Marcy Wheeler: Eric Holder Rewards the Teams that Gave Torturers and Mortgage Fraudsters Immunity

By Marcy Wheeler. Cross posted from emptywheel

As TPM’s Ryan Reilly noted yesterday, among the awards Attorney General Eric Holder gave out at yesterday’s Attorney General’s Award Ceremony was a Distinguished Service Award to John Durham’s investigative team that chose not to prosecute Jose Rodriguez or the torturers who killed their victims.

The 13th Distinguished Service Award is presented to team members for their involvement in two sensitive investigations ordered by two different Attorneys General. In January 2007, Attorney General Michael Mukasey asked Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead a team that would investigate the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the CIA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham assembled the team and began the investigation. Then, in August 2009, Attorney General Holder expanded Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham’s mandate to include a preliminary review of the treatment of detainees held at overseas locations. This second request resulted in the review of 101 detainee matters that led to two full criminal investigations. In order to conduct the investigations, the team had to review significant amounts of information, much of which was classified, and conduct many interviews in the United States and at overseas locations.

The timing on this award–coming even as DOJ aggressively prosecutes John Kiriakou for talking about this torture–is particularly cynical.

Holder also presented a Distinguished Service Award to the team that crafted a $25 billion settlement effectively immunizing the banksters for engaging in systemic mortgage fraud.

The third Distinguished Service Award is presented to the individuals involved in procuring a $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement between the United States, 49 state attorneys general and the five largest mortgage servicers, representing the largest federal-state settlement in history. The settlement includes comprehensive new mortgage loan servicing standards, $5 billion to state and federal treasuries and borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure, $20 billion in consumer relief and a $1 billion resolution of False Claims Act recoveries by the Eastern District of New York.

As DDay has documented relentlessly, the settlement is little more than kabuki, with most of the “consumer relief” consisting of actions the banks were already taking.

To get an idea of how outrageous it is to give an award to the torture non-prosecution team and the kabuki settlement team, compare what those teams did with the rest of the Distinguished Service recipients.

  1. The team that successfully prosecuted of United States v. AU Optronics et al.,an international cartel that fixed the price of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels sold in the United States and around the world
  2. The team that implemented national standards aimed at eliminating sexual abuse in our nation’s confinement facilities
  3. The kabuki mortgage settlement team
  4. The team that investigated and dismantled the Coreflood Botnet, also known as Operation Adeona [this was a controversial expansion of Federal power to combat hacking, though since the team worked with a court order, better at least than what the government did to WikiLeaks]
  5. The team that investigated and convicted 37 members of the La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang in the San Francisco area
  6. The Tribal Trust Negotiation Team, which negotiated settlements with more than 40 Tribes in complex and long-running Tribal Trust cases [I’m not sure, but I believe this is the Cobell settlement, which is in many ways another kabuki settlement, but at least the tribes finally get some compensation]
  7. The Raj Rajaratnam investigation and prosecution team
  8. “The team whose extraordinary service led to the prosecution of Ahmed Warsame” [I quoted this because Warsame has not been convicted yet; the second-to-last item in his docket was a sealed January 5, 2012 document following a continuance, suggesting he may be cooperating in some way; this award should be considered recognition of the further twisting of our legal system to allow for novel war on terror uses]
  9. The Rod Blagojevich investigation and prosecution team
  10. INTERPOL Senior Inspector Joseph J. DeLuca for his outstanding leadership and law enforcement coordination in the apprehension and extradition of international fugitives
  11. Assistant Inspector General Thomas F. McLaughlin for 22 years of service in OIG and certain initiatives he conducted while there, including prosecuting department employees
  12. The Development Team for its leadership in creating and launching the premier online resource for information about evidence-based programs and practices in criminal justice, juvenile justice and crime victim services
  13. The torture non-prosecution team
  14. The Congressman William Jefferson investigation and prosecution team

Five of these are for successful prosecutions–AU Optronics, MS-13 gang members, Raj Rajaratnam, Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson. Another two–the Coreflood Botnet and Warsame actions–neutralized a threat, albeit through novel and controversial means. And then there are the teams that worked to make the criminal justice system more humane.

But rather than holding criminals accountable–punishing those that degraded our nation and created new reasons for people to join terrorists, punishing those who crashed our economy and stole the wealth of millions of families–the Durham and Mortgage Settlement teams made us less safe. They immunized crime, rather than punishing it.

“No one is above the law,” Eric Holder has said on other occasions. Not surprisingly, he didn’t say that yesterday, because it’s clear that some people–the torturers and the banksters–are indeed above the law.

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  1. TK21

    Well, Romney would have given them two awards!!!

    I’m sure Obama and his people are counting on this to be a precedent in case they commit anything that might be illegal, like an unconstitutional war or an extrajudicial assasination.

    1. YeahRight!

      Sounds like most of the awards I received or witnessed during my 20+ years in the Air Force. Total bullshit, and either either obligatory bureaucratically mandated window dressing or some sort of personal reach around. Either way, total bullshit.

      Remind me once again why we elected this corrupt fucking ni**er and his minions in 2008? Oh, that’s right, because we had SUCH a better choice.

      1. Foppe

        Please tell me what his skin color has to do with anything. I will be eagerly awaiting your answer.

  2. Mike S.

    “The team that implemented national standards aimed at eliminating sexual abuse in our nation’s confinement facilities.”

    That’s a joke, right?
    DoJ dragged its feet for 8 years while conducting a study of the issues and now we’re supposed to believe that a year later there’s been successful implementation (“successful” meaning there’s no – or very little – sexual assault/rape taking place in the nation’s prison system). DoJ even stated that some of the recommendations couldn’t be implemented w/o new infrastructure (redsigned facilities) and extensive additional hiring to increase staffing levels.

    Talk about kabuki…

  3. OMF

    The truth is, you can trace genesis of the worst aspects of the US financial crisis to the founding of Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib scandals in 2003/2004. The message went out: “There are no more rules”. The most fundamental principals Americans held dear were tossed aside, and the result was the grand corruption of the credit bubble, the Sub-prime mortgage market, and the bank bailouts.

    1. Nathanael

      Now we just wait out the time lag before the government is overthrown (it is pretty much guaranteed to be at this point, it just isn’t meeting the minimum requirements for a government), and meanwhile, try to get enough people pointed in the direction of the rule of law and democracy that we might be able to get a new Republic after the inevitable civil war.

  4. Doug Terpstra

    Things Orwell never imagined: presidential medals of honor going to CIA directors who “slam-dunked” us into a criminal war, Nobel Peace prizes going to war criminals, Distinguished Service Awards going to whitewashers, and MSM reporting such parodies without a trace of satire for irony. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

  5. Eureka Springs

    I miss the Bush Cheney Gonzales DOJ… at least then there was a slight bit of outrage… a slight bit of hope that this type of criminality would come to an end.

    sigh. We now know exactly how fascism etc… arrives. Silently with awards ceremonies.

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