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Superb. Glenn Greenwald in Salon

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* * *
*Thursday May 17, 2007 08:42 EST*

   What will be done about James Comey's revelations?

*/The Washington Post/ Editorial page has been one of the most
establishment-defending organs over the last six years, repeatedly
minimizing or dismissing criticisms of the Bush administration and
reserving its vigor primarily for attacking Bush critics (and for
supporting the Iraq war). That's what makes its **Editorial this morning
James Comey's testimony -- entitled "The Gonzales Coverup" -- so
striking, and potentially indicative of a compelled acknowledgement by
the Beltway class of how serious the NSA scandal is and /how serious it
has been all along/. *

*The Editorial begins with this question and answer: *

   *Why is it only now that the disturbing story of the Bush
   administration's willingness to override the legal advice of its own
   Justice Department is emerging? The chief reason is that the
   administration, in the person of Attorney General Alberto R.
   Gonzales, stonewalled congressional inquiries and did its best to
   ensure that the shameful episode never came to light. *

*The Editorial is referring to the series of steps Gonzales took back in
February of last year -- which I documented * *here*
<http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/05/15/comey/index.html>* --
whereby Gonzales, along with other DOJ officials, successfully blocked
Ashcroft and Comey from testifying about the DOJ internal rebellion by
falsely insisting they had nothing to add. *

*And that's all true enough. As has been the case repeatedly over the
last six years, the administration issued false denials of wrongdoing
and then expected/demanded we place blind faith in those assurances and
thereby accept that there was no need to investigate further or compel
disclosure of their conduct. After all, the administration itself has
assured us that there was no wrongdoing here, that there were safeguards
in place, etc. etc. *

*But the equally significant answer to Hiatt's question -- "why is it
only now that the disturbing story of the Bush administration's
willingness to override the legal advice of its own Justice Department
is emerging?" -- is that the Beltway establishment, led by the likes of
Hiatt, decided that the President's lawbreaking was really nothing to be
too bothered by, that those who objected to it were shrill and
hysterical, and they found justification, or at least sufficient
mitigation, to look the other way and acquiesce to the notion that the
Bush administration could break the law at will and that there ought to
be no real consequences arising from that behavior. *

*For Hiatt to now act all bewildered and ask "why is it only now" that
we are learning of this misconduct is disingenuous in the extreme, given
that so much of the cause for that is found in the behavior of the Fred
Hiatts of the world. Perhaps, though, the Comey revelations are so
extreme that the Beltway establishment can no longer pretend that there
is a normal state of affairs with regard to how our government is
operating. Consider the uncharacteristically inflammatory rhetoric which
Hiatt then proceeds to spout: *

   *If you were Mr. Gonzales, you'd certainly want to make sure they
   stayed quiet. . . . Mr. Gonzales's lack of candor is no longer
   surprising. . . . *

   *What was the administration doing, and what was it willing to
   continue to do, that its lawyers concluded was without a legal
   basis? Without an answer to that fundamental question, the coverup
   will have succeeded. *

*To say that Alberto Gonzales' "lack of candor is no longer surprising"
is to say that the Attorney General of the United States is a serial
liar. Is that a state of affairs that we can just passively accept,
leaving it up to George Bush to decide whether he will remove his most
loyal follower as the country's chief law enforcement officer? If Bush
decides (as he almost certainly will, **for many reasons*
to keep Gonzales, then do we just meekly accept the fact that we have an
Attorney General who lies continuously -- not even with noble
intentions, but merely to conceal his own wrongdoing and illegality and
that of the President's? *

*And Hiatt's demand that we learn "what the administration was doing"
prior to Ashcroft and Comey's intervention -- and his statement that,
unless we find out, "the cover up will have succeeded" -- by itself
compels a full-scale confrontation with the administration on these
issues. How can Hiatt, having finally acknowledged how profound a
lawbreaking crisis this is, do anything other than relentlessly demand
all-out efforts to compel the administration finally to disclose what
happened here? *

*As former OLC official Marty Lederman * *noted*
last night, John Ashcroft and James Comey are both Republican ideologues
who proved that they were willing to endorse and defend even the most
radical (and illegal) behavior (including the lawless detention of Jose
Padilla and the administration's "refashioned" -- though still illegal
-- warrantless eavesdropping program). If /they/ were insisting that the
conduct of the Bush administration was not only illegal, but so illegal
that they were ready to resign en masse over it, then, as Lederman asks:
"can you even imagine how bad it must have been?" *

*There is just no excuse left for allowing the administration to keep
this behavior concealed from the country. What James Comey described on
Tuesday is the behavior of a government completely unmoored from any
constraints of law, operating only by the rules of thuggery,
intimidation, and pure lawlessness. Even for the most
establishment-defending organs, there are now indisputably clear facts
suggesting that the scope and breadth and brazenness of the lawbreaking
here is far beyond even what was known previously, and it occurred at
the highest levels of the Bush administration. *

*We are so plainly beyond the point of no return with this criminality.
It is now inescapably evident even for those who struggled for so long
to avoid acknowledging it. Here is one of the most
establishment-friendly voices of the Bush administration proclaiming the
Attorney General of the United States to be a chronic liar and accusing
the Bush administration -- as part of events in which the President was
**deeply and personally involved*
<http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/014166.php> *-- of engaging
in deliberate cover-up of blatant lawbreaking. *

*So what comes next? Hiatt doesn't really say. He calls for
investigations, but the administration has demonstrated that it will, to
use Hiatt's word, "stonewall" those investigations, rely upon
**precarious invocations *
privileges to prevent disclosure of key facts, * *conceal or "lose"
if necessary, * *ignore subpoenas*
<http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003231.php>*, and reflexively lie
about what it did. *

*James Comey's testimony amounts to a statement that -- even according
to the administration's own loyal DOJ officials -- the President ordered
still-unknown spying on Americans, and engaged in that spying for a full
two-and-a-half-years, that was so /blatantly and shockingly illegal/
that they were all ready to resign over it. And the President's Attorney
General then lied to ensure that this episode remain concealed. Mere
one-day calls for a Congressional investigation are woefully inadequate
here. *

*There is clear and definitive evidence of deliberate lawbreaking. In
addition to Congressional investigations, there is simply no excuse for
anything other than the immediate commencement of a criminal
investigation by a Special Prosecutor. And the administration ought to
be pressured every day to account for what it did here. This is not a
one-day or one-week fleeting scandal. These revelations amount to the
most transparent and deliberate crimes -- felonies -- by our top
government officials, not with regard to private and personal matters
but with regard to /how our government spies on us/. *

*Hiatt-like protests are welcome (even if inexcusably belated), but they
must be accompanied by genuine and relentless demands for follow-up and
accountability otherwise they will amount to nothing more than
inconsequential rhetoric. The Attorney General lied continuously, and
the administration concealed pervasive criminality at the highest levels
of our government. Even Fred Hiatt says so. So now what? *

*-- Glenn Greenwald*