What do two of the biggest national-security news stories of the century
— the Valerie Plame leak scandal and the legal case of FBI whistleblower
Sibel Edmonds — have in common?
They both are being presided over by the same federal judge in the
District of Colombia, Reggie
Walton, a Bush appointee to the federal court and a man who appears
to have a few well-kept secrets of his own.
All federal judges are required under ethics rules to file what is known as
“financial disclosure reports.”
The disclosure statement filed by Walton, which was obtained through the dogged
efforts of a conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch, is curious in
what it does not reveal. Remember, this judge is arguably handling two of the
most sensitive and potentially far-reaching challenges to the free press and
the public’s right to know of our times.
In the Plamegate
case, a top White House aid, Scooter Libby, has already been indicted and
additional indictments may be forthcoming (Karl Rove?). In addition, a bevy
of insider journalists in the media-center establishment have been subpoenaed
to testify in the case, and one, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, has
already done jail time for her initial refusal to identify her sources on the
Edmonds was fired from her job as an FBI translator after blowing the whistle
on alleged espionage being carried out by a fellow FBI employee. She was prevented
from pursuing a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed in 2002 (based on alleged
violations of her civil rights) because of the state-secrets
privilege claim, a claim upheld by Judge Walton. That claim essentially
shut down her ability to present evidence in the case under the smokescreen
that it would jeopardize national security.
An appeal in the Edmonds case was recently rejected
by the U.S. Supreme Court. She now has a separate
case pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. Ironically, in both cases,
Judge Walton was randomly assigned to hear her complaints at the District Court
level. Walton also has randomly been assigned to hear the Plamegate case involving
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
So given the high-stakes poker being played in both these cases, one civil
and one criminal, why has no one in the establishment press bothered to ask
what is contained in Judge Walton’s financial disclosure statement? After
all, his investments and financial backers would be of keen interest in gauging
his ability to hear these cases in an unbiased manner, right?
We already know that Walton has been a Bush-team insider for years. He grew
up on the hardscrabble side of life in a steel town in Pennsylvania, and by
his own admission
was arrested three times as a teenager and even witnessed a stabbing while participating
in a street fight. After beating the odds and making it through law school,
he rose quickly in the Washington legal establishment, earning an appointment
from former President Reagan to a District of Colombia Superior Court judgeship.
He was later taken under the wing of the self-styled man of virtue William Bennett,
serving as a top gun in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
during Bennett’s tenure there. Then, in 2001, current President Bush appointed
him as a federal judge in the District of Columbia.
So it would be natural to suppose that Walton has some loyalty to the Bush
administration, but that alone is not proof of bias with respect to the Edmonds
and Valerie Plame-related cases.
Still, Edmonds points out that the way Walton landed on her original whistleblower-related
case (the one the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear), as well her currently
pending case, does seem a bit more than a cosmic coincidence.
“Walton was the original judge on my case (the Supreme Court case), when
we filed our case (in District Court in Washington, D.C.) in July 2002,”
Edmonds says. “Another judge was assigned to it, then, mysteriously and
with no reason, it was transferred to another judge, and then again, a few weeks
later, it was transferred to Walton.
“Walton is now assigned to my (new) case, … another random one.”
So Judge Walton seems to be in a critical role in serving as the point man
in the federal judicial system for two explosive cases — the Edmonds civil
case and Libby’s criminal case — both of which have vast implications
for the White House and for the country in general.
So shouldn’t we know who’s buttering Walton’s bread in terms
of financial backing? Why have ethics rules mandating such disclosures, if the
information is not disclosed in cases, such as these, where the stakes are so
Well, it seems, at least according to the only document that Judicial Watch
could shake loose in its public-records quest, that Walton doesn’t think
so. His financial disclosure statement, the one released for public inspection
through Judicial Watch, is completely redacted, every line of it.
Take a look here
Now, ask yourself, why would that be, and what might lurk in the shadows of
Judge Walton’s fiscal closet? If there nothing to hide, then there is
nothing to lose by shedding some light on the retractions, is there?
But let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s probably all fine -- just
a safety precaution, as the following excerpt from a 2004 Government
Accountability Office report explains:
"The Ethics in Government Act requires judges and other federal officials
to file financial disclosure reports as a check on conflicts of interest.
However, given potential security risks to federal judges, Congress authorized
redactions of information that could endanger them. This redaction authority
is set to expire at the end of 2005."
That has to be why the big boys in the media have ignored this issue to date,
right? After all, there are some things that take precedence over national security
and the outing of covert CIA operatives.
If not, and these redactions do not, in reality, protect Judge Walton's security,
but rather only his dignity, then we have to wonder why our fearless media leaders
have been content to graze on other appetizers.
But not to fear, I'm sure if there is cause for alarm, we'll hear the media-pundit
elephants charging through the fields toward this alfalfa patch soon.
In the mean time, let’s keep this whole messy topic between you and me,
for now. We wouldn’t want to stir up any disharmony inside the Washington
press-corps insiders’ circuit. They’ve got future cocktail parties