Last Sunday during the penultimate episode of this season of Battlestar Galactica a prosecutor uttered the following phrase when asked by the Colonial President to persue Genocide charges against her predecessor based largely on a fleeting glimpse of of him during a hazy recovered memory.
I plan to prosecute on charges I can prove. But of course you can always fire me and have me replaced since I do serve at the pleasure of the President
The irony of that statement coming out at that particular moment in time by a prosecutor to the President - in the midst of Gonzales-Gate - to me was like a lightening bolt hitting the White House porch.
Was it just a coincidence, or were the people at BSG up to a little subversive mischief with a particular partisan bent?
To answer that question I reached out to a contact I had made on the show last year at an SC film festival and asked about the scene. He emailed me back and said:
That scene was shot in early December. It has to be a coincidence, right?
Yeah, ok fine. Gotta be.
From it's inception this show has been re-conceived from it's cheesy 70's origins into a provacative (and only slightly distorted) mirror of our own struggles with issues in the aftermath of a catastraphic mass murder such as 9/11. Just what barriers do you cross in persuit of the survival of your way of life? Do you use torture? Kangaroo Courts? Retaliatory Genocide? Rigged Elections? In the past my contact has told me how the shows producers take delicious glee in placing the words of George W Bush into the mouth of President Laura Roslyn knowing that the actress Mary McDonnel is an extreme "ultra liberal" who would freak if she realized what she was really saying.
Still in this case one conspiracy theory by Hollywood was shot down in flames, IMO it really was just a coincidence, maybe a slight flicker of the show "West Wing" which used that phrase quite often, not a wry indictment of the Bush Administration.
But then again as I look at today's New York Times it seem another conspiracy is growing by leaps and bounds.
WASHINGTON, March 24 — An accumulating body of evidence is at odds with the statements of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that he played little role in the deliberations over the dismissal of eight United States attorneys.
Mr. Gonzales has said he did not take part in any discussions of the dismissal effort, and left the planning and execution of the removals up to D. Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff.
But e-mail messages and other documents released by the Justice Department in recent days suggest that Mr. Gonzales was told of the dismissal plan on at least two occasions, in 2005 when the plan was devised and again in late 2006 shortly before the firings were carried out.
Oops. Was that a little white-lie Mr. G? Didn't take part in any discussions? How about two discussions Mr. Attorney General, hm?
But what's even more interesting is that Gonzo (aka Fredo) might just be pulling a Libby and falling on the sword for ole Turdblossom.
The conflicts between the documentary record and Mr. Gonzales’s version of events have contributed to an erosion of support for him in Congress, where lawmakers from both parties have called for him to step down. They have also fed suspicions by some Democrats that the ousters, from the start, may have been orchestrated by the White House, and most particularly, by Karl Rove, the White House political adviser.
Although many of the right such as Tom Delay and Fred Barnes have claimed that this is a "Made up partisan scandal" - there is the very real possibiilty that a series of crimes may have indeed been committed as Adam Cohen outlined this week.
First there's Lying to Congress.
1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to "impede" it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White House’s involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue.
Second, Obstructing Justice.
2. Calling the Prosecutors. As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, Congress passed an extremely broad obstruction of justice provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c), which applies to anyone who corruptly "obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so," including U.S. attorney investigations.
David Iglesias, the New Mexico United States attorney, says Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, called him and asked whether he intended to bring indictments in a corruption case against Democrats before last November’s election. Mr. Iglesias said he "felt pressured" by the call. If members of Congress try to get a United States attorney to indict people he wasn’t certain he wanted to indict, or try to affect the timing of an indictment, they may be violating the law.
Hmm.. shades of President Roslyn?
Third - Tampering with Witnesses.
3. Witness Tampering. 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b) makes it illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses. Michael Elston, Mr. McNulty’s chief of staff, contacted one of the fired attorneys, H. E. Cummins, and suggested, according to Mr. Cummins, that if he kept speaking out, there would be retaliation. Mr. Cummins took the call as a threat, and sent an e-mail message to other fired prosecutors warning them of it. Several of them told Congress that if Mr. Elston had placed a similar call to one of their witnesses in a criminal case, they would have opened an investigation of it.
And Congress should also open an investigation...
The forth crime, is the juciest. It's the one that puts the lie to Tony Snow-job's "Serving at the Pleasure" canard. You see, the President can't improperly fire a U.S. Attorney for just any willy nilly reason - not if that firing is done to impeded an ongoing investigation.
4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not, as § 1512 (c) puts it, to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.
Let’s take the case of Carol Lam, United States attorney in San Diego. The day the news broke that Ms. Lam, who had already put one Republican congressman in jail, was investigating a second one, Mr. Sampson wrote an e-mail message referring to the "real problem we have right now with Carol Lam." He said it made him think that it was time to start looking for a replacement.
Congress has also started investigating the removal of Fred Black, the United States attorney in Guam, who was replaced when he began investigating the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Anyone involved in firing a United States attorney to obstruct or influence an official proceeding could have broken the law.
Just to put this in perspective, besides the fact the Scooter Libby was just convicted for Obstruction of Justice and False Statements - if we jump in the way-back machine and remember almost ten years ago, Four of the Eleven Allegations made by Ken Starr against President Bill Clinton recommending his impeachment were for - wait for it - Obstruction of Justice and a fifth was for Witness Tampering.
With this in mind, and with connections growing stronger between these firings and the White House (despite their quaasi-legal attempts to hide their email trail on non-government servers and the odd 18-day gap) President Bush just might come to regret one particular statement he made this week as much as Clinton regrets saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..."
However, in Bush's case he didn't deny involvement - he actually endorsed the firings.
Mr. Bush, in his Saturday radio address, again came to the defense of Mr. Gonzales, his longtime friend and legal adviser. "I strongly support the attorney general in this decision" to remove the United States attorneys, President Bush said.
If these firings were engineered specifically as a result of attempts to improperly influence the U.S. Attorneys into questionable prosecutions against Democrats and to halt ongoing legitimate prosecutions against Republicans A Crime was Commited and the President may have just admitted Complicity in that Crime.
If so, the dueling House and Senate "Show Trials" which are begining to shape up just might rival Ringing Bros as one of the Greatest On Earth, as well as the ignoble end of the Bush Administration.
P.S. Battlestar Galactica's Season finale airs tonight on Sci Fi (10pm), and it just might have a few more interestingly ironic nuggets for us neo-conspiracy buffs.