Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


The Archibald Cox Lesson

A little history in case the name doesn't ring a bell: Archibald Cox was the first Watergate special prosecutor. When the existence of Nixon's audiotapes was discovered, Cox insisted that they be turned over as part of the Watergate investigation. Nixon, knowing what disclosure of those tapes would mean for him, refused. When Cox likewise refused to back down and when the courts refused to let the White House off the hook by rejecting their appeals (and White House claims that such investigations were irresponsible "at a time of serious world crisis"), Nixon demanded that the Attorney General fire Cox, triggering what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. (That link is to the Washington Post's excellent 1973 reporting of the event, which was republished to the web as part of their Watergate 25th Anniversary commemoration.) In short, the both the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General resigned rather than carry out the President's order and it eventually fell to Solicitor General Robert Bork (later to become Ronald Reagan's famously failed nominee to the Supreme Court) to do Nixon's dirty work.

All of this Archibald Cox history is preamble, framing for the rest of this post. Because of the principled, non-partisan actions of Cox (backed up by Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus), American citizens learned the truth of what a corrupt White House was up to. Unfortunately for America's citizens, politicians have learned a few new tricks in the years since Watergate. Today, political loyalty is rewarded and perceived disloyalty is punished swiftly and quietly. Take the case of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, a military lawyer given the job of defending Guantanamo detainees. Lt. Cmdr. Swift's client was only given access to legal counsel on the condition that he plead guilty; the government didn't expect that his lawyer would actually try to defend him. You can read Swift's testimony before the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Detainees online. His superiors at the Office of Military Commissions (tribunals) have given him glowing reviews: "He has been absolutely fearless is pursuing his client's interests. And also he has exhibited an extraordinary level of legal skill. His legal strategy has been brilliant. We all take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and he has certainly done that, literally." Yet, somehow, he's now been passed over for promotion, effectively ending his career in the military. Wouldn't want any "brilliant" lawyers who exhibit "an extraordinary level of legal skill" traipsing around defending people!

Or, take today's revelation from the New York Times: Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office.
Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen's supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The most interesting part of the article to me was when Republican lawmakers admit that they don't know how the clause terminating the office was inserted. Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree. "It's truly a mystery to me," Ms. Collins said. "I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time. The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion," she said.

Even members of the President's own party are waking up and realizing that what is going on out there is not good for America. What is it going to take for America's citizens to wake up and demand accountability or insist that their elected officials act in our best interest?


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