Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Obama's legacy will be determined by his pardoning of whistleblowers     

By Andrew Kreig

President Obama should pardon the nation’s leading political prisoners and whistleblowers as a lasting legacy, particularly in view of his uplifting rhetoric and his party’s losses of November 8.

Justice for those who have been framed in high-profile, historic cases — which include the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy — would provide a vital civic lesson as the nation wrestles with what Electoral College winner Donald Trump has called his campaign for "law and order." Many Americans in the plurality that supported his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton interpret Trump's words, rightly or wrongly, as code for repression.

A bold pardon plan for the Obama administration’s final weeks would channel much of the sadness, anger and bickering prevalent among many Democrats who outvoted Republicans in the popular vote but still lost the presidency, Congress, and soon the Supreme Court.

Also, the pardon power would redress the Obama administration's failings in several of these specific criminal cases — and provide a road map for the entire nation (including Trump supporters) on how current problems can be solved.

We recommend (and are doing so in lectures in Washington and Dallas this week) that Obama show mercy to a representative sample of still-living defendants in political prosecutions. In some cases, political leaders were imprisoned for long terms far out of proportion to their conduct. In other instances, patsies took the fall for major crimes and brave whistleblowers were crushed.

These injustices have cleared the way for more powerful malefactors to escape. Perhaps worse, honest law enforcers, whistleblowers, and other good citizens are being discouraged for the future.

Our non-partisan Justice Integrity Project has documented these abuses extensively, as well as the way powerful financial and intelligence operatives assisted the president's early career in secret. Today, we draw on these previous columns and book, Presidential Puppetry, which contain extensive appendices citing others' reporting and evidence.

The material today is blunt to cut through the post-election clutter of punditry. Therefore, the president probably would not like it if he saw this. So, this column is not aimed for his attention but for yours. You cannot pressure effectively without the basic facts.

Abraham Bolden

Several of the recommended pardon recipients, such as President Kennedy's former Secret Service protector Abraham Bolden (shown above), met their unjust fate because their brave whistleblowing sought to redress some of the nation's most outrageous scandals. Malefactors so powerful as to constitute a "Deep State" of hidden government controllers created some of these scandals.

Other defendants, such as Sirhan Sirhan, the accused killer of the leading 1968 Democratic presidential contender Robert Kennedy, appear to have been fall guys set up to hide the intrigues that shape our political landscape today. Even if Sirhan did kill Kennedy, as seems unlikely from the evidence, Sirhan should have been released long ago under standard parole guidelines unless authorities had important secrets to keep hidden.

Paul Schrade

The above photo of Kennedy's close friend Paul Schrade symbolises the torment felt by some of those in the know about the nation's deepest mysteries.

The photo was taken by an Associated Press pool reporter during a closed February hearing after California authorities again denied Sirhan parole unfairly and with scant explanation. Schrade was shot by Sirhan in the head during the killing in a pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. Schrade is among those who believe Sirhan was firing a gun from Kennedy's front and could not possibly also have shot Kennedy from behind with the fatal bullet.

Yet authorities perpetuate conventional wisdom through the years after destroying evidence, ignoring witnesses like Schrade, and keeping Sirhan behind bars.

Therefore, it would take an act of political courage for President Obama and his team seriously to consider seeking justice by reopening any of these mysteries. But the important point is that action by Obama would primarily serve to lessen the public's plight, not just that of a few defendants.

That would make just resolution all the more impressive for his legacy. Especially deserving of such honor would be a president who changed course from his announcement just before taking office in 2009 that he would "look forward, not backward" at alleged government misconduct. Commentators interpreted him to mean that he would essentially ignore previous government crime, such as CIA torture.

Obama issued just one presidential pardon during his first term. That was far below the number granted by his predecessors. Obama's first White House counsel, Gregory Craig, has since explained that presidents and governors these days risk hurting their reputations by using their constitutional powers to grant clemency.

So, increasingly few of them undertake a responsibility that Constitution framers regarded as essential for chief executives to grant, as we reported in a 2012 column Presidential Clemency System Broken, Experts Say. The trend illustrates yet-another aspect of the decline of rule of law and is particularly harmful when used to silence those involved in historic events since at least some person released is bound to become controversial.

Obama granted vastly more clemency actions during his second term. But he took few risks because he and his pardon office at the Justice Department focused on low-profile offenders.

The president reduced 102 sentences last month according to a CNN report, Obama reducing 102 inmates' sentences, the latest batch in a record-setting effort by the White House to reverse harsh sentences for mostly nonviolent drug offenders.

"Obama has now granted clemency to 774 individuals, the vast majority of whom were serving time for nonviolent drug crimes," the report said. "Just in the past year, Obama has granted clemency to 590 prisoners, the most commutations in any single year of US history."

Few of the beneficiaries were known to the public. Thus, the president conserved his political capital especially in his first term by studiously avoiding high-profile clemency that might annoy the nation's power structure, which has been instrumental, if not treasonous, in some of the major cases described below.

Obama Options

The president could simply limp through his remaining weeks and ceremonies (including the annual symbolic pardoning of a turkey at the White House) as he and the nation await the dismantling of his major policies and programs under a Trump presidency and Republican-controlled House, Senate and Supreme Court.

The White House photo above from last year on Nov. 25 displays a feel-good moment. The president, his daughters Sasha and Malia, and National Turkey Federation Chairman Jihad Douglas participated in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

But a difference this year is that many people do not feel good and want more than photo ops and rhetoric from leaders. Obama granted vastly more clemency actions during his second term. But he took few risks because he and his pardon office at the Justice Department focused on low-profile offenders.

There is still time to change beyond a final clemency, which is reported as likely to benefit additional nonviolent drug offenders but not famous defendants.

USA Today reported Here's why Obama likely won't pardon Clinton on Nov. 14. However, the president could do what he wanted, just as his predecessors did. A Washington Times story emphasized the latter perspective in Obama executive orders, regulations, pardons expected as presidency draws to close.

The president entered office as a successful constitutional law adjunct professor at the University of Chicago after serving as the president of the Harvard Law Review, perhaps the most prestigious post for a law student in the entire nation (in part because Harvard is far larger than its rival top schools). Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in the fall of 2009 after being nominated during his first month of office on the basis of high hopes that he would reform government. With a more ambitious pardon policy, he could leave as the real deal.

The Justice Integrity Project has documented our disappointment again and again with him, his team, and mainstream news coverage. One example was our analysis last year, Media Helped Eric Holder Polish His Image...."Bloody Sunday" Selma March Next Month Provides Another Stage

It showed what we regarded as the cowardly seven-year track record of Attorney Gen. Eric Holder (shown in an official photo), the president's close friend and political ally.

Obama and Holder deserve credit for some actions, of course, including efforts to fight illegal vote suppression efforts by Republicans against minorities, students, and the disabled in likely Democratic districts. But ultimately even those efforts failed, as illustrated by many Democrat protests since the elections. We would argue that effective strategies against injustice must encompass better disclosure of the full scope of it, including exposure of ongoing injustices of historic scope.

In that spirit, our recommended actions for these last two months are below. Time is of essence. The annual Turkey Pardon on Thanksgiving should not be the main meal for those hungry for truth and justice.

These Heroes, Victims and Patsies Deserve Presidential Pardons: Background

We provide here brief background before recommending specific people for clemency consideration. First, such terms as pardon, commutation and clemency have specific legal meanings but are often used almost interchangeably in popular discourse, including in news reporting.

The precise legal terms and availability in the federal system are summarized at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Pardon Attorney, and in our appendix below. The appendix contains also links such as this list showing how U.S. presidents, especially recent ones, have used the pardon and clemency powers bestowed by the U.S. Constitution.

Pardons by President Bill Clinton included 120 in his last days, including one approved by Holder for hedge fund tycoon Marc Rich, which prompted a scandal that still looms over Democrats (in part because the FBI released documentation about it Nov. 1, helping to foster the anti-Clinton corruption theme that Republicans had used throughout the campaign.) Current FBI Director James Comey, a Republican, had criticized the Rich pardon during the Bush administration and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani had one of Rich's prosecutors.

But Republicans also have a history of pardoning high-profile cronies, including multiple Iran-Contra defendants pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. His son, President George W. Bush, controversially also pardoned White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby, a former Marc Rich attorney who recommended the financier's pardon, was convicted during the Bush administration of exposing for political reprisal the CIA covert status of Valerie Plame Wilson, thus endangering her, her family and her network of CIA informants worldwide. 

Finally, presidential pardon power can be wider than the confines suggested by the website but is limited to the federal system. Thus, a president could pardon an individual in advance of any indictment, as President Ford did with former President Nixon after Watergate. Some suggest that President Obama do so with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton following a Trump campaign in which his surrogates repeatedly led campaign chants of "Lock Her Up!" despite FBI findings that she had committed no crime. 

However, a president cannot order release of a state prisoner such as Sirhan. But Obama could use the presidency as what Teddy Roosevelt called "A Bully Pulpit" to encourage officials to reconsider their treatment of Sirhan and otherwise recognize public interest in a full investigation. In the same way, he could advocate that the National Archives not delay until next fall its release of remaining JFK assassination records, which are mandated for release by the 1992 "JFK Act" unanimously passed by congress but resisted on supposed national security grounds by powerful forces, including the CIA.

Abraham Bolden, Secret Service Officer Protecting JFK

At the top of our list is Abraham Bolden, whom President Kennedy personally recruited as the first African-American ever guard a president for the Secret Service. In Bolden's well-received 2007 memoir The Echo From Dealey Plaza and otherwise, Bolden wrote that some of his Secret Service colleagues hated Kennedy, in part because the president was leading the desegregation of the South via the Justice Department under his brother, Attorney Gen. Robert Kennedy.

The result was that many Secret Service personnel were failing in their security responsibilities. Bolden sought to warn the investigating Warren Commission in 1964 of his observations after Kennedy's 1963 assassination. But Bolden was instead quickly arrested, indicted, framed, and imprisoned on corruption charges, much of it in solitary confinement even though Bolden's primary accuser, an indicted counterfeiter, promptly recanted his trial testimony as coerced by corrupt prosecutors. We are among those who have extensively reported and vindicated Bolden's account, as in our column last year, Pioneering Black Secret Service JFK Guard Warns Of Current Lessons

Bolden's unjust imprisonment and its implications remain neglected because examination would shatter so many illusions, sustained by the media among others, about law enforcement, and a code of honor among presidential protectors, in particular. The vast bulk of elite law enforcers live up to their profession's ideals but a few undertake apparently criminal actions, as historian Vincent Palamara demonstrated in his comprehensive 2013 book,Survivors Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect JFK.

The problem, of course, is that for anyone in official circles to recognize past injustice in the particular case of the JFK murder would be to open the Pandora's Box of many other still-hidden secrets.

Yet it is hard to imagine a more apt case for presidential clemency than compassion for Bolden, a Chicago resident who suffers in great pain and otherwise failing health. Even so, Bolden is scheduled to speak via Skype to a major conference for JFK researchers and concerned citizens from Nov. 18-20 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dallas. Bolden will receive the organizer's annual award for his courage and service, but the big prize of a pardon remains at his president's discretion.

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and Businessman Richard Scrushy, Political Prisoners

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat still imprisoned for 1999 conduct that was not even a crime, is next on our list. So is Siegelman's co-defendant, Republican businessman Richard Scrushy, who was sentenced by their corrupt federal judge to a seven-year prison term on similar charges. The central charges were that Siegelman reappointed Scrushy to a state regulatory board in return for a large contribution by Scrushy to defray the costs of a referendum campaign for a state lottery that Siegelman supported to win more funding for K-12 education.

Don Siegleman

A Siegelman aide coached by prosecutors in about 70 pre-trial sessions not reported to the defense as required by law provided the key prosecution testimony of an illegal quid pro quo after the witness was threatened with a 10-year term if he did not give the required testimony. Many legal experts have argued that Siegelman's reappointment of Scrushy to the board in 1999 after the businessman had served there for Republicans was not even a crime, and that similar conduct is regarded as routine on local, state and national levels.

Like many others, our interpretation is that Scrushy's sentence on corruption charges essentially punished him for not perjuring himself to help corrupt prosecutors convict Siegelman falsely. As extra reprisal, insiders obtained a $500 million fraud judgment against Scrushy in a civil case while he was imprisoned, thus stripping him of his wealth while he was helpless behind bars. 

We have often reported on the cases, beginning with a major investigation the Huffington Post reported on its front page in 2009, Huffington Post, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. Our most recent column before this one, GOP Agitators Seek Renewed Clinton Email Probe , also reported on the Siegelman case because it is particularly relevant to current presidential politics, appointment of honest personnel to the courts and Justice Department, and vindictive political prosecutions of the kind president-elect Trump and his top aides have long threatened against losing Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, many courageous whistleblowers risked everything to warn the public that the Bush Justice Department was framing Siegelman and Scrushy and electronically flipping the votes in Siegelman's 2002 re-election campaign as part of wider plan to remove from public life Democrats like Siegelman who might rise or continue in high office.

Siegelman, as one of the most popular politicians in the Deep South and a potential centrist presidential candidate, was a special target from the very day he took office in 1999, as previously reported, and particularly after he sought re-election in 2006. A special federal-state inquiry run out of Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery ultimately resulted in a split-verdict in a second trial for both Siegelman and Scrushy.

Scrushy, a Republican, is shown at left with one his 11 children while he served his long sentence. His ordeal illustrated what happens to witnesses who fail to cooperate in a corrupt prosecution. Ruin.

Meanwhile, probably no prosecution in modern American history had so many courageous whistleblowers and concerned citizens speak out against it.

Alabama activist Pam Miles has operated a pro-Siegelman blog for more than a decade and traveled through the nation to build both grass roots and top level government support for him. She concurs with our estimate that more than 200,000 protests have gone to the Bush or Obama administrations and congress protesting the Siegelman-Scrushy prosecution. This total stands far above the 79,000 signatures in the current campaign to the Obama administration led by Siegelman's family.

I recall that Henry Miller once wrote that it’s hard to spot a missing comma (his day job) than write a great page of a novel (at least for him).

But no officials have responded in any meaningful way except to vindicate the federal prosecution, and many of the whistleblowers have been crushed and discouraged by the inaction, and reprisals against whistleblowers and those who refused to perjure themselves. No officials dare confront the powerful figures behind the prosecution after seeing what happened to whistleblowers. Previous protests are simply discarded down the Memory Hole by each new batch of bureaucrats, doubtless including very soon those in the Obama administration.

That is the Obama-Holder legacy so far in the most notorious human rights case of their administration. They can change it but only if they want to. And there's more:

Joseph Nacchio and the Assault on the Nation's Electronic Privacy

Our next recommendation is on behalf of former Qwest Chairman and CEO Joseph Nacchio, head of a major telecom federal contractor. He was railroaded to prison on highly dubious insider trading charges in clear reprisal for trying to protect his customers from illegal, warrantless federal government surveillance before 9/11 in the early days of the Bush administration in 2001.

Nacchio, the leader of the regional Bell provider for 14 Western states, also chaired two national telecom advisory councils under the then-new Bush administration, and thus appeared to be extremely well-positioned at the highest levels of the telecom, IT, and federal contracting sectors. But eight months before 9/11 in 2001, Bush officials unsuccessfully asked him to provide customer data en masse for the National Security Agency (NSA).

Joseph Nacchio
As a prudent and law-abiding executive, he made the mistake of requesting a warrant or some other official request before complying, thinking that his precaution was reasonable.

Instead, government officials made an example of him to his telecom CEO peers (who thereupon all complied with such requests).

Government officials as part of their reprisal cancelled many of Qwest's array of government contracts, thereby cratering his company's stock price and criminalizing Nacchio's sale in early 2001 of stock options, a routine part of corporate compensation for such company executives.

Backed by experts, Nacchio unsuccessfully argued in filings extending to the U.S. Supreme Court that CEOs frequently hear both good and bad internal predictions that do not arise to "material" information whose disclosure to the stock-trading public is required to avoid liability under securities law. Thus, he argued, he remained optimistic about the company's prospects in 2001 and forbade his broker from selling his shares if prices dipped below $38. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others, endorsed his legal position in briefs to the Supreme Court in Nacchio v. United States

Nacchio's federal trial judge in Colorado made many highly dubious, pro-prosecution rulings, leaving many legal observers mystified — at least until the judge's personal scandals and the supposed "national security" elements of the case helped identify it as a kangaroo-court frame-up.

Based on extensive parallel investigations of how both government and private parties use sexual and financial blackmail to pressure government officials for favorable rulings, our Justice Integrity Project found it beyond suspicious that both Nacchio and Siegelman-Scrushy underwent frame-ups orchestrated by federal judges mired in scandal so awful that each judge had resign their lifetime appointments after the trials. Those scandals were likely known and used by prosecutors for leverage, especially given the government's widespread surveillance used on all Americans, but the scandals were unknown at the time of trial to defendants and their attorneys, as we have reported here previously. 

Last year, Nacchio accepted the annual "Corporate Courage" award at the annualWhistleblowers Summit located on Capitol Hill. He and Richard Scrushy each spoke both at the Summit and separately at the National Press Club about their experiences. Authorities imposed a six-year prison term on Nacchio and also fined him $19 million fine and imposed an additional $44 million in forfeiture penalties.

Nacchio, having completed his six-year sentence, has denounced the Obama administration's privacy protections as inadequate even after a so-called reform enacted in June 2015 in response to disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden two years previously. Therefore, Nacchio is unlikely to be among the favorites of those in the Obama administration who join the president in approving his last batch of clemency recipients. But that would make a grant for him all the more impressive.

Obama has acted graciously during his eight years in office with many others, including Donald Trump, even though the president-elect built his new political career on the pony "birther" claim against the president's legitimacy. If Obama can forgive Trump he should be able to provide justice for Nacchio, who, after all, was persecuted for simply protecting his customers' constitutional rights to remain free from unwarranted government surveillance. 

Thomas Drake, Other Whistleblower Targets Charged With Espionage

Like Nacchio, former National Security Agency (NSA) senior executive Thomas Drakedeserves presidential clemency also for a political prosecution brought by the Bush Justice Department.

As reported in our 2015 column Mr. Drake Goes To Washington, Drake was a career military and intelligence officer who became concerned that NSA was wasting about a billion dollars to acquire a data system in a sweetheart deal. 

Thomas Drake
Drake warned the public last year at the National Press Club against the federal government's crackdown on whistleblowers. Drake, who narrowly escaped life in prison for communicating with a Baltimore Sun reporter, said the government has the ability to make such conduct illegal retroactively. Drake has said he was extremely fortunate in finding effective counsel through the Government Accountability Project and encountering a fair-minded federal judge. 

Under pressure from the judge, the Justice Department reduced its spy charge against Drake to a misdemeanor in a plea deal.

Regarding the larger issues, Drake asked, “How else will the press report the real news when their sources dry up and the government becomes a primary purveyor of its own news?”

Drake's revelations and passion during his talk resembled James Stewart's iconic performance in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" protesting corruption, including during a Senate filibuster.

Yet Drake focused on dangers far more important than the 1939 film's portrayal of corruption in Congress and the media. He deserves a pardon for such selfless actions and his long record of government service previously.

Even more important, clemency would send a much-needed positive message to other whistleblowers, particularly those like Drake who were unsuccessful in reporting, waste, fraud and abuse in the big dollar national security sector that is nearly impossible for outsiders, even in Congress, to monitor.

This section should note that there are a number of other whistleblowers prosecuted in this sector with excessively harsh and otherwise unfair methods and sentences. Space does not permit mention of all, much less a description of their cases.

Among those being too harshly treated have been former NSA analyst Kenneth Ford, victim of an obvious frame-up bringing him six years in prison, former CIA officers Jeffrey Sterlingand John Kiriacou, the overly aggressive blogger Barrett Brown, and six Colorado-based former security personnel known as the "IRP6" serving excessively long prison terms on highly dubious financial fraud charges after their software company failed. There is also Chelsea Manning, now serving in solitary confinement the longest term in U.S. history for a leaker, as reported by the Washington Post Nov. 14 in Chelsea Manning petitions Obama for clemency on her 35-year prison sentence.

Drake in a sense serves in our list as a surrogate representative for them and their cases. 

Bradley Birkenfeld, Most Important, Effective Financial Whistleblower In U.S. History

Famed bank whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld launched his tell-all memoir Lucifer’s Bankerlast month at the National Press Club with a harsh indictment of the nearby headquarters of the U.S. Justice Department.

Birkenfeld, described earlier this year by CNBC as "the most significant financial whistleblower of all time," attacked law enforcers as being cowardly, self-seeking and deceitful in monitoring crime by top financial institutions that help the wealthy commit massive tax fraud. The schemes hide money, sometimes ill-gotten, and thus may hurt the criminals' spouses, business colleagues, fellow citizens, and governments.

Birkenfeld, 51, helped American authorities recover an estimated $15 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties from wealthy tax cheats who worked with his former employer, UBS, the world's largest bank. UBS is at the center of Switzerland's notoriously secretive system that helped the wealthy evade creditors and facilitate crime that includes drug and arms trafficking.

"The great irony," Birkenfeld told about 80 guests at the press club Oct. 18 (as shown in our JIP photo), "is that the only banker imprisoned for the financial scandals was me, the whistleblower."

"The problem," he continued in an interview the next day with RT, "is the U.S. Department of Justice is corrupt."

His Lucifer’s Banker memoir, subtitled The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy, is an engaging, important and otherwise compelling overview of his unique, courageous role in exposing and reforming Switzerland's system of secret banking for the world's mega-rich.

His story also shows how he endured a 40-month prison sentence. After serving 31 months (with time off for good behavior), he is now free to tell the tale, bolstered by $104 million (before taxes) that he and his lawyers managed to obtain as reward money despite the best efforts of Justice Department tormentors to hinder the full force of his disclosures.

Particularly important is that authorities -- and not just the Justice Department but also Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her colleagues -- sought to protect many of the rich and powerful tax cheats who could have been exposed, as we reported here in Courageous Memoir Denounces Banks. He continues to speak out, as in his C-SPAN interview rebroadcast Nov. 12 and 13, Bradley Birkenfeld Discusses "Lucifer's Banker."

A much-deserved pardon would redress the balance whereby only the whistleblower was imprisoned, and more importantly encourage others to speak up during a new administration already showing an ever greater tilt toward secrecy and lax oversight of the wealthy and powerful. 


Below we describe how President Obama could have a major impact in public understanding of the 1960s assassinations of the Kennedys by advocating clemency and transparency, even if it is difficult for him directly to impose it in his remaining two months.

Sirhan Sirhan, Accused RFK Killer, Probable Patsy

Shown below in a mug shot from this year and at right at the time of his arrest in 1968, Sirhan Sirhan is serving a life sentence imposed for his 1969 first degree murder conviction in the 1968 shooting death of New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The killing occurred shortly after Kennedy gave a victory speech upon winning the California Democratic primary for the 1968 presidential nomination. The victory over Sen. Eugene McCarthy (MN) was regarded as placing Kennedy on the path to the nomination and likely victory in the general election against GOP candidate Richard Nixon. Sirhan was a former race track exercise trainer who lost his track job after injury and disappeared from his close knit Lebanese Christian family's home in California for still-unknown reasons for months before the shooting.

Sirhan has consistently maintained that has scant memory of the events that found him with a handgun shooting toward Kennedy and wounding, among others, Kennedy's friend PaulSchrade in the forehead. 

Schrade, a union executive, accompanied the senator in the entourage leaving the speaker ballroom to avoid crowds. Sirhan was convicted at trial, which featured a diary in his handwriting with the repeated words "RFK must die."

In February, California parole authorities as usual denied Sirhan's request for parole, stating briefly that he failed to show remorse. He became eligible for parole in the 1980s and can obtain parole review once every five years.

That case summary is all that most people know, but a longer version can be far more dramatic and different. 

Independent researchers and concerned citizens for years have argued that it was impossible for Sirhan to have killed Kennedy, and that he was a likely patsy like his brother's accused killer Lee Harvey Oswald framed to hide the assassins who wanted to prevent another Kennedy presidency. In this scenario, Sirhan was a mind control victim who did just enough suspicious things (including wounding Schrade) to let the real assassin escape in the confusion.

As part of the evidence of a conspiracy implicating authorities in a cover-up at the minimum, Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi found that Kennedy was killed from a bullet fired approximately an inch from the rear, when Sirhan was reported by witnesses to have been several feet in front of Kennedy at relevant times. Los Angeles police, working closely with intelligence personnel, are alleged also to have hidden, ignored or destroyed evidence, including witness identifications of such leads as a "woman in a polka dot dress" reputed to have accompanied Sirhan with an unknown man.

This year's parole hearing was especially dramatic because Schrade, 91, stepped forward to beg for Sirhan's release in dramatic fashion and to request a new investigation. He presented a letter from the slain senator's son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., seeking a reopened investigation. After the decision Schrade (shown in a photo from documentary maker Interesting Stuff Entertainment) denounced the proceeding as a sham, and tried unsuccessfully to shake Sirhan's hand. Authorities barred the media from the proceeding aside from an Associated Press reporter writing an 854-word report, thereby adding to the Star Chamber elements of the case.

Journalist Shane O'Sullivan, author of a book on the case, wrote a powerful series in February for the investigative site WhoWhatWhy excerpted immediately below and in our appendix, and RFK Assassination Readers Guide. Also, investigative reporter Fernando Faure published in June his memoir describing how as a young reporter covering the RFK murder he tracked the desperate movements of "The Lady in the Polka Dot Dress" and presented his findings to police, only to find they were thoroughly hostile to him and any evidence that failed to point to Sirhan's guilt. 

O'Sullivan's Feb. 16 report for WhoWhatWhy, The Full Story of the Sirhan Sirhan Parole Hearing, focused initially on what he called "the near-complete media blackout" of the parole hearing, which "means the world had to rely on one reporter’s account." O'Sullivan continued, "Here is the complete story of what actually transpired and matters."

Towards the end of O'Sullivan's long story, he quoted Schrade as requesting that the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, open a new investigation into the case:

"I am requesting a new investigation so that after nearly 50 years, justice finally can be served for me as a shooting victim; for the four other shooting victims who also survived their wounds; for Bob Kennedy; for the people of the United States who Bob loved so much and had hoped to lead; just as his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had led only a few years before; and of course for justice, to which Bob Kennedy devoted his life."

"As AP reported," O'Sullivan continued, "Sirhan again stuck to his story that he didn’t remember shooting Robert Kennedy. He felt remorse for the victims but couldn’t take full responsibility for the crime: 'If you want a confession, I can’t make it now…I just wish this whole thing had never taken place.' O'Sullivan's account continued:

Meeting Sirhan for the first time since the 1969 trial, Schrade [shown below with the senator in a 1968 photo by MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] apologized to Sirhan for not attending his previous parole hearings or doing more to win his release: “I should have been here long ago and that’s why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me.”

AP reported that “Schrade’s voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony” but what did he actually say? We won’t have a transcript for 30 days, so drawing on the full text of his prepared remarks, here’s a summary of his testimony below:

Sirhan nodded politely and seemed appreciative as Schrade told him he wasn’t guilty and that Robert Kennedy would be appalled, not only by the parole board’s unjust treatment of Sirhan, but by the fact that he was not being given parole based on his rights under law....Schrade then directed the panel’s attention to documents submitted in advance of the hearing, which proved “Sirhan Sirhan did not shoot — and could not have shot — Robert Kennedy.”

As Sirhan got up to leave, Schrade reportedly shouted, “Sirhan, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It’s my fault.” AP reported that Sirhan tried to shake hands with Schrade but a guard blocked him.

Schrade found the hearing “very abusive” and upsetting. He later told reporters waiting outside that “Sirhan was being tortured in there.” In a radio interview, he said the parole board was “cold and ruthless about keeping this guy in jail, knowing there’s evidence [of his innocence] in the files.” He found the panel’s treatment of Sirhan “despicable,” destroying his dignity with petty questions that made the commissioners “look like amateur psychiatrists.”

Sirhan was again denied for five years because he “did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime” – a statement which the transcripts of Sirhan’s previous parole hearings show is just not true.

President Obama cannot order Sirhan's release but he can raise public consciousness regarding a need for a new investigation and a better parole process.

JFK Records

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has repeatedly announced that it plans to release by next September a remaining trove of more than 1,000 documents relevant to the JFK assassination and required for release under the so-called "JFK Act" passed unanimously by congress in 1992. A president has the power to assist those who want continued secrecy, including tactics of heavy redaction that undercut use of the document.

The vast majority of the documents are believed have been withheld for "national security reasons" from the three million pages of JFK documents so far released, which have proven immensely helpful to researchers, including the many who believe the CIA was instrumental in arranging the assassination and/or facilitating the cover-up on behalf of JFK's enemies, who included prominent Wall Street financiers, energy and agriculture tycoons, their top operatives at the CIA and FBI, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Mafia leaders, Cuban exiles, and segregationists.

We have examined the evidence so far in what is now a 31-part Justice Integrity ProjectReaders Guide To JFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives to help researchers of the assassination and its current implications. Our tentative conclusions so far are summarized there, with a representative column headlined: JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up.

I am scheduled to speak Nov. 20 drawing on this column in a keynote lecture at an annual research conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Dealey Plaza location where JFK was shot.

Based on near daily interaction throughout the year with other assassination researchers, we believe that the CIA, and hence a subordinate organization in Washington's power structure such as NARA, face a huge conflict of interest in NARA's effort to declassify next fall a full record of remaining assassination documents. This is because whatever the CIA is still withholding is highly likely to show if unredacted that the agency's role went far beyond the devastating incrimination already known. Indeed, my questioning of high level CIA personnel (on rare occasions when they are publicly accessible on the record) has indicated that even they do not know why or what their colleagues are seeking to withhold.

In that circumstance, President Obama owes it to his legacy and the country to pressure NARA to release as much as possible before he leaves office. There is no reason to punt. Judges are forcing other agencies to work overtime to release what are likely to be far less important materials under Freedom of Information Act litigation. Obama is still the commander in chief, at least for now, and he can make progress on this if he dares or desires. 

Other People, Other Pardons: Hillary Clinton? David Petraeus? Edward Snowden? 

Hillary Clinton, Erstwhile 'Crooked Hillary'

The President and then-former Secretary of State relax on July 29, 2013 on the White House patio: White House photo

As noted above, USA Today published on Nov. 14 Here's why Obama likely won't pardon Clinton, an extensive review by reporter Gregory Korte of reasons why Obama is not likely to pardon Clinton even though she was threatened throughout the campaign by Trump and even more persistently by his surrogates Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani as they led chants of "lock her up!" at rallies.

The USA Today reporter argued also more briefly that Obama was unlikely for the same reasons to pardon such others as former CIA Director David Petraeus, convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, intelligence contractor Edward Snowden or Pvt. Chelsea Manning, all of whom were accused or convicted of mishandling classified information. "The reason is simple," the reporter wrote. "None of them have applied to the Office of the Pardon Attorney for executive clemency."

Obama specifically addressed “last-minute” presidential pardons at a news conference in August. “The process that I put in place is not going to vary depending on how close I get to the election,” he said in response to a question from USA Today. “So it's going to be reviewed by the pardon attorney, it will be reviewed by my White House counsel, and I'm going to, as best as I can, make these decisions based on the merits, as opposed to political considerations.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed last week that Obama hasn’t changed that philosophy after the election. “I wouldn’t speculate at this point about what impact that may have on hypothetical pardon requests that he receives. I'll just say that the guidance that President Obama shared with you is still operative.”

In an interview with CBS "60 Minutes" on Nov. 13, Trump said he does not foresee having a special prosecutor against the Clintons. "They’re good people," he said of Bill and Hillary Clinton. "I don’t want to hurt them.”

Trump's conciliatory current verdict on the erstwhile "Crooked Hillary" should deeply disturb anyone who truly believes in a constitution-based "rule of law" even though Trump's words on their face seemed reassuring to those who worried as he consolidates the nation's power under his team.

What Threats Face The Clintons — And Trump?

While the Clintons themselves may have nothing to fear if they behave themselves (and act nice to Trump), his track record indicates he views himself as the prosecutor, judge, jury and news reporter over all such public activity, with license to change his mind immediately if offended.

Therefore, his opinion and power effectively removes the Clintons from a significant role in public life, lest they face the fate of Bolden, Siegelman, Scrushy, Nacchio, and others described above. Let's take a moment to underscore the stakes involved.

Bolden conveyed an assassination threat against JFK on the latter's scheduled trip to Chicago in early November 1963 that may have played a role in Kennedy's last-minute cancellation of the trip. But, like a similar warning via an informant conveyed via FBI agent Don Adams, there was essentially no investigation that would have prevented the president's death or helped identify perpetrators, except for the frame-up of the innocent whistleblower Bolden.

In the case of the convict Siegelman, we might be calling him "President Siegelman" now if not for electronic voting scam in 2002 and his frame-up along with Scrushy on phony corruption charges. Remember, this was for trying in 1998 and 1999 to find more financial support for K-12 education in Alabama. Instead, Siegelman and Scrushy were hauled from court in chains in 2007 by a corrupt and blackmailed judge who denied them liberty to post a bond, which white-collar defendants almost always receive after trial pending their appeals.

Authorities first put Siegelman in continuous bus transfer between prisons as a special punishment inflicted for unknown reasons, and then in solitary confinement for good measure. All of these had the effect of removing him from contact with his attorneys and supporters. The police state tactics taught everyone a lesson that is frightening in a democracy: Do not support leaders who have been targeted.

These are the kind of crimes against democracy that President Obama has so far avoided addressing with his "look forward" mantra regarding basic rights.

Trump and his supporters have high stakes in this also, not just as citizens but as those who want his success and indeed survival. Properly considered, all U.S. presidents after the Kennedy assassinations and the attempts on George Wallace, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan must weigh carefully whether their conduct will inspire a similar attack.

My conversations with security experts favoring a Trump presidency have for more than a year revealed deep worry from them, and me, that he might be targeted by Deep State interest regarded as behind the above-mentioned attempts (even those popularly described as by "lone nuts"), as well as the Watergate removal of President Nixon.

Why? Because of Trump's unconventional policies, particularly in military and foreign affairs, which are regarded as just as threatening to empire-building oligarchs as some of the policies of Nixon, who was removed (according to recent historical research) even though he and his top aides did not authorize the Watergate break-in, which was instead undertaken by others with other motives conventionally portrayed.

The gist is that we need honest, fearless officials, security experts, whistleblowers, reporters, professors and ordinary citizens, and we're unlikely to have enough of them if we do not care if they are murdered, fired, and falsely imprisoned.

In this, we should not overestimate the independence of such elite bodies as the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and federal courts. Although FBI Director James Comey's may not have planned for his unprecedented interference in the recent campaign to affect presidential and congressional results as they apparently did, the record of cases above is proof positive that leadership of these agencies can be highly political even if the vast majority of employees (many of whom I've known for years) are simply trying to do their jobs in a professional manner. 

We cannot know Comey's intentions, perhaps ever. But we can learn more, especially if Obama takes proper steps about such mysteries as the CIA's involvement in the JFK assassination and Warren Commission investigation. One commissioner was former CIA Director Allen Dulles, whom JFK had forced from office. We now know from declassified materials that Dulles used his Warren Commission post to help keep secret from the public accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's government ties.

In terms of court review? Good luck on that. Did you know that the Supreme Court's longest serving Democrat, Stephen Breyer began his career by working as a junior staff member on the Warren Commission? He cannot be faulted too much, one might say, for participating along with many others as a young professional in that highly compartmentalized cover-up of the crime of the century.

Stephen Breyer

But the rest of us can at least observe that courts provide only a modest protection for us, and Democrats have their share of go-along, get-along careerists who never breath a word about removal of their leaders if it might undermine their own career ascendancy.

The Legacy?

Ultimately, President Obama can do what he wants, but only so long as he is in office. Looked at in another way, he can put on a happy face, but either he or his supporters may be crying next year.

Right now, the president is well-liked. He's done his job, part of which is posing for photo ops, such as the one below from last Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen for the homeless.

But Obama's legacy is not going to hold up well if his policies are discarded, his supporters are furious (if not targeted), and he sails off to a comfortable life without putting up a fight for the kinds of victims described here: Bolden, Siegelman, Scrushy, and the others.

And let's not forget the dead Kennedys.

If more evidence were released, or even some high level attention got focused on the cover-up, the truth would be even more obvious to the public that both were killed by the power structure.

The two Kennedys, not at first but late in their young lives of leadership, were fighting a deadly battle against the puppetmasters on behalf of causes that most of the puppets in public life merely voice in rhetoric.

Why on earth is President Obama smiling? Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, an outspoken liberal supporter of Obama throughout the recent campaign, ranted on Nov. 14 against Obama's buoyant demeanor as the president boasted at a White House press conference earlier in the day about his accomplishments.

"Obama’s post-election remarks seemed utterly at odds with the national mood," Milbank wrote. "Half the country is exultant because Donald Trump has promised to undo everything Obama has done over the past eight years. The other half of the country is alarmed that a new age of bigotry and inwardness has seized the country. And here’s the outgoing president, reciting what a fine job he has done."

"This has been Obama’s pattern," Milbank continued. "At times when passion is called for, he’s cerebral and philosophical and taking the long view — so long that it frustrates those living in the present. A week after an election has left his supporters reeling, Obama’s focus seemed to be squarely on his own legacy."

For two months more, President Obama has a unique opportunity to upgrade his human rights legacy. Should he choose to do so he can go beyond the policies that seem likely to be dismantled soon in significant part.

Accordingly, he can redress the major injustices cited in this column, whatever the obstacles and odds, in the tradition of those honored by the late President Kennedy in his historical study Profiles In Courage of great and daring American heroes.

Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig, Esq.
Andrew Kreig is Justice Integrity Project Executive Director and co-founder with over two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC.

An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies. He has been a consultant and volunteer leader in advising several non-profit groups fostering cutting-edge applications within the communications industries.
As president and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its worldwide advocacy that helped create the broadband wireless industry. Previously, he was WCAI vice president and general counsel, an associate at Latham & Watkins, law clerk to a federal judge, author of the book Spiked about the newspaper business and a longtime reporter for the Hartford Courant.

Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World from the mid-1990s and currently, he holds law degrees from the University of Chicago School of Law and from Yale Law School. Reared in New York City, his undergraduate degree in history is from Cornell University, where he was a student newspaper editor, rowing team member, and Golden Gloves boxer.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig.



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