WIth all the coverage that the horrid conditions at Wlater Reed and the politically-based ouster of the US Attorneys have rightfully gained these past few days other Bush Assministration scandals are going unnoticed.
A former White House official who ordered three activists expelled from a 2005 Denver public forum with President Bush says it was White House policy to exclude potentially disruptive guests from Bush’s appearances nationwide.
The former official, Steve Atkiss, revealed the policy Friday in an interview after two volunteer bouncers identified him and a current White House staffer, Jamie O’Keefe, as the officials who ordered the so-called Denver Three activists sent away from the event.
The activists had done nothing to disrupt the forum, and two of them sued over the incident.
In sworn legal depositions, bouncers Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman for the first time named the White House officials who they say ordered the Denver Three to be excluded.
Friday’s revelations by the bouncers appeared to contradict a White House spokesman’s assertion in 2005 that volunteers were responsible for ejecting the Denver Three – self-described progressives Alex Young, Leslie Weise and Karen Bauer. Only Young and Weise are involved in the federal lawsuit.
That spokesman, Scott McClellan, who resigned last year, could not be reached for comment.
McClellan at the time also said: “The White House wants a diversity of voices at these events.”
The ACLU team seeks a federal court ruling that a policy of excluding event guests violates the First Amendment.
“We would hope, then, that the White House would change their policy,” lead attorney Martha Tierney said.
According to attorneys for both sides in the lawsuit, the bouncers testified that Casper told White House officials Atkiss and O’Keefe at the forum that several local volunteers had identified the activists as people with a history of disrupting political events.
The White House officials then directed Casper to “please ask them to leave,” which he did, the bouncers said in their depositions.
Young, Bauer and Weise obtained tickets from the office of then-U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez. They arrived in a red Saab hatchback with a bumper sticker on the back: “No more blood for oil.” They also wore “No more lies” T-shirts under their jackets.
Klinkerman pulled them out of a line and told them to wait, then called Casper, who had heard from other Republican Party officials who deemed the three suspicious.
The Secret Service later investigated whether a volunteer committed a crime of impersonating a federal agent. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to press charges, giving no explanation.
The Bush administration has run into trouble elsewhere after critics were ejected from Bush appearances. People in North Dakota complained they’d been put on a list of guests to be barred from a 2005 event. The ACLU sued on behalf of two West Virginia residents arrested in 2004 after refusing to remove anti-Bush T-shirts at a campaign event.
“My understanding is that it was a volunteer involved in that matter. My sense is that the volunteer thought that these individuals, these three individuals were coming to the event to disrupt it. And those individuals — I think if you look at some of the early news reports even said something to that effect. Now, we welcome a diversity of views at events, but if people are coming to the event to disrupt it, that’s another matter. If they want to disrupt the event, then I think that, obviously, they’re going to be asked to leave the event.”