No Comment — September 13, 2007, 8:29 am

The Benczkowski-Siegelman Letter

On September 4, the Justice Department responded to the request of House Judiciary Chair John Conyers and three other members requesting information surrounding three cases—in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—in which substantial evidence has been presented to the effect that the prosecution was politically motivated. The core of the response by Brian A. Benczkowski, who is the Justice Department’s principal Congressional liaison, is that the Department will not furnish the documents sought because to do so would “chill the candid internal deliberations” that go into a decision to prosecute. In sum, Justice is claiming prosecutorial immunity.

This claim is outrageous for two reasons: first, the prosecutions in these cases are concluded; and second, because this rule is conceived not—as Benczkowski suggests—to let prosecutors act in the shadows, but rather to protect innocent citizens who become the subject of Justice Department considerations and whose reputations would be ruined by disclosure. And that consideration actually supports disclosure of the documents here: they may lead to the exoneration of an innocent man now sitting in prison who was the victim of a political vendetta.

But, as TPM Muckraker has already noted, the Benczkowski letter is already raising eyebrows across Washington because it is replete with clearly false statements—not matters on which there is a difference of opinion, but on which things are presented as facts which are simply, and demonstrably, untrue. In an important editorial appropriately labeled “The Smell of Arrogance,” the Anniston Star has said that “skepticism is warranted” in looking at the claims of the Benczkowski letter. However, I believe the correct word is not “skepticism” but “disbelief.” When they issue a letter that is so heavily larded with conscious lies, the response deserves to be disregarded entirely. This letter provides another demonstration of why an investigation is urgently needed and why Congress must continue its press deep into the center of the cabal that produced this travesty.

The letter racks up an amazing tally of rank falsehoods. I’ll look at just two paragraphs:

The focus of recent controversy has been a May 2007 affidavit signed by Alabama attorney Jill Simpson. . . In the affidavit, Ms. Simpson claims to have overheard statements she attributes to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary’s husband.

Falsehood: there was no allegation of “overhearing.” Simpson was a participant in the conversation, which was a conference call involving people at several locations—though it is unclear whether those on the phone knew all the participants, as often happens. This fact also explains why, when participants say they don’t recollect being on a call with Ms. Simpson, this means nothing. It’s certainly not a denial that the conference took place.

The national media has interpreted the alleged statements as linking the prosecution of former Governor Siegelman to Karl Rove.

In fact, Jill Simpson made clear this was her understanding. In fact, William Canary and Karl Rove have a long-running and well-documented personal friendship. The attempt to suggest that it might be something else is a desperate ploy.

At the time Ms. Simpson alleges the purported statements were made, Mr. Siegelman was already under federal investigation…

Ms. Simpson states this in fact; the statements attributed to Rove by Canary occurred in the past. The purpose of this statement is to mislead and distort.

The alleged conversation described by Ms. Simpson has been denied by all of the alleged participants except Ms. Simpson.

This is false. In fact, Bob Martin of the South Alabamian, who specifically researched this issue, concluded correctly that “none of the participants have actually said they absolutely did not participate in the call.” I have kept track of all these statements, which are numerous, and all of them essentially amount to a claim “not to remember” the conversation—which is very different from the statement in the Justice letter. If you say you don’t remember you can change your mind later with no worries. Two of the participants have now contradicted themselves repeatedly as to what happened, and one responded to the allegations by immediately lawyering up and halting communications with the media. This is a key point, yet the Justice Department has not investigated it, and instead it has repeatedly made false statements about what has happened.

Indeed, even Mr. Siegelman states that Ms. Simpson’s affidavit is false as it relates to him.

This statement is false. When it was first made, by the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, I put the question to Siegelman—and he confirmed that he believed the affidavit to be accurate. He said only that he personally could not recall an incident in it relating to some alleged KKK activity, but that was because this involved his staff, not him personally. This is a typical example of disregard for the truth and the gross and conscious distortions put out by the Justice Department in this case. The Justice Department also challenged the underlying claim as to KKK activities. I have since obtained and viewed videotape footage of the event described by Simpson from a local police department. Her account is completely accurate. I also learned that the Justice Department had never made inquiries or looked into the matter.

Moreover, according to Ms. Simpson, she met with Mr. Siegelman…for several months before signing the statement at their urging.

This statement is false. Ms. Simpson has never met with Governor Siegelman nor has she ever said she did.

She also claims to have provided legal advice to them.

This statement is false.

This hardly exhausts the demonstrably false statements in the letter—it’s just a beginning. For instance, it also falsely reports what happened with respect to jury-tampering allegations, and it twists and distorts the document production request itself so as to elide request for documents from Alabama officials (by reducing the request to party officials).

These false statements line up, item for item, with false statements made by Leura Canary’s office in Montgomery. These paragraphs make it painfully obvious that main Justice conducted no independent review whatsoever of the allegations concerning the events in Montgomery. Instead it simply regurgitated the false statements it was fed by the Montgomery office.

Moreover, the manipulations combined with the false statements suggests that there is much here that the Justice Department desperately wants to obscure. This conduct is consistent with a wide-ranging cover-up. The Benczkowski letter thus provides more evidence that the internal rot at Justice lies in the head and reaches down, in this case, to the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery who is the wife of an Alabama G.O.P. kingpin.

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 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2017

Document of Barbarism

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Destroyer of Worlds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Crossing Guards

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I am Here Only for Working”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dear Rose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Year of The Frog

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Destroyer of Worlds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

Illustration by Darrel Rees. Source photographs: Kim Jong-un © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Donald Trump © Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Newscom
Article
Crossing Guards·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

Illustration by Richard Mia
Article
“I am Here Only for Working”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

— Karl Marx

Photograph from the United Arab Emirates by the author. This page: Ruwais Mall
Article
The Year of The Frog·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

To look at him, Sweet Macho was a beautiful horse, lean and strong with muscles that twitched beneath his shining black coat. A former racehorse, he carried himself with ceremony, prancing the field behind our house as though it were the winner’s circle. When he approached us that day at the edge of the yard, his eyes shone with what might’ve looked like intelligence but was actually a form of insanity. Not that there was any telling our mother’s boyfriend this — he fancied himself a cowboy.

“Horse 1,” by Nine Francois. Courtesy the artist and AgavePrint, Austin, Texas
Article
Dead Ball Situation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

Begin, as Wallace Stevens didn’t quite say, with the idea of it. I so like the idea of Simon Critchley, whose books offer philosophical takes on a variety of subjects: Stevens, David Bowie, suicide, humor, and now football — or soccer, as the US edition has it. (As a matter of principle I shall refer to this sport throughout as football.) “All of us are mysteriously affected by our names,” decides one of Milan Kundera’s characters in Immortality, and I like Critchley because his name would seem to have put him at a vocational disadvantage compared with Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, or even, in the Anglophone world, A. J. Ayer or Richard Rorty. (How different philosophy might look today if someone called Nobby Stiles had been appointed as the Wykeham Professor of Logic.)

Tostão, No. 9, and Pelé, No. 10, celebrate Carlos Alberto’s final goal for Brazil in the World Cup final against Italy on June 21, 1970, Mexico City © Heidtmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Chance that a teenager in a New York City jail has a history of traumatic brain injury:

1 in 2

Altruistic children tend to be healthier but from poorer families.

The prosecution told the jury that the officer, Philip Brailsford, was a “killer” for forcing Shaver, who was unarmed and intoxicated, into the hallway and then shooting him as he crawled on the floor crying and asking not to be shot.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today