Patt Morrison for November 10, 2010

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Just under the deadline for prosecuting someone under federal laws—five years to the day after the top CIA clandestine officer and others destroyed 92 videos of officers water boarding al-Qaida operatives—the Justice Department announced yesterday that it will not charge anyone with a crime. Jose Rodriguez, the CIA's officer who approved the destruction of the tapes, said he worried that the videos would be devastating to the agency if they ever surfaced. The ruling doesn’t preclude the possibility of charging someone with lying to investigators looking into the tape destruction or further investigating whether the harsh questioning went beyond legal boundaries, but it has raised eyebrows. It’s also provided an interesting case study of how the issue has been handed over from the Bush to the Obama Justice Departments. After a three-year investigation into whether destroying the tapes amounted to a crime, the Bush Justice Department decided not to file charges. When Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder inherited the case, he expanded the investigation to look into whether CIA officers’ interrogation tactics violated the law. What should be the next course of action?
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Combining her own interviews with Tea Partiers and her vast knowledge of the nation’s founding fathers, Harvard history professor and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore takes the Tea Party movement to task over their reading of American history in her new book The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History. It’s not so much a partisan indictment as a warning of historical proportions to the current Tea Party, that in order to gain a permanent place in American politics, it must summit more than a deft publicity campaign in the battle over who can claim the country’s origins for political gain. Her analysis frames the Tea Party revolution by tracing its roots to the bicentennial in the 1970s, another time when a seemingly divided nation couldn’t agree on what story to tell about its untidy beginnings. To hear Tea Partiers tell it, they harbor nostalgia for a time less troubled by bitter partisanship, economic strife and uncertainty—and Lepore argues that is an America that never really was.
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Ask the Chief

In late September, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the city is on pace to end the year with fewer than 300 homicides, about a 75% decline in killings since the peak in the early 1990s. However, while the murder rate is down, three recent shootings have struck Los Angelenos as particularly senseless; in two incidents, an LAPD officer fired the weapon, and in the other, five year old Aaron Shannon Jr. was murdered while playing in his own backyard. Alleged gang members have been arrested in the last case and the first two are under investigation. The challenge of law enforcement has been increased by budget cuts, most recently causing the reassignment of nearly 90 street cops to jailer status in order to run a new jail facility that has been empty due to lack of staffing. Patt talks with the Chief about these issues and more in our monthly Q&A. You can join the conversation – just call in with your concerns.
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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case that could altogether do away with class-action lawsuits. This most unlikely case, involving a couple who got a “free” phone but was forced to pay sales tax, is being touted as one of the most important consumer rights cases to come before the high court in years. AT&T, with the backing of the banking and utilities industries, argued that the arbitration clause in their fine print prohibits customers from taking part in class-action lawsuits. The company maintains that the suits are costly and wind up benefiting lawyers more than consumers. Others say forcing customers into arbitration rather than court tilts the balance of justice in favor or corporations. Will this be a victory for consumers or corporations?
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