I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Enforcing the commitment of the anti-Murtha lawyers

(updated below)

The first rule of our political process is that anyone who prominently criticizes and opposes the Bush administration will be subject to vicious personal attacks, and the supplemental rule is that the more effective one's opposition is, the more hateful and personal the attacks will be. For that reason, Rep. Jack Murtha has been Public Enemy #1 among Bush followers ever since he spoke out against the war.

The lawsuit filed yesterday against Murtha based on his comments about the shootings of 24 civilians at Haditha is frivolous for multiple reasons. But worse than its legal inanities is the fact that its goal is so clearly to punish Murtha not for any supposed defamation, but because he is a prominent and effective political critic of the administration and of the war. He must therefore be smeared and punished, and that is clearly what this lawsuit is intended to accomplish.

The most damning fact about the motives behind lawsuit is that it is Rep. Murtha -- and only Rep. Murtha -- who is being sued for the alleged defamation, despite the fact that countless other public figures, including a sitting Republican Congressman, Bush loyalist Rep. John Kline, voiced similar and even more extreme accusations about the Marines in Haditha. And yet none of them has been named in this lawsuit. That's because, plainly, this lawsuit is about punishing Murtha for his political views and attempting to deter anyone from publicly criticizing the war and the Bush administration.

I was on the Alan Colmes Show last night to debate Mark Zaid, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Haditha staff sergeant against Murtha, and I made this point repeatedly, as did Colmes. In response, this is the commitment Zaid made:

I'll tell you what. I'm not aware of those other comments. If you e-mail them to me, I will be so happy to add those other Congressmen to the lawsuit as defendants, as I have the right to do. I will be more than happy. . .

The audio for the Colmes debate is here. The discussion leading to the above quote begins at 3:50.

In anticipation that Mr. Zaid will adhere to the commitment he made, I have sent him this morning the following e-mail:


Via e-mail

Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Dear Mr. Zaid:

I write to follow-up on the commitment you made last night on the Alan Colmes Show (I am simultaneously posting a copy of this letter on my blog). In response to your being repeatedly told that numerous other individuals made statements about the Haditha marines similar to those on which your lawsuit against Rep. Murtha is based, you vowed to "add those other Congressmen to the lawsuit as defendants" if those comments were e-mailed to you. Below are excerpts and citations for such statements not only for Rep. John Kline (R-MN), but also for the other public figures who made similar or even more extreme accusations regarding the Haditha killings:

The Washington Post, May 25

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a retired Marine helicopter pilot, said in an interview he thought Hagee was doing the right thing.

"I was saddened, surprised and outraged that this could happen," Kline said. He said he thought the incident would be regarded as "a horrific aberration" for the Marines.

Los Angeles Times, May 27

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a retired Marine colonel, said there was clearly an attempt to cover up the incident by those involved. But he said he did not think the Marine command was slow in investigating.

"There is no question that the Marines involved, those doing the shooting, they were busy in lying about it and covering it up — there is no question about it," Kline said.

9 News-NBC in Denver

Representative John Kline is a Republican from Minnesota. He said, "When you have Marines who have behaved so abominably as to allegedly shoot Iraqi civilians I'm not surprised that they would lie about it and cover it up."

CBS News, May 30

"It appears that the soldiers just lost it, their leaders weren't there to stop them, and they went on a rampage," commented CBS News Military Analyst Retired Army Col. Mitch Mitchell. "when one went, the others went and there's no way to stop something like that once it gets started."

The Washington Post, June 4

On March 10, the findings were given to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, the first Marine ever to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld told aides that the case promised to be a major problem. He called it "really, really bad -- as bad or worse than Abu Ghraib," recalled one Pentagon official.

This is just My Lai all over again," Vaughan Taylor, a former military prosecutor and instructor in criminal law at the Army's school for military lawyers, said last week. "It's going to do us enormous damage."

MSNBC, June 5

A senior defense official told the Associated Press last month that evidence points to unprovoked killings by the Marines involved.

NBC News, May 17 - the first article reporting on Rep. Murtha's statements

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines
, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine. “This one is ugly," one official told NBC News.

These are but a small sampling of comments which I happened to find yesterday once your lawsuit was announced. There are many others. That the Haditha killings were criminal has become the virtual consensus of those who have reviewed or otherwise been privy to the body of evidence concerning the Haditha killings, and Rep. Murtha is but one of many people to publicly make that clear. The idea that it was Rep. Murtha who principally, let alone exclusively, publicized the view that the Haditha killings were criminal is just absurd.

You claimed last night that you were aware only of the Murtha comments, a claim that is rather mystifying given that the above-excerpted comments were reported very recently by the largest media outlets in the country. It is difficult to understand how you could be aware only of Rep. Murtha's comments, unless those were the only ones in which you were interested. One would expect that a lawyer representing a Marine claiming to be defamed would search out all parties responsible for the supposed defamation.

Even one of the most virulent anti-Murtha attackers, the right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin, was forced to acknowledge that Rep. Kline made comments similar to those of Rep. Murtha's:

On May 18th, I was one of many bloggers on the Right to condemn Democrat Rep. John Murtha for blabbing about the still-not-complete investigation of alleged war atrocities by Marines at Haditha. (Formal findings are not expected for several weeks.) Since Murtha's widely broadcast accusations of Marines killing civilians "in cold blood," at least one other congressional rep-- GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota--has jumped the gun and gone on record issuing conclusions about what happened at Haditha before reports are finalized and hearings are convened. Bad.

If this lawsuit really is about holding accountable those whom you believe have unfairly maligned your client, rather than launching a partisan, politically motivated attack against a prominent and effective Bush critic, one would expect that you would immediately add Rep. Kline as a defendant, as you committed to doing, along with the other individuals who publicly made statements similar to those which serve as the basis for your lawsuit against Rep. Murtha.

Very truly yours,

Glenn Greenwald

If you know of any other comments from Rep. Kline or anyone else, please e-mail them to me or leave them in Comments and I will be sure to forward them. I'm sure that Mr. Zaid -- who repeatedly refused to answer who was funding this lawsuit -- is so very eager, just as he claimed he was, to name as many other people as possible as defendants to this lawsuit alongside Rep. Murtha. In particular, I would really look forward to the press conference similar to the flamboyant one held yesterday where it is announced that Rep. Kline and numerous others have been added as Rep. Murtha's co-defendants.

UPDATE: The audio for the Colmes debate is here. The discussion leading to the above quote begins at 3:50 and goes until 6:00 or so. I have received some great additional Kline quotes in Comments and by e-mail. Please keep them and similar ones from others coming.

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