Friday, January 04, 2008

The Spoliation of America

The What!? !?

Spoliation. OK, I'll admit I've never heard the word before either until Jonathan Turley brought it up in passing on this segment of COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann. The subject: the opening of a criminal probe into "Waterboarding-Gate" - the destruction of interrogation tapes by the CIA. The quote:
"There's a compelling basis for at least six [criminal charges.] You've got obstruction of congress, obstruction of justice, you have perjury, conspiracy, a thing called spoliation... There is also a chance that you might have false statements, so the list gets longer, but the original one is torture.

You know, many people in Congress, and in the White House, and at Justice Department are framing this as an obstruction investigation as if what's on those tapes is an episode of Barney. What's on those tapes is the original crime in the scandal, and that's the crime of torturing people."
There's a lot of good stuff on this video. Please watch the whole thing. As usual Olbermann and Turley explore issues in a way that is lamentably unique on network news these days. I was especially interested to hear Turley announce once again that the Bush administration has gone far beyond the Nixon Watergate era in malfeasance. And lamentably they are getting away with it because of the execrable performance of what passes these days for a free press.

What I'm going to concentrate on here is this obscure (to me anyway) legal term 'spoliation of evidence.' Obviously it's a form of obstruction of justice, and maybe Turley could have given a better explanation of its impact. Here's some relevant material from Wikipedia:
"Lawyers and courts use the term spoliation to refer to the withholding, hiding, or destruction of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding and is a criminal act in the United States under Federal and most State law.

Spoliation has two consequences: first the act is criminal by statute and may result in fines and incarceration for the parties who engaged in the spoliation, secondly case law has established that proceedings which might have been altered by the spoliation may be interpreted under a spoliation inference. The spoliation inference is a negative evidentiary inference that a finder of fact can draw from a party's destruction of a document or thing that is relevant to an ongoing or reasonably foreseeable civil or criminal proceeding: The finder of fact can review all evidence uncovered in as strong a light as possible against the spoliator and in favor of the opposing party. The theory of the spoliation inference is that when a party destroys evidence, it may be reasonable to infer that the party had consciousness of guilt or other motivation to avoid the evidence. Therefore, the factfinder may conclude that the evidence would have been unfavorable to the spoliator."
The underlines are mine, and point out what I think is key to Turley's use of this term. The implication is that evidence against the spoliator that has not been destroyed is for lack of a better term amplified in its impact on the case. And the way I see it that could be very bad for this administration in any legal proceedings against them in the future. Very, very bad. Why? Because their whole strategy has been one of obfuscation, stonewalling, and destruction of evidence.

Remember the story last year about the shredding trucks spotted outside of Dick Cheney's official residence? Looks like we got us some bigtime spoliation goin' on here. Or how about the story about the loss of millions of White House emails from an RNC server that they shouldn't even have been on in the first place? That's right, my friends. Spoliation, plain and simple.

Clearly the purpose of Extraordinary Rendition of 'suspected terrorists' to black sites in countries where the US has no jurisdiction can be none other than, you guessed it - spoliation. Perhaps the worst kind of spoliation occurs when these suspects turn out to be innocent after the most vigorous interrogation. There is a terrible but Inescapable Logic which suggests the interrogator must practice the most extreme act of spoliation imaginable in those instances - murder of the torture victim/potential witness.

And the infamous Prosecutors Purge scandal? Wow, with all the witnesses in the White House and Department of Justice claiming amnesia over that one, it looks like they all got some serious spoliation IN THEIR BRAINS! Not only does it sound like a communicable disease, apparently it actually is. I think Alberto Gonzales is a carrier, like typhoid Mary or something.

I think the most significant and far-reaching spoliation of all is the proliferation of electronic paperless voting systems throughout the country. This almost certainly resulted in persons unknown tampering with perhaps hundreds of thousands, even millions of votes in the last two general elections, and perhaps the 2006 midterms as well. Effectively allowing the retroactive 'caging' of votes that the powers that be don't like and the simultaneous destruction of any evidence of the crime. The spoliation of democracy. The spoliation of America to serve a criminal regime.

It's the word of the day.
With any luck it might become the word of 2008.
I already like it better than truthiness.

Note: image at top of article is the painting "The spoliation of Christ" by el Greco. In that context spoliation means when the Centurions stripped his clothes off. It has nothing to do with the content of my post, but it's what I came up with in an image search, and hey - a little unruly culture never hurt anybody. Click for link to the online art museum where I found it.

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