by Elizabeth de la Vega
CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES:
Sun Feb 11, 2007 01:52

CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES:
Misrepresenting the Truth in Order to Sell a War is A “High Crime”
by Elizabeth de la Vega

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than twenty years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and Salon.

more: http://www.impeachbush.tv/editorials/delavega_060421.html


Editorials

See also the "Lies about Iraq" page on this site.
CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES:
Misrepresenting the Truth in Order to Sell a War is A “High Crime”
by Elizabeth de la Vega

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than twenty years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and Salon.

The U.S. Constitution provides for impeachment of any President or Vice President who commits “high crimes and misdemeanors.” This applies to any serious abuses of power, whether or not they are actually crimes, but President Bush and Vice President Cheney have clearly committed numerous specific federal crimes while in office. This article focuses on a Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371).
What is a conspiracy to defraud the United States?

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States is a specific federal crime prohibited by Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Put simply, it is an agreement to use deceit and misrepresentation to “obstruct or impair” the normal functioning of government. It has been charged numerous times, including against defendants in the Watergate case and the Iran/contra scandal.
How do you prove a criminal conspiracy?

A criminal conspiracy is defined in the law as simply an agreement to commit a crime, but you don’t have to show that people wrote out an agreement or even explicitly said, “let’s do this criminal act…” Conspiracies are proved by evidence of what people do and say, both publicly and behind the scenes.
Isn’t that “circumstantial evidence?”

Yes it is and, as judges tell juries in courtrooms around the country every day, circumstantial evidence is just as important as direct evidence.
What does it mean “to defraud?”

To defraud means to attempt to influence people to go along with your proposal by using deceit. The attempt does not actually have to succeed. The crime is complete once a person uses misrepresentation with the intent to provide a false picture. “Fraud” includes deliberate misrepresentations, outright lies, half-truths and statements made with reckless disregard for the truth. Bush and Cheney used all of these methods to convince the public and Congress to agree to their plan to invade Iraq.
What are some examples of Bush’s and Cheney’s misrepresentations?

Bush, Cheney and their top aides made hundreds of misrepresentations to deceitfully convince people to accept their plan. Here are a few examples:

1. Deliberate Misrepresentation- The linking of Iraq and 9/11

A deliberate misrepresentation is a statement or set of statements that might not be false in and of themselves, but are presented so as to give a false impression. In the case of the Bush/Cheney conspiracy to defraud, the best example of this is their repeated linking of Saddam or Iraq to the “lessons of 9/11.” The Bush administration used this device so often that it’s clear that it was a calculated and deliberate effort to provide a false impression that the two were linked -- even though, as Bush has admitted, they knew there was no link. It is no defense to a charge of fraud based on deliberate misrepresentation that the person’s statement was not literally false.
2. Outright Lie- “Saddam wouldn’t let the inspectors in.”

Before the war, and as recently as March 21, 2006, President Bush said we invaded Iraq because “Saddam would not let the UN inspectors in.” That is an outright lie. The UN inspectors reported to the Security Council on March 7, 2003 that, although the process was not perfect, Saddam Hussein was cooperating with the inspections, the UN team thought the process was working, and they wanted to complete it. President Bush told the UN inspectors to leave within 48 hours on March 16, 2003.
3. Half-truth- “Saddam’s son-in-law told us about biological and chemical Weapons.”

One of the half-truths most often repeated by Cheney, in particular, was that “we” (the U.S.) knew there were biological and chemical weapons, because Saddam’s son-in-law, Kamel Hussein, told U.S. agents about them when he defected. Apart from the fact that Kamel made these statements in 1995, so they proved nothing about the existence of weapons in 2003, Cheney only told half the story. The other half was that Kamel had said that they had destroyed the weapons, a fact confirmed by U.N. and U.S. inspectors.
4. Reckless Disregard - “Iraq is a Grave and Gathering Danger”

In criminal law, statements made with reckless disregard as to whether they are true or false are considered fraudulent. In other words, the law imposes a duty upon people who are trying to influence others to make important life decisions -- such as investments, large purchases, medical decisions, or, of course, agreeing to a war -- to make assertions only if they are actually backed up by facts, especially when the people speaking are seen as authority figures, such as the President and Vice President. So every time Bush and Cheney made statements such as “Iraq is a grave and gathering danger” or “We know there are weapons of mass destruction,” they were speaking with reckless disregard for the truth. If they had done their due diligence and examined the reports of our own intelligence community, they would have known that these statements were seriously in question, if not outright false. If they did not complete any due diligence before making the statements, they were speaking with reckless disregard for the truth. Either way it’s fraud.

Does it Matter Whether Bush and Cheney actually believed there were WMD?

No, in criminal law it is not a defense to fraud that a person subjectively, that is, in his own mind, believed that the scheme would all work out, if he makes fraudulent misrepresentations in order to get people to go along with it. In other words, you can’t trick people into going along with your ideas, just because you think the ideas are good.
How was government “impaired and obstructed?”

Bush and Cheney’s fraudulent misrepresentations about the true state of affairs in Iraq was designed to convince the public to believe that Iraq presented an imminent threat. They needed to convince the public that there was a dire emergency in order to convince Congress to authorize funds for the war. This scheme of misrepresentation obstructed the workings of government in a critical way -- it caused the most serious of governmental decisions to be made upon false information.
Doesn’t Congress have an obligation to question the president?

Congress does have an obligation to question the president, but that is a political issue. Congress’ inadequate response to the president’s fraud does not get the Bush administration off the hook for purposes of deciding whether they committed a crime. Courts always tell juries that persons charged with fraud cannot claim that their victims were too gullible, or should have known better.
See Also

* The authors articles in The Nation.
* Lies about Iraq on this site.
http://www.impeachbush.tv/editorials/delavega_060421.html

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