No Comment — July 18, 2007, 10:54 pm

Javert’s Wailings

Anyone wanting to know why nearly fifty state attorneys general from around the United States have petitioned the Congress demanding an investigation into the outrageous, politically motivated prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman need look no further than a press release issued today by the U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama.

The document needs to be studied carefully and in its entirety. It is an astonishing series of false statements, delusional half-truths and internal contradictions, all rolled out on the letterhead of the Department of Justice, and delivered in the tone of a hysterical rant. None of this would surprise close followers of this case. After all, this is the prosecutor who slammed down the receiver when several of my journalist colleagues attempted to interview him and ask questions about some of his previous evasions. And the prosecutor whose personal taste for courtroom theatrics included having the governor taken from the courtroom in chains and manacles before the assembled press.

Some of the more notable falsehoods are his repeated and repeatedly contradicted claims to have made all the decisions himself (when previously he admitted the critical involvement, guidance and oversight of the Public Integrity Section at the Gonzales Justice Department), his screwy time tables which pass into convenient oblivion all the dealings of Alice Martin in the Northern District, and the deep involvement of Leura Canary in the case which he—allegedly—has managed (which hasn’t of course stopped Mrs. William Canary from giving press interviews about it, engaging in social chatter about it at GOP functions, nor indeed of being present and smiling at the press conferences which this fine autonomous prosecutor so frequently convened to hype his case). The fact that a prominent and highly respected federal judge openly questioned the political charade that was going on in this case likewise gets no mention. Even Governor Siegelman, he says, questioned the affidavit of Republican lawyer Jill Simpson, the whistleblower on this whole farce. Another lie.

A responsible prosecutor has a duty to the public and the truth first. He has a duty to subordinate his personal vanity to the interests of justice.
A responsible prosecutor with integrity would have been disturbed by the allegations in the Simpson affidavit, and would have investigated them. The statement issued today reflects no effort to do that. It reflects a particularly unbecoming mixture of arrogance and ignorance; a casual willingness to wield the vast power invested in the office of United States Attorney in the interests of personal pique. Which is why this press release can be taken as still another exhibit in the now commanding case that the prosecution was abusive. But there is much, much more still to emerge in this matter.

And then we come to the crux of it: the federal prosecutor’s beef with the press. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine–need we mention Harper’s–are all rotten publications, because they ask questions that the prosecutor can’t answer, and that he finds it insulting to be asked. “The lack of journalistic integrity on the part of national news outlets in reporting this story could subvert justice and undermine valid convictions,” he says.

On the other hand, all media isn’t bad in the view of this prosecutor. The Alabama GOP’s mouthpiece media, consisting particularly of the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register and two specific reporters, are singled out for praise and reinforcement. Funny–isn’t it?–how this prosecutor worked hand-in-glove with two reporters on a partisan vendetta at two Republican newspapers throughout this supposedly “independent” prosecution—and how these newspapers steadily published and prominently flogged the results of his “independent” investigation and prosecution. In fact, the more-than-curious relationship between this prosecutor and the partisan press in Alabama is one of strongest signs of irregularity from the outset. Together, these reporters and the prosecutor built a case of smoke and mirrors, and the reporters then peddled it to the public as something serious. And this was coupled with oh-so-pious editorials urging the public to express outrage over this horrible and unfaithful governor, and embrace all the more readily the wonderful, upright and moral Republican governor who replaced him. The Republican governor, that is, who arrived in office on the shoulders of Jack Abramoff.

The lovefest is returned. The Birmingham News has promptly posted the entire statement. They even posted all the PDF attachments that the prosecutor put up. This is what we call “fair” and “balanced” reporting.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Number of tombstones in Tombstone, Arizona:

792

Electrofishing on the Irrawaddy River deters dolphins from their habit of assisting fishermen.

Trump tweeted that “millions of people” had illegally cast ballots in last month’s presidential election, and the Washington Post identified four cases of voter fraud across the country.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today