NYT : Chief Justice of Pakistan Says Musharraf Pressed Him to resign

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chief Justice of Pakistan Says Musharraf Pressed Him to resign

By SALMAN MASOOD and CARLOTTA GALL | Published: May 29, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 29 — Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the suspended chief justice of Pakistan, said today in a signed affidavit to the Supreme Court that on March 9, he was detained all afternoon against his will at the Army House in Rawalpindi, and was pressed to resign by the president of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and by four senior military and intelligence chiefs, most of them in uniform.

The affidavit was filed by one of Mr. Chaudhry’s lawyers, Aitzaz Ahsan, at a Supreme Court hearing concerning the suspension of the Chief Justice. His lawyers later provided copies to reporters.

The document offers the first detailed account of the March 9 encounter from Mr. Chaudhry, whose refusal to resign or accept being dismissed has attracted widespread support and created a political crisis for Mr. Musharraf.

There was no immediate government reaction to the affidavit. Mr. Musharraf has tried to play down the significance of the March 9 encounter, and has said that the government is merely examining complaints of misconduct against the chief justice, whose term was scheduled to run through 2011.

When Mr. Ahsan told the presiding judge today that he had filed the affidavit after completing his arguments in court, Justice Khalilur Rahman Ramday, who heads the 13-member court, replied: “You should not have done that.”

Mr. Chaudhry faces charges of misconduct and nepotism that originally were put before a five-judge inquiry panel called the Supreme Judicial Council. Those charges formed the basis of Mr. Musharraf’s request for Mr. Chaudhry’s resignation on March 9.

Mr. Chaudhry denied the allegations, and is now challenging them before the Supreme Court. His lawyers say that the president and the military chiefs have no authority under the country’s constitution to remove a chief justice.

In the first week of May, the Supreme Court suspended the proceedings of the inquiry panel, and instead ordered that the full court hear Mr. Chaudhry’s petition challenging the panel’s authority and impartiality. It is unclear when the Supreme Court will reach a decision in the case; lawyers say the hearings could go on for months.

Mr. Musharraf’s own future may depend on the outcome. He is likely to face several legal challenges in the Supreme Court this year as he seeks reelection as president while continuing to serve as chief of the army staff, the highest military post in the country. Seven and a half years after Mr. Musharraf seized power in a coup, calls are growing around the country for a change from military rule.

In the affidavit, Mr. Chaudhry says he arrived at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi for a planned meeting with the president at about 11:30 a.m. on March 9. When Mr. Musharraf met Mr. Chaudhry, the president was wearing military fatigues, the affidavit says, and he told Mr. Chaudhry of a complaint lodged against him by a judge from a provincial High Court. Mr. Chaudhry said the complaint was baseless.

According to the account, Mr. Musharraf then told Mr. Chaudhry that there were a few more complaints, and directed his staff to call in the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.

At this point, the affidavit says, three top officials of Pakistani’s intelligence services entered the room: Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, the director general of Inter Services Intelligence; Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ijaz, the director general of Military Intelligence and a close relative of President Musharraf; and Aijaz Shah, a retired brigadier who directs the country’s Intelligence Bureau.

With them was retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Javed, the president’s chief of staff. Mr. Chaudhry mentioned the four officials by their titles alone, and said that two of them were in civilian clothing, the others in uniform.

Mr. Musharraf demanded to know how it was that the chief justice drove a Mercedes car, and said there had been complaints that Mr. Chaudhry had interfered in proceedings in another provincial high court, according to the affidavit. The president then insisted that Mr. Chaudhry resign from the supreme court, and if he agreed to do so, the president promised to “accommodate him,” the affidavit says.

Mr. Chaudhry says he responded: “I have not violated any code of conduct or any law, rule or regulation; I believe that I am myself the guardian of law. I strongly believe in God who will help me.”

This answer “ignited the fury” of Mr. Musharraf, who stood up angrily, told Mr. Chaudhry that the officers would show him the evidence gathered against him, and left the room along with his staff and the prime minister, the affidavit continues. Over the next four hours, Mr. Chaudhry said, the senior officers other than Mr. Shah repeatedly pressed him to resign, but presented him with no evidence.

Mr. Musharraf said in a recent television interview that he was dressed in uniform that day because of other military commitments he had later in the day. The president also denied that he had called the meeting in order to remove the chief justice from his post, and said that the chief justice had requested the meeting. Mr. Musharraf said he mentioned the complaints about the chief justice’s conduct only because they had recently been brought to his attention.

The prime minister has declined to comment on Mr. Chaudhry or the events surrounding his suspension because the matter is before the court. The information minister, Muhammad Ali Durrani, said that all cabinet ministers were under strict instruction not to comment on the proceedings. The chief military spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Chaudhry said in his affidavit that for four hours on that March afternoon, he was prevented from leaving the room where he had met with the president, and was monitored on a closed-circuit video camera. Finally, after 5 p.m., General Ijaz told Mr. Chaudhry that he could go home.

“This is a bad day, now you are taking a separate way,” General Ijaz said, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Chaudhry was further informed that he was “restrained to work as a judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of Pakistan.”

He said he was allowed to leave just two minutes after a new acting chief justice, Javed Iqbal, was sworn in on a live television broadcast, according to Muneer Malik, the president of the supreme court bar association and one of Mr. Chaudhry’s defense lawyers.

When Mr. Chaudhry reached his car, he saw that the flag and emblem had been removed and his escort was missing. His driver was crying, Mr. Malik said.

Mr. Chaudhry tried to return to his office, but was blocked from reaching it by soldiers, who ordered him to go home, he said. There he and his personal staff were kept under house arrest for several days, prevented from communicating with anyone outside the house or from seeing television broadcasts, and his children were prevented from going to school, the affidavit said, all in effort to pressure him to resign.

Washington Post : The Informer: Behind the Scenes, or Setting the Stage?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Informer: Behind the Scenes, or Setting the Stage?

By Robin Shulman | Washington Post Staff Writer | Tuesday, May 29, 2007; Page C01

With tired eyes and mussed hair, Osama Eldawoody opens his door to an unexpected guest.

He doesn't get many visitors these days. He is in hiding for his own safety. He has received no direct threats, he says, but has heard through friends of friends that there are those who want to kill him. Nobody likes a snitch.

The 51-year-old Egyptian immigrant chain-smokes Marlboros in a corner of the comfortable apartment that he now calls home, far away from his previous life in New York, in a location he wants to keep secret. This place is his hideaway but also his trap. Here, he grants his first interview since moving cross-country.

For 13 months, he was a paid informer for the New York Police Department. His work in 2003 and 2004 helped convict Shahawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani immigrant, of conspiracy to bomb Manhattan's 34th Street subway station. Siraj, 24, was sentenced in January to 30 years in prison, but for Eldawoody the case, now under appeal, still feels raw.

"It's been hurting me. Everybody believes that I am a cheater," he says.

"By Islam, by my feeling toward my country ... it's something that had to be done," he says.

Siraj's family and supporters say he was simply an angry, foolish young man with no connection to actual terrorists or capacity to obtain bombs, playing along -- for a while -- with a man who he believed was his closest friend. They say Eldawoody effectively goaded Siraj into plotting to plant explosives -- to be supplied by Eldawoody -- in the subway station, just below the Macy's store in midtown Manhattan, and then recorded those conversations.

Police and prosecutors say Siraj was already a violent terrorist just looking for an opportunity to strike. Eldawoody says had he not intercepted Siraj, the younger man eventually would have joined a real terrorist sleeper cell.

The world of domestic Muslim informants remains fogged in secrecy and national security laws. But defense lawyers in a number of court cases paint a picture of an industry in which informants seeking personal gain create the very terrorists they are supposed to be exposing.

Listening In

The case in New York isn't the only one. Two informers played a role in the recent case of the young Muslim men accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. One of the young men was recorded telling the informer he was at his service. Later the informer volunteered to obtain machine guns and heavier arms.

In Miami, an FBI informer posing as a member of al-Qaeda gave a group of men military boots and cellphones, promised weapons and suggested their first target be a Miami FBI office. In Lodi, Calif., a federal informer who lied about seeing an al-Qaeda leader in the area helped to convict a 23-year-old of training at a terrorism camp.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the New York Police Department quietly formed the Terrorist Interdiction Unit with the goal of tracking threats by placing informant "listening posts" in Muslim communities citywide, according to police testimony from the Siraj trial.

Eldawoody -- who has small, pale eyes, badly yellowed teeth and a tendency to gesture wildly and wander conversationally -- participated energetically in the new program. While an informer, he attended 575 prayer services in New York mosques, sometimes four or five a day.

His police department handler wrote more than 350 reports based on their often twice-a-day calls. Eldawoody wrote down license plate numbers in a mosque parking lot and reported on the tone of religious services and internal debates. The department paid him about $25,000 for work over the 13 months, and $75,000, including relocation costs, over 20 more months leading up to the trial. Now the department covers his rent, plus he collects $3,200 a month, he says, and a police spokesman says the direct payments will likely continue indefinitely.

Of course informers are often critical to terrorism probes, but even the Justice Department acknowledges that problems arise. A 2005 department study of confidential informers in the FBI found violations of the agency's guidelines for handlers keeping track of them in 87 percent of the files examined.

"There's this idea that we just sort of willy-nilly have put informants out there because it's a Muslim community," said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York police. He said the department places informers in response to threats, and that it was not Eldawoody who first alerted the NYPD to Siraj.

Indeed, it later emerged that at least three men were working undercover at one time in the Bay Ridge mosque where Siraj prayed, including a young Bangladesh-born detective who first reported Siraj's anti-American rants.

A civil rights group suggested this amounts to surveillance of protected religious activity. Says Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, "I don't think when Catholics are going to St. Patrick's, they're worried about undercover police officers."

Life After Testifying

Last fall, CBS News aired a report on Eldawoody. On camera, he traipsed through Manhattan streets near the 34th Street subway station, talking about the potential bombing he helped avert and his need for support from the police. Soon after, the police helped arrange his move and escorted him to his current home. The episode taught him the power of media attention.

"I am so honored that you are here," Eldawoody says to his visitor.

In truth, he has retreated into a kind of suburban depression. He wears the same black shirt two days in a row, with dark marks of perspiration under the arms. He can't stop smoking and says he has gained weight. At night, while his wife, Fotna, and daughter Marwa sleep in the master bedroom, he stays up late using the Internet in the second bedroom, trawling for real estate deals or writing to defend himself on a Muslim-themed Web site that calls him an agent provocateur.

He hasn't been to any mosques since he moved, he says, and prays only a few times a month.

He drives what he laughingly calls "the historic car" -- the small Toyota in which he recorded Siraj -- but rarely goes farther than to pick up 10-year-old Marwa from school, or to shop for groceries at the nearby Wal-Mart.

The police helped him look for a job. He remains unemployed, but says he plans to buy a house, with the down payment coming from Fotna's savings. He wants to put down roots, start fresh -- even if he has only vague ideas of what that life will be.

He came to Brooklyn in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from Egypt, and worked various jobs -- from ice cream vendor to taxi driver -- while applying for engineering work. Then he gave up and tried his hand at real estate in New Jersey.

There he played a pivotal role in helping to convict a building inspector after the man demanded bribes and Eldawoody got him to discuss them while being recorded. He concluded he had a talent for such work.

"I'm no dummy," he says. "I know how to get people to the point."

After 9/11, first the FBI, then local police came knocking on Eldawoody's door in Staten Island because someone had reported suspicions of him. The second time, Eldawoody accused the police of discrimination -- then he volunteered to help them. He signed up as an NYPD confidential informer in July 2003.

Eldawoody was dispatched to several mosques before he was asked to infiltrate the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a storefront mosque in the city's largest Arab community. He became known for praying so fervently he would weep. Once, he objected to the presence of two non-Muslims in the mosque in order to seem fanatical about religion, he told his handler, Detective Stephen Andrews.

For months he turned up little. Then he met 21-year-old Siraj.

Recently arrived from Pakistan, Siraj was spending his days working at his uncle's Islamic bookstore in Bay Ridge and his nights playing video games at his family's apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Back home in Karachi, his religiously moderate family had been attacked by politically radical Sunni Muslims. But in New York, Siraj began to make his way in this new world of Muslim men. His uncle, Saleem Noorali, encouraged him to embrace Sunni beliefs and pray next to the bookstore at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge. "He started reading books, then asking questions of the imam and people praying here," says Noorali. "He was confused, learning."

Immigration officials were trying to deport Siraj's family for overstaying their visas, and the family had requested asylum on grounds of religious persecution. Meanwhile, Siraj was upset by the wars raging in the Mideast, and by the reports of abuses of Muslims at Abu Ghraib. He was haunted and angered by a story he had heard about the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old Muslim girl by U.S. troops, according to recordings of his conversations.

His impassioned talk gained the attention of the undercover detective from Bangladesh who surveyed the Bay Ridge mosque before Eldawoody. He later testified that he saw Siraj 72 times and reported that he called Osama bin Laden "a talented brother" and "hoped bin Laden planned something big for America."

Eldawoody met Siraj in September 2003 at the Islamic bookstore. There are no recordings of their early conversations. Only the barest sketch of the early relationship is preserved in the files of the NYPD's Terrorist Interdiction Unit.

"The very beginning started when he asked me if I could design a nuclear bomb," Eldawoody says in an interview. "I told him yes." But Martin R. Stolar, Siraj's lawyer, referring in court to police notes from Dec. 23, 2003, suggested that Siraj had simply asked why Eldawoody didn't work as a nuclear engineer -- and Eldawoody told Siraj that he was capable of creating a dirty bomb.

Soon Eldawoody began to drive Siraj home from work nearly every day. At some point, talk turned toward the idea of planting a bomb, and by spring, Eldawoody said, "I told them, 'I believe it's time to record.' "

"You are my brother," Siraj said at one point in more than 30 hours of digital recordings. At another, Eldawoody refers to Siraj as his "son."

Andrews, Eldawoody's handler, wrote in his notes that the informer found Siraj to be "impressionable."

As they discussed possible attacks, it was Eldawoody who suggested getting uranium-235 and using a remote-controlled detonation. It was Eldawoody who suggested obtaining nuclear materials from the Russian mafia. "Oh, we can't find it over here, like in Florida?" asks Siraj, who then suggested looking for nuclear materials near the Rocky Mountains, or calling Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan for advice.

Sometimes the conversations, recorded mostly in Eldawoody's car, included James Elshafay, a 19-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic who later pleaded guilty and testified against Siraj.

Eldawoody concocted a fictitious group, the Brotherhood, in Upstate New York, that he promised would supply explosives. But the Brothers needed Siraj's knowledge of the subway to place the bombs. In the last recording, a video, inside Eldawoody's Toyota on Aug. 23, 2004, Siraj said he didn't want to place the bomb himself, and said he would have to ask his mother for permission.

Later, his mother, Shahina Parveen, a nurse, said he never asked. Still, Siraj went with diagrams to the 34th Street subway station to point out to Elshafay and Eldawoody optimal places for explosives.

Three days before the Republican National Convention in New York, Siraj was arrested outside his uncle's bookstore. News of Eldawoody's role in the case left a wake of fear and suspicion in Muslim communities. (He had advance notice of the arrest and fled with his family to Pennsylvania.)

"If Matin [Siraj] had really been a criminal, and had really been planning on carrying out a bombing operation and Osama [Eldawoody] had discovered it, I would consider Osama a hero," says Imam Reda Shata, who served in the Bay Ridge mosque and believed at one point Eldawoody may have tried to set a trap for him. "But he was a young, ignorant, emotional kid."

Last May, the jury convicted Siraj, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly hailed the decision as a victory for the department's fight against terrorism.

Worry and Tension

Lately, Eldawoody tends to talk less about Siraj and more about his life circumstances. He cruises the wide aisles of his neighborhood Wal-Mart with Fotna and Marwa, repeatedly mentioning his need for a job.

Fotna, 52, who had a career as a dentist before her marriage, has dark eyes, a lively, humorous way and a take-charge attitude. She tells how last summer the lease on the family's Pennsylvania apartment was about to run out, and they feared becoming homeless.

"Marwa needs to go to school; I will do any job to protect her," Fotna says. She moved with Marwa back to Staten Island and left Eldawoody to his own devices. "He can be homeless -- he is a man alone."

Now, at the checkout line, she talks openly about divorce, but dismisses it.

"What can we do? I want my daughter to live with her father."

Eldawoody offers no reaction as he pays for the groceries.

Fotna eventually took it upon herself to negotiate with her husband's police contacts on the family's behalf, and returned to live with him and go with him cross-country. She leaves issues of security to her husband and does not tell even her closest family where she is. When her sister on the phone asks where she lives, she answers: "In the world."

Marwa, with long wavy black hair, black eyes and pale skin, has not been allowed to contact any of her old friends. Instead, she writes a book of letters she never mails.

Eldawoody says he is sorry for the pain and dislocation he's caused Marwa, but he did the right thing for the United States.

And he has his dreams. He wonders if he might sell the film rights to his story. And someday he wants to start his own organization, take off on a national speaking tour of mosques and train other Muslims to become informers, like him.

New Haven Register : Terror suspect to remain jailed

Friday, May 25, 2007

Terror suspect to remain jailed

by Randall Beach, Register Staff | 05/25/2007

NEW HAVEN — A federal judge Thursday denied a defense attorney's motion to release a man charged with supporting terrorists by disclosing secret information about the locations of U.S. Navy ships and the best ways to attack them.

Hassan Abujihaad, 31, of Phoenix, formerly known as Paul Hall, must remain incarcerated in Connecticut and await trial as a result of U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz's ruling.

A federal grand jury in Bridgeport previously indicted Abujihaad for material support of terrorism and disclosing previously classified information relating to national defense. The indictment alleges he provided material support or resources, knowing or intending they were to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens. Abujihaad was arrested in Phoenix March 7 and brought to Connecticut because, prosecutors alleged, one of the Web sites he used was based in Trumbull.

Defense attorney Dan LaBelle told Kravitz that Abujihaad is neither dangerous nor a flight risk. He said Abujihaad, who is divorced, has custody of two daughters, who rely on him. He also had a record of steady employment with United Parcel Service in Phoenix.

"The case ain't all that great," LaBelle said in reference to government allegations. He said it boils down to e-mails sent by Abujihaad to a London-based organization called Azzam Publications with alleged terrorist ties. LaBelle said there is no concrete evidence Abujihaad provided information about the battleships.

LaBelle also said if his client were a flight risk, he would have fled years ago, when he knew he was being investigated.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Reynolds said Abujihaad is much more of a flight risk since he has been indicted. He noted Abujihaad has a fiancee in Morocco, and might go there if released.

In addition to "troubling" activities and mission of Azzam Publications, Reynolds said, government wiretaps of Abujihaad's phone conversations disclosed he praised jihad and its violent methods.

Reynolds said another wiretap showed Abujihaad threatening to kill his ex-wife after she threatened to "spit out" to authorities what she knew about his alleged activities. He also cited a wiretap in which Abujihaad spoke with a government informant about buying assault weapons.

Reynolds also mentioned a wiretap showing Abujihaad recommended a violent jihad article to Derrick Shareef, who three days later bought weapons, allegedly to attack Christmas shoppers at a mall in suburban Chicago. Shareef was arrested before he could carry out the alleged plan.

Reynolds did say there is "no forensic footprint connecting Mr. Abujihaad to the battlegroup document" found on a floppy disk at the home of one of the alleged terrorists in London. But Reynolds added, "He (Abujihaad) is the only confirmed member of the U.S. military who contacted this Web site."

According to prosecutors, from 1997 through at least August 2004, British nationals Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan and others, through Azzam Publications, allegedly conspired to provide material support and resources to terrorists who had created internet Web sites.

During a December 2003 search of Ahmad's residence in London, British authorities recovered a computer floppy disk that contained a password-protected document with classified information regarding movements of a U.S. Navy battle group charged with enforcing sanctions against the Taliban and engaging in missions against al-Qaida.

Ahmad and Ahsan were previously indicted in Connecticut on terrorism charges. Their extradition from England to Connecticut is pending.

If convicted of both charges, Abujihaad faces a maximum prison term of 25 years.

©New Haven Register 2007

Village Voice : Runnin' Scared: Family (Terror) Ties

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Runnin' Scared: Family (Terror) Ties

With a brother in prison, Sanya Siraj sells books and hopes to remain in the country.

by Jeneen Interlandi | May 15th, 2007

Here we go again. Another nefarious plot by "terrorists" to blow up/shoot at/set on fire a New Jersey military installation/a midtown subway station/the Sears Tower in Chicago. And at the center of it, a paid government informant egging on hapless out-of-work exercise fanatics/book-selling Pakistani immigrants/semi-employed roofers, encouraging them to make boastful claims about swearing allegiance to Al Qaeda.

If the details in the Fort Dix attack fantasy feel depressingly familiar, it's because they are. It's been a year and a half since another big-talking, weapon-lacking, would-be–Mohammad Atta, a Pakistani immigrant by the name of Shahawar Matin Siraj, was charged with plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station. In January, Siraj was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and less than a day after that sentence was handed down, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided the house of Siraj's parents and his sister, who were brought to a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Sanya Siraj, 20, was never considered a suspect in the activity that sent her older brother to prison. But being the sister of a convicted terrorist, she figures, has made her a target as well. Sanya and her mother, Shahina Parveen, were charged with overstaying their visas, and ICE officials claim that a deportation order had been issued against her father, Siraj Abdul Rehman. But the family's attorney, Mona Shah, insists that the Sirajes had an asylum claim already pending when they were picked up.

Although the Siraj women were released after two weeks, supporters of the Pakistani family have taken issue with the high cost of their bond: $35,000, or roughly twice the amount typically charged for a potential visa violation. Meanwhile, Mr. Rehman remains in detention, and lawyers and immigration officials are still arguing over the family's fate.

When Siraj's trial began, Sanya was preparing to take the Regents exam at New Town High School in Queens. She wanted to go to college and become an elementary-school teacher. But, as news of Siraj's case spread, Sanya found herself ostracized and increasingly isolated.

"Sanya had to leave school because students were harassing her," her attorney tells the Voice. Before long, she had locked herself indoors completely. It would be almost a year before she re-emerged.

"Talking to her was a little off," says Fahd Ahmed of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a nonprofit that organized a letter-writing campaign and support fund to help the Sirajes. "You could tell when we first started working with her that she had been a shut-in—that she hadn't been around people in a while."

Since her release, Sanya and her mother work at her uncle's bookstore in Bay Ridge, Islamic Books and Tapes, assuming the jobs that Siraj and his father had before they were locked up. The hours are long, and on slow days, Sanya passes the time watching a small television behind the counter.

"If my dad comes home, then I can go to college," she says. "Because he will work at the bookstore for me."

One recent Friday night, Sanya found herself back at the detention center, as a visitor. This time, the guard would not let her in to see her father—apparently her student ID wasn't an approved form of identification. Sanya drew a deep breath and fixed her eyes on the waiting room ceiling. The situation was mildly ridiculous.

"You have all my other identification," she explained to a tall, serious-looking woman dressed in a gray uniform. "You took it from me when I was held here." When Sanya and her mother were released in late January, ICE officers confiscated their passports and state IDs. Since then, they have returned to the facility three times to visit Rehman. Although the guard clearly remembered them, logic was no match for the power of law.

"It's so stupid," she sighed. "Four months ago they wouldn't let me out, and now they won't let me in."

Michael Collins: Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? (Part 2)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Michael Collins: Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? (Part 2) -- Voter Fraud Scam Fails in Milwaukee Test Market

“Voters likely to feel they’re being watched”
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – JSOnline- 31 Oct 2004)

by Michael Collins | “Scoop” Independent News | Washington, DC | Monday, 30 April 2007

Part 2 (Part 1)

This article describes the coordinated effort on the part of the Republican Party to establish alleged voter fraud committed by Democrats as a serious problem. Despite the disruptions it caused, an evaluation of the evidence shows the effort failed on multiple levels. Yet the effort perseveres and the myth that voter fraud is rampant is promoted even today by Republican operatives and others who should know better.

The latest version of the voter fraud myth had its origins Milwaukee before, during and after 2004 presidential election. The Republicans rolled out voter fraud as a crime of epidemic proportions; test marketed that concept with a vigorous press campaign; and encouraged a law enforcement effort to catch the hypothesized vote cheaters. This effort is well documented.

Based on prior experience, the news of impending investigations and arrests would be expected to suppress the minority vote. The Milwaukee effort, combined with others, offered to (a) strengthen the voter fraud myth as a vehicle to restrict voting by minorities and (b) provide inoculation should the Democrats or anyone else claim massive election fraud in Ohio or other key battleground states.

The Myth of Voter Fraud – Opening in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee scheme relies on the largely invented phenomenon called voter fraud that occurs an average of 8 times a year (2002-2005 data). Think of that city as a test market for the next new thing in the Republican bag of tricks. Voter fraud charges weren’t new, but systematic packaging represented a new level of sophistication for voter suppression. The strategy was two pronged. First establish the brand identity, then let the legal system establish brand credibility (i.e., pervasive voter fraud is epidemic) through massive prosecutions.

Branding (brand identification) began with the widely heard and read Wall Street Journal’s John Fund. Fund published his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy just six weeks before the 2004 election and promoted the book with wide exposure, thanks to the cable news talking heads. Then we got the local media onslaught.

Here is a sampling of the story of Milwaukee 2004 put together by the Republican Party of Wisconsin published by TPMMuckraker.Com. These headlines represent the core narrative for the marketing campaign offered to substantiate the alleged problem presented by voter fraud in Wisconsin. There’s just one problem. Despite all the law enforcement effort, only five convictions resulted. Nevertheless, the effort is ongoing.

The press summary below is part of a memo found its way into Karl Rove’s office and may have been part of the rationale he offered when he encouraged the National Republican Lawyers Association to keep the heat on “ballot integrity” issues.

Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary
Prepared for Chris Lato, RPW (Republican Party Wisconsin),
Communications Director
27 Oct Republicans Challenge 5,600 Addresses that may not exist
28 Oct GOP Fails to Get 5,619 Names Removed from Voting List
30 Oct GOP Demands IDs of 37,000 in City
31 Oct Voters Likely to Feel they’re Being Watched
01 Nov RPW News Release: Republican Party Wisconsin (RPW) Seeks Elections Board Action on Phantom Milwaukee Addresses
02 Nov Election Day
14 Jan Lawmaker Criticizes Voter Verification Process
28 Jan Scandal Fuels Renewed Push for Voter ID Bill
26 Jan Police, FBI Join Investigation into Possible Election Fraud
31 Jan RPW News Release: Voter ID Bill Introduced

The Republicans would make a voter fraud charge, the media would cover it, and then the coverage was used as evidence of impending vote fraud. All the while, the most vulnerable voters in Milwaukee, minority voters targeted in the articles, were in a position to question what might happen on Election Day were they to be challenged or otherwise investigated. At the same time, the mainstream media coverage served to promote the myth of corrupt urban (read minority) Democratic machine control and manipulation of elections.

There’s no need for a back room conspiracy between the Wisconsin Republicans and the press. This insidious strategy was made possible by the notion of equal coverage without critical review. Thus, these articles in the mainstream media might just as well have been Republican press releases. They served that function well, as indicated by the sampling above and the entire body of releases in the original document. Very few of these charges have been substantiated despite the combined efforts of FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and the cooperative local District Attorney.

All the Wisconsin Republicans had to do was make a charge, no matter how unfounded, and that charge entered the public dialogue as part of the political mix with built in credibility provided by the coverage. After all, there’re always two sides to every story as in this case the great lie goes.

As if on cue, a task force consisting of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and local law enforcement began investigating the alleged crime wave of voter fraud infecting Milwaukee. The U.S. Attorney didn’t find much until reported complaints about his performance reached him.

The pre election Republican charges and resulting press coverage had a message: the Democrats were going to cheat and cheat big in Wisconsin’s largest urban (read largely minority) area. Those people would come out to vote multiple times or vote without proper credentials. The message was clear: The Democrats and their minority base are up to no good. Vote Republican! The Nixon southern strategy moved north.

Voter intimidation was a central theme. Make baseless demands for voter identification (e.g., “GOP Demands IDs of 37,000 in City”). Spread fear of prosecution for any errors in registration or other voting laws (e.g., "If you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election” from the nonexistent Black Voters League). Conduct and promote high-visibility law enforcement campaigns (e.g., “40 assistant district attorneys in the field on Election Day”) for purely political purposes against a problem the enforcers knew was trivial.

This is not new. In 1982 the Republican Party signed a consent decree to stop promoting voter fraud efforts that targeted specific ethnic groups (No. 81-3876. D.N.J. Nov. 1, 1982, see page 55). This finding was upheld in 1987(page 3) and again in 2004 by federal courts. That suit was renewed in 2004 due to a repetition of the behavior. This is called the politics of Jim Crow and is a direct descendent of the voter suppression efforts begun against black citizens right after Reconstruction ended in 1877.

The Results – Less than Spectacular

The results were less than spectacular. In fact, they represented an abject failure. A brutal summary appeared in the Milwaukee JSOnline (Journal Sentinel). Columnist Daniel Bice laid it out on 11 April, 2007:

It’s not as if U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic's office didn't file any voter fraud cases (in 2004).

It's just that Biskupic's crew was often unsuccessful when it did.

In all, federal prosecutors indicted 14 individuals for either being a felon on probation or parole who voted in November 2004 or for voting twice in that contest. All but one of those charged with felonies were African-American, and all were Milwaukee residents.

Were those who generated the flurry of press releases so myopic that they missed the mark on the size of the crime wave? What a gap: the 37,000 Milwaukee voters who better have those ID’s compared to the five individuals convicted of voter fraud. Another gap: 5500 voters who had phantom addresses and the 14 charged voter fraud with only 5 convicted nationwide despite a coordinated law enforcement all over the case. The efforts to frighten minority voters away from the polls and knowingly push baseless charges were a key part of that effort.

The voters were not fooled. The voter suppression strategy failed as miserably as the prosecutions. Turnout was up 13% from 2000 to 2004. Kerry’s victory margin was 4% higher than Gore’s and he won the City of Milwaukee by over 120,000 votes. Kerry was 12 points above his national average of 60% for big cities. Bush was 12 points off of his national big city average of 39%. The people of Milwaukee spoke clearly.

Did Bush and the White House Commit Election Fraud, an Impeachable Offense?

Daniel Bice established the connection between the Milwaukee marketing campaign and the White House, specifically, Karl Rove:

That document, entitled "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary," turned up last week in the horde of White House and U.S. Justice Department records released by the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"The report was prepared for Karl Rove," said a source with knowledge of the situation. "Rick wanted it so he could give it to Karl Rove."

Yeah, that Karl Rove, President Bush's political mastermind and his deputy chief of staff.

The connection between this voter fraud program and the president is crystal clear from the Rove connection. In addition, the Republican Party is explicitly linked to these efforts through the “Timeline/Summary” and the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) (pages 43-47). In April 2006, a meeting of the RNLA featured Rove who thanked the lawyers for all they were doing to protect “ballot integrity” and urged more action. He must have known that 25 Department of Justice attorneys belonged to RNLA. Rove could simply trot over to Justice and hit the water cooler.

If you’re a candidate looking for help with voter fraud, you need go no further than the NLRA web site which had this information: “Their names appeared on the organization's Web site under the heading Find a Republican Lawyer, in many cases along with their federal government e-mail addresses and work telephone numbers.” If you’re a Republican candidate and you want a voting rights specialist, you’ve got it made.

WASHINGTON - In his day job, Christian Adams writes legal briefs for the voting rights section of the Justice Department, a job that requires a nonpartisan approach.

Off the clock, Adams belongs to the Republican National Lawyers Association, a group that trains hundreds of Republican lawyers to monitor elections and pushes for confirmation of conservative nominees for federal judgeships. 11 April 2007

One tie in to the Milwaukee campaign is through the Wisconsin Republican Party and RNLA state director, who supported the removal of 5600 Wisconsin voters from the registration rolls: “Donald Daugherty, the attorney for the Republicans, noted that if any valid voters are removed from the list, they can simply reregister on the spot on Election Day.”

There is a strong argument that the White House and the Republicans who ran the Milwaukee marketing campaign are guilty of election fraud. Look at the definition of election fraud from a recent study by Minnite, PhD, Barnard College, Columbia University: “All other forms of corruption of the electoral process [besides voter fraud] and corruption committed by elected or election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers fall under the wider definition of election fraud.”

Another definition of election fraud is worth considering. Florida voting rights activist Bill Faulkner distinguishes between retail and wholesale election fraud:

Retail fraud involves voting multiple times, excess ballots marked, and other small voting-inflation techniques that produce a small number of improper votes. Wholesale fraud involves manipulation of voting equipment, tabulation and voting to steal tens of thousands of votes.

By pursuing a strategy of promoting voter fraud as a wide spread phenomenon, the authors and supporters of this scheme were trying to influence the votes of tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens exposed to this effort. This is certainly a corruption of the election process any way you look at it. It is reasonable to assume that many, if not all of those involved knew that intentional voter fraud was very infrequent.

The participants were committing wholesale election fraud in the process of promoting the myth of voter fraud.

Michael Collins: Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? Gonzales Story - Smoking Gun #1

Monday, May 07, 2007

Michael Collins: Did Bush Commit Election Fraud? Gonzales Story - Smoking Gun #1

By Michael Collins | “Scoop” Independent News | Washington, DC | Monday, 23 April 2007

Part 1 of a 2 part series

There is sufficient evidence in the public domain to strongly suspect that Bush committed election fraud in the handling of the U.S. Attorney firings.

Before examining the evidence, it’s important to know the difference between the contrived construct of voter fraud and election fraud, a very real phenomenon.

A Critical Distinction: Voter versus Election Fraud

Lorraine C. Minnite, PhD of Barnard College, Columbia University makes the distinction in the introduction to her comprehensive study:

Voter fraud is the “intentional corruption of the electoral process by the voter.” …willingly giving false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly voting illegally or participating in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others. All other forms of corruption of the electoral process … (by) elected or election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers (is)… election fraud.

Minnite points out there were only 24 convictions or guilty pleas (page 9) for voter fraud at the federal level between 2002 and 2005. That’s of real interest since the White House has an orchestrated campaign to promote the notion that this is a national epidemic.

While zero occurrences of voter fraud would be admirable, 24 hardly constitute an epidemic. The contrived voter fraud epidemic is used as justification for voter identification laws in at least 22 states which keep minority and poor voters away from the polls. The voter identification requirements, just one example of Department of Justice voter suppression, create a barrier to voting because the many minority voters lack the required identifications. Even the former head of the Department of Justice Voting Rights division agrees with the political use of voting laws since 2001.

Enough on voter fraud, whether real or contrived. Election fraud is the subject right now, the ultimate corruption of the electoral process.

New Mexico Meltdown

New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias is at the center of what may become a constitutional crisis.

Cong. Heather Wilson (R-NM) trailed her Democratic opponent in the first congressional district. She needed help. It appears that she requested a boost from U.S. Attorney Iglesias in the form of a timely pre election scandal involving a prominent Democrat. That’s how Iglesias read her phone call concerning a pre election indictment.

Sen. Pete Domenici, (R-NM) called Iglesias as well. According to Iglesias, there was a clearly implied request for a pre midterm Democratic sacrifice at the altar of election injustice. Iglesias reports that when he refused on the grounds that he lacked evidence (one of those minor details that tends to annoy those in power), Domenici simply stayed on the phone … silent.

Iglesias was gone in a heartbeat for not cooperating with a prosecution that would influence the 2006 midterm elections in his state. But who made the decision? Fingers were pointed but nothing stuck until last week. The Albuquerque Journal reports that during talks with Sen. Domenici, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to fire Iglesias unless the president gave the OK.

Well, Iglesias was fired wasn’t he? Gonzales denied culpability, inferring his DOJ subordinate Kyle Sampson made those decisions. Sampson fired that charge back at Gonzales. But the Albuquerque Journal article provides the missing piece. Gonzales wouldn’t move on Iglesias without a Bush sanction. How do these pieces fit together?

It’s simple. Wilson needed help. Both Wilson and Domenici called Iglesias. No deal Iglesias said. Then Domenici made the call to Gonzales who said, no way without a nod from Bush. Iglesias was fired. Therefore, Bush is tagged for giving the order, Get rid of him. Gonzales passed the word and the deed was done.

That sequence of events points directly to Bush as the final decider. He’s told us “I’m the decider” in public. Gonzales said as much to Domenici, no way unless the boss says so.

The problem is not only political but legal. Pressuring a U.S. Attorney into a bogus indictment is a federal crime. Domenici lawyered up after Iglesias described his conversation with the senator. Gonzales and Sampson both denied initiating the call on the firing. So it’s Bush, and only Bush, as the author of a punishment delivered to a U.S. Attorney who failed to indict a citizen for purely political purposes.

Now that’s what you call a high crime. Actually, it’s called election fraud, which is defined as “corruption of the electoral process … (by) elected or election officials, candidates, party organizations, advocacy groups or campaign workers.” Here we have politicians actively planning improper and illegal acts to influence an election through a contrived prosecution. It’s not that complicated.

High Crimes

The New Mexico affair is critical to determining if and how election fraud was committed in the White House. We have a lot of people talking, some getting lawyers, and a critical conversation reported in the Albuquerque Journal, 15 April 2007:

In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.

Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.

That’s the smoking gun. It’s the vital link to Bush committing election fraud. He’s a politician, the senior politician, corrupting the election process by replacing an honest prosecutor with someone who will cooperate the next time the Senator and the Congresswoman call with their requests that some prominent Democrat be indicted to give a hand to a campaign.

There is enough testimony, from a U.S. Attorney no less, to make a prima facie case that Bush committed election fraud. Ironically, the probable election fraud took place while the White House was promoting the Republican myth of voter fraud.

Let the impeachment process begin.