Karl Rove's help for Sweden as it assists the Obama administration's prosecution against WikiLeaks could be the latest example of the adage, "Politics makes strange bedfellows."
Rove has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for the past two years after resigning as Bush White House political advisor in mid-2007. Rove's resignation followed the scandalous Bush mid-term political purge of nine of the nation's 93 powerful U.S. attorneys.
These days, Sweden and the United States are apparently undertaking a political prosecution as audacious and important as those by the notorious "loyal Bushies" earlier this decade against U.S. Democrats.
The U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks, if successful, could criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government affairs, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden as well as the Bush and Obama administrations. Authorities in both countries are setting the stage with pre-indictment sex and spy smears against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, plus an Interpol manhunt.
"This all has Karl's signature," a reliable political source told me a week and a half ago in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove's Swedish connection. "He must be very happy. He's right back in the middle of it. He's making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he'd like "- and screwing his opponents big-time."
WikiLeaks created a problem for Sweden by revealing a 2008 cable disclosing that its executive branch asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering "informal" to avoid required Parliamentary scrutiny.
That secret was among the 251,000 U.S. cables obtained by WikiLeaks and relayed to the New York Times and four other media partners. They have so far reported about 1,300 of the secret cables after trying for months to vet them through U.S. authorities.
Assange, a nomadic 39-year-old Australian, sought political haven in Sweden during this planning. Also, he fell into the arms of two Swedish beauties who offered to put him up at their apartments on his speaking trip to their country last August. Now free on bond, he is likely to be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to answer questions about his one-night stands.
Swedish prosecutors initially dropped their investigation of assault complaints. But the decision was reversed. Far more ominously than the sex probe, Swedes could ship Assange to the United States.
The New York Times reports that the Obama Justice Department is devising espionage conspiracy charges under an innovative use of spy law relying forcing Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, now being held in solitary confinement, to break down and testify against Assange. Attacks on WikiLeaks are from all sides, including by congressional Homeland Security leaders: Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.
OpEd News blogger Roger Shuler, a pioneer in covering the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman via his Legal Schnauzer blog and on these pages, beat me to the story about Rove's Swedish work in his Dec.14 column, "Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?" But a big part of our role as web journalists should be following up on each other's work.
Shuler is not only generous in spirit regarding that kind of colleagiality, but is expert on how Rove-era "Loyal Bushies" undertook political prosecutions against Democrats on trumped up corruption charges across the Deep South, including against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state's leading Democrat. The Siegelman case has turned into most notorious U.S. political prosecution of the decade, as readers here well know. It altered Alabama politics and improved business opportunities for companies well-connected to Bush, Rove and their state GOP supporters.
Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee's oversight questioning of Rove in July 2009 turned out to be a whitewash. The probe was crippled by restrictions on format that had been brokered by the Obama White House and, more importantly, by an unwillingness of House Democrats to risk antagonizing Rove and his backers by asking obvious questions. Call it speculation, but the federal bribery charges that imprisoned the wife of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) surely deterred him from building a thorough case regarding Rove's relationship with the DOJ, or at least calling relevant witnesses from the Justice Department and elsewhere for public testimony.
At this stage, the specifics of Rove's Swedish work for Reinfeldt, a former Council of Europe president nicknamed "The Ronald Reagan of Europe," remain in doubt for those of us who are outsiders.
Has Rove simply provided routine political advice and fund-raising counsel for Reinfeldt's successful re-election in September? Perhaps Rove gave media advice, based on his work with Murdoch-owned Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and many other traditional broadcasting and print outlets. Rove's patrons at those media outlets, perhaps not coincidentally, tend to disdain independent, web-based journalists who can disrupt their information gatekeeper role by going directly to documents instead of relying upon high-level contacts, or at least the willingness of bureaucrats to return phone calls.