The Chertoff Century
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He hasn’t been the head of the DHS since the Republicans went out in 2009, but like an STD, Michael Chertoff continues to infect the nation. In a powerful video, BrasscheckTV reminds us that he is profiting greatly from his continuing fear-mongering, because he represents the company that makes the dangerous, privacy-violating scanners that have been installed in airports in response to the strange thwarted attack by the African underwear bomber. Brasscheck suggests that we should call the current era the “Chertoff Century” because of his pernicious influence, from primary authorship of the freedom-destroying Patriot Act all the way to his current role profiting from the airport radiation gauntlets.
Particularly chilling is the second Brasscheck video, originally aired on MSNBC, of the horrors visited upon the people of New Orleans in the wake of the Katrina disaster. We have been led to believe that the primary responsibility for the extraordinarily poor performance of federal rescuers lay with FEMA head Michael D. Brown and secondarily with President George W. Bush who prematurely proclaimed that “Brownie” was “doing a heck of a job.” It was easy to forget at the time that Chertoff, as head of the Department of Homeland Security, had immediate responsibility for FEMA’s failures because FEMA is under DHS. The almost demonic treatment of the people at the New Orleans Convention Center also raises questions as to whether there might have been more than pure incompetence involved. One has to wonder if this might have been some social experiment cooked up by Chertoff and his cohorts in preparation for worse things that they might have in store for the country.
Conspicuously missing from Brasscheck’s litany of charges against Chertoff is that before he was DHS head, he was the head of the criminal division of the Department of Justice. That put him in the key position to solve the crime of 9/11 and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Put another way, he was in the perfect position to cover the crime up. He was the man responsible for sending back to Israel the so-called “dancing Israelis” who were seen apparently celebrating the attack on the twin towers, even after they were found to be employed not by a legitimate moving company but by the Mossad. And it was on his watch that the evidence in the form of the destroyed buildings in New York was quickly gathered up and sold for scrap abroad.
Brasscheck also takes a rather bizarre turn in the first video, connecting Chertoff to Nazis, of all people. It’s a very strange connection to make, considering the man’s background, as described by Wikipedia:
Chertoff was born on November 28, 1953 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His father is Rabbi Gershon Baruch Chertoff (1915–96), a Talmud scholar and the former leader of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Elizabeth. His mother is Livia Chertoff (née Eisen), an Israeli citizen and the first flight attendant for El Al. His paternal grandparents are Rabbi Paul Chertoff and Esther Barish Chertoff.
Chertoff’s Wikipedia page also tells us this: “Despite his friendly relationship with some Democrats, Chertoff took an active role in the Whitewater investigation against Bill and Hillary Clinton, serving as the special counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee studying allegations against the Clintons.”
As we noted in “America’s Dreyfus Affair,” the investigations into the Whitewater land development scheme was really just a cover for the cover-up of the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. by both the Special Prosecutor and the Congress. When Chertoff was made the DOJ criminal division head I was already all too familiar with how he had performed in that previous capacity. One can readily conclude that what he did was not “despite his friendly relationship” with the most corrupt of the Democrats, particularly the Clintons, but because of it.
That knowledge prompted me to write what follows some four months after the September 11, 2001 turning point in our history. The only change I have made is to refresh some of the 9/11 links.
Michael Chertoff, Master of the Cover-up
Why do I doubt that Osama bin Laden was behind the atrocities of September 11? In the first place, it was a sly, covert operation. The massive U.S. budget for such things, which exceeds the gross national product of most of the countries of the world, is not spent in vain. In the covert world there is as little room for small, independent operators in the United States as there is in the news business, the automobile business, or the drug business. Every political organization you can think of, especially those who wish ill for America's ruling establishment, is thoroughly laced with informants on the federal payroll, recent lamentations about a shortage of "humint" resources notwithstanding. Furthermore, trickery and deceit are the life's blood of the intelligence community. Israel's Mossad even has it enshrined in the organization's motto, "By way of deception thou shalt do war."
The whole case for Osama bin Laden's guilt rests upon the assurances of people whose business it is to fool us, abetted, as usual, by another group who, through the years, have shown that it is their business as well, the American news media. With the record that they have established with the first World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Waco massacre, the crashes of TWA 800 and Pan Am 103, going all the way back to their treatment of the John F. Kennedy assassination and further, we simply have no reason to trust a single thing they tell us. Recent history has shown that the more important the matter, the greater the likelihood that they will lie to us about it.
Then, of course, there are the numerous unanswered questions with respect to 9-11 itself. Why did America's air defenses remain utterly supine while one jet airliner after another departed radically from its proper flight path? Why did President George W. Bush, upon being notified that a second airplane had plowed into the World Trade Center, continue listening to a story being read to a second grade class and apparently issue no instructions to subordinates? How did pilots who were inept at the controls of puddle-jumping trainer planes, on their first venture into the complicated cockpits of large jetliners perform so expertly? How, as we were told in the cases of Lee Harvey Oswald and Timothy McVeigh before them, were the perpetrators so expert in carrying out their plot and so inept in covering their trails? Put another way, how were the authorities so inept in discovering and preventing such a sweeping scheme but so quick and expert in tracking down the perpetrators? Why did those indestructible black boxes turn out to be so destructible, and what happened to the recordings of conversations between the flight controllers and the cockpits? Who were the people who made, or attempted to make, a fortune by short-selling or buying put options of stock of companies that suffered from the 9-11 attacks, and why has news of investigation into this matter disappeared? Why is investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings being handled in such an unprofessional manner, with apparently the same sort of wholesale destruction of evidence going on that happened at Oklahoma City and at Waco? And why do putative opponents of the U.S. government persist in doing things that could hardly be more detrimental to their own causes while aiding immeasurably the elements of the U.S. government that represent unaccountable power?
Add to all that the report of the Pakistani diplomat, Niaz Naik, that people close to high level policy makers in the United States were talking about attacking Afghanistan back in the mid-summer, and the warning of the brother-in-law of a friend of mine that was relayed to me in early August that the United States was "going to war," and you can you can see that my cup virtually runneth over with reasons not to believe the official version of events. (The friend's brother-in-law runs a munitions-related factory and his firm prediction was based upon a huge recent increase in orders from the U.S. government.)
Those who are just now stepping up to the skepticism table with respect to 9/11 might want to pay a visit, for starters, to the following web sites:
The Same Actors
On top of all those reasons for doubt is the fact that a proven master in the art of the cover-up has been placed by President George W. Bush in the position of greatest responsibility for solving the 9-11 crime. The new head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice is the New Jersey lawyer, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff was minority counsel in the first Senate investigation related to the death of Vincent Foster and majority special counsel in the second such Senate investigation.
As any open-minded person the least bit familiar with the Foster case can see, it was decided in advance that nothing would come out of either investigation. Neither of them, in fact, had the stated purpose of even determining whether or not there was foul play in Foster's death, a fact which has not prevented defenders of the official suicide-from-depression line from representing them as among the "numerous" Foster death investigations that ruled out murder. The stated purpose of the first Senate investigation was to determine if there had been any improper intervention in the probe by the U.S. Park Police of Foster's death. The second, similarly, was to determine if White House officials had behaved improperly in handling Foster's documents after his death. Overall, the Republican led sound and fury related to Whitewater, of which the Foster inquiry was a part, filled twenty thick volumes with its transcripts, and one must wonder what difference it could possibly have made for the country in the unlikely event that an affirmative conclusion had been reached in the Foster matter. The aim of this august body, right from the beginning, was for the capillaries.
Michael Chertoff was at the front table for most of the volume-filling testimony of witnesses. Often he was the person doing the questioning. Those in the news media and on the Internet playing the role of conservative Republicans have their work cut out for them if they are to persuade us that a new day has dawned with the replacement of Bill Clinton by George W. Bush, given the virtuoso cover-up performance of the latter's new top cop in the Foster case. Still, when Chertoff's appointment was announced, a gushing 1996 article about Chertoff in the Weekly Standard was dredged up and posted on the "conservative" Internet discussion group, Free Republic, and the gathered multitudes there rushed to praise him.
Here is how Matthew Rees begins "Who Is Michael Chertoff" in William Kristol's mysteriously financed little rag (January 29, 1996):
Michael Chertoff, Chief Counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee can make smart people look stupid. Fade back to the summer of 1995. He is getting his first crack at the Clinton inner circle in the matter of the death of Vincent Foster, deputy White House counsel, two years before. In an intense cross-examination, he asks Susan Thomases, New York lawyer and close friend of Hillary Clinton, why she was notified before President Clinton of the discovery of a torn up note in Foster's briefcase six days after his death. She explains that the president was out of town. Most lawyers would follow up by asking why the president's being away presented a problem. But Chertoff commands a more expeditious means of torpedoing her explanation: He points out that Thomases herself was out of town.
Amidst all the minutiae of Foster's death, not every lawyer would have recalled the whereabouts of Susan Thomases at a moment's notice. But Chertoff is a lawyer of rare skill. A 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School, he studied under Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and worked on the law review. His prowess at argument made him the inspiration for not one but two characters in Scott Turow's bestselling book about law students, One L. He went on to clerk for Supreme Court justice William Brennan, who called him "exceptional." Later, Chertoff had a meteoric rise through the ranks as a U.S. attorney in New York (his boss was Rudy Giuliani) and New Jersey, successfully prosecuting four mayors, as well as notorious figures like consumer electronics tycoon "Crazy Eddie" and Genovese crime king Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno.
What a fine example of Chertoff at work! As I point out in the first part of "America's Dreyfus Affair: The Case of the Death of Vincent Foster," the "delay" in reporting the "discovery" of the "suicide note" was obviously nothing but a clever distraction from more substantive matters associated with the note and with the case generally. It helped explain why it took so long for the note to come to light, when, in all likelihood, it was being forged. If there had been anything important about the "delay" the people in the White House would never have volunteered the fact that there had been such a delay. This was not a fact that had been ferreted out by enterprising White House reporters–of which there are precisely none.
Now here we see Chertoff adding a distraction to a distraction by making a fuss over the supposed delay in notifying the president about it, as though it made any difference in the larger scheme of things even if the president had had to learn about the note in the newspapers, and the author Rees warbles his praises over Chertoff's perspicacity.
There were far more interesting and important questions to ask about the note, questions that you would never hear from Chertoff, the Senators, or the other staff. Hadn't Foster's boss, Bernard Nussbaum completely emptied out and inventoried the contents of the briefcase in which the note was ostensibly found, and hadn't he done it in the presence of a number of people, including FBI agents and Park Police officers? How could he have possibly missed every one of 27 or 28 pieces of a torn-up yellow legal sheet? How could anyone using a gloveless hand tear a sheet of paper up that way and leave not a single finger print? Why had the Park Police used an unqualified member of the U.S. Capitol Police to authenticate the note, providing him with only one other document to compare with Foster's handwriting? Wasn't that a technique guaranteed to produce a conclusion that the note was indeed written by Foster? Why wouldn't the government allow anyone to have a look even at a photocopy of the note, and why was the Foster "family lawyer" so insistent that the original of the note be returned to the family? And finally, wasn't the poorly organized, childishly peevish note completely uncharacteristic of someone as learned and polished as the experienced litigator and legal brief writer, Foster?
Taken altogether, virtually everything about the note screams out "forgery"(See "The Plotters".), but here is Chertoff being praised for pretending to reveal misconduct in the speed of internal notification about its fictitious discovery. This, in a microcosm, is how cover-ups are carried out in America today.
Before we look at another example of our new top cop's cover-up skills, let's have a last look at who's lavishing the praise on Chertoff. It is the Weekly Standard magazine, edited by William Kristol. He is one of the local Washington journalists who was visited by the aggrieved witness, Patrick Knowlton, and his lawyer, John Clarke, in an effort to get him or someone at his magazine to write about Knowlton's harassment and his lawsuit against members of the FBI and others over the harassment. Instead, the Weekly Standard has continued to publish only stories that parrot the official line and to suppress all information that might raise doubts.
This should come as no surprise to those people who know anything about the CIA propagandist background of William's neoconservative father, Irving Kristol (Do Google search of "Irving Kristol" "CIA" and feast on the evidence that comes pouring out.).
Chertoff in Action
Now let's have a closer look at the intense interrogation techniques of Mr. Chertoff in the Foster case. Hearings are taking place on July 20, 1995, exactly two years to the day after the Deputy White House Counsel and former law partner of Hillary Clinton had been found lying face up behind a berm in the far end of an obscure Civil War relic in Virginia called Fort Marcy Park. The park is about a mile from CIA headquarters, accessible at its main entrance from the scenic George Washington Parkway, which doubles as a busy commuter route, and from its back side from Chain Bridge Road.
The Republicans had gained control of the Senate, so New York Republican Alfonse D'Amato has become chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Whitewater Development Corporation and Related Matters, and Michael Chertoff is now Special Counsel and primary interrogator for the majority.
He could hardly have a more important witness on the stand. It is Sergeant Cheryl Braun of the U.S. Park Police, one of the two officers given primary responsibility for investigating Foster's death. Although, the lead investigator on paper was Detective John Rolla, she is probably the more important of the two because Rolla is on his first death investigation and Braun is quite experienced in the field. She also comes across as a good deal more serious and professional and, frankly, smarter than Rolla. She is Oliver Hardy to Rolla's Stan Laurel (See a good example of Rolla on the stand in "The Counsel, the Cop, and the Keys."
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chertoff.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome everybody. It's evident you're all experienced in the area of law enforcement. Sergeant Braun, let me direct my attention to you first. I'd like to focus, please, on July 20, 1993 at around 6 p.m. Did you get a call to attend a scene of a violent death at that point in time?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes I did.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Who did you go to the scene with?
Ms. BRAUN. I went to the scene with Investigator Rolla and Investigator Apt.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Did you find at the scene the body of Vincent Foster?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes I did.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Approximately how long did you remain at the scene that evening?
Ms. BRAUN. Until approximately 8:30 in the evening.
Mr. CHERTOFF. You remained there with Detective Rolla?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Where did you go next?
Ms. BRAUN. After we left the scene, we went to the hospital to retrieve some property.
Mr. CHERTOFF. After you were at the hospital, did you get a call to go pick somebody up?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes we did.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Who was that?
Ms. BRAUN. We were requested to pick up Mr. David Watkins to allow him and his wife to assist us with the notification of the Foster family.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Did you pick up David Watkins?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes sir.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Can you tell us how Mr. Watkins introduced himself to you, what he told you his position was?
Ms. BRAUN. It's been 2 years. I don't remember exactly how he introduced himself. It was fairly informal. He introduced himself as David Watkins, and he presented me with one of his business cards.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Did you learn from that business card that he was a senior official at the White House in charge of administration?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Where did you and Detective Rolla take Mr. Watkins?
Ms. BRAUN. We took Mr. Watkins to Mr. Foster's home in Georgetown.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Is it fair to say you arrived there sometime between 10 and 10:30 p.m.?
Ms. BRAUN. As my recollection serves me, it was around 10 p.m.
Mr. CHERTOFF. In the car, did you have any discussion with Mr. Watkins on the way to the Foster residence?
Ms. BRAUN. We had a brief conversation. I recall asking Mr. Watkins if he had any indications why Mr. Foster would have committed suicide, and at that point, the only thing he could tell me was that he knew that Mr. Foster was upset over the Travelgate press that he had been getting.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Was there any discussion in the car with Mr. Watkins about whether there was a note that had been found at the scene in Fort Marcy Park?
Ms. BRAUN. No, I don't recall any conversation to that effect.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Now, what was the reason you wanted to go to the house with Detective Rolla?
Ms. BRAUN. We were responding to the Foster home to make the death notification to Mr. Foster's wife and relatives.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Typically, does that process of making a death notification also involve a certain investigative element?
Ms. BRAUN. Yes, it does.
Mr. CHERTOFF. What is that?
Ms. BRAUN. In a situation like that, it would be to look for information that would confirm that the suicide victim was despondent or had made prior attempts, anything that would confirm our suspicions that it was, in fact, a suicide.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Now, you've said "suspicions" that it was a suicide. Recognizing that we're concerned with your state of mind as it was that night, not what we know 2 years later–as of that night, had you concluded from an investigative standpoint that it was a suicide?
Ms. BRAUN. I was fairly certain that it was a suicide but, during the course of an investigation, you would look for other information just to confirm it.
Mr. CHERTOFF. So you still had to hold open the possibility of something else?
Ms. BRAUN. That's correct.
Mr. CHERTOFF. Can you describe very briefly what occurred, what the scene was at the Foster home when you arrived there with Mr. Watkins? (End excerpt.)
How about that? Did Chertoff impress you with his incisive questioning, his "prowess at argument?" He certainly showed me that he knows enough about the Foster case to know what not to ask, that is, if his purpose is to prevent the truth from coming out. When Ms. Braun told us that after she and Rolla left Fort Marcy Park they first went to the hospital to "retrieve some property," a simpler person would have wondered out loud what property it was they thought they might "retrieve" at the hospital, of all places, and how it might be so important as to take precedent over talking to the family about Foster's death. Chertoff, though, is smart enough, and knowledgeable enough, to give that topic a wide berth. And notice how coy and careful Ms. Braun is as well, not specifying what the property might be nor explaining anything about the retrieval mission. One can almost picture the two of them winking at one another as she made her statement. To see what it is they are waltzing around, and also to enjoy the contrast in sophistication between the investigating partners, Braun and Rolla, check out this questioning of John Rolla from the first Senate inquiry on July 21, 1994:
Q. Did you get any keys?
A. I searched his pants pockets. I couldn't find a wallet or nothing in his pants pockets. Later on Investigator Braun and myself searched the car...We searched the car and we were puzzled why we found no keys to the car...As it turned out Investigator Braun and myself went to the morgue in Fairfax hospital, after we made a death notification, to recheck him. (End Rolla excerpt)
Now you see why Chertoff let Braun's curious statement pass. He might exhibit a great public curiosity over a supposed delay in notifying the president about the supposed discovery of a supposed suicide note, but when it comes to the question of how Braun and Rolla might have managed to miss two sets of keys with at least eight keys and some other items on the rings when searching Foster's pockets, Chertoff has no interest.
With his great command of the case, he might have reminded Ms. Braun that her chronology of the night's events is at odds with Mr. Rolla's earlier chronology. Notice that according to Rolla, they made the death notification to the family first and then they went to the morgue. That would have given the White House team of William Kennedy III and Craig Livingstone, on a mission for which they curiously volunteered to "identify the body," more than enough time to plant the keys in the pants pocket of the Foster corpse. If the detectives went immediately to the morgue after failing to turn up the keys that Foster would have needed to have driven himself to the park, the possibility is raised that the White House team would not have had time to get there ahead of them, although, in fact, they certainly did.
How Was Suicide Determined?
The most glaring and unforgivable omission in the questioning comes at the point where Chertoff has gotten Braun to state that as they left the park she was "fairly certain that it was a suicide." At this point, there is only one question for any conscientious examiner to ask, and that is "Why?" What did she discover there that made her virtually rule out murder?
Clearly, Chertoff and all other Senate questioners of the Park Police knew better than to go down that road. They knew, like Washington Post/Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff knew when he chose not to report on the harassment of witness Patrick Knowlton that it would only "raise more questions" that the authorities are not prepared to answer.
Had he asked her the obvious question of what they saw that made them think it was a suicide, she would have probably opened with the obvious response that there was a gun in his hand. But that invites the obvious follow-up of, "How do you know the gun was not placed in his hand after he was dead," or "Doesn't the gun usually fall out of the hand of a suicide victim, especially when it has quite a lot of recoil, like a .38 caliber revolver?"
This line of inquiry also opens up the question of whether this was or was not Vince's gun. One of the quickest ways to get to the bottom of that matter would have been to question all the family members about it, especially the sons, when the visit to the home was made. But that gets us into the whole messy question of what family members were actually at the home that night and why the Park Police, for the record, never questioned Foster's two sons at all about that gun. This is the issue that generated the web of lies discussed in "The Reign of the Lie," Part 6 of "America's Dreyfus Affair, the Case of the Death of Vincent Foster."
Or officer Braun might have ventured the explanation that we find in both the Fiske and Starr reports on Foster, that is, that there were "no signs of a struggle." But at this point the police had no way of knowing that Foster was not shot after he was already dead or unconscious. No tests for drugs or poisons in his system had yet been performed, and the paucity of blood at the scene of someone who had just been shot through the head with a .38 certainly raises the possibility that the victim's heart was not pumping when he was shot.
Remember, further, that Chertoff is someone who knows the case inside and out, since he was on the staff when the earlier committee investigation took place. Were he really interested in getting at the truth, he would have taken this opportunity to clarify the statement Cheryl Braun made in her deposition to the Democratically-controlled Senate Committee on Banking and Urban Affairs a year before, on July 23, 1994:
Q. Did he [Sgt. Robert Edwards] say he thought that the death was a suicide?
A. I don't recall exactly how he did it, and he did show the pictures to it that he had snapped.
Q. Was it your understanding that a determination had been made as to the cause of death?
A. I think we more made that determination. You know, like I said, when we first got the call. It was for a dead body. Then I asked if it was natural or of suspicious nature. And I was told suspicious, so I had them close the gate. Then once we got there, maybe actually I do remember speaking to Lieutenant Gavin. So maybe it was Lieutenant Gavin who might have–it might have been Lieutenant Gavin then who actually initially explained what the scene was, because I had some knowledge of it when I went to speak with the couple and ask them if they had heard anything or seen anything and ask them about other vehicles that were in the the area. Yeah, I would say it was Lieutenant Gavin actually.
Q. Did Lieutenant Gavin mention anything about suicide?
A. I can't recall. I don't–I don't recall if he or if that was what we–it seems to me that we had made that determination prior to going up and looking at the body.
A Foreordained Verdict
It is pretty clear that Sergeant Braun let the cat out of the bag when she made that statement. Like Chertoff and his colleagues on the Senate committee, and like the legions of scribes in what passes for America's free press, quite early in the case she and the other members of the Park Police had wet their fingers and put them in the air, and they knew which way the wind was blowing. My fellow Davidson College graduate, Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. was to be found guilty of the murder of Vincent W. Foster, Jr.
Now, in the 9-11 case, there's another strong political wind, and the man in charge of the investigation, Michael Chertoff, has shown that he needs no assistance from the weatherman.
January 7, 2002
After this article was written, Chertoff moved on to bigger responsibilities, while another Senate investigator in the Foster case, Richard Ben-Veniste, was appointed to the 9-11 Commission. For an example of Ben-Veniste's interviewing-cover-up skills, see "The Counsel, the Cop, and the Keys," mentioned above.
Michael Chertoff has certainly met—even exceeded—the expectations that we had for him back in 2002. It would appear that he has also lived up to the expectations of his sponsors after his thorough vetting on the Whitewater committee, and they are not Nazis, except in the most loosely defined, pejorative sense of the word.
July 17, 2013
Today, July 20, 2013, is the 20th anniversary of the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr.