No Comment — December 17, 2007, 5:26 pm

Karl Rove, William Canary, and the Siegelman Case

A trio of reporters at Raw Story has just published further details relating to the involvement of Karl Rove in the campaign of Alabama Governor Bob Riley and in the effort to eliminate his chief rival, former Governor Don E. Siegelman, through a criminal prosecution. The story traces Rove’s involvement, largely via his long-time friend William Canary, in the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial race. Canary had initially advised the campaign of Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom, and only after his primary defeat turned to the Riley campaign. Raw Story reports:

According to the Alabama RNC source, Rove met regularly with operatives for the Riley campaign. The source’s allegations are confirmed in part by campaign disclosure forms, which show that Windom paid Canary as a consultant between 1999 and early 2001 and later received large contributions from Canary’s business partner, a pattern that is duplicated with Riley and Canary.

According to public records, Windom paid Canary’s firm $38,022 for consulting and polling between 1999 and 2001. At the same time, PACs associated with Canary’s business partner, Patrick McWhorter, donated heavily to Windom’s campaign, contributing $149,000 in 2001 and another $75,000 in 2002.

After Windom lost the primary, PACs associated with McWhorter and Canary switched their donations to Bob Riley, giving him $85,000 in the days immediately preceding the November election. After the election victory, Windom emerged immediately as a close confidant of Riley’s, advising him on the appointment of a new Insurance Commissioner, Walter A. Bell, and other matters. Canary also emerged as a key Riley advisor.

Public records also show that at the same time Canary was consulting for Bob Riley’s campaign, his lobbying group, the Business Council for Alabama, donated $678,000 to the campaign of his client. This was the third largest donation the campaign received, exceeded only by those from the Republican National State Elections Committee, for $2,475,000, and from Bob Riley himself, who contributed $1,070,000 to his own campaign.

Rove’s linkage to this campaign has been reported before and belongs to the insider’s account of Alabama politics—but Raw Story brings in considerable additional detail. The Rove involvement is unfolded with a flow chart showing the complex relationships. As Dan Abrams noted on his MSNBC report recently, Rove’s extensive campaign dealings in Alabama involve a large team, and the central figure in the process is certainly William Canary, the husband of the U.S. Attorney who brought the Siegelman prosecution. Rove and Canary go way back, certainly to Canary’s days on the Republican National Committee. Canary’s move down to Alabama seems to have been one of the factors that led Karl Rove to become much more deeply engaged in Alabama politics.

rovecanary

A great deal of this article lines up with what I have learned in six months of research on the Siegelman matter. For instance, two well-known Alabama Republicans described to me Rove’s involvement in the campaign to elect Perry Hooper to a judgeship. One of them detailed to me a meeting at which Hooper and Rove were present along with several Alabama G.O.P. operatives, including Mark Fuller (later to become the Siegelman judge), at which some very aggressive campaign tactics were discussed . . . but I’ll be reporting more on this later. Rove’s mastery of the Alabama political landscape was described as comprehensive and detailed. And a large part of Rove’s work consisted of advising his clients how to approach out-of-state funders. He believed that tort reform was the pivotal issue and that manufacturers’ associations would bring in the needed cash to fuel elections. On this as on so many electoral issues, Karl Rove was spot-on. His strategy worked, and the current Alabama Supreme Court, with 8 Republicans and 1 Democrat is proof of that. The Raw Story article also opens up the floorboards on some of this operation, especially as it unfolded into the time of the 2002 gubernatorial election, but this is a complex story yet to be fully unraveled. One thing certainly emerges both from this account and from the Senate probe headed by Senator McCain: Jack Abramoff and former Riley advisor Michael Scanlon, both now convicted felons, and both figures with ample connections to Rove, are right in the middle of it.

Today a federal judge directed that White House visitors’ logs were public records and could be turned-over. The White House is certain to challenge this ruling. Public access to visitors’ records has been a hotly contested issue for a number of reasons, and one of them is that Jack Abramoff claims to have paid hundreds of visits to the White House. President Bush has had a failure of memory with respect to Abramoff visits, but Time magazine says it has viewed a portfolio of portrait-style photographs with Abramoff and the President. Others in the White House have confirmed that Abramoff was a regular visitor. In law-enforcement interviews, Abramoff is said to have confirmed that he frequently met with Karl Rove outside of the White House so as to avoid being recorded in the visitors’ log. The Raw Story account details other meetings that Rove arranged outside the White House so as to avoid detection. Sources I have interviewed in studying the Siegelman story also place meetings with Rove in the offices of the Federalist Group and on street corners.

The Raw Story piece provides further detail of Rove’s involvement in the Riley campaign, as one of its chief strategists. One key element of that campaign was the use of a bogus federal criminal prosecution, undertaken by Leura Canary—the wife of Rove’s key connection, William Canary—and timed perfectly to match the election cycle. Republican operatives have now linked Rove directly to arrangements for that prosecution.

Still open to question: the details of Karl Rove’s dealings with prosecutors and Justice Department officials to arrange the political prosecution of Don Siegelman. Does anyone at this point seriously question why the White House and the Justice Department are pursuing a scorched-earth policy to block Congress’s requests for documents relating to this case and to records showing Karl Rove’s communications? They would almost certainly provide further evidence of what the external facts demonstrate.

But there is substantial additional evidence which will be shortly presented which will help to show why this prosecution was a complete farce from the beginning. Stay tuned, as the truth continues to seep out.

Update
Mark Crispin Miller has just put up a fascinating interview with Governor Siegelman in which he explains his grudge match with Karl Rove, the involvement of Karl Rove’s client, William Pryor in the theft of the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial election and how the Republicans launched a criminal prosecution to block him from seeking re-election.

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Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill a few hundred million people. His unit, stationed in the vast missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, oversaw one of four squadrons of Minuteman II ­ICBMs, each missile topped by a W56 thermonuclear warhead with an explosive force of 1.2 megatons—eighty times that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In theory, the missiles could be fired only by order of the president of the United States, and required mutual cooperation by the two men on duty in each of the launch control centers, of which there were five for each squadron.

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When he quit the Air Force in 1974, Blair was haunted by the power that had been within his grasp, andhe resolved to do something about it. But when he started lobbying his former superiors, he was met with indifference and even active hostility. “I got in a fair scrap with the Air Force over it,” he recalled. As Blair well knew, there was supposed to be a system already in place to prevent that type of unilateral launch. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon took comfort in this, not knowing that the Strategic Air Command, which then controlled the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, had quietly neutralized it.

This reluctance to implement an obviously desirable precaution might seem extraordinary, but it is explicable in light of the dominant theme in the military’s nuclear weapons culture: the strategy known as “launch under attack.” Theoretically, the president has the option of waiting through an attack before deciding how to respond. But in practice, the system of command and control has been organized so as to leave a president facing reports of incoming missiles with little option but to launch. In the words of Lee Butler, who commanded all US nuclear forces at the end of the Cold War, the system the military designed was “structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack” if he or she believes there is “incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way.” Ensuring that all missiles and bombers would be en route before any enemy missiles actually landed meant that most of the targets in the strategic nuclear war plan would be destroyed—thereby justifying the purchase and deployment of the massive force required to execute such a strike.

Among students of nuclear command and control, this practice of precluding all options but the desired one is known as “jamming” the president. Blair’s irksome protests threatened to slow this process. When his pleas drew rejection from inside the system, he turned to Congress. Eventually the Air Force agreed to begin using “unlock codes”—codes transmitted at the time of the launch order by higher authority without which the crews could not fire—on the weapons in 1977. (Even then, the Navy held off safeguarding its submarine-launched nuclear missiles in this way for another twenty years.)

Following this small victory, Blair continued to probe the baroque architecture of nuclear command and control, and its extreme vulnerability to lethal mishap. In the early Eighties, while working with a top-secret clearance for the Office of Technology Assessment, he prepared a detailed report on such shortcomings. The Pentagon promptly classified it as SIOP-ESI—a level higher than top secret. (SIOP stands for Single Integrated Operational Plan, the US plan for conducting a nuclear war. ESI stands for Extremely Sensitive Information.) Hidden away in the Pentagon, the report was withheld from both relevant senior civilian officials and the very congressional committees that had commissioned it in the first place.

From positions in Washington’s national security think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, Blair used his expertise and scholarly approach to gain access to knowledgeable insiders at the highest ranks, even in Moscow. On visits to the Russian capital during the halcyon years between the Cold War’s end and the renewal of tensions in the twenty-first century, he learned that the Soviet Union had actually developed a “dead hand” in ultimate control of their strategic nuclear arsenal. If sensors detected signs of an enemy nuclear attack, the USSR’s entire missile force would immediately launch with a minimum of human intervention—in effect, the doomsday weapon that ends the world in Dr. Strangelove.

Needless to say, this was a tightly held arrangement, known only to a select few in Moscow. Similarly chilling secrets, Blair continued to learn, lurked in the bowels of the US system, often unknown to the civilian leadership that supposedly directed it. In 1998, for example, on a visit to the headquarters of Strategic Command (­STRATCOM), the force controlling all US strategic nuclear weapons, at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, he discovered that the ­­­STRATCOM targeting staff had unilaterally chosen to interpret a presidential order on nuclear targeting in such a way as to reinsert China into the ­SIOP, from which it had been removed in 1982, thereby provisionally consigning a billion Chinese to nuclear immolation. Shortly thereafter, he informed a senior White House official, whose reaction Blair recalled as “surprised” and “befuddled.”

In 2006, Blair founded Global Zero, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, with an immediate goal of ending the policy of launch under attack. By that time, the Cold War that had generated the ­SIOP and all those nuclear weapons had long since come to an end. As a result, part of the nuclear war machine had been dismantled—warhead numbers were reduced, bombers taken off alert, weapons withdrawn from Europe. But at its heart, the system continued unchanged, officially ever alert and smooth running, poised to dispatch hundreds of precisely targeted weapons, but only on receipt of an order from the commander in chief.

Bombhead, by Bruce Conner (detail) © Conner Family Trust, San Francisco, and ARS, New York City. Courtesy Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

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