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General News    H1'ed 7/26/10

Case Closed on the U.S. Attorney Firings? DOJ's Political 'Purge' and Torture Probers Suppressed Evidence In Crime Case

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Canary's husband is William Canary, leader of the Business Council of Alabama and former campaign manager against Siegelman's 2002 opponent, current Republican Gov. Bob Riley. Sworn testimony before congressional staff never explored by DOJ itself by calling the witnesses suggests that William Canary was at the center of the plot begun with his wife and his friend Rove in 2002 to frame Siegelman. But even under the Obama administration, Bush-appointee Leura Canary continues to run the Alabama office that prosecuted Siegelman as of today, more than 18 months after Obama took office. Grimes is now out of work and about to lose her home to foreclosure.

What's next? "Nora Dannehy has not contacted me," Grimes wrote me of DOJ's nationwide probe. "If the DOJ is conducting its own "inquiry' history tells us that it is one hundred percent whitewash."


The nine U.S. Attorney firings by the Bush administration led to a firestorm in Congress upon their disclosure in 2007, partly because of fears that many of the remaining U.S. attorneys in the nation's 93 offices were forced to make politicized decisions to keep their jobs. Then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, had recommended to White House senior advisor Karl Rove that they populate prosecution offices with "loyal Bushies."

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For years, defendants in official corruption cases around the nation have been counting on DOJ to investigate any wrongdoing involved in the purge. In 2007, the House Judiciary Committee cited research by University of Missouri professor Donald Shields into news reports of Bush DOJ probes of elected officials, candidates and fund-raisers. The Shields findings, most recently of some 1,200 elected officials, candidates and fund-raisers from throughout the eight years of the administration, showed that the targets were nearly 5:1 Democrats.

The investigations and convictions deeply affected the nation's political map and policy-making since most targets lose their jobs and careers. So, the patterns are important not simply to the often financially devastated defendants and their families, but also to a wider group of those concerned about government policy across the range of potential decision-making in such varied matters as health, jobs, education or public safety.

My bipartisan group, the Justice Integrity Project, was founded to investigate such cases under both Bush and Obama administrations. In this, we have followed the March 2007 warning of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who said the real story isn't the firing of nine prosecutors. Instead, he warned, the public needs to know what the remaining 84 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys were doing to keep their jobs.

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Our in-depth investigative reporting has exposed serious irregularities in the prosecutions of Democrats Don Siegelman, New Jersey mayoral candidate Louis Manzo and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and Republicans Ted Stevens, "Die Hard" filmmaker John McTiernan and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, plus several non-partisan targets in the military or other national defense work. Details of these "leading cases" are on our website.

But Dannehy never contacted such witnesses who were victimized by wrongdoing and who almost uniformly want to testify under oath before an impartial investigator, or third party experts best known for their research in this field. Is there good reason for that, or is it part of a pattern in which prosecutors tend to find scant wrongdoing against their colleagues, in part by not looking?

A question reporters and the public need to pursue is whether a culture of error and cover-up prevailed in the Department of Justice under Bush and continues under President Obama.

It is one thing to want to look forward, as Obama stated as he took office. But it is wrong and immoral for our criminal system not to examine what appear to be obvious abuses that discredit the justice system, local and regional politics, and, indeed, our nation's standing in the world as a beacon of democracy and civil rights.

Ironically, the appeals court finding of misconduct by the team led by Durham and Dannehy leaves only a disputed obstruction of justice count against Spadoni that focuses on his deletion of files from his computer as he feared that his company would receive a subpoena.

In certain ways, the vast resources that DOJ has expended in pursuing him and Grimes parallels Durham's investigation of CIA personnel, who under the Bush administration allegedly destroyed dozens of videotapes showing the torture of terror suspects. Whether DOJ will seek to hold government personnel accountable in the same way is a question that remains open and divisive.

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Nieman Watchdog, which provides in-depth news leads for journalists, first published my story the night of July 25-26

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Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the (more...)

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