Karl Rove to set their own "markers", which is why it is all the
more critical that we set OURS, for accountability.
We hope this email was not too awfully long in trying to cover this
ground. And we hope you appreciate the work required to compile all
this stuff. We have tried here to extract the most relevant and
compelling segments. For those interested in further exploration,
here again are the links to the original Mukasey confirmation hearing
transcripts (two days), and the corresponding videos (two clips of
about 2 hours each, AM and PM from each day).
Now, go get 'em folks. We want our Senators loaded for bear this
Thursday. And we can hardly wait until the first one says for the
record, "As I understand it, the top voted question on the
President-Elect's site at change.gov was whether there should be a
special prosecutor for torture, wiretapping and other possible crimes
committed by the past administration, and President-Elect Obama had
deferred to you, Mr. Holder, on that."
Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.
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