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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Let's Kick Some Ass

There's nothing like a Brit in a snit. From the Guardian:
At the heart of the accusation is the fundamental tension between journalists - largely Arab reporters catering for an Arab audience - who say they are anxious to cover the story from both sides, and a United States that regards reporting on some aspects of the insurgency as tantamount to collaboration with terrorism. None of which would matter much were into not for the ferocious tenacity and professionalism of Al Jazeera, factors which have made the station an international phenomenon.

Most gallingly for the US, its reporters have told a story that Washington either disagrees with or would rather remain untold: that the kind of war America is prosecuting in Iraq is messy and heavy handed; that civilians are too often the victims, and that the insurgents are not shadowy sinister figures but ordinary men with more support than politicians would like to acknowledge.
The world has had enough of this cowboy shit. It never crossed my mind that another country might take the lead in saying "enough already" and exposing the lies that got us into this mess (oh that ought to really chap O'Reilly's ass, eh?), but it looks like that may indeed be where we are headed.

Bully for them.

(photo by David Woo, thanks to Valley Girl)


You Just Keep Thinkin', George, 'Cos That's What You're Good At

Oh you can just see the big brains at work here. The Sunday Times is reporting that the day before Dubya "jokingly" told Tony Blair they ought to bomb the daylights out of Al-Jazeera in Qatar, Rummy was fuming about them in a Pentagon briefing. Sounds like one of those coordinated, full-frontal assault things that a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners guy like Dubya would go for:
The Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad detailed 34 instances of alleged hype and distortion by the television station from April 8-13, ranging from reports of a helicopter and fighter plane being shot down to stories about American soldiers killing and mutilating Iraqi citizens.
The CPA? Was this before, during or after they lost $8 billion dollars in cash? Just curious.
In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon awarded the Rendon Group, a public affairs firm, a $16.7m contract to monitor media in the Islamic world. It was assigned to track “the location and use of Al-Jazeera news bureaux, reporters and stringers”, and was asked to “identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances”.
Now if only they'd just done what they were told and run with that Jessica Lynch thing and shut up about the torture, which we don't do but don't ask us to stop, all of this could've been avoided.
Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based think tank, last week described Al-Jazeera as fair game on the grounds that it promoted beheadings and suicide bombings.
Was this one of those nights where everyone at the Times got loaded and tried to see how many assholes they could shove into one story? O'Reilly better get cracking on that War on Christmas shit again, 'cos this one's a comer.

(thanks to reader db for the tip, and graphics love to Monk of course)

Update: According to UPI, Blair may have overplayed his hand by invoking the Official Secrets Act:
Leading opposition figures from the Conservative, Liberal-Democratic, Scottish National and Plaid Cymru (Welsh) parties have banded together to back the cross-party motion titled "Conduct of Government policy in relation to the war against Iraq" to demand that the case for an inquiry be debated in the House of Commons. They seem assured of the 200 signatures required to get such a debate.
Given how heavily Fearless Leader claims we leaned on British Intelligence to justify our own little incursion, this could get very interesting.


Thanks, Murtha. Joe Will Take It From Here.

When John Murtha went up like a trial balloon last week, Joltin' Joe Biden "wasn't there yet," 'cos God forbid someone says Joe Can't Do War. Then Jean Schmidt went over like Schiavo, Joe stuck his finger in the air and felt the wind shifting, and just in time for the Sunday morning chat shows he writes in the WaPo that he wants a timetable for withdrawal. Can someone count the number of times Colonial Joe talks about preserving "our interests" in Iraq? Hell, what's a few more dead bodies in the wake of the juggernaut that is Biden 2008.

Hey Joe? When people say they don't think Democrats stand for anything, they're talking about you.


Image Rehabilitation 101

"It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl-Tricia, the 6-year old-named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it."
Do they really want to go there?


Andrea Mitchell Watch -- Day 1

I realize there is some unwritten law that says no woman newscaster is allowed to appear on any of the NBC channels and question the network's hypocrisy relative to TraitorGate, but Andrea Mitchell's continued presence thereon is particularly scalding. I live for those special moments when she, Tim Russert and Chris Matthews get together and "question" each other like they're all not up to their eyeballs in it. The stuff of Murrow, that.

Tom Maguire busts her on this little gem from the Tim Russert show on October 29, 2005:
MITCHELL: You know, I should have spoke--'cause there's been a lot blogged about all of this--I was called by the CIA because it was erroneously reported in The Washington Post that I was the recipient of the leak before Novak's column came out, and I had not been. So I was never questioned because I simply told the FBI--and, you know, NBC put out a statement that night--that I had not been a recipient of the leak; in fact, I had learned about it from Novak's column like everyone else. Then after the fact, a lot of us had gotten calls and conversations with people, you know, `Hey, how about the Novak column?' But that was after the fact.
That particular sentence is really a marvel -- she maintains she was never "questioned" even as she's saying she talked to the FBI. Did a few agents just swing by to drop off a casserole and she started blathering so fast they couldn't get a word in edgewise? (Fitzgerald did, in fact, get a subpoena for her.) (Note: as emptywheel points out in the comments, more correctly Fitzgerald's subpoena was for information from the White House regarding contact with her.)

Oh those nasty bloggers and their mean questions. We should all just go back to posting vacation snaps and leave reportering to the professionals.

NB: If anyone's got a copy of Andrea Mitchell's Oct. 28, 2005 appearance on MSNBC with Chris Matthews the morning of the Libby indictments (before Fitzgerald's press conference) please email me, I need a copy.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Al-Jazeera: Chok Full O' Terrorists?

I'm constantly amazed at people like Daniel Johnson who occasionally manage to drag themselves out of the primordial slime, discover anew their opposable thumbs and tap away at the keyboard:
That shutting down Al Jazeera would be desirable from the Anglo-American point of view is obviously true. And if Qatar, a Gulf state that is nominally an ally of America (on which it relies for its independence), has allowed its capital to become Al Qaeda's principal propaganda base, it has no right to expect America automatically to refrain from punitive action on its territory.
First off, Al-Jazeera isn't some dodgy cable access show you can only pick up with enough tinfoil and the right atmospheric conditions, it has a viewership of some 45 million people. They are the network who just signed Sir David Frost for their English language news channel set to launch next spring. They are also the network who recently hired ex-Marine Josh Rushing (above, he of The Control Room), who seems to have a bit more faith in the ultimate value of the message of democracy than some of his wingnuttier critics:
Rushing views Al-Jazeera's English-language channel as a forum for reaching millions of Muslims, many of whom may not understand the America he knows, and for reaching millions who he thinks know little about the Muslim world, including Americans.

"The gravity of it sets in all the time," he says during an interview in the dining room at the private Army and Navy Club, two blocks from the White House. "It puts me where the good fight is --— at a station that's going to bridge America and the rest of the world."
It's ironic that those who skulked into power in the US by taking control of the media seem to think that the only way to spread democracy in the Middle East is to bomb the fuck out of it, and that anyone who collaborates with indigenous media is a traitor:
Rushing's response to such criticism: "I believe in America so dearly and the values that it stands for that I'm in no way threatened by the kind of information this station's going to put out.

"Besides," he explains, "once a Marine, always a Marine."
Over at the BooMan Tribune, BooMan himself has a really good article outlining the utter stupidity of bombing anything in Qatar (does Dubya even know where it is?) where the US military quite sensibly decided to relocate much of its munitions, equipment and communications gear out of Saudi Arabia following Bin Laden's fatwa of 1998:
The one thing the Bush administration did to appease Bin-Laden was to move our airbase from Saudi Arabia to Qatar where, presumably, it would cause less resentment and violent resistance. Whatever the merits of that decision, they have been pretty well wiped out by the decision to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, our airbase in Qatar is absolutely critical for supporting our operations in Iraq, and is used for missions over Afghanistan as well.

If we had used the airbase in Qatar to bomb the capital of Qatar, where al-Jazeera's headquarters are located, it stands to reason that we would no longer be welcome to use that airbase for other purposes. And since we could not simply move our airbase back to Prince Sultan or negotiate a new location and build a new airbase overnight, it would have necessitated a complete takeover of the country to keep our air force operating over Iraq.

If Bush had ordered such a mission it would have been just cause for mutiny, or even a palace coup to prevent tremendous harm to our country and our military's operations. The idea that Tony Blair had to argue against this mission is truly frightening. It should have been dismissed by any number of Americans before it could be discussed with Blair. Andy Card, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and several others should have pointed out the lunacy of such a plan as soon as they heard of it.

It stands to reason that any attempt to blow up al-Jazeera would have to be done with plausible deniability. That means a truck bomb or something would need to be used. You can't use bomber aircraft launched from 20 miles away. Such a plan is triply insane.
Meanwhile per Crooks & Liars, we learn that Al-Jazeera staffers have started a blog called Don't Bomb Us. And Mark Kleiman notes, " after his denial that Karl Rove or Scooter Libby had any role in revealing that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, a statement by Scott McClellan that an report is "outlandish" is tantamount to a confirmation.

Sometimes you have to throw up your hands and wonder if they are criminal, stupid, or criminally stupid.


Party On, Pat

From an AP article on Judge Reggie Walton, the judge in the Scooter Libby case:
Walton's role also may be crucial regarding the use of classified information and whether documents sought by Libby's lawyers are relevant. If Walton rules against opening classified files to the defense team, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's case would move to trial.

If Walton rules that Libby must be allowed to present certain evidence that is currently classified, all or portions of the case could be dismissed if the intelligence bureaucracy refuses to declassify the material for use in court.
A lot of people, including yours truly, would love to see Libby facing Espionage charges, and the indictment certainly seems to indicate Fitzgerald had the goods. But in choosing to bring these particular charges rather than others at this point, he may have been anticipating this kind of an end-run. As Fitzgerald said in his press conference:
[A]t the end of the day, I think I want to say one more thing, which is: When you do a criminal case, if you find a violation, it doesn't really, in the end, matter what statute you use if you vindicate the interest.
And in the recent affidavit Fitzgerald filed, he states:
Because the indictment in this case charges obstruction offenses rather than substantive national security crimes, it is hoped that the case can be tried with a minimum of issues concerning classified information needing to be resolved, and thus that the trial may be conducted in as public a manner as possible.
Scooter's looking at 30 years. I'd say that vindicates the public interest, especially if it allows BushCo. a minimum of opportunity to screw the pooch by refusing to declassify certain material.

Furthermore, as rwcole said in the comments:
Sounds like Fitz decided to take Libby down using the OLD Grand Jury -- partly to insulate the evidence that would go to the NEW grand jury.

This will help him to keep Libby's grubby mitts off evidence (if any) to be used in the big case - the espionage conspiracy case. Libby, of course, might get an invitation to that event as well -- but he'll have to wait with the other defendants to see what Fitz has against him.
Like I needed more reason to believe Mr. Fitzgerald is smarter than me. He's putting the squeeze on Libby hard, and there is damn little wiggle room.


Update: Emptywheel has a great forray into Scooter and Dick's history of press overreaction and demonstrates quite ably that their Wilson smear campaign was right in character.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard.)


And Tarek Ayoub is Still Dead

BradBlog has an amazing clip from Channel 4 in the UK on the memo that purportedly has Bush telling Tony Blair he wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera. They assert that the reason journalists are being threatened with the Official Secrets Act for the very first time is because the White House is putting pressure on Blair et. al. to keep the memo under wraps, and speculates that there are other things in the memo that the US doesn't want to come out.

Said Sir Menzies Campbell:
"Well it does seem to me a very draconian threat and it leads one to the suspicion that the anxiety here is not so much the national interest but preventing the government from embarrassment. After all the events with which we are concerned took place some considerable time ago. Why is it necessary to invoke the terms of an act designed to deal with issues which arise in a time of national emergency?"
There is also an interview with Clive Stafford-Smith, who represents Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, who was seized while traveling to Afghanistan on assignment and has been held in Guantanamo Bay for four years without being charged. In recently declassified documents, Stafford-Smith says that al-Hajj has been questioned 130 times, and 125 of those times they tried to get him to admit that Al-Jazeera was a terrorist front funded by Al Quaeda.

So far neither Downing Street nor the State Department have responded to Al-Jazeera's inquiry about whether this is just one of Bush's "jokes" or not. Since the entire Arab world we are so anxious to "democratize" is waiting to hear exactly what's up with all of this, it seems like something Karen Hughes might want to big foot her way over and get right on.

Meanwhile, the Power Tools have put on the Schutzstaffel regalia again and are marching around in circles singing Kampflied der Nationalsozialisten as they celebrate this ugly disgrace of an article in the New York Sun cheering on the bombing of Al-Jazeera.

God it must get nasty when everyone wants to be Himmler.

(hat tip to "Me" in the comments)


Thursday, November 24, 2005

An Official Job Offer for Judith Miller at Firedoglake

Dear Judy,

I know it has been a very difficult year for you, and since your departure from the New York Times the offers haven't exactly been rolling in. Oh sure you've been spotted brunching with the New York Post, but what would the Hamptons set say? You have the Pulitzers to think of after all, and sharing bylines with the likes of Deborah Orrin would be positively unseemly. You might as well go to work for the Enquirer chanelling the ghost of Jeanne Dixon. And Regnery isn't really a press, it's more like wingnut welfare.

Recently you've been traveling around and speaking in favor of a national shield law for journalists, and when Jay Rosen confronted you with the fact that such a law would not have covered your particular case, you affirmed that it was a good law anyway, and since you really cared about the rights of journalists it was worthy of support. I think what you really need right now is an opportunity to prove that this isn't just an attempt to wrap yourself in First Amendment finery, that you really do care about protecting journalists and are willing to take action to support them.

So I want to offer you a gig. No, I'm serious. We can't pay you, but if the reports of your seven figure parachute are true that shouldn't be a problem for you right now. I think your skills are desperately needed at the moment in order to help the cause of journalists worldwide. Apparently there is a memo floating around in London that says George Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera. Due to their Official Secrets Act, none of the British papers can legally publish it. I think we can make beautiful music together here, Judy. I think you have amazing connections that can allow you to put your hands on that document. And we will happily publish it.

Of course, there's no risk for us because it costs us nothing and we don't have any Official Secrets Act over here, but think of the opportunity to rise above partisan politics to truly stand in defense of the principles you purport to hold so dear. Al-Jazeera has, in fact, been bombed by US forces on two occasions, both in Baghdad and Kabul. If there is evidence that these were deliberate attacks, you owe it to your fellow journalists to ferret out the truth. Because they didn't just throw journalists in jail, Judy, a journalist died. Maybe you even knew him, his name was Tarek Ayoub. He was a father, a husband, and a Palestinian. Do his rights as a journalist count too?

I know when you think about it you will see that this is a really great idea. Reddhedd and I eagerly await your response.

In the spirit of rapprochement, wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.

Jane Hamsher


Cry Me a River

You've got to hand it to Michael Isikoff and his tireless efforts to try and make the most unsympathetic man in the world -- Karl Rove -- look almost human. Even on Thanksgiving, he picks up pen in weary hand to let us know that Karl, poor Karl, had to take out a $100,000 line of credit to pay his mounting legal bills.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the average net worth of the individual members of the Bush cabinet, including the President and Vice President, was between $9.3 and $27.3 million in 2002. That's nearly ten times that of their counterparts in the Clinton administration.

On the richter scale of genuine newsworthiness, I'd say Rove's loan rates just below Nick and Jessica's split. I am certain that there will no doubt be a fat, healthy Rover defense fund fueled with endless supplies of blood money should the need arise.

Of far more worth is the fact that there is no free speech in America, at least not in that little patch of land known as Crawford, Texas, where Daniel Ellsberg and Cindy Sheehan's sister Dede Miller were arrested yesterday in defiance of a new ban that makes it illegal to camp or park within 7 miles of His Imperial Highness.

Today I'm thankful that there are still people in this country ready to put themselves on the line to challenge Karl Rove and everyone else who thumbed through a copy of Orwell's "1984" and said "hey cool, you know I bet that would work."

Happy Thanksgiving.

(thanks always to Monk at Inflatable Dartboard, whose superlative graphics are always a source of inspiration)


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Big Time's Big Adventure

Writing in Salon, Sidney Blumenthal has a quick, brutal sketch of Richard B. Cheney:
Cheney is a master bureaucrat, proficient in the White House, the agencies and departments, and Congress. The many offices Cheney has held add up to an extraordinary resume. His competence and measured manner are often mistaken for moderation. Among those who have misjudged Cheney are military men -- Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft and Wilkerson, who lacked a sense of him as a political man in full. As a result, they expressed surprise at their discovery of the ideological hard man. Scowcroft told the New Yorker recently that Cheney was not the Cheney he once knew. But Scowcroft and the other military men rose by working through regular channels; they were trained to respect established authority. They are at a disadvantage in internal political battles with those operating by different rules of warfare. Their realism does not account for radicalism within the U.S. government.
I've been reading Richard Clarke's book, and he notes that Cheney "had been one of the five most radical conservatives in Congress. The quiet often hid views that would seem out of place if aired more broadly." Read: Get him talking and Cheney's a fucking nutbag, everyone around him knows it, has known for 30 years, and nobody speaks up about it 'cos they're all terrified of being the blood sacrifice at some Cheney/Novak family picnic.

A grateful nation should kick in and get him a CheneyMaster 3000 ™ Defibrillator and Bacon Frier on his way out the door so he can spend his retirement years fearlessly eating salt-cured fatback and we won't be worried that he'll step back in and nuke Beijing or something just because he's feeling a bit peckish.


First We'll Bomb the Journalists

Someone should tell Preznit Cave Smoker that he hasn't got a whole lot of homies in the Middle East, but Qatar (where Al-Jazeera is headquartered) is definitely one of them. And since Tony Blair has now taken the trouble to threaten the Daily Mirror about publishing a British government memo saying PM Poodle talked Dubya out of bombing Al-Jazeera in April of last year, one might reasonably assume such a document exists.

Having "accidentally" bombed Al-Jazeera's Kabul office in 2001 and their Bagdhad offices in 2003, I guess Dubya was going for the hat trick.

Reporters Without Borders said: "We find it hard to believe that President Bush really discussed this possibility.
Have you been under a rock for the past five years?
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."
You don't have to launch space shuttles in your spare time to connect the dots on this one. I think it's high time for another gaggle. I'll take Terry Moran in the White House briefing room with a cattle prod.

BooMan Tribune has more.

(hat tip to AmericaBlog)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'll Take Dick Cheney in the Bathroom With the Defibrillator

Bob Woodward's "Mr. X" may or may not be the first administration official who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to a member of the press -- it is still not known who the journalist was who was contemplating an article on Joe Wilson that made him decide to go public with his own story first. But by most accounts these four candidates are the front runners as Woody's leaker, so place your bets now, 'cos the lid could blow off this pig any day:

George W. Bush: Argument For: Woodward's source was someone he interviewed at length for his book, Plan of Attack. He definitely interviewed Gee Dubya, though the book says his interview took place in December 2003. The possibility that he was doing "background" interviews earlier on, however, still exists. The WaPo claims that "Mr. X" has testified in the Plame matter but Reuters says he has not appeared before the grand jury -- Bush fits the bill on both counts. Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman gave a briefing on Wilson at the White House on June 11 or 12, Walter Pincus's article in the WaPo appeared on the 12th, and Woodward said he spoke to his source a few days after the Pincus article. So Bush definitely had access to the information by that time. It could also explain Patrick Fitzgerald's odd appearance at Bush's lawyer's office.

Argument Against: As Atrios would say, God does not like me that much.

Dick Cheney: Argument For: Knew by the time he told Scooter Libby on the 12th that Wilson's wife worked in counterproliferation. Spoke to Woodward for Plan of Attack, though he did it on background, so a confidentiality agreement would cover him. Definitely had both the motive and the malice. Has recently dispatched anonymous gremlins to issue peculiar denials in the press. Also testified but not before the grand jury. CIA hates him just enough to out Woodward prior to Libby's indictment and fuck him up.

Argument Against: On Larry King, Woodward all but cleared him, saying he did not talk to meet with him during the time in question. Hard to imagine the word "casual" applied to Dick Cheney.

Richard Armitage: Argument For: Possibly had access to INR memo during the time in question. Known to have been one of Woodward's sources for Plan of Attack. No record of having appeared before the grand jury. Hasn't issued a denial.

Argument Against: Didn't have any axe to grind against Wilson, wouldn't have been party to any OVP/Rove conspiracy. According to this article, didn't have the INR memo until after Wilson's op-ed piece. If Michael Isikoff is right and Woodward's source is Novak's source it ain't Armitage, 'cos the idea of him shooting the shit with the Prince of Darkness just stretches all credibility. And God, at the moment, does not appear to like the GOP quite that much.

Stephen Hadley Argument for: Coordinated disinformation related to Niger uranium for the White House, including Tenet's self-flagellation. Putative point man for the smear campaign, received Rove's email about Cooper conversation. No record of testifying before the grand jury. Told friends he thought he was going to be indicted. Weird non-denial in Korea. Recently promoted, a sure sign of guilt within the Bush administration.

Argument against: Given how eagerly Bush distanced himself from Rover when it looked like he would be indicted, hard to imagine him embracing Hadley as furiously as he is at the moment if he thought he was guilty. And whatever involvement Hadley had doesn't seem to have been of the "lone wolf" variety.

(special thanks to Valley Girl for the Clue graphic)


What Did He Know and When Will He Know It?

According to a new article by Murray Waas, both Preznit Gung Ho and Big Time received information in a classified Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) 10 days after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center that there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda. Its existence was not disclosed to the Senate Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, and the administration has steadfastly refused to turn it over since then despite demands from both sides of the aisle.

So why was any Bushbot with a pulse screaming about Al Quaeda's ties to Saddaam during the ramp up to war?
One reason that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made statements that contradicted what they were told in CIA briefings might have been that they were receiving information from another source that purported to have evidence of Al Qaeda-Iraq ties. The information came from a covert intelligence unit set up shortly after the September 11 attacks by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.
That's just ducky. One of the only bright moment in Bob Woodward's otherwise slavish Plan of Attack comes when Gen. Tommy Franks calls Feith "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." This would of course be the same Doug Feith whose prewar intelligence activities the Pentagon's inspector general is now investigating.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say this might qualify as intelligence the President had that the Democrats didn't have when they voted to authorize the war. They're still a bunch of sheep in my book, but it doesn't make BushCo.'s attempts to re-write history (that's right, suck it up, Dick) any less egregious.


How the Middle East Was Won

According to London's Daily Mirror, Billy Sol Huroc George Bush once discussed blowing up the headquarters of Arabic-language TV al-Jazeera real good with Tony Blair. The White House calls the charge "outlandish," despite the fact that the US actually did bomb Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office in April 2003, killing journalist Tareq Ayyoub. At the time, State Department spokesmen said it was a "mistake," and called upon al-Jazeera "not to jump to conclusions."

We know it pales next to big news like Oprah ending her 14 year feud with Letterman or Bob Novak trying to rewrite the Battle of Carville by punching a fellow passenger on a flight to Chicago. But all we want to know is -- does this mean Eason Jordan gets his job back?

(hat tip to John Amato for the Eason Jordan reminder)


Monday, November 21, 2005

My Sister! My Daughter!

In breaking news, Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post reviews Bob Woodward of the Washington Post talking to Larry King of CNN, the network which also hosts Howard Kurtz's show Reliable Sources.

In other news, the New York Times take Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post to task for interviewing his boss Len Downie of the Washington Post about Bob Woodward of the Washington Post on his CNN show Reliable Sources.

Remind me again -- how did we get into this mess?


Bob Woodward: Not Exactly Hero Material

Bob Woodward managed to jam his giant ego into Larry King's tiny studio tonight to answer a few simple questions. To say that he did not dazzle before the cameras would be too kind. He really gave Sulzberger a run for the title of Bang Bang the Idiot Boy. One can see why he is always being called out of the White House steno pool by the BushCo. brass -- he will most assuredly take down everything faithfully, and never be quite smart enough to know what it all means.

Larry actually pressed him a couple of times, and Woody floundered. Larry showed the now-famous clip of Michael Isikoff pushing him about a "bombshell" story he was sitting on the night before the Libby indictment:
KING: In retrospect, Bob, could you have said on the show that night, Well, to you and your viewers, I do have some information, I'm working on it, something was said to me, but I can't reveal it. That would have covered this whole thing.

WOODWARD: But that's always the case. That's always the case. And that would be -- you know, well what is it -- you would have asked me, What are you working on, is it bigger than a bread box, is it a bombshell, is it a firecracker, is it a stick of dynamite and so forth.
So Bob can't tell the truth because Larry might ask him about it. Journalistic integrity. Highly overrated.
WOODWARD: Yes. I think I was a little hyper and a lot of pent-up frustrations, bad night. And as you have pointed out a number of times, I tend to be very neutral, overly neutral...
I think the word you're hunting for is "dumb," Bob.
WOODWARD: And so there is this moment when I realized I have a piece of something. I truly don't know what it means. But then I go in a mode where -- actually some people said, you know, "Why did you do this? Why not stay out of it? Why get involved?" And all of the juices -- my wife, Elsa, told me this, that she could almost hear it, the reporting news juices running.
The necessity for talking about one's running juices on national TV escapes me, but be that as it may, Big Thick Bob has convinced me he didn't know he had something until Fitzgerald's press conference. But once he realized he had the first leak and was only a few phone calls away from being back in the spotlight again, I'm sure poor Elsa suddenly was knee deep in Woody's effluvium.
KING: How did it even come up?

WOODWARD: Came up because I asked about Joe Wilson, because a few days before, my colleague at the "Washington Post," Walter Pincus, had a front page, saying there was an unnamed envoy -- there was no name given -- who had gone to Niger the year before to investigate for the CIA if there was some Niger-Iraq uranium deal or yellow cake deal.
This is key, because it's the first indication there has been about when exactly Woodward spoke to his source. Pincus's article on Niger uranium came out on June 12, 2003 but it did not disclose Joe Wilson's identity. Libby had first learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in late May or early June, and prior to the June 12 article being printed Pincus had contacted Cheney's office for comment.

On June 11 or 12, however, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman held an oral brief at the White House for a larger group of people. I'll let my esteemed colleague emptywheel explain the significance:
Now, there are two groups of people we know were privy to information on Wilson here (there may be more). The first is a group at OVP--the people who discussed how to respond to Pincus' inquiry about Wilson's trip and those who knew enough to write "Wilson" on their CIA dossier; for them, this information is almost certainly tied to the context of a malicious Get Wilson campaign. Then, there's the group that attended the White House meeting; for these people, information on Wilson might be less malicious, tied to the larger question of the problem with the Niger claim. Both groups include Libby, but the latter group would almost certainly include Hadley, who is reported to be Woodward's source, as well as people like Rove and Condi.
So the list of suspects becomes much longer now that we know the date that Woodward first talked to his source, and stretches from Cheney's office to Rove, WHIG and the rest of the Bushbots.
KING: What would you have done if the source had said, "Don't tell him," and you were subpoenaed to deposition? Would you refuse?

WOODWARD: That is a situation I have not had to deal with in this case. But of course, when I went into my aggressive reporting mode, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen.

Now, if I hadn't done that, and the source had said, "Keep quiet; it's confidential," then the special counsel in this case, Fitzgerald, wouldn't have known, I guess, and I would have stayed out of it.
Right, Bob. Scooter Libby's being charged with perjury because he said he thought he told reporters he had heard it from other reporters, even though the reporter he says he thought he heard it from (Russert) says he didn't. So Woodward's notes say that he might have asked Libby about Plame, and this on June 23, possibly before he talked to any reporter and certainly any other than Judy Miller that we know of.

What, exactly, are the chances that Libby's lawyers are not gonna subpoena the only journalist who potentially told him about Plame's identity? Bobby's secret would have come out one way or the other, if Scooter is planning any sort of defense short of insanity. And I'll bet that's how Bob twisted Mr. "X's" arm, which it sounds like he most assuredly did, journalistic privilege be damned.

Whoever Mr. X is, Woody wasn't gonna do any jail time for him.
KING: Why didn't you tell [Len Downie]?

WOODWARD: Because I was focused on getting the book done. You know, the significance of this is yet to be determined. And what's the good news in all of this is, when it all comes out -- and hopefully it will come out -- people will see how casual and off-hand this was.
I made the comment yesterday that the leakers had played Bob like a two dollar banjo, but I think it must have been an incredibly frustrating process for them. Because sadly, I don't think Bob did understand the significance of what they were telling him. Matt Cooper tipped to it instantly, but whoever told Woody was just a smidge too "casual" about it and dogged, simple Bob just didn't get what was going down. Still doesn't.

Can you see Cheney picking up the paper every morning, riffling through it and muttering "fucking Woodward, where is the damn thing?"

The rest of the interview was just pathetic. At one point Woodward was reduced to holding up old headlines from the Washington Post to show us how valuable his reporting had been. (As Bob Adams said in the comments, "he's gonna get 'rhoids if he keeps pulling Nixon out of his ass.")

You know, I truly do believe this whole uproar has shocked Woodward. He doesn't get it. He thought he was going to be the hero. Even Larry asked him if he was being "used" by the administration -- Bob just looked befuddled. He seems to believe that whatever price he paid for access to an otherwise impenetrable administration has been worth it, with no notion that he has turned into a complete tool.

We can assume his access to BushCo. for the purpose of finishing his new tome will continue unabated.

Crooks & Liars has extensive clips.

Clarification: When I said Bob didn't "know" he had anything until Fitzgerald's press conference, I don't think he necessarily knew he was the first (potentially) to be leaked to until then. I still think that the wheels were set in motion the week prior that lead to Bob's sudden willingness to come forward. But I think it didn't occur to him until he heard Fitzgerald speak that there was a chance for him to step back onto the stage with a big, dramatic flourist that would resurrect his Watergatian glory. We presume there was nobody around him to tell him in truth he would wind up the goat.


Why I Blog

The UN is reporting that 3.1 million people died worldwide last year because of AIDS. Forty million people are now infected. According to the BBC:
Sudan is the worst-hit, and two thirds of women there were unaware of condoms.


"Only 5% knew that condom use could prevent HIV infection and more than two-thirds of the women had never seen or heard of a condom," the authors said.
And what has George Bush done about it?
A senior United Nations official has accused President George Bush of "doing damage to Africa" by cutting funding for condoms, a move which may jeopardise the successful fight against HIV/Aids in Uganda.

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general's special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies]," Mr Lewis said yesterday. "To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa."
People often ask why so many are so obsessed with TraitorGate, and I can only answer for myself. But when I first heard about it, something inside -- something intuitive -- said "this is it, this is the opening, these fuckers are finally going down." I put every bit of hope I had into it because when I read things like this about the AIDS epidemic my eyeballs go blood red with rage at the rampage of death and destruction the American Taliban has wrought across the globe in the past four years.

When I think of all the suffering of so many that could be eased just by education and a few condoms being denied them by a passel of snake handlers and thieves who thrive by perpetuating fear and deceit I just want to scream. Really. And any help I can lend along the way to stoking the fires of the public imagination for the story that's going to take them down and out of a position to do any more damage -- I'm there.

Somebody said it yesterday and I don't remember where but it was to the effect that removing them from office is not enough. They must be tried and condemned for their multitude of crimes. If not our American ideals are nothing more than a sham and a mockery of everything we purport to stand for.

Being a part of something hopeful is the only way I know to keep from taking a complete bath in hate every day for what the American Taliban keep doing to the world.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Woody on Woody

Time Magazine has re-worked the Woodward story a bit, added some more info and trussed it up with a new title.

In the new article we learn:
Woodward has refused to say publicly who the source is but notes that "the process of my reporting was the catalyst for the source to go to the prosecutor and for me to be called by Fitzgerald."
Because it is, as we know, all about you, Bob. But back to you, Bob. Can we have some more about you now, Bob?
Challenged on his public statements as well as his private conduct, Woodward explained that he had "hunkered down" out of fear of being subpoenaed at a time when reporters like Miller and TIME's Matthew Cooper were being jailed or threatened with jail unless they revealed their sources.
"Hunkered down?" You mean, like Anna Nicole Smith hunkered down?
And Fitzgerald, a tireless prosecutor with a reputation for thoroughness, had to wonder, after two years and millions of dollars and countless hours of hunting, what else is out there that he missed.
I have only to date seen the WaPo article on figures for his first 15 months, which totaled 732,000. Did Fitzgerald go on some wild, coke jag spending spree in the past few months? Maybe he is a Republican after all.

Update: The always-observant Grampa from the comments points to this paragraph in Elizabeth de la Vega's Nation article that I had not thought about:
In turn, the Woodward revelation was preceded on November 15 by a leak from "lawyers close to the defense" to the New York Times indicating that the Libby defense team planned to seek testimony from numerous journalists, not just those named in the indictment, in order to determine what the "media really knew." As Libby's lawyer put it on November 16, "Hopefully, as more information is obtained from reporters, like Bob Woodward, the real facts will come out."
Is it really that simple? Did Woodmill just worry that Libby's lawyers were going to put him on the stand as someone he spoke to and didn't leak to, and he was afraid that at some point it would all come out and he'd look like a big fat BushCo. stooge? Maybe he was betting that Fitz was just fucking around until he actually indicted Libby. Wow that must've been a Bad Hair Day for the Woodman.


How Did the Cat Get Out of the Bag?

Len Downie appeared with Howard Kurtz this morning on CNN (Crooks and Liars has the video). It was the first time I heard anyone mention the exact date Bob Woodward came forward and told Downie about his role in TraitorGate: October 24, 2005 according to Downie.

Now, as Woodward told 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.
Well of course in Bob's version of just about anything it's All About Bob. But what are the odds that this "revelation" didn't come as the result of Bob's incredible sleuthing, but in fact was related to what was happening in the news? So I decided to go back to October 24 and take a look at what happened on that day, and I went "oh shit..."

From the NYT:
Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Notes Show


Published: October 24, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.
It was a bombshell that shook everyone, the first indication the public had that there was hard evidence that this whole thing led back to the Vice President.

It appeared online on Sunday night, October 23, for the Monday edition of the NYT. Oh was there some celebrating in blogtopia that night, remember? (NB: Swopa in the comments notes that it appeared Mon. night for Tues. publication, but still in time for Woodward to tak to Downie - jh)

Then on Monday, Woodward says to Downie, "uh, Len, I think we need to talk..."

Big coindicence? Sure doesn't feel like one. Seems more like Bob suddenly realized Fitzgerald was on the hunt for the Veep, and if it came out that Mr. Big Swinging Journalist had known all along and was ratholing a huge story to protect the administration, he could just kiss his sweet Pulitzers goodbye. Sure Bob is willing to keep a secret for 30 years when it accrues to his benefit, but to risk this kind of professional humiliation and be scooped by some scrappy Irish prosecutor? Not bloody likely.

The Times article was the first to reveal that Cheney told Libby on June 12, 2003 that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. It was during this time that Woodward was doing interviews for Plan of Attack (which I finally realized I was going to have to read, so I bought it on Amazon last night for 35 cents, and I figure that's just about right). Woodward has said that the topic came up in "casual" conversation, and "he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive."

If Bob wants to claim that somebody mentioned this to him "casually," that's fine. I'm sure Bob believes this. All this says to me is that Bob got played like a two dollar banjo.

One does not mention something like this to the biggest investigative journalist in the world "casually," especially in the midst of a concerted effort. The notion that this was all just "idle chatter" is absurd. There was a coordinated, tag-team effort in place to make sure that everyone who got a leak also got a confirming source. Matt Cooper heard it from Rove one day and Libby confirmed it the next. Rove's email to Hadley indicates that Hadley may have been some sort of point man for the "plot against Wilson" (Judge Tatel's words, not mine).

What other evidence points to Cheney? Well as I mentioned yesterday, the Washington Post has said that Woodward's source has indeed testified in the investigation, but Adam Entous of Reuters says that "Mr. X" has not appeared before the grand jury.

If both facts are true, then anyone known to have appeared before the grand jury is "off" the suspect list.

The only two people who are known to have testified in the case, but not before the grand jury, are Richard B. Cheney and George W. Bush.

There are, of course, other possibilities. And right now the two other prime suspects are Stephen Hadley and Richard Armitage.

Up until the summer of 2004 people who testifying before they grand jury were often brought up in some secret back elevator to avoid press scrutiny, and I suppose that's how they wheeled in Novak's coffin undetected. But around that time Judge Hogan ruled that everyone who appeared before the gj had to walk in the front door (and wouldn't I love to to know the series of events leading up to that). Anyway, from that point on it pretty much guaranteed that if someone was having an official Fitz gj interlude, the press knew about it.

Rove's memo to Hadley about his conversation with Matt Cooper didn't materialize until early in 2005. The NYT indicates that Hadley is "known to have been interviewed by investigators," but nothing more. If he was questioned about the Rove email, it's hard to imagine he appeared before the grand jury in the process -- at this point it would be like trying to sneak in to Fort Knox and hoping nobody noticed.

Then there's Richard Armitage, whom Michael Isikoff helpfully points the finger at in Newsweek this morning. Armitage is certainly reputed to be someone that Woodward spoke to extensively in the past, and he was part of the chain of events that led to putting the INR memo (which contained info on Valerie Wilson as part of a discussion of the Niger uranium claims) into Colin Powell's hands.

But in June of 2003, Armitage and Powell were traveling when the document was prepared at the direction of Carl Ford, head of INR. Marc Grossman was Undersecretary of State and in charge of the department while Powell and Armitage were gone, and it was Grossman who finally told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA on June 11 or 12 according to the indictment.

By one account in an LA Times article by Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, Armitage called Ford after the June 12 Walter Pincus story in the WaPo made reference to Niger Uranium and wanted to know what was up, so Ford forwarded him a copy of the INR memo.

But by other accounts, Armitage doesn't enter the picture until after Wilson's op-ed piece in the NYT on July 6, 2003. He thereafter called Ford and requested that Colin Powell be provided with information about Wilson, thus the INR memo was faxed to the White House for delivery to Powell on Air Force One. Due to the fact that Armitage is unfortunately out of the country and just about the only one of the major players not to have issued a denial, coupled with the fact that he is a Powell loyalist and not known to have been questioned by anyone up to this point, it has made him the right wing suspect of choice.

This isn't like Watergate, in that Bob Woodward doesn't have the loyalty and/or trust for Len Downie he felt toward Ben Bradlee, in whom he confided the identity of Deep Throat. It also isn't like the Judy Miller affair, because the NYT decided that the release her source gave allowing her to testify also allowed them to print his name, which they did.

The Post has decided their loyalty is to keeping Bob Woodward's personal secret, and Bob Woodward has decided his loyalty sure ain't to the Post. Regardless, too many people are on the hunt for the identity of "Mr. X.," and since Libby's lawyers have loudly announced that this will play a big part in his defense we will probably all know his secret a whole lot sooner than 30 years.

Personally, I've got a side bet on Big Time in the pantry with the candlestick. But as the curtain rises inch by inch on the dirty little drama being played out in the BushCo. drawing room, one thing's for certain -- nobody is "wrapping up" anything anytime soon.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)