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March 02, 2011

Did Scientologists place a spy at Vanity Fair and Gawker?

Was a Vanity Fair Editor Secretly Working for the Church of Scientology? | The New York Observer
Did the Church of Scientology use a Vanity Fair contributing editor to infiltrate and gather intelligence on the cult's enemies in the media? John Connolly is a well-known, and well-liked, character in New York media circles. He's a former NYPD detective and stock broker who landed a third career as an investigative reporter for Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor, Radar, the Daily Beast, Gawker, and other outlets. Connolly is an investigator of the old school, employed more for his ability to run a license plate number than his facility with prose. In 1990, while freelancing for Forbes, he was accused by a federal judge of using his old NYPD badge to obtain sealed court documents. According to USA Today, his stint as a stockbroker ended in the 1980s with a $100,000 civil penalty and lifetime ban from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He's a mischievous tipster, an inveterate gossip, and an information broker of the highest order. He speaks with a cartoonish New York accent and knows literally everybody. And according to the two highest ranking Scientology officials to ever leave the church, he's been a paid informant for the cult for two decades. The accusation comes from Marty Rathbun, who ranked so high in the organization before he left that he served as Tom Cruise's "auditor," or confessor, and Mike Rinder, Scientology's former chief spokesman. Both men have defected from the church and accuse its current leader, David Miscavige, of ruling through violence and terror. On February 15, Rathbun posted to his blog a lengthy internal church memo, purportedly written by Linda Hamel, chief of the church's faux-CIA "Office of Special Affairs," revealing Connolly to have secretly supplied intelligence to the church on the preparation of Andrew Morton's 2008 biography of Tom Cruise. According to the memo, Connolly approached Morton in 2006 under the pretense of writing "an article for Vanity Fair about the books Morton has done on celebrities including the one he is writing on Tom Cruise." . . .

February 18, 2011

Federal judge rules politicians are too important to be sued for torturing people

U.S. Justice v. the world - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
. . . Yesterday, in South Carolina, an Obama-appointed federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Padilla against former Bush officials Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz and others. That suit alleges that those officials knowingly violated Padilla's Constitutional rights by ordering his due-process-free detention and torture. In dismissing Padilla's lawsuit, the court's opinion relied on the same now-depressingly-familiar weapons routinely used by our political class to immunize itself from judicial scrutiny: national security would be undermined by allowing Padilla to sue; "government officials could be distracted from their vital duties to attend depositions or respond to other discovery requests"; "a trial on the merits would be an international spectacle with Padilla, a convicted terrorist, summoning America's present and former leaders to a federal courthouse to answer his charges"; the litigation would risk disclosure of vital state secrets; and "discovery procedures could be used by our enemies to obtain valuable intelligence." In other words, our political officials are Too Important, and engaged in far Too Weighty Matters in Keeping Us Safe, to subject them to the annoyance of the rule of law. It's much more important to allow them to Fight The Terrorists without restraints than to bother them with claims that they broke the law and violated the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. That's the mentality that has resulted in full-scale immunity for both political and now private-sector elites in a whole slew of lawbreaking scandals -- from Obama's refusal to investigate Bush-era crimes or high-level Wall Street criminality to retroactive immunity for lawbreaking telecoms and legal protection for defrauding mortgage banks. With very few exceptions -- yesterday's ruling, for instance, brushed aside a contrary decision from a Bush-43-appointed federal judge in California last year that refused to dismiss Padilla's lawsuit against John Yoo for having authorized his torture (that decision is on appeal) -- Executive Branch officials and the federal judiciary have conspired to ensure that the former are shielded from judicial scrutiny even for the most blatant and horrifying crimes. There are legalistic questions involved in cases such as the one brought by Padilla -- i.e., whether courts should allow monetary damages to be sought against government officials for Constitutional violations in the absence of a Congressional statute (a "Bivens" claim) and whether such officials should enjoy "qualified immunity" for their illegal acts where the illegality is unclear (as Rumsfeld absurdly alleged the torture of Padilla was) -- but one key fact is not complex. Not a single War on Terror detainee has been accorded any redress in American courts for the severe abuses to which they were subjected (including innocent people being detained for years, rendered and even tortured), and worse, no detainee has been allowed by courts even to have their claims heard. After the U.S. Government implemented a worldwide regime of torture, lawless detention, and other abuses, the doors of the American justice system have been slammed shut in the face of any and all victims seeking to have their rights vindicated or even their claims heard. If an American citizen can't even sue political officials who lawlessly imprison and torture him in his own country -- if political leaders are vested with immunity from a claim of this type -- what rational person can argue that the rule of law or the Constitution binds our government officials? . . .