Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just Another Day in Gonzo's Justice Department

gon·zo (gŏn'zō) adj. Slang. -- 1. Using an exaggerated, highly subjective style. 2. Bizarre; unconventional.

Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in the biggest tax prosecution ever.

Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to 9 years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn't order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department's binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.

Friedman said he could have worked around that problem by ordering Anderson to repay the money as part of his probation. But prosecutors omitted discussion of probation -- a common element of plea deals -- from Anderson's paperwork.

"I've come to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that I have no authority to order restitution," Friedman said.

-- Chicago Tribune
FBI agents repeatedly provided inaccurate information to win secret court approval of surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, prompting officials to tighten controls on the way the bureau uses that powerful anti-terrorism tool, according to Justice Department and FBI officials.

The errors were pervasive enough that the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, wrote the Justice Department in December 2005 to complain. She raised the possibility of requiring counterterrorism agents to swear in her courtroom that the information they were providing was accurate, a procedure that could have slowed such investigations drastically.

A internal FBI review in early 2006 of some of the more than 2,000 surveillance warrants the bureau obtains each year confirmed that dozens of inaccuracies had been provided to the court. The errors ranged from innocuous lapses, such as the wrong description of family relationships, to more serious problems, such as citing information from informants who were no longer active, officials said.

-- Washington Post
"Uh... I Gotta Go":
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rushed out of a Chicago news conference after just 2½ minutes Tuesday, avoiding questions about how his office gave U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald an undistinguished rating.

Gonzales, who is increasingly facing calls for his resignation, visited Chicago to promote a new ad campaign and had planned to spend 15 minutes with reporters. He left after taking just three questions about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, a move that has drawn a firestorm of criticism.

-- Chicago Sun-Times
"Yer damn right ya gotta go."
Two senior Justice Department aides who orchestrated the firings of eight U.S. attorneys could hold the key to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' credibility with Congress as a growing number of lawmakers call for his ouster. ***

"We were misled, apparently, by some ... Department of Justice officials, and we have a right as a Congress to find out exactly what happened," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last weekend on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"We need to have the most important players before the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, with a transcript, telling the whole truth," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also on the Senate panel, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Justice Department e-mails sent to Congress show Sampson and Goodling were both closely involved for at least a year by attending meetings, sitting in on conference calls and corresponding with White House officials in drawing up the plans to fire the prosecutors with as little political fallout as possible. The documents show Sampson first addressed the issue in e-mails with the White House shortly after the 2004 presidential election. ***

Gonzales has largely blamed Sampson, who resigned March 12, for the botched way the firings were handled and incompletely described to Congress by top Justice officials under oath in two hearings. The attorney general says he had little direct involvement in the dismissals and relied on Sampson to help select the targeted prosecutors and plan for their departures.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he fears Sampson has become the administration's "fall guy."

"And yet we find so many e-mails that contradict what the attorney general has said, contradict what the deputy attorney general has said, contradict what the White House has said," Leahy said. ***

"The fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussing this subject since the election was well-known to a number of other senior officials at the department, including others who were involved in preparing the department's testimony to Congress," Sampson's attorney, Brad Berenson, said in a March 16 statement.

-- Chicago Tribune
It's well past time for Gonzo to be Gone-zo.

No comments:


Blog Archive