“Do you know who the Rosenbergs are?” [the agent] asked.

“I heard of them, yeah, I heard them mention,” Dr. Lee said.

“The Rosenbergs are the only people that never cooperated with the federal government in an espionage case,” she said. “You know what happened to them? They electrocuted them, Wen Ho.”

I couldn’t find much online about Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, the man tapped by Sen. Patrick Leahy to appear at the Senate Judiciary’s hearing this Friday, February 26 (H/T Bob in AZ).

The one-day minimal hearing is supposed to show the Senate registering oversight on the OPR report and the Margolis intervention to clear John Yoo and Jay Bybee of "professional misconduct" in the torture memos affair.

Did I say that Mr. Grindler is also considered an excellent attorney, having won the The Best Lawyers in America award in the area of white collar criminal defense?

I also see that he played a minor role in the controversies around the Wen Ho Lee investigation and incarceration. At the time (circa 1999-2000), Mr. Grindler was Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in Janet Reno’s DoJ. Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-American, had been a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for approximately 20 years prior to his arrest.

The situation was this: the FBI and DoJ had bungled their investigation of possible spy Wen Ho Lee so badly that the supposed evidence in the case was hopelessly compromised. Nevertheless, after he was arrested, Lee was placed under onerous Special Administrative Measures (SAM). Ultimately he spent nine months in strict solitary confinement, until he agreed to a plea agreement on a felony count of improperly downloading Restricted Data. He was released from custody and served no subsequent jail time.

According to a Senate investigation in 2001:

Specifically, Dr. Lee’s confinement consisted of 24 hour supervision by a rotation of guards, permission to speak only with his attorneys and immediate family members (his wife, daughter and son) and in English only, non-contact visits from his immediate family members limited to one hour per week, no personal phone calls, and that he remain secured in his cell 24 hours a day./246/ Further, Dr. Lee was to remain in full restraints (leg and hand irons) anytime he was to be out of his cell being moved from one location to another./247/

As previously noted, Dr. Lee’s lawyers protested his conditions of confinement almost from the beginning.

An Internet site set up to support Dr. Lee elaborated on his situation:

A chain around his belly connecting to his handcuff prevents him from raising his hand above his head. We were told that two U.S. Marshals with machine guns accompanied him whenever he goes within the confine of the prison and a ‘chase car’ with armed Marshals follows Dr. Lee when he is moved from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and back.

The judge who initially denied Dr. Lee a pretrial release, nevertheless admonished the government “to explore ways to loosen the severe restrictions currently imposed upon Dr. Lee while preserving the security of sensitive information.” But the government wouldn’t have any of that. As to the kind of interrogation Dr. Lee received, a small piece of the transcript is quoted at the lead of this article.

When Janet Reno told Gary Grindler that there were protests about Lee not getting enough exercise time, Grindler wrote a memo back to her:

A January 12, 2000 memorandum to the Attorney General from Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler demonstrates that at least some of the concerns of Dr. Lee’s lawyers were taken to the highest reaches of the Justice Department. The memo notes that the Attorney General had “advised that some individuals have expressed concern about Dr. Lee’s access to exercise,” and explains that the order for Special Administrative Measures that she was being asked to sign “does not limit Dr. Lee’s access to exercise. According to the Santa Fe County Jail rules, Dr. Lee will be limited to one-hour per day of exercise, as are all administrative segregation prisoners.”

I can’t access the memo, but I wonder if Grindler mentioned that the exercise hour was conducted in shackles, and continued so until July 2000.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Department of Justice Oversight concluded:

While the government may have believed such harsh conditions were necessary, they have not made a convincing case. Judge Parker was not convinced by the government’s arguments, and granted Dr. Lee’s renewed motion for pretrial release on August 24, 2001. In his remarks at the plea hearing, Judge Parker expressed his sentiments, telling Dr. Lee that “since by the terms of the plea agreement that frees you today without conditions, it becomes clear that the Executive Branch now concedes, or should concede, that it was not necessary to confine you last December or at any time before your trial.”

…. After careful review, it becomes apparent that the government was right to reach a plea agreement with Dr. Lee, whose actions did constitute a serious threat to the national security, but was wrong to hold him virtually incommunicado in pretrial confinement for more than nine months.

Not too much to go on here, but Grindler’s association with abusive conditions of imprisonment should be explored, given the nature of his testimony and appearance in this context. But leaving aside Grindler and the issues associated with him, Leahy’s hearing feels almost like a joke, a kick-in-the-teeth to those of use who are extremely concerned and disgusted about the way this country has handled the torture issue. Where is Yoo? Bybee? David Margolis or Eric Holder? These are the people you’d think any competent Congressional committee would call on the carpet. But all the power of Congress these days vis-a-vis the Executive Branch appears it could fit in a teacup.

As psychologist-activist-blogger Stephen Soldz put it in an article on the OPR report and Margolis memo:

A beautiful job, now completed by Obama-Holder Justice Department hack Margolis. Future lawless administrations now have a ready template to use to provide legal rationale for any abuses they desire.

As a postscript to this story, it should be noted that:

In June 2006, Lee received $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as part of a settlement of a civil suit he had filed against them for leaking his name to the press before any formal charges had been filed against him. Federal judge James A. Parker eventually apologized to Lee for the government misconduct of which he had been the victim.

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