Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Alice Fisher Confirmed for Assistant Attorney General"

Largely overlooked in yesterday's news cycle was a Senate confirmation hearing with important implications for the issue of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Alice Fisher first gained notice when she was appointed as Assistant Attorney General to head the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice at the height of the publicity over Jack Abramoff and Plamegate.

Fisher was nominated March 29, 2005, and her nomination was sent to the Senate April 4, 2005, but it had been blocked by Michigan Senator Carl Levin over interrogation tactics at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval facility. President Bush subsequently appointed her in a controversial recess appointment in August of 2005.

In a Daily Kos diary, peace voter excerpted some of Senator Levin's comments during yesterday's hearing:

"The Administration has put up barrier after barrier, hurdle after hurdle to efforts to get legitimate information that bears on Ms. Fisher's fitness to serve in this important position. Why the Administration has stonewalled for so long instead of answering questions and providing information can only be speculated by me. Is it because it is part of an effort to prevent information about interrogation tactics from being provided to Congress, or does it relate directly to Alice Fisher? I don't know the answer, but the fact of the stonewalling is undeniable. It is part of a pattern of secrecy that this administration has engaged in in so many areas and so many ways.

"The information I have sought relates to what Ms. Fisher knew about aggressive and abusive interrogation techniques in use at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the time that Ms. Fisher served as deputy head of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department from July 2001 to July 2003. From publicly-released FBI documents, we have learned that FBI personnel raised serious concerns about these DoD interrogation tactics at weekly meetings between FBI and Department of Justice Criminal Division officials. I have sought to find out what Ms. Fisher knew about these FBI concerns over aggressive DoD methods; what, if anything, was reported to Ms. Fisher; and what steps, if any, she took in response.

"If Ms. Fisher knew of aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and did nothing about it, or she knew about them but has denied knowing, then I would be deeply troubled. The Administration has repeatedly obstructed efforts to get this information, information which is, in my judgement, relevant to Ms. Fisher's suitability for the position to which she is nominated. "

The Administration has literally and figuratively covered up the Guantanamo abuses. This refusal by the Administration to provide relevant information is part of a larger pattern by the Executive Branch of denying the Senate the information needed to carry out confirmation and oversight responsibilities. Over and over again, the Administration seems to use every means at its disposal to deny documents or information to the Senate, or to withhold key portions of documents, or to limit access to information."

So when Senator Levin, who is a 1959 graduate of Harvard Law School, repeatedly uses terms like "obstruction" and "cover-up" when referring to the administration's refusal, since May of 2005, to provide specific information requested by the Senate, do you think he's trying to tell us something?

Let's face it - if you were facing as many scandals as the Bush administration, wouldn't it feel good to have your handpicked lackey in the Justice Department serving as gatekeeper for criminal investigations? The confirmation of Alice S. Fisher represents just one more example of the politicization of the Justice Department (see previous post, "Revenge of the Nerds".) As Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake noted earlier this summer:

And it is high time that reporters in Washington started asking Alice Fisher what she is doing with her fingers in the Abramoff pie and all of the other inter-related lobbyist scandal and corruption issues in the Beltway.

Investigations into the corruption problem in and among lobbyists, elected representatives and Administration officials are too important to be spiked by a political ringer who has the ultimate say on charging decisions, and who has the authority to recommend promoting the best and the brightest out of the Public Corruption unit to ensure they can’t complete their investigations and have no avenue to complain about it. (And the folks who have worked federal public corruption cases can back me up on this — this is the favorite method of stripping the staffing bare, so you protect the political asses of your cronies. Sound like a tactic that an Administration you know and loathe would use?)

Fisher's nomination was approved largely along party lines. Now you can add Gitmo to the list of scandals whose details may never see the light of day.

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