Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Illegal Wiretapping, Indeed

Glenn Greenwald's trial conduct found "unethical"

Glenn Greenwald is a self-made blogging phenomenon, for which you have to respect him, even though he is probably the single most obnoxious writer on the Internet. His prose style is a groaning Frankenstein of juvenile syntax -- Tourettic scare quotes, volume-11 hyperbole -- bolted onto sentences that have the grace of nose-diving zeppelins. And his ego is galactic.

On the other hand, Greenwald can be spot-on when he's taking down right-wing hypocrisy, such as here, and especially when mocking the office pantomime of masculinity performed by that doughy chorus of pundits led by Jonah Goldberg and James Taranto. He's also voluminous on the subject of Constitutional Law and its antagonist in the Bush Administration. I'm not able to judge these writings, but I trust them a lot more than his flatulent emanations on foreign policy, as Greenwald is a former Wachtell litigator. In particular, he's had a lot to say about the Bush Administration's extensive, illegal wiretapping.

Which is why I note with a sense of irony that during his pre-blogging career as a practicing lawyer, while he was defending the First Amendment rights of white supremacist Matthew Hale in a series of civil suits, Greenwald was found in court to have illegally recorded conversations he had with various of Hale's associates. I have no clue how to properly cite cases, but the document is entitled:


No. 00 C 2021


159 F. Supp. 2d 1116; 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13001

and in it we find the following

I. Background

On October 13, 2000, Defendants' counsel's telephone rang. [**3] To Defendant's counsel's apparent pleasure, Kenneth Dippold, one of Plaintiff's witnesses, was on the line. Dippold voluntarily called Defendants' counsel in New York from a location in Illinois to answer any questions regarding Dippold's involvement in the underlying litigation. Dippold had received a subpoena from Defendants' counsel earlier that day.

Defendants' counsel served the subpoena on Dippold immediately upon discovering his identity on October 7, 2000. At that time, Plaintiff identified Dippold as the sole witness to support the allegation that Hale encouraged Smith to engage in the July 1999 shooting spree. Before that date, Plaintiff [*551] had not identified a witness to support this allegation.

Seizing the opportunity, Defendants' counsel hit the record button and commenced surreptitiously taping the conversation with Dippold. The conversation lasted for some time, covering in detail Dippold's contacts with Hale, the WCOTC, and various other parties having an interest in the underlying litigation. Dippold never asked if Defendants' counsel was taping the conversation. Nor did Defendants' counsel make any representations to Dippold suggesting that the conversation was or [**4] was not being taped.

The existence of the tape remained undiscovered by Dippold and Plaintiff until Dippold's deposition approximately two months later. After three hours of questioning, and allegedly a few too many inconsistent statements, Defendants' counsel revealed that the October telephone conversation was surreptitiously taped. Because Defendants' counsel proceeded to use a transcript of the tape to impeach Dippold, Defendants' counsel immediately provided Plaintiff's counsel with a copy of the tape. Any work-product protection no longer applied.

Approximately one month later, Plaintiff discovered the existence of another tape. This tape pertained to a conversation between Defendants' counsel and Ian Sigel, another witness in the case. Similar to the circumstances surrounding Dippold's tape, Sigel was in Illinois at the time of the telephone conversation, while Defendants' counsel was in New York. Sigel had also received a subpoena from Defendants' counsel.

In view of Defendants' counsel's tactics, Plaintiff served a Fourth Request for the Production of Documents and Things on Defendant. Among other things, Plaintiff requested "any and all audio tapes and/or written transcripts [**5] reflecting any conversation(s) between [Defendants] and/or [Defendants] attorney(s) and any third-party referring or relating to the [underlying lawsuit]." (Pl.'s Consolidated Mem. Supp. Mot. Compel & Protective Order at 4.) Days later Defendants responded, asserting the work product doctrine and refusing to produce any tapes.


As it turned out, Plaintiff quickly determined that it was necessary to brief the issue. More tapes, in fact, existed. Moreover, Defendants' counsel refused to discontinue making additional tapes...

Greenwald and Hale lost both motions relating to Greenwald's misconduct, and lost again on appeal.

Plaintiff moved to compel disclosure of these tapes, arguing that this conduct was unethical and therefore vitiated any attorney work-product privilege that may have attached to these recordings, and sought a protective order prohibiting any further recordings. The magistrate judge granted both motions, finding defense counsel's conduct unethical under two separate rules: Local Rule 83.58.4(a)(4), prohibiting "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;" and Local Rule 83.54.4, stating "a lawyer shall not … use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of [another] person." [Emphasis mine]

After disclosure was eventually made, the elaborateness of Greenwald's deceit came to light:

A 52-page transcript of one conversation showed defendants' counsel steered the conversation by eliciting particular responses to detailed questions, leading to more detailed questions, to lure the witness into damning statements for later use.

This hardly raises to the level of a Constitutional violation of privacy by the Executive, but Greenwald is never so strident as he is when exposing what he perceives to be hypocrisy. I suppose, though, we wouldn't receive the bounty of our self-anointed protectors if they were encumbered by the lofty sense of ethics they bear down on others.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Illiberal Guilt

Ezra Klein praises Ron Rosenbaum's praise of liberal guilt. He laments the convervative "sleight-of-hand... [that has] recast feeling guilt as a character flaw, as political weakness, as soft-headed emotionalism." Then he renders this revealing formulation.

People don't like to feel guilt, particularly over actions they didn't directly commit.

I myself don't feel guilt over actions I didn't commit, because there is no reason to. Klein appears to allow for guilt arising from indirect culpability. The notion that I should espouse a politics that seeks to make me -- the product of an Italian immigrant and Jews who fled the pogroms -- indirectly responsible for Jim Crow and similar crimes is offensive without the help of conservative legerdemain.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

WTFF - A Million Melons!

The Undercover Black Man provides the best-yet installment of the What The Fuck Files:

I'd rahthah have lots of breast milk than a million melons!

Gratuitous Adjectives

Were Greenwald to hold himself to his own standards for accountability, he might have acknowledged that in retrospect he was wrong. Yet there were no such mea culpas in the article. If he didn't have the space to get into this matter, he could at least have saved a couple words by dropping gratuitous adjectives.

This is Michael O'Hanlon citing, among other things, Glenn Greenwad's logorrhea. I remain amazed that such a piss-poor writer (and obnoxious turd) can churn out a popular, hosted blog, three trade books, including one NYT Best-Seller, and be asked to contribute to the National Interest. I don't envy the editors charged with Herculean task of flushing the shit out of those stables.

The National Interest is a magazine that has published the likes of Francis Fukuyama ("The End of History"!), Richard Pipes, Robert Conquest and Saul Bellow. Either we've plummeted into empire-ending cultural decay, or I'm missing something.

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The Drunken Dragon

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jim Black, the drunken dragon:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Obama, the Jews and Israel

There's a persistent, nasty notion that Barack Obama is bad for the Jews. It crests and falls rhythmically in public discourse, and I hear it expressed by Jews I know. The sense is Obama places somewhere on a spectrum between a latte-drinking, liberal milquetoast and a black anti-Semite. Wherever the dart sticks, it will be bad for Israel.

As someone who has spent years writing about foes of Israel, subtle and overt, and specifically these two types that supposedly bookend Obama, I'd like to go on record saying this is top-shelf, triple-distilled horseshit.

Over the next months, we'll come to see the fullness of Obama's foreign policy vision. We already have a fairly good sense of what it will be like. Some of it strikes me as vaporous, some of it seems groan-inducingly soft. Some of it makes sense. Most of it -- even stuff I don't agree with -- is fair enough after seven years of calamity at home and abroad.

As a policy package, it may ultimately fail, but none of it will be inimical to the Jews or Israel. Understandably, a lot of Obama supporters wanted to brush aside the Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle, but I thought it was fair to ask why the hell he would associate himself with a half-crazy demagogue like that. However, I'm satisfied that Obama was simply trying to shore up his cred with African-Americans, understand their milieu better, and above all find his faith. I simply don't think he has the slightest time for the victimology, the street-scholarship or the Jew-baiting buffoonery of the incredibly selfish man who was his pastor.

Jeffrey Goldberg, the New Yorker staff writer, is one of the more interesting working journalists. He's got a new Atlantic blog that I'll be reading (link added, left). Here's Obama speaking to him about this issue.

Look, we don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s something they’re hopeful about. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they’re not confused about my unyielding support for Israel’s security.

Obama also says some considerably heartening things about the complimentarity of the African-American and Zionist narratives. Think about that for a moment. This blog's abiding theme is that for a variety of reasons, utopian politics lead algorithmically to anti-Semitism. Victimology and identity politics are powered off that grid. This is the marrow of Jew-hatred among African-Americans, who can see themselves as domestic Palestinians, preyed upon by owner-Jews or upstaged by the moral legatees of the Holocaust. Obama, however, invokes a classic, American liberalism:

So when I became more politically conscious, my starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a land and are able to try to excavate their best traditions and their best selves. And obviously it’s something that has great resonance with the African-American experience.

One of the things that is frustrating about the recent conversations on Israel is the loss of what I think is the natural affinity between the African-American community and the Jewish community, one that was deeply understood by Jewish and black leaders in the early civil-rights movement but has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and I don’t need to elaborate.

Obama, in his perspicacious and articulate way that is an elixir after 8 years of Bush's cud-chewing, rhetorical chyme, has turned this precisely on its head. This is no accident. If Obama becomes President, his foreign policy might fail, but he's no enemy of the Jews or Israel.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Inside the Bunker!

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