I wanted to discuss with former U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey the ethics of his pursuit of Jose Padilla, when Comey knew full well (and had even admitted) that Padilla’s “confessions” could never be used in a court of law. Comey’s behavior vis a vis the Padilla case, now being tried in Miami, raised many questions.
When arrested in 2002 Padilla was accused of planning to set off “dirty bombs.” Why, then, at a news conference on June 1, 2004, did Comey offer brand new charges against Padilla without ever explaining the reason for dropping the “dirty bomb” charges. According to the new charges, Padilla was to “locate high-rise apartment buildings that had natural gas supplied to all floor…rent two apartments in each buildings…seal those apartments, turn on the gas and set times to detonate and destroy the buildings simultaneously..”
All this information, Comey claimed, came directly from Padilla who had been deprived of counsel. Comey said he needed to keep Padilla away from lawyers for a very good reason.. “If I can’t credibly threaten criminal charges, no lawyer in the world is going to tell their client to talk to me, because a good lawyer would know what I’m sure Padilla’s lawyers knew, – that if you just clam up, they can’t do anything with this.”
Thus, in one sweep of his hand, James Comey, a seriously committed Republican, had decided that he – Comey– personally, didn’t need to follow the rules laid down by the Supreme Court in the Miranda decision .“… You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.” (Emphasis added.)
Even if he resembles James Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” does the Deputy Attorney General of the United States of America get to chose, when, if ever, Miranda is applicable to an American citizen?
A second question I had for Comey concerned his response to Bush’s secret monitoring of U.S. citizens. Comey stunned members of the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee and the media on May 3, 2007 with his account of this political drama played out late at night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room.
On the bed, lay the ill and medicated Ashcroft flanked by his Deputy Attorney General Comey and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. On the other side White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales lobbying a reluctant Ashcroft to give his permission to the President re-authorizing Bush’s secret monitoring program. Comey, as acting Attorney General while Ashcroft was ailing, had deep-sixed it, refused to sign off. There in the hospital room Comey held firm. Card got all bent out of shaped and ordered Comey go to the White House the next day for a one-on-one meeting with Bush. Comey refused unless he could have an independent witness to the meeting. No deal.
The next day Bush and Comey met and Comey let it be known that he, and Mueller, and others would resign en masse if the pressure continued. Bush backed down. But within a few months, the program resumed, without Justice Department approval. No one was the wiser.
Why didn’t Comey resign when he realized that the program of secret monitoring of U.S. citizens had resumed? Why didn’t he go public at that point? There most certainly was precedent. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…
Watergate: Attorney General Eliot Richardson appoints a “special prosecutor” Archibald Cox to investigate on behalf of the American people. Quickly Nixon orders Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refuses Richardson personally handed in his resignation to the President. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig orders Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus publicly resigns. Cox insists on being fired and he is. Thus the Saturday Night Massacre was born. Now. Here were three men who did the right thing.
At his resignation speech Comey made murky and recondite remarks as quoted in a Newsweek story, Feb. 6, 2006.
Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right—and to doing the right thing—whatever the price. These people," said Comey, "know who they are. Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way." (Emphasis added)
How did Comey’s reflection about “ doing the right thing—whatever the price” square with moving from the second highest post in the Department of Justice to being named Vice President & General Counsel of Lockheed Martin, a multi-billion dollar company that has paid just under $1 billion in fines for its criminal “national defense” work and, even now, is being investigated by the Justice Department?
Lockheed Martin is the same organization that can’t build boats that float for the Coast Guard, instead turning out boats that leak sea water and national security secrets. This $24 billion “Deepwater” fiasco has set new standards for incompetence, and triggered a Justice Department investigation of the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, created specifically for the Deepwater job. The story was in all the papers and on 60 Minutes .
James M. Atkinson, an electronics engineer who specializes in the hunting of spies, was one of those who testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Deepwater. Atkinson told legislators that the eight, 123-foot Coast Guard cutters, built at a cost of $34 million(please note corrected figure), not only can’t sail, but that if they tried, they would leak both sea water and national security secrets from their easily hi-jackable, pregnable communications systems.
The Coast Guard now claims it will seek damages from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for eight failed patrol boats amounting to $60-100 million. The entire Deepwater Project maybe $48 billion. (please note corrected figures) Atkinson minces no words about Lockheed Martin. He writes that essentially Lockheed Martin has confessed to being an on-going criminal enterprise with 80 additional criminal and civil cases, convictions (or admission of guilt) for fraud and related infractions .
Comey is taking home a million dollar plus salary, complete with bonuses and stock options. I guess he didn’t want to answer questions about any of his activities–not about Padilla, not about his limp protest to secret monitoring of U.S. citizens, not about his new position with the company in “deep water doo doo.” He declined my request for an interview.
“I don't think I've ever been so thrilled in my whole life, and that Lincoln Memorial! Gee Whiz! And Mr. Lincoln, there he is. He's just lookin' right straight at ya as you come up those steps. Just, just sitting there like he was waiting for somebody to come along.” – Mr. Smith
(please note two corrections in cost figures for the Deepwater Project in the last four paragraphs)
(With Rachel M. Koch)
Lew can be reached at lew dot koch at gmail dot com.