Ted Kahl and Bob Fertik write: "On Tuesday, George W. Bush plans to obliterate coverage of the Democratic winner of the Iowa Caucus by giving his State of the Union speech a week earlier than usual. In the speech, Bush will lay out his major plans for 2004, thus effectively launching his campaign to get four more years in the White House - by getting more votes (if $200 million in fat-cat contributions makes that possible) or simply rigging the results (if all else fails). But before the nation looks ahead, we want to take one last glance at 2003, to highlight the 5 biggest scandals of the White House since his last State of the Union. Each of these scandals is huge. Indeed, each of these scandals completely eclipses the biggest scandal of President Clinton's eight years in office, Monicagate. If Democracy still existed in America, each of these 5 scandals would be headline news, and the news media would be demanding answers every single day."
Top Bush Scandals of 2003, Part II
By Ted Kahl and Bob Fertik
January 19, 2003
In the speech, Bush will lay out his major plans for 2004, thus effectively launching his campaign to get four more years in the White House -- by getting more votes (if $200 million in fat-cat contributions makes that possible) or simply rigging the results (if all else fails).
But before the nation looks ahead, we want to take one last glance at 2003, to highlight the 5 biggest scandals of the White House since his last State of the Union.
Each of these scandals is huge. Indeed, each of these scandals completely eclipses the biggest scandal of President Clinton's eight years in office, Monicagate.
If Democracy still existed in America, each of these 5 scandals would be headline news, and the news media would be demanding answers every single day.
Instead, the news media will spend the week gushing over Bush's "vision" for America, including a mission to Mars that most Americans think is absurd at a time of record deficits.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 Bush scandals of 2003.
We devoted Part I entirely to the constellation of scandals surrounding Bush's illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. Since we published Part I, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has revealed that the invasion was in the works right after Bush's inauguration. The implication is clear -- the Bush White House criminally exploited the aftermath of September 11 for their march to War on Iraq.
We would have titled Part I "Iraqgate", but that name is already taken -- by the Reagan-Bush scandal involving the covert arming and financing of Saddam's military right up to the Kuwaiti invasion. Originally exposed back in 1992, Iraqgate was eventually sent down the memory hole -- until last year. As Bush made his case for a new Gulf War, the Iraqgate scandal was resurrected by a few courageous journalists and Democrats, especially Sen. Robert Byrd. In an especially notorious episode, an Iraq TV film clip was unearthed showing Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983. As Ronald Reagan's Iraq envoy, Rumsfeld delivered a letter from the President to Hussein offering US support in their war with Iran -- "to expand military and business ties with Baghdad" [See Alan Friedman's 'Spider's Web'].
Nothing pierced the speciousness of Bush's rhetoric about the battle of Good vs. Evil more than the image of the Rumsfeld handshake. While the "liberal media" largely ignored the handshake scandal, we can only imagine the media firestorm that would have blazed had a top Clinton official been photographed shaking Saddam Hussein's hand.Last week, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq passed 500. David Kay has abandoned his search for WMD's, because there are none to be found. Today, Iraqis marched for direct democracy, not the rigged kind favored by Bush. Bush thinks his overthrow of Saddam Hussein is the key to his victory in 2004, but it is more likely that his illegal invasion, conquest, and occupation will follow him to his grave.
2. Treasongate: The Valerie Plame Affair
In Part I, we listed "The Treasonous 'Outing' of Valerie Plame" near the top of our list of Iraq scandals. But even if it were unrelated to the lies about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, this scandal in-and-of-itself would rank as perhaps the single greatest criminal act by an American administration. So while Iraq (which includes this scandal) is #1, the Plame Affair still deserves its own spot on our master list. So here it is at #2 -- with a bullet.
Simply put, it was an act of treason for White House officials to blow the cover of a CIA operative, whatever the circumstances. How serious is this to have happened under Bush's watch? It's right there in the Constitution -- "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
What's more, the Plame leak was done in vengeance -- for Joseph Wilson's blowing the whistle on the Bush Administration's use of the Niger Uranium forgery. This speaks volumes about the "character" of this White House.
But it's even worse than that -- Ms. Plame headed a covert network of CIA operatives whose specific mission was to track the distribution of Weapons of Mass Destruction through the global market. That Bush officials would chose to "burn" Valerie Plame and her team -- for the sake of a vendetta against her husband -- shows that they think nothing of endangering the lives of Plame and her colleagues -- not to mention those of the American people.
Think about it: an intelligence network that was tracking real WMD's was sacrificed for the sake of paying back a whistleblower of Bush's key WMD lie. And that lie was used to deceive America into an unnecessary war. A war that has drastically diverted the military and the intelligence community from the pursuit of Al Qaeda. A war that has since turned the WMD-less and non-threatening Iraq into a terrorist magnet. And because of Bush's War and the failure of Bush's war planners to adequately secure hazardous materials in Iraq, dirty bomb material looted from Iraq's nuclear facility at Tuwaitha may be in the hands of terrorists -- material that could be used for WMD's!
Think Bush is the "National Security President"? Think he is the one to protect us? Think again.
3. Ground Zero Lies
Shortly after 9/11, the Bush White House pressured the EPA to lie to New Yorkers that it was safe to return to work in lower Manhattan. EPA statements were changed to mislead New Yorkers that the air met OSHA standards, and cleanup guidelines were suppressed from the public. This was done, despite the fact that the EPA knew that high levels of toxic substances, including asbestos, had been released in the fallout. The reason? The Bush administration wanted the Stock Market to open as soon as possible. Ultimately, this information was kept from the public for two years, until an Inspector General's report finally exposed the public health danger -- and the cover-up.
For the third time in 2003, the Bush White House was responsible for one of the greatest scandals in American history! In most any other year -- this scandal would be #1. This is such a criminal act against the health of Americans -- that it bears comparison with the Tuskegee experiments, the US military's spraying of San Francisco with bio-agents, and nuclear radiation testing on US soldiers. While Hillary Clinton, Jerrold Nadler and other New York politicians have raised holy hell about this, the media silence has been deafening (with the heroic exception of Juan Gonzalez of the NY Daily News, Marie Cocco and Jimmy Breslin of Newsday, and a handful of others).
Why hasn't this scandal been front-and-center on the networks and plastered repeatedly on the front pages of the New York newspapers? After all, there are editors, publishers and network executives, who work and/or live in Manhattan. They also have friends and loved ones whose very health has been seriously compromised by the reckless endangerment and incredible bad faith of the Bush Administration. How utterly corrupt must the Media elite be to consider the health of their loved ones -- and even themselves -- subservient to protecting the Bush White House?
And for former EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman to have caved in to White House pressure, just proves that she is "not much of a human being", as Breslin wrote. The same can be said of her former boss. But we already knew that.
4. 9/11 Cover-up
The 9/11 cover-up continued, as the Bush administration threw every roadblock it could in the way of the 9/11 commission. While various agencies delayed releasing documents to the 9/11 Commission, the White House itself proved to be the most uncooperative.
First the White House dragged out the release of the entire 800-page congressional report on 9/11. Then they redacted the key 28 pages about Saudi financing of the 9/11 attacks. What deeply damaging information is in these 28 pages?
Are there details of business relationships between the Carlyle Group (with James Baker as a board member and George Bush Sr. as an advisor), and the Saudi Royals -- not to mention the bin Laden family itself?
Do these 28 pages establish if Saudi Princess Al-Faisal, wife of longtime Bush family friend Prince Bandar, did in fact fund two of the hijackers? Do they reveal if those funds came from her Riggs Bank account where Bush's uncle Jonathan is a director? At this point, we can only guess. Interestingly, when the Saudi Embassy got wind of the FBI investigation into the Princess' finances, they sent over employees to review the checks issued from her bank account. Did Riggs officials help the Saudis scrub the records?
Do these 28 pages follow the money trail back from those same two hijackers -- Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi -- to Omar al-Bayoumi? Al-Bayoumi is the Saudi "student" who received $3000 per month from Hamid al-Rashid, a top official of the Saudi Civil Aviation authority, whose son is linked to Al Qaeda. Did al-Rashid develop the sophisticated plan for the hijackings in collaboration with Al Qaeda?
Do these 28 pages expose pre-9/11 orders from the White House to stop FBI investigations into Saudi ties to Al Qaeda? This was reported by investigative journalist Greg Palast for BBC Newsnight.
But it wasn't just the 28 pages that the White House tried to redact, they also tried to contain information about the Bush Administration's own part in the events surrounding 9/11. Eventually, the White House reached a compromise with the 9/11 commission, in which the White House could selectively edit documents, especially the President's Daily Briefings. Of course, the main document that they sought to withhold from the commission was the August 6, 2001 briefing of Bush by the CIA, in which he was warned that Al Qaeda was planning a major terrorist attack inside the United States.
How detailed was the August 6 briefing? Does it expose Condi Rice and Ari Fleischer as bald-faced liars when they asserted that there were no warnings, and no one could have imagined hijackers using airplanes as missiles?
And what was Bush's reaction to the August 6 briefing? Did Bush take it seriously and order immediate actions to prevent hijackings of U.S. airplanes? Or did Bush ignore the warnings so he could spend the month on vacation in Crawford? Did Bush brush off his top counter-intelligence official, Richard Clarke, and order him to stop issuing warnings about Al Qaeda, as has been reported?
As for the CIA, Director George Tenet still has not released the names of the CIA officials who failed to put al-Midhar and al-Hazmi on the federal watch list. As a consequence, these two hijackers roamed the country freely for 20 months before 9/11.
And the FBI under Robert Mueller concluded that there was no stock profiteering on 9/11, in the case of those mysterious put options on airline stocks. This reeked of a whitewash, especially considering that Mueller has a history as a cover-up artist. It was Mueller who, as the 'prosecutor' -- swept under the carpet Bush Sr. and CIA crimes in Contra-Cocaine trafficking, Iraqgate and BCCI. Who might Mueller be protecting? Here's a clue: $2.5 million of the pre-9/11 put options were placed with AB Brown Bank. What's so special about AB Brown? The number three man at the CIA, Buzzy Krongard, managed AB Brown in the 90's.
There were some interesting dynamics that occurred within the 9/11 Commission itself. It was curious that Commission member Max Cleland was recruited by Bush to the Export-Import Bank, so that he had to leave the Commission. Why was Cleland removed from the Commission? Was it because he had been especially vocal about the lack of cooperation by the White House and Bush's allies in Congress, since he was determined not to let the Commission engage in a coverup?
But the big bombshell at the end of the year landed when Chairman Thomas Kean announced that the attacks could have been prevented -- with the blame resting squarely on the White House itself. After the White House engineered a counterassault, Kean backtracked and denied there was any evidence to suggest that senior White House officials might have been responsible. What pressure did the White House place on Kean to make him change his tune?
This week's news is that the White House adamantly refuses to extend the Commission's May 26 deadline. The Commission was forced to request an extension because of White House delays in turning over crucial information, and their haggling over the terms of testimony by George Bush and Dick Cheney. Bill Clinton testified under oath about Monica -- isn't September 11 just a little more important?
5. Big Brother
Back in February a whistleblower leaked a copy of Ashcroft's Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (dubbed the "Patriot Act II") to the Center for Public Integrity. With the first Patriot Act as its starting point, this monstrosity went even further in empowering law enforcement officials to wiretap and collect records on all US residents -- including law-abiding citizens. Specifically, it would allow the courts to be bypassed, so that surveillance could be conducted without a judge's order.
What's more, it would permit certain arrests to be kept secret, until an indictment was found. It would also give the government the ability to strip any American of his or her citizenship, if it was determined he or she were part of an organization that the Executive Branch deemed to be "terrorist." This person could then be "expatriated." But to where? If he or she were no longer a citizen of this country (or any other) then where would that person be sent? To Bush's concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay? To a foreign prison? To be interrogated by one of the CIA's brutal proxies in a place like Egypt?
This is one of the scarier aspects of the Patriot Acts: the ability of an administration to label any organization "terrorist." Obviously, the potential for abuse is terrifying, even if we didn't have the likes of Bush and Ashcroft in power. Furthermore, this Act would allow the creation of a DNA database on "terrorist suspects."
And, of course, while this Act robs us of even more of our rights, it also allows the government to keep even more of its workings in secret. Patriot Act II would grant government officials further license to deny the release of material requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
It took a whisteblower to expose Patriot Act II, because it had been kept secret from almost all of Congress, with the exception of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and possibly a few key Republicans. Thankfully, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle opposed this act. But major portions of it were incorporated later in the year in a new version, the Victory Act, that was also met with considerable opposition.
But that didn't stop the Republican Congress from passing a major provision of these Acts, which Bush signed into law on the same day that Saddam Hussein was captured. As a result, the FBI now has the power to collect all financial records of any law-abiding American.
Meanwhile, Bush and Ashcroft have pushed ahead anyway with secret arrests, and with using the "enemy combatant" designation to strip citizens of their rights.
The Supreme Court recently declined to hear a challenge to the Bush policy of secret arrests. On the other hand, the Supremes will likely hear the Jose Padilla case, since an appeals court ruled that Padilla can no longer be held as an enemy combatant -- and therefore must be released. The Court has already agreed to hear the related Yaser Hamdi case.
So even without Patriot Act II, Bush and Ashcroft are trying to make these Orwellian powers the law of the land, through the courts.
But that's not all -- a classified FBI memo was leaked revealing that the FBI is using the first Patriot Act to spy on non-violent anti-war groups. So Ashcroft and Mueller have in effect revived Cointelpro.
So there you have it -- the 5 Biggest Bush Scandals of 2003 -- in a year that exploded with scandals and daily outrages.
So when you watch Bush's State of the Union Address, ask yourself: Four More Years? Four More Years of this? And will it only be Four More Years? Or is the "American Dynasty" -- described by Kevin Phillips in his powerful new book -- a permanent regime that will simply refuse to give up its power?
And while you are making up your mind, you may want to consider not just our 5 Big Bush Scandals of 2003, but also our list below of some of the other cute moves by the Bush gang over the past year (look 'em up with the Democrats.com search engine -- we collected news items all year). And keep in mind that this is still just a partial list. Who knows what fresh horrors await us in 2004?
2003's Hall of Shame