WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican political operative Karl Rove’s help for Sweden as it assists the Obama administration’s prosecution against WikiLeaks could be the latest example of the adage, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”
Rove, who now controls a massive political fortune of secret corporate campaign cash with his outfit American Crossroads, has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for the past two years after resigning as White House political advisor in August, 2007. Rove’s resignation followed the scandalous Bush mid-term political purge of nine of the nation’s 93 powerful U.S. attorneys, and after allegations of Rove’s involvement from Alabama Whistleblower Jill Simpson’s affidavit.
These days, Sweden and the Obama administration are apparently undertaking a political prosecution as audacious as the ones perpetrated by the notorious Bush Justice Department against Democrats across the Unites States.
The pending investigation and prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government affairs, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden as well as the Bush and Obama administrations. Authorities in both countries are setting the stage with pre-indictment sex and spy smears against Assange, along with an Interpol manhunt.
“This has Karl’s signature all over it,” a reliable political source told select reporters in encouraging us to investigate Rove’s Swedish connection. “He must be very happy. He’s right back in the middle of it. He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like — and screwing his opponents, big-time.”
WikiLeaks created a problem for Sweden by revealing a 2008 cable disclosing that its executive branch asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering “informal” to avoid required Parliamentary scrutiny.
That secret was among the 251,000 U.S. cables obtained by WikiLeaks and relayed to the New York Times and four other media outlets, which agreed to publish stories gleaned from the leaked documents. So far they have reported on about 1,300 of the secret cables after trying for months to vet them through U.S. authorities.
Assange, a nomadic 39-year-old Australian, sought political haven in Sweden during the planning stages of launching his now famous Website. What is now causing him legal and public relations problems is that he apparently fell into the arms of two Swedish beauties who offered to put him up at their apartments on his speaking trip to their country last August. Now free on bond in the United Kingdom for allegedly raping one of them, he could be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to answer questions about his one-night stands.
Swedish prosecutors initially dropped their investigation of these assault complaints. But a higher prosecution authority intervened and the Swedes are actively seeking his extradition. Far more ominously than the sex charges, the Swedes could end up shipping Assange to the United States for prosecution under the Espionage Act for publishing U.S. government secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The New York Times reports that the Obama Justice Department is devising espionage conspiracy charges under an innovative use of the spying law by relying on forcing Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, now being held in solitary confinement, to break down and testify against Assange. A complete archive of the New York paper’s coverage is contained in a special section on the Web entitled State’s Secrets.
Attacks on WikiLeaks are coming from all sides, including congressional Homeland Security leaders, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.
What readers here should know, and what they won’t learn from the mainstream, corporate news media anywhere, is that there are parallels between what is happening to Assange and what happened to former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in a case that turned into one of the most vicious political prosecutions of the Bush Years. It altered Alabama politics in ways that are still being felt today, and improved corporate business opportunities for companies well-connected to Bush, Rove and their state GOP supporters.
Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight questioning of Rove in July 2009 turned out to be a whitewash. The probe was crippled by restrictions on format that had been brokered by the Bush White House and, more importantly, by an unwillingness of the Obama administration to “look back” and by House Democrats who do not wish to risk antagonizing Rove and his backers by asking obvious questions.
Arguably, the federal bribery charges that imprisoned the wife of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat, along with the departure of Rep. Artur Davis from the committee the day after Obama was elected president in November, 2008, and Siegelman’s filing of another appeal seeking a new trial in Montgomery, all deterred Conyers from building a thorough case about Rove’s relationship with the Department of Justice.
At this stage, the specifics of Rove’s Swedish work for Reinfeldt, a former Council of Europe president nicknamed “The Ronald Reagan of Europe,” remain in doubt for outsiders.
Has Rove simply provided routine political advice and fund-raising counsel for Reinfeldt’s successful re-election in September? Perhaps Rove gave media advice, based on his work with Murdoch-owned Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and many other traditional broadcasting and print outlets. Rove’s patrons at those media outlets, perhaps not coincidentally, tend to disdain independent, Web-based journalists who can disrupt their information gatekeeper role by going directly to documents instead of relying upon high-level contacts, or at least the willingness of bureaucrats to return phone calls.
Or has Rove drawn on any opposition research and dirty tricks skills that earned him such nicknames as “Turd-Blossom” from former President Bush and “Bush’s Brain” from others?
One way to learn is to ask Rove himself, which I did via his chief of staff on Dec. 14.
As readers here well know, Siegelman’s convictions came only after years of pre-trial prosecutorial smears, sexual blackmail of witness, and a bizarre trial before a judge enriched on the side by Bush contracts for the judge’s closely-held company. No one column can encompass at reasonable length every important abuse in this tawdry, nearly decade-long tale, although the details are contained in this archive.
All of the wrongdoing was covered up by whitewashes by the Bush and Obama administrations and Congress. Siegelman, 64, is free on bail after a Supreme Court ruling last June created a new hearing for him in January, forestalling an Obama recommendation last year that he receive an 20 additional years in prison.
The former governor maintains that his prosecution was orchestrated by Rove and Rove’s longtime friend William “Bill” Canary, whose wife Leura led the state’s U.S. attorney office prosecuting Siegelman. Remarkably, the Bush 2001 appointee Canary still runs that Montgomery-based prosecution office more than two years after Obama’s election, much to the horror of Siegelman’s supporters nationwide.
Authorities initially put him in solitary confinement that prevented contact with family and the media after his 2007 sentencing, which was largely for reappointing to a state board in 1999 a donor to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation.
Rove denies improper involvement in Siegelman’s prosecution, and has not yet responded to my inquiry about Sweden. For reader convenience, I’ll note that his memoir Courage and Consequence published this year contains no mention of Sweden or his client Reinfeldt. Rove’s book also denies that he was forced from the White House over the firing scandal, or that he had any improper role in the Siegelman case, although it is clear from the events of the time that he was forced out to take some of the pressure off Bush himself, as was U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez a week later.
Whether or not Rove advised Sweden on how to go after Assange, the WikiLeaks revelations have brought into plain view dramatic opinions that often cross our conventional political divisions.
Feminist scholar, rape victim and longtime volunteer rape counselor Naomi Wolf, for example, describes Sweden’s sex assault investigation as “theater” designed to bring Assange into U.S. custody on more serious charges, not to enforce the law in routine fashion. “How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden’s treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater?” she wrote. “Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don’t involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.”
Regarding the espionage allegations, we see impassioned opinions that seemingly conflict with career affiliations.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican and tea party hero, poke on the House floor defending the right of WikiLeaks to cooperate with conventional news organization to publish secret cables.
Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: “A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
Former CIA agent Ray McGovern rebuked CNN anchor Don Lemon for disparaging WikiLeaks as “pariah,” and urged Lemon and his network to emulate Assange by reporting more such news.
But there is a pattern. Defenders of WikiLeaks tend to see more commitment to democracy in fighting for liberties in the United States than in overseas military actions to fight “terror.” In varying ways, Arianna Huffington, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Parry and Scott Horton argue compellingly that information allowing the public to oppose our Mideast wars is the real problem authorities have WikiLeaks, and that spy conspiracy charges that should be baseless under our law endanger all investigative reporting on national security issues, not simply WikiLeaks. Such threats against the First Amendment coincide with broken Obama campaign promises on a host of other justice system issues.
So why does the Obama administration treat Rove and his GOP allies with kid gloves? Why are so many in the conventional media so passive to threats to our historic due process and First Amendment freedoms?
A thorough answer requires at least a separate column for documentation. For now, let’s just say that a lot of opponents of WikiLeaks seem to be in a big bed together, shouting, “Terror! Terror! Terror! — Fear! Fear! Fear!”
Another version of this story was published as an unpaid opinion column in the Huffington Post.
© 2010 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.