Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz seemed poised for victory in the Iowa caucuses over most of the past month but has suffered tough counterattacks from critics within his party at the worst possible time for him.

Ted CruzAs often happens in presidential politics, Cruz's difficulties arose from rivals in his own party.

Setbacks cascaded just as he began leading several polls beginning in December for the first national contest, the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

Cruz's momentum in Iowa is fueled by its strong base of evangelical Christians and tea party enthusiasts, along with his other logistical advantages over rivals. These include Cruz's unusually strong and controversial initiative to use data harvested from Facebook users to target them with pinpoint precision.

But a cascade pf sudden attacks during recent days are hurting Cruz and could doom his candidacy because of the primary calendar, which magnifies the importance of a few states in ways especially harmful to the Texas senator if he slips in Iowa.

In fact, the Trump ascendancy in recent days arguably represents the most astonishing reversal of fortune among presidential candidates in modern history during a two-week period.

Today's column provides an overview of these developments, which are explored more fully in a series to be published here over the next few days. Topics include:

  • GOP fears of a Trump nomination, illustrated by establishment attack on Trump during the Jan. 12 party-vetted GOP reply to President Obama's State of the Union address;
  • Cruz's growing strength illustrated by his controversial data mining operation and rejection of Trump's overture to join a Trump-led GOP ticket next fall;
  • Trump's challenge to the eligibility of the Canadian-born Cruz to be presidency under the Constitution's requirement of "natural born" citizenship;
  • Revelation that Cruz received $1.2 million in loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank that he failed to report as funding for his successful campaign that year for a U.S. senate seat for Texas;
  • Opposition to Cruz from GOP leaders, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, and others.
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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Martin Luther King Jr. at National Press Club 1962To help celebrate King’s birthday on the Jan. 18 national holiday, the club unveiled the long lost recording last week along with riveting commentary by other civil rights pioneers.

They included Simeon Booker, 97, an African-American reporter who arranged the speech as a member of the club in the still-segregated nation's capital.

King’s speech and the panel’s context provide an inspiring perspective about the unjust and otherwise dire conditions they helped change. 

In 1952, Booker became the first black reporter at the Washington Post. Later, and sometimes at great risk to his safety, he went on to report iconic stories about the civil rights movement during his five-decade career writing for the JET and Ebony magazines.

Booker, whose stories for JET about the 1955 torture and lynching in Mississippi of 14-year-old Emmett Till outraged black communities nationally, took the lead in urging the press club's speakers committee to invite King. The club had never previously invited even such black luminaries as Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Bunche, Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson. Booker himself was just the second press club member who was of African-American descent. Another man joined briefly in the mid-1950s but never became active in the club’s activities.

Simeon Booker, Carol McCable Booker and Judy RichardsonCivil rights leaders Simeon Booker, Carol McCabe Booker and Judy Richardson at the National Press Club Jan. 12, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo)

The club's program focused heavily on racial conditions at the time of King's speech and less so on the progress that King helped inspire. Neither did it dwell on King's horrid and still-suspicious assassination in 1968. The murder and its investigation have been the subject of lingering questions by his family, others in the civil rights community and many other researchers who still question whether the late convicted assassin James Earl Ray acted alone in shooting at King while he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The murder prompted riots in cities across the nation and many setbacks in the civil rights-antiwar-labor alliance that King was helping lead then.

Those chapters of American history were just a few years removed from 1962 when, as described by the press club's panel, even the nation’s capital was so segregated that blacks (called “Negroes”) faced great difficulty in finding a place to eat downtown, much less in renting a hotel room or obtaining a lecture audience before a racially mixed audience. Legal, medical, dentistry and other national professional bodies were still segregated at that time for the most part.

Gilbert Klein, a journalism professor at American University and former club president, helped arrange the Jan. 12 program about the 1962 King lecture. To open last week's program, Klein took the stage in the same club ballroom where King had spoken. Klein described how the 1962 invitation was so controversial that the club’s speaker committee chairman resigned in protest.

An audio recording was made of the speech and filed away in the Club’s Archives and later transferred to the Library of Congress. No television footage of the speech in its entirety exists. The Club's History and Heritage Committee recently retrieved the recording and found it is of significant historical value. Coming just days after Dr. King was released from jail in Albany, Ga., the civil rights leader outlined his vision for non-violent protest as the best way to achieve racial equality. The 1962 audiotape of 24 minutes was played below as part of the panel discussion.

 

Club president John Hughes of Bloomberg News described the discovery of King’s long-long audio recording and the creation of last week's program as the highlight of his year-long term that ended last week as the press club's volunteer president. "Martin Luther King's 1962 speech was one of the most important events to ever happen at the National Press Club," Hughes said. "I am honored this event at long last is getting proper recognition with such distinguished guests."

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With the presidential debates scheduled to resume Jan. 14 after holiday recess, voters are running out of chances to hear sustained discussion of the most difficult foreign policy issues before the first voter selections.

So far, candidates have almost entirely avoided meaningful comment, particularly before the smaller and more interactive audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. These smaller states enable more candid exchanges about some of the hardest war-related choices the next administration will face. When campaigns move to larger states candidates have far less hazard of encountering tough questions from unvetted, independent sources, such as individual voters and donors, and local journalists.

Three examples below show the problem, including dangerous shared assumptions between candidates, the mainstream media, and the major corporations that control them both.

Dana Bash Carly Fiorina CNN  Jan. 3, 2016On CNN’s “State of the Nation” Sunday interview show, for example, substitute host Dana Bash (shown at left) questioned GOP candidate Carly Fiorina Jan. 3 about her Middle Eastern foreign policy.

Bash asked Fiorina about Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia cleric, thus antagonizing Iran and leading to severed relations before scheduled peace talks later this month. Fiorina's extended response included the following, according to a CNN transcript:

“….when Russia and Iran combine together in an unholy alliance, we cannot, as, for example, Donald Trump suggests, outsource leadership, our leadership in the Middle East, to Russia or to Iran. They're not our allies. They are our adversaries.”

Fiorina, a former high-tech CEO who led the CIA's external advisory board from 2007 to 2009, repeated several times her language about “allies” and “adversaries.”

But she failed to describe what shared interests should constitute on alliance or what the United States should do about actions by "allies" that undercut this country's announced foreign policies on, for example, thwarting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, for example, funded accused 9/11 hijackers according to widespread reports, and is heavily implicated along with U.S. ally Turkey in enabling the ISIS/ISIL terrorists based in Syria and Iraq.

The exchange on CNN typified other vapid interviews there and elsewhere sidestepping vital topics apparently too sensitive for in-depth treatment.

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U.S. Naval Institute, Council on Foreign Relations Panel Outlines Divisions in Syria Conflict, John Grady, Jan. 5, 2016. http://news.usni.org/2016/01/05/council-on-foreign-relations-panel-outlines-divisions-in-syria-conflict 
Bashar-Al-Assad

The path the United States has been on since 2011 to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad immediately from power is not working, but “tamping down the [civil] war” while working for a longer-range transitional government is no guarantee that such a shift in emphasis would led to the defeat of the Sunni-dominated Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Speaking Tuesday at a Council on Foreign Relations forum in New York City, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute said “Syria is the center of gravity, not Iraq.” The danger, he said, is that Iraq would be viewed by American allies and partners in the region as working with Iran and Russia in support of a non-Sunni regime.

Paul Pillar, from the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said that although the fighting on the ground, even with Russian and Iranian military intervention, has flatlined. “The [moderate Sunni] opposition is as divided as it has always been” in whether to take on the Islamic State before their goal of overthrowing the Assad regime and undermining the influence of Shiia Iran.

Three panelists agreed that in the Syrian war there have been about a quarter-million civilian casualties, “multiple millions” displaced internally or emigrated. The conflict also has threatened to de-stabilize Jordan and Lebanon and fueled Sunni Islamic extremism.

Philip Gordon of the Council on Foreign Relations said, “The main battle in Syria is not against ISIS but against the regime.” The Assads, who come from the Alawite community of Shiia Islam, have ruled Syria, a Sunni majority country, for 45 years.

Right now, the American-led air campaign “is directed against ISIS” and not the regime, while Russian air strikes have been launched against moderate Sunni and Kurdish opposition groups, he said.

In Gordon’s view, “there isn’t a legal basis” for the United States to strike the Assad regime. The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, came at the request of the Iraqi government.

“We have to decide whose side we are on”—Sunnis in Syria and traditional U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states or Iran and Russia, Doran said. “We have been shifting in the direction of Iran and Russia” [in moving away from the immediate removal of Assad], and “that has annoyed the Saudis,” who have their own agenda in the Middle East.

He added, “We won’t win without Sunni [tribal] allies” in Syria and outside from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Doran called for more active support U.S. military support, including air strikes and heavier equipment such as man-portable air defense weapons, for opposition groups. Gordon said the administration “doesn’t detail how it supports the opposition.”

A way forward in Syria could come through diplomatic negotiations that guarantee protections for Alawites, Christians and others who have supported the Assads. This would be in contrast to what happened in Iraq following the removal of Saddam Hussein and his primarily Sunni supporters in Iraq when U.S. and coalition forces left the country.

Protecting Assad supporters in the future “is very much on the table” in diplomatic talks in Vienna and within the United Nations, Gordon said. The problem is “neither the regime, opposition on the ground” or their allies now support that idea, he added.

Another possibility would be to “have a cease-fire in place” where different groups control territory they already hold, even if it is not contiguous, and given some kind of autonomy in a different kind of Syria. With the Assad regime gone and new autonomous regions in place, forces from them could take on the remnants of the Islamic State.

The “old Syria is not going to be put back together,” Gordon said. Doran sees a regionally, federalized Syria and Iraq as possibly emerging where homogeneity not heterogeneity was the political goal.

Pillar said such a solution could hold back revenge-killings as power shifts. That might allow a new Syria to follow a reconciliation model similar to South Africa’s when apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president.


New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s Barbaric Executions, Editorial Board, Jan. 4, 2016. The execution of the popular Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other prisoners on Jan. 2 was about the worst way Saudi Arabia could have started what promises to be a grim and tumultuous year in the kingdom and across the Middle East. It is hard to imagine that the Sunni rulers of the kingdom were not aware of the sectarian passions the killings would unleash around the region. Saudi Arabia’s rulers may even have counted on the fierce reaction in Iran and elsewhere as a distraction from economic problems at home and to silence dissenters. America’s longstanding alliance with the House of Saud is no reason for the administration to do anything less than clearly condemn this foolhardy and dangerous course.

The predictable and immediate consequence of the executions was a burst of hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two rivals are already backing opposite sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Iranians infuriated by the killing of a revered cleric promptly ransacked and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Though Iranian leaders condemned the action and arrested many protesters, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-led allies in Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates were quick to cut or curtail ties with Iran.

That in turn promised to set back international efforts to resolve the wars in Syria and Yemen and to combat the Islamic State and other Islamist terror organizations. Just weeks ago, a series of talks led by the United States and Russia and including the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers had brought rival powers to the table to discuss a road map for peace in Syria. Then, on Saturday after announcing the executions, the Saudis ended a shaky cease-fire in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s income has sharply declined as a result of the prolonged drop in oil prices — caused, in part, by the regime’s insistence on maintaining production levels — and the government has announced cutbacks in the lavish welfare spending that Saudis have long taken for granted. The executions provided both a sectarian crisis to deflect anger over the cutbacks and a graphic warning of what can befall critics.

But then the executions were not out of character for Saudi Arabia. The country has a dismal human rights record with its application of stern Islamic law and its repression of women and practitioners of religious traditions other than Sunni Islam. The regime has become only more repressive in the years since the Arab Spring. According to Human Rights Watch, the mass execution on Jan. 2 followed a year in which 158 people were executed, the most in recent history, largely based on vague laws and dubious trials. Sheikh Nimr was a vocal critic of the regime and champion of the rights of the Shiite minority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, but not an advocate of violent action. He was executed for offenses that included “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “inciting sectarian strife.”

The tangled and volatile realities of the Middle East do not give the United States or the European Union the luxury of choosing or rejecting allies on moral criteria. Washington has no choice but to deal with regimes like those in Tehran, which also has an abysmal human rights record, including at least 694 executions last year, or Riyadh to combat the clear and present danger posed by Islamist terrorists or to search for solution to massively destabilizing conflicts like the Syrian civil war. But that cannot mean condoning actions that blatantly fan sectarian hatreds, undermine efforts at stabilizing the region and crudely violate human rights.

New York Times, European Sympathies Lean Toward Iran in Conflict with Saudi Arabia, Sewell Chan, Jan. 4, 2016. In the days since Saudi Arabia inflamed tensions with Iran by executing 47 people, including a Shiite cleric, European observers have been quick to condemn the action, reflecting broader concern across the Continent about Saudi policy and its role in the tumult rolling through the Middle East.

Opposition in Europe to the death penalty — and harsh corporal punishment, including the flogging of a Saudi blogger who has become something of a cause célèbre in Europe — is just one element of the criticism of the Saudi monarchy. Even as European governments continue to view Saudi Arabia as a vital if problematic stabilizing force in the region, as well as a rich market for European arms and other products, European opinion has grown increasingly critical of Saudi support and financing for Wahhabist and Salafist preachers who have contributed to the Sunni extremist ideology that has fueled Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. In addition, the European Union and six major world powers reached a deal in Vienna over the summer to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran is seen as essential to ending the five-year-old civil war in Syria, which has fueled a surge of migrants to the Continent, the highest number since World War II.

So for many Europeans, Iran — long a pariah because of its anti-Western rhetoric and its nuclear program — has suddenly become, at least in comparison with Saudi Arabia, an object of sympathy.

“As long as Saudi Arabia is led by its obsession to put Iran in its place, all attempts at peace in the Middle East will fail,” Rainer Hermann, a Middle East expert in Germany, wrote in a column in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, warning that Saudi Arabia might destroy the carefully wrought attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

While it was difficult to gauge broad public attitudes, a review of elite opinion — as expressed by political leaders on social media, commentators in major publications, and a few experts in interviews — suggests that many Europeans blame Saudi Arabia for instigating the latest dispute by executing the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The crisis quickly escalated with the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday and with the decision of Saudi Arabia and several of its allies to sever diplomatic ties with Iran.

Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister who was a central player in resolving the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s, warned on Twitter that the decision to execute the cleric “doesn’t bode well for the stability of the Kingdom” and called Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut ties to Iran “a distinctly bad move.” (He added, “It goes without saying that Iran gravely neglected its duties to protect Saudi diplomatic premises.”)

European governments were more circumspect in their criticism — but not much more. The French Foreign Ministry said it deplored the executions. The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherlini, said they had the “potential of inflaming further the sectarian tensions that already bring so much damage to the entire region.”

Britain, a major supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia, was the most cautious in its criticism of the executions. Its government’s statement on the situation came from a junior minister, Tobias Ellwood, not from the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond. Mr. Ellwood said that Britain was “firmly opposed to the death penalty” but also chastised Iran for failing to prevent the attack on the Saudi Embassy.

Reprieve, a leading human rights organization in Britain, criticized Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government as too tepid toward the Saudi executions, saying it should “not turn a blind eye to such atrocities.”

In an editorial, Le Monde noted that France supplies arms to Saudi Arabia but also that it has improved relations with Iran — whose president, Hassan Rouhani, had planned a state visit to France that had to be delayed because of the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

The newspaper, noting “centuries-old confrontation between Arabs and Persians,” compared the clash of Iran and Saudi Arabia to that of Europe’s great powers in the period leading up to the World War I.

In an interview, Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an authority on the Sunni-Shiite regional conflict, said that Western opinion in this case was weighted in Iran’s favor — in part because of the European Union’s desire for rapprochement with Iran.

“Europeans think the dispute is serious but they think — and so does the White House — that Saudis don’t want reconciliation with Iran, want to exclude Iran from all regional discussions and want to provoke Iran into an action that would then derail engagement with West,” Dr. Nasr said. “This crisis was started by Saudi, and Riyadh was quick to use it to break ties, which means end to any broad regional engagement like the Vienna talks.”

Guillaume Xavier-Bender, a trans-Atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said in an interview that “Europeans are worried that this will escalate and keep on escalating.”

He also expressed alarm that countries with mixed populations — Syria and Yemen, where civil wars are raging, and Bahrain, where a Shiite population is governed by a Sunni monarchy — could fall into even further chaos.

For average Europeans, “it’s the executions themselves that are revolting to the general public.” Policy makers, he said, were more focused on not losing the momentum of the European détente with Iran.

“Iran has been, relatively, good in implementing the nuclear deal so far, and elections are coming next month,” Mr. Xavier-Bender said. “The normalization of relations with Iran is almost going too well. So Saudi Arabia is now making a show of force.”

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Rogue Agents:  Habsburg, Pinay and the Private Cold War 1951-1991 by David Teacher, Kindle, December 2015.

Alternate  titles, editions: The Cercle and the 6I in the Private Cold War 1951 - 1991 by David Teacher

Online edition via Cyptome: https://cryptome.org/2015/12/Rogue-Agents-4th-edition.pdf

Publisher’s Introduction:

David Teacher Rogue AgentsThe Cercle Pinay was founded in the early 1950s as an elite clandestine forum to promote the vision of a Catholic and conservative Europe and to oppose the threat of Communism. Shrouded in secrecy, the Cercle brought together statesmen such as Antoine Pinay (1891-1994, French Prime Minister from 1952-53, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_Pinay), Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967, West German Chancellor 1949 to 1963, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Adenauer), Franz-Josef Strauss (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Josef_Strauss), Giulio Andreotti (1919-2013, Italian prime minister  1989 to 1992), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulio_Andreotti), Otto von Habsburg (“Archduke Otto of Austria” 1912-2011, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_von_Habsburg), Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, as well as top figures from the American and European intelligence services.

Following the rise of student counter-culture in the 1960s, the Cercle focused on domestic subversion, using its network of propagandists and intelligence operatives to smear progressive politicians such as Willi Brandt, François Mitterrand, Harold Wilson and Jimmy Carter and to promote their favoured candidates: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Giscard d’Estaing and Franz-Josef Strauss. Throughout the 1970s, the Cercle also worked to defend apartheid South Africa and Franco’s Spain. After the electoral victory of the Right in 1979-1980, the Cercle targeted peace campaigners and the new Soviet regime under Mikhail Gorbachev, playing a key part in the fall of the Iron Curtain and then ensuring the integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union.

In a groundbreaking twenty-five year investigation, the author lifts the veil of secrecy to reveal the unseen rôle played by the Cercle and its allies in shaping the Western world as we know it today.

ROGUE AGENTS  4 Fourth and final edition, December 2015 © 1993, 2008, 2011 and 2015. All rights strictly reserved.  Dedicated to seven courageous people in whose debt we all stand: Colin Wallace, Cathy Massiter, Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Peter Francis and Edward Snowden.

no country is an island. This is nowhere more true than in the field of parapolitics, the networks of unofficial power that, usually via serving or retired friends in the world's major intelligence and security services, exert greater influence than is generally realised on national political life. Both the private networks of influence and the intelligence services work internationally; more often than not, they work hand in hand in a shadow world that brings together top politicians and veterans of covert action, counter-subversion and media manipulation. An investigation to delineate such networks of covert transnational cooperation must, to succeed, tackle the complexities of the unseen political world in many countries.

This study is an attempt at a preliminary transnational investigation of the Paneuropean Right and particularly of the covert forum, the Cercle Pinay and its complex of groups. Amongst Cercle intelligence contacts are former operatives from the American CIA, DIA and INR, Britain's MI5, MI6 and IRD, France's SDECE, Germany's BND, BfV and MAD, Holland's BVD, Belgium's Sûreté de l’Etat, SDRA and PIO, apartheid South Africa's BOSS, and the Swiss and Saudi intelligence services. Politically, the Cercle complex has interlocked with the whole panoply of international right-wing groups: the Paneuropean Union, the European Movement, CEDI, the Bilderberg Group, WACL, Opus Dei, the Moonies, Western Goals and the Heritage Foundation. Amongst the prominent politicians associated with the Cercle Pinay were Antoine Pinay, Konrad Adenauer, Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Franz Josef Strauß, Giulio Andreotti, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Paul Vanden Boeynants, John Vorster, General Antonio de Spínola, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Despite a wealth of covert operations centring on media campaigns to promote or denigrate election candidates, the international impact of the Cercle complex has not yet [1993] been the main focus for an investigation in any language. The information contained in this study was compiled from a sheaf of internal documents from the Cercle Pinay and its partners, the Belgian AESP, the British ISC and the Swiss ISP, as well as over one hundred books and numerous Press reports in English, French, German and Spanish (all translations by this author).

ROGUE AGENTS  564 ROGUE AGENTS The Cercle and the 6I in the Private Cold War The Cercle Pinay was founded in the early 1950s as a clandestine forum of European leaders who aimed to promote the vision of a Catholic and conservative Europe and to oppose the threat of Communism.  Shrouded in secrecy, the Cercle brought together statesmen such as Antoine Pinay, Konrad Adenauer, Franz Josef Strauß, Giulio Andreotti, Otto von Habsburg, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, as well as top figures from the American and European intelligence services. Following the rise of student counter-culture in the 1960s, the Cercle focused on domestic subversion, using its network of propagandists and intelligence operatives to attack progressive politicians such as Harold Wilson, Willy Brandt, Jimmy Carter and François Mitterrand, and to promote their favoured candidates: Giscard d'Estaing, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Franz Josef Strauß.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Cercle also worked to defend apartheid South Africa and the dictatorships in Spain and Portugal.

After the electoral victory of the Right in 1979-1980, the Cercle and the private intelligence agency, the 6I, targeted Western peace campaigners and the new Soviet regime under Mikhail Gorbachev. Meanwhile, Habsburg played a key part in the fall of the Iron Curtain and then ensured the integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union. In the final edition of a groundbreaking twenty-five year investigation, David Teacher lifts the veil of secrecy to reveal the unseen role played by the Cercle and its allies in shaping the world as we know it today. # #

 

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The return to solitary confinement of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman for 57 days this fall underscores President Obama's duty to provide clemency to a victim of America's most disgraceful recent political prosecution.

Barack Obama head shot Aug. 4, 2014At a minimum, Obama (shown in a White House file photo) should commute the remainder of Siegelman's sentence, now scheduled to extend until mid-2017.

Far better, the president should issue a full pardon to the former governor and his co-defendant Richard Scrushy, the founder and former CEO of HealthSouth Inc. Update: High court won't hear appeal from former Alabama governor, Jan. 11, 2016.

Scrushy and Siegelmen were convicted of corruption charges in a 2006 federal trial. Scrushy has completed his sentence but is at least as much of a civil rights victim as Siegelman, Alabama's governor from 1999 to 2003 and its last Democrat in that office.

Scrushy, a Republican, has consistently argued that his company's donation to defray costs of a 1998 state referendum proposal was a routine expense for his billion-dollar company and that he was imprisoned only because he refused to take a prosecutors' plea deal to perjure himself to implicate Siegelman. 

Alabama Attorney Gen. William Pryor, a Republican, began investigating Siegelman immediately upon the Democrat's assumption of office in 1999. Pryor's crusade was joined by the Bush administration after it took office in 2001. Their massive investigation ultimately ended Siegelman's viability as a statewide candidate or potential presidential contender. For nearly a decade, Pryor has been a federal judge on the Atlanta-based appellate court hearing Siegelman and Scrushy appeals.

Beginning immediately after Siegelman's sentencing in June 2007, he has been a repeated victim of solitary confinement for no apparent reason aside from the demonstrated animosity from his presiding trial Don Siegelman with Charles Cloud Dec. 11, 2015 at Oakdale, LAtrial judge Mark Fuller, Bureau of Prisons personnel with unknown motives, and indifference at best by a politically timid Obama White House.

Siegelman is shown in prison Dec. 11 at left with a fellow inmate, Charles Cloud, just after the former governor's release from "The Hole" at Oakdale's federal prison in Louisiana.

Siegelman's family members said they tried unsuccessfully to contact him during that period and could not learn from authorities why he was being held incommunicado as punishment. It is suspected, however, that Siegelman's response to a question on a phone call with radio personality Thom Hartmann triggered the reaction. Siegelman was discussing prison conditions generally in America but Hartmann asked how he was doing.

Last year at this time, Siegelman also was kept in solitary confinement for more than a month and shunted around the prison system, part of a pattern that first occurred when he and Scrushy were hauled away in chains at their 2007 sentencing by order of their judge, then Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery, even though most white collar defendants are granted bond during appeals. 

Vast numbers of legal experts, whistleblowers, journalists and members of the public have denounced the many irregularities of the Siegelman-Scrushy prosecution, as summarized below.

Mark Fuller Mug ShotFuller (shown in his 2013 mug shot after an evening of drinking), had to resign his lifetime appointment to the bench in disgrace this summer.

Although the most public reason was a wife-beating arrest in 2013 not linked to the Siegelman-Scrushy case in obvious ways, little-reported aspects of the judicial scandal involve a longstanding pattern of Fuller's abusive supervision of the court system. That is directly relevant to the trumped up charges and kangaroo court procedures that convicted Siegelman and Scrushy and financially ruined the families of those two other co-defendants, who were falsely charged but acquitted at the trial.

Thousands of columns, including dozens by this editor, have documented prosecution irregularities and illustrated why the prosecution has become a notorious human rights scandal.

A system that mistreats Siegelman so often so badly with only whitewash oversight by the courts, congress and Justice Department underscores the problems facing 2.3 million other American prisoners and their families. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world and one of the largest prison populations. The systems cost taxpayers vast amounts of money for overcrowded facilities and unaccountable procedures that help keep many inmates, especially street criminals, angry and difficult to reform prior to release.

For such reasons, every American who values the Constitution and a rule of law would benefit from presidential leadership in rectifying the injustice in the Siegelman case, as such prominent commentators as George Will of the Washington Post and Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker have written, along with many others.

So, the president and his legal advisors face a tainted legacy on human rights grounds, whatever their efforts and political posturing on other rights issues. Below, we examine the facts, including recent developments in Alabama and at the White House.

These include:

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