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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Veni Vidi Gucci

I got taken to task by some guy over at Kos a while back who found my language coarse and offensive and wondered how the left could hope to win any debate when those on the right were such towering intellects, steeped in the classics and quoting Cicero at will.

At long last, I think the General finally provides the perfect riposte, as it were:
Steven S. Hoffmann
Washington University College Republicans

Dear Mr. Hoffman,

The French love the race card. Sometimes, it seems like there's nothing we can do that the left won't condemn as being racist. We suppress the black vote and they bring up Jim Crow. We write books about how white people are genetically endowed with greater intelligence and the left goes crazy. The Republican Senate Majority says that the world would be better if segregation was still around and he's hounded out of office. It's like the liberals are looking for the tiniest of excuses to brand us as racists.

I haven't had much success refuting their accusations. Everything I try just makes it worse. That's why I'm intrigued by the novel approach you took to rebut a columnist's charge that many College Republicans are racist. Calling him a "nigger" was a brilliant response. I'm eager to see how that works out for you.

Heterosexually yours,
Gen. JC Christian, patriot
I hope the General will forgive me for quoting his letter in toto. (That's French, right?)


Picking Up the 7-10 Split

Emptywheel has an amazing post up right now on the Woodward/Mr. X connection, and in the comments today she points out the following little factoid.

Today's WaPo:
Woodward, who was questioned by Fitzgerald on Monday, has refused to reveal the source's name publicly, but a person familiar with the investigation said the source had testified earlier in the case.
Adam Entous, Reuters:
A lawyer in the case said Woodward's source had not previously testified before a grand jury in the leak case.
The only two people known to have testified in the matter, but not under oath and not before the grand jury: Richard B. Cheney and George W. Bush.

On the other hand, Jeff sends us over to the London Sunday Times, where Michael Smith -- who, as Valley Girl reminds us, was the man who turned up the Downing Street Memo -- says that "Mr. X" is Stephen Hadley.

Can I just say that we have the most amazing comments section anywhere in the blogosphere? I'm really grateful for the effort that people put into it. It's where I get all my best tips, theories and links, and I really appreciate the opportunity to test out ideas (both good and bad) with people who follow the story closely before I post them. And the more I read around the blogosphere, the more I recognize stuff I've seen hashed out here in the comments. Which is totally cool, I couldn't be happier. But you guys and gals should just know, I think you've got some pretty big lurkers.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Scott McClellan's Head is Set to Explode

Bob Woodward certainly has caused a kerfluffle. While Preznit Never Responsible has fled to Asia in the wake of the wreckage caused by Hurricane Patrick, the White House came out from underneath the cone of silence on November 16 to announce that neither George Bush nor certain senior members of his staff were Woodward's source.

Anyone want to count the number of times Scott McClellan has said "we will not comment on an ongoing investigation?"

Rumors have already circulated that McClellan will soon take the big stroll down pink slip alley, and I really don't see how he can survive this. He's already been a human pinata for the likes of David Gregory and Terry Moran for months now, and there has been no gaggle since November 6. The decision by the White House to break its own rule means that nobody this side of Les Kinsolving is going to provide Scottie with any shelter from the storm. Although the next gaggle should sure be some entertaining fodder for Crooks & Liars, McClellen was effectively neutered by the announcement.

He's toast.

So it begs the question -- why did the White House suddenly decide, after all this time, to announce on the 16th that Dan Bartlett, Andy Card, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Karl Rove, John McLaughlin, Karen Hughes and Dubya himself were not the source for Woodward? And when many (including ourselves) noticed the conspicuous absence of Stephen Hadley from the list, why did they announce the following day that Hadley was not amongst the guilty? The new list also included Wolfowitz, Grossman, Feith, Edelman, Karl Ford, Alan Foley and David R. Shedd. (Oh, and we shouldn't need to note but we will, none of these people speak without White House permission.)

Why should we believe them?

I'll start with the assumption that Rove/Bush know who Woodward's source is. Aside from the fact that these events didn't happen in isolation, Woodward knows who he works for and it sure ain't the Washington Post.

The second assumption is that the White House is still looking forward to Life After Traitorgate. We may think it's not going away (and oh how our ranks have swelled since Libby's indictment, no?) but Rove and Co. dream of isolating the problem from the White House and pushing it over "there," wherever "there" may turn out to be. Allowing virtually everyone in the administration, including Dubya himself, to knowingly step up to tell a big, fat lie right now when this thing is getting ready to bust wide open makes little sense. It threatens to boomerang right back at them the minute Woodward's source is revealed, and too many people now know who that is for that secret to be kept much past next month, let alone for the next 30 years.

So -- the only reason I can think of to start announcing who isn't the source is to douse the person who is the source with gasoline and hope someone sets him on fire.

Then began the weird parade of denials by "unidentified sources" who said that Cheney was not Woodward's source. In the AP article by John Solomon, the source noted that "Woodward did not talk with the vice president that day." As Laura Rozen pointed out, Woodward never said what "that day" was.

Then the WSJ had this weird bit, completely unsourced:
Vice President Dick Cheney isn't believed to have talked to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald since last year, nor has he given a waiver to Mr. Woodward. That removes him as Mr. Woodward's source.
No attribution at all, provided as a pure statement of fact. I emailed one of the writers, John D McKinnon about it. He never got back.

I need me one of those magic 8 balls that peers into the black heart and scheduling log of Dick Cheney.

According to the same NYT article that says it's not Card et. al, Big Time refuses to confirm or deny that he is Woodward's source. And again the next day for the NYT article on the 17th. Perfectly in character for the crusty Cheney, who probably bristled at the audacity of any who dared to ask. It's only weird in light of the fact that he then went and launched a bunch of anonymous people to go defend him with some really weird claims that anyone who's even paying half attention is going to challenge.

It may well be that it's not Cheney. But if the White House is indeed trying to lay the whole thing on him and then cut him loose, this is certainly a way they'd do it. And it's a strategy they might pursue even if Cheney wasn't the source, just to get it off their doorstep.

One other note -- Hadley is reported to have shrugged off questions about whether he is "Mr. X" or not. I just don't think this means much. Nor do I think it is Armitage, who -- as David Corn notes -- is the only person on the "Official Speculation List" who has not yet denied it. And I'll take Condi off the list myself, Len Downie specifically said "he" and "him" with regard to Woodward's source when he appeared on CNN the other day. That would just be intentionally misleading in a way I would expect from someone more like -- oh, Bob Woodward.

Update: Condi and Bolton spokespeople have both said they were not Woodward's source as well.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Between the Briefs

There are so many legal issues at play in the Traitorgate mess that it can be easy to get lost in all the moves and minutae. I've been getting a number of e-mails lately, most of which center around a few key issues -- so I thought I would try to shed a bit of light on them all at once. Hopefully, this will prove useful in the weeks ahead.

What information is provided to someone with high level security clearance? What are the rules surrounding this sort of clearance -- are people told what they can and cannot do clearly?

Security clearance issues are governed by a number of Federal laws and regulations, including the Standard Form 312.

The SF 312 provides a wealth of information to anyone granted a high level security clearance, including criminal laws and penalties for violating the security agreement, what constitutes an improper release of information, and what procedures are to be followed in dealing with classified information.

There is a booklet of this information which is distributed and explained at the time that an individual is given clearance. It includes this:
Question 19: If information that a signer of the SF 312 knows to have been classified appears in a public source, for example, in a newspaper article, may the signer assume that the information has been declassified and disseminate it elsewhere?

Answer: No. Information remains classified until it has been officially declassified. Its disclosure in a public source does not declassify the information. Of course, merely quoting the public source in the abstract is not a second unauthorized disclosure. However, before disseminating the information elsewhere or confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, further dissemination of the information or confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.
In other words, even if a reporter calls you and asks if you've heard a rumor, if you know the rumor is a classified bit of information, you cannot confirm it. Period. Or you violate your clearance. And you have an affirmative obligation to find out whether or not a piece of information is classified before you confirm it one way or the other.

Does Congress have the same access to intelligence information as the President and his national security staff?

The short answer to this is: no. The always helpful SF 312 booklet also contains this gem:
Question 5: Are all Members of Congress entitled to unlimited access to classified information?

Answer: No. Access to classified information is a function of three preconditions: (1) A determination of a person's trustworthiness, i.e., the security clearance; (2) the signing of an approved nondisclosure agreement; and (3) the exercise of the "need-to-know" principle, i.e., access is necessary in order to perform one's job. Members of Congress, as constitutionally elected officials, are not ordinarily subject to clearance investigations nor does ISOO's rule implementing the SF 312 require that Members of Congress sign the SF 312 as a condition of access to classified information. Members of Congress are not exempt, however, from fulfilling the "need-to-know" requirement. They are not inherently authorized to receive all classified information, but agencies provide access as is necessary for Congress to perform its legislative functions, for example, to members of a committee or subcommittee that oversees classified executive branch programs. Frequently, access is governed in these situations by ad hoc agreements or rules to which the agency head and the committee chairman agree.

The three basic requirements for access to classified information mentioned in the opening paragraph apply to congressional staffs as well as executive branch employees. ISOO's regulation implementing the SF 312 provides that agency heads may use it as a non-disclosure agreement to be signed by non-executive branch personnel, such as congressional staff members. However, agency heads are free to substitute other agreements for this purpose.
Some information is only disseminated to a very, very few people in the government -- for any number of security reasons, you want to limit the number of hands (and mouths) that know certain bits, including CIA NOC operatives, who are among the most closely guarded "need to know" names in the government.

What exactly is "discovery," and how much will Libby's lawyers get to see about the case?

Discovery is the information that is given from the prosecutor to the defendant after criminal charges have been filed. Discovery is governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 16.

The rule of thumb is that any piece of information, evidence, etc., that has any relationship to the case must be turned over to the defendant's counsel. Should the prosecutor withhold information, especially information that could be remotely exculpatory in nature (or, in other words, helpful to the defedant's case), there are severe penalties, including the possibility of dismissal of the charges.

Both sides of a criminal case take the discovery obligation very seriously. Things included in discovery are: any statements made by the defendant; records of statements made in the case by other witnesses; physical evidence information (like fingerprints, DNA samples, objects, etc.); other documents (such as e-mails, letters, etc.); prior criminal records of the defendant and any potential witnesses; any exculpatory information; reports of any tests or examinations performed on evidence; names and information about expert witnesses expected to testify. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means.

In a conspiracy case, there sometimes are requirements that information which could be used commonly among defendants who have not yet been charged be held close -- or not distributed outside defense counsel for a particular defendant. This is generally enforced through court order in these types of cases, requiring that certain information remain under seal.

What is a conspiracy anyway? How is someone included -- or excluded -- from involvement?

A conspiracy is basically two or more people, working together in some fashion, in order to commit a crime. That crime can be anything that is a violation of law -- from murder to obstruction of a criminal investigation to blackmail -- but there has to be some underlying crime that the people involved worked toward in some fashion.

In order to be a part of a conspiracy, a person has to do something in furtherance of it -- this can be as little as providing a ride to bank robbers, or aiding bank robbers by helping them after the fact, or helping the bank robbers to come up with a plan to launder their money before they ever rob the bank.

It's a very, very broad bunch of latitude for a prosecutor in terms of who can or can't be thought of as being involved. So long as the potential defendant has done some act which further the conspiracy in any way at any time, that person may be in legal jeopardy as a part of the whole conspiracy, and is legally just as culpible as the main perpetrators of whatever crime is committed.



The NYTimes is adding another wrinkle in the leak investigation this morning. Eric Lichtblau is reporting that Condaleeza Rice is refusing to comment on whether or not she is Woodward's source. Whether that means anything at all is anyone's guess at this point -- well, except Fitz, because he sure isn't guessing.
The use of a new grand jury, perhaps to explore the Woodward issue, does not necessarily indicate that Mr. Fitzgerald plans to bring additional charges against anyone. But current and former prosecutors noted that the process was time-consuming - the new grand jury will probably have to be read at length from the transcript from the last grand jury on any relevant issues-and that the prosecutor would be unlikely to take such a step lightly.

"If he's taking the affirmative step of going before a new grand jury, he clearly has more evidence he wants to present," said Nicholas Gess, a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton administration. "That's not just a fishing expedition."
It's true -- the process is not only time consuming, but a prosecutor must be mindful of the inconvenience in time for the jurors, and also the additional costs involved, along with not pushing things too far. You only open things wide open again if there is a reason to do so. And I am feeling like there is still one hell of a reason. And I am not alone.
E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a former federal prosecutor who is now a prominent defense lawyer in Washington, said the development "means a little bit of jeopardy to everyone" who had been connected to the investigation because Mr. Fitzgerald might be exploring new avenues and revisiting old ones.

"Just when the White House thought it was over the indictment hump with Libby, now all of a sudden you have an active investigation back on the front burner," Mr. Barcella said.
Well, all I can say is...sweet!


I Call Double Super-Secret Bullshit

Many fine thinkers trying to sort their way through the maze created by Mr. Run-Amok tonight, all riffing off the erudite Kevin Drum who speculates as to why either Woodward and/or his source finally called Patrick Fitzgerald after his press conference on October 28, 2005. And their theories may well prove correct.

But I think Arianna is much closer to the mark on this one -- the chain of events starts well before the Libby indictment was handed down. Trouble is, between Bob and Len Downie they are spinning about six different stories in time. The most recent of these is an interview given by Bob to Time Magazine as he takes yet another page out of the Judy Miller playbook and tells them stuff he withholds from his own paper.

Well nobody at the WaPo short of Richard Cohen would content themselves with such a horrible pack of inconsistencies anyway, so maybe it's just as well. But it would be nice for all of us if Bobby could remember the stories he's told in the past, 'cos it's damn hard to keep up with them. But let's have a go.

Thursday night, October 27: Bob Appears on Larry King

As I've mentioned before, many denizens of Traitorgate world -- including Steve Clemons, myself, the Washington bureau at the NYT, Michael Isikoff and apparently Len Downie himself -- had spent the day before the Libby indictment trying to track down the rumor that Bob is working on a "blockbuster" story that some had heard involves Fred Fleitz.

Isikoff asks Bob about the rumor on Larry King. To which Bob replies:
WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best 'New York Times' reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell. . . .Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the 'Washington Post' called me and said, 'I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it.'...And I said I'm sorry to disappoint you but I don't."
Everybody goes home, Bob's thrown a wet blanket on the whole thing, the rumor is not true. Only it is true. Bob is sitting on a blockbuster. And the lie about Len Downie is quite unnecessarily elaborate.

Tuesday night, November 15: First WaPo article appears

Includes the comment that "Downie said in an interview yesterday that Woodward told him about the contact to alert him to a possible story."

Wednesday, November 16: Len Downie speaks to E&P

It was just a few days before the indictment of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was announced on Oct. 28 that Downie learned from Woodward that the Watergate legend had his own connection to the Valerie Plame case.
Okay, so it was "a few days before" the indictment that Downie first learned about Bob's "connection." So was that Larry King moment about Downie calling him and Bob saying there was no "blockbuster" just bullshit?

Today: Woodward in Time Magazine
In the final weeks before the grand jury indicted vice presidential aide I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby on Oct. 28 for perjury and obstruction of justice, Woodward says he was asked by Downie to help report on the status of the probe. In the course of his reporting, Woodward says, "I learned something more" about the disclosure of Plame's identity, which prompted him to admit to Downie for the first time that he had been told of Plame’s CIA job by a senior administration official in mid June 2003.
So when exactly did Bob tell Downie about his "source?" I'm inclined to believe Downie's assertion, that it came a couple of days prior to Oct. 28. Downie probably had asked him to do some reporting on Plame in the weeks prior, and why wouldn't he. I'm surprised he didn't ask a whole lot sooner.

The story about Downie calling him and asking him if he was sitting on a bombshell also sounds true. The Post has been held out on before. Ask their own staff:
"Woodward has periodically faced criticism for holding back scoops for his Simon & Schuster-published books."
Now, I have no idea how the cat got let out of the bag, but it did. There seem to be two threads that, by Bob's own admission, came to intersect in the days before the indictment such that he had to come clean to Downie:
1. A story Bob was working on
2. A source he could not reveal
To hear Bob tell it, the two are completely unrelated. Suddenly bingo, Bob is sitting there watching Fitzgerald's press conference. As he tells Time Magazine, he was so struck with conscience he just had to come forward:
In his press conference announcing Libby’s indictment, Fitzgerald noted that, "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson." Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.

According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor.
Does anyone have something to help digest this extra big super heaping helping of bullshit? 'Cos it just will not stay down.

Woodward and/or his source suddenly feel compelled to come forward and tell the prosecutor something that is absolutely no help at all to Libby in his case. Libby is not charged with being the first to disclose the information to reporters, now is he? So we're supposed to buy that the source -- and Woodward is "not sure" whether they've spoken to Fitzgerald before or not (sure, Bob, sure) -- is going to come forward, possibly admit they're guilty of obstruction, false statement, and/or perjury, over a story which is of absolutely no benefit to Libby?

And then there's the fact that he admits he's willing to go to such lengths to help Libby but wouldn't even tell his own paper what's going on until he had to. Shit, he even told Ben Bradlee about Deep Throat. It's clear where Bob's loyalties lie. These are the actions of a political operative and not a reporter.

Something happened in the days before Libby's indictment came down that set this all into motion, and how it all links together I am not sure. My money says Mr. Fitzgerald somehow set this ball rolling, and not Mr. Woodward or his ne'er-do-well source. The only thing I am sure of -- Woodward's cover story is a crock. And he seems to think he is justified in his dissembling now just as he was during the decades he protected the identity of Deep Throat.

Bob got lucky in Watergate -- serving Bob Woodward also served the public interest for a moment in time. But since then the service of Bob's massive ego has meant trotting along behind the crooks as bootlick to power, and I think he is about to find out that in this instance a curious public will cut him even less slack than his compatriots in the WaPo newsroom.

(graphic courtesy Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Friday, November 18, 2005

True Patriotism

James Madison:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. . . . [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and . . . degeneracy of manners and of morals. . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. . . .
Theodore Roosevelt, prior to the First World War in 1918:
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
During the Second World War, Senator Robert Taft:
'I believe that there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government..... Too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think it will give some comfort to the enemy.... If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country more good than it will do the enemy, and it will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur."
Jean Schmidt today:
"He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course," Ms. Schmidt said. "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
One of these things is not like the others...

True patriots put their country first. Not their political party. Not their own power. Not their own ambition. Shameful.


A House Divided

It's been quite a day for the House of Representatives. A long, nasty debate on the war in Iraq -- with a few fresh opportunities to look into the blackened souls of some of the House members who value political power and craven opportunism over factual debate.
Republicans said this tactic could help prevent Mr. Murtha's call for withdrawal from gaining momentum during the two-week Congressional recess that begins on Saturday.

"We'll let the members debate it and then let them vote on it," said Republican Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, the acting majority leader.

A emotional and sometime raucous debate over the resolution is going on this evening on the House floor and a vote is not expected before 8 p.m.
Well, calling it a sometime raucous debate is quite an understatement. But it certainly has been an interesting window into how things work in Washington, D.C.

Would that the people pictured above had half the ethics and fortitude and decency and compassion for the lives fo the troops int he field that Jack Murtha showed yesterday. But these people have asked for an ethics inquiry on Jack Murtha. Shameful.

After this day has ended, there will be much discussion of what went right and what went wrong. But I wanted to take a moment to post the speech that started all of this, for those of you who missed it.

Congressman Jack Murtha, November 17, 2005:
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, 'the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.' General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

"For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.

"I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

"The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.

"Much of our ground transportation is worn out and in need of either serous overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." We must rebuild out Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.

"Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

"I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the condition on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included to Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have not received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American causalities have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.

"I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won 'militarily.' I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are untied against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United Stated occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a "free" Iraq.

"My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
"This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

"Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That's why I am speaking out.

"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home."


Are We Lovin' It Yet?

What foul beast gave birth to Ahmed Chalabi and the INR? Rolling Stone says that in some sort of horrible cross-pollination of Buck Turgidson and Jerry Della-Femina, it's a guy named John Rendon:
Rendon is a man who fills a need that few people even know exists. Two months before al-Haideri took the lie-detector test, the Pentagon had secretly awarded him a $16 million contract to target Iraq and other adversaries with propaganda. One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam.
You gotta read this. Truly, it makes Wag the Dog look like amateur night in Dixieland. And it only gets better:
The INC's choice for the worldwide print exclusive was equally easy: Chalabi contacted Judith Miller of The New York Times. Miller, who was close to I. Lewis Libby and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration, had been a trusted outlet for the INC's anti-Saddam propaganda for years. Not long after the CIA polygraph expert slipped the straps and electrodes off al-Haideri and declared him a liar, Miller flew to Bangkok to interview him under the watchful supervision of his INC handlers. Miller later made perfunctory calls to the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, but despite her vaunted intelligence sources, she claimed not to know about the results of al-Haideri's lie-detector test. Instead, she reported that unnamed "government experts" called his information "reliable and significant" -- thus adding a veneer of truth to the lies.
My but doesn't she just keep turning up like the original bad penny?

One would think that if this country had a responsible Congress with some notion of oversight more than just providing a warm place for Jean Schmidt to forget to take her thorazine at, somebody might be looking into this.

One would think, anyway.


Jean Full of Schmidt

Jean Schmidt, who defeated Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett for her seat in Ohio, shuts down the House of Representatives by challenging the courage of decorated Vietnam War veteran Jack Murtha and saying that "cowards cut and run." The place exploded. It was probably everybody pulling out their Blackberries and Googling Jean Schmidt's war record. I guess her history as the head of Cincinnati Right to Life must qualify.

This is what she said about Hackett during their recent run-off election:
NOVOTNY: His opponent, Republican frontrunner Jean Schmidt, a former state representative who is not convinced that time served in battle can compare to experience at home.

JEAN SCHMIDT, OHIO REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Everything’s local. Of course, it’s more important here. The issues that the people have are more important to those individuals than anything outside of that region.
Presumably if Murtha's combat experience had been blowing up local Planned Parenthood clinics, that would have qualified.

Update: From AP:
The fiery, emotional debate climaxed when Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, the most junior member of the House, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.

"He asked me to send Congress a message - stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message - that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said.

Democrats booed and shouted her down - causing the House to come to a standstill.

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., charged across the chamber's center aisle screaming that it was an uncalled for personal attack. "You guys are pathetic. Pathetic," yelled Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.
And her little dog Toto, too.

Update 2: ThinkProgress has the video. Really, you should see it. The minute she steps up there you can just feel she's itching to make trouble.


Gimme a Break

First of all, many thanks to the 15, 642 people who have now emailed me John Dean's article from last night. Yes, I did see it. And we actually had quite the discussion in the comments section, but for all those who missed it, here it is again.

Basically, Dean said to Fitzgerald:
Those who leaked the information about Valerie Wilson breached signed contracts they had made with the government. These contracts, moreover, were not to be taken lightly: They enforced profoundly important obligations to national security, on the part of the very people who were supposed to be serving that end.

Why are you not enforcing those contracts? Why have you not urged the president to sanction those who have released national security information? The president has said he would fire those who committed crimes -- but breach of such profoundly important contracts, even if it does not rise to the level of a crime, is surely cause for dismissal, as well.

You should so urge the President. And if he is not willing to take appropriate action with those who have dishonored their offices, and broken their contracts, you ought to go to court and get an injunction to remove their security clearances.
Now I have tremendous respect for John Dean, but let's just say that his politickin' skills might not always be as polished as his legal ones.

Fitzgerald is trying to gracefully waltz through landmines. The moment any of the foaming lunacy of Joe DeGenova and his fingernails-on-a-chalkboard wife Victoria Toensing threaten to gain traction in the media and turn public opinion against him, there will be all manner of obstruction thrown in his way. Being quite humble, quiet and crafty has served him well, and what Dean is suggesting has the potential to completely derail his efforts to land the Great White Cheney. Dean's offstage urging of him into the role of Ahab risks dooming him to Ahab's watery fate.

I think these kind of suggestions are better laid at the feet of members of Congress. Fitzgerald has his hands quite full at the moment, and I see no reason to believe that he is not handling all the players with considerable skill as he maneuvers them into unleashing all their worst impulses on one another unfettered by any restraint.

Maybe Dean ought to be sending letters to this guy. He seems to need something to do.

(BTW, should note, thank you very much to all those 15,642 people who emailed me the Dean article, I appreciate the trouble you took to do so.)


And It Just Gets Worse in Bushworld

Let's see. So far today in Bushworld:

-- Pat Fitzgerald is working with a new grand jury, continuing an investigation that has "senior administration officials" stumbling over each other to grab a journalist and deny they've ever spoken with Bob Woodward.

-- Congress is pissing on his legislative goals. Again.
As the House and Senate struggled with spending and tax measures, two of Mr. Bush's main objectives - oil-drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge and an extension of the deep cuts to taxes on capital gains and dividends - were shelved by opposition from Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

The defeats for the White House on the oil-drilling and tax-cut proposals came as Senate Democrats threatened to mount a filibuster against extension of the USA Patriot Act, which was enacted just after the Sept. 11 attacks and is a centerpiece of Mr. Bush's antiterrorism policies. Democrats have been joined by several Republicans, some of them conservative, in contending that some parts of the act intrude too much on personal privacy in the name of national security. when your pets in Congress decide to stand on their own feet again and actually do their jobs, doesn't it?

-- Jack Murtha is all over the news. Still. And making reporters look like shills for asking him stupid questions about your political spin hack friends instead of sticking to the issues. Gotta love that. (And he made Norah O'Donnell look like she wanted to cry on MSNBC earlier, in a segment that concluded with the MSNBC anchors talking about how impressive, patriotic and decent a guy Murtha is. Priceless.) [UPDATE: MSNBC has an article and video of the O'Donnell/Murtha interview up here. Enjoy.]

-- Remember last week when the DOJ was trying to downplay losing so many of its experienced civil rights attorneys? Well, turns out that Georgia "worse than Jim Crow" case the DOJ wanted championed was pooh poohed internally -- and overrulled by Administration appointees higher up in the chain. The WaPo has the scoop. Nice -- now the GOP is trying to cut benefits for the poor out of the budget and tinker with race relations. Really good combo. Ahem.

-- Oh, and Iraq? Not so good.

And that's just for starters. I could keep going on and on, but a girl only has so much time. No wonder Bushie fled to Asia this week for horsemanship and archery shows.

UPDATE: As Pachacutec says, this is certainly worth a big mention. Guess whose partner got indicted? (Hint: His last name is Abramoff. Ahem.)

CORRECTION: Oh, and it just gets better. In re-reading the "indictment" article, at Pach's suggestion, it wasn't an indictment after all. It was an information.
In a one-count criminal information filed by the government, Scanlon was charged with conspiring with another lobbyist, who was not identified.

Although the document lists Scanlon's co-conspirator only as "Lobbyist A," it has been a matter of public record for more than a year that Scanlon and Abramoff had a fee-splitting arrangement and represented several Indian tribes.
For the non-legal folks among us, what this most likely means is that Jack Abramoff's partner cut a deal -- which likely means that he has flipped and turned State's evidence. Oh man. What a glorious, schadenfreude-filled Friday this is turning out to be.


The Turning of the Screws

Look who dropped another hint in a legal brief. Yep -- Patrick Fitzgerald is turning the screws a little tighter. Again. Looks like whatever maneuver Booby was attempting didn't faze Fitz one bit.

Um. What a shocker. Ahem.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Say you are an Administration official who hasn't yet come completely clean. And you've just witnessed Rover planting the knife in Scooter's back in the press, day in and day out leading up to the Libby indictment.

Do you:
(a) continue to hunker down and hope that Rove and others in the Administration have ethics to not plant a knife in your back in a scrambling effort to save their own hide (mwahahahaha), or

(b) begin to contemplate singing like a canary before someone else beats you to Fitz's office?
Honestly, it's one thing for all of us to speculate that Fitz can use a sitting grand jury for further proceedings. It is a whole other level of hurt to have him come right out and say in black and white that he is planning on doing just that. In an official court filing.

Now that's some impressive screw turning. Can't you just feel things tightening down another turn or two?

Sure hope journalists are staking out the offices of all the attornies representing the principals in this case, along with the Federal courthouse and the offices that Fitz and company have been using. Could be a busy time over the Thanksgiving holidays.

I have a few requests for some turkeys that I'd like to see served up on a platter.

(Will update when I can get my hands on a copy of the filing.)

UPDATE: More on this from Carol Leonnig from the WaPo, including this added information on the potential release of some information in the Libby indictment matter:
Fitzgerald was scheduled to appear in federal court today to argue that much of the evidence gathered in his investigation -- material to be used in his prosecution of Libby -- should be withheld from the public or news media before trial.

He initially sought a blanket protective order preventing Libby's defense team from releasing any of that information. The proposed protective order was formally opposed by Dow Jones & Co., which owns the Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. But in a court filing late Thursday, the special counsel offered a compromise that might give the news media access to some of the evidence against Libby before his trial, the Associated Press reported.

Fitzgerald's latest filing said he is "mindful that as much of the conduct of pretrial litigation and the trial itself should be conducted in open court with publicly filed documents."

The compromise would restrict the defense's disclosure to the media of grand jury transcripts and personal information about witnesses, such as phone numbers and addresses, AP reported. Fitzgerald argued for the "need to preserve the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings" and pointed out that "the grand jury's investigation is ongoing."

Fitzgerald said he would pursue a separate protective order covering classified information.
I don't normally do a long quote like this from an article, but the whole of the information was something that I thought folks here would want to read.

Interesting day. More as I get it.


Patriot Act or (Fili)Bust(er)?

Negotiations on renewal of the Patriot Act continue today, as time ticks down toward the Thanksgiving recess. According to the NYTimes, there are still some substantial disagreements to be hammered out -- with a bipartisan group of Senators holding the line on some key provisions.
In a letter Thursday, a bipartisan group of six senators said the tentative deal had caused them "deep concern" because it did not go far enough in "making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance."

Reflecting the political breadth of concerns about the law, the letter was signed by three Republicans - Senators Larry E. Craig, John E. Sununu and Lisa Murkowksi - and three Democrats - Senators Richard J. Durbin and Ken Salazar and Mr. Feingold.

The group called for tighter restrictions on the government's ability to demand records and its use of so-called "sneak and peak" warrants to conduct secret searches without immediately informing the target, among other measures.
Good for them, I say. After revelations in the past couple of weeks on the extent of the Patriot Act being used for extensive information grabs without proper documentation -- and big revelations that this included 30,000 national security letters to libraries and other public entities alone, with little to no oversight -- it is a good thing to take some time and consider the very real long-term implications that this law has on our society as a whole.
"This is worth the fight," Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.

"I've cleared my schedule right up to Thanksgiving," Mr. Feingold said, adding that he was making plans to read aloud from the Bill of Rights as part of a filibuster if necessary.
Good plan on Feingold's part. After the mess of the Graham habeas restriction attempts, it seems like Senators could use a refresher course in Constitutional rights and civil liberties.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Us vs. Them

As the great Bob Adams once said (and I paraphrase), "A Democratic '2' is a Republican '10,' and that's why they'll always hate us."

The Clenis couldn't have said it any better. It's not just that they're all white, flabby and old -- being young just seems to add to the creepy factor. Witness Jonah Goldberg, Rick Santorum or Ralph Reed (who may not even be young, but we're told the undead don't age).

Case in point: Ken Starr. A pervy blabbermouth who went on a forty million-dollar panty raid, his image will forever be etched on the retina of America's collective unconscious as a professional peeping Tom who hijacked the nineties by dumpster diving for used condoms with Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp. An unrepentant PR disaster, he is the envy of no one but the sexually frustrated and the perennially angry.

Compare that to the Gary Cooper-esque figure cut by Patrick Fitzgerald, whose investigation cost $723,000 in the first fifteen months and whose tight-lipped mien has reduced his Republican opponents to reenacting the final shoot-out scene from the Wild Bunch. (I know he's quite adamant about his political neutrality but like it or not fate has shoved him into the arms of the left, and we feel it's the natural habitat for one with such a well developed superego).

And it appears People Magazine is of the same mind. According to an interview on the Today Show, Fitzgerald has made the list in their Sexiest Man Alive issue:
Katie Couric: "Do you have the thinking woman's sex symbol in there at any point?"

Julie Jordan, People magazine: "Yes. Yeah like we got lots of smart men. Patrick Fitzgerald. I love that he actually is..."

Couric: "The special prosecutor. Oh my gosh he must've been so freaked out when he got the call! He keeps dirty socks at work and apparently has pizza boxes up to the ceiling at his house."
So to all you little Yellow elephants out there huffing insecticide in hopes of perfecting that Tom DeLay wall-eyed glaze, just remember. The money is good, but there is a price tag attached.


I Call Bullshit

From the AP:
WASHINGTON --Vice President Dick Cheney is not the unidentified source who told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about the CIA status of the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, a person familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

Woodward did not talk with the vice president that day, did not provide the information that's been reported in Woodward's notes and has not had any conversations over the past several weeks about any release for allowing Woodward to testify, said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Fine, then why the anonymity? Somebody afraid Big Time's gonna get all bent out of shape because they're defending him? I'm not 100% convinced Woodward's source is Cheney, but until someone is willing to come out and state this for the record, this is just so much meaningless hogwash. The AP ought to be embarassed to print it at this point.

Meanwhile, the NYT people must be breathing with pure relief as they watch the WaPo's bacon sink swiftly into the fire:
Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell has received hundreds of calls and e-mails from readers since yesterday's revelations about Bob Woodward's involvement in the Valerie Plame case, and none of them are positive.

"I am getting a lot of reaction and, from readers, it is all bad," Howell told E&P today, referring to the fallout from Woodward's disclosure that he spoke to a confidential White House source about Plame in 2003. "We are being barraged with calls. They think it was wrong for him not to tell his editors and wrong for the Post not to tell readers."
The damage caused by Judy Miller to the NYT is looking positively small potatoes next to the damage being wrought by Mr. Run-Amok. The Post may yet be forced into choosing between its future and its past.

Thanks to ck in the comments who says that our headline, "Mr. Run-Amok," made it onto the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer tonight. We already got props from Froomkin for dubbing Woodward thusly, so we happily bequeath the moniker along with our deepest sympathies to those writers of integrity at the WaPo who are living through the shitstorm Woodward has brought down upon their house.

(thanks to reader James G. for the graphic)


Big Time Has a Big Mouth

Oh boy here come the fireworks. Reuters:
A White House official said on Thursday that national security adviser Stephen Hadley was not Woodward's source on Plame.
If that's true, as far as I can tell, that only leaves Big Time.

Emptywheel has a must-read post on the critical timing of the Woodward leak and how, if it came from Cheney, it almost certainly represents and Espionage or IIPA violation. Cheney probably got his information from Tenet (despite Tenet's protestations to the contrary, according to people at the NYT anyway), and as Fitzgerald took pains to outline in the Libby indictment, Cheney knew quite well that Plame worked in counterproliferation which meant her status was covert. More on this later, but I'm thinking this will make for an explosive Christmas -- look for Bush to be doing some brush clearance at the VP's office before the SOTU in January.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Quote of the Day

Arianna has some questions she'd like to ask Woodward. I have one of my own.

From the CJR, in March/April 2005:
Bob Woodward, perhaps the preeminent investigative reporter of his time, believes in supporting journalists who are protecting sources. Yet he sees the use of confidentiality in this case — to hide the sources who identified Valerie Plame — as a weak reed to lean on. “I use confidential sources more than most anyone,” Woodward concedes, “but it has to be worth the risk involved. I don’t think outing Plame was worth the risk.”
Since you don't believe it was "worth the risk" to offer confidentiality to those who outed Valerie Plame, when exactly can we expect to be hearing the identity of your "source," Bob?

(thanks to reader l. strauss for the image)


Murtha and More

Murtha is going to be on Blitzer's Situation Room shortly. More article to come.

Here's a link to the full text of Congressman Murtha's statement today.

Crooks and Liars has the video. (Of course. Do they rock, or what?)

And via Atrios, even one of the yahoos at The Corner comprehends what a huge sea change this is to have Murtha -- a defense hawk -- stand up and say that the war is going badly and that we should leave Iraq and that serious debate on this needs to occur. Now.
Don't know how many of you caught Rep. John Murtha's very angry, very moving speech just now in which he called on the White House to institute an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. CNN didn't air the entire thing, but as I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift. Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he's a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. Murtha, a conservative Dem who voted for the war, talked in detail about the sacrifices being borne by our soldiers and their families, and about his visits out to Walter Reed to look after the maimed, and how we've had enough, it's time to come home. He was hell on the president too.

If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to -- and listening to him talk was like listening to my dad, who's about the same age, and his hunting buddies -- then the president is in big trouble. I'm sure there's going to be an anti-Murtha pile-on in the conservative blogosphere, but from where I sit, conservatives would be fools not to take this man seriously.
After Cheney's petulant "Don't you criticise me." rant last night, Murtha's in your face calling out of the VP today was a refreshing breath of air. And Dreher is right here: Republicans should take this statement from Murtha very seriously.

Look, my family has served in the military since before we were even a country. Every single generation in my family -- sometimes multiple people in the generation, depending on the conflict -- has served honorably. Murtha is originally from West Virginia, my home state, and his speech today hit at the heart of things in the heartland, where plain-speaking and experience carry a helluva lot of weight.

This speech today ought to bring a chill to every desk jockey, non-serving war supporter out there -- and especially within the Administration, where so many of the biggest hawks not only never served in the military, but have a habit of peevishly dismissing the advice from the people who have.

Murtha has credibility, something that none of the fighting keyboardists can hope to have, because Murtha has put his ass on the line -- and he has spent a lot of time visiting with the guys who are pouring back through Walter Reed. And talking with military commanders, both at the Pentagon and in the field. (You know, the non-kiss-ass guys. Ahem.)

When you couple Murtha's statement with the excellent article that James Fallows has in the December issue of Atlantic Monthly, you see a widening pattern of blinders and dismissal of criticism on the part of the civilian decision-making and public relations campaigns in this Administration. And it is a campaign that doesn't just get paid out in votes or influence -- but it is paid in lives, in limbs, and in the horror that is war, and that is having a devestating toll on our armed forces.

Look, I have friends and family who are currently serving, some of whom are officers, and have served in other conflicts and under other leadership over the course of years. I have never, in all of my years of knowing some of these folks, seen them this distressed about the state of the service. They are worried about the soldiers they command, the soldiers with whom they serve, and the lack of any real opportunity to get any sort of hearing of grievances when there are issues that need addressing.

To make matters worse, I also know a number of retired military personnel, some of whom were in influential positions at the Pentagon or elsewhere at one point or another -- and every single one of them is disgusted by how things are going. There is fear that the way things are being handled will break both the Army and the Marines, because recruiting policies have changed so drastically and both branches are so woefully undermanned in critical areas for the conflict in Iraq, notably interpreters.

We have hard choices to make. And this Administration has got to start listening to criticism from outside the President's inner circle -- before it is too late for more of our soldiers and for the rest of America.

UPDATE: Forgot to include the fact that Fallows was on Fresh Air last night, being interviewed about his Atlantic article. It was a great interview, and well worth a listen.


How Much Longer?

Here's a little nugget from the grapevine:

The Note is reporting the following:
Prosecutors deposed Woodward in anticipation of presenting that evidence to a new grand jury, according to a person familiar with the situation. And that is exclusive new news, courtesy of Dow Jones.
I know. I know. It's The Note. But they are getting the information from another source, the WSJ.

And the WSJ is reporting the same thing.

Now, it is not new news that Fitz would have access to a grand jury, to whom to present newly acquired evidence. (At least, it shouldn't be news for regular readers here.) But it is interesting that the WSJ speculates today (behind their subscription firewall) that Fitz is anticipating making use of them. Perhaps sooner rather than later.

Very interesting indeed. Stay tuned -- more news on this as we get it.

(Hat tip to Mitch2k2 for the heads up on this.)


Piling On Booby

Howard Kurtz is a little peevish this morning. And well he should be -- the WaPo having had to deal with the load of dung that Booby dumped in their collective laps, having kept his yap shut for more than two years on the big story the rest of the newsroom has been chasing down the whole time.

But in true Kurtzian fashion, he allows other people's words to speak for him:
"It just looks really bad," said Eric Boehlert, a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of a forthcoming book on the administration and the press. "It looks like what people have been saying about Bob Woodward for the past five years, that he's become a stenographer for the Bush White House."

Said New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen: "Bob Woodward has gone wholly into access journalism."

Robert Zelnick, chairman of Boston University's journalism department, said: "It was incumbent upon a journalist, even one of Woodward's stature, to inform his editors. . . . Bob is justifiably an icon of our profession -- he has earned that many times over -- but in this case his judgment was erroneous."
The Kurtz story does contain a very interesting nugget, that I think indicates that Booby's source gave him a heads up -- before Libby was indicted -- that he was going to talk with Fitz.
The administration source who originally told Woodward about Plame approached the prosecutor recently to alert him to his 2003 conversation with Woodward. The source had not yet contacted Fitzgerald when Woodward notified Downie about their conversation, Woodward said.
The wording of this short paragraph is a little stilted, which said to me that Kurtz reworked it with a lawyer looking over his shoulder to be certain that someone's legal jeopardy wasn't triggered in any way. But what it says to me is that Booby got a call or e-mail or something telling him that Fitz was about to be apprised of his little secret. And he ran to Downie to do some personal reputation damage control.

But what does this say about Fitz? Did the source notify him before the Libby indictment had been voted out of the Grand Jury -- or only after? No way to know at this stage in the reporting, but in my mind either way, it doesn't matter one whit to Libby's indictment. (fwiw, Jeralyn agrees with me on this issue, so it isn't just my prosecutor wishful thinking on the read of the indictment and public facts.)

But back to Booby. Other journalists and commentators are piling on as well.

Have to say: I agree with Jack Shafer in Slate on this point -- the decided lack of curiosity in following the lead on this "gossip" comment after the Novak story hit the wires (or the deliberate lack of following it because Booby didn't want to damage his monetarily valuable contacts at the WH) is appalling.
What sort of journalist publishes a "statement" in his paper as opposed to writing a story? What sort of journalist refuses to talk to his own newspaper when making such a revelation, as Woodward did? Today's story reads, "Woodward declined to elaborate on the statement he released to the Post late yesterday afternoon and publicly last night. He would not answer any questions, including those not governed by his confidentiality agreement with source."

But wait, I have additional digressions! What sort of journalist, even one writing a book—Woodward is always working on a book—withholds blockbuster information about a major investigation, prosecution, and First Amendment battle from his editors until the 11th hour, as Woodward did? According to the Post story, he only told them last month. What sort of journalist doesn't use the information he's had since mid-June 2003 to break bigger news about the subject? Was he worried about the legal exposure his bosses might suffer? Or was he holding on to it—and his access to top officials in an unfolding story—for his book?
Along those same lines, Will Bunch has an excellent post on Attytood about those same issues, along with some thoughts that I'm certain a whole lot of journalists have been having over the last 48 hours.

Quite a bit to go through in my in-box this morning, and a whole lot of information being tossed out across the newswires and the blogosphere. But one last bit for now: if you missed yesterday's Froomkin column, it was a great one. And well worth a read, if only for the clear snark oozing out from his contacts with other WaPo reporters about dear, old Booby.

UPDATE: And just so there is no question, I heart Digby. This is an exceptional post.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Plan of a Hack

I've spent the afternoon listening to Bob Woodward try to explain why he used his Watergate credibility to convince people that a legal imbroglio he was intimately involved in was nothing more than "gossip" even as he failed to admit he was one of the gossipers. Then Len Downie got to go to school on Bill Keller and try to bail his paper out of the Official White House Stenographic Pool. Neither were particularly successful.

Woodward's cast-iron refusal to act like a journalist and name a source who will undoubtedly be revealed as time goes on most assuredly and permanently bestows upon him perpetual Chief Stenographer status. His mea culpa was even more embarrassing than Judy Miller's (at least the Times named Libby as Miller's source upon her release from jail -- shit, who thought that sordid affair would ever be invidiously compared to anything?) The Post's up-and-comer status as the "paper of record" to replace the NYT was dealt a serious blow as they refused to buck their star reporter's desire to play White House suck-up. Today he verily laughed at any suggestion that he bore some professional obligation to the Post.

But enough Woodward bashing for the moment -- we have other fish to fry. What did we learn about Woodward's source from today's round of dissembling? Well we learned a hell of a lot more from Len Downie than we did Booby, that's for sure. Let's review:

1. The source is a man. Downie was quite specific that "he" did not want to be publicly identified at this time (and Downie apparently knows).

That lets out Matalin, Condi and Hughes (apparently).

2. Bush released a statement today saying that neither he, Andy Card, Dan Bartlett, Colin Powell, George Tenet nor John McLaughlin were responsible. Since in all likelihood the identity of Booby's source will become known sooner rather than later, we are going to give a group of known liars the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

From the NYT:
Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on a continuing investigation. Several other officials could not be reached for comment.
3. The source was interviewed by Woodward for his book, Plan of Attack. Now while he may well have interviewed people he never mentioned, we'll assume for the moment that if he had a casual, friendly relationship with the person he would most certainly want to flatter them with inclusion, because that's the kind of hard-hitting, edgy journalist he is.

Not mentioned: Bolton, Fleitz, Wurmser, Hannah.

Mentioned: Hadley, Cheney, Fleischer.

Okay, I'm knocking Fleischer out because he's cited in the indictment, a good indication that he came in and played straight with Fitzgerald from the start. Whoever this person is he either didn't tell Fitzgerald about the Woodward interlude, or hasn't been questioned by Fitzgerald yet.

In order to telescope it down further, I'm going to leap over to what potential scenarios of events could've been.

A few days before the Libby indictment was announced, Woodward evidently went to his editors and said "um, Houston, I think we have a problem," and mentioned he might be needing to do a story about his own involvement.

Oh the laughs they must've had in the Post newsroom over that one.

This was around the same time that Rover was doing one of those furious Wylie Coyote backpeddle things trying to get out of the way of the anvil that was poised to drop on his head.

And the night before, on Thursday, October 27, Michael Isikoff asked a question of Woodward on Larry King:
ISIKOFF: I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.
But Woodward put everyone's suspicions to rest:
WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best "New York Times" reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell.
Protecting your sources is one thing. Nobody put a gun to your head and told you to lie your face off in the process, Bob.

The reporter at the New York Times was Doug Jehl, and evidently the whole NYT Washington crew had spent the day trying to track down the rumor that Steve Clemons was also privy to -- namely that Fred Fleitz was going to be the subject of a Woodward article

Now as Swopa notes, Michael Isikoff has a history of being a Rove water carrier. But Fitzgerald probably isn't as easily distracted by bright lights and shiny objects as Isikoff is. It's entirely possible -- and I'm guessing probable -- that in order to hold Fitzgerald off at least for a while, Rove had to give up somebody quite real. I doubt any of his lame Adam Levine excuses gave Fitzgerald "pause," but it would definitely suit Rove's agenda to have Libby be the first guy out there on the limb. And as Digby noted, it probably served the White House's agenda too -- they might have even made some sort of sacrifice play to evade the mortal blow of losing Rove and Libby on the same day.

Which puts Cheney in the possible category and places pretty damn good odds on Hadley.

Hadley was Deputy National Security Advisor at the time, and putatively the information clearing house for leaks. After Karl Rove spoke with Matt Cooper, he reported back to Hadley about it with the now-infamous email on July 11. The Washington Post described him as the "eyes and ears" for Cheney at the NSC, having served under him as assistant secretary of defense during Bush 41.

It was also Hadley's job to coordinate Tenet's apology for the "16 words" he didn't put in Bush's speech, and perhaps more significantly, was a member of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG). He was also reportedly running around at one point and telling people he thought he was going to be indicted.

Although I've seen his name listed online as having appeared before the grand jury, I can't find any hard evidence of it. It seems likely that Hadley would've made an appearance, given his membership in WHIG and the fact that he was a recipient of the Rove email, but if it is him, he must've conveniently left out his early conversation with Bobby. In which case I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now, because having listened to himself mis-quoted on the news all day and called "Inspector Clouseau," Patrick Fitzgerald is probably in quite the mood.

Second possible scenario -- Scooter is indicted. He hasn't got much hope of mounting a defense, but what hope he does have could entail calling reporters with whom he spoke and didn't talk shit about Wilson. He calls Woodward and says "listen, man, I just want to tell you -- this is coming down the path." Woodward knows he's going to get the Fitzgerald nod, phones his other source and warns them, and they come forward. Problem with this is, Woodward was already talking to his editors before Scooter was indicted. So I'll put this in the "unlikely" column.

Third possible scenario -- and this one is the wild card. Reddhedd thinks that with all the extra stuff in the indictment that didn't need to be there, Fitzgerald may have been telegraphing to someone that he had the dirt on them, and that's what provoked the sudden attack of candor and/or memory retrieval. And the Digby corollary is that watching Fitzgerald come down on Libby for perjury with 30 years' worth and a demand for hard time probably scared the living bejesus out of some of them who decided they just didn't want to play spin the bottle with the Special Counsel just now.

Which could mean Cheney. But as both Digby and Pachacutec have noted -- it is totally out of character for Cheney or Bush to back down and give Fitz (or anyone else) anything. Which leads back to Hadley or Cheney in the Rove sacrifice play.

One thing is for certain -- we will probably know sooner rather than later who Booby's source is. Libby will no doubt put any such information in his pleadings, and my guess is that the White House is going to want to get all this stuff aired and out of the way before the SOTU in January. So I think this is going to be a very, very festive holiday season for all of us.

And to everyone who was crying "it's over, Fitzgerald's done" after the Libby indictment, I'd like to say...Merry Fitzmas, y'all...

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)

Update: Steve Soto thinks Libby and Cheney gave up Hadley to establish Libby wasn't the first leaker. What this gives Libby in Fitzgerald's eyes I'm not entirely sure, but if true it's getting ugly.

Laura Rozen thinks it's not Cheney because Woodward says his source didn't believe the information was classified, something Cheney would most certainly have known.

John at Americablog likens the Post to a roomful of monkeys typing and says there is something quite peculiar with Woodward's timeline (via Jeralyn).

Crooks and Liars also has the clip of Downie's tour-de-force performance on CNN. You can see for yourself What Woodward Hath Wrought.


WoodMill: The Distaff Side

While Little Mr. Run-Amok has his return moment in the spotlight after several decades in an undistinguished chorus, his counterpart in WoodMill (so dubbed by Digby) -- Judy Miller -- takes the stage again, this time at the Open Source Media shindig in New York this afternoon.

Jay Rosen of PressThink was there and he got a chance to ask the question we all want to know the answer to: why the hell is Judy Miller running around the country demanding a federal shield law that she herself would not have been covered by?

Jay emailed the delightful details:
They were webcasting it, so they gave me a mike that didn't work, a second mike that didn't work, and during my question three other mikes that didn't work.

Even so, I got to tell her about watching the PBS Newshour (July 6, 2005) when Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune said that a federal shield law would cover more than 90 percent of the cases where confidential sources are used, but it would not have applied to her case.  Then Bill Keller, who was on the program as Judy's defender and supporter, said Chapman was correct.  Judy Miller's decision to go to jail was an act of civil disobedience, he said, because she had "run out of legal protection."

My question for Judy:  Why is it that as you travel the country speaking out for a federal shield law--before journalism groups, legal societies, on TV, and the Congress--you invariably fail to mention what your champion (then) Bill Keller understood: the shield law would not have protected you because of the weird facts in this case?  It certainly matters to how effective you can be in making a case to the nation for the shield law, I said.  Yet you leave it out.  And your remarks today were a perfect example.

Miller said it was a good question.  She said Keller was wrong.  The law would have protected her.  Her lawyer told her so.  The only exception in the bill is for matters of national security. "It's not the only thing I disagree with Bill Keller about," she said with a chuckle and toss of the head.  But even if the law didn't apply to her and Fitzgerald, Miller added, it was a good law and important to talk about. 

True, and that's exactly why the law needs a different advocate, someone who is not Judith Miller.
The law, as Jay notes, is the Senate's Free Flow of Information Act of 2005, which says you cannot be compelled to give up a source unless "disclosure of the identity of such a source is necessary to prevent imminent and actual harm to national security."

Says Jay:
I've asked a lot of people with knowledge of Washington, and of this bill.  I haven't found one who thinks there can be a vote on a federal shield law without an exception in it for revealing the identity of a covert agent.  A case in which that happened is not going to be a covered case; and anyone with political sense knows it.
Indeed, Professor Geoffrey Stone, former board member of the ACLU, writes:
In the Plame case, we have a relatively unusual circumstance where the source is essentially using the press in an effort to commit a federal version of a reporter-source privilege in my view or my judgment would cover the particulars of this situation.
As one of the commenters over at Sadly, No! said, "you know you don't have a leg to stand on when the ACLU tells you to shut up and take your medicine! They defended Rush Limbaugh. Jesus tapdancing christ, LIMBAUGH!

Evidently Judy still isn't taking her medicine. But boy don't we keep trying to give it to her.

(late nite graphic artistry by Billmon)


And in Other News Today...

FEMA says "Screw you, and happy holidays" to refugees in FEMA-subsidized housing: displaced residents of the Gulf Coast will be kicked out of their hotel room housing after December 1, 2005. FEMA has announced they will stop paying for housing for these people. So enjoy your hotel Thanksgiving dinner, people with no homes and little else -- and have a Merry Christmas. On the streets. Nice. Let's discuss family values when you actually find some.

And on a side note, the Halliburton Christmas bonus gravy train may still be on track...but their employment policies are under some scrutiny. Nothing like a horde of undocumented workers to buck up that bottom line. (Via Atrios.)

Big Oil is run by big LIARS: Ooops. Look who met with VP Cheney's energy task force? Why, leaders of the big oil companies. You know, the guys who testified to the Senate just last week that they did no such thing? You know, the CEOs who are now in deep doo doo? If only Ted Stevens will bring them back under oath. Start calling your Senators now. It's going to take a hell of a lot of momentum to move Ted Steven's ass off his big oil cash pile. Oh, and Cheney? Even more politically radioactive than he was last week. (Who knew it could get so much worse so quickly? No wonder Shrub is outta the country this week!)

And in case anyone is wondering -- the WaPo article on the oil execs meeting with Cheney is an example of actual whistleblowing. The leaks to reporters regarding Valerie Wilson is an example of using journalists as a tool to exact political revenge while committing a crime. One has a public interest motive at its root, the other has Dick Cheney. I'm just saying.

Lions? What lions?: Iraqi officials are beginning an inquiry into the abuse allegations made regarding a secret detention facility discovered in the Information Ministry.
As Iraqi investigators began sifting through a secret underground prison run by police in the heart of the capital, Sunni Arab leaders furiously denounced the Shiite-dominated government for supporting the torture of Sunni detainees there and called for an international investigation.

The discovery of the prison by the American military has galvanized Sunni Arab anger and widened the country's sectarian divide just a month before elections for a full, four-year government. The American general charged with securing Baghdad said today that Sunni leaders were supportive of the American raid on the prison, which began Sunday and ended this afternoon. The commander, Maj. Gen. William Webster of the Third Infantry Division, said his troops were prepared to investigate other credible complaints of torture by Iraqi security forces.
Nice that the Iraqis are willing to begin an immediate, public investigation of these alleged torture allegations. Ahem.

Um...They Get the Money Anyway: Congressional negotiators have stripped the earmark for money for the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska and other pet projects there. But Alaska will get the money in a non-earmarked transporation fund, to spend as they like. And in case you were wondering: on Joe Scarborough's show today, they reported that the Murkowski's own property on that island with only 50 residents. Wow. What a coincidence that Ted Stevens would fight so hard for an island where Frank Murkowski owned property getting a bridge. That won't help property values shoot right up, now will it? (Roll eyes.)

Did I mention that FEMA is kicking all those poor, homeless people out of their hotel rooms on December 1? Ahem.

UPDATE: Just so it is clear, FEMA just let the hurricane homeless folks know today that they would no longer have hotel shelter after December 1, 2005. Happy holidays indeed.

According to the NYTimes, the US has detained 83,000 people in the war on terror thus far.

And just so no one misses this one, it looks like the former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting repeatedly broke Federal law and internal regulations, according to a just released Inspector General report. Guess that explains his abrupt resignation. Ahem.

Oh, and Dick Cheney played the patriotism card again. Man, that is so 2004. It was a more effective speech before everyone in America realized he is such a lying sack of dung.