Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fascist Actions In Europe Forecast Ominous Future Events.

Fascist Actions In Europe Forecast Ominous Future Events.

Among we whole care about this world and this nation’s rapid shift into a an American Fascist Model; we find ourselves faced with an American electorate who is (1) not listened, (2) dumbed down to the point that they don’t understand, and (3) consider us some sort on extremist intellect kooks who have turned the word into some worthless buzz word to be generally ignored. The rise of such political orientations in several European states ought to be of grave concern considering two former World Wars. I am particularly concerned at the moment with the openness of Fascists in Spain.

Given the fact that Spain along with Greece, Italy and Portugal could fail in financial collapse despite all efforts of the European Union to prevent such events; the problems may well be beyond repair; my concern centers upon a Spain already having shown its Fascist leanings in the Case of Judge Garzon, who shortly after revealing his intention to move on Iraq War Criminals including George Bush, Tony Blair and other US officials, was suddenly attacked by the Fascist dominate legal system of Spain.

Not only am I distressed with the attacks and suspension of Judge Garzon over his investigation of Franco area Fascist criminals but the impact that this is going to have on his work to move Iraq War Crimes to hearing status at The Hague.

The English Defence League Uncovered

The Guardian spent four months undercover with neo-fascist movement, and found them growing in strength

Formed less than a year ago, the English Defence League has become the most significant far-right street movement since the National Front. The Guardian spent four months undercover with the movement, and found them growing in strength and planning to target some of the UK's biggest Muslim communities • Warning: video contains very strong language.

Fascism is Alive and Well in Spain
The Case of Judge Garzon


The fascist regime led by General Franco was one of the most repressive regimes in Europe in the twentieth century. It was imposed on the Spanish people by Hitler and Mussolini; without their assistance, Franco could not have defeated the popular forces that defended the democratically elected government of the Spanish Republic during the years 1936–1939.

The establishment of the Republic had opened up the possibility of making important reforms needed in Spain to respond to the demands of the popular classes. The first democratically elected republican government instituted land reform (which antagonized the large landowners – the Catholic Church being among the largest); educational reform that expanded public education (antagonizing the Church, which controlled the educational system); and public pension reform (antagonizing banking). It also facilitated the organization of workers by encouraging trade unionism (antagonizing employers), reduced the number of top officers in the Armed Forces, and instituted many other highly popular changes. In response, the groups opposed to these reforms, led by the Army and assisted by troops and military equipment sent by Hitler and Mussolini, carried out a military coup.

The coup was strongly resisted by Spain’s popular classes, who fought for three years to defend the Republic, under enormous difficulties – the major one being the lack of arms (there was one gun for every three soldiers on the front). The Western democratic governments did not lift a finger to help the democratically elected government of Spain. As Winston Churchill said, the European governments were afraid that the popular reforms taking place in the new Republic would “contaminate” their own popular classes, who would then ask for the same changes in their own countries. So these governments chose to follow their class interests, Churchill said, over national interests. And, as history proved, this was the wrong choice. Their failure to assist the democratic forces in Spain only helped Hitler and later, in starting World War II.

Franco’s victory in Spain meant brutal repression. More than 200,000 men and women were executed, and another 200,000 died in fascist concentration camps and other places of detention. And 114,266 people simply disappeared. They were killed by the Falange (the fascist party) or by the Army, and their bodies were abandoned or buried without being identified (see my “A Forgotten Genocide: The Case of Spain”).

Up until the last year of the dictatorship, 1978, repression was a constant in Spain’s fascist regime. Of course, apologists for that regime (coming from the fascist apparatus of the state) – such as Juan Linz, later a professor of political science at Yale – denied that Franco’s regime was a fascist totalitarian regime. They defined it as authoritarian, but not totalitarian, by which Linz (and Spain’s right-wing Popular Party, the PP) meant a regime that did not impose a totalizing ideology on the population. This claim is easily proven wrong.

Spanish fascism was rooted in a profound and intense form of nationalism based, by its own definition, on a special race – the Hispanic race (the national day celebrating the conquest of Latin America was called the Day of the Hispanic Race) – that was chosen by God as the savior of civilization (this being rooted in a profoundly reactionary form of Catholicism) and led by a man of superhuman qualities, General Franco. The regime controlled all the country’s value-producing systems, from school tests to sports magazines. To deny the totalizing character of that regime, and how it controlled and imposed itself on all spheres of life, is plain apologetics.

The transition to democracy in 1978 was carried out on terms very favorable to the right-wing forces controlling the Spanish state, led by the king, who regarded Franco “as one of the greatest patriots in the history of Spain, savior of the nation against the Red forces”. A key element of the transition was the Amnesty Law, which called for immunity for all who had committed political crimes during the dictatorship. The law was accompanied by a Pact of Silence among the leaderships of all political parties, including the left-wing parties (the socialist and communist parties). As a consequence, the 114,266 disappeared remained disappeared.

Then, three years ago, the grandchildren of the disappeared (the desaparecidos) started looking for their bodies. Village by village, they began to search for them – a movement that immediately received huge popular support at the street level. There were people who knew where the disappeared were buried, but they had been afraid to talk about it, even thirty years after Spain’s return to democracy. The movement spread throughout the country, putting right-wing forces (and the old leadership of the left-wing forces) on the defensive. This movement has challenged the official perception and presentation of the change from dictatorship to democracy as a “model” transition. In fact, in this “model” transition, the right-wing forces still held enormous power.

The movement to recover the disappeared was instrumental in forcing a new law, approved by the Spanish Parliament, to break the Pact of Silence. The Law of Historical Memory calls for the government and public authorities to help families find the bodies of their loved ones. But the socialists in government (with the exception of the Catalan government, a coalition of three left-wing parties) have done very little to advance this. They are afraid of antagonizing the powerful forces (the monarchy, the Army, and the Church) that insist on the need to respect both the Pact of Silence and the Amnesty Law.

Enter Judge Garzon. This is the Spanish judge who tried to take General Pinochet to court when the general was in London, and who led the movement to take other Latin American dictators to court. He came under increasing pressure from the popular movement working for the recovery of historical memory in Spain to look at what had happened at home, not just abroad. Pinochet, after all, was a boy scout compared with Franco: General Franco’s repression was even more brutal than that carried out by his disciple, General Pinochet.

Finally, in response to this popular pressure, Judge Garzon called for an inquiry into the crimes committed by the Franco dictatorship, so as to hold tribunals and take those responsible for the horrors of that regime to court. It was a courageous and highly popular move. For the first time, an official report was prepared, by Garzon, documenting the extent of the repression under fascism in Spain. And, as it turns out, the repression was even broader and deeper than previously known. Many people had never spoken (even to their own children) of what they had seen and experienced during those years.

And, of course, the reactionary forces mobilized.

There are very powerful forces in Spain that want to stop Garzon and punish him.

The fascist party (La Falange) and other ultra-right-wing forces took Judge Garzon to the Supreme Court, asking that he be stopped from taking Franco’s regime and those responsible for the desaparecidos to the tribunals.

And to everyone’s surprise, a member of the Supreme Court, Judge Varela, who had been assigned by this court to look at the fascists’ denunciation of Garzon, saw merit in their request: according to this judge, the Amnesty Law signed in the last days of the dictatorship gave permanent immunity to all who had committed violations of human rights under the fascist regime.

This judge’s position increased the likelihood of Garzon’s being taken to the Supreme Court (a five-member court presided over by a judge who swore loyalty to the fascist regime).

It is interesting to read in Judge Varela’s indictment the way in which he justifies the need to take Judge Garzon to court. “[Garzon’s] actions seem to imply that there has been a pact of silence about the actions taken by the previous regime, exposing all the political and judicial systems to the criticism of having been insensitive to the defense of human rights and defense of the forgotten”.

Judge Varela wants to prevent Judge Garzon from continuing his trial of the Francoist regime because it will reveal that there has been a pact of silence and that neither the state nor the courts have put into practice the recently passed Historical Memory Law and have done nothing in defense of the forgotten. In that way, Varela wants to save the honor of the Spanish state and the courts and avoid any further embarrassment to the very powerful forces responsible for that silence and for that democratic insensitivity.

The initial work done by Judge Garzon has already proved not only the horrible crimes committed by the Fascist regime, but also the deafening silence during the 30 years of democracy.

Judge Varela added that the Amnesty Law prevents any inquiry into the crimes committed during the dictatorship, ignoring the fact that the Spanish state has signed the United Nations Human Rights Law, which in Article 15.2 clearly states that the “crimes against humanity” cannot be silenced by national laws such as Spain’s Amnesty Law.

In a few days, the Supreme Court (chaired by a judge who swore loyalty to the Fascist regime during the dictatorship) will pass judgment on Garzon and most likely will divest him of his judicial responsibilities.

To put this in perspective, what is happening is equivalent to the Supreme Court of Germany (presided over by a judge who swore loyalty to the Nazi Government) responding to the request of the Nazi Party and passing judgment on the only judge who had dared to try the crimes committed by the Nazi regime. This is what is happening in Spain. And the “official” international media remain silent.

Vincent Navarro is Professor of Public Policy, The Johns Hopkins University and Professor of Political Science, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain. He can be reached at

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spain's Judge Garzón faces suspension--after opening Bush-era war crimes probe

(02/26/2010 -- WW4 Report)

Authorities in Spain have launched proceedings to suspend the notorious investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzón. The ostensible reason for the move is his investigation into the fate of 114,000 people who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. The public prosecutor's office says Garzón had no authority to conduct the investigation because of a 1977 amnesty law. But Garzón says the disappearances must be considered crimes against humanity, and therefore not covered by any amnesty.

Baltasar Garzón gained an international reputation through his efforts to have former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet extradited to Spain. If Spain's best known judge is found guilty of exceeding his authority, he could be removed from office for 20 years. (Radio Netherlands, Feb. 10)

The move comes just as Garzón opened a formal criminal investigation of former White House attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee and other Bush administration officials for their role in authorizing torture at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Garzón's inquiry will be the first formal examination of alleged criminal activity that could lead to a number of US officials being charged with violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, both of which have been signed by the United States and ratified by the US Senate.

Kim Carlyle

Judge Baltasar Garzón Suspended Over Franco Investigation

Monday 31 May 2010

Move against Spanish magistrate, who pursued Pinochet over human rights abuses, seen as politically motivated

Baltasar Garzón, who also indicted Osama bin Laden, is accused of overstepping his authority by investigating Franco era atrocities.

The stellar career of the crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón may have come to an abrupt end today after he was suspended from his post as an investigating magistrate at Madrid's national court.

The higher council of judicial power, which oversees Spain's judges, temporarily suspended Garzón while the supreme court tries him on charges of distorting the law by opening an investigation into crimes against humanity carried out by the Franco regime.

"It will come into effect as soon as he is told," the council's spokeswoman, Gabriela Bravo, said this morning.

Judges and co-workers later lined up outside the national court to say goodbye to the man whose investigations into Latin American dictators, including Augusto Pinochet of Chile, had turned the court into a key player in global human rights.

Some shed tears as Garzón hugged and kissed them before being driven off from the courthouse in his armour-plated car for what may be the last time.

The decision to suspend him, although expected, nevertheless shocked leftwing Spaniards, who see it as the latest stage in a political and professional vendetta against the controversial magistrate. "This stinks of shameful revenge," the writer and journalist Juan Cruz wrote on his blog.

Garzón's supporters claim there is nothing coincidental about the fact that the trial comes at the same time as two other, separate cases in which he is also accused of knowingly twisting the law.

The private prosecutions against him have been brought by rightwing groups and one case refers directly to a corruption investigation into the main opposition party, the rightwing People's party.

Campaigners who have been seeking justice for those killed by Franco death squads before and after the Spanish civil war claimed that Garzón had become "the last victim of Francoism".

Today's decision was rushed through, apparently in an attempt by enemies within Spain's highly politicized judicial system to stop him taking up an offer to be adviser to the international criminal court in The Hague.

A demonstration was called for tonight in Madrid.

The decision was criticized by international human rights groups. "Judge Garzón's suspension will be mourned by human rights activists around the world," said Reed Brody, legal counsel for Human Rights Watch. "Garzón helped to deliver justice for atrocity victims abroad and now he's being punished for trying to do the same thing at home."

Spanish Judge Garzón Suspended over Franco Probe

In Spain, a top judge has been suspended on allegations of overreaching his authority in a probe of human rights abuses during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Baltasar Garzón has been accused of opening an investigation without proper jurisdiction. Garzón’s investigation was probing the disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Garzón is known worldwide for taking on international human rights cases. His actions include ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, indicting Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, and probing the abuse of US prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On Friday, supporters of Garzón rallied in Madrid.

Rosa, supporter of Judge Garzón: "You can say that today, it’s the 17th of July, 1936, and a group of fascists have taken control of the state through the Spanish judges’ governing body.”

See all headlines for this show

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Spain Judicial Panel Allows Judge Garzon To Consult For ICC
Hillary Stemple at 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The judiciary oversight committee of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary(CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday approved a request [text, PDF; in Spanish] by judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] allowing him to work with theInternational Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Garzon was suspended last week[JURIST report] by the CGPJ for abusing his power by opening an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]. The ICC confirmed earlier this month [press release] that they had asked Garzon to work for them as a consultant for a period of seven months in order to improve their investigative methods. The CGPJ granted Garzon's request for leave indicating there was no legal reason preventing him from working as a consultant with the ICC. Garzon still faces trial in Spain where he has been formally charged [JURIST report] with abusing his power although no trial date [AFP report] has been set. If convicted, Garzon could face a suspension of up to 20 years.

Thousands gathered [JURIST report] in cities across Spain last month in support of Garzon, chanting slogans and displaying flags of the pre-war Republican government ousted by Franco. The Spanish Supreme Court[official website, in Spanish] charged [order, PDF; in Spanish] Garzon with abuse of power based on his 2008 ordered exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain. The purpose of the order was to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite a 1977 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed under Franco. Garzon appealed [JURIST report] the charges, alleging that the indictment issued by Spanish Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela was politically motivated [AFP report], compromised judicial independence, and sought to impose a specific interpretation of the 1977 law. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile rights cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives].

Headline: Top Kill Fails…But….

Headline: Top Kill Fails…But….

There are really “buts, ands, or ors” about the entire disaster. Spending time and energy on wordsmith blame fixing and pundit pontificating finger pointing does no one any real good.

Who is to blame: Bush, Obama; hell the blame belongs with a Congress and the people of this nation who have permitted Corporate America to become the primary branch of government, above the law, beyond oversight and usually held to account with fines written off as the costs of operation.

When are we going to wake up to the fact that is no altruism in Corporate America and that corporations will anything to maximize their bottom lines, and public and the law be damned!

BP is guilty as hell of major violations of the law and should pay through the nose for years to come and corporate officials ought end up behind bars. Americans on the other hand need to shake off and cause the break off of the Cozy Congressional Corporate bed fellow’s affair.

A Divorce is in order.

ROBERT, La. (AP) — BP Admitted Defeat Saturday in its attempt to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by pumping mud into a busted well, but is readying yet another approach after repeated failures to stop the crude that's fouling marshland and beaches.

BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the company determined the "top kill" had failed after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater. More than 1.2 million gallons of mud was used, but most of it escaped out of the damaged riser.

In the six weeks since the spill began, the company has failed in each attempt to stop the gusher, as estimates of how much oil is leaking grow more dire. The spill is the worst in U.S. history — exceeding even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster — and dumping between 18 million and 40 million gallons into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," Suttles said. "Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."

The company failed in the days after the spill to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well, then two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton box the company tried placing over the leak. Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher.

Frustration has grown as drifting oil closes beaches and washes up in sensitive marshland. The damage is underscored by images of pelicans and their eggs coated in oil. Below the surface, oyster beds and shrimp nurseries face certain death.

President Barack Obama visited the coast Friday to see the damage as he tried to emphasize that his administration was in control of the crisis. He told people in Grand Isle, where the beach has been closed by gobs of oil, that they wouldn't be abandoned.

After BP announced the top kill failure, Obama said from Chicago that the continued flow of oil into the Gulf is "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next attempt to stop the leak that began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people.

The company plans to use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser from which the oil is leaking, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.

"We're confident the job will work but obviously we can't guarantee success," Suttles said of the new plan, declining to handicap the likelihood it will work.

He said that cutting off the damaged riser isn't expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.

The permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won't be ready until August, BP says.

Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.

"If they can't get that valve on, things will get much worse," said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.

Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: "It's a scary proposition."

Word that the top-kill had failed hit hard in fishing communities along Louisiana's coast.

"Everybody's starting to realize this summer's lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost," said Michael Ballay, the 59-year-old manager of the Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, La., near where oil first made landfall in large quanities almost two weeks ago.

Johnny Nunez, owner of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Beach, La., said the spill is hurting his business during what's normally the best time of year — and there's no end in sight.

"If fishing's bad for five years, I'll be 60 years old. I'll be done for," he said after watching BP's televised announcement.


John Boehner Dreams Of A Rebellious November

By Kathleen Parker : Sunday, May 30, 2010

On domestic issues, House Minority Leader John Boehner is unequivocal in his support for three items: Quench, Dawn and OxiClean.

Quench refers to the body lotion, Dawn the dishwashing liquid and OxiClean the laundry stain remover -- the first two are products of Procter & Gamble, one of the largest employers in Boehner's Ohio.

These state secrets surfaced when I asked the perpetually tan Boehner, who insists he was "born tan," how to treat my sunburn. Firing up a Camel Light, his first of three during our 40-minute interview in his Capitol office, he said, "Ah, I'm a Quench believer."

Before we moved on to more pressing concerns, Boehner riffed on other favorite products. Dawn works not only on dishes but on oil-slicked birds, as the manufacturer's Web site boasts. As for OxiClean, look no further than Boehner's dazzling white shirt.

You have to admire a man who can juggle both Heloise and Nancy Pelosi in the same paragraph. You also can't help noticing that Boehner is at once commanding and preternaturally laid back. What he doesn't show (but others tell) is that he is savvy, a man of his word, and has a coach's eye for others' talent and is happy to hand off the ball.

So why should Americans trust Republicans in light of the GOP's profligate ways when they controlled Congress? Boehner's answer might be his party's bumper sticker this year: "We learned our lesson."

"Are people leery? Oh yeah. But we're winning 2 to 1 with independents today."

For Boehner, being called the "Party of No" isn't a regrettable invective. It is a strategy aimed at highlighting the contrast between those running things and those who want to run things. That deafening silence you hear from Republicans about the gulf oil spill? All the better for Americans to hear the glubglubglub of Democrats and the administration going down the drain.

Boehner & Co. are busy, meanwhile, conducting a massive digital listening tour via the GOP's new "America Speaking Out" Web site, where voters can submit and vote on ideas. It's user-friendly to a fault, with undertones of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," such that Dick, Jane and even Spot can play.

Then again, Republicans finally have figured out the miracle of social media and are using it to engage voters angry that Washington seems to neither listen nor care what they think. Companion to the "speaking out" site is YouCut, unveiled by Rep. Eric Cantor this month, where Americans can vote on spending cuts. In one video, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announces the winner: pay raises for Congress and federal employees (except military personnel).

The sites have stirred some controversy among Democrats, who have their own ideas for spending cuts -- the money being used to underwrite the Web sites. While Republican leaders insist that the sites are vehicles for collecting ideas that will shape the GOP's agenda, Democrats have charged that public funding is being used for political purposes. Of course, Democrats did the same thing with their "Six for '06" effort. What is in the public interest, and what may also prove politically advantageous, is a blurred tightrope both parties have walked. Boehner's office says that no campaign funds have been used, nor is there a campaign component to the sites.

Boehner is reluctant to speculate about November, when 100 seats will be in play. If things should go bump on election night -- and should Boehner replace Pelosi as speaker -- expect to see lots of blood on the floor. First to get the hatchet would be health-care reform, which Republicans would seek to replace with "common sense" measures to reduce insurance costs and secure jobs. Other priorities would include line-by-line budget cuts, entitlement reform and restoration of the integrity of the House, which Boehner says has been damaged by previous speakers' emphasis on partisan gains. "That's why the Congress of the United States is broken and I aim to fix it."

That's a mighty high bar, especially given the significant "scar tissue" between the parties, as Boehner puts it. But when 43 cents of every dollar spent has to be borrowed, somebody, as President Obama described the oil crisis, has to "plug the damn hole."

Whether Republicans have the ways and means to do that remains to be determined by the voters, but while Democrats are scrubbing oil from the gulf, Republicans are greasing the gears for a much-anticipated rebellion.

Feds weigh a criminal probe of BP

The focus is on whether the oil company skirted safety regulations and misled the U.S. government about its ability to respond to a blowout.

Reporting from Washington —

A team of top federal prosecutors and investigators has taken the first steps toward a formal criminal investigation into oil giant BP's actions before and after the drilling rig disaster off Louisiana.

The investigators, who have been quietly gathering evidence in Louisiana over the last three weeks, are focusing on whether BP skirted federal safety regulations and misled the U.S. government by saying it could quickly clean up an environmental accident.

The team has met with U.S. attorneys and state officials in the Gulf Coast region and has sent letters to executives of BP and Transocean Ltd., the drilling rig owner, warning them against destroying documents or other internal records.

Underscoring the gravity of the inquiry, the team is headed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ignacia Moreno of the environment and natural resources division and Assistant Atty. Gen. Tony West, who heads the Justice Department's civil division.

The move by federal prosecutors represents an escalation in the government's involvement in the oil spill — from coordinating the environmental cleanup to searching for possible criminal violations.

The Justice Department's inquiry is a standard preliminary step taken to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted. But even in this early stage, it has the earmarks of one of the largest investigative undertakings of the Obama administration.

In one sign of its potential scope, the Obama administration has asked for $10 million to be set aside to pay for the investigation. President Obama, in a letter May 12 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco), said the funding was needed "to hold BP, and other responsible parties in this spill, accountable for the crisis."

Oil company officials said they were conducting an internal review and had been sharing information with the government. The companies also have pledged to help clean up the oil spreading along the gulf and pay for damages.

"I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame," said BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Welch said federal investigators were pushing ahead with their inquiries.

"The Department of Justice will take all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure that those responsible for this tragic series of events are held fully accountable," Welch said in a letter Tuesday to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Welch said the team had put the companies on notice about the investigation.

"The department has sent formal demands to British Petroleum, Transocean and other companies to ensure the preservation of potentially relevant information," he said. "These letters invoke federal requirements for preserving evidence in anticipation of litigation."

He said the team had spoken with attorneys for BP and Transocean "to ensure they are complying with these demands."

Welch was responding to concerns from Boxer after she said testimony and evidence presented to her committee suggested possible "illicit activities" involving the oil spill.

In a
May 17 letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., Boxer asked him and his department to "review this matter with respect to civil and criminal laws related to false statements to the federal government."

In describing the oversight work of her committee, Boxer said the panel had uncovered statements by BP that now appeared to be "false and misleading."

As an example, she identified a February 2009 document from BP to the federal Minerals Management Service. In it, she said, BP evaluated the company's ability to respond to a blowout.

BP said in the document that an oil spill would have little or no effect on fish habitats because the company would use "proven equipment and technology" to respond to a blowout and spill and quickly contain the damage, Boxer said.

"In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Boxer wrote in her letter to Holder, "it does not in any way appear that there was 'proven equipment and technology' to respond to the spill, which could have tragic consequences for local economies and the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico."

She also noted that after the oil rig explosion, BP said in a May 10 statement that all of its techniques underway to stop the spill "involve significant uncertainties because they have not been tested in these conditions before."

"BP said they were ready for this spill if it occurred," Boxer said in a committee statement. "Clearly they were unprepared — and dangerously so."

On Thursday, one of BP's top officials on the rig on the day of the explosion, Robert Kaluza, invoked the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination and refused to testify at a separate Coast Guard inquiry in Louisiana.

The company defended Kaluza, saying in a statement: "Bob is a dedicated, hardworking, conscientious man. Bob did no wrong on the Deepwater Horizon, and we will make damn sure that this comes out at the appropriate time."

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