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Monday, November 07, 2005

Immortality Calling

James Bond author Ian Fleming:
Fleming's amateur intelligence work paid off. In 1939 he was offered a job as personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. The position allowed Fleming to indulge his love of plotting and gadgetry, to exploit his networking skills and to develop unsuspected organizational talents. It also gave him the naval rank of Commander, a relatively lowly rank, but one with a resonance he enjoyed.

He set up an intelligence commando unit, which would follow invading troops and recover intelligence-related material. The unit saw action in the Allied invasion of Germany. Fleming was also in charge of Operation Goldeneye,– a contingency plan for a Nazi invasion of Spain, and devised Operation Ruthless. This was a plan to obtain a German codebook by crashing a captured aeroplane into the Channel, where the crew would be rescued by a German minesweeper. The 'survivors' would then kill the German crew and hijack the ship. The operation hit repeated snags and was eventually shelved.
Vice President of the United States Richard B. Cheney:
Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.
I hereby volunteer to help Big Time find a book deal. Enough with the Vice Presidenting already.

Time to buy a small Greek island, sip a little Grappa and share your bountiful literary talents with the world, Dick. No really, I mean it man, you've got the gift. Call me.


Legal Jeopardy

Shoot the Messenger, Please: Oh my god this is getting pathetic. Sounds like 90% of today's press conference was just hounding McClellan about TraitorGate. He may very well have just been doing his job when he assured everyone Rover never leaked, but nobody told him that the zealotry of Saul of Tarsus was appropriate to the occasion. Sorry -- wrong link.

Bang the Drum Loudly: Arianna says that a bunch of big wig Dems are joining together and writing a letter to Preznit Pendejo asking him to pledge not to screw up Fitzgerald's investigation and take a pardon of Libby off the table. Of course he won't, but it ought to be a lethal 2006 campaign meme and it's good to get it into heavy rotation. Bet Junior's cussing a blue streak over Poppy and that Cap Weinberger thing right now.

Serious Plame-a-holics Only Need Apply: eRiposte is tearing it up at the Left Coaster over the Niger forgeries. His conclusions? That the CIA most likely did not receive some of the fake information in the Niger documents because Italian intelligence (SISMI) held back the overtly fraudulent material. So much for the FBI's lone "forgery for fun and profit" conclusion.

Dick Cheney, Bondage Freak? So says The General: "Of course, the kind of maiming Mr. Cheney ordered goes far beyond anything practiced by the consenting adults who engage in BDSM activities, but I bet they still felt like he was giving a shout out at them."

Manifest Destiny and the Republican Revolution: Greg at the Talent Show runs down the California ballot initiatives and lets us know what, exactly, Judge Wapner has to do with anything. And Fixer over at Alternate Brain lets potential New Jersey and Virginia goldbrickers know that failure to vote is not going to be an easier, softer option.

(graphics thanks to Monk)


True Believer

Newsday has a story up about Patrick Fitzgerald and his days as one of the "bomb boys" from the US attorney's office in Manhattan who spent much of the 90's crafting ways to prosecute terrorists following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing:
U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, who helped prosecute six men sentenced to life in prison for the attack, recalled prosecutors cobbling together laws about commerce, destruction of vehicles, assault on federal officers and immigration -- anything to create long potential sentences.

"We were left with a big hole in the ground, six people dead, and there really was no crime, no terrorism statutes. We had to struggle to find crimes in the books that fit the conduct here," Garcia said.
Hence the genesis of the GOP talking point regarding Fitzgerald getting "overly creative" with the law. Funny that the war party now looks back and wishes Mr. Fitzgerald had looked into that smoking hole, muttered "hmmm, no law broken here," collected his marbles and gone about his business.

One of the people Fitzgerald put behind bars for the 1993 bombing was Sheikh Omar Abdel Raham, better known as "the Blind Sheikh." Fitzgerald wound up writing a set of rules or Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) to hinder the Sheikh's ability to communicate to his followers from jail. (It was the violation of the SAMS rules that got Lynn Stewart in hot water.)

The New Yorker has an interesting snippet from a surreptitiously taped conversation between Rahman, his translator Mohammed Yousry and Lynn Stewart from 2000, comparing Fitzgerald and Andrew McCarthy, another member of the anti-terrorism squad:
ABDEL RAHMAN: We thought that McCarthy was more dangerous.
YOUSRY: We thought that McCarthy was really a, a devil.
STEWART: A devil. Well, Fitzgerald I think is more so. He's, uh . . . he'’s like a crusader.
YOUSRY: She says, sir, that— --
STEWART: He has it in the heart.
YOUSRY: Fitzgerald is different from McCarthy. Fitzgerald believes in all these things in his heart, he has the faith of doing them in the same way the crusaders did; crusader, I mean, same as the crusaders'’ battle. He is more dangerous this way.
STEWART: "“This will never happen again. There will never be a bomb [that] explodes [in] an American Embassy again!" You know.
YOUSRY: When he stands up to speak, he says, this will never happen again to any American Embassy. We have to exterminate them all, we have to defend ourselves. He believes in that.
YOUSRY: He is not saying it in the same way McCarthy did, to gain the support of the jury.
Too early to be talking about Time Magazine's Man of the Year? Evidently not.


Extreme Web Surfing

Mickey Kaus hears rumors that the reason MSNBC has been so quiet about which episode of Hardball Scooter Libby was bitching to Russert about is because Libby was branding Matthews an "anti-Semite" for bashing the NeoCons (thanks to Jeralyn),...Arianna then speculates that Russert may now have decided to give Fitzgerald the "information provided in confidence" that he previously wanted excluded from his questioning about conversations with Scooter... Jay Rosen writes a letter to Romenesko saying that when Judy Miller said she had "security clearance" in Iraq what she meant to say was that she had "temporary access" and a "non-disclosure form." Still doesn't explain why she told Patrick Fitzgerald she "did not know" whether she was cleared to discuss classified information with Scooter or not -- is she trying "just delusional" on for size now? (thanks to David E.)...MoDo tells Imus that Judy Miller may write an op-ed responding to her critics. Cue the waaaahhhh (via Crooks & Liars) (okay I got that one over the phone, video link up as soon as C&L gets back from paying late fees to Blockbuster).


And Rove Still Has His Security Clearance Because...???

The questions about Karl Rove's security clearance have left the blogosphere and entered the main stream in the last couple of weeks -- and today in a big way in the LA Times. About damn time, I say.

An intelligence analyst temporarily lost his top-secret security clearance because he faxed his resume using a commercial machine.

An employee of the Defense Department had her clearance suspended for months because a jilted boyfriend called to say she might not be reliable.

An Army officer who spoke publicly about intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks had his clearance revoked over questions about $67 in personal charges to a military cellphone.

But in the White House, where Karl Rove is under federal investigation for his role in the exposure of a covert CIA officer, the longtime advisor to President Bush continues to enjoy full access to government secrets.
So, the little people have to follow the rules -- but they don't apply to Bushie's Brain, is that it?
"The agencies can move without hesitating when they even suspect a breach of the rules has occurred, much less an actual breach of information," said Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who has represented more than three dozen intelligence officers in security clearance cases, including those cited above.

If Rove's access to classified information were taken away, it would prevent him from doing much of his job. His wide portfolio includes domestic policy and national security issues, and he is at the president's side often during the day.
Ahhh, okay. I see. Having to follow the rules would be inconvenient for the Preznit and his Brain. Well, we can't have that, now can we? I mean, why should the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the nation, along with his Deputy Chief of Staff have to actually follow the laws they have sworn to uphold? Ahem.
A former White House official described going to a conference room in the Old Executive Office Building soon after joining the staff to watch an instructional video and get in-person training from federal agents who emphasize the need to take care with secret information. The former official was warned not to discuss any classified information learned on the job with those outside the complex who might not have the same clearance.

Each employee was asked to sign the nondisclosure agreement after the training and given a booklet explaining the rules, which include prohibitions against providing classified information — or even confirming it — to reporters.

A briefing booklet typically given to government employees when they receive their security clearance states that an official cannot confirm information that is classified, even if it has been published in a newspaper article.
Maybe paying attention to sensitive materials training information was beneath Rove? It sure looks like enforcing the standards required is beneath his boss.
Intelligence experts and even some prominent conservatives say that the fate of Rove's security clearance should not depend on Fitzgerald's conclusions — and that the White House should err on the side of caution rather than on technical questions of Rove's legal culpability.

"This president, who has raised to the top of the priority list the issue of national security, certainly should be concerned if any evidence has been developed that would indicate misuse of classified information by any member of his team, certainly somebody as high as Mr. Rove," said Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia and a former CIA official and federal prosecutor.

Barr said the Justice Department should examine Rove's actions, apart from the Fitzgerald probe, to determine specifically whether Rove's security classification should be stripped.
I am no fan of Bob Barr's, but he is absolutely right here. Security clearance should not be dependant on political patronage -- it is too important to be left to the political folks for decision-making. If this had been anyone but Rove, that clearance would have been gone close to two years ago.

Just more evidence that in the Bush White House, the rules only apply to everyone else.


The Circus is Coming to Town

New article in the WSJ outlining a plausible Scooter defense -- journalists have bad memories. I for one hope he goes with that. Both Jeralyn and Emptywheel have really good analyses of the article, but even a casual observer of Plameology is certainly rubbing their hands together with glee that the most vulnerable journalist in this case, Judith Miller, is also the one that Scooter was feeding bogus info to during the lead up to the Iraq war.

Judy knows where the bodies are buried. It's going to be damned near impossible to slam someone in court like Judy, who can't hear a single word uttered against her in the Times without flying into a tailspin, and hope that she doesn't decide to flush the whole damn lot of them down the shitter. While a jury may be forced to sit and listen to your attorney spin for days on end, those stories would leak out to the American public who are not subject to such captivity and take on a life on their own. It could get really, really interesting.

As emptywheel says:
Pinch has been trying hard to find some way to silence Judy and hide the NYT's own complicity in this manner. But given how closely this line of attack on Judy's credibility aligns with the crime at hand, it will be very difficult to claim First Amendment privilege to shield this information. Moreover, Judy never wrote a story on this matter, Libby, better than anyone, is likely to be able to paint Judy's involvement as a malicious actor and not a journalist.
A trial like this will pit the White House against Judy Miller. It does not bode well for Libby that the fulcrum will be his own, extremely vindictive super-shill.


Will Roberts Sit in Judgment of...Himself?

New Chief Justice John Roberts may be called upon to sit in judgment of one of his own appeals court decisions. In Hamden v. Rumsfeld, Roberts previously participated as one of three appeals court judges reviewing the matter.

Readers here will no doubt recall that it was this case that brought a lot of ethics questions for Roberts during the confirmation process, since he was sitting in judgment of the Bush Administration at a time they were interviewing him for a job, raising a number of questions about the fact that he did not recuse himself from the matter due to a potential conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.
Chief Justice John Roberts, as an appeals court judge, joined a summer ruling against Salim Ahmed Hamdan. He did not participate in Monday's action, which put him in the difficult situation of sitting in judgment of one of his own rulings.

The court's intervention piles more woes on the Bush administration, which has already suffered one set of losses at the Supreme Court and has been battered by international criticism of its detention policies.

"I think it's a black eye for the Bush administration. This opens a Pandora's box," said Michael Greenberger, a Justice Department attorney in the Clinton administration and law professor at the University of Maryland.
This case will be a tough decision for both Roberts and for Hamdan's legal representatives, who will have to decide whether or not to ask Roberts to participate in the matter to avoid the possibility of a 4-4 tie or whether to chance it.
In 2004 justices took up the first round of cases stemming from the government's war on terrorism. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring, wrote in one case that "a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
Arguments in the case have been set for next Spring, which presumably would then include Justice O'Connor's replacement, rather than O'Connor herself. This could mean that Samuel Alito, the Preznit's nominee, would be seated if his confirmation goes smoothly -- which would presumably not be good news for Hamdan, given Alito's deference to government in past rulings.
Hamdan's lawyer, Georgetown University professor Neal Katyal, said in a filing that "it is a contrived system subject to change at the whim of the president."

"With constantly shifting terms and conditions, the commissions resemble an automobile dealership instead of a legal tribunal dispensing American justice and protecting human dignity," he wrote.
Should be a very interesting case, and one which has far reaching implications for US policies.


Why the Pressure Tactics -- Something More to Hide?

According to the WaPo, VP Cheney is still using pressure tactics against Senators and members of the Administration to continue to push his position regarding torture policies and the CIA.
Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials....

In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. On a trip to Canada last month, Rice interrupted a packed itinerary to hold a secure video-teleconference with Cheney on detainee policy to make sure no decisions were made without her input.
But why the push? Because Cheney has decided to make a principled stand for the rights of CIA agents -- members of the same CIA that he has waged a long-term battle against since his time as Secretary of Defense? Or because the policies under which they have been operating since 9/11 have not even begun to come to light, and were implemented as a direct result of Cheney and his staff pushing them past the point that the American public could support? What is Dick Cheney still trying to hide?
Just last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the CIA's covert "black sites" in several Eastern European democracies and other countries where key al Qaeda captives are being kept.
At this point, though, the question becomes how long can Cheney sustain the support to keep this hidden. He is losing support within the Administration by the day, as his influence over the President wanes in the wake of scandal after scandal emerging from the VPs office. And as other members of the Administration gain their footing and turn around the stab him in the back to advance their own agendas, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Increasingly, however, Cheney's positions are being opposed by other administration officials, including Cabinet members, political appointees and Republican lawmakers who once stood firmly behind the administration on all matters concerning terrorism.

Personnel changes in President Bush's second term have added to the isolation of Cheney, who previously had been able to prevail in part because other key parties to the debate -- including Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and White House counsel Harriet Miers -- continued to sit on the fence.

But in a reflection of how many within the administration now favor changing the rules, Elliot Abrams, traditionally one of the most hawkish voices in internal debates, is among the most persistent advocates of changing detainee policy in his role as the deputy national security adviser for democracy, according to officials familiar with his role.

At the same time Rice has emerged as an advocate for changing the rules to "get out of the detainee mess," said one senior U.S. official familiar with discussions. Her top advisers, along with their Pentagon counterparts, are working on a package of proposals designed to address all controversial detainee issues at once, instead of dealing with them on a piecemeal basis.
Who will ultimately win on this issue? Not sure yet. But it would be unwise to bet against John McCain and Condi Rice -- especially when both of them may have their sights set on a run for the White House in 2008. Never bet against personal ambition in D.C., I always say.

UPDATE: And the Preznit says, "Nuh uh. We aren't doing anything wrong." You buying it? Erm...didn't think so.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ya Gotta Have Friends

Laura Rozen says that Newt Gingrich's appearance on ABC's This Week gives us a good indication of what we'll soon be hearing from Pat Roberts about the Phase II investigation of the SSCI -- namely, "Roberts will leak to the White House and the GOP the pre-war statements by Democrats about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein."

Let me cancel my manicure. Wouldn't want to risk being out of the house for that one.

But as Laura says, this leaves out a few critical point the committee previously agreed to cover, namely "the use by the intelligence community of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC)."

Might we suggest that the committee take advantage of that wonderful piece of kismet, the fact that Ahmed Chalabi is going to be hitting DC this week, to ask him a few pointed questions? Maybe he can carve out some time in between admiring Condi's shoes and swapping the finer points of waterboarding with Big Time to let them know how cousin Curveball fares these days.


This Ought to Give You Pause...And Then Some

Barton Gellman of the WaPo has a superb piece regarding the Patriot Act and the expanded powers of the FBI under its auspices. It's a must read.
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined. (emphasis mine)
If you have ever wondered why it is that privacy rights groups are skeptical about the Patriot Act, re-read the above paragraphs. And pause for a moment, and think about how much information about you may already be in a database somewhere.
A national security letter cannot be used to authorize eavesdropping or to read the contents of e-mail. But it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it yields describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.
Wonder if they have a special folder for Firedoglake-a-holics?

Truly, this is a must read article. Investigative capabilities in the hands of ethical law enforcement personnel are an important tool in catching criminals, terrorists, and other bad guys. In the hands of less than ethical personnel or politcal machinery, it can be a weapon against enemies and critics and worse.

Whatever you think of the Patriot Act, something this far-reaching needs much, much more public discussion. This Gellman article is an excellent step toward doing just that.


White House Musical Chairs

Is Bush looking to unload Rover, Snow, Rummy and McClellan? According to Mike Allen of Time Magazine, anyway:
Despite Rove's flashes of ebullience in recent days and the insistence of friends that he is out of legal jeopardy, several of the most important lawyers who deal with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said they saw more clues last week that Fitzgerald is continuing to look into the possibility of charging Rove with lying to investigators or the grand jury or both. If that happens, Rove almost certainly would resign immediately, as did I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, when Libby was indicted two weeks ago. Otherwise, Rove is likely to wait for a chance to minimize the perception that he is being hounded out or leaving under a cloud. And he's got one constituency rooting for him, the conservatives who rely on him to be their voice. If he leaves, he will not be alone. Several well-wired Administration officials predict that within a year, the President will have a new chief of staff and press secretary, probably a new Treasury Secretary and maybe a new Defense Secretary.
Andy Card had wanted Snow's job, but the threat of indictments may have opened up the possibility that he will be Bush's new "brain."

And what, exactly, does that portend? Billmon:
[T]he Andy Card I'm familiar with (although admittedly only in passing) sure doesn't seem like a serious contender to be the new power behind the throne -- especially when the guy currently holding the position is named Karl Rove.


On the other hand, given Bush's well-demonstrated weakness for servile sycophants, maybe Card really has talked his way into a promotion from chief cheeseburger chaser to Grand Vizier.

I guess it could be argued that since the smart guys -- i.e. Bush's cracker barrel version of the Best and the Brightest -- have gotten us into so many messes, why not let the dumb guys take a crack at getting us out. But that doesn't always work out so well in practice. If Andy Card truly is (or is about to become) Bush's "brain," then the next three years are likely to be pretty amusing -- at least for those with a morbid sense of humor.
What the hell, I like a good laugh.


Winds of Change?

According to the WaPo, the winds of change may be blowing across the political landscape in America. The 2006 elections are looking anything but solid for the Republican majority in Congress.
One year before the 2006 midterm elections, Republicans are facing the most adverse political conditions of the 11 years since they vaulted to power in Congress in 1994. Powerful currents of voter unrest -- including unhappiness over the war in Iraq and dissatisfaction with the leadership of President Bush -- have undermined confidence in government and are stirring fears among GOP candidates of a backlash.
But all is not a celebration for Democrats, either. Voters are not happy with Democrats, don't see them as leaders, and can't seem to find issues for which the Democrats are proposing major inititives or even minor solutions in most cases. Perhaps because they aren't -- or at least, haven't been doing so with any real communicative ability.
One bright spot for the Republicans is the low regard in which many Americans hold the Democrats. The public sees the Democrats as disorganized, lacking in clear ideas or a positive alternative to the GOP agenda, and bereft of appealing leaders. In the Post-ABC News poll, voters gave Washington low grades without favor: Just 35 percent said they approved of the job Republicans in Congress were doing, while only 41 percent gave a positive rating to the Democrats.
Essentially, it's a pox on both their houses from the voters in terms of larger national picture thinking. But still a loyalty to the incumbants still exists -- at least for now. But the question is, will such loyalty hold? That same trend held in the 1994 elections, prior to things going South for Democrats in that mid-term. Analysts are asking themselves whether those same conditions may be building for a Republican rout in next year's mid-term elections.
Two-thirds of those surveyed by The Post and ABC News said the country is heading in the wrong direction. Asked whom they were likely to support in next year's House elections, 52 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate, while 37 percent said the Republican. While this testing of generic preferences is not always a reliable indicator of elections, the result suggests that Republicans for now are in trouble.

Republicans may find solace in the fact that 60 percent of those surveyed approved of the job their own House member is doing -- but that, too, was the case one year before the 1994 election. Then the percentage declined throughout 1994; if the same happens next year, Republicans will be in serious trouble.

In another indication of unrest, a majority now say they have little or no confidence in the government in Washington to solve problems, another statistic that is similar to findings at this point 12 years ago. Confidence deteriorated steadily throughout 1994.
What people want are solutions to the problems that loom in their lives: high energy prices, an unstable economy, the instability in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, and the nagging question of whether or not government is doing its job for the people -- or only for their cronies.

Suddenly competency and doing the job for all the American people is sexy. Democrats had better take that ball and run with it. Conditions are becoming favorable for a Democratic win in 2006 -- but the party has to offer more than criticisms. Competence requires some plans, and a clear message to deliver them.

Here's my contribution: Stronger economy. Stronger families. Stronger America -- for everyone. Find a way to work that into our message every day, via proposals, plans, photo-ops, whatever. But Americans need to understand that Democrats do the work so that every American has a better life. Because right now, the message that Republicans are only in it for themselves gets hammered out in the news every single day.

Democrats need to be standing up for everyone else that gets shoved to the side -- or they'll be shoved to the side along with them.

(Painting by Alfred Sisley entitled "Windy Day at Veneux.")


Nothing Like Relying on a Big Liar in Going to War

Doug Jehl reports in today's NYTimes that a primary intelligence source for Iraqi information was branded a "likely fabricator" months before his information was used by the Administration to gin up sentiments for war. In other words, the Administration knew the guy was a big fat liar, and spread his lies for the truth anyway -- which makes them, erm, big fat liars.
The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, “was intentionally misleading the debriefers’’ in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons.

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al 8Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’
How many of the WHIG members knew this guy was a liar, and used his information in their media circle jerks, ginning up their support by using each other as sourcing for public anonymous quotes? How many United States soldiers have dies, lost limbs, and had their lives blown apart by this war, ginned up on information that the Administration knew was false at the time?

Additionally, there is some question whether or not the DIA provided their skeptical report to the Senate Intelligence Committee and to the 9/11 Commission when they were reviewing pre-war intelligence information. Neither Committee report mentions anything about this skeptical review, leading Jehl to speculate that the information may have been withheld.
“It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers,’’ the February 2002 report said. “Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.’’
Hmmm, withholding information that would make the Administration look bad. Who'd a thunk it?

As for blaming the CIA for giving the Administration bad intelligence on this, and using that for cover? Erm...not so much.
Mr. Powell relied heavily on accounts provided by Mr. Libi for his speech to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, saying that he was tracing “the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaeda.’’

At the time of Mr. Powell’s speech, an unclassified statement by the C.I.A. described the reporting, now known to have been from Mr. Libi, as “credible.’’ But Mr. Levin said he had learned that a classified C.I.A. assessment at the time stated “the source was not in a position to know if any training had taken place.’’

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Levin also called attention to a portion of the D.I.A. report that expressed skepticism about the idea of close collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, an idea that was never substantiated by American intelligence but was a pillar of the administration’s prewar claims.

“Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements,’’ the D.I.A. report said in one of two declassified paragraphs. “Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.’’
Sounds to me like the Democrats' closing of the Senate last week had a whole lot of teeth to it. And Republicans who are still trying to call it a "stunt" ought to be ashamed of themselves and of the Administration -- deliberately lying to the American people, in such a callous and calculating way, to gin up a war that has cost so many American lives and limbs...well, I don't even need to say it, do I?

Nothing like relying on a big, fat liar to take the nation to war. Oh, I forgot. That should have been liars. There's always Curveball.

(Graphics love to San Francisco Independent Media Center.)


Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Horror! The Horror!

Dear God, anything but that:
According to the New York Observer and sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Miller is demanding the right to reply to her critics in an opinion piece and a non-disparagement agreement as condition of her departure. Otherwise she has threatened to return to work.
Around the third or fourth week of any movie shoot people start muttering "who do I have to fuck to get off this picture." To the Times editorial staff: you can have that one.


The Crumbling Moral Authority of the Left

Shocking many of us who have long argued against the use of torture under any circumstances, noted liberal blogger TBogg has come out in support of Vice President Dick Cheney and his plea to Republican senators to allow CIA exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in US custody.

As he says:
There is nothing less than our precious freedoms at stake here, and when push comes to shove, we shouldn't let quaint antiquainted notions about human rights take precedence over our freedom from fear and harm when it comes to those who would attack us or who pose a danger to our men and women in uniform or the others who serve our country in covert ways through our intelligence services.

Therefore I think we should torture Scooter Libby.
TBogg leaves the rest of us weak-kneed sob sisters in his wake with the power of his logic:
[I]f we are going to get to the bottom of who put an American CIA agent in jeopardy, it is incumbent upon us to torture Scooter.

Water board him, strip him naked and smear him with his own feces and walk him on a leash down the mall, beat him with rolled-up copies of Condolezza Rice's unread National Intelligence Estimates, keep him awake for hours on end while reading to him from James Lilek's new book, Cute Things Gnat Said While I Was Lurking Around the Bra Department At Target, until he tells us who tipped him off about Valerie Plame.

A secure America demands no less.

We might want to smack Karl Rove around too. That fat prick knows something.
My resolve falters. I admit it, he's convinced me.

Update: John over at Crooks & Liars has an interview up with Wes Clark who talks about torture and the moral authority of the left. With a bit more gravitas than TBogg.

Update: Atrios sends us to a Newsweek piece on Dubya's "series of covert directives" to use "new, harsher methods" of interrogation that lead to the crap intelligence derived from al-Libi.


Later, Dick

Tom Gilroy over at the HuffPo has a word or two for those feeling warmed by BushCo's polar poll numbers:
They’re so humbled they just last week passed landmark changes gutting Florida’s Medicaid and Medicare programs, to be used as a model for other red states so their Republican governors can appear fiscally responsible. So you crippled grandmother better not exceed her spending cap next year, or she’s shit out of luck; her dog food rations will have to go up to 3 meals a week just to pay for her meds. Boy, thank God the GOP’s been humbled by the ethical quagmire.

They’re so humiliated by their treasonous lies and media intimidation in the lead-up to the illegal war, they just nominated a raving puritan lunatic to the Supreme Court, a brown-shirted lemming so in thrall of corporate power and totalitarian government control he makes Maggie Thatcher look like a feminazi. Running scared!

Dick Cheney’s act of contrition for the public discovering he’d sacrifice a CIA agent ‘s head on a silver platter so an illegal war could funnel money to Halliburton was to replace his indicted chief of staff with David Addington, a stealth gorgon who’s hatred of democracy reaches back to Iran/contra and co-authoring Gonzales’s Torture Memo.

Dick’s so horribly ashamed he’s even bucking the entire Congress to force a torture loophole into a bill that would otherwise compel America to abide by The Geneva Conventions. You remember The Geneva Conventions, those rules of ethics drafted by all of humanity in response to the Nazis gassing 6 million Jews? Clearly, our VP is so demoralized he must be triple popping Prozac just face his morning coffee.

W is so decimated by the embarrassment of his (and his mother’s) classism, racism and venal cronyism in the wake of Katrina, he could barely muster the courage to eliminate minimum wages and environmental protections in the great domestic funneling of cash to Halliburton , otherwise known as the rebuilding of New Orleans. Just look at the chickenshit run! We got ‘im now!
He's right, of course, but GOP party discipline is certainly waning. Will Bunch lays out the argument for impeaching the roundly-loathed Dick Cheney, whose arrogance and entitlement probably renders him physically incapable of making any kind of public atonement for the acts of his chief of staff. As Will says:
Could it get out of committee? We don't know, but it's possible that a few Republicans -- facing a Democratic landslide in '06 -- could decide that good government really does make good politics.
No, I don't think the Rethugs are on the run.

Not yet, anyway.

Update: Lukery, from the comments: "According to the latest zogby/afterdowningstreet poll, 53% of Americans want Congress to impeach President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq. Bush's 'popularity' is twice as high as cheney's - can we infer that 106% of americans want cheney impeached?"

(graphics thanks to jaysea courtesy NYBri)


Rover Redux

A couple of NYT articles have launched considerable new speculation about Rover and the hot water he may be in. Jeralyn has a fabulous post up on Rove's history with the grand jury, replete with all kinds of links. She sketches a fascinating history and concludes that Rover is far from off the hook:
Rove reportedly told Novak on July 8 after Novak mentioned Wilson's wife that he had heard this too. From whom did he hear it? That seems to be what Fitzgerald wants to know. Rove said he heard it from other journalists, but couldn't remember which one. It seems more likely he heard it from Libby.
By about June 12, Libby had learned of both Wilson and his wife from a variety of sources - the undersecretary, a top CIA official and Cheney himself.

And it was after Wilson went public on July 6, 2003, that Libby appears to step up his focus on Wilson as the White House tried to decide how to beat back his claims. In a series of conversations - with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, Cheney's counsel, and an official believed to be Karl Rove - Libby asks: How should we deal with media inquires about Wilson? In each conversation, prosecutors say, Libby discussed Wilson's wife.
I suspect Fitzgerald now has his answer. The question is, will he charge Rove with making a false statement to FBI investigators or with perjury before the grand jury, both or neither? While recantation is a defense to a perjury charge, it may not apply to Karl Rove, as I explained here. There is no recantation defense available to making a false statement to investigators.

It seems to me a false statements charge is the easiest for Fitzgerald to prove against Rove. The guidelines would not be as high as they are for perjury, but it's still a felony and even charging it would result in Rove having to leave the White House.
Elsewhere, the Hadley email regarding Matt Cooper looks like it is going to take center stage in whatever case there is to be made against Rover. In his new must-read magnum opus, Tom Maguire says:
[I]f Fitzgerald knew enough to subpoena Cooper's evidence about a conversation with Rove in late August, what do we take from this Times report that "the [email] message was not discovered until the fall of 2004"?

This certainly suggests that Fitzgerald had independent evidence of the conversation between Cooper and Rove.  But from whom?  Might Hadley, as recipient of the email, have found it to be memorable?  But if Hadley remembered, why did the author of the email forget?  Was Rove really that much busier than Hadley?
And Anonymous Liberal takes issue with the bit of Luskin spin from yesterday's article indicating "a lawyer in the case said that White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials." Says Anonymous Liberal:
There is simply no way that the failure to turn over that email in a timely matter can be attributable to a lack of specificity in the requests themselves. There is no way that the dates of the requests did not include July 11. Moreover, if White House email was searched using search terms, as Isikoff's source suggested, "Cooper" would have to have been one of those terms. It's possible, of course, that the email was innocently overlooked during the White House's effort to comply with these requests, but it's entirely ridiculous to assert that the prosecutors in this case did not draft their document requests with enough specificity to capture this key email. If I were Fitzgerald, that blind quote in today's Times article would really make me mad.
The notion of Fitzgerald mad about all the stonewalling and spin his case has been subjected to? Somehow that just doesn't bother me.

(graphic courtesy Monk at Inflatable Dartborad)


Dubya Orders White House Staff to Take Ethics Classes

#1 - The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

#2 - The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.


Lights! Camera! Taxes!

Remember what a love fest Bubba had in South America? Well history isn't repeating itself for Poor Hapless Dubya, who tried to flee DC in the wake of Hurricane Patrick and finds no shelter from the storm in Argentina. Reader zaba sends this email:
Regarding the demonstrations and melees in Buenos Aires and La Plata today -  98 percent of the Argentine population was against the invasion of Iraq. For weeks prior to the summit, there have been numerous articles and commentaries  in the Argentine media regarding the deep feelings of animosity towards George W. Bush. It has not been reported in the U.S. media that Bush traveled to the summit with a retinue of 2000 (yes, two thousand) security/staff.  Last week, according to the daily Clarin, 3 airplanes loaded with arms for security as well as food for the entourage arrived in Argentina   Also,  four AWAC spy planes are surveying the area. Sikorsky helicopters were transported to Argentina, U.S. navy ships have been deployed off the coast of Mar del Plata,  all in anticipation of unrest due to the unpopularity of Bush in Argentina and in all of Latin America. The size of the Bush security detail has been a topic of articles in Argentina. It did not merit a single mention in the U.S. media. I find it incredible.  One cannot help but wonder what the price tag will be for the Bush trip to Latin America.
You do have to marvel at the expense of this particular photo op whilst Congress is simultaneously pulling food out of the mouths of the poor.

There is some nasty-ass karma cooking up for ol' Dubya. The man's got telltale hearts beating everywhere.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Pushing the Least of These to the Brink

The Senate approved budget cuts last night in the neighborhood of $35 billion dollars over the next five years. Programs cut? Federal student loans, prescription drug benefits and agricultural subsidies, along with the whiff of attempting to cut down on Medicare fraud (again).

The Senate bill would raise billions of dollars by auctioning off parts of the broadcasting spectrum for digital television. It would raise $2.5 billion through leasing parts of the Alaskan refuge to oil and gas interests. Companies with traditional pension plans would be charged higher premiums for insurance coverage under the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. And the profits of student lenders would be squeezed by $9.7 billion over five years.

Some of the savings would be spent on relief for Katrina survivors and higher payments to health care providers helping Medicare patients.
The House plan? Cuts much more.

The focus now shifts to the House, where the Budget Committee voted 21 to 16 yesterday to approve a more extensive bill saving nearly $54 billion through 2010 with cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, student loans, agriculture subsidies and child support enforcement. The House measure would allow states to impose premiums and co-payments on poor Medicaid recipients for the first time.

With so many controversial provisions, the House measure is forcing Republican leaders to scramble for support in what could be the most difficult vote of the year. Some Republican moderates are balking at cuts to anti-poverty programs, especially in light of a $70 billion tax cut that could come to a vote soon after the budget bill, more than wiping out the first bill's deficit reduction.
Good to know that some people think stomping on the poor while spending ourselves into the poor house isn't the nicest of plans.

Having spent a great deal of my legal career working with the very poor -- especially working to protect vulnerable children in abusive and neglectful households -- these proposed cuts to safety net programs, already hanging on by a thread from previous cuts, are disturbing.

At a time of soaring profits for oil companies nationwide, a proposed cut to heating subsidies this winter is especially infuriating. And that's just one proposed measure. I could go on and on, but I won't -- mainly because it will just piss me off even more.

The children of the least of these in our nation deserve better.

(Photo Credit to Dorothea Lange. This is one of my all-time favorites of her FSA work, and it seemed highly appropriate for this piece. This photograph is entitled "Destitute pea-pickers in California; a 32-year old mother of seven children" from February, 1936.)


Holy Crap! Cheney Leaves a Big, Slimy Trail

Well, I'll say this about Lawrence Wilkerson -- he's definitely off the Cheney Christmas card list. But he just made mine -- in spades. In fact, he may have just earned himself a tin of homemade cookies and candies.

Today's Froomkin column (man, he's indespensible, isn't he?) points to an NPR audio file of Lawrence Wilkerson's Thursday interview on the network, and it is explosive, detailed and did I mention scorching?

The interview was conducted by NPR's Steve Inskeep. Although the transcript is not publicly available, Froomkin provided some quotes on the subject of Cheney's office being the catalyst for the change in military policy regarding torture.
"INSKEEP: While in the government, he says he was assigned to gather documents. He traced just how Americans came to be accused of abusing prisoners. In 2002, a presidential memo had ordered that detainees be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions that forbid torture. Wilkerson says the vice president's office pushed for a more expansive policy.

"Mr. WILKERSON: What happened was that the secretary of Defense, under the cover of the vice president's office, began to create an environment -- and this started from the very beginning when David Addington, the vice president's lawyer, was a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions. Regardless of the president having put out this memo, they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to, in my view, what we've seen.
You remember David Addington? The newly promoted replacement VP Chief of Staff for the indicted Scooter Libby, former VP Chief of Staff?

You know, how hard can it be to sit your ass down and think, "Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea to find someone to work in my office who doesn't come with an ethical taint -- maybe start fresh -- since my Chief of Staff just got indicted and all." Must be difficult, I suppose. Especially when all your chums seem to favor torture and drumming up a war out of thin air, well paid intelligence sources and specially forged documents.
"INSKEEP: We have to get more detail about that because the military will say, the Pentagon will say they've investigated this repeatedly and that all the investigations have found that the abuses were committed by a relatively small number of people at relatively low levels. What hard evidence takes those abuses up the chain of command and lands them in the vice president's office, which is where you're placing it?

"Mr. WILKERSON: I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the secretary of State asked me to assemble on how this all got started, what the audit trail was, and when I began to assemble this paperwork, which I no longer have access to, it was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that -- that to a soldier in the field meant two things: We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war.

"You just -- if you're a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things because once you give just the slightest bit of leeway, there are those in the armed forces who will take advantage of that. There are those in the leadership who will feel so pressured that they have to produce intelligence that it doesn't matter whether it's actionable or not as long as they can get the volume in. They have to do what they have to do to get it, and so you've just given in essence, though you may not know it, carte blanche for a lot of problems to occur."
AFP provides even more information on the interview, including the fact that Cheney's office became involved in this before we went into Afghanistan. (My question of the day: did Cheney help to hand-pick Gen. Miller for the torture patrol? Shouldn't the media and the Senate Armed Services Committee start asking that -- right now?)

And that the orders and directives coming from the VPs office on torture directly contradicted a 2002 memo from the Office of the President.

You know, back in the old days, we made fun of Alexander Haig for pretending to be President after Reagan was shot. Cheney isn't even bothering to pretend.

One of the more disturbing aspects of the interview, and something covered by the AFP article, is this:
Wilkerson also told National Public Radio that Cheney's office ran an "alternate national security staff" that spied on and undermined the president's formal National Security Council.

He said National Security Council staff stopped sending emails when they found out Cheney's staffers were reading their messages.

He said he believed that Cheney's staff prevented Bush from seeing a National Security Council memo arguing strongly that the US needed far more troops for the March 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.
We've known for some time that there was a substantial fight between the CIA and the WHIG group. But nothing like this. Read that section again -- the NSC staff stopped sending e-mails between themselves because members of the VP's staff were spying on them. What in the hell is going on with these people?!?

Meanwhile, in Congress, despite passing by an overwhelming margin of 90 to 9 in the Senate, McCain's anti-torture provision is being blocked by Dick Cheney's good friend in the House, Denny Hastert. I didn't think it was possible, but these asshats have sunk to an even lower level of hackery and ethical depravity.

The saving grace for my mood is that Cheney appears to have left a big, slimy trail -- and Powell and Wilkerson have both taken some excellent snapshots of it. Now if only someone in DC had to cojones to do some oversight. *snerk* Oh, that was painful.



Okay, this is my audition for editor at the NYT (caps mine):
The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has narrowed his investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to whether he tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation with a Time magazine reporter in the week before an intelligence officer's identity was made public more than two years ago, KARL ROVE'S FURIOUSLY SPINNING lawyers in the case said Thursday.


Mr. Fitzgerald no longer seems to be actively examining some of the more incendiary questions involving Mr. Rove ACCORDING TO ROVE'S WANKY LAWYERS WHOSE WARES NOBODY THIS SIDE OF MICHAEL ISIKOFF IS BUYING. At one point, he explored whether Mr. Rove misrepresented his role in the leak case to President Bush - an issue that led to discussions between Mr. Fitzgerald and James E. Sharp, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, an associate of Mr. Rove said, IN AN ATTEMPT TO FLOAT A MORE PLAUSIBLE STORY AFTER THAT ONE ABOUT FITZGERALD STOPPING BY TO TELL SHARP EVERYTHING THAT WAS GOING ON IN HIS CASE WENT OVER LIKE THE HINDENBURG.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, declined to discuss his client's legal status, BUT HAD SOME MINION ON SPEED DIAL WHO WAS HAPPY TO DO THE HONORS, but AND THEN TRIED TO THROW EVERYBODY OFF THE SCENT WHEN HE referred to a statement issued last week in which he expressed confidence that Mr. Fitzgerald would conclude that Mr. Rove had done nothing wrong, AT LEAST NOT IN THE PAST FIVE MINUTES.

Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn THE MAN WITH THE WORLD'S SLIMMEST JOB DESCRIPTION, declined to discuss Mr. Rove's legal status AND COULD FOR ALL WE KNOW BE SCUBA DIVING IN THE BAHAMAS. If nothing else, the uncertainty that continues to surround Mr. Rove's legal case has led to intense speculation about his standing within the White House LIKE SHARKS TO CHUM. People with close ties to Mr. Bush and Republicans who work with officials in the top ranks of the White House staff said there had been no discussion about Mr. Rove stepping down if he is not indicted AS THEY TRIED TO MUFFLE THE GUFFAWS.
Don't worry, I won't give up my day job.

(graphics courtesy of Valley Girl)


We Don't Call It "TraitorGate" For Nothing

Ooooh, John Dean has a barn-burner of a column up, and there ain't no fat lady singing, that's for sure. Gee thee behind me, Dick Cheney:
Having read the indictment against Libby, I am inclined to believe more will be issued. In fact, I will be stunned if no one else is indicted.

Indeed, when one studies the indictment, and carefully reads the transcript of the press conference, it appears Libby's saga may be only Act Two in a three-act play. And in my view, the person who should be tossing and turning at night, in anticipation of the last act, is the Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney.
Dean goes on to note, as Billmon has, that Fitzgerald said a whole lot more in the indictment than he had to, and took great pains to delve into the statutes under which Libby is not charged.
Count One, paragraph 1(b) is particularly revealing. Its first sentence establishes that Libby had security clearances giving him access to classified information. Then 1(b) goes on to state: "As a person with such clearances, LIBBY was obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order13292), not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise to exercise proper care to safeguard classified information against unauthorized disclosure." (The section also goes on to stress that Libby executed, on January 23, 2001, an agreement indicating understanding that he was receiving classified information, the disclosure of which could bring penalties.)

What is Title 18, United States Code, Section 793? It's the Espionage Act -- a broad, longstanding part of the criminal code. (my emphasis)
Espionage, bitches, espionage!

Fitzgerald is a man who speaks very carefully. And like Dean, I went back and read very slooooowly the transcript of his press conference about invoking the Espionage Act. Specifically the Espionage Act. As Fitzgerald said:
We have not charged him with [that] crime. I'm not making an allegation that he violated [the Espionage Act]. What I'm simply saying is one of the harms in obstruction is that you don't have a clear view of what should be done. And that's why people ought to walk in, go into the grand jury, you're going to take an oath, tell us the who, what, when, where and why -- straight.
Fitzgerald can't do his job because Libby is lying to him. And once again as Dean noted on Countdown last week, he says Libby is acting as a firewall to Cheney:
[I]n Fitzgerald's words, Libby's story was that when Libby "passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls."

This story is, of course, a lie, but it was a clever one on Libby's part.

It protects Cheney because it suggests that Cheney's disclosure to Libby was causally separate from Libby's later, potentially Espionage-Act-violating disclosure to the press. Thus, it also denies any possible conspiracy between Cheney and Libby.

And it protects Libby himself - by suggesting that since he believed he was getting information from reporters, not indirectly from the CIA, he may not have had have the state of mind necessary to violate the Espionage Act.

Thus, from the outset of the investigation, Libby has been Dick Cheney's firewall. And it appears that Fitzgerald is actively trying to penetrate that firewall.
Dean goes on to speculate, and I agree, that Fitzgearld is trying to flip Libby, and thinks he is unlikely to do so:
Neither Cheney nor Libby (I believe) will be so foolish as to crack a deal. And Libby probably (and no doubt correctly) assumes that Cheney - a former boss with whom he has a close relationship -- will (at the right time and place) help Libby out, either with a pardon or financially, if necessary. Libby's goal, meanwhile, will be to stall going to trial as long as possible, so as not to hurt Republicans' showing in the 2006 elections.

So if Libby can take the heat for a time, he and his former boss (and friend) may get through this. But should Republicans lose control of the Senate (where they are blocking all oversight of this administration), I predict Cheney will resign "for health reasons."
I'm not sure I'm with Dean on this last one. As long as Libby stalls a trial, it stays in the headlines. The public hunger for answers will grow ravenous. The White House will have to play Pin It All On Scooter, which his attorneys will be forced to defend in the court of public opinion. And the press, against whom Libby will have to wage his war (it's going to be his story vs. those of Matthews, Cooper, Miller et. al.) is going to turn hostile.

The stage is set for a circular firing squad.

And then there's the yet-to-be-played-out Karl Rove saga. BushCo. would love to see Scooter out of the headlines as quickly as possible so they could get back to feeding like pigs at the public trough. A few lavishly expensive photo-ops are not going to steal the headlines back from this one any time soon.

(graphic courtesy of Monk)


Abramoff: The E-mails That Keep On Giving

Oh, that silly Jack Abramoff. Keeping all the e-mail around for investigators and enterprising journalists to sift through in their off hours. And find things like this:
Representative Tom DeLay asked the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money for him through a private charity controlled by Mr. Abramoff, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mail from the lobbyist's files.
Gosh, perhaps its just me -- but isn't using a charity to launder political donations...erm...illegal. And, gasp, couldn't that mean old prosecutor in Texas use conduct like this to show...erm...a pattern of behavior and corruption in poor old Tom Delay's fundraising andpolitical action committee practices?
"Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation?" Mr. Abramoff asked a colleague in a message on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity. "I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom's requests. I have another few to hit still."

The e-mail was addressed to Tony Rudy, who had been Mr. DeLay's chief of staff in the House before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm. Mr. Abramoff said it would be good "if we can do $200K" for Mr. DeLay.

The e-mail traffic was released this week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which has conducted a yearlong investigation into whether Mr. Abramoff and a business partner, Michael Scanlon, Mr. DeLay's former House press secretary, defrauded Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations out of tens of millions of dollars. There was no immediate comment on the e-mail from spokesmen for Mr. Abramoff or Mr. DeLay, who has stepped down as House majority leader because of an unrelated criminal indictment in his home state.
Ooops. And in a signal that things may just be getting bumpier for Delay, the DoJ signaled last week that it would be taking a good, hard look at his connections with Abramoff, including trips that Delay and his wife took on Abramoff's dime. But wait, there's more:
The hearings by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee have shown that through a network of outside companies and charities, Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon funneled tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees from Indian tribes into activities that often had little connection to the interests of the tribes and their lucrative gambling operations.

Mr. Abramoff's private charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, has come under scrutiny by Senate investigators since the foundation was used to underwrite overseas travel by members of Congress and senior government officials, as well as a Jewish day school that Mr. Abramoff had established and paramilitary training for kibbutz residents in Israel. Mr. Abramoff's e-mail messages describe the training program as a "sniper school."
Well, that doesn't sound good at all, does it? Next thing you know, Delay will be whining about not knowing Mr. Abramoff very well at all.
In e-mail on July 8, 2002, to the lobbyist for a Texas Indian tribe, Mr. Abramoff asked about the status of the tribe's contribution to the foundation for Mr. DeLay: "I am getting daily calls on this. When they return tomorrow, I have no doubt, Tom himself is going to call." Mr. Abramoff appeared to be referring to Mr. DeLay's return to Washington after the Fourth of July holiday.
But e-mails like this are going to make that claim a little difficult, aren't they?

And Delay's attempt to rig his Texas trial by getting a Republican-friendly judge to appoint his trial judge? Not going so well, after all.
Late Thursday, Justice Jefferson announced that he had named a new trial judge, Pat Priest, a retired Democratic judge from San Antonio. It was not immediately clear if Judge Priest would be acceptable to lawyers on both sides.
Guess Delay is going to have to go back to that old standby -- criminalization of politics. Well, here's a clue for Tom: politics only gets criminalized when criminals are in office.

And on a related note: why did Fox News pay Tom Delay close to $14,000 in "travel expenses" to appear on their Sunday show the weekend after he was indicted? Just askin'. (Hat tip to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.)


Can't Even Be Honest With Each Other

Doug Jehl of the New York Times is reporting this morning that Eric Edelman fudged the truth in response to a questionnaire sent by the Senate Armed Services Committee. And Sen. John Warner, chairman of the committee doesn't sound at all pleased.
Eric S. Edelman, an under secretary of defense and former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, "would have been well advised" to tell Congress this spring about his "involvement" with the investigation into the C.I.A. leak case, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement on Thursday.
What does it say when you can't even be honest with members of your own party about how things are going with the Traitorgate mess?

Let's see, didn't John Bolton try a similar tactic with his questionnaire and the Foreign Relations Committee, before also receiving a recess nod to the United Nations? Can you say utter disrespect of the Senate -- and a great way to piss off a lot of people with big egos and long memories that really Bushie needs now that his poll numbers have tanked? Ahem.
As under secretary of defense for policy, Mr. Edelman holds one of the most senior positions in the department, a post previously held by Douglas J. Feith. Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Edelman on March 31, 2005, but his appointment was blocked by Senator Carl M. Levin of Michigan as part of a dispute unrelated to Mr. Edelman over the release of documents on Iraq that Mr. Levin had sought.

Mr. Bush used his appointment powers to install Mr. Edelman in the position on Aug. 9, when the Senate was in recess. Mr. Edelman faced only a cursory hearing from the Senate committee, on June 29, and he was not asked about his work for Mr. Cheney or any involvement in the leak investigation. He addressed those issues only in a letter to the committee on May 18, in response to a standard written questionnaire required of all nominees.
More of that exceptional oversight work from the Republicans in charge, I see. Good to know they are thoroughly vetting people for important positions, isn't it?
Asked in the 20-page questionnaire whether he had ever been "investigated, arrested, charged or held by any federal, state or other law enforcement authority for violation of any federal, state, county or municipal law, regulation, or ordinance," Mr. Edelman answered no.
Ooops. Wonder what the meaning of "no" is in that context? Ahem.

If I were Mr. Edelman, whose position requires him to brief members of the Armed Services Committee pretty frequently, I'd take along some kevlar to my next committee appearance. Just be sure it isn't one of those kevlar vests that still hasn't been distributed to National Guard troops in Iraq -- that would just be tacky.

UPDATE: Have I mentioned today that Digby rocks? No? Well, Digby rocks!


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Say It If You Don't Mean It, Tough Guy

Masquerading as First Amendment crusaders, the Wall Street Journal is already trying to mess with Patrick Fitzgerald's case. As Atrios would say, unleash the waaaaaahhh:
Thanks to the disastrous New York Times legal strategy, the D.C. Circuit of Appeals dealt a major blow to a reporter's ability to protect his sources. Prosecutors everywhere will now be more inclined to call reporters to testify, under threat of prison time. And if Mr. Libby's case goes to trial, at least three reporters will be called as witnesses for the prosecution. Just wait until defense counsel starts examining their memories and reporting habits, not to mention the dominant political leanings in the newsrooms of NBC, Time magazine and the New York Times. "Meet the Press," indeed.
"Dominant political leanings?" Since when did the WSJ have a problem with abject capitalism?

I've heard this several times today, it's going to be Scooter vs. the press. Hey Tweety, hey Pumpkinhead, they're calling you liars. Maybe you ought to think about that before you let the likes of Deborah Orrin float her right-wing tabloid bilge unchecked all over your network, okay?
Rather than join this parade of masochism, we thought we'd try to speed things along, as well as end one of the remaining mysteries in the probe. That's why Dow Jones & Co., this newspaper's parent company, filed a motion late Wednesday requesting that the federal district court unseal eight pages of redacted information that Mr. Fitzgerald used to justify throwing Judith Miller of the New York Times in the slammer.
In which, as ReddHedd has said on numerous occasions, Fitzgerald probably laid out his case. How helpful it would be to know exactly what he's got at this point, no? The WSJ is bleating like fair Nell tied to the railroad tracks, but their intent is pure Snidley Whiplash.
The pages were part of Judge David Tatel's concurring opinion in the ruling against Ms. Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Judge Tatel said the eight pages showed that, with his "voluminous classified filings," Mr. Fitzgerald had "met his burden of demonstrating that the information [sought from the reporters] is both critical and unobtainable from any other source."
What helpful little GOP elves the Journal crowd are, trying to put Fitzgerald on the defensive. Who thought we'd long for days when they were happy to publish the fevered ditherings of dolphin worshipping knuckle-sucker Peggy Noonan.
The pages remain sealed, but now that Mr. Fitzgerald has indicted Mr. Libby and said "the substantial bulk" of his probe is "completed," there's no reason to keep those pages secret. The indictment itself discloses the nature and "major focus" of Mr. Fitzgerald's grand jury probe, including the fact that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. The special counsel's own extensive public discussion of the facts in the case should also have vitiated any protection from disclosure under grand jury rule of evidence 6(e). Future prosecutors and judges trying to decide whether to throw a reporter in jail should be able to inspect the evidence in this case, which will be an influential precedent.
For the benefit of those who ride the special bus to school:

a) Fitzgerald has long said he was finished with his investigation in October, 2004. That does not mean his case is finished.

b) "Extensive public discussion of the facts of the case?" He had a press conference. He spent a whole lotta time saying a whole lotta nothing. He basically reiterated what is in the indictment. Google "held his cards close" and watch the name Patrick Fitzgerald pop up at the top. Every unimaginative goof on the internets, including myself, used that phrase.
Unsealing the eight pages would also help put to rest the wilder "conspiracy" claims that continue to circulate about the case. Residents of the Internet fever swamps can now point to the sealed pages and say, aha!, dark secrets are being covered up.
"Wilder conspiracy claims?" Mousetraps? Dust bunnies? Hey we were right.
Beyond this motion, we think Mr. Fitzgerald also has a broader duty, as well as some self-interest, in wrapping his probe up quickly. By keeping the case open even though his grand jury has been shut down, he keeps a cloud over the Bush Administration and hampers its ability to function. If after two years of digging he hasn't found any other crimes, he has an obligation to close up shop.
You have to be shitting me. Fitzgerald isn't the one who put a cloud over BushCo., they pissed it up there themselves. And how would you know he hasn't found any other crimes? His only obligation is to investigate the treasonous acts of political operatives who don't give a happy hooty who they destroy in the process. That's what the public has a right to know. If the 1600 crew are having a rough time keeping their powder dry in the midst of it, tough darts.
As for his own self-interest, Mr. Fitzgerald is going to have a hard enough time proving that Mr. Libby lied based largely on the testimony of three journalists.
Mr. Libby lied based on his own testimony. He told one whopper to the FBI and then a surgically modified whopper to the grand jury. No ho-bag reporters necessary.
Rest assured that Ms. Miller's evocative self-description, "Miss Run Amok," will surface on cross-examination.
I guess that means the job interview didn't go so well? How sad. You two were meant for each other. No, really.
Sounds like Mr. Fitzgerald has a fight on his hands.
I will leave you with the words of Tommy Corrigan, one of Patrick Fitzgerald's best friends from the NYPD who has known him for the past 11 years. I asked him point blank yesterday if he thought Fitzgerald was done. Quite emphatically, without any hesitation at all, he said "No. It's not over for him until the last bell is rung."

Unseal that, you bastards.

(extreme graphics love to Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)

Update: In the comments, PollyUSA reminds us that if the WSJ really wants to inform the public, they should start by talking abou their own role in this mess:
In my view the WSJ should be in the middle of this investigation. Three weeks after the investigation began the WSJ published an article discussing the contents of the INR memo.

This WSJ article was the first mention of the INR memo in the press. The memo was and still is a classified document. The leaking of classified material is at the heart of this investigation and the WSJ received just such a leak in October 2003. Who leaked to the WSJ?
Fess up, fellas. Won't cost you a dime.

Update 2: Several people have noted that Libby's lawyers will, over the course of time, have access to the 8 pages. This isn't about getting it to Libby's lawyers. If Redd is correct and Fitz laid out his conspiracy case in the 8 pages (and let's remember, he's known for a very long time what happened -- he's just been about proving it for the past year) this is an attempt to let BushCo. know, who up until now have been gnawing each other's tails off in the wake of Fitzgerald's maddening silence. They can't spin what they don't know and it's killing them. Nothing good can come from forcing his hand at this early...and I emphasize EARLY... stage of the game.


Slow Your Roll

The day's events dampened hopes among some Republicans for a quick resolution to a case that has already cast a long shadow over the White House. Immediately after the arraignment, Mr. Libby's lawyers sought to quell any speculation about a possible plea deal to resolve the politically volatile case.


At his arraignment, Mr. Libby waived his right to a speedy trial, as lawyers on both sides pointed to the complicated and protracted nature of the case. Judge Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court said, "I want to try to have this matter resolved as expeditiously as possible," but he also said he understood that the unusual complications might make that difficult. He agreed to schedule the next hearing in the case on Feb. 3 to give the lawyers time to resolve issues involving classified documents.

The prospect that the case will progress slowly means that the White House may be forced to buffet extended criticism of Mr. Libby's conduct - and by implication, of the administration's polices on Iraq - through 2006, even as it seeks to regain its footing for the Congressional midterm elections.
Take yer time, boys. Wouldn't want anyone to feel shortchanged by a quick -- er -- resolution?


Thanks For the Memories, Irv

Dubya races Big Time for the bottom. WaPo:
For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.


The indictment Friday of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, in the CIA leak case added to the burden of an administration already reeling from a failed Supreme Court nomination, public dissatisfaction with the economy and continued bloodshed in Iraq. According to the survey, 52 percent say the charges against Libby signal the presence of deeper ethical wrongdoing in the administration. Half believe White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, the president's top political hand, also did something wrong in the case -- about 6 in 10 say Rove should resign his position.
While it's hard to relate to the profound lack of attention being paid by anyone who wasn't hip long ago to the fact that Dubya has always been a petulant rich jerk and a world-class beatoff, I'm not gonna slam 'em for being late to the party. The way I look at it, now they'll just get to enjoy all the jokes about out-of-season brush clearance, drunken bicycle rides and White House man-whores that have kept the rest of us amused for so long.

In the mean time, the 1600 crew probably have more of this to look forward to. From Knight Ridder:
As they passed, one heckler outside the courthouse shouted at Libby: "Guilty of taking the U.S. to war on a pack of lies! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!"

(thanks to poputonian and Dena for the graphic)


We're Not the Only Ones Calling Them Wackos

Listen to how Michael Scanlon, former aide to Jack Abramoff, talks about the "base:"
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.
You know there has got to be a lot more damning paperwork like this floating around out there. All those crocodile tears for Terry Schiavo notwithstanding, the bugman isn't exactly opting for the seat on the bus next to any of the unmedicated bipolars for Jesus crowd, now is he?

(via C&L)