Oct 31, 2007

The Costume Remains The Same...

Oct 26, 2007

LIke Sands Through The Hourglass...

Ryan's appeal denied

I am pleased that the full Court of Appeals has decided to let stand the initial careful opinion of the court’s majority, which held that the defendants received a fair trial.

Oct 19, 2007

What's All The Fuss About..?

Lawyer love The Fitzgerald file...

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is engaged!

One of the nation's most eligible bachelors and one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive" plans to marry a Head Start teacher from Chicago named Jennifer Letzkus, 34, whose family hails from Decatur.

And it was the Washington Post that got the scoop.

"We are obsessed with him," said scoopster Amy Argetsinger, who printed the zinger in Thursday's editions.

"We are so happy for them but we want to respect their privacy," said Peggy Letzkus, Jennifer's stepmother, who is married to Jennifer's dad, Gerald. The couple lives in Decatur, where their daughter may tie the knot in a small, private ceremony this spring.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald who helps maintain a lid on his boss' obsessive privacy, chuckled at how long it took us to find out.

"Several of you reporters have known for a few days," he told Sneed. "I'm surprised it took so long to come out."

• • Background: Letzkus, who was described as a former investment banker and a marathon runner, was formerly married to Chicagoan Jeremy Crisup in 2001 and divorced in 2004. She also reported a burglary based on forcible entry to her apartment in 2006.

The heartbreak blog . . .

Chuckle central: Fitzgerald, who has a terrific sense of humor, has handled his share of personal teasing since coming to Chicago . . . but check out this excerpt from the "The Little Pink Clubhouse" blog about his engagement.

"Patrick Fitzgerald is engaged. This is the worst day EVER!

"Ladies, the day we've dreaded is here. Bring your own Kleenex. This will be legendary!

"This calls for chocolate, more chocolate, and chocolate after that! My heart is BROKEN. He's supposed to be pining away for ME, and he gets himself engaged to some gorgeous marathon running, Head Start teaching, former investment banker? How can this BE? She sounds like she's just perfect for my heartthrob. [sob! sob! sniff!] Congratulations, you two. I hope you'll be blissfully happy together.

"In the meantime, I'll be cleaning out the chocolate supply in a three-state area!"

I couldn't have done it without everyone's help - it was love at first sight - my color coordinated suit and tie caught Jen's eye and according to her...I had her at "doh!" ;)

And thank you all for the well wishes and emails, especially Laura Bush -- though not quite sure what she meant by "marriage is not a word - it is a sentence!"

Oct 18, 2007

Narrow Stance On Marriage...


* Engaged: Patrick Fitzgerald, 46, to Chicago teacher Jennifer Letzkus, 34. We noticed the Very Special Prosecutor in the Scooter Libby case first, and People magazine put him in its "Sexiest Man Alive" issue. Now we've learned he's proposed to Letzkus, described as a former investment banker turned Head Start teacher and marathon runner (hard to compete with that résumé, ladies). First marriage for Fitz, second for her. Plans call for a small, private wedding, probably in the spring.

I am a lucky man.

Oct 17, 2007

Crossing I's And Dotting T's...

Court Gonna Busta Move Against White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. magistrate indicated Wednesday that a federal court may order the Bush administration to preserve copies of all White House e-mails, a move that a government lawyer argued strongly against.

U.S. Magistrate John M. Facciola asked Justice Department attorneys and a private group for suggested wording on a proposed court order in a lawsuit stemming from problems with the White House e-mail system.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the Executive Office of the President last month, demanding that any e-mails lost from White House computer servers be restored from computer backup tapes.

In the weeks since the group filed its lawsuit, the private organization says it has been unable to get assurances from the government that all White House backup tapes containing copies of e-mails will be preserved. The group, known by the acronym CREW, also says it has been unable to get assurances that the White House is using the backup tapes only once.

Facciola made clear that he is concerned.

Can the government provide assurances that the White House backup tapes of its e-mails have not been "obliterated and recycled?" asked Facciola.

CREW is trying to make sure the e-mail copies are being preserved so that the lawsuit "does not become an academic exercise," said Facciola.

"The Office of Administration is not recycling backup tapes," Justice Department attorney Helen Hong told the judge.

In response, CREW attorney Anne Weismann said the group is concerned about past practices by the Executive Office of the President and private contractors who might have handled backup tapes.

"I don't know how the White House defendants could have been made it more clear," Hong said. She said the administration's position is that there is no need for a court order. She offered to have the administration provide a sworn declaration of what it is preserving.

Facciola adjourned court for 20 minutes, asking the two sides to try to work out wording on an agreement of what has been preserved. After the attorneys said they were at an impasse, Facciola suggested the requirements for a court order had been met.

The Federal Records Act and the President Records Act require that all White House e-mail be preserved.

The lawsuit by CREW last month is similar to one filed earlier by the National Security Archive, a private group advocating public disclosure of government secrets.

The first indication of a problem with the White House e-mail system came nearly two years ago when special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald raised the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation involving the outing of Valerie Plame could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem.

The issue arose again early this year amid the controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys. Aides to Bush improperly used Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts for official business and an undetermined number of e-mails were lost.

Ultimately, the e-mails will be important years from now to historians delving into the inner workings of the Bush administration.

Oct 11, 2007

Citizen Heroes...

More Questions Over White House E-Mail

WASHINGTON (AP) — An ethics advocacy group asked a federal judge Thursday to order the White House to preserve tapes used to back up its e-mail system.

Asserting that the White House may not have kept copies of e-mails that are at the heart of a dispute over the Bush administration's record-keeping, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a motion asking for a court order to preserve computer backup tapes.

"The White House is refusing to confirm that they have maintained e-mail going back to the beginning of the administration as they are required by law to do," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

The group placed on the public record two Justice Department letters stating that the White House is maintaining all backup tapes that were in the possession of the White House Office of Administration as of Sept. 25, 2007, the date CREW sued the Executive Office of the President in the e-mail controversy.

The private group asked the Justice Department for information about what backup tapes were in the White House's possession, but the Justice Department has not provided an explanation.

The possibility that backup tapes may not contain copies of all White House e-mail is a new dimension to the controversy, which first arose in early 2006. CREW alleges that millions of White House e-mails are missing, and that the backup tapes contained the lone remaining copies.

"At present the missing e-mail records exist only on backup tapes and other mediums, if at all," CREW said in its court filing. "Thus, those backup tapes contain the only copies of important historical evidence of this presidency."

CREW is entitled to a temporary restraining order to prevent any further document destruction, the group said in its filing with U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, an appointee of President Clinton.

In the past, the White House has said it is aware that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived on a computer server for the Executive Office of the President and that the e-mails may have been preserved on backup tapes.

In response to the latest court filing, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said that because the matter is in court, he is referring to previous White Houses comments on the issue.

The White House has said that its Office of Administration is looking into whether there are e-mails that were not automatically archived and that if there is a problem, the necessary steps will be taken to address it.

The first indication of a problem came in nearly two years ago when special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald raised the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation involving the outing of Valerie Plame could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.

The issue arose again this year amid the controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys. Aides to Bush improperly used Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts for official business and an undetermined number of e-mails were lost.

Oct 9, 2007

"Vicious And Slashing,.."

Two at the top share their view from out house

Karl Rove keeps a newspaper picture of Lewis "Scooter" Libby and his wife on the day Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case. Rove says he holds onto it to remember.

"I'm really sad about Scooter," he said.

Although he does not say it, the picture may also be a reminder of what he avoided.

Rove adamantly denies doing anything wrong, but the investigation, which hung over him for years before special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald decided against seeking an indictment, gave more grist to enemies who see a ruthless Machiavellian willing to destroy his critics. Rove sees it the other way around; he sees a hunt for a crime that did not exist.

The investigation, Rove said, was his lowest moment at Bush's side. "It was really hard for me," he said. "I'm not bitter about it. But I'll tell you, my wife is bitter about all the people who carry those little badges that say, 'Press.' "

Foes assumed Rove's resignation as deputy chief of staff was connected to his role in the U.S. attorney firings, but Rove scoffs at that notion.

"I'm the evil genius," he said, mocking his reputation. More seriously, he said, "I understand there are people out there who really don't like me. And the question is, am I going to let it bother me? I ignore the ugly things that are said." <more>

Oct 7, 2007

Mouth Zero...

Novak: Wilson did not forcefully object to naming of CIA wife in column

Columnist Robert Novak said Saturday Ambassador Joe Wilson did not forcefully object to the naming of his CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, when Novak spoke to him prior to the publication of a column that sparked a federal investigation and sent White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to jail.

“He was not terribly exercised about it,” Novak said.

Instead, Wilson focused on not being portrayed as simply an opponent of the Iraq war. Wilson also stressed that his wife went by his last name, Wilson, rather than Plame, Novak said.

Novak forcefully defended his handling of the column and the legal wrangling that surrounded the special counsel investigation in a seminar on the CIA leak case at the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists Convention.

“It was an off-hand remark to a question I asked in an interview I requested,” Novak said. “This was not a conspiracy in the federal government to go after Valerie Plame Wilson.”

Novak said he complied with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s subpoena to testify because his lawyer told him he had no legal grounds to resist, and losing a court fight could erode the legal protections of the press. He noted that, as a syndicated columnist, he had to pay the legal fees himself, to the tune of $160,000. His home newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, contributed $30,000, he said.

He was surprised when the questioning began, that he was not pressed on his source. The reason, he said, was that Fitzgerald already knew that it was then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

At one point, he recalled, former White House aide Kenneth Duberstein called Novak on Armitage’s behalf, asking if Armitage was the source.

“I said, ‘I can’t give you that information,’” Novak said with a grin.

Novak said his critics, including those in the press, have attacks his ethics, when in fact their quarrel was with his ideology.

“I was stunned by how little editorial support I received. I was under assault from editorial writers from across the country,” Novak said. “It is startling how little is known about this case by the people who are commenting on it.”

He said his case shows the need for a shield law like the one approved last week by a Senate committee. But he added, “Is it not hypocritical for my critics to support a law that would have saved me from three years of confrontation?”

Oct 4, 2007

My Point Of View...

Shield Law Perils . . .
Bill Would Wreak Havoc on a System That Isn't Broken

By Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a "shield law" for journalists that would radically alter the way national security investigations are conducted. Unlike state shield laws, a federal shield law poses unique obstacles to the protection of national security. We must know whether the proposed law squarely addresses a real problem before taking such a significant step.

Let's start from the common premise that a robust and free press and fair and effective law enforcement are both vital to our democracy. Since the Supreme Court ruled 35 years ago that reporters are obligated to comply with grand jury subpoenas, there has been no shortage of whistle-blowers -- from Watergate to Abu Ghraib. And the Justice Department operates under rigorous regulations restricting the issuance of subpoenas to journalists. These regulations, which require balancing the competing public interests in law enforcement and the flow of information to the media, have yielded only a trickle of subpoenas.

Against this background, a compelling case has not been made for jettisoning the legal framework that has guided this process for the past 35 years.

A threshold question lawmakers should ask is whether reporters will obey the law if it is enacted. They should ask because the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press calls for a shield law while urging journalists to defy the law when a court upholds a subpoena for source information. Any shield bill should require that a person seeking its protection first provide the subpoenaed information under seal to the court, to be released only if the court orders the information disclosed.

The proposed shield law poses real hazards to national security and law enforcement. The bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and the Robb-Silberman commission on prewar intelligence both found our national security at great risk because of the widespread leaking of classified information. The proposed law would have the unintended but profound effect of handcuffing investigations of such leaks. In many cases, authorities would face the Catch-22 of being required to prove specific criminal activity -- in a hearing before a judge, often resulting in notice to the subjects of investigation or their associates -- before they could take the investigative steps to determine whether criminal activity had occurred. In effect, the law would require "trial before investigation." Even worse, in cases involving leaks of classified information, the law would require the government to disclose in a hearing the specific damage caused by the leak -- information often more sensitive than the leak itself.

On a practical level, the bill would cause delays -- measured in years -- in national security investigations because prosecutors would be litigating (and appealing) instead of investigating serious crimes. As but one example, if classified nuclear secrets were published in a newspaper citing official sources at the Pentagon, the FBI would need to litigate with the newspaper before being allowed to use subpoenas to follow the trail of the Pentagon's own telephone or e-mail records. And the FBI might well lose because the bill, puzzlingly, requires that agents prove that the leak occurred without relying on the newspaper article.

The bill would have other serious consequences. "Journalism" is so broadly defined that it includes not just newspapers and bloggers but also criminal organizations that disseminate information widely. In recent cases in Chicago, this bill would have qualified as journalists:
  • "Charity" groups that raised money through Internet postings, purportedly for widows and orphans, but that actually diverted the funds to groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.
  • An Iraqi spy who had a cover job as a journalist.
  • A violent street gang that pirated a religious radio station to broadcast messages to gang members.
  • Child pornographers who shared information over the Internet.
The shield bill appears to address the first two cases but does not. The bill does not protect people if the government proves they are acting on behalf of a foreign terrorist group or foreign power. But the bill also handcuffs investigators from taking the steps necessary to obtain that proof. The bill does not even purport to exclude domestic terrorists, gangs or pedophiles. No senator or legitimate journalist wants to extend protection to terrorists or other criminals, but such is the vice of a law defining journalism.

Any shield bill raises important questions for our democracy and warrants close scrutiny. Certainly those who advocate a shield law do not wish to compromise national security or public safety. Similarly, those who oppose such a law intend neither to cripple the free press nor to suffocate dissent. Before acting in this sensitive area, Congress should take care that any legislation addresses demonstrated needs and does not create dangerous unintended consequences for national security and law enforcement. Congress -- and the public -- ought to be assured that the people who propose the shield law will themselves obey it. The proposed bill fails all these tests.

The writer is the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Senate Panel Approves Press Shield Bill