former federal prosecutor and author of the new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al.
A former federal prosecutor named Elizabeth de la Vega has drafted an indictment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top officials for tricking the nation into war and for conspiracy to defraud the United States. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: A former federal prosecutor named Elizabeth de la Vega has drafted an indictment of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials for tricking the nation into war and for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Elizabeth de la Vega’s mock indictment appears in a new book entitled United States v. George W. Bush et al. De la Vega spent 20 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, as well as a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and branch chief in San Jose, California. She joins us here in New York. Welcome to Democracy Now!
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: Thanks for having me, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you come up with this? What made you decide to do this?
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: Well, I was an assistant U.S. attorney up until 2004, so I was still working as an assistant U.S. attorney when the president and his senior aides started their marketing campaign for the war. And at the same time, of course, the Enron case was happening, and I was observing the similarities between what the president was doing in order to deceive the public regarding the war and the same type of techniques that the Enron people used to defraud their investors. And, of course, in the case of the Enron fraud, the public was absolutely outraged, and rightly so. And they have been, in the main, held accountable.
But yet, the president, who has caused this fraud that has obviously been far graver in scope and the consequences have been horrific, has not been held accountable in any way. So, I wanted to explain to people in a very non-charged atmosphere, which is the atmosphere of a hypothetical grand jury, exactly how this fits into the elements of a crime, which is conspiracy to defraud the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: So, lay out your case. Lay out this indictment.
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: OK. Well, first of all, in order to understand the case, you have to understand the law. And a conspiracy to defraud the United States is in Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. It’s a statute that’s been around for over a hundred years. It was charged against people in the Watergate era and also Iran-Contra. And what it means is basically taking concerted action to use deceit or what’s called "trickery" to interfere with any branch of government or an agency. And, of course, Congress is a branch of government.
So, the case, as I lay out in the—it’s a hypothetical indictment, of course. But the case really starts with the actions of the administration right after 9/11 and proceeds with how they used the fear that was engendered by 9/11, and they actually aggravated that fear. And then they started off, as we all recall, with sort of generally false assertions that had no basis in fact, such as that Iraq was a grave and gathering danger, when at the time the National Intelligence Estimate said no such thing.
And when those types of generalized false statements were not persuasive by the summer of 2002, they started with the White House Iraq Group, and then they became more specific, and they used a combination of half-truths. We have the story of Vice President Cheney recurringly saying that we know that there are chemical weapons, because Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law told us, while, in fact, that was a half-truth, because the other half of the story was that he also had told us that they were destroyed. We have Condoleezza Rice saying these aluminum tubes are only suitable for nuclear weapon centrifuges. Well, at that time, there are at least 14 reports available to the administration which showed that that was at least dubious and actually controverted by our nuclear experts.
We have Rumsfeld saying we know where the weapons of mass destruction are, north, south, east and west of Tikrit, somewhat. Well, that was what we would call in the law, and it’s really kind of a commonsense thing, a statement made with reckless disregard for the truth, because the law actually prohibits people who are in a position of authority, who are trying to persuade people either to do something, to buy something—it applies to investment fraud or the executive branch—from making statements without actually having any basis in fact. And I don’t think people actually realized that. It’s sort of an intuitive thing, but I don’t think people realized that the law actually prohibits that, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain—in your book, you go day one, day two, grand jury presentation, then testimony of FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell. But explain the grand jury presentation.
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: OK. Well, I started, of course, with this hypothetical indictment, which is what you would present to a grand jury, and the grand jury, as your listeners probably know, is just a group of people who are from the citizenry, and they meet usually every week for 18 months. And the task in a grand jury presentation is to introduce—or to have the grand jury decide whether there’s probable cause, which means basically more evidence than not to believe that a crime has been committed.
So I think what people don’t really realize is that most grand jury presentations are done by agents who are assigned to the case investigation. And so, in this case, day one is testimony which digests the kind of the genesis of the conspiracy. It involves the Project for New American Century. It kind of sets the stage for the eventual conspiracy, which began sometime after 9/11, at least by September of 2002.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, the FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell, what does she say?
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: Well, she talks about the fact that even as early as 1992, Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides at the time—he wasn’t the vice president, of course—Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz wrote a document, which set out the same types of goals that eventually became several documents—one was in a letter to President Clinton, and one was called "Rebuilding America’s Defenses"—where they just set out the goals, among other things, of establishing a permanent base in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we just have a few minutes, and I want to get one line on each of these special agents of the day. Day three, testimony of FBI Special Agent Joseph Estrada.
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: OK. Well, you’re really testing me here. Special Agent Estrada talks about, number one, that the oath of office of a president actually is to abide by the constitutional laws of the United States, and he sets forth that the executive branch officials actually have a duty to obey the law. They’re not just politicians.
AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Crain, the FBI special agent?
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: OK, Daniel Crain talks in detail about one specific false allegation—or false assertion made by the administration, which is about the aluminum tubes. And he sets forth in detail specifications of the tubes and how that proves that they were not suited for nuclear weapons and a lot of details about the intelligence.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you don’t have a verdict. The grand jury does not make its decision in this book.
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: Right, it’s up to the reader to decide.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Elizabeth de la Vega, former federal prosecutor, has written the book, United States v. George W. Bush et al.. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, as well as a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and branch chief in San Jose, California. Thank you.
ELIZABETH DE LA VEGA: Thanks for having me.