Wednesday :: Dec 6, 2006

BOOK: United States v. George W. Bush et al. by Elizabeth de la Vega

by eriposte

Former Federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney Elizabeth de la Vega has a book just out titled United States v. George W. Bush et al.

I came to hear about this book through the author who kindly cited some of my work on the aluminum tubes in the reference section of her book (p. 251):

"aluminum tubes allegations": For an excellent analysis on this topic, see Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, "Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence," Washington Post (August 10, 2003). For a detailed chronology see the series by eriposte, "WMDgate: Fixing Intelligence Around Policy," The Left Coaster,

She indicated in her email that my work was helpful to her in writing Chapter 8 ("Day 7") of the book. I'd like to thank her for the citation (NOTE: The above URL has a link to all parts of my series on the aluminum tubes hoax. I've also collected those links at the bottom of this post).

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch has some commentary about the genesis of the book. Here, for example, de la Vega explains the motivation behind the book and its format:

Sometime last spring, I was on the phone with former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega talking about books she might someday write, when she suddenly said to me, "You know what I'd like to do?" When I asked what, she replied, "What I've done all my life."

"What's that," I wondered innocently enough.

"I'd like to draft an indictment of President Bush and his senior aides, and present the case for prewar intelligence fraud to a grand jury, just as if it were an actual case of mine, using the evidence we already have in the public record. That's the book I'd like to do."

With those three decades of publishing experience, I never doubted that this was an idea whose time should come -- and now it has. De la Vega has drawn up that indictment -- a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add -- convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.

Let me add some comments about (and extracts from) the book.

I haven't read the book in its entirety but I have read three chapters so far, including the one that discusses the aluminum tubes hoax (chapter 8). I have to say it is written well and in an engaging Q&A type format that is aimed at trying to recreate a grand jury environment. More than anything else I was impressed by de la Vega's methodical and prosecutorial approach to the issue. For example, here is what she wrote in the introductory chapter (emphasis mine):

We will meet for seven days. On day one, I'll present the indictment in the morning and in the afternoon I will explain the applicable law. On days two through seven, we'll have witness testimony, presented in transcript form, with exhibits.

As is the practice in most grand jury presentations, the evidence will be presented in summary form, by federal agents -- except that these agents are hypothetical. (Any relationship to actual federal agents, living or deceased, is purely coincidental.)

On day seven, when the testimony is complete, I'll leave the room to allow the grand jury to vote.

If the indictment and grand jury are hypothetical, the evidence is not. I've prepared for this case, just as I would have done for any other case in my years as a prosecutor, by reviewing all of the available relevant information. In this case, such information consists of witness accounts, the defendants' speeches, public remarks, White House press briefings, interviews, congressional testimony, official documents, all public intelligence reports, and various summaries of intelligence, such as in the reports of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the 9/11 Commission. I've discarded any evidence, however compelling, that is uncorroborated.

Then, using a sophisticated system of documents piled on every surface in my dining room, I've organized and analyzed the reliable information chronologically, by topic, and by defendant. I've compared what the President and his advisers have said publicly to what they knew and said behind the scenes. Finally, I've presented the case through testimony that will, I hope, make sense and keep everybody awake.

Although the book is about the crimes of this administration, de la Vega is also realistic:

In other words, in legal terms, there is probable cause to believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Powell violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States. Probable cause is the standard of proof required for a grand jury to return an indictment. Consequently, we have more than sufficient evidence to warrant indictment of the President and his advisers.

Do I expect someone to promptly indict the President and his aides? No. I am aware of the political impediments and constitutional issues relating to the indictment of a sitting president. Do those impediments make this merely an empty exercise? Absolutely not.

She explains why and exhorts all elected officials to do the right thing to avoid continuing the situation where there is no accountability for what was done to us. That said, what was most interesting to me is the comparison of what the Bush administration did to what Enron's management team did (emphasis mine, except the sub-title):

Indeed, the Enron prosecution did not involve the Sarbanes-Oxley Act at all. The main charge was conspiracy to defraud: that is, conspiring to deceive investors by manipulating financial data, making false and misleading statements, and deliberately omitting important facts, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

Manipulation of data, false and misleading statements, and material omissions -- sound familiar?

At trial, former Enron CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling claimed they were not responsible for the deception because they had no idea what their underlings were doing. As the jury was instructed, however, anyone who makes representations intending that the public will rely on them, has an affirmative obligation to make sure that they are true and accurate. Representations made with reckless indifference to their truth are as false as outright lies.

After four months of complex testimony, the jury reached a simple conclusion: Lay and Skilling were responsible for what went on in their company. As school principal Freddie Delgado put it: "I can't say that I don't know what my teachers were doing in the classroom. I am still responsible if a child gets lost."

In other words, the Enron jurors concluded that, legally, the desks of CEOs Lay and Skilling were the final repositories of the proverbial buck. Those jurors were average Americans -- office workers, educators, engineers, a nurse -- and they knew, even without the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, that CEOs should be held to the same standards of honesty and accountability that they would apply to themselves in their own lives. Faced with evidence that Lay and Skilling had repeatedly made public statements that were seriously undermined, if not flatly contradicted, by information and warnings they had received behind the scenes, the jury refused to allow them to avoid responsibility by blaming their subordinates.

Iraq: Misleading Statements and Material Omissions

The techniques of deception used by George W. Bush and his aides are identical to those used by Lay and Skilling. In his July 2002 speech announcing the signing of the Corporate Corruption Bill, the President said, "The only fair risks are [those] based on honest information." The President and his top advisers were acutely aware of the solemn risks posed by an invasion of Iraq, but instead of debating those risks honestly, they developed slogans, including the familiar "risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action" that simultaneously usurped and deflected counterarguments while providing no information whatsoever, honest or otherwise.

Such propaganda, cynical and craven as it is, might not qualify as criminal fraud, but the propaganda alone was insufficient to convince Congress and the American people to invest in the plan for war. To remedy this deficiency and close the deal, the President and his top aides made hundreds of representations, both general and specific, that were carefully crafted to manipulate public opinion. As we now know, many of those assertions were false and misleading. More important, we also now know that President Bush and his advisers had notice and direct knowledge that their representations were seriously undermined and in some key instances, disproved by information that was available to them. Consistently, the President and his aides knowingly conveyed false impressions, concealed important information, made deliberate misrepresentations, and professed certainty about facts that were speculative at best. Such is the definition of criminal fraud -- whether committed by the President of the United States or the CEO of a major corporation.

Excerpts from the first three chapters are posted here, here and here.

The chapters are a surprisingly quick read and her writing style intersperses meticulous documentation with an easy to follow narrative dissecting some of the complicated WMD-related hoaxes pulled by this administration. Those who are looking for a book written from the standpoint of an accomplished and analytical prosecutor who is seeking to explain complex information to a grand jury on a massive fraud (not unlike, but worse than, Enron - as de la Vega points out) will like this book. Some of you may also find this book useful when you are trying to tell the story of what really happened, to others who are not as tied into the details of the Bush/Cheney administration's systematic deception on Iraq's alleged WMDs (Purchase links: Barnes and Noble, Amazon).

P.S. As a final note, here is a ready reference to my research and reporting on the aluminum tubes hoax (to date).

There are also four other pertinent posts which I'd like to mention:


eriposte :: 6:02 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!